Skip to main content

Full text of "The Harvard Classics eboxed Set"

See other formats






The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 




Blaise Pascal 





Minor Works 


W//A Introductions and 'Notes 
Volume 48 

P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 


Copyright, 1910 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

manufactured in u. s. a. 


Section I 


Thoughts on Mind and Style 9 

Section II 
The Misery of Man without God 24 

Section III 
Of the Necessity of the Wager 68 

Section IV 
Of the Means of Belief 90 

Section V 
Justice and the Reason of Effects 103 

Section VI 
The Philosophers 117 

Section VII 
Morality and Doctrine ... 136 

Section VIII 
The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion 181 

Section IX 
Perpetuity 193 

Section X 
Typology 214 


Section XI page 

The Prophecies 233 

Section XII 

Proofs of Jesus Christ 260 

Section XIII 

The Miracles 279 

Section XIV 

Appendix: Polemical Fragments 300 


1 To His Sister Jacqueline 321 

2 To Mme. Perier 323 

3 To the Same 326 

4 To Mme. and M. Perier 330 

5 To M. Perier 341 

6 To Mme. Perier 341 

7 To the Marchioness de Sable 342 

8 To M. Perier 342 

9 To Mme. Perier 344 

10 To the Same 346 

11 To Mlle. de Roannez (nine letters) 346 

12 To Queen Christina 359 


1 Epitaph of M. Pascal, Pere 365 

2 Prayer, to Ask of God the Proper Use of Sickness 366 

3 Comparison Between Christians of Early Times and Those 

OF To-Day 374 

4 Discourses on the Condition of the Great 378 

5 On the Conversion of the Sinner 383 

6 Conversation on Epictetus and Montaigne 387 



7 The Art of Persuasion 400 

8 Discourse on the Passion of Love 411 

9 Of the Geometrical Spirit 421 

10 Preface to the Treatise on Vacuum 437 

11 New Fragment of the Treatise on Vacuum 444 


Passages erased by Pascal are enclosed in square brackets, thus [ ]. 
Words, added or corrected by the editor of the text, are similarly denoted. 
The translation is from the text of Brunschvieg. 




Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont in Auvergne on June 19, 1623, the 
son of the president of the Court of Aids of Clermont. He was a pre- 
cocious child, and soon showed amazing mathematical talent. His early 
training was scientific rather than literary or theological, and scientific 
interests predominated during the first period of his activity. He corre- 
sponded with the most distinguished scholars of the time, and made 
important contributions to pure and applied mathematics and to physics. 

Meantime, an accident had brought the Pascal family into contact with 
Jansenist doctrine, and Blaise became an ardent convert. Jansenism, which 
took its name from Jansenius, the bishop of Ypres, had its headquarters in 
the Cistercian Abbey of Port-Royal, and was one of the most rigorous and 
lofty developments of post-Reformation Catholicism. In doctrine it some- 
what resembled Calvinism in its insistence on Grace and Predestination 
at the expense of the freedom of the will, and in its cultivation of a 
thoroughgoing logical method of apologetics. In practise it represented 
an austere and even ascetic morality, and it did much to raise the ethical 
and intellectual level of seventeenth century France. 

Jansenism was attacked as heretical, especially by the Jesuits; and the 
civil power ultimately took measures to crush the movement, disbanding 
the nuns of Port-Royal, and by its persecutions affording to many of the 
Jansenists opportunities for the display of a heroic obstinacy. In this 
struggle Pascal took an important part by the publication, under the 
pseudonym of "Louis de Montalte," of a series of eighteen letters, attack- 
ing the morality of the Jesuits and defending Jansenism against the charge 
of heresy. In spite of the fact that the party for which he fought was 
defeated, in these "Provincial Letters," as they are usually called, Pascal 
inflicted a blow on the Society of Jesus from which that order has never 
entirely recovered. 

Pascal now formed the plan of writing an "Apology for the Christian 
Religion," and during the rest of his life he was collecting materials and 
making notes for this work. But he had long been feeble in health; in 
the ardor of his religious devotion he had undergone incredible hard- 
ships; and on August 19, 1662, he died in his fortieth year. 

It was from the notes for his contemplated "Apology" that the Port- 
Royalists compiled and edited the book known as his "Pensees" or 
"Thoughts." The early texts were much tampered with, and the material 
has been frequently rearranged; but now at last it is possible to read these 


fragmentary jottings as they came from the hand of their author. In 
spite of their incompleteness and frequent incoherence, the "Thoughts" 
have long held a high place among the great religious classics. Much of 
the theological argument implied in these utterances has little appeal to 
the modern mind, but the acuteness of the observation of human life, the 
subtlety of the reasoning, the combination of precision and fervid imagi- 
nation in the expression, make this a book to which the discerning mind 
can return again and again for insight and inspiration. 



Thoughts on Mind and on Style 

rHE difference between the mathematical and the intuitive 
mind. — In the one the principles are palpable, but removed 
from ordinary use; so that for want of habit it is difficult to 
turn one's mind in that direction: but if one turns it thither ever so 
little, one sees the principles fully, and one must have a quite inac- 
curate mind who reasons wrongly from principles so plain that it is 
almost impossible they should escape notice. 

But in the intuitive mind the principles are found in common use, 
and are before the eyes of everybody. One has only to look, and no 
effort is necessary; it is only a question of good eyesight, but it must 
be good, for the principles are so subtle and so numerous, that it is 
almost impossible but that some escape notice. Now the omission of 
one principle leads to error; thus one must have very clear sight to 
see all the principles, and in the next place an accurate mind not to 
draw false deductions from known principles. 

All mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, 
for they do not reason incorrectly from principles known to them; 
and intuitive minds would be mathematical if they could turn their 
eyes to the principles of mathematics to which they are unused. 

The reason, therefore, that some intuitive minds are not mathe- 
matical is that they cannot at all turn their attention to the principles 
of mathematics. But the reason that mathematicians are not intuitive 
is that they do not see what is before them, and that, accustomed to 
the exact and plain principles of mathematics, and not reasoning till 
they have well inspected and arranged their principles, they are lost 
in matters of intuition where the principles do not allow of such 



arrangement. They are scarcely seen; they are felt rather than seen; 
there is the greatest difficulty in making them felt by those who do 
not of themselves perceive them. These principles are so fine and so 
numerous that a very delicate and very clear sense is needed to per- 
ceive them, and to judge rightly and justly when they are perceived, 
without for the most part being able to demonstrate them in order as 
in mathematics; because the principles are not known to us in the 
same way, and because it would be an endless matter to undertake 
it. We must see the matter at once, at one glance, and not by a process 
of reasoning, at least to a certain degree. And thus it is rare that 
mathematicians are intuitive, and that men of intuition are mathe- 
maticians, because mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition 
mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous, wishing to begin 
with definitions and then with axioms, which is not the way to pro- 
ceed in this kind of reasoning. Not that the mind does not do so, 
but it does it tacitly, naturally, and without technical rules; for the 
expression of it is beyond all men, and only a few can feel it. 

Intuitive minds, on the contrary, being thus accustomed to judge 
at a single glance, are so astonished when they are presented with 
propositions of which they understand nothing, and the way to 
which is through definitions and axioms so sterile, and which they 
are not accustomed to see thus in detail, that they are repelled and 

But dull minds are never either intuitive or mathematical. 

Mathematicians who are only mathematicians have exact minds, 
provided all things are explained to them by means of definitions and 
axioms; otherwise they are inaccurate and insufferable, for they are 
only right when the principles are quite clear. 

And men of intuition who are only intuitive cannot have the 
patience to reach to first principles of things speculative and concep- 
tual, which they have never seen in the world, and which are alto- 
gether out of the common. 

There are different kinds of right understanding; some have right 
understanding in a certain order of things, and not in others, where 


they go astray. Some draw conclusions well from a few premises, 
and this displays an acute judgment. 

Others draw conclusions well where there are many premises. 

For example, the former easily learn hydrostatics, where the 
premises are few, but the conclusions are so fine that only the great- 
est acuteness can reach them. 

And in spite of that these persons would perhaps not be great 
mathematicians, because mathematics contain a great number of 
premises, and there is perhaps a kind of intellect that can search with 
ease a few premises to the bottom: and cannot in the least penetrate 
those matters in which there are many premises. 

There are then two kinds of intellect: the one able to penetrate 
acutely and deeply into the conclusions of given premises, and this 
is the precise intellect; the other able to comprehend a great number 
of premises without confusing them, and this is the mathematical 
intellect. The one has force and exactness, the other comprehension. 
Now the one quality can exist without the other; the intellect can 
be strong and narrow, and can also be comprehensive and weak. 

Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand 
the process of reasoning, for they would understand at first sight, 
and are not used to seek for principles. And others, on the con- 
trary, who are accustomed to reason from principles, do not at all 
understand matters of feeUng, seeking principles, and being unable 
to see at a glance. 

Mathematics, Intuition. — True eloquence makes light of eloquence, 
true morality makes light of morality; that is to say, the morality of 
the judgment, which has no rules, makes light of the morality of the 

For it is to judgment that perception belongs, as science belongs to 
intellect. Intuition is the part of judgment, mathematics of intellect. 

To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher. 

12 pascal's thoughts 

Those who judge of a work by rule are in regard to others as 
those who have a watch are in regard to others. One says, "It is two 
hours ago;" the other says, "It is only three-quarters of an hour." 
I look at my watch, and say to the one, "You are weary," and to the 
other, "Time gallops with you;" for it is only an hour and a half 
ago, and I laugh at those who tell me that time goes slowly with 
me, and that I judge by imagination. They do not know that I 
judge by my watch. 

Just as we harm the understanding, we harm the feelings also. 

The understanding and the feelings are moulded by intercourse; 
the understanding and feelings are corrupted by intercourse. Thus 
good or bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-im- 
portant to know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt 
them; and we cannot make this choice, if they be not already im- 
proved and not corrupted. Thus a circle is formed, and those are 
fortunate who escape it. 


The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in 
men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men. 


There are many people who listen to a sermon in the same way 
as they listen to vespers. 

When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that 
he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on 
that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal 
to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he 
sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. 
Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not 


like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man 
naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in 
the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always 


People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they 
have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the 
mind of others. 


All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but 
among all those which the world has invented there is none more to 
be feared than the theatre. It is a representation of the passions so 
natural and so delicate that it excites them and gives birth to them in 
our hearts, and, above all, to that of love, principally when it is repre- 
sented as very chaste and virtuous. For the more innocent it appears 
to innocent souls, the more they are likely to be touched by it. Its 
violence pleases our self-love, which immediately forms a desire to 
produce the same effects which are seen so well represented; and, 
at the same time, we make ourselves a conscience founded on the pro- 
priety of the feelings which we see there, by which the fear of pure 
souls is removed, since they imagine that it cannot hurt their purity 
to love with a love which seems to them so reasonable. 

So we depart from the theatre with our hearts so filled with all 
the beauty and tenderness of love, the soul and the mind so persuaded 
of its innocence, that we are quite ready to receive its first impressions, 
or rather to seek an opportunity of awakening them in the heart of 
another, in order that we may receive the same pleasures and the same 
sacrifices which we have seen so well represented in the theatre. 


Scaramouch,' who only thinks of one thing. 
The doctor,' who speaks for a quarter of an hour after he has 
said everything, so full is he of the desire of talking. 

' Stock characters in Italian comedy. 


One likes to see the error, the passion of Cleobuline,* because she 
is unconscious of it. She would be displeasing, if she were not 

When a natural discourse paints a passion or an effect, one feels 
within oneself the truth of what one reads, which was there before, 
although one did not know it. Hence one is inclined to love him 
who makes us feel it, for he has not shown us his own riches, but 
ours. And thus this benefit renders him pleasing to us, besides that 
such community of intellect as we have with him necessarily inclines 
the heart to love. 

Eloquence, which persuades by sweetness, not by authority; as a 
tyrant, not as a king. 


Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way — (i) that those 
to whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleas- 
ure; (2) that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads 
them more willingly to reflection upon it. 

It consists, then, in a correspondence which we seek to establish 
between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak on the 
one hand, and, on the other, between the thoughts and the expres- 
sions which we employ. This assumes that we have studied well the 
heart of man so as to know all its powers, and then to find the just 
proportions of the discourse which we wish to adapt to them. We 
must put ourselves in the place of those who are to hear us, and make 
trial on our own heart of the turn which we give to our discourse in 
order to see whether one is made for the other, and whether we can 
assure ourselves that the hearer will be, as it were, forced to sur- 

^ Princess of Corinth, in Mile, de Scud^ry's romance of "Artamine ou le grand 



render. We ought to restrict ourselves, so far as possible, to the sim- 
ple and natural, and not to magnify that which is little, or belittle that 
which is great. It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be 
suitable to the subject, and there must be in it nothing of excess or 

Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we 
desire to go. 


When we do not know the truth of a thing, it is of advantage 
that there should exist a common error which determines the mind 
of man, as, for example, the moon, to which is attributed the change 
of seasons, the progress of disease, &c. For the chief malady of man 
is restless curiosity about things which he cannot understand; and 
it is not so bad for him to be in error as to be curious to no purpose. 

The manner in which Epictetus, Montaigne, and Salomon de 
Tultie' wrote, is the most usual, the most suggestive, the most re- 
membered, and the oftenest quoted; because it is entirely composed 
of thoughts born from the common talk of life. As when we speak 
of the common error which exists among men that the moon is the 
cause of everything, we never fail to say that Salomon de Tultie says 
that when we do not know the truth of a thing, it is of advantage that 
there should exist a common error, &c.; which is the thought above. 

The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should 
put in first. 


Order. — Why should I undertake to divide my virtues into four 
rather than into six? Why should I rather establish virtue in four, 
in two, in one ? Why into Abstine et sustine^ rather than into "Fol- 
low Nature," or "Conduct your private affairs without injustice," as 

'The name assumed by Pascal in his "Provincial Letters." 
* "Abstain and endure" — a Stoic maxim. 

1 6 pascal's thoughts 

Plato, or anything else? But there, you will say, everything is con- 
tained in one word. Yes, but it is useless without explanation, and 
when we come to explain it, as soon as we unfold this maxim which 
contains all the rest, they emerge in that first confusion which you 
desired to avoid. So, when they are all included in one, they are 
hidden and useless, as in a chest, and never appear save in their 
natural confusion. Nature has established them all without including 
one in the other. 


Nature has made all her truths independent of one another. Our 
art makes one dependent on the other. But this is not natural. Each 
keeps its own place. 


Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of 
the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same 
ball, but one of us places it better. 

I had as soon it said that I used words employed before. And in 
the same way if the same thoughts in a different arrangement do not 
form a different discourse, no more do the same words in their dif- 
ferent arrangement form different thoughts! 

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and mean- 
ings differently arranged have different effects. 


Language. — We should not turn the mind from one thing to 
another, except for relaxation, and that when it is necessary and the 
time suitable, and not otherwise. For he that relaxes out of season 
wearies, and he who wearies us out of season makes us languid, since 
we turn quite away. So much does our perverse lust like to do the 
contrary of what those wish to obtain from us without giving us 
pleasure, the coin for which we will do whatever is wanted. 


Eloquence. — It requires the pleasant and the real; but the pleasant 
must itself be drawn from the true. 


Eloquence is a painting of thought; and thus those who, after 
having painted it, add something more, make a picture instead of a 


Miscellaneous. Language. — Those who make antitheses by forcing 
words are like those who make false windows for symmetry. Their 
rule is not to speak accurately, but to make apt figures of speech. 


Symmetry is what we see at a glance; based on the fact that there 
is no reason for any difference, and based also on the face of man; 
whence it happens that symmetry is only wanted in breadth, not in 
height or depth. 


When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for 
we expected to see an author, and we find a man. Whereas those who 
have good taste, and who seeing a book expect to find a man, are 
quite surprised to find an author. Plus poetice quam humane locutus 
es^ Those honour nature well, who teach that she can speak on 
everything, even on theology. 


We only consult the ear because the heart is wanting. The rule 
is uprightness. 
Beauty of omission, of judgment. 

' "You have spoken more poetically than humanly." 

i8 pascal's thoughts 


All the false beauties which we blame in Cicero have their admir- 
ers, and in great number. 

There is a certain standard of grace and beauty which consists in 
a certain relation between our nature, such as it is, weak or strong, 
and the thing which pleases us. 

Whatever is formed according to this standard pleases us, be it 
house, song, discourse, verse, prose, woman, birds, rivers, tree, rooms, 
dress, &c. Whatever is not made according to this standard displeases 
those who have good taste. 

And as there is a perfect relation between a song and a house which 
are made after a good model because they are like this good model, 
though each after its kind; even so there is a perfect relation between 
things made after a bad model. Not that the bad model is unique, 
for there are many; but each bad sonnet, for example, on whatever 
false model it is formed, is just like a woman dressed after that 

Nothing makes us understand better the ridiculousness of a false 
sonnet than to consider nature and the standard, and then to imagine 
a woman or a house made according to that standard. 


Poetical beauty. — As we speak of poetical beauty, so ought we to 
speak of mathematical beauty and medical beauty. But we do not do 
so; and the reason is that we know well what is the object of mathe- 
matics, and that it consists in proofs, and what is the object of medi- 
cine, and that it consists in healing. But we do not know in what 
grace consists, which is the object of poetry. We do not know the 
natural model which we ought to imitate; and through lack of this 
knowledge, we have coined fantastic terms, "The golden age," "The 
wonder of our times," "Fatal," &c., and call this jargon poetical 


But whoever imagines a woman after this model, which consists 
in saying httle things in big words, will see a pretty girl adorned 
with mirrors and chains, at whom he will smile; because we know 
better wherein consists the charm of woman than the charm of 
verse. But those who are ignorant would admire her in this dress, 
and there are many villages in which she would be taken for the 
queen; hence we call sonnets made after this model "Village Queens." 


No one passes in the world as skilled in verse unless he has put 
up the sign of a poet, a mathematician, &c. But educated people do 
not want a sign, and draw little distinction between the trade of a 
poet and that of an embroiderer. 

People of education are not called poets or mathematicians, Sic; 
but they are all these, and judges of all these. No one guesses what 
they are. When they come into society, they talk on matters about 
which the rest are talking. We do not observe in them one quality 
rather than another, save when they have to make use of it. But 
then we remember it, for it is characteristic of such persons that we 
do not say of them that they are fine speakers, when it is not a ques- 
tion of oratory, and that we say of them that they are fine speakers, 
when it is such a question. 

It is therefore false praise to give a man when we say of him, 
on his entry, that he is a clever poet; and it is a bad sign when a man 
is not asked to give his judgment on some verses. 


We should not be able to say of a man, "He is a mathematician," 
or a "preacher," or "eloquent"; but that he is "a gentleman." That 
universal quality alone pleases me. It is a bad sign when, on seeing 
a person, you remember his book. I would prefer you to see no 
quality till you meet it and have occasion to use it, (Ne quid nimis^) 
for fear some one quality prevail and designate the man. Let none 
think him a fine speaker, unless oratory be in question, and then let 
them think it. 

^ "Nothing in excess." 



Man is full of wants: he loves only those who can satisfy them 
all. "This one is a good mathematician," one will say. But I have 
nothing to do with mathematics; he would take me for a proposition. 
"That one is a good soldier." He would take me for a besieged 
town. I need then an upright man who can accommodate himself 
generally to all my wants. 


Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known 
of everything, we ought to know a little about everything. For it 
is far better to know something about everything than to know all 
about one thing. This universality is the best. If we can have both, 
still better; but if we must choose, we ought to choose the former. 
And the world feels this and does so; for the world is often a good 

A poet and not an honest man. 


If lightning fell on low places, &c., poets, and those who can only 
reason about things of that kind, would lack proofs. 


If we wished to prove the examples which we take to prove other 
things, we should have to take those other things to be examples; 
for, as we always believe the difficulty is in what we wish to prove, 
we find the examples clearer and a help to demonstration. 

Thus when we wish to demonstrate a general theorem, we must 
give the rule as applied to a particular case; but, if we wish to demon- 
strate a particular case, we must begin with the general rule. For 
we always find the thing obscure which we wish to prove, and that 
clear which we use for the proof; for, when a thing is put forward to 


be proved, we first fill ourselves with the imagination that it is there- 
fore obscure, and on the contrary that what is to prove it is clear, 
and so we understand it easily. 


Epigrams of Martial. — Man loves malice, but not against one-eyed 
men nor the unfortunate, but against the fortunate and proud. 
People are mistaken in thinking otherwise. 

For lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity, &c. We 
must please those who have humane and tender feeling. That epi- 
gram about two one-eyed people is worthless, for it does not console 
them, and only gives a point to the author's glory. All that is only for 
the sake of the author is worthless. Ambitiosa recident ornamental 

To call a king "Prince" is pleasing, because it diminishes his rank. 

Certain authors, speaking of their works, say, "My book," "My 
commentary," "My history," &c. They resemble middle-class people 
who have a house of their own, and always have "My house" on 
their tongue. They would do better to say, "Our book" "Our com- 
mentary," "Our history," &c., because there is in them usually more 
of other people's than their own. 

Do you wish people to believe good of you ? Don't speak. 


Languages are ciphers, wherein letters are not changed into 
letters, but words into words, so that an unknown language is 


A maker of witticisms, a bad character. 

' "They cut off superfluous ornament" — ^Horace. 

22 pascal's thoughts 


There are some who speak well and write badly. For the place 
and the audience warm them, and draw from their minds more 
than they think of without that warmth. 


When we find words repeated in a discourse, and, in trying to 
correct them, discover that they are so appropriate that we would 
spoil the discourse, we must leave them alone. This is the test; and 
our attempt is the work of envy, which is blind, and does not see 
that repetition is not in this place a fault; for there is no general rule. 

To mask nature and disguise her. No more king, pope, bishop, — 
but august monarch, &c.; not Paris, — the capital of the \ingdom. 
There are places in which we ought to call Paris, Paris, and others 
in which we ought to call it the capital of the kingdom. 


The same meaning changes with the words which express it. 
Meanings receive their dignity from words instead of giving it to 
them. Examples should be sought. 

Sceptic, for obstinate. 

No one calls another a Cartesian but he who is not one himself, 
a pedant but a pedant, a provincial but a provincial; and I would 
wager it was the printer who put it on the title of Letters to a Pro- 


A carriage upset or overturned, according to the meaning. To 
spread abroad or upset, according to the meaning. (The argument 
by force of M. le Maitre over the friar.) 


Miscellaneous. — A form of speech, "I should have liked to apply 
myself to that." 


The aperitive virtue of a key, the attractive virtue of a hook. 


To guess: "The part that I take in your trouble." The Cardinal' 
did not want to be guessed. 
"My mind is disquieted." I am disquieted is better, 

I always feel uncomfortable under such compliments as these: 
"I have given you a great deal of trouble," "I am afraid I am boring 
you," "I fear this is too long." We either carry our audience with 
us, or irritate them. 

You are ungraceful: "Excuse me, pray." Without that excuse I 
would not have known there was anything amiss. "With reverence 
be it spoken . . ." The only thing bad is their excuse. 


"To extinguish the torch of sedition;" too luxuriant. "The rest- 
lessness of his genius;" two superfluous grand words. 

' Cardinal Mazarin. 

The Misery of Man Without God 


m "ylRST part: Misery o£ man without God. 
#V Second part: Happiness of man with God. 
M Or, First part: That nature is corrupt. Proved by nature 

Second part: That there is a Redeemer. Proved by Scripture. 


Order. — I might well have taken this discourse in an order like 
this; to show the vanity of all conditions of men, to show the vanity 
of ordinary lives, and then the vanity of philosophic lives, sceptics, 
stoics; but the order would not have been kept. I know a little what 
it is, and how few people understand it. No human science can keep 
it. Saint Thomas did not keep it. Mathematics keep it, but they 
are useless on account of their depth. 

Preface to the first part. — To speak of those who have treated of 
the knowledge of self; of the divisions of Charron, which sadden and 
weary us; of the confusion of Montaigne; that he was quite aware of 
his want of method, and shunned it by jumping from subject to 
subject; that he sought to be fashionable. 

His foolish project of describing himself! And this not casually 
and against his maxims, since every one makes mistakes, but by his 
maxims themselves, and by first and chief design. For to say silly 
things by chance and weakness is a common misfortune; but to 
say them intentionally is intolerable, and to say such as that . . . 




Montaigne. — Montaigne's faults are great. Lewd words; this is 
bad, notwithstanding Mademoiselle de Gournay.' Credulous; people 
without eyes. Ignorant; squaring the circle, a greater world. His 
opinions on suicide, on death. He suggests an indifference about 
salvation, without fear and without repentance. As his book was not 
written with a religious purpose, he was not bound to mention 
religion; but it is always our duty not to turn men from it. One 
can excuse his rather free and licentious opinions on some relations 
of hfe (730, 231); but one cannot excuse his thoroughly pagan 
views on death, for a man must renounce piety altogether, if he does 
not at least wish to die like a Christian. Now, through the whole 
of his book his only conception of death is a cowardly and effemi- 
nate one. 


It is not in Montaigne, but in myself, that I find all that I see 
in him. 


What good there is in Montaigne can only have been acquired 
with difficulty. The evil that is in him, I mean apart from his moral- 
ity, could have been corrected in a moment, if he had been informed 
that he made too much of trifles and spoke too much of himself. 


One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it 
at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better. 


The vanity of the sciences. — Physical science will not console me 
for the ignorance of morality in the time of affliction. But the science 

■ Montaigne's adopted daughter, who defends him in a Preface which she added 
to his Essays. 

26 pascal's thoughts 

of ethics will always console me for the ignorance of the physical 


Men are never taught to be gentlemen, and are taught everything 
else; and they never plume themselves so much on the rest of their 
knowledge as on knowing how to be gentlemen. They only plume 
themselves on knowing the one thing they do not know. 


The infinites, the mean. — When we read too fast or too slowly, we 
understand nothing. 


Nature.. . . — [Nature has set us so well in the centre, that if 
we change one side of the balance, we change the other also. / act. 
Td foJOTpexei.^ This makes me believe that the springs in our brain 
are so adjusted that he who touches one touches also its contrary.] 

Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find 
truth; give him too much, the same. 


Man's disproportion. — [This is where our innate knowledge leads 
us. If it be not true, there is no truth in man; and if it be true, he 
finds therein great cause for humiliation, being compelled to abase 
himself in one way or another. And since he cannot exist without 
this knowledge, I wish that, before entering on deeper researches 
into nature, he would consider her both seriously and at leisure, that 
he would reflect upon himself also, and knowing what proportion 
there is . . . .] Let man then contemplate the whole of nature in her 
full and grand majesty, and turn his vision from the low objects 
which surround him. Let him gaze on that briUiant light, set like 

* "Animals run." 


an eternal lamp to illumine the universe; let the earth appear to him 
a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun; and 
let him wonder at the fact that this vast circle is itself but a very 
fine point in comparison with that described by the stars in their 
revolution round the firmament. But if our view be arrested there, 
let our imagination pass beyond; it will sooner exhaust the power of 
conception than nature that of supplying material for conception. 
The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample 
bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our con- 
ceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in com- 
parison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the centre 
of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is 
the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imag- 
ination loses itself in that thought. 

Returning to himself, let man consider what he is in comparison 
with all existence; let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner 
of nature; and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, 
I mean the universe, let him estimate at their true value the earth, 
kingdoms, cities, and himself. What is a man in the Infinite? 

But to show him another prodigy equally astonishing, let him 
examine the most delicate things he knows. Let a mite be given him, 
with its minute body and parts incomparably more minute, limbs 
with their joints, veins in the limbs, blood in the veins, humours in 
the blood, drops in the humours, vapours in the drops. Dividing 
these last things again, let him exhaust his powers of conception, and 
let the last object at which he can arrive be now that of our dis- 
course. Perhaps he will think that here is the smallest point in nature. 
I will let him see therein a new abyss. I will paint for him not only 
the visible universe, but all that he can conceive of nature's immensity 
in the womb of this abridged atom. Let him see therein an infinity 
of universes, each of which has its firmament, its planets, its earth, 
in the same proportion as in the visible world; in each earth animals, 
and in the last mites, in which he will find again all that the first 
had, finding still in these others the same thing without end and 
without cessation. Let him lose himself in wonders as amazing in 
their littleness as the others in their vastness. For who will not be 
astounded at the fact that our body, which a little ago was imper- 

28 pascal's thoughts 

ceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the 
whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the 
nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in 
this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained 
in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the 
Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and 
I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be 
more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them 
with presumption. 

For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison 
with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean 
between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed 
from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their begin- 
ning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he 
is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was 
made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up. 

What will he do then, but perceive the appearance of the middle 
of things, in an eternal despair of knowing either their beginning or 
their end. All things proceed from the Nothing, and are borne 
towards the Infinite. Who will follow these marvellous processes? 
The Author of these wonders understands them. None other can 
do so. 

Through failure to contemplate these Infinites, men have rashly 
rushed into the examination of nature, as though they bore some 
proportion to her. It is strange that they have wished to understand 
the beginnings of things, and thence to arrive at the knowledge of 
the whole, with a presumption as infinite as their object. For surely 
this design cannot be formed without presumption or without a 
capacity infinite like nature. 

If we are well-informed, we understand that, as nature has graven 
her image and that of her Author on all things, they almost all par- 
take of her double infinity. Thus we see that all the sciences are 
infinite in the extent of their researches. For who doubts that geom- 
etry, for instance, has an infinite infinity of problems to solve ? They 
are also infinite in the multitude and fineness of their premises; for it 
is clear that those which are put forward as ultimate are not self- 
supporting, but are based on others which, again having others for 


their support, do not permit of finality. But we represent some as 
ultimate for reason, in the same way as in regard to material objects 
we call that an indivisible point beyond which our senses can no 
longer perceive anything, although by its nature it is infinitely divis- 

Of these two Infinites of science, that of greatness is the most pal- 
pable, and hence a few persons have pretended to know all things. 
"I will speak of the whole," said Democritus. 

But the infinitely little is the least obvious. Philosophers have much 
of tener claimed to have reached it, and it is here they have all stum- 
bled. This has given rise to such common titles as First Principles, 
Principles of Philosophy, and the like, as ostentatious in fact, though 
not in appearance, as that one which blinds us, De omni scibili} 

We naturally believe ourselves far more capable of reaching the 
centre of things than of embracing their circumference. The visible 
extent of the world visibly exceeds us, but as we exceed little things, 
we think ourselves more capable of knowing them. And yet we need 
no less capacity for attaining the Nothing than the All. Infinite capac- 
ity is required for both, and it seems to me that whoever shall have 
understood the ultimate principles of being might also attain to the 
knowledge of the Infinite. The one depends on the other, and one 
leads to the other. These extremes meet and reunite by force of dis- 
tance, and find each other in God, and in God alone. 

Let us then take our compass; we are something, and we are not 
everything. The nature of our existence hides from us the knowledge 
of first beginnings which are born of the Nothing; and the littleness 
of our being conceals from us the sight of the Infinite. 

Our intellect holds the same position in the world of thought as 
our body occupies in the expanse of nature. 

Limited as we are in every way, this state which holds the mean 
between two extremes is present in all our impotence. Our senses 
perceive no extreme. Too much sound deafens us; too much light 
dazzles us; too great distance or proximity hinders our view. Too 
great length and too great brevity of discourse tend to obscurity; too 
much truth is paralysing (I know some who cannot understand that 

'"Concerning everything knowable" — the title under which Pico della Mirandola 
announced the 900 propositions which he undertook to defend in i486. 


to take four from nothing leaves nothing). First principles are too 
self-evident for us; too much pleasure disagrees with us. Too many 
concords are annoying in music; too many benefits irritate us; we 
wish to have the wherewithal to over-pay our debts. Beneficia eo 
usque IcEta sunt dum videntur exsolvi posse; ubi multum antevenere, 
pro gratia odium redditurt We feel neither extreme heat nor ex- 
treme cold. Excessive qualities are prejudicial to us and not per- 
ceptible by the senses; we do not feel but suffer them. Extreme youth 
and extreme age hinder the mind, as also too much and too little 
education. In short, extremes are for us as though they were not, and 
we are not within their notice. They escape us, or we them. 

This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain 
knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail within a vast sphere, 
ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we think 
to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and 
leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and 
vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condi- 
tion, and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire 
to find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to 
build a tower reaching to the Infinite. But our whole groundwork 
cracks, and the earth opens to abysses. 

Let us therefore not look for certainty and stability. Our reason 
is always deceived by fickle shadows; nothing can fix the finite be- 
tween the two Infinites, which both enclose and fly from it. 

If this be well understood, I think that we shall remain at rest, 
each in the state wherein nature has placed him. As this sphere 
which has fallen to us as our lot is always distant from either ex- 
treme, what matters it that man should have a little more knowledge 
of the universe? If he has it, he but gets a litde higher. Is he not 
always infinitely removed from the end, and is not the duration of 
our life equally removed from eternity, even if it lasts ten years 
longer ? 

In comparison with these Infinites all finites are equal and I see no 
reason for fixing our imagination on one more than on another. The 

^ "Benefits are pleasant while it seems possible to requite them; when they become 
much greater, they produce hatred rather than gratitude." — ^Tacitus. 


only comparison which we make of ourselves to the finite is pain- 
ful to us. 

If man made himself the first object of study, he would see how 
incapable he is of going further. How can a part know the whole? 
But he may perhaps aspire to know at least the parts to which he 
bears some proportion. But the parts of the world are all so related 
and linked to one another, that I believe it impossible to know one 
without the other and without the whole. 

Man, for instance, is related to all he knows. He needs a place 
wherein to abide, time through which to live, motion in order to 
live, elements to compose him, warmth and food to nourish him, air 
to breathe. He sees light; he feels bodies; in short, he is in a depend- 
ant alliance with everything. To know man, then, it is necessary 
to know how it happens that he needs air to live, and, to know the 
air, we must know how it is thus related to the life of man, etc. 
Flame cannot exist without air; therefore to understand the one, we 
must understand the other. 

Since everything then is cause and effect, dependant and support- 
ing, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural 
though imperceptible chain, which binds together things most dis- 
tant and most different, I hold it equally impossible to know the 
parts without knowing the whole, and to know the whole without 
knowing the parts in detail. 

[The eternity of things in itself or in God must also astonish our 
brief duration. The fixed and constant immobility of nature, in 
comparison with the continual change which goes on within us, 
must have the same effect.] 

And what completes our incapability of knowing things, is the 
fact that they are simple, and that we are composed of two opposite 
natures, different in kind, soul and body. For it is impossible that 
our rational part should be other than spiritual; and if any one main- 
tain that we are simply corporeal, this would far more exclude us 
from the knowledge of things, there being nothing so inconceivable 
as to say that matter knows itself. It is impossible to imagine how 
it should know itself. 

So if we are simply material, we can know nothing at all; and if 

32 pascal's thoughts 

we are composed of mind and matter, we cannot know perfectly 
things which are simple, whether spiritual or corporeal. Hence it 
comes that almost all philosophers have confused ideas of things, 
and speak of material things in spiritual terms, and of spiritual things 
in material terms. For they say boldly that bodies have a tendency 
to fall, that they seek after their centre, that they fly from destruction, 
that they fear the void, that they have inclinations, sympathies, an- 
tipathies, all of which attributes pertain only to mind. And in speak- 
ing of minds, they consider them as in a place, and attribute to them 
movement from one place to another; and these are qualities which 
belong only to bodies. 

Instead of receiving the ideas of these things in their purity, we 
colour them with our own qualities, and stamp with our composite 
being all the simple things which we contemplate. 

Who would not think, seeing us compose all things of mind and 
body, but that this mixture would be quite intelligible to us? Yet it 
is the very thing we least understand. Man is to himself the most 
wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, 
still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be 
united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and 
yet it is his very being. Modus quo corporibus adhcerent spiritus com- 
prehendi ab hominibus non potest, et hoc tamen homo est^ Finally, 
to complete the proof of our weakness, I shall conclude with these 
two considerations . . . 


[But perhaps this subject goes beyond the capacity of reason. Let 
us therefore examine her solutions to problems within her powers. 
If there be anything to which her own interest must have made her 
apply herself most seriously, it is the inquiry into her own sovereign 
good. Let us see, then, wherein these strong and clear-sighted souls 
have placed it, and whether they agree. 

One says that the sovereign good consists in virtue, another in 
pleasure, another in the knowledge of nature, another in truth, Felix 

' "The manner in which spirits are united to bodies cannot be understood by men, 
yet such is man." — St. Augustine. 


qui potuit rerum cognoscere causasf another in total ignorance, 
another in indolence, others in disregarding appearances, another in 
wondering at nothing, nihil admirari prope res una quce possit facere 
et servare beatum^ and the true sceptics in their indifference, doubt, 
and perpetual suspense, and others, wiser, think to find a better defi- 
nition. We are well satisfied. 

To transpose after the laws to the following title. 

We must see if this fine philosophy have gained nothing certain 
from so long and so intent study; perhaps at least the soul will know 
itself. Let us hear the rulers of the world on this subject. What 
have they thought of her substance ? 394.* Have they been more for- 
tunate in locating her? 395.* What have they found out about her 
origin, duration, and departure? 399.' 

Is then the soul too noble a subject for their feeble lights? Let us 
then abase her to matter and see if she knows whereof is made the 
very body which she animates, and those others which she contem- 
plates and moves at her will. What have those great dogmatists, who 
are ignorant of nothing, known of this matter? Harum sententi- 
arum, 393.' 

This would doubtless suffice, if reason were reasonable. She is 
reasonable enough to admit that she has been unable to find anything 
durable, but she does not yet despair of reaching it; she is as ardent 
as ever in this search, and is confident she has within her the neces- 
sary powers for this conquest. We must therefore conclude, and, after 
having examined her powers in their effects, observe them in them- 
selves, and see if she has a nature and a grasp capable of laying hold 
of the truth.] 


A letter on the foolishness of human \nowledge and philosophy. 

This letter before Diversion. 

Felix qui potuit^ . . . Nihil admirariJ 

280 kinds of sovereign good in Montaigne. 

' "Happy he who could understand the causes of things." — Virgil. 
' "To wonder at nothing is almost the only thing which can make and keep a 
man happy." — Horace. 

'References to Montaigne's Essays, ii. 12. 



Part I., I, 2, c. I, section 4. 

[Probability. — it will not be difficult to put the case a stage lower, 
and make it appear ridiculous. To begin at the very beginning.] 
What is more absurd than to say that lifeless bodies have passions, 
fears, hatreds, — that insensible bodies, lifeless and incapable of Ufe, 
have passions which presuppose at least a sensitive soul to feel them, 
nay more, that the object of their dread is the void? What is there 
in the void that could make them afraid ? Nothing is more shallow 
and ridiculous. This is not all; it is said that they have in them- 
selves a source of movement to shun the void. Have they arms, 
legs, muscles, nerves.'' 


To write against those who made too profound a study of science. 


I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have 
been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him 
give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no 
further need of God. 


Descartes useless and uncertain. 


[Descartes. — We must say summarily: "This is made by figure 
and motion," for it is true. But to say what these are, and to com- 
pose the machine, is ridiculous. For it is useless, uncertain, and 
painful. And were it true, we do not think all philosophy is worth 
one hour of pain.] 



How comes it that a cripple does not offend us, but that a fool 
does? Because a cripple recognizes that we walk straight, whereas 
a fool declares that it is we who are silly; if it were not so, we should 
feel pity and not anger, 

Epictetus asks still more strongly: "Why are we not angry if we 
are told that we have a headache, and why are we angry if we are 
told that we reason badly, or choose wrongly?" The reason is that 
we are quite certain that we have not a headache, or are not lame, 
but we are not so sure that we make a true choice. So having assur- 
ance only because we see with our whole sight, it puts us into sus- 
pense and surprise when another with his whole sight sees the op- 
posite, and still more so when a thousand others deride our choice. 
For we must prefer our own lights to those of so many others, and 
that is bold and difficult. There is never this contradiction in the 
feelings towards a cripple. 


It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love; so 
that, for want of true objects, they must attach themselves to false. 


Imagination. — It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error 
and falsity, the more deceptive that she is not always so; for she 
would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of 
falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her 
nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false. 

I do not speak of fools, I speak of the wisest men; and it is among 
them that the imagination has the great gift of persuasion. Reason 
protests in vain; it cannot set a true value on things. 

This arrogant power, the enemy of reason, who likes to rule and 
dominate it, has established in man a second nature to show how 
all-powerful she is. She makes men happy and sad, healthy and sick, 
rich and poor; she compels reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she 

36 pascal's thoughts 

blunts the senses, or quickens them; she has her fools and sages; and 
nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her devotees with 
a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason. Those who 
have a lively imagination are a great deal more pleased with them- 
selves than the wise can reasonably be. They look down upon men 
with haughtiness; they argue with boldness and confidence, others 
with fear and diffidence; and this gaiety of countenance often gives 
them the advantage in the opinion of the hearers, such favour have 
the imaginary wise in the eyes of judges of like nature. Imagination 
cannot make fools wise; but she can make them happy, to the envy 
of reason which can only make its friends miserable; the one covers 
them with glory, the other with shame. 

What but this faculty of imagination dispenses reputation, awards 
respect and veneration to persons, works, laws, and the great ? How 
insufficient are all the riches of the earth without her consent! 

Would you not say that this magistrate, whose venerable age com- 
mands the respect of a whole people, is governed by pure and lofty 
reason, and that he judges causes according to their true nature 
without considering those mere trifles which only affect the imagi- 
nation of the weak? See' him go to sermon, full of devout zeal, 
strengthening his reason with the ardour of his love. He is ready to 
listen with exemplary respect. Let the preacher appear, and let 
nature have given him a hoarse voice or a comical cast of counte- 
nance, or let his barber have given him a bad shave, or let by chance 
his dress be more dirtied than usual, then however great the truths 
he announces, I wager our senator lose his gravity. 

If the greatest philosopher in the world find himself upon a plank 
wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his im- 
agination will prevail, though his reason convince him of his safety. 
Many cannot bear the thought without a cold sweat. I will not state 
all its effects. 

Every one knows that the sight of cats or rats, the crushing of a 
coal, etc., may unhinge the reason. The tone of voice affects the 
wisest, and changes the force of a discourse or a poem. 

Love or hate alters the aspect of justice. How much greater con- 
fidence has an advocate, retained with a large fee, in the justice of 
his cause! How much better does his bold manner make his case 


appear to the judges, deceived as they are by appearances! How ludi- 
crous is reason, blown with a breath in every direction! 

I should have to enumerate almost every action o£ men who 
scarce waver save under her assaults. For reason has been obliged 
to yield, and the wisest reason takes as her own principles those; 
which the imagination of man has everywhere rashly introduced. 
[He who would follow reason only would be deemed foolish by 
the generahty of men. We must judge by the opinion of the ma- 
jority of mankind. Because it has pleased them, we must work all 
day for pleasures seen to be imaginary; and after sleep has refreshed 
our tired reason, we must forthwith start up and rush after phan- 
toms, and suffer the impressions of this mistress of the world. This 
is one of the sources of error, but it is not the only one.] 

Our magistrates have known well this mystery. Their red robes, 
the ermine in which they wrap themselves like furry cats, the courts 
in which they administer justice, the fleurs-de-lis, and all such august 
apparel were necessary; if the physicians had not their cassocks and 
their mules, if the doctors had not their square caps and their robes 
four times too wide, they would never have duped the world, which 
cannot resist so original an appearance. If magistrates had true jus- 
tice, and if physicians had the true art of healing, they would have 
no occasion for square caps; the majesty of these sciences would of 
itself be venerable enough. But having only imaginary knowledge, 
they must employ those silly tools that strike the imagination with 
which they have to deal; and thereby in fact they inspire respect. 
Soldiers alone are not disguised in this manner, because indeed their 
part is the most essential; they establish themselves by force, the 
others by show. 

Therefore our kings seek out no disguises. They do not mask 
themselves in extraordinary costumes to appear such; but they are 
accompanied by guards and halberdiers. Those armed and red- 
faced puppets who have hands and power for them alone, those 
trumpets and drums which go before them, and those legions round 
about them, make the stoutest tremble. They have not dress only, 
they have might. A very refined reason is required to regard as an 
ordinary man the Grank Turk, in his superb seraglio, surrounded 
by forty thousand janissaries. 

38 pascal's thoughts 

We cannot even see an advocate in his robe and with his cap on 
his head, without a favourable opinion of his ability. The imagina- 
tion disposes of everything; it makes beauty, justice, and happiness, 
which is everything in the world. I should much like to see an 
Italian work, of which I only know the title, which alone is worth 
many books, Delia opinione regina del mondoJ I approve of the 
book without knowing it, save the evil in it, if any. These are pretty 
much the effects of that deceptive faculty, which seems to have been 
expressly given us to lead us into necessary error. We have, how- 
ever, many other sources of error. 

Not only are old impressions capable of misleading us; the charms 
of novelty have the same power. Hence arise all the disputes of men, 
who taunt each other either with following the false impressions of 
childhood, or with running rashly after the new. Who keeps the 
due mean ? Let him appear and prove it. There is no principle, how- 
ever natural to us from infancy, which may not be made to pass for 
a false impression either of education or of sense. 

"Because," say some, "you have believed from childhood that a 
box was empty when you saw nothing in it, you have believed in 
the possibility of a vacuum. This is an illusion of your senses, 
strengthened by custom, which science must correct." "Because," 
say others, "you have been taught at school that there is no vacuum, 
you have perverted your common sense which clearly compre- 
hended it, and you must correct this by returning to your first 
state." Which has deceived you, your senses or your education? 

We have another source of error in diseases. They spoil the judg- 
ment and the senses; and if the more serious produce a sensible 
change, I do not doubt that slighter ills produce a proportionate 

Our own interest is again a marvellous instrument for nicely 
putting out our eyes. The justest man in the world is not allowed 
to be judge in his own cause; I know some who, in order not to fall 
into this self-love, have been perfectly unjust out of opposition. The 
sure way of losing a just cause has been to get it recommended to 
these men by their near relatives. 

Justice and truth are two such subtle points, that our tools are too 

* "On opinion, queen of the world." The book has not been certainly identified. 


blunt to touch them accurately. If they reach the point, they either 
crush it, or lean all round, more on the false than on the true. 

[Man is so happily formed that he has no . . . good of the true, 
and several excellent of the false. Let us now see how much . . . 
But the most powerful cause of error is the war existing between 
the senses and reason.] 


We must thus begin the chapter on the deceptive powers. Man 
is only a subject full of error, natural and ineffaceable, without 
grace. Nothing shows him the truth. Everything deceives him. 
These two sources of truth, reason and the senses, besides being 
both wanting in sincerity, deceive each other in turn. The senses 
mislead the reason with false appearances, and receive from reason 
in their turn the same trickery which they apply to her; reason has 
her revenge. The passions of the soul trouble the senses, and make 
false impressions upon them. They rival each other in falsehood 
and deception. 

But besides those errors which arise accidentally and through lack 
of intelligence, with these heterogeneous faculties . . . 


The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our soul with 
a fantastic estimate; and, with rash insolence, it belittles the great 
to its own measure, as when talking of God. 

Things which have most hold on us, as the concealment of our 
few possessions, are often a mere nothing. It is a nothing which 
our imagination magnifies into a mountain. Another turn of the 
imagination would make us discover this without difficulty. 


[My fancy makes me hate a croaker, and one who pants when 
eating. Fancy has great weight. Shall we profit by it? Shall we 
yield to this weight because it is natural ? No, but by resisting it. . . .] 


Quasi quidquam injelicius sit homini cui sua figmenta domi- 

Children who are frightened at the face they have blackened are 
but children. But how shall one who is so weak in his childhood 
become really strong when he grows older? We only change our 
fancies. All that is made perfect by progress perishes also by progress. 
AH that has been weak can never become absolutely strong. We 
say in vain, "He has grown, he has changed"; he is also the same. 


Custom is our nature. He who is accustomed to the faith believes 
in it, can no longer fear hell, and believes in nothing else. He who 
is accustomed to believe that the king is terrible . . . &c. Who doubts 
then that our soul, being accustomed to see number, space, motion, 
believes that and nothing else ? 


Quod crebro videt non miratur, etiamsi cur flat nescit; quod ante 
non viderit, id si evenerit, ostentum esse censet}^ 
N(E iste magno conatu magnas nugas dixerit." 


Spongia solis}^ — When we see the same effea always recur, we 
infer a natural necessity in it, as that there will be a to-morrow, &c. 
But nature often deceives us, and does not subject herself to her own 

1" "As if anything more unfortunate could happen to a man ruled by his own 
fancies."— Pliny. 

" "What a man sees often he does not wonder at, although he knows not why it 
happens; if something occurs which he has not seen before, he thinks it a marvel." — 

'2 "Verily, that man will have uttered great trifles with huge effort." — ^Terence. 

'' "Spots on the sun." 



What are our natural principles but principles of custom? In 
children they are those which they have received from the habits of 
their fathers, as hunting in animals. A different custom will cause 
different natural principles. This is seen in experience; and if there 
are some natural principles ineradicable by custom, there are also 
some customs opposed to nature, ineradicable by nature, or by a 
second custom. This depends on disposition. 


Parents fear lest the natural love of their children may fade away. 
What kind of nature is that which is subject to decay? Custom is a 
second nature which destroys the former. But what is nature? For 
is custom not natural ? I am much afraid that nature is itself only a 
first custom, as custom is a second nature. 


The nature of man is wholly natural, omne animal}* 
There is nothing he may not make natural; there is nothing 
natural he may not lose. 


Memory, joy, are intuitions; and even mathematical propositions 
become intuitions, for education produces natural intuitions, and 
natural intuitions are erased by education. 


When we are accustomed to use bad reasons for proving natural 
effects, we are not willing to receive good reasons when they are 
discovered. An example may be given from the circulation of the 
blood as a reason why the vein swells below the ligature. 

""All animal." 



The most important affair in life is the choice of a calling; chance 
decides it. Custom makes men masons, soldiers, slaters. "He is a 
good slater," says one, and, speaking of soldiers, remarks, "They are 
perfect fools." But others affirm, "There is nothing great but war, 
the rest of men are good-for-nothing." We choose our callings ac- 
cording as we hear this or that praised or despised in our childhood, 
for we naturally love truth and hate folly. These words move us; 
the only error is in their application. So great is the force of custom 
that out of those whom nature has only made men, are created all 
conditions of men. For some districts are full of masons, others of 
soldiers, &c. Certainly nature is not so uniform. It is custom then 
which does this, for it constrains nature. But sometimes nature 
gains the ascendency, and preserves man's instinct, in spite of all 
custom, good or bad. 


Bias leading to error,-At is a deplorable thing to see all men de- 
liberating on means alone, and not on the end. Each thinks how he 
will acquit himself in his condition; but as for the choice of condi- 
tion, or of country, chance gives them to us. 

It is a pitiable thing to see so many Turks, heretics and infidels, 
follow the way of their fathers for the sole reason that each has been 
imbued with the prejudice that it is the best. And that fixes for each 
man his condition of locksmith, soldier, &c. 

Hence savages care nothing for Provence. 


There is an universal and essential difference between the actions 
of the will and all other actions. 

The will is one of the chief factors in belief, not that it creates 
belief, but because things are true or false according to the aspect 
in which we look at them. The will, which prefers one aspect to 
another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all 


that it does not like to see; and thus the mind, moving in accord 
with the will, stops to consider the aspect which it likes, and so 
judges by what it sees. 


Self-love. — The nature of self-love and of this human Ego is to 
love self only and consider self only. But what will man do? He 
cannot prevent this object that he loves from being full of faults and 
wants. He wants to be great, and he sees himself small. He wants 
to be happy, and he sees himself miserable. He wants to be perfect, 
and he sees himself full of imperfections. He wants to be the object 
of love and esteem among men, and he sees that his faults merit only 
their hatred and contempt. This embarrassment in which he finds 
himself produces in him the most uiuighteous and criminal passion 
that can be imagined; for he conceives a mortal enmity against that 
truth which reproves him, and which convinces him of his faults. 
He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he 
destroys it as far as possible in his own knowledge and in that of 
others; that is to say, he devotes all his attention to hiding his faults 
both from others and from himself, and he cannot endure either that 
others should point them out to him, or that they should see them. 

Truly it is an evil to be full of faults; but it is a still greater evil to 
be full of them, and to be unwilling to recognise them, since that 
is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion. We do not like 
others to deceive us; we do not think it fair that they should be held 
in higher esteem by us than they deserve; it is not then fair that we 
should deceive them, and should wish them to esteem us more highly 
than we deserve. 

Thus, when they discover only the imperfections and vices which 
we really have, it is plain they do us no wrong, since it is not they 
who cause them; they rather do us good, since they help us to free 
ourselves from an evil, namely, the ignorance of these imperfections. 
We ought not to be angry at their knowing our faults and despising 
us; it is but right that they should know us for what we are, and 
should despise us, if we are contemptible. 

Such are the feelings that would arise in a heart full of equity 
and justice. What must we say then of our own heart, when we see 


in it a wholly different disposition ? For is it not true that we hate 
truth and those who tell it us, and that we like them to be deceived 
in our favour, and prefer to be esteemed by them as being other than 
what we are in fact? One proof of this makes me shudder. The 
Catholic religion does not bind us to confess our sins indiscriminately 
to everybody; it allows them to remain hidden from all other men 
save one, to whom she bids us reveal the innermost recesses of our 
heart, and show ourselves as we are. There is only this one man in 
the world whom she orders us to undeceive, and she binds him to 
an inviolable secrecy, which makes this knowledge to him as if it 
were not. Can we imagine anything more charitable and pleasant? 
And yet the corruption of man is such that he finds even this law 
harsh; and it is one of the main reasons which have caused a great 
part of Europe to rebel against the Church. 

How unjust and unreasonable is the heart of man, which feels it 
disagreeable to be obliged to do in regard to one man what in some 
measure it were right to do to all men! For is it right that we should 
deceive men ? 

There are different degrees in this aversion to truth; but all may 
perhaps be said to have it in some degree, because it is inseparable 
from self-love. It is this false delicacy which makes those who are 
under the necessity of reproving others choose so many windings 
and middle courses to avoid offence. They must lessen our faults, 
appear to excuse them, intersperse praises and evidence of love and 
esteem. Despite all this, the medicine does not cease to be bitter to 
self-love. It takes as little as it can, always with disgust, and often 
with a secret spite against those who administer it. 

Hence it happens that if any have some interest in being loved by 
us, they are averse to render us a service which they know to be dis- 
agreeable. They treat us as we wish to be treated. We hate the truth, 
and they hide it from us. We desire flattery, and they flatter us. 
We like to be deceived, and they deceive us. 

So each degree of good fortune which raises us in the world re- 
moves us further from truth, because we are most afraid of wound- 
ing those whose affection is most useful and whose dislike is most 
dangerous. A prince may be the byword of all Europe, and he alone 
will know nothing of it. I am not astonished; to tell the truth is 


useful to whom it is spoken, but disadvantageous to those who tell 
it, because it makes them disliked. Now those who live with princes 
love their own interests more than that of the prince whom they 
serve; and so they take care not to confer on him a benefit so as to 
injure themselves. 

This evil is no doubt greater and more common among the higher 
classes; but the lower are not exempt from it, since there is always 
some advantage in making men love us. Human life is thus only a 
perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks 
of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society 
is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each 
knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then 
spoke in sincerity and without passion. 

Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in him- 
self and in regard to others. He does not wish any one to tell him the 
truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so 
removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart. 


I set it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the 
other, there would not be four friends in the world. This is apparent 
from the quarrels which arise from the indiscreet tales told from 
time to time. I say, further, all men would be . . . 


Some vices only lay hold of us by means of others, and these, like 
branches, fall on removal of the trunk. 


The example of Alexander's chastity has not made so many con- 
tinent as that of his drunkenness has made intemperate. It is not 
shameful not to be as virtuous as he, and it seems excusable to be no 
more vicious. We do not believe ourselves to be exactly sharing in 
the vices of the vulgar, when we see that we are sharing in those of 
great men; and yet we do not observe that in these matters they are 

46 pascal's thoughts 

ordinary men. We hold on to them by the same end by which they 
hold on to the rabble; for, however exalted they are, they are still 
united at some point to the lowest of men. They are not suspended 
in the air, quite removed from our society. No, no; if they are greater 
than we, it is because their heads are higher; but their feet are as low 
as ours. They are all on the same level, and rest on the same earth; 
and by that extremity they are as low as we are, as the meanest folk, 
as infants, and as the beasts. 


When our passion leads us to do something, we forget our duty; 
for example, we like a book and read it, when we ought to be doing 
something else. Now, to remind ourselves of our duty, we must set 
ourselves a task we dislike; we then plead that we have something 
else to do, and by this means remember our duty. 


How difficult it is to submit anything to the judgment of another, 
without prejudicing his judgment by the manner in which we sub- 
mit it! If we say, "I think it beautiful," "I think it obscure," or the 
like, we either entice the imagination into that view, or irritate it to 
the contrary. It is better to say nothing; and then the other judges 
according to what really is, that is to say, according as it then is, and 
according as the other circumstances, not of our making, have placed 
it. But we at least shall have added nothing, unless it be that silence 
also produces an effect, according to the turn and the interpretation 
which the other will be disposed to give it, or as he will guess it from 
gestures or countenance, or from the tone of the voice, if he is a 
physiognomist. So difficult is it not to upset a judgment from its 
natural place, or rather so rarely is it firm and stable! 


By knowing each man's ruling passion, we are sure of pleasing 
him; and yet each has his fancies, opposed to his true good, in the 
very idea which he has of the good. It is a singularly puzzUng fact. 



Lustravit lampade terras}^ — The weather and my mood have 
little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my 
prosperity or misfortune has Httle to do with the matter. I sometimes 
struggle against luck, the glory of mastering it makes me master it 
gaily; whereas I am sometimes surfeited in the midst of good fortune. 


Although people may have no interest in what they are saying, 
we must not absolutely conclude from this that they are not lying; 
for there are some people who lie for the mere sake of lying. 


When we are well we wonder what we would do if we were ill, 
but when we are ill we take medicine cheerfully; the illness persuades 
us to do so. We have no longer the passions and desires for amuse- 
ments and promenades which health gave to us, but which are in- 
compatible with the necessities of illness. Nature gives us, then, pas- 
sions and desires suitable to our present state. We are only troubled 
by the fears which we, and not nature, give ourselves, for they add to 
the state in which we are the passions of the state in which we 
are not. 

As nature makes us always unhappy in every state, our desires 
picture to us a happy state; because they add to the state in which 
we are the pleasures of the state in which we are not. And if we 
attained to these pleasures, we should not be happy after all; because 
we should have other desires natural to this new state. 

We must particularise this general proposition. . . . 


The consciousness of the falsity of present pleasures, and the 
ignorance of the vanity of absent pleasures, cause inconstancy. 
*^ "He has illumined the earth with a lamp." 

48 pascal's thoughts 


Inconstancy. — ^We think we are playing on ordinary organs when 
playing upon man. Men are organs, it is true, but, odd, changeable, 
variable [with pipes not arranged in proper order]. Those who only 
know how to play on ordinary organs will not produce harmonies 
on these. We must know where [the keys] are. 


Inconstancy. — Things have different qualities, and the soul differ- 
ent inchnations; for nothing is simple which is presented to the soul, 
and the soul never presents itself simply to any object. Hence it 
comes that we weep and laugh at the same thing. 


Inconstancy and oddity. — To live only by work, and to rule over 
the most powerful State in the world, are very opposite things. They 
are united in the person of the great Sultan of the Turks. 


Variety is as abundant as all tones of the voice, all ways of walk- 
ing, coughing, blowing the nose, sneezing. We distinguish vines 
by their fruit, and call them the Condrien, the Desargues, and such 
and such a stock. Is this all? Has a vine ever produced two bunches 
exactly the same, and has a bunch two grapes alike ? &c. 

I can never judge of the same thing exactly in the same way. I 
cannot judge of my work, while doing it. I must do as the artists, 
stand at a distance, but not too far. How far then ? Guess. 


Variety. — Theology is a science, but at the same time how many 
sciences? A man is a whole; but if we dissect him, will he be the 
head, the heart, the stomach, the veins, each vein, each portion of a 
vein, the blood, each humour in the blood ? 


A town, a country-place, is from afar a town and a country-place. 
But, as we draw near, there are houses, trees, tiles, leaves, grass, ants, 
limbs of ants, in infinity. All this is contained under the name of 


Thoughts. — All is one, all is different. How many natures exist in 
man? How many vocations? And by what chance does each man 
ordinarily choose what he has heard praised ? A well-turned heel. 


The heel of a slipper. — "Ah! How well this is turned! Here is a 
clever workman! How brave is this soldier!" This is the source of 
our inclinations, and of the choice of conditions. "How much this 
man drinks! How little that one!" This makes people sober or 
drunk, soldiers, cowards, &c. 

Chief talent, that which rules the rest. 


Nature imitates herself. A seed sown in good ground brings forth 
fruit. A principle, instilled into a good mind, brings forth fruit. 
Numbers imitate space, which is of a different nature. 

All is made and led by the same master, root, branches, and 
fruits; principles and consequences. 


[Nature diversifies and imitates; art imitates and diversifies.] 


Nature always begins the same things again, the years, the days, 
the hours; in like manner spaces and numbers follow each other from 
beginning to end. Thus is made a kind of infinity and eternity. Not 


that anything in all this is infinite and eternal, but these finite realities 
are infinitely multiplied. Thus it seems to me to be only the number 
which multiplies them that is infinite. 


Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer 
the same persons. Neither the oflender nor the offended are any 
more themselves. It is like a nation which we have provoked, but 
meet again after two generations. They are still Frenchmen, but 
not the same, 


He no longer loves the person whom he loved ten years ago. I 
quite believe it. She is no longer the same, nor is he. He was young, 
and she also; she is quite different. He would perhaps love her yet, 
if she were what she was then. 


We view things not only from different sides, but with different 
eyes; we have no wish to find them alike. 


Contraries. — Man is naturally credulous and incredulous, timid 
and rash. 

Description of man : dependency, desire of independence, need. 

Condition of man: inconstancy, weariness, unrest. 


The weariness which is felt by us in leaving pursuits to which we 
are attached. A man dwells at home with pleasure; but if he sees a 


woman who charms him, or if he enjoys himself in play for five or 
six days, he is miserable if he return to his former way of living. 
Nothing is more common than that. 

Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death. 


Restlessness. — If a soldier, or labourer, complain of the hardship 
of his lot, set him to do nothing. 

Weariness. — ^Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely 
at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without 
study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, 
his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately 
arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretful- 
ness, vexation, despair. 


Methinks Caesar was too old to set about amusing himself with 
conquering the world. Such sport was good for Augustus or Alex- 
ander. They were still young men, and thus difficult to restrain. But 
Caesar should have been more mature. 


Two faces which resemble each other, make us laugh, when 
together, by their resemblance, though neither of them by itself 
makes us laugh. 


How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resem- 
blance of things, the originals of which we do not admire! 


The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. We love to see 
animals fighting, not the victor infuriated over the vanquished. 
We would only see the victorious end; and, as soon as it comes, we 
are satiated. It is the same in play and the same in the search for 
truth. In disputes we like to see the clash of opinions, but not at all 
to contemplate truth when found. To observe it with pleasure, we 
have to see it emerge out of strife. So in the passions, there is pleas- 
ure in seeing the collision of two contraries; but when one acquires 
the mastery, it becomes only brutality. We never seek things for 
themselves, but for the search. Likewise in plays, scenes which do 
not rouse the emotion of fear are worthless, so are extreme and 
hopeless misery, brutal lust, and extreme cruelty. 

A mere trifle consoles us, for a mere trifle distresses us. 


Without examining every particular pursuit, it is enough to com- 
prehend them under diversion. 

Men naturally slaters and of all callings, save in their own rooms. 


Diversion. — When I have occasionally set myself to consider the 
different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they 
expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, 
passions, bold and often bad ventures, &c., I have discovered that all 
the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot 
stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, 
if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to 
go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not 
be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge 


from the town; and men only seek conversation and entertaining 
games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home. 

But on further consideration, when, after finding the cause of all 
our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that 
there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our 
feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort 
us when we think of it closely. 

Whatever condition we picture to ourselves, if we muster all tht 
good things which it is possible to possess, royalty is the finest posi- 
tion in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king attended with every 
pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion, and be left to con- 
sider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain 
him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolu- 
tions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; 
so that if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy, and 
more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts 

Hence it comes that play and the society of women, war, and high 
posts, are so sought after. Not that there is in fact any happiness in 
them, or that men imagine true bliss to consist in money won at 
play, or in the hare which they hunt; we would not take these as a 
gift. We do not seek that easy and peaceful lot which permits us to 
think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the 
labour of office, but the bustle which averts these thoughts of ours, 
and amuses us. 

Reasons why we like the chase better than the quarry. 

Hence it comes that men so much love noise and stir; hence it 
comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that 
the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible. And it is in fact 
the greatest source of happiness in the condition of kings, that men 
try incessantly to divert them, and to procure for them all kinds of 

The king is surrounded by persons whose only thought is to divert 
the king, and to prevent his thinking of self. For he is unhappy, 
king though he be, if he think of himself. 

This is all that men have been able to discover to make themselves 
happy. And those who philosophise on the matter, and who think 


men unreasonable for spending a whole day in chasing a hare which 
they would not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare in 
itself would not screen us from the sight of death and calamities; 
but the chase which turns away our attention from these, does 
screen us. 

The advice given to Pyrrhus to take the rest which he was about to 
seek with so much labour, was full of difficulties. 

[To bid a man live quietly is to bid him live happily. It is to ad- 
vise him to be in a state perfectly happy, in which he can think at 
leisure without finding therein a cause of distress. This is to mis- 
understand nature. 

As men who naturally understand their own condition avoid noth- 
ing so much as rest, so there is nothing they leave undone in seeking 
turmoil. Not that they have an instinctive knowledge of true 
happiness. , . . 

So we are wrong in blaming them. Their error does not lie in 
seeking excitement, if they seek it only as a diversion; the evil is that 
they seek it as if the possession of the objects of their quest would 
make them really happy. In this respect it is right to call their quest 
a vain one. Hence in all this both the censurers and the censured do 
not understand man's true nature.] 

And thus, when we take the exception against them, that what 
they seek with such fervour cannot satisfy them, if they replied — as 
they should do if they considered the matter thoroughly — that they 
sought in it only a violent and impetuous occupation which turned 
their thoughts from self, and that they therefore chose an attractive 
object to charm and ardently attract them, they would leave their 
opponents without a reply. But they do not make this reply, because 
they do not know themselves. They do not know that it is the chase, 
and not the quarry, which they seek. 

[Dancing: we must consider rightly where to place our feet. 

— A gentleman sincerely believes that hunting is great and royal 
sport; but a beater is not of this opinion.] 

They imagine that if they obtained such a post, they would then 
rest with pleasure, and are insensible of the insatiable nature of their 
desire. They think they are truly seeking quiet, and they are only 
seeking excitement. 


They have a secret instinct which impels them to seek amusement 
and occupation abroad, and which arises from the sense of their con- 
stant unhappiness. They have another secret instinct, a remnant of 
the greatness of our original nature, which teaches them that hap- 
piness in reality consists only in rest, and not in stir. And of these 
two contrary instincts they form within themselves a confused idea, 
which hides itself from their view in the depths of their soul, inciting 
them to aim at rest through excitement, and always to fancy that the 
satisfaction which they have not will come to them, if, by surmount- 
ing whatever difficulties confront them, they can thereby open the 
door to rest. 

Thus passes away all man's life. Men seek rest in a struggle against 
difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes in- 
sufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of 
those which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves suffi- 
ciently sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not 
fail to arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural 
roots, and to fill the mind with its poison. 

Thus so wretched is man that he would vreary even without any 
cause for weariness from the peculiar state of his disposition; and so 
frivolous is he, that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, 
the least thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient 
to amuse him. 

But will you say what object has he in all this? The pleasure of 
bragging to-morrow among his friends that he has played better than 
another. So others sweat in their own rooms to show to the learned 
that they have solved a problem in Algebra, which no one had 
hitherto been able to solve. Many more expose themselves to ex- 
treme perils, in my opinion as foolishly, in order to boast afterwards 
that they have captured a town. Lastly, others wear themselves out in 
studying all these things, not in order to become wiser, but only in 
order to prove that they know them; and these are the most senseless 
of the band, since they are so knowingly, whereas one may suppose of 
the others, that if they knew it, they would no longer be foolish. 

This man spends his life without weariness in playing every day 
for a small stake. Give him each morning the money he can win 
each day, on condition he does not play; you make him miserable. 

56 pascal's thoughts 

It will perhaps be said that he seeks the amusement of play and not 
the winnings. Make him then play for nothing; he will not become 
excited over it, and will feel bored. It is then not the amusement 
alone that he seeks; a languid and passionless amusement will weary 
him. He must get excited over it, and deceive himself by the fancy 
that he will be happy to win what he would not have as a gift on 
condition of not playing; and he must make for himself an object of 
passion, and excite over it his desire, his anger, his fear, to obtain his 
imagined end, as children are frightened at the face they have 

Whence comes it that this man, who lost his only son a few months 
ago, or who this morning was in such trouble through being dis- 
tressed by lawsuits and quarrels, now no longer thinks of them ? Do 
not wonder; he is quite taken up in looking out for the boar which 
his dogs have been hunting so hotly for the last six hours. He re- 
quires nothing more. However full of sadness a man may be, he is 
happy for the time, if you can prevail upon him to enter into some 
amusement; and however happy a man may be, he will soon be 
discontented and wretched, if he be not diverted and occupied by 
some passion or pursuit which prevents weariness from overcoming 
him. Without amusement there is no joy; with amusement there is 
no sadness. And this also constitutes the happiness of persons in high 
position, that they have a number of people to amuse them, and have 
the power to keep themselves in this state. 

Consider this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first 
president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a 
large number of people come from all quarters to see them, so as 
not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of 
themselves? And when they are in disgrace and sent back to their 
country houses, where they lack neither wealth nor servants to help 
them on occasion, they do not fail to be wretched and desolate, 
because no one prevents them from thinking of themselves. 


[How does it happen that this man, so distressed at the death of his 
wife and his only son, or who has some great lawsuit which annoys 


him, is not at this moment sad, and that he seems so free from all 
painful and disquieting thoughts? We need not wonder; for a ball 
has been served him, and he must return it to his companion. He is 
occupied in catching it in its fall from the roof, to win a game. 
How can he think of his own affairs, pray, when he has this other 
matter in hand ? Here is a care worthy of occupying this great soul, 
and taking away from him every other thought of the mind. This 
man, born to know the universe, to judge all causes, to govern a 
whole state, is altogether occupied and taken up with the business of 
catching a hare. And if he does not lower himself to this, and wants 
always to be on the strain, he will be more foolish still, because he 
would raise himself above humanity; and after all he is only a man, 
that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and of nothing; 
he is neither angel nor brute, but man.] 


Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the 
pleasure even of kings. 


Diversion. — Is not the royal dignity sufficiently great in itself to 
make its possessor happy by the mere contemplation of what he is ? 
Must he be diverted from this thought like ordinary folk? I see 
well that a man is made happy by diverting him from the view of 
his domestic sorrows so as to occupy all his thoughts with the care of 
dancing well. But will it be the same with a king, and will he be 
happier in the pursuit of these idle amusements than in the con- 
templation of his greatness? And what more satisfactory object 
could be presented to his mind ? Would it not be a deprivation of his 
delight for him to occupy his soul with the thought of how to adjust 
his steps to the cadence of an air, or of how to throw a [ball] skil- 
fully, instead of leaving it to enjoy quietly the contemplation of the 
majestic glory which encompasses him? Let us make the trial; let 
us leave a king all alone to reflect on himself quite at leisure, with- 
out any gratification of the senses, without any care in his mind, 

58 pascal's thoughts 

without society; and we will see that a king without diversion is a 
man full of wretchedness. So this is carefully avoided, and near the 
persons of kings there never fail to be a great number of people who 
see to it that amusement follows business, and who watch all the 
time of their leisure to supply them with delights and games, so 
that there is no blank in it. In fact kings are surrounded with persons 
who are wonderfully attentive in taking care that the king be not 
alone and in a state to think of himself, knowing well that he will 
be miserable, king though he be, if he meditate on self. 

In all this I am not talking of Christian kings as Christians, but 
only as kings. 


Diversion. — Men are intrusted from infancy with the care of their 
honour, their property, their friends, and even with the property and 
the honour of their friends. They are overwhelmed with business, 
with the study of languages, and with physical exercise; and they are 
made to understand that they cannot be happy unless their health, 
their honour, their fortune and that of their friends be in good 
condition, and that a single thing wanting will make them unhappy. 
Thus they are given cares and business which make them bustle 
about from break of day. — It is, you will exclaim, a strange way to 
make them happy! What more could be done to make them mis- 
erable? — Indeed! what could be done? We should only have to re- 
lieve them from all these cares; for then they would see themselves: 
they would reflect on what they are, whence they came, whither 
they go, and thus we cannot employ and divert them too much. And 
this is why, after having given them so much business, we advise 
them, if they have some time for relaxation, to employ it in amuse- 
ment, in play, and to be always fully occupied. 

How hollow and full of ribaldry is the heart of man! 


I spent a long time in the study of the abstract sciences, and was 
disheartened by the small number of fellow-students in them. When 


I commenced the study of man, I saw that these abstract sciences are 
not suited to man, and that I was wandering further from my own 
state in examining them, than others in not knowing them. I par- 
doned their little knowledge; but I thought at least to find many 
companions in the study of man, and that it was the true study 
which is suited to him. I have been deceived; still fewer study it 
than geometry. It is only from want of knowing how to study this 
that we seek the other studies. But is It not that even here is not the 
knowledge which man should have, and that for the purposes of 
happiness it is better for him not to know himself.? 


[One thought alone occupies us; we cannot think of two things at 
the same time. This is lucky for us according to the world, not 
according to God.] 


Man is obviously made to think. It is his. whole dignity and his 
whole 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, &c., 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 

6o pascal's thoughts 

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; 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! &c. 

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, &c. We even lose our life with joy, provided people talk of it. 

Vanity: play, hunting, visiting, false shams, 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, nullum esse vitam sine armis rati}^ — 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. 


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. 

'^ "A fierce people, who thought life was nothing without arms." — Livy. 

62 pascal's thoughts 


Noble deeds are most estimable when hidden. When I see some 
of these in history, 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 


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 with- 
out, 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 kn^w fully the vanity of man has only to consider 
the causes and effects of love. The cause is / /(now not what (Cor- 


neille), and the effects are dreadful. This / know not what, 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 their 
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 qucesivi." 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. 

'' "In all things I have sought rest." 

64 pascal's thoughts 


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 is 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. 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 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, or of the abscess ready 
to form itself. 


Cromwell was about to ravage all Christendom; the royal family 
was undone, and his own for ever estabHshed, 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. 

66 pascal's thoughts 


[Three hosts.] 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: 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, 
Saturnalia, book ii. chap. 4. 


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


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 dis- 
tressed 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. 

Of the Necessity of the Wager 


A LETTER to incite to the search after God. 
And then to make people seek Him among the philos- 
L ophers, 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 con- 
trary 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. 

• "Terror rather than religion." 

2 "If they were not terrified and were instructed, it would seem like an unjust 

' "To meet a lie, appeal to the Council." 



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 with not being troubled, since God will 
reproach him. 

