THE SCIENTIFIC NOTE IN GENESIS
1. The history of the origin of nearly all ancient nations is mingled with that of their
religion: that is why their first books have been religious works; and as all religions are allied to
the spirit of things, which is allied to that of humanity, they have founded upon the arrangement
and formation of the universe explanations limited by the knowledge of the times, and the
founders of their systems. The result is that the first religious books have been the first scientific
treatises, as they have also been the only code of civil laws.
2. In primitive times, means of observation being very imperfect, the first theories upon
the system of the universe were stained with grave errors; but, if opportunities for investigation
had been as complete as they are today, men would not have known how to take advantage of
them. They could only be the fruit of successive developments, and repeated studies of the laws
of nature. By measure, as man has advanced in the knowledge of these laws, he has penetrated
the mysteries of nature, and rectified ideas which he had conceived concerning the origin of
3. Man has been impotent to solve the problem of creation until science has given him the
key to it. It has been necessary that astronomy should open the doors of boundless space, and
permit him to gaze into its infinite depths; that by the power of calculation he could determine
with rigorous precision the movement, position, the volume, the nature, and the role of the
celestial bodies; that natural physics should reveal to him the laws of gravitation, of heat, of
light, and of electricity; that chemistry should teach of the transformations of metal, and
mineralogy of the materials which form the surface of the globe; that geology should teach man
to read in terrestrial beds the gradual formation of this same globe; and that botany, zoology,
paleontology, anthropology, should come to initiate him into the science of the affiliation and
succession of organized beings. By the aid of archeology he has been able to trace the progress
of humanity through the ages. All sciences, in a word, complete one another: they carry their
indispensable contingent for the knowledge of the history of the world. Without them man
would have for his guide only his first hypothesis.
Before man was in possession of these means of investigation, all commentators on
Genesis whose reason rebelled at material impossibilities, continued to revolve in the same
circle of ideas, with no power to depart from them. Science has come to the rescue by attacking
the old edifice of belief, opening a way whereby the whole aspect has changed entirely. Once
the conducting thread is found, the difficulties are promptly met. In place of an imaginary
Genesis, we have a positive, and in some respect an experimental Genesis. The field of the
universe is extended into the infinite. We behold that the Earth and the stars form themselves
gradually in obedience to the eternal and immutable law, which testifies far more fully to the
grandeur of God than a miraculous creation suddenly originating from nothing by a sudden act
of divinity after ages of inaction.
Since it is impossible to comprehend Genesis without the help of science, one can say
most truthfully that it is science who has been elected to constitute the true Genesis according
to the laws of nature.
4. Have we reached in the nineteenth century a sufficient power of scientific attainment
to solve all the difficulties of the problem of Genesis?
No, assuredly not; but one thing is certain, that all the principal errors are destroyed, and
the most essential foundation laid for undeniable principles. The yet uncertain points are,
properly speaking, only minute portions, which, whatever the future may bring forth, cannot
impair the whole. Notwithstanding all the resources of which it has been able to avail itself,
there is an important element still wanting, without which the work can never be complete.
5. Of all ancient histories of the creation of the world and the human race that which
approaches nearest to modern scientific revelation, notwithstanding the errors which it contains
- some of the latter being now distinctively pointed out by the finger of science - is
incontestably that of Moses. Some of these errors are such more in appearance than in reality, as
they spring from false interpretation of certain words, whose primitive significance is lost as
they pass from language to language by means of translation into different tongues, or whose
meaning is changed with the customs of the nations particularly the allegorical form peculiar to
the Oriental style, of which the literal sense was taken to the exclusion of the spiritual.
6. The Bible contains statements that our reason, which has been developed by science,
will not allow us to accept; and also others which seem strange and repugnant to us, because
they are connected with customs which are not ours. But, notwithstanding this, it would be
wrong not to recognize the grand and beautiful thoughts which it contains. Allegory holds a
conspicuous place in it, and under its veils conceals sublime truths, which appear, if one seeks
for them, in the foundations of ideas contained in them.
