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nature in order to show her wide-spread influence. She makes men happy and miserable, sound and sick, rich and poor; she obliges reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she dulls the senses, or sharpens them; she has her fools and wise; and nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her votaries with a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason. Those whose imagination is active feel greater complacency than the truly wise can reasonably allow themselves to feel. They look down on other men as from the height of empire, they argue with assurance and confidence, others with diffidence and fear, and this gaiety of countenance often gives the former an advantage in the minds of their hearers; such favour do the imaginary wise find from judges like-minded. Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it makes them content, and so triumphs over 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, assigns respect and veneration to persons, works, laws, and the great? How valueless are all the treasures of earth without her consent !
You would say that this magistrate whose reverend age commands the respect of a whole people is swayed by pure and lofty reason, that he judges all causes according to their true nature, unmoved by those mere accidents which only affect the imagination of the weak. See him go to sermon with devout zeal, strengthening his firm and impartial reason by the ardour of his divine love. He is ready to listen with exemplary respect. The preacher appears; but if nature have given him a hoarse voice or a comic face, if his barber have shaven him ill, or if his clothes be splashed more than is wont, then however great the truths he announces, I wager that our statesman lose his gravity.
Set the greatest philosopher in the world on a plank really wider than he needs, but hanging over a precipice, and though reason convince him of his security, imagination will prevail. Many will scarce bear the thought without a cold sweat.
I will not name all its effects. Every one knows that the sight of cats, and rats, or the crushing of a coal, etc.,
may quite unhinge the reason. The tone of voice will affect the wisest and change the whole force of a speech or a poem.
Love or hate will change the aspect of justice, and an advocate retained with a large fee has an increased confidence in the right of the cause he pleads, while the assurance of his demeanour commends it to the judges, duped in their turn by appearances. How ridiculous reason, swayed by a breath in every direction !]
I should have to enumerate almost every action of men who seldom stagger but under her shocks. For reason has been forced to yield, and the wisest reason accepts as her own those principles which the imagination of men has everywhere casually introduced.
Our magistrates are well aware of this mystery. Their scarlet robes, the ermine in which they wrap themselves like furred cats, the halls in which they administer justice, the fleurs-de-lis, and all their august apparatus are most necessary; if the doctors had not their cassocks and their mules, if the lawyers had not their square caps, and their robes four times too wide, they would never have duped the world, which cannot resist so authoritative an appearance. Soldiers alone are not disguised after this fashion, because indeed their part is the more essential, they establish themselves by force, the others by fraud.
So our kings seek out no disguises. They do not mask themselves in strange garments to appear such, but they are accompanied by guards and halberdiers. Those armed 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 firmest tremble. They have not dress only, but power; we need an highly refined reason to regard as an ordinary man the Grand Turk, in his superb seraglio, surrounded with forty thousand janissaries./
We cannot even see an advocate in his long robe and with his cap on his head, without an enhanced opinion of his ability.
If magistrates had true justice, and if doctors had the true art of healing, they would have no need of square caps, the majesty of these sciences were of itself venerable enough. But having only imaginary knowledge, they must take these
instruments, idle, but striking to the imagination with which they have to deal, and by that in fact they gain respect.
Imagination is the disposer of all things, it creates beauty, justice and happiness, and these are the world's all. I should much like to see an Italian work, of which I know the title only, but such a title is worth many books: Della opinione Regina del mondo. I accept the book without knowing it, save the evil in it, if there be any,
These are for the most part the effects of that deceptive faculty, which seems to have been given us expressly to lead us into necessary error. Of error however we have many
Not only are old impressions capable of deceiving us, the charms of novelty have the same power. Hence arise all the disputes of men, who charge each other either with following the false impressions of childhood or of running rashly after new. Who rightly keeps a middle way? Let him appear and make good his pretensions. There is no principle, however natural to us even from childhood, 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 therefore believed the possibility of a vacuum. This is an illusion of your senses, strengthened by custom, which science must correct." 66 Because," say others, you were taught at school that there is no such thing as a vacuum, your common sense, which clearly comprehended the matter before, is corrupted, and you must correct this false impression by returning to your primitive nature." Which has deceived you, your senses or your education?
Diseases are another source of error. They impair our judgment and our senses, and if the more violent produce a sensible change, I do not doubt that slighter ailments produce each its proportionate impression.
Our own interest is again a wonderful instrument for putting out our eyes in a pleasant way. The man of greatest probity can not be judge in his own cause; I know some who that they may not fall into this self love are, out of
opposition, thoroughly unjust. The certain way of ruining 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 instruments are too blunt to touch them accurately. If they attain the point they cover it so completely that they rest more often on the wrong than the right.
There is internecine war in man between the reason and the passions.
If he had only reason without passions
If he had only passions without reason
But having both he must have continual strife, since he cannot be at peace with one unless he be at war with the other. Hence he is always divided against and contrary to himself.
The habit of seeing kings accompanied by guards, drums, officers and all those things which mechanically incline man to respect and terror, causes their countenance, when now and then seen alone, and without these accompaniments, to impress respect and terror on their subjects, because our thought cannot separate their personality from those surroundings with which it is ordinarily joined. And the world which does not know that the effect arises from habit, believes that it arises from natural force, and hence come such expressions as: The character of Divinity is imprinted on his countenance," etc.
The power of kings is based both on the reason and the folly of the people, and mainly on their folly. The greatest and most important matter in the world has weakness for its foundation, and this foundation is admirably sure, for there is nothing more sure than this, that the people will be weak. What is founded on sound reason is very ill founded, as the value of wisdom.
The chancellor is grave, and clothed with ornaments, for his position is unreal. Not so the king, he has power and nothing to do with imagination. Judges, doctors, etc., depend solely on imagination.
Empire founded on opinion and imagination lasts some time, the rule is gentle and willingly accepted; that founded on power lasts for ever. Thus opinion is, as it were, queen of the world, but power is its tyrant.
Power is the queen of the world, not opinion, but opinion makes use of power.
Power creates opinion. Gentleness is beautiful, as we think. Why? Because he who goes to extremes will be alone, and I will make a stronger cabal of people who will say it is inexpedient.
The cords attached by the respect of man for man, are, for the most part, cords of necessity, for there must be different degrees, all men wishing to rule, but not all being able to do so, though some are able.
Let us suppose then we see men beginning to form a society. They will no doubt fight till the stronger party gets the better of the weaker, and a dominant party is constituted. But so soon as this is once settled, the masters not wishing that the strife should continue, declare that the power in their hands shall be transmitted as they please, some placing it in the choice of the people, others in the succession of birth, etc.
And here imagination begins to play her part. Till now power has constrained facts, now power is upheld by imagination in a certain party, in France that of the nobles, in Switzerland that of the burgesses, etc.
The cords therefore which bind the respect of men to any given man are the cords of imagination.
Our imagination so enlarges the present by dint of continually reflecting on it, and so contracts eternity, by never reflecting on it, that we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing; and all this has such living roots in us, that all our reason cannot suppress them, and that
The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our soul with its fantastic estimate, and by a rash insolence belittles the great to its own measure, as when it speaks of God.