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 clear- 
ness. But since, on the contrary, it says that men are in darkness and 
estranged from God, that He has hidden Himself from their knowl- 

^ "What will happen to men who despise the smallest things, and do not believe 
the greater." 


edge, that this is in fact the name which He gives Himself in the 
Scriptures, Deus absconditusf 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 negli- 
gence is insufferable. We are not here concerned with the trifling 
interest 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 con- 
sequence 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 

^ "A hidden God." — Isaiah, xlv. 15. 


those who do not believe, I make a vast difference betvs^een 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 occupation. 

But as for those who pass their life without thinking of this ulti- 
mate 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 sim- 
plicity, 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 as 
heroic as we Uke, 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 i£ besides this he is easy and content, profess 
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 

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, 
not what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I 
know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, nor 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 fright- 
ful 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 Hfe 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 hfe 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 Christion 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 incom- 
prehensible enchantment, and a supernatural slumber, which indi- 
cates 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 them- 
selves 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 under- 
stand 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 honour- 
able, faithful, judicious, and capable of useful service to a friend; 

74 pascal's thoughts 

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 in every respect from that good breeding which they seek, 
that they would be more likely to correct than to pervert those who 
had an inclination to follow them. And indeed, make them give an 
account of their opinions, and of the reasons which they have for 
doubting religion, and they will say to you things so feeble and so 
petty, that they will persuade you of the contrary. The following is 
what a person one day said to such an one very appositely, "If you 
continue to talk in this manner, you will really make me religious." 
And he was right, for who would not have a horror of holding 
opinions in which he would have such contemptible persons as 

Thus those who only feign these opinions would be very unhappy, 
if they restrained their natural feelings in order to make themselves 
the most conceited of men. If, at the bottom of their heart, they are 
troubled at not having more light, let them not disguise the fact; 
this avowal will not be shameful. The only shame is to have none. 
Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know 
the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad 
disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises. 
Nothing is more dastardly than to act the bravado before God. Let 
them then leave these impieties to those who are sufficiently ill-bred 
to be really capable of them. Let them at least be honest men, if they 
Cannot be Christians. Finally, let them recognise that there are two 


kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with 
all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with 
all their heart because they do not know Him. 

But as for those who live without knowing Him and without 
seeking Him, they judge themselves so little worthy of their own 
care, that they are not worthy of the care of others; and it needs all 
the charity of the religion which they despise, not to despise them 
even to the point of leaving them to their folly. But because this 
religion obliges us always to regard them, so long as they are in this 
life, as capable of the grace which can enlighten them, and to believe 
that they may, in a little time, be more replenished with faith than 
we are, and that, on the other hand, we may fall into the blindness 
wherein they are, we must do for them what we would they should 
do for us if we were in their place, and call upon them to have pity 
upon themselves, and to take at least some steps in the endeavour to 
find light. Let them give to reading this some of the hours which they 
otherwise employ so uselessly; whatever aversion they may bring to 
the task, they will perhaps gain something, and at least will not lose 
much. But as for those who bring to the task perfect sincerity and a 
real desire to meet with truth, those I hope will be satisfied and con- 
vinced of the proofs of a religion so divine, which I have here col- 
lected and in which I have followed somewhat after this order . . . 


Before entering into the proofs of the Christian religion, I find it 
necessary to point out the sinfulness of those men who hve in indif- 
ference to the search for truth in a matter which is so important to 
them, and which touches them so nearly. 

Of all their errors, this doubtless is the one which most convicts 
them of foolishness and blindness, and in which it is easiest to con- 
found them by the first glimmerings of common sense, and by 
natural feelings. 

For it is not to be doubted that the duration of this life is but a 
moment; that the state of death is eternal, whatever may be its na- 
ture; and that thus all our actions and thoughts must take such dif- 
ferent directions according to the state of that eternity, that it is 

76 pascal's thoughts 

impossible to take one step with sense and judgment, unless we regu- 
late our course by the truth of that point which ought to be our 
ultimate end. 

There is nothing clearer than this; and thus, according to the prin- 
ciples of reason, the conduct of men is wholly unreasonable, if they 
do not take another course. 

On this point therefore we condemn those who live without 
thought of the ultimate end of life, who let themselves be guided 
by their own inclinations and their own pleasures without reflection 
and without concern, and, as if they could annihilate eternity by 
turning away their thought from it, think only of making themselves 
happy for the moment. 

Yet this eternity exists, and death, which must open into it, and 
threatens them every hour, must in a little time infallibly put them 
under the dreadful necessity of being either annihilated or unhappy 
for ever, without knowing which of these eternities is for ever pre- 
pared for them. 

This is a doubt of terrible consequence. They are in peril of eternal 
woe; and thereupon, as if the matter were not worth the trouble, 
they neglect to inquire whether this is one of those opinions which 
people receive with too credulous a facility, or one of those which, 
obscure in themselves, have a very firm, though hidden, foundation. 
Thus they know not whether there be truth or falsity in the matter, 
nor whether there be strength or weakness in the proofs. They have 
them before their eyes; they refuse to look at them; and in that ig- 
norance they choose all that is necessary to fall into this misfortune if 
it exist, to await death to make trial of it, yet to be very content in 
this state, to make profession of it and indeed to boast of it. Can we 
think seriously on the importance of this subject without being horri- 
fied at conduct so extravagant? 

This resting in ignorance is a monstrous thing, and they who pass 
their life in it must be made to feel its extravagance and stupidity, 
by having it shown to them, so that they may be confounded by the 
sight of their folly. For this is how men reason, when they choose to 
live in such ignorance of what they are, and without seeking enlight- 
enment. "I know not," they say . . . 


Men lack heart; they would not make a friend of it. 


To be insensible to the extent of despising interesting things, and 
to become insensible to the point which interests us most. 


The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great 
things, indicates a strange inversion. 


Let us imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to 
death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and 
those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows, and wait 
their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is 
an image of the condition of men. 


A man in a dungeon, ignorant whether his sentence be pronounced, 
and having only one hour to learn it, but this hour enough, if he 
know that it is pronounced, to obtain its repeal, would act unnaturally 
in spending that hour, not in ascertaining his sentence, but in playing 
piquet. So it is against nature that man, &c. It is making heavy the 
hand of God. 

Thus not only the zeal of those who seek Him proves God, but 
also the blindness of those who seek Him not. 


All the objections of this one and that one only go against them- 
selves, and not against religion. All that infidels say . , . 

78 pascal's thoughts 


[From those who are in despair at being without faith, we see that 
God does not enlighten them; but as to the rest, we see there is a God 
who makes them bUnd.] 


Fascinatio nugacitatis^ — ^That passion may not harm us, let us 
act as if we had only eight hours to live. 


If we ought to devote eight hours of Ufe, we ought to devote a 
hundred years. 


When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the 
eternity before and after, the Utde space which I fill, and even can 
see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am 
ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am aston- 
ished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why 
here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put 
me here ? By whose order and direction have this place and time been 
alloted to me.? Memoria hospitis unius diet prcetereuntis^ 

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me. 


How many kingdoms know us not ? 


Why is my knowledge limited ? Why my stature ? Why my life 
to one hundred years rather than to a thousand? What reason has 

^ "The bewitching of naughtiness." — Wisdom, iv. 12. 

' "The remembrance o£ a guest that tarrieth but a day." — Wisdom, v. 14. 


nature had for giving me such, and for choosing this number rather 
than another in the infinity of those from which there is no more 
reason to choose one than another, trying nothing else? 


Art thou less a slave by being loved and favoured by thy master ? 
Thou art indeed well off, slave. Thy master favours thee; he will 
soon beat thee. 


The last act is tragic, however happy all the rest of the play is; at 
the last a little earth is thrown upon our head, and that is the end 
for ever. 


We are fools to depend upon the society of our fellowmen. 
Wretched as we are, powerless as we are, they will not aid us; we 
shall die alone. We should therefore act as if we were alone, and in 
that case should we build fine houses, &c.? We should seek the truth 
without hesitation; and, if we refuse it, we show that we value the 
esteem of men more than the search for truth. 


Instability. — It is a horrible thing to feel all that we possess 
slipping away. 


Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the 
frailest thing in the world. 


Injustice. — That presumption should be joined to meanness is 
extreme injustice. 

8o pascal's thoughts 


To fear death without clanger, and not in danger, for one must 
be a man. 


Sudden death alone is feared; hence confessors stay with lords. 


An heir finds the title-deeds of his house. Will he say, "Perhaps 
they are forged?" and neglect to examine them? 


Dungeon. — I approve of not examining the opinion of Copernicus; 
but this . . . ! It concerns all our life to know whether the soul 
be mortal or immortal. 


It is certain that the inortality or immortality of the soul must 
make an entire difference to moraHty. And yet philosophers have 
constructed their ethics independently of this: they discuss to pass 
an hour. 

Plato, to incline to Christianity. 


The fallacy of philosophers who have not discussed the immor- 
tality of the soul. The fallacy of their dilemma in Montaigne. 


Atheists ought to say what is perfectly evident; now it is not per- 
fecdy evident that the soul is material. 


Atheists. — What reason have they for saying that we cannot rise 
from the dead? What is more difficult, to be born or to rise again; 


that what has never been should be, or that what has been should be 
again? Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to 
it? Habit makes the one appear easy to us; want of habit makes the 
other impossible. A popular way of thinking! 

Why cannot a virgin bear a child ? Does a hen not lay eggs with- 
out a cock? What distinguishes these outwardly from others? And 
who has told us that the hen may not form the germ as well as 
the cock ? 


What have they to say against the resurrection, and against the 
child-bearing of the Virgin ? Which is the more difficult, to produce 
a man or an animal, or to reproduce it? And if they had never seen 
any species of animals, could they have conjectured whether they 
were produced without connection with each other? 


How I hate these follies of not believing in the Eucharist, &c.! If 
the Gospel be true, if Jesus Christ be God, what difficulty is there? 

Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree; 


Infidels, who profess to follow reason, ought to be exceedingly 
strong in reason. What say they then? "Do we not see," say they, 
"that the brutes live and die like men, and Turks like Christians? 
They have their ceremonies, their prophets, their doctors, their saints, 
their monks, like us," &c. (Is this contrary to Scripture ? Does it not 
say all this?) 

If you care but little to know the truth, here is enough of it to 
leave you in repose. But if you desire with all your heart to know 
it, it is not enough; look at it in detail. This would be sufficient for 
a question in philosophy; but not here, where it concerns your all. 
And yet, after a trifling reflection of this kind, we go to amuse our- 

82 pascal's thoughts 

selves, &c. Let us inquire of this same religion whether it does not 
give a reason for this obscurity; perhaps it will teach it to us. 


Order by dialogues. — ^What ought I to do? I see only darkness 
everywhere. Shall I believe I am nothing? Shall I believe I am God? 

"All things change and succeed each other." You are mistaken; 
there is . . . 

Objection of atheists: "But we have no light." 


This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I 
see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which 
is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which 
revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I 
saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in 
faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in 
a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred times wished that if 
a God maintains nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, 
and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress 
them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I 
might see which cause I ought to follow. Whereas in my present 
state, ignorant of what I am or of what I ought to do, I know neither 
my condition nor my duty. My heart inclines wholly to know, where 
is the true good, in order to follow it; nothing would be too dear to 
me for eternity. 

I envy those whom I see living in the faith with such carelessness, 
and who make such a bad use of a gift of which it seems to me I 
would make such a different use. 


It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incompre- 
hensible that He should not exist, that the soul should be joined to 


the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should be 
created, and that it should not be created, &c.; that original sin should 
be, and that it should not be. 


Do you believe it to be impossible that God is infinite, without 
parts? — ^Yes. I wish therefore to show you an infinite and indivisible 
thing. It is a point moving everywhere with an infinite velocity; for 
it is one in all places, and is all totality in every place. 

Let this effect of nature, which previously seemed to you impos- 
sible, make you know that there may be others of which you are 
still ignorant. Do not draw this conclusion from your experiment, 
that there remains nothing for you to know; but rather that there 
remains an infinity for you to know. 


Infinite movement, the point which fills everything, the moment 
of rest; infinite without quantity, indivisible and infinite, 


Infinite — nothing. — Our soul is cast into a body, where it finds 
number, time, dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this 
nature, necessity, and can believe nothing else. 

Unity joined to infinity adds nothing to it, no more than one foot 
to an infinite measure. The finite is annihilated in the presence of 
the infinite, and becomes a pure nothing. So our spirit before God, 
so our justice before divine justice. There is not so great a dispro- 
portion between our justice and that of God, as between unity and 

The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice 
to the outcast is less vast, and ought less to offend our feelings than 
mercy towards the elect. 

We know that there is an infinite, and are ignorant of its nature. 
As we know it to be false that numbers are finite, it is therefore true 
that there is an infinity in number. But we do not know what it is. 
It is false that it is even, it is false that it is odd; for the addition of a 

84 pascal's thoughts 

unit can make no change in its nature. Yet it is a number, and every 
number is odd or even (this is certainly true of every finite number) . 
So we may well know that there is a God without knowing what He 
is. Is there not one substantial truth, seeing there are so many things 
which are not the truth itself? 

We know then the existence and nature of the finite, because we 
also are finite and have extension. We know the existence of the 
infinite, and are ignorant of its nature, because it has extension like 
us, but not limits like us. But we know neither the existence nor 
the nature of God, because He has neither extension nor limits. 

But by faith we know His existence; in glory we shall know His 
nature. Now, I have already shown that we may well know the 
existence of a thing, without knowing its nature. 

Let us now speak according to natural lights. 

If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having 
neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then inca- 
pable of knowing either what He is or if He is. This being so, who 
will dare to undertake the decision of the question? Not we, who 
have no affinity to Him. 

Who then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason 
for their belief, since they profess a religion for which they cannot 
give a reason? They declare, in expounding it to the world, that 
it is a foolishness, stultitiam; and then you complain that they do not 
prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in 
lacking proofs, that they are not lacking in sense. "Yes, but although 
this excuses those who offer it as such, and take away from them the 
blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those 
who receive it." Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or 
He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide 
nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separates us. A game 
is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads 
or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, 
you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, 
you can defend neither of the propositions. 

Do not then reprove for error those who have made a choice; for 
you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, 
not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads 


and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the 
wrong. The true course is not to wager at all." 

— Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. 
Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, 
let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the 
true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your 
will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two 
things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in 
choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity 
choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness ? Let us weigh 
the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these 
two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. 
Wager then without hesitation that He is. — "That is very fine. Yes, 
I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." — Let us see. 
Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to 
gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there 
were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under 
the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are 
forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where 
there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of 
life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of 
chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be 
right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being 
obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game 
in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there 
were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here 
an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against 
a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is 
all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of 
chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you 
must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must re- 
nounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, 
as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness. 

For it is no use to say it is uncertain if we will gain, and it is cer- 
tain that we risk, and that the infinite distance between the certainty 
of what is staked and the uncertainty of what will be gained, equals 
the finite good which is certainly staked against the uncertain infinite. 

86 pascal's thoughts 

It is not so, as every player stakes a certainty to gain an uncertainty, 
and yet he stakes a finite certainty to gain a finite uncertainty, with- 
out transgressing against reason. There is not an infinite distance 
between the certainty staked and the uncertainty of the gain; that is 
untrue. In truth, there is an infinity between the certainty of gain 
and the certainty of loss. But the uncertainty of the gain is propor- 
tioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the 
chances of gain and loss. Hence it comes that, if there are as many 
risks on one side as on the other, the course is to play even; and then 
the certainty of the stake is equal to the uncertainty of the gain, so 
far is it from fact that there is an infinite distance between them. 
And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to 
stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and 
the infinite to gain. This is demonstrable; and if men are capable of 
any truths, this is one. 

"I confess it, I admit it. But still is there no means of seeing the 
faces of the cards?" — ^Yes, Scripture and the rest, &c. — "Yes, but I 
have my hands tied and my mouth closed; I am forced to wager, 
and am not free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot 
believe. What then would you have me do?" 

True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason 
brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour then to 
convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abate- 
ment of your passions. You would like to attain faith, and do not 
know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask 
the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, 
and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know 
the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of 
which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; 
by acting as if they believe, taking the holy water, having masses said, 
&c. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your 
acuteness. — "But this is what I am afraid of." — And why? What 
have you to lose ? 

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will 
lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks. 

The end of this discourse. — Now what harm will befall you in 
taking this side? You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful. 


generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have 
those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have 
others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this Ufe, and 
that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty 
of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last 
recognize that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, 
for which you have given nothing. 

"Ah! This discourse transports me, charms me," &c. 

If this discourse pleases you and seems impressive, know that it is 
made by a man who has knelt, both before and after it, in prayer to 
that Being, infinite and without parts, before whom he lays all he 
has, for you also to lay before Him all you have for your own good 
and for His glory, that so strength may be given to lowliness. 


If we must not act save on a certainty, we ought not to act on re- 
ligion, for it is not certain. But how many things we do on an un- 
certainty, sea voyages, battles! I say then we must do nothing at all, 
for nothing is certain, and that there is more certainty in religion 
than there is as to whether we may see to-morrow; for it is not certain 
that we may see to-morrow, and it is certainly possible that we may 
not see it. We cannot say as much about religion. It is not certain 
that it is; but who will venture to say that it is certainly possible that 
it is not? Now when we work for to-morrow, and so on an uncer- 
tainty, we act reasonably; for we ought to work for an uncertainty 
according to the doctrine of chance which was demonstrated above. 

St. Augustine has seen that we work for an uncertainty, on sea, in 
battle, &c. 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 

88 pascal's thoughts 

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 

Rem viderunt, causam non videruntJ 


According to the doctrine of chance, you ought to put yourself to 
the trouble of searching for the truth; for if you die without wor- 
shipping 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 there- 
fore; it is well worth it. 


Chances. — We must live differently in the world, according to 
these different assumptions: — (i) 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. 


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.? 


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? 

' "They saw the thing, not the cause." 



"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 


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

Of the Means of Belief 


"jrXREFACE to the second part. — To speak of those who have 

#— ^ treated of this matter. 
JL. 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. I should not 
be astonished at their enterprise, if they were addressing their argu- 
ment 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, per- 
sons 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 im- 
portant 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 bet- 
ter 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} 

This is what Scripture points out to us, when it says in so many 
places that those who seek God find Him. It is not of that light, 

1 Matthew, xi. 27. 


"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? 

It is an astounding fact that no canonical writer has ever made 
use of nature to prove God. They all strive to make us beUeve in 
Him. David, Solomon, &c., 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. 


"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. 


There are three sources of belief: reason, custom, inspiration. 
The Christian religion, which alone has reason, does not acknowl- 
edge 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? 


Order. — After the letter "that we ought to seek God," to write 
the letter "on removing obstacles"; which is the discourse on "the 
machine," on preparing the machine, on seeking by reason. 

Order. — A letter of exhortation to a friend to induce him to seek. 

'Isaiah, xlv. 15. ' i Corinthians, i. 17. 


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, 


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^ It is this faith that God Himself puts into the 
heart, of which the proof is often the instrument, f.des ex audituf but 
this faith is in the heart, and makes us not say sciof but credoU 


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


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


Other religions, as the pagan, are more popular, for they consist 
in externals. But they are not for educated people. A purely intel- 
lectual 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 under- 
stand the spirit of the letter, and the learned must submit their spirit 
to the letter. 

* Romans, i. 17. ^ Romans, x. 17. ^ "I know." ' "I believe." 



For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much auto- 
matic as intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by 
which conviction is attained is not demonstration 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, sol- 
diers, &c. (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, with- 
out art, without argument, makes us believe things, and inclines all 
our powers to this belief, so that our soul falls naturally into it. It is 
not enough to believe only by force of conviction, when the automa- 
ton 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 allow- 
ing it to incline to the contrary. Inclina cor meum, DeusJ 

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. 


Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only. 
'Psalms, cxix. 36. 



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. 


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, &c. 


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. 


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 


Unus quisque sibi Deum fingit.^ 


Ordinary people have the power of not thinking of that about 
which they do not wish to think. "Do not meditate on the passages 
' "Each one makes a God for himself." 


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. 


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 humility, 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. 


Those who do not love the truth take as a pretext that it is dis- 
puted, 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. 


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 

96 pascal's thoughts 

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. 


"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. Noth- 
ing 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 exception to the present 
subject, and for saying, "This is not always true; there are there- 
fore 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. 


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


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


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, 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. 


The last proceeding of reason is to recognize that there is an infin- 
ity 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 ? 


Submission. — We must know where to doubt, where to feel cer- 
tain, 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. 

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


St. Augustine. — 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. 

Wisdom sends us to childhood. Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli}'' 


There is nothing so conformable to reason as this disavowal o£ 

'"Matthew, xviii. 3. 

98 pascal's thoughts 


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


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. 


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


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. 


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 Univer- 
sal 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 



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


Faith is a gift of God; do not beheve 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. 


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

Heart, instinct, principles. 


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 on them every argu- 
ment. (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 in- 
stinct 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 intui- 
tion 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 use- 
less for salvation. 


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 Augus- 
tine. This order consists chiefly in digressions on each point to indi- 
cate the end, and keep it always in sight. 


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 inchnes it. And this is what David knew well, when he said: 
Inclina cor meum, Deus, in . . ." 

1' Psalms, cxix. 36. 



Religion is suited to all kinds o£ minds. Some pay attention only to 
its establishment, 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. 


Those who believe without having read the Testaments, do so be- 
cause 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 them- 
selves 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 knowl- 
edge of their duty and of their inefficiency. 


Those whom we see to be Christians without the knowledge of 
the prophecies 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; it is certain that the Spirit 
of God is in these, and not in the others. 


Instead of complaining that God has 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. 


Proof. — I. The Christian religion, by its establishment, having 
established itself so strongly, so gently, whilst so 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 re- 
ligion has perpetuity. — 10. The doctrine which gives a reason for 
everything. — 11. The sanctity of this law. — 12. By the course of the 

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. 


Proofs of religion. — Morality, Doctrine, Miracles, Prophecies, 

Justice and the Reason of Effects 


IN the letter On Injustice can come the ridiculousness o£ 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." 
"Why do you kill me.?" 

He lives on the other side of the water. 


"Why do you kill me? What! do you not live on the other side of 
the water ? If you lived on this side, my friend, I should be an assas- 
sin, and it would be unjust to slay you in this manner. But since 
you live on the other side, I am a hero, and it is just." 


. . . On what shall man found the order of the world which he 
would govern ? Shall it be on the caprice of each individual .? What 
confusion! Shall it be on justice? Man is ignorant of it. 

Certainly had he known it, he would not have established this 
maxim, the most general of all that obtain among men, that each 
should follow the customs of his own country. The glory of true 
equity would have brought all nations under subjection, and legis- 
lators would not have taken as their model the fancies and caprice 
of Persians and Germans instead of this unchanging justice. We 
should have seen it set up in all the States on earth and in all times; 
whereas we see neither justice nor injustice which does not change 



its nature with change in cHmate. Three degrees of latitude reverse 
all jurisprudence; a meridian decides the truth. Fundamental laws 
change after a few years of possession; right has its epochs; the entry 
of Saturn into the lion marks to us the origin of such and such a 
crime. A strange justice that is bounded by a river! Truth on this 
side of the Pyrenees, error on the other side. 

Men admit that justice does not consist in these customs, but that 
it resides in natural laws, common to every country. They would 
certainly maintain it obstinately, if reckless chance which has dis- 
tributed human laws had encountered even one which was universal; 
but the farce is that the caprice of men has so many vagaries that 
there is no such law. 

Theft, incest, infanticide, patricide, have all had a place among 
virtuous actions. Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man 
should have the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of 
the water, and because his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I 
have none with him ? 

Doubtless there are natural laws; but good reason once corrupted 
has corrupted all. Nihil amplius nostrum est; quod nostrum dicimus, 
artis est} Ex senatus consultis et plebiscitis crtmina exercentur} . Ut 
olim vitiis, sic nunc legibus laboramus? 

The result of this confusion is that one affirms the essence of 
justice to be the authority of the legislator; another, the interest of the 
sovereign; another, present custom, and this is the most sure. Noth- 
ing, according to reason alone, is just in itself; all changes with time. 
Custom creates the whole of equity, for the simple reason that it is 
accepted. It is the mystical foundation of its authority; whoever 
carries it back to first principles destroys it. Nothing is so faulty 
as those laws which correct faults. He who obeys them because 
they are just, obeys a justice which is imaginary, and not the essence 
of law; it is quite self-contained, it is law and nothing more. He 
who will examine its motive will find it so feeble and so trifling that 
if he be not accustomed to contemplate the wonders of human imagi- 
nation, he will marvel that one century has gained for it so much 
pomp and reverence. The art of opposition and of revolution is to 

* "We can claim nothing more; what we call ours is art's." 

* "Decrees of the senate and of the people are responsible for crimes." 
3 "As once we suflfered from vices, so now from laws." 


unsettle established customs, sounding them even to their source, to 
point out their want of authority and justice. We must, it is said, 
get back to the natural and fundamental laws of the State, which an 
unjust custom has aboHshed. It is a game certain to result in the loss 
of all; nothing will be just on the balance. Yet people readily lend 
their ear to such arguments. They shake off the yoke as soon as they 
recognise it; and the great profit by their ruin, and by that of these 
curious investigators of accepted customs. But from a contrary mis- 
take men sometimes think they can justly do everything which is 
not without an example. That is why the wisest of legislators said 
that it was often necessary to deceive men for their own good; and 
another, a good politician. Cum veritatem qua liberetur ignoret, 
expedit quod fallatur.* We must not see the fact of usurpation; law 
was once introduced without reason, and has become reasonable. 
We must make it regarded as authoritative, eternal, and conceal its 
origin, if we do not wish that it should soon come to an end. 


Mine, thine. — "This dog is mine," said those poor children; "that 
is my place in the sun." Here is the beginning and the image of 
the usurpation of all the earth. 


When the question for consideration is whether we ought to 
make war, and kill so many men — condemn so many Spaniards to 
death — only one man is judge, and he is an interested party. There 
should be a third, who is disinterested. 


Veri juris. ^ — We have it no more; if we had it, we should take 
conformity to the customs of a country as the rule of justice. It is 
here that, not finding justice, we have found force, &c. 

■• "When a man does not understand the truth by which he might be freed, it is 
expedient that he should be deceived." — St. Augustine. 
5 "Of the true law." 

io6 pascal's thoughts 


Justice, Might. — It is right that what is just should be obeyed; it 
is necessary that what is strongest should be obeyed. Justice without 
might is helpless; might without justice is tyrannical. Justice without 
might is gainsaid, because there are always offenders; might without 
justice is condemned. We must then combine justice and might, and 
for this end make what is just strong, or what is strong just. 

Justice is subject to dispute; might is easily recognized and is not 
disputed. So we cannot give might to justice, because might has 
gainsaid justice, and has declared that it is she herself who is just. 
And thus being unable to make what is just strong, we have made 
what is strong just. 


The only universal rules are the laws of the country in ordinary 
affairs, and of the majority in others. Whence comes this? From the 
might which is in them. Hence it comes that kings, who have power 
of a different kind, do not follow the majority of their ministers. 

No doubt equality of goods is just; but, being unable to cause 
might to obey justice, men have made it just to obey might. Unable 
to strengthen justice, they have justified might; so that the just and 
the strong should unite, and there should be peace, which is the 
sovereign good. 


"When a strong man armed keepeth his goods, his goods are in 


Why do we follow the majority? Is it because they have more 
reason? No, because they have more power. 

Why do we follow ancient laws and opinions? Is it because they 
are more sound ? No, but because they are unique, and remove from 
us the root of difference. 


... It is the effect of might, not of custom. For those who are 
capable of originaHty are few; the greater number will only follow, 
and refuse glory to those inventors who seek it by their inventions. 
And if these are obstinate in their wish to obtain glory, and despise 
those who do not invent, the latter will call them ridiculous names, 
and would beat them with a stick. Let no one then boast of his 
subtiUty, or let him keep his complacency to himself. 


Might is the sovereign of the world, and not opinion. — But opinion 
makes use of might. — It is might that makes opinion. Gentleness is 
beautiful in our opinion. Why.' Because he who will dance on a 
rope will be alone, and I will gather a stronger mob of people who 
will say that it is unbecoming. 


The cords which bind the respect of men to each other are in 
general cords of necessity; for there must be different degrees, all 
men wishing to rule, and not all being able to do so, but some being 

Let us then imagine we see society in the process of formation. 
Men will doubtless fight till the stronger party overcomes the weaker, 
and a dominant party is established. But when this is once deter- 
mined, the masters, who do not desire the continuation of strife, then 
decree that the power which is in their hands shall be transmitted as 
they please. Some place it in election by the people, others in heredi- 
tary succession, &c. 

And this is the point where imagination begins to play its part. 
Till now power makes fact; now power is sustained by imagination 
in a certain party, in France in the nobility, in Switzerland in the 
burgesses, &c. 

These cords which bind the respect of men to such and such an 
individual are therefore the cords of imagination. 

io8 pascal's thoughts 


The Swiss are offended by being called gentlemen, and prove 
themselves true plebeians in order to be thought worthy o£ great 


As duchies, kingships, and magistracies are real and necessary, 
because might rules all, they exist everywhere and always. But 
since only caprice makes such and such a one a ruler, the principle is 
not constant, but subject to variation, &c. 


The chancellor is grave, and clothed with ornaments, for his posi- 
tion is unreal. Not so the king, he has power, and has nothing to do 
with the imagination. Judges, physicians, &c., appeal only to the 


The habit of seeing kings accompanied by guards, drums, officers, 
and all the paraphernalia which mechanically inspire respect and 
awe, makes their countenance, when sometimes seen alone without 
these accompaniments, impress respect and awe on their subjects; 
because we cannot separate in thought their persons from the sur- 
roundings with which we see them usually joined. And the world, 
which knows not that this effect is the result of habit, believes that 
it arises by a natural force, whence come these words, "The char- 
acter of Divinity is stamped on his countenance," &c. 


Justice. — As custom determines what is agreeable, so also does it 
determine justice. 


King and tyrant. — I, too, will keep my thoughts secret. 

I will take care on every journey. 

Greatness of establishment, respect for establishment. 


The pleasure of the great is the power to make people happy. 

The property of riches is to be given liberally. 

The property of each thing must be sought. The property of 
power is to protect. 

When force attacks humbug, when a private soldier takes the 
square cap off a first president, and throws it out of the window. 

The government founded on opinion and imagination reigns for 
some time, and this government is pleasant and voluntary; that 
founded on might lasts for ever. Thus opinion is the queen of the 
world, but might is its tyrant. 


Justice is what is established; and thus all our established laws 
will necessarily be regarded as just without examination, since 
they are established. 


Sound opinions of the people. — Civil wars are the greatest of evils. 
They are inevitable, if we wish to reward desert; for all will say they 
are deserving. The evil we have to fear from a fool who succeeds 
by right of birth, is neither so great nor so sure. 


God has created all for Himself. He has bestowed upon Himself 
the power of pain and pleasure. 

You can apply it to God, or to yourself. If to God, the Gospel 
is the rule. If to yourself, you will take the place of God. As God is 
surrounded by persons full of charity, who ask of Him the blessings 
of charity that are in His power, so . . . Recognise then and learn 
that you are only a king of lust, and take the ways of lust. 


The Reason of effects. — It is wonderful that men would not have 
me honour a man clothed in brocade, and followed by seven of 
eight lackeys! Why! He will have me thrashed, if I do not salute 
him. This custom is a force. It is the same with a horse in fine 
trappings in comparison with another! Montaigne is a fool not 
to see what difference there is, to wonder at our finding any, and 
to ask the reason. "Indeed," says he, "how comes it," &c. . . . 


Sound opinions of the people. — To be spruce is not altogether 
foolish, for it proves that a great number of people work for one. 
It shows by one's hair, that one has a valet, a perfumer, &c., by one's 
band, thread, lace, . . . &c. Now it is not merely superficial nor 
merely outward show to have many arms at command. The more 
arms one has, the more powerful one is. To be spruce is to show 
one's power. 

Deference means, "Put yourself to inconvenience." This is appar- 
ently silly, but is quite right. For it is to say, "I would indeed put 
myself to inconvenience if you required it, since indeed I do so when 
it is of no service to you." Deference further serves to distinguish 
the great. Now if deference was displayed by sitting in an arm-chair, 
we should show deference to everybody, and so no distinction would 
be made; but, being put to inconvenience, we distinguish very well. 


He has four lackeys. 


How rightly do we distinguish men by external appearances rather 
than by internal qualities! Which of us two shall have precedence? 
Who will give place to the other.? The least clever. But I am asi 


clever as he. We should have to fight over this. He has four lackeys, 
and I have only one. This can be seen; we have only to count. It falls 
to me to yield, and I am a fool if I contest the matter. By this means 
we are at peace, which is the greatest of boons. 


The most unreasonable things in the world become most reason- 
able, because of the unruliness of men. What is less reasonable than 
to choose the eldest son of a queen to rule a State? We do not 
choose as captain of a ship the passenger who is of the best family. 

This law would be absurd and unjust; but because men are so 
themselves, and always will be so, it becomes reasonable and just. 
For whom will men choose, as the most virtuous and able? We 
at once come to blows, as each claims to be the most virtuous and 
able. Let us then attach this quality to something indisputable. 
This is the king's eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. 
Reason can do no better, for civil war is the greatest of evils. 

Children are astonished to see their comrades respected. 


To be of noble birth is a great advantage. In eighteen years it 
places a man within the select circle, known and respected, as 
another would have merited in fifty years. It is a gain of thirty 
years without trouble. 


What is the Ego ? 

Suppose a man puts himself at a window to see those who pass by. 
If I pass by, can I say that he placed himself there to see me? No; 
for he does not think of me in particular. But does he who loves 
some one on account of beauty really love that person? No; for 
the small-pox, which will kill beauty without killing the person, 
will cause him to love her no more. 

112 pascal's thoughts 

And if one loves me for my judgment, memory, he does not love 
me, for I can lose these qualities without losing myself. Where then 
is this Ego, if it be neither in the body nor in the soul ? And how love 
the body or the soul, except for these qualities which do not constitute 
me, since they are perishable? For it is impossible and would be 
unjust to love the soul of a person in the abstract, and whatever 
qualities might be therein. We never then love a person, but only 

Let us then jeer no more at those who are honoured on account of 
rank and office; for we love a person only on account of borrowed 


The people have very sound opinions, for example: 

1. In having preferred diversion and hunting to poetry. The 
half-learned laugh at it, and glory in being above the folly of the 
world; but the people are right for a reason which these do not 

2. In having distinguished men by external marks, as birth or 
wealth. The world again exults in showing how unreasonable this 
is; but it is very reasonable. Savages laugh at an infant king. 

3. In being offended at a blow, or in desiring glory so much. But 
it is very desirable on account of the other essential goods which are 
joined to it; and a man who has received a blow, without resenting 
it, is overwhelmed with taunts and indignities. 

4. In working for the uncertain; in sailing on the sea; in walking 
over a plank. 


Montaigne is wrong. Custom should be followed only because it 
is custom, and not because it is reasonable or just. But people follow 
it for this sole reason, that they think it just. Otherwise they would 
follow it no longer, although it were the custom; for they will only 
submit to reason or justice. Custom without this would pass for 
tyranny; but the sovereignty of reason and justice is no more tyran- 
nical than that of desire. They are principles natural to man. 


It would therefore be right to obey laws and customs, because 
they are laws; but we should know that there is neither truth nor 
justice to introduce into them, that we know nothing of these, and 
so must follow what is accepted. By this means we would never 
depart from them. But the people cannot accept this doctrine; and, 
as they believe that truth can be found, and that it exists in law and 
custom, they believe them, and take their antiquity as a proof of 
their truth, and not simply of their authority apart from truth. 
Thus they obey laws, but they are liable to revolt when these are 
proved to be valueless; and this can be shown of all, looked at 
from a certain aspect. 


Injustice. — It is dangerous to tell the people that the laws are 
unjust; for they obey them only because they think them just. There- 
fore it is necessary to tell them at the same time that they must obey 
them because they are laws, just as they must obey superiors, not 
because they are just, but because they are superiors. In this way all 
sedition is prevented, if this can be made intelligible, and it be under- 
stood what is the proper definition of justice. 


The world is a good judge of things, for it is in natural ignorance, 
which is man's true state. The sciences have two extremes which 
meet. The first is the pure natural ignorance in which all men find 
themselves at birth. The other extreme is that reached by great in- 
tellects, who, having run through all that men can know, find they 
know nothing, and come back again to that same ignorance from 
which they set out; but this is a learned ignorance which is conscious 
of itself. Those between the two, who have departed from natural 
ignorance and not been able to reach the other, have some smattering 
of this vain knowledge, and pretend to be wise. These trouble the 
world, and are bad judges of everything. The people and the wise 
constitute the world; these despise it, and are despised. They judge 
badly of everything, and the world judges rightly of them. 



The reason of effects. — Continual alternation of pro and con. 

We have then shown that man is foolish, by the estimation he 
makes of things which are not essential; and all these opinions are 
destroyed. We have next shown that all these opinions are very 
sound, and that thus, since all these vanities are well founded, the 
people are not so foolish as is said. And so we have destroyed the 
opinion which destroyed that of the people. 

But we must now destroy this last proposition, and show that 
it remains always true that the people are foolish, though their 
opinions are sound; because they do not perceive the truth where it 
is, and, as they place it where it is not, their opinions are always 
very false and very unsound. 


The weakness of man is the reason why so many things are con- 
sidered fine, as to be good at playing the lute. 
It is only an evil because of our weakness. 


The power of kings is founded on the reason and on the folly of 
the people, and specially on their folly. The greatest and most 
important thing in the world has weakness for its foundation, and 
this foundation is wonderfully sure; for there is nothing more sure 
than this, that the people will be weak. What is based on sound 
reason is very ill founded, as the estimate of wisdom. 


We can only think of Plato and Aristotle in grand academic robes. 
They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, 
and when they diverted themselves with writing the Laws and the 
Politics, they did it as an amusement. That part of their life was the 
least philosophic and the least serious; the most philosophic was to 
live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics, it was as if laying 


down rules for a lunatic asylum; and if they presented the appearance 
of speaking of a great matter, it was because they knew that the mad- 
men, to whom they spoke, thought they were kings and emperors. 
They entered into their principles in order to make their madness 
as little harmful as possible. 


Tyranny consists in the desire of universal power beyond its scope. 

There are different assemblies of the strong, the fair, the sensible, 
the pious, in which each man rules at home, not elsewhere. And 
sometimes they meet, and the strong and the fair foolishly fight as to 
who shall be master, for their mastery is of different kinds. They 
do not understand one another, and their fault is the desire to rule 
everywhere. Nothing can effect this, not even might, which is of 
no use in the kingdom of the wise, and is only mistress of external 

Tyranny. — . . . So these expressions are false and tyrannical: 
"I am fair, therefore I must be feared. I am. strong, therefore I must 
be loved. I am . . ." 

Tyranny is the wish to have in one way what can only be had in 
another. We render different duties to different merits; the duty 
of love to the pleasant; the duty of fear to the strong; the duty of 
belief to the learned. 

We must render these duties; it is unjust to refuse them, and unjust 
to ask others. And so it is false and tyrannical to say, "He is not 
strong, therefore I will not esteem him; he is not able, therefore I 
will not fear him." 

Have you never seen people who, in order to complain of the 
little fuss you make about them, parade before you the example of 
great men who esteem them? In answer I reply to them, "Show 
me the merit whereby you have charmed these persons, and I also 
will esteem you." 

The reason of effects. — Lust and force are the source of all our 
actions; lust causes voluntary actions, force involuntary ones. 

ii6 pascal's thoughts 


The reason of effects. — It is then true to say that all the world is 
under a delusion; for, although the opinions of the people are sound, 
they are not so as conceived by them, since they think the truth to be 
where it is not. Truth is indeed in their opinions, but not at the 
point where they imagine it. [Thus] it is true that we must honour 
noblemen, but not because noble birth is real superiority, &c. 


The reason of effects. — We must keep our thought secret, and 
judge everything by it, while talking like the people. 


The reason of effects. — Degrees. The people honour persons of 
high birth. The semi-learned despise them, saying that birth is not 
a personal, but a chance superiority. The learned honour them, not 
for popular reaGons, but for secret reasons. Devout persons, who have 
more zeal than knowledge, despise them, in spite of that consid- 
eration which makes them honoured by the learned, because they 
judge them by a new light which piety gives them. But perfect 
Christians honour them by another and higher light. So arise a 
succession of opinions for and against, according to the light one has. 


True Christians nevertheless comply with folly, not because they 
respect folly, but the command of God, who for the punishment of 
men has made them subject to these follies. Omnis creatura subjecta 
est vanitati. Liberabitur^ Thus Saint Thomas explains the passage 
in Saint James on giving place to the rich, that if they do it not in 
the sight of God, they depart from the command of religion. 
* Romans, viii. 20-21. 

The Philosophers 


I CAN well conceive a man without hands, feet, head (for it is 
only experience which teaches us that the head is more neces- 
sary than feet). But I cannot conceive man without thought; 
he would be a stone or a brute. 


The arithmetical machine produces effects which approach nearer 
to thought than all the actions of animals. But it does nothing 
which would enable us to attribute will to it, as to the animals. 


The account of the pike and frog of Liancourt. They do it always, 
and never otherwise, nor any other thing showing mind. 


If an animal did by mind what it does by instinct, and if it spoke 
by mind what it speaks by instinct, in hunting, and in warning its 
mates that the prey is found or lost; it would indeed also speak 
in regard to those things which affect it closer, as example, "Gnaw me 
this cord which is wounding me, and which I cannot reach." 

The beak of the parrot, which it wipes, although it is clean. 


Instinct and reason, marks of two natures. 


Ii8 pascal's thoughts 


Reason commands us far more imperiously than a master; for in 
disobeying the one we are unfortunate, and in disobeying the other 
we are fools. 


Thought constitutes the greatness of man, 


Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a 
thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. 
A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe 
were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which 
killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which 
the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. 

All our dignity consists then in thought. By it we must elevate 
ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us 
endeavour then to think well; this is the principle of morality. 


A thinking reed. — It is not from space that I must seek my dig- 
nity, but from the government of my thought. I shall have no more 
if I possess worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows 
me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world. 


Immateriality of the soul. — Philosophers who have mastered their 
passions. What matter could do that.'' 


The Stoics. — They conclude that what has been done once can 
be done always, and that since the desire of glory imparts some 
power to those whom it possesses, others can well do hkewise. There 
are feverish movements which health can not imitate. 


Epictetus concludes that since there are consistent Christians, 
every man can easily be so. 

Those great spiritual efforts, which the soul sometimes essays, are 
things on which it does not lay hold. It only leaps to them, not as 
upon a throne, for ever, but merely for an instant. 


The strength of a man's virtue must not be measured by his efforts, 
but by his ordinary life. 

I do not admire the excess of a virtue as of valour, except I see 
at the same time the excess of the opposite virtue, as in Epaminondas, 
who had the greatest valour and the greatest kindness. For otherwise 
it is not to rise, it is to fall. We do not display greatness by going to 
one extreme, but in touching both at once, and filling all the 
intervening space. But perhaps this is only a sudden movement of 
the soul from one to the other extreme, and in fact it is ever at one 
point only, as in the case of a firebrand. Be it so, but at least this 
indicates agility, if not expanse of soul. 


Man's nature is not always to advance; it has its advances and 

Fever has its cold and hot fits; and the cold proves as well as 
the hot the greatness of the fire of fever. 

The discoveries of men from age to age turn out the same. The 
kindness and the malice of the world in general are the same. 
Plerumque gratce principibus vices} 

Continuous eloquence wearies. 

Princes and kings sometimes play. They are not always on their 
thrones. They weary there. Grandeur must be abandoned to be 

' "Changes are usually pleasing to princes." — Horace. 

120 pascal's thoughts 

appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agree- 
able, that we may get warm. 

Nature acts by progress, itus et reditus. It goes and returns, then 
advances further, then twice as much backwards, then more forward 
than ever, &c. 

The tide of the sea behaves in the same manner; and so apparently 
does the sun in its course. 


The nourishment of the body is little by little. Fulness of nourish- 
ment and smallness of substance. 


When we would pursue virtues to their extremes on either side, 
vices present themselves, which insinuate themselves insensibly there, 
in their insensible journey towards the infinitely little; and vices pre- 
sent themselves in a crowd towards the infinitely great, so that we lose 
ourselves in them, and no longer see virtues. We find fault with 
perfection itself. 


Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that 
he who would act the angel acts the brute. 


We do not sustain ourselves in virtue by our own strength, but by 
the balancing of two opposed vices, just as we remain upright amidst 
two contrary gales. Remove one of the vices, and we fall into the 


What the Stoics propose is so difficult and foolish! 

The Stoics lay down that all those who are not at the high degree 
of wisdom are equally foolish and vicious, as those who are two 
inches under water. 



The Sovereign good. Dispute about the sovereign good. — Ut sis 
contentus temetipso et ex te nascentibus bonis^ There is a contra- 
diction, for in tlie end they advise suicide. Oh! What a happy Ufa, 
from which we are to free ourselves as from the plague! 


Ex senatus-consultis et plebiscitis . . . 
To ask like passages. 


Ex senatus-consultis et plebiscitis scelera exercentur. Sen. 588.' 

'Nihil tarn absurde did potest quod non dicatur ab aliquo philoso- 
phorum^ Divin. 

Quibusdam destinatis sententiis consecrati quce non probant cogun- 
tur dejendere!' Cic. 

Ut omnium rerum sic litterarum quoque intemperantia labora- 
mus^ Senec. 

Id maxime quemque decet, quod est cujusque suum maximel 

Hos natura modos primum dedit^ 

Paucis opus est litteris ad bonam mentem? 

Si quando turpe non sit, tamen non est non turpe quum id ab 
multitudine laudetur.'° 

Mihi sic usus est, tibi ut opus est facto, fac.^^ Ter. 

^ "That you may be contented with yourself and the good things that spring 
from you." — Seneca. 

' "Decrees of the senate and of the f)eople are responsible for crimes." — Seneca. 

* "Nothing can be said so absurd that it may not be said by some philosopher." — 
Cicero, Divinatione. 

^ "Those who are given over to certain preconceived ideas are forced to defend 
what they cannot prove." — Cicero. 

' "In literature as in ail things, we labor in excess." — Seneca. 

^ "That becomes any one best which is most his own." — Cicero. 

' "Nature first gave those customs." — Virgil. 

' "For the good mind few books are necessary." 

"* "If perchance a thing is not base, it does not escape baseness by being praised 
by the crowd." 

'' "That is my custom; you must do as necessity bids." — Terence. 

122 pascal's thoughts 


Rarum est enim ut satis se quisque vereatur^ 

Tot circa unum caput tumultuantes deos}^ 

Nihil turpius quam cognitioni assertionem prxcurrere}^ Cic. 

Nee me pudet, ut istos, fateri nescire quid nesciam}^ 

Melius non incipiet}^ 


Thought. — All the dignity of man consists in thought. Thought 
is therefore by its nature a wonderful and incomparable thing. It 
must have strange defects to be contemptible. But it has such, so that 
nothing is more ridiculous. How great it is in its nature! How vile 
it is in its defects! 

But what is this thought? How foolish it is! 


The mind of this sovereign judge of the world is not so indepen- 
dent that it is not liable to be disturbed by the first din about it. The 
noise of a cannon is not necessary to hinder its thoughts; it needs 
only the creaking of a weather cock or a pulley. Do not wonder if at 
present it does not reason well; a fly is buzzing in its ears; that is 
enough to render it incapable of good judgment. If you wish it to 
be able to reach the truth, chase away that animal which holds its 
reason in check and disturbs that powerful intellect which rules 
towns and kingdoms. Here is a comical god! O ridicolosissimo 


The power of flies: they win battles, hinder our soul from acting, 
eat our body. 

'^ "It is a rare thing for any one to fear himself enough." 

'' "So many gods brawling around one poor man." 

'* "There is nothing more unseemly than to understand before the thing has 
been stated." 

'^ "I am not ashamed, as your friends are, to confess that I do not know what 
I do not know." 

'^ "He will not begin better (than he can finish) ." — Seneca. 

" "O most ridiculous hero." 



When it is said that heat is only the motion of certain molecules, 
and light the conatus recedendi which we feel, it astonishes us. 
What! Is pleasure only the ballet of our spirits ? We have conceived 
so different an idea of it! And these sensations seem so removed from 
those others which we say are the same as those with which we 
compare them! The sensation from the fire, that warmth which 
affects us in a manner wholly different from touch, the reception 
of sound and light, all this appears to us mysterious, and yet it is 
material like the blow of a stone. It is true that the smallness of 
the spirits which enter into the pores touches other nerves, but there 
are always some nerves touched, 

Memory is necessary for all the operations of reason. 


[Chance gives rise to thoughts, and chance removes them; no art 
can keep or acquire them. 

A thought has escaped me. I wanted to write it down. I write 
instead, that it has escaped me.] 


[When I was small, I hugged my book; and because it some- 
times happened to me to . . . in believing I hugged it, I doubted. 


In writing down my thought, it sometimes escapes me; but this 
makes me remember my weakness, that I constantly forget. This 
is as instructive to me as my forgotten thought; for I strive only to 
know my nothingness. 

Scepticism. — I shall here write my thoughts without order, and not 
perhaps in unintentional confusion; that is true order, which will 

124 pascal's thoughts 

always indicate my object by its very disorder. I should do too much 
honour to my subject, if I treated it with order, since I want to 
show that it is incapable o£ it. 


What astonishes me most is to see that all the world is not aston- 
ished at its own weakness. Men act seriously, and each follows his 
own mode of life, not because it is in fact good to follow since it is 
the custom, but as if each man knew certainly where reason and 
justice are. They find themselves continually deceived, and by a 
comical humiUty think it is their own fault, and not that of the art 
which they claim always to possess. But it is well there are so many 
such people in the world, who are not sceptics for the glory of 
scepticism, in order to show that man is quite capable of the most 
extravagant opinions, since he is capable of believing that he is 
not in a state of natural and inevitable weakness, but, on the contrary, 
of natural wisdom. 

Nothing fortifies scepticism more than that there are some who 
are not sceptics; if all were so, they would be wrong. 


[I have passed a great part of my life believing that there was 
justice, and in this I was not mistaken; for there is justice according 
as God has willed to reveal it to us. But I did not take it so, and this 
is where I made a mistake; for I believe that our justice was essen- 
tially just, and that I had that whereby to know and judge of it. 
But I have so often found my right judgment at fault, that at last I 
have come to distrust myself, and then others. I have seen changes 
in all nations and men, and thus after many changes of judgment 
regarding true justice, I have recognised that our nature was but 
in continual change, and I have not changed since; and if I changed, 
I would confirm my opinion. 

The sceptic Arcesilaus, who became a dogmatist.] 


This sect derives more strength from its enemies than from its 
friends; for the weakness of man is far more evident in those who 
know it not than in those who know it. 


Discourses on humiHty are a source of pride in the vain, and of 
humility in the humble. So those on scepticism cause believers to 
affirm. Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, few 
doubtingly of scepticism. We are only falsehood, duplicity, contra- 
diction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves. 


Scepticism. — Excess, like defect of intellect, is accused of mad- 
ness. Nothing is good but mediocrity. The majority has settled that, 
and finds fault with him who escapes it at whichever end. I will 
not oppose it. I quite consent to put myself there, and refuse to be 
at the lower end, not because it is low, but because it is an end; for 
I would likewise refuse to be placed at the top. To leave the mean 
is to abandon humanity. The greatness of the human soul consists 
in knowing how to preserve the mean. So far from greatness con- 
sisting in leaving it, it consists in not leaving it. 


It is not good to have too much liberty. It is not good to have 
all one wants. 


All good maxims are in the world. We only need to apply them. 
For instance, we do not doubt that we ought to risk our lives in 
defence of the public good; but for religion, no. 

It is true there must be inequality among men; but if this be con- 
ceded, the door is opened not only to the highest power, but to the 
highest tyranny. 

126 pascal's thoughts 

We must relax our minds a little; but this opens the door to the 
greatest debauchery. Let us mark the limits. There are no limits 
in things. Laws would put them there, and the mind cannot suffer it. 


When we are too young, we do not judge well; so, also, when we 
are too old. If we do not think enough, or if we think too much on 
any matter, we get obstinate and infatuated about it. If one considers 
one's work immediately after having done it, one is entirely pre- 
possessed in its favour; by delaying too long, one can no longer 
enter into the spirit of it. So with pictures seen from too far or too 
near; there is but one exact point which is the true place where- 
from to look at them : the rest are too near, too far, too high, or too 
low. Perspective determines that point in the art of painting. But 
who shall determine it in truth and morality? 


When all is equally agitated, nothing appears to be agitated, as 
in a ship. When all tend to debauchery, none appears to do so. He 
who stops draws attention to the excess of others, like a fixed point. 


The licentious tell men of orderly lives that they stray from 
nature's path, while they themselves follow it; as people in a ship 
think those move who are on the shore. On all sides the language is 
similar. We must have a fixed point in order to judge. The harbour 
decides for those who are in a ship; but where shall we find a har- 
bour in morahty? 


Contradiction is a bad sign of truth; several things which are 
certain are contradicted; several things which are false pass without 
contradiction. Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the want 
of contradiction a sign of truth. 



Scepticism,— Each thing here is partly true and partly false. Essen- 
tial truth is not so; it is altogether pure and altogether true. This 
mixture dishonours and annihilates it. Nothing is purely true, and 
thus nothing is true, meaning by that pure truth. You will say it is 
true that homicide is wrong. Yes; for we know well the wrong and 
the false. But what will you say is good? Chastity? I say no; for 
the world would come to an end. Marriage? No; continence is bet- 
ter. Not to kill? No; for lawlessness would be horrible, and the 
wicked would kill all the good. To kill? No; for that destroys 
nature. We possess truth and goodness only in part, and mingled 
with falsehood and evil. 


If we dreamt the same thing every night, it would affect us as much 
as the objects we see every day. And if an artisan were sure to dream 
every night for twelve hours' duration that he was a king, I believe 
he would be almost as happy as a king, who should dream every 
night for twelve hours on end that he was an artisan. 

If we were to dream every night that we were pursued by enemies, 
and harassed by these painful phantoms, or that we passed every day 
in different occupations, as in making a voyage, we should suffer 
almost as much as if it were real, and should fear to sleep, as we 
fear to wake when we dread in fact to enter on such mishaps. And, 
indeed, it would cause pretty nearly the same discomforts as the 

But since dreams are all different, and each single one is diversi- 
fied, what is seen in them affects us much less than what we see 
when awake, because of its continuity, which is not, however, so 
continuous and level as not to change too; but it changes less abruptly, 
except rarely, as when we travel, and then we say, "It seems to me I 
am dreaming." For life is a dream a Uttle less inconstant. 

128 pascal's thoughts 


[It may be that there are true demonstrations; but this is not 
certain. Thus, this proves nothing else but that it is not certain that 
all is uncertain, to the glory of scepticism.] 


Good sense. — They are compelled to say, "You are not acting in 
good faith; we are not asleep," &c. How I love to see this proud 
reason humiliated and suppliant! For this is not the language of a 
man whose right is disputed, and who defends it with the power of 
armed hands. He is not foolish enough to declare that men are 
not acting in good faith, but he punishes this bad faith with force. 


Ecclesiastes shows that man without God is in total ignorance and 
inevitable misery. For it is wretched to have the wish, but not the 
power. Now he would be happy and assured of some truth, and yet 
he can neither know, nor desire not to know. He cannot even doubt. 


My God! How fooHsh this talk is! "Would God have made 
the world to damn it? Would He ask so much from persons so 
weak.?" &c. Scepticism is the cure for this evil and will take down 
this vanity. 


Conversation. — Great words to religion. I deny it. 
Conversation. — Scepticism helps religion. 


Against Scepticism. — [ ... It is, then, a strange fact that we can- 
not define these things without obscuring them, while we speak of 
them with all assurance.] We assume that all conceive of them in the 
same way; but we assume it quite gratuitously, for we have no proof 


of it. I see, in truth, that the same words are applied on the same 
occasions, and that every time two men see a body change its place, 
they both express their view of this same fact by the same word, both 
saying that it has moved; and from this conformity of application we 
derive a strong conviction of a conformity of ideas. But this is not 
absolutely or finally convincing, though there is enough to support a 
bet on the affirmative, since we know that we often draw the same 
conclusions from different premises. 

This is enough, at least, to obscure the matter; not that it com- 
pletely extinguishes the natural light which assures us of these 
things. The academicians would have won. But this dulls it, and 
troubles the dogmatists to the glory of the sceptical crowd, which 
consists in this doubtful ambiguity, and in a certain doubtful dim- 
ness, from which our doubts cannot take away all the clearness, nor 
our own natural lights chase away all the darkness. 


It is a singular thing to consider that there are people in the world, 
who, having renounced all the laws of God and nature, have made 
laws for themselves which they strictly obey, as, for instance, the 
soldiers of Mahomet, robbers, heretics, &c. It is the same with logi- 
cians. It seems that their licence must be without any limits or bar- 
riers, since they have broken through so many that are so just and 


All the principles of sceptics, stoics, atheists, &c., are true. But their 
conclusions are false, because the opposite principles are also true. 

Instinct, reason. — We have an incapacity of proof, insurmountable 
by all dogmatism. We have an idea of truth, invincible to all 


Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and 

130 pascal's thoughts 


The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be 
miserable. A tree does not know itself to be miserable. It is then 
being miserable to know oneself to be miserable; but it is also being 
great to know that one is miserable. 


All these same miseries prove man's greatness. They are the 
miseries of a great lord, of a deposed king. 


We are not miserable without feeling it. A ruined house is not 
miserable. Man only is miserable. Ego vir videns}^ 


The greatness of man. — We have so great an idea of the soul of 
man that we cannot endure being despised, of not being esteemed by 
any soul; and all the happiness of men consists in this esteem. 


Glory. — The brutes do not admire each other. A horse does not 
admire his companion. Not that there is no rivalry between them in 
a race, but that is of no consequence; for, when in the stable, the 
heaviest and most ill-formed does not give up his oats to another as 
men would have others do to them. Their virtue is satisfied with 


The greatness of man even in his lust, to have known how to ex- 
tract from it a wonderful code, and to have drawn from it a picture 
of benevolence. 

1* "I am the man (that hath seen affliction)." — Lamentations, iii. i. 



Greatness. — The reasons of effects indicate the greatness of man, 
in having extracted so fair an order from lust. 


The greatest baseness of man is the pursuit of glory. But it is 
also the greatest mark of his excellence; for whatever possessions 
he may have on earth, whatever health and essential comfort, he 
is not satisfied if he has not the esteem of men. He values human 
reason so highly that, whatever advantages he may have on earth, 
he is not content if he is not also ranked highly in the judgment of 
man. This is the finest position in the world. Nothing can turn him 
from that desire, which is the most indelible quality of man's heart. 

And those who most despise men, and put them on a level with 
the brutes, yet wish to be admired and beUeved by men, and con- 
tradict themselves by their own feelings; their nature, which is 
stronger than all, convincing them of the greatness of man more 
forcibly than reason convinces them of their baseness. 


Contradiction. — Pride counterbalancing all miseries. Man either 
hides his miseries, or, if he disclose them, glories in knowing them. 


Pride counterbalances and takes away all miseries. Here is a 
strange monster, and a very plain aberration. He is fallen from his 
place, and is anxiously seeking it. This is what all men do. Let 
us see who will have found it. 


When malice has reason on its side, it becomes proud, and parades 
reason in all its splendour. When austerity or stern choice has not 
arrived at the true good, and must needs return to follow nature, 
it becomes proud by reason of this return. 



Evil is easy, and has infinite forms; good is almost unique. But a 
certain kind of evil is as diiHcult to find as what we call good; and 
often on this account such particular evil gets passed off as good. 
An extraordinary greatness of soul is needed in order to attain to 
it as well as to good. 


The greatness of man. — The greatness of man is so evident, that it 
is even proved by his wretchedness. For what in animals is nature 
we call in man wretchedness; by which we recognise that, his nature 
being now like that of animals, he has fallen from a better nature 
which once was his. 

For who is unhappy at not being a king, except a deposed king? 
Was Paulus Emilius unhappy at being no longer consul? On the 
contrary, everybody thought him happy in having been consul, 
because the office could only be held for a time. But men thought 
Perseus so unhappy in being no longer king, because the condition 
of kingship implied his being always king, that they thought it 
strange that he endured life. Who is unhappy at having only one 
mouth? And who is not unhappy at having only one eye? Prob- 
ably no man ever ventured to mourn at not having three eyes. But 
any one is inconsolable at having none. 


Perseus, King of Macedon. — Paulus Emilius reproached Perseus 
for not killing himself. 


Notwithstanding the sight of all our miseries, which press upon 
us and take us by the throat, we have an instinct which we cannot 
repress, and which Ufts us up. 



There is internal war in man between reason and the passions. 

If he had only reason without passions . . , 

If he had only passions without reason . . . 

But having both, he cannot be without strife, being unable to be 
at peace with the one without being at war with the other. Thus he 
is always divided against, and opposed to himself. 


This internal war of reason against the passions has made a division 
of those who would have peace into two sects. The first would 
renounce their passions, and become gods; the others would re- 
nounce reason, and become brute beasts. (Des Barreaux.) But 
neither can do so, and reason still remains, to condemn the vileness 
and unjustice of the passions, and to trouble the repose of those who 
abandon themselves to them; and the passions keep always alive in 
those who would renounce them. 


Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount 
to another form of madness. 


The nature of man may be viewed in two ways: the one according 
to its end, and then he is great and incomparable; the other accord- 
ing to the multitude, just as we judge of the nature of the horse and 
the dog, popularly, by seeing its fleetness, et animum arcendi;^^ and 
then man is abject and vile. These are the two ways which make 
us judge of him differently, and which occasion such disputes among 

For one denies the assumption of the other. One says, "He is 
not born for this end, for all his actions are repugnant to it." The 
other says, "He forsakes his end, when he does these base actions." 

" "And instinct of guarding." 



For Port Royal. Greatness and wretchedness. — Wretchedness 
being deduced from greatness, and greatness from wretchedness, 
some have inferred man's wretchedness all the more because they 
have taken his 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 wretched- 
ness 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 heart. 


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 . . . 



I£ 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 Jiim, 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 ca- 
pacity. 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 in- 
deed that he should hate in himself the lust which determines 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. 

Morality and Doctrine 


^^ECOND part. — That man without faith cannot \now the 
\ true good, nor justice. 
^<J All men seek happiness. This is without exception. What- 
ever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. 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 coun- 
tries, 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, be- 
cause the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immuta- 
ble 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 rea- 
son, 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 pos- 
sessed 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 contra- 
dictions, esteem Scripture. 

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

138 pascal's thoughts 


For Port Royal. The beginning, after having explained the incom- 
prehensibility. — The greatness and the wretchedness of man are so 
evident that the true rehgion 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 recog- 
nise 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 Mahomedans who have offered us earthly pleas- 
ures as the chief good even in eternity, produced the remedy for our 
lusts? Whatreligion 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 in- 
telligence. 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 bhnds him, nor subject to mortaUty 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 imperious. 

"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 recognize 
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 nature." 

For Port Royal to-morrow {Prosopopaed) . — "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 o£ 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 unright- 
eousness, 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 recog- 
nise 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 consid- 
eration 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 ca- 
pable 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 
this sort of arguments, 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 con- 
vulsion 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 ad- 
vent 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 sin- 
cerely 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 con- 
trary disposition." 

No other religion has recognised that man is the most excellent 
creature. Some, which have quite recognised the reality of his ex- 
cellence, 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 re- 
semble, 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 


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 quceritis, religio annuntiat vobis} 


After having understood the whole nature of man. — That a re- 
ligion may be true, it must have knowledge of our nature. It ought 

' "What therefore ye ignorantly seek, religion proclaims to you." — C£. Acts, xvii. 23. 


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, 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 as firmly as we do that 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 asleep ? 

[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 our- 
selves awake, is itself only a dream on which the others are grafted, 
from which we wake at death, during which we have as few prin- 
ciples of truth and good as during natural sleep, these different 
thoughts which disturb us being perhaps only illusions Hke the flight 
of time and the vain fancies of our dreams ? ] 

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 

144 pascal's thoughts 

shallow foundations, they are upset by the least breath of the scep- 
tics. We have only to see their books if we are not sufficiently 
convinced of this, and we shall very quickly become so, perhaps too 

I notice the only strong point of the dogmatists, namely, that, 
speaking in good faith and sincerely, we cannot doubt natural prin- 
ciples. 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 there never has been a real complete sceptic. 
Nature sustains our feeble reason, and prevents it raving to this 

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 condi- 
tion? You cannot avoid one of these sects, nor adhere to one of 

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 

It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest re- 
moved from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, 
should be a fact without which we can have no knowledge of our- 
selves. 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 ren- 
dered 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 condi- 
tion 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 submission 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 

146 pascal's thoughts 

divinity; the other, that in the state of corruption and sin, he is fallen 
from this state and made hke unto the beasts. 

These two propositions are equally sound and certain. Scripture 
manifestly declares this to us, when it says in some places: Delicice 
mete esse cum filiis hominum^ Effundum spiritum meum super 
omnem carnem? Dii estis^ &c.; and in other places, Omnis euro 
fcenum!' Homo assimilatus est jumentis insipientibus, et similis 
foetus est illis.^ Dixi in corde meo de filiis hominuml 

Whence it clearly seems that man by grace is made like unto 
God, and a partaker in His divinity, and that without grace he is 
like unto the brute beasts.] 


Without this divine knowledge what could men do but either 
become elated by the inner feeling of their past greatness which still 
remains to them, or become despondent at the sight of their present 
weakness? For, not seeing the whole truth, they could not attain to 
perfect virtue. Some considering nature as incorrupt, others as in- 
curable, they could not escape either pride or sloth, the two sources 
of all vice; since they cannot but either abandon themselves to it 
through cowardice, or escape it by pride. For if they knew the ex- 
cellence of man, they were ignorant of his corruption; so that they 
easily avoided sloth, but fell into pride. And if they recognised the 
infirmity of nature, they were ignorant of its dignity; so that they 
could easily avoid vanity, but it was to fall into despair. Thence arise 
the different schools of the Stoics and Epicureans, the Dogmatists, 
Academicians, &c. 

The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these two vices, 
not by expelling the one through means of the other according to the 
wisdom of the world, but by expelling both according to the simplicity 
of the Gospel. For it teaches the righteous that it raises them even to 
a participation in divinity itself; that in this lofty state they still carry 
the source of all corruption, which renders them during all their life 
subject to error, misery, death, and sin; and it proclaims to the most 
ungodly that they are capable of the grace of their Redeemer. So 

* Proverbs, viii. 31. 'Isaiah, xliv. 3; Joel, ii. 28. * Psalms, Ixxxii. 6. ^Isaiah, 
xl. 6. ' Psalms, xlix. 20. ' Ecdesiastes, iii. 18. 


making those tremble whom it justifies, and consoUng those whom it 
condemns, rehgion so justly tempers fear with hope through that 
double capacity of grace and of sin, common to all, that it humbles 
infinitely more than reason alone can do, but without despair; and it 
exalts infinitely more than natural pride, but without inflating: thus 
making it evident that alone being exempt from error and vice, it 
alone fulfils the duty of instructing and correcting men. 

Who then can refuse to believe and adore this heavenly light? 
For is it not clearer than day that we perceive within ourselves in- 
effaceable marks of excellence? And is it not equally true that we 
experience every hour the results of our deplorable condition ? What 
does this chaos and monstrous confusion proclaim to us but the truth 
of these two states, with a voice so powerful that it is impossible to 
resist it? 

Weaf(^ness. — Every pursuit of men is to get wealth; and they can- 
not have a title to show that they possess it justly, for they have only 
that of human caprice; nor have they strength to hold it securely. 
It is the same with knowledge, for disease takes it away. We are 
incapable both of truth and goodness. 


We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty. 

We seek happiness, and find only misery and death. 

We cannot but desire truth and happiness, and are incapable of 
certainty or happiness. This desire is left to us, partly to punish us, 
partly to make us perceive wherefrom we are fallen. 


If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God? If 
man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God ? 


Nature corrupted. — Man does not act by reason, which constitutes 
his being. 

148 pascal's thoughts 


The corruption of reason is shown by the existence of so many 
different and extravagant customs. It was necessary that truth should 
come, in order that man should no longer dwell within himself. 


For myself, I confess that so soon as the Christian religion reveals 
the principle that human nature is corrupt and fallen from God, 
that opens my eyes to see everywhere the mark of this truth: for 
nature is such that she testifies everywhere, both within man and 
without him, to a lost God and a corrupt nature, 


Man's true nature, his true good, true virtue, and true religion, are 
things of which the knowledge is inseparable. 


Greatness, wretchedness. — The more light we have, the more 
greatness and the more baseness we discover in man. Ordinary men 
— those who are more educated: philosophers, they astonish ordinary 
men — Christians, they astonish philosophers. 

Who will then be surprised to see that religion only makes us 
know profoundly what we already know in proportion to our light.? 


This religion taught to her children what men have only been able 
to discover by their greatest knowledge. 


Original sin is foolishness to men, but it is admitted to be such. 
You must not then reproach me for the want of reason in this doc- 
trine, since I admit it to be without reason. But this foolishness is 
wiser than all the wisdom of men, sapientius est hominibus. For with- 


out this, what can we say that man is ? His whole state depends on 
this imperceptible point. And how should it be perceived by his 
reason, since it is a thing against reason, and since reason, far from 
finding it out by her own ways, is averse to it when it is presented 
to her ? 


Of original sin. Ample tradition of original sin according to the 
Jews. — On the word in Genesis, viii. 21. The imagination of man's 
heart is evil from his youth. 

R. Moses Haddarschan: This evil leaven is placed in man from the 
time that he is formed. 

Massechet Succa: This evil leaven has seven names in Scripture. 
It is called evil, the fores/^in, uncleanness, an enemy, a scandal, a 
heart of stone, the north wind; all this signifies the malignity which 
is concealed and impressed in the heart of man. 

Midrasch Tillim says the same thing, and that God will deliver the 
good nature of man from the evil. 

This malignity is renewed every day against man, as it is written. 
Psalm xxxvii. 32 : "The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to 
slay him;" but God will not abandon him. This malignity tries the 
heart of man in this life, and will accuse him in the other. All this 
is found in the Talmud. 

Midrasch Tillim on Psalm iv. 4: "Stand in awe and sin not." 
Stand in awe and be afraid of your lust, and it will not lead you into 
sin. And on Psalm xxxvi. i : "The wicked has said within his own 
heart. Let not the fear of God be before me." That is to say that the 
mahgnity natural to man has said that to the wicked. 

Midrasch el Kohelet: "Better is a poor and wise child than an old 
and foolish king who cannot foresee the future." The child is virtue, 
and the king is the malignity of man. It is called king because all the 
members obey it, and old because it is in the human heart from in- 
fancy to old age, and foolish because it leads man in the way of 
[perdition], which he does not foresee. The same thing is in 
Midrasch Tillim. 

Bereschist Rabba on Psalm xxxv. 10: "Lord, all my bones shall 
bless Thee, which deliverest the poor from the tyrant." And is there 


a greater tyrant than the evil leaven? And on Proverbs xxv. 21: 
"If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat." That is to say, 
if the evil leaven hunger, give him the bread of wisdom of which it is 
spoken in Proverbs ix., and if he be thirsty, give him the water of 
which it is spoken in Isaiah Iv. 

Midrasch Tillitn says the same thing, and that Scripture in that 
passage, speaking of the enemy, means the evil leaven; and that, in 
giving him that bread and that water, we heap coals of fire on his 

Midrasch el Kohelet on Ecclesiastes ix. 14: "A great king besieged 
a little city." This great king is the evil leaven; the great bulwarks 
built against it are temptations; and there has been found a poor 
wise man who has delivered it — that is to say, virtue. 

And on Psalm xli. i : "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." 

And on Psalm Ixxviii. 39: "The spirit passeth away, and cometh 
not again;" whence some have erroneously argued against the im- 
mortality of the soul. But the sense is that this spirit is the evil leaven, 
which accompanies man till death, and will not return at the resur- 

And on Psalm ciii. the same thing. 

And on Psalm xvi. 

Principles of Rabbinism : two Messiahs. 


Will it be said that, as men have declared that righteousness has 
departed the earth, they therefore knew of original sin? — Nemo 
ante obitum beatus esf — that is to say, they knew death to be the 
beginning of eternal and essential happiness? 


[Miton] sees well that nature is corrupt, and that men are averse 
to virtue; but he does not know why they cannot fly higher. 

* "No one is happy before he is dead." 



Order.— Ahei corruption to say : "It is right that all those who are 
in that state should know it, both those who are content with it, and 
those who are not content with it; but it is not right that all should 
see Redemption." 


If we do not know ourselves to be full of pride, ambition, lust, 
weakness, misery, and injustice, we are indeed blind. And if, know- 
ing this, we do not desire deliverance, what can we say of a 
man. . . . ? 

What, then, can we have but esteem for a religion which knows 
so well the defects of man, and desire for the truth of a religion which 
promises remedies so desirable? 


All men naturally hate one another. They employ lust as far as 
possible in the service of the public weal. But this is only a pretence 
and a false image of love; for at bottom it is only hate. 


To pity the unfortunate is not contrary to lust. On the contrary, 
we can quite well give such evidence of friendship, and acquire the 
reputation of kindly feeling, without giving anything. 


From lust men have found and extracted excellent rules of policy, 
morality, and justice; but in reality this vile root of man, this figmen- 
tum malum^ is only covered, it is not taken away. 


Injustice. — They have not found any other means of satisfying 
lust without doing injury to others. 

' "Evi! creation." 



Self is hateful. You, Miton, conceal it; you do not for that reason 
destroy it; you are, then, always hateful. 

— No; for in acting as we do to oblige everybody, we give no more 
occasion for hatred of us. — That is true, if we only hated in self the 
vexation which comes to us from it. But if I hate it because it is 
unjust, and because it makes itself the centre of everything, I shall 
always hate it. 

In a word, the Self has two qualities: it is unjust in itself since it 
makes itself the centre of everything; it is inconvenient to others 
since it would enslave them; for each self is the enemy, and would 
like to be the tyrant of all others. You take away its inconvenience, 
but not its injustice, and so you do not render it lovable to those who 
hate injustice; you render it lovable only to the unjust, who do not 
any longer find in it an enemy. And thus you remain unjust, and 
can please only the unjust. 


It is a perverted judgment that makes every one place himself 
above the rest of the world, and prefer his own good, and the con- 
tinuance of his own good fortune and life, to that of the rest of the 


Each one is all in all to himself; for he being dead, all is dead to 
him. Hence it comes that each believes himself to be all in all to 
everybody. We must not judge of nature by ourselves, but by it. 


"All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the 
eyes, or the pride of life; libido sentiendi, libido sciendi, libido domi- 
nandi." Wretched is the cursed land which these three rivers of 
fire enflame rather than water! Happy they who, on these rivers, 
are not overwhelmed nor carried away, but are immovably fixed, not 


Standing, but seated on a low and secure base, whence they do not 
rise before the light, but, having rested in peace, stretch out their 
hands to Him, who must lift them up, and make them stand upright 
and firm in the porches of the holy Jerusalem! There pride can no 
longer assail them nor cast them down; and yet they weep, not to 
see all those perishable things swept away by the torrents, but at the 
remembrance of their loved country, the heavenly Jerusalem, which 
they remember without ceasing during their prolonged exile. 


The rivers of Babylon rush and fall and sweep away. 

