Lectures of Col. R.G. Ingersoll, Volume 1


"His soul was like a star and dwelt apart."

On every hand are the enemies of individuality, and mental freedom. Custom meets us at the cradle,—and leaves us only at the tomb. Our first questions are answered by ignorance, and our last by superstition. We are pushed and dragged by countless hands along the beaten track, and our entire training can be summed up in the word "suppression." Our desire to have a thing or to do a thing is considered as conclusive evidence that we ought to do it. At every turn we run not to have it, and ought not against a cherubim and a flaming sword, guarding some entrance to the Eden of our desire. We are allowed to investigate all subjects in which we feel no particular interest, and to express the opinions of the majority with the utmost freedom. We are taught that liberty of speech should never be carried to the extent of contradicting the dead witnesses of a popular superstition. Society offers continual rewards for self-betrayal, and they are nearly all earned and claimed, and some are paid.

We have all read accounts of Christian gentlemen remarking when about to be hanged, how much better it would have been for them if they had only followed a mother's advice! But, after all, how fortunate it is for the world that the maternal advice has not been followed! How lucky it is for us all that it is somewhat unnatural for a human being to obey! Universal obedience is universal stagnation; disobedience is one of the conditions of progress. Select any age of the world and tell me what would have been the effect of implicit obedience. Suppose the church had had absolute control of the human mind at any time, would not the word liberty and progress have been blotted from the human speech? In defiance of advice, the world has advanced.

Suppose the astronomers had controlled the science of astronomy; suppose the doctors had controlled the science of medicine; suppose kings had been left to fix the form of government! Suppose our fathers had taken the advice of Paul, who was subject to the powers that be, "because they are ordained of God;" suppose the church could control the world today, we would go back to chaos and old night. Philosophy would be branded as infamous; science would again press its pale and thoughtful face against the prison bars; and round the limbs of liberty would climb the bigot's flame.

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions; some one who had the grit to say his say. I believe it was Magellan who said, "the church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church." On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn and success.

The trouble with most people is that they bow to what is called authority; they have a certain reverence for the old because it is old. They think a man is better for being dead, especially if he has been dead a long time, and that the forefathers of their nation were the greatest and best of all mankind. All these things they implicitly believe because it is popular and patriotic, and because they were told so when very small, and remember distinctly of hearing mother read it out of a book, and they are all willing to swear that mother was a good woman. It is hard to overestimate the influence of early training—in the direction of superstition. You first teach children that a certain book is true—that it was written by God himself—that to question its truth is sin, that to deny it is a crime, and that should they die without believing that book they will be forever damned without benefit of clergy; the consequence is that before they read that book they believe it to be true. When they do read, their minds are wholly unfitted to investigate its claim. They accept it as a matter of course.

In this way the reason is overcome, the sweet instincts of humanity are blotted from the heart, and while reading its infamous pages even justice throws aside her scales, shrieking for revenge; and charity, with bloody hands, applauds a deed of murder. In this way we are taught that the revenge of man is the justice of God, that mercy is not the same everywhere. In this way the ideas of our race have been subverted. In this way we have made tyrants, bigots, and inquisitors. In this way the brain of man has become a kind of palimpsest upon which, and over the writings of Nature, superstition has scribbled her countless lies. Our great trouble is that most teachers are dishonest. They teach as certainties those things concerning which they entertain doubts. They do not say, "We think this is so." but "We know this is so." They do not appeal to the reason of the pupil, but they command his faith. They keep all doubts to themselves; they do not explain, they assert. All this is infamous. In this way you make Christians, but you cannot make men; you cannot make women. You can make followers but no leaders; disciples, but no Christs. You may promise power, honor, and happiness to all those who will blindly follow, but you cannot keep your promise.

An eastern monarch said to a hermit, "Come with me and I will give you power." "I have all the power that I know how to use," replied the hermit. "Come," said the king, "I will give you wealth." "I have no wants that money can supply." "I will give you honor." "Ah! honor cannot be given; it must be earned." "Come," said the king, making a last appeal, "and I will give you happiness." "No," said the man of solitude; "there is no happiness without liberty, and he who follows cannot be free." "You shall have liberty too." "Then I will stay." And all the king's courtiers thought the hermit a fool.

