A Gloria del Gran Maestro dell’Universo e del Nostro Protettore San Teobaldo



Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco): 2001

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Intellectual Freedom:

‘By the original right of Nature, and the main principle of the Reformation, ’tis the privilege of every man, whether by word or by writing, to inform others, or to seek information from them [...] to confine writing on [religious] subjects to any set of men, wou’ be the certain way in a short time to have neither true doctrine nor true history; as is the case in fact, where and whenever this practice has been sottishly authoris’d or even indulged, ignorance becoming triumphant begets Credulity, as Credulity unavoidably occasions Lyes; and Lyes have recourse to Force for their support against Reason, which left free would soon expose them to contempt, and then quite explode them.’ ("Mangoneutes", Being a Defence of Nazarenus’, in Tetradymus (1720), p.142.) Further, ‘Why are Gallic or Irish superstitions more unfit to be transmitted to posterity, than those of the Greeks and Romans? Why shou’d [St] Patric be more squeamish in this respect than Moses or the succeeding Jewish prophets, who have transmitted to all ages the idolatries of the Egyptians, Phenicians, Caldeans, and other eastern nations? What an irreparable destruction of history, what a deplorable extinction of arts and inventions, what an unspeakable detriment to learning, what a dishonor upon human understanding, has the cowardly proceeding of the ignorant, or rather of the interested, against unarm’d monuments at all times occasion’d! And yet this book and letter murdering humor, tho’ far from being commanded by Christ, has prevailed in Christianity from the beginning.’ (History of the Druids; quoted in Daniel, op. cit., 1991.)

Christianity Not Mysterious (1696), Preface:

‘I hope to make it appear, that the Use of Reason is not so dangerous in Religion as it is commonly represented, and that too by such as mightily extol it, when it seems to favour ’em, yet vouchsafe it not a hearing when it makes against them, but oppose its own Authority to itself [...]. I hold nothing as an Article of my Religion but what the highest Evidence forc’d me to embrace [...]. Since Religion is calculated for reasonable Creatures, ’tis Conviction and not Authority that should bear Weight with them [...]. Truth is always and everywhere the same; and an unintelligible or absurd Proposition is to be never the more respected for being ancient or strange, for being originally written in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew [...]. The true Religion must necessarily be reasonable and intelligible.’ TEXT: ‘There is nothing that Men make a greater Noise about, in our Time especially, than what they generally profess least of all to understand [...] I mean the Mysteries of the Christian Religion [...]. Some say the Mysteries of the Gospel are to be understood only in the Sense of the Ancient Father [...]. Others tell us we must be of the Mind of some particular Doctors, pronounc’d Orthodox by the Authority of the Church [...]. Some give a decisive Voice in the Unravelling of Mysteries, and the Interpretation of Scripture, to a General Council; and others to one Man whom they hold to be the head of the Church Universal upon Earth, and the infallible Judge of all Controversies [...]. But they come nearest the thing who affirm, that we are to keep what the Scriptures determine about these Matters: and there is nothing more true, if rightly understood [...]. Some will have us always believe what the literal Sense imports, with little or no Consideration for Reason, which they reject as not fit to be employ’d about the reveal’d Part of Religion. Others assert, that we may use Reason as the Instrument, but not the Rule of our Belief. The first contend, some Mysteries may be, or at least seem to be contrary to Reason, and yet be receiv’d by Faith. The second, that no Mystery is contrary to Reason, but that all are above it. Both of ’em from different Principles agree, that several Doctrines of the New Testament belong no farther to the Enquiries of Reason than to prove ’em divinely reveal’d, and that they are properly Mysteries still. [... &c.]’. Further, Thus god is pleas’d to reveal to us in Scripture several wonderful Matters of Fact, as the Creation of the World, the last Judgement, and many other important Truths, which no Man left to himself could ever imagine, no more than any of my fellow creatures can be sure of my private Thoughts. [...] Secret things belong unto the Lord; [but] those things which are reveal’d belong unto us and to our Children. Yet, as we discours’d before, we do not receive them only because they are reveal’d: For besides the infallible Testimony of the Revelation from all requisite Circumstances, we must see in its Subject the indisputable Characters of Divine Wisdom and Sound Reason; which are the only Marks we have to distinguish the Oracles and Will of God, from the impostures and Traditions of Men. Whoever reveals any thing, that is, whoever tells us something we did not know before, his Words must be intelligible, and the Matter possible. This Rule holds good, let God or Man be the Revealer. If we count that Person a Fool who requires our Assent to what is manifestly incredible, how dare we blasphemously attribute to the most perfect Being, what is an acknowledg’d Defect in one of our selves? As for unintelligible Revelations, we can no more believe them from the Revelation of God, than from that of Man; for the conceiv’d Ideas of things are the only Subjects of Believing, Denying, Approving, and every other Act of the Understanding: Therefore all Matters reveal’d by God or Man, must be equally intelligible and possible; so far both Revelations agree. But in this they differ, that tho the Revelation of Man should be thus qualified, yet he may impose upon me as to the Truth of a think; whereas what God is pleas’d to discover to me is not only clear to my Reason (without which his Revelation could make me no wiser) but likewise is always true. A Man, for example, acquaints me that he has found a Treasure: This is plain and possible, but he may easily deceive me. God assures me, that he has form’d Man of Earth: This is not only possible to God, and to me very intelligible; but the thing is also most certain, God not being capable to deceive me, as Man is. In how many places are we exhorted to beware of false Prophets and Teachers, Seducers and Deceivers? We are not only to prove or try all things, and to hold fast that which is best, but also to try the Spirits whether they be of God. But how shall we try? How shall we discern? Not as the Horse and Mule which have no understanding, but as circumspect and wise Men, judging what is said. [...] The New Testament (if it be indeed Divine) must consequently agree with Natural Reason, and our own ordinary Ideas. The Apostles commend themselves to every Man’s conscience, that is, the appeal to every Man’s Reason, in the Sight of God. Peter exhorts Christians to be ready always to give an Answer to every one that asks them a Reason of their Hope. Now to what purpose serv’d all these Appeal, if no Regard was to be had to Men’s Understandings? If the Doctrines of Christ were incomprehensible, contradictory; or were we oblig’d to believe in reveal’d Nonsense?’; further, I acknowledge no Orthodoxy but the Truth; and, I’m sure, where-ever the Truth is, there must also be the Church, of God I mean, and no any Human Faction or Policy.’ [END; abbrev. from full version posted by Stephen J. Shoemaker, Dept. of Religious Studies, Oregon Univ., REL 323: History of Christianity - Modern Western Christianity [direct to Toland page].)