O holy Sion, where all is firm and nothing falls! 

We must sit upon the waters, not under them or in them, but on 
them; and not standing but seated; being seated to be humble, and 
being above them to be secure. But we shall stand in the porches of 

Let us see if this pleasure is stable or transitory; if it pass away, it 
is a river of Babylon. 


The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, pride, &c. — There are three 
orders of things: the flesh, the spirit, and the will. The carnal are 
the rich and kings; they have the body as their object. Inquirers 
and scientists; they have the mind as their object. The wise; they 
have righteousness as their object. 

God must reign over all, and all men must be brought back to 
Him. In things of the flesh lust reigns specially; in intellectual mat- 
ters, inquiry specially; in wisdom, pride specially. Not that a man 
cannot boast of wealth or knowledge, but it is not the place for pride; 
for in granting to a man that he is learned, it is easy to convince him 
that he is wrong to be proud. The proper place for pride is in wis- 
dom, for it cannot be granted to a man that he has made himself 
wise, and that he is wrong to be proud; for that is right. Now God 
alone gives wisdom, and that is why Qui gloriatur, in Domino 


'" I Corinthians, i. 31. 



The three lusts have made three sects; and the philosophers have 
done no other thing than follow one of the three lusts. 


Search for the true good. — Ordinary men place the good in fortune 
and external goods, or at least in amusement. Philosophers have 
shown the vanity of all this, and have placed it where they could. 


{Against the philosophers who believe in God without Jesus 

Philosophers. — They believe that God alone is worthy to be loved 
and admired; and they have desired to be loved and admired of men, 
and do not know their own corruption. If they feel full of feelings 
of love and adoration, and find therein their chief delight, very well, 
let them think themselves good. But if they find themselves averse 
to Him, if they have no inclination but the desire to establish them- 
selves in the esteem of men, and if their whole perfection consists only 
in making men — but without constraint — find their happiness in lov- 
ing them, I declare that this perfection is horrible. What! they have 
known God, and have not desired solely that men should love Him, 
but that men should stop short at them! They have wanted to be 
the object of the voluntary delight of men. 


Philosophers. — We are full of things which take us out of ourselves. 

Our instinct makes us feel that we must seek our happiness out- 
side ourselves. Our passions impel us outside, even when no objects 
present themselves to excite them. External objects tempt us of 
themselves, and call to us, even when we are not thinking of them. 
And thus philosophers have said in vain, "Retire within yourselves, 
you will find your good there." We do not believe them, and those 
who believe them are the most empty and the most foolish. 



The Stoics say, "Retire within yourselves; it is there you will find 
your rest." And that is not true. 

Others say, "Go out o£ yourselves; seek happiness in amusement." 
And this is not true. Illness comes. 

Happiness is neither without us nor within us. It is in God, both 
without us and within us. 


Had Epictetus seen the way perfectly, he would have said to men, 
"You follow a wrong road"; he shows that there is another, but he 
does not lead to it. It is the way of willing what God wills. Jesus 
Christ alone leads to it : Via, Veritas}^ 

The vices of Zeno himself. 


The reason of ejects. — Epictetus. Those who say, "You have a 
headache;" this is not the same thing. We are assured of health, and 
not of justice; and in fact his own was nonsense. 

And yet he believed it demonstrable, when he said, "It is either in 
our power or it is not." But he did not perceive that it is not in our 
power to regulate the heart, and he was wrong to infer this from the 
fact that there were some Christians. 


No other religion has proposed to men to hate themselves. No 
other religion then can please those who hate themselves, and who 
seek a Being truly lovable. And these, if they had never heard of 
the religion of a God humiliated, would embrace it at once. 


I feel that I might not have been; for the Ego consists in my 
thoughts. Therefore I, who think, would not have been, if my 
mother had been killed before I had life. I am not then a necessary 

'' John, xiv. 6. 

156 pascal's thoughts 

being. In the same way I am not eternal or infinite; but I see plainly 
that there exists in nature a necessary Being, eternal and infinite. 


"Had I seen a miracle," say men, "I should become converted." 
How can they be sure they would do a thing of the nature of which 
they are ignorant? They imagine that this conversion consists in a 
worship of God, which is like commerce, and in a communion such 
as they picture to themselves. True religion consists in annihilating 
self before that Universal Being, whom we have so often provoked, 
and who can justly destroy us at any time; in recognising that we can 
do nothing without Him, and have deserved nothing from Him but 
His displeasure. It consists in knowing that there is an unconquer- 
able opposition between us and God, and that without a mediator 
there can be no communion with Him. 


It is unjust that men should attach themselves to me, even though 
they do it with pleasure and voluntarily. I should deceive those in 
whom I had created this desire; for I am not the end of any, and 
I have not the wherewithal to satisfy them. Am I not about to die? 
And thus the object of their attachment will die. Therefore, as 
I would be blamable in causing a falsehood to be believed, though 
I should employ gentle persuasion, though it should be believed 
with pleasure, and though it should give me pleasure; even so I am 
blamable in making myself loved, and if I attract persons to attach 
themselves to me. I ought to warn those who are ready to consent 
to a lie, that they ought not to believe it, whatever advantage comes 
to me from it; and likewise that they ought not to attach themselves 
to me; for they ought to spend their life and their care in pleasing 
God, or in seeking Him. 


Self-will will never be satisfied, though it should have command of 
all it would; but we are satisfied from the moment we renounce it. 
Without it we cannot be discontented; with it we cannot be content. 


Let us imagine a body full of thinking members. 


Members. To commence with that. — To regulate the love which 
we owe to ourselves, we must imagine a body full of thinking mem- 
bers, for we are members of the whole, and must see how each mem- 
ber should love itself, &c. . . . 


If the feet and the hands had a will of their own, they could only 
be in their order in submitting this particular will to the primary 
will which governs the whole body. Apart from that, they are in 
disorder and mischief; but in willing only the good of the body, they 
accomplish their own good. 


We must love God only and hate self only. 

If the foot had always been ignorant that it belonged to the body, 
and that there was a body on which it depended, if it had only had 
the knowledge and the love of self, and if it came to know that it 
belonged to a body on which it depended, what regret, what shame 
for its past life, for having been useless to the body which inspired 
its life, which would have annihilated it if it had rejected it and 
separated it from itself, as it kept itself apart from the body! What 
prayers for its preservation in it! And with what submission would it 
allow itself to be governed by the will which rules the body, even 
to consendng, if necessary, to be cut off, or it would lose its char- 
acter as member! For every member must be quite willing to perish 
for the body, for which alone the whole is. 


It is false that we are worthy of the love of others; it is unfair 
that we should desire it. If we were born reasonable and impartial, 

158 pascal's thoughts 

knowing ourselves and others, we should not give this bias to our 
will. However, we are born with it; we are therefore born unjust, 
for all tends to self. This is contrary to all order. We must consider 
the general good; and the propensity to self is the beginning of all 
disorder, in war, in politics, in economy, and in the particular body 
of man. The will is therefore depraved. 

If the members of natural and civil communities tend towards the 
weal of the body, the communities themselves ought to look to 
another more general body of which they are members. We ought 
therefore to look to the whole. We are therefore born unjust and 


When we want to think of God, is there nothing which turns 
us away, and tempts us to think of something else.'' All this is bad, 
and is born in us. 


If there is a God, we must love Him only, and not the creatures 
of a day. The reasoning of the ungodly in the Boo){^ of Wisdom is 
only based upon the non-existence of God. "On that supposition," 
say they, "let us take delight in the creatures." That is the worst 
that can happen. But if there were a God to love, they would not 
have come to this conclusion, but to quite the contrary. And this 
is the conclusion of the wise: "There is a God, let us therefore 
not take delight in the creatures." 

Therefore all that incites us to attach ourselves to the creatures is 
bad; since it prevents us from serving God if we know Him, or from 
seeking Him if we know Him not. Now we are full of lust. There- 
fore we are full of evil; therefore we ought to hate ourselves and all 
that excites us to attach ourselves to any other object than God only. 


To make the members happy, they must have one will, and submit 
it to the body. 



The examples of the noble deaths of the Lacedemonians and 
others scarce touch us. For what good is it to us? But the example 
of the death of the martyrs touches us; for they are "our members." 
We have a common tie with them. Their resolution can form ours, 
not only by example, but because it has perhaps deserved ours. 
There is nothing of this in the examples of the heathen. We have no 
tie with them; as we do not become rich by seeing a stranger who is 
so, but in fact by seeing a father or a husband who is so. 


Morality. — God having made the heavens and the earth, which do 
not feel the happiness of their being. He has willed to make beings 
who should know it, and who should compose a body of thinking 
members. For our members do not feel the happiness of their union, 
of their wonderful intelligence, of the care which nature has taken 
to infuse into them minds, and to make them grow and endure. 
How happy they would be if they saw and felt it! But for this 
they would need to have intelligence to know it, and good-will to 
consent to that of the universal soul. But if, having received intelli- 
gence, they employed it to retain nourishment for themselves without 
allowing it to pass to the other members, they would be not only 
unjust, but also miserable, and would hate rather than love them- 
selves; their blessedness, as well as their duty, consisting in their con- 
sent to the guidance of the whole soul to which they belong, which 
loves them better than they love themselves. 


To be a member is to have neither life, being, nor movement, 
except through the spirit of the body, and for the body. 

The separate member, seeing no longer the body to which it be- 
longs, has only a perishing and dying existence. Yet it believes it is 
a whole, and seeing not the body on which it depends, it believes it 
depends only on self, and desires to make itself both centre and 

i6o pascal's thoughts 

body. But not having in itself a principle of life, it only goes astray, 
and is astonished in the uncertainty of its being; perceiving in fact 
that it is not a body, and still not seeing that it is a member of a 
body. In short, when it comes to know itself, it has returned as it 
were to its own home, and loves itself only for the body. It deplores 
its past wanderings. 

It cannot by its nature love any other thing, except for itself and to 
subject it to self, because each thing loves itself more than all. But 
in loving the body, it loves itself, because it only exists in it, by it, and 
for it. Qui adhceret Deo unus spiritus est." 

The body loves the hand; and the hand, if it had a will, should love 
itself in the same way as it is loved by the soul. All love which goes 
beyond this is unfair. 

Adhcerens Deo unus spiritus est. We love ourselves, because we 
are members of Jesus Christ. We love Jesus Christ, because He is 
the body of which we are members. All is one, one is in the other, 
like the Three Persons. 


Two laws suffice to rule the whole Christian RepubUc better than 
all the laws of statecraft. 


The true and only virtue then is to hate self (for we are hateful 
on account of lust), and to seek a truly lovable being to love. But 
as we cannot love what is outside ourselves, we must love a being who 
is in us, and is not ourselves; and that is true of each and all men. 
Now only the Universal Being is such. The kingdom of God is 
within us; the universal good is within us, is ourselves — and not our- 


The dignity of man in his innocence consisted in using and hav- 
ing dominion over the creatures, but now in separating himself from 
them, and subjecting himself to them. 

12 I Corinthians, vi. 17. 



Every religion is false, which as to its faith does not worship one 
God as the origin of everything, and which as to its morahty does not 
love one only God as the object of everything. 


. . . But it is impossible that God should ever be the end, if He 
is not the beginning. We lift our eyes on high, but lean upon the 
sand; and the earth will dissolve, and we shall fall whilst looking 
at the heavens. 


If there is one sole source of everything, there is one sole end of 
everything; everything through Him, everything for Him. The true 
religion then must teach us to worship Him only, and to love Him 
only. But as we find ourselves unable to worship what we know not, 
and to love any other object but ourselves, the religion which in- 
structs us in these duties must instruct us also of this inability, and 
teach us also the remedies for it. It teaches us that by one man all 
was lost, and the bond broken between God and us, and that by one 
man the bond is renewed. 

We are born so averse to this love of God, and it is so necessary that 
we must be born guilty, or God would be unjust. 


Men, not being accustomed to form merit, but only to recompense 
it where they find it formed, judge of God by themselves. 


The true religion must have as a characteristic the obligation to 
love God. This is very just, and yet no other religion has commanded 
this; ours has done so. It must also be aware of human lust and 
weakness; ours is so. It must have adduced remedies for this; one is 
prayer. No other religion has asked of God to love and follow Him. 

i62 pascal's thoughts 


He who hates not in himself his self-love, and that instinct which 
leads him to make himself God, is indeed blinded. Who does not 
see that there is nothing so opposed to justice and truth? For it is 
false that we deserve this, and it is unfair and impossible to attain it, 
since all demand the same thing. It is then a manifest injustice which 
is innate in us, of which we cannot get rid and of which we must 
get rid. 

Yet no religion has indicated that this was a sin; or that we were 
born in it; or that we were obliged to resist it; or has thought of giv- 
ing us remedies for it. 


The true reUgion teaches our duties; our weaknesses, pride, and 
lust; and the remedies, humility and mortification. 


The true religion must teach greatness and misery; must lead to 
the esteem and contempt of self, to love and to hate. 


If it is an extraordinary blindness to live without investigating what 
we are, it is a terrible one to live an evil life, while believing in God. 


Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and 


Against those who, trusting to the mercy of God, live heedlessly, 
without doing good worlds. — As the two sources of our sins are pride 
and sloth, God has revealed to us two of His attributes to cure them, 
mercy and justice. The property of justice is to humble pride, how- 


ever holy may be our works, et non intres in judicium, &c.;" and the 
property of mercy is to combat sloth by exhorting to good works, 
according to that passage: "The goodness of God leadeth to repent- 
ance," and that other of the Ninevites: "Let us do penance to see 
if peradventure He will pity us." And thus mercy is so far from 
authorising slackness, that it is on the contrary the quality which 
formally attacks it; so that instead of saying, "If there were no mercy 
in God we should have to make every kind of effort after virtue," 
we must say, on the contrary, that it is because there is mercy in God, 
that we must make every kind of effort. 


It is true there is difficulty in entering into godliness. But this dif- 
ficulty does not arise from the religion which begins in us, but from 
the irreligion which is still there. If our senses were not opposed to 
penitence, and if our corruption were not opposed to the purity of 
God, there would be nothing in this painful to us. We suffer only in 
proportion as the vice which is natural to us resists supernatural 
grace. Our heart feels torn asunder between these opposed efforts. 
But it would be very unfair to impute this violence to God, who is 
drawing us on, instead of to the world, which is holding us back. 
It is as a child, which a mother tears from the arms of robbers, in 
the pain it suffers, should love the loving and legitimate violence of 
her who procures its liberty, and detest only the impetuous and 
tyrannical violence of those who detain it unjustly. The most cruel 
war which God can make with men in this life is to leave them with- 
out that war which He came to bring. "I came to send war," He says, 
"and to teach them of this war. I came to bring fire and the sword." 
Before Him the world lived in this false peace. 


External wor\s. — There is nothing so perilous as what pleases God 
and man. For those states, which please God and man, have one 
property which pleases God, and another which pleases men; as the 
greatness of Saint Theresa. What pleased God was her deep humil- 
ity in the midst of her revelations; what pleased men was her light. 

'^ Psalms, cxliii. 2. 

164 pascal's thoughts 

And so we torment ourselves to imitate her discourses, thinking to 
imitate her conditions, and not so much to love what God loves, and 
to put ourselves in the state which God loves. 

It is better not to fast, and be thereby humbled, than to fast and 
be self-satisfied therewith. The Pharisee and the Publican. 

What use will memory be to me, if it can alike hurt and help me, 
and all depends upon the blessing of God, who gives only to things 
done for Him, according to His rules and in His ways, the manner 
being thus as important as the thing, and perhaps more; since God 
can bring forth good out of evil, and without God we bring forth 
evil out of good.? 


The meaning of the words, good and evil. 


First step: to be blamed for doing evil, and praised for doing good. 
Second step: to be neither praised nor blamed. 


Abraham took nothing for himself, but only for his servants. 
So the righteous man takes for himself nothing of the world, nor 
of the applause of the world, but only for his passions, which he uses 
as their master, saying to the one, "Go," and to another, "Come." 
Sub te erit appetkus tuus}* The passions thus subdued are virtues. 
Even God attributes to Himself avarice, jealousy, anger; and these 
are virtues as well as kindness, pity, constancy, which are also pas- 
sions. We must employ them as slaves, and, leaving to them their 
food, prevent the soul from taking any of it. For, when the passions 
become masters, they are vices; and they give their nutriment to 
the soul, and the soul nourishes itself upon it, and is poisoned. 


Philosophers have consecrated the vices by placing them in God 
Himself. Christians have consecrated the virtues. 

^* Genesis, iv. 7. 



The just man acts by faith in the least things; when he reproves 
his servants, he desires their conversion by the Spirit of God, and 
prays God to correct them; and he expects as much from God as 
from his own reproofs, and prays God to bless his corrections. And so 
in all his other actions he proceeds with the Spirit of God; and his 
actions deceive us by reason of the ... or suspension of the Spirit 
of God in him; and he repents in his affliction. 


All things can be deadly to us, even the things made to serve us; 
as in nature walls can kill us, and stairs can kill us, if we do not walk 

The least movement affects all nature; the entire sea changes be- 
cause of a rock. Thus in grace, the least action affects everything by 
its consequences; therefore everything is important. 

In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, 
and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations 
of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious. 


Let God not impute to us our sins, that is to say, all the conse- 
quences and results of our sins, which are dreadful, even those of 
the smallest faults, if we wish to follow them out mercilessly! 


The spirit of grace; the hardness of the heart; external circum- 


Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint; and he who 
doubts it does not know what a saint or a man is. 

1 66 pascal's thoughts 


Philosophers. — A fine thing to cry to a man who does not know 
himself, that he should come of himself to God! And a fine thing to 
say so to a man who does know himself! 


Man is not worthy of God, but he is not incapable of being made 

It is unworthy of God to unite Himself to wretched man; but it is 
not unworthy of God to pull him out of his misery. 


If we would say that man is too insignificant to deserve com- 
munion with God, we must indeed be very great to judge of it. 


It is, in peculiar phraseology, wholly the body of Jesus Christ, but 
it cannot be said to be the whole body of Jesus Christ. The union 
of two things without change does not enable us to say that one be- 
comes the other; the soul thus being united to the body, the fire 
to the timber, without change. But change is necessary to make the 
form of the one become the form of the other; thus the union of the 
Word to man. Because my body without my soul would not make 
the body of a man; therefore my soul united to any matter whatso- 
ever will make my body. It does not distinguish the necessary con- 
dition from the sufBcient condition; the union is necessary, but not 
sufficient. The left arm is not the right. 

Impenetrability is a property of matter. 

Identity of number in regard to the same time requires the identity 
of matter. 

Thus if God united my soul to a body in China, the same body, 
idem numero, would be in China. 

The same river which runs there is idem numero as that which 
runs at the same time in China. 


Why God has estabUshed prayer. 

1. To communicate to His creatures the dignity of causaHty. 

2. To teach us from whom our virtue comes. 

3. To make us deserve other virtues by work. 

But to keep His own pre-eminence, He grants prayer to whom 
He pleases. 

Objection: But we believe that we hold prayer of ourselves. 

This is absurd; for since, though having faith, we cannot have vir- 
tues, how should we have faith ? Is there a greater distance between 
infidelity and faith than between faith and virtue? 

Merit. This word is ambiguous. 

Meruit habere Redemptorem}^ 

Meruit tarn sacra membra tangere}'^ 

Digno tarn sacra membra tangere." 

Non sum dignus}^ 

Qui manducat indignus}^ 

Dignus est acciperej^" 

Dignare me.'^ 

God is only bound according to His promises. He has promised 
to grant justice to prayers; He has never promised prayer only to the 
children of promise. 

Saint Augustine has distincdy said that strength would be taken 
away from the righteous. But it is by chance that he said it; for it 
might have happened that the occasion of saying it did not present 
itself. But his principles make us see that when the occasion for it 
presented itself, it was impossible that he should not say it, or that 
he should say anything to the contrary. It is then rather that he was 
forced to say it, when the occasion presented itself, than that he said 
it, when the occasion presented itself, the one being of necessity, 
the other of chance. But the two are all that we can ask. 

" "He deserved to have a Redeemer." 

" "He deserved to touch members so sacred." 

" "I deem him worthy to touch, etc." 

'* "I am not worthy." — Luke, vii. 6. 

" "He who unworthy eats." — i Corinthians, xi. 27. 

^""He is worthy to receive." — Revelation, iv. 11. ^' "To deem me worthy." 

1 68 pascal's thoughts 


"Work out your own salvation with fear." 

Proofs of prayer. Petenti dabitur^^ 

Therefore it is in our power to ask. On the other hand, there is 
God. So it is not in our power, since the obtaining of (the grace) 
to pray to Him is not in our power. For since salvation is not in us, 
and the obtaining of such grace is from Him, prayer is not in our 

The righteous man should then hope no more in God, for he ought 
not to hope, but to strive to obtain what he wants. 

Let us conclude then that, since man is now unrighteous since 
the first sin, and God is unwilling that he should thereby not be 
estranged from Him, it is only by a first effect that he is not estranged. 

Therefore, those who depart from God have not this first effect 
without which they are not estranged from God, and those who do 
not depart from God have this first effect. Therefore, those whom 
we have seen possessed for some time of grace by this first effect, 
cease to pray, for want of this first effect. 

Then God abandons the first in this sense. 

The elect will be ignorant of their virtues, and the outcast of 
the greatness of their sins: "Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, 
thirsty?" &c. 


Romans, iii. 27. Boasting is excluded. By what law? Of works? 
nay, but by faith. Then faith is not within our power like the deeds 
of the law, and it is given to us in another way. 

Comfort yourselves. It is not from yourselves that you should 
expect grace; but, on the contrary, it is in expecting nothing from 
yourselves, that you must hope for it. 

^Matthew, vii. 7. 



Every condition, and even the martyrs, have to fear, according to 

The greatest pain of purgatory is the uncertainty of the judgment. 
Deus absconditus}^ 


John, viii. 30. Multi crediderunt in eum. Dicebat ergo Jesus: "Si 
manseritis . . . vere mei discipuli eritis, et Veritas liberabit vos." Re- 
sponderunt: "Semen Abrahce sumus, et nemini servimus unquam." 

There is a great difference between disciples and true disciples. 
We recognise them by telling them that the truth will make them 
free; for if they answer that they are free, and that it is in their 
power to come out of slavery to the devil, they are indeed disciples, 
but not true disciples. 


The law has not destroyed nature, but has instructed it; grace has 
not destroyed the law, but has made it act. Faith received at bap- 
tism is the source of the whole life of Christians and of the converted. 


Grace will always be in the world, and nature also; so that the 
former is in some sort natural. And thus there will always be 
Pelagians, and always Catholics, and always strife; because the first 
birth makes the one, and the grace of the second birth the other. 


The law imposed what it did not give. Grace gives what it 


All faith consists in Jesus Christ and in Adam, and all morality in 
lust and in grace. 

^ "A hidden God." 

1 70 pascal's thoughts 


There is no doctrine more appropriate to man than this, which 
teaches him his double capacity of receiving and of losing grace, 
because of the double peril to which he is exposed, of despair or of 


The philosophers did not prescribe feelings suitable to the two 

They inspired feelings of pure greatness, and that is not man's 

They inspired feelings of pure littleness, and that is not man's 

There must be feelings of humility, not from nature, but from 
penitence, not to rest in them, but to go on to greatness. There must 
be feelings of greatness, not from merit, but from grace, and after 
having passed through humiliation. 


Misery induces despair, pride induces presumption. The Incarna- 
tion shows man the greatness of his misery by the greatness of the 
remedy which he required. 


The knowledge of God without that of man's misery causes pride. 
The knowledge of man's misery without that of God causes despair. 
The knowledge of Jesus Christ constitutes the middle course, because 
in Him we find both God and our misery. 


Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before 
whom we humble ourselves without despair. 



. . . Not a degradation which renders us incapable of good, nor a 
holiness exempt from evil. 

A person told me one day that on coming from confession he 
felt great joy and confidence. Another told me that he remained in 
fear. Whereupon I thought that these two together would make one 
good man, and that each was wanting in that he had not the feeling 
of the other. The same often happens in other things. 

He who knows the will of his master will be beaten with more 
blows, because of the power he has by his knowledge. Qui Justus 
est, justificetur adhuc,'* because of the power he has by justice. From 
him who has received most, will the greatest reckoning be demanded, 
because of the power he has by this help. 


Scripture has provided passages of consolation and of warning 
for all conditions. 

Nature seems to have done the same thing by her two infinities, 
natural and moral; for we shall always have the higher and the 
lower, the more clever and the less clever, the most exalted and the 
meanest, in order to humble our pride, and exalt our humility. 

Comminutum co/^ (Saint Paul). This is the Christian character. 
Alba has named you, I \now you no more (Corneille). That is the 
inhuman character. The human character is the opposite. 

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous, who believe them- 
selves sinners; the rest, sinners, who believe themselves righteous. 

"Revelation, xxii. 11. ^^ "A broken heart." 



We owe a great debt to those who point out faults. For they mor- 
tify us. They teach us that we have been despised. They do not 
prevent our being so in the future; for we have many other faults 
for which we may be despised. They prepare for us the exercise 
of correction and freedom from fault. 


Man is so made that by continually teUing him he is a fool he 
believes it, and by continually telling it to himself he makes himself 
believe it. For man holds an inward talk with his self alone, which 
it behoves him to regulate well : Corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia 
praval'^ We must keep silent as much as possible, and talk with 
ourselves only of God, whom we know to be true; and thus we 
convince ourselves of the truth. 


Christianity is strange. It bids man recognise that he is vile, even 
abominable, and bids him desire to be like God. Without such a 
counterpoise, this dignity would make him horribly vain, or this 
humiliation would make him terribly abject. 


With how little pride does a Christian believe himself united to 
God! With how little humiliation does he place himself on a 
level with the worms of earth! 

A glorious manner to welcome life and death, good and evil! 


What difference in point of obedience is there between a soldier 
and a Carthusian monk ? For both are equally under obedience and 
dependent, both engage in equally painful exercises. But the soldier 
^' I Corinthians, xv. 33. 


always hopes to command, and never attains this, for even captains 
and princes are ever slaves and dependents; still he ever hopes and 
ever works to attain this. Whereas the Carthusian monk makes 
a vow to be always dependent. So they do not differ in their per- 
petual thraldom, in which both of them always exist, but in the 
hope, which one always has, and the other never. 


The hope which Christians have of possessing an infinite good is 
mingled with real enjoyment as well as with fear; for it is not as 
with those who should hope for a kingdom, of which they, being 
subjects, would have nothing; but they hope for holiness, for free- 
dom from injustice, and they have something of this. 


None is so happy as a true Christian, nor so reasonable, virtuous, 
or amiable. 


The Christian religion alone makes man altogether lovable and 
happy. In honesty, we cannot perhaps be altogether lovable and 


Preface. — The metaphysical proofs of God are so remote from 
the reasoning of men, and so complicated, that they make little im- 
pression; and if they should be of service to some, it would be only 
during the moment that they see such demonstration; but an hour 
afterwards they fear they have been mistaken. 

Quod curiositate cognoverunt superbia amiseruntr 
This is the result of the knowledge of God obtained without 
Jesus Christ; it is communion without a mediator with the God 
whom they have known without a mediator. Whereas those who 
have known God by a mediator know their own wretchedness. 

" "What they knew by searching they have lost by pride.** — St. Augustine. 

174 pascal's thoughts 


The God of the Christians is a God who makes the soul feel that 
He is her only good, that her only rest is in Him, that her only 
delight is in loving Him; and who makes her at the same time abhor 
the obstacles which keep her back, and prevent her from loving 
God with all her strength. Self-love and lust, which hinder us, are 
unbearable to her. Thus God makes her feel that she has this root 
of self-love which destroys her, and which He alone can cure. 


Jesus Christ did nothing but teach men that they loved themselves, 
that they were slaves, blind, sick, wretched, and sinners; that He 
must deliver them, enlighten, bless, and heal them; that this would 
be effected by hating self, and by following Him through suffering 
and the death on the cross. 


Without Jesus Christ man must be in vice and misery; with 
Jesus Christ man is free from vice and misery; in Him is all our vir- 
tue and all our happiness. Apart from Him there is but vice, misery, 
darkness, death, despair. 


We know God only by Jesus Christ. Without this mediator 
all communion with God is taken away; through Jesus Christ we 
know God. All those who have claimed to know God, and to 
prove Him without Jesus Christ, have had only weak proofs. But 
in proof of Jesus Christ we have the prophecies, which are solid and 
palpable proofs. And these prophecies, being accomplished and 
proved true by the event, mark the certainty of these truths, and 
therefore the divinity of Christ. In Him then, and through Him, we 
know God. Apart from Him, and without the Scripture, without 
original sin, without a necessary Mediator promised and come, we 
cannot absolutely prove God, nor teach right doctrine and right mo- 


rality. But through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ, we prove God, 
and teach morality and doctrine. Jesus Christ is then the true God 
of men. 

But we know at the same time our wretchedness; for this God is 
none other than the Saviour of our wretchedness. So we can only 
know God well by knowing our iniquities. Therefore those who 
have known God, without knowing their wretchedness, have not 
glorified Him, but have glorified themselves. Quia.. . . non cog- 
novit per sapientiam . . . placuit Deo per stultitiam prcedicationis 
salvos jacere.^^ 


Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know 
ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through 
Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our 
life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves. 

Thus without the Scripture, which has Jesus Christ alone for its 
object, we know nothing, and see only darkness and confusion in 
the nature of God, and in our own nature. 


It is not only impossible but useless to know God without Jesus 
Christ. They have not departed from Him, but approached; they 
have not humbled themselves, but . . . 

Quo quisque optimus est, pessimus, si hoc ipsum, quod optimus est, 
adscribat sibi^* 


I love poverty because He loved it. I love riches because they af- 
ford me the means of helping the very poor. I keep faith with every- 
body; I do not render evil to those who wrong me, but I wish them a 
lot like mine, in which I receive neither evil nor good from men. 
I try to be just, true, sincere, and faithful to all men; I have a tender 

" I Corinthians, i. 21. 

^'"The quality which makes any one best makes him worst, if he claims it for 

176 pascal's thoughts 

heart for those to whom God has more closely united me; and 
whether I am alone, or seen of men, I do all my actions in the sight 
of God, who must judge of them, and to whom I have consecrated 
them all. 

These are my sentiments; and every day of my life I bless my Re- 
deemer, who has implanted them in me, and who, of a man full of 
weaknesses, of miseries, of lust, of pride, and of ambition, has 
made a man free from all these evils by the power of His grace, to 
which all the glory of it is due, as of myself I have only misery and 


Dignior plagis quam osculis non timeo quia amo.^ 


The Sepulchre of Jesus Christ. — Jesus Christ was dead, but seen 
on the Cross. He was dead, and hidden in the Sepulchre. 
Jesus Christ was buried by the saints alone. 
Jesus Christ wrought no miracle at the Sepulchre. 
Only the saints entered it. 

It is there, not on the Cross, that Jesus Christ takes a new life. 
It is the last mystery of the Passion and the Redemption. 
Jesus Christ had nowhere to rest on earth but in the Sepulchre. 
His enemies only ceased to persecute Him at the Sepulchre. 


The Mystery of Jesus. — Jesus suffers in His passion the torments 
which men inflict upon Him; but in His agony He suffers the 
torments which He inflicts on Himself; turbare semitipsum.^^ This 
is a suffering from no human, but an almighty hand, for He must 
be almighty to bear it. 

Jesus seeks some comfort at least in His three dearest friends, and 
they are asleep. He prays them to bear with Him for a little, and they 
leave Him with entire indifference, having so little compassion that 

'" "Though I deserve blows rather than kisses, I do not fear, because I love." 

^' John, xi. 33. 


it could not prevent their sleeping even for a moment. And thus 
Jesus was left alone to the wrath of God. 

Jesus is alone on the earth, without any one not only to feel and 
share His sufferings, but even to know of it; He and Heaven were 
alone in that knowledge. 

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam, where he 
lost himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, where 
He saved Himself and the whole human race. 

He suffers this affliction and this desertion in the horror of night. 

I believe that Jesus never complained but on this single occasion; 
but then He complained as if He could no longer bear His extreme 
suffering. "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." 

Jesus seeks companionship and comfort from men. This is the 
sole occasion in all His life, as it seems to me. But He receives it not, 
for His disciples are asleep. 

Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not 
sleep during that time. 

Jesus, in the midst of this universal desertion, including that of 
His own friends chosen to watch with Him, finding them asleep, is 
vexed because of the danger to which they expose, not Him, but 
themselves; He cautions them for their own safety and their own 
good, with a sincere tenderness for them during their ingratitude, 
and warns them that the spirit is willing and the flesh weak. 

Jesus, finding them still asleep, without being restrained by any 
consideration for themselves or for Him, has the kindness not to 
waken them, and leaves them in repose. 

Jesus prays, uncertain of the will of His Father, and fears death; 
but, when He knows it, He goes forward to offer Himself to death. 
Eamus. Processit.^^ (John). 

Jesus asked of men and was not heard. 

Jesus, while His disciples slept, wrought their salvation. He has 
wrought that of each of the righteous while they slept, both in their 
nothingness before their birth, and in their sins after their birth. 

He prays only once that the cup pass away, and then with sub- 
mission; and twice that it come if necessary. 

Jesus is weary. 

'^ John, xviii. 4. 

178 pascal's thoughts 

Jesus, seeing all His friends asleep and all His enemies wakeful, 
commits Himself entirely to His Father. 

Jesus does not regard in Judas his enmity, but the order of God, 
which He loves and admits, since He calls him friend. 

Jesus tears Himself away from His disciples to enter into His 
agony; we must tear ourselves away from our nearest and dearest 
to imitate Him. 

Jesus being in agony and in the greatest affliction, let us pray 

We implore the mercy of God, not that He may leave us at peace 
in our vices, but that He may deliver us from them. 

If God gave us masters by His own hand. Oh! how necessary 
for us to obey them with a good heart! Necessity and events follow 

—"Console thyself, thou wouldst not seek Me, if thou hadst not 
found Me. 

"I thought of thee in Mine agony, I have sweated such drops of 
blood for thee. 

"It is tempting Me rather than proving thyself, to think if thou 
wouldst do such and such a thing on an occasion which has not 
happened; I shall act in thee if it occur. 

"Let thyself be guided by My rules; see how well I have led the 
Virgin and the saints who have let Me act in them. 

"The Father loves all that I do. 

"Dost thou wish that it always cost Me the blood of My humanity, 
without thy shedding tears? 

"Thy conversion is My afFair; fear not, and pray with confidence 
as for Me. 

"I am present with thee by My Word in Scripture, by My Spirit in 
the Church and by inspiration, by My power in the priests, by My 
prayer in the faithful. 

"Physicians will not heal thee, for thou wilt die at last. But it is 
I who heal thee, and make the body immortal. 

"Suffer bodily chains and servitude, I deliver thee at present only 
from spiritual servitude. 

"I am more a friend to thee than such and such an one, for I have 
done for thee more than they; they would not have suffered what 


I have suffered from thee, and they would not have died for thee 
as I have done in the time of thine infideUties and cruelties, and 
as I am ready to do, and do, among my elect and at the Holy Sacra- 

"If thou knewest thy sins, thou wouldst lose heart." 

— I shall lose it then. Lord, for on Thy assurance I believe their 

— "No, for I, by whom thou learnest, can heal thee of them, and 
what I say to thee is a sign that I will heal thee. In proportion to 
thy expiation of them, thou wilt know them, and it will be said to 
thee: 'Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee.' Repent, then, for thy 
hidden sins, and for the secret malice of those which thou knowest." 

— Lord, I give Thee all. 

— "I love thee more ardently than thou hast loved thine abomina- 
tions ut immundus pro luto?^ 

"To Me be the glory, not to thee, worm of the earth. 

"Ask thy confessor, when My own words are to thee occasion of 
evil, vanity, or curiosity." 

— I see in me depths of pride, curiosity and lust. There is no 
relation between me and God nor Jesus Christ the Righteous. But 
He has been made sin for me; all Thy scourges are fallen upon Him. 
He is more abominable than I, and, far from abhorring me. He 
holds Himself honoured that I go to Him and succor Him. 

But He has healed Himself, and still more so will He heal me. 

I must add my wounds to His, and join myself to Him; and He 
will save me in saving Himself. But this must not be postponed to 
the future. 

Eritis sicut dii scientes bonum et malum ?^ Each one creates his 
god, when judging. "This is good or bad;" and men mourn or 
rejoice too much at events. 

Do little things as though they were great, because of the majesty 
of Jesus Christ who does them in us, and who lives our life; and do 
the greatest things as though they were little and easy, because of 
His omnipotence. 

'' "As foul with clay." ^* Genesis, iii. 5. 

i8o pascal's thoughts 


It seems to me that Jesus Christ only allowed His wounds to be 
touched after his resurrection: Noli me tangere^ We must unite our- 
selves only to His sufferings. 

At the Last Supper He gave Himself in communion as about to 
die; to the disciples at Emmaus as risen from the dead; to the whole 
Church as ascended into heaven. 


"Compare not thyself with others, but with Me. If thou dost not 
find Me in those with whom thou comparest thyself, thou comparest 
thyself to one who is abominable. If thou findest Me in them, com- 
pare thyself to Me. But whom wilt thou compare? Thyself, or Me 
in thee ? If it is thyself, it is one who is abominable. If it is I, thou 
comparest Me to Myself. Now I am God in all. 

"I speak to thee, and often counsel thee, because thy director can- 
not speak to thee, for I do not want thee to lack a guide. 

"And perhaps I do so at his prayers, and thus he leads thee with- 
out thy seeing it. Thou wouldst not seek Me, if thou didst not 
jKJSsess Me. 

"Be not therefore troubled." 

'^John, XX. 17. 

The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion 


MEN blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian re- 
hgion consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men 
to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant 
of them. And it is equally of God's mercy that He has given indi- 
cations of both. 

And yet they take occasion to conclude that one of these points 
does not exist, from that which should have caused them to infer the 
other. The sages who have said there is only one God have been 
persecuted, the Jews were hated, and still more the Christians. They 
have seen by the light of nature that if there be a true religion on 
earth, the course of all things must tend to it as to a centre. 

The whole course of things must have for its object the establish- 
ment and the greatness of religion. Men must have within them 
feelings suited to what religion teaches us. And, finally, religion must 
so be the object and centre to which all things tend, that whoever 
knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the 
whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the 
world in general. 

And on this ground they take occasion to revile the Christian 
religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it con- 
sists simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful, 
and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the 
Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence 
they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see 
that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God 
does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He 
could show. 

But let them conclude what they will against deism, they vWll 
conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly con- 

1 82 pascal's thoughts 

sists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the 
two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corrup- 
tion of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God. 

The Christian religion then teaches men these two truths; that 
there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption 
in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally 
important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dan- 
gerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretched- 
ness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Re- 
deemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of 
these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have 
known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of 
atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer. 

And, as it is alike necessary to man to know these two points, so 
is it alike merciful of God to have made us know them. The Chris- 
tian religion does this; it is in this that it consists. 

Let us herein examine the order of the world, and see if all things 
do not tend to estabUsh these two chief points of this religion: Jesus 
Christ is the end of all, and the centre to which all tends. Whoever 
knows Him knows the reason of everything. 

Those who fall into error err only through failure to see one of 
these two things. We can then have an excellent knowledge of God 
without that of our own wretchedness, and of our own wretchedness 
without that of God. But we cannot know Jesus Christ without 
knowing at the same time both God and our own wretchedness. 

Therefore I shall not undertake here to prove by natural reasons 
either the existence of God, or the Trinity, or the immortality of 
the soul, or anything of that nature; not only because I should not 
feel myself sufficiently able to find in nature arguments to con- 
vince hardened atheists, but also because such knowledge without 
Jesus Christ is useless and barren. Though a man should be con- 
vinced that numerical proportions are immaterial truths, eternal 
and dependent on a first truth, in which they subsist, and which is 
called God, I should not think him far advanced towards his own 

The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of 
mathematical truths, or of the order of the elements; that is the view 


of heathens and Epicureans. He is not merely a God who exercises 
His providence over the Hfe and fortunes of men, to bestow on 
those who worship Him a long and happy life. That was the portion 
of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God 
of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and of comfort, 
a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom He possesses, a 
God who makes them conscious of their inward wretchedness, and 
His infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost soul, who 
fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, who renders 
them incapable of any other end than Himself. 

All who seek God without Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature, 
either find no light to satisfy them, or come to form for themselves 
a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator. 
Thereby they fall either into atheism, or into deism, two things which 
the Christian religion abhors almost equally. 

Without Jesus Christ the world would not exist; for it should 
needs be either that it would be destroyed or be a hell. 

If the world existed to instruct man of God, His divinity would 
shine through every part in it in an indisputable manner; but as 
it exists only by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus Christ, and to teach men 
both their corruption and their redemption, all displays the proofs of 
these two truths. 

All appearance indicates neither a total exclusion nor a manifest 
presence of divinity, but the presence of a God who hides Himself. 
Everything bears this character. 

. . . Shall he alone who knows his nature know it only to be 
miserable ? Shall he alone who knows it be alone unhappy ? 

. . . He must not see nothing at all, nor must he see sufficient 
for him to believe he possesses it; but he must see enough to know 
that he has lost it. For to know of his loss, he must see and not see; 
and that is exactly the state in which he naturally is. 

. . . Whatever part he takes, I shall not leave him at rest . . . 


. , , It is then true that everything teaches man his condition, but 
he must understand this well. For it is not true that all reveals God, 

184 pascal's thoughts 

and it is not true that all conceals God. But it is at the same time 
true that He hides Himself from those who tempt Him, and that He 
reveals Himself to those who seek Him, because men are both un- 
worthy and capable of God; unworthy by their corruption, capable 
by their original nature. 


What shall we conclude from all our darkness, but our unworthi- 


If there never had been any appearance of God, this eternal depri- 
vation would have been equivocal, and might have as well corre- 
sponded with the absence of all divinity, as with the unworthiness of 
men to Know Him; but His occasional, though not continual, 
appearances remove the ambiguity. If He appeared once, He exists 
always; and thus we cannot but conclude both that there is a God, 
and that men are unworthy of Him. 


We do not understand the glorious state of Adam, nor the nature 
of his sin, nor the transmission of it to us. These are matters which 
took place under conditions of a nature altogether different from 
our own, and which transcend our present understanding. 

The knowledge of all this is useless to us as a means of escape 
from it; and all that we are concerned to know, is that we are miser- 
able, corrupt, separated from God, but ransomed by Jesus Christ, 
whereof we have wonderful proofs on earth. 

So the two proofs of corruption and redemption are drawn from 
the ungodly, who live in indifference to religion, and from the Jews 
who are irreconcilable enemies. 


There are two ways of proving the truths of our religion; one 
by the power of reason, the other by the authority of him who speaks. 


We do not make use o£ the latter, but of the former. We do not 
say, "This must be beUeved, for Scripture, which says it, is divine." 
But we say that it must be beheved for such and such a reason, which 
are feeble arguments, as reason may be bent to everything. 


There is nothing on earth that does not show either the wretched- 
ness of man, or the mercy of God; either the weakness of man with- 
out God, or the strength of man with God. 


It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are 
condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn 
the Christian religion. 


The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are 
not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. 
But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is 
unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and ob- 
scurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is 
such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; 
so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, 
and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means 
there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; 
so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not 
reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it 
is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it. 

Vere discipuli, vere Israelita, vere liberi, vere cibus} 


Recognise, then, the truth of religion in the very obscurity of 
religion, in the little light we have of it, and in the indifference which 
we have to knowing it. 

'In allusion to John, viii. 31; i. 47; viii. 36; vi. 32: "Verily disciples, verily an 
Israelite, verily children, verily food." 

1 86 pascal's thoughts 


We understand nothing of the works of God, if we do not take 
as a principle that He has willed to blind some, and enlighten others. 


The two contrary reasons. We must begin with that; without that 
we understand nothing, and all is heretical; and we must even add 
at the end of each truth that the opposite truth is to be remembered. 


Objection. — The Scripture is plainly full of matters not dictated 
by the Holy Spirit. — Answer. Then they do not harm faith. — Objec- 
tion. But the Church has decided that all is of the Holy Spirit. — 
Answer. I answer two things: first, the Church has not so decided; 
secondly, if she should so decide, it could be maintained. 

Do you think that the prophecies cited in the Gospel are related 
to make you believe .? No, it is to keep you from believing. 


Canonical. — The heretical books in the beginning of the Church 
serve to prove the canonical. 


To the chapter on the Fundamentals must be added that on Typol- 
ogy touching the reason of types: why Jesus Christ was prophesied as 
to His first coming; why prophesied obscurely as to the manner. 


The reason why. Types. — [They had to deal with a carnal people 
and to render them the depositary of the spiritual covenant.] To 
give faith to the Messiah, it was necessary there should have been 
precedent prophecies, and that these should be conveyed by persons 
above suspicion, diligent, faithful, unusually zealous, and known to 
all the world. 


To accomplish all this, God chose this carnal people, to whom He 
entrusted the prophecies which foretell the Messiah as a deliverer, 
and as a dispenser of those carnal goods which this people loved. 
And thus they have had an extraordinary passion for their prophets, 
and, in sight of the whole world, have had charge of these books 
which foretell their Messiah, assuring all nations that He should 
come, and in the way foretold in the books, which they held open to 
the whole world. Yet this people, deceived by the poor and igno- 
minious advent of the Messiah, have been His most cruel enemies. 
So that they, the people least open to suspicion in the world of 
favounng us, the most strict and most zealous that can be named 
for their law and their prophets, have kept the books incorrupt. 
Hence those who have rejected and crucified Jesus Christ, who has 
been to them an offence, are those who have charge of the books 
which testify of Him, and state that He will be an offence and 
rejected. Therefore they have shown it was He by rejecting Him, 
and He has been alike proved both by the righteous Jews who re- 
ceived Him, and by the unrighteous who rejected Him, both facts 
having been foretold. 

Wherefore the prophecies have a hidden and spiritual meaning, 
to which this people were hostile, under the carnal meaning which 
they loved. If the spiritual meaning had been revealed, they would 
not have loved it, and, unable to bear it, they would not have been 
zealous of the preservation of their books and their ceremonies; and 
if they had loved these spiritual promises, and had preserved them 
incorrupt till the time of the Messiah, their testimony would have 
had no force, because they had been his friends. 

Therefore it was well that the spiritual meaning should be con- 
cealed; but, on the other hand, if this meaning had been so hidden as 
not to appear at all, it could not have served as a proof of the Mes- 
siah. What then was done ? In a crowd of passages it has been hid- 
den under the temporal meaning, and in a few has been clearly re- 
vealed; besides that the time and the state of the world have been so 
clearly foretold that it is clearer than the sun. And in some places 
this spiritual meaning is so clearly expressed, that it would require a 
blindness like that which the flesh imposes on the spirit when it is 
subdued by it, not to recognise it. 

1 88 pascal's thoughts 

See then what has been the prudence of God. This meaning is 
concealed under another in an infinite number of passages, and in 
some, though rarely, it is revealed; but yet so that the passages in 
which it is concealed are equivocal, and can suit both meanings; 
whereas the passages where it is disclosed are unequivocal, and can 
only suit the spiritual meaning. 

So that this cannot lead us into error, and could only be misunder- 
stood by so carnal a people. 

For when blessings are promised in abundance, what was to pre- 
vent them from understanding the true blessings, but their covetous- 
ness, which limited the meaning to worldly goods ? But those whose 
only good was in God referred them to God alone. For there are two 
principles, which divide the wills of men, covetousness and charity. 
Not that covetousness cannot exist along with faith in God, nor 
charity with worldly riches; but covetousness uses God, and enjoys 
the world, and charity is the opposite. 

Now the ultimate end gives names to things. All which prevents 
us from attaining it, is called an enemy to us. Thus the creatures, 
however good, are the enemies of the righteous, when they turn them 
away from God, and God Himself is the enemy of those whose covet- 
ousness He confounds. 

Thus as the significance of the word "enemy" is dependent on 
the ultimate end, the righteous understood by it their passions, and 
the carnal the Babylonians; and so these terms were obscure only 
for the unrighteous. And this is what Isaiah says: Signa legem in 
electis meisf and that Jesus Christ shall be a stone of stumbling. 
But, "Blessed are they who shall not be offended in him." Hosea, ult., 
says excellently, "Where is the wise? and he shall understand what 
I say. The righteous shall know them, for the ways of God are right; 
but the transgressors shall fall therein." 

Hypothesis that the apostles were impostors. — The time clearly, 
the manner obscurely. — Five typical proofs 

J 1600 prophets. 
400 scattered. 

* Isaiah, viii. 16. 


Blindness of Scripture. — "The Scripture," said the Jews, "says that 
we shall not know whence Christ will come (John vii. 27 and xii. 34). 
The Scripture says that Christ abideth for ever, and He said that He 
should die." Therefore, says Saint John, they believed not, though He 
had done so many miracles, that the word of Isaiah might be ful- 
filled: "He hath blinded them," &c. 

Greatness. — Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those 
who will not take the trouble to seek it, if it be obscure, should be 
deprived of it. Why then do any complain, if it be such as can be 
found by seeking? 

All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscuri- 
ties of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely 
clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world, 
even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities 
which they do not understand. 


The general conduct of the world towards the Church : God will- 
ing to blind and to enlighten. — The event having proved the divinity 
of these prophecies, the rest ought to be believed. And thereby we 
see the order of the world to be of this kind. The miracles of the 
Creation and the Deluge being forgotten, God sends the law and 
the miracles of Moses, the prophets who prophesied particular things; 
and to prepare a lasting miracle. He prepares prophecies and their 
fulfilment; but, as the prophecies could be suspected, He desires to 
make them above suspicion, &c. 

God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good 
of the elect. 



There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient 
obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind 
the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make 
them inexcusable. — Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sebond. 

The genealogy o£ Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is inter- 
mingled with so many others that are useless, that it cannot be dis- 
tinguished. If Moses had kept only the record o£ the ancestors of 
Christ, that might have been too plain. If he had not noted that of 
Jesus Christ, it might not have been sufficiently plain. But, after all, 
whoever looks closely sees that of Jesus Christ expressly traced 
through Tamar, Ruth, &c. 

Those who ordained these sacrifices, knew their uselessness; those 
who have declared their uselessness have not ceased to practise them. 

If God had permitted only one religion, it had been too easily 
known; but when we look at it closely, we clearly discern the truth 
amidst this confusion. 

The premiss. — Moses was a clever man. If then he ruled himself 
by his reason, he would say nothing clearly which was directly against 

Thus all the very apparent weaknesses are strength. Example: the 
two genealogies in Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. What can be 
clearer than that this was not concerted ? 


God (and the Apostles), foreseeing that the seeds of pride would 
make heresies spring up, and being unwilling to give them occasion 
to arise from correct expressions, has put in Scripture and the prayers 
of the Church contrary words and sentences to produce their fruit in 

So in morals He gives charity, which produces fruits contrary to 

Nature has some perfections to show that she is the image of God, 
and some defects to show that she is only His image. 



God prefers rather to incline the will than the intellect. Perfect 
clearness would be of use to the intellect, and would harm the will. 
To humble pride. 


We make an idol of truth itself; for truth apart from charity 
is not God, but His image and idol, which we must neither love 
nor worship; and still less must we love or worship its opposite, 
namely, falsehood. 

I can easily love total darkness; but if God keeps me in a state 
of semi-darkness, such partial darkness displeases me, and, because 
I do not see therein the advantage of total darkness, it is unpleasant 
to me. This is a fault, and a sign that I make for myself an idol of 
darkness, apart from the order of God. Now only His order must be 


The feeble-minded are people who know the truth, but only 
affirm it so far as consistent with their own interest. But, apart 
from that, they renounce it. 


The world exists for the exercise of mercy and judgment, not as if 
men were placed in it out of the hands of God, but as hostile to God; 
and to them He grants by grace sufficient light, that they may return 
to Him, if they desire to seek and follow Him; and also that they 
may be punished, if they refuse to seek or follow Him. 


That God has willed to hide Himself. — If there were only one re- 
ligion, God would indeed be manifest. The same would be the case, 
if there were no martyrs but in our religion. 

God being thus hidden, every religion which does not affirm that 
God is hidden, is not true; and every reHgion which does not give 


the reason of it, is not instructive. Our religion does all this: Vere 
tu es Deus absconditus? 


If there were no obscurity, man would not be sensible of his cor- 
ruption; if there were no light, man would not hope for a remedy. 
Thus, it is not only fair, but advantageous to us, that God be partly 
hidden and partly revealed; since it is equally dangerous to man to 
know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his 
own wretchedness without knowing God. 


This religion, so great in miracles, saints, blameless Fathers, learned 
and great witnesses, martyrs, established kings as David, and Isaiah, a 
prince of the blood, and so great in science, after having displayed all 
her miracles and all her wisdom, rejects all this, and declares that 
she has neither wisdom nor signs, but only the cross and foolishness. 

For those, who, by these signs and that wisdom, have deserved your 
belief, and who have proved to you their character, declare to you that 
nothing of all this can change you, and render you capable of know- 
ing and loving God, but the power of the foolishness of the cross 
without wisdom and signs, and not the signs without this power. 
Thus our religion is foolish in respect to the effective cause, and wise 
in respect to the wisdom which prepares it. 


Our religion is wise and foolish. Wise, because it is the most 
learned, and the most founded on miracles, prophecies, &c. Foolish, 
because it is not all this which makes us belong to it. This makes us 
indeed condemn those who do not belong to it; but it does not cause 
belief in those who do belong to it. It is the cross that makes them 
believe, ne evacuata sit crux.^ And so Saint Paul, who came with 
wisdom and signs, says that he has come neither with wisdom nor 
with signs; for he came to convert. But those who come only to 
convince, can say that they come with wisdom and with signs. 
'"Truly thou art a hidden God." ^i Corinthians, i. 17. 




ON the fact that the Christian religion is not the only religion. 
— So far is this from being a reason for believing that it is 
not the true one, that, on the contrary, it makes us see that 
it is so. 


Men must be sincere in all religions; true heathens, true Jews, 
true Christians. 


J. C. 
Heathens | Mahomet 

\ 7 

of God. 


The falseness of other religions. — They have no witnesses. The 
Jews have. God defies other religions to produce such signs: Isaiah 
xiii. 9; xUv. 8. 


History of China. — I believe only the histories, whose witnesses got 

themselves killed. 

[Which is the more credible of the two, Moses or China ? ] 

It is not a question of seeing this summarily. I tell you there is in 

it something to blind, and something to enlighten. 


194 pascal's thoughts 

By this one word I destroy all your reasoning. "But China ob- 
scures," say you; and I answer, "China obscures, but there is clear- 
ness to be found; seek it." 

Thus all that you say makes for one of the views, and not at all 
against the other. So this serves, and does no harm. 

We must then see this in detail; we must put the papers on the 


Against the history of China. The historians of Mexico, the five 
suns, of which the last is only eight hundred years old. 

The difference between a book accepted by a nation, and one 
which makes a nation. 


Mahomet was without authority. His reasons then should have 
been very strong, having only their own force. What does he say 
then, that we must believe him ? 


The Psalms are chanted throughout the whole world. 

Who renders testimony to Mahomet? Himself. Jesus Christ 
desires His own testimony to be as nothing. 

The quality of witnesses necessitates their existence always and 
everywhere; and he, miserable creature, is alone. 


Against Mahomet. — The Koran is not more of Mahomet than the 
Gospel is of Saint Matthew, for it is cited by many authors from 
age to age. Even its very enemies, Celsus and Porphyry, never 
denied it. 

The Koran says Saint Matthew was an honest man. Therefore 
Mahomet was a false prophet for calling honest men wicked, or 
for not agreeing with what they have said of Jesus Christ. 



It is not by that which is obscure in Mahomet, and which may be 
interpreted in a mysterious sense, that I would have him judged, 
but by what is clear, as his paradise and the rest. In that he is ridicu- 
lous. And since what is clear is ridiculous, it is not right to take 
his obscurities for mysteries. 

It is not the same with the Scripture. I agree that there are in it 
obscurities as strange as those of Mahomet; but there are admirably 
clear passages, and the prophecies are manifestly fulfilled. The cases 
are therefore not on a par. We must not confound, and put on one 
level things which only resemble each other in their obscurity, and 
not in the clearness, which requires us to reverence the obscurities. 


The difference between Jesus Christ and Mahomet. — Mahomet 
was not foretold; Jesus Christ was foretold. 

Mahomet slew; Jesus Christ caused His owri to be slain. 

Mahomet forbade reading; the Apostles ordered reading. 

In fact the two are so opposed, that if Mahomet took the way to 
succeed from a worldly point of view, Jesus Christ, from the same 
point of view, took the way to perish. And instead of concluding 
that, since Mahomet succeeded, Jesus Christ might well have suc- 
ceeded, we ought to say that since Mahomet succeeded, Jesus Christ 
should have failed. 


Any man can do what Mahomet has done; for he performed no 
miracles, he was not foretold. No man can do what Christ has done. 


The heathen religion has no foundation [at the present day. It is 
said once to have had a foundation by the oracles which spoke. But 
what are the books which assure us of this? Are they so worthy of 
belief on account of the virtue of their authors? Have they been 

196 pascal's thoughts 

preserved with such care that we can be sure that they have not been 
meddled with?] 

The Mahomedan religion has for a foundation the Koran and 
Mahomet. But has this prophet, who was to be the last hope of the 
world, been foretold? What sign has he that every other man has 
not, who chooses to call himself a prophet? What miracles does he 
himself say that he has done? What mysteries has he taught, even 
according to his own tradition ? What was the morality, what the 
happiness held out by him? 

The Jewish religion must be differently regarded in the tradition 
of the Holy Bible, and in the tradition of the people. Its morality and 
happiness are absurd in th" tradition of the people, but are ad- 
mirable in that of the Holy Bible. (And all religion is the same; 
for the Christian religion is very different in the Holy Bible and 
in the casuists.) The foundation is admirable; it is the most ancient 
book in the world, and the most authentic; and whereas Mahomet, 
in order to make his own book continue in existence, forbade men 
to read it, Moses, for the same reason, ordered every one to read his. 

Our religion is so divine that another divine religion has only been 
the foundation of it. 


Order. — To see what is clear and indisputable in the whole state of 
the Jews. 


The Jewish religion is wholly divine in its authority, its duration, 
its perpetuity, its morality, its doctrine, and its effects. 


The only science contrary to common sense and human nature 
is that alone which has always existed among men. 


The only religion contrary to nature, to common sense, and to 
our pleasure, is that alone which has always existed. 



No religion but our own has taught that man is born in sin. 
No sect of philosophers has said this. Therefore none have de- 
clared the truth. 

No sect or religion has always existed on earth, but the Christian 


Whoever judges of the Jewish religion by its coarser forms will 
misunderstand it. It is to be seen in the Holy Bible, and in the tradi- 
tion of the prophets, who have made it plain enough that they did 
not interpret the law according to the letter. So our religion is di- 
vine in the Gospel, in the Apostles, and in tradition; but it is absurd 
in those who tamper with it. 

The Messiah, according to the carnal Jews, was to be a great tem- 
poral prince. Jesus Christ, according to carnal Christians, has come 
to dispense us from the love of God, and to give us sacraments which 
shall do everything without our help. Such is not the Christian re- 
ligion, nor the Jewish. True Jews and true Christians have always 
expected a Messiah who should make them love God, and by that 
love triumph over their enemies. 


The carnal Jews hold a midway place between Christians and 
heathens. The heathens know not God, and love the world only. 
The Jews know the true God, and love the world only. The Chris- 
tians know the true God, and love not the world. Jews and heathens 
love the same good. Jews and Christians know the same God. 

The Jews were of two kinds; the first had only heathen affections, 
the other had Christian affections. 


There are two kinds of men in each religion: among the heathen, 
worshippers of beasts, and the worshippers of the one only God 

198 pascal's thoughts 

of natural religion; among the Jews, the carnal, and the spiritual, 
who were the Christians of the old law; among Christians, the 
coarser-minded, who are the Jews of the new law. The carnal Jews 
looked for a carnal Messiah; the coarser Christians believe that the 
Messiah has dispensed them from the love of God; true Jews and 
true Christians worship a Messiah who makes them love God. 


To show that the true Jews and the true Christians have but the 
same religion. — The religion of the Jews seemed to consist essentially 
in the fatherhood of Abraham, in circumcision, in sacrifices, in cere- 
monies, in the Ark, in the temple, in Jerusalem, and, finally, in the 
law, and in the covenant with Moses. 

I say that it consisted in none of those things, but only in the love 
of God, and that God disregarded all the other things. 

That God did not accept the posterity of Abraham. 

That the Jews were to be punished like strangers, if they trans- 
gressed. Deut., viii. 19: "If thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, 
and walk after other gods, I testify against you this day that ye shall 
surely perish, as the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your 

That strangers, if they loved God, were to be received by Him 
as the Jews. Isaiah, Ivi. 3: "Let not the stranger say, 'The Lord will 
not receive me.' The strangers who join themselves unto the Lord 
to serve Him and love Him, will I bring unto my holy mountain, 
and accept therein sacrifices, for mine house is a house of prayer." 

That the true Jews considered their merit to be from God only, and 
not from Abraham. Isaiah, Ixiii. 16: "Doubtless thou art our Father, 
though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not. 
Thou art our Father and our Redeemer." 

Moses himself told them that God would not accept persons. 
Deut., X. 17: "God," said he, "regardeth neither persons nor sac- 

The Sabbath was only a sign, Exod., xxxi. 13; and in memory of 
the escape from Egypt, Deut., v. 15. Therefore it is no longer neces- 
sary, since Egypt must be forgotten. 


Circumcision was only a sign, Gen., xvii. 11. And thence it came 
to pass that, being in the desert, they were not circumcised, because 
they could not be confounded with other peoples; and after Jesus 
Christ came, it was no longer necessary. 

That the circumcision of the heart is commanded. Deut., x. 16; 
Jeremiah, iv. 4: "Be ye circumcised in heart; take away the superflui- 
ties of your heart, and harden yourselves not. For your God is a 
mighty God, strong and terrible, who accepteth not persons." 

That God said He would one day do it. Deut., xxx. 6: "God 
will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, that thou may- 
est love Him with all thine heart." 

That the uncircumcised in heart shall be judged. Jeremiah, ix. 26: 
For God will judge the uncircumcised peoples, and all the people of 
Israel, because he is "uncircumcised in heart." 

That the external is of no avail apart from the internal. Joel, ii. 13; 
Scindite corda vestra, &c. Isaiah, Iviii. 3, 4, &c. 

The love of God is enjoined in the whole of Deuteronomy. Deut., 
xxx. 19: "I call heaven and earth to record that I have set before you 
life and death, that you should choose life, and love God, and obey 
Him, for God is your life." 

That the Jews, for lack of that love, should be rejected for their 
offences, and the heathen chosen in their stead. Hosea, 1. 10; Deut., 
xxxii. 20. "I will hide myself from them in view of their latter sins, 
for they are a froward generation without faith. They have moved 
me to jealousy with that which is not God, and I will move them to 
jealousy with those which are not a people, and with an ignorant 
and foolish nation." Isaiah, Ixv. i. 

That temporal goods are false, and that the true good is to be united 
to God. Psalm cxliii. 15. 

That their feasts are displeasing to God. Amos, v. 21. 

That the sacrifices of the Jews displeased God. Isaiah, Ixvi. 1-3; i. 
11; Jer., vi. 20; David, Miserere. — Even on the part of the good, 
Expectavi. Psalm xlix. 8, 9, 10, n, 12, 13, and 14. 

That He has established them only for their hardness. Micah, 
admirably, vi.; I Kings, xv. 22; Hosea, vi. 6. 

That the sacrifices of the Gentiles will be accepted of God, and that 
God will take no pleasure in the sacrifices of the Jews. Malachi, i. 11. 

200 pascal's thoughts 

That God will make a new covenant with the Messiah, and the 
old will be annulled. Jer., xxxi. 31. Mandata non bona. Eze\. 

That the old things will be forgotten. Isaiah, xliii. 18, 19; Ixv. 
17, 18. 

That the Ark will no longer be remembered. ]er., iii. 15. 

That the temple should be rejected. ]er., vii. 12, 13, 14. 

That the sacrifices should be rejected, and other pure sacrifices 
established. Malachi, i. 11. 

That the order of Aaron's priesthood should be rejected, and that 
of Melchizedek introduced by the Messiah. Ps. Dixit Dominus. 

That this priesthood should be eternal. Ibid. 

That Jerusalem should be rejected, and Rome admitted. Ps, Dixit 

That the name of the Jews should be rejected, and a new name 
given. Isaiah, Ixv. 15. 

That this last name should be more excellent than that of the 
Jews, and eternal. Isaiah, Ivi. 5. 

That the Jews should be without prophets (Amos), without a 
king, without princes, without sacrifice, without an idol. 

That the Jews should nevertheless always remain a people. ]er. 
xxxi. 36. 


Republic. — The Christian Republic — and even the Jewish — has 
only had God for ruler, as Philo the Jew notices, On Monarchy. 

When they fought, it was for God only; their chief hope was in 
God only; they considered their towns as belonging to God only, 
and kept them for God. i Chron., xix. 13. 


Gen., xvii. 7. Statuam pactum meum inter me et te faedere sempi- 
terno ut sim Deus tuus. 
Gen., xvii. 9. Et tu ergo custodies pactum meum. 


Perpetuity. — That religion has always existed on earth, which 
consists in believing that man has fallen from a state of glory and of 


communion with God into a state o£ sorrow, penitence, and estrange- 
ment from God, but that after this Hfe we shall be restored by a 
Messiah who should have come. All things have passed away, and 
this has endured, for which all things are. 

Men have in the first age of the world been carried away into 
every kind of debauchery, and yet there were saints, as Enoch, 
Lamech, and others, who waited patiently for the Christ promised 
from the beginning of the world. Noah saw the wickedness of men 
at its height; and he was held worthy to save the world in his per- 
son, by the hope of the Messiah of whom he was the type. Abraham 
was surrounded by idolaters, when God made known to him the 
mystery of the Messiah, whom he welcomed from afar. In the time 
of Isaac and Jacob abomination was spread over all the earth; but 
these saints lived in faith; and Jacob, dying and blessing his children, 
cried in a transport which made him break off his discourse, "I 
await, O my God, the Saviour whom Thou hast promised. Salutare 
tuum expectabo, Domine." The Egyptians were infected both with 
idolatry and magic; the very people of God were led astray by their 
example. Yet Moses and others believed Him whom they saw not, 
and worshipped Him, looking to the eternal gifts which He was 
preparing for them. 

The Greeks and Latins then set up false deities; the poets made 
a hundred different theologies, while the philosophers separated 
into a thousand different sects; and yet in the heart of Judaea there 
were always chosen men who foretold the coming of this Messiah, 
which was known to them alone. 

He came at length in the fulness of time, and time has since wit- 
nessed the birth of so many schisms and heresies, so many political 
revolutions, so many changes in all things; yet this Church, which 
worships Him who has always been worshipped, has endured unin- 
terruptedly. It is a wonderful, incomparable, and altogether divine 
fact that this rehgion, which has always endured, has always been 
attacked. It has been a thousand times on the eve of universal de- 
struction, and every time it has been in that state, God has restored it 
by extraordinary acts of His power. This is astonishing, as also that 
it has preserved itself without yielding to the will of tyrants. For it 
is not strange that a State endures, when its laws are sometimes made 


to give way to necessity, but that . . . (See the passage indicated in 


States would perish i£ they did not often make their laws give 
way to necessity. But religion has never suffered this, or practised it. 
Indeed there must be these compromises, or miracles. It is not strange 
to be saved by yielding, and this is not strictly self-preservation; be- 
sides, in the end they perish entirely. None has endured a thousand 
years. But the fact that this religion has always maintained itself, 
inflexible as it is, proves its divinity. 


Whatever may be said, it must be admitted that the Christian re- 
ligion has something astonishing in it. Some will say, "This is be- 
cause you were born in it." Far from it; I stiffen myself against it for 
this very reason, for fear this prejudice bias me. But although I am 
born in it, I cannot help finding it so. 


Perpetuity. — The Messiah has always been believed in. The tradi- 
tion from Adam was still fresh in Noah and in Moses. Since then 
the prophets have foretold him, while at the same time foretelling 
other things, which, being from time to time fulfilled in the sight 
of men, showed the truth of their mission, and consequently that 
of their promises touching the Messiah. Jesus Christ performed 
miracles, and the Apostles also, who converted all the heathen; and 
all the prophecies being thereby fulfilled, the Messiah is for ever 


Perpetuity. — Let us consider that since the beginning of the 
world the expectation or worship of the Messiah has existed unin- 
terruptedly; that there have been found men, who said that God 
had revealed to them that a Redeemer was to be born, who should 


save His people; that Abraham came afterwards, saying that he 
had had a revelation that the Messiah was to spring from him by 
a son, whom he should have; that Jacob declared that, of his twelve 
sons, the Messiah would spring from Judah; that Moses and the 
prophets then came to declare the time and the manner of His 
coming; that they said their law was only temporary till that of the 
Messiah, that it should endure till then, but that the other should 
last for ever; that thus either their law, or that of the Messiah, of 
which it was the promise, would be always upon the earth; that, in 
fact, it has always endured; that at last Jesus Christ came with all 
the circumstances foretold. This is wonderful. 


This is positive fact. While all philosophers separate into different 
sects, there is found in one corner of the world the most ancient 
people in it, declaring that all the world is in error, that God has re- 
vealed to them the truth, that they will always exist on the earth. 
In fact, all other sects come to an end, this one still endures, and 
has done so for four thousand years. 

They declare that they hold from their ancestors that man has 
fallen from communion with God, and is entirely estranged from 
God, but that He has promised to redeem them; that this doctrine 
shall always exist on the earth; that their law has a double signifi- 
cation; that during sixteen hundred years they have had people, 
whom they believed prophets, foretelling both the time and the 
manner; that four hundred years after they were scattered every- 
where, because Jesus Christ was to be everywhere announced; that 
Jesus Christ came in the manner, and at the time foretold; that the 
Jews have since been scattered abroad under a curse, and neverthe- 
less still exist. 


I see the Christian religion founded upon a preceding religion, 
and this is what I find as a fact. 

I do not here speak of the miracles of Moses, of Jesus Christ, and 
of the Apostles, because they do not at first seem convincing, and 


because I only wish here to put in evidence all those foundations of 
the Christian religion which are beyond doubt, and which cannot 
be called in question by any person whatsoever. It is certain that 
we see in many places of the world a peculiar people, separated from 
all other peoples of the world, and called the Jewish people. 

I see then a crowd of religions in many parts of the world and in 
all times; but their morality cannot please me, nor can their proofs 
convince me. Thus I should equally have rejected the religion of 
Mahomet and of China, of the ancient Romans and of the Egyptians, 
for the sole reason, that none having more marks of truth than 
another, nor anything which should necessarily persuade me, reason 
cannot incline to one rather than the other. 

But, in thus considering this changeable and singular variety of 
morals and beliefs at different times, I find in one corner of the 
world a peculiar people, separated from all other peoples on earth, 
the most ancient of all, and whose histories are earlier by many 
generations than the most ancient which we possess. 

I find then this great and numerous people, sprung from a single 
man, who worship one God, and guide themselves by a law which 
they say that they obtained from His own hand. They maintain that 
they are the only people in the world to whom God has revealed 
His mysteries; that all men are corrupt and in disgrace with God; 
that they are all abandoned to their senses and their own imagina- 
tion, whence come the strange errors and continual changes which 
happen among them, both of religions and of morals, whereas they 
themselves remain firm in their conduct; but that God will not 
leave other nations in this darkness for ever; that there will come 
a Saviour for all; that they are in the world to announce Him to 
men; that they are expressly formed to be forerunners and heralds 
of this great event, and to summon all nations to join with them in 
the expectation of this Saviour. 

To meet with this people is astonishing to me, and seems to me 
worthy of attention. I look at the law which they boast of having 
obtained from God, and I find it admirable. It is the first law of 
all, and is of such a kind that, even before the term law was in cur- 
rency among the Greeks, it had, for nearly a thousand years earlier, 
been uninterruptedly accepted and observed by the Jews. I likewise 


think it strange that the first law o£ the world happens to be the most 
perfect; so that the greatest legislators have borrowed their laws 
from it, as is apparent from the law of the Twelve Tables at Athens, 
afterwards taken by the Romans, and as it would be easy to prove, if 
Josephus and others had not sufficiently dealt with this subject. 


Advantages of the Jewish people. — In this search the Jewish people 
at once attract my attention by the number of wonderful and sin- 
gular facts which appear about them. 

I first see that they are a people wholly composed of brethren, 
and whereas all others are formed by the assemblage of an infinity 
of families, this, though so wonderfully fruitful, has all sprung from 
one man alone, and, being thus all one flesh, and members one of 
another, they constitute a powerful state of one family. This is 

This family, or people, is the most ancient within human knowl- 
edge, a fact which seems to me to inspire a peculiar veneration for 
it, especially in view of our present inquiry; since if God has from 
all time revealed Himself to men, it is to these we must turn for 
knowledge of the tradition. 

This people is not eminent solely by their antiquity, but is also 
singular by their duration, which has always continued from their 
origin till now. For whereas the nations of Greece and of Italy, of 
Lacedsmon, of Athens and of Rome, and others who came long 
after, have long since perished, these ever remain, and in spite of the 
endeavours of many powerful kings who have a hundred times tried 
to destroy them, as their historians testify, and as it is easy to con- 
jecture from the natural order of things during so long a space of 
years, they have nevertheless been preserved (and this preservation 
has been foretold) ; and extending from the earliest times to the latest, 
their history comprehends in its duration all our histories [which it 
preceded by a long time]. 

The law by which this people is governed is at once the most 
ancient law in the world, the most perfect, and the only one which 
has been always observed without a break in a state. This is what 

2o6 pascal's thoughts 

Josephus admirably proves, against Apion, and also Philo the Jew, 
in different places where they point out that it is so ancient that the 
very name of law was only known by the oldest nation more than 
a thousand years afterwards; so that Homer, who has written the 
history of so many states, has never used the term. And it is easy 
to judge of its perfection by simply reading it; for we see that it has 
provided for all things with so great wisdom, equity and judgment, 
that the most ancient legislators, Greek and Roman, having had 
some knowledge of it, have borrowed from it their principal laws; 
this is evident from what are called the Twelve Tables, and from the 
other proofs which Josephus gives. 

But this law is at the same time the severest and strictest of all in 
respect to their religious worship, imposing on this people, in order 
to keep them to their duty, a thousand peculiar and painful observ- 
ances, on pain of death. Whence it is very astonishing that it has 
been constantly preserved during many centuries by a people, re- 
bellious and impatient as this one was; while all other states have 
changed their laws from time to time, although these were far more 

The book which contains this law, the first of all, is itself the 
most ancient book in the world, those of Homer, Hesiod, and others, 
being six or seven hundred years later. 


The creation and the deluge being past, and God no longer re- 
quiring to destroy the world, nor to create it anew, nor to give such 
great signs of Himself, He began to establish a people on the earth, 
purposely formed, who were to last until the coming of the people 
whom the Messiah should fashion by His spirit. 


The creation of the world beginning to be distant, God provided 
a single contemporary historian, and appointed a whole people as 
guardians of this book, in order that this history might be the most 
authentic in the world, and that all men might thereby learn a fact 
so necessary to know, and which could only be known through that 



[Japhet begins the genealogy.] 

Joseph folds his arms, and prefers to keep silent. 


