Zorile Lodge No.355, Bucharest
The principle of the following demonstration is formulated with clarity by Thomas Aquinas in these terms: “It is impossible that a natural desire be useless, or for a natural tendency not to perish into the void, by the force of things”. (Summa Theologica, I.ii.2, LXXV, a.6). There exist within us some artificial or at least acquired desires, which are nothing but the consequence of the culpable habits or dreams which are contradicted by reason. It is possible that we suffer on account of them, but we are responsible for this suffering and if these desires are not satisfied, we cannot come into conflict with God, Who is Holiness and Wisdom. These more or less particular desires are not anything, in a word, but deviations in forbidden or absurd directions of our natural inclinations, whose object is general and which are common to everyone. Some bodily or sensual instincts in our organism. They have their physiological or even psychological role. But the inferior desires must be guided by the reason that indicates to them what kind of objects are legitimate. My senses tend toward such pleasures. The animal instinct, established by God, fatally only orients itself toward the pleasures which are useful to nature. The human instinct can deviate these damaging pleasures, because God left the guidance to the freedom and intelligence of the human being.
There lie in our soul profound desires, essential cravings, unquiet aspirations, which are conflated with our very being, which constitute its word, the living expression, and are the departure point for all its activities, the root of its joy.
We desire to know, we desire to love, we desire to be happy, we desire the perfection of the development of which our moral personality is capable. These tendencies are natural, because they are common to all mankind; they escape the enterprise of liberty and far from contradicting the superior part in ourselves, they harmoniously accord themselves to it!
Whereas these desires cannot be futile, and it is impossible that such radical desires be lost in the vacuum. For this reasoning, which is rather clarified, that if that were so, God would be either just or good or strong. He would have none of the attributes which belong to divinity. He would not exist.
Then again, it is enough to orient oneself toward the created beings, to study them, to penetrate them: their wonderful structure does not reveal to us only that He exists, God who built them so well, but studying them also makes us understand that all organs aim at their functions, that all functions meet externally the environment for which they are made up, in short, that all natural tendencies reach their end…
In embryo, the eye is made to see, it will see; the wing to fly, it will float on air; the fins to swim, they will cut the waves: “If the embryo, captive in his mother’s bosom, could reason, he would say: “I am designed with organs which do not serve me here, with legs for not to talk, with teeth for not to eat… Patience! These organs tell me that nature is calling me beyond my present life. There will come a time when I will live otherwise, when these tools will have their use. They are unemployed, they are yet waiting.” (Ferguson) This sort of arguments do we have regarding the human soul. Observing its natural tendencies, unfulfilled on earth, we have concluded that the spiritual is nothing but a chrysalis, one day it will live fully rejoiced or saddened.
Therefore it is impossible that man, the privileged one of creation, to be the only living existence which will want and whose essential aspirations are bankrupt. On the other hand, these élans of our nature toward happiness, toward the full truth, these profound needs to love and to be loved without measure, to reach the perfect development of our moral being and of our freedom, do not encounter in this world the environment which they desire, the end they presuppose.
This environment is therefore in another place, the purpose is beyond the current life: the soul does not go down to the grave with the body.
The thirst of happiness which is in the soul proves that there is something in the beyond for her
(Greater than destiny, above nature, the satisfied needs cannot anymore satisfy them: the soul has desires whose measure is lost, beyond the tomb will her sights be set – Lamartine – Harmonica, I.ii, X)
Human life could be defined as a path to happiness. The human being is entirely kneaded with an immense desire for rest, for joy, for full happiness… A complex desire, no less, and multiform. Some are greedy for riches, for honors, for reputation, for plaudits, for respect, for affection… Others have the passion of pleasure, of newness or rather of the beautiful positions and captivating journey… All, however, obey the same secret motor, the inborn tendency that carries them toward an ideal mode of existence, toward a mirage ceaselessly being reborn, rich life, intense, sunny, delicious!
This burning need, like that to love, often deceives a man onto funereal paths; but these mistakes and insanities here really demonstrate how unquiet this thirst of our nature is!
Despite all the straying of poor liberty, whoever does not want to force and thereby channel these secret impulses, to master them and to delay definitive satisfaction, the providential role of this grounding tendency for happiness is not any less of prime importance. It pushes man to labor, to work, to make his terrestrial existence fecund, even to sacrifice itself…
The ultimate mobile of all human actions, however modest and however clean they may be, is the search for some parcel of happiness. The ascetic man himself, in his modifications, hopes to conquer eternal happiness, divine amity; he wants to enrich his soul with peace, with spiritual joy, with moral beauty… Which does not get in the way, no less, of loving God for his own perfections and to unite pure love with the legitimate and necessarily self-interested self-love.
