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Tolerance

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Caroline Warman

50. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, ‘Fraternal Harmonies’, 18151

Texte intégral

  • 1 Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, ‘Harmonies fraternelles’, in his Harmonies de la nature, Paris: Méquigno (...)

1The Harmonies of Nature is the last work by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, who had found fame with Paul and Virginia (Paul et Virginie). For this writer, a philosopher of nature associated with the trend towards natural religion partly inspired by Rousseau, everything in the universe – whether plants, animals, or men – aspires to the union of opposites and to harmonious relations.

2Disputes about religion and politics, which cause so many honest people to lose their lives, are often actually born of a love of the truth, combined with deep-seated personal ambition: for fanatics are driven only by the hope of great glory. […]

3In order to tell the truth, first one has to know what it is, and this is a difficult science. Error abounds on earth and plants its flag at the summits of high mountains, whilst the humble truth hides at the bottom of wells. Just look at religions, which are the axes on which all human societies turn. We know of at least five hundred, all different; each one claims to be the only one to have found truth, and accuses all the others of falsehood. The wise Indians are the only exception, and they say that God made twelve gates to heaven, through each of which he calls different nations to join him; however none of them wants to enter through a gate other than that through which his forefathers entered. But you are very illogical, if you think there is no gate other than that through which you came into the world, because that belief puts you at war with most of humanity. What then becomes of fraternal harmony, that fundamental law of nature? […]

4All peoples had their own god, and it was only by communicating with each other that they started to recognize that there was a universal God. It is not that each man did not have his own intuition of this, but rather that his pride led him to believe that the God of nature was only concerned with his country and even with his particular person. However, there are men, and a good number of them, to whom it would be dangerous to say this, if such truths were contrary to their interests. […]

5The truth, being thus the fruit of our research, is a good which belongs to us, it is the core of our souls, and man should not entrust it to tyrants any more than he would entrust his lamp to the wind, his purse to thieves or his wife to a friend.

6However, we must not think that we on earth will ever reach the source of truth; we should think ourselves fortunate just to see some of its rays shining; such illumination seems to be spreading amongst men, as they communicate with one other and in proportion to their virtue. We have seen elsewhere the discoveries made by the Pythagoreans, the wisest of the Greeks. Knowledge of the truth is constantly increasing, because, in addition to universality and eternity, another of its characteristics is infinity.

Read the free original text online (facsimile), 1815 edition: https://books.google.co.uk/​books?id=3DBTAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA111

Notes

1 Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, ‘Harmonies fraternelles’, in his Harmonies de la nature, Paris: Méquignon-Marvis, 1815, III, pp. 111-112 and 114-116.