Now and then somebody examines, and, in spite of all, keeps up his manhood and has courage to follow where his reason leads. Then the pious get together and repeat wise saws and exchange knowing nods and most prophetic winks. The stupidly wise sit owl-like on the dead limbs of the tree of knowledge, and solemnly, hoot. Wealth sneers, and fashion laughs, and respectability passes on the other side, and scorn points with all her skinny fingers, and, like the snakes of superstition, writhe and hiss, and slander lends her tongue, and infamy her brand, perjury her oath, and the law its power; and bigotry tortures and the church kills.

The church hates a thinker precisely for the same reason that a robber dislikes a sheriff, or that a thief despises the prosecuting witness. Tyranny likes courtiers, flatterers, followers, fawners, and superstition wants believers, disciples, zealots, hypocrites, and subscribers. The church demands worship, the very thing that man should give to no being, human or divine. To worship another is to degrade yourself. Worship is awe, and dread, and vague fear, and blind hope. It is the spirit of worship that elevates the one and degrades the many; and manacles even its own hands. The spirit of worship is the spirit of tyranny. The worshiper always regrets that he is not the worshiped. We should all remember that the intellect has no knees, and that whatever the attitude of the body may be, the brave soul is always found erect. Whoever worships, abdicates. Whoever believes, at the commands of power, tramples his own individuality beneath his feet, and voluntarily robs himself of all that renders man superior to brute.

The despotism of faith is justified upon the ground that Christian countries are the grandest and most prosperous of the world. At one time the same thing could have been truly said in India, in Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, and in every country that has in the history of the world, swept to empire. This argument proves too much not only, but the assumption upon which it is based is utterly false. Numberless circumstances and countless conditions have produced the prosperity of the Christian world. The truth is that we have advanced in spite of religious zeal, ignorance, and opposition. The church has won no victories for the rights of man. Over every fortress of tyranny has waved, and still waves, the banner of the church. Wherever brave blood has been shed the sword of the church has been wet. On every chain has been the sign of the cross. The alter and the throne have leaned against and supported each other. Who can appreciate the infinite impudence of one man assuming to think for others? Who can imagine the impudence of a church that threatens to inflict eternal punishment upon those who honestly reject its claims and scorn its pretensions? In the presence of the unknown we have all an equal right to guess.

Over the vast plain called life we are all travelers, and not one traveler is perfectly certain that he is going in the right direction. True it is that no other plain is so well supplied with guideboards. At every turn and crossing you find them, and upon each one is written the exact direction and distance. One great trouble is, however, that these boards are all different, and the result is that most travelers are confused in proportion to the number they read. Thousands of people are around each of these signs, and each one is doing his best to convince the traveler that his particular board is the only one upon which the least reliance can be placed, and that if his road is taken the reward for so doing will be infinite and eternal, while all the other roads are said to lead to hell, and all the makers of the other guideboards are declared to be heretics, hypocrites, and liars. "Well," says a traveler "you may be right in what you say, but allow me at least to read some of the other directions and examine a little into their claims. I wish to rely a little upon my own judgment in a matter of such great importance." "No sir!" shouts the zealot; "that is the very thing you are not allowed to do. You must go my way, without investigation or you are as good as damned already." "Well," says the traveler, "if that is so, I believe I had better go your way." And so most of them go along, taking the word of those who know as little as themselves. Now and then comes one who, in spite of all threats, calmly examines the claims of all, and as calmly rejects them all. These travelers take roads of their own, and are denounced by all the others as infidels and atheists.

In my judgment every human being should take a road of his own. Every mind should be true to itself; should think, investigate and conclude for itself. This is a duty alike incumbent upon pauper and prince. Every soul should repel dictation and tyranny, no matter from what source they come—from earth or heaven, from men or gods. Besides, every traveler upon this vast plain should give to every other traveler his best idea as to the road that should be taken. Each is entitled to the honest opinion of all. And there is but one way to get an honest opinion upon any subject whatever. The person giving the opinion must be free from fear. The merchant must not fear to lose his custom, the doctor his practice, nor the preacher his pulpit. There can be no advance without liberty. Suppression of honest inquiry is retrogression, and must end in intellectual night. The tendency of orthodox religion today is towards mental slavery and barbarism. Not one of the orthodox ministers dare preach what he thinks if he knows that a majority of his congregation think otherwise. He knows that every member of his church stands guard over his brain with a creed, like a club, in his hand. He knows that he is not expected to search after the truth, but that he is employed to defend the creed. Every pulpit is a pillory in which stands a hired culprit, defending the justice of his own imprisonment.