Michelet understood fully that the lever of humanity and that the psychological reasoning of all progresses would be this unquenched thirst for happiness, which spring from the foundation of our nature. “Take out this yearning, says he, for the infinite…, the centuries, petrified, stuck” (Michelet, Le Genie des Religions, I, c, I)
The facts teach us, moreover, that this natural tendency toward happiness, is never satisfied in this life. Without doubt, Providence “arranged” things in such a way that we reach a little all the senses, figments of eternal happiness. It was necessary that it be so, because without these current outlays of future happiness, we would have remained inactive. The categorical imperative, so very dry, would never have moved absolutely to action any but a few rare elite wills and the world would have been transformed into a sterile and barren desert.
But these particles of happiness, which man avidly conquers, are not the target he is seeking. This following psychological law could be formulated even: The more we stick our lips in the cup of terrestrial joys, the more our thirst for happiness invigorates itself and the more we suffer the fatal disappointment. The acquisition of an illusion of happiness makes our desire more sensitive, more intense, and given the disproportion between our tendency and the entangled happiness with which we encounter makes itself felt more, more vivacious, evidence that our ultimate purpose is impossible to realize in this world, becomes even more striking.
Each one’s experience could be put here as a contribution. Who would dare to call himself perfectly happy? Those who possess riches with the greatest surfeit, those who have known glorious days, those who have enjoyed the finest pleasures, all of them have made this honest confession: There is an abyss between what I am and what I want to be, between the incomplete happiness which I taste and the ideal happiness which I dream!
The passions, immediately after an always brief drunkenness, spread with rending wailing. Musset, who had sought the fullness of happiness in the most violent sensual pleasures, in the most insane love, in the most bragging reputation and in the delicate charms of the art, sang of the cruel bankruptcy of his hopes: I have lost my force and my life / and my friends and my joy …”
The emperor Septimiu Sever made this confession: “I have been everything, but it has not served me for much”. Mazarin, contemplating the wonderful things accumulated in his palace, replied: “Soon, I will have to leave all these…” Alexander the Great saw himself the master of the world, when he had to stop panting and unlucky at the frontiers of India.
Napoleon believed he had reached the highest degree of power that was conceivable and in his pride said: The Future! The future is for me! He forgot about what would be done the next day: tomorrow to Waterloo; tomorrow to Saint Helen; tomorrow to the tomb”.
Are the moderate ones more satisfied perhaps? They sometimes say so. After Horace, they claim, contenting themselves with an “elegant mediocrity”, to reach happiness. In fact, it is nothing. Horace’s numerous odes reveal a profound melancholy. The master of bourgeois happiness seems continuously tortured by the specter of death, which makes him blanch, and which with “just as indifferent” a gait knocks at palace doors “as on hovels”…
Each one of should ask that of himself! Do our hours of joys, secrete, of modest rest, our minutes of more agreeable life and more intense, do they fulfill fully our desires, do they answer perfectly to all our aspirations? Our soul possesses, with all the earthly chances, an embarrassing emptiness which nothing can fill up. That is the confession that we all make.
Arguments for this are many and already met: not only death stalks us and threatens us with the total destruction of our daily happiness; but the mobility and fatal imperfection of all things here make it so that our regrets are always innumerable, without remedy and so that our passing contentedness scatters quickly when we delve within ourselves to sound out live our tendencies. The beautiful night’s dream does not endure in face of the cruel vision of reality.
Luck is a fruit eaten by worry, daily troubles, often hard labor, relative want. And the one who has money does not always have health, family happiness, the respect of others and a thousand other goods whose ensemble alone would constitute unclouded happiness.
The joys of the homestead are in their own turn mixed with innumerable worries: the most burning conjugal love cannot avoid the vicissitudes of existence, the clashes that arise from characters, the insults to beauty which time brings in surfeit, the sadness which is brought by disease or material preoccupations.
