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Book Title: The Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires|
The author of the book: Constantin-François Volney
ISBN 13: 9781406854756
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 454 KB
Edition: Echo Library
Date of issue: March 16th 2010
Read full description of the books The Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:
I've read the book some years ago: an amazing reflection on ancient civilizations (and questioning of several religions*) in the area of today's Middle East. At times, beyond that geographical area**.
Travelling in a vast area (Ottoman Empire and Egypt and Syria) in the year 1784 and visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, Volney, unknowingly, summons the Ghost of the ruins with his many questions and melancholic state:
-what about those times of abundance and life? ...where are the palaces?...what caused the destruction?... why the population not perpetuated?...
The answers obtained from this "supernatural voice" agitate the heart of Volney, the Count. (Chapter XIII goes this way: Will the human species ever improve?...; Chapter XV The New Century...)
So was I, in a certain way agitated, when I saw this:
Ancient Palmyra ‘under threat’, ISIS militants approach UNESCO site***
* “A Jew would rather die than working on Sabbath; a Persian would die had he to blow the fire with his own breath; for one Hindu man, it’s of the utmost perfection the act of covering with cow excrement and mysteriously saying Aum; a Muslim, thinks he gets all blames absolved, by washing his head and arms, and argues, holding the sword, whether it is better to start by the “tip of fingers or the elbow”. A Christian would think of being condemned to eternal damnations if eating meat on Friday, instead of milk and butter. Oh sublime and truly celestial doctrines!”
** “The whole Asia finds itself submerged in the deepest darkness. The Chinese, governed by rod-despotism and disoriented by superstition, embarrassed by a deficient language, and moreover, by an ill-constructed system of writing, they present themselves as a people of automatons of an aborted civilization”.
“The Jesuits tried to paint, with the most beautiful colors, the Chinese government. We know today that that’s no other cause but pure oriental despotism (limited by the use of ‘another’ language, and above all, by an ill-constructed writing). The Chinese people are the proof that in ancient times, until the invention of the alphabetic writing, the human spirit had difficulties developing itself, just like before the Arabic numbers, for the purpose of counting. It all depends on the methods: China won’t change itself unless it changes its language”.
Read information about the authorConstantin-Francois Volney is one of those historical personalities once famous in their own day but now largely forgotten. You’ve heard of people he knew, as well as the events he participated in, but you’ve never heard of the man himself.
Ever hear of Benjamin Franklin? Franklin, then Ambassador to Paris, mentored a young Volney in the years prior to the French Revolution and later introduced him to his successor, Thomas Jefferson.
Ever hear of the Estates General and the Tennis Court Oath? Volney took part in both events and later sat on the committee that wrote the first French constitution.
Ever hear of Napoleon Bonaparte? Volney discovered a young Bonaparte on the island of Corsica and helped his career on numerous occasions, including the 18 Brumaire coup that brought Bonaparte to power. Ever hear of the proclamation of the Empire when Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor? Volney was one of only three senators to vote against that counter-revolutionary bill.
Ever hear of the Alien Act in the United States? Volney, the most famous alien in the U.S. at that time, was forced to leave the country just before the new law went into effect.
Ever hear of an ideologue? Volney was one of the original Ideologues. The Ideologues supported constitutional government, separation of church and state, Adam Smith’s economic principles, abolition of slavery and universal suffrage. They were also correspondents with—again that famous name—Thomas Jefferson.
But those are all good things. So why is there a pejorative attached to the word ideologue today?
It’s because the Ideologues opposed Bonaparte’s dynastic designs. As a result Bonaparte started using the word almost as a curse and, a generation later, Karl Marx—recognizing the theories the Ideologues espoused refuted his own theories—picked up Bonaparte’s pejorative and spread it around the world.
Ever hear of Volney’s Ruins of Empires? Uh, well, no, you probably haven’t. But the book (“Les Ruines” in French) was once world famous—or infamous depending on your point of view.
You’ve heard of Thomas Jefferson of course. But I’ll bet you didn’t know Jefferson liked the book so much he secretly translated it into English. Ever hear of Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln read Volney’s Ruins as a young man and was deeply affected by it. Ever hear of Walt Whitman? Whitman’s most famous poem, Leaves of Grass, was directly inspired by Volney’s Ruins. Ever hear of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River Valley School? His famous paintings—The Voyage of Life and Course of Empire series—were also directly inspired by Volney’s Ruins.
So why are both Volney and his book largely forgotten today? There are many reasons. But first and foremost it’s because he challenges the fundamental principles of both the Left and the Right.
The Left doesn’t like Volney because Ruins of Empires was written as a direct refutation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. If you refute the Social Contract, then you refute Socialism and all the various “social models” in Europe (and elsewhere) built upon it. Volney, therefore, has few if any friends among the left-leaning professorial class—the ones who are supposed to teach “enlightenment” to students.
The Right doesn’t like Volney because Ruins of Empires presents a solution to the world’s enduring religious conflicts. While that’s certainly a good thing—and particularly so in a post-September 11 world—the Right still considers Volney to be a heretic and an atheist. Why? Because Ruins of Empires argues for a universal code of morality based on the physical laws of nature. While that sounds innocuous, it implicitly calls into question all other codes of morality based on the existence of some invisible being no one has ever seen—i.e. “God.”
In sum, Volney has been forgotten because neither the academic left nor the religious right has an interest in seeing his memory or his works brought to light.
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