20. Providence is the solicitude of God for all his creatures. God is everywhere. He sees all, he presides over all, even to the smallest thing; in this, providential action consists.
“How can God, so grand, so powerful, so superior to all, interfere with the pettiest details, occupy himself with the most trifling thoughts and actions of each individual? Such is the question upon which unbelief alights, from which it concludes, that, in admitting the existence of God, his action should extend only to the general laws of the universe; that the universe operates to all eternity by virtue of these laws, to which every creature is subject in his sphere of activity without a need for the incessant cooperation of Providence.”
21. In their actual state of inferiority men can only with difficulty comprehend the infinite God, because they are themselves narrow and limited in their views of him. They imagine him to correspond to their ideas; they represent him as a circumscribed being and make of him an image according to their ideal. Our pictures, which paint him with human features, contribute not a little to establishing this error in the mind of the masses, who adore him in form more than in thought. He is to the greater part of humanity a powerful sovereign upon an inaccessible throne, lost in the immensity of the heavens; and, because their faculties and perceptions are limited, they do not comprehend that God can, or deigns to, interfere directly in little things.
22. In his impotence, how is man to comprehend the essence even of divinity? He can form of it only an approximate idea by the aid of comparisons, necessarily very imperfect, but which can at least show him the possibility of that which at first sight seems to him impossible.
Let us suppose a fluid subtle enough to penetrate all bodies; this fluid, being without intelligence, acts mechanically by material force alone. But if we suppose this fluid to be endowed with intelligence, with sensitive and perceptive qualities, it will no more act blindly, but with discernment, will, and liberty; it will see, hear, and feel.
23. The properties of the perispiritual fluid can give us only an idea of it. It is not intelligent of itself since it is matter; but it is the vehicle of the thought, the sensations, and perceptions of the spirit.
The perispiritual fluid is not the thought of the spirit, but the agent and intermediate of this thought. It is in a manner, impregnated by the life of him who transmits it; and, in the impossibility of isolating it where we are; he seems to be one with the fluid, as sound and air seem to be one and the same in such a way that we can, as it were, materialize it. We say, for instance, the air is sonorous; we, in taking the effect for the cause, say that the fluid becomes intelligent.
24. Let it be so or not with the thought of God, - that is to say, let it act directly, or by the intermediation of a fluid; for the facility of our intelligence, let us represent it under the concrete form of an intelligent fluid filling the universe, penetrating all parts of creation, - Nature in its entirety is plunged in the divine fluid. Now, by virtue of the principle that the parts of a whole are of the same nature, and have the same properties as the whole, each atom of this fluid, if one can express it thus, possessing thought, - that is to say, the essential attributes of divinity, this fluid being everywhere, - all is submissive to its intelligent action, to its foresight, to its solicitude; there is not a being, however inferior he may be, that is not in a measure penetrated by it. We are thus constantly in the presence of divinity. Not one of our actions can escape his notice. Our thoughts are in incessant contact with his thoughts; and reason tells us that God reads the profoundest depths of our hearts. We are in him, as he is in us, according to the word of Christ.
In order to exercise his watchful care over all his creatures, it is not necessary for God to look at them from the height of immensity. Our prayers, in order to be heard by him, have not to traverse space, not to be spoken with a reverberating voice; for, being ever at our side, our thoughts are perceived by him. Our thoughts are like the tones of a bell, which make all the molecules of the ambient air vibrate.
25. Far from us is the thought of materializing divinity. The image of an intelligent universal fluid is evidently only a comparison, but adapted to give a more just idea of God than the pictures which represent him with a human face. Its object is to make us comprehend the possibility of the presence of God everywhere, and of his occupying himself with everything.
26. We have always before our eyes an example which can give us an idea of the manner in which the action of God can be exercised over all beings, even to the inmost recesses of their hearts, and, consequently, how the most subtle impressions of our soul reach him. It is drawn from spiritual teaching on this subject.
27. “Man is a little world, of which the director is the spirit, and the principle directed is the body. In this universe the body will represent a creation whose spirit is God. (You comprehend that there can be here only a question of analogy, and not of identity.) The member of his body, the different organs which compose it, - its muscles, its nerves, its veins, its joints, - are so many material individualities localized in special parts of the body, if one can so speak. Although the number of this constitutive parts, so varied and different by nature, is considerable, it is not to be doubted, however, that he cannot move, that no action whatever can occur in any particular part, without the consciousness of the spirit in regard to it. Are there diverse sensations in many places simultaneously? The spirit feels them all, discerns them, analyses them, assigns to each its cause and place of action through the perispiritual fluid.
A similar phenomenon takes place between creation and God. God is everywhere in nature, as the spirit pervades all the body. All the elements of creation are in constantly rapport with him, as all the particles of the human body are in immediate contact with the spiritual being. There is, then, no reason why phenomena of the same order should not be produced in like manner in the one case as in the other.
A member is agitated: the spirit feels it; a creature thinks: God knows it. All the members move: the different organs are put in vibration, the spirit feels every manifestation, distinguishes them, and localizes them. The different creations, different creatures, are agitated, think, act diversely, and God knows all that which passes, assigns to each one that which is peculiar to him.
One can deduce from it equally the solidarity of matter and of intelligence, the solidarity between all beings of the world, that of all worlds, and, indeed, that of all creations of the Creator.” – Quinemant: Société de Paris, 1867.
28. We comprehend the effect, which is much. From the effect we mount to the cause, and we judge of the cause by the grandeur of the effect; but its inmost essence escapes us, like that of the cause of a multitude of phenomena. We know the effects of electricity, of heat, of light, of gravitation; we form calculations in regard to them: however, we are ignorant of the inmost nature of the principle which produces them. Is then, more rational to deny divine principles because we do not comprehend it?
29. Nothing hinders us from admitting a principle of sovereign intelligence, a center of action, a principal focus, beaming always, inundating the entire universe with its beams, like the sun with its light. But where is this focus? That is what no one can tell. It is probable that God is no more confined to a certain point than is his action, and that he traverses incessantly the regions of space without limit. If common spirits have the gift of ubiquity, this faculty in God must surely be unlimited. Admitting that God does fill the universe, one can suppose that this focus has no necessity for transporting itself, but that he appears at each point were sovereign will desires to be. From which we can infer that he is everywhere, but in no one place especially.
30. Before these unfathomable problems we must feel our smallness. God exists: we cannot doubt it. He is infinitely just and good: this is his essence. His care extends itself to all; we comprehend it. He can then desire only our good: that is why we should have confidence in him. This is the essential part of it: for the rest, let us wait until we are worthy of understanding him.