Joseph de Maistre Quotes
“In the whole vast dome of living nature there reigns an open violence. A kind of prescriptive fury which arms all the creatures to their common doom: as soon as you leave the inanimate kingdom you find the decree of violent death inscribed on the very frontiers of life. You feel it already in the vegetable kingdom: from the great catalpa to the humblest herb, how many plants die and how many are killed; but, from the moment you enter the animal kingdom, this law is suddenly in the most dreadful evidence. A Power, a violence, at once hidden and palpable. . . has in each species appointed a certain number of animals to devour the others. . . And who [in this general carnage] exterminates him who will exterminate all others? Himself. It is man who is charged with the slaughter of man. . . The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct, until the death of death.”
“In the whole vast domain of living nature there reigns an open violence, a kind of prescriptive fury which arms all the creatures to their common doom. As soon as you leave the inanimate kingdom, you find the decree of violent death inscribed on the very frontiers of life. You feel it already in the vegetable kingdom: from the great catalpa to the humblest herb, how many plants die, and how many are killed. But from the moment you enter the animal kingdom, this law is suddenly in the most dreadful evidence. A power of violence at once hidden and palpable … has in each species appointed a certain number of animals to devour the others. Thus there are insects of prey, reptiles of prey, birds of prey, fishes of prey, quadrupeds of prey. There is no instant of time when one creature is not being devoured by another. Over all these numerous races of animals man is placed, and his destructive hand spares nothing that lives. He kills to obtain food and he kills to clothe himself. He kills to adorn himself, he kills in order to attack, and he kills in order to defend himself. He kills to instruct himself and he kills to amuse himself. He kills to kill. Proud and terrible king, he wants everything and nothing resists him.
From the lamb he tears its guts and makes his harp resound ... from the wolf his most deadly tooth to polish his pretty works of art; from the elephant his tusks to make a toy for his child - his table is covered with corpses ... And who in all of this will exterminate him who exterminates all others? Himself. It is man who is charged with the slaughter of man ... So it is accomplished ... the first law of the violent destruction of living creatures. The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct, until the death of death.”
“Man is insatiable for power; he is infantile in his desires and, always discontented with what he has, loves only what he has not. People complain of the despotism of princes; they ought to complain of the despotism of man. We are all born despots, from the most absolute monarch in Asia to the infant who smothers a bird with its hand for the pleasure of seeing that there exists in the world a being weaker than itself.”
“To hear these defenders of democracy talk, one would think that the people deliberate like a committee of wise men, whereas in truth judicial murders, foolhardy undertakings, wild choices, and above all foolish and disastrous wars are eminently the prerogatives of this form of government."
Study on Sovereignty.”
“War is thus divine in itself, since it is a law of the world. War is divine through its consequences of a supernatural nature which are as much general as particular. War is divine in the mysterious glory that surrounds it and in the no less inexplicable attraction that draws us to it. War is divine by the manner in which it breaks out.”
“Human reason reduced to its own resources is perfectly worthless, not only for creating but also for preserving any political or religious association, because it only produces disputes, and, to conduct himself well, man needs not problems but beliefs. His cradle should be surrounded by dogmas, and when his reason is awakened, it should find all his opinions ready-made, at least all those relating to his conduct. Nothing is so important to him as prejudices, Let us not take this word in a bad sense. It does not necessarily mean false ideas, but only, in the strict sense of the word, opinions adopted before any examination. Now these sorts of opinions are man’s greatest need, the true elements of his happiness, and the Palladium of empires. Without them, there can be neither worship, nor morality, nor government. There must be a state religion just as there is a state policy; or, rather, religious and political dogmas must be merged and mingled together to form a complete common or national reason strong enough to repress the aberrations of individual reason, which of its nature is the mortal enemy of any association whatever because it produces only divergent opinions.
