Cadaver Sancti (French Edition)
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Such is the march of the human mind! But what is this being who is thus invoked at first? Is it the sun? Is it the moon? I do not think so. Let us examine what passes in the minds of children; they are nearly like those of uninformed men. They are struck, neither by the beauty nor by the utility of the luminary which animates nature, nor by the assistance lent us by the moon, nor by the regular variations of her course; they think not of these things; they are too much accustomed to them.
We adore, we invoke, we seek to appease, only that which we fear. All children look upon the sky with indifference; but when the thunder growls they tremble and run to hide themselves. The first men undoubtedly did likewise. It could only be a sect of philosophers who first observed the courses of the planets, made them admired, and caused them to be adored; mere tillers of the ground, without any information, did not know enough of them to embrace so noble an error.
A village then would confine itself to saying: There is a power which thunders and hails upon us, which makes our children die; let us appease it. But how shall we appease it? We see that by small presents we have calmed the anger of irritated men; Edition: current; Page: [ 77 ] let us then make small presents to this power. It must also receive a name.
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Thus was nearly all America found to be divided into a multitude of petty tribes, each having its protecting god. The Mexicans, too, and the Peruvians, forming great nations, had only one god—the one adoring Manco Capak, the other the god of war. It was not from a superior and cultivated reason that every people thus began with acknowledging one only Divinity; had they been philosophers, they would have adored the God of all nature, and not the god of a village; they would have examined those infinite relations among all things which prove a Being creating and preserving; but they examined nothing—they felt.
Such is the progress of our feeble understanding. Each village would feel its weakness and its need of a protector; it would imagine that tutelary and terrible being residing in the neighboring forest, or on a mountain, or in a cloud. It would imagine only one, because the clan Edition: current; Page: [ 78 ] had but one chief in war; it would imagine that one corporeal, because it was impossible to represent it otherwise.
It could not believe that the neighboring tribe had not also its god. This language, used by one stranger to other strangers, is very remarkable. Jeremiah and Amos both ask what right the god Melchem had to seize the country of Gad? From these passages it is evident that the ancients attributed to each country a protecting god. We find other traces of this theology in Homer. The more they observed the stars, the more they would be struck with admiration. How, indeed, should they have adored the divinity of a brook, and not have adored the sun? The first step being taken, the earth would soon be covered with gods; and Edition: current; Page: [ 79 ] from the stars men would at last come down to cats and onions.
Reason, however, will advance towards perfection; time at length found philosophers who saw that neither onions, nor cats, nor even the stars, had arranged the order of nature. All those philosophers—Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Scythians, Greeks, and Romans—admitted a supreme, rewarding, and avenging God. They did not at first tell it to the people; for whosoever should have spoken ill of onions and cats before priests and old women, would have been stoned; whosoever should have reproached certain of the Egyptians with eating their gods would himself have been eaten—as Juvenal relates that an Egyptian was in reality killed and eaten quite raw in a controversial dispute.
What then did they do?
Orpheus and others established mysteries, which the initiated swore by oaths of execration not to reveal—of which mysteries the principal was the adoration of a supreme God. This great truth made its way through half the world, and the number of the initiated became immense. It is true that the ancient religion still existed; but as it was not contrary to the dogma of the unity of God, it was allowed to exist.
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And why should it have been abolished? All the other divinities were only intermediate beings; Edition: current; Page: [ 80 ] heroes and emperors were ranked with the gods, i. In short, it seems proved that, in the time of Augustus, all who had a religion acknowledged a superior, eternal God, with several orders of secondary gods, whose worship was called idolatry.
The laws of the Jews never favored idolatry; for, although they admitted the Malachim, angels and celestial beings of an inferior order, their law did not ordain that they should worship these secondary divinities.
They adored the angels, it is true; that is, they prostrated themselves when they saw them; but as this did not often happen, there was no ceremonial nor legal worship established for them. The cherubim of the ark received no homage. It was at the time when the worship of a Supreme God was universally established among all the wise in Asia, in Europe, and in Africa, that the Christian religion took its birth.
Platonism assisted materially the understanding of its dogmas. Profound metaphysics, above human intelligence, were an inaccessible sanctuary in which religion was enveloped. All mysteries have been sublime. In the second century devils began to be cast out in the name of Jesus; before they were cast out in the name of Jehovah or Ihaho; for St. It is not known at what time the Jews recognized Beelzebub, who was a strange god, as the prince of devils; but it is known, for Josephus tells us, that there were at Jerusalem exorcists appointed to cast out devils from the bodies of the possessed; that is, of such as were attacked by singular maladies, which were then in a great part of the world attributed to the malific genii.
These demons were then cast out by the true pronunciation of Jehovah, which is now lost, and by other ceremonies now forgotten. This exorcism by Jehovah or by the other names of God, was still in use in the first ages of the church. Origen, when speaking thus, is not giving his private opinion; he is but repeating the universal opinion. All the religions then known admitted a sort of magic, which was distinguished into celestial magic, and infernal magic, necromancy and theurgy—all was prodigy, divination, oracle.