Why should Moses make the lives of men so long, and their 
generations so few? 

Because it is not the length of years, but the multitude of genera- 
tions, which renders things obscure. For truth is perverted only by 
the change of men. And yet he puts two things, the most memorable 
that were ever imagined, namely, the creation and the deluge, so 
near that we reach from one to the other. 


Shem, who saw Lamech, who saw Adam, saw also Jacob, who saw 
those who saw Moses; therefore the deluge and the creation are true. 
This is conclusive among certain people who understand it rightly. 


The longevity of the patriarchs, instead of causing the loss of 
past history, conduced, on the contrary, to its preservation. For the 
reason why we are sometimes insufficiently instructed in the history 
of our ancestors, is that we have never lived long with them, and 
that they are often dead before we have attained the age of reason. 
Now, when men lived so long, children lived long with their parents. 
They conversed long with them. But what else could be the subject 
of their talk save the history of their ancestors, since to that all history 
was reduced, and men did not study science or art, which now form 
a large part of daily conversation? We see also that in these days 
tribes took particular care to preserve their genealogies. 


I believe that Joshua was the first of God's people to have this 
name, as Jesus Christ was the last of God's people. 

2o8 pascal's thoughts 


Antiquity of the Jews. — What a difference there is between one 
book and another! I am not astonished that the Greeks made the 
Iliad, nor the Egyptians and the Chinese their histories. 

We have only to see how this originates. These fabulous historians 
are not contemporaneous with the facts about which they write. 
Homer composes a romance, which he gives out as such, and which 
is received as such ; for nobody doubted that Troy and Agamemnon 
no more existed than did the golden apple. Accordingly he did not 
think of making a history, but solely a book to amuse; he is the 
only writer of his time; the beauty of the work has made it last, every 
one learns it and talks of it, it is necessary to know it, and each one 
knows it by heart. Four hundred years afterwards the witnesses of 
these facts are no longer alive, no one knows of his own knowledge 
if it be a fable or a history; one has only learnt it from his ancestors, 
and this can pass for truth. 

Every history which is not contemporaneous, as the books of the 
Sibyls and Trismegistus, and so many others which have been be- 
lieved by the world, are false, and found to be false in the course of 
time. It is not so with contemporaneous writers. 

There is a great difference between a book which an individual 
writes, and publishes to a nation, and a book which itself creates a 
nation. We cannot doubt that the book is as old as the people. 


Josephus hides the shame of his nation. 
Moses does not hide his own shame. 
Quis mihi det ut omnes prophetent?^ 
He was weary of the multitude. 


The sincerity of the Jews. — Maccabees, after they had no more 
prophets; the Masorah, since Jesus Christ. 
This book will be a testimony for you. 

'Numbers, xi. 29. 


Defective and final letters. 

Sincere against their honour, and dying for it; this has no example 
in the world, and no root in nature. 


Sincerity of the ]ews. — They preserve lovingly and carefully the 
book in which Moses declares that they have been all their life un- 
grateful to God, and that he knows they will be still more so after 
his death; but that he calls heaven and earth to witness against them, 
and that he has [taught] them enough. 

He declares that God, being angry with them, shall at last scatter 
them among all the nations of the earth; that as they have offended 
Him by worshipping gods who were not their God, so He will pro- 
voke them by calling a people who are not His people; that He de- 
sires that all His words be preserved for ever, and that His book be 
placed in the Ark of the Covenant to serve for ever as a witness 
against them. 

Isaiah says the same thing, xxx. 


On Esdras. — The story that the books were burnt with the temple 
proved false by Maccabees : "Jeremiah gave them the law." 

The story that he recited the whole by heart. Josephus and Esdras 
point out that he read the boo\. Baronius, Annates, p. 180: Nullus 
penitus Hebrceorum antiquorum reperitur qui tradiderit libros 
periisse et per Esdram esse restitutes, nisi in IV, Esdrce^ 

The story that he changed the letters. 

Philo, in Vita Moysis: Ilia lingua ac character quo antiquitus 
scripta est lex sic permansit usque ad LXX.' 

Josephus says that the Law was in Hebrew when it was translated 
by the Seventy. 

Under Antiochus and Vespasian, when they wanted to abolish 
the books, and when there was no prophet, they could not do so. 
And under the Babylonians, when no persecution had been made, 

' "Nothing is found within the ancient Hebrew writings which recorded that the 
books perished and were restored through Esdras, except in Esdras, IV." 

' "The same language and character in which the Law was written in ancient 
times remained till the Septuagint." 

210 pascal's thoughts 

and when there were so many prophets, would they have let them 
be burnt? 

Josephus laughs at the Greeks who would not bear . . . 

Tertullian. — Perinde potuit abolejactam earn violentia catadysmi 
in spiritu rursus reformare, quemadmodum et Hierosolymis Baby- 
lonia expugnatione deletis, omne instrumentum Judaicce literatures 
per Esdram constat restauratum.^ 

He says that Noah could as easily have restored in spirit the book 
o£ Enoch, destroyed by the Deluge, as Esdras could have restored the 
Scriptures lost during the Captivity. 

(0e6$) '&> Tg hitl NafiovxoSoPoadp alxti(i^<Tl<} tov \aov, Si.a4>0apeia-civ 
T&JJ' ypaepwv . . . kveirvevaiv "E<r5p^ roj itptl e/c t^s (pvXijs Atvi roiis 
To>v wpoyeyovoTciiV Trpo4>riToiV iravras avara^aadaL \6yovs^ Kal oTroKaTO- 
oT^cai T^j Xa^* '■')'' 5"i Mwutrecos vonodeaiav} He alleges this to prove 
that it is not incredible that the Seventy may have explained the holy 
Scriptures with that uniformity which we admire in them. And he 
took that from Saint Irensus. 

Saint Hilary, in his preface to the Psalms, says that Esdras 
arranged the Psalms in order. 

The origin of this tradition comes from the fourteenth chapter of 
the fourth book of Esdras. Deus glorificatus est, et Scriptures vere 
divines creditce sunt, omnibus eandem et eisdem verbis et eisdem 
nominibus recitantibus ah initio usque ad finem, uti et prcssentes 
gentes cognoscerent quoniam per inspirationem Dei interpretatce 
sunt Scriptures et non esset mirabile Deum hoc in eis operatum: 
quando in ea captivitate populi qucs facta est a Nabuchodonosor, 
corruptis scripturis et post 70 annos Judesis descendentibus in 
regionem suam, et post deinde temporibus Artaxercis Persarum regis, 
inspiravit Esdres sacerdoti tribus Levi presteritorum prophetarum 
omnes rememorare sermones, et restituere populo earn legem ques 
data est per Moysen. 


Against the story in Esdras, II. Maccab., ii.; — Josephus Antiquities, 
II. i. — Cyrus took occasion from the prophecy of Isaiah to release the 

^ Tertullian, De cultu jemin., iL 3. 

^ Eusebius, Historia ecdesiastica, lib., v., C. & 


people. The Jews held their property in peace under Cyrus in 
Babylon; hence they could well have the Law. 

Josephus, in the whole history of Esdras, does not say one word 
about this restoration. — II. Kings, xvii. 27. 


If the story in Esdras is credible, then it must be believed that the 
Scripture is Holy Scripture; for this story is based only on the author- 
ity of those who assert that of the Seventy, which shows that the 
Scripture is holy. 

Therefore if this account be true, we have what we want therein; 
if not, we have it elsewhere. And thus those who would ruin the 
truth of our religion, founded on Moses, establish it by the same 
authority by which they attack it. So by this providence it still exists. 


Chronology of Rabbinism. (The citations of pages are from the 
book Pugio.) 

Page 27. R. Hakadosch (anno 200), author of the Mischna, or 
vocal law, or second law. 

Commentaries on the Mischna (anno 340) : The one Siphra. 


Talmud Hierosol. 


Bereschit Rabah, by R. Osaiah Rabah, commentary on the Mischna. 

Bereschit Rabah, Bar Naconi, are subtle and pleasant discourses, 
historical and theological. This same author wrote the books called 

A hundred years after the Talmud Hierosol, 440 a. d., was com- 
posed the Babylonian Talmud, by R. Ase, by the universal consent of 
all the Jews, who are necessarily obliged to observe all that is con- 
tained therein. 

The addition of R. Ase is called the Gemara, that is to say, the 
"commentary" on the Mischna. And the Talmud includes together 
the Mischna and the Gemara. 

212 pascal's thoughts 


If does not indicate indifference : Malachi, Isaiah. 

Is., Si volumus, kc. 
In quacumque die. 


Prophecies. — The sceptre was not interrupted by the captivity in 
Babylon, because the return was promised and foretold. 


Proofs of Jesus Christ. — Captivity, with the assurance of deliver- 
ance within seventy years, was not real captivity. But now they are 
captives without any hope. 

God has promised them that even though He should scatter them 
to the ends of the earth, nevertheless if they were faithful to His law, 
He would assemble them together again. They are very faithful to 
it, and remain oppressed. 


When Nebuchadnezzar carried away the people, for fear they 
should believe that the sceptre had departed from Judah, they were 
told beforehand that they would be there for a short time, and that 
they would be restored. They were always consoled by the prophets; 
and their kings continued. But the second destruction is without 
promise of restoration, without prophets, without kings, without 
consolation, without hope, because the sceptre is taken away for ever. 


It is a wonderful thing, and worthy of particular attention, to see 
this Jewish people existing so many years in perpetual misery, it being 
necessary as a proof of Jesus Christ, both that they should exist to 
prove Him, and that they should be miserable because they crucified 
Him; and though to be miserable and to exist are contradictory, they 
nevertheless still exist in spite of their misery. 



They are visibly a people expressly created to serve as a witness to 
the Messiah {Isaiah, xliii. 9; xliv. 8). They keep the books, and love 
them, and do not understand them. And all this was foretold; that 
God's judgments are entrusted to them, but as a sealed book. 



W 'XROOF of the two Testaments at once. — To prove the two at 
#— ^ one stroke, we need only see if the prophecies in one are 
JL fulfilled in the other. To examine the prophecies, we must 
understand them. For if we believe they have only one meaning, 
it is certain that the Messiah has not come; but if they have two 
meanings, it is certain that He has come in Jesus Christ. 
The whole problem then is to know if they have two meanings. 
That the Scripture has two meanings, which Jesus Christ and the 
Apostles have given, is shown by the following proofs: 

1. Proof by Scripture itself. 

2. Proof by the Rabbis. Moses Maimonides says that it has two 
aspects, and that the prophets have prophesied Jesus Christ only. 

3. Proof by the Kabbala. 

4. Proof by the mystical interpretation which the Rabbis them- 
selves give to Scripture. 

5. Proof by the principles of the Rabbis, that there are two mean- 
ings; that there are two advents of the Messiah, a glorious and 
humiliating one, according to their desert; that the prophets have 
prophesied of the Messiah only — the Law is not eternal, but must 
change at the coming of the Messiah — that then they shall no more 
remember the Red Sea; that the Jews and the Gentiles shall be 

[6. Proof by the key which Jesus Christ and the Apostles give us.] 


Isaiah, li. The Red Sea an image of the Redemption. Ut sciatis 
quod filius hotninis habet potestatem remittendi peccata, tibi dico: 



Surge} God, wishing to show that He could form a people holy 
with an invisible holiness, and fill them with an eternal glory, made 
visible things. As nature is an image o£ grace, He has done in the 
bounties of nature what He would do in those of grace, in order that 
we might judge that He could make the invisible, since He made the 
visible excellently. 

Therefore He saved this people from the deluge; He has raised 
them up from Abraham, redeemed them from their enemies, and 
set them at rest. 

The object of God was not to save them from the deluge, and 
raise up a whole people from Abraham, only in order to bring them 
into a rich land. 

And even grace is only the type of glory, for it is not the ultimate 
end. It has been symbolised by the law, and itself symbolises [glory]. 
But it is the type of it, and the origin or cause. 

The ordinary life of men is like that of the saints. They all seek 
their satisfaction, and differ only in the object in which they place 
it; they call those their enemies who hinder them, &c. God has then 
shown the power which He has of giving invisible blessings, by that 
which He has shown Himself to have over things visible. 


Types. — God, wishing to form for Himself an holy people, whom 
He should separate from all other nations, whom He should deliver 
from their enemies and should put into a place of rest, has promised 
to do so, and has foretold by His prophets the time and the manner 
of His coming. And yet, to confirm the hope of His elect. He has 
made them see it in an image through all time, without leaving them 
devoid of assurances of His power and of His will to save them. 
For, at the creation of man, Adam was the witness, and guardian of 
the promise of a Saviour, who should be born of woman, when men 
were still so near the creation that they could not have forgotten their 
creation and their fall. When those who had seen Adam were no 
longer in the world, God sent Noah whom He saved, and drowned 
the whole earth by a miracle which sufficiently indicated the power 

'Mark, ii. 10, 11. 

2i6 pascal's thoughts 

which He had to save the world, and the will which He had to do 
so, and to raise up from the seed of woman Him whom He had 
promised. This miracle was enough to confirm the hope of men. 

The memory of the deluge being so fresh among men, while 
Noah was still alive, God made promises to Abraham, and, while 
Shem was still living, sent Moses, &c. . . . 


Types. — God, willing to deprive His own of perishable blessings, 
created the Jewish people in order to show that this was not owing to 
lack of power. 


The Synagogue did not perish, because it was a type. But because 
it was only a type, it fell into servitude. The type existed till the 
truth came, in order that the Church should be always visible, either 
in the sign which promised it, or in substance. 


That the law was figurative. 


Two errors: i. To take everything literally. 2. To take everything 

To speak against too greatly figurative language. 


There are some types clear and demonstrative, but others which 
seem somewhat far-fetched, and which convince only those who are 
already persuaded. These are like the Apocalyptics. But the differ- 
ence is that they have none which are certain, so that nothing is so 
unjust as to claim that theirs are as well founded as some of ours; 


for they have none so demonstrative as some of ours. The compari- 
son is unfair. We must not put on the same level, and confound 
things, because they seem to agree in one point, while they are so 
different in another. The clearness in divine things requires us to 
revere the obscurities in them. 

[It is like men, who employ a certain obscure language among 
themselves. Those who should not understand it, would under- 
stand only a foolish meaning.] 


Extravagances of the Apocalyptics, Preadamites, Millenarians, O'c. 
—He who would base extravagant opinions on Scripture, will, for 
example, base them on this. It is said that "this generation shall not 
pass till all these things be fulfilled." Upon that I will say that after 
that generation will come another generation, and so on ever in 

Solomon and the King are spoken of in the second book of 
Chronicles, as if they were two different persons. I will say that they 
were two. 


Particular Types. — A double law, double tables of the law, a 
double temple, a double captivity. 


Types. — The prophets prophesied by symbols of a girdle, a beard 
and burnt hair, &c. 


Difference between dinner and supper. 

In God the word does not differ from the intention, for He is 
true; nor the word from the effect, for He is powerful; nor the means 
from the effect, for He is wise. Bern., ult. sermo in Missam. 

Augustine, De civitate Dei, v. 10. This rule is general. God can 
do everything, except those things, which if He could do. He would 
not be almighty, as dying, being deceived, lying, &c. 

2i8 pascal's thoughts 

Many Evangelists for the confirmation of the truth: their differ- 
ence useful. 

The Eucharist after the Lord's Supper. Truth after the type. 

The ruin of Jerusalem, a type of the ruin of the world, forty years 
after the death of Jesus. "I know not," as a man, or as an ambassador 
(Mark xiii. 32). 

Jesus condemned by the Jews and the Gentiles. 

The Jews and the Gentiles typified by the two sons. Aug. De 
civitate Dei, xx. 29. 


The six ages, the six Fathers of the six ages, the six wonders at 
the beginning of the six ages, the six mornings at the beginning of 
the six ages. 


Adam forma juturi? The six days to form the one, the six ages to 
form the other. The six days, which Moses represents for the forma- 
tion of Adam, are only the picture of the six ages to form Jesus Christ 
and the Church. If Adam had not sinned, and Jesus Christ had not 
come, there had been only one covenant, only one age of men, and 
the creation would have been represented as accomplished at one 
single time. 


Types. — The Jewish and Egyptian peoples were plainly foretold by 
the two individuals whom Moses met; the Egyptian beating the Jew, 
Moses avenging him and killing the Egyptian, and the Jew being 


The symbols of the Gospel for the state of the sick soul are sick 
bodies; but because one body cannot be sick enough to express it well, 
several have been needed. Thus there are the deaf, the dumb, the 

* Romans, v. 14. 


blind, the paralytic, the dead Lazarus, the possessed. All this crowd 
is in the sick soul. 


Types. — To show that the Old Testament is only figurative, and 
that the prophets understood by temporal blessings other blessings, 
this is the proof: — 

First, that this would be unworthy of God. 

Secondly, that their discourses express very clearly the promise of 
temporal blessings, and that they say nevertheless that their dis- 
courses are obscure, and that their meaning will not be under- 
stood. Whence it appears that this secret meaning was not that 
which they openly expressed, and that consequently they meant to 
speak of other sacrifices, of another deliverer, &c. They say that 
they will be understood only in the fulness of time (Jer. xxx. ult.). 

The third proof is that their discourses are contradictory, and 
neutralise each other; so that if we think that they did not mean by 
the words "law" and "sacrifice" anything else than that of Moses, 
there is a plain and gross contradiction. Therefore they meant some- 
thing else, sometimes contradicting themselves in the same chapter. 
Now to understand the meaning of an author . . . 


Lust has become natural to us, and has made our second nature. 
Thus there are two natures in us — the one good, the other bad. Where 
is God ? Where you are not, and the kingdom of God is within you. 
The Rabbis. 


Penitence, alone of all these mysteries, has been manifestly de- 
clared to the Jews, and by Saint John, the Forerunner; and then the 
other mysteries; to indicate that in each man, as in the entire world, 
this order must be observed. 


The carnal Jews understood neither the greatness nor the humilia- 
tion of the Messiah foretold in their prophecies. They misunderstood 

220 pascal's thoughts 

Him in His foretold greatness, as when He said that the Messiah 
should be lord of David, though his son, and that He was before 
Abraham, who had seen Him. They did not believe Him so great 
as to be eternal, and they likewise misunderstood Him in His humil- 
iation and in His death. "The Messiah," said they, "abideth for ever, 
and this man says that he shall die." Therefore they believed Him 
neither mortal nor eternal; they only sought in Him for a carnal 


Typical. — Nothing is so like charity as covetousness, and nothing 
is so opposed to it. Thus the Jews, full of possessions which flattered 
their covetousness, were very like Christians, and very contrary. 
And by this means they had the two qualities which it was neces- 
sary they should have, to be very like the Messiah to typify Him, and 
very contrary not to be suspected witnesses. 


Typical. — God made use of the lust of the Jews to make them 
minister to Jesus Christ, [who brought the remedy for their lust]. 


Charity is not a figurative precept. It is dreadful to say that Jesus 
Christ, who came to take away types in order to establish the truth, 
came only to establish the type of charity, in order to take away the 
existing reality which was there before. 

"If the light be darkness, how great is that darkness!" 


Fascination. Somnum suum? Figura hujus mundi.^ 
The Eucharist. Comedes panem tuum^ Panem nostrum^ 
Inimici Dei terrain lingentJ Sinners lick the dust, that is to say, 
love earthly pleasures. 

^Psalms, Ixxvi. 5. ■* i Corinthians, vii. 31. ^Deuteronomy, viii. 9. 
' Luke, xi. 3. ' Psalms, Ixxii. 9. 


The Old Testament contained the types of future joy, and the 
New contains the means of arriving at it. The types were of joy; the 
means of penitence; and nevertheless the Paschal Lamb was eaten 
A^ith bitter herbs, cum amaritudinibus? 

Singularis sum ego donee transeamJ — ^Jesus Christ before His 
death was almost the only martyr. 

Typical. — The expressions, sword, shield. Potentissime. 


We are estranged, only by departing from charity. Our prayers 
and our virtues are abominable before God, if they are not the prayers 
and the virtues of Jesus Christ. And our sins will never be the object 
of [mercy], but of the justice of God, if they are not [those of] 
Jesus Christ. He has adopted our sins, and has [admitted] us into 
union [with Him], for virtues are [His own, and] sins are foreign 
to Him; while virtues [are] foreign to us, and our sins are our own. 

Let us change the rule which we have hitherto chosen for judging 
what is good. We had our own will as our rule. Let us now take 
the will of [God] ; all that He wills is good and right to us, all that 
He does not will is [bad]. 

All that God does not permit is forbidden. Sins are forbidden by 
the general declaration that God has made, that He did not allow 
them. Other things which He has left without general prohibition, 
and which for that reason are said to be permitted, are nevertheless 
not always permitted. For when God removes some one of them 
from us, and when, by the event, which is a manifestation of the will 
of God, it appears that God does not will that we should have a thing, 
that is then forbidden to us as sin; since the will of God is that we 
should not have one more than another. There is this sole difference 
between these two things, that it is certain that God will never allow 
sin, while it is not certain that He will never allow the other. But 
so long as God does not permit it, we ought to regard it as sin; so 
long as the absence of God's will, which alone is all goodness and all 
justice, renders it unjust and wrong. 

8 Exodus, xii. 8. ' Psalms, cxli. 10. 


To change the type, because of our weakness. 


Types. — The Jews had grown old in these earthly thoughts, that 
God loved their father Abraham, his flesh and what sprung from 
it; that on account of this He had multiplied them, and distinguished 
them from all other nations, without allowing them to intermingle; 
that when they were languishing in Egypt, He brought them out 
with all these great signs in their favour; that He fed them with 
manna in the desert, and led them into a very rich land; that He 
gave them kings and a well-built temple, in order to offer up beasts 
before Him, by the shedding of whose blood they should be purified; 
and that at last He was to send them the Messiah to make them 
masters of all the world, and foretold the time of His coming. 

The world having grown old in these carnal errors, Jesus Christ 
came at the time foretold, but not with the expected glory; and thus 
men did not think it was He. After His death, Saint Paul came to 
teach men that all these things had happened in allegory; that the 
kingdom of God did not consist in the flesh, but in the spirit; that 
the enemies of men were not the Babylonians, but the passions; that 
God delighted not in temples made with hands, but in a pure and 
contrite heart; that the circumcision of the body was unprofitable, 
but that of the heart was needed; that Moses had not given them the 
bread from heaven, &c. 

But God, not having desired to reveal these things to this people 
who were unworthy of them, and having nevertheless desired to 
foretell them, in order that they might be believed, foretold the time 
clearly, and expressed the things sometimes clearly, but very often 
in figures, in order that those who loved symbols might consider 
them, and those who loved what was symbolized might see it therein. 

All that tends not to charity is figurative. 

The sole aim of the Scripture is charity. 

All which tends not to the sole end is the type of it. For since 
there is only one end, all which does not lead to it in express terms 
is figurative. 


God thus varies that sole precept of charity to satisfy our curiosity, 
which seeks for variety, by that variety which still leads us to the one 
thing needful. For one thing alone is needful, and we love variety; 
and God satisfies both by these varieties, which lead to the one thing 

The Jews have so much loved the shadows, and have so strictly 
expected them, that they have misunderstood the reality, when it 
came in the time and manner foretold. 

The Rabbis take the breasts of the Spouse for types, and all that 
does not express the only end they have, namely, temporal good. 

And Christians take even the Eucharist as a type of the glory at 
which they aim. 


The Jews, who have been called to subdue nations and kings, 
have been the slaves of sin; and the Christians, whose calling has 
been to be servants and subjects, are free children. 


A formal point. — When Saint Peter and the Apostles deliberated 
about abolishing circumcision, where it was a question of acting 
against the law of God, they did not heed the prophets, but simply 
the reception of the Holy Spirit in the persons uncircumcised. 

They thought it more certain that God approved of those whom 
He filled with His Spirit, than it was that the law must be obeyed. 
They knew that the end of the law was only the Holy Spirit; and 
that thus, as men certainly had this without circumcision, it was not 


Vac secundum exemplar quod tibi ostensum est in monte}" — The 
Jewish religion then has been formed on its likeness to the truth of 
the Messiah; and the truth of the Messiah has been recognised by 
the Jewish religion, which was the type of it. 

'"Exodus, XXV. 40. 


Among the Jews the truth was only typified; in heaven it is 

In the Church it is hidden, and recognised by its resemblance to 
the type. 

The type has been made according to the truth, and the truth has 
been recognised according to the type. 

Saint Paul says himself that people will forbid to marry, and he 
himself speaks of it to the Corinthians in a way which is a snare. 
For if a prophet has said the one, and Saint Paul had then said the 
other, he would have been accused. 


Typical. — "Do all things according to the pattern which has been 
shown thee on the mount." On which Saint Paul says that the Jews 
have shadowed forth heavenly things. 


. . . And yet this Covenant, made to blind some and enlighten 
others, indicated in those very persons, whom it blinded, the truth 
which should be recognised by others. For the visible blessings 
which they received from God were so great and so divine, that He 
indeed appeared able to give them those that are invisible, and a 

For nature is an image of grace, and visible miracles are images 
of the invisible. Ut sciatis . . . tibi dico: Surge}^ 

Isaiah says that Redemption will be as the passage of the Red Sea. 

God has then shown by the deliverance from Egypt, and from the 
sea, by the defeat of kings, by the manna, by the whole genealogy of 
Abraham, that He was able to save, to send down bread from heaven, 
&c.; so that the people hostile to Him are the type and the represen- 
tation of the very Messiah whom they know not, &c. 

He has then taught us at last that all these things were only 
types, and what is "true freedom," a "true Israelite," "true circum- 
cision," "true bread from heaven," &c. 

In these promises each one finds what he has most at heart, 
temporal benefits or spiritual, God or the creatures; but with this 

" Matthew, ix. 6. 


difference, that those who therein seek the creatures find them, but 
with many contradictions, with a prohibition against loving them, 
with the command to worship God only, and to love Him only, 
which is the same thing, and, finally, that the Messiah came not for 
them; whereas those who therein seek God find Him, without any 
contradiction, with the command to love Him only, and that the 
Messiah came in the time foretold, to give them the blessings which 
they ask. 

Thus the Jews had miracles and prophecies, which they saw ful- 
filled, and the teaching of their law was to worship and love God 
only; it was also perpetual. Thus it had all the marks of the true 
religion; and so it was. But the Jewish teaching must be distin- 
guished from the teaching of the Jewish law. Now the Jewish teach- 
ing was not true, although it had miracles and prophecy and per- 
petuity, because it had not this other point of worshipping and 
loving God only. 


The veil, which is upon these books for the Jews, is there also for 
evil Christians, and for all who do not hate themselves. 

But how well disposed men are to understand them and to know 
Jesus Christ, when they truly hate themselves! 


A type conveys absence and presence, pleasure and pain. 
A cipher has a double meaning, one clear, and one in which it is 
said that the meaning is hidden. 


Types. — A portrait conveys absence and presence, pleasure and 
pain. The reality excludes absence and pain. 

To know if the law and the sacrifices are a reality or a type, we 
must see if the prophets, in speaking of these things, confined their 
view and their thought to them, so that they saw only the old cove- 
nant; or if they saw therein something else of which they were the 
representation, for in a portrait we see the thing figured. For this we 
need only examine what they say of them. 

226 pascal's thoughts 

When they say that it will be eternal, do they mean to speak of 
that covenant which they say will be changed; and so o£ the 
sacrifices, &c. ? 

A cipher has two meanings. When we find out an important 
letter in which we discover a clear meaning, and in which it is 
nevertheless said that the meaning is veiled and obscure, that it is 
hidden, so that we might read the letter without seeing it, and inter- 
pret it without understanding it, what must we think but that here 
is a cipher with a double meaning, and the more so if we find obvious 
contradictions in the literal meaning? The prophets have clearly 
said that Israel would be always loved by God, and that the law 
would be eternal; and they have said that their meaning would not 
be understood, and that it was veiled. 

How greatly then ought we to value those who interpret the 
cipher, and teach us to understand the hidden meaning, especially if 
the principles which they educe are perfectly clear and natural! This 
is what Jesus Christ did, and the Apostles. They broke the seal; He 
rent the veil, and revealed the spirit. They have taught us through 
this that the enemies of man are his passions; that the Redeemer 
would be spiritual, and His reign spiritual; that there would be two 
advents, one in lowliness to humble the proud, the other in glory to 
exalt the humble; that Jesus Christ would be both God and man. 


Types. — Jesus Christ opened their mind to understand the 

Two great revelations are these, (i.) All things happened to them 
in types: vere Israelite, vere liberi, true bread from heaven. (2.) A 
God humbled to the Cross. It was necessary that Christ should suf- 
fer in order to enter into glory, "that He should destroy death 
through death." Two advents. 


Types. — When once this secret is disclosed, it is impossible not to 
see it. Let us read the Old Testament in this light, and let us see if 
the sacrifices were real; if the fatherhood of Abraham was the true 


cause of the friendship of God; and if the promised land was the 
true place of rest. No. They are therefore types. Let us in the same 
way examine all those ordained ceremonies, all those command- 
ments which are not of charity, and we shall see that they are types. 

All these sacrifices and ceremonies were then either types or non- 
sense. Now there are things clear, and too lofty, to be thought non- 

To know if the prophets confined their view in the Old Testa- 
ment, or saw therein other things. 


Typical. — The key of the cipher. Veri adoratores}^ — Ecce agnus 
Dei qui tollit peccata mundi." 


Is. i. 21. Change of good into evil, and the vengeance of God. 
Is. X. i; xxvi.2o; xxviii. i. Miracles: Is. xxxiii. 9; xl. 17; xli. 26; xliii. 13. 

Jer. xi. 21; XV. 12; xvii. 9. Pravum est cor omnium et incrustabile; 
quis cognoscet illud? that is to say. Who can know all its evil ? For 
it is already known to be wicked. Ego dominus, &c. — vii. 14. Faciam 
domui huic, &c. — Trust in external sacrifices — vii. 22. Quia nan sum 
locutus, &c. Outward sacrifice is not the essential point — ^xi. 13. 
Secundum numerum, &c. A multitude of doctrines. 

Is. xhv. 20-24; 1^^- ^' '^'i''- ^2-17; Ixvi. 17. Jer. ii. 35; iv. 22-24; '^' 4> 
29-31; vi. 16; xxiii. 15-17. 


Types. — The letter kills. All happened in types. Here is the cipher 
which Saint Paul gives us. Christ must suffer. An humiliated God. 
Circumcision of the heart, true fasting, true sacrifice, a true temple. 
The prophets have shown that all these must be spiritual 

Not the meat which perishes, but that which does not perish. 

"Ye shall be free indeed." Then the other freedom was only a 
type of freedom. 

"I am the true bread from Heaven." 

'^John, iv. 23. "John, i. 29. 

228 pascal's thoughts 


Contradiction. — ^We can only describe a good character by recon- 
ciling all contrary qualities, and it is not enough to keep up a series 
o£ harmonious qualities without reconciling contradictory ones. To 
understand the meaning of an author, we must make all the con- 
trary passages agree. 

Thus, to understand Scripture, we must have a meaning in which 
all the contrary passages are reconciled. It is not enough to have one 
which suits many concurring passages; but it is necessary to have one 
which reconciles even contradictory passages. 

Every author has a meaning in which all the contradictory passages 
agree, or he has no meaning at all. We cannot affirm the latter of 
Scripture and the prophets; they undoubtedly are full of good sense. 
We must then seek for a meaning which reconciles all discrep- 

The true meaning then is not that of the Jews; but in Jesus Christ 
all the contradictions are reconciled. 

The Jews could not reconcile the cessation of the royalty and prin- 
cipality, foretold by Hosea, with the prophecy of Jacob. 

If we take the law, the sacrifices, and the kingdom as realities, we 
cannot reconcile all the passages. They must then necessarily be only 
types. We cannot even reconcile the passages of the same author, 
nor of the same book, nor sometimes of the same chapter, which in- 
dicates copiously what was the meaning of the author. As when 
Ezekiel, chap, xx., says that man will live by the commandments 
of God and will not live by them. 


Types. — If the law and the sacrifices are the truth, it must please 
God, and must not displease Him. If they are types, they must be 
both pleasing and displeasing. 

Now in all the Scripture they are both pleasing and displeasing. 
It is said that the law shall be changed; that the sacrifice shall be 
changed; that they shall be without law, without a prince, and with- 
out a sacrifice; that a new covenant shall be made; that the law 


shall be renewed; that the precepts which they have received are not 
good; that their sacrifices are abominable; that God has demanded 
none of them. 

It is said, on the contrary, that the law shall abide for ever; that 
this covenant shall be for ever; that sacrifice shall be eternal; that 
the sceptre shall never depart from among them, because it shall not 
depart from them till the eternal King comes. 

Do all these passages indicate what is real? No. Do they then 
indicate what is typical ? No, but what is either real or typical. But 
the first passages, excluding as they do reality, indicate that all this 
is only typical. 

All these passages together cannot be applied to reality; all can be 
said to be typical; therefore they are not spoken of reality, but of 
the type. 

Agnus occisus est ab origine tnundi}* A sacrificing judge. 


Contradictions. — The sceptre till the Messiah, — without king or 
The eternal law, — changed. 
The eternal covenant, — a new covenant. 
Good laws, — bad precepts. Ezekiel. 


Types. — ^When the word of God, which is really true, is false 
literally, it is true spiritually. Sede a dextris meis:^^ this is false 
literally, therefore it is true spiritually. 

In these expressions, God is spoken of after the manner of men; 
and this means nothing else but that the intention which men have 
in giving a seat at their right hand, God will have also. It is then 
an indication of the intention of God, not of His manner of carry- 
ing it out. 

Thus when it is said, "God has received the odour of your in- 
cense, and will in recompense give you a rich land," that is equiva- 
lent to saying that the same intention which a man would have, 

"Revelation, xiii. 8. "Psalms, ex. i. 


who, pleased with your perfumes, should in recompense give you 
a rich land, God will have towards you, because you have had 
towards [Him] the same intention as a man has towards him, to 
whom he presents perfumes. So iratus est, a "jealous God," &c. For, 
the things of God being inexpressible, they cannot be spoken of 
otherwise, and the Church makes use of them even to-day: Quia con- 
jortavit seras, &c.'° 

It is not allowable to attribute to Scripture the meaning which it 
has not revealed to us that it has. Thus, to say that the closed 
mem" of Isaiah signifies six hundred, has not been revealed. It 
might be said that the final tsade and the he defidentes may signify 
mysteries. But it is not allowable to say so, and still less to say this is 
the way of the philosopher's stone. But we say that the literal mean- 
ing is not the true meaning, because the prophets have themselves 
said so. 


I do not say that the mem is mystical, 


Moses (Deut. xxx.) promises that God will circumcise their heart 
to render them capable of loving Him. 


One saying of David, or of Moses, as for instance that "God will 
circumcise the heart," enables us to judge of their spirit. If all their 
other expressions were ambiguous, and left us in doubt whether they 
were philosophers or Christians, one saying of this kind would in 
fact determine all the rest, as one sentence of Epictetus decides the 
meaning of all the rest to be the opposite. So far ambiguity exists, 
but not afterwards. 


If one of two persons, who are telling silly stories, uses language 
with a double meaning, understood in his own circle, while the other 
'* Psalms, cxivii. 13. '"In allusion to certain features in Hebrew writing. 


uses it with only one meaning, any one not in the secret, who hears 
them both talk in this manner, will pass upon them the same judg- 
ment. But if afterwards, in the rest of their conversation one says 
angelic things, and the other always dull common-places, he will 
judge that the one spoke in mysteries, and not the other; the one 
having sufficiently shown that he is incapable of such foolishness, and 
capable of being mysterious; and the other that he is incapable of 
mystery, and capable of foolishness. 
The Old Testament is a cipher. 


There are some who see clearly that man has no other enemy than 
lust, which turns him from God, and not God; and that he has no 
other good than God, and not a rich land. Let those who believe that 
the good of man is in the flesh, and evil in what turns him away 
from sensual pleasures, [satiate] themselves with them, and [die] in 
them. But let those who seek God with all their heart, who are only 
troubled at not seeing Him, who desire only to possess Him, and have 
as enemies only those who turn them away from Him, who are 
grieved at seeing themselves surrounded and overwhelmed with such 
enemies, take comfort. I proclaim to them happy news. There exists 
a Redeemer for them. I shall show Him to them. I shall show that 
there is a God for them. I shall not show Him to others. I shall make 
them see that a Messiah has been promised, who should deliver them 
from their enemies, and that One has come to free them from their 
iniquities, but not from their enemies. 

When David foretold that the Messiah would deliver His people 
from their enemies, one can believe that in the flesh these would be 
the Egyptians; and then I cannot show that the prophecy was ful- 
filled. But one can well believe also that the enemies would be their 
sins; for indeed the Egyptians were not their enemies, but their sins 
were so. This word, enemies, is therefore ambiguous. But if he 
says elsewhere, as he does, that He will deliver His people from 
their sins, as indeed do Isaiah and others, the ambiguity is removed, 
and the double meaning of enemies is reduced to the simple meaning 
of iniquities. For if he had sins in his mind, he could well denote 


them as enemies; but if he thought of enemies, he could not desig- 
nate them as iniquities. 

Now Moses, David, and Isaiah used the same terms. Who will 
say then that they have not the same meaning, and that David's 
meaning, which is plainly iniquities when he spoke of enemies, was 
not the same as [that of] Moses when speaking of enemies? 

Daniel (Chap, ix.) prays for the deliverance of the people from the 
captivity of their enemies. But he was thinking of sins, and to show 
this, he says that Gabriel came to tell him that his prayer was heard, 
and that there were only seventy weeks to wait, after which the peo- 
ple would be freed from iniquity, sin would have an end, and the 
Redeemer, the Holy of Holies, would bring eternal justice, not legal, 
but eternal. 

The Prophecies 


WHEN I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, 
when I regard the whole silent universe, and man without 
light, left to himself, and, as it were, lost in this corner of 
the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has 
come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all 
knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in 
his sleep to a dreadful desert island, and should awake without 
knowing where he is, and without means of escape. And thereupon 
I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into 
despair. I see other persons around me of a like nature. I ask them 
if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. 
And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around 
them, and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached them- 
selves to them. For my own part, I have not been able to attach my- 
selfi to them, and, considering how strongly it appears that there is 
something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God 
has not left some sign of Himself. 

I see many contradictory religions, and consequently all false save 
one. Each wants to be believed on its own authority, and threatens 
unbelievers. I do not therefore believe them. Every one can say this; 
every one can call himself a prophet. But I see the Christian religion 
wherein prophecies are fulfilled; and that is what every one can- 
not do. 


And what crowns all this is prediction, so that it should not be 
said that it is chance which has done it. 

Whosoever, having only a week to live, will not find out that it 
is expedient to believe that all this is not a stroke of chance . . . 



Now, if the passions had no hold on us, a week and a hundred 
years would amount to the same thing. 

Prophecies. — Great Pan is dead. 


Susceperunt verbutn cum omni aviditate, scrutantes Scripturas, si 
tta se haberent} 

Prodita lege. — Impleta cerne. — Implenda collige? 


We understand the prophecies only when we see the events happen. 
Thus the proofs of retreat, discretion, silence, &c., are proofs only to 
those who know and believe them. 

Joseph so internal in a law so external. 

Outward penances dispose to inward, as humiliations to humility. 
Thus the ... 


The synagogue has preceded the church; the Jews, the Christians. 
The prophets have foretold the Christians; Saint John, Jesus Christ. 


It is glorious to see with the eyes of faith the history of Herod 
and of Casar. 


The zeal of the Jews for their law and their temple (fosephus, and 
Philo the Jew, ad Caiuni). What other people had such a zeal? It 
was necessary they should have it. 

'Acts, xvii. II. ^ "Read what has been handed down. — Note what has been 
fulfilled. — Bring together what is to be fulfilled." 


Jesus Christ foretold as to the time and the state of the world. The 
ruler taken from the thigh, and the fourth monarchy. How lucky 
we are to see this light amidst this darkness! 

How fine it is to see, with the eyes of faith, Darius and Cyrus, 
Alexander, the Romans, Pompey and Herod working, without know- 
ing it, for the glory of the Gospel! 


Zeal of the Jewish people for the law, especially after there were 
no more prophets. 


While the prophets were for maintaining the law, the people 
were indifferent. But since there have been no more prophets, zeal 
has succeeded them. 


The devil troubled the zeal of the Jews before Jesus Christ, 
because he would have been their salvation, but not since. 

The Jewish people scorned by the Gentiles; the Christian people 


Proof. — Prophecies with their fulfilment; what has preceded and 
what has followed Jesus Christ. 

The prophecies are the strongest proof of Jesus Christ. It is for 
them also that God has made most provision; for the event which has 
fulfilled them is a miracle existing since the birth of the Church to 
the end. So God has raised up prophets during sixteen hundred 
years, and, during four hundred years afterwards, He has scattered all 
these prophecies among all the Jews, who carried them into all parts 
of the world. Such was the preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ, 
and, as His Gospel was to be believed by all the world, it was not 

236 pascal's thoughts 

only necessary that there should be prophecies to make it believed, 
but that these prophecies should exist throughout the whole world, 
in order to make it embraced by the whole world. 


But it was not enough that the prophecies should exist. It was 
necessary that they should be distributed throughout all places, and 
preserved throughout all times. And in order that this agreement 
might not be taken for an effect of chance, it was necessary that this 
should be foretold. 

It is far more glorious for the Messiah that the Jews should be the 
spectators, and even the instruments of His glory, besides that God 
had reserved them. 


Prophecies. — The time foretold by the state of the Jewish people, 
by the state of the heathen, by the state of the temple, by the number 
of years. 


One must be bold to predict the same thing in so many ways. It 
was necessary that the four idolatrous or pagan monarchies, the end 
of the kingdom of Judah, and the seventy weeks, should happen at 
the same time, and all this before the second temple was destroyed. 


Prophecies. — If one man alone had made a book of predictions 
about Jesus Christ, as to the time and the manner, and Jesus Christ 
had come in conformity to these prophecies, this fact would have 
infinite weight. 

But there is much more here. Here is a succession of men during 
four thousand years, who, constantly and without variation, come, 
one after another, to foretell this same event. Here is a whole people 
who announce it, and who have existed for four thousand years, in 
order to give corporate testimony of the assurances which they have, 


and from which they cannot be diverted by whatever threats and 
persecutions people may make against them. This is far more 


Predictions of particular things. — They were strangers in Egypt, 
without any private property, either in that country or elsewhere. 
[There was not the least appearance, either of the royalty which had 
previously existed so long, or of that supreme council of seventy 
judges which they called the Sanhedrin, and which, having been 
instituted by Moses, lasted to the time of Jesus Christ. All these things 
were as far removed from their state at that time as they could be,] 
when Jacob, dying, and blessing his twelve children, declared to 
them, that they would be proprietors of a great land, and foretold in 
particular to the family of Judah, that the kings, who would one day 
rule them, should be of his race; and that all his brethren should be 
their subjects; [and that even the Messiah, who was to be the ex- 
pectation of nations, should spring from him; and that the king- 
ship should not be taken away from Judah, nor the ruler and law- 
giver of his descendants, till the expected Messiah should arrive in 
his family.] 

This same Jacob, disposing of this future land as though he had 
been its ruler, gave a portion to Joseph more than to the others. "I 
give you," said he, "one part more than to your brothers." And 
blessing his two children, Ephraim and Manasseh, whom Joseph had 
presented to him, the elder, Manasseh, on his right, and the young 
Ephraim on his left, he put his arms crosswise, and placing his right 
hand on the head of Ephraim, and his left on Manasseh, he blessed 
them in this maner. And, upon Joseph's representing to him that 
he was preferring the younger, he replied to him with admirable 
resolution: "I know it well, my son; but Ephraim will increase more 
than Manasseh." This has been indeed so true in the result, that, 
being alone almost as fruitful as the two entire lines, which com- 
posed a whole kingdom, they have been usually called by the name 
of Ephraim alone. 

This same Joseph, when dying, bade his children carry his bones 

238 pascal's thoughts 

with them when they should go into that land, to which they only 
came two hundred years afterwards. 

Moses, who wrote all these things so long before they happened, 
himself assigned to each family portions of that land before they 
entered it, as though he had been its ruler. [In fact he declared that 
God was to raise up from their nation and their race a prophet, of 
whom he was the type; and he foretold them exactly all that was to 
happen to them in the land which they were to enter after his death, 
the victories which God would give them, their ingratitude to- 
wards God, the punishments which they would receive for it, and the 
rest of their adventures.] He gave them judges who should make 
the division. He prescribed the entire form of political government 
which they should observe, the cities of refuge which they should 
build, and . . . 


The prophecies about particular things are mingled with those 
about the Messiah, so that the prophecies of the Messiah should not 
be without proofs, nor the special prophecies without fruit. 


Perpetual captivity of the Jews. — Jer. xi. 11: "I will bring evil 
upon Judah from which they shall not be able to escape." 

Types. — Is. v.: "The Lord had a vineyard, from which He looked 
for grapes; and it brought forth only wild grapes. I will therefore 
lay it waste, and destroy it; the earth shall only bring forth thorns, 
and I will forbid the clouds from [raining] upon it. The vineyard 
of the Lord is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant 
plant. I looked that they should do justice, and they bring forth 
only iniquities." 

Is. viii.: "Sanctify the Lord with fear and trembling; let Him be 
your only dread, and He shall be to you for a sanctuary, but for 
a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of 
Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and 
many among them shall stumble against that stone, and fall, and be 
broken, and be snared, and perish. Hide my words, and cover my 
law for my disciples. 


"I will then wait in patience upon the Lord that hideth and con- 
cealeth Himself from the house of Jacob." 

Is. xxix.: "Be amazed and wonder, people of Israel; stagger and 
stumble, and be drunken, but not with wine; stagger, but not with 
strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit 
of deep sleep. He will close your eyes; He will cover your princes 
and your prophets that have visions." (Daniel xii.: "The wicked 
shall not understand, but the wise shall understand." Hosea, the 
last chapter, the last verse, after many temporal blessings, says: "Who 
is wise, and he shall understand these things, &c. .''") "And the visions 
of all the prophets are become unto you as a sealed book, which men 
dehver to one that is learned, and who can read; and he saith, I 
cannot read it, for it is sealed. And when the book is delivered to 
them that are not learned, they say, I am not learned. 

"Wherefore the Lord said. Forasmuch as this people with their 
lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me," — 
there is the reason and the cause of it; for if they adored God in 
their hearts, they would understand the prophecies, — "and their 
fear towards me is taught by the precept of man. Therefore, behold, 
I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a 
marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men 
shall perish, and their understanding shall be [hid]." 

Prophecies. Proofs of Divinity. — Is. xli.: "Shew the things that 
are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: we will 
incline our heart unto your words. Teach us the things that have 
been at the beginning, and declare us things for to come. 

"By this we shall know that ye are gods. Yea, do good or do evil, 
if you can. Let us then behold it and reason together. Behold, ye are 
of nothing, and only an abomination, &c. Who," (among con- 
temporary writers) , "hath declared from the beginning that we may 
know of the things done from the beginning and origin? that we 
may say, You are righteous. There is none that teacheth us, yea, 
there is none that declareth the future." 

Is. xUi.: "I am the Lord, and my glory will I not give to another. 
I have foretold the things which have come to pass, and things 
that are to come do I declare. Sing unto God a new song in all the 


"Bring forth the bUnd people that have eyes and see not, and the 
deaf that have ears and hear not. Let all the nations be gathered 
together. Who among them can declare this, and shew us former 
things, and things to come? Let them bring forth their witnesses, 
that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say, It is truth. 

"Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I 
have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that 
I am He. 

"I have declared, and have saved, and I alone have done wonders 
before your eyes: ye are my witnesses, said the Lord, that I am 

"For your sake I have brought down the forces of the Babylonians. 
I am the Lord, your Holy One and creator. 

"I have made a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters. 
I am He that drowned and destroyed for ever the mighty enemies 
that have resisted you. 

"Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things 
of old. 

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye 
not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers 
in the desert. 

"This people have I formed for myself; I have established them to 
shew forth my praise, &c. 

"I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine 
own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put in remembrance 
your ingratitude: see thou, if thou mayest be justified. Thy first 
father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me." 

Is. xliv.: "I am the first, and I am the last, saith the Lord. Let 
him who will equal himself to me, declare the order of things since 
I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming. 
Fear ye not: have I not told you all these things? Ye are my wit- 

Prophecy of Cyrus. — Is. xlv. 4: "For Jacob's sake, mine elect, I 
have called thee by thy name." 

Is. xlv. 21 : "Come and let us reason together. Who hath declared 
this from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have 
not I, the Lord?" 

Is. xlvi.: "Remember the former things of old, and know there 


is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from 
ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel 
shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." 

Is. xlii.: "Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new 
things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them." 

Is. xlviii. 3: "I have declared the former things from the begin- 
ning; I did them suddenly; and they came to pass. Because I know 
that thou art obstinate, that thy spirit is rebellious, and thy brow 
brass; I have even declared it to thee before it came to pass: lest 
thou shouldst say that it was the work of thy gods, and the effect of 
their commands. 

"Thou hast seen all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed 
thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst 
not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning; 
I have kept them hidden from thee; lest thou shouldst say, Behold, 
I knew them. 

"Yea, thou knewest not; yea, thou heardest not; yea, from that 
time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldst 
deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the 

Reprobation of the Jews and conversion of the Gentiles. — Is. Ixv.: 
"I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them 
that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation 
that did not call upon my name. 

"I have spread out my hands all the day unto an unbelieving people, 
which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 
a people that provokelh me to anger continually by the sins they 
commit in my face; that sacrificeth to idols, &c. 

"These shall be scattered like smoke in the day of my wrath, &c. 

"Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers, will I assemble 
together, and will recompense you for all according to your works. 

"Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster, 
and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it [and the promise 
of fruit] : for my servants' sake I will not destroy all Israel. 

"Thus I will brmg forth a seed out of Jacob and out of Judah, 
an inheritor of my mountains, and mine elect and my servants 
shall inherit it, and my fertile and abundant plains; but I will 
destroy all others, because you have forgotten your God to serve 


Strange gods. I called, and ye did not answer; I spake, and ye did 
not hear; and ye did choose the thing which I forbade. 

"Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, my servants shall eat, but 
ye shall be hungry; my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; 
my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry and howl 
for vexation of spirit. 

"And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for 
the Lord shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name, that 
he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in God, &c., 
because the former troubles are forgotten. 

"For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the 
former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 

"But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, 
behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 

"And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people; and the 
voice of weeping shall no more be heard in her, nor the voice of 

"Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, 
I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the 
lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's 
meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." 

Is. Ivi. 3: "Thus saith the Lord, keep ye judgment, and do jus- 
tice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be 

"Blessed is the man that doeth this, that keepeth the Sabbath, 
and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. 

"Neither let the strangers that have joined themselves to me, say, 
God will separate me from His people. For thus saith the Lord: 
Whoever will keep my Sabbath, and choose the things that please me, 
and take hold of my covenant; even unto them will I give in mine 
house a place and a name better than that of sons and of daughters: 
I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." 

Is. lix. 9: "Therefore for our iniquities is justice far from us: we 
wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in 
darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind; we stumble at noon 
day as in the night: we are in desolate places as dead men. 


"We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like cloves; we look for 
judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us." 

Is. Ixvi. 18: "But I know their works and their thoughts; it shall 
come that I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall see 
my glory. 

"And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that 
escape of them unto the nations, to Africa, to Lydia, to Italy, to 
Greece, and to the people that have not heard my fame, neither have 
seen my glory. And they shall bring your brethren." 

Jer. vii. Reprobation of the Temple: "Go ye unto Shiloth, where 
I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness 
of my people. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith 
the Lord, I will do unto this house, wherein my name is called upon, 
wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to your priests, 
as I have done to Shiloth." (For I have rejected it, and made my- 
self a temple elsewhere.) 

"And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your 
brethren, even the seed of Ephraim." (Rejected for ever.) "There- 
fore pray not for this people." 

Jer. vii. 22: "What avails it you to add sacrifice to sacrifice? For 
I spake not unto your fathers, when I brought them out of the land of 
Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this thing com- 
manded I them, saying. Obey and be faithful to my commandments, 
and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people." (It was only after 
they had sacrificed to the golden calf that I gave myself sacrifices 
to turn into good an evil custom.) 

Jer. vii. 4: "Trust ye not in lying words, saying. The temple of 
the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these." 


The Jews witnesses for God. Is. xliii. 9; xliv. 8. 

Prophecies fulfilled. — 1 Kings, xiii. 2. — i Kings, xxiii. 16. — ^Jos. vi. 
26. — I Kings, xvi. 34. — Deut. xxiii. 

Malachi i. 11. The sacrifice of the Jews rejected, and the sacrifice 
of the heathen, (even out of Jerusalem,) and in all places. 


Moses, before dying, foretold the calling of the Gentiles, Deut, 
xxxii. 21, and the reprobation of the Jews. 

Moses foretold what would happen to each tribe. 

Prophecy. — "Your name shall be a curse unto mine elect, and I 
will give them another name." 

"Make their heart fat," and how ? by flattering their lust and mak- 
ing them hope to satisfy it. 


Prophecy. — ^Amos and Zechariah. They have sold the just one, 
and therefore will not be recalled. — Jesus Christ betrayed. 

They shall no more remember Egypt. See Is. xliii. 16, 17, 18, 19. 
Jerem. xxiii. 6, 7. 

Prophecy. — The Jews shall be scattered abroad. Is. xxvii. 6. — A 
new law, Jerem. xxxi. 32. 

Malachi. Grotius. — The second temple glorious. — Jesus Christ 
will come. (Haggai, ii. 7, 8, 9, 10.) 

The calling of the Gentiles. Joel, ii. 28. Hosea, ii. 24. Deut. xxxii. 
21. Malachi, i. 11. 


Hosea, iii. — Is. xlii., xlviii., liv., Ix., Ixi., last verse. "I foretold it long 
since that they might know that it is I." Jaddus to Alexander. 


[Prophecies. — The promise that David will always have descend- 
ants. Jer. xiii. 13.] 


The external reign of the race of David, 2 Chron., by all the 
prophecies, and with an oath. And it was not temporally fulfilled. 
Jerem. xxiii. 20. 


We might perhaps think that, when the prophets foretold that the 
sceptre should not depart from Judah until the eternal King came, 


they spoke to flatter the people, and that their prophecy was proved 
false by Herod. But to show that this was not their meaning, and 
that, on the contrary, they knew well that this temporal kingdom 
should cease, they said that they would be without a king and with- 
out a prince, and for a long time. Hosea iii. 4. 


Non habemus regem nisi Ccesarem? Therefore Jesus Christ was 
the Messiah, since they had no longer any king but a stranger, and 
would have no other. 

We have no king but Czsar. 


Daniel ii.: "All thy soothsayers and wise men cannot show unto 
thee the secret which thou hast demanded. But there is a God in 
heaven who can do so, and hath revealed to thee in thy dream what 
shall be in the latter days." (This dream must have caused him much 

"And it is not by my own wisdom that I have knowledge of this 
secret, but by the revelation of this same God, that hath revealed it to 
me, to make it manifest in thy presence. 

"Thy dream was then of this kind. Thou sawest a great image, 
high and terrible, which stood before thee. His head was of gold, 
his breast and arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his 
legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thus thou sawest 
till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image 
upon his feet, that were of iron and of clay, and brake them to pieces. 

"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold 
broken to pieces togethe;', and the wind carried them away; but this 
stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the 
whole earth. This is the dream, and now I will give thee the interpre- 
tation thereof. 

"Thou who art the greatest of kings, and to whom God hath given 
3 John, xix. 15. 

246 pascal's thoughts 

a power so vast that thou art renowned among all peoples, art the 
head of gold which thou hast seen. But after thee shall arise another 
kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which 
shall bear rule over all the earth. 

"But the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, and even as iron 
breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things, so shall this empire 
break in pieces and bruise all. 

"And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of clay and part 
of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of 
the strength of iron and of the weakness of clay. 

"But as iron cannot be firmly mixed with clay, so they who are rep- 
resented by the iron and by the clay, shall not cleave one to another 
though united by marriage. 

"Now in the days of these kings shall God set up a kingdom, which 
shall never be destroyed, nor ever be delivered up to other people. 
It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall 
stand for ever, according as thou sawest that the stone was cut out 
of the mountain without hands, and that it fell from the mountain, 
and brake in pieces, the iron, the clay, the silver, and the gold. God 
hath made known to thee what shall come to pass hereafter. This 
dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. 

"Then Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face towards the earth," &c. 

Daniel viii. 8. "Daniel having seen the combat of the ram and of 
the he-goat, who vanquished him and ruled over the earth, whereof 
the principal horn being broken four others came up toward the 
four winds of heaven, and out of one of them came forth a little horn, 
which waxed exceeding great toward the south, and toward the east, 
and toward the land of Israel, and it waxed great even to the host of 
heaven; and it cast down some of the stars, and stamped upon them, 
and at last overthrew the prince, and by him the daily sacrifice was 
taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 

"This is what Daniel saw. He sought the meaning of it, and a voice 
cried in this manner, 'Gabriel, make this man to understand the 
vision.' And Gabriel said — 

"The ram which thou sawest is the king of the Medes and Per- 
sians, and the he-goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn that 
is between his eyes is the first king of this monarchy. 


"Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four king- 
doms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. 

"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when iniquities are 
come to the full, there shall arise a king, insolent and strong, but not 
by his own power, to whom all things shall succeed after his 
own will; and he shall destroy the holy people, and through his 
policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand, and he 
shall destroy many. He shall also stand up against the Prince of 
princes, but he shall perish miserably, and nevertheless by a violent 

Daniel ix. 20. "Whilst I was praying with all my heart, and con- 
fessing my sin and the sin of all my people, and prostrating myself 
before my God, even Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the 
beginning, came to me and touched me about the time of the evening 
oblation, and he informed me and said, O Daniel, I am now come 
forth to give thee the knowledge of things. At the beginning of thy 
supplications I came to shew that which thou didst desire, for thou 
art greatly beloved : therefore understand the. matter, and consider the 
vision. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy 
holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, 
and to abolish iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness; 
to accomplish the vision and the prophecies, and to anoint the Most 
Holy. ( After which this people shall be no more thy people, nor this 
city the holy city. The times of wrath shall be passed, and the years 
of grace shall come for ever.) 

"Know therefore, and understand, that, from the going forth of 
the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Mes- 
siah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks." 
(The Hebrews were accustomed to divide numbers, and to place the 
small first. Thus, 7 and 62 make 69. Of this 70 there will then re- 
main the 70th, that is to say, the 7 last years of which he will speak 

"The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous 
times. And after three score and two weeks," (which have followed 
the first seven. Christ will then be killed after the sixty-nine weeks, 
that is to say, in the last week), "the Christ shall be cut off, and a 
people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the 

248 pascal's thoughts 

sanctuary, and overwhelm all, and the end of that war shall accom- 
plish the desolation. 

"Now one week," (which is the seventieth, which remains), "shall 
confirm the covenant with many, and in the midst of the week," 
(that is to say, the last three and a half years), "he shall cause the 
sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abomi- 
nations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and 
that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." 

Daniel, xi. The angel said to Daniel: "There shall stand up yet," 
(after Cyrus, under whom this still is), "three kings in Persia," (Cam- 
byses, Smyrdis, Darius); "and the fourth who shall then come," 
(Xerxes) "shall be far richer than they all, and far stronger, and shall 
stir up all his people against the Greeks. 

"But a mighty king shall stand up," (Alexander), "that shall rule 
with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he 
shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided in 
four parts toward the four winds of heaven," (as he had said above, 
vi. 6, viii. 8), "but not his posterity; and his successors shall not equal 
his power, for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others 
besides these," (his four chief successors). 

"And the king of the south," (Ptolemy, son of Lagos, Egypt), 
"shall be strong; but one of his princes shall be strong above him, 
and his dominion shall be a great dominion," (Seleucus, King of 
Syria. Appian says that he was the most powerful of Alexander's 

"And in the end of years they shall join themselves together, and 
the king's daughter of the south," (Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy 
Philadelphus, son of the other Ptolemy), "shall come to the king 
of the north," (to Antiochus Deus, King of Syria and of Asia, son of 
Seleucus Lagidas), "to make peace between these princes. 

"But neither she nor her seed shall have a long authority; for she 
and they that brought her, and her children, and her friends, shall be 
delivered to death." (Berenice and her son were killed by Seleucus 

"But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up," (Ptolemy 
Euergetes was the issue of the same father as Berenice), "which shall 
come with a mighty army into the land of the king of the north, 


where he shall put all under subjection, and he shall also carry cap- 
tive into Egypt their gods, their princes, their gold, their silver, and 
all their precious spoils," (if he had not been called into Egypt by 
domestic reasons, says Justin, he would have entirely stripped Seleu- 
cus); "and he shall continue several years when the king of the 
north can do nought against him. 

"And so he shall return into his kingdom. But his sons shall be 
stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces," (Seleucus 
Ceraunus, Antiochus the Great). "And their army shall come and 
overthrow all; wherefore the king of the south shall be moved with 
choler, and shall also form a great army, and fight him," (Ptolemy 
Philopator against Antiochus the Great at Raphia), "and conquer; 
and his troops shall become insolent, and his heart shall be lifted up," 
(this Ptolemy desecrated the temple : Josephus) : "he shall cast down 
many ten thousands, but he shall not be strengthened by it. For the 
king of the north," (Antiochus the Great), "shall return with a 
greater multitude than before, and in those times also a great num- 
ber of enemies shall stand up against the king of the south," (during 
the reign of the young Ptolemy Epiphanes), "also the apostates and 
robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; 
but they shall fall." (Those who abandon their religion to please 
Euergetes, when he will send his troops to Scopas; for Antiochus 
will again take Scopas, and conquer them.) "And the king of the 
north shall destroy the fenced cities, and the arms of the south shall 
not withstand, and all shall yield to his will; he shall stand in the 
land of Israel, and it shall yield to him. And thus he shall think to 
make himself master of all the empire of Egypt," (despising the 
youth of Epiphanes, says Justin) . "And for that he shall make alli- 
ance with him, and give his daughter," (Cleopatra, in order that 
she may betray her husband. On which Appian says the doubting his 
ability to make himself master of Egypt by force, because of the 
protection of the Romans, he wished to attempt it by cunning.) "He 
shall wish to corrupt her, but she shall not stand on his side, neither 
be for him. Then he shall turn his face to other designs, and shall 
think to make himself master of some isles," (that is to say, seaports), 
"and shall take many," (as Appian says) . 

"But a prince shall oppose his conquests," (Scipio Africanus, who 

250 pascal's thoughts 

stopped the progress of Antiochus the Great, because he offended 
the Romans in the person of their allies), "and shall cause the re- 
proach offered by him to cease. He shall then return into his king- 
dom and there perish, and be no more." (He was slain by his sol- 

"And he who shall stand up in his estate," (Seleucus Philopator or 
Soter, the son of Antiochus the Great), "shall be a tyrant, a raiser 
of taxes in the glory of the kingdom," (which means the people), 
"but within a few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger nor in 
battle. And in his place shall stand up a vile person, unworthy of 
the honour of the kingdom, but he shall come in cleverly by flatteries. 
All armies shall bend before him; he shall conquer them, and even 
the prince with whom he has made a covenant. For having re- 
newed the league with him, he shall work deceitfully, and enter with 
a small people into his province, peaceably and without fear. He 
shall take the fattest places, and shall do that which his fathers have 
not done, and ravage on all sides. He shall forecast great devices 
during his time." 


Prophecies. — The seventy weeks of Daniel are ambiguous as re- 
gards the term of commencement, because of the terms of the proph- 
ecy; and as regards the term of conclusion, because of the differences 
among chronologists. But all this difference extends only to two 
hundred years. 


Predictions. — That in the fourth monarchy, before the destruction 
of the second temple, before the dominion of the Jews was taken 
away, in the seventieth week of Daniel, during the continuance of the 
second temple, the heathen should be instructed, and brought to the 
knowledge of the God worshipped by the Jews; that those who loved 
Him should be delivered from their enemies, and filled with His 
fear and love. 

And it happened that in the fourth monarchy, before the destruc- 
tion of the second temple, &c., the heathen in great number wor- 


shipped God, and led an angelic life. Maidens dedicated their vir- 
ginity and their life to God. Men renounced their pleasures. What 
Plato could only make acceptable to a few men, specially chosen and 
instructed, a secret influence imparted, by the power of a few words, 
to a hundred million ignorant men. 

The rich left their wealth. Children left the dainty homes of their 
parents to go into the rough desert. (See Philo the Jew.) All this 
was foretold a great while ago. For two thousand years no heathen 
had worshipped the God of the Jew; and at the time foretold, a great 
number of the heathen worshipped this only God. The temples were 
destroyed. The very kings made submission to the cross. All this 
was due to the Spirit of God, which was spread abroad upon the 

No heathen, since Moses until Jesus Christ, believed according to 
the very Rabbis. A great number of the heathen, after Jesus Christ, 
believed in the books of Moses, kept them in substance and spirit, and 
only rejected what was useless. 


Prophecies. — The conversion of the Egyptians (Is., xix. 19); an 
altar in Egypt to the true God. 


Prophecies. — In Egypt. — Pugio Fidei, p. 659. Talmud. 

"It is a tradition among us, that, when the Messiah shall come, the 
house of God, destined for the dispensation of His Word, shall be 
full of filth and impurity; and that the wisdom of the scribes shall 
be corrupt and rotten. Those who shall be afraid to sin, shall be 
rejected by the people, and treated as senseless fools." 

Is. xlix.: "Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken, ye people, from 
afar: The Lord hath called me by my name from the womb of my 
mother; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, and hath made 
my words like a sharp sword, and said unto me, Thou art my servant 
in whom I will be glorified. Then I said. Lord, have I laboured in 
vain? have I spent my strength for nought? yet surely my judgment 
is with Thee, O Lord, and my work with Thee. And now, saith 


the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring 
Jacob and Israel again to Him: Thou shalt be glorious in my sight, 
and I will be thy strength. It is a light thing that thou shouldst con- 
vert the tribes of Jacob; I have raised thee up for a light to the Gen- 
tiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. 
Thus saith the Lord to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the 
nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers. Princes and kings shall 
worship thee, because the Lord is faithful that hath chosen thee. 

"Again saith the Lord unto me, I have heard thee in the days of sal- 
vation and of mercy, and I will preserve thee for a covenant of the 
people, to cause to inherit the desolate nations, that thou mayest 
say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that are in darkness show 
yourselves, and possess these abundant and fertile lands. They shall 
not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for 
he that hath mercy upon them shall lead them, even by the springs 
of waters shall he guide them, and make the mountains a way before 
them. Behold, the peoples shall come from all parts, from the east 
and from the west, from the north and from the south. Let the 
heavens give glory to God; let the earth be joyful; for it hath pleased 
the Lord to comfort His people, and He will have mercy upon the 
poor who hope in Him. 

"Yet Zion dared to say: The Lord hath forsaken me, and hath 
forgotten me. Can a woman forget her child, that she should not 
have compassion on the son of her womb? but if she forget, yet 
will not I forget thee, O Zion. I will bear thee always between my 
hands, and thy walls are continually before me. They that shall build 
thee are come, and thy destroyers shall go forth of thee. Lift up thine 
eyes round about, and behold; all these gather themselves together, 
and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe 
thee with them all, as with an ornament, thy waste and thy deso- 
late places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too 
narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and the children thou shalt have 
after thy barrenness shall say again in thy ears: The place is too strait 
for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in 
thy heart: who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my chil- 
dren, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro .'' and who 
brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; there, where had they 


been? And the Lord shall say to thee: Behold, I will lift up mine 
hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and 
they shall bring thy sons in their arms and in their bosoms. And 
kings shall be their nursing fathers, and queens their nursing moth- 
ers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, 
and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the 
Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. Shall the prey 
be taken from the mighty? But even if the captives be taken away 
from the strong, nothing shall hinder me from saving thy children, 
and from destroying thy enemies; and all flesh shall know that I 
am the Lord, thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of 

"Thus saith the Lord : What is the bill of this divorcement, where- 
with I have put away the synagogue? and why have I delivered it 
into the hands of your enemies? Is it not for your iniquities and for 
your transgressions that I have put it away? 

"For I came, and no man received me; I called, and there was none 
to hear. Is my arm shortened that I cannot redeem ? 

"Therefore I will show the tokens of mine anger; I will clothe the 
heavens with darkness, and make sack cloth their covering. 

"The Lord hath given me the tongue of the learned that I should 
know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He hath 
opened mine ear, and I have listened to Him as a master. 

"The Lord hath revealed His will, and I was not rebellious. 

"I gave my body to the smiters, and my cheeks to outrage; I hid 
not my face from shame and spitting. But the Lord hath helped 
me; therefore I have not been confounded. 

"He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? who 
will be mine adversary, and accuse me of sin. God himself being my 

"All men shall pass away, and be consumed by time; let those that 
fear God hearken to the voice of His servant; let him that languisheth 
in darkness put his trust in the Lord. But as for you, ye do but kindle 
the wrath of God upon you; ye walk in the light of your fire and in 
the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; 
ye shall lie down in sorrow. 

"Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek 


the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of 
the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham, your father, 
and unto Sarah that bare you : for I called him alone, when childless, 
and increased him. Behold, I have comforted Zion, and heaped 
upon her blessings and consolations. 

"Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me; for a law 
shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a 
light of the Gentiles." 

Amos, viii. The prophet, having enumerated the sins of Israel, said 
that God had sworn to take vengeance on them. 

He says this: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, 
that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the 
earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and 
all your songs into lamentation. 

"You all shall have sorrow and suffering, and I will make this na- 
tion mourn as for an only son, and the end therefore as a bitter day. 
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in 
the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing 
the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and 
from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the 
word of the Lord, and shall not find it. 

"In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. 
They that have followed the idols of Samaria, and sworn by the 
god of Dan, and followed the manner of Beersheba, shall fall, and 
never rise up again," 

Amos, iii. 2; "Ye only have I known of all the families of the 
earth for my people." 

Daniel, xii. 7. Having described all the extent of the reign of the 
Messiah, he says: "All these things shall be finished, when the scat- 
tering of the people of Israel shall be accomplished." 

Haggai, ii. 4: "Ye who, comparing this second house with the glory 
of the first, despise it, be strong, saith the Lord, be strong, O Zerub- 
babel, and O Jesus, the high priest, be strong, all ye people of the land, 
and work. For 1 am with you, saith the Lord of hosts; according to 
the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so 
my spirit remaineth among you. Fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord 
of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the 


earth, and the sea, and the dry land," (a way of speaking to indicate 
a great and an extraordinary change) ; "and I will shake all nations, 
and the desire of all the Gentiles shall come; and I will fill this 
house with glory, saith the Lord. 

"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord," (that is 
to say, it is not by that that I wish to be honoured; as it is said else- 
where: All the beasts of the field are mine, what advantages me 
that they are offered me in sacrifice?). "The glory of this latter 
house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts; 
and in this place will I estabhsh my house, saith the Lord. 

"According to all that thou desirest in Horeb in the day of the 
assembly, saying, Let us not hear again the voice of the Lord, neither 
let us see this fire any more, that we die not. And the Lord said unto 
me, their prayer is just. I will raise them up a prophet from among 
their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; 
and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And 
it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words 
which he will speak in my name, I will require it of him." 

Genesis, xlix. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise, 
and thou shalt conquer thine enemies; thy father's children shall 
bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my 
son, thou art gone up, and art couched as a lion, and as a lioness that 
shall be roused up. 

"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from 
between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gather- 
ing of the people be." 


During the life of the Messiah. — /Enigmatis. — Ezek. xvii. 

His forerunner. Malachi, iii. 

He will be born an infant. Is. ix. 

He will be born in the village of Bethlehem. Micah, v. He will 
appear chiefly in Jerusalem, and will be a descendant of the family 
of Judah and of David. 

He is to blind the learned and the wise. Is. vi., viii., xxix., &c.; 
and to preach the Gospel to the lowly. Is. xxix.; to open the eyes of 

256 pascal's thoughts 

the blind, give health to the sick, and bring light to those that lan- 
guish in darkness, Is. Ixi. 

He is to show the perfect way, and be the teacher of the Gentiles. 
Is. Iv.; xlii. I — 7. 

The prophecies are to be unintelligible to the wicked, Dan. xii.; 
Hosea, xiv. 10; but they are to be intelligible to those who are well 

The prophecies, which represent Him as poor, represent Him as 
master of the nations. Is. lii. 14, &c.; liii.; Zech. ix. 9. 

The prophecies, which foretell the time, foretell Him only as mas- 
ter of the nations and suffering, and not as in the clouds nor as 
judge. And those, which represent Him thus as judge and in glory, 
do not mention the time. When the Messiah is spoken of as great and 
glorious, it is as the judge of the world, and not its Redeemer. 

He is to be the victim for the sins of the world. Is. xxxix., liii., &c. 

He is to be the precious corner-stone. Is. xxviii. 16. 

He is to be a stone of stumbling and offence. Is. viii. Jerusalem 
is to dash against this stone. 

The builders are to reject this stone. Ps. cxvii. 22. 

God is to make this stone the chief corner-stone. 

And this stone is to grow into a huge mountain, and fill the whole 
earth. Dan. ii. 

So He is to be rejected, despised, betrayed, (Ps. cviii. 8), sold 
(Zech. xi. 12), spit upon, buffeted, mocked, afflicted in innumerable 
ways, given gall to drink (Ps. Ixviii.), pierced (Zech. xii.). His 
feet and His hands pierced, slain, and lots cast for His raiment. 

He will rise again (Ps. xv.) the third day (Hosea, vi. 3). 

He will ascend to heaven to sit on the right hand. Ps. ex. 

The kings will arm themselves against Him. Ps. ii. 

Being on the right hand of the Father, He will be victorious over 
His enemies. 

The kings of the earth and all nations will worship Him. Is. Ix. 

The Jews will continue as a nation. Jeremiah. 

They will wander, without kings, &c. (Hosea iii.), without proph- 
ets (Amos), looking for salvation and finding it not (Isaiah). 

Calling of the Gentiles by Jesus Christ. Is. lii. 15; Iv. 5; Ix., &c. 
Ps. Ixxxi. 


Hosea, i. 9: "Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God, 
when ye are multiplied after the dispersion. In the places where it 
was said, Ye are not my people, I will call them my people." 


It was not lawful to sacrifice outside of Jerusalem, which was the 
place that the Lord has chosen, nor even to eat the tithes elsewhere. 
Deut. xii. 5, &c.; xiv. 23, &c.; xv. 20; xvi. 2, 7, 11, 15. 

Hosea foretold that they should be without a king, without a 
prince, without a sacrifice, and without an idol; and this prophecy is 
now fulfilled, as they cannot make a lawful sacrifice out of Jerusalem. 


Predictions. — It was foretold that, in the time of the Messiah, He 
should come to establish a new covenant, which should make them 
forget the escape from Egypt (Jer. xxiii. 5; Is. xliii. 16) that He 
should place His law not in externals, but in the heart; that He 
should put His fear, which had only been from without, in the midst 
of the heart. Who does not see the Christian law in all this ? 


. . . That then idolatry would be overthrown; that this Messiah 
would cast down all idols, and bring men into the worship of the 
true God. 

That the temples of the idols would be cast down, and that among 
all nations, and in all places of the earth. He would be offered a 
pure sacrifice, not of beasts. 