Why has this veil not been sooner lifted? On one side it has been for the want of light
which science and healthy philosophy alone could give, and, on the other, the belief in the
absolute immutability of a creed, consequent upon a too blind respect for the letter, to which
reason bent blindly, fearing that science might not accord with the lattice-work of beliefs which
were built upon their literal sense. On account of the antiquity of these beliefs, it has been
feared that, if the first ring of the chain should be broken, all the meshes of the network would
at length separate. Commentators, therefore, have shut their eyes when doubt arose. But we
cannot evade danger by shutting our eyes to it. When the foundation of a building falters, is it
not more prudent to immediately replace defective stones by good ones, rather then to wait out
of respect for the age of the edifice until there is no remedy for the evil other than its
reconstruction from the foundation?
7. In pursuing our investigations, even into the bowels of the Earth, and into the blue
depths of the sky above us, science has demonstrated in an undeniable manner the errors of the
Mosaic Genesis taken in its literal sense, and the material impossibility of things having taken
place literally as they are there represented to have done. It has thus given severe shocks to
some ancient doctrines. The orthodox faith is disturbed; it believes that its very cornerstone is
removed by the adoption of these new ideas. But which is most likely to be right, science
marching prudently and progressively over the solid ground of figures and observation, without
affirming anything before the proof of it is at hand, or history written at an epoch when means
of observation were absolutely lacking? Should we believe the person who affirms that two and
two make five, and refuses to verify it, or he who says two and two make four, and proves it?
8. But then it is objected, if the Bible is a divine revelation from God, how can it contain
mistakes? While, if it be not a divine revelation, then has it no authority? Religious beliefs may
thus be destroyed for want of a foundation.
It must be one thing or the other; either science is wrong, or theology is right. If theology
is right, then an opinion contrary to its cannot be a true one. There is no revelation superior to
the authority of facts.
If God, who is truth, could seduce men from the path of rectitude either knowingly or
unconsciously, he would no longer be God. If, then, facts contradict the words which are attributed to him, the logical conclusion is, that he has not pronounced them, or that they have
If religion suffers in some respects by these contradictions, the wrong must not be
ascribed to science, which cannot agree with unreasonable statements, but to men for having
prematurely founded absolute dogmas, which have been made a question of life and death, upon
hypothesis susceptible of being overthrown by experience.
We must resign ourselves to the sacrifice of some things, whether we desire to or not; we
cannot do otherwise. As the world progresses, the will of a few persons cannot arrest it in its
onward march. The wiser way is to follow it, and accommodate ourselves to the new state of
things, rather than to cling to old beliefs which are crumbling to pieces, at the risk of falling
9. Were it desirable to impose silence upon science out of respect to texts of scripture
regarded as sacred, it would be as impossible to do so as to stop the movement of the Earth. No
religious systems have ever gained anything by sustaining manifest errors. The mission of
science is to discover the laws of nature. Now, as these laws are the work of God, they cannot
be contrary to religions founded upon truth. To hurl anathemas at progress, calling it a
hindrance to religion, is to go contrary to the will of God. There is scarcely anything so useless;
for all the anathemas in the world will not hinder science in its progressive work of bringing
truth to light. If religion refuses to accompany science, it is left alone.
10. Stationary religions can alone dread scientific discoveries. Scientific truths are only
destructive to the systems of those who allow themselves to be distanced by progressive ideas
by wrapping themselves in the absolutism of old beliefs. These persons have such a narrow idea
of divinity that they do not comprehend that to assimilate themselves with the laws of nature
revealed by science is to glorify God in his works; but in their blindness they prefer to do
homage to the spirit of evil. A religion which would be in no one point contradictory to the laws
of nature would have nothing to fear from progress, and would be invulnerable.
11. Genesis comprises two divisions, - the history of the formation of the material world,
and that of humanity in its dual (corporal and spiritual) principle. Science is limited in its
researches by laws which rule matter. In dealing with man it has studied only his bodily
envelope. And concerning this it has been enabled to give an account with incontestable
precision of the main parts of the mechanism of the universe and of the human organism. This
important point attained, it has been further able to complete the Genesis of Moses, and to
rectify the defective parts of it.
But the history of man, considered as a spiritual being, is attached to a special order of
ideas, which is not, properly speaking, in the domain of science, and which the latter, for this
reason, has not made the subject of its investigations. It belongs more particularly to
philosophy, which has formulated upon this point only contradictory systems, from genuine
spirituality to the denial of the spiritual principle, and even of God, without other foundation
than the personal ideas of human authors. It has thus left the question undecided for want of
sufficient light to answer it.
