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Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).  Minor Works.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
On the Conversion of the Sinner
 
 
THE FIRST 1 thing with which God inspires the soul that he deigns to touch truly, is a knowledge and most extraordinary insight by which the soul considers things and herself in a manner wholly new.  1
  This new light gives her fear, and brings her a trouble that penetrates the repose which she found in the things that made her delights.  2
  She can no longer relish with tranquillity the things that charmed her. A continual scruple opposes her in this enjoyment, and this internal sight causes her to find no longer this accustomed sweetness among the things to which she abandoned herself with a full effusion of heart.  3
  But she finds still more bitterness in the exercises of piety than in the vanities of the world. On one side, the vanity of the visible objects interests her more than the hope of the invisible, and on the other the solidity of the invisible interests her more than the vanity of the visible. And thus the presence of the one and the solidity of the other dispute her affection and the vanity of the one and the absence of the other excite her aversion; so that a disorder and confusion spring up in her, that…. She considers perishable things as perishable and even already perished; and in the certain prospect of the annihilation of every thing that she loves, she is terrified by this consideration, in seeing that each moment snatches from her the enjoyment of her good, and that what is most dear to her glides away at every moment, and that finally a certain day will come in which she will find herself stripped of all the things in which she had placed her hope. So that she comprehends perfectly that her heart being attached only to vain and fragile things, her soul must be left alone and forsaken on quitting this life, since she has not taken care to unite herself to a true and self-subsisting good which could sustain her both during and after this life.  4
  Thence it comes that she begins to consider as nothingness all that must return to nothingness,—the heavens, the earth, her spirit, her body, her relatives, her friends, her enemies, wealth, poverty, disgrace, prosperity, honor, ignominy, esteem, contempt, authority, indigence, health, sickness, life itself. In fine, all that is less durable than her soul is incapable of satisfying the desire of this soul, which seeks earnestly to establish itself in a felicity as durable as herself.  5
  She begins to be astonished at the blindness in which she has lived, and when she considers, on the one hand, the long time that she has lived without making these reflections, and the great number of people who live in the same way, and, on the other hand, how certain it is that the soul, being immortal as she is, cannot find her felicity among perishable things which will be taken away from her, at all events, by death, she enters into a holy confusion and an astonishment that brings to her a most salutary trouble.  6
  For she considers that, however great may be the number of those who grow old in the maxims of the world, and whatever may be the authority of this multitude of examples of those who place their felicity in this world, it is nevertheless certain that, even though the things of the world should have some solid pleasure, which is recognized as false by an infinite number of fearful and continual examples, it is inevitable that we shall lose these things, or that death at last will deprive us of them; so that the soul having amassed treasures of temporal goods, of whatever nature they may be, whether gold, or science, or reputation, it is an indispensable necessity that she shall find herself stripped of all these objects of her felicity; and that thus, if they have had wherewith to satisfy her, they will not always have wherewith to satisfy her; and that, if it is to procure herself a real happiness, it is not to promise herself a very durable happiness, since it must be limited to the course of this life.  7
  So that, by a holy humility which God exalts above pride, she begins to exalt herself above the generality of man-kind: she condemns their conduct, she detests their maxims, she bewails their blindness; she devotes herself to the search for the true good; she comprehends that it is necessary that it should have the two following qualities: the one that it shall last as long as herself, and that it cannot be taken away from her except by her consent, and the other that there shall be nothing more lovely.  8
  She sees that in the love she has had for the world, she found in it this second quality in her blindness; for she perceived nothing more lovely. But as she does not see the first in it, she knows that it is not the sovereign good. She seeks it, therefore, elsewhere, and knowing by a pure light that it is not in the things that are within her, or without her, or before her (in nothing, therefore, within or around her), she begins to seek it above her.  9
  This elevation is so eminent and so transcendent that she does not stop at the heavens,—they have not wherewith to satisfy her,—nor above the heavens, nor at the angels, nor at the most perfect beings. She passes through all created things, and cannot stop her heart until she has rendered herself up at the throne of God, in which she begins to find her repose and that good which is such that there is nothing more lovely, and which cannot be taken away from her except by her own consent.  10
  For although she does not feel those charms with which God recompenses continuance in piety, she comprehends, nevertheless, that created things cannot be more lovely than their Creator; and her reason, aided by the light of grace, makes her understand that there is nothing more lovely than God, and that he can only be taken away from those who reject him, since to possess him is only to desire him, and to refuse him is to lose him.  11
  Thus she rejoices at having found a good which cannot be wrested from her so long as she shall desire it, and which has nothing above it.  12
  And in these new reflections she enters into sight of the grandeur of her Creator, and into humiliations and profound adorations. She becomes, in consequence, reduced to nothing and being unable to form a base enough idea of herself, or to conceive an exalted enough idea of this sovereign good, she makes new efforts to abase herself to the lowest abysses of nothingness, in considering God in the immensities which she multiplies without ceasing. In fine, in this conception, which exhausts her strength, she adores him in silence, she considers herself as his vile and useless creature, and by her reiterated homage adores and blesses him, and wishes to bless and to adore him forever. Then she acknowledges the grace which he has granted her in manifesting his infinite majesty to so vile a worm; and after a firm resolution to be eternally grateful for it, she becomes confused for having preferred so many vanities to this divine master; and in a spirit of compunction and penitence she has recourse to his pity to arrest his anger, the effect of which appears terrible to her. In the sight of these immensities….  13
  She makes ardent prayers to God to obtain of his mercy that, as it has pleased him to discover himself to her, it may please him to conduct her to him, and to show her the means of arriving there. For as it is to God that she aspires she, aspires also only to reach him by means that come from God himself, because she wishes that he himself should be her path, her object, and her final end. After these prayers, she begins to act, and seeks among these….  14
  She begins to know God, and to desire to reach him; but as she is ignorant of the means of attaining this, if her desire is sincere and true, she does the same as a person who, desiring to reach some place, having lost his way, and knowing his aberration, would have recourse to those who knew this way perfectly, and….  15
  She resolves to conform to his will during the remainder of her life; but as her natural weakness, with the habit that she has of the sins in which she has lived, have reduced her to the impotence of attaining this felicity, she implores of his mercy the means of reaching him, of attaching herself to him, of adhering to him eternally…. Thus she perceives that she should adore God as a creature, render thanks to him as a debtor, satisfy him as a criminal, and pray to him as one poor and needy.  16
 
Note 1. By some scholars this fragment is attributed to Mlle. Pascal. [back]
 

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