Saint-Martin and Kirchberger

Letter I

Berne, 22nd May, 1792.

Do not be surprised at receiving a letter from one unknown to you; your writings and your personal worth, to which I am not altogether a stranger, have made me take up my pen.

Whilst most thinkers are busy with the interests which are now agitating the nations, I employ my leisure hours in the study of truths which influence the happiness of men more directly than political revolutions; objects which enlarge the sphere of human knowledge, show us how little we hitherto know, and how important those

things are which we have yet to learn.

I will declare to you, Sir, with Swiss frankness and sincerity, that the most eminent writer, in my eyes, and most profound of his age, is the author of 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite,' and that to correspond with him would be to me one of the greatest satisfactions of my life.

In that work, Sir, you have covered some important truths with a veil, that they might not be exposed to profanation by such as are of perverse hearts, and whose eyes are fascinated by vulgar prejudices, or the sophistries of so-called philosophers; but I feel assured that the author of 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite' will not refuse to enlighten those who seek the truth in good faith, and that, like our Great Example, he wishes to spread abroad the light as much as possible. Every page of that admirable work breathes benevolence, and that benevolence is my guaranty.

I think I have guessed the meaning conveyed under your denomination of "the active and intelligent Cause" in the above-named work; I believe I have likewise understood the acceptation of the word "virtues" in your 'Tableau Naturel'; I have no doubts left on these points; I take the active cause to be the Truth, par excellence; and, if any one asks, with Pilate -- Quid est veritas? -- I will tell him to transpose the letters contained in his question, and he will find the answer: Est vir qui adest. But it is the physical acquaintance with this active intelligent Cause, a knowledge free from any kind of illusion, which seems to me to be the grand knot of the work 'Des Erreurs'; -- a knowledge, I repeat, which must not be liable to any illusion whatever, to which the internal sense itself may be sometimes; because our senses and imaginations often speak so loudly, and our sentiments may sometimes be so multiplied, especially in the whirlpools of business, that we are not always in condition to hear the voice of truth. Yet, nothing can be more important than to know it with some certainty, for, "if this active and intelligent Cause could never be known sensibly by man, he could never be sure of having found the right way, or of being in possession of the true religion; since it is this Cause that must do all the work and declare everything, man must therefore be able to have the certainty we speak of, and it must not be from man that he gets it; this Cause itself must clearly offer to the understanding and the eyes of man the testimony of its approval; in short, if man is liable to be deceived by men, he must have the means of not deceiving himself, and he must have within his reach a resource from which he may look for certain help." On this essential point more light would be beyond price to me. How are we to arrive with certainty at this physical knowledge of the active and intelligent Cause? Are the virtues of the 'Tableau Naturel' our helpers thereto? and how are we to have physical knowledge of these virtues themselves? Whatever you may think proper to communicate to me, on these questions, I should accept with gratitude and respect, for the highest motives alone can induce you to take the trouble to answer them.

I venture to ask another favour, viz., that you would tell me what books you have published, such as express your sentiments without alloy?

You see, Sir, with what confidence I address you; and, hoping for a reply from you, which I shall greatly value,

I am, &c.,
Member of the Sovereign Council of the Republic of Berne.