All known nations have been happy and powerful to the extent that they have more faithfully obeyed this national reason, which is nothing other than the annihilation of individual dogmas and the absolute and general reign of national dogmas, that is to say, of useful prejudices. Let each man call upon his individual reason in the matter of religion, and immediately you will see the birth of an anarchy of belief or the annihilation of religious sovereignty. Likewise, if each man makes himself judge of the principles of government, you will at once see the birth of civil anarchy or the annihilation of political sovereignty. Government is a true religion: it has its dogmas, its mysteries, and its ministers. To annihilate it or submit it to the discussion of each individual is the same thing; it lives only through national reason, that is to say through political faith, which is a creed. Man’s first need is that his nascent reason be curbed under this double yoke, that it be abased and lose itself in the national reason, so that it changes its individual existence into another common existence, just as a river that flows into the ocean always continues to exist in the mass of water, but without a name and without a distinct reality.”
“All sciences have their mysteries and at certain points the apparently most obvious theory will be found in contradiction with experience. Politics, for example, offers several proofs of this truth. In theory, is anything more absurd than hereditary monarchy? We judge it by experience, but if government had never been heard of and we had to choose one, whoever would deliberate between hereditary and elective monarchy would be taken for a fool. Yet we know by experience that the first is, all things considered, the best that can be imagined, while the second is the worst. What arguments could not be amassed to establish that sovereignty comes from the people? However they all amount to nothing. Sovereignty is always taken, never given, and a second more profound theory subsequently discovers why this must be so. Who would not say the best political constitution is that which has been debated and drafted by statesmen perfectly acquainted with the national character, and who have foreseen every circumstance? Nevertheless nothing is more false. The best constituted people is the one that has the fewest written constitutional laws, and every written constitution is WORTHLESS.”
“Thus is worked out, from maggots up to man, the universal law of the violent destruction of living beings. The whole earth, continually steeped in blood, is nothing but an immense altar on which every living thing must be sacrificed without end, without restraint, without respite until the consummation of the world,the extinction of evil,the death of death.”
“Nothing is more vital to him than prejudices. Let us not take this word in bad part. It does not necessarily signify false ideas, but only, in the strict sense of the word, any opinions adopted without examination. Now, these kinds of opinion are essential to man; they are the real basis of his happiness and the palladium of empires. Without them, there can be neither religion, morality, nor government. There should be a state religion just as there is a state political system; or rather, religion and political dogmas, mingled and merged together, should together form a general or national mind sufficiently strong to repress the aberrations of the individual reason which is, of its nature, the mortal enemy of any association whatever because it gives birth only to divergent opinions.”
“The word nature has given rise to a multitude of errors. Let me repeat that the nature of any being is the sum of the qualities attributed to it by the Creator. With immeasurable profundity, Burke said that art is man's nature. This is beyond doubt; man with all his affections, all his knowledge, all his arts is the true natural man, and the weaver's cloth is as natural as the spider's web. Man's natural state is therefore to be what he is today and what he has always been, that is to say, sociable. All human records attest to this truth..”
“How strange is the blindness of men in our age. They boast of their knowledge, and are ignorant of everything, since they are ignorant of themselves. They know not what they are, nor what they can do. An invincible pride bears them on continually to overthrow every thing which they have not made; and in order to work out new creations, they separate themselves from the source of all existence.”
Joseph de Maistre
- Date of birth: April 01, 1753
- Died: February 26, 1821
- Born: in Chambéry, France.
- Description: A Savoyard lawyer, diplomat, writer, and philosopher. He was the most influential spokesmen for hierarchical political systems in the period immediately following the French Revolution of 1789. Despite his close personal and intellectual ties to France, Maistre remained throughout his life a loyal subject of the King of Sardinia, whom he served as member of the Savoy Senate (1787–1792), ambassador to Russia (1803–1817), and minister of state to the court in Turin (1817–1821).
Maistre argued for the restoration of hereditary monarchy, which he regarded as a divinely sanctioned institution, and for the indirect authority of the Pope over temporal matters. According to Maistre, only governments founded upon a Christian constitution, implicit in the customs and institutions of all European societies but especially in Catholic European monarchies, could avoid the disorder and bloodshed that followed the implementation of rationalist political programs, such as the 1789 revolution. Maistre was an enthusiastic proponent of the principle of hierarchical authority, which the Revolution sought to destroy; he extolled the monarchy, he exalted the privileges of the papacy, and he glorified God's providence.