14. Humanity is becoming adult. With new needs, more elevated and larger aspirations, it comprehends the emptiness of the ideas with which it has been fed and the insufficiency of its institutions for its well-being. It finds no more, in the existing state of things, the legitimate satisfactions to which it has been called. For this reason it shakes off its swaddling-clothes, and bounds, aided by an irresistible force, towards unknown shores to the discovery of new horizons less limited.
It is one of those periods of transformation, or of moral growth, which has reached humanity. From adolescence it passes to the manly or virile age. Past ideas cannot suffice for its new aspirations, for its new needs. It can no more be led by the same means. It pays no more for illusions and magical unrealities. For its ripe reason something more substantial is necessary. The present is too ephemeral. It feels that its destiny is more vast, and that corporeal life is too restrained to enclose it entirely. For this reason it looks deeply into the past, and into the future also, to discover the mystery of its existence, and draw from it a consoling security.
It is at this moment, when its material sphere is too narrow for it, when the intellectual life outruns it, when the sentiment of spirituality expands itself, that men calling themselves philosophers hope to fill up the void left by belief in nothing beyond this life and in materialism, strange aberration! These same men, who pretend to be pushing on in advance, are striving to circumscribe the limits of the narrow circle of matter from whence humanity aspires to extricate itself. They shut off the view of the infinite life, and say to it, as they point to the tomb: “There is nothing beyond.”