Is it desirable that all should be exactly alike in their religious convictions? Is any such thing possible? Do we not know that there are no two persons alike in the whole world? No two trees, no two leaves, no two anythings that are alike? Infinite diversity is the law. Religion tries to force all minds into one mold. Knowing that all cannot believe, the church endeavors to make all say that they believe. She longs for the unity of hypocrisy, and detests the splendid diversity of individuality and freedom.

Nearly all people stand in great horror of annihilation, and yet to give up your individuality is to annihilate yourself. Mental slavery is mental death, and every man who has given up his intellectual freedom is the living coffin of his dead soul. In this sense every church is a cemetery and every creed an epitaph. We should all remember that to be like other folks is to be unlike ourselves, and that nothing can be more detestable in character than servile imitation. The great trouble with imitation is that we are apt to ape those who are in reality far below us. After all, the poorest bargain that a human being can make is to trade off his individuality for what is called respectability.

There is no saying more degrading than this: "It is better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a dog." It is a responsibility to think and act for yourself. Most people hate responsibility; therefore they join something and become the tail of some lion. They say, "My party can act for me—my church can do my thinking. It is enough for me to pay taxes and obey the lion to which I belong without troubling myself about the right, the wrong, or the why or the wherefore of anything whatever." These people are respectable. They hate reformers, and dislike exceedingly to have their minds disturbed. They regard convictions as very disagreeable things to have. They love forms, and enjoy, beyond everything else, telling what a splendid tail their lion has, and what a troublesome dog their neighbor is. Besides this natural inclination to avoid personal responsibility is and always has been the fact that every religionist has warned men against the presumption and wickedness of thinking for themselves. The reason has been denounced by all Christendom as the only unsafe guide. The church has left nothing undone to prevent, man following the logic of his brain. The plainest facts have been covered with the mantle of mystery. The grossest absurdities have been declared to be self-evident facts. The order of nature has been, as it were, reversed, in order that the hypocritical few might govern the honest many. The man who stood by the conclusion of his reason was denounced as a scorner and hater of God and his holy church. From the organization of the first church until this moment every member has borne the marks of collar and chain, and whip. No man ever seriously attempted to reform a church without being cast out and hunted down by the hounds of hypocrisy. The highest crime against a creed is to change it. Reformation is treason.

Thousands of young men are being educated at this moment by the various churches. What for? In order that they may be prepared to investigate the phenomena by which we are surrounded? No! The object, and the only object, is that they may be prepared to defend a creed. That they may learn the arguments of their respective churches and repeat them in the dull ears of a thoughtless congregation. If one after being thus trained at the expense of the Methodists turns Presbyterian or Baptist, he is denounced as an ungrateful wretch. Honest investigation is utterly impossible within the pale of any church, for the reason that if you think the church is right you will not investigate, and if you think it wrong, the church will investigate you. The consequence of this is that most of the theological literature is the result of suppression, of fear, of tyranny, and hypocrisy.

Every orthodox writer necessarily said to himself, "If I write that, my wife and children may want for bread, I will be covered with shame and branded with infamy, but if I write this, I will gain position, power and honor. My church rewards defenders and burns reformers." Under these conditions, all your Scotts, Henrys and McKnights have written; and weighed in these scales what are their commentaries worth? They are not the ideas and decisions of honest judges, but the sophisms of the paid attorneys of superstition. Who can tell what the world has lost by this infamous system of suppression? How many grand thinkers died with the mailed hand of superstition on their lips? How many splendid ideas have perished in the cradle of the brain, strangled in the poisonous coils of that python, the church!

For thousands of years a thinker was hunted down like an escaped convict. To him, who had braved the church, every door was shut, every knife was open. To shelter him from the wild storm, to give him a crust of bread when dying, to put a cup of water to his cracked and bleeding lips; these were all crimes, not one of which the church ever did forgive; and with the justice taught of God his helpless children were exterminated as scorpions and vipers.

Who at the present day can imagine the courage, the devotion to principle, the intellectual and moral grandeur it once required to be an infidel, to brave the church, her racks, her fagots, her dungeons, her tongues of fire—to defy and scorn her heaven and her devil and her God? They were the noblest sons of earth. They were the real saviors of our race, the destroyers of superstition and the creators of science. They were the real Titans who bared their grand foreheads to all the thunderbolts of all the gods. The church has been, and still is, the great robber. She has rifled not only the pockets but the brains of the world. She is the stone at the sepulcher of liberty; the upas tree in whose shade the intellect of man has withered; the gorgon beneath whose gaze the human heart has turned to stone.

