« הקודםהמשך »
Hoping that reason, justice, and truth will prevail, and that you will soon be released from those bonds in which you are held by your tyrannical oppressors, I subscribe myself with great esteem,
Your obedient Servant,
Principles of the Deistical Society of the State of
New York. Proposals for forming a society for the promotion of mo. ral science and the religion of nature-having in view the destruction of superstition and fanaticism-tending to the developement of the principles of a genuine natural morality-the practice of a pure and uncorrupted virtue—the cultivation of science and philosophy-the resurrection of reason, and the renovation of the intelligent world.
At a time when the political despotism of the earth is dis appearing, and man is about to reclaim and enjoy the liberties of which for ages he has been deprived, it would be unpardonable to neglect the important concerns of intellectual and moral nature. The slavery of the mind has been the most destructive of all slavery; and the baneful effects of a dark and gloomy superstition have suppressed all the dignified efforts of the human understanding, and essentially circumscribed the sphere of intellectual energy. It is only by returning to the laws of nature, which man bas so frequently abandoned, that happiness is to be acquired. And, although the efforts of a few individuals will be inadequate to the sudden establishment of moral and mental felicity; yet, they may lay the foundation on which a superstructure may be reared incalculably valuable to the welfare of future generations. To contribute to the accomplishment of an object so important, the members of this association do approve of the following fundamental principles:-
1. That the universe proclaims the existence of one supreme Deity, worthy the adoration of intelligent beings.
2. Tbat man is possessed of moral and intellectual faculties sufficient for the improvement of bis nature, and the ac. quisition of happiness.
3. That the religion of nature is the only universal religion; that it grows out of the moral relations of intelligent beings, and that it stands connected witb the progressive im. provement and common welfare of the human race,
4. That it is essential to the true interest of man, that he love truth and practise virtue.
5. That vice is every where ruinous and destractive to the bappiness of the individual and of society.
6. That a benevolent disposition, and beneficent actions, are fundamental duties of rational beings.
7. That a religion mingled with persecution and malice cannot be of divine origin.
8. That education and science are essential to the happiness of man.
9. That civil and religious liberty is equally essential to bis true interests.
10. That there can be no human authority to wbich mai ought to be amenable for his religious opinions. · 11. That science and truth, virtue and bappiness, are the great objects to whicb the activity aud energy of the buman faculties ought to be directed.
Every member admitted into this association shall deem it his duty, by every suitable method in bis power, to promote the cause of nature and moral truth, in opposition to all schemes of superstition and fanaticism, claiming divine origin. Then follow the regulations of the society. :
Three chapters of an unfinished work by Elihu Palmer, in
tended to have been entitled :-
CHAPTER I. Nature of existence, predicament of man in the universe, ancient
and modern opinions upon the subject.
The human mind, wben emancipated from the bondage of prejudice, and freed from the shackles of superstition, contemplates, with liberality of thought, the vast and extensive fabric of the physical world. The first and strongest impressions are derived from this indestructible fountain of knowledge, and the subsequent combinations of the human understanding become, collectively, the basis of every moral and political jostitution, which has essentially affected the best and highest concerns of the human race. The origin of those institutions is uot so difficult of investigation as public opipion is inclined to believe; for, the truth lies nearer to the
surface, and presents a more prominent character, than that which superstitious mystery and political jotrigue bave bestowed upon it. It is the interest of despotism to deceive; it lives upon the miseries of others; it has placed a film over the intellectual eye of man, and prevented the clear discoveries, which, he otherwise could have made by examining the inberent properties of existence. In a political work, of a kind like that which now. lies before us, it may be expected, by some, that the inquiry should be confined to principles of a civic nature. This, however, is not the sole object. of the present work. Views, of a far more extended cba. racter; reflections, of a more comprehensive kind; comparisons, including the bigbest interests of society, and, in short, every thing valuable in the moral and physical existence of man, will come within the sphere of the present design, and constitute the essential foundation of our subsequent developements. This remark is made to guard the reader against mis-apprehension, and to prepare bim for discussions of a novel and unexpected character. It is high time, that inquiries of this kind should free themselves from the restraints of interested criticism, or the censure of periodical resiewers, and the prejudices of antiquity. At the present period of the world, a man has no business to appear in public; or, at least, bis appearance would be useless, unless his mind be elevated above current censure, and unless be shall find him. seli prepared to meet that flood of calumny, which the world has prepared for its best benefactors. Ao exalted sentiment sbould animate the mind of every philanthropist, and while be re-surveys the ignorance, the folly, and the vice of our species, he ought to resuscitate bis bopes, and re-kindle the active energies of bis nature, in the anticipation of future improvement.
