The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
Lysis expresses it thus: Nature, by the homogeneity which, as I have stated, constitutes its essence, teaches men to see beyond the range of their senses, transports them by analogy from one region to another and develops their ideas. The perfectibility which is manifested through the grace of time is called perfection; for the more a thing is perfected the more perfect it becomes. The man who perceives this is struck by it, and if he reflect he finds truth, as I have openly
stated, and to which Lysis was content with making allusion, on account of the secret of the mysteries that he was forced to respect.
It is this perfectibility manifested in Nature, which gives the affirmative proofs that I have promised, touching the way in which Providence removes with time the evils which afflict men. These are the proofs de facto. They cannot be challenged without absurdity. I know well that there have been men who, studying Nature within four walls, and considering its operations through the extremely narrow prism of their ideas, have denied that anything might be perfectible, and have asserted that the Universe was immobile because they have not seen it move; but there does not exist today a genuine observer, a naturalist whose learning is founded upon Nature, who does not invalidate the decision of these pretended savants, and who does not put perfectibility in the rank of the most rigorously demonstrated truths.
I shall not quote the ancients on a subject where their authority would be challenged; I shall even limit myself, to evade prolixities, to a small number of striking passages among the moderns. Leibnitz, who ought less than any other to admit perfectibility, since he had founded his system upon the existence of the best of worlds possible, has, however, recognized it in Nature, in advancing that all the changes which are operated there are the consequence of both; that everything tends toward its improvement, and that therefore the present is already teeming with the future. a Buffon, inclining strongly toward the system of atoms, ought also to be much opposed, and yet he has been unable to see that Nature, in general, tends far more toward life than toward death, and that it seems to be seeking to organize bodies as much as is possible. b The school of Kant has pushed the system of perfectibility as far as it
could go. Schelling, the disciple of most consequence of this celebrated man, has followed the development of Nature with a force of thought which has perhaps passed the mark. The former, has ventured to say that Nature is a sort of Divinity in germ, which tends to apotheosis, and is prepared for existence with God, by the reign of Chaos, and by that of Providence. a But those are only speculative opinions. Here are opinions founded upon facts.
As soon as one considers the Earth observingly, the naturalists say, one perceives striking traces of the revolutions that it has sustained in anterior times. b
The continents have not always been what they are today, the waters of the globe have not always been distributed in the same manner. The ocean changes insensibly its bed, undermines the lands, divides them, rushes over some, and leaves others dry. The islands have not always been islands. The continents have been peopled, with living and vegetating beings, before the present disposition of the waters upon the globe. c
These observations confirm what Pythagoras and the ancient sages have taught upon this subject d:
Besides [these same naturalists continue], the greater part of the fossil bones that have been assembled and compared are those of animals different from any of the species actually known; has the kingdom of life therefore changed? This one cannot refuse to believe. e As Nature proceeds unceasingly from the simple to the composite, it is probable that the most imperfect animals should have been created before the tribes, higher in the scale of life. It even seems that each of the animal classes
indicates a sort of suspension in the creative power, an intermission, an era of repose, during which Nature prepared in silence the germs of life which should come to light in the course of the cycles. One might thus enumerate the epochs of living Nature, epochs remote in the night of ages and which have been obliged to precede the formation of mankind. A time may have been when the insect, the shell, the unclean reptile, did not recognize the master in the Universe and were placed at the head of the organized bodies. a
These observers add:
[paragraph continues] It is certain that most perfect beings come from less perfect, and that they are obliged to be perfected in the sequence of generations. All animals tend towards man; all vegetables aspire to animality; minerals seek to draw nearer to the vegetable. . . . It is evident that Nature, having created a series of plants and animals, and having stopped at man who forms the superior extremity, has assembled in him all the vital faculties that it had distributed among the inferior races. b
These are the ideas of Leibnitz. This celebrated man had said: ''Men hold to animals; these to plants, and those to fossils. It is necessary that all the natural orders form only one sole chain, in which the different classes hold strictly as if they were its links." c Several philosophers have adopted them, d but none have expressed them with more order and energy than the author of the article Nature, in Le Nouveau Dictionnaire dHistoire naturelle.
All animals, all plants are only the modifications of an animal, of a vegetable origin. . . . Man is the knot which unites the Divinity to matter, which links heaven and earth. This ray of wisdom and intelligence which shines in his thoughts is
reflected upon all Nature. It is the chain of communication between all beings. All the series of animals [he adds in another place] present only a long degradation from the proper nature of man. The monkey, considered either in his exterior form or in his interior organization, resembles only a degraded man; and the same suggestion of degradation is observed in passing from monkeys to quadrupeds; so that the primitive trend of the organization is recognized in all, and the principal viscera, the principal members are identical there. a
Who knows [observes elsewhere the same writer] who knows if in the eternal night of time the sceptre of the world will not pass from the hands of man into those of a being more worthy of bearing it and more perfect? Perhaps the race of negroes, today secondary in the human specie, has already been queen of the earth before the white race was created. . . . If Nature has successively accorded the empire to the species that it creates more and more perfect, why should she cease today. . . . The negro, already king of animals, has fallen beneath the yoke of the European; will the latter bow the head in his turn before a race more powerful and more intelligent when it enters into the plans of Nature to ordain his existence? Where will his creation stop? Who will place the limits of his power? God alone raises it and it is His all-powerful hand which governs. b
These striking passages full of forceful ideas, which appear new, and which would merit being better known, contain only a small part of the things taught in the ancient mysteries, as I shall perhaps demonstrate later.
271:a Cité par De Gérando, Hist. des Systèmes, t. ii., p. 100.
271:b Hist. des Animaux, in-4, p. 37.
272:a System des transcendental Idalimus, p. 441; Zeitschrift für die speculative Physick.
272:b Buffon, Théorie de la Terre; Linné, De Telluris habitab. Increment; Burnet, Archæolog., etc.
272:c Nouv. Dict. dHist. nat., art. QUADRUPÈDE.
272:d Ovid., Metamorph., l. xv.
272:e Nouv. Dict. dHist. nat., art. QUADRUPÈDE.
273:a Nouv. Dict. dHist nat., art. ANIMAL.
273:b Nouv. Dict., art. NATURE.
273:c Lettre à Hermann.
273:d Charles Bonnet, Contempt. de la Nat., p. 16; Lecat., Traité du Mouvement musculaire, p. 54, art. iii.; Robinet, De la Nature, t. iv., p. 17, etc.
274:a Nouv. Dict., art. QUADRUPÉDE.
274:b Nouv. Dict., art. ANIMAL.