Under her influence even the Protestant mother expects to be in heaven, while her brave boy, who is fighting for the rights of man, shall writhe in hell. It is said that some of the Indian tribes place the heads of their children between pieces of bark until the form of the skull is permanently changed. To us this seems a most shocking custom, and yet, after all, is it as bad as to put the souls of our children in the straight-jacket of a creed, to so utterly deform their minds that they regard the God of the bible as a being of infinite mercy, and really consider it a virtue to believe a thing just because it seems unreasonable? Every child in the Christian world has uttered its wondering protest against this outrage. All the machinery of the church is constantly employed in thus corrupting the reason of children. In every possible way they are robbed of their own thoughts and forced to accept the statements of others. Every Sunday-school has for its object the crushing out of every germ of individuality. The poor children are taught that nothing can be more acceptable to God than unreasoning obedience and eyeless faith, and that to believe that God did an impossible act is far better than to do a good one yourself. They are told that all the religions have been simply the John the Baptist of ours; that all the gods of antiquity have withered and sunken into the Jehovah of the Jews; that all the longings and aspirations of the race are realized in the motto of the Evangelical Alliance, "Liberty in non-essentials;" that all there is, or ever was of religion can be found in the apostle's creed; that there is nothing left to be discovered; that all the thinkers are dead, and all the living should simply be believers; that we have only to repeat the epitaph found on the grave of wisdom; that graveyards are the best possible universities, and that the children must be forever beaten with the bones of the fathers.

It has always seemed absurd to suppose that a God would choose for his companions during all eternity the dear souls whose highest and only ambition is to obey. He certainly would now and then be tempted to make the same remark made by an English gentleman to his poor guest. This gentleman had invited a man in humble circumstances to dine with him. The man was so overcome with honor that to everything the gentleman said he replied, "Yes." Tired at last with the monotony of acquiescence, the gentleman cried out, "For God's sake, my good man, say 'No' just once, so there will be two of us."

Is it possible that an infinite God created this world simply to be the dwelling-place of slaves and serfs? Simply for the purpose of raising orthodox Christians; that he did a few miracles to astonish them; that all the evils of life are simply his punishments, and that he is finally going to turn heaven into a kind of religious museum, filled with Baptist barnacles, petrified Presbyterians, and Methodist mummies? I want no heaven for which I must give my reason; no happiness in exchange for my liberty, and no immortality that demands the surrender of my individuality. Better rot in the windowless tomb to which there is no door but the red mouth of the pallid worm, than wear the jeweled collar even of a God.

Religion does not and cannot contemplate man as free. She accepts only the homage of the prostrate, and scorns the offerings of those who stand erect. She cannot tolerate the liberty of thought. The wide and sunny fields belong not to her domain. The star-lit heights of genius and individuality are above and beyond her appreciation and power. Her subjects cringe at her feet covered with the dust of obedience. They are not athletes standing posed by rich life and brave endeavor like the antique statues, but shriveled deformities studying with furtive glance the cruel face of power.

No religionist seems capable of comprehending this plain truth. There is this difference between thought and action: For our actions we are responsible to ourselves and to those injuriously affected; for thoughts there can, in the nature of things, be no responsibility to gods or men, here or hereafter. And yet the Protestant has vied with the Catholic in denouncing freedom of thought, and while I was taught to hate Catholicism with every drop of my blood, it is only justice to say that in all essential particulars it is precisely the same as every other religion. Luther denounced mental liberty with all the coarse and brutal vigor of his nature; Calvin despised from the very bottom of his petrified heart anything that even looked like religious toleration, and solemnly declared to advocate it was to crucify Christ afresh. All the founders of all the orthodox churches have advocated the same infamous tenet. The truth is that what is called religion is necessarily inconsistent with free thought.

A believer is a songless bird in a cage, a freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wings.

