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C H A P T E R  V  -   M O R A L

B U T  the morrow; the terrible morrow! All the organs relaxed, tired; the nerves unstretched, the teasing tendency to tears, the impossibility of applying yourself to a continuous task, teach you cruelly that you have been playing a forbidden game. Hideous nature, stripped of its illumination of the previous evening, resembles the melancholy ruins of a festival. The will, the most precious of all faculties, is above all attacked. They say, and it is nearly true, that this substance does not cause any physical ill; or at least no grave one; but can one affirm that a man incapable of action and fit only for dreaming is really in good health, even when every part of him functions perfectly? Now we know human nature sufficiently well to be assured that a man who can with a spoonful of sweetmeat procure for himself incidentally all the treasures of heaven and of earth will never gain the thousandth part of them by working for them. Can you imagine to yourself a State of which all the citizens should be hashish drunkards? What citizens! What warriors! What legislators! Even in the East, where its use is so widely spread, there are Governments which have understood the necessity of proscribing it. In fact it is forbidden to man, under penalty of intellectual decay and death, to upset the primary conditions of his existence, and to break up the equilibrium of his faculties with the surroundings in which they are destined to operate; in a word, to outrun his destiny, to substitute for it a fatality of a new kind. Let us remember Melmoth, that admirable parable. His shocking suffering lies in the disproportion between his marvellous faculties, acquired unostentatiously by a Satanic pact, and the surroundings in which, as a creature of God, he is condemned to live. And none of those whom he wishes to seduce consents to buy from him on the same conditions his terrible privilege. In fact every man who does not accept the conditions of life sells his soul. It is easy to grasp the analogy which exists between the Satanic creations of poets and those living beings who have devoted themselves to stimulants. Man has wished to become God, and soon? -- there he is, in virtue of an inexorable moral law, fallen lower than his natural state! It is a soul which sells itself bit by bit.

B A L Z A C  doubtless thought that there is for man no greater shame, no greater suffering, than to abdicate his will. I saw him once in a drawing-room, where they were talking of the prodigious effects of hashish. He listened and asked questions with an amusing attention and vivacity. Those who knew him may guess that it must have interested him, but the idea of thinking despite himself shocked him severely. They offered him dawamesk. He examined it, sniffed at it, and returned it without touching it. The struggle between his almost childish curiosity and his repugnance to submit himself showed strikingly on his expressive face. The love of dignity won the day. Now it is difficult to imagine to oneself the maker of the theory of will, this spiritual twin of Louis Lambert, consenting to lose a grain of this precious substance. Despite the admirable services which ether and chloroform have rendered to humanity, it seems to me that from the point of view of the idealist philosophy the same moral stigma is branded on all modern inventions which tend to diminish human free will and necessary pain. It was not without a certain admiration that I once listened to the paradox of an officer who told me of the cruel operation undergone by a French general at El-Aghouat, and of which, despite chloroform, he died. This general was a very brave man, and even something more: one of those souls to which one naturally applies the term chivalrous. It was not, he said to me, chloroform that he needed, but the eyes of all the army and the music of its bands. That might have saved him. The surgeon did not agree with the officer, but the chaplain would doubtless have admired these sentiments.

