This is from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,2. The previous elevation is here.
It is said: the perfect is not, it is only an idea of our spirit which goes rising from the imperfect which one sees with one’s eyes to a perfection which only has reality in thought. This is the reasoning which the impious wants to do in his heart, senseless who does not dream that the perfect is the first itself and in our ideas and that the imperfect in all respects is nothing but a degradation. Tell me, my soul, how do you hear nothing unless you are? How is privation, if not from the form it is taken from? How is imperfection, if not from the perfection it has fallen from? My soul, do you not hear that you have reason, but imperfect, as she does not know things, she doubts, she goes astray and is mistaken? But how do you hear error, if it is not the privation of truth, and how is doubt and obscurity, if it is not from privation of intelligence and light? Or how is ignorance, if it is not from privation of perfect knowledge? How is there dissoluteness and vice in the will if it is not from privation of rectitude, uprightness and virtue? Primitively there is an intelligence, a certain knowledge, a truth, a firmness, an inflexibility in good, a rule, an order before there is a decay of all things: in a word, there is perfection before there is a fall. Ahead of all dissoluteness, there must be a thing which is itself a rule and which, unable to leave itself, can neither fail nor faint. Here is a perfect being; here is God, perfect and happy nature. The rest is incomprehensible and we can neither understand where it is perfect and happy nor where it is incomprehensible.
From where does the idea come that the impious does not know God and that nations and soon the entire world has not known him, since we carry inside of ourselves the idea of perfection? From where does this come, if not from a lack of attention and because man, given up to the senses and imagination, does not want, or cannot bring himself, to pure ideas as his spirit, weighed down with gross images, cannot carry simple truth?
Man, ignorant so that he knows change before changelessness, because he expresses change with a positive term and changelessness as the negation of change, does not want to dream that being changeless is being and to change is to not be. Now being is, and it is known by its privation which is not being. Before those things which are not always the same, there is one which, always the same, does not suffer decline: and this one not only is, but also is always known, although not always picked out or distinguished by lack of attention. But when recalled in ourselves, we become attentive to immortal ideas of which we carry in ourselves the truth, we will find that perfection is that which we know the first, then when we have seen, we only know the defect as a decline from perfection.
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