12. This, however, is the most important question for man, for it is the problem of his past
and future; that of the material world affects him only indirectly. It is the most important of all
knowledge to learn of man’s origin, what becomes of him, if he has lived before, if he will
continue to live on forever, and what end is in store for him.
Upon all these questions science is mute. Philosophy gives opinions only, and these often
diametrically opposed to each other; but at least it permits such questions to be discussed, which
indices many people to range themselves on its side in preference to that of dogmatic theology,
when allows of no discussion on the subject.
13. All religions are in accord with each other in the acknowledgement of such first
principles as the existence of the soul, at the same time not demonstrating it. They agree neither
in belief concerning its origins, its past history, or its future destiny, and above all, in that which
is the most essential, the conditions upon which its future happiness depends. The greater part
of them accept pictures of the future imposed on them by the belief of their adepts, which can
be supported only by blind faith, unable to endure a serious examination; the destiny which they
accord to the soul being allied in their dogmas to ideas of the material world, and the
mechanism of the universe universally entertained in primitive times, are irreconcilable with the
actual state of knowledge. Being able to lose only by examination and discussion, their devotees
deem it better to proscribe both.
14. From these different faiths touching the future of man, doubts and incredulity arise.
However, incredulity leaves a painful void. Man regards with anxiety the unknown future upon
which he must sooner or later enter. The idea of annihilation chills him. His conscience says to
him that beyond the present there is something for him. But what? His developed reason forbids
him any longer to accept the histories which have quieted his early days, which have put
conscience to sleep by his taking the allegory for a reality. What is the meaning of this allegory?
Science has torn away the corner of the veil; but it has not revealed that which it is most
important for man to know. He interrogates it, but in vain; it answers nothing in a convincing
way to calm his apprehensions. He finds everywhere affirmation hurling itself against negation,
without more positive proofs on one side than on the other. Incertitude concerning things of the
future life has made many men reject the duties of the material life with a kind of frenzy.
Such is the inevitable effect in transitional epochs. The edifice of the past is crumbling
away, and that of the future is not yet constructed. Man is like an adolescent who has lost the
innocent belief of his early years, and has not yet obtained the knowledge of a riper age; he has
only vague aspirations, which he knows not how to define.
15. If the spiritual question regarding man has remained till our day in a theoretical
condition, it is because direct means of observation have failed to establish the material theory
of the world, and the field has remained open to the varying conceptions of the human mind;
while man has not known the laws which rules matter and has not been able to apply the
experimental method, he has erred from system to system concerning the mechanism of the
universe and the formation of the Earth. It has been in the moral as in the physical order of
things; in the attempt to establish ideas, men have failed in the essential element, - the
knowledge of the laws of the spiritual principle. This knowledge was reserved for our epoch, as
the discovery of the laws of matter has been the work of the two last centuries.
16. Until now the study of the spiritual principle, the study of metaphysics, has been
purely speculative and theoretical. In Spiritism it is all experimental. By the aid of the
medianimic faculty, more developed in our day, - far more generalized and better studied, - man
is found possessed of a new instrument of observation. Mediumship has been for the spiritual
world that which the telescope has been for the astral, and the microscope for the world of
infinitesimalities. It has allowed exploration of it, study, and one might say vision, of its
connection with the corporeal world - of the distinction in the living man between the intelligent
and the material being; for they can now be seen to act separately. Once in relation with the
inhabitants of the spirit-world, one has been able to follow the soul in its ascending march, in its
migrations, in its transformation. At length the study of the spiritual element is made practical;
this was wanting to all preceding commentators on Genesis; thus their inability to comprehend
it, and rectify its errors.
17. The spiritual and material worlds, being in constant contact, are inseparable from
each other. Both have their part to play in Genesis. Without the knowledge of laws which rule
the former, it is as impossible to create a complete Genesis as it would be for a sculptor to give
life to a statue. At this day only, though neither material nor spiritual science has said its last
word, man possesses the two necessary elements to throw light upon this immense problem.
These two keys are necessary in order to arrive at even an approximate solution.