The strength of magnets resides in their two extreme poles and their point of balance is in the centre between these two poles.
The action of one of the poles is balanced by that of an opposite pole, just as in the swing of a pendulum; the thrust on the left of the central point is proportional to the thrust on the right.
This law of physical equilibrium also applies to moral equilibrium: the forces are disposed at the extremities and converge on the central point. Between the ends and the middle the action is only weak.
The faint-hearted and indifferent are those who follow the current of public opinion, and are incapable of any movement by themselves.
The extremes are alike and meet by the law of the analogy of contraries.
They lend strength to any contest because they always preserve their separate identities while the contest lasts.
For example, after hot and cold have been mixed, they lose their characteristics of hot and cold and become lukewarm.
'What can I do for you?' Alexander asked Diogenes.
'Just step out of my sun,' answered the cynic.
Then the conqueror exclaimed: 'If I were not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes.' They were two arrogant individuals who understood one another and were able to make contact, although they stood at the two extremes of the social scale.
Why did Jesus seek out the Samaritan woman when there were so many respectable ladies in Judaea?
Why did He allow Mary Magdelene to wash His feet with her tears and caress them when she was a public sinner? Why was it? He has told you Himself: because she loved much. He did not conceal His preferences for people of ill repute like the tax gatherers and the prodigal sons. One feels, in reading His discourses, that a single tear brushed from the eye of Cain would be more precious in His sight than all the blood of Abel.
Saints have a habit of saying that they feel themselves to be no better than the vilest sinners, and they are right. Scoundrels and saints stand equal in the opposite pans of one and the same balance. Both parties rest on the end points, and it is just as far from a villain to a sage as it is from a sage to a villain.
These are life's exaggerations who keep life in balanced movement while ceaselessly joining battle. If the antagonism should cease while the forces are in manifestation, everything would come to a standstill in a fixed equilibrium, and this would be universal death. If all men were wise, there would be no more rich or poor, no servants, kings or subjects; and soon society itself would go out of existence. This world is a madhouse and in it the wise are the attendants; but a hospital is built above all for the sick. It is a preparatory school for eternal life; now the first requirement for a school is scholars. Wisdom is the end to be attained, the prize which has been offered. God gives it to those who deserve it, nobody brings it with them at birth. The equilibrant force is at the central point, but the motor force always appears at the extremities. Fools start revolutions, wise men finish them.
According to Danton, power belongs to the biggest villain in political revolutions. In religious revolutions, the fanatics will necessarily lead the others.
The reason is that great saints and great scoundrels are all endowed with magnetic personalities, because their wills have been inflamed by the practice of acts contrary to nature. Marat fascinated the Convention where everybody hated him, yet obeyed him as they reviled him. Mandrin dared to enter towns in broad daylight and hold them to ransom and no-one had the courage to try and arrest him. They thought he was a magician! They convinced themselves that if he were sent to the gallows he would act like Punch and hang the hangman: which is what he might well have done if he had not staked his whole prestige in an amorous adventure and had not allowed himself to be apprehended so ridiculously, like another Samson on the knees of Delilah.
Love for women is the triumph of nature. It is the glory of sages, but for brigands and saints it is the most perilous of all reefs.
The true love of bandits is the guillotine, which Lacenaire called his dear fiancée; and saints should only bestow kisses on death's-heads.
Blackguards and saints go to the same degree of excess and are equally the enemies of nature. We might add that popular legend often seems to confuse them with one another by attributing acts of monstrous cruelty to the saints and celebrating the kindhearted deeds of the outlaws.
Saint Simeon Stylites, perched on his column, was visited by his dying mother who wanted to give him a last embrace. Not only did this Christian fakir refuse to come down to her, but he hid his face from her. The poor woman died lamenting and calling her son by name, and the saint let her die. If anyone were to relate the same thing of Cartouche or Schinderhannes, we should think it a deliberate exaggeration of their wickedness; but then Cartouche and Schinderhannes were no saints, they were only common brigands.
O stupid, stupid, stupid humanity!
