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Hermeneutic Interpretation

Introductory Dissertation


That the Knowledge of Man is Indespensible to the Legislator—of What This Knowledge Consists

I beg here a little more attention than one would ordinarily accord to a preliminary discourse, because it is not so much a question of preparing the mind to receive certain ideas as of putting it in condition to comprehend them well before receiving them.

Since it is of Man and for Man that the political writers and the legislators have written, it is evident that the first and most indispensible knowledge for them ought to be, Man; nevertheless it is a knowledge that the majority do not possess, that they do not seek to acquire, and that they would have been often incapable of finding even if they had sought it. They accept man as the naturalists and the physicists present to them according to anthropographical rather than to anthropoligical science, as an animal making part of the animal kingdom and differing from other animals only by a certain principle of reason, which God or rather Nature, diginified by this name, had given him, even as feathers had been given to the birds and fur to the bears—that principle which causes him to be designated by the epithet of rational animal. But considering that the principle of reason, according to the most profound physiologists, appears not the be foreign to certain classes of animals, of dogs, horses, elephants, etc., and that one has seen parrots learn even language and avail themselves of a word to express reasonable ideas, whether in replying to questions or questioning one another, as Locke relates, it follows from this observation that man enjoys this principle only more or less in comparison with other animals, and that he owes this accidental superiority only to the suppleness of his limbs, to the perfection of his organs, which have permitted his entire development. For example, to the form of his hand has been attributed all the progress in sciences and arts, and it is quite possible to imagine that a horse might have equalled Archimeded as geometrician, or Timotheus as musician, if he had received from nature limbs as supple and fingers as propitiously suitable. The prejudice in this respect was so profoundly rooted that a modern historian has even dared to assert that the only real difference he had seen between animal and Man was that of apparel. Another writer even more celebrated—considering that superiority of reason which Man manifests at times, as a false light which weakens the force of his instinct, deranges his health, and troubles his repose to such a degree that he becomes sick and troubled—stated that if nature had destined us to be healthy, the man who meditates is a depraved animal.

Now if by meditating only, Man becomes depraved, how much the more if he contemplate, if he wonder, and, above all, if he adore!

Plan of the Constitution of Man according to Fabre D’Olivet

When, after having assumed similar premises, one reasons upon the social state and, when seeing in Man only animal more or less perfect, he is set up for a legislator, it is evident that without being inconsistent, one can only offer instinctive laws, the certain effect of which is to draw the human race towards a rude and savage nature from which his intelligence ever tries to separate him. It is indeed what other writers see who, uniting a very great exaultation of ideas to the same ignorance of principles and finding themselves frightened at the consequences, into which these dismal preceptors have dragged them, throw themselves with violence to the opposite side and overleap the golden mean so recommended by the sages. The former made of Man pure animal; the latter made him pure intelligence. Some place their basis upon his most physical needs; others upon his most spiritual hopes, and, whereas the first confine him in a material circle from which all the forces of his being urge him to escape, the second lose themselves in the vaguest abstractions, throwing him into a limitless sphere, at the aspect of which even his imagination recoils terrified.

No; Man is neither an animal nor an intelligence; but an intermediary being placed between matter and spirit, between heaven and earth as a link for them. The definitions which one has tried to give him all fail through want ot excess. When one calls him a reasonable animal, one says too little; when one designates him as an intelligence served by the organs, one says too much. Man, even assuming that his physical form is like that of an animal, is more than reasonable; he is intelligent and free. Granting that he may be an intelligence in his purely spiritual part, it is not true that this intelligence is always served by the organs, since these organs, visibly independent of it, are often carried away by blind impulses adn produce acts which are disowned by it. If I were asked myself to give a definition of Man, I should say that he is a sentient being, elevated to the intellectual life, susceptible of admiration and of adoration; or an intellectual being subject to the organs, susceptible to degradation. But definitions, whatever they may be, will always represent imperfectly a being so complicated; it is better to try to understand him.

Let us examine for a moment the sacred archives of Mankind.

The philosophers, naturalists, or experimentalists who have classed Man with animals have committed an enormous error. Decieved by their superficial observations, by their trifling experiences, they have neglected to consult the voice of centuries, the traditions of all peoples. If they had opened the sacred books of the most ancient writers of the world, those of the Chinese, Hindus, Hebrews, or Parsees, they would have seen that the animal kingdom existed tout entier before Man existed. At the time when Man appeared upon the scene of the universe, he formed alone a fourth kingdom, the Kingdom of Man. The kingdom is called Pan-Kou by the Chinese, Pourou by the Brahmans, Kai-Ormuzd or Meschia by the followers of Zoroaster, and Adam by the Hebrews, and by all the peopel who accept the Sepher of Moses, whether they link themselves with the Gospels as Christians or trace their origin there by the Koran and the Gospel, as Mussulmans. I know well that the interpreters of these books, those who confine themselves only to the literal and vulgar forms, who remain strangers to the manner of the writing s of the ancients, assume alike today Pan-Kou, Pourou, Kai-Ormuzd, or Adam as a sole man, the first individual of the species; but I have proved sufficiently in my interpretation of the cosmogony of Moses, contained in the first ten chapters of the Sepher, that it should be understood by Adam not man in particular, but Man in general, universal Man, Mankind complete, in short, the Kingdom of Man. If circumstances permit me some day to give the commentary upon the cosmogony which I have promised, I will prove in the same manner that the first man of the Chinese, Hindus, or Parsees, Pan-Kou, Pourou, or Kai-Ormuzd, must universally equal and conceived not as a sole man, but as the union of all men who have entered, are entering, or will enter the compostition of this great whole that we call the Kingdom of Man.