I T  I S  certainly superfluous, after all these considerations, to insist upon the moral character of hashish. Let me compare it to suicide, to slow suicide, to a weapon always bleeding, always sharp, and no reasonable person will find anything to object to. Let me compare it to sorcery or to magic, which wishes in working upon matter by means of arcana (of which nothing proves the falsity more than the efficacy) to conquer a dominion forbidden to man or permitted only to him who is deemed worthy of it, and no philosophical mind will blame this comparison. If the Church condemns magic and sorcery it is that they militate against the intentions of God; that they save time and render morality superfluous, and that she -- the Church -- only considers as legitimate and true the treasures gained by assiduous goodwill. The gambler who has found the means to win with certainty we all cheat; how shall we describe the man who tries to buy with a little small change happiness and genius? It is the infallibility itself of the means which constitutes its immorality; as the supposed infallibility of magic brands it with Satanic stigma. Shall I add that hashish, like all solitary pleasures, renders the individual useless to his fellow creatures and society superfluous to the individual, driving him to ceaseless admiration of himself and dragging him day by day towards the luminous abyss in which he admires his Narcissus face? But even if at the price of his dignity, his honesty, and his free will, man were able to draw from hashish great spiritual benefits; to make a kind of thinking machine, a fertile instrument? That is a question which I have often heard asked, and I reply to it: In the first place, as I have explained at length, hashish reveals to the individual nothing but himself. It is true that this individual is, so to say, cubed, and pushed to his limit, and as it is equally certain that the memory of impressions survives the orgy, the hope of these utilitarians appears at the first glance not altogether unreasonable. But I will beg them to observe that the thoughts from which they expect to draw so great an advantage are not in reality as beautiful as they appear under their momentary transfiguration, clothed in magic tinsel. They pertain to earth rather than to Heaven, and owe great portion of their beauty to the nervous agitation, to the greediness, with which the mind throws itself upon them. Consequently this hope is a vicious circle. Let us admit for the moment that hashish gives, or at least increases, genius; they forget that it is in the nature of hashish to diminish the will, and that thus it gives with one hand what it withdraws with the other; that is to say, imagination without the faculty of profiting by it. Lastly, one must remember, while supposing a man adroit enough and vigorous enough to avoid this dilemma, that there is another danger, fatal and terrible, which is that of all habits. All such soon transform themselves into necessities. He who has recourse to a poison in order to think will soon be unable to think without the poison. Imagine to yourself the frightful lot of a man whose paralysed imagination will no longer function without the aid of hashish or of opium! In philosophical states the human mind, to imitate the course of the stars, is obliged to follow a curve which loops it back to its point of departure, when the circle must ultimately close. At the beginning I spoke of this marvellous state into which the spirit of man sometimes finds itself thrown as if by a special favour. I have said that, ceaselessly aspiring to rekindle his hopes and raise himself towards the infinite, he showed (in every country and in every time) a frenzied appetite for every substance, even those which are dangerous, which, by exalting his personality, are able to bring in an instant before his eyes this bargain Paradise, object of all his desires; and at last that this daring spirit, driving without knowing it his chariot through the gates of Hell, by this very fact bore witness to his original greatness. But man is not so God-forsaken, so barren of straightforward means of reaching Heaven, that he need invoke pharmacy and witchcraft. He has no need to sell his soul to buy intoxicating caresses and the friendship of the Hur Al'ain. What is a Paradise which must be bought at the price of eternal salvation? I imagine a man (shall I say a Brahmin, a poet, or a Christian philosopher?) seated upon the steep Olympus of spirituality; around him the Muses of Raphael or of Mategna, to console him for his long fasts and his assiduous prayers, weave the noblest dances, gaze on him with their softest glances and their most dazzling smiles; the divine Apollo, master of all knowledge (that of Francavilla, of Albert Durer, of Goltzius, or another -- what does it matter? Is there not an Apollo for every man who deserves one?), caresses with his bow his most sensitive strings; below him, at the foot of the mountain, in the brambles and the mud, the human fracas; the Helot band imitates the grimaces of enjoyment and utters howls which the sting of the poison tears from its breast; and the poet, saddened, says to himself: "These unfortunate ones, who have neither fasted nor prayed, who have refused redemption by the means of toil, have asked of black magic the means to raise themselves at a single blow to transcendental life. Their magic dupes them, kindles for them a false happiness, a false light; while as for us poets and philosophers, we have begotten again our soul upon ourselves by continuous toil and contemplation; by the unwearied exercise of will and the unfaltering nobility of aspiration we have created for ourselves a garden of Truth, which is Beauty; of Beauty which is Truth. Confident in the word which says that faith removeth mountains, we have accomplished the only miracle which God has licensed us to perform."

- Charles Baudelaire


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