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I know not what, unless it were the prophet of Tippecanoe, had turned my curiosity to inquiries after the metaphysical science of the Indians, their ecclesiastical establishments, and theological theories; but your letter, written with all the accuracy, perspicuity, and elegance of your youth and middle age, as it has given me great satisfaction, deserves my best thanks.
As I have never aimed at making any collection of books upon this subject, I have none of those you have abridged in so concise a manner. Lafitau, Adair, and De Bry were known to me only by name. The opinions of the Indians and their usages, as represented in your obliging letter of the 11th June, appear to me to resemble the platonizing Philo, or the philonizing Plato, more than the genuine system of Judaism.
The philosophy both of Philo and Plato Bedford reader 10th edition essays at least as absurd; it is indeed less intelligible. Plato borrowed his doctrines from oriental and Egyptian philosophers, for he had travelled both in India and Egypt. The oriental philosophy, imitated and adopted in part, if not the whole, both by Plato and Philo, was, 1.
One God, the good. The ideas, the thoughts, the reason, the intellect, the logos, the ratio of God. Matter, the universe, the production of the logos, or contemplations of God.
This matter was the source of evil. Perhaps the three powers of Plato, Philo, the Egyptians and Indians, cannot be distinctly made from your account of the Indians; but, 1. The great Spirit, the good, who is worshipped by the kings, sachems, and all the great men in their solemn festivals, as the author, the parent of good.
The devil, or the source of evil; they are not metaphysicians enough as yet to suppose it, or at least to call it matter, like the wiseacres of antiquity and like Frederic the Great, who has written a very silly essay on the origin of evil, in which he ascribes it all to matter, as if this was an original discovery of his own.
The watch-maker has in his head an idea of the system of a watch, before he makes it. The mechanician of the universe had a complete idea of the universe before he made it, and this idea, this logos, was almighty, or at least powerful enough to produce the world; but it must be made of matter, which was eternal.
For creation out of nothing was impossible, and matter was unmanageable. It would not and could not be fashioned into any system, without a large mixture of evil in it, for matter was essentially evil.
The Indians are not metaphysicians enough to have discovered this idea, this logos, this intermediate power between Edition: But of the two powers, the good and the evil, they seem to have a full conviction; and what son or daughter of Adam and Eve has not?
This logos of Plato seems to resemble, if it was not the prototype of the Ratio and its Progress, of Manilius, the astrologer, of the Progress of the Mind, of Condorcet, and the Age of Reason, of Tom Paine. I would make a system, too. The seven hundred thousand soldiers of Zengis, when the whole or any part of them went to battle, set up a howl which resembled nothing that human imagination has conceived, unless it be the supposition that all the devils in hell were let loose at once to set up an infernal scream, which terrified their enemies and never failed to obtain them victory.
The Indian yell resembles this; and therefore America was peopled from Asia. Therefore the Scotch high-landers, who practise the same thing in miniature, are emigrants from Asia. Therefore, the American Indians, who, for any thing I know, practise the same custom, are emigrants from Asia or Scotland.
I am weary of contemplating nations from the lowest and most beastly degradations of human life to the highest refinement of civilization. I am weary of philosophers, theologians, politicians, and historians.
They are immense masses of absurdities, vices, and lies. Montesquieu had sense enough to say in jest, that all our knowledge might be comprehended in twelve pages in duodecimo; and I believe him in earnest. I could express my faith in shorter terms. He who loves the workman and his work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of him.
I also have felt an interest in the Indians, and a commiseration for them, from my childhood.Clarke's Bookshop (established in ) is situated in Cape Town, South Africa and carries both new and second hand books on Southern Africa.
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