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939 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 2a Why Certain Americans Exhibit So Excited a Spiritualismb Although the desire to acquire the goods of this world is the dominant passion of the Americans, there are moments of respite when their soul seems suddenly to break the material bonds that hold it and to escape impetuously toward heaven.c In all of the states of the Union, but principally in the half-populated regions of the West, you sometimes meet itinerant preachers who peddle the divine word from place to place. Entire families, old people, women and children cross difficult places and go through uninhabited woods in order to come from far away to hear them; and when these people have found the preachers, for severaldaysand a. Although the Americans have as a dominant passion the acquisition of the goods of this world, spiritualism shows itself from time to time among all, and exclusively among some, with singular forms and a fervor that often goes nearly to extravagance. Camp meetings. Bizarre sects. These different effects come from the same cause. The soul has natural needs that must be satisfied. If you want to imprison it in contemplation of the needs of the body, it ends by escaping and in its momentum it does not stop even at the limits of common sense (YTC, CVf, pp. 30–31). b. Original title in the rubish: of some bizarre sects that arise in america. See the appendix sects in america. c. On the jacket of the manuscript: “Small chapter that must be retained only if someone formally advises me to do so. “The core of the ideaisquestionable.Everythingconsideredthereweremoremystical extravagances in the Middle Ages (centuries of aristocracy) than in America today. “Moreover, several of these ideas reappear or have already appeared (I believe) in the book!” 940 americans and spiritualism several nights, while listening to them, they forget their concern for public and private affairs and even the most pressing needs of the body. []d Youfind here andthere,withinAmericansociety,somesoulstotallyfilled with an excited and almost fierce spiritualism that you hardly find in Europe . From time to time bizarre sects arise there that try hard to open extraordinary paths to eternal happiness. Religious madness is very common there. This must not surprise us. Man has not given himself the taste for the infinite and the love of what is immortal. These sublime instincts do not arise from a caprice of the will; they have their unchanging foundation in his nature; they exist despite his efforts. He can hinder and deform them, but not destroy them. The soul has needs that must be satisfied; and whatever care you take to distract it from itself, it soon grows bored, restless and agitated amid the enjoyments of the senses.e If the spirit of the great majority of humanity ever concentrated solely on the pursuit of material goods, you can expect that a prodigious reaction would take place in the souls of some men. The latter would throw themselves frantically into the world of spirits, for fear of remaining hampered in the overly narrow constraints that the body wanted to impose on them. So you should not be astonished if, within a society that thinks only about the earth, you would find a small number of individuals whowanted d. In the margin: “⫽All this shows the weakness of the idea by recalling the monasteries , institutions quitedifferentlyspiritualistthanthesmallassociationsthatIamspeaking about.⫽” e. “⫽When I {read the impractical laws of Plato} see Plato in his sublime reveries want to forbid commerce and industry to the citizens and, in order to release thembetter from coarse desires, want to take away even the possession of their children, I think of his contemporaries, and the sensual democracy of Athens makes me understandthelaws of this imaginary republic whose portrait he has drawn for us⫽” (Rubish, 1). americans and spiritualism 941 to look only to heaven. I would be surprised if, among a people solely preoccupied by its well-being, mysticism did not soon make progress.f It is said that the persecutions of the emperors and the tortures of the circus populated the deserts of the Thebaid; as for me, I think that it was much morethedelightsof RomeandtheEpicureanphilosophyof Greece.g If the social state, circumstances and laws did not so narrowly confine the American spirit to the pursuit of well-being, it is to be believed that when the American spirit came to occupy itself with non-material things, it would show more reserve and...


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