Blaise Pascal.

Pascal's Pensées online

. (page 8 of 26)
Online LibraryBlaise PascalPascal's Pensées → online text (page 8 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


for we ought to work for an uncertainty according to the doctrine of
chance which was demonstrated above.

Saint Augustine has seen that we work for an uncertainty, on sea, in
battle, etc. But he has not seen the doctrine of chance which proves
that we should do so. Montaigne has seen that we are shocked at a fool,
and that habit is all-powerful; but he has not seen the reason of this
effect.

All these persons have seen the effects, but they have not seen the
causes. They are, in comparison with those who have discovered the
causes, as those who have only eyes are in comparison with those who
have intellect. For the effects are perceptible by sense, and the causes
are visible only to the intellect. And although these effects are seen
by the mind, this mind is, in comparison with the mind which sees the
causes, as the bodily senses are in comparison with the intellect.


235

_Rem viderunt, causam non viderunt._


236

According to the doctrine of chance, you ought to put yourself to the
trouble of searching for the truth; for if you die without worshipping
the True Cause, you are lost. - "But," say you, "if He had wished me to
worship Him, He would have left me signs of His will." - He has done so;
but you neglect them. Seek them, therefore; it is well worth it.


237

_Chances._ - We must live differently in the world, according to these
different assumptions: (1) that we could always remain in it; (2) that
it is certain that we shall not remain here long, and uncertain if we
shall remain here one hour. This last assumption is our condition.


238

What do you then promise me, in addition to certain troubles, but ten
years of self-love (for ten years is the chance), to try hard to please
without success?


239

_Objection._ - Those who hope for salvation are so far happy; but they
have as a counterpoise the fear of hell.

_Reply._ - Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance
whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or
he who certainly believes there is a hell, and hopes to be saved if
there is?


240

"I would soon have renounced pleasure," say they, "had I faith." For my
part I tell you, "You would soon have faith, if you renounced pleasure."
Now, it is for you to begin. If I could, I would give you faith. I
cannot do so, nor therefore test the truth of what you say. But you can
well renounce pleasure, and test whether what I say is true.


241

_Order._ - I would have far more fear of being mistaken, and of finding
that the Christian religion was true, than of not being mistaken in
believing it true.


SECTION IV

OF THE MEANS OF BELIEF


242

_Preface to the second part._ - To speak of those who have treated of
this matter.

I admire the boldness with which these persons undertake to speak of
God. In addressing their argument to infidels, their first chapter is to
prove Divinity from the works of nature.[91] I should not be astonished
at their enterprise, if they were addressing their argument to the
faithful; for it is certain that those who have the living faith in
their heart see at once that all existence is none other than the work
of the God whom they adore. But for those in whom this light is
extinguished, and in whom we purpose to rekindle it, persons destitute
of faith and grace, who, seeking with all their light whatever they see
in nature that can bring them to this knowledge, find only obscurity and
darkness; to tell them that they have only to look at the smallest
things which surround them, and they will see God openly, to give them,
as a complete proof of this great and important matter, the course of
the moon and planets, and to claim to have concluded the proof with such
an argument, is to give them ground for believing that the proofs of our
religion are very weak. And I see by reason and experience that nothing
is more calculated to arouse their contempt.

It is not after this manner that Scripture speaks, which has a better
knowledge of the things that are of God. It says, on the contrary, that
God is a hidden God, and that, since the corruption of nature, He has
left men in a darkness from which they can escape only through Jesus
Christ, without whom all communion with God is cut off. _Nemo novit
Patrem, nisi Filius, et cui voluerit Filius revelare._[92]

This is what Scripture points out to us, when it says in so many places
that those who seek God find Him.[93] It is not of that light, "like the
noonday sun," that this is said. We do not say that those who seek the
noonday sun, or water in the sea, shall find them; and hence the
evidence of God must not be of this nature. So it tells us elsewhere:
_Vere tu es Deus absconditus_.[94]


243

It is an astounding fact that no canonical writer has ever made use of
nature to prove God. They all strive to make us believe in Him. David,
Solomon, etc., have never said, "There is no void, therefore there is a
God." They must have had more knowledge than the most learned people who
came after them, and who have all made use of this argument. This is
worthy of attention.


244

"Why! Do you not say yourself that the heavens and birds prove God?" No.
"And does your religion not say so?" No. For although it is true in a
sense for some souls to whom God gives this light, yet it is false with
respect to the majority of men.


245

There are three sources of belief: reason, custom, inspiration. The
Christian religion, which alone has reason, does not acknowledge as her
true children those who believe without inspiration. It is not that she
excludes reason and custom. On the contrary, the mind must be opened to
proofs, must be confirmed by custom, and offer itself in humbleness to
inspirations, which alone can produce a true and saving effect. _Ne
evacuetur crux Christi._[95]


246

_Order._ - After the letter _That we ought to seek God_, to write the
letter _On removing obstacles_; which is the discourse on "the
machine,"[96] on preparing the machine, on seeking by reason.


