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More Gems from de Maistre

Here's a selection of some more excellent quotes from de Maistre, on three themes--law and constitutions, the necessity of religion for a good society, and the Enlightenment.  Enjoy, and if you do enjoy, let me know which ones you most enjoyed. If you don't enjoy, then pick a fight.

On Law and Constitutions
I: “reason and experience agree that a constitution is a divine work and that it is precisely the most fundamental and essentially constitutional elements in a nation’s laws that cannot be written.”
II: “the essence of a fundamental law is that no one has the right to abolish it: but how is it beyond human power if it has been made by someone.”
“Locke sought the characteristic of law in the expression of combined wills, an unlucky chance to choose the precise characteristic that excludes the idea of law.

“Law is properly law and has a genuine sanction only if it is taken as emanating from a superior will; so that its essential feature is that it is not the will of all.”
“Primordial good sense, happily anterior to sophisms, has everywhere sought the sanction for laws in a power above men, either by recognizing that sovereignty derives from God, or by revering certain unwritten laws as God’s word.”

“Was it not everywhere believed that a constitution is as much a work of the imagination as an ode or a tragedy?  Had not Paine asserted, with a profundity which enraptured the universities, that a constitution does not exist if one cannot put it in one’s pocket?  The eighteenth century, which questioned nothing, had no doubts of itself: that is the rule, and I do not believe that it produced a youth of any talent whatever who had not made three things by the time he left school--a new system of education, a constitution, and a society.”

XVIII: “Monarchy becomes more necessary as the association becomes more numerous....France was geometrically monarchical.  It would be indeed difficult to express more happily a more unshakeable truth.”

XXI: “Every written law is only a necessary evil produced by human infirmity or malice, is nothing at all if it has not received a previous and unwritten sanction.”

On the Necessity of Religion for a Good Society
XXXV: “Perhaps one the heart of some affluent town set in an old savannah, a statue will be raised to the father of these missionaries [the Jesuits].  One will be able to read on its pedestal: ‘To the Christian Osiris, whose envoys have traversed the earth to snatch men from misery, from savagery and from brutality, by teaching them the arts of agriculture, giving them laws, and showing them how to know and serve God, not by the force of arms, of which they had no need, but by gentle persuasion, moral songs, and the power of hymns, so that they were believed to be angels.”
XXXVII: “Every educational system that does not rest on religion will fall in the twinkling of an eye or will disgorge nothing but poison into the state, religion being, as Bacon has well put it, the preservative that saves sciences from putrefaction.”
XXXVIII: “It is often asked why there is a school of theology in every university. The reply is easy: It is so that universities will continue to exist and that teaching will not corrupt itself.”
XXXIX: “In short...if one does not rely on ancient maxims, if education is not given back to the priests, and if science is not put everywhere in second place, the evils that await us are incalculable; we shall be brutalized by sciences, and that constitutes the lowest point of brutalization.”
XL: “Nothing, he [Origen] said, can be changed for the better in social matters without divine help.  All men feel the truth of this, without being able themselves to express it.  It is from this that follows the unconscious aversion of all right-thinking men to innovations.  The word reform, in itself and before any scrutiny, will always be suspect to the wise, and the experience of every age justifies this kind of instinct.”
XLV: “Not only does creation not belong to man, but even reformation belongs to him in only a secondary manner and with a host of severe restrictions.”
“Man in harmony with his Creator is sublime and his action creative; equally, once he separates himself from God and acts alone, he does not cease to be powerful, since that is a privilege of his nature, but his acts are negative and lead only to destruction.”

On the Enlightenment
LXI: “Although there has always been impiety, there had never been, before the eighteenth century and in the heart of the Christian world, an insurrection against God; above all there had never been seen before a sacrilegious conspiracy of all the talents against their author.  Now, this is what we have seen in our own day.  Comedy has vied with tragedy in blasphemy, and the novel with history and natural philosophy.  The men of this age have prostituted their talents to irreligion, and, to use the admirable phrase of the dying St. Louis, they have waged war against God with his gifts.  The impiety of the ancient world is never angry; sometimes it is reasonable, ordinarily it is lighthearted, but it is never bitter....The ancient religions were not sufficiently worthwhile to merit the anger of contemporary skeptics.”
LXIV: “Then for the first time the unique character of eighteenth century atheism revealed itself.  It no longer speaks in the cold tone of indifference, still less with the biting irony of skepticism; there is a deadly hatred, a tone of anger and often of fury.  The writers of this age, at least the most outstanding, no longer treat Christianity as an inconsequential human error, but hunt it like a mortal enemy: it becomes a fight to the end, a war to the death; and what would seem unbelievable, if we did not have sad proofs of it before our eyes, is that many of these self-styled philosophers raised their hatred of Christianity to a personal hatred of its divine Author.  They really detest him as a living enemy is detested.”
LXV: “Every government and institution in Europe displeased it [the philosophy of the age], precisely because they were Christian, and in proportion to the influence of Christianity, a malaise of opinion, a general discontent seized men’s minds.”
LXVI: “How has God punished this abominable delirium?  He has punished it as he created the world, by a single phrase.  He has said: LET IT BE--and the political world collapsed.”


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