In the storerooms of the magician*
An allegory from Contes saugrenus (1789)
by: Pierre Sylvan Marèchal
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Ambassadors have been sent by the King of France to a great magician to aid them in recovering a part of the anatomy lost by all French men. The magician led them into his storerooms where he showed them the wonders contained therein.
Then he showed them the intolerance of priests, represented by torrents of blood streaming into a huge bottomless basin, held in the claws of stupidity and despotism, the two immortal monsters.
The representatives caught sight of an enormous cage, divided into a hundred thousand little kennels separated by iron grills, each with a monkey inside.
"Those are the different religions," said the magician: "they are all apish antics. No one knows which ape is the oldest, or which of all those before you is the greatest ape. But it's a problem whose solution is utterly unimportant for humanity. If men had any sense, they would throw the whole cage into the sea of forgetfulness.
"Without the iron grills that you see there, these bloodthirsty animals would tear out each others' throats," went on the worthy master of the storerooms. "They may be apes, but they're as cruel as tigers and cunning as foxes. They often get through the grills to deal each other deadly blows."
Around the cage, all the time, fluttered will-o'the-wisps and little sprites with grotesque faces.
"Those are opinions, hypotheses, and prejudices," said the enchanter. "They're what the apes play with.
* Extract from Chapter XIII of The Body and the Dream: French Erotic Fiction 1464-1900, translated by Jennifer Birkett, Quartet Books, 1983
** My favourite line from this: "But it's a problem whose solution is utterly unimportant for humanity." That is a statement about religion entirely in accord with the basic principles of Apathetic Agnosticism.
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