The universe is infinite, with infinite stars and inhabited worlds: In an infinite space there can be no up or down, no centre or extremities. / There is an infinite number of other worlds similar to the earth we inhabit, circling around their suns (which we call the fixed stars). / The Universe (of which the world we know is only a very small part), is infinite in extent as well as in potential. By the continuity of all and by the contiguity of its parts it is one. In its totality it is immobile, having no space outside of itself, but in its parts it is mobile by infinite intervals. The universe is a unity: Every material thing is in all things. / All things come from all, and all is in all things. The Universe is divine: The power and energy of All, which has created all and which governs all, having always the best goal as it aim, is God, which you may if you wish call Spirit and Soul of the Universe. This is why the Socratic Associates have been called pantheists, because according to them this soul cannot be separated from the Universe itself. Matter is made up of atoms: The basic bodies, or the elements of the elements, are very simple, indivisible, incorruptible, and infinite in species and number. Motion is inherent to matter: There is not in nature a sole point at rest, but only occasionally in relation to other bodies, since even rest is only a resistance to motion. Thought and soul is a property of matter: Thought is a special movement of the brain. The brain is the first cause of the soul, of thoughts and of sensations. Brain, being a highly composite material organ, can produce only material effects. Thus all ideas are corporal. There is an ethereal fire: The ethereal fire (is) supreme because it surrounds everything, intimate because it penetrates everything. This fire is the only thing that can traverse nerves. Death is merely a transformation of matter: Nothing dies totally, the death of one thing brings the birth of another, by a universally reciprocal exchange, and everything contributes necessarily to the preservation and welfare of the Whole by a continual change of forms and a marvelous variation which forms an eternal cycle. The years that Nature accords to each one on earth should seem sufficient to him. The person who is worried that he will not be alive in a thousand years is as foolish as he who would be worried that he was not born 1000 years ago. Ethical injunctions: Virtue alone is enough to live happily and brings its own reward. The wise prefer pleasure to profit. / It is better to never command anyone, than to obey someone. (Quoted on Paul Harrison's Panteism Page [featured 16 Dec. 1996].)

Sundry observations:

‘Nothing shou’d be attempted that might bring about the possibility of a Union of civil interests between the Protestants and Papists of Ireland, whose antipathies and animosities all sound Politicians will ever labour to keep alive.’ (Reasons, 1690); ‘As for Ireland in particular [...] it’s unreasonable that our own Offspring who conquered that Country [...] should be looked upon to be in the same condition with the native Irish whom they conquered, and lose the Birthright of Englishmen [...] ’ (Limitations for the next Foreign Successor, 1701); ‘A wise and good Man [...] knows no Difference between Popish Infallibility and being oblig’d blindly to acquiesce in the Decisions of fallible Protestants.’; ‘Popery is nothing else, but the Clergy’s assuming a Right to think for the Laity’ (Christianity Not Mysterious); ‘For true religion does not consist in cunningly devis’d fables, in authority, dominion or pomp; but in spirit and in truth, in simplicity and in social virtue, in a filial love and reverence, not in servile dread and terror of the Divinity.’ (All the foregoing cited in Philip McGuinness, ‘Tolerant Sectarian: The peculiar contradictions of John Toland’, Times Literary Supplement, 27 Sept. 1996, p.14-15.)


Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco): 2001


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