III. -- (From K.)
Canton de Berne,
30th June, 1792.
The receipt of your kind letter of 8th inst. has given me the liveliest pleasure. The advice it contains, and the hope you give me of a continued correspondence, call for my sincerest acknowledgments. I believe that there are middle and subaltern situations in which hints and advice may be of the greatest use, just like the writings of the elect, as secondary instruments chosen by Providence for men's advancement. For all that, you may be persuaded that I shall always respect your motives, if you should have any, for not yet giving me the solution of questions I may put to you. There are, for instance, many important points in the 17th and 19th sections of the 'Tableau Naturel,' on which, with your permission, I shall some day take the liberty to ask you sundry questions; but I beg you will not allow them to interrupt our correspondence: your simple silence on these points will be a sufficient answer, and will not prevent the rest of your letter being of great price to me.
The note of the works of your pen has interested me. I shall be impatient to receive the 'Ecce Homo' and the 'Nouvel Homme,' for which I have written to the publishers. I shall go to Berne soon, to try to find the works of Jacob Boehme. Your speaking so well of him will make me read them carefully. His language is my mother tongue; and I hope I shall find the needful leisure to read him with attention during my sojourn of some months here in the country. I only once saw his works, accidentally, in my youth, without understanding them, but also without prejudging them.
Before I took part in the business of public life, I employed some of my time in the study of nature; and from this natural picture I learned that the physical phenomena may sometimes serve as types to intellectual truths. I will relate two such observations; they will serve, at least, to show you the ideas I formed of man's regeneration, on which I beg you will favour me with your judgment.
When we would unite two substances which are naturally too far apart to unite, we must add a third which has affinity, or analogy, with both. Thus, if we would unite oil and water, we must add a fixed alkali, when the water and oil will combine intimately. This fact appears to be the type of the intermediate agents: these agents must participate in and assimilate to the nature of the beings they have to unite. The chief, the most sublime, and in one sense unique, intermediate agent, is the active and intelligent Cause. (I. Tim. ii. 5.)
I believe, further (and my belief is founded, not only on the analogy of nature, but on the Holy Scripture itself), that Divine Wisdom employs also agents or virtues to make His Verb, or Word, sensible within us. One of the most striking passages on this point is the 20th verse of the 103rd Psalm.
This doctrine of intermediate agents is, in my judgment, remarkably well treated in the 'Tableau Naturel,' and also, but not so much in detail, in the works of a French lady, who, during her life, was cruelly persecuted, ridiculed, and calumniated, for having been the friend of M. de Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambray, whose uprightness and talents wounded the ambition of Madame de Maintenon and the amour-propre of M. de Maux. This extraordinary woman said some wonderful things on the virtues, in the 8th volume of her 'Explanation of the New Testament,' p. 114, a work but little known.
How necessary the action of Agents or Virtues is, to prepare our souls for a total union with the Verb, is, I think, very well proved by a passage in Malachi iii. 1; also by Hebrews i. 14, and by the 12th verse of Psalm xc., our version. But I believe it is principally on our bodies that they exercise their powers; for, if they act on our minds, it is owing to the union of the soul and body that they can also produce, in those souls which are united with them, effects favourable to the efficient work of grace; some by furnishing us with thoughts, others by making their presence felt in our hearts, physically, by an agreeable sensation, a gentle warmth, which brings calm and tranquillity to our souls. Some people call this sensation the sentiment of God's presence; I think they would do better to call it the sentiment of the presence of intermediate agents doing the will of God. I believe we always perceive this reaction of the Virtues whenever we seek the Verb, not outside of us, but within, looking with intelligence at the temple in which He dwells. (John xiv. 20, 1 Cor. vi. 19.) I believe that, with time, and maintaining this adhesion to the Verb, we may, with the aid of these same Virtues, pass beyond the sensation of this perceptible presence, and be united to the Verb itself. (1 Cor. vi. 17.) I believe also that, during the moments of perceptible presence, we should be unable to do anything displeasing to the active and intelligent Cause, and that this exercise procures for us the nourishment of our souls, which comes to us through the channel of the Virtues. To facilitate as much as possible our union with the intermediate Agents who are our friends, helps, and guides, I believe we require a great degree of purity of body and imagination, a separation from everything that might tend to degrade our organism, a great sobriety, physically and morally, such as every man of sense would make habitual with him; whilst, on the other hand, a prudent use of the things of nature probably enlarges our faculties rather than otherwise. For instance, breathing the pure, vital, dephlogisticated air which exhales from the leaves of a tree at sunrise, animates us; besides, I have always thought that the natural elementary light might perhaps become the envelope of beneficent Agents, in some of their manifestations; but on this I speak with hesitation. You will, if you think proper, give me your opinion on the matter. Besides these physical considerations, there are habitual qualities of the soul which make up the disposition most essential for entering into relationship with the beneficent beings who, since man's fall, have become so necessary for his restoration. First of all, a profound self-annihilation before the Being of beings, seems to me necessary; retaining no will but His, surrendering ourselves to Him with a resignation without limit, a confidence without bounds; having but one only, unique, inextinguishable desire, that of surmounting every obstacle between ourselves and the light.
You see, Sir, I make to you my profession of faith, giving you my ideas about the way we have to travel to reach our grand aim; your experience, which must have shown you all the dangers of the way, your sentiments, and your desire to extend the kingdom of our Chief, assure me that you will not withhold the knowledge of them from me; and I shall value every letter from you as a favour.
I reserve for another letter (this being already too long) a second observation on elementary nature, which forms a still more striking type, for an opposite effect, namely, for dividing what is united, and may apply to the separation of man from the zero in which he is shut up.
Hoping for a line from you, permit me to say that my soul feels drawn towards yours, and that I shall ever be full of the highest feeling of esteem for you.