At present, owing to the inroads that have been made by liberals and infidels, most of the churches pretend to be in favor of religious liberty. Of these churches we will ask this question: "How can a man who conscientiously believes in religious liberty worship a God who does not?" They say to us: "We will not imprison you on account of your belief, but our God will. We will not burn you because you throw away the sacred scriptures; but their Author will," "We think it an infamous crime to persecute our brethren for opinion's sake; but the God whom we ignorantly worship will on that account damn his own children forever." Why is it that these Christians do not only detest the infidels, but so cordially despise each other? Why do they refuse to worship in the temples of each other? Why do they care so little for the damnation of men, and so much for the baptism of children? Why will they adorn their churches with the money of thieves, and flatter vice for the sake of subscription? Why will they attempt to bribe science to certify to the writings of God? Why do they torture the words of the great into an acknowledgment of the truth of Christianity? Why do they stand with hat in hand before presidents, kings, emperors and scientists, begging like Lazarus for a few crumbs of religious comfort? Why are they so delighted to find an allusion to providence in the message of Lincoln? Why are they so afraid that some one will find out that Paley wrote an essay in favor of the Epicurean philosophy, and that Sir Isaac Newton was once an infidel? Why are they so anxious to show that Voltaire recanted, that Paine died palsied with fear; that the Emperor Julian cried out, "Galilean, thou hast conquered;" that Gibbon died a Catholic; that Agassiz had a little confidence in Moses; that the old Napoleon was once complimentary enough to say that he thought Christ greater than himself or Caesar; that Washington was caught on his knees at Valley Forge; that blunt old Ethan Allen told his child to believe the religion of her mother; that Franklin said, "Don't unchain the tiger;" that Volney got frightened in a storm at sea, and that Oakes Ames was a wholesale liar?

Is it because the foundation of their temple is crumbling, because the walls are cracked, the pillars leaning, the great dome swaying to its fall, and because science has written over the high altar its mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, the old words destined to be the epitaph of all religions?

Every assertion of individual independence has been a step towards infidelity. Luther started toward Humboldt, Wesley toward Bradlaugh. To really reform the church is to destroy it. Every new religion has a little less superstition than the old, so that the religion of science is but a question of time. I will not say the church has been an unmitigated evil in all respects. Its history is infamous and glorious. It has delighted in the production of extremes. It has furnished murderers for its own martyrs. It has sometimes fed the body, but has always starved the soul. It has been a charitable highwayman, a generous pirate. It has produced some angels and a multitude of devils. It has built more prisons than asylums. It made a hundred orphans while it cared for one. In one hand it carried the alms-dish, and in the other a sword. It has founded schools and endowed universities for the purpose of destroying true learning. It filled the world with hypocrites and zealots, and upon the cross of its own Christ it crucified the individuality of man. It has sought to destroy the independence of the soul, and put the world upon its knees. This is its crime. The commission of this crime was necessary to its existence. In order to compel obedience it declared that it had the truth and all the truth; that God had made it the keeper of all his secrets; his agent and his vice-agent. It declared that all other religions were false and infamous. It rendered all compromises impossible, and all thought superfluous. Thought was an enemy, obedience was its friend. Investigation was fraught with danger; therefore investigation was suppressed. The holy of holies was behind the curtain. All this was upon the principle that forgers hate to have the signature examined by an expert, and that imposture detests curiosity.

"He that hath ears to hear let him hear," has always been one of the favorite texts of the church.

In short, Christianity has always opposed every forward movement of the human race. Across the highway of progress it has always been building breastworks of bibles, tracts, commentaries, prayerbooks, creeds, dogmas and platforms, and at every advance the Christians have gathered behind these heaps of rubbish and shot the poisoned arrows of malice at the soldiers of freedom.

And even the liberal Christian of today has his holy of holies, and in the niche of the temple of his heart has his idol. He still clings to a part of the old superstition, and all the pleasant memories of the old belief linger in the horizon of his thoughts like a sunset. We associate the memory of those we love with the religion of our childhood. It seems almost a sacrilege to rudely destroy the idols that our fathers worshiped, and turn their sacred and beautiful truths into the silly fables of barbarism. Some throw away the old testament and cling to the new, while others give up everything except the idea that there is a personal God, and that in some wonderful way we are the objects of His care.

Even this, in my opinion, as science, the great iconoclast, marches onward, will have to be abandoned with the rest. The great ghost will surely share the fate of the little ones. They fled at the first appearance of the dawn, and the other will vanish with the perfect day. Until then, the independence of man is little more than a dream. Overshadowed by an immense personality—in the presence of the irresponsible and the infinite, the individuality of man is lost, and he falls prostrate in the very dust of fear. Beneath the frown of the absolute, man stands a wretched, trembling slave—beneath his smile be is at best only a fortunate serf. Governed by a being whose arbitrary will is law, chained to the chariot of power, his destiny rests in the pleasure of the unknown. Under these circumstances what wretched object can he have in lengthening out his aimless life?