That is what it’s like for all the happy ones in this world. Always, something is missing, even many things… Whereas, the human soul tends with an irresistible force toward a complete grouping of all the goods, because only this totality makes happiness. Aside from that, is there any need to insist so? Suffering, in one form or another, with varying degrees, sooner or later, is the fate of all men. The weeping that comes out of all human bosoms is immense, universal, like that which arises from the waves of the Ocean… The saints themselves, with all the precious goods that are overflowing into their souls: the peace of conscience, divine grace, the hope of salvation, the love of the will of God, do not at all enjoy the ideal happiness toward which their nature aspires. According to the liturgical words, they “moan” and “cry” as the exiled sons of Eve, delayed in a vale of tears. Far from sparing them, providence makes them privileged ones of the Cross, associates of Christ, who suffers and triumphs.
In this case, the conclusion imposes itself: because happiness (that is to say, the ideally rich life, intense, full of all the goods, protected from all evils), which is the supreme limit of all the aspirations of our being, cannot be found here, it must be found up in an invisible city. Will I ascend? Will I descend? Too often tells itself an unlucky victim of contemporary doubt… How can a lucid and logical spirit hesitate in face of such a question? Does the soul go down to the grave with the wilted body; does it tend to dust, to the shadow, to definitive immobility? But it is enough that we feel in ourselves this passionate élans which lead us to a full life, captivating, happy, to understand that our soul has a destiny which awaits beyond the tomb, and that it is made to ascend and not to descend. Jouffroy emphasized this very well: “The end of man, as it results from his nature, is not perfectly fulfilled in this life. Take a tendency of our nature… Obviously, it is not completely satisfied… Any thing belonging to man tends to that end, but with an eternal resistance on behalf of things. It is clear therefore that the purpose of life is distinct from life.” (Cours de Droit naturel, p. 168).
If it were otherwise, God would be cruel. For what reason would He have put in us these immense desires? He could not easily have avoided this torture! He who created so many compassionate hearts, devoted, tender, delicate, could He have not had this elementary goodness which haloes the visages of the beings that came out of His own hands! What nonsense! Insane boys, lost by suffering, dared to push this blasphemy to this extremity! “O nature, tell me, imprudent mother, why do you obsess me with this burning thirst, if you know not the spring where to quench it? you must create, step mother, or seek it.” (Musset – La Coupe et les Levres)
These are the wanderings of a tested sensitivity. Reason tells us that the Creator of all tenderness and all goodness possess in the supreme degree the perfections that he has placed in his creatures. God cannot but be the best of parants, the most loving of mothers, the most affectionate friend. If he deepened our souls, then that is because He means to fill them full! If he urges by profound aspirations to the shores of happiness, he does this so that one day we can reach it!.
Our need to know proves that there exists something above our intelligence.
(When, liberated from the illusions of the body and of the senses, we will enjoy the contemplation of the eternal beings, then we will taste pure voluptuousness…” – Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, III, The Professions of faith of the Savoyard Vicar)
Our intelligence proves an unquenched need for the whole of verity, which our actual life does not satisfy. Curiosity is natural to us. We seek always to know from instinct. Our soul is not at rest except when it has seen the how and wherefore of things. The most modest would wish to be savants. They envy the more instructed. And those who have knowledge would want to acquire more and more! This desire to know is the stimulant of our mental activity and to it is owed the progress of the sciences.
But our ambition to scrutinize everything, to solve everything, to deepen everything hits upon a thousand obstacles. The material means for instruction are lacking for the greatest part, others only have superficial notions, incomplete and confuse, regarding the most captivating objects of thought: time and leisure are wanting for the sounding, study and clarification of the verities of all the orders. Savants anyway confess that the more they know, the more they see that they do not know anything. Among the greatest are the most modest and they confess that the mystery constricts them from all sides. They cannot understand life, its subtle and infinitely varied game. They declare that in the universe everything is an enigma and that they are assisting, enchanted, but powerless, to a grandiose spectacle whose secret escapes them. Specialized, before they pass for masters in their profession, they are obliged to close thought within very narrow frontiers, and to condemn it to a greater or lesser ignorance of thousands of objects that would charm them. Science is deceiving and can be compared to an impassable range of mountains, where the traveler on the heights of each apex, so difficultly climbed, sees that at the basis even more profound depths yawn and in front new peaks arise, even more inaccessible. (Coppee – La Bonne Souffrance)
This powerlessness to reach the whole verity is a test that many succumb to. The skeptics are discouraged, those who, having no other options, declare that our spirit is entirely incapable of reaching the truth.