247

_Order._ - A letter of exhortation to a friend to induce him to seek. And
he will reply, "But what is the use of seeking? Nothing is seen." Then
to reply to him, "Do not despair." And he will answer that he would be
glad to find some light, but that, according to this very religion, if
he believed in it, it will be of no use to him, and that therefore he
prefers not to seek. And to answer to that: The machine.


248

_A letter which indicates the use of proofs by the machine._ - Faith is
different from proof; the one is human, the other is a gift of God.
_Justus ex fide vivit._[97] It is this faith that God Himself puts into
the heart, of which the proof is often the instrument, _fides ex
auditu_;[98] but this faith is in the heart, and makes us not say
_scio_, but _credo_.


249

It is superstition to put one's hope in formalities; but it is pride to
be unwilling to submit to them.


250

The external must be joined to the internal to obtain anything from God,
that is to say, we must kneel, pray with the lips, etc., in order that
proud man, who would not submit himself to God, may be now subject to
the creature.[99] To expect help from these externals is superstition;
to refuse to join them to the internal is pride.


251

Other religions, as the pagan, are more popular, for they consist in
externals. But they are not for educated people. A purely intellectual
religion would be more suited to the learned, but it would be of no use
to the common people. The Christian religion alone is adapted to all,
being composed of externals and internals. It raises the common people
to the internal, and humbles the proud to the external; it is not
perfect without the two, for the people must understand the spirit of
the letter, and the learned must submit their spirit to the letter.


252

For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much automatic as
intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by which conviction
is attained is not demonstrated alone. How few things are demonstrated?
Proofs only convince the mind. Custom is the source of our strongest and
most believed proofs. It bends the automaton, which persuades the mind
without its thinking about the matter. Who has demonstrated that there
will be a to-morrow, and that we shall die? And what is more believed?
It is, then, custom which persuades us of it; it is custom that makes
so many men Christians; custom that makes them Turks, heathens,
artisans, soldiers, etc. (Faith in baptism is more received among
Christians than among Turks.) Finally, we must have recourse to it when
once the mind has seen where the truth is, in order to quench our
thirst, and steep ourselves in that belief, which escapes us at every
hour; for always to have proofs ready is too much trouble. We must get
an easier belief, which is that of custom, which, without violence,
without art, without argument, makes us believe things, and inclines all
our powers to this belief, so that out soul falls naturally into it. It
is not enough to believe only by force of conviction, when the automaton
is inclined to believe the contrary. Both our parts must be made to
believe, the mind by reasons which it is sufficient to have seen once in
a lifetime, and the automaton by custom, and by not allowing it to
incline to the contrary. _Inclina cor meum, Deus._[100]

The reason acts slowly, with so many examinations, and on so many
principles, which must be always present, that at every hour it falls
asleep, or wanders, through want of having all its principles present.
Feeling does not act thus; it acts in a moment, and is always ready to
act. We must then put our faith in feeling; otherwise it will be always
vacillating.


253

Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.


254

It is not a rare thing to have to reprove the world for too much
docility. It is a natural vice like credulity, and as pernicious.
Superstition.


255

Piety is different from superstition.

To carry piety as far as superstition is to destroy it.

The heretics reproach us for this superstitious submission. This is to
do what they reproach us for ...

Infidelity, not to believe in the Eucharist, because it is not seen.

Superstition to believe propositions. Faith, etc.


256

I say there are few true Christians, even as regards faith. There are
many who believe but from superstition. There are many who do not
believe solely from wickedness. Few are between the two.

In this I do not include those who are of truly pious character, nor all
those who believe from a feeling in their heart.


257

There are only three kinds of persons; those who serve God, having found
Him; others who are occupied in seeking Him, not having found Him; while
the remainder live without seeking Him, and without having found Him.
The first are reasonable and happy, the last are foolish and unhappy;
those between are unhappy and reasonable.


258

_Unusquisque sibi Deum fingit._[101]

Disgust.


259

Ordinary people have the power of not thinking of that about which they
do not wish to think. "Do not meditate on the passages about the
Messiah," said the Jew to his son. Thus our people often act. Thus are
false religions preserved, and even the true one, in regard to many
persons.

But there are some who have not the power of thus preventing thought,
and who think so much the more as they are forbidden. These undo false
religions, and even the true one, if they do not find solid arguments.


260

They hide themselves in the press, and call numbers to their rescue.
Tumult.

_Authority._ - So far from making it a rule to believe a thing because
you have heard it, you ought to believe nothing without putting yourself
into the position as if you had never heard it.