Derangements in the moral order produce derangements in the physical order, and these are what the average citizen calls miracles. One must needs be a Balaam before one can hear an ass speaking: the imagination of fools is the breeding ground of prodigies. When a man is the worse for drink, he thinks that everybody else is staggering and that nature herself is taking care to get out of his way.
Therefore you people who long to see something incredible, you people who want to perform wonders, make yourselves absurd in some way. Wisdom will never be noticed since it always resides in order, calmness, harmony and peace.
All vices have their immortals who have illustrated their shamefulness. Pride is Alexander, Diogenes or Erostratus; Wrath is Achilles; Envy is Cain or Thersites; Lust is Messalina; Gluttony is Vitellius; Sloth is Sardanapalus; Avarice is King Midas. Now set against these mock heroes, other heroes who arrived at exactly the same results by opposite means: Saint Francis, the Christian Diogenes who in his very humility posed as the equal of Jesus Christ; Saint Gregory VII, whose fits of anger threw Europe into turmoil and compromised the papacy; Saint Bernard, the ghastly persecutor of Abelard, whose fame had eclipsed his own; Saint Anthony, whose filthy imagination surpassed the orgies of Tiberius or Trimalcion; the ascetics of the desert, always obsessed by the hungry dreams of Tantalus, and those poor monks who are always so greedy for gold.
As we have already said, the extremes meet, and whatever is lacking in wisdom has nothing to do with virtue. Folly is on its home ground at the extreme points; and in spite of all those dreams of mortifying the flesh and living in the odour of sanctity, folly, in short, always serves vice.
Evocations, whether voluntary or involuntary, are crimes. Those men who are tormented by the evil magnetic influence and to whom it appears in visible form, suffer the penalty of their outrages on nature. A hysterical nun is no less impure than a wanton: one lives in a grave, the other in a brothel; yet often enough the woman in the living grave entertains a brothel in her heart, and the woman in the brothel conceals in her breast a grave.
When the wretched Urbain Grandier, cruelly expiating the breaking of his rash vows, accused of being a would-be sorcerer and misjudged as a dissolute priest, went to his death with the resignation of a sage and the patience of a martyr, the pious Ursulines of Loudun, writhing about like bacchantes and gripping the crucifix between their legs, abandoned themselves to the most sacrilegious and obscene performances. People felt sorry for these 'innocent' victims! And Grandier, broken by torture and chained to his stake, being slowly burnt to death without a murmur of complaint, was regarded as their tormentor.
The unbelievable thing is that it was the nuns who represented the principle of evil, who brought it to fruition, who incarnated it in themselves; they were the ones who blasphemed, who cast slurs, who made accusations, and yet it was the object of their sacrilegious passion who was sent to his death! All Hell had been evoked by them and their exorcists, and Grandier, who had not so much power over them as to silence their tongues, was condemned as a wizard and a master of demons.
The celebrated curé of Ars, the scholarly Vianney, was, so his biographers tell us, plagued by a demon who lived with him on terms of familiarity. Hence the good curé was a sorcerer without knowing it; he was making involuntary evocations. How did this happen? We get the explanation from a remark he is alleged to have made. He is supposed to have said, in speaking of himself: 'I know someone who would be a big dupe if there were no eternal rewards!' Is that so?! Would he have stopped doing good if he had no hope of a reward? Was nature complaining at the bottom of his conscience? Did conscience feel it was doing an injustice to nature?
Surely the life of a wise man is recompense in itself? Does not he enter a happy eternity while still on earth? Is true wisdom ever the role of a dupe? Worthy man, if you did say this, it was because you sensed the exaggeration in your zeal. It was because your heart regretted the innocent pleasures you had lost. It was because mother nature scolded you as a thankless son. Blessed are those hearts which are not reproached by nature! Blessed are the eyes which look for beauty everywhere! Blessed are the hands which are always ready to bestow gifts and caresses! Blessed are the men who, given a choice of two wines, prefer the better, and are often more glad to offer it to others than to drink it themselves! Blessed are those affable faces with lips full of smiles and kisses! Such as these will never be duped, because the best thing in the world, after the anticipation of love, is the memory of having loved; and only those things whose memory is always a delight deserve to be immortal!