Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. V.: CONDITION OF MAN IN THE UNIVERSE. - The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires
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CHAP. V.: CONDITION OF MAN IN THE UNIVERSE. - Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, marquis de Volney, The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires 
The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires, 3rd ed. (London: J. Johnson, 1796).
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CONDITION OF MAN IN THE UNIVERSE.
After a short silence, the Genius thus resumed his instructions:
I have already observed to you, O friend of truth, that man vainly attributes his misfortunes to obscure and imaginary agents, and seeks out remote and mysterious causes, from which to deduce his evils. In the general order of the universe, his condition is doubtless subjected to inconveniencies, and his existence over-ruled by superior powers; but these powers are neither the decrees of a blind destiny, nor the caprices of fantastic beings. Man is governed, like the world of which he forms a part, by natural laws, regular in their operation, consequent in their effects, immutable in their essence; and these laws, the common source of good and evil, are neither written in the distant stars, nor concealed in mysterious codes: inherent in the nature of all terrestrial beings, identified with their existence, they are at all times and in all places present to the human mind; they act upon the senses, inform the intellect, and annex to every action its punishment and its reward. Let man study these laws, let him understand his own nature, and the nature of the beings that surround him, and he will know the springs of his destiny, the causes of his evils, and the remedies to be applied.
When the secret power that animates the universe, formed the globe of the earth, he stamped on the beings which compose it essential properties, that became the rule of their individual action, the tie of their reciprocal connections, and the cause of the harmony of the whole. He hereby established a regular order of causes and effects, of principles and consequences, which, under an appearance of chance, governs the universe, and maintains the equilibrium of the world. Thus he gave to fire motion and activity, to air elasticity, to matter weight and density; he made air lighter than water, metals heavier than earth, wood less cohesive than steel; he ordered the flame to ascend, the stone to fall, the plant to vegetate; to man, whom he decreed to expose to the encounter of so many substances, and yet wished to preserve his frail existence, he gave the faculty of perception. By this faculty, every action injurious to his life gives him a sensation of pain and evil, and every favourable action a sensation of pleasure and good. By these impressions, sometimes led to avoid what is offensive to his senses, and sometimes attracted towards the objects that soothe and gratify them, man has been necessitated to love and preserve his existence. Self-love, the desire of happiness, and an aversion to pain, are the essential and primary laws that nature herself imposed on man, that the ruling power, whatever it be, has established to govern him: and these laws, like those of motion in the physical world, are the simple and prolific principle of every thing that takes place in the moral world.
Such then is the condition of man: on one side, subjected to the action of the elements around him, he is exposed to a variety of inevitable evils; and if in this decree Nature appears too severe, on the other hand, just and even indulgent, she has not only tempered those evils with an equal portion of benefits, she has moreover given him the power of augmenting the one, and diminishing the other. She has seemingly said to him, “Feeble work of my hands, I owe you nothing, and I give you life. The world in which I place you was not made on your account, and yet I grant you the use of it. You will find in it a mixture of good and evil. It is for you to distinguish them; you must direct your own steps in the paths of flowers and of thorns. Be the arbitrator of your lot; I place your destiny in your hands.”—Yes, man is become the artificer of his fate; it is himself who has created in turn the vicissitudes of his fortune, his successes and his disappointments; and if, when he reflects on the sorrows which he has associated to human life, he has reason to lament his weakness and his folly, he has perhaps still more right to presume upon his force, and be confident in his energies, when he recollects from what point he has set out, and to what heights he has been capable of elevating himself.