Atheism ... that bugbear of women and fools ... is the very top and perfection of free-thinking. It is the grand arcanum to which a true genius naturally riseth, by a certain climax or gradation of thought, and without which he can never possess his soul in absolute liberty and repose.
This perceiving, active being is what I call mind, spirit, soul, or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.
Nothing can be plainer, than that the motions, changes, decays, and dissolutions, which we hourly see befall natural bodies (and which is what we mean by the course of nature), cannot possibly affect an active, simple, uncompounded substance: such a being therefore is indissoluble by the force of nature, that is to say, the soul of man is naturally immortal.
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I imagine that thinking is the great desideratum of the present age; and the cause of whatever is done amiss may justly be reckoned the general neglect of education in those who need it most, the people of fashion. What can be expected where those who have the most influence have the least sense, and those who are sure to be followed set the worst examples?
truly my opinion is, that all our opinions are alike vain and uncertain. what we approve today, we condemn tomorrow. we keep a stir about knowledge, and spend our lives in the pursuit of it, when, alas! we know nothing all the while: nor do i think it possible for us to ever know anything in this life. our faculties are too narrow and too few. nature certainly never intended us for speculation.
It would much conduce to the public benefit, if, instead of discouraging free-thinking, there was erected in the midst of this free country a dianoetic academy, or seminary for free-thinkers, provided with retired chambers, and galleries, and shady walks and groves, where, after seven years spent in silence and meditation, a man might commence a genuine free-thinker, and from that time forward, have license to think what he pleased, and a badge to distinguish him from counterfeits.
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That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, and fire warms us; that to sow in the seed-time is the way to reap in the harvest, and, in general, that to obtain such or such ends, such or such means are conducive, all this we know, not by discovering any necessary connexion between our ideas, but only by the observation of the settled laws of nature, without which we should be all in uncertainty and confusion, and a grown man no more know how to manage himself in the affairs of life than an infant just born.
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Man is an animal, formidable both from his passions and his reason; his passions often urging him to great evils, and his reason furnishing means to achieve them. To train this animal, and make him amenable to order; to inure him to a sense of justice and virtue; to withhold him from ill courses by fear, and encourage him in his duty by hopes; in short, to fashion and model him for society, hath been the aim of civil and religious institutions; and, in all times, the endeavor of good and wise men. The aptest method for attaining this end hath been always judged a proper education.
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That the discovery of this great truth, which lies so near and obvious to the mind, should be attained to by the reason of so veryfew, is a sad instance of the stupidity and inattention of men, who, though they are surrounded with such clear manifestations of the Deity, are yet so little affected by them, that they seem as it were blinded with excess of light.
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Did men but consider that the sun, moon, and stars, and every other object of the senses, are only so many sensations in their minds, which have no other existence but barely being perceived, doubtless they would never fall down and worship their own ideas; but rather address their homage to that eternal invisible Mind which produces and sustains all things.
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A man needs no arguments to make him discern and approve what is beautiful: it strikes at first sight, and attracts without a reason. And as this beauty is found in the shape and form of corporeal things, so also is there analogous to it a beauty of another kind, an order, a symmetry, and comeliness in the moral world. And as the eye perceiveth the one, so the mind doth by a certain interior sense perceive the other, which sense, talent, or faculty, is ever quickest and purest in the noblest minds.
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Colour, Figure, Motion, Extension and the like, considered only so many Sensations in the Mind, are perfectly known, there being nothing in them which is not perceived. But if they are looked on as notes or Images, referred to Things or Archetypes existing without the Mind, then are we involved all in Scepticism.
The real essence, the internal qualities, and constitution of even the meanest object, is hid from our view; something there is inevery drop of water, every grain of sand, which it is beyond the power of human understanding to fathom or comprehend. But it is evidentthat we are influenced by false principles to that degree as to mistrust our senses, and think we know nothing of those things which we perfectly comprehend.
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