That He would be king of the Jews and Gentiles. And we see this 
king of the Jews and Gentiles oppressed by both, who conspire His 
death; and ruler of both, destroying the worship of Moses in Jerusa- 
lem, which was its centre, w'here He made His first Church; and also 
the worship of idols in Rome, the centre of it, where He made His 
chief Church. 

258 pascal's thoughts 


Prophecies. — That Jesus Christ will sit on the right hand, till God 
has subdued His enemies. 
Therefore He will not subdue them Himself. 


". . . Then they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, say- 
ing, Here is the Lord, for God shall make Himself \nown to all." 

". . . Your sons shall prophesy." "I will put my spirit and my fear 
in your heart." 

All that is the same thing. To prophesy is to speak of God, not 
from outward proofs, but from an inward and immediate feeling. 


That He would teach men the perfect way. 
And there has never come, before Him nor after Him, any man 
who has taught anything divine approaching to this. 


. . . That Jesus Christ would be small in His beginning, and 
would then increase. The little stone of Daniel. 

If I had in no wise heard of the Messiah, nevertheless, after such 
wonderful predictions of the course of the world which I see fulfilled, 
I see that He is divine. And if I knew that these same books fore- 
told a Messiah, I should be sure that He would come; and seeing that 
they place His time before the destruction of the second temple, I 
should say that He had come. 

Prophecies. — That the Jews would reject Jesus Christ, and would 
be rejected of God, for this reason, that the chosen vine brought forth 
only wild grapes. That the chosen people would be faithless, ungrate- 
ful, and unbelieving, populum non credentem et contradicentemt 
* Isaiah, Ixv. 2; Romans, x. 21. 


That God would strike them with bhndness, and in full noon they 
would grope like the blind; and that a forerunner would go before 


Transfixerunt. Zech. xii. 10. 

That a deliverer should come, who would crush the demon's head, 
and free His people from their sins, ex omnibus iniquitatibus; that 
there should be a New Covenant, which would be eternal; that there 
should be another priesthood after the order of Melchisedek, and it 
should be eternal; that the Christ should be glorious, mighty, strong, 
and yet so poor that He would not be recognised, nor taken for what 
He is, but rejected and slain; that His people who denied Him should 
no longer be His people; that the idolaters should receive Him, and 
take refuge in Him; that He should leave Zion to reign in the centre 
of idolatry; that nevertheless the Jews should continue for ever; that 
He should be of Judah, and when there should be no longer a king. 

Proofs of Jesus Christ 


THEREFORE I reject all other religions. In that way I find 
an answer to all objections. It is right that a God so pure 
should only reveal Himself to those whose hearts are pu- 
rified. Hence this religion is lovable to me, and I find it now suffi- 
ciently justified by so divine a morality. But I find more in it. 

I find it convincing that, since the memory of man has lasted, it 
was constantly announced to men that they were universally corrupt, 
but that a Redeemer should come; that it was not one man who said 
it, but innumerable men, and a whole nation, expressly made for the 
purpose, and prophesying for four thousand years. This is a nation 
which is more ancient than every other nation. Their books, scattered 
abroad, are four thousand years old. 

The more T examine them, the more truths I find in them: an 
entire nation foretell Him before His advent, and an entire nation 
worship Him after His advent; what has preceded and what has 
followed; in short, people without idols and kings, this synagogue 
which was foretold, and these wretches who frequent it, and who, 
being our enemies, are admirable witnesses of the truth of these 
prophecies, wherein their wretchedness and even their blindness 
are foretold. 

I find this succession, this religion, wholly divine in its authority, 
in its duration, in its perpetuity, in its morality, in its conduct, in its 
doctrine, in its effects. The frightful darkness of the Jews was fore- 
told. Eris palpans in meridie} Dabitur liber scienti literas, et dicet: 
Non possum legere^ While the sceptre was still in the hands of the 
first foreign usurper, there is the report of the coming of Jesus 

' Deuteronomy, xxviii. 29. ' Isaiah, xxix, 12. 


So I hold out my arms to my Redeemer, who, having been foretold 
for four thousand years, has come to suffer and to die for me on earth, 
at the time and under all the circumstances foretold. By His grace, 
I await death in peace, in the hope of being eternally united to Him. 
Yet I live with joy, whether in the prosperity which it pleases Him 
to bestow upon me, or in the adversity which He sends for my good, 
and which He has taught me to bear by His example. 


The prophecies having given different signs which should all hap- 
pen at the advent of the Messiah, it was necessary that all these signs 
should occur at the same time. So it was necessary that the fourth 
monarchy should have come, when the seventy weeks of Daniel 
were ended; and that the sceptre should have then departed from 
Judah. And all this happened without any difficulty. Then it was 
necessary that the Messiah should come; and Jesus Christ then came, 
who was called the Messiah. And all this again was without difficulty. 
This indeed shows the truth of the prophecies. 


The prophets foretold, and were not foretold. The saints again 
were foretold, but did not foretell. Jesus Christ both foretold and was 


Jesus Christ, whom the two Testaments regard, the Old as its 
hope, the New as its model, and both as their centre. 


The two oldest books in the world are those of Moses and Job, the 
one a Jew and the other a Gentile. Both of them look upon Jesus 
Christ as their common centre and object: Moses in relating the 
promises of God to Abraham, Jacob, &c., and his prophecies; and 
Job, Quis mihi det ut, &c. Scio enim quod redemptor mens vivit, &c.' 

'Job, xix. 23-25. 

262 pascal's thoughts 


The Gospel only speaks of the virginity of the Virgin up to the 
time of the birth of Jesus Christ. All with reference to Jesus Christ. 


Proofs of Jesus Christ. 

Why was the book of Ruth preserved? 

Why the story of Tamar? 


"Pray that ye enter not into temptation." It is dangerous to be 
tempted; and people are tempted because they do not pray. 

Et tu conversus conjirma fratres tuos* But before, conversus Jesus 
respexit Petrum^ 

Saint Peter asks permission to strike Malchus, and strikes before 
hearing the answer. Jesus Christ replies afterwards. 

The word, Galilee, which the Jewish mob pronounced as if by 
chance, in accusing Jesus Christ before Pilate, afforded Pilate a rea- 
son for sending Jesus Christ to Herod. And thereby the mystery was 
accomplished, that He should be judged by Jews and Gentiles. 
Chance was apparently the cause of the accomplishment of the 


Those who have a difficulty in believing seek a reason in the fact 
that the Jews do not believe. "Were this so clear," say they, "why did 
the Jews not believe?" And they almost wish that they had believed, 
so as not to be kept back by the example of their refusal. But it is 
their very refusal that is the foundation of our faith. We should be 
much less disposed to the faith, if they were on our side. We should 
then have a more ample pretext. The wonderful thing is to have 
made the Jews great lovers of the things foretold, and great enemies 
of their fulfilment. 

^Luke, xxii. 32. 'Luke, xxii. 61. 



The Jews were accustomed to great and striking miracles, and so, 
having had the great miracles of the Red Sea and of the land of 
Canaan as an epitome of the great deeds of their Messiah, they 
therefore looked for more striking miracles, of which those of Moses 
were only the patterns. 


The carnal Jews and the heathen have their calamities, and Chris- 
tians also. There is no Redeemer for the heathen, for they do not so 
much as hope for one. There is no Redeemer for the Jews; they 
hope for Him in vain. There is a Redeemer only for Christians. 
{See Perpetuity.) 


In the time of the Messiah the people divided themselves. The 
spiritual embraced the Messiah, and the coarser-minded remained to 
serve as witnesses of Him. 


"If this was clearly foretold to the Jews, how did they not be- 
lieve it, or why were they not destroyed for resisting a fact so clear?" 

I reply : in the first place, it was foretold both that they would not 
believe a thing so clear, and that they would not be destroyed. And 
nothing is more to the glory of the Messiah; for it was not enough 
that there should be prophets; their prophets must be kept above 
suspicion. Now, See. 


If the Jews had all been converted by Jesus Christ, we should have 
none but questionable witnesses. And if they had been entirely 
destroyed, we should have no witnesses at all. 

264 pascal's thoughts 


What do the prophets say of Jesus Christ? That He will be clearly 
God? No; but that He is a God truly hidden; that He will be 
slighted; that none will think that it is He; that He will be a 
stone of stumbling, upon which many will stumble, &c. Let people 
then reproach us no longer for want of clearness, since we make pro- 
fession of it. 

But, it is said, there are obscurities. — And without that, no one 
would have stumbled over Jesus Christ, and this is one of the formal 
pronouncements of the prophets: Excceca^ 


Moses first teaches the Trinity, original sin, the Messiah. 

David: a great witness; a king, good, merciful, a beautiful soul, a 
sound mind, powerful. He prophesies, and his wonder comes to 
pass. This is infinite. 

He had only to say that he was the Messiah, if he had been vain; 
for the prophecies are clearer about him than about Jesus Christ. 
And the same with Saint John. 


Herod was believed to be the Messiah. He had taken away the 
sceptre from Judah, but he was not of Judah. This gave rise to a 
considerable sect. 

Curse of the Greeks upon those who count three periods of time. 

In what way should the Messiah come, seeing that through Him 
the sceptre was to be eternally in Judah, and at His coming the scep- 
tre was to be taken away from Judah? 

In order to effect that seeing they should not see, and hearing they 
should not understand, nothing could be better done. 


Homo existens te Deum facit? 

Scriptum est, Dii estis, et non potest solvi Scriptural 

6 Isaiah, vi. 10. ' "Man existing makes thee God." ' "It is written, 'You are 
Gods,' and the Scripture cannot be overthrown." 


Hcec infirmitas non est ad vitam et est ad mortem? 
Lazarus dormit, et deinde dixit: Lazarus mortuus est}" 

The apparent discrepancy of the Gospels. 


What can we have but reverence for a man who foretells plainly 
things which come to pass, and who declares his intention both to 
blind and to enlighten, and who intersperses obscurities among the 
clear things which come to pass? 


The time of the first advent was foretold; the time of the second 
is not so; because the first was to be obscure, and the second is to be 
brilliant, and so manifest that even His enemies will recognise it. 
But, as He was first to come only in obscurity, and to be known only 
of those who searched the Scriptures. ... 


God, in order to cause the Messiah to be known by the good and 
not to be known by the wicked, made Him to be foretold in this 
manner. If the manner of the Messiah had been clearly foretold, 
there would have been no obscurity, even for the wicked. If the 
time had been obscurely foretold, there would have been obscurity, 
even for the good. For their [goodness of heart] would not have 
made them understand, for instance, that the closed mem signifies 
six hundred years. But the time has been clearly foretold, and the 
manner in types. 

By this means, the wicked, taking the promised blessings for 
material blessings, have fallen into error, in spite of the clear predic- 
tion of the time; and the good have not fallen into error. For the 
understanding of the promised blessings depends on the heart, which 

' "This sickness is not unto life, and is unto death." 
'"John, xi. II, 14. 

266 pascal's thoughts 

calls "good" that which it loves; but the understanding of the prom- 
ised time does not depend on the heart. And thus the clear predic- 
tion of the time, and the obscure prediction of the blessings, deceive 
the wicked alone. 

Either the Jews or the Christians must be wicked. 


The Jews reject Him, but not all. The saints receive Him, and not 
the carnal-minded. And so far is this from being against His glory, 
that it is the last touch which crowns it. For their argument, the only 
one found in all their writings, in the Talmud and in the Rabbinical 
writings, amounts only to this, that Jesus Christ has not subdued 
the nations with sword in hand, gladium tuum, potentissime}^ 
Is this all they have to say ? Jesus Christ has been slain, say they. He 
has failed. He has not subdued the heathen with His might. He has 
not bestowed upon us their spoil. He does not give riches. Is this 
all they have to say? It is in this respect that He is lovable to me. 
I would not desire Him whom they fancy. It is evident that it is 
only His life which has prevented them from accepting Him; and 
through this rejection they are irreproachable witnesses, and, what 
is more, they thereby accomplish the prophecies. 

[By means of the fact that this people have not accepted Him, this 
miracle here has happened. The prophecies were the only lasting 
miracles which could be wrought, but they were liable to be denied.] 


The Jews, in slaying Him in order not to receive Him as the Mes- 
siah, have given Him the final proof of being the Messiah. 

And in continuing not to recognise Him, they made themselves 
irreproachable witnesses. Both in slaying Him, and in continuing to 
deny Him, they have fulfilled the prophecies (Is. Ix.; Ps. Ixxi.). 

1' Psalms, xlv. 3. 



What could the Jews, His enemies, do ? If they receive Him, they 
give proof of Him by their reception; for then the guardians of the 
expectation of the Messiah receive Him. If they reject Him, they 
give proof of Him by their rejection. 

The Jevi^s, in testing if He were God, have shown that He was man. 


The Church has had as much difficulty in showing that Jesus 
Christ was man, against those who denied it, as in showing that he 
was God; and the probabiHties were equally great. 


Source of contradictions. — ^A God humiliated, even to the death on 
the cross; a Messiah triumphing over death by his own death. Two 
natures in Jesus Christ, two advents, two states of man's nature. 


Types. — Saviour, father, sacrificer, offering, food, king, wise, law- 
giver, afflicted, poor, having to create a people whom He must lead 
and nourish and bring into His land . . . 

]esus Christ. Offices. — He alone had to create a great people, elect, 
holy, and chosen; to lead, nourish, and bring it into the place of rest 
and holiness; to make it holy to God; to make it the temple of God; 
to reconcile it to, and save it from the wrath of God; to free it from 
the slavery of sin, which visibly reigns in man; to give laws to this 
people, and engrave these laws on their heart; to offer Himself to 
God for them, and sacrifice Himself for them; to be a victim without 
blemish, and Himself the sacrificer, having to offer Himself, His 
body, and His blood, and yet to offer bread and wine to God . . . 

Ingrediens mundum." 

'' Hebrews, x. 5. 

268 pascal's thoughts 

"Stone upon stone." 

What preceded and what followed. All the Jews exist still, and are 


Of all that is on earth, He partakes only of the sorrows, not of 
the joys. He loves His neighbours, but His love does not confine 
itself within these bounds, and overflows to His own enemies, and 
then to those of God. 


Jesus Christ typified by Joseph, the beloved of his father, sent by 
his father to see his brethren, &c., innocent, sold by his brethren for 
twenty pieces of silver, and thereby becoming their lord, their saviour, 
the saviour of strangers, and the saviour of the world; which had 
not been but for their plot to destroy him, their sale and their 
rejection of him. 

In prison Joseph innocent between two criminals; Jesus Christ on 
the cross between two thieves. Joseph foretells freedom to the one, 
and death to the other, from the same omens. Jesus Christ saves the 
elect, and condemns the outcast for the same sins. Joseph foretells 
only; Jesus Christ acts. Joseph asks him who will be saved to re- 
member him, when he comes into his glory; and he whom Jesus 
Christ saves asks that He will remember him, when He comes into 
His kingdom. 


The conversion of the heathen was only reserved for the grace of 
the Messiah. The Jews have been so long in opposition to them 
without success; all that Solomon and the prophets said has been 
useless. Sages, like Plato and Socrates, have not been able to per- 
suade them. 


After many persons had gone before, Jesus Christ at last came to 
say: "Here am I, and this is the time. That which the prophets have 
said was to come in the fulness of time, I tell you My apostles will 


do. The Jews shall be cast out. Jerusalem shall be soon destroyed. 
And the heathen shall enter into the knowledge of God. My apostles 
shall do this after you have slain the heir of the vineyard." 

Then the apostles said to the Jews: "You shall be accursed," (Cel- 
sus laughed at it) ; and to the heathen, "You shall enter into the 
knowledge of God." And this then came to pass. 


Jesus Christ came to blind those who saw clearly, and to give sight 
to the blind; to heal the sick, and leave the healthy to die; to call to 
repentance, and to justify sinners, and to leave the righteous in their 
sins; to fill the needy, and leave the rich empty. 


Holiness. — Effundum spiritum meum." All nations were in un- 
belief and lust. The whole world now became fervent with love. 
Princes abandoned their pomp; maidens suffered martyrdom. 
Whence came this influence ? The Messiah was come. These were 
the effect and signs of His coming. 


Destruction of the Jews and heathen by Jesus Christ: Ontnes gen- 
tes venient et adorabunt eum.'* Parutn est ut, &c.'^ Postula a me}^ 
Adorabunt eum omnes reges." Testes iniqui}* Dabit maxillam 
percutienti}^ Dederunt fel in escam^ 


Jesus Christ for all, Moses for a nation. 

The Jews blessed in Abraham : "I will bless those that bless thee." 
But : "All nations blessed in his seed." Parum est ut, &c. 
Lumen ad revelationem gentium ^^ 
Non fecit taliter omni nationi,^ said David, in speaking of the 

Law. But, in speaking of Jesus Christ, we must say: Fecit taliter 
"Joel, ii. 28. *■' Psalms, xxii. 27. "Isaiah, xlix. 6. '^Psalms, ii. 8. 
"Psalms, Ixxii. 11. "Psalms, xxxv. 11. 1* Lamentations, iii. 30. 
2° Psalms, Ixix. 21. ^^ Luke, ii. 32. "Psalms, cxlvii. 20. 


omni nationi. Parum est ut, &c., Isaiah. So it belongs to Jesus Christ 
to be universal. Even the Church offers sacrifice only for the faithful. 
Jesus Christ offered that of the cross for all. 


There is heresy in always explaining omnes by "all," and heresy 
in not explaining it sometimes by "all." Bibite ex hoc omnes;^^ the 
Huguenots are heretics in explaining it by "all." In quo omnes pec- 
caverunt;^*' the Huguenots are heretics in excepting the children of 
true believers. We must then follow the Fathers and tradition in 
order to know when to do so, since there is heresy to be feared on both 


Ne timeas pu stilus grex^ Timor e et tremore. — Quid ergo? Ne 
timeas [modo] timeas. Fear not, provided you fear; but if you fear 
not, then fear. 

Qui me recipit, non me recipit, sed eum qui me misitJ^ 

Nemo scit, neque Filius" 

Nubes lucida obumbravit^^ 

Saint John was to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, 
and Jesus Christ to plant division. There is no contradiction. 


The effects in communi and in particulariP The semi-Pelagians 
err in saying of in communi what is true only in particulari; and the 
Calvinists in saying in particulari what is true in communi. Such is 
my opinion. 


Omnis ]udcea regio, et Jerosolomytce universi, et baptizabantur?" 

Because of all the conditions of men who came there. 

From these stones there can come children unto Abraham. 

^'Matthew, xxvi. 27. ^''Romans, v. 12. '*Lulce, xii. 32. ^* Matthew, x. 40. 
^'Matthew, xi. 27. ^8 f^^tt^ew, xvii. 5. ^'"In general," "in particular." 
3»Mark, i. 5. 



If men knew themselves, God would heal and pardon them, Ne 
convertantur et sanem eos, et dimittantur eis peccata}^ 


Jesus Christ never condemned without hearing. To Judas: Amice, 
ad quid venisti?^^ To him that had not on the wedding garment, the 


The types o£ the completeness of the Redemption, as that the sun 
gives light to all, indicate only completeness; but \the types] of ex- 
clusions, as of the Jews elected to the exclusion of the Gentiles, indi- 
cate exclusion. 

"Jesus Christ the Redeemer of all." — ^Yes, for He has offered, like 
a man who has ransomed all those who were willing to come to Him. 
If any die on the way, it is their misfortune; but, so far as He was 
concerned, He offered them redemption. — That holds good in this 
example, where he who ransoms and he who prevents death are 
two persons, but not of Jesus Christ, who does both these things. — 
No, for Jesus Christ, in the quality of Redeemer, is not perhaps Mas- 
ter of all; and thus, in so far as it is in Him, He is the Redeemer 
of all. 

When it is said that Jesus Christ did not die for all, you take undue 
advantage of a fault in men who at once apply this exception to them- 
selves; and this is to favour despair, instead of turning them from 
it to favour hope. For men thus accustom themselves to inward 
virtues by outward customs. 


The victory over death. What is a man advantaged if he gain the 
whole world and lose his own soul? Whosoever will save his soul, 
shall lose it. 

'^ Mark, iv. 12. ^^ Matthew, xxvi. 50. 


"I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil." 

"Lambs took not away the sins of the world, but I am the lamb 

which taketh away the sins." 
"Moses gave you not the bread from heaven. Moses hath not led 

you out of captivity, and made you truly free." 


. . . Then Jesus Christ comes to tell men that they have no other 
enemies but themselves; that it is their passions which keep them 
apart from God; that He comes to destroy these, and give them His 
grace, so as to make of them all one Holy Church; that He comes 
to bring back into this Church the heathen and Jews; that He comes 
to destroy the idols of the former and the superstition of the latter. 
To this all men are opposed, not only from the natural opposition 
of lust; but, above all, the kings of the earth, as had been foretold, 
join together to destroy this religion at its birth. {Proph.: Quare 
fermerunt gentes . . . reges terrce . . . adversus Christum?^) 

All that is great on earth is united together; the learned, the wise, 
the kings. The first write; the second condemn; the last kill. And 
notwithstanding all these oppositions, these men, simple and weak, 
resist all these powers, subdue even these kings, these learned men 
and these sages, and remove idolatry from all the earth. And all 
this is done by the power which had foretold it. 


Jesus Christ would not have the testimony of devils, nor of those 
who were not called, but of God and John the Baptist. 


I consider Jesus Christ in all persons and in ourselves : Jesus Christ 
as a Father in His Father, Jesus Christ as a Brother in His Brethren, 
Jesus Christ as poor in the poor, Jesus Christ as rich in the rich, 
Jesus Christ as Doctor and Priest in priests, Jesus Christ as Sovereign 
in princes, &c. For by His glory He is all that is great, being God; 
^'Psalms, ii. 1—2. (Taken as a prophecy of Christ.) 


and by His mortal life He is all that is poor and abject. Therefore 
He has taken this unhappy condition, so that He could be in all 
persons, and the model of all conditions. 


Jesus Christ is an obscurity (according to what the world calls 
obscurity), such that historians, writing only of important matters 
of states, have hardly noticed Him. 


On the fact that neither Josephus, nor Tacitus, nor other histO' 
rians have spoken of Jesus Christ. — So far is this from telling against 
Christianity, that on the contrary it tells for it. For it is certain that 
Jesus Christ has existed; that His religion has made a great talk; 
and that these persons were not ignorant of it. Thus it is plain that 
they purposely concealed it, or that, if they did speak of it, their 
account has been suppressed or changed. 


"I have reserved me seven thousand." I love the worshippers 
unknown to the world and to the very prophets. 


As Jesus Christ remained unknown among men, so His truth 
remains among common opinions without external difference. Thus 
the Eucharist among ordinary bread. 


Jesus would not be slain without the forms of justice; for it is far 
more ignominious to die by justice than by an unjust sedition. 


The false justice of Pilate only serves to make Jesus Christ suffer; 
for he causes Him to be scourged by his false justice, and afterwards 


puts Him to death. It would have been better to have put Him to 
death at once. Thus it is with the falsely just. They do good and 
evil works to please the world, and to show that they are not alto- 
gether of Jesus Christ; for they are ashamed of Him. And at last, 
under great temptations and on great occasions, they kill Him. 


What man ever had more renown? The whole Jewish people 
foretell Him before His coming. The Gentile people worship Him 
after His coming. The two peoples, Gentile and Jewish, regard Him 
as their centre. 

And yet what man enjoys this renown less? Of thirty-three years, 
He lives thirty without appearing. For three years He passes as an 
impostor; the priests and the chief people reject Him; His friends 
and His nearest relatives despise Him. Finally, He dies, betrayed 
by one of His own disciples, denied by another, and abandoned 
by all. 

What part, then, has He in this renown? Never had man so 
much renown; never had man more ignominy. All that renown has 
served only for us, to render us capable of recognising Him; and He 
had none of it for Himself. 


The infinite distance between body and mind is a symbol of the 
infinitely more infinite distance between mind and charity; for 
charity is supernatural. 

All the glory of greatness has no lustre for people who are in 
search of understanding. 

The greatness of clever men is invisible to kings, to the rich, to 
chiefs, and to all the worldly great. 

The greatness of wisdom, which is nothing if not of God, is in- 
visible to the carnal-minded and to the clever. These are three orders 
differing in kind. 

Great geniuses have their power, their glory, their greatness, their 


victory, their lustre, and have no need of worldly greatness, with 
which they are not in keeping. They are seen, not by the eye, but by 
the mind; this is sufficient. 

The saints have their power, their glory, their victory, their lustre, 
and need no worldly or intellectual greatness, with which they have 
no affinity; for these neither add anything to them, nor take away 
anything from them. They are seen of God and the angels, and not 
of the body, nor of the curious mind. God is enough for them. 

Archimedes, apart from his rank, would have the same veneration. 
He fought no battles for the eyes to feast upon; but he has given his 
discoveries to all men. Oh! how brilliant he was to the mind! 

Jesus Christ, without riches, and without any external exhibition 
of knowledge, is in His own order of holiness. He did not invent; 
He did not reign. But He was humble, patient, holy, holy to God, 
terrible to devils, without any sin. Oh! in what great pomp, and in 
what wonderful splendour. He is come to the eyes of the heart, 
which perceive wisdom! 

It would have been useless for Archimedes to have acted the prince 
in his books on geometry, although he was a prince. 

It would have been useless for our Lord Jesus Christ to come like 
a king, in order to shine forth in His kingdom of holiness. But He 
came there appropriately in the glory of His own order. 

It is most absurd to take offence at the lowliness of Jesus Christ, 
as if His lowliness were in the same order as the greatness which He 
came to manifest. If we consider this greatness in His life, in His 
passion, in His obscurity, in His death, in the choice of His disciples, 
in their desertion, in His secret resurrection, and the rest, we shall 
see it to be so immense, that we shall have no reason for being 
offended at a lowliness which is not of that order. 

But there are some who can only admire worldly greatness, as 
though there were no intellectual greatness; and others who only 
admire intellectual greatness, as though there were not infinitely 
higher things in wisdom. 

All bodies, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, 
are not equal to the lowest mind; for mind knows all these and itself; 
and these bodies nothing. 

276 pascal's thoughts 

All bodies together, and all minds together, and all their products, 
are not equal to the least feeling of charity. This is of an order 
infinitely more exalted. 

From all bodies together, we cannot obtain one little thought; this 
is impossible, and of another order. From all bodies and minds, we 
cannot produce a feeling of true charity; this is impossible, and of 
another and supernatural order. 


Why did Jesus Christ not come in a visible manner, instead of 
obtaining testimony of Himself from preceding prophecies.? Why 
did He cause Himself to be foretold in types ? 


If Jesus Christ had only come to sanctify, all Scripture and all 
things would tend to that end; and it would be quite easy to con- 
vince unbelievers. If Jesus Christ had only come to blind, all His 
conduct would be confused; and we would have no means of con- 
vincing unbelievers. But as he came in sanctificationem et in scan- 
dalum,^* as Isaiah says, we cannot convince unbelievers, and they 
cannot convince us. But by this very fact we convince them; since 
we say that in his whole conduct there is no convincing proof on 
one side or the other. 


Jesus Christ does not say that He is not of Nazareth, in order to 
leave the wicked in their blindness; nor that He is not Joseph's son. 


Proofs of Jesus Christ. — Jesus Christ said great things so simply, 
that it seems as though He had not thought them great; and yet so 
clearly that we easily see what He thought of them. This clearness, 
joined to this simplicity, is wonderful. 

'* Isaiah, viii. 14. 



The style of the gospel is admirable in so many ways, and among 
the rest in hurling no invectives against the persecutors and enemies 
of Jesus Christ. For there is no such invective in any of the historians 
against Judas, Pilate, or any of the Jews. 

If this moderation of the writers of the Gospels had been assumed, 
as well as many other traits of so beautiful a character, and they had 
only assumed it to attract notice, even if they had not dared to draw 
attention to it themselves, they would not have failed to secure 
friends, who would have made such remarks to their advantage. 
But as they acted thus without pretence, and from wholly disinter- 
ested motives, they did not point it out to any one; and I believe that 
many such facts have not been noticed till now, which is evidence 
of the natural disinterestedness with which the thing has been done. 


An artisan who speaks of wealth, a lawyer who speaks of war, of 
royalty, &c.; but the rich man righdy speaks of wealth, a king speaks 
indifferently of a great gift he has just made, and God rightly speaks 
of God. 


Who has taught the evangelists the qualities of a perfectly heroic 
soul, that they paint it so perfectly in Jesus Christ? Why do they 
make Him weak in His agony ? Do they not know how to paint a 
resolute death? Yes, for the same Saint Luke paints the death of 
Saint Stephen as braver than that of Jesus Christ. 

They make Him therefore capable of fear, before the necessity of 
dying has come, and then altogether brave. 

But when they make Him so troubled, it is when He afflicts Him- 
self; and when men afflict Him, He is altogether strong. 


Proof of Jesus Christ. — The supposition that the apostles were im- 
postors is very absurd. Let us think it out. Let us imagine those 

278 pascal's thoughts 

twelve men, assembled after the death of Jesus Christ, plotting to 
say that He was risen. By this they attack all the powers. The heart 
of man is strangely inclined to fickleness, to change, to promises, to 
gain. However little any of them might have been led astray by all 
these attractions, nay more, by the fear of prisons, tortures, and 
death, they were lost. Let us follow up this thought. 


The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition 
has difficulties; for it is not possible to mistake a man raised from the 
dead . . . 

While Jesus Christ was with them. He could sustain them. But, 
after that, if He did not appear to them, who inspired them to act.'' 

The Miracles 


JmE beginning. — Miracles enable us to judge of doctrine, 
and doctrine enables us to judge o£ miracles. 
There are false miracles and true. There must be a dis- 
tinction, in order to know them; otherwise they would be useless. 
Now they are not useless; on the contrary, they are fundamental. 
Now the rule which is given to us must be such, that it does not 
destroy the proof which the true miracles give of the truth, which is 
the chief end of the miracles. 

Moses has given two rules: that the prediction does not come to 
pass (Deut. xviii.), and that they do not lead to idolatry (Deut. 
xiii.) ; and Jesus Christ one. 

If doctrine regulates miracles, miracles are useless for doctrine. 

If miracles regulate . . . 

Objection to the r«/<?.— The distinction of the times. One rule 
during the time of Moses, another at present. 


Miracle. — It is an effect, which exceeds the natural power of the 
means which are employed for it; and what is not a miracle is an 
effect, which does not exceed the natural power of the means which 
are employed for it. Thus, those who heal by invocation of the devil 
do not work a miracle; for that does not exceed the natural power 
of the devil. But . . . 


The two fundamentals; one inward, the other outward; grace and 
miracles; both supernatural. 


28o pascal's thoughts 


Miracles and truth are necessary, because it is necessary to con- 
vince the entire man, in body and soul. 


In all times, either men have spoken of the true God, or the true 
God has spoken to men. 


Jesus Christ has verified that He was the Messiah, never in veri- 
fying His doctrine by Scripture and the prophecies, but always by 
His miracles. 

He proves by a miracle that He remits sins. 

Rejoice not in your miracles, said Jesus Christ, but because your 
names are written in heaven. 

If they believe not Moses, neither will they believe one risen from 
the dead. 

Nicodemus recognises- by His miracles that His teaching is of 
God. Scimus quia venisti a Deo magister; nemo enim potest hcec 
signa facere quce tu facis nisi Deus fuerit cum eo} He does not 
judge of the miracles by the teaching, but of the teaching by the 

The Jews had a doctrine of God as we have one of Jesus Christ, 
and confirmed by miracles. They were forbidden to believe every 
worker of miracles; and they were further commanded to have 
recourse to the chief priests, and to rely on them. 

And thus, in regard to their prophets, they had all those reasons 
which we have for refusing to believe the workers of miracles. 

And yet they were very sinful in rejecting the prophets, and 
Jesus Christ, because of their miracles; and they would not have been 
culpable, if they had not seen the miracles. Nisi fecissem . . . 
peccatum non haberent? Therefore all belief rests upon miracles. 

Prophecy is not called miracle; as Saint John speaks of the first 
miracle in Cana, and then of what Jesus Christ says to the woman of 

' John, iii. 2. ^ John, xv. 24. 


Samaria, when He reveals to her all her hidden life. Then He heals 
the centurion's son; and Saint John calls this "the second miracle." 


The combinations of miracles. 


The second miracle can suppose the first, but the first cannot 
suppose the second. 


Had it not been for the miracles, there would have been no sin in 
not believing in Jesus Christ. 


I should not be a Christian, but for the miracles, said Saint 


Miracles. — How I hate those who make men doubt of miracles! 
Montaigne speaks of them as he should in two places. In one, we 
see how careful he is; and yet, in the other he believes, and makes 
sport of unbelievers. 

However it may be, the Church is without proofs if they are right. 


Montaigne against miracles. 
Montaigne for miracles. 

It is not possible to have a reasonable belief against miracles. 


Unbelievers the most credulous. They believe the miracles of 
Vespasian, in order not to believe those of Moses. 

282 pascal's thoughts 


Title: How it happens that men believe so many liars, who say 
that they have seen miracles, and do not believe any of those who 
say that they have secrets to ma\e men immortal, or restore youth to 
them. — Having considered how it happens that so great credence is 
given to so many impostors, who say they have remedies, often to 
the length of men putting their lives into their hands, it has appeared 
to me that the true cause is that there are true remedies. For it 
would not be possible that there should be so many false remedies, 
and that so much faith should be placed in them, if there were none 
true. If there had never been any remedy for any ill, and all ills had 
been incurable, it is impossible that men should have imagined that 
they could give remedies, and still more impossible that so many 
others should have believed those who boasted of having remedies; 
in the same way as did a man boast of preventing death, no one 
would believe him, because there is no example of this. But as there 
were a number of remedies found to be true by the very knowledge 
of the greatest men, the belief of men is thereby induced; and, this 
being known to be possible, it has been therefore concluded that it 
was. For people commonly reason thus: "A thing is possible, there- 
fore it is"; because the thing cannot be denied generally, since 
there are particular effects which are true, the people, who can- 
not distinguish which among these particular effects are true, 
believe them all. In the same way, the reason why so many false 
effects are credited to the moon, is that there are some true, as the 

It is the same with prophecies, miracles, divination by dreams, 
sorceries, &c. For if there had been nothing true in all this, men 
would have believed nothing of them; and thus, instead of conclud- 
ing that there are no true miracles because there are so many false, 
we must, on the contrary, say that there certainly are true miracles, 
since there are false, and that there are false miracles only because 
some are true. We must reason in the same way about religion; for 
it would not be possible that men should have imagined so many 
false religions, if there had not been a true one. The objection to this 
is that savages have a religion; but the answer is that they have 


heard the true spoken of, as appears by the deluge, circumcision, the 
cross of Saint Andrew, &c. 


Having considered how it comes that there are so many false mir- 
acles, false revelations, sorceries, &c., it has seemed to me that the 
true cause is that there are some true; for it would not be possible 
that there should be so many false miracles, if there were none true, 
nor so many false revelations, if there were none true, nor so many 
false religions, if there were not one true. For if there had never 
been all this, it is almost impossible that men should have imagined 
it, and still more impossible that so many others should have believed 
it. But as there have been very great things true, and as they have 
been believed by great men, this impression has been the cause 
that nearly everybody is rendered capable of believing also the false. 
And thus, instead of concluding that there are no true miracles, 
since there are so many false, it must be said, on the contrary, that 
there are true miracles, since there are so many false; and that there 
are false ones only because there are true; and that in the same way 
there are false religions because there is one true. — Objection to this: 
savages have a religion. But this is because they have heard the true 
spoken of, as appears by the cross of Saint Andrew, the deluge, cir- 
cumcision, &c. — This arises from the fact that the human mind, 
finding itself inclined to that side by the truth, becomes thereby 
susceptible of all the falsehoods of this . . . 


Jeremiah, xxiii. 32. The miracles of the false prophets. In the 
Hebrew and Vatable' they are the trickjs. 

Miracle does not always signify miracle, i Sam., xiv. 15; miracle 
signifies fear, and is so in the Hebrew. The same evidently in Job, 
xxxiii. 7; and also Isaiah, xxi. 4; Jeremiah, xliv. 12. Portentum sig- 
nifies simulacrum, Jeremiah, 1. 38; and it is so in the Hebrew and 
Vatable. Isaiah, viii. 18. Jesus Christ says that He and His will be 
in miracles. 

'Professor of Hebrew in the College Royal in the i6th Century. 

284 pascal's thoughts 


If the devil favoured the doctrine which destroys him, he would 
be divided against himself, as Jesus Christ said. If God favoured the 
doctrine which destroys the Church, He would be divided against 
Himself. Omne regnum divisum.* For Jesus Christ wrought against 
the devil, and destroyed his power over the heart, of which exorcism 
is the symbolisation, in order to establish the kingdom of God. And 
thus He adds. Si in digito Dei regnum Dei ad vos^ 


There is a great difference between tempting and leading into 
error. God tempts, but He does not lead into error. To tempt is to 
afford opportunities, which impose no necessity; if men do not love 
God, they will do a certain thing. To lead into error is to place a man 
under the necessity of inferring and following out what is untrue. 


Abraham and Gideon are above revelation. The Jews blinded 
themselves in judging of miracles by the Scripture. God has never 
abandoned His true worshippers. 

I prefer to follow Jesus Christ than any other, because He has 
miracle, prophecy, doctrine, perpetuity, &c. 

The Donatists. No miracle which obliges them to say it is the 

The more we particularise God, Jesus Christ, the Church . . . 


If there were no false miracles, there would be certainty. If there 
were no rule to judge of them, miracles would be useless, and there 
would be no reason for believing. 

Now there is, humanly speaking, no human certainty, but we 
have reason. 

••Matthew, xii. 25. ^Luke, xi. 20. 



Either God has confounded the false miracles, or He has foretold 
them; and in both ways He has raised Himself above what is super- 
natural with respect to us, and has raised us to it. 


Miracles serve not to convert, but to condemn. (Q. 113, A. 10, 
Ad. 2.) 


Reasons why we do not believe. 

John, xii. 37. Cum autem tanta signa fectsset, non credebant in 
eum, ut sermo Isayce impteretur. Exccecavit, &c. 

Hcec dixit Isaias, quando vidit gloriam ejus et locutus est de eo. 

Judeei signa petunt et Grceci sapientiam qucerunt, nos autem Jesum 
crucifixum. Sed plenum signis, sed plenum sapientia; vos autem 
Christum non crucifixum et religionem sine miraculis et sine 

What makes us not believe in the true miracles, is want of love. 
John: Sed vos non creditis, quia non estis ex ovibusl What makes 
us believe the false is want of love, i Thess. ii. 

The foundation of religion. It is the miracles. What then ? Does 
God speak against miracles, against the foundations of the faith 
which we have in Him ? 

If there is a God, faith in God must exist on earth. Now the 
miracles of Jesus Christ are not foretold by Antichrist, but the mir- 
acles of Antichrist are foretold by Jesus Christ. And so if Jesus Christ 
were not the Messiah, He would have indeed led into error; but 
Antichrist cannot surely lead into error. When Jesus Christ fore- 
told the miracles of Antichrist, did He think of destroying faith in 
His own miracles? 

Moses foretold Jesus Christ, and bade to follow Him. Jesus Christ 
foretold Antichrist, and forbade to follow him. 

* I Corinthians, i. 22. ' John, x. 26. 

286 pascal's thoughts 

It was impossible that in the time of Moses men should keep their 
faith for Antichrist, who was unknown to them. But it is quite 
easy, in the time of Antichrist, to believe in Jesus Christ, already 

There is no reason for believing in Antichrist, which there is not 
for believing in Jesus Christ. But there are reasons for believing in 
Jesus Christ, which there are not for believing in the other. 


Judges xiii. 23 : "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not 
have shewed us all these things." 

Hezekiah, Sennacherib. 

Jeremiah. Hananiah, the false prophet, dies in seven months. 

2 Mace. iii. The temple, ready for pillage, miraculously succored. 
— 1 Mace. XV. 

I Kings, xvii. The widow to Elijah, who had restored her son, 
"By this I know that thy words are true." 

I Kings, xviii. Elijah with the prophets of Baal. 

In the dispute concerning the true God and the truth of religion, 
there has never happened any miracle on the side of error, and not 
of truth. 


Opposition, — Abel, Cain; Moses, the Magicians; Elijah, the false 
prophets; Jeremiah, Hananiah; Micaiah, the false prophets; Jesus 
Christ, the Pharisees; St. Paul, Bar-jesus; the Apostles, the Exorcists; 
Christians, unbelievers; Catholics, heretics; Elijah, Enoch; Antichrist. 


Jesus Christ says that the Scriptures testify of Him. But He does 
not point out in what respect. 

Even the prophecies could not prove Jesus Christ during His life; 
and so, men would not have been culpable for not believing in Him 
before His death, had the miracles not sufficed without doctrine. 
Now those who did not believe in Him, when He was still alive, 


were sinners, as He said Himself, and without excuse. Therefore 
they must have had proof beyond doubt, which they resisted. Now, 
they had not the prophecies, but only the miracles. Therefore the 
latter suffice, when the doctrine is not inconsistent with them; and 
they ought to be believed. 

John, vii. 40. Dispute among the Jews as among the Christians 
of to-day. Some believed in Jesus Christ; others believed Him not, 
because of the prophecies which said that He should be born in 
Bethlehem. They should have considered more carefully whether 
He was not. For His miracles being convincing, they should have 
been quite sure of these supposed contradictions of His teaching to 
Scripture; and this obscurity did not excuse, but blinded them. 
Thus those who refuse to believe in the miracles in the present day 
on account of a supposed contradiction, which is unreal, are not 

The Pharisees said to the people, who believed in Him, because 
of His miracles: "This people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 
But have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him ? For 
we know that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." Nicodemus an- 
swered: "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, [and 
specially, such a man who works such miracles] ?" 

The prophecies were ambiguous; they are no longer so. 

The five propositions were ambiguous; they are no longer so. 


Miracles are no longer necessary, because we have had them 
already. But when tradition is no longer minded; when the Pope 
alone is offered to us; when he has been imposed upon; and when 
the true source of truth, which is tradition, is thus excluded; and the 
Pope, who is its guardian, is biassed; the truth is no longer free to 
appear. Then, as men speak no longer of truth, truth itself must 

288 pascal's thoughts 

speak to men. This is what happened in the time of Arius. (Mir- 
acles under Diocletian and under Arius.) 


Miracle. — The people conclude this of themselves; but if the 
reason of it must be given to you . . . 

It is unfortunate to be in exception to the rule. The same must be 
strict, and opposed to exception. But yet, as it is certain that there 
are exceptions to a rule, our judgment must, though strict, be just. 


John, vi. 26: Non quia vidisti signunt, sed quia saturati estis. 

Those who follow Jesus Christ because of His miracles honour 
His power in all the miracles which it produces. But those who, 
making profession to follow Him because of His miracles, follow 
Him in fact only because He comforts them and satisfies them with 
worldly blessings, discredit His miracles, when they are opposed to 
their own comforts. 

John, ix. 16: Non est hie homo a Deo, quia sabbatum non custodit. 
Alii: Quomodo potest homo peccator hac signa facere? 

Which is the most clear ? 

This house is not of God; for they do not there believe that the 
five propositions are in Jansenius. Others: This house is of God; for 
in it there are wrought strange miracles. 

Which is the most clear ? 

Tu quid diets? Dico quia propheta est. — Nisi esset hie a Deo, non 
poterat facere quidquam^ 

In the Old Testament, when they will turn you from God. In the 
New, when they will turn you from Jesus Christ. These are the oc- 
casions for excluding particular miracles from belief. No others 
need be excluded. 

Does it therefore follow that they would have the right to ex- 
clude all the prophets who came to them? No; they would have 

*John, Lx. 17, 33. 


sinned in not excluding those who denied God, and would have 
sinned in excluding those who did not deny God. 

So soon, then, as we see a miracle, we must either assent to it, or 
have striking proofs to the contrary. We must see i£ it denies a God, 
or Jesus Christ, or the Church. 


There is a great difference between not being for Jesus Christ and 
saying so, and not being for Jesus Christ and pretending to be so. 
The one party can do miracles, not the others. For it is clear of the 
one party, that they are opposed to the truth, but not of the others; 
and thus miracles are clearer. 


That we must love one God only is a thing so evident, that it 
does not require miracles to prove it. 


Jesus Christ performed miracles, then the apostles, and the first 
saints in great number; because the prophecies not being yet accom- 
plished but in the process of being accomplished by them, the mir- 
acles alone bore witness to them. It was foretold that the Messiah 
should convert the nations. How could this prophecy be fulfilled 
'without the conversion of the nations? And how could the nations 
be converted to the Messiah, if they did not see this final effect of the 
prophecies which prove Him? Therefore, till He had died, risen 
again, and converted the nations, all was not accomplished; and so 
miracles were needed during all this time. Now they are no longer 
needed against the Jews; for the accomplished prophecies constitute 
a lasting miracle. 


"Though ye Lelieve not Me, believe at least the works." He refers 
them, as it were, to the strongest proof. 


It had been told to the Jews, as well as to Christians, that they 
should not always believe the prophets; but yet the Pharisees and 
Scribes are greatly concerned about His miracles, and try to show 
that they are false, or wrought by the devil. For they must needs be 
convinced, if they acknowledge that they are of God. 

At the present day we are not troubled to make this distinction. 
Still it is very easy to do: those who deny neither God nor Jesus 
Christ do no miracles which are not certain. Nemo facit virtutem in 
nomine meo, et cito possit de me male loqui? 

But we have not to draw this distinction. Here is a sacred relic. 
Here is a thorn from the crown of the Saviour of the world, over 
whom the prince of this world has no power, which works miracles 
by the peculiar power of the blood shed for us. Now God Himself 
chooses this house in order to display conspicuously therein His 

These are not men who do miracles by an unknown and doubtful 
virtue, which makes a decision difficult for us. It is God Himself. 
It is the instrument of the Passion of His only Son, who, being in 
many places, chooses this, and makes men come from all quarters 
there to receive these miraculous alleviations in their weaknesses. 


The Church has three kinds of enemies: the Jews, who have never 
been of her body; the heretics, who have withdrawn from it; and 
the evil Christians, who rend her from within. 

These three kinds of different adversaries usually attack her in 
different ways. But here they attack her in one and the same way. 
As they are all without miracles, and as the Church has always had 
miracles against them, they have all had the same interest in evading 
them; and they all make use of this excuse, that doctrine must not 
be judged by miracles, but miracles by doctrine. There were two 
parties among those who heard Jesus Christ: those who followed 
His teaching on account of His miracles; others who said . . . There 
were two parties in the time of Calvin . . . There are now the 
Jesuits, &c. 

*Mark, ix. 39. 



Miracles furnish the test in matters of doubt, between Jews and 
heathens, Jews and Christians, Catholics and heretics, and slandered 
and slanderers, between the two crosses. 

But miracles would be useless to heretics; for the Church, author- 
ised by miracles which have already obtained belief, tells us that they 
have not the true faith. There is no doubt that they are not in it, 
since the first miracles of the Church exclude belief in theirs. Thus 
there is miracle against miracle, both the first and greatest being on 
the side of the Church. 

These nuns, astonished at what is said, that they are in the way of 
perdition; that their confessors are leading them to Geneva; that they 
suggest to them that Jesus Christ is not in the Eucharist, nor on the 
right hand of the Father; know that all this is false, and therefore 
offer themselves to God in this state. Vide si via iniquitatis in me 
est}° What happens thereupon ? This place, which is said to be the 
temple of the devil, God makes His own temple. It is said that the 
children must be taken away from it. God heals them there. It is 
said that it is the arsenal of hell. God makes of it the sanctuary of 
His grace. Lastly, they are threatened with all the fury and ven- 
geance of heaven; and God overwhelms them with favours. A man 
would need to have lost his senses to conclude from this that they are 
therefore in the way of perdition. 

(We have without doubt the same signs as Saint Athanasius.) 

Si tu es Christus, die nobis. 

Opera quce ego facio in nomine patris mei, hcec testimonium 
perhibent de me. Sed vos non creditis quia non estis ex ovibus meis. 
Oves mei vocem meam audiunt}^ 

John, vi. 30. Quod ergo tu facis signum ut videamus et credamus 
tibi? — Non dicunt: Quam doctrinam prcedicas? 

Nemo potest facere signa qux tu facis nisi Deus. 

1° Psalms, cxxxix. 24. " Luke, xxii. 67. 


2 Mace. xiv. 15. Deus qui signis evidentibus suam portionem 

Volumus signum videre de ceelo, tentantes eum. Luke, xi. 16. 

Generatio prava signum qucerit; et non dabitur}^ 

Et ingemiscens ait: Quid generatio ista signum queerit? (Mark, 
viii. 12.) They asked a sign with an evil intention. 

Et non poterat jacereP And yet he promises them the sign of 
Jonah, the great and wonderful miracle of his resurrection. 

Nisi videritis signa, non creditis}^ He does not blame them for 
not believing unless there are miracles, but for not believing unless 
they are themselves spectators of them. 

Antichrist in signis mendacibus, says Saint Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 

Secundum operationem Satancs, in seductione iis qui pereunt et 
quod charitatem. veritatis non receperunt ut salvi fierent, idea mittet 
illis Deus operationes erroris ut credant mendacio}^ 

As in the passage of Moses: Tentat enim vos Deus, utrum diligatis 

Ecce prcedixi vobis: vos ergo videte. 


Here is not the country of truth. She wanders unknown amongst 
men. God has covered her with a veil, which leaves her unrecog- 
nised by those who do not hear her voice. Room is opened for blas- 
phemy, even against the truths that are at least very likely. If the 
truths of the Gospel are published the contrary is published too, and 
the questions are obscured, so that the people cannot distinguish. 
And they ask, "What have you to make you beheved rather than 
others? What sign do you give? You have only words, and so have 
we. If you had miracles, good and well." That doctrine ought to be 
supported by miracles is a truth, which they misuse in order to re- 
vile doctrine. And if miracles happen, it is said that miracles are not 
enough without doctrine; and this is another truth, which they mis- 
use in order to revile miracles. 

Jesus Christ cured the man born bUnd, and performed a number 
of miracles on the Sabbath day. In this way He blinded the Phari- 
sees, who said that miracles must be judged by doctrine. 
'^Matthew, xii. 39. '^Mark, vi. 5. i*John, iv. 48. '^ Thessalonians, ii. 9-11. 


"We have Moses: but, as for this fellow, we know not from 
whence he is." It is wonderful that you know not whence He is, 
and yet He does such miracles. 

Jesus Christ spxjke neither against God, nor against Moses. 

Antichrist and the false prophets, foretold by both Testaments, 
will speak openly against God and against Jesus Christ. Who is not 
hidden . . . God would not allow him, who would be a secret 
enemy, to do miracles openly. 

In a public dispute where the two parties profess to be for God, 
for Jesus Christ, for the Church, miracles have never been on the 
side of the false Christians, and the other side has never been with- 
out a miracle. 

"He hath a devil." John, x. 21. And others said, "Can a devil operi 
the eyes of the bUnd?" 

The proofs which Jesus Christ and the apostles draw from Scrip- 
ture are not conclusive; for they say only that Moses foretold that a 
prophet should come. But they do not thereby prove that this is He; 
and that is the whole question. These passages therefore serve only 
to show that they are not contrary to Scripture, and that there appears 
no inconsistency, but not that there is agreement. Now this is enough, 
namely, exclusion of inconsistency, along with miracles. 

There is a mutual duty between God and men. We must pardon 
Him this saying: Quid debui? "Accuse me," said God in Isaiah. 

"God must fulfil His promises," &c. 

Men owe it to God to accept the religion which He sends. God 
owes it to men not to lead them into error. Now, they would be led 
into error, if the workers of miracles announced a doctrine which 
should not appear evidently false to the light of common sense, and 
if a greater worker of miracles had not already warned men not to 
believe them. 

Thus, if there were divisions in the Church, and the Arians, for 
example, who declared themselves founded on Scripture just as the 
Catholics, had done miracles, and not the Catholics, men should have 
been led into error. 

For, as a man, who announces to us the secrets of God, is not wor- 
thy to be believed on his private authority, and that is why the un- 
godly doubt him; so when a man, as a token of the communion 


which he has with God, raises the dead, foretells the future, removes 
the seas, heals the sick, there is none so wicked as not to bow to him, 
and the incredulity of Pharaoh and the Pharisees is the effect of a 
supernatural obduracy. 

When therefore we see miracles and a doctrine not suspicious, 
both on one side, there is no difficulty. But when we see miracles 
and suspicious doctrine on the same side, we must then see which 
is the clearest. Jesus Christ was suspected. 

Barjesus blinded. The power of God surpasses that of His enemies. 

The Jewish exorcists beaten by the devils, saying, "Jesus I know, 
and Paul I know; but who are ye?" 

Miracles are for doctrine, and not doctrine for miracles. 

If the miracles are true, shall we be able to persuade men of all 
doctrine? No; for this will not come to pass. 5/ angelus . . .'^ 

Rule: we must judge of doctrine by miracles; we must judge of 
miracles by doctrine. All this is true, but contains no contradiction. 

For we must distinguish the times. 

How glad you are to know the general rules, thinking thereby to 
set up dissension, and render all useless! We shall prevent you, my 
father; truth is one and constant. 

It is impossible, from the duty of God to men, that a man, hiding 
his evil teaching, and only showing the good, saying that he con- 
forms to God and the Church, should do miracles so as to instil 
insensibly a false and subtle doctrine. This cannot happen. 

And still less, that God, who knows the heart, should perform 
miracles in favour of such an one. 


The three marks of religion: perpetuity, a good life, miracles. 
They destroy perpetuity by their doctrine of probability; a good life 
by their morals; miracles by destroying either their truth or the con- 
clusions to be drawn from them. 

If we believe them, the Church will have nothing to do with per- 
petuity, holiness, and miracles. The heretics deny them, or deny the 
conclusions to be drawn from them; they do the same. But one 
would need to have no sincerity in order to deny them, or again to 

" Galatians, i. 8. 


lose one's senses in order to deny the conclusions to be drawn from 

Nobody has ever suffered martyrdom for the miracles which he 
says he has seen; for the folly of men goes perhaps to the length of 
martyrdom, for those which the Turks believe by tradition, but 
not for those which they have seen. 


The heretics have always attacked these three marks, which they 
have not. 


First objection: "An angel from heaven. We must not judge of 
truth by miracles, but of miracles by truth. Therefore the miracles 
are useless." 

Now they are of use, and they must not be in opposition to the 
truth. Therefore what Father Lingende has said, that "God will not 
permit that a miracle may lead into error . . ." 

When there shall be a controversy in the same Church, miracle 
will decide. 

Second objection: "But Antichrist will do miracles." 

The magicians of Pharaoh did not entice to error. Thus we cannot 
say to Jesus respecting Antichrist, "You have led me into error." 
For Antichrist will do them against Jesus Christ, and so they cannot 
lead into error. Either God will not permit false miracles, or He 
will procure greater. 

[Jesus Christ has existed since the beginning of the world: this is 
more impressive than all the miracles of Antichrist.] 

If in the same Church there should happen a miracle on the side 
of those in error, men would be led into error. Schism is visible; a 
miracle is visible. But schism is more a sign of error than a miracle 
is a sign of truth. Therefore a miracle cannot lead into error. 

But apart from schism, error is not so obvious as a miracle is 
obvious. Therefore a miracle could lead into error. 

Ubi est Deus tuus?" Miracles show Him, and are a light. 

"' Psalms, xlii. 3. 

296 pascal's thoughts 


One of the anthems for Vespers at Christmas: Exortum est in 
tenebris lumen rectis corde}^ 


If the compassion of God is so great that He instructs us to our 
benefit, even when He hides Himself, what Ught ought we not to 
expect from Him when He reveals Himself? 


Will Est et non est" be received in faith itself as well as in mir- 
acles? And if it is inseparable in the others . . . 

When Saint Xavier works miracles. — [Saint Hilary. Ye wretches, 
who oblige us to speak of miracles.] 

Unjust judges, make not your own laws on the moment; judge by 
those which are established, and by yourselves. Va qui conditis 
leges iniquas^ 

Miracles endless, false. 

In order to weaken your adversaries, you disarm the whole Church. 

If they say that our salvation depends upon God, they are "heretics." 
If they say that they are obedient to the Pope, that is "hypocrisy." If 
they are ready to subscribe to all the articles, that is not enough. If 
they say that a man must not be killed for an apple, "they attack 
the morality of Catholics." If miracles are done among them, it is 
not a sign of holiness, and is, on the contrary, a symptom of heresy. 

The way in which the Church has existed is that truth has been 
without dispute, or, if it has been contested, there has been the Pope, 
or, failing him, there has been the Church. 


The five propositions condemned, but no miracle; for the truth was 
not attacked. But the Sorbonne . . . but the bull . . . 
It is impossible that those who love God with all their heart should 
'* Psalms, cxii. 4. ""Is and is not." ^"Isaiah, x. i. 


fail to recognise the Church; so evident is she. — It is impossible that 
those who do not love God should be convinced of the Church. 

Miracles have such influence that it was necessary that God should 
warn men not to believe in them in opposition to Him, all clear as 
it is that there is a God. Without this they would have been able to 
disturb men. 

And thus so far from these passages, Deut. xiii., making against 
tne authority of the miracles, nothing more indicates their influence. 
And the same in respect of Antichrist. "To seduce, if it were possi- 
ble, even the elect." 


The history of the man born blind. 

What says Saint Paul ? Does he continually speak of the evidence 
of the prophecies? No, but of his own miracle. What says Jesus 
Christ? Does He speak of the evidence of the prophecies? No; His 
death had not fulfilled them, But He says. Si non jecissem}^ Believe 
the works. 

Two supernatural foundations of our wholly supernatural religion; 
one visible, the other invisible; miracles with grace, miracles without 

The synagogue, which has been treated with love as a type of the 
Church, and with hatred, because it was only the type, has been re- 
stored, being on the point of falling when it was well with God, 
and thus a type. 

Miracles prove the power which God has over hearts, by that which 
He exercises over bodies. 

The Church has never approved a miracle among heretics. 

Miracles a support of religion: they have been the test of Jews; 
they have been the test of Christians, saints, innocents, and true 

A miracle among schismatics is not so much to be feared; for 
schism, which is more obvious than a miracle, visibly indicates their 
error. But when there is no schism, and error is in question, miracle 
decides. ^^]o'iia, xv. 24. 

298 pascal's thoughts 

Si non jecissem quce alius non jecit^^ The wretches who have 
obliged us to speak of miracles. 

Abraham and Gideon confirm faith by miracles. 

Judith. God speaks at last in their greatest oppression. 

If the cooling of love leaves the Church almost without believers, 
miracles will rouse them. This is one of the last effects of grace. 

If one miracle were wrought among the Jesuits! 

When a miracle disappoints the expectation of those in whose 
presence it happens, and there is a disproportion between the state 
of their faith and the instrument of the miracle, it ought then to 
induce them to change. But with you it is otherwise. There would 
be as much reason in saying that, if the Eucharist raised a dead man, 
it would be necessary for one to turn a Calvinist rather than remain 
a Catholic. But when it crowns the expectation, and those who hoped 
that God would bless the remedies, see themselves healed without 
remedies . . . 

The ungodly. — No sign has ever happened on the part of the devil 
without a stronger sign on the part of God, or even without it having 
been foretold that such would happen. 


Unjust persecutors of those whom God visibly protects. If they 
reproach you with your excesses, "they speak as the heretics." If 
they say that the grace of Jesus Christ distinguishes us, "they are 
heretics." If they do miracles, "it is the mark of their heresy." 

Ezekiel. — They say : These are the people of God who speak thus. 

It is said, "Believe in the Church;" but it is not said, "Believe in 
miracles;" because the last is natural, and not the first. The one had 
need of a precept, not the other. Hezekiah. 

The synagogue was only a type, and thus it did not perish; and it 
was only a type, and so it is decayed. It was a type which contained 
the truth, and thus it has lasted until it no longer contained the 

My reverend father, all this happened in types. Other religions per- 
ish; this one perishes not. 

2' John, XV. 24. 


Miracles are more important than you think. They have served 
for the foundation, and will serve for the continuation of the Church 
till Antichrist, till the end. 

The two witnesses. 

In the Old Testament and the New, miracles are performed in 
connection with types. Salvation, or an useless thing, if not to show 
that we must submit to the Scriptures: type of the sacrament. 


[We must judge soberly of divine ordinances, my father. Saint 
Paul in the isle of Malta.] 


The hardness of the Jesuits then surpasses that of the Jews, since 
those refused to believe Jesus Christ innocent only because they 
doubted if His miracles were of God. Whereas the Jesuits, though 
unable to doubt that the miracles of Port Royal are of God, do not 
cease to doubt still the innocence of that house. 


I suppose that men believe miracles. You corrupt religion either 
in favour of your friends, or against your enemies. You arrange 
it at your will. 


On the miracle. — As God has made no family more happy, let it 
also be the case that He find none more thankful. 

Appendix: Polemical Fragments 


^^LEARNESS, obscurity. — There would be too great dark- 
m ness if truth had not visible signs. This is a wonderful one, 

\.^ that it has always been preserved in one Church and one 
visible assembly [of men]. There would be too great clearness, if 
there were only one opinion in this Church. But in order to recognise 
what is true, one has only to look at what has always existed; for it is 
certain that truth has always existed, and that nothing false has 
always existed. 


The history of the Church ought properly to be called the history 
of truth. 


There is a pleasure in being in a ship beaten about by a storm, 
when we are sure that it will not founder. The persecutions which 
harass the Church are of this nature. 


In addition to so many other signs of piety, they are also perse- 
cuted, which is the best sign of piety. 

The Church is an excellent state, when it is sustained by God only. 


The Church has always been attacked by opposite errors, but per- 
haps never at the same time, as now. And if she suffer more because 



of the multiplicity of errors, she derives this advantage from it, that 
they destroy each other. 

She complains of both, but far more of the Calvinists, because of 
the schism. 

It is certain that many of the two opposite sects are deceived. They 
must be disillusioned. 

Faith embraces many truths w^hich seem to contradict each other. 
There is a time to laugh, and a time to weep, &c. Responde. Ne 
respondeas, &c.' 

The source of this is the union of the two natures in Jesus Christ; 
and also the two worlds (the creation of a new heaven and a new 
earth; a new life and a new death; all things double, and the same 
names remaining) ; and finally the two natures that are in the right- 
eous, (for they are the two worlds, and a member and image of Jesus 
Christ. And thus all the names suit them: righteous, yet sinners; 
dead, yet living; living, yet dead; elect, yet outcast, &c.). 

There are then a great number of truths, both of faith and of 
morality, which seem contradictory, and which all hold good together 
in a wonderful system. The source of all heresies is the exclusion 
of some of these truths; and the source of all the objections which the 
heretics make against us is the ignorance of some of our truths. And 
it generally happens that, unable to conceive the connection of two 
opposite truths, and believing that the admission of one involves the 
exclusion of the other, they adhere to the one, exclude the other, and 
think of us as opposed to them. Now exclusion is the cause of their 
heresy; and ignorance that we hold the other truth causes their 

1st example: Jesus Christ is God and man. The Arians, unable to 
reconcile these things, which they believe incompatible, say that He is 
man; in this they are Catholics. But they deny that He is God; in 
this they are heretics. They allege that we deny His humanity; in 
this they are ignorant. 

2nd example: On the subject of the Holy Sacrament. We believe 

that, the substance of the bread being changed, and being consub- 

stantial with that of the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ is therein 

really present. That is one truth. Another is that this Sacrament is 

' Proverbs, xxvi. 4, 5. 

302 pascal's thoughts 

also a type o£ the cross and of glory, and a commemoration of the 
two. That is the Catholic faith, which comprehends these two truths 
which seem opposed. 

The heresy of to-day, not conceiving that this Sacrament contains 
at the same time both the presence of Jesus Christ and a type of 
Him, and that it is a sacrifice and a commemoration of a sacrifice, 
beheves that neither of these truths can be admitted without exclud- 
ing the other for this reason. 

They fasten to this point alone, that this Sacrament is typical; and 
in this they are not heretics. They think that we exclude this truth; 
hence it comes that they raise so many objections to us out of the 
passages of the Fathers which assert it. Finally, they deny the pres- 
ence; and in this they are heretics. 

3rd example: Indulgences. 

The shortest way, therefore, to prevent heresies is to instruct in all 
truths; and the surest way to refute them is to declare them all. For 
what will the heretics say? 

In order to know whether an opinion is a Father's . . . 


All err the more dangerously, as they each follow a truth. Their 
fault is not in following a falsehood, but in not following another 


Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, 
that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it. 


If there is ever a time in which we must make profession o£ two 
opposite truths, it is when we are reproached for omitting one. 
Therefore the Jesuits and Jansenists are wrong in concealing them, 
but the Jansenists more so, for the Jesuits have better made pro- 
fession of the two. 



Two kinds o£ people make things equal to one another, as feasts to 
working days, Christians to priests, all things among them, &c. And 
hence the one party conclude that what is then bad for priests is also 
so for Christians, and the other that what is not bad for Christians 
is lawful for priests. 


If the ancient Church was in error, the Church is fallen. If she 
should be in error today, it is not the same thing; for she has always 
the superior maxim of tradition from the hand of the ancient Church; 
and so this submission and this conformity to the ancient Church pre- 
vail and correct all. But the ancient Church did not assume the fu- 
ture Church, and did not consider her, as we assume and consider the 


That which hinders us in comparing what formerly occurred in 
the Church with what we see there now, is that we generally look 
upon Saint Athanasius, Saint Theresa, and the rest, as crowned with 
glory, and acting towards us as gods. Now that time has cleared up 
things, it does so appear. But at the time when he was persecuted, 
this great saint was a man called Athanasius; and Saint Theresa 
was a nun. "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are," says 
Saint James, to disabuse Christians of that false idea which makes 
us reject the example of the saints, as disproportioned to our state. 
"They were saints," say we, "they are not like us." What then ac- 
tually happened? Saint Athanasius was a man called Athanasius, 
accused of many crimes, condemned by such and such a council for 
such and such a crime. All the bishops assented to it, and finally 
the Pope. What said they to those who opposed this? That they dis- 
turbed the peace, that they created schism, &c. 

Zeal, light. Four kinds of persons: zeal without knowledge; 
knowledge without zeal; neither knowledge nor zeal; both zeal and 


knowledge. The first three condemned him. The last acquitted him, 
were excommunicated by the Church, and yet saved the Church. 


If Saint Augustine came at the present time, and was as little 
authorised as his defenders, he would accomplish nothing. God 
directs his Church well, by having sent him before with authority. 


God has not wanted to absolve without the Church. As she has 
part in the oflEence, He desires her to have part in the pardon. He 
associates her with this power, as kings their parliaments. But if 
she absolves or binds without God, she is no longer the Church. For, 
as in the case of parliament, even if the king have pardoned a man, 
it must be ratified; but if parliament ratifies without the king, or 
refuses to ratify on the order of the king, it is no longer the parlia- 
ment of the king, but a rebellious assembly. 


The Church, the Pope. Unity, plurality. — Considering the Church 
as a unity, the Pope, who is its head, is as the whole. Considering it 
as a plurality, the Pope is only a part of it. The Fathers have con- 
sidered the Church now in the one way, now in the other. And thus 
they have spoken differently of the Pope. (Saint Cyprian: Sacerdos 
Dei.) But in establishing one of these truths, they have not excluded 
the other. Plurahty which is not reduced to unity is confusion; 
unity which does not depend on plurality is tyranny. There is scarcely 
any other country than France in which it is permissible to say that 
the Council is above the Pope. 


The Pope is head. Who else is known of all } Who else is recog- 
nised by all, having power to insinuate himself into all the body, 
because he holds the principal shoot, which insinuates itself every- 
where? How easy it was to make this degenerate into tyranny! 


That IS why Christ has laid down for them this precept: Vos autem 
non sic^ 


The Pope hates and fears the learned, who do not submit to him at 


We must not judge of what the Pope is by some words of the 
Fathers — as the Greeks said in a council, important rules — but by 
the acts of the Church and the Fathers, and by the canons. 

Duo aut tres in unum? Unity and plurality. It is an error to 
exclude one of the two, as the papists do who exclude plurality, or 
the Huguenots who exclude unity. 


Would the Pope be dishonoured by having his knowledge from 
God and tradition; and is it not dishonouring him to separate him 
from this holy union ? 


God does not perform miracles in the ordinary conduct of His 
Church. It would be a strange miracle if infallibility existed in one 
man. But it appears so natural for it to reside in a multitude, since 
the conduct of God is hidden under nature, as in all His other works. 


Kings dispose of their own power; but the Popes cannot dispose of 


Summum jus, summa injuria* 

The majority is the best way, because it is visible, and has strength 
to make itself obeyed. Yet it is the opinion of the least able. 

2 Luke, xxii. 26. 'John, x. 30; i John, v. 8. 
* "The greatest law, the greatest injury." 

3o6 pascal's thoughts 

If men could have done it, they would have placed might in the 
hands of justice. But as might does not allow itself to be managed as 
men want, because it is a palpable quality, whereas j ustice is a spirit- 
ual quality of which men dispose as they please, they have placed jus- 
tice in the hands of might. And thus that is called just which men 
are forced to obey. 

Hence comes the right of the sword, for the sword gives a true 
right. Otherwise we should see violence on one side and justice on 
the other. End of the twelfth Provincial. Hence comes the injustice 
of the Fronde, which raises its alleged justice against power. It is 
not the same in the Church, for there is a true justice and no violence. 


Injustice. — Jurisdiction is not given for the sake of the judge, but 
for that of the litigant. It is dangerous to tell this to the people. But 
the people have too much faith in you; it will not harm them, and 
may serve you. It should therefore be made known. Pasce oveas meas, 
non tuas!" You owe me pasturage. 


Men like certainty. They like the Pope to be infallible in faith, 
and grave doctors to be infallible in morals, so as to have certainty. 


The Church teaches, and God inspires, both infallibly. The work 
of the Church is of use only as a preparation for grace or condemna- 
tion. What it does is enough for condemnation, not for inspiration. 


Every time the Jesuits may impose upon the Pope, they will make 
all Christendom perjured. 

The Pope is very easily imposed upon, because of his occupations, 
and the confidence which he has in the Jesuits; and the Jesuits are 
very capable of imposing upon him by means of calumny. 

''John, xxi. 17. 


The wretches who have obliged me to speak of the basis of religion. 


Sinners purified without penitence; the righteous justified without 
love; all Christians without the grace of Jesus Christ; God without 
power over the will of men; a predestination without mystery; a 
redemption without certitude! 


Any one is made a priest, who wants to be so, as under Jeroboam. 

It is a horrible thing that they propound to us the discipline of 
the Church of to-day as so good, that it is made a crime to desire to 
change it. Formerly it was infallibly good, and it was thought that 
it could be changed without sin; and now, such as it is, we cannot 
wish it changed! It has indeed been permitted to change the custom 
of not making priests without such great circumspection, that there 
were hardly any who were worthy; and it is not allowed to complain 
of the custom which makes so many who are unworthy! 


Heretics. — Ezekiel. All the heathen, and also the Prophet, spoke 
evil of Israel. But the Israelites were so far from having the right to 
say to him, "You speak like the heathen," that he is most forcible 
upon this, that the heathens say the same as he. 


The Jansenists are like the heretics in the reformation of moral- 
ity; but you are like them in evil. 

You are ignorant of the prophecies, if you do not know that all 
this must happen; princes, prophets. Pope, and even the priests. And 

3o8 pascal's thoughts 

yet the Church is to abide. By the grace of God we have not come to 
that. Woe to these priests! But we hope that God will bestow His 
mercy upon us that we shall not be of them. 
Saint Peter, ii.: false prophets in the past, the image of future ones. 


... So that if it is true, on the one hand, that some lax monks, 
and some corrupt casuists, who are not members of the hierarchy, are 
steeped in these corruptions, it is, on the other hand, certain that 
the true pastors of the Church, who are the true guardians of the 
Divine Word, have preserved it unchangeably against the efforts 
of those who have attempted to destroy it. 

And thus true believers have no pretext to follow that laxity, which 
is only offered to them by the strange hands of these casuists, instead 
of the sound doctrine which is presented to them by the fatherly 
hands of their own pastors. And the ungodly and heretics have no 
ground for publishing these abuses as evidence of imperfection 
in the providence of God over His Church; since, the Church con- 
sisting properly in the body of the hierarchy, we are so far from being 
able to conclude from the present state of matters that God has 
abandoned her to corruption, that it has never been more apparent 
than at the present time that God visibly protects her from corrup- 

For if some of these men, who, by an extraordinary vocation, have 
made profession of withdrawing from the world and adopting the 
monks' dress, in order to live in a more perfect state than ordinary 
Christians, have fallen into excesses which horrify ordinary Chris- 
tians, and have become to us what the false prophets were among the 
Jews; this is a private and personal misfortune, which must indeed be 
deplored, but from which nothing can be inferred against the care 
which God takes of His Church; since all these things are so clearly 
foretold, and it has been so long since announced that these tempta- 
tions would arise from this kind of people; so that when we are well 
instructed, we see in this rather evidence of the care of God than of 
His forgetfulness in regard to us. 



Tertullian: Nunquam Ecclesia reformabitur^ 


Heretics, who take advantage of the doctrine of the Jesuits, must be 
made to know that it is not that of the Church . . . the doctrine of 
the Church; and that our divisions do not separate us from the altar. 


If in differing we condemned, you would be right. Uniformity 
without diversity is useless to others; diversity without uniformity 
is ruinous for us. The one is harmful outwardly; the other inwardly. 


By showing the truth, we cause it to be believed; but by showing 
the injustice of ministers, we do not correct it. Our mind is assured 
by a proof of falsehood; our purse is not made secure by proof of 


Those who love the Church lament to see the corruption of morals; 
but laws at least exist. But these corrupt the laws. The model is 


Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do 
it from religious conviction. 


It is in vain that the Church has established these words, anathe- 
mas, heresies, &c. They are used against her. 

^ "The church will never be reformed." 



The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, for the master tells 
him only the act and not the intention. And this is why he often 
obeys slavishly, and defeats the intention. But Jesus Christ has told 
us the object. And you defeat that object. 


They cannot have perpetuity, and they seek universality, and there- 
fore they make the whole Church corrupt, that they may be saints. 


Against those who misuse passages of Scripture, and who pride 
themselves in finding one which seems to favour their error. — The 
chapter for Vespers, Passion Sunday, the prayer for the king. 

Explanation of these words: "He that is not with me is against 
me." And of these others: "He that is not against you is for you." 
A person who says: "I am neither for nor against;" we ought 
to reply to him . . . 


He who will give the meaning of Scripture, and does not take it 
from Scripture, is an enemy of Scripture. (Augustine: De doctrina 


Humilibus dat gratiam; an idea non dedit humilitatem?'' 
Sui eum non receperunt; quotquot autem non receperunt an non 
erant sui?^ 


"It must indeed be," says Feuillant, "that this is not so certain; 
for controversy indicates uncertainty, (Saint Athanasius, Saint Chry- 
sostom, morals, unbelievers)." 

'James, iv. 6. *John, i. 11, 12. 


The Jesuits have not made the truth uncertain, but they have made 
their own ungodliness certain. 

Contradiction has always been permitted, in order to blind the 
wicked; for all that offends truth or love is evil. This is the true 


All religions and sects in the world have had natural reason for a 
guide. Christians alone have been constrained to take their rules from 
without themselves, and to acquaint themselves with those which 
Jesus Christ bequeathed to men of old to be handed down to true 
believers. This constraint wearies these good Fathers. They desire, 
like other people, to have liberty to follow their own imaginations. 
It is in vain that we cry to them, as the prophets said to the Jews 
of old: "Enter into the Church; acquaint yourselves with the pre- 
cepts which the men of old left to her, and follow those paths." They 
have answered like the Jews: "We will not walk in them; but we will 
follow the thoughts of our hearts;" and they have said, "We will be 
as the other nations." 