Intelligence is in an impossibility to satisfy in this life, its tendency toward the possession of full verity. There is therefore for it another life, which reserves for it what it seeks hopelessly among the shadows here. God cannot in His incomparable wisdom to deprive the soul of its natural end. And Saint Augustine, thinking on the passion of his dearest friend for the sciences, consoled himself on his death, which wrung the tears from him, by this uncommon assertion: “There, is the bosom of God, my Nebridius is alive. There he sips wisdom, as greedy as he is”. (Augustine, Confessions, LIX, III)
Our need to see the moral personality on which we stand developing demonstrates that there is a better world for our freedom
(Death is pass in which to increase the exchange / Who was on earth an athlete, is in the abyss archangel. On earth, you’re bound, on earth exiled. But upward grow we without straitening the Infinite. – V. Hugo)
The human person that is constituted by the distinct, intelligent and free being that we are desires invincibly to be, to live and to reach in all ways the amplitude of which it is capable. The self-preservation instinct, self-love, ambition, pride are but diverse aspects, legitimate or straying, of this tendency. Moreover, we reflect sadly on a moral perfection which always escapes us and which always draws us, because we feel to have been made for it. we aspire to a greater dignity of life, to an unmarred virtue, to a conduct that in all ways accords with our reason, with God’s will, and which would be spared any ugliness, any lowliness (meanness), any cowardice. It will be said that this tendency is encountered, without emphasis, in many people. It is, though, darkened and numb because of repeated, habitual weaknesses. But this fact which vice always seeks out in order to cover itself with the mask of virtue, or at least never lets go of, to excuse itself, proves that this tendency for moral dignity is entirely in the depth of our nature. It was observed how the conscience as well seems dead in some lost men. Who will deny however that the conscience is part of the human patrimony and who will not notice that with one’s fellowman it never disappears entirely?
Finally, we have a liberty which tends to its full exercise, to the independence of its movement in the realm of the good! In its lies the expanding force of our person. It feels its wings and detests captivity. Vast horizons enchant her. It would give our being an infinite development, flattering and enchanting!
Once more, our soul takes flight to an end which this life does not achieve. The sentiment of our personal value moves us to desire the permanent being of everything that emanates from us. Whereas, the minute that’s passed is already far away and carries with it our treasure: our success, the activities we have undergone, the proper joy, the vibrant affection… Does the poet brag for having given his works a duration superior to the bronze age? What an illusion! It all disappears in the darkness of time! The memory sometimes endures, it is true. But what is the memory compared to the dead reality? And if people hum for some years our name, adorning it with platonic admiration, what worth could that survival be for the late man who no longer is and no longer has a conscience!! No, if the tomb absorbs us, our desire, born of soulful expansion, of permanence, is entirely futile.
Our aspirations for un unmixed moral value, for ideal perfection, do not meet more than their limits in this muddy vale that is the earth! The saints do not stop from moaning for their sins, from crying for their mistakes. Any honest man who subjects himself to the examination of his conscience sees immediately in his daily conduct thousands traces of selfishness, of jealousy, of foolish vanity, of ridiculous airs, of facile hypocrisy, of mediocre sensualities… He feels rather keenly that all these do not beautify his soul, that all these take him away from the perfection that is the just desert of an intelligent being. He suffers because he cannot prize himself as highly as he would, nor to accede to this total virtue which attracts him by its sovereign beauty.
His tendency does not become moral perfection! What shall we say about the innumerable proofs of our liberty! Our personality and its unquenchable need for autonomy, for facile creativity, for independence of choice and demeanor, are chained from a thousand directions at once! Our wings always flap against one of the links in our cage. Events constrain us, circumstances immobilize us, people impose on us the slavery of evil or their rights. Authority itself, although it is the legitimate and necessary organ of our entire social life, imposes on us its obstacles. And the century that exalted so much the liberty of man saw the spark of this terrifying war and the apparatus of the most terrible constraint that is its fatal consequence!
And yet it is impossible that the human soul to be avid, by virtue of the most noble and most essential desires that spring from its being, for a chimerical liberty, a perfection that cannot be realized, a permanence of personal life in contradiction to the desert without remedy of the things that come to pass!
Of course, “What monster is man therefore? … what chaos? … said Pascal. Man would be truly a failed work if he were not immortal. But God does not deprive His works. That is why he prepared man for a second life, which will give his personal activity the endless duration which it desires, his conscience the satisfaction of a conduct ideally beautiful, his liberty the liberating joy of a definitive independence.