Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924
Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.
Is it not very natural that all the metamorphoses with which the world
is covered should have made people imagine in the Orient, where everything
has been imagined, that our souls passed from one body to another? An almost
imperceptible speck becomes a worm, this worm becomes a butterfly; an acorn
transforms itself into an oak; an egg into a bird; water becomes cloud
and thunder; wood is changed into fire and ash; everything in nature appears,
in fine, metamorphosed. Soon people attributed to souls, which were regarded
as light figures, what they saw in more gross bodies. The idea of metempsychosis
is perhaps the most ancient dogma of the known universe, and it still reigns
in a large part of India and China.
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