They make a rule of exception. 

Have the men of old given absolution before penance? Do this 
as exceptional. But of the exception you make a rule without excep- 
tion, so that you do not even want the rule to be exceptional. 


On confessions and absolutions without signs of regret. 

God regards only the inward; the Church judges only by the out- 
ward. God absolves as soon as He sees penitence in the heart; the 
Church when she sees it in works. God will make a Church pure 
within, which confounds, by its inward and entirely spiritual holi- 
ness, the inward impiety of proud sages and Pharisees; and the 
Church will make an assembly of men whose external manners are 
so pure as to confound the manners of the heathen. If there are 


hypocrites among them, but so well disguised that she does not dis- 
cover their venom, she tolerates them; for, though they are not ac- 
cepted of God, whom they cannot deceive, they are of men, whom 
they do deceive. And thus she is not dishonoured by their conduct, 
which appears holy. But you want the Church to judge neither of 
the inward, because that belongs to God alone, nor of the outward, 
because God dwells only upon the inward; and thus, taking away 
from her all choice of men, you retain in the Church the most disso- 
lute, and those who dishonour her so greatly, that the synagogues 
of the Jews and sects of philosophers would have banished them as 
unworthy; and have abhorred them as impious. 


The easiest conditions to live in according to the world are the most 
difficult to live in according to God, and vice versd. Nothing is so 
difficult according to the world as the religious life; nothing is 
easier than to live it according to God. Nothing is easier, according 
to the world, than to live in high office and great wealth; nothing is 
more difficult than to live in them according to God, and without 
acquiring an interest in them and a liking for them. 


The casuists submit the decision to the corrupt reason, and the 
choice of decisions to the corrupt will, in order that all that is cor- 
rupt in the nature of man may contribute to his conduct. 


But is it probable that probability gives assurance ? 
Difference between rest and security of conscience. Nothing gives 
certainly but truth; nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth. 


The whole society itself of their casuists cannot give assurance to 
a conscience in error, and that is why it is important to choose good 


Thus they will be doubly culpable, both in having followed ways 
which they should not have followed, and in having listened to teach- 
ers to whom they should not have listened. 


Can it be anything but compliance with the world which makes 
you find things probable? Will you make us believe that it is truth, 
and that if duelling were not the fashion, you would find it probable 
that they might fight, considering the matter in itself? 


Must we kill to prevent there being any wicked ? This is to make 
both parties wicked instead of one. Vince in bono malum? (Saint 

Universal.— Exh\c& and language are special, but universal sciences. 

Probability. — Each one can employ it; no one can take it away. 


They allow lust to act, and check scruples; whereas they should do 
the contrary. 


Montalte. — Lax opinions please men so much, that it is strange that 
theirs displease. It is because they have exceeded all bounds. Again, 
there are many people who see the truth, and who cannot attain to it; 
but there are few who do not know that the purity of religion is 
opposed to our corruptions. It is absurd to say that an eternal recom- 
pense is offered to the morality of Escobar. 

'Romans, xii. 21. 



Probability. — They have some true principles; but they misuse 
them. Now, the abuse of truth ought to be as much punished as the 
introduction of falsehood. 

As if there were two hells, one for sins against love, the other 
for those against justice! 


Probability. — The earnestness of the saints in seeking the truth 
was useless, if the probable is trustworthy. The fear of the saints who 
have always followed the surest way, (Saint Theresa having always 
followed her confessor). 


Take away probability, and you can no longer please the world; 
give probability , and you can no longer displease it. 


These are the effects of the sins of the peoples and of the Jesuits. 
The great have wished to be flattered. The Jesuits have wished to be 
loved by the great. They have all been worthy to be abandoned to 
the spirit of lying, the one party to deceive, the others to be deceived. 
They have been avaricious, ambitious, voluptuous. Coacervabunt 
tibi magistres.^" Worthy disciples of such masters, they have 
sought flatterers, and have found them. 


If they do not renounce their doctrine of probability, their good 
maxims are as little holy as the bad, for they are founded on human 
authority; and thus, if they are more just, they will be more reason- 
able, but not more holy. They take after the wild stem on which they 
are grafted. 

'" i Timothy, iv. 3. 


If what I say does not serve to enlighten you, it will be of use to 
the people. 

If these are silent, the stones will speak. 

Silence is the greatest persecution; the saints were never silent. It 
is true that a call is necessary; but it is not from the decrees of the 
Council that we must learn whether we are called, it is from the 
necessity of speaking. Now, after Rome has spoken, and we think 
that she has condemned the truth, and that they have written it, and 
after the books which have said the contrary are censured; we must 
cry out so much the louder, the more unjustly we are censured, and 
the more violently they would stifle speech, until there come a 
Pope who hears both parties, and who consults antiquity to do 
justice. So the good Popes will find the Church still in outcry. 

The Inquisition and the Society are the two scourges of the truth. 

Why do you not accuse them of Arianism ? For, though they have 
said that Jesus Christ is God, perhaps they mean by it not the natural 
interpretation, but as it is said, Dii estis}^ 

If my Letters are condemned at Rome, that which I condemn in 
them is condemned in heaven. Ad tuum, Domine Jesu, tribunal 

You yourselves are corruptible. 

I feared that I had written ill, seeing myself condemned; but the 
example of so many pious writings makes me believe the contrary. 
It is no longer allowable to write well, so corrupt or ignorant is the 

"It is better to obey God than men." 

I fear nothing; I hope for nothing. It is not so with the bishops. 
Port Royal fears, and it is bad policy to disperse them; for they will 
fear no longer and will cause greater fear. I do not even fear your like 
censures, if they are not founded on those of tradition. Do you cen- 
sure all? What! even my respect? No. Say then what, or you will 
do nothing, if you do not point out the evil, and why it is evil. And 
this is what they will have great difficulty in doing. 

Probability. — They have given a ridiculous explanation of certi- 
tude; for, after having established that all their ways are sure, they 
have no longer called that sure which leads to heaven without danger 

" "Ye are Gods." '^ "To thy judgment-seat. Lord Jesus, I appeal." 

3i6 pascal's thoughts 

of not arriving there by it, but that which leads there without danger 
of going out of that road. 


. . . The saints indulge in subtleties in order to think themselves 
criminals, and impeach their better actions. And these indulge in 
subtleties in order to excuse the most wicked. 

The heathen sages erected a structure equally fine outside, but upon 
a bad foundation; and the devil deceives men by this apparent 
resemblance based upon the most different foundation. 

Man never had so good a cause as I; and others have never fur- 
nished so good a capture as you . . . 

The more they point out weakness in my person, the more they 
authorise my cause. 

You say that I am a heretic. Is that lawful? And if you do not 
fear that men do justice, do you not fear that God does justice? 

You will feel the force of the truth, and you will yield to it . . . 

There is something supernatural in such a blindness. Digna neces- 
sitas}^ Mentiris impudentissime^* . . . 

Doctrina sua noscitur vir^^ . . . 

False piety, a double sin. 

I am alone against thirty thousand. No. Protect, you, the court; 
protect, you, deception; let me protect the truth. It is all my strength. 
If I lose it, I am undone. I shall not lack accusations, and persecu- 
tions. But I possess the truth, and we shall see who will take it away. 

I do not need to defend religion, but you do not need to defend 
error and injustice. Let God, out of His compassion, having no 
regard to the evil which is in me, and having regard to the good 
which is in you, grant us all grace that truth may not be overcome in 
my hands, and that falsehood . . . 


Probable. — Let us see if we seek God sincerely, by comparison of 
the things which we love. It is probable that this food will not 

'' "Their desert by necessity was drawing nigh." — Wisdom, xix. 4. " "You lie 
most impudently." '^ "A man is known by his doctrine." 


poison me. It is probable that I shall not lose my action by not prose- 
cuting it . . . 


It is not absolution only which remits sins by the sacrament o£ 
penance, but contrition, which is not real if it does not seek the sac- 


People who do not keep their word, without faith, without honour, 
without truth, deceitful in heart, deceitful in speech; for which that 
amphibious animal in fable was once reproached, which held itself 
in a doubtful position between the fish and the birds . . . 

It is important to kings and princes to be considered pious; and 
therefore they must confess themselves to you. 





Letter from Pascal to His Sister Jacqueline 

January 26, 1648, 
My Dear Sister, 

Wi have received your letters. I intended to reply to the first 
that you wrote me more than four months since, but my 
indisposition and some other things prevented me. Since 
then I have not been in a condition to write, either on account o£ 
my illness, for want of leisure, or for some other reason. I have few 
hours of leisure and health together; I shall however endeavor to 
finish this letter without forcing myself; I know not whether it will 
be long or short. My principal design is to make you understand 
the truth of the visit which you know of, in which I hoped to have 
wherewith to satisfy you and to reply to your last letters. I can com- 
mence with nothing else than the expression of the pleasure which 
they have given me; I have received satisfactions so sensible from 
them that I cannot tell them to you by word of mouth. I entreat you 
to believe that, though I may not have written to you, there has 
not been an hour in which you have not been present to me, in which 
I have not made wishes for the continuation of the great designs with 
which Heaven has inspired you.' I have felt new transports of joy 
at all the letters which bore testimony of it, and I have been de- 
lighted to see the continuance of it without your receiving any 
news on our part. This has made me judge that there was a more 
than human support, since there was no need of human means to 
sustain it. I should be glad nevertheless to contribute something to 
it; but I have none of the capacities necessary for that purpose. 
My weakness is so great that, if I should undertake it, I should do 
an act of temerity rather than of charity, and I should have a right 
to fear for us both the calamity that menaces the blind led by the 
* An allusion to the design of Jacqueline to become a nun. 


blind. I have felt my incapacity incomparably more since the visits 
which are in question; and far from having brought back enough 
of light for others, I have brought nothing but confusion and trouble 
for myself, which God alone can calm, and in which I shall work 
with care, but without impatience and disquietude, knowing well 
that both would remove me from it. I repeat that God alone can calm 
it, and that I shall work for this, since I find nothing but occasions 
for making it spring up and increase in those from whom I had ex- 
pected its dissipation; so that, seeing myself reduced to myself alone, 
it remains to me only to pray to God that he may bless it with 
success. For this I shall have need of the aid of scholars and disin- 
terested persons: the first will not afford it; I seek no longer but 
for the latter; and hence I desire infinitely to see you, for letters are 
long, inconvenient, and almost useless on such occasions. Never- 
theless I will write you something of it. 

The first time I saw M. Rebours,^ I made myself known to him and 
was received with as much civility as I could wish. This was due to 
my father, since I received it on his account. After the first com- 
pliments, I asked permission to see him again from time to time; 
he granted it to me : thus I was at liberty to see him, so that I do not 
account this first sight as a visit, since it was only the permission for 
such. I was there for some time, and among other conversation, 
I told him with my usual frankness and naivete, that we had seen 
their books and those of their adversaries, which was sufficient to 
make him understand that we were of their sentiments. He ex- 
pressed some pleasure at this. I then told him that I thought that 
many things could be demonstrated upon the mere principles of 
common-sense that their adversaries said were contrary to it, and 
that well-directed reasoning led to a belief in them, although it was 
necessary to believe in them without the aid of reasoning. These 
were my own words, in which I think there was not wherewith to 
wound the most severe modesty. But as you know that all actions 
may have two sources, and that such language might proceed from 
a principle of vanity and of confidence in reasoning, this suspicion, 
which was increased by the knowledge that he had of my studies 
in geometry, sufficed to make him find this language strange, and 

^ One of the confessors of Port-Royal. 


he expressed it to me by a repartee so full of humility and gentle- 
ness that it would doubtless have confounded the pride that he 
wished to refute. Still I endeavored to make him understand my 
motive; but my justification increased his suspicions and he took 
my excuses for obstinacy. I acknowledge that his discourse was so 
beautiful that if I had been in the state in which he believed me, he 
would have drawn me from it; but as I did not think myself in this 
disease, I opposed the remedy which he presented me; but he insisted 
on it the more, the more I seemed to evade it, because he took my re- 
fusal for obstinacy; and the more he strove to continue, the more my 
thanks testified to him that I did not consider it necessary; so that 
the whole of this interview passed in this equivocation and in an 
embarrassment which continued in all the rest, and which could not 
be unravelled, I shall not relate the others word for word, since it 
would not be necessary to my purpose; I shall only tell you in sub- 
stance the purport of what was said on them, or rather, the principle 
of their restraint. 

But I entreat you before all things to draw no conclusions from 
what I write, for things may escape me without sufficient precision; 
and this may cause some suspicion to spring up in you as disadvan- 
tageous as unjust. For indeed, after having reflected on it carefully, 
I find in it only an obscurity which it would be difficult and danger- 
ous to decide, and for myself, I suspend my judgment entirely, as 
much from my weakness as from my want of knowledge. 

Letter from Pascal and His Sister Jacqueline to their 
Sister, Madame Perier 

April I, 1648. 
We do not know whether this letter will be interminable, like the 
rest, but we know that we would gladly write to you without end. 
We have here the letter of M. de Saint-Cyran, de la Vocation, lately 
published without approbation or privilege, which has shocked many. 
We are reading it; we will send it afterwards to you. We should be 
glad to know your opinion of it, and that of my father. It takes 
high ground. 


We have several times begun to write to you, but I have been de- 
terred from it by the example and the speeches, or, if you like, the 
rebuffs of which you know; but, since we have been enlightened 
upon the matter as much as possible, I believe that it is necessary to 
use some circumspection in it, and if there are occasions in which 
we ought not to speak of these things, we may now dispense with 
them; for we do not doubt each other, and as we are, as it were, 
mutually assured that we have, in all these discourses, nothing but 
the glory of God for our object, and scarcely any communication 
outside of ourselves, I do not see that we should have any scruple, 
so long as he shall give us these sentiments. If we add to these con- 
siderations that of the union which nature has made between us, 
and to this last that which grace has made, I think that, far from 
finding a prohibition, we shall find an obligation to it; for I find that 
our happiness has been so great in being united in the latter way that 
we ought to unite to acknowledge and to rejoice at it. For it must 
be confessed that it is properly since this time (which M. de Saint- 
Cyran wishes should be called the commencement of life), that we 
should consider ourselves as truly related, and that it has pleased God 
to join us in his new world by the spirit, as he had done in the terres- 
trial world by the flesh. 

We beg you that there may not be a day in which you do not 
revolve this in memory, and often acknowledge the way which God 
has used in this conjunction, in which he has not only made us 
brothers of each other, but children of the same father; for you 
know that my father has foreseen us all, and, as it were, conceived 
us in this design. It is in this that we should marvel, that God has 
given us both the type and the reality of this union; for, as we 
have often said among ourselves, corporeal things are nothing but 
an image of spiritual, and God has represented invisible things in 
the visible. This thought is so general and so useful that we ought 
not to let much time pass without thinking of it with attention. We 
have discoursed particularly enough of the relation of these two 
sorts of things, for which reason we shall not speak of it here; for 
it is too long to write, and too beautiful not to have remained in 
your memory, and, what is more, is absolutely necessary according 
to my opinion. For, as our sins hold us wrapped in things corporeal 


and terrestrial, and as these are not only the penalty of our sins, but 
also the occasion of committing new ones, and the cause of the first, 
it is necessary that we should make use of the same position into 
which we have fallen to raise us from our overthrow. For this 
reason, we should use carefully the advantage which the goodness 
of God bestows upon us in having always before our eyes an 
image of the good that we have lost, and in surrounding us 
in the very captivity to which his justice has reduced us, with so many 
objects that serve to us as an ever-present lesson. 

So that we should consider ourselves as criminals in a prison filled 
with images of their liberator, and instructions necessary to escape 
from their bondage; but it must be acknowledged that we cannot 
perceive these sacred characters without a supernatural light; for as 
all things speak of God to those who know him, and as they reveal 
him to all those who love him, these same things conceal him from 
all those who know him not. Thus it is seen, that in the darkness of 
the world men follow them in a brutal blindness, and cling to them, 
and make of them the final end of their desires, which they cannot 
do without sacrilege, for there is nothing but God that should be the 
final end, as he alone is the principle. For whatever resemblance 
created nature may have to its Creator, and although the most trifling 
things, and the smallest and the vilest portions of the world rep- 
resent at least by their unity the perfect unity that is found only in 
God, we cannot legitimately bear to them sovereign respect, since 
there is nothing so abominable in the eyes of God and man as 
idolatry, because it renders to the creature the honor that is due to 
none but the Creator. The Scripture is full of the vengeance that 
God executes on all those who have been guilty of it, and the first 
commandment of the Decalogue, which includes all the rest, prohibits 
above everything the adoration of his images. But as he is much 
more jealous of our affections than our respect, it is evident that there 
is no crime more injurious or more detestable to him than to bestow 
sovereign love upon created things, although they represent him. 

This is why those to whom God has made known these great 
truths ought to use these images to enjoy that which they represent, 
and not remain eternally in that carnal and Judaical blindness which 
causes the type to be taken for the reality. And those whom God, 


by regeneration, has drawn freely from sin (which is the veritable 
nothingness, since it is opposed to God, who is the veritable being) 
to give them a place in his Church, which is his real temple, after 
having drawn them freely from nothingness to the point of their 
creation, in order to give them a place in the universe, have a 
double obligation to honor him and serve him; since as created 
beings they should remain in the order of created beings, and not 
profane the place that they fill, and as Christians they should aspire 
without ceasing to render themselves worthy to form part of the 
body of Jesus Christ. But as whilst the created things that compose 
the world acquit themselves of their obligation by remaining within 
a limited perfection, because the perfection of the world is also limit- 
ed, the children of God should set no bounds to their purity and their 
perfection, because they form part of a body wholly divine, and infi- 
nitely perfect; as it is evident that Jesus Christ does not limit the 
commandment of perfection, and that he proposes it to us as a model 
wherein it exists infinite when he says: "Be ye also perfect as your 
Father in heaven is perfect." Thus it is a very prejudicial and very 
common error among Christians, and even among those who make a 
profession of piety, to persuade themselves that there may be a degree 
of perfection in which they can be with assurance, and which it is not 
necessary to pass, since there is none at which it will not be wrong to 
stop, and from which we can only avoid falling by mounting still 


Letter from Pascal and His Sister Jacqueline to their 
Sister, Madame Perier 

Paris, November 5, afternoon, 1648. 
My Dear Sister, 

Your letter has recalled to us a misunderstanding of which we had 
lost recollection, so absolutely had it passed from us. The somewhat 
too diffuse explanations that we have received have brought to 
light the general and former subject of our complaints, and the 
satisfaction that we have given has softened the harshness which 
my father had conceived for them. We said what you had already 


said, without knowing that you had said it, and then we excused 
verbally what you had afterwards excused in writing, without 
knowing that you had done so; and we knew not what you had 
done until after we had acted ourselves; for as we have hidden noth- 
ing from my father, he has revealed every thing, and thus cured all 
our suspicions. You know how much such troubles disturb the 
peace of the family both within and without, and what need we have 
in these junctures of the warnings which you have given us a little 
too late. 

We have some to give you on the subject of your own. The first 
is in respect to what you say, that we have instructed you as to what 
you should write to us. I do not remember to have spoken to you 
of it, so that this was a novelty to me; and, besides, even though this 
were true, I should fear that you had not retained this humanly, 
if you had not forgotten the person of whom you learned it to remem- 
ber only God, who alone could have truly instructed you in it. If 
you remember it as a good thing, you cannot think to hold it from 
any other, since neither you nor the others can learn it except from 
God alone. For, although in this kind of gratitude, we do not stop 
at the men whom we address as though they were the authors of the 
good that we receive through their means, this nevertheless forms a 
partial opposition to the views of God, and chiefly in the persons who 
are not entirely divested of the carnal impressions which make them 
consider as the source of good the objects that transmit it. 

Not that we ought not to remember those persons from whom we 
have received any instructions, when these persons have been author- 
ized to make them, as fathers, bishops, and confessors, because they 
are the masters of whom others are the disciples. But as to us, it is 
different; for as the angel refused the adoration of a holy servant 
like himself, we tell you, in entreating you no longer to use these 
terms of human gratitude, to refrain from paying us such compli- 
ments, since we are disciples like yourself. 

The second is in respect to what you say of its being unnecessary 
to repeat these things to us, since we know them perfectly already; 
which causes us to fear that you do not distinguish clearly enough 
here between the things of which you speak and those of which the 
world speaks, since it is doubtless quite enough to have learned the 


latter once and retained them well to be no further instructed in 
them, while it does not suffice to have comprehended once those of 
the other kind and to have known them well, that is, by the internal 
impulse of God, to preserve the knowledge of them in the same de- 
gree, although we may retain the memory. Not that we may not re- 
member and as easily retain an epistle of St. Paul as a book of Virgil; 
but the knowledge that we acquire in this manner, as well as its 
continuation, is only an effect of memory, while to understand this 
secret language, unknown to those who are not of Heaven, it is 
necessary that the same grace, which alone can give the first knowl- 
edge of it, shall continue and render it ever present by retracing it 
without ceasing in the hearts of the faithful to keep it constantly 
existing there; as God continually renews their beatitude in the 
blessed, which is an effect and a consequence of grace; as likewise 
the Church holds that the Father perpetually produces the Son and 
maintains the eternity of this essence by an effusion of his substance, 
which is without interruption as well as without end. 

Thus the continuation of the justice of the faithful is nothing else 
than the continuation of the infusion of grace, and not a single grace 
that subsists continually; and this it is that teaches us perfectly our 
perpetual dependence on the mercy of God, since if he suspends the 
course of it ever so slightly, barrenness necessarily becomes the result. 
In this necessity, it is easy to see that it is necessary to make new 
efforts continually to acquire this continual newness of spirit, since 
we can only preserve the former grace by the acquisition of a new 
grace, and since otherwise we shall lose what we think to retain, as 
those who wish to shut in the light shut in nothing but darkness. 
Thus we should watch unceasingly to purify the interior, which is 
constantly sullied by new spots while retaining the old ones, since 
without this assiduous renovation we shall be incapable of receiving 
that new wine that cannot be put into old botdes. 

For this reason you should not fear to place before our eyes the 
things which we have in our memory, and which it is necessary 
to cause to enter into the heart, since it is unquestionable that your 
discourse can better serve as the instrument of grace than can the 
impression of it that remains in our memory, since grace is especially 
accorded to prayer, and since this charity that you have had for us 


is among those prayers that ought never to be interrupted. Thus we 
never should refuse to read or to hear holy things, however common 
or well-known they may be; for our memory as well as the instruc- 
tions which it contains, is only an inanimate and Judaical body with- 
out the spirit that should vivify them. And it often happens that 
God avails himself of these exterior means to make them understood 
and to leave so much the less food for the vanity of men when they 
thus receive grace in themselves. Thus, a book or a sermon, however 
common it may be, brings much more profit to him who hears or 
reads it with better disposition than does the excellence of the most 
elevated discourses which usually bring more pleasure than in- 
struction; and it is sometimes seen that those who listen as they 
ought, although ignorant and almost stupid, are touched by the 
simple name of God and the words that menace them with hell, 
although these may be all that they comprehend and although they 
knew it as well before. 

The third is in respect to what you say about only writing things 
to make us understand that you share the same feeling. We have 
equally to praise and to thank you on this subject; we praise you 
for your perseverance and thank you for the testimony that you give 
us of it. We had already drawn this confession from M. Perier, 
and the things that we induced him to say had assured us of it: we 
can only tell you how much we are pleased by representing to you 
the joy which you would receive if you should hear the same thing 
of us. 

We have nothing in particular to tell you, except touching the 
design of your house." We know that M. Perier is too earnest in 
what he undertakes to fully think of two things at once, and that 
the entire design is of such magnitude that, in order to complete it, 
he must remain a long time without thinking of any thing else. 
We know, too, that his project is only for a part of the building; 
but this, besides being only too large alone, engages for the com- 
pletion of the rest as soon as there shall be no farther obstacles to it, 
however determined he may be to the contrary, especially if he em- 
ploys the time in building that it would take to undeceive him of 

■ A country house built by M. Perier, which is still standing, at Bienassis, near 
the gates o£ Clermont. — Faugere. 


the secret pleasure that he finds in it. Thus we have counselled him 
to build much less than he intended, and only what is actually 
necessary, although according to the same design, in order that he 
may not have cause to become absorbed in it, nor yet deprive him- 
self of the opportunity of doing so. We entreat you to think seriously 
of it, and to resolve to counsel him likewise, lest it may happen that 
he may be far more prudent and bestow much more care and pains 
in the building of an earthly house than he is obliged to bestow on 
that mystic tower, of which you know St. Augustine speaks in one 
of his letters, which he has promised to finish in his conversations. 
Adieu. B. P.— J. P. 

Postscript of Jacqueline. — I hope shordy to write you the partic- 
ulars of my own affair, of which I shall send you the details; mean- 
while, pray to God for the result. 

If you know any pious soul, let him pray to God for me also.* 


Letter to Madame Perier and Her Husband,' on the 
Death of M. Pascal, Pere 

October 17, 1651. 

As you are both now informed of our common misfortune, and 
as the letter which we commenced has given you some consolation 
by the recital of the happy circumstances that accompanied the sub- 
ject of our affliction, I cannot refuse to you those which remain in 
my mind, and which I pray God to give me, and to recall to me 
several which we formerly received from his grace, and which have 
been newly given to us by our friends on this occasion. 

I know not now where my first letter ended. My sister sent it 
away without noticing that it was not finished. It only seems to me 
that it contained in substance some particulars of the conduct of 

^This last sentence is in the handwriting of Pascal; usually Jacqueline wrote under 
the dictation of her brother. — Wright. 

' Fragments of this letter have figured in a great number of the editions of Pascal, 
under the title of: Thoughts upon Death, extracted from a letter written by M. 
Pascal upon the subject of the death of his father. M. Cousin, upon this indication, 
sought for and found the letter, such as we publish it here. — Wright. 


God over life and sickness, which I would repeat to you here, so 
deeply are they engraven in my heart, and so solid is the consola- 
tion that they bring me, if you could not have seen them yourselves 
in the preceding letter, and if my sister did not intend to make to 
you a more exact recital of them at her earhest convenience. I 
shall, therefore, only speak to you here of the conclusion which I 
draw from them, which is that, except those who are interested by 
the feelings of nature, there is not a Christian who should not rejoice 
at it. 

Upon this great foundation, I shall commence what I have to say 
to you by a remark that is very consoling to those who have sufficient 
liberty of spirit to conceive it in the midst of grief. It is that we 
should seek consolation in our ills, not in ourselves, not in men, not 
in any thing that is created; but in God. And the reason is, that 
all creatures are not the first cause of the accidents that we call 
evils; but that the providence of God being the only and veritable 
cause,the arbiter and the sovereign of them, it is indubitable that we 
must resort directly to the source, and go back to the origin to find 
a solid alleviation. If we follow this precept, and if we regard this 
event, not as an effect of chance, not as a fatal necessity of nature, 
not as the play of the elements and parts of which man is composed 
(for God has not abandoned his elect to caprice and chance), but 
as a result indispensable, inevitable, just, holy, useful to the good of 
the Church, and to the exaltation of the name and the greatness of 
God, of a decree of his providence conceived from all eternity to be 
executed in the plenitude of its time in such a year, such a day, such 
an hour, such a place, such a manner; and, in short, that all that has 
happened has been from all time foreknown and foreordained of 
God; if, I say, through a transport of grace, we regard this accident, 
not in itself and apart from God, but apart from itself, and in the 
inmost part of the will of God, in the justice of his decree, in the 
order of his providence, which is the true cause of it, without which 
it would not have happened, through which alone it has happened, 
and in the manner in which it has happened; we shall adore in 
humble silence the impenetrable loftiness of his secrets, we shall 
venerate the sanctity of his decrees, we shall bless the acts of his 
providence, and, uniting our will to that of God himself, we shall 


wish with him, in him, and for him, the thing that he has willed in 
us and for us from all eternity. 

Let us regard it, then, in this manner, and let us practice this pre- 
cept, which I learned of a great man in the time of our deepest afflic- 
tion, that there is no consolation except in truth alone. It is certain 
that Socrates and Seneca have nothing consolatory on such an occa- 
sion as this. They have been in the error that has blinded all men in 
the beginning: they have all taken death as natural to man; and all 
the discourses which they have founded upon this false principle are 
so futile that they only serve to demonstrate by their inutility how 
weak man is in general, since the most elevated productions of the 
greatest among men are so weak and puerile. It is not the same with 
Jesus Christ, it is not thus in the canonical books: the truth is there 
revealed, and consolation is also as infallibly joined with it as it is 
infallibly separated from error. 

Let us, then, consider death in the truth which the Holy Spirit has 
taught us. We have this admirable advantage, of knowing that 
death is really and actually a penalty of sin imposed on man in order 
to expiate his crime, necessary to man to purge him from sin; that 
it is the only one that can deliver the soul from the concupiscence of 
the members, without which saints come not into the world. We 
know that life, and the life of Christians, is a continual sacrifice, that 
can only be completed by death; we know that as Jesus Christ, being 
in the world, regarded and offered himself to God as a sacrifice, and 
a veritable victim; as his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, his 
ascension, his presence in the Eucharist, and his eternal seat at the 
right hand, are only a sole and single sacrifice; we know that what 
has been accomplished in Jesus Christ should be accomplished also 
in all his members. 

Let us, then, consider Hfe as a sacrifice; and let the accidents of 
life make no impression upon the minds of Christians, except in 
proportion as they interrupt or accomplish this sacrifice. Let us only 
call that evil which renders the victim of God the victim of the devil, 
but let us call that good which renders the victim of the devil in 
Adam the victim of God; and by this rule let us examine the nature 
of death. 


For this consideration it is necessary to have recourse to the person 
of Jesus Christ, for ail that is in men is abominable, and as God looks 
upon men only through the mediator Jesus Christ, men should also 
look neither upon others nor themselves except mediately through 
Jesus Christ. For if we do not take this course, we shall find in our- 
selves nothing but veritable misfortunes, or abominable pleasures; 
but if we regard all things in Jesus Christ, we shall find full conso- 
lation, full satisfaction, and full edification. 

Let us, then, consider death in Jesus Christ, and not without 
Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ it is horrible, detestable, the 
horror of nature. In Jesus Christ it is altogether different; it is be- 
nignant, holy, the joy of the faithful. Every thing is sweet in Jesus 
Christ, even to death: and this is why he suffered and died to sanc- 
tify death and suffering; and, in common with God and man, he 
has been all that was great, and all that was abject, in order to sanc- 
tify in himself all things except sin, and to be the model of every 

To consider the nature of death, and of death in Jesus Christ, it 
is necessary to see what rank it holds in his continual and uninter- 
rupted sacrifice, and for this to remark that in sacrifices the most 
important part is the death of the victim. The oblation and sanctifi- 
cation which precede are the details; but the accomplishment is the 
death, in which, by the annihilation of life, the creature renders to 
God all the homage of which it is capable, in annihilating itself 
before the face of his majesty, and in adoring his sovereign existence, 
which alone exists in reality. It is true that there is another part, 
after the death of the victim, without which its death would be 
useless, that is, God's acceptance of the sacrifice. This is what is said 
in the Scripture: Et odoratus est Dominus suavitatem. "And the 
Lord smelled a sweet sacrifice." This it is that really consummates 
the oblation; but it is rather an action of God towards the creature 
than of the creature towards God, and does not hinder the last act 
of the creature from being death. 

All these things have been accomplished in Jesus Christ. In enter- 
ing the world, he offered himself: Obtulit semetipsum per Spiritum 
Sanctum. Ingrediens mundum, dixit: Hostiam noluisti . . . Tunc 


dixi: Ecce venio. In capite, etc. "Through the Eternal Spirit he 
offered himself. When he cometh into the world, he saith, sacrifice 
and offering thou wouldst not. Then said I, Lo, I come." This is his 
oblation. His sanctification was immediate upon his oblation. This 
sacrifice lasted all his life, and was accomplished by his death. 
"Ought he not to have suffered these things, and to enter into his 
glory?" "Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the 
things which he suffered." But "in the days of his flesh, when he 
had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears 
unto him that was able to save, he was heard in that he feared :" and 
God raised him from the dead, and sent him his glory, prefigured 
formerly by the fire from heaven that fell upon the victim to burn 
and consume his body, and to make it live the spiritual life of glory. 
This is what Jesus Christ has obtained, and what has been accom- 
plished through his resurrection. 

Thus this sacrifice being perfected by the death of Christ, and 
consummated even in his body by his resurrection, in which the 
image of sinful flesh was absorbed by glory, Jesus Christ had wholly 
finished his part; it remained only that the sacrifice should be ac- 
cepted of God, that, as the smoke ascended and carried the odor to 
the throne of God, thus Jesus Christ was, in this state of perfect im- 
molation, offered, carried to, and accepted at the throne of God him- 
self : and this it is that has been accomplished in the ascension, in 
which he mounted on high and by his own power and by the power 
of his Holy Spirit, which surrounded him on every side, was carried 
away; as the smoke of the victims, the emblem of Jesus Christ, was 
carried on high by the air that sustained it, the type of the Holy 
Spirit: and the Acts of the Apostles indicate to us expressly that he 
was received up into heaven, in order to assure us that this holy 
sacrifice accomplished on earth was welcome and acceptable to God, 
and was received into the bosom of God, to shine in glory through 
ages upon ages. 

This is the state of things as regards our sovereign Lord. Let us 
consider them now in ourselves. From the moment we enter the 
Church, which is the world of the Faithful and especially of the elect, 
into which Jesus Christ entered at the moment of his incarnation by 
a privilege peculiar to the only Son of God, we are offered and sac- 


rificed. This sacrifice is continued by life and completed at death, 
in which the soul truly quitting all vices, and the love of the 
world, with the contagion of which it is always infected through- 
out life, achieves its immolation and is received into the bosom 
of God. 

Let us not grieve then like the heathen who have no hope. We 
did not lose our father at the moment of his death : we lost him, so 
to say, when he entered the Church through baptism. From that 
time, he belonged to God; his life was devoted to God; his actions 
regarded the world only for God. In his death, he became totally 
separated from sin, and it was at that moment that he was accepted 
by God, and that his sacrifice received its accomplishment and its 
consummation. He has performed therefore what he had vowed : he 
has finished the work that God had given him to do; he has accom- 
plished the only thing for which he was created. The will of God is 
accomplished in him, and his will is absorbed in God. Let not our 
will then separate what God has joined together; and let us stifle or 
moderate, by the understanding of truth, the feelings of a corrupt 
and fallen nature which has only false images, and which troubles 
by its illusions the sanctity of the feelings which truth and the Gospel 
should give us. 

Let us then no longer look upon death like the heathen, but like 
Christians, that is with hope, as St. Paul commands, since this is the 
especial privilege of Christians. Let us no longer regard a corpse as 
putrid carrion because deceitful nature figures it thus; but as the 
inviolable and eternal temple of the Holy Spirit, as faith teaches. 
For we know that sainted bodies are inhabited by the Holy Spirit 
until the resurrection, which will be caused by virtue of this spirit 
which dwells in them for this effect. It is for this reason that we 
honor the relics of the dead, and it was on this true principle that 
the Eucharist was formerly placed in the mouth of the dead, since, 
as it was known that they were the temple of the Holy Spirit, it was 
believed that they also merited to be united to this holy sacrament. 
But the Church has changed this custom, not in order that these 
bodies shall not be holy, but for the reason that the Eucharist being 
the bread of life and of the living, it ought not to be given to the dead. 

Let us no longer regard a man as having ceased to live although 


nature suggests it; but as beginning to live, as truth assures. Let us 
no longer regard his soul as perished and reduced to nothingness, 
but as quickened and united to the sovereign life; and let us thus 
correct, by attention to these truths, the sentiments of error so deeply 
imprinted in ourselves and those emotions of honor so natural to 

To subdue this dread more effectually, it is necessary fully to com- 
prehend its origin; and to paint it to you in a few words, I am forced 
to tell you in general what is the source of all vice and all sin. This 
I have learned from two very great and holy personages. The truth 
covered by this mystery is that God has created man with two loves, 
the one for God, the other for himself; but with this law, that the 
love for God shall be infinite, that is without any other limits than 
God himself; and that the love for self shall be finite and relating 
to God. 

Man in this state not only loves himself without sin, but could 
not do otherwise than love himself without sin. 

Since, sin being come, man has lost the first of these loves; and the 
love for himself being left alone in this great soul capable of an 
infinite love, this self-love has extended and overflowed in the empty 
space which the love of God has quitted; and thus he loves himself 
alone, and all things for himself, that is, infinitely. This is the origin 
of self-love. It was natural to Adam and just in his innocence; but it 
became criminal and immoderate after his sin. 

Here is the source of this love, and the cause of its defect and of 
its excess. It is the same with the passion of ruling, of indolence, 
and others. The application is easy. Let us come to our single sub- 
ject. The dread of death was natural to innocent Adam, because, his 
life being pleasing to God, it must have been pleasing to man: and 
death was terrible when it ended a life conformed to the will of 
God. Since, man having sinned, his life has become corrupt, his 
body and soul enemies to each other, and both to God. This horrible 
change having infected so holy a life, the love of life has nevertheless 
remained; and the dread of death being equally felt, that which was 
just in Adam is unjust and criminal in us. 

Such is the origin of the dread of death and the cause of its faulti- 
ness. Let us then illumine the error of nature by the light of faith. 


The dread of death is natural, but it is in the state o£ innocence; 
death in truth is terrible, but it is when it puts an end to a pure life. 
It was just to hate it when it separated a holy soul from a holy body; 
but it is just to love it when it separates a holy soul from an impure 
body. It was just to flee it, when it broke the peace between the 
body and the soul; but not when it calms the irreconcilable dissen- 
sion between them. In short, when it afflicted an innocent body, 
when it took away from the body the liberty of honoring God, when 
it separated from the soul a body submissive to and co-operative with 
its will, when it put an end to all the good of which man is capable, 
it was just to abhor it; but when it puts an end to an impure life, 
when it takes away from the body the liberty of sinning, when it 
delivers the soul from a powerful rebel that contradicts all the 
motives for its salvation, it is very unjust to preserve the same feelings. 

Let us not therefore relinquish this love for life which nature has 
given us, since we have received it from God; but let this be for the 
same life for which God has given it to us and not for a contrary 
object. In consenting to the love that Adam had for his innocent 
life and that Jesus Christ himself had for his own, let us bring our- 
selves to hate a life contrary to that which Jesus Christ has loved, 
and only to fear the death which Jesus Christ has feared, which 
comes to a body pleasing to God; but not to fear a death that, pun- 
ishing a guilty body, and purging a vicious body, ought to give us 
quite contrary feelings, if we have any thing of faith, of hope, and 
of charity. 

It is one of the great principles of Christianity that every thing 
that happened to Jesus Christ should take place in the soul and the 
body of each Christian : that as Jesus Christ suffered during his mortal 
life, died to this mortal life, was raised to a new life, ascended to 
heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; so the body and 
soul should suffer, die, be raised from the dead, ascend to heaven, 
and sit at the right hand of God. All these things are accomplished 
in the soul during life, but not in the body. The soul suffers and dies 
to sin in penitence and in baptism; the soul is raised again to a new 
life in the same baptism; the soul quits the earth and ascends to 
heaven at death, and takes its seat at the right hand of God at the 
time that he appoints. None of these things happen to the body 


during this life; but the same things befall it afterwards. For at 
death the body dies to its mortal life; at the judgment it will rise to 
a new life; after the judgment, it will ascend to heaven and will sit 
at the right hand of God. Thus the same things happen to the body 
and the soul, but at different times; and the changes of the body 
come only when those of the soul are accomplished, that is at the 
hour of death: so that death is the consummation of the beatitude of 
the soul and the commencement of the beatitude of the body. 

These are the admirable ways of the wisdom of God for the salva- 
tion of his saints, and St. Augustine teaches us on this subject, that 
God has arranged them in this wise for fear that if the body of man 
should die and rise again forever at baptism, men would only enter 
into the obedience of the Gospel through the love of life; whilst the 
grandeur of faith shines forth far more when it tends to immortality 
through the shades of death. 

This is, certainly, our belief and the faith that we profess, and I 
believe that there is in this more than is needed to aid your consola- 
tions by my small efforts. I should not undertake to carry you this 
aid of myself; but as these are only repetitions of what I have learned, 
I give them with assurance, praying God to bless these seeds, and to 
give them growth, for without him we can do nothing, and his most 
holy words will not take root in us, as he himself has said. 

It is not that I wish that you should be without feeling; the blow is 
too sensible; it would be even insupportable without supernatural 
aid. It is not therefore right that we should be without grief, like 
the angels who have no sentiment of nature; neither is it right that 
we should be without consolation, like the heathen who have no 
sentiment of grace: but it is right that we should be afflicted and 
consoled like Christians, and that the consolations of grace should 
overcome the feelings of nature; that we should say with the apostles: 
"We are afflicted but not cast down," in order that grace may not 
only be in us but victorious in us; that thus, in sanctifying the name 
of our Father, his will may be made ours; that his grace may reign 
and prevail over nature, and that our afflictions may be as the sub- 
stance of a sacrifice which his grace perfects and annihilates for the 
glory of God; and that these individual sacrifices may honor and 
precede the universal sacrifice wherein all nature should be perfected 


by the power of Jesus Christ. Thus we derive advantage from our 
own imperfections, since they serve as material for this sacrifice; for 
it is the aim of true Christians to profit by their own imperfections, 
because "all things work together for good to the elect." 

And if we pay close attention to this, we shall find great advantages 
for our edification, in considering the thing truly as we said just 
now. For, since it is true that the death of the body is only the type 
of that of the soul, and since we build upon the principle that in this 
chance we have all possible reason to hope for its sure salvation, it is 
certain that if we cannot arrest the progress of grief, we should de- 
rive this benefit, that since the death of the body is so terrible that it 
causes in us such emotions, that of the soul ought to cause in us those 
far more inconsolable. God sends us the first, God turns away the 
second. Let us then consider the greatness of our blessings in the 
greatness of our ills, and let the excess of our grief be in proportion 
to that of our joy. 

There is nothing that can moderate it, except the fear that he may 
languish for some time in the pains which are destined to purge the 
remains of the sin of this life, and we ought carefully to apply our- 
selves to appease the anger of God towards him. Prayer and sacri- 
fices are a sovereign remedy for his pains. But I have learned of a 
holy man in our affliction that one of the most solid and useful 
charities towards the dead is to do the things that they would com- 
mand were they still in the world, to practise the holy advice which 
they have given us, and put ourselves, for their sakes, in the condi- 
tion in which they would wish us at present. By this practice, we 
shall in some sort revive them in ourselves, since their counsels are 
still living and acting within us; and as heresiarchs are punished in 
the other life for the sins into which they have drawn their votaries, 
in whom their venom is still living, so the dead are recompensed, 
exclusive of their own merit, for those to whom they have given 
succession by their counsels and their example. 

Let us strive then with all our power to revive him in us before 
God; and let us console ourselves in the union of our hearts, in 
which it seems to me that he still lives, and that our reunion in some 
sort restores to us his presence, as Jesus Christ makes himself present 
in the assembly of his faithful. 


I pray God to form and to maintain these sentiments in us, and to 
continue those which it appears to me he has given me, of having 
more tenderness than ever for you and for my sister; for it seems 
to me that the love that we had for my father ought not to be lost, 
and that we should make a division of it among ourselves, and that 
we should chiefly inherit the affection which he bore to us, to love 
each other still more cordially if possible. 

I pray God to strengthen us in these resolutions, and in this hope 
I entreat you to permit me to give you a counsel which indeed you 
could take without me; but I shall not refrain from giving it. It is 
that after having found grounds of consolation for him, we shall not 
come to lack them for ourselves by dwelling upon the need and the 
utility that we shall have of his presence. 

It is I who am the most interested in it. If I had lost him six years 
ago, I should have lost myself, and although I believe my necessity 
of him at present to be less absolute, I know that he would still have 
been necessary to me ten years and useful all my life. But we should 
hope that God having ordered it in such a time, such a place and 
such a manner, it is doubtless the most expedient for his glory and 
for our salvation. 

However strange this may appear, I believe that we should regard 
all events in the same manner, and that, however sinister they may 
appear to us, we should hope that God would draw from them a 
source of joy to us if we will but intrust the direction of them to him. 
We know of persons of condition who have feared the death of rela- 
tives which God has perhaps averted at their prayer, who have caused 
or been the occasion of so much misery that there was reason to wish 
that the prayers had not been granted. 

Man is assuredly too weak to judge soundly of the result of future 
things. Let us therefore hope in God, and let us not weary ourselves 
by rash and indiscreet forecasts. Let us commit ourselves then to God 
for the direction of our lives, and that grief may not prevail within us. 

St. Augustine teaches us that there is in every man a serpent, an 
Eve and an Adam. The serpent is the senses and our nature, the 
Eve is the concupiscible appetite, and the Adam is the reason. Nature 
tempts us continually, concupiscible appetite often fills us with 
desires, but the sin is not consummated if reason does not consent. 


Let the serpent and the Eve therefore act if we cannot hinder it; 
but let us pray to God that his grace may so strengthen our Adam 
that he may remain victorious; and that Jesus Christ may be the 
conqueror over him and may reign eternally in us. Amen. 


Extract from a Letter of M. Pascal to M. Perier 

Paris, Friday, June 6, 1653. 

I HAVE just received your letter, inclosing that of my sister, which 
I have not had leisure to read, and moreover believe that this would 
be useless. 

My sister made her profession yesterday, Thursday, the 5th of 
June, 1653. It was impossible for me to delay her: the Messieurs of 
Port Royal feared that a slight delay might bring on a greater one, 
and wished to hasten it for the reason that they hope ere long to 
put her in office; and consequently, it was necessary to hasten, be- 
cause for this several years of profession are needed. This is the 
way they paid me. In fine, I could not, etc. 

Extract from a Letter to Madame Perier, upon the Projected 
Marriage of Mademoiselle Jacqueline Perier 


In general, their advice was that you could in no way, without 
mortally wounding charity and your conscience, and rendering your- 
self guilty of one of the greatest crimes, pledge a child of her age 
and innocence, and even of her piety, to the most perilous and low- 
est of the conditions of Christianity. That indeed, according to the 
world, the affair had no difficulty, and she was to conclude it with- 
out hesitation; but that according to God, she had less difficulty in 
it, and she was to reject it without hesitation, because the condition 
of an advantageous marriage is as desirable in the opinion of the 
world as it is vile and prejudicial in the sight of God. That not 
knowing to what she may be called, nor whether her temperament 
may not be so tranquil that she can support her virginity with piety, 


it were little to know the value of it to pledge her to lose this good 
so desirable to every one in himself, and so desirable to fathers 
and mothers for their children, since as they can no longer desire 
it for themselves, it is in them that they should strive to render 
to God what they have lost in general for other causes than for 

Besides, that husbands, although rich and wise in the opinion of the 
world, are in truth complete pagans in the sight of God; so that the 
last words of these gentlemen are that to pledge a child to an ordinary 
man is a species of homicide and a deicide as it were in their own 


Note from Pascal to the Marchioness de Sable 

December, 1660. 
Although I am much embarrassed, I can no longer defer render- 
ing you a thousand thanks for having procured me the acquaintance 
of M. Menjot; for it is doubtless to you, Madame, that I owe it; and 
as I esteemed him highly already from the things which my sister 
had told me of him, I cannot tell you with how much joy I have re- 
ceived the favor which he has wished to render me. It is only neces- 
sary to read his letter to see how much intellect and judgment he 
possesses; and although I may not be capable of understanding the 
depth of the matters which he treats in his book, I will tell you, 
nevertheless, Madame, that I have learned much from the manner 
in which he reconciles in a few words the immateriality of the soul 
with the power of matter to change its functions and to cause 
delirium. I am very impatient to have the honor to converse with 
you on it. 


Fragment of a Letter to M. Perier 

You give me pleasure by sending me all the details of your con- 
troversies, and chiefly because you are interested therein; for I 


imagine that you do not imitate our controversialists o£ this country, 
who avail themselves so badly, at least so it seems to me, of the ad- 
vantage which God oflFers them of suffering something for the 
establishment of his truths. For, if this were for the establishment 
of their truths, they would not act differently; and it seems that 
they are ignorant that the same Providence that has inspired some 
with light, has refused it to others; and it seems that in laboring to 
persuade them of it they are serving another God than the one who 
permits the obstacles that oppose their progress. They think to ren- 
der service to God by murmuring against the hindrances, as if this 
were another power that should excite their piety, and another 
that should give vigor to those who oppose them. 

This is what comes of self-will. When we wish by our own efforts 
that something shall succeed, we become irritated with obstacles, 
because we feel in these hindrances that the motive that makes us 
act has not placed them there, and we find things in them which the 
self-will that makes us act has not formed there. 

But when God inspires our actions, we never feei any thing out- 
side that does not come from the same principle that causes us to 
act; there is no opposition in the motive that impels us; the same 
motive power which leads us to act, leads others to resist us, or per- 
mits them at least; so that as we find no difference in this, and as it 
is not our own will that combats external events, but the same will 
that produces the good and permits the evil, this uniformity does 
not trouble the peace of the soul, and is one of the best tokens that we 
are acting by the will of God, since it is much more certain that God 
permits the evil, however great it may be, than that God causes the 
good in us (and not some secret motive), however great it may ap- 
pear to us; so that in order really to perceive whether it is God 
that makes us act, it is much better to test ourselves by our deport- 
ment without than by our motives within, since if we only examine 
ourselves within, although we may find nothing but good there, we 
cannot assure ourselves that this good comes truly from God. But 
when we examine ourselves without, that is when we consider 
whether we suffer external hindrances with patience, this signifies 
that there is a uniformity of will between the motive power that 
inspires our passions and the one that permits the resistance to them; 


and as there is no doubt that it is God who permits the one, we have 
a right humbly to hope that it is God who produces the other. 

But what! we act as if it were our mission to make truth triumph 
whilst it is only our mission to combat for it. The desire to con- 
quer is so natural that when it is covered by the desire of making 
the truth triumph, we often take the one for the other, and think 
that we are seeking the glory of God when in truth we are seeking 
our own. It seems to me that the way in which we support these 
hindrances is the surest token of it, for in fine if we wish only the 
order established by God, it is certain that we wish the triumph of 
his justice as much as that of his mercy, and that when it does not 
come of our negligence, we shall be in an equal mood, whether the 
truth be known or whether it be combated, since in the one the mercy 
of God triumphs, and in the other, his justice. 

Pater juste, mundus te non cognovit. Righteous father, the world 
has not known thee. Upon which St. Augustine says that it is 
through his justice that the world has not known him. Let us pray, 
labor, and rejoice evermore, as St. Paul says. 

If you had reproved me in my first faults, I should not have been 
guilty of this, and should have been moderate. But I shall not sup- 
press this any more than the other; you can suppress it yourself if 
you wish. I could not refrain, so angry am I against those who insist 
absolutely that the truth shall be believed when they demonstrate 
it, which Jesus Christ did not do in his created humanity. It is a 
mockery, and it seems to me treating ... I am grieved on account 
of the malady of M. de Laporte. I assure you that I honor him 
with all my heart. I, etc. 


Letter to Madame Perier 

(Addressed: To Mademoiselle Perier la Conseillere.) 

Rouen, Saturday, the last of January, 1643. 
My Dear Sister, 

I doubt not that you have been greatly troubled at the length of 
time in which you have received no news from these parts. But I 


think that you must have suspected that the journey of the Elus has 
been the cause, as in fact it was. Had it not been for this, I should 
not have failed to w^rite to you oftener. I have to tell you that 
Messieurs the commissioners being at Gizors, my father made me 
take a tour to Paris, where I found a letter which you had written, 
in which you say that you are surprised that I reproach you that you 
do not write often enough, and in which you tell me that you write 
to Rouen once every week. It is very certain, if this is so, that the 
letters are lost, for I do not receive one once in three weeks. On my 
return to Rouen, I found a letter from M. Perier, who writes that 
you are ill. He does not write whether your sickness is dangerous 
or whether you are better; and an unusual length of time has passed 
since without having received any letter, so that we are in an anxiety 
from which I pray you to relieve us as soon as possible; but I think 
the prayer I make you will be useless, for before you shall have 
received this letter, I hope that we shall have received letters from you 
or from M. Perier. The department is finished, God be praised. If 
I knew of any thing new, I would let you know it. I am, my dear 
sister, etc. 

Postscript in the handwriting of Etienne Pascal, the father: "My 
dear daughter will excuse me if I do not write to her as I wished, 
having no leisure for it; for I have never been in a tenth part the 
perplexity that I am at present. I could not be more so without being 
overwhelmed; for the last four months I have not been in bed six 
times before two o'clock in the morning. 

"I lately commenced a jesting letter upon the subject of your last, 
concerning the marriage of M. Desjeux, but I have never had leisure 
to finish it. For news, the daughter of M. de Paris, maitre des 
comptes, the wife of M. de Neufirlle, also maitre des comptes, is 
dead, as well as the daughter of Belair, the wife of young Lambert. 
Your little boy slept here last night. He is very well, thank God. 
"I am ever your true and affectionate friend, 


Your very humble and affectionate servant and brother, 




Note from Pascal to his sister, Madame Perier 
(Superscribed, To Mademoiselle Perier, at Clermont, in Auvergne.) 

My Dear Sister, 

I do not believe that it is quite right that you should be vexed; 
for, if you are not so because we have forgotten you, then you ought 
not to be at all. I tell you no news, for there is too much that is gen- 
eral, and there must always be too much that is private. I should 
have much to tell you that happens in complete secrecy, but I 
regard it as useless to send it to you; all that I pray you is, to mingle 
acts of grace with the prayers which you make for me, and which I 
entreat you to multiply at this time. I carried your letter myself 
with the aid of God, in order that it might be forwarded to Madame 
de Maubuisson. They gave me a little book, in which this sentence 
was written with the hand.' I know not whether it is in the little 
book of sentences, but it is beautiful. I am so much hurried that I 
can say no more. Do not fail in your fasts. Adieu. 


Letters to Mademoiselle de Roannez^ 



In order to answer all the points upon which you address me, and, 
indeed, to write, although my time is limited. 

I am delighted that you like the book of M. de Laval,' and the 
Meditations on Grace; I draw from this important conclusions for 
what I desire. 

I send the details of this condemnation which had frightened^ you: 

' It is wanting here. — ^Wright. 

^ Charlotte GoufEer de Roannez, sister of the duke of this name, the friend of 
Pascal, and one of the editors of the Thoughts. 

^Pseudonym under which the Duke de Luynes pubHshcd different works of piety, 
among others, Sentences drawn jrom Holy Scripture and the Fathers. — Wright. 

■'The allusion is probably to the censure of the Sorbonne against Arnauld, in 
1656. — Wright. 


it is nothing at all, thank God, and it is a miracle that nothing 
worse is done, since the enemies of truth have the power and the 
will to oppress him. Perhaps you are of those who merit not to be 
abandoned by God, and removed from an undeserving world, and 
he is assured that you will serve the Church by your prayers, if the 
Church has served you by hers. For it is the Church that merits with 
Jesus Christ, who is inseparable from her, the conversion of all those 
who are not in the truth; and it is in turn these converted persons 
who succor the mother who has delivered them. I praise with all 
my heart the little zeal that I have recognized in your letter for the 
union with the pope. The body is not more living without the head, 
than the head without the body. Whoever separates himself from the 
one or the other is no longer of the body, and belongs no more to 
Jesus Christ. I know not whether there are persons in the Church 
more attached to this unity of body than those that you call ours. 
We know that all the virtues, martyrdom, the austerities and all 
good works are useless out of the Church, and out of communion 
with the head of the Church, which is the pope. I will never separate 
myself from his communion, at least I pray God to give me this grace, 
without which I should be lost forever. 

I make to you a sort of profession of faith, and I know not 
wherefore; but I would neither efface it nor commence it again. 

M. du Gas has spoken to me this morning of your letter with as 
much astonishment and joy as it is possible to have: he knows not 
where you have taken what he has reported to me of your words; 
he has said to me surprising things, that no longer surprise me so 
much. I begin to accustom myself to you and to the grace that 
God gives you, and nevertheless I avow to you that it is to me always 
new, as it is always new in reahty. 

For it is a continual flow of graces that the Scripture compares 
to a river, and to the light which the sun continually emits from itself, 
and is always new, so that if it ceased an instant to emit them, all 
that we have received would disappear, and we should remain in 

He has said to me that he had begun a response to you, and that 
he would transcribe it to render it more legible, and that, at the same 
time, he would extend it. But he has just sent it to me with a little 


note, wherein he informs me that he has been able neither to tran- 
scribe it nor to extend it; this makes me think that it will be ill- 
written. But I am a witness of his want of leisure, and of his 
desire that he had leisure for your sake. 

I take part in the joy that the affair of the . , .^ will afford you, 
for I see clearly that you are interested for the Church: you are 
indeed under obligations to her. For sixteen hundred years she has 
groaned for you. It is time to groan for her and for us altogether, 
and to give her all that remains to us of life, since Jesus Christ has 
assumed life only to lose it for her and for us. 


October, 1656. 

It seems to me that you take sufficient interest in the miracle to 
send you particular notice that its verification is consummated by 
the Church, as you will see by the sentence of the grand vicar. 

There are so few persons to whom God would manifest himself 
by these extraordinary acts, that we ought indeed to profit by these 
occasions, since he does not leave the secrecy of the nature that 
covers him but to excite our faith to serve him with so much the 
more ardor as we know him with the more certainty. 

If God discovered himself continually to men, there would be no 
merit in believing him; and, if he never discovered himself, there 
would be little faith. But he conceals himself ordinarily and dis- 
covers himself rarely to those whom he wishes to engage in his serv- 
ice. This strange secrecy, in which God is impenetrably withdrawn 
from the sight of men, is a great lesson to betake ourselves to solitude 
far from the sight of men. He remained concealed under the veil of 
the nature that covers him till the Incarnation; and when it was 
necessary that he should appear, he concealed himself still the more 
in covering himself with humanity. He was much more recogniza- 
ble when he was invisible than when he rendered himself visible. 
And in fine, when he wished to fulfil the promise that he made to 
his apostles to remain with men until his final coming, he chose to 
remain in the strangest and most obscure secret of all, which are the 

*In the manuscript o£ the Oratory: of the Nuns. — Faugire. 


species of the Eucharist. It is this sacrament that St. John calls in 
the Apocalypse a concealed manner; and I believe that Isaiah saw it 
in that state, when he said in the spirit of prophecy: Truly thou art 
a God concealed. This is the last secrecy wherein he can be. The 
veil of nature that covers God has been penetrated by some of the 
unbelieving, who, as St. Paul says, have recognized an invisible God 
in visible nature. Heretical Christians have recognized him through 
his humanity and adored Jesus Christ God and man. But to recog- 
nize him under the species of bread is peculiar to Catholics alone: 
none but us are thus enlightened by God. We may add to these con- 
siderations the secrecy of the spirit of God concealed still in the 
Scripture. For there are two perfect senses, the literal and the mys- 
tical; and the Jews, stopping at the one, do not even think that there 
is another, and take no thought for searching it out, just as the 
impious, seeing natural effects, attribute them to nature, without 
thinking that there is another author, and, as the Jews, seeing a per- 
fect man in Jesus Christ, have not thought to seek in him another 
nature: We had not thought that it was he, again says Isaiah: and 
just as, in fine, the heretics, seeing the perfect appearances of bread 
in the Eucharist, do not think to see in it another substance. All 
things cover some mystery; all things have veils that cover God. 
Christians ought to recognize him in every thing. Temporal afflic- 
tions cover eternal goods to which they lead. Temporal joys cover 
eternal ills that they cause. Let us pray God to make us recognize 
and serve him in every thing; let us give him countless thanks that, 
having concealed himself in all things for others, he has discovered 
himself in all things and in so many ways for us. 


I KNOW not how you have taken the loss of your letters. I could 
wish indeed that you may have taken it as you ought. It is time to 
begin to judge of what is good or bad by the will of God, who can 
be neither unjust nor blind, and not by our own, which is always full 
of malice and error. If you have had these sentiments, I shall be 
greatly pleased, inasmuch as you will have received consolation 
for a more valid reason than that which I have to communicate to 


you, which is that I hope that they are found again. That of the 
5th has ahready been brought to me; and although it is not the most 
important (for that of M. du Gas is more so), nevertheless this makes 
me hope to recover the other. 

I know not why you complain that I have written nothing for you, 
— ;! do not separate you two, and continually think of both. You see 
plainly that my other letters, and this also, refer sufficiently to you. 
In truth, I cannot refrain from telling you that I could wish to be 
infallible in my judgments; you would not be badly off if that were 
the case, for I am very much pleased with you; but my judgment is 
nothing. I say this with reference to the manner in which I see you 
speak of that good persecuted friar, and of what * * * does. 1 am 
not surprised to see M. N. interested in the matter, I am accustomed 
to his zeal, but yours is wholly new; this new language is usually 
the product of a new heart. Jesus Christ has given in the Church 
this sign whereby to recognize those who have faith, — that they 
shall speak a new language; and in fact the renewal of thoughts 
and desires causes that of discourse. What you say of days passed in 
solitude, and the consolation afforded you by reading, are things that 
M. N. will be extremely happy to know when I shall make him ac- 
quainted with them, and my sister also. These certainly are new 
things, but they must be unceasingly renewed, for this newness, 
which cannot be displeasing to God as the old man cannot be pleas- 
ing to him, is different from earthly novelties, inasmuch as worldly 
things, however new they may be, grow old as they endure; whilst 
this new spirit is renewed the more, the longer it endures. Our old 
man perishes, says St. Paul, and is renewed day by day, and will be 
perfectly new only in eternity, when shall be sung without ceasing 
that new song of which David speaks in the Psalms; that is the song 
that springs from the new spirit of love. 

I will tell you for news, of what concerns these two persons, that 
I clearly perceive their zeal does not grow cold; this surprises me, 
for it is much more rare to see continuation in piety than to see en- 
trance upon it. I have them always in mind, especially her of the 
miracle, because there is something in her case more extraordinary, 
although the other may be also very extraordinary and almost with- 
out example. It is certain that the graces conferred by God in this 


life are the measure of the glory prepared by him for the other. 
Thus when I foresee the end and crown of this work by the com- 
mencements that appear in pious persons, I feel a veneration that 
overcomes me with respect towards those whom he seems to have 
chosen for his elect. I confess to you that it seems to me that I see 
them already on one of those thrones where those who shall have 
left all will judge the world with Jesus Christ, according to the 
promise that he has made. But when I come to think that these 
same persons may fall, and be on the contrary, of the unfortunate 
number of the judged, and that there will be so many of them who 
will fall from glory and leave to others by their negligence the 
crown that God had offered them, I cannot bear the thought; and 
the distress that I should feel in seeing them in this eternal state of 
misery, after having imagined them with so much reason in the 
other state, makes me turn my mind from the idea and recur to 
God in order to pray him not to abandon the weak creatures that 
he has acquired, and to say to him for the two persons whom you 
know what the Church says to-day with St. Paul: O Lord, do thou 
complete that worJ^ which thou thyself hast commenced. St. Paul 
often regarded himself in these two states, and it is what makes him 
say elsewhere: / }{eep under my body, and bring it into subjection; 
lest when 1 have preached to others, I myself be a castaway. I end 
therefore with these words of Job: / have always feared the Lord 
li\e the waves of a raging sea and swollen to engulf me. And else- 
where: Happy is the man that feareth always! 


It is very certain that separation never takes place without pain. 
We do not feel our bond when we voluntarily follow the object that 
leads us, as St. Augustine says; but when we begin to resist and draw 
back, we suffer; the bond stretches and suffers violence; and this 
bond is our body, which is broken but by death. Our Lord has said 
that since the coming of John the Baptist, that is, since his coming 
in each of the faithful, the ]{ingdom of heaven supers violence and 
the violent take it by storm. Before we are touched by the spirit we 
feel nothing but the burden of concupiscence that presses us to the 
earth. When God draws us on high, these two opposing efforts cause 


that violence which he alone can enable us to overcome. But we can 
do all things, says St. Leon, with him, without whom we can do 
nothing. We must then resolve to endure this warfare all our lives; 
for here there is no peace. Christ came not to bring peace, but a 
sword. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that, as Scripture 
says, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; so it may be 
said that this warfare which appears hard to men is peace with God, 
for it is the peace which Jesus Christ himself has brought us. Yet it 
will not be perfected until the body shall be destroyed; and this it 
is which makes us wish for death, while we nevertheless cheerfully 
endure life for the love of him who has suffered both life and death 
for us, and who is able to give us more than we can ask or think, as 
says St. Paul in the Epistle of to-day. 

God be praised, I have no more fears for you, but am full of 
hope! These are consoling words indeed of Jesus Christ: To him 
that hath shall be given. By this promise, those who have received 
much have the right to hope for more, and those who have received 
extraordinarily should hope extraordinarily. I try as much as I can 
to let nothing distress me, and to take every thing that happens as 
for the best. I believe that this is a duty, and that we sin in not doing 
so. For, in short, the reason why sins are sins is only because they 
are contrary to the will of God: and the essence of sin thus consisting 
in having a will opposed to that which we know to be of God, it is 
plain, it appears to me, that when he discovers his will to us by 
events, it would be a sin not to conform ourselves to it. I have 
learned that in every thing that happens there is something worthy 
of admiration, since the will of God is manifest in it. I praise him 
with all my heart for the continuation of his favors, for I see plainly 
that they do not diminish. 

The affair of * * * does not go on very well: it is a thing that 
makes those tremble who are truly the children of God to see the 
persecution which is in preparation, not only against individuals 
(this would be little) but against the Truth. To speak truly, God 
is indeed abandoned. It appears to me that this is a time in which 


the service that we render him is very pleasing to him. He desires 
that we should judge of grace by nature, and thus we may be allowed 
to suppose that as a prince driven from his country by his subjects 
feels extreme tenderness for those who remain faithful to him amidst 
the public revolt, in the same manner, God looks with especial favor 
upon those who are at this time defending the purity of religion and 
morals, so warmly assailed. But there is this difference between the 
kings of the earth and the King of kings, that the princes do not 
render their subjects faithful, but find them so; whilst God never 
finds men other than unfaithful, and renders them faithful when 
they are so. So that while the kings of the earth are under signal 
obligations to those who adhere to their allegiance, it happens, on 
the contrary, that those who subsist in the service of God are them- 
selves infinitely indebted to him. Let us continue then to praise him 
for this grace, if he has bestowed it upon us, for which we shall praise 
him throughout eternity, and let us pray that he may give us still 
more of it, and that he may look with pity upon us and upon the 
whole Church, outside of which there is nothing but malediction. 

I am interested in the victim of persecution of whom you speak. 
I see plainly that God has reserved to himself some hidden servants, 
as he said to Elijah. I pray him that we may be of the number, 
and that in spirit, in sincerity, and in truth. 


Whatever may come of the affair of * * *, enough, thank God, 
has already been done to draw an admirable advantage from it 
against these accursed precepts. There is need that those who have 
taken any part in this should render great thanks to God, and that 
their relatives and friends should pray to God for them that they 
may not fall from the great happiness and honor which he has be- 
stowed on them. All the honors of the world are but the image of this; 
this alone is soUd and real, and nevertheless it is useless without the 
right frame of heart. It is not bodily austerities nor mental exercises, 
but good impulses of the heart, which are of merit and which sustain 
the sufferings of the body and the mind. For in short two things are 
necessary for sanctification — sufferings and joys. St. Paul says that 


we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 
This should console those who experience tribulation, since, being 
warned that the path to heaven which they seek is filled with it, 
they should rejoice at meeting tokens that they are in the right way. 
But these very sufferings are not without joys, and are never sur- 
mounted but by pleasure. For as those who forsake God to return 
to the world do it only because they find more enjoyment in the 
pleasures of the world than in those of a union with God, and be- 
cause this conquering charm leads them away and, making them 
repent of their first choice, renders them penitents of the devil, ac- 
cording to the saying of Tertullian; so none would ever quit the 
pleasures of the world to embrace the cross of Jesus Christ, did he 
not find more enjoyment in contempt, in poverty, in destitution, 
and in the scorn of men, than in the delights of sin. And thus, says 
Tertullian, it must not be supposed that the Christian's life is a life 
of sadness. We forsake pleasures only for others which are greater. 
Pray without ceasing, says St. Paul, in every thing give thanks, 
rejoice evermore. It is the joy of having found God that is the prin- 
ciple of the sorrow of having offended him, and of the whole change 
of life. He that finds a treasure in a field, according to Jesus Christ, 
has such joy that he goes directly and sells all that he has to purchase 
the field. The people of the world know nothing of this joy, which 
the world can neither give nor take away, as is said by Jesus Christ. 
The blessed have this joy without sorrow; the people of the world 
have their sorrows without this joy, and Christians have this joy 
mingled with the sorrow of having pursued other pleasures and the 
fear of losing it by the allurements of these same pleasures which 
tempt us without ceasing. And thus we should labor unceasingly to 
cherish this joy which moderates our fear, and to preserve this fear 
which preserves our joy, so that on feeling ourselves too much carried 
away by the one we may incline towards the other, and thus remain 
poised between the two. In the day of prosperity be joyful; but in 
the day of adversity consider, says the Scripture, and so it shall be till 
the promise of Jesus Christ shall be accomplished in us that our joy 
shall be full. Let us not then be cast down by sadness, nor believe 
that piety consists only in bitterness without consolation. The true 
piety, which is found perfect only in heaven, is so full of satisfactions 


that it overflows with them in its beginning, its progress, and its 
consummation. Its Hght is so shining that it is reflected on all about 
it; and if there is sadness mingled with it, especially at the outset, 
this comes from ourselves and not from virtue; for it is not the effect 
of the piety that is springing up in us, but of the impiety that still is 
there. Remove the impiety and the joy will be unalloyed. Let us 
not ascribe this then to devotion, but to ourselves and seek relief from 
it only through our correction. 


I AM very glad of the hope which you give me of the success of 
the affair which you fear may make you vain. There is something to 
fear in any case; for, were it successful, I should fear from it that evil 
sorrow of which St. Paul says that it leads to death, instead of that 
different one that leads to life. 

It is certain that the matter was a thorny one, and that, if the per- 
son should be extricated from it, the result would give reason for 
some vanity, were it not that we had entreated, it of God, and should 
therefore believe the good that comes of it his work. But if it should 
not succeed well, we ought not therefore to fall into despondency, 
for the same reason that having prayed to God in the affair, it is 
evident that he has taken it into his own hand; thus he must be 
regarded as the author of all good and of all evil, with the exception 
of sin. Thereupon I would repeat to the person the passage of 
Scripture to which I have before referred: In the day of prosperity 
rejoice, but in the day of adversity consider. Nevertheless, I must 
say to you in respect to the other person whom you know, who sends 
word that she has many things on her mind that trouble her, that I 
am very sorry to see her in this state. I am deeply grieved at her 
troubles, and should be glad to be able to relieve them; I entreat her 
not to anticipate the future, and to remember that, as our Lord has 
said. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 

The past ought not to trouble us, since we have only to feel regret 
for our faults; but the future ought to concern us still less, since it 
is wholly beyond our control, and since perhaps we may not reach 
it at all. The present is the only time that is truly our own, and this 


\ve ought to employ according to the will of God. It is in this that 
our thoughts ought chiefly to be centred. Yet the world is so restless 
that men scarcely ever think of the present life and of the moment in 
which they are living, but of that in which they will live. In this 
manner we are always living in the future, and never in the present. 
Our Lord has willed that our foresight should not extend beyond the 
present day. These are the bounds within which we must keep both 
for our safety and for our own repose. For in truth, the Christian pre- 
cepts are those fullest of consolation, exceeding, I affirm, the maxims 
of the world. 

I also foresee many troubles, both for that person, for others, and 
for myself. But I pray to God, when I find myself absorbed in these 
forebodings, to restrain me within my prescribed course. I call my- 
self to an account, and I find that I am neglecting to do many things 
that I ought at present, in order to escape from useless thoughts of 
the future on which, far from being obliged to dwell, it is on the con- 
trary my duty not to dwell at all. It is only for want of not under- 
standing how to know and study the present that we undertake to 
study the future. What I say here, I say for myself, and not for that 
person who has assuredly more virtue and reflection than I; but I 
show him my defect to hinder him from falling into it: we some- 
times correct ourselves better by the sight of evil than by the example 
of good; and it is well to accustom ourselves to profit by evil, since 
this is so common while goodness is so rare. 


I PITY the person whom you know in the disquietude in which I 
know she is, and in which I am not surprised to see her. It is a little 
day of judgment which cannot come without a universal emotion of 
the person, as the general judgment will cause a general emotion in 
the world, those excepted who shall have already judged themselves, 
as she pretends to have done. This temporal suffering would guar- 
antee her from the eternal, through the infinite merits of Jesus 
Christ, who has endured it and rendered it his own; this it is that 
should console her. Our yoke is also his own; without this it would 
be insupportable. 


Ta\e my yo\e upon you, says he. It is not our yoke; it is his, and 
he also bears it. Know, says he, that my yoJ^e is easy and light. It is 
light only to him and to his divine power. I would say to her that 
she should remember that these disquietudes come not from the good 
that is springing up in her, but from the evil which is still remaining 
and must be continually diminished; that she must do like a child 
that is being torn by robbers from the arms of its mother who will 
not let it go; for it should not charge the mother that fondly holds it 
back with the violence that it suffers, but its unjust ravishers. The 
whole office of Advent is well fitted to give courage to the weak; 
these words of Scripture: Ta\e courage, ye fearful and unbelieving, 
behold, your Redeemer cometh, are often repeated there, and in the 
vesper service of to-day it is said: "Take courage and fear not; for 
your God shall come to save and deliver you." 


Your letter has given me the greatest joy. I confess that I was be- 
ginning to fear or at least to be astonished. I know not what was the 
beginning of the trouble of which you speak; but I know that trouble 
must come. I was reading the thirteenth chapter of St. Mark. I was 
thinking of writing you; and I will tell you therefore what I found in 
it. Jesus Christ is there addressing a solemn discourse to his disciples 
on his second coming; and as whatever happens to the Church hap- 
pens also to each individual Christian, it is certain that this whole 
chapter predicts the state of each person in whom on conversion the 
old man is destroyed, as well as that of the whole universe which 
shall be destroyed to give place to a new heaven and a new earth, as 
the Scripture says. And thus I should think that the overthrow of 
the reprobate temple, which prefigures the overthrow of the repro- 
bate man within us, and of which it is said that there shall not bei 
one stone left upon another, indicates that no passion of the old man 
shall remain;^ and these fierce contentions, both civil and domestic, 
represent so well the internal conflicts experienced by those who give 
themselves up to God, that nothing can be better depicted. 
But very striking are these words: When ye shall see the abomina- 
8 The two MSS. o£ the BibliothJque Imp. say: "no passion in us." — Faugire. 


tion of desolation in the holy place, let not him that is on the house- 
top go into the house. It seems to me that this perfectly predicts the 
times in which we hve, in which moral corruption is in the houses of 
sanctity and in the books of theologians and ecclesiastics, in which 
we should least expect it. We must shun such disorder; and woe to 
those with child and to those that give suck in those days, that is to 
those that are held back by worldly ties! The words of a sainted 
woman are applicable here : "We are not to consider whether we are 
called to quit the world, but solely whether we are called to remain 
in it, as we should not deliberate whether we were called to fly a 
house infected with plague or on fire." 