And yet, in most minds, there is a vague fear of what the gods may do, and the safe side is considered the best side.

A gentleman walking among the ruins of Athens came upon a fallen statue of Jupiter. Making an exceedingly low bow, he said: "Jupiter, I salute thee." He then added: "Should you ever get up in the world again, do not forget, I pray you, that I treated you politely while you were prostrate."

We have all been taught by the church that nothing is so well calculated to excite the ire of Deity as to express a doubt as to His existence, and that to deny it is an unpardonable sin. Numerous well-attested instances were referred to, of atheists being struck dead for denying the existence of God. According to these religious people, God is infinitely above us in every respect, infinitely merciful, and yet He cannot bear to hear a poor finite man honestly question His existence. Knowing as He does that His children are groping in darkness and struggling with doubt and fear; knowing that He could enlighten them if He would, He still holds the expression of a sincere doubt as to His existence the most infamous of crimes.

According to the orthodox logic, God having furnished us with imperfect minds has a right to demand a perfect result. Suppose Mr. Smith should overhear a couple of small bugs holding a discussion as to the existence of Mr. Smith, and suppose one should have the temerity to declare upon the honor of a bug that he had examined the whole question to the best of his ability, including the argument based upon design, and had come to the conclusion that no man by the name of Smith had ever lived. Think then of Mr. Smith flying into an ecstasy of rage, crushing the atheist bug beneath his iron heel, while he exclaimed, "I will teach you, blasphemous wretch, that Smith is a diabolical fact!" What then can we think of God who would open the artillery of heaven upon one of his own children for simply expressing his honest thought? And what man, who really thinks, can help repeating the words of Aeneas, "If there are gods they certainly pay no attention to the affairs of man."

In religious ideas and conceptions there has been for ages a slow and steady development. At the bottom of the ladder (speaking of modern times) is Catholicism, and at the top are atheism and science. The intermediate rounds of this ladder are occupied by the various sects, whose name is legion.

But whatever may be the truth on any subject has nothing to do with our right to investigate that subject, and express any opinion we may form. All that I ask is the right I freely accord to all others.

A few years ago a Methodist clergyman took it upon himself to give me a piece of friendly advice. "Although you may disbelieve the bible," said he, "you ought not to say so. That you should keep to yourself." "Do you believe the bible?" said I. He replied, "Most assuredly." To which I retorted, "Your answer conveys no information to me. You may be following your own advice. You told me to suppress my opinions. Of course a man who will advise others to dissimulate will not always be particular about telling the truth himself."

It is the duty of each and every one to maintain his individuality. "This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." It is a magnificent thing to be the sole proprietor of yourself. It is a terrible thing to wake up at night and say: "There is nobody in this bed!" It is humiliating to know that your ideas are all borrowed, and that you are indebted to your memory for your principles, that your religion is simply one of your habits, and that you would have convictions if they were only contagious. It is mortifying to feel that you belong to a mental mob and cry "crucify him" because the others do. That you reap what the great and brave have sown, and that you can benefit the world only by leaving it.

Surely every human being ought to attain to the dignity of the unit. Surely it is worth something to be one and to feel that the census of the universe would not be complete without counting you.

Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain; that you have the right to explore all heights and all depths; that there are no walls, fences, prohibited places, nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought; that your intellect owes no allegiance to any being, human or divine; that you hold all in fee and upon no condition and by no tenure whatever; that in the world of mind you are relieved from all personal dictation, and from the ignorant tyranny of majorities.

Surely it is worth something to feel that there are no priests, no popes, no parties, no governments, no kings, no gods to whom your intellect can be compelled to pay a reluctant homage.

Surely it is a joy to know that all the cruel ingenuity of bigotry can devise no prison, no lock, no cell, in which for one instant to confine a thought; that ideas cannot be dislocated by racks, nor crushed in iron boots, nor burned with fire.

Surely it is sublime to think that the brain is a castle, and that within its curious bastions and winding halls the soul, in spite of all worlds and all beings, is the supreme sovereign of itself.

1 of 2
2 of 2