The power and the splendour of the material world, its vast and unlimited extent, its beauty, harmony, and grandeur, all strike upon the senses and the understanding of man with inconceivable impressions, and excite, into a high degree of action, the post dignified energies of bis existence. The babit, however, of surveying so many wonders, stupifies thought in some, and creates intellectual activity in others. The first class, or the uphappy admirers of all the mythological absurdities of past ages, have always been deluded; they pretend to discern the existence of a thousand beings, of which nature has never yet made any exhibition ; they create innumerable hypotheses, and then, by the strength of a disordered imagination, they attempt to per
suade themselves and others, that they are in possession of the most important realities. Fiction being thus substituted for truth, it is not a matter of astonishment, that all subsequent reasoning, that all common concerns of life, should be tiactured with a false colouring, and be productive of the most baneful effects. The remedy for these evils is, to return and examine, with great clearness and penetration, the nature of existence, and the laws by wbicb it is governed. An enquiry into the origin of existence is attended with insurmountable difficulties; but the laws by which it is governed are cognizable by the powers of the human understanding. These laws present themselves as fair and unalterable pripciples of universal observation; they seldom escape the vigilance of a persevering intellect; and a knowledge of their regular operation ought, for ever, to constitute the bighest confidence of individuals and of nations. Societies will never be happy, until they understand the general laws of existence. They have been quarrelling, for ages past, about its origin; an awful theology has obtruded itself upon the sacred ground of philosophy, and has usurped the right of judging upon subjects, concerning wbich, prejudice bad rendered it totally blind, and the most stupid ignorance bad produced a total and absolute incompetence. The first great characteristic feature of existence is, its eternal duration, both antecedently and subsequently considered; it is ignorance, folly, and fanaticism alone, that possess the temerity of opposing an idea so irrefutable. Beginning and end, iu regard to the essence of that matter which composes the universe, are the sportive phantasms of all the religious mythologists of ancient and modern times. They would make and unmake, they would create and destroy, according to the capriciousness and whimsical sentiments which their own imaginations had generated; aud when opposed in the ridiculous career of those imaguations, they sound the tocsin of alarm, they let slip the dogs of war, and they drench the sacred earth with the blood of mortal mau! The planetary, the cometary, and the sidereal systems, are subjected, in a greater or less degree, to the inspection of our seases and our understanding; it is only with the mundane sphere, however, that man is well acquainted; all the rest is placed beyond the reach of nice and accurate discriminations. Durability of character, with change of relative position, are facts, however, every where recognizable, and at all times incontrovertible. The reciprocation of matter and of interest in the visible universe, should form the basis of the most unqnalified and universal sympathy. This fact, consoling to every philosophic mind, but detested and denounced by superstition, ought to become the criterion of social institutions, and the broad tegument of the bigh concerns of the moral world. The narrow views which have hitherto circumscribed the sphere of human activity, have pre. vented society from founding its institutions upon the broad basis of universal sympathy and universal justice. Partial good can be produced by partial tbeories, when reduced to correct practice; but the extensive and ultimate happiness of the world must rest upon the establishment of principles of a broader and more comprehensive character. Individuals are in the habit of rancorous animosity with each other; nations sound tbe trumpet of discord, and, as if destitute of all relationship, they become the bold and unblushing murderers of their species. Benevolence, extended upon a moral scale, would partially cure and annihilate this evil; but sympathy, improved upon the scale of sensitive and universal existence, would teach the immortal and consoling doctrine, that there is an external connection throughout all the parts of nature, and that they are co-equal and co-essential in their being. This is the nature of existence, and the idea of a goiversal inter-circulation is coeval and coeternal with matter itself.
The subject, presented under this point of view, will lead to the discovery of the real predicament of man in the universe. The relationship which he hears to every thing around him, bis indestructible connection with the pbysical world, must, of necessity, direct our enquiries iu regard to his moral position and his moral interests. The immutable laws of the universe, which govern all beiugs, and point to their successive and ultimate destinies, are the paramount considerations in all pbilosopbic enquiries. The capriciousness of intentional agents, the phantasms and follies generated in the brain of a wild and disordered theology, capnot much longer sbake the solemn truths, wbich relate to the bighest interests of man; he will, in despite of such enabittered efforts, ultimately discover his true condition in nature, and, bis sentiments will be bold and sublimated, in consequence of this discovery. “ Man, in every part of the globe, is born free and equal in his rights; man, is the unlimited proprietor of his own person; man, is, in nature, a principle, not an agent :” he belongs inberently and essentially to himself, not to another; his senses, bis faculties, bis energies, are all bis own, and, for the rigbteous use of these, he is re