This chapter of the Evangelist, which I should like to read with 
you entire, concludes with an exhortation to watch and pray in order 
to shun all these misfortunes, and in truth, it is proper indeed that 
when the danger is continual the prayer should be continual also. 

For this purpose I send the prayers which were asked of me; it is 
now three in the afternoon. Since your departure, a miracle has been 
performed upon a nun of Pontoise, who, without leaving her con- 
vent, has been cured of an extraordinary headache by an act of de- 
votion to the holy Thorn. I will tell you more about it another time. 
But I must quote to you, in respect to this, an excellent saying of 
St. Augustine, very consoling to certain persons, that those alone 
really see miracles whom the miracles benefit; for they are not seen 
at all if they do not benefit. 

I am under obligations that I cannot sufficiently express for the 
present which you have made me; I did not know what it could be, 
for I unfolded it before reading your letter, and I afterwards repented 
for not having rendered to it at first the respect that was due to it. 
It is a truth that the Holy Spirit reposes invisibly in the relics of those 
who have died in the grace of God, until they shall appear visibly 
in the resurrection, and this it is that renders the relics of the saints 
so worthy of veneration. For God never abandons his own, even in 
the sepulchre in which their bodies, though dead to the eyes of men, 
are more than ever living in the sight of God, since sin is no more in 
them; whilst it constantly resides in them during life, at least in 
its root, for the fruits of sin are not always in them; and this fatal 
root, which is inseparable from them in life, causes it to be forbidden 


US during life to honor them, since they are rather worthy of detes- 
tation. It is for this that death becomes necessary to mortify entirely 
this fatal root, and this it is that renders it desirable. But it is of no 
use to tell you what you know so well; it would be better to tell it 
to the other persons of whom you speak, but they would not listen 
to it. 


Letter from Pascal to Queen Christina, on Sending 
HER THE Arithmetical Machine, 1650 


If I had as much health as zeal, I should go myself to present to 
Your Majesty a work of several years which I dare ofler you from 
so far; and I should not suffer any other hands than mine to have 
the honor of bearing it to the feet of the greatest princess in the 
world. This work, Madame, is a machine for making arithmetical 
calculations without pen or counters. Your Majesty is not ignorant 
of the cost of time and pains of new productions, above all when the 
inventors wish to bring them themselves to their highest perfection; 
this is why it would be useless to say how much I have laboured 
upon this one, and I cannot better express myself than by saying that 
I have devoted myself to it with as much ardor as though I had 
foreseen that it would one day appear before so august a person. 
But, Madame, if this honor has not been the veritable motive of my 
work, it will be at least its recompense; and I shall esteem myself too 
happy if, after so many vigils, it can give Your Majesty a few 
moments' satisfaction. I shall not importune Your Majesty with 
the details of the parts which compose this machine; if you have 
any curiosity in respect to it, you can satisfy yourself in a discourse 
which I have addressed to M. de Bourdelot; in which I have sketched 
in a few words the whole history of this work, the object of its in- 
vention, the occasion that led to its investigation, the utility of its 
applications, the difficulty of its execution, the degree of its progress, 
the success of its accomplishment, and the rules for its use. I shall 
therefore only speak here of the motive that led me to offer it to Your 
Majesty, which I consider as the consummation and happiest for- 


tune of its destiny. I know, Madame, that I may be suspected of 
having sought honor in presenting it to Your Majesty, since it can 
pass only for something extraordinary when it is seen that it is 
addressed to you: and that whilst it should only be offered to you 
through the consideration of its excellence, it will be judged that it 
is excellent for the sole reason that it is offered to you. It is not this 
hope, however, that has inspired me with such a design. It is too 
great, Madame, to have any other object than Your Majesty your- 
self. What has really determined me to this is the union that I find 
in your sacred person of two things that equally overwhelm me with 
admiration and respect — which are, sovereign authority and solid 
science; for I have an especial veneration for those who are elevated 
to the supreme degree either of power or of knowledge. The latter 
may, if I am not mistaken, as well as the former, pass for sovereigns. 
The same gradations are found in genius as in condition; and the 
power of kings over their subjects is, it seems to me, only an image of 
the power of minds over inferior minds, over whom they exercise 
the right of persuasion, which is with them what the right of com- 
mand is in political government. This second empire even appears 
to me of an order so much the more elevated, as minds are of an 
order more elevated than bodies; and so much the more just, as it 
can be shared and preserved only by merit, whilst the other can 
be shared and preserved by birth and fortune. It must be acknowl- 
edged then that each of these empires is great in itself; but, Madame, 
let Your Majesty, who is not wounded by it, permit me to say, the one 
without the other appears to me defective. However powerful a 
monarch may be, something is wanting to his glory if he has not 
pre-eminence of mind; and however enlightened a subject may be, 
his condition is always lowered by dependence. Men who naturally 
desire what is most perfect, have hitherto continually aspired to meet 
this sovereign par excellence. All kings and scholars have hitherto 
been but faint outlines of it, only half performing their endeavor; 
this masterpiece has been reserved for our own times. And that this 
great marvel might appear accompanied with all possible subjects of 
wonder, the position that men could not attain is filled by a youth- 
ful queen, in whom are found combined the advantage of experience 
with the tenderness of youth, the leisure of study with the occupation 


of royal birth, and the eminence of science with the feebleness of 
sex. It is Your Majesty, Madame, that furnishes to the world this 
unique example that was wanting to it. You it is in whom power is 
dispensed by the light of science, and science exalted by the lustre of 
authority. It is from this marvellous union that, as Your Majesty 
sees nothing beneath your power, you also see nothing above your 
mind, and that you will be the admiration of every age. Reign then, 
incomparable princess, in a manner wholly new; let your genius 
subdue every thing that is not submissive to your arms; reign by 
right of birth during a long course of years over so many triumphant 
provinces; but reign continually by the force of your merit over the 
whole extent of the earth. As for me, not having been born under the 
former of your empires, I wish all the world to know that I glory in 
living under the latter; and it is to bear witness to this that I dare to 
raise my eyes to my queen, in giving her this first proof of my 

This, Madame, is what leads me to make to Your Majesty this 
present, although unworthy of you. My weakness has not checked 
my ambition. I have figured to myself that although the name alone 
of Your Majesty seems to put away from you every thing that is 
disproportioned to your greatness, you will not however reject every 
thing that is inferior to yourself; as your greatness would thus be 
without homage and your glory without praise. You will be con- 
tented to receive a great mental effort, without exacting that it 
should be the effort of a mind as great as your own. It is by this 
condescension that you will deign to enter into communication with 
the rest of mankind; and all these joint considerations make me 
protest, with all the submission of which one of the greatest ad- 
mirers of your heroic qualities is capable, that I desire nothing with 
so much ardor as to be able to be adopted, Madame, by Your 
Majesty, as your most humble, most obedient, and most faithful 

Blaise Pascal. 




Epitaph of M. Pascal, Pere 

HERE lies, etc. 
Illustrious for his great knowledge which was recognized 
by the scholars of all Europe; more illustrious still for the 
great probity which he exercised in the offices and employments 
with which he was honored; but much more illustrious for his 
exemplary piety. He tasted good and bad fortune, that he might be 
known in every thing for what he was. He was seen temperate in 
prosperity and patient in adversity. He sought the aid of God in 
misfortune, and rendered him thanks in happiness. His heart was 
devoted to his God, his king, his family, and his friends. He had 
respect for the great and love for the small; it pleased God to crown 
all the graces of nature that he had bestowed on him with a divine 
grace which made his great love for God the foundation, the stay, 
and the consummation of all his other virtues. 

Thou, who seest in this epitome the only thing that remains to us 
of so beautiful a life, admire the fragility of all present things, 
weep the loss that we have suffered; render thanks to God for 
having left for a time to earth the enjoyment of such a treasure; and 
pray his goodness to crown with his eternal glory him whom he 
crowned here below with more graces and virtues than the limits 
of an epitaph permit us to relate. 

His grief-stricken children have placed this epitaph on this spot, 
which they have composed from the fulness of their hearts, in order 
to render homage to the truth and not to appear ingrates in the sight 
of God. 



To Ask of God the Proper Use of Sickness 

I. Lord, whose spirit is so good and so gentle in all things, and 
who art so merciful that not only the prosperity but the very disgrace 
that happens to thy elect is the effect of thy mercy, grant me the 
favor not to act towards me as towards a heathen in the condition 
to which thy justice has reduced me: that like a true Christian I may 
recognize thee for my Father and my God, in whatever condition I 
may find myself, since the change of my condition brings none to 
thine; as thou art always the same, however subject I may be to 
change, and as thou art none the less God when thou afHictest and 
punishest, than when thou comfortest and showest indulgence. 

II. Thou gavest me health to serve thee, and I made a profane 
use of it. Thou sendest me sickness now to correct me; suffer not that 
I use it to irritate thee by my impatience. I made a bad use of my 
health, and thou hast justly punished me for it. Suffer not that I 
make a bad use of my punishment. And since the corruption of my 
nature is such that it renders thy favors pernicious to me, grant, O 
my God! that thy all-powerful grace may render thy chastisements 
salutary. If my heart was full of affection for the world while it 
retained its vigor, destroy this vigor for my salvation; and render 
me incapable of enjoying the world, either through weakness of 
body or through zeal of charity, that I may enjoy but thee alone. 

III. O God, before whom I must render an exact account of all 
my actions at the end of my life and at the end of the world! O God, 
who lettest the world and all the things of the world subsist but to 
train thy elect or to punish sinners! O God, who allowest sinners 
hardened in the pleasurable and criminal use of the world! O God, 
who makest our bodies to die, and who at the hour of death separat- 
est our soul from all that it loved in the world! O God, who wilt 
snatch me, at this last moment of my life, from all the things to 
which I am attached and on which I have set my heart! O God, 
who wilt consume at the last day the heavens and the earth with 
all the creatures they contain, to show to all mankind that nothing 
subsists save thee, and that thus nothing is worthy of love save thee, 


since nothing is durable save thee! O God, who wilt destroy all 
these vain idols and all these fatal objects of our passions! I praise 
thee, my God, and I will bless thee all the days of my life, that it 
has pleased thee to anticipate in my favor this terrible day, by de- 
stroying all things in respect to me through the weakness to which 
thou hast reduced me. I praise thee, my God, and I will bless thee 
all the days of my life, that it has pleased thee to reduce me to the 
incapacity of enjoying the sweets of health and the pleasures of the 
world, and that thou hast destroyed in some sort, for my advantage, 
the deceitful idols that thou wilt destroy effectively, for the confusion 
of the wicked, in the day of thy wrath. Grant, Lord, that I may 
judge myself, after the destruction that thou hast made with respect 
to me, that thou mayest not judge me thyself, after the entire de>- 
struction that thou wilt make of my life and of the world. For, 
Lord, as at the instant of my death I shall find myself separated 
from the world, stripped of all things, alone in thy presence, to 
answer to thy justice for all the emotions of my heart, grant that I 
may consider myself in this sickness as in a species of death, separated 
from the world, stripped of all the objects of my attachment, alone 
in thy presence, to implore of thy mercy the conversion of my heart; 
and that thus I may have extreme consolation in knowing that thou 
sendest me now a partial death in order to exercise thy mercy, before 
thou sendest me death effectively in order to exercise thy judgment. 
Grant then, O my God, that as thou hast anticipated my death, I 
may anticipate the rigor of thy sentence, and that I may examine 
myself before thy judgment, so that I may find mercy in thy presence. 
IV. Grant, O my God! that I may adore in silence the order of 
thy adorable providence in the direction of my life; that this scourge 
may console me; and that, having lived during peace in the bitter- 
ness of my sins, I may taste the heavenly sweets of thy grace during 
the salutary evils with which thou afflictest me. But I perceive, my 
God, that my heart is so obdurate and full of the thoughts, the cares, 
the anxieties, and the attachments of the world, that sickness no 
more than health, nor discourses, nor books, nor thy sacred Scrip- 
tures, nor thy Gospel, nor thy most holy mysteries, nor alms, nor 
fasts, nor mortifications, nor miracles, nor the use of sacraments, nor 
the sacrifice of thy body, nor all my efforts, nor those of all the world 


together, can do any thing at all for the commencement of my con- 
version, if thou dost not accompany all these things with an ex- 
traordinary assistance of thy grace. It is for this that I address myself 
to thee, all-powerful God, to ask of thee a gift which all created things 
together cannot accord to me. I should not have the boldness to 
address to thee my cries, if any other had power to grant them. 
But, my God, as the conversion of my heart, which I ask of thee, is 
a work which surpasses all the efforts of nature, I can only address 
myself to the all-powerful Author and Master of nature and of my 
heart. To whom shall I cry, O Lord, to whom shall I have recourse, 
if not to thee? Nothing that is less than God can fulfil my ex- 
pectation. It is God himself that I ask and seek; and it is to thee 
alone, my God, that I address myself to obtain thee. Open my heart, 
O Lord; enter into the rebellious place which has been occupied by 
vices. They hold it subject. Enter into it as into the strong man's 
house; but first bind the strong and powerful enemy that has pos- 
session of it, and then take the treasures which are there. Lord, 
take my affections, which the world had stolen; take this treasure 
thyself, or rather retake it, since it belongs to thee as a tribute that I 
owe thee, since thy image is imprinted in it. Thou formedst it, O 
Lord, at the moment of my baptism, which was my second birth; 
but it is wholly effaced. The image of the world is so deeply en- 
graven there that thine is no longer to be recognized. Thou alone 
couldst create my soul, thou alone canst create it anew; thou alone 
couldst form thy image, thou alone canst reform and reimprint thy 
effaced portrait, that is, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is thy image, 
and the expression of thy substance. 

V. O my God! how happy is a heart that can love so charming 
an object, that does not dishonor it, and the attachment of which is 
so salutary to it! I feel that I cannot love the world without displeas- 
ing thee, and destroying and dishonoring myself; yet the world is 
still the object of my delight. O my God! how happy is the soul of 
which thou art the delight, since it can abandon itself to loving thee, 
not only without scruple, but also with merit! How firm and du- 
rable is its happiness, since its expectation will never be frustrated, 
because thou wilt never be destroyed, and neither life nor death will 
ever separate it from the object of its desires; and since the same 


moment that will plunge the wicked with their idols into a com- 
mon ruin, will unite the just with thee in a common glory; and 
since, as the former will perish with the perishable objects to which 
they are attached, the latter will subsist eternally in the eternal and 
self-subsistent object to which they are closely bound! Oh! how 
happy are those who with an entire liberty, and irresistible inclina- 
tion of their will, love perfectly and freely that which they are 
obliged to love necessarily! 

VI. Perfect, O my God, the good impulses that thou givest me. 
Be their end as thou art their principle. Crown thy own gifts, for 
I recognize that they are from thee. Yes, my God, and far from 
pretending that my prayers may have some merit that forces thee 
to accord them of necessity, I humbly acknowledge that, having 
given to created things my heart, which thou hadst formed only for 
thyself, and not for the world, nor for myself, I can expect no grace 
except from thy mercy, since I have nothing in me that can oblige 
thee to it, and since all the natural impulses of my heart, whether 
tending towards created things, or towards myself, can only irritate 
thee. I, therefore, render thee thanks, my God, for the good impulses 
which thou givest me, and for the very one that thou hast given me 
to render thanks for them. 

VII. Move my heart to repent of my faults, since, without this 
internal sorrow, the external ills with which thou affectest my body 
will be to me a new occasion of sin. Make me truly to know that 
the ills of the body are nothing else than the punishment and the 
symbol combined of the ills of the soul. But, Lord, grant also that 
they may be their remedy, by making me consider, in the pains 
which I feel, those that I did not feel in my soul, although wholly 
diseased, and covered with sores. For, Lord, the greatest of its dis- 
eases is this insensibility and extreme weakness, which had taken 
away from it all feeling of its own sufferings. Make me to feel them 
acutely, and grant that the portion of life that remains to me may 
be a continual penitence to wash away the offences that I have 

VIII. Lord, although my past life may have been exempt from 
great crimes, of which thou hast removed from me the occasions, 
it has nevertheless been most odious to thee by its continual negli- 


gence, by the bad use of thy most august sacraments, by the contempt 
of thy word and of thy inspirations, by the indolence and total use- 
lessness of my actions and my thoughts, by the complete loss of the 
time which thou hadst given me only to adore thee, to seek in all 
my occupations the means of pleasing thee, and to repent of faults 
that are committed every day, and are even common to the most 
just; so that their life should be a continual penitence, without which 
they are in danger of falling from their justice. Thus, my God, I 
have always been opposed to thee. 

IX. Yes, Lord, hitherto I have always been deaf to thy inspirations, 
I have despised thy oracles; I have judged the contrary of that which 
thou hast judged; I have contradicted the holy maxims which thou 
hast brought to the world from the bosom of thy eternal Father, 
and conformably to which thou wilt judge the world. Thou sayest: 
Blessed are those that mourn, and woe to those that are comforted! 
And I have said: Woe to those that mourn and blessed are those 
that are comforted! I have said: Blessed are those that enjoy an 
affluent fortune, a glorious reputation, and robust health! And why 
have I reputed them blessed, if not because all these advantages 
furnished them ample facility for enjoying created things, that is 
for offending thee! Yes, Lord, I confess that I have esteemed health 
a blessing, not because it is an easy means for serving thee with 
utility, for accomplishing more cares and vigils in thy service, and 
for the assistance of my neighbor; but because by its aid I could 
abandon myself with less restraint to the abundance of the delights 
of life, and better relish fatal pleasures. Grant me the favor. Lord, 
to reform my corrupt reason and to conform my sentiments to thine. 
Let me esteem myself happy in affliction, and, in the impotence of 
acting externally, purify my sentiments so that they may no longer 
be repugnant to thine; and let me thus find thee vwthin myself, 
since I cannot seek thee without because of my weakness. For, Lord, 
thy kingdom is within thy faithful; and I shall find it within myself, 
if I find there thy spirit and thy sentiments. 

X. But, Lord, what shall I do to force thee to diffuse thy spirit 
over this miserable earth ? All that I am is odious to thee, and I find 
nothing in myself that can be pleasing to thee. I see nothing therein, 
Lord, but my sufferings, which bear some resemblance to thine. 


Cbnsider then the ills that I suflfer and those that menace me. Look 
with an eye of mercy upon the wounds that thy hand has made, O 
my Saviour, who lovedst thy sufferings in death! O God, who wert 
made man only to suffer more than any other man for the salvation 
of mankind! O God, who wert not incarnated until after the sin 
of mankind, and who only tookest upon thyself a body in order to 
suffer therein all the ills which our sins had merited! O God, who 
lovedst so much these suffering bodies that thou hast chosen for 
thyself a body more oppressed with suffering than any that has ever 
appeared on earth! Look with favor upon my body, not for itself, 
nor for all that it contains, for everything therein deserving of thy 
anger, but for the ills that it endures, which alone can be worthy of 
thy love. Love my sufferings. Lord, and let my ills invite thee to 
visit me. But to finish the preparation for thy abode, grant, O my 
Saviour, that if my body has this in common with thine — that it 
suffers for my offences, my soul may also have this in common with 
thine — that it may be plunged in sorrow for the same offences; and 
that thus I may suffer with thee, and like thee, both in my body and 
in my soul, for the sins that I have committed. 

XI. Grant me the favor. Lord, to join thy consolations to my suf- 
ferings, that I may suffer like a Christian. I ask not to be exempt 
from sorrow, for this is the recompense of the saints; but I ask that 
I may not be abandoned to the sorrows of nature without the con- 
solations of thy spirit; for this is the curse of the Jews and the heathen. 
I ask not to have a fulness of consolation without any suffering; 
for this is the life of glory. Neither do I ask to be in the fulness of 
evils without consolation; for this is the state of Judaism. But I ask, 
Lord, to feel at the same time both the sorrows of nature for my 
sins, and the consolations of thy spirit through thy grace; for this 
is the true condition of Christianity. Let me not feel sorrow without 
consolation; but let me feel sorrow and consolation together, that I 
may come at last to feel thy consolation without any sorrow. For, 
Lord, thou lettest the world languish in natural suffering without 
consolation, before the coming of thy only Son: now thou consolest 
and assuagest the sufferings of thy faithful through the grace of thy 
only Son : and thou crownest thy saints with a pure beatitude in the 
glory of thy only Son. Such are the admirable degrees through which 


thou conductest thy work. Thou hast drawn me from the first: 
make me pass through the second, to arrive at the third. Lord, this 
is the favor that I ask of thee. 

XII. Suffer me not to be so far removed from thee, that I can 
consider thy soul sorrowful unto death, and thy body a prey to 
death for my own sins, without rejoicing to suffer both in my body 
and in my soul. For what is there more shameful, and yet more 
common in Christians and in myself, than that, whilst thou sweat- 
est blood for the expiation of our offences, we live in delights; and 
that those Christians who profess to belong to thee, that those who 
by baptism have renounced the world to follow thee, that those who 
have sworn solemnly in the presence of the Church to live and die 
for thee, that those who profess to believe that the world has perse- 
cuted and crucified thee, that those who believe that thou wert 
exposed to the wrath of God and the cruelty of men to ransom them 
from their crimes; that those, I say, who believe all these truths, who 
consider thy body as the victim that was yielded up for their salva- 
tion, who consider the pleasures and the sins of the world as the only 
cause of thy sufferings, and the world itself as thy executioner, seek 
to flatter their bodies by these very pleasures, in this very world; 
and that those who cannot, without shuddering with horror, see a 
man caress and cherish the murderer of his father, who would devote 
himself to give him Hfe, can live as I have done, with full joy, in 
the world that I know to have been veritably the murderer of him 
whom I acknowledge for my God and my Father, who has delivered 
himself up for my own salvation, and who has borne in his person 
the penalty of my iniquities? It is just, Lord, that thou shouldst 
have interrupted a joy so criminal as that in which I was reposing 
in the shadow of death. 

XIII. Remove from me then, Lord, the sadness that the love of 
self might give me for my own sufferings and for the things of the 
world that do not succeed to the satisfaction of the inclinations of 
my heart, and that do not regard thy glory; but create in me a sad- 
ness in conformity with thine. Let my sufferings serve to appease 
thy wrath. Make of them an occasion for my salvation and my con- 
version. Let me henceforth desire health and life only to employ 
them and end them for thee, with thee, and in thee. I ask of thee 


neither health, nor sickness, nor Hfe, nor death; but that thou wilt 
dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for 
thy glory, for my salvation, and for the utility of the Church and 
of thy saints, of whom I hope by thy grace to form a part. Thou 
alone knowest what is most expedient for me: thou art the sovereign 
master, do what thou wilt. Give to me, take from me; but conform 
my will to thine; and grant that in humble and perfect submission 
and in holy confidence, .1 may be disposed to receive the orders of 
thy eternal providence, and that I may adore alike all that comes to 
me from thee. 

XIV. Grant, my God, that in a constantly equal uniformity of 
spirit I may receive all kinds of events, since we know not what we 
should ask, and since I cannot desire one more than another without 
presumption, and without rendering myself the judge of and re- 
sponsible for the results that thy wisdom has rightly been pleased to 
hide from me. Lord, I know only that I know but one thing, that 
it is good to follow thee and that it is evil to offend thee. After this, 
I know not which is the better or worse of any thing; I know not 
which is more profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, 
nor of all the things of the world. This is a discernment that ex- 
ceeds the power of men or of angels, and that is hidden in the secrets 
of thy providence which I adore, and which I wish not to fathom. 

XV. Grant then. Lord, that such as I am I may conform myself 
to thy will; and that being sick as I am, I may glorify thee in my 
sufferings. Without them I could not arrive at glory; and thou, too, 
my Saviour, hast only wished to attain it through them. It was by 
the tokens of thy sufferings that thou wert recognized by thy dis- 
ciples; and it is by sufferings also that thou wilt recognize thy dis- 
ciples. Acknowledge me then for thy disciple in the evils which I 
endure both in my body and my mind, for the offences that I have 
committed. And since nothing is pleasing to God if it be not offered 
through thee, unite my will to thine, and my sorrows to those which 
thou hast suffered. Grant that mine may become thine. Unite me 
to thee; iiU me with thyself and with thy Holy Spirit. Enter into 
my heart and soul, to bear in them my sufferings, and to continue to 
endure in me what remains to thee to suffer of thy passion, that thou 
mayest complete in thy members even the perfect consummation of 


thy body, so that being full of thee, it may no longer be that I live 
and suffer, but that it may be thou that livest and sufferest in me, 
O my Saviour! And that thus having some small part in thy suffer- 
ings, thou wilt fill me entirely with the glory that they have acquired 
for thee, in which thou wilt live with the Father and the Holy Spirit 
through ages upon ages. So be it. 

Of Early Times and Those of To-day 

In early times, Christians were perfectly instructed in all the 
points necessary to salvation; whilst we see to-day so gross an ig- 
norance of them, that it makes all those mourn who have sentiments 
of tenderness for the Church. 

Men only entered then into the Church after great labors and long 
desires; they find their way into it now without any trouble, with- 
out care, and without labor. 

They were only admitted to it after a strict examination. They 
are received into it now before they are in a condition to be examined. 

They were not received then until after having abjured their past 
life, until after having renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil. 
They enter it now before they are in a condition to do any of these 

In short, it was necessary formerly to forsake the world in order 
to be received into the Church; whilst men enter now into the 
Church at the same time as into the world. By this process, an es- 
sential distinction was then known between the world and the 
Church. They were considered as two opposites, as two irrecon- 
cilable enemies, of which the one persecuted the other without ces- 
sation, and of which the weaker in appearance should one day 
triumph over the stronger; so that of these two antagonistic parties 
men quitted the one to enter the other; they abandoned the maxims 
of the one to embrace the maxims of the other; they put off the sen- 
timents of the one to put on the sentiments of the other; in fine, they 
quitted, they renounced, they abjured this world in which they had 
received their first birth, to devote themselves entirely to the Church 


in which they received as it were their second birth and thus they 
conceived a terrible diflference between the two; whilst they now find 
themselves almost at the same time in both; and the same moment 
that brings us forth into the world makes us acknowledged by the 
Church, so that the reason supervening, no longer makes a difference 
between these two opposite worlds. It is developed in both together. 
Men frequent the Sacraments, and enjoy the pleasures of the world; 
and thus whilst formerly they saw an essential difference between 
the two, they see them now confounded and blended together, so 
that they can no longer discriminate between them. 

Hence it is that formerly none but well-instructed persons were to 
be seen among the Christians, whilst they are now in an ignorance 
that inspires one with horror; hence it is that those who had formerly 
been regenerated by baptism, and had forsaken the vices of the world 
to enter into the piety of the Church, fell back so rarely from the 
Church into the world; whilst nothing more common is to be seen 
at this time than the vices of the world in the hearts of Christians. 
The Church of the Saints is found defiled by the mingling of the 
wicked; and her children, whom she has conceived and nourished 
from childhood in her bosom, are the very ones who carry into her 
heart, that is to the participation in her most august mysteries, the 
most cruel of her enemies, the spirit of the world, the spirit of ambi- 
tion, the spirit of vengeance, the spirit of impurity, the spirit of con- 
cupiscence and the love that she has for her children obliges her to 
admit into her very bowels the most cruel of her persecutors. 

But it is not to the Church that should be imputed the misfortunes 
which have followed a change in such salutary discipline, for she has 
not changed in spirit, however she may have changed in conduct. 
Having therefore seen that the deferring of baptism left a great num- 
ber of children in the curse of Adam, she wished to deliver them from 
this mass of perdition by hastening the aid which she could give 
them; and this good mother sees only with extreme regret that what 
she devised for the salvation of these children has become the occa- 
sion for the destruction of adults. Her true spirit is that those whom 
she withdraws at so tender an age from the contagion of the world, 
shall adopt sentiments wholly opposed to those of the world. She 
anticipates the use of reason to anticipate the vices into which corrupt 


reason will allure them; and before their mind has power to act, she 
fills them with her spirit, that they may live in ignorance of the 
world and in a condition so much the more remote from vice as they 
will never have known it. This appears from the ceremonies of 
baptism; for she does not accord baptism to children until after they 
have declared, by the mouth of sponsors, that they desire it, that they 
believe, that they renounce the world and Satan. And as she wishes 
that they should preserve these intentions throughout the whole 
course of their lives, she commands them expressly to keep them in- 
violate, and orders the sponsors, by an indispensable commandment, 
to instruct the children in all these things; for she does not wish that 
those whom she has nourished in her bosom should to-day be less 
instructed and less zealous than the adults whom she admitted in 
former times to the number of her own; she does not desire a less 
perfection in those whom she nourishes than in those whom she 
receives Yet men use it in a manner so contrary to the inten- 
tion of the Church, that one cannot think of it without horror. They 
scarcely reflect any longer upon so great a benefit, because they have 
never wished it, because they have never asked it, because they do 
not even remember having received it. . . . 

But as it is evident that the Church demands no less zeal in those 
who have been brought up servants of the faith than in those who 
aspire to become such, it is necessary to place before their eyes the 
example of the catechumens, to consider their ardor, their devotion, 
their horror of the world, their generous renunciation of the world; 
and if they were not deemed worthy of receiving baptism without 

this disposition, those who do not find it in themselves 

They must therefore submit to receive the instruction that they 
would have had if they had begun to enter into the communion of 
the Church; they must moreover submit to a continual penitence, 
and have less aversion for the austerity or their mortification than 
pleasure in the use of delights poisoned by sin 

To dispose them to be instructed, they must be made to understand 
the difference of the customs that have been practised in the Church 

in conformity with the diversity of the times 

As in the infant Church they taught the catechumens, that is those 
who aspired to baptism, before conferring it upon them; and only 


admitted them to it after full instruction in the mysteries of religion, 
after a penitence for their past lives, after profound knowledge of 
the greatness and excellence of the profession of the faith and of the 
Christian maxims into which they desired to enter forever, after 
eminent tokens of a genuine conversion of the heart, and after an 
extreme desire of baptism. These things being known to all the 
Church, the sacrament of incorporation was conferred upon them 
by which they became members of the Church; whilst in these 
times, baptism having been accorded to children before the use of 
reason, through very important considerations, it happens that the 
negligence of parents suffers Christians to grow old without any 
knowledge of the greatness of our religion. 

When instruction preceded baptism, all were instructed; but now 
that baptism precedes instruction, the instruction that was necessary 
has become voluntary, and then neglected and almost abolished. 
The true reason of this conduct is that men are persuaded of the 
necessity of baptism, and they are not persuaded of the necessity of 
instruction. So that when instruction preceded baptism, the neces- 
sity of the one caused men to have recourse to the other necessarily; 
whilst baptism at the present time preceding instruction, as men 
have been made Christians without having been instructed, they 
believe that they can remain Christians without seeking instruc- 
tion. . . . And whilst the early Christians testified so much gratitude 
towards the Church for the favor which she accorded only to their 
long prayers, they testify to-day so much ingratitude for this same 
favor, which she accords to them even before they are in a condition 
to ask it. And if she detested so strongly the lapses of the former, 
although so rare, how much must she hold in abomination the con- 
tinual lapses and relapses of the latter, although they are much more 
indebted to her, since she has drawn them much sooner and much 
more unsparingly from the damnation to which they were bound 
by their first birth. She cannot, without mourning, see the greatest 
of her favors abused, and what she has done to secure their salvation 
becomes the almost certain occasion of their destruction 



On the Condition of the Great 

In order to enter into a real knowledge of your condition, con- 
sider it in this image: 

A man was cast by a tempest upon an unknown island, the in- 
habitants of which were in trouble to find their king, who was lost; 
and having a strong resemblance both in form and face to this king, 
he was taken for him, and acknowledged in this capacity by all the 
people. At first he knew not what course to take; but finally he 
resolved to give himself up to his good fortune. He received all the 
homage that they chose to render him, and suffered himself to be 
treated as a king. 

But as he could not forget his real condition, he was conscious, at 
the same time that he was receiving this homage, that he was not the 
king whom this people had sought, and that this kingdom did not 
belong to him. Thus he had a double thought : the one by which he 
acted as king, the other by which he recognized his true state, and 
that it was accident alone that had placed him in his present condi- 
tion. He concealed the latter thought, and revealed the other. It was 
by the former that he treated with the people, and by the latter that 
he treated with himself. 

Do not imagine that it is less an accident by which you find your- 
self master of the wealth which you possess, than that by which this 
man found himself king. You have no right to it of yourself and 
by your own nature any more than he: and not only do you find your- 
self the son of a duke, but also do you find yourself in the world at 
all, only through an infinity of chances. Your birth depends on a 
marriage, or rather on the marriages of all those from whom you 
descend. But upon what do these marriages depend ? A visit made 
by chance, an idle word, a thousand unforeseen occasions. 

You hold, you say, your wealth from your ancestors; but was it 
not by a thousand accidents that your ancestors acquired it and that 
they preserved it? A thousand others, as capable as they, have 


either been unable to acquire it, or have lost it after having gained 
it. Do you imagine, too, that it may have been by some natural vi^ay 
that this wealth has passed from your ancestors to you ? This is not 
true. This order is founded only upon the mere will of legislators 
who may have had good reasons, but none of which was drawn 
from a natural right that you have over these things. If it had pleased 
them to order that this wealth, after having been possessed by fathers 
during their life, should return to the republic after their death, you 
would have no reason to complain of it. 

Thus the whole title by which you possess your property, is not 
a title of nature but of a human institution. Another turn of imagi- 
nation in those who made the laws would have rendered you poor; 
and it is only this concurrence of chance which caused your birth 
with the caprice of laws favorable in your behalf, that puts you in 
possession of all this property. 

I will not say that it does not legitimately belong to you, and that 
it is permissible for another to wrest it from you; for God, who is 
its master, has permitted communities to make laws for its division, 
and when these laws are once established, it is unjust to violate them. 
This it is that distinguishes you somewhat from the man who pos- 
sessed his kingdom only through the error of the people; because 
God did not authorize this possession, and required him to renounce 
it, whilst he authorizes yours. But what you have wholly in common 
with him is, that this right which you have, is not founded any more 
than his upon any quality or any merit in yourself which renders you 
worthy of it. Your soul and your body are, of themselves, indifferent 
to the state of boatman or that of duke; and there is no natural bond 
that attaches them to one condition rather than to another. 

What follows from this? that you should have a double thought, 
like the man of whom we have spoken, and that, if you act externally 
with men in conformity with your rank, you should recognize, by 
a more secret but truer thought, that you have nothing naturally 
superior to them. If the public thought elevates you above the gen- 
erality of men, let the other humble you, and hold you in a perfect 
equality with all mankind, for this is your natural condition. 

The populace that admires you knows not, perhaps, this secret. 
It believes that nobility is real greatness, and it almost considers the 


great as being of a different nature from others. Do not discover to 
them this error, unless you choose; but do not abuse this elevation 
with insolence, and, above all, do not mistake yourself by believing 
that your being has something in it more exalted than that of others. 

What vi'ould you say of that man who was made king by the error 
of the people, if he had so far forgotten his natural condition as to 
imagine that this kingdom was due to him, that he deserved it, and 
that it belonged to him of right ? You would marvel at his stupidity 
and folly. But is there less in the people of rank who live in so strange 
a forgetf ulness of their natural condition ? 

How important is this advice! For all the excesses, all the violence, 
and all the vanity of great men, come from the fact that they know 
not what they are: it being difficult for those who regard themselves 
at heart as equal with all men, and who are fully persuaded that they 
have nothing within themselves that merits these trifling advantages 
which God has given them over others, to treat them with insolence. 
For this it is necessary for one to forget himself, and to believe that 
he has some real excellence above them, in which consists this illusion 
that I am endeavoring to discover to you. 


It is well, sir, that you should know what is due to you, that you 
may not pretend to exact from men that which is not due to you; 
for this is an obvious injustice; and nevertheless it is very common to 
those of your condition, because they are ignorant of the nature of it. 

There is in the world two kinds of greatness: for there is great- 
ness of institution, and natural greatness. Greatness of institution 
depends upon the will of men who have with reason thought it 
right to honor certain positions, and to attach to them certain marks 
of respect. Dignities and nobility are of this class. In one country the 
nobles are honored, in another the plebeians: in this the eldest, in the 
other the youngest. Why is this ? because thus it has been pleasing to 
men. The thing was indifferent before the institution; since the 
institution it becomes just, because it is unjust to disturb it. 

Natural greatness is that which is independent of the caprice of 
men, because it consists in the real and effective qualities of the soul 


or the body, which render the one or the other more estimable, as the 
sciences, the enHghtenment o£ the mind, virtue, health, strength. 

We owe something to both these kinds of greatness; but as they 
are of a different nature, we owe them likewise different respect. 
To the greatness of institution we owe the respect of institution, that 
is, certain external ceremonies which should be nevertheless accom- 
panied, in conformity with reason, with an internal recognition of 
the justice of this order, but which do not make us conceive any real 
quality in those whom we honor after this manner. It is necessary to 
speak to kings on the bended knee, to remain standing in the pres- 
ence-chamber of princes. It is a folly and baseness of spirit to refuse 
to them these duties. 

But as for the natural homage which consists in esteem, we owe it 
only to natural greatness; and we owe, on the contrary, contempt and 
aversion to qualities contrary to this natural greatness. It is not 
necessary, because you are a duke, that I should esteem you; but it 
is necessary that I should salute you. If you are a duke and a gentle- 
man, I shall render what I owe to both these qualities. I shall not 
refuse you the ceremonies that are merited by your quality of duke, 
nor the esteem that is merited by that of a gentleman. But if you 
were a duke without being a gentleman, I should still do you justice; 
for in rendering you the external homage which the order of men 
has attached to your birth, I should not fail to have for you the 
internal contempt that would be merited by your baseness of mind. 

Therein consists the justice of these duties. And the injustice con- 
sists in attaching natural respect to greatness of condition, or in 
exacting respect of condition for natural greatness. M. N. ... is a 
greater geometrician than I; in this quality, he wishes to take pre- 
cedence of me: I will tell him that he understands nothing of the 
matter. Geometry is a natural greatness; it demands a preference of 
esteem; but men have not attached to it any external preference. I 
shall, therefore, take precedence of him, and shall esteem him greater 
than I in the quahty of geometrician. In the same manner, if, being 
duke and peer, you would not be contented with my standing un- 
covered before you, but should also wish that I should esteem you, I 
should ask you to show me the qualities that merit my esteem. If 
you did this, you would gain it, and I could not refuse it to you with 


Justice; but if you did not do it, you would be unjust to demand it 
of me; and assuredly you would not succeed, were you the greatest 
prince in the world. 


I WISH, sir, to make known to you your true condition; for this is 
the thing of all others of which persons of your class are the most 
ignorant. What is it, in your opinion, to be a great nobleman? It 
is to be master of several objects that men covet, and thus to be able to 
satisfy the wants and the desires of many. It is these wants and these 
desires that attract them towards you, and that make them submit 
to you: were it not for these, they would not even look at you; but 
they hope, by these services, and this deference which they render 
you, to obtain from you some part of the good which they desire, and 
of which they see that you have the disposal. 

God is surrounded with people full of love who demand of him 
the benefits of love which are in his power: thus he is properly the 
king of love. You are in the same manner surrounded with a small 
circle of persons, over whom you reign in your way. These men are 
full of desire. They demand of you the benefits of desire; it is desire 
that binds them to you. You are therefore properly the king of de- 
sire. Your kingdom is of small extent; but you are equal in this to 
the greatest kings of the earth: they are like you the sovereigns of 
desire. It is desire that constitutes their power; that is the possession 
of things that men covet. 

But while knowing your natural condition, avail yourself of the 
means that it gives you, and do not pretend to rule by a different 
power than by that which makes you king. It is not your strength 
and your natural power that subjects all these people to you. Do 
not pretend then to rule them by force or to treat them with harsh- 
ness. Satisfy their reasonable desires; alleviate their necessities; let 
your pleasure consist in being beneficent; advance them as much as 
you can, and you will act like the true king of desire. 

What I tell you does not go very far; and if you stop there you 
wall not save yourself from being lost; but at least you will be lost 
like an honest man. There are some men who expose themselves to 


damnation so foolishly by avarice, by brutality, by debauches, by 
violence, by excesses, by blasphemies! The way which I open to you 
is doubtless the most honorable; but in truth it is always a great 
folly for a man to expose himself to damnation; and therefore he 
must not stop at this. He must despise desire and its kingdom, and 
aspire to that kingdom of love in which all the subjects breathe 
nothing but love, and desire nothing but the benefits of love. Others 
than I will show you the way to this; it is sufficient for me to have 
turned you from those gross ways into which I see many persons of 
your condition suffer themselves to be led, for want of knowing the 
true state of this condition. 


The first thing with which God inspires the soul that he deigns 
to touch truly, is a knowledge and most extraordinary insight by 
which the soul considers things and herself in a manner wholly new. 

This new light gives her fear, and brings her a trouble that pene- 
trates the repose which she found in the things that made her 

She can no longer relish with tranquillity the things that charmed 
her. A continual scruple opposes her in this enjoyment, and this in- 
ternal sight causes her to find no longer this accustomed sweetness 
among the things to which she abandoned herself with a full effu- 
sion of heart. 

But she finds still more bitterness in the exercises of piety than in 
the vanities of the world. On one side, the vanity of the visible ob- 
jects interests her more than the hope of the invisible, and on the 
other the solidity of the invisible interests her more than the vanity 
of the visible. And thus the presence of the one and the solidity of 
the other dispute her affection, and the vanity of the one and the 
absence of the other excite her aversion; so that a disorder and con- 
fusion spring up in her, that 

She considers perishable things as perishable and even already per- 
ished; and in the certain prospect of the annihilation of every thing 

' By some scholars this fragment is attributed to Mile. Pascal. 


that she loves, she is terrified by this consideration, in seeing that 
each moment snatches from her the enjoyment of her good, and that 
what is most dear to her gUdes away at every moment, and that 
finally a certain day will come in which she will find herself stripped 
of all the things in which she had placed her hope. So that she com- 
prehends perfectly that her heart being attached only to vain and 
fragile things, her soul must be left alone and forsaken on quitting 
this life, since she has not taken care to unite herself to a true and 
self-subsisting good which could sustain her both during and after 
this life. 

Thence it comes that she begins to consider as nothingness all 
that must return to nothingness, — the heavens, the earth, her spirit, 
her body, her relatives, her friends, her enemies, wealth, poverty, 
disgrace, prosperity, honor, ignominy, esteem, contempt, authority, 
indigence, health, sickness, life itself. In fine, all that is less durable 
than her soul is incapable of satisfying the desire of this soul, which 
seeks earnestly to establish itself in a felicity as durable as herself. 

She begins to be astonished at the blindness in which she has 
lived, and when she considers, on the one hand, the long time that 
she has lived without making these reflections, and the great number 
of people who live in the same way, and, on the other hand, how 
certain it is that the soul, being immortal as she is, cannot find her 
felicity among perishable things which will be taken away from her, 
at all events, by death, she enters into a holy confusion and an as- 
tonishment that brings to her a most salutary trouble. 

For she considers that, however great may be the number of 
those who grow old in the maxims of the world, and whatever may 
be the authority of this multitude of examples of those who place 
their felicity in this world, it is nevertheless certain that, even though 
the things of the world should have some solid pleasure, which is 
recognized as false by an infinite number of fearful and continual 
examples, it is inevitable that we shall lose these things, or that death 
at last will deprive us of them; so that the soul having amassed 
treasures of temporal goods, of whatever nature they may be, whether 
gold, or science, or reputation, it is an indispensable necessity that 
she shall find herself stripped of all these objects of her felicity; and 
that thus, if they have had wherewith to satisfy her, they will not 


always have wherewith to satisfy her; and that, if it is to procure 
herself a real happiness, it is not to promise herself a very durable 
happiness, since it must be limited to the course of this life. 

So that, by a holy humility which God exalts above pride, she be- 
gins to exalt herself above the generality of mankind: she con- 
demns their conduct, she detests their maxims, she bewails their 
blindness; she devotes herself to the search for the true good; she 
comprehends that it is necessary that it should have the two follow- 
ing qualities: the one that it shall last as long as herself, and that it 
cannot be taken away from her except by her consent, and the other 
that there shall be nothing more lovely. 

She sees that in the love she has had for the world, she found in 
it this second quality in her blindness; for she perceived nothing 
more lovely. But as she does not see the first in it, she knows that 
it is not the sovereign good. She seeks it, therefore, elsewhere, and 
knowing by a pure light that it is not in the things that are within 
her, or without her, or before her (in nothing, therefore, within or 
around her), she begins to seek it above her. . 

This elevation is so eminent and so transcendent that she does not 
stop at the heavens, — they have not wherewith to satisfy her, — nor 
above the heavens, nor at the angels, nor at the most perfect beings. 
She passes through all created things, and cannot stop her heart until 
she has rendered herself up at the throne of God, in which she be- 
gins to find her repose and that good which is such that there is 
nothing more lovely, and which cannot be taken away from her 
except by her own consent. 

For although she does not feel those charms with which God 
recompenses continuance in piety, she comprehends, nevertheless, 
that created things cannot be more lovely than their Creator; and 
her reason, aided by the light of grace, makes her understand that 
there is nothing more lovely than God, and that he can only be taken 
away from those who reject him, since to possess him is only to desire 
him, and to refuse him is to lose him. 

Thus she rejoices at having found a good which cannot be wrested 
from her so long as she shall desire it, and which has nothing above it. 

And in these new reflections she enters into sight of the grandeur 
of her Creator, and into humiliations and profound adorations. She 


becomes, in consequence, reduced to nothing and being unable to 
form a base enougli idea of herself, or to conceive an exalted enough 
idea of this sovereign good, she makes new efforts to abase herself 
to the lowest abysses of nothingness, in considering God in the 
immensities which she multiplies without ceasing. In fine, in this 
conception, which exhausts her strength, she adores him in silence, 
she considers herself as his vile and useless creature, and by her 
reiterated homage adores and blesses him, and wishes to bless and 
to adore him forever. Then she acknowledges the grace which he 
has granted her in manifesting his infinite majesty to so vile a worm; 
and after a firm resolution to be eternally grateful for it, she be- 
comes confused for having preferred so many vanities to this divine 
master; and in a spirit of compunction and penitence she has re- 
course to his pity to arrest his anger, the effect of which appears 
terrible to her. In the sight of these immensities 

She makes ardent prayers to God to obtain of his mercy that, as it 
has pleased him to discover himself to her, it may please him to con- 
duct her to him, and to show her the means of arriving there. For 
as it is to God that she aspires, she aspires also only to reach him by 
means that come from God himself, because she wishes that he him- 
self should be her path, her object, and her final end. After these 
prayers, she begins to act, and seeks among these 

She begins to know God, and to desire to reach him; but as she is 
ignorant of the means of attaining this, if her desire is sincere and 
true, she does the same as a person who, desiring to reach some place, 
having lost his way, and knowing his aberration, would have re- 
course to those who knew this way perfectly, and 

She resolves to conform to his will during the remainder of her 
life; but as her natural weakness, with the habit that she has of the 
sins in which she has lived, have reduced her to the impotence of 
attaining this felicity, she implores of his mercy the means of reach- 
ing him, of attaching herself to him, of adhering to him eternally. 

Thus she perceives that she should adore 

God as a creature, render thanks to him as a debtor, satisfy him as a 
criminal, and pray to him as one poor and needy. 



with m. de saci 

On Epictetus and Montaigne 

M. Pascal came, too, at this time, to live at Port-Royal des Champs. 
I do not stop to tell who this man was, whom not only all France, 
but all Europe admired; his mind always acute, always active, was 
of an extent, an elevation, a firmness, a penetration, and a clearness 
exceeding any thing that can be believed. . . . This admirable man, 
being finally moved by God, submitted this lofty mind to the yoke of 
Jesus Christ, and this great and noble heart embraced penitence with 
humility. He came to Paris to throw himself into the arms of M. 
Singhn, resolved to do all that he should order him. M. Singlin 
thought, on seeing this great genius, that he should do well to send 
him to Port-Royal des Champs, where M. Arnauld would cope with 
him in the sciences, and where M. de Saci would teach him to 
despise them. He came therefore to live at Port-Royal. M. de Saci 
could not courteously avoid seeing him, especially having been urged 
to it by M. Singhn; but the holy enlightenment which he found in 
the Scripture and in the Fathers made him hope that he would not 
be dazzled by all the brilliancy of M. Pascal, which nevertheless 
charmed and carried away all the world. He found in fact all that 
he said very just. He acknowledged with pleasure the strength of 
his mind and conversation. All that M. Pascal said to him that was 
remarkable he had seen before in St. Augustine, and doing justice 
to every one, he said: "M. Pascal is extremely estimable in that, not 
having read the Fathers of the Church, he has of himself, by the 
penetration of his mind, found the same truths that they had found. 
He finds them surprising, he says, because he has not found them in 
any place; but for us, we are accustomed to see them on every side 
in our books." Thus, this wise ecclesiastic, finding that the ancients 
had not less light than the moderns, held to them, and esteemed 
M. Pascal greatly because he agreed in all things with St. Augus- 

The usual way of M. de Saci, in conversing with people, was 
to adapt his conversation to those with whom he was talking. If he 
met, for example, M. Champagne, he talked with him of painting. 


If he met M. Hamon, he talked with him of medicine. If he met the 
surgeon of the place, he questioned him on surgery. Those who cul- 
tivated the vine, or trees, or grain, told him all that was remarkable 
about them. Every thing served to lead him speedily to God and to 
lead others there with him. He thought it his duty therefore to put 
M. Pascal in his province, and to talk with him of the philosophical 
readings with which he had been most occupied. He led him to 
this subject in the first conversations that they had together. M. 
Pascal told him that his two most familiar books had been Epictetus 
and Montaigne, and highly eulogized these two minds. M. de Saci, 
who had always thought it a duty to read but little of these two 
authors, entreated M. Pascal to speak of them to him at length. 

"Epictetus," says he, "is among the philosophers of the world who 
have best understood the duties of man. He requires, before all 
things, that he should regard God as his principal object; that he 
should be persuaded that he governs every thing with justice; that 
he should submit to him cheerfully, and that he should follow him 
voluntarily in every thing, as doing nothing except with the utmost 
wisdom: as thus this disposition will check all complaints and mur- 
murs, and will prepare his mind to suffer tranquilly the most vexa- 
tious events. Never say, says he, I have lost this; say rather, I have 
restored it. My son is dead, I have restored him. My wife is dead, I 
have restored her. So with property and with every thing else. But 
he who has deprived me of it is a wicked man, you say. Why does it 
trouble you by whom the one who has lent it to you demands it of 
you again? While he permits you the use of it, take care of it as 
property belonging to another, as a man who is travelling would 
do in an inn. You ought not, says he, to desire that things should be 
done as you wish, but you ought to wish that they should be done 
as they are done. Remember, says he elsewhere, that you are here as 
an actor, and that you play the part in a drama that it pleases the 
manager to give you. If he gives you a short one, play a short one; 
if he gives you a long one, play a long one; if he wishes you to feign 
the beggar, you should do it with all the simplicity possible to you; 
and so with the rest. It is your business to play well the part that is 
given you; but to choose it is the business of another. Have every 
day before your eyes death and the evils which seem the most 


intolerable; and you will never think of any thing lower and will 
desire nothing with excess. 

"He shows, too, in a thousand ways what man should do. He 
requires that he should be humble, that he should conceal his good 
resolutions, especially in the beginning, and that he should accomplish 
them in secret: nothing destroys them more than to reveal them. He 
never tires of repeating that the whole study and desire of man 
should be to perceive the will of God and to pursue it. 

"Such sir," said M. Pascal to M. de Saci, "was the enlightenment 
of this great mind that so well understood the duties of man. I dare 
say that he would have merited to be adored if he had also known 
his impotence as well, since it is necessary to be a god to teach both 
to men. Thus as he was clay and ashes, after having so well com- 
prehended what was due, behold how he destroys himself in the 
presumption of what can be done. He says that God has given to 
every man the means of acquitting himself of all his obligations; 
that these means are always in our power; that we must seek felicity 
through the things that are in our power, since God has given them 
to us for this end: we must see what there is in us that is free; that 
wealth, life, esteem, are not in our power, and therefore do not lead 
to God; but that the mind cannot be forced to believe what it knows 
to be false, nor the will to love what it knows will render it unhappy; 
that these two powers are therefore free, and that it is through 
them that we can render ourselves perfect; that man can by these 
powers perfectly know God, love him, obey him, please him, cure 
himself of all his vices, acquire all the virtues, render himself holy, 
and thus the companion of God. These principles of a diabolic pride 
lead him to other errors, as that the soul is a portion of the divine 
substance; that sorrow and death are not evils; that one may kill 
himself when he is persecuted to such a degree that he has reason 
to believe that God calls him, and others. 

"As for Montaigne, of whom you wish too, sir, that I should speak 
to you, being born in a Christian State, he made profession of the 
Catholic religion, and in this there was nothing peculiar. But as he 
wished to discover what morals reason would dictate without the 
light of faith, he based his principles upon this supposition; and thus, 
considering man as destitute of all revelation, he discourses in this 


wise. He puts all things in a universal doubt, so general that this 
doubt bears away itself, that is whether he doubts, and even doubting 
this latter proposition, his uncertainty revolves upon itself in a per- 
petual and restless circle, alike opposed to those who affirm that every 
thing is uncertain and to those who affirm that every thing is not so, 
because he will affirm nothing. It is in this doubt which doubts itself, 
and in this ignorance which is ignorant of itself, and which he calls 
his master-form, that lies the essence of his opinion, which he was 
unable to express by any positive term. For if he says that he doubts, 
he betrays himself in affirming at least that he doubts; which being 
formally against his intention, he could only explain it by interroga- 
tion; so that, not wishing to say: 'I do not know,' he says: 'What do 
I know.''' Of this he makes his device, placing it under the scales 
which, weighing contradictories, are found in perfect equilibrium: 
that is, it is pure Pyrrhonism. Upon this principle revolve all his 
discourses and all his essays; and it is the only thing that he pretends 
really to establish, although he does not always point out his inten- 
tion. He destroys in them insensibly all that passes for the most 
certain among men, not indeed to establish the contrary with a cer- 
tainty to which alone he is the enemy, but merely to show that, ap- 
pearances being equal on both sides, one knows not where to fix 
his belief. 

"In this spirit he jests at all affirmations; for example, he combats 
those who have thought to establish in France a great remedy against 
lawsuits by the multitude and the pretended justice of the laws: as 
if one could cut off the root of the doubts whence arise these law- 
suits, and as if there were dikes that could arrest the torrent of un- 
certainty and take conjectures captive! Thus it is that, when he 
says that he would as soon submit his cause to the first passer-by as 
to judges armed with such a number of ordinances, he does not pre- 
tend that we should change the order of the State, — he has not so 
much ambition; nor that his advice may be better, — he believes none 
good. It is only to prove the vanity of the most received opinions; 
showing that the exclusion of all laws would rather diminish the 
number of disputants whilst the multiplicity of laws serves only to 
increase them, since difficulties grow in proportion as they are 
weighed; since obscurities are multiplied by commentaries; and 


since the surest way to understand the meaning of a discourse is not 
to examine it, and to take it on the first appearance: as soon as it is 
scrutinized, all its clearness becomes dissipated. In the like manner 
he judges by chance of all the acts of men and the points of history, 
sometimes in one way, sometimes in another, freely following his 
first impression, and, without constraining his thought by the rules 
of reason, which has only false measures, he delights to show, by his 
example, the contrarieties of the same mind. In this free genius, it 
is alike equal to him to get the better or not in the dispute, having 
always, by either example, a means of showing the weakness of 
opinions; being sustained with so much advantage in this universal 
doubt, that he is strengthened in it alike by his triumph and his 

"It is from this position, floating and wavering as it is, that he 
combats with an invincible firmness the heretics of his times in 
respect to their affirmation of alone knowing the true sense of the 
Scripture; and it is also from this that he thunders forth most vigor- 
ously against the horrible impiety of those who dare to affirm that 
God is not. He attacks them especially in the apology of Raimond 
de Sebonde; and finding them voluntarily destitute of all revela- 
tion, and abandoned to their natural intelligence, all faith set aside, 
he demands of them upon what authority they undertake to judge 
of this sovereign Being who is infinite by his own definition, they 
who know truly none of the things of nature! He asks them upon 
what principles they rest; he presses them to show them. He exam- 
ines all that they can produce, and penetrates them so deeply, by the 
talent in which he excels, that he demonstrates the vanity of all those 
that pass for the firmest and the most natural. He asks whether the 
soul knows any thing; whether she knows herself; whether she is 
substance or accident, body or spirit, what is each of these things, 
and whether there is any thing that does not belong to one of these 
orders; whether she knows her own body, what is matter and 
whether she can discern among the innumerable variety of bodies 
from which it is produced; how she can reason if she is material; and 
how she can be united to a particular body and feel its passions if she 
is spiritual; when she commenced to be; with the body or before; and 
whether she will end with it or not; whether she is never mistaken; 


whether she knows when she errs, seeing that the essence o£ con- 
tempt consists in not knowing it; whether in her obscurity she does 
not believe as firmly that two and three make six as she knows after- 
wards that they make five; whether animals reason, think, talk; and 
who can determine what is time, what is space or extent, what is 
motion, what is unity, what are all the things that surround us and 
are wholly inexplicable to us; what is health, sickness, life, death, 
good, evil, justice, sin, of which we constantly speak; whether we 
have within us the principles of truth, and whether those which we 
believe, and which are called axioms or common notions, because 
they are common to all men, are in conformity with the essential 
truth. And since we know but by faith alone that an all-good Being 
has given them to us truly in creating us to know the truth, who can 
know without this light whether, being formed by chance, they are 
not uncertain, or whether, being formed by a lying and malicious 
being, he has not given them to us falsely in order to lead us astray ? 
Showing by this that God and truth are inseparable, and that if the 
one is or is not, if it is certain or uncertain, the other is necessarily the 
same. Who knows then whether the common-sense, that we take 
for the judge of truth, can be the judge of that which has created it? 
Besides, who knows what truth is, and how can we be sure of having 
it without understanding it ? Who knows even what is being which 
it is impossible to define, since there is nothing more general, and 
since it would be necessary at first, to explain it, to use the word itself: 
It is being ....'' And since we know not what is soul, body, time, 
space, motion, truth, good, nor even being, nor how to explain the 
idea that we form within ourselves, how can we assure ourselves 
that it is the same in all men, seeing that we have no other token 
than the uniformity of consequences, which is not always a sign of 
that of principles; for they may indeed be very different, and lead 
nevertheless to the same conclusions, every one knowing that the true 
is often inferred from the false. 

"Lastly, he examines thus profoundly the sciences, both geometry, 
of which he shows the uncertainty in the axioms and the terms that 
she does not define, as centre, motion, etc., physics in many more 
ways, and medicine in an infinity of methods; history, politics, ethics, 
jurisprudence, and the rest. So that we remain convinced that we 


think no better at present that in a dream from which we shall wake 
only at death, and during which we have the principles o£ truth as 
little as during natural sleep. It is thus that he reproaches reason 
divested of faith so strongly and so cruelly that, making her doubt 
whether she is rational, and whether animals are so or not, or in a 
greater or less degree, he makes her descend from the excellence 
which she has attributed to herself, and places her through grace on 
a level with the brutes, without permitting her to quit this order until 
she shall have been instructed by her Creator himself in respect to 
her rank, of which she is ignorant; threatening, if she grumbles, to 
place her beneath every thing, which is as easy as the opposite, and 
nevertheless giving her power to act only in order to remark her 
weakness with sincere humility, instead of exalting herself by a 
foolish insolence." 

M. de Saci, fancying himself living in a new country, and listen- 
ing to a new language, repeated to himself the words of St. Augus- 
tine: O God of truth! are those who know these subtleties of reason- 
ing therefore more pleasing to thee? He pitied this philosopher who 
pricked and tore himself on every side with the thorns that he 
formed, as St. Augustine said of himself when he was in this state. 
After some meditation, he said to M. Pascal : 

"I thank you, sir; I am sure that if I had read Montaigne a long 
time, I should not know him so well as I do, since the conversation 
that I have just had with you. This man should wish that he might 
never be known, except by the recitals that you make of his writings; 
and he might say with St. Augustine : Ibi me vide, attende. I believe 
assuredly that this man had talent; but I know not whether you do 
not lend to him a little more than he had, by the logical chain that you 
make of his principles. You can judge that having passed my life 
as I have done, I have had little counsel to read this author, the works 
of whom had nothing of that which we ought chiefly to seek in our 
reading, according to the rule of St. Augustine, because his works do 
not appear to proceed from a solid basis of humility and piety. We 
should forgive those philosophers of former times who styled them- 
selves academicians, for putting every thing in doubt. But what need 
had Montaigne to divert the mind by reviving a doctrine which 
passes now in the eyes of Christians for the folly? This is the judg- 


ment that St. Augustine passes on these persons. For we can say 
after him o£ Montaigne: He sets faith aside in every thing that he 
says; therefore we, who have faith, should set aside every thing that 
he says. I do not blame the talent of this author, which was a great 
gift from God; but he might have used it better, and made a sacri- 
fice of it to God rather than to the devil. What avails a blessing when 
one uses it so ill? Quid proderat, etc., said this holy doctor of him 
before his conversion. You are fortunate, sir, in having raised your- 
self above these people, who are called doctors, who are plunged in 
drunkenness, but whose hearts are void of truth. God has poured 
out into your heart other sweets and other attractions than those 
which you find in Montaigne. He has recalled you from that dan- 
gerous pleasure, a jucunditate pestifera, says St. Augustine, who 
renders thanks to God that he has forgiven him the sins which he 
had committed in delighting too much in vanity. St. Augustine is 
so much the more credible in this that he held formerly the same 
sentiments; and as you say of Montaigne that it is through universal 
doubt that he combats the heretics of his times, so through this same 
doubt of the academicians, St. Augustine forsook the heresy of the 
Manicheans. As soon as he belonged to God, he renounced these 
vanities, which he calls sacrileges. He perceived with what wisdom 
St. Paul warned us not to suffer ourselves to be seduced by these 
discourses. For he acknowledges that there is in them a certain har- 
mony which fascinates: we sometimes believe things true only be- 
cause they are narrated eloquently. Those are dangerous viands, 
says he, that are served up in fine dishes; but these viands, instead of 
nourishing the heart, starve it. We then resemble men who sleep, 
and who fancy that they eat while sleeping: these imaginary viands 
leave them as empty as they were before." 

M. de Saci made several similar remarks to M. Pascal : whereupon 
M. Pascal said to him, that if he complimented him on thoroughly 
possessing Montaigne, and of knowing how to construe him well, 
he could tell him without flattery that he understood St. Augustine 
much better, and that he knew how to construe him much better, 
though little to the advantage of poor Montaigne. He expressed 
himself as being extremely edified by the solidity of all that he had 


just represented to him; nevertheless, being full of his author, he 
could not contain himself, and thus continued: 

"I acknowledge, sir, that I cannot see without joy in this author 
proud reason so irresistibly baffled by its own weapons, and that 
fierce contention of man with man, which, from the companionship 
with God, to which he had exalted himself by maxims, hurls him 
down to the nature of brutes; and I should have loved with all my 
heart the minister of so great a vengeance, if, being a disciple of the 
Church by faith, he had followed the rules of ethics, in bringing men 
whom he had so usefully humiliated, not to irritate by new crimes 
him who alone can draw them from the crimes which he has con- 
victed them of not being able even to know. 

"But he acts on the contrary like a heathen in this wise. On this 
principle, says he, outside of faith every thing is in uncertainty, and 
considering how much men seek the true and the good without 
making any progress towards tranquillity, he concludes that one 
should leave the care of them to others; and remain nevertheless in 
repose, skimming lightly over subjects for fear of going beyond one's 
depth in them; and take the true and the good on first appearances, 
without dwelling on them, for they are so far from being solid that if 
one grasps them ever so lightly, they will slip through his fingers 
and leave them empty. For this reason he follows the evidence of 
the senses and common-sense, because he would be obliged to do 
violence to himself to contradict them, and because he knows not 
whether he would gain by it, ignorant as to where the truth is. 
So he shuns pain and death, because his instinct impels him to it, 
and because he will not resist for the same reason, but without con- 
cluding thence that these may be the real evils, not confiding too 
much in these natural emotions of fear, seeing that we feel others of 
pleasure which are accused of being wrong, although nature speaks 
to the contrary. Thus there is nothing extravagant in his conduct; he 
acts like the rest of mankind, and all that they do in the foolish idea 
that they are pursuing the true good, he does from another principle, 
which is that probabiUties being equal on either side, example and 
convenience are the counterpoises that decide him. 

"He mounts his horse hke a man that is not a philosopher, because 


he suflFers it, but without beHeving that this is his right, not knowing 
whether this animal has not, on the contrary, the right to make use 
of him. He also does some violence to himself to avoid certain vices; 
and he even preserves fidelity to marriage on account of the penalty 
that follows irregularities; but if the trouble that he takes exceeds 
that which he avoids, it does not disturb him, the rule of this action 
being convenience and tranquillity. He utterly rejects therefore that 
stoical virtue which is depicted with a severe mien, fierce glance, 
bristling locks, and wrinkled and moist brow, in a painful and dis- 
torted posture, far from men in a gloomy silence, alone upon the 
summit of a rock: a phantom, he says, fit to frighten children, and 
which does nothing else with continual effort than to seek the re- 
pose which it never attains. His own is simple, familiar, pleasant, 
playful, and as we may say sportive: she follows whatever charms 
her, and toys negligently with good and bad accidents, reclining 
effeminately in the bosom of a tranquil indolence, from which she 
shows to those who seek felicity with so much toil that it is only 
there where she is reposing, and that ignorance and incuriosity are 
soft pillows for a well-balanced head, as he himself has said. 

"I cannot conceal from you, sir, that in reading this author and 
comparing him with Epictetus, I have found that they are assuredly 
the two greatest defenders of the two most celebrated sects of the 
world, and the only ones conformable to reason, since we can only 
follow one of these two roads, namely : either that there is a God, and 
then we place in him the sovereign good; or that he is uncertain, 
and that then the true good is also uncertain, since he is incapable of 
it. I have taken extreme pleasure in remarking in these different 
reasonings wherein both have reached some conformity with the 
true wisdom which they have essayed to understand. For if it is 
pleasing to observe in nature her desire to paint God in all his works, 
in which we see some traces of him because they are his images, how 
much more just is it to consider in the productions of minds the 
efforts which they make to imitate the essential truth, even in shun- 
ning it, and to remark wherein they attain it and wherein they wan- 
der from it, as I have endeavored to do in this study. 

"It is true, sir, that you have just shown me, in an admirable man- 
ner, the little utility that Christians can draw from these philosophic 


Studies. I shall not refrain however, with your permission, from tell- 
ing you still further my thoughts on the subject, ready, however, 
to renounce all light that does not come from you, in which I shall 
have the advantage either of having encountered truth by good for- 
tune or of receiving it from you with certainty. It appears to me that 
the source of the errors of these two sects, is in not having known 
that the state of man at the present time differs from that of his 
creation; so that the one, remarking some traces of his first greatness 
and being ignorant of his corruption, has treated nature as sound 
and without need of redemption, which leads him to the height of 
pride; whilst the other, feeUng the present wretchedness and being 
ignorant of the original dignity, treats nature as necessarily infirm 
and irreparable, which precipitates it into despair of arriving at 
real good, and thence into extreme laxity. Thus these two states 
which it is necessary to know together in order to see the whole truth, 
being known separately, lead necessarily to one of these two vices, 
pride or indolence, in which all men are invariably before grace, 
since if they do not remain in their disorders through laxity, they 
forsake them through vanity, so true is that which you have just re- 
peated to me from St. Augustine, and which I find to a great extent; 
for in fact homage is rendered to them in many ways. 

"It is therefore from this imperfect enlightenment that it happens 
that the one, knowing the duties of man and being ignorant of his 
impotence, is lost in presumption, and that the other, knowing the 
impotence and being ignorant of the duty, falls into laxity; whence 
it seems that since the one leads to truth, the other to error, there 
would be formed from their alliance a perfect system of morals. But 
instead of this peace, nothing but war and a general ruin would 
result from their union; for the one establishing certainty, the other 
doubt, the one the greatness of man, the other his weakness, they 
would destroy the truths as well as the falsehoods of each other. So 
that they cannot subsist alone because of their defects, nor unite 
because of their opposition, and thus they break and destroy each 
other to give place to the truth of the Gospel. This it is that har- 
monizes the contrarieties by a wholly divine act, and uniting all 
that is true and expelling all that is false, thus makes of them a truly 
celestial wisdom in which those opposites accord that were incompat- 


ible in human doctrines. And the reason o£ this is, that these philoso- 
phers of the world place contrarieties in the same subject; for the one 
attributed greatness to nature and the other weakness to this same 
nature, which could not subsist; whilst faith teaches us to place them 
in different subjects: all that is infirm belonging to nature, all that is 
powerful belonging to grace. Such is the marvellous and novel 
union which God alone could teach, and which he alone could make, 
and which is only a type and an effect of the ineffable union of two 
natures in the single person of a Man-God. 

"I ask your pardon, sir," said M. Pascal to M. de Saci, "for being 
thus carried away in your presence into theology, instead of remain- 
ing in philosophy, which alone was my subject; but I was led to it 
insensibly; and it is difficult not to enter upon it whatever truth may 
be discussed, because it is the centre of all the truths; which appears 
here perfecdy, since it so obviously includes all those that are found 
in these opinions. Thus I do not see how any of them could refuse 
to follow it. For if they are full of the idea of the greatness of man, 
what have they imagined that does not yield to the promises of the 
Gospel, which are nothing else than the worthy price of the death 
of a God ? And if they delighted in viewing the infirmities of nature, 
their ideas do not equal those of the real weakness of sin, of which 
the same death has been the remedy. Thus all find in it more than 
they have desired; and what is marvellous, they who could not har- 
monize in an infinitely inferior degree, then find themselves in 

M. de Saci could not refrain from testifying to M. Pascal that he 
was surprised to see how well he knew how to interpret things; but 
he acknowledged at the same time that every one had not the secret 
of making on these readings such wise and elevated reflections. He 
told him that he was like those skilful physicians, who by an adroit 
method of preparing the most deadly poisons knew how to extract 
from them the most efficacious remedies. He added, that though he 
saw clearly, from what he had just said, that these readings were 
useful to him, he could not believe however that they would be ad- 
vantageous to many people of slow intellect, who would not have ele- 
vation of mind enough to read these authors and judge of them, and 
to know how to draw pearls from the midst of the dunghill, aurum 


ex stercore, as said one of the Fathers. This could be much better 
said of these philosophers, the dunghill of whom, by its black fumes, 
might obscure the wavering faith of those who read them. For this 
reason he would always counsel such persons not to expose them- 
selves lightly to these readings, for fear of being destroyed with these 
philosophers, and of becoming the prey of demons and the food of 
worms, according to the language of the Scripture, as these philoso- 
phers have been. 

"As to the utility of these readings," said M. Pascal, "I will tell 
you simply my thought. I find in Epictetus an incomparable art for 
troubling the repose of those who seek it in external things, and for 
forcing them to acknowledge that they are veritable slaves and mis- 
erable blind men; that it is impossible that they should find any 
thing else than the error and pain which they fly, unless they give 
themselves without reserve to God alone. Montaigne is incomparable 
for confounding the pride of those who, outside of faith, pique them- 
selves in a genuine justice; for disabusing those who cling to their 
opinions, and who think to find in the sciences impregnable truths; 
and for so effectually convicting reason of its want of light and its 
aberrations, that it is difficult, when one makes a good use of its 
principles, to be tempted to find repugnance in mysteries, for the 
mind is so overwhelmed by him, that it is far from wishing to judge 
whether the Incarnation or the mystery of the Eucharist are possible; 
which the generality of mankind discuss but too often. 

"But if Epictetus combats indolence, he leads to pride, so that he 
may be very injurious to those who are not persuaded of the corrup- 
tion of the most perfect justice which is not from faith. And Mon- 
taigne is absolutely pernicious to those who have any leaning to 
impiety or vice. For this reason these readings should be regulated 
with much care, discretion, and regard to the condition and dispo- 
sition of those to whom they are counselled. It seems to me only that 
by joining them together they would not succeed ill, since the one 
is opposed to the evil of the other: not that they could bestow virtue 
but only disturb vice; the soul finding itself combated by contrarie- 
ties, the one of which expels pride and the other indolence, and 
being unable to be tranquil in any of these vices by their reasonings, 
or to shun them all." 


It was thus that these two persons of so fine an intellect agreed 
at last upon the subject of the reading of these philosophers, and met 
at the same goal, which they reached however by a somewhat difler- 
ent method; M. de Saci arriving there at once through the clear 
views of Christianity, and M. Pascal reaching it only after many turns 
by clinging to the principles of these philosophers. 


The art of persuasion has a necessary relation to the manner in 
which men are led to consent to that which is proposed to them, 
and to the conditions of things which it is sought to make them 

No one is ignorant that there are two avenues by which opinions 
are received into the soul, which are its two principal powers: the 
understanding and the will. The more natural is that of the under- 
standing, for we should never consent to any but demonstrated 
truths; but the more common, though the one contrary to nature, is 
that of the will; for all men are almost led to believe not of proof, 
but by attraction. This way is base, ignoble, and irrelevant: every 
one therefore disavows it. Each one professes to believe and even 
to love nothing but what he knows to be worthy of belief and love. 

I do not speak here of divine truths, which I shall take care not to 
comprise under the art of persuasion, because they are infinitely 
superior to nature: God alone can place them in the soul and in such 
a way as it pleases him. I know that he has desired that they should 
enter from the heart into the mind, and not from the mind into the 
heart, to humiliate that proud power of reasoning that pretends to 
the right to be the judge of the things that the will chooses; and to 
cure this infirm will which is wholly corrupted by its filthy attach- 
ments. And thence it comes that whilst in speaking of human things, 
we say that it is necessary to know them before we can love them, 
which has passed into a proverb,' the saints on the contrary say in 
speaking of divine things that it is necessary to love them in order 
to know them, and that we only enter truth through charity, from 
which they have made one of their most useful maxims. 

' Ignoti nulla cupido — "We do not desire what we do not know." 


From which it appears that God has estabhshed this super- 
natural order, which is directly contrary to the order that should be 
natural to men in natural things. They have nevertheless corrupted 
this order by making of profane things what they should make of 
holy things, because in fact we believe scarcely any thing except that 
which pleases us. And thence comes the aversion which we have to 
consenting to the truths of the Christian religion that are opposed to 
our pleasures. "Tell us of pleasant things and we will hearken to 
you," said the Jews to Moses; as if the agreeableness of a thing should 
regulate belief! And it is to punish this disorder by an order which 
is conformed to him, that God only pours out his light into the mind 
after having subdued the rebellion of the will by an altogether 
heavenly gentleness which charms and wins it. 

I speak therefore only of the truths within our reach; and it is of 
them that I say that the mind and the heart are as doors by which 
they are received into the soul, but that very few enter by the mind, 
whilst they are brought in in crowds by the rash caprices of the will, 
without the counsel of the reason. 

These powers have each their principles and their main-springs of 

Those of the mind are truths which are natural and known to all 
the world, as that the whole is greater than its part, besides several 
particular maxims that are received by some and not by others, but 
which as soon as they are admitted are as powerful, although false, 
in carrying away belief, as those the most true. 