It is your own assent to yourself, and the constant voice of your own
reason, and not of others, that should make you believe.

Belief is so important! A hundred contradictions might be true. If
antiquity were the rule of belief, men of ancient time would then be
without rule. If general consent, if men had perished?

False humanity, pride.

Lift the curtain. You try in vain; if you must either believe, or deny,
or doubt. Shall we then have no rule? We judge that animals do well what
they do. Is there no rule whereby to judge men?

To deny, to believe, and to doubt well, are to a man what the race is to
a horse.

Punishment of those who sin, error.


261

Those who do not love the truth take as a pretext that it is disputed,
and that a multitude deny it. And so their error arises only from this,
that they do not love either truth or charity. Thus they are without
excuse.


262

Superstition and lust. Scruples, evil desires. Evil fear; fear, not such
as comes from a belief in God, but such as comes from a doubt whether He
exists or not. True fear comes from faith; false fear comes from doubt.
True fear is joined to hope, because it is born of faith, and because
men hope in the God in whom they believe. False fear is joined to
despair, because men fear the God in whom they have no belief. The
former fear to lose Him; the latter fear to find Him.


263

"A miracle," says one, "would strengthen my faith." He says so when he
does not see one. Reasons, seen from afar, appear to limit our view; but
when they are reached, we begin to see beyond. Nothing stops the
nimbleness of our mind. There is no rule, say we, which has not some
exceptions, no truth so general which has not some aspect in which it
fails. It is sufficient that it be not absolutely universal to give us a
pretext for applying the exceptions to the present subject, and for
saying, "This is not always true; there are therefore cases where it is
not so." It only remains to show that this is one of them; and that is
why we are very awkward or unlucky, if we do not find one some day.


264

We do not weary of eating and sleeping every day, for hunger and
sleepiness recur. Without that we should weary of them. So, without the
hunger for spiritual things, we weary of them. Hunger after
righteousness, the eighth beatitude.[102]


265

Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of
what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.


266

How many stars have telescopes revealed to us which did not exist for
our philosophers of old! We freely attack Holy Scripture on the great
number of stars, saying, "There are only one thousand and
twenty-eight,[103] we know it." There is grass on the earth, we see
it - from the moon we would not see it - and on the grass are leaves, and
in these leaves are small animals; but after that no more. - O
presumptuous man! - The compounds are composed of elements, and the
elements not. - O presumptuous man! Here is a fine reflection. - We must
not say that there is anything which we do not see. - We must then talk
like others, but not think like them.


267

The last proceeding of reason is to recognise that there is an infinity
of things which are beyond it. It is but feeble if it does not see so
far as to know this. But if natural things are beyond it, what will be
said of supernatural?


268

_Submission._ - We must know where to doubt, where to feel certain, where
to submit. He who does not do so, understands not the force of reason.
There are some who offend against these three rules, either by affirming
everything as demonstrative, from want of knowing what demonstration is;
or by doubting everything, from want of knowing where to submit; or by
submitting in everything, from want of knowing where they must judge.


269

Submission is the use of reason in which consists true Christianity.


270

_St. Augustine._[104] - Reason would never submit, if it did not judge
that there are some occasions on which it ought to submit. It is then
right for it to submit, when it judges that it ought to submit.


271

Wisdom sends us to childhood. _Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli._[105]


272

There is nothing so conformable to reason as this disavowal of reason.


273

If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious
and supernatural element. If we offend the principles of reason, our
religion will be absurd and ridiculous.


274

All our reasoning reduces itself to yielding to feeling.

But fancy is like, though contrary to feeling, so that we cannot
distinguish between these contraries. One person says that my feeling is
fancy, another that his fancy is feeling. We should have a rule. Reason
offers itself; but it is pliable in every sense; and thus there is no
rule.


275

Men often take their imagination for their heart; and they believe they
are converted as soon as they think of being converted.


276

M. de Roannez said: "Reasons come to me afterwards, but at first a thing
pleases or shocks me without my knowing the reason, and yet it shocks me
for that reason which I only discover afterwards." But I believe, not
that it shocked him for the reasons which were found afterwards, but
that these reasons were only found because it shocks him.


277

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a
thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal
Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them;
and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will. You have
rejected the one, and kept the other. Is it by reason that you love
yourself?


278

It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then,
is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.


279

Faith is a gift of God; do not believe that we said it was a gift of
reasoning. Other religions do not say this of their faith. They only
gave reasoning in order to arrive at it, and yet it does not bring them
to it.


280

The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him.


281

Heart, instinct, principles.