The Persians did not deny the miracles of the Egyptians, nor the Egyptians those of the Persians. God permitted the primitive Christians to be persuaded of the truth of the oracles attributed to the Sibyls, and left them a few other unimportant errors, which were no essential detriment to their religion. Another very remarkable thing is, that the Christians of the primitive ages held temples, altars, and images in abhorrence. Origen acknowledges this No. Everything was afterwards changed, with the discipline, when the Church assumed a permanent form.
When once a religion is established in a state, the tribunals are all employed in perverting the continuance or renewal of most of the things that were done in that religion before it was publicly received. The founders used to assemble in private, in spite of magistrates; but now no assemblies are permitted but public ones under the eyes of the law, and all concealed associations are forbidden.
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Prodigies and predictions were necessary; now they are no longer admitted: a man who in the places should foretell calamities, would be sent to a madhouse. The founders secretly received the money of the faithful; but now, a man who should gather money for his own disposal, without being authorized by the law, would be brought before a court of justice to answer for so doing.
Thus the scaffoldings that have served to build the edifice are no longer made use of. After our own holy religion, which indubitably is the only good one, what religion would be the least objectionable? Would it not be that which should be the simplest; that which should teach much morality and very few dogmas; that which should tend to make men just, without making them absurd; that which should not ordain the belief of things impossible, contradictory, injurious to the Divinity, and pernicious to mankind; nor dare to threaten with eternal pains whosoever should possess common sense?
Would it not be that which should not uphold its belief by the hand of the executioner, nor inundate the earth with blood to support unintelligible sophisms; that in which an ambiguous expression, a play upon words, and two or three supported charters, should not suffice to make a sovereign and a god of a priest who is often incestuous, a murderer, Edition: current; Page: [ 85 ] and a poisoner; which should not make kings subject to this priest; that which should teach only the adoration of one God, justice, tolerance, and humanity.
It has been said, that the religion of the Gentiles was absurd in many points, contradictory, and pernicious; but have there not been imputed to it more harm than it ever did, and more absurdities than it ever preached?
Show me in all antiquity a temple dedicated to Leda lying with a swan, or Europa with a bull. Was there ever a sermon preached at Athens or at Rome, to persuade the young women to cohabit with their poultry? Are the fables collected and adorned by Ovid religious? Are they not like our Golden Legend, our Flower of the Saints? If some Brahmin or dervish were to come and object to our story of St. We reproach the ancients with their oracles, and prodigies; if they could return to this world, and the miracles of our Lady of Loretto and our Lady of Ephesus could be counted, in whose favor would be the balance?
Human sacrifices were established among almost Edition: current; Page: [ 86 ] every people, but very rarely put in practice.
In short, the religion of the Pagans caused very little blood to be shed, while ours has deluged the earth. Ours is doubtless the only good, the only true one; but we have done so much harm by its means that when we speak of others we should be modest. If a man would persuade foreigners, or his own countrymen, of the truth of his religion, should he not go about it with the most insinuating mildness and the most engaging moderation? If he begins with telling them that what he announces is demonstrated, he will find a multitude of persons incredulous; if he ventures to tell them that they reject his doctrine only inasmuch as it condemns their passions; that their hearts have corrupted their minds; that their reasoning is only false and proud, he disgusts them; he incenses them against himself; he himself ruins what he would fain establish.
If the religion he announces be true, will violence and insolence render it more so? Do you put yourself in a rage, when you say that it is necessary to be mild, patient, beneficent, just, and to fulfil all the duties of society? No; because everyone is of your Edition: current; Page: [ 87 ] own opinion. Why, then, do you abuse your brother when preaching to him a mysterious system of metaphysics? Because his opinion irritates your self-love. You are so proud as to require your brother to submit his intelligence to yours; humbled pride produces the wrath; it has no other source.
A man who has received twenty wounds in a battle does not fly into a passion; but a divine, wounded by the refusal of your assent, at once becomes furious and implacable. Must we not carefully distinguish the religion of the state from theological religion? The religion of the state requires that the imans keep registers of the circumcised, the vicars or pastors registers of the baptized; that there be mosques, churches, temples, days consecrated to rest and worship, rites established by law; that the ministers of those rites enjoy consideration without power; that they teach good morals to the people, and that the ministers of the law watch over the morals of the ministers of the temples.
This religion of the state cannot at any time cause any disturbance. It is otherwise with theological religion: this is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind. A bonze asserts that Fo is a God, that he was foretold by fakirs, that he was born of a white elephant, and that every bonze can by certain grimaces make a Fo.
A talapoin Edition: current; Page: [ 88 ] says, that Fo was a holy man, whose doctrine the bonzes have corrupted, and that Sammono-codom is the true God. After a thousand arguments and contradictions, the two factions agree to refer the question to the dalai-lama, who resides three hundred leagues off, and who is not only immortal, but also infallible.