But supposing, finally, in spite of the many proofs brought to the support of my interpretation, proofs which no one has yet dared to attack seriously since they were issued and recognized five years ago—supposing, I say, that one accepted Adam and the different cosmologonical beings which correspond to him in the sacred books of all nations for an individual man, it will remain always certain that all these books agree in distinguishing these beings from the animal kingdom, making them appear alone at a different epoch, and making them the object of a special creation; and this authorizes me sufficiently, not to confuse man with animals by including him among them in the same category, but, on the contrary, to make of the human race a superior kingdom as I have done.

Besides, when one questions the most learned geologists, those who have penetrated most deeply into the material knowledge of our globe, they will tell you that having attained a certain depth, one finds no vestige, no trace announcing the presence of man in the first ages of the world, whereas the débris and bones of animals are encountered in profusion; and this accords perfectly with the sacred traditions of which I have spoken.1

I have already had occasion in my Examens sur les Vers dorés of Pythagoras to speak of Man, and to unite as in a sheaf the sacred traditions preserved in ancient mysteries, the thoughts of the most celebrated theosophists and philosophers, in order to form a whole which may enlighten us as to the intimate essence of this being, so much more important and more difficult to understand since he does not belong to a simple nature, material and spiritual, but, as I have shown in this work, to a triple nature, itself linked with a fourth power which constitutes it. I shall reproduce shortly the result of my earlier studies and I shall compare with it traits disseminated elsewhere, adding some developments which meditation and experience have suggested to me since. First let me lay down some general ideas.

At the time Man appeared upon the earth, there existed three kingdoms, which formed the whole and divided it. The mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdom has been the object of three successive creations, appearances, or developments. Man, or rather the Kingdom of Man, was the fourth. This interval which separated these diverse appearances is measured in the Sepher of Moses by a word which expresses a phenomenal manifestation; so that, taking it in its most restricted sense, one is able to make it signify, a day; but this sense is evidently unnatural and one cannot refuse to see here a period of time undetermined, always relative to the existence to which it is applied. Among the nations of which I have spoken, where the several developments of nature are found expressed very nearly as in the Sepher of Moses, one ordinarily measures this period by the duration of the great year, equivalent to that astronomical revolution called today the precession of the equinoxes, or by one of its divisions; so that one can conceive it as nine, eighteen, twenty-seven, or thirty-six thousand of our ordinary years. But whatever may be the temporal length of this period, called by Moses a manifestation, an immensity, a sea, or a day, is not the question here; the important point is to have demonstrated by the agreement of all the cosmogonies that Man was never included in the animal kingdom. This kingdom as well as the other two inferior kingdoms, the vegetable and mineral, were comprised in his and were entirely subordinate to him.

Explanatory Plan by Papus of the Constitution of Man according to Fabre D’Olivet

Man, destined to be the link which unites Divinity to matter, was, according to the expression of a modern naturalist, a chain of communication between all beings. Placed on the confines of two worlds he became the means of exaltation in the body and that of abasement in the divine spirit. The perfected essence of the three kingdoms of nature is united in him to a will power, free in its scope, which makes him the living type of the universe and the image of God Himself. God is the centre and the circumference of all that which is; Man, the image of God, is the centre and the circumference of the sphere which he inhabits; nothing else exists in this sphere, which may be composed of the four essences; it is he whom Pythagoras thus designates by his mysterious verse:

Immense et pur symbole,

Source de la nature, et modèle des Dieux.

The conception of all things is cogeneric with Man; the knowledge of immensity and of eternity is in his understanding. Often, it is true, think darkness deprives him of its use and discernment; but the assiduous exercise of this faculties will suffice to change this darkness into light and to render unto him the possession of its treasures. Nothing can resist the power of his will, when this will, moved by divine love, principles of all virtue, acts in accord with Providence. But without engaging further in these ideas which will better find their place elsewhere, let us continue our researches.

1 If it had been my intention to write a work on erudition, I should have been able to crowd it without citations and to call all antiquity in testimony not alone of what I say here, but of what I shall say later on; but as this scholastic display would tend to retard my progress in a work destined to present thoughts rather than facts, I abstain and will abstain from citing any. I pray only that the reader believe that all the authorities upon which I lean are unimpeachable from the side of science and stand upon the most firm historic bases.


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