282

We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is
in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no
part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The sceptics, who have only
this for their object, labour to no purpose. We know that we do not
dream, and however impossible it is for us to prove it by reason, this
inability demonstrates only the weakness of our reason, but not, as they
affirm, the uncertainty of all our knowledge. For the knowledge of first
principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those
which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust these intuitions of
the heart, and must base them on every argument. (We have intuitive
knowledge of the tri-dimensional nature of space, and of the infinity of
number, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one
of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions
are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.) And it is
as useless and absurd for reason to demand from the heart proofs of her
first principles, before admitting them, as it would be for the heart to
demand from reason an intuition of all demonstrated propositions before
accepting them.

This inability ought, then, to serve only to humble reason, which would
judge all, but not to impugn our certainty, as if only reason were
capable of instructing us. Would to God, on the contrary, that we had
never need of it, and that we knew everything by instinct and intuition!
But nature has refused us this boon. On the contrary, she has given us
but very little knowledge of this kind; and all the rest can be acquired
only by reasoning.

Therefore, those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very
fortunate, and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can
give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual
insight, without which faith is only human, and useless for salvation.


283

_Order. - Against the objection that Scripture has no order._

The heart has its own order; the intellect has its own, which is by
principle and demonstration. The heart has another. We do not prove that
we ought to be loved by enumerating in order the causes of love; that
would be ridiculous.

Jesus Christ and Saint Paul employ the rule of love, not of intellect;
for they would warm, not instruct. It is the same with Saint Augustine.
This order consists chiefly in digressions on each point to indicate the
end, and keep it always in sight.


284

Do not wonder to see simple people believe without reasoning. God
imparts to them love of Him and hatred of self. He inclines their heart
to believe. Men will never believe with a saving and real faith, unless
God inclines their heart; and they will believe as soon as He inclines
it. And this is what David knew well, when he said: _Inclina cor meum,
Deus, in ..._[106]


285

Religion is suited to all kinds of minds. Some pay attention only to its
establishment,[107] and this religion is such that its very
establishment suffices to prove its truth. Others trace it even to the
apostles. The more learned go back to the beginning of the world. The
angels see it better still, and from a more distant time.


286

Those who believe without having read the Testaments, do so because they
have an inward disposition entirely holy, and all that they hear of our
religion conforms to it. They feel that a God has made them; they desire
only to love God; they desire to hate themselves only. They feel that
they have no strength in themselves; that they are incapable of coming
to God; and that if God does not come to them, they can have no
communion with Him. And they hear our religion say that men must love
God only, and hate self only; but that all being corrupt and unworthy of
God, God made Himself man to unite Himself to us. No more is required to
persuade men who have this disposition in their heart, and who have this
knowledge of their duty and of their inefficiency.


287

Those whom we see to be Christians without the knowledge of the prophets
and evidences, nevertheless judge of their religion as well as those who
have that knowledge. They judge of it by the heart, as others judge of
it by the intellect. God Himself inclines them to believe, and thus they
are most effectively convinced.

I confess indeed that one of those Christians who believe without proofs
will not perhaps be capable of convincing an infidel who will say the
same of himself. But those who know the proofs of religion will prove
without difficulty that such a believer is truly inspired by God, though
he cannot prove it himself.

For God having said in His prophecies (which are undoubtedly
prophecies), that in the reign of Jesus Christ He would spread His
spirit abroad among nations, and that the youths and maidens and
children of the Church would prophesy;[108] it is certain that the
Spirit of God is in these, and not in the others.


288

Instead of complaining that God had hidden Himself, you will give Him
thanks for having revealed so much of Himself; and you will also give
Him thanks for not having revealed Himself to haughty sages, unworthy to
know so holy a God.

Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who
love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low;
and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever
opposition they may have to it.


289

_Proof._ - 1. The Christian religion, by its establishment, having
established itself so strongly, so gently, whilst contrary to
nature. - 2. The sanctity, the dignity, and the humility of a Christian
soul. - 3. The miracles of Holy Scripture. - 4. Jesus Christ in
particular. - 5. The apostles in particular. - 6. Moses and the prophets
in particular. - 7. The Jewish people. - 8. The prophecies. - 9.
Perpetuity; no religion has perpetuity. - 10. The doctrine which gives a
reason for everything. - 11. The sanctity of this law. - 12. By the course
of the world.

Surely, after considering what is life and what is religion, we should
not refuse to obey the inclination to follow it, if it comes into our
heart; and it is certain that there is no ground for laughing at those
who follow it.


290

_Proofs of religion._ - Morality, Doctrine, Miracles, Prophecies, Types.


SECTION V

JUSTICE AND THE REASON OF EFFECTS


291

In the letter _On Injustice_ can come the ridiculousness of the law that
the elder gets all. "My friend, you were born on this side of the
mountain, it is therefore just that your elder brother gets everything."



Online LibraryBlaise PascalPascal's Pensées → online text (page 8 of 26)