Those of the will are certain desires natural and common to all 
mankind, as the desire of being happy, which no one can avoid 
having, besides several particular objects which each one follows in 
order to attain, and which having the power to please us are as 
powerful, although pernicious in fact, in causing the will to act, as 
though they made its veritable happiness. 

So much for that which regards the powers that lead us to consent. 

But as for the qualities of things which should persuade us, they 
are very different. 

Some are drawn, by a necessary consequence, from common prin- 
ciples and admitted truths. These may be infallibly persuasive; for 
in showing the harmony which they have with acknowledged prin- 


ciples there is an inevitable necessity of conviction, and it is impos- 
sible that they shall not be received into the soul as soon as it has been 
enabled to class them among the principles which it has already 

There are some which have a close connection with the objects of 
our satisfaction; and these again are received with certainty, for as 
soon as the soul has been made to perceive that a thing can conduct 
it to that which it loves supremely, it must inevitably embrace it 
with joy. 

But those which have this double union both with admitted truths 
and with the desires of the heart, are so sure of their effect that there 
is nothing that can be more so in nature. 

As, on the contrary, that which does not accord either with our 
belief or with our pleasures is importunate, false, and absolutely 
alien to us. 

In all these positions, there is no room for doubt. But there are 
some wherein the things which it is sought to make us believe are 
well established upon truths which are known, but which are at the 
same time contrary to the pleasures that interest us most. And these 
are in great danger of showing, by an experience which is only too 
common, what I said at the beginning — that this imperious soul, 
which boasted of acting only by reason, follows by a rash and shame- 
ful choice the desires of a corrupt will, whatever resistance may be 
opposed to it by the too enlightened mind. 

Then it is that a doubtful balance is made between truth and 
pleasure, and that the knowledge of the one and the feeling of the 
other stir up a combat the success of which is very uncertain, since, 
in order to judge of it, it would be necessary to know all that passes 
in the innermost spirit of the man, of which the man himself is 
scarcely ever conscious. 

It appears from this, that whatever it may be of which we wish 
to persuade men, it is necessary to have regard to the person whom 
we wish to persuade, of whom we must know the mind and the 
heart, what principles he acknowledges, what things he loves; and 
then observe in the thing in question what affinity it has with the 
acknowledged principles, or with the objects so delightful by the 
pleasure which they give him. 


So that the art of persuasion consists as much in that of pleasing 
as in that of convincing, so much more are men governed by caprice 
than by reason! 

Now, of these two methods, the one of convincing, the other of 
pleasing, I shall only give here the rules of the first; and this in case 
we have granted the principles, and remain firm in avowing them: 
otherwise I do not know whether there could be an art for adapting 
proofs to the inconstancy of our caprices. 

But the manner of pleasing is incomparably more difficult, more 
subtle, more useful, and more admirable; therefore, if I do not treat 
of it, it is because I am not capable of it; and I feel myself so far 
disproportionate to the task, that I believe the thing absolutely im- 

Not that I do not believe that there may be as sure rules for pleas- 
ing as for demonstrating, and that he who knows perfectly how to 
comprehend and to practice them will as surely succeed in making 
himself beloved by princes and by people of all conditions, as in 
demonstrating the elements of geometry to those who have enough 
imagination to comprehend its hypotheses. But I consider, and it is, 
perhaps, my weakness that makes me believe it, that it is impossible 
to reach this. At least I know that if any are capable of it, they are 
certain persons whom I know, and that no others have such clear 
and such abundant hght on this matter. 

The reason of this extreme difficulty comes from the fact that the 
principles of pleasure are not firm and stable. They are different in 
all mankind, and variable in every particular with such a diversity 
that there is no man more different from another than from himself 
at different times. A man has other pleasures than a woman; a rich 
man and a poor man have different enjoyments; a prince, a warrior, 
a merchant, a citizen, a peasant, the old, the young, the well, the 
sick, all vary; the least accidents change them. 

Now there is an art, and it is that which I give, for showing the 
connection of truths with their principles, whether of truth or of 
pleasure, provided that the principles which have once been avowed 
remain firm, and without being ever contradicted. 

But as there are few principles of this kind, and as, apart from 
geometry, which deals only with very simple figures, there are 


hardly any truths upon which we always remain agreed, and still 
fewer objects of pleasure which we do not change every hour, I do 
not know whether there is a means of giving fixed rules for adapting 
discourse to the inconstancy of our caprices. 

This art, which I call the art of persuading, and which, properly 
speaking, is simply the process of perfect methodical proofs, consists 
of three essential parts: of defining the terms of which we should 
avail ourselves by clear definitions; of proposing principles or evident 
axioms to prove the thing in question; and of always mentally sub- 
stituting in the demonstrations the definition in the place of the 
thing defined. 

The reason of this method is evident, since it would be useless to 
propose what it is sought to prove, and to undertake the demonstra- 
tion of it, if all the terms which are not intelligible had not first 
been clearly defined; and since it is necessary in the same manner 
that the demonstration should be preceded by the demand for the 
evident principles that are necessary to it, for if we do not secure 
the foundation we cannot secure the edifice; and since, in fine, it is 
necessary in demonstrating mentally, to substitute the definitions in 
the place of the things defined, as otherwise there might be an abuse 
of the different meanings that are encountered in the terms. It is 
easy to see that, by observing this method, we are sure of convincing, 
since the terms all being understood, and perfectly exempt from 
ambiguity by the definitions, and the principles being granted, if 
in the demonstration we always mentally substitute the definitions 
for the things defined, the invincible force of the conclusions cannot 
fail of having its whole effect. 

Thus, never can a demonstration in which these conditions have 
been observed be subject to the slightest doubt; and never can those 
have force in which they are wanting. 

It is, therefore, of great importance to comprehend and to possess 
them; and hence, to render the thing easier and more practicable, 
I shall give them all in a few rules which include all that is necessary 
for the perfection of the definitions, the axioms, and the demonstra- 
tions, and consequently of the entire method of the geometrical 
proofs of the art of persuading. 


Rules for Definitions 

I. Not to undertake to define any of the things so well known of 
themselves that clearer terms cannot be had to explain them, 

II. Not to leave any terms that are at all obscure or ambiguous 
without definition. 

III. Not to employ in the definition of terms any words but such 
as are perfectly known or already explained. 

Rules for Axioms 

I. Not to omit any necessary principle without asking whether 
it is admitted, however clear and evident it may be. 

II. Not to demand, in axioms, any but things that are perfectly 
evident of themselves. 

Rules for Demonstrations 

I. Not to undertake to demonstrate any thing that is so evident 
of itself that nothing can be given that is clearer to prove it. 

II. To prove all propositions at all obscure, and to employ in their 
proof only very evident maxims or propositions already admitted 
or demonstrated. 

III. To always mentally substitute definitions in the place of things 
defined, in order not to be misled by the ambiguity of terms which 
have been restricted by definitions. 

These eight rules contain all the precepts for solid and immutable 
proofs, three of which are not absolutely necessary and may be 
neglected without error; while it is difficult and almost impossible 
to observe them always exactly, although it is more accurate to do 
so as far as possible; these are the three first of each of the divisions. 

For definitions. Not to define any terms that are perfectly known. 

For axioms. Not to omit to require any axioms perfectly evident 
and simple. 

For demonstrations. Not to demonstrate any things well-known 
of themselves. 

For it is unquestionable that it is no great error to define and 
clearly explain things, although very clear of themselves, nor to 


omit to require in advance axioms which cannot be refused in the 
place where they are necessary; nor lastly to prove propositions that 
would be admitted without proof. 

But the five other rules are of absolute necessity, and cannot be 
dispensed with without essential defect and often without error; 
and for this reason I shall recapitulate them here in detail. 

Rules necessary for definitions. Not to leave any terms at all ob- 
scure or ambiguous without definition; 

Not to employ in definitions any but terms perfectly known or 
already explained. 

Rule necessary for axioms. Not to demand in axioms any but 
things perfectly evident. 

Rules necessary for demonstrations. To prove all proposi- 
tions, and to employ nothing for their proof but axioms fully 
evident of themselves, or propositions already demonstrated or ad- 

Never to take advantage of the ambiguity of terms by failing 
mentally to substitute definitions that restrict and explain them. 

These five rules form all that is necessary to render proofs con- 
vincing, immutable, and to say all, geometrical; and the eight rules 
together render them still more perfect. 

I pass now to that of the order in which the propositions should 
be arranged, to be in a complete geometrical series. 

After having established^ 

This is in what consists the art of persuading, which is comprised 
in these two principles: to define all the terms of which we make 
use; to prove them all by mentally substituting definitions in the 
place of things defined. 

And here it seems to me proper to anticipate three principal ob- 
jections which may be made: 

1st, that this method has nothing new; 2d, that it is very easy to 
learn, it being unnecessary for this to study the elements of geom- 
etry, since it consists in these two words that are known at the first 

*The rest of the phrase is wanting; and all this second part o£ the composition, 
either because it was not redacted by Pascal, or because it has been lost, is found 
neither in our MS. nor in Father Desmolets. — Faugire. 


reading; and, 3d, that it is of little utility, since its use is almost con- 
fined to geometrical subjects alone. 

It is necessary therefore to show that there is nothing so little 
known, nothing more difficult to practise, and nothing more useful 
or more universal. 

As to the first objection, that these rules are common in the world, 
that it is necessary to define every thing and to prove every thing, 
and that logicians themselves have placed them among the principles 
of their art, I would that the thing were true and that it were so 
well known that I should not have the trouble of tracing with so 
much care the source of all the defects of reasonings which are truly 
so common. But so little is this the case, that, geometricians alone 
excepted, who are so few in number that they are single in a whole 
nation and long periods of time, we see no others who know it. 
It will be easy to make this understood by those who have per- 
fectly comprehended the little that I have said; but if they have 
not fully comprehended this, I confess that they will learn nothing 
from it. 

But if they have entered into the spirit of these rules, and if the 
rules have made sufficient impression on them to become rooted and 
established in their minds, they will feel how much difference there 
is between what is said here and what a few logicians may perhaps 
have written by chance approximating to it in a few passages of 
their works. 

Those who have the spirit of discernment know how much dif- 
ference there is between two similar words, according to their posi- 
tion, and the circumstances that accompany them. Will it be 
maintained, indeed, that two persons who have read the same book, 
and learned it by heart, have a like acquaintance with it, if the one 
comprehends it in such a manner that he knows all its principles, 
the force of its conclusions, the answers to the objections that may 
be made to it, and the whole economy of the work; while to the 
other these are but dead letters and seeds, which, although like those 
which have produced such fruitful trees, remain dry and unpro- 
ductive in the sterile mind that has received them in vain. 

All who say the same things do not possess them in the same 
manner; and hence the incomparable author of the Art of Conversa- 


tion^ pauses with so much care to make it understood that we must 
not judge of the capacity of a man by the excellence of a happy re- 
mark that we have heard him make; but instead of extending our 
admiration of a good speech to the speaker, let us penetrate, says 
he, the mind from which it proceeds; let us try whether he owes it 
to his memory, or to a happy chance; let us receive it with coldness 
and contempt, in order to see whether he will feel that we do not 
give to what he says the esteem which its value deserves: it will 
oftenest be seen that he will be made to disavow it on the spot, and 
will be drawn very far from this better thought in which he does 
not believe, to plunge himself into another quite base and ridiculous. 
We must, therefore, sound in what manner this thought is lodged 
in its author;* how, whence, to what extent he possesses it; other- 
wise, the hasty judgment will be a rash judge. 

I would inquire of reasonable persons whether this principle: 
Matter is naturally wholly incapable of thought, and this other: / 
thin\, therefore I am, are in fact the same in the mind of Descartes, 
and in that of St. Augustine, who said the same thing twelve hun- 
dred years before.* 

In truth, I am far from affirming that Descartes is not the real 
author of it, even though he may have learned it only in reading 
this distinguished saint; for I know how much difference there is 
between writing a word by chance without making a longer and 
more extended reflection on it, and perceiving in this word an ad- 
mirable series of conclusions, which prove the distinction between 
material and spiritual natures, and making of it a firm and sustained 
principle of a complete metaphysical system, as Descartes has pre- 
tended to do. For without examining whether he has effectively 
succeeded in his pretension, I assume that he has done so, and it is 
on this supposition that I say that this expression is as different in 
his writings from the same saying in others who have said it by 
chance, as is a man full of life and strength from a corpse. 

One man will say a thing of himself without comprehending its 

excellence, in which another will discern a marvellous series of con- 

' Montaigne, Essais, liv. Ill, chap. viii. — Faugere. 

^Montaigne's expression is: "Feel on all sides how it is lodged in its author." 
Essais, same chapter. — Ibid. 
* Civitate Dei, 1. XI, c. xxvL 


elusions, which make us affirm boldly that it is no longer the same 
expression, and that he is no more indebted for it to the one from 
whom he has learned it, than a beautiful tree belongs to the one 
who cast the seed, without thinking of it, or knowing it, into the 
fruitful soil which caused its growth by its own fertility. 

The same thoughts sometimes put forth quite differently in the 
mind of another than in that of their author: unfruitful in their 
natural soil, abundant when transplanted. But it much oftener hap- 
pens that a good mind itself makes its own thoughts produce all 
the fruit of which they are capable, and that afterwards others, hav- 
ing heard them admired, borrow them, and adorn themselves with 
them, but without knowing their excellence; and it is then that 
the difference of the same word in different mouths is the most 

It is in this manner that logic has borrowed, perhaps, the rules of 
geometry, without comprehending their force; and thus, in placing 
them by chance among those that belong to it, it does not thence 
follow that they° have entered into the spirit of geometry, and I 
should be greatly averse if they gave no other evidence of it than 
that of having mentioned it by chance, to placing them on a level 
with that science that teaches the true method of directing the reason. 

But I should be, on the contrary, strongly disposed to exclude 
them from it, and almost irrevocably. For to have said it by chance, 
without having taken care that every thing was included within it, 
and instead of following this light to wander blindly in useless re- 
searches, pursuing what they promise but never can give, is truly 
showing that they are not very clear-sighted, and much more than 
if they had failed to follow the light, because they had not per- 
ceived it. 

The method of not erring is sought by all the world. The logicians 
profess to guide to it, the geometricians alone attain it, and apart 
from their science, and the imitations of it, there are no true demon- 
strations. The whole art is included in the simple precepts that we 
have given; they alone are sufficient, they alone afford proofs; all 
other rules are useless or injurious. This I know by long experience 
of all kinds of books and persons. 

^ Doubtless the logicians. — Faugere. 


And on this point I pass the same judgment as those who say that 
geometricians give them nothing new by these rules, because they 
possessed them in reality, but confounded with a multitude of others, 
either useless or false, from which they could not discriminate them, 
as those who, seeking a diamond of great price amidst a number of 
false ones, but from which they know not how to distinguish it, 
should boast, in holding them all together, of possessing the true 
one equally with him who without pausing at this mass of rubbish 
lays his hand upon the costly stone which they are seeking and for 
which they do not throw away the rest. 

The defect of false reasoning is a malady which is cured by these 
two remedies. Another has been compounded of an infinity of use- 
less herbs in which the good are enveloped and in which they remain 
without effect through the ill qualities of the compound. 

To discover all the sophistries and equivocations of captious rea- 
sonings, they have invented barbarous names that astonish those who 
hear them; and whilst we can only unravel all the tangles of this 
perplexing knot by drawing out one of the ends in the way proposed 
by geometricians, they have indicated a strange number of others in 
which the former are found included without knowing which is 
the best. 

And thus, in showing us a number of paths which they say con- 
duct us whither we tend, although there are but two that lead to it, 
it is necessary to know how to mark them in particular. It will be 
pretended that geometry which indicates them with certainty gives 
only what had already been given by others, because they gave in 
fact the same thing and more, without heeding that this boon lost 
its value by abundance, and was diminished by adding to it. 

Nothing is more common than good things: the point in question 
is only to discriminate them; and it is certain that they are all natural 
and within our reach and even known to all mankind. But they 
know not how to distinguish them. This is universal. It is not 
among extraordinary and fantastic things that excellence is to be 
found, of whatever kind it may be. We rise to attain it and become 
removed from it: it is oftenest necessary to stoop for it. The best 
books are those, which those who read them believe they themselves 


could have written. Nature, which alone is good, is wholly familiar 
and common. 

I make no doubt therefore that these rules, being the true ones, 
are simple, artless, and natural, as in fact they are. It is not Barbara 
and Baralipton that constitute reasoning. The mind must not be 
forced; artificial and constrained manners fill it with foolish pre- 
sumption, through unnatural elevation and vain and ridiculous in- 
flation, instead of solid and vigorous nutriment. And one of the 
principal reasons that diverts those who are entering upon this 
knowledge so much from the true path which they should follow, 
is the fancy that they take at the outset that good things are in- 
accessible, giving them the name of great, lofty, elevated, sublime. 
This destroys every thing. I would call them low, common, familiar: 
these names suit them better; I hate such inflated expressions. 

On the Passion of Love' 

Man is born for thought; therefore he is not a moment without it; 
but the pure thoughts that would render him happy, if he could 
always maintain them, weary and oppress him. They make a uni- 
form life to which he cannot adapt himself; he must have excitement 
and action, that is, it is necessary that he should sometimes be agi- 
tated by those passions the deep and vivid sources of which he feels 
within his heart. 

The passions which are the best suited to man and include many 
others, are love and ambition: they have little connection with each 
other; nevertheless they are often allied; but they mutually weaken, 
not to say destroy, each other. 

Whatever compass of mind one may have, he is capable of only 
one great passion; hence, when love and ambition are found to- 
gether, they are only half as great as they would be if only one of 
them existed. The time of life determines neither the beginning nor 
the end of these two passions; they spring up in the earliest years 

' The authenticity of this fragment is disputed. 


and subsist very often unto the tomb. Nevertheless, as they require 
much warmth, young persons are best fitted for them, and it seems 
that they abate with years: this however is very rare. 

The Hfe of man is miserably brief. It is usually computed from 
his first entrance into the world; for my part, I would only compute 
it from the birth of reason and from the time that man begins to be 
influenced by it, which does not ordinarily happen before twenty 
years of age. Before this time, we are children, and a child is not 
a man. 

How happy is a life that begins with love and ends with ambi- 
tion! If I had to choose, this is the one I should take. So long as we 
have ardor we are amiable; but this ardor dies out, is lost; then what 
a fine and noble place is left for ambition! A tumultuous life is 
pleasing to great minds, but those who are mediocre have no pleas- 
ure in it; they are machines everywhere. Hence when love and 
ambition begin and end life, we are in the happiest condition of 
which human nature is capable. 

The more mind we have the greater the passions are, since the 
passions being only sentiments and thoughts that belong purely to 
the mind although they are occasioned by the body, it is obvious 
that they are no longer any thing but the mind itself, and that thus 
they fill up its entire capacity. I speak here only of the ardent pas- 
sions, for the others are often mingled together and cause a very 
annoying confusion; but this is never the case in those who have 

In a great soul everything is great. 

It is asked whether it is necessary to love? This should not be 
asked, it should be felt. We do not deliberate upon it, we are 
forced to it, and take pleasure in deceiving ourselves when we 
discuss it. 

Definiteness of mind causes definiteness of passion; this is why a 
great and definite mind loves with ardor, and sees distinctly what 
it loves. 

There are two kinds of mind: the one geometrical, and the other 
what may be called the imaginative {de finesse). 

The former is slow, rigid, and inflexible in its views, but the latter 
has a suppleness of thought which fastens at once upon the various 


pleasing qualities of what it loves. From the eyes it goes to the heart 
itself, and from the expression without it knows what is passing 

When we have both kinds of mind combined, how much pleasure 
Is given by love! For we possess at the same time the strength and 
the flexibility of mind essentially necessary for the eloquence of two 

We are born with a disposition to love in our hearts, which is 
developed in proportion as the mind is perfected, and impels us to 
love what appears to us beautiful without ever having been told 
what this is. Who can doubt after this whether we are in the world 
for anything else than to love? In fact, we conceal in vain, we 
always love. In the very things from which love seems to have been 
separated, it is found secretly and under seal, and man could not 
live a moment without this, 

Man does not like to dwell with himself; nevertheless he loves; 
it is necessary then that he seek elsewhere something to love. He 
can find it only in beauty; but as he is himself the most beautiful 
creature that God has ever formed, he must find in himself the 
model of this beauty which he seeks without. Every one can per- 
ceive in himself the first glimmerings of it; and according as we 
observe that what is without agrees or disagrees with these, we 
form our ideas of beauty or deformity in all things. Nevertheless, 
although man seeks wherewith to fill up the great void he makes 
in going out of himself, he cannot however be satisfied with every 
kind of object. His heart is too large; it is necessary at least that it 
should be something that resembles him and approaches him as 
near as may be. Hence the beauty that can satisfy man consists not 
only in fitness, but also in resemblance; it is restricted and confined 
to the difference of sex. 

Nature has so well impressed this truth on our souls, that we find 
a predisposition to all this; neither art nor study is required; it even 
seems that we have a place to fill in our hearts which is thus filled 
effectively. But we feel this better than we can express it. It is only 
those who know how to confuse and contemn their ideas who do 
not see it. 

Although this general idea of beauty may be engraven in the 


innermost part of our souls with ineflfaceable characters, it does not 
prevent us from being susceptible of great differences in its indi- 
vidual application; but this is only in the manner of regarding what 
pleases us. For we do not wish for beauty alone, but desire in con- 
nection with it a thousand circumstances that depend on the dis- 
position in which it is found, and it is in this sense that it may be 
said that each one possesses the original of his beauty, the copy of 
which he is seeking externally. Nevertheless, women often deter- 
mine this original. As they have an absolute empire over the minds 
of men, they paint on them either the qualities of the beauties which 
they possess or those which they esteem, and by this means add what 
pleases them to this radical beauty. Hence there is one epoch for 
blondes, another for brunettes, and the division there is among 
women in respect to esteem for the one or the other makes at the 
same time the difference among men in this regard. 

Fashion even and country often regulate what is called beauty. 
It is a strange thing that custom should mingle so strongly with our 
passions. This does not hinder each one from having his idea of 
beauty by which he judges others and with which he compares 
them; it is on this principle that a lover finds his mistress the most 
beautiful and proposes her as a model. 

Beauty is divided in a thousand different ways. The most proper 
object to sustain it is a woman. When she has intellect, she enlivens 
it and sets it of? marvellously. If a woman wishes to please, and 
possesses the advantages of beauty or a portion of them at least, she 
will succeed; and even though men take ever so little heed of it, 
although she does not strive for it, she will make herself loved. 
There is an accessible point in their hearts; she will take up her 
abode there. 

Man is born for pleasure; he feels it; no other proof of it is needed. 
He therefore follows his reason in giving himself to pleasure. But 
very often he feels passion in his heart without knowing in what it 

A true or false pleasure can equally fill the mind. For what mat- 
ters it that this pleasure is false, if we are persuaded that it is true? 

By force of speaking of love we become enamored. There is 
nothing so easy. It is the passion most natural to man. 


Love has no age; it is always young. So the poets tell us; it is for 
this that they represent it to us under the figure of a child. But with- 
out asking any thing of it, we feel it. 

Love gives intellect and is sustained by intellect. Address is 
needed in order to love. We daily exhaust the methods of pleasing; 
nevertheless it is necessary to please and we please. 

We have a fountain of self-love which represents us to ourselves 
as being able to fill several places outside of ourselves; this is what 
makes us happy to be loved. As we desire it with ardor, we quickly 
remark it and perceive it in the eyes of the person who loves. For 
the eyes are the interpreters of the heart; but he alone who is inter- 
ested in them can understand their language. 

Man by himself is something imperfect; he must find a second in 
order to be happy. He oftenest seeks it in equality of condition, 
because in that the liberty and the opportunity of manifesting his 
wishes are most easily found. Yet he sometimes rises above this, 
and feels the kindling flame although he dares not tell it to the one 
who has caused it. 

When we love a woman of unequal condition, ambition may 
accompany the beginning of the love; but in a little time the latter 
becomes master. It is a tyrant that will suffer no companion; it 
wishes to be alone; all the other passions must bend to it and obey it. 

An elevated attachment fills the heart of man much better than 
a common and equal one; and little things float in his capacity; none 
but great ones lodge and dwell therein. 

We often write things which we only prove by obliging every one 
to reflect upon himself, and find the truth of which we are speaking. 
In this consists the force of the proofs of what I assert. 

When a man is fastidious in any quality of his mind, he is so in 
love. For as he must be moved by every object that is outside of 
himself, if there is any thing that is repugnant to his ideas, he per- 
ceives and shuns it; the rule of this fastidiousness depends on a pure, 
noble, and sublime reason. Thus we can believe ourselves fastidious 
without actually being so, and others have the right to condemn us; 
whilst for beauty each one has his rule, sovereign and independent 
of that of others. Yet between being fastidious and not being so at 
all, it must be granted that when one desires to be fastidious he is 


not far from actually being so. Women like to perceive fastidious- 
ness in men, and this is, it seems to me, the most vulnerable point 
whereby to gain them: we are pleased to see that a thousand others 
are contemned and that we alone are esteemed. 

Qualities of mind are not acquired by habit; they are only per- 
fected. Whence it is easy to see that fastidiousness is a gift of nature 
and not an acquisition of art. 

In proportion as we have more intellect, we find more original 
beauties; but this is not necessary in order to be in love; for when 
we love, we find but one. 

Does it not seem that as often as a woman goes out of herself to 
impress the hearts of others, she makes a place void for others in 
her own."* Yet, I know some who affirm that this is not true. Dare 
we call this injustice? It is natural to give back as much as we have 

Attachment to the same thought wearies and destroys the mind 
of man. Hence for the solidity and permanence of the pleasure of 
love, it is sometimes necessary not to know that we love; and this 
is not to be guilty of an infidelity, for we do not therefore love 
another; it is to regain strength in order to love the better. This 
happens without our thinking of it; the mind is borne hither of 
itself; nature wills it, commands it. It must however be confessed 
that this is a miserable consequence of human weakness, and that 
we should be happier if we were not forced to change of thought; 
but there is no remedy. 

The pleasure of loving without daring to tell it, has its pains, but 
it has its joys also. What transport do we not feel in moulding all 
our actions in view of pleasing the person whom we infinitely es- 
teem! We study each day to find the means of revealing ourselves, 
and thus employ as much time as if we were holding converse with 
the one whom we love. The eyes kindle and grow dim at the same 
moment, and although we do not see plainly that the one who causes 
this disorder takes heed of it, we still have the satisfaction of feeling 
all these emotions for a person who deserves them so well. We would 
gladly have a hundred tongues to make it known; for as we cannot 
make use of words, we are obliged to confine ourselves to the elo- 
quence of action. 


Up to this point we have constant deUght and sufficient occupa- 
tion. Thus we are happy; for the secret of keeping a passion con- 
stantly ahve is to suflFer no void to spring up in the mind, by obliging 
it to apply itself without ceasing to what moves it so agreeably. But 
when it is in the state that I have just described, it cannot last long, 
because being sole actor in a passion in which there must necessarily 
be two, it is difficult to hinder it from soon exhausting all the emo- 
tions by which it is agitated. 

Although the passion may be the same, novelty is needed; the 
mind takes delight in it, and he who knows how to procure it, 
knows how to make himself loved. 

After having gone thus far, this plenitude sometimes diminishes, 
and receiving no assistance from the side of its source, we decline 
miserably, and hostile passions take possession of a heart which they 
rend into a thousand pieces. Yet a ray of hope, however faint it 
may be, exalts us as high as we were before. This is sometimes a 
play in which women delight; but sometimes in feigning to have 
compassion, they have it in reality. How happy we are when this 
is the case! 

A firm and solid love always begins with the eloquence of action; 
the eyes have the best share in it. Nevertheless it is necessary to 
conjecture, but to conjecture rightly. 

When two persons are of the same sentiments, they do not con- 
jecture, or at least one conjectures what the other means to say 
without the other understanding it or daring to understand. 

When we love, we appear to ourselves quite different from what 
we were before. Thus we imagine that every one perceives it; yet 
nothing is more false. But because the perception of reason is 
bounded by passion, we cannot assure ourselves and are always 

When we love, we are persuaded that we shall discover the pas- 
sion of another: thus we are afraid. 

The longer the way is in love, the greater is the pleasure that a 
sensitive mind feels in it. 

There are certain minds to which hopes must long be given, and 
these are minds of refinement. There are others which cannot long 
resist difficulties, and these are the grossest. The former love longer 


and with more enjoyment; the latter love quicker, with more free- 
dom, and sooner end. 

The first effect of love is to inspire a profound respect; we have 
veneration for what we love. It is very just; we see nothing in the 
world so great as this. 

Authors cannot tell us much of the love of their heroes; it is 
necessary that they should have been the heroes themselves. 

Wandering in love is as monstrous as injustice in the mind. 

In love, silence is of more avail than speech. It is good to be 
abashed; there is an eloquence in silence that penetrates more deeply 
than language can. How well a lover persuades his mistress when 
he is abashed before her, who elsewhere has so much presence of 
mind! Whatever vivacity we may have, it is well that in certain 
junctures it should be extinguished. All this takes place without 
rule or reflection, and when the mind acts, it is without thinking 
of it beforehand. This happens through necessity. 

We often adore one that is unconscious of it, and do not fail to 
preserve an inviolable fidelity, although its object knows nothing of 
it. But this love must be very refined or very pure. 

We know the minds of men, and consequently their passions, by 
the comparison that we make between ourselves and others. 

I am of the opinion of him who said that in love one forgets his 
fortune, his relatives, and his friends; the most elevated attachments 
go as far as this. What causes us to go so far in love is that we do 
not think we have need of anything else than the object of our love: 
the mind is full; there is no longer any room for care or solicitude. 
Passion cannot exist without excess: thence it comes that we care 
no longer for what the world says, as we know already that our con- 
duct ought not to be condemned, since it comes from reason. There 
is fulness of passion, and can be no beginning of reflection. 

It is not an effect of custom, it is an obligation of nature, that men 
make the advances to gain the attachment of women. 

This forgetfulness that is caused by love, and this attachment to 
the object of our love, make qualities spring up that we had not 
before. We become magnificent, without ever having been so. 

The miser himself who loves becomes liberal, and does not re- 
member ever to have had a contrary disposition; we see the reason 


of this in considering that there are some passions which contract 
the soul and render it stagnant, and that there are others which 
expand it and cause it to overflow. 

We have unaptly taken away the name of reason from love and 
have opposed them to each other without good foundation, for love 
and reason are but the same thing. It is a precipitation of thought 
which is impelled to a side before fully examining every thing, but 
it is still a reason, and we should not and cannot wish that it were 
otherwise, for we would then be very disagreeable machines. Let 
us not therefore exclude reason from love, since they are inseparable. 
The poets were not right in painting Love blind; we must take 
off his bandage and restore to him henceforth the enjoyment of 
his eyes. 

Souls fitted for love demand a life of action which becomes bril- 
liant in new events. The external excitement must correspond with 
the internal, and this manner of living is a marvellous road to pas- 
sion. Thence it is that courtiers are more successful in love than 
citizens, since the former are all fire and the latter lead a life in the 
uniformity of which there is nothing striking: a tempestuous life 
surprises, strikes, and penetrates. 

It seems as though we had quite another soul when we love than 
when we do not love; we are exalted by this passion and become all 
greatness; the rest therefore must have proportion, otherwise this 
does not harmonize and is consequently disagreeable. 

The pleasing and the beautiful are only the same thing; every 
one has his idea of it. It is of a moral beauty that I mean to speak, 
which consists in external words and actions. We have a rule indeed 
for becoming agreeable; yet the disposition of the body is necessary 
to it, but this cannot be acquired. 

Men have taken pleasure in forming for themselves so elevated a 
standard of the pleasing that no one can attain it. Let us judge of 
it better, and say that this is simply nature with surprising facility 
and vivacity of mind. In love these two qualities are necessary. 
There must be nothing of force, and yet there must be nothing of 
slowness: habit gives the rest. 

Respect and love should be so well proportioned as to sustain each 
other without love being stifled by respect. 


Great souls are not those that love oftenest; it is a violent love of 
which I speak; an inundation of passion is needed to move them 
and fill them. But when they begin to love, they love much more 

It is said that there are some nations more amorous than others; 
this is not speaking rightly, or at least it is not true in every sense. 

Love consisting only in an attachment of thought, it is certain 
that it must be the same over all the earth. It is true that, consider- 
ing it otherwise than in the thought, the chmate may add something, 
but this is only in the body. 

It is with love as with good sense; as one man believes himself to 
have as much mind as another, he also believes that he loves the 
same. Yet, they who have the most perception, love even to the most 
trifling things, which is not possible for others. It is necessary to be 
very subtle to remark this difference. 

One cannot feign to love unless he is very near being a lover, or 
at least unless he loves in some direction; for the mind and the 
thoughts of love are requisite for this seeming, and how shall we 
find means of speaking well without this? The truth of passion is 
not so easily disguised as serious truth. 

We must have ardor, activity, and prompt and natural warmth of 
mind for the former; the latter we conceal by slowness and pliancy, 
which it is easier to do 

When we are at a distance from the object of our love, we resolve 
to do or to say many things; but when we are near, we are irresolute. 
Whence comes this? It is because when we are at a distance reason 
is not so much perturbed, but is strangely so in the presence of the 
object: now for resolution, firmness is needed, which is destroyed 
by perturbation. 

In love we dare not hazard, because we fear to lose every thing; 
it is necessary, however, to advance, but who can say how far ? We 
tremble constantly until we have found this point. Prudence does 
nothing towards maintaining it when it is found. 

There is nothing so embarrassing as to be a lover, and to see 
something in our favor without daring to beheve it; we are alike 
opposed by hope and fear. But finally the latter becomes victorious 
over the other. 


When we love ardently, it is always a novelty to see the person 
beloved. After a moment's absence, he finds a void in his heart. 
What happiness is it to find her again! he feels at once a cessation 
of anxiety. 

It is necessary, however, that this love should be already far ad- 
vanced; for when it is budding, and has made no progress, we feel 
indeed a cessation of anxiety, but others supervene. 

Although troubles thus succeed each other, one is not hindered 
from desiring the presence of his mistress by the hope of suffering 
less; yet, when he sees her, he fancies that he suffers more than 
before. Past troubles no longer move him, the present touch him, 
and it is of those that touch him that he judges. 

Is not a lover in this state worthy of compassion.'' 


We may have three principal objects in the study of truth: one to 
discover it when it is sought; another to demonstrate it when it is 
possessed; and a third, to discriminate it from the false when it is 

I do not speak of the first; I treat particularly of the second, and 
it includes the third. For if we know the method of proving the 
truth, we shall have, at the same time, that of discriminating it, since, 
in examining whether the proof that is given of it is in conformity 
with the rules that are understood, we shall know whether it is 
exactly demonstrated. 

Geometry, which excels in these three methods, has explained the 
art of discovering unknown truths; this it is which is called analysis, 
and of which it would be useless to discourse after the many excel- 
lent works that have been written on it. 

That of demonstrating truths already found, and of elucidating 
them in such a manner that the proof of them shall be irresistible, 
is the only one that I wish to give; and for this I have only to explain 
the method which geometry observes in it; for she teaches it per- 
fectly by her examples, although she may produce no discourse on 
it. And since this art consists in two principal things, the one in 
proving each proposition by itself, the other in disposing all the 


propositions in the best order, I shall make of it two sections, o£ 
which the one will contain the rules for the conduct of geometrical, 
that is, methodical and perfect demonstrations; and the second will 
comprehend that of geometrical, that is, methodical and complete 
order : so that the two together will include all that will be necessary 
to direct reasoning, in proving and discriminating truths, which I 
design to give entire. 

Section First — Of the method of geometrical, that is, of methodical and 
perfect demonstrations. 

I cannot better explain the method that should be preserved to 
render demonstrations convincing, than by explaining that which 
is observed by geometry. 

But it is first necessary that I should give the idea of a method 
stiU more eminent and more complete, but which mankind could 
never attain; for what exceeds geometry surpasses us; and, never- 
theless, something must be said of it, although it is impossible to 
practise it.' 

This true method, which would form demonstrations in the high- 
est excellence, if it were possible to arrive at it, would consist in two 
principal things: the one, in employing no term the meaning of 
which had not first been clearly explained; the other, in never ad- 
vancing any proposition which could not be demonstrated by truths 
already known; that is, in a word, in defining every term, and in 
proving every proposition. But to follow the same order that I am 

' After this paragraph occur in the MS. the following lines, written in a finer 
hand, and inclosed in parenthesis: 

". . . is much more to succeed in the one than the other, and I have chosen this 
science to attain it only because it alone knows the true rules of reasoning, and, 
without stopping at the rules of syllogisms which are so natural that we cannot be 
ignorant of them, stops and establishes itself upon the true method of conducting 
reasoning in all things, which almost every one is ignorant of, and which it is so 
advantageous to know, that we see by experience that among equal minds and like 
circumstances, he who possesses geometry bears it away, and acquires a new vigor. 

"I wish, therefore, to explain what demonstrations are by the example of those of 
geometry, which is almost the only one of the human sciences that produces infallible 
ones, because she alone observes the true method, whilst all the others are, through a 
natural necessity, in a sort of confusion, which the geometricians alone know 
exceedingly well how to comprehend." 

On the margin of this fragment is in the MS. the following note: "That which is in 
small characters was hidden under a paper, the edges of which were glued, and upon 
which was written the article beginning; I cannot better explain, etc." — Faugire. 


explaining, it is necessary that I should state what I mean by defi- 

The only definitions recognized in geometry are what the logicians 
call definitions of name, that is, the arbitrary application of names 
to things which are clearly designated by terms perfectly known; 
and it is of these alone that I speak. 

Their utility and use is to elucidate and abbreviate discourse, in 
expressing by the single name that has been imposed what could 
otherwise be only expressed by several terms; so that nevertheless 
the name imposed remains divested of all other meaning, if it has 
any, having no longer any than that for which it is alone designed. 
Here is an example: 

If we are under the necessity of discriminating numbers that are 
divisible equally by two from those which are not, in order to avoid 
the frequent repetition of this condition, a name is given to it in this 
manner: I call every number divisible equally by two, an even 

This is a geometrical definition; because after having clearly desig- 
nated a thing, namely, every member divisible equally by two, we 
give it a name divested of every other meaning, if it has any, in order 
to give it that of the thing designated. 

Hence it appears that definitions are very arbitrary, and that they 
are never subject to contradiction; for nothing is more permissible 
than to give to a thing which has been clearly designated, whatever 
name we choose. It is only necessary to take care not to abuse the 
liberty that we possess of imposing names, by giving the same to two 
different things. 

Not that this may not be permissible, provided we do not con- 
found the consequences, and do not extend them from the one to 
the other. 

But if we fall into this error, we can oppose to it a sure and in- 
fallible remedy: that of mentally substituting the definition in the 
place of the thing defined, and of having the definition always so 
present, that every time we speak, for example, of an even number, 
we mean precisely that which is divisible into two equal parts, and 
that these two things should be in such a degree joined and In- 
separable in thought, that as soon as the discourse expresses the one. 


the mind attaches it immediately to the other. For geometricians, 
and all those who proceed methodically, only impose names on things 
to abbreviate discourse, and not to diminish or change the idea of 
the things of which they are discoursing. And they pretend that 
the mind always supplies the full definition to the concise terms, 
which they only employ to avoid the confusion occasioned by the 
multitude of words. 

Nothing more promptly and more effectually removes the cap- 
tious cavils of sophists than this method, which it is necessary to 
have always present, and which alone suffices to banish all kinds of 
difficulties and equivocations. 

These things being well understood, I return to the explanation 
of the true order, which consists, as I have said, in defining every 
thing and in proving every thing. 

This method would certainly be beautiful, but it is absolutely im- 
possible; for it is evident that the first terms that we wished to define 
would imply precedents to serve for their explanation, and that in 
the same manner, the first propositions that we wished to prove 
would imply others which had preceded them; and thus it is clear 
that we should never reach the first. 

Thus, in pushing our researches further and further, we arrive 
necessarily at primitive words which can no longer be defined, and 
at principles so clear that we can find no others that can serve as a 
proof of them. 

Hence it appears that men are naturally and immutably impotent 
to treat of any science so that it may be in an absolutely complete 

But it does not thence follow that we should abandon every kind 
of order. 

For there is one, and it is that of geometry, which is in truth in- 
ferior in that it is less convincing, but not in that it is less certain. 
It does not define every thing and does not prove every thing, and 
it is in this that it is inferior; but it assumes nothing but things clear 
and constant by natural enlightenment, and this is why it is per- 
fectly true, nature sustaining it in default of discourse. 

This order, the most perfect of any among men, consists not at 
all in defining every thing or in demonstrating every thing, nor in 


defining nothing or in demonstrating nothing, but in adhering to 
this middle course of not defining things clear and understood by 
all mankind, and of defining the rest; of not proving all the things 
known to mankind, and of proving all the rest. Against this order 
those sin alike who undertake to define everything and to prove 
every thing, and who neglect to do it in those things which are not 
evident of themselves. 

This is what is perfectly taught by geometry. She does not define 
any of these things, space, time, motion, number, equality, and 
similar things which exist in great number, because these terms so 
naturally designate the things that they mean, to those who under- 
stand the language, that their elucidation would afford more ob- 
scurity than instruction. 

For there is nothing more feeble than the discourse of those who 
wish to define these primitive words. What necessity is there, for 
example, of explaining what is understood by the word man? Do 
we not know well enough what the thing is that we wish to desig- 
nate by this term ? And what advantage did Plato think to procure 
us in saying that he was a two-legged animal without feathers ? As 
though the idea that I have of him naturally, and which I cannot 
express, were not clearer and surer than that which he gives me by 
his useless and even ridiculous explanation; since a man does not 
lose humanity by losing the two legs, nor does a capon acquire it 
by losing his feathers. 

There are those who are absurd enough to explain a word by the 
word itself. I know some who have defined light in this wise: Light 
is a luminary movement of luminous bodies, as though we could 
understand the words luminary and luminous without the word 

We cannot undertake to define being without falling into the 

2 Pascal alludes here to Father Noel, a Jesuit, with whom he had had a warm 
discussion on the subject of his Experiences touchant le vide. In a letter that he 
wrote to Father Noel in 1647, he said: "The sentence which precedes your closing 
compliments defines light in these terms: Light is a luminous motion of rays composed 
of lucid, that is, luminous bodies; upon which, I have to tell you that it seems to 
me that you ought first to have defined what luminous is, and what a lucid or 
luminous body is, for till then, I cannot understand what light is. And as we never 
make use in definitions of the term of the thing defined, I should have difficulty in 
conforming to yours which says: Light is a luminary motion of a luminous 
body." — Faughre. 


same absurdity: for we cannot define a word without beginning 
with the word it is, either expressed or understood. To define being 
therefore, it is necessary to say it is, and thus to employ the word 
defined in the definition. 

We see clearly enough from this that there are some words in- 
capable of being defined; and, if nature had not supphed this defect 
by a corresponding idea which she has given to all mankind, all our 
expressions would be confused; whilst we use them with the same 
assurance and the same certainty as though they were explained in 
a manner perfectly exempt from ambiguities: because nature herself 
has given us, without words, a clearer knowledge of them than art 
could acquire by our explanations. 

It is not because all men have the same idea of the essence of the 
things that I say that it is impossible and useless to define. 

For, for example, time is of this sort. Who can define it? And 
why undertake it, since all men conceive what is meant in speaking 
of time, without any further definition ? Nevertheless there are many 
different opinions touching the essence of time. Some say that it is 
the movement of a created thing; others, the measure of the move- 
ment, etc. Thus it is not the nature of these things that I say is known 
to all; it is simply the relation between the name and the thing; so 
that at the expression time, all direct their thoughts towards the 
same object; which suffices to cause this term to have no need of 
being defined, though afterwards, in examining what time is, we 
come to differ in sentiment after having been led to think of it; 
for definitions are only made to designate the things that are named, 
and not to show the nature of them. 

It is not because it is not permissible to call by the name of time 
the movement of a created thing; for, as I have just said, nothing 
is more arbitrary than definitions. 

But after this definition there will be two things that will be called 
by the name of time: the one is what the whole world understands 
naturally by this word and what all those who speak our language 
call by this term; the other will be the movement of a created thing, 
for this will also be called by this name, according to this new 

It is necessary therefore to shun ambiguities and not to confound 


consequences. For it will not follow from this that the thing that 
is naturally understood by the word time is in fact the movement 
of a created thing. It has been allowable to name these two things 
the same; but it will not be to make them agree in nature as well 
as in name. 

Thus, if we advance this proposition — time is the movement of a 
created thing, it is necessary to ask what is meant by this word time, 
that is, whether the usual and generally received meaning is left to 
it, or whether it is divested of this meaning in order to give to it on 
this occasion that of the movement of a created thing. For if it be 
stripped of all other meaning, it cannot be contradicted, and it will 
become an arbitrary definition, in consequence of which, as I have 
said, there will be two things that will have the same name. But if 
its ordinary meaning be left to it, and it be pretended nevertheless 
that what is meant by this word is the movement of a created thing, 
it can be contradicted. It is no longer an arbitrary definition, but a 
proposition that must be proved, if it is not evident of itself; and this 
will then be a principle or an axiom, but never a definition, since in 
this enunciation it is not understood that the word time signifies the 
same thing as the movement of a created thing, but it is understood 
that what is conceived by the term time is this supposed movement. 

If I did not know how necessary it is to understand this perfectly, 
and how continually occasions like this, of which I give the example, 
happen both in familiar and scientific discourses, I should not dwell 
upon it. But it seems to me, by the experience that I have had from 
the confusion of controversies, that we cannot too fully enter into 
this spirit of precision, for the sake of which I write this treatise 
rather than the subject of which I treat in it. 

For how many persons are there who fancy that they have defined 
time, when they have said that it is the measure of movement, leav- 
ing it, however, its ordinary meaning! And nevertheless they have 
made a proposition and not a definition. How many are there, in 
the like manner, who fancy that they have defined movement, when 
they have said: Motus nee simpliciter motus, non mera potentia est, 
sed actus entis in potentia! And nevertheless, if they leave to the 
word movement its ordinary meaning as they do, it is not a definition 
but a proposition; and confounding thus the definitions which they 


call definitions of name, which are the true arbitrary definitions per- 
missible and geometrical, with those which they call definitions of 
thing, which, properly speaking, are not at all arbitrary definitions, 
but are subject to contradiction, they hold themselves at liberty to 
make these as well as others; and each defining the same things in 
his own way, by a liberty which is as unjustifiable in this kind of 
definitions as it is permissible in the former, they perplex every thing, 
and losing all order and all light, become lost themselves and wander 
into inextricable embarrassments. 

We shall never fall into such in following the order of geometry. 
This judicious science is far from defining such primitive words as 
space, time, motion, equality, majority, diminution, whole, and others 
which every one understands. But apart from these, the rest of the 
terms that this science employs are to such a degree elucidated and 
defined that we have no need of a dictionary to understand any of 
them; so that in a word all these terms are perfectly intelligible, 
either by natural enlightenment or by the definitions that it gives 
of them. 

This is the manner in which it avoids all the errors that may 
be encountered upon the first point, which consists in defining only 
the things that have need of it. It makes use of it in the same manner 
in respect to the other point, which consists in proving the proposi- 
tions that are not evident. 

For, when it has arrived at the first known truths, it pauses there 
and asks whether they are admitted, having nothing clearer whereby 
to prove them; so that all that is proposed by geometry is perfectly 
demonstrated, either by natural enlightenment or by proofs. 

Hence it comes that if this science does not define and demonstrate 
every thing, it is for the simple reason that this is impossible.' 

It will perhaps be found strange that geometry does not define 
any of the things that it has for its principal objects: for it can neither 
define motion, numbers, nor space; and nevertheless these three 
things are those of which it treats in particular, and according to 
the investigation of which it takes the three different names of 

^Here the MS. adds in parenthesis: "(But as nature punishes all that science does 
not bestow, its order in truth does not give a superhuman perfection, but it has 
all that man can attain. It has seemed to me proper to give from the beginning 
of this discourse this, etc.)." — Faugere. 


mechanics, arithmetic, and geometry, this last name belonging to 
the genus and species. 

But this will not surprise us i£ we remark that, this admirable 
science only attaching itself to the simplest things, this same quality 
which renders them worthy of being its objects renders them in- 
capable of being defined; so that the lack of definition is a perfection 
rather than a defect, since it does not come from their obscurity, but 
on the contrary from their extreme obviousness, which is such that 
though it may not have the conviction of demonstrations, it has all 
their certainty. It supposes therefore that we know what is the thing 
that is understood by the words motion, number, space; and with- 
out stopping to define them to no purpose, it penetrates their nature 
and discovers their marvellous properties. 

These three things which comprehend the whole universe, accord- 
ing to the words: Deus fecit omnia in pondere, in numero, et men- 
sura,^ have a reciprocal and necessary connection. For we cannot 
imagine motion without something that moves; and this thing being 
one, this unity is the origin of all numbers; and lastly, motion not 
being able to exist without space, we see these three things included 
within the first. 

Time even is also comprehended in it; for motion and time are 
relative to each other; speed and slowness, which are the differences 
of motion, having a necessary relation to time. 

Thus there are properties common to all these things, the knowl- 
edge of which opens the mind to the greatest marvels of nature. 

The chief of these comprehends the two infinitudes which are 
combined in every thing: the one of greatness, the other of littleness. 

For however quick a movement may be, we can conceive of one 
still more so; and so on ad infinitum, without ever reaching one that 
would be swift to such a degree that nothing more could be added 
to it. And, on the contrary, however slow a movement may be, it 
can be retarded still more; and thus ad infinitum, without ever reach- 
ing such a degree of slowness that we could not thence descend into 
an infinite number of others, without falling into rest. 

In the same manner, however great a number may be, we can 
conceive of a greater; and thus ad infinitum, without ever reaching 
* "God has made all things in weight, number and proportion." 


one that can no longer be increased. And on the contrary, however 
small a number may be, as the hundredth or ten thousandth part, 
we can still conceive o£ a less; and so on ad infinitum, without ever 
arriving at zero or nothingness. 

However great a space may be, we can conceive of a greater; and 
thus ad infinitum, without ever arriving at one which can no longer 
be increased. And, on the contrary, however small a space may be, 
we can still imagine a smaller; and so on ad infinitum, without ever 
arriving at one indivisible, which has no longer any extent. 

It is the same with time. We can always conceive of a greater 
without an ultimate, and of a less without arriving at a point and a 
pure nothingness of duration. 

That is, in a word, whatever movement, whatever number, what- 
ever space, whatever time there may be, there is always a greater and 
a less than these: so that they all stand betwixt nothingness and the 
infinite, being always infinitely distant from these extremes. 

All these truths cannot be demonstrated; and yet they are the 
foundations and principles of geometry. But as the cause that renders 
them incapable of demonstration is not their obscurity, but on the 
contrary their extreme obviousness, this lack of proof is not a defect, 
but rather a perfection. 

From which we see that geometry can neither define objects nor 
prove principles; but for this single and advantageous reason that 
both are in an extreme natural clearness, which convinces reason 
more powerfully than discourse. 

For what is more evident than this truth, that a number, whatever 
it may be, can be increased — can be doubled? Again, may not the 
speed of a movement be doubled, and may not a space be doubled 
in the same manner? 

And who too can doubt that a number, whatever it may be, may 
not be divided into a half, and its half again into another half ? For 
would this half be a nothingness? And would these two halves, 
which would be two zeros, compose a number ? 

In the same manner, may not a movement, however slow it may 
be, be reduced in speed by a half, so that it will pass over the same 
space in double the time, and this last movement again ? For would 


this be a perfect rest ? And would these two halves of velocity, which 
would be two rests, compose again the first velocity? 

Lastly, may not a space, however small it may be, be divided into 
two, and these halves again? And how could these two halves be- 
come indivisible without extent, which joined together made the 
former extent? 

There is no natural knowledge in mankind that precedes this, 
and surpasses it in clearness. Nevertheless, in order that there may 
be examples for every thing, we find minds excellent in all things 
else, that are shocked by these infinities and can in no wise assent 
to them. 

I have never known any person who thought that a space could 
not be increased. But I have seen some, very capable in other re- 
spects, who affirmed that a space could be divided into two indivisible 
parts, however absurd the idea may seem. 

I have applied myself to investigating what could be the cause of 
this obscurity, and have found that it chiefly consisted in this, that 
they could not conceive of a continuity divisible ad infinitum, whence 
they concluded that it was not divisible. 

It is an infirmity natural to man to believe that he possesses truth 
directly; and thence it comes that he is always disposed to deny every 
thing that is incomprehensible to him; whilst in fact he knows nat- 
urally nothing but falsehood, and whilst he ought to receive as true 
only those things the contrary of which appear to him as false. 

And hence, whenever a proposition is inconceivable, it is necessary 
to suspend the judgment on it and not to deny it from this indica- 
tion, but to examine its opposite; and if this is found to be manifestly 
false, we can boldly affirm the former, however incomprehensible 
it may be. Let us apply this rule to our subject. 

There is no geometrician that does not believe space divisible ad 
infinitum. He can no more be such without this principle than man 
can exist without a soul. And nevertheless there is none who com- 
prehends an infinite division; and he only assures himself of this 
truth by this one, but certainly sufficient reason, that he perfectly 
comprehends that it is false that by dividing a space we can reach 
an indivisible part, that, is, one that has no extent. 


For what is there more absurd than to pretend that by continually 
dividing a space, we shall finally arrive at such a division that on 
dividing it into two, each of the halves shall remain indivisible and 
without any extent, and that thus these two negations of extensions 
will together compose an extent? For I would ask those who hold 
this idea, whether they conceive clearly two indivisibles being brought 
into contact; if this is throughout, they are only the same thing, and 
consequently the two together are indivisible; and if it is not through- 
out, it is then but in a part; then they have parts, therefore they are 
not indivisible. 

If they confess, as in fact they admit when pressed, that their 
proposition is as inconceivable as the other, they acknowledge that 
it is not by our capacity for conceiving these things that we should 
judge of their truth, since these two contraries being both inconceiv- 
able, it is nevertheless necessarily certain that one of the two is true. 

But as to these chimerical difficulties, which have relation only to 
our weakness, they oppose this natural clearness and these solid 
truths: if it were true that space was composed of a certain finite 
number of indivisibles, it would follow that two spaces, each of 
which should be square, that is, equal and similar on every side, 
being the one the double of the other, the one would contain a 
number of these indivisibles double the number of the indivisibles 
of the other. Let them bear this consequence well in mind, and let 
them then apply themselves to ranging points in squares until they 
shall have formed two, the one of which shall have double the points 
of the other; and then I will make every geometrician in the world 
yield to them. But if the thing is naturally impossible, that is, if it 
is an insuperable impossibility to range squares of points, the one 
of which shall have double the number of the other, as I would 
demonstrate on the spot did the thing merit that we should dwell 
on it, let them draw therefrom the consequence. 

And to console them for the trouble they would have in certain 
junctures, as in conceiving that a space may have an infinity of 
divisibles, seeing that these are run over in so little time during 
which this infinity of divisibles would be run over, we must admonish 
them that they should not compare things so disproportionate as 
is the infinity of divisibles with the little time in which they are run 


over: but let them compare the entire space with the entire time, 
and the infinite divisibles of the space with the infinite moments of 
the time; and thus they will find that we pass over an infinity of 
divisibles in an infinity of moments, and a little space in a little time; 
in which there is no longer the disproportion that astonished them. 

Lastly, if they find it surprising that a small space has as many parts 
as a great one, let them understand also that they are smaller in 
measure, and let them look at the firmament through a diminishing 
glass, to familiarize themselves with this knowledge, by seeing every 
part of the sky in every part of the glass. 

But if they cannot comprehend that parts so small that to us they 
are imperceptible, can be divided as often as the firmament, there 
is no better remedy than to make them look through glasses that 
magnify this delicate point to a prodigious mass; whence they will 
easily conceive that by the aid of another glass still more artistically 
cut, they could be magnified so as to equal that firmament the extent 
of which they admire. And thus these objects appearing to them 
now easily divisible, let them remember that nature can do infinitely 
more than art. 

For, in fine, who has assured them that these glasses change the 
natural magnitude of these objects, instead of re-establishing, on the 
contrary, the true magnitude which the shape of our eye may change 
and contract like glasses that diminish ? 

It is annoying to dwell upon such trifles; but there are times for 

It suffices to say to minds clear on this matter that two negations 
of extension cannot make an extension. But as there are some who 
pretend to elude this light by this marvellous answer, that two nega- 
tions of extension can as well make an extension as two units, neither 
of which is a number, can make a number by their combination; 
it is necessary to reply to them that they might in the same manner 
deny that twenty thousand men make an army, although no single 
one of them is an army; that a thousand houses make a town, al- 
though no single one is a town; or that the parts make the whole, 
although no single one is the whole; or, to remain in the comparison 
of numbers, that two binaries make a quaternary, and ten tens a 
hundred, although no single one is such. 


But it is not to have an accurate mind to confound by such un- 
equal comparisons the immutable nature of things with their arbi- 
trary and voluntary names, names dependent upon the caprice of 
the men who invented them. For it is clear that to facilitate dis- 
course the name of army has been given to twenty thousand men, 
that of town to several houses, that of ten to ten units; and that from 
this liberty spring the names of unity, binary, quaternary, ten, hun- 
dred, different through our caprices, although these things may be 
in fact of the same kind by their unchangeable nature, and are all 
proportionate to each other and differ only in being greater or less, 
and although, as a result of these names, binary may not be a quater- 
nary, nor the house a town, any more than the town is a house. 
But again, although a house is not a town, it is not however a nega- 
tion of a town; there is a great difference between not being a thing, 
and being a negation of it. 

For, in order to understand the thing to the bottom, it is necessary 
to know that the only reason why unity is not in the ranks of num- 
bers, is that Euclid and the earliest authors who treated of arithmetic, 
having several properties to give that were applicable to all the num- 
bers except unity, in order to avoid often repeating that in all numbers 
except unity this condition is found, have excluded unity from the 
signification of the word number, by the liberty which we have 
already said can be taken at will with definitions. Thus, if they had 
wished, they could in the same manner have excluded the binary 
and ternary, and all else that it pleased them; for we are master of 
these terms, provided we give notice of it; as on the contrary we 
may place unity when we like in the rank of numbers, and fractions 
in the same manner. And, in fact, we are obliged to do it in general 
propositions, to avoid saying constantly, that in all numbers, as well 
as in unity and in fractions, such a property is found; and it is in 
this indefinite sense that I have taken it in all that I have written 
on it. 

But the same Euclid who has taken away from unity the name 
of number, which it was permissible for him to do, in order to make 
it understood nevertheless that it is not a negation, but is on the 
contrary of the same species, thus defines homogeneous magnitudes: 
Magnitudes are said to be of the same \ind, when one being multi- 


plied several times may exceed the other; and consequently, since 
unity can, being multiplied several times, exceed any number what- 
soever, it is precisely of the same kind with numbers through its 
essence and its immutable nature, in the meaning of the same Euclid 
who would not have it called a number. 

It is not the same thing with an indivisible in respect to an exten- 
sion. For it not only differs in name, which is voluntary, but it 
differs in kind, by the same definition; since an indivisible, multi- 
plied as many times as we like, is so far from being able to exceed 
an extension, that it can never form any thing else than a single and 
exclusive indivisible; which is natural and necessary, as has been 
already shown. And as this last proof is founded upon the definition 
of these two things, indivisible and extension, we will proceed to 
finish and perfect the demonstration. 

An indivisible is that which has no part, and extension is that 
which has divers separate parts. 

According to these definitions, I affirm that two indivisibles united 
do not make an extension. 

For when they are united, they touch each other in some part; 
and thus the parts whereby they come in contact are not separate, 
since otherwise they would not touch each other. Now, by their 
definition, they have no other parts; therefore they have no separate 
parts; therefore they are not an extension by the definition of ex- 
tension which involves the separation of parts. 

The same thing will be shown of all the other indivisibles that 
may be brought into junction, for the same reason. And consequently 
an indivisible, multiplied as many times as we like, will not make 
an extension. Therefore it is not of the same kind as extension, by 
the definition of things of the same kind. 

It is in this manner that we demonstrate that indivisibles are not 
of the same species as numbers. Hence it arises that two units may 
indeed make a number, because they are of the same kind; and that 
two indivisibles do not make an extension, because they are not of 
the same kind. 

Hence we see how little reason there is in comparing the relation 
that exists between unity and numbers with that which exists be- 
tween indivisibles and extension. 


But if we wish to take in numbers a comparison that represents 
with accuracy what we are considering in extension, this must be 
the relation of zero to numbers; for zero is not of the same kind as 
numbers, since, being multiplied, it cannot exceed them: so that it 
is the true indivisibility of number, as indivisibility is the true zero 
of extension. And a like one will be found between rest and motion, 
and between an instant and time; for all these things are hetero- 
geneous in their magnitudes, since being infinitely multiplied, they 
can never make any thing else than indivisibles, any more than the 
indivisibles of extension, and for the same reason. And then we shall 
find a perfect correspondence between these things; for all these 
magnitudes are divisible ad infinitum, without ever falling into their 
indivisibles, so that they all hold a middle place between infinity 
and nothingness. 

Such is the admirable relation that nature has established between 
these things, and the two marvellous infinities which she has pro- 
posed to mankind, not to comprehend, but to admire; and to finish 
the consideration of this by a last remark, I will add that these two 
infinites, although infinitely different, are notwithstanding relative 
to each other, in such a manner that the knowledge of the one leads 
necessarily to the knowledge of the other. 

For in numbers, inasmuch as they can be continually augmented, 
it absolutely follows that they can be continually diminished, and 
this clearly; for if a number can be multiplied to 100,000, for ex- 
ample, ioo,oooth part can also be taken from it, by dividing it by 
the same number by which it is multiplied; and thus every term of 
augmentation will become a term of division, by changing the whole 
into a fraction. So that infinite augmentation also includes neces- 
sarily infinite division. 

And in space the same relation is seen between these two con- 
trary infinites; that is, that inasmuch as a space can be infinitely 
prolonged, it follows that it may be infinitely diminished, as appears 
in this example: If we look through a glass at a vessel that recedes 
continually in a straight line, it is evident that any point of the vessel 
observed will continually advance by a perpetual flow in proportion 
as the ship recedes. Therefore if the course of the vessel is extended 
ad infinitum, this point will continually recede; and yet it will never 


reach that point in which the horizontal ray carried from the eye 
to the glass shall fall, so that it will constantly approach it without 
ever reaching it, unceasingly dividing the space which will remain 
under this horizontal point without ever arriving at it. From which 
is seen the necessary conclusion that is drawn from the infinity of 
the extension of the course of the vessel to the infinite and infinitely 
minute division of this little space remaining beneath this horizontal 

Those who will not be satisfied with these reasons, and will per- 
sist in the belief that space is not divisible ad infinitum, can make 
no pretensions to geometrical demonstrations, and although they 
may be enlightened in other things, they will be very little in 
this; for one can easily be a very capable man and a bad geome- 

But those who clearly perceive these truths will be able to admire 
the grandeur and power of nature in this double infinity that sur- 
rounds us on all sides, and to learn by this marvellous consideration 
to know themselves, in regarding themselves thus placed between 
infinitude and a negation of extension, between an infinitude and 
a negation of number, between an infinitude and a negation of 
movement, between an infinitude and a negation of time. From 
which we may learn to estimate ourselves at our true value, and to 
form reflections which will be worth more than all the rest of 
geometry itself. 

I have thought myself obliged to enter into this long discussion 
for the benefit of those who, not comprehending at first this double 
infinity, are capable of being persuaded of it. And although there 
may be many who have sufficient enlightenment to dispense with 
it, it may nevertheless happen that this discourse which will be 
necessary to the one will not be entirely useless to the other. 


The respect that we bear to antiquity is at the present day carried 
to such a point on subjects in which it ought to have less weight, 
that oracles are made of all its thoughts and mysteries, even of its 
obscurities; that novelties can no longer be advanced without peril, 


and that the text of an author suffices to destroy the strongest rea- 

Not that it is my intention to correct one error by another, and 
not to esteem the ancients at all because others have esteemed them 
too much. 

I do not pretend to banish their authority in order to exalt rea- 
soning alone, although others have sought to establish their authority 
alone to the prejudice of reasoning 

To make this important distinction with care, it is necessary to 
consider that the former depend solely on memory and are purely 
historical, having nothing for their object except to know what the 
authors have written; the latter depend solely on reasoning and are 
entirely dogmatic, having for their object to seek and discover con- 
cealed truths. 

Those of the former kind are limited, inasmuch as the books in 
which they are contained 

It is according to this distinction that we must regulate differently 
the extent of this respect. The respect that we should have for . . . 

In matters in which we only seek to know what the authors have 
written, as in history, geography, jurisprudence, languages, and 
especially in theology; and in fine in all those which have for their 
principle either simple facts or divine or human institutions, we 
must necessarily have recourse to their books, since all that we can 
know of them is therein contained, hence it is evident that we can 
have full knowledge of them, and that it is not possible to add any 
thing thereto. 

If it is in question to know who was the first king of the French; 
in what spot geographers place the first meridian; what words are 
used in a dead language, and all things of this nature; what other 
means than books can guide us to them? And who can add any 
thing new to what they teach us, since we wish only to know what 
they contain? 

Authority alone can enlighten us on these. But the subject in 
which authority has the principal weight is theology, because there 
she is inseparable from truth, and we know it only through her: so 
that to give full certainty to matters incomprehensible to reason, it 
suffices to show them in the sacred books; as to show the uncertainty 


o£ the most probable things, it is only necessary to show that they 
are not included therein; since its principles are superior to nature 
and reason, and since, the mind of man being too weak to attain 
them by its own efforts, he cannot reach these lofty conceptions if 
he be not carried thither by an omnipotent and superhuman power. 

It is not the same with subjects that fall under the senses and under 
reasoning; authority here is useless; it belongs to reason alone to 
know them. They have their separate rights: there the one has all 
the advantage, here the other reigns in turn. But as subjects of this 
kind are proportioned to the grasp of the mind, it finds full liberty 
to extend them; its inexhaustible fertiHty produces continually, and 
its inventions may be multiplied altogether without limit and with- 
out interruption 

It is thus that geometry, arithmetic, music, physics, medicine, 
architecture, and all the sciences that are subject to experiment and 
reasoning, should be augmented in order to become perfect. The 
ancients found them merely outhned by those who preceded them; 
and we shall leave them to those who will come after us in a more 
finished state than we received them. ■ 

As their perfection depends on time and pains, it is evident that 
although our pains and time may have acquired less than their 
labors separate from ours, both joined together must nevertheless 
have more effect than each one alone. 

The clearing up of this difference should make us pity the blind- 
ness of those who bring authority alone as proof in physical matters, 
instead of reasoning or experiments; and inspire us with horror for 
the wickedness of others who make use of reasoning alone in theol- 
ogy, instead of the authority of the Scripture and the Fathers. We 
must raise the courage of those timid people who dare invent nothing 
in physics, and confound the insolence of those rash persons who 
produce novelties in theology. Nevertheless the misfortune of the 
age is such, that we see many new opinions in theology, unknown 
to all antiquity, maintained with obstinacy and received with ap- 
plause; whilst those that are produced in physics, though small in 
number, should, it seems, be convicted of falsehood as soon as they 
shock already received opinions in the slightest degree; as if the 
respect that we have for the ancient philosophers were a duty, and 


that which we bear to the most ancient of the Fathers solely a mat- 
ter of courtesy! I leave it to judicious persons to remark the im- 
portance of this abuse which perverts the order of the sciences with 
so much injustice; and I think that there will be few who will not 
wish that this liberty^ might be applied to other matters, since new 
inventions are infallible errors in the matters^ which we profane 
with impunity; and since they are absolutely necessary for the per- 
fection of so many other subjects incomparably lower, which never- 
theless we dare not approach. 

Let us divide our credulity and suspicion with more justice, and 
limit this respect we have for the ancients. As reason gives it birth, 
she ought also to measure it; and let us consider that if they had 
continued in this restraint of not daring to add any thing to the 
knowledge which they had received, or if those of their times had 
made the like difficulty in receiving the novelties which they offered 
them, they would have deprived themselves and their posterity of 
the fruit of their inventions. 

As they only made use of that which had been bequeathed to 
them as a means whereby to gain more, and as this happy daring 
opened to them the way to great things, we should take that which 
they acquired in the same manner, and by their example, make of 
it the means and not the end of our study, and thus strive while 
imitating to surpass them. 

For what is more unjust than to treat our ancestors with more 
deference than they showed to those who preceded them, and to 
have for them that inviolable respect which they have only merited 
from us because they had not the like for those who possessed the 
same advantage over them .'' 

The secrets of nature are concealed; although she is continually 
working, we do not always discover her effects: time reveals them 
from age to age, and although always alike in herself she is not 
always alike known. 

The experiments that give us the knowledge of these secrets are 
multiplied continually; and as they are the sole principles of physics, 
the consequences are multiplied in proportion. 

■'^TW wotd Vieie uMeiVmed, wKk^i vje restoie by cotiieclure, is Uank. m t\ie 
MS. — Faugere. 

2 Here seems to be needed theological matters. — Ihid. 


It is in this manner that we may at the present day adopt different 
sentiments and new opinions, without despising the ancients ancP 
without ingratitude, since the first knowledge which they have 
given us has served as a stepping-stone to our own, and since in 
these advantages we are indebted to them for our ascendency over 
them; because being raised by their aid to a certain degree, the 
shghtest effort causes us to mount still higher, and with less pains 
and less glory we find ourselves above them. Thence it is that we 
are enabled to discover things which it was impossible for them to 
perceive. Our view is more extended, and although they knew as 
well as we all that they could observe in nature, they did not, never- 
theless, know it so well, and we see more than they. 

Yet it is marvellous in what manner their sentiments are revered. 
It is made a crime to contradict them and an act of treason to add 
to them, as though they had left no more truths to be known. 

Is not this to treat unworthily the reason of man and to put it 
on a level with the instinct of animals, since we take away the 
principal difference between them, which is that the effects of rea- 
son accumulate without ceasing, whilst instinct remains always in 
the same state? The cells of the bees were as correctly measured a 
thousand years ago as to-day, and each formed a hexagon as exactly 
the first time as the last. It is the same with all that the animals pro- 
duce by this occult impulse. Nature instructs them in proportion as 
necessity impels them; but this fragile science is lost with the wants 
which give it birth: as they received it without study, they have not 
the happiness of preserving it; and every time it is given them it is 
new to them, since the . . . nature having for her object nothing 
but the maintenance of animals in a limited order of perfection, 
she inspires them with this necessary science . . . always the same, 
lest they may fall into decay, and does not permit them to add to 
it, lest they should exceed the Umits that she has prescribed to them. 
It is not the same with man, who is formed only for infinity. He is 
ignorant at the earliest age of his life; but he is instructed unceasingly 
in his progress; for he derives advantage, not only from his own ex- 
perience, but also from that of his predecessors; since he always 

' Break of two or three words in the MS. We supply them by the words 
italicized. — Faugire. 


retains in his memory the knowledge which he himself has once ac- 
quired, and since he has that of the ancients ever present in the 
books which they have bequeathed to him. And as he preserves 
this knowledge, he can also add to it easily; so that men are at the 
present day in some sort in the same condition in which those 
ancient philosophers would have been found, could they have sur- 
vived till the present time, adding to the knowledge which they 
possessed that which their studies would have acquired by the aid 
of so many centuries. Thence it is that by an especial prerogative, 
not only does each man advance from day to day in the sciences, but 
all mankind together make continual progress in proportion as the 
world grows older, since the same thing happens in the succession of 
men as in the different ages of single individuals. So that the whole 
succession of men, during the course of many ages, should be con- 
sidered as a single man who subsists forever and learns continually, 
whence we see with what injustice we respect antiquity in philoso- 
phers; for as old age is that period of life most remote from infancy, 
who does not see that old age in this universal man ought not to be 
sought in the times nearest his birth, but in those the most remote 
from it .'' Those whom we call ancient were really new in all things, 
and properly constituted the infancy of mankind; and as we have 
joined to their knowledge the experience of the centuries which have 
followed them, it is in ourselves that we should find this antiquity 
that we revere in others. 

They should be admired for the results which they derived from 
the very few principles they possessed, and they should be excused 
for those in which they failed rather from the lack of the advantage 
of experience than the strength of reasoning. 

For were they not excusable in the idea that they entertained of 
the mil\y way, when, the weakness of their vision not having yet 
received the assistance of art, they attributed this color to a greater 
density in that part of the heavens which reflected the light more 
strongly? But would we not be inexcusable for remaining in the 
same opinion, now that, by the aid of the advantages procured us by 
the telescope, we have discovered in it an infinite number of small 
stars, whose more abundant splendor has revealed to us the true 
cause of this whiteness! 


Had they not also cause for saying that all corruptible bodies were 
inclosed within the orbit of the moon, when, during the course of so 
many ages they had not yet remarked either corruption or genera- 
tion outside of this space ? 

But ought we not to be assured of the contrary, when the whole 
world has manifestly beheld comets kindle and disappear far beyond 
the limits of that sphere? 

In the same way, in respect to vacuum, they had a right to say that 
nature would not suffer it, since all their experiments had always 
made them remark that she abhorred, and could not suffer it. 

But if the modern experiments had been known to them, per- 
haps they would have found cause for affirming what they found 
cause for denying, for the reason that vacuum had not yet appeared. 
Thus, in the judgment they formed that nature would not suffer 
vacuum, they only heard nature spoken of in the condition in which 
they knew her; since, to speak in general terms, it would not have 
been sufficient to have seen it constantly in a hundred cases, a thou- 
sand, or any other number, however great it may have been; since, 
if a single case remained unexamined, this alone would suffice to 
prevent the general definition, and if a single one was contrary, this 

alone For in all matters the proof of 

which consists in experiments, and not in demonstrations, we can 
make no universal assertion, except by the general enumeration of 
all the parts and all the different cases. Thus it is that when we say 
that the diamond is the hardest of all bodies, we mean of all the 
bodies with which we are acquainted, and we neither can nor ought 
to comprehend in this assertion those with which we are not ac- 
quainted; and when we say that gold is the heaviest of all bodies, 
we should be presumptuous to comprehend in this general proposi- 
tion those which have not yet come to our knowledge, although it 
is not impossible that they may exist in nature. 

In the same manner, when the ancients affirmed that nature would 
not suffer a vacuum, they meant that she would not suffer it in any 
of the experiments they had seen, and they could not, without 
temerity, comprehend in it those which had not come to their knowl- 
edge. Had they done so, they would doubtless have drawn from 
them the same conclusions, and would, by their acknowledgment. 


have sanctioned them by this antiquity which it is sought at present 
to make the sole principle of the sciences. 

Thus it is that, without contradicting them, we can affirm the con- 
trary of what they say; and, whatever authority, in fine, this antiquity 
may have, truth should always have more, although newly discovered, 
since she is always older than all the opinions that we have had of her, 
and it would be showing ourselves ignorant of her nature to imagine 
that she may have begun to be at the time when she began to be 


What is there more absurd than to say that inanimate bodies 
have passions, fears, horrors; that insensible bodies, without life, and 
even incapable of it, may have passions which presuppose a soul at 
least sensitive to experience them? Besides, if the object of this 
horror were a vacuum, what is there in a vacuum that could make 
them afraid? What is there meaner and more ridiculous? 

This is not all; if they have in themselves a principle of motion to 
shun a vacuum, have they arms, legs, muscles, nerves?