Constantin Volney

VolneyIn existographies, Constantin Volney (1757-1820) (IQ:170|#321) (Cattell 1000:785) (RMS:29) was a French religio-mythologist, system of government philosopher, and Voltaire proselyte, noted for his 1791 The Ruins, wherein, among other things, he connects the main characters of Judaism and Christianity to Hinduism, and both, in some sense, back to Egyptian mythology.

Egypt
In 1782, Volney travelled to Egypt (Ottoman Egypt), spending several months there, after which he resided in greater Syria, what today is Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, to learn Arabic; in 1785, he returned to France, and spent two years compiling his notes into Voyage in Egypt and Syria (Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie), published in 1787.

Abraham | Moses
In 1791, Volney, in his The Ruins: a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires, citing the Isis and Osiris descriptions of Plutarch, the constellation theory work of Charles Dupuis (1742-1809), among others digresses on Moses (pgs. 194-96), cited the opinion of a Zoroastrian high priest named Mobed, as follows:

“When the Mobed [high priest] of the Parses begged leave to speak [he said] ‘We have heard said he to the legislators, the account of the Jews and Christians respecting the origin of the world, and though they have introduced various corruptions, they have related a number of facts which our religion admits; but we deny that they are to be attributed to the Hebrew legislator. It was not he who made known to mankind these sublime dogmas, these celestial events; it was not to him that God revealed them, but to our holy prophet Zoroaster and proofs of this are to be found in the very books in question. If you examine with attention the detail of laws, of rights, and of precepts established by Moles, you will nowhere find the most tacit indication of what constitutes at present the basis of the Jewish and Christian theology. You will perceive no trace either of the immortality: of the soul, or a life to come, or hell, or paradise, or the revolt of the principal angel, author of all the evils which have afflicted the human race, &c. These ideas were unknown to Moses, and this appears from indisputable evidence, since it was not till four hundred years after him that they were first; promulgated by Zoroaster in Asia (27).’

The Mobed added, addressing himself to the Rabbins: ‘It was not till this epocha, till after the age of your first kings, that these ideas appeared in your writings; and then their appearance was furtive and gradual, according as there grew up a political relation between your ancestors and ours. It was particularly at the period when, conquered and dispersed by the kings of Nineveh and Babylon, your progenitors resorted to the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and resided in our country for three successive generations, that they imbibed our manners and opinions, which before they had regarded with aversion, as contrary to their law. When our king, Cyrus, had delivered them from slavery they felt attached to us from sentiments of gratitude; they became our disciples and imitators, and introduced our peculiar doctrines into the corrected publication of their sacred books (28); for your Genesis in particular was never the work of Moses, but a compilation digested after the return from the Babylonith captivity, and containing in it the Chaldean opinions respecting the origin of the world. At first the pure followers of the law, opposing to the emigrants the letter of the text and the absolute silence of the prophet, endeavored to overpower these innovations; but they ultimately prevailed, and our doctrines, modified according to your ideas, gave rise to a new sect. You expected a king, the restorer of your political independence; we announced a God, the regenerator of the world, and the savior of mankind. These ideas blended together, constituted the tenets of the Essenians, and through them became the basis of Christianity. Jews, Christians, Mahometans, however lofty may be your pretensions, you are, in your spiritual and immaterial system, only the blundering followers of Zoroaster!”

Volney, in his end note (pg. 348), to note 28 (page 196), above, digresses on Abraham [whose name is does not mention in them text] as follows:

“Page 196. (28). In the corrected publication of their sacred books. In the first periods of the Christian church, not only the most learned of those who have since been denominated heretics, but many of the orthodox, conceived Moses to have written neither the law nor the Pentateuch, but that the work was a compilation made by the elders of the people and the Seventy, who, after the death of Moses, collected his scattered ordinances, and mixed with them things that were extraneous; similar to what happened as to the Koran of Mahomet (See Les Clementines, Homel. 2. sect. 51. and Homel. 3. sect. 42).

“Modern critics, more enlightened or more attentive than the ancients, have found in Genesis in particular, marks of its having been composed on the return from the captivity; but the principal proofs have escaped them. These I mean to exhibit in an analysis of the book of Genesis, in which I shall demonstrate that the tenth chapter, among others, which treats of the pretended generations of the man called Noah, is a real geographical picture of the world, as it was known to the Hebrews at the epoch of the captivity, which was bounded by Greece or Hellas at the West, mount Caucasus at the North, Persia at the East, and Arabia and Upper Egypt at the South. All the pretended personages from Adam to Abraham or his father Terah, are mythological beings, stars, constellations, countries. Adam is Bootes; Noah is Osiris, Xisuthrus Janus, Saturn; that is to say Capricorn, or the celestial Genius that opened the year. The Alexandrian Chronicle says expressly, page 85, that Nimrod was supposed by the Persians to be their first king, as having invented the art of hunting, and that he was translated into heaven, where he appears under the name of Orion [see: Sah].”

This, as we see, while off-target somewhat, e.g. Noah is Nun (not Osiris), is pretty good digression, for the pre-Rosetta stone era (pre-1820s); correctly, as Volney points out, Adam (clay), Abraham (Ra), and Terah (Geb) are mythical beings.

Constantin Volney 2s
Photo of Volney as founding in the frontispiece of the Jefferson-Barlow translation of The Ruins. [6]

Christ | Krishna
Volney (pg. 292) gives his famous Christ [=] Christna [Krishna] digression as follows:

“That being put to death by the wicked, he would gloriously rise again, ascend from hell into heaven, where he would reign forever.’

By these expressions was described the life of the same Sun, who, terminating his career at the winter solstice, when Typhon [Set] and the rebellious angels exercised their sway, seemed to be put to death by them; but shortly after revived and rose again (note 97) in the firmament, where he still remains.

These traditions went still farther, specifying his astrological and mysterious names, maintaining that he was called sometimes Chris or Conservator (note 98); and hence the Hindu God, Chris-en, or Christna; and the Christian Chris-tos, the son of Mary. That at other times he was called Yes, by the union of three letters, which, according to there numerical value, form the number 608, one of the solar periods (note 99). And behold, oh Europeans, the name which, with a Latin termination has become your Yes-us or Jesus; the ancient and cabalistical name given to young Bacchus, the clandestine son of the virgin Minerva, who in the whole history of his life, and even in his death, calls to mind the history of the God of the Christians; that is, the star of day, of which they are both of them emblems.”

The reference to the number 608 was touched on later by Robert Taylor (Ѻ) and Godfrey Higgins (Ѻ), but it is difficult to say which solar period this refers to?

The footnote (#98, #99) to this are as follows:

Page id. (98). Chris, or conservator. The Greeks used to express by X, or Spanish iota, the aspirated ha of the Oriental5, who said haris. In Hebrew heres signifies the fun, but in Arabic the meaning of the radical word is, to guard, to preserve, and of haris, guardian, preserver. It is the proper epithet of Vichenou, which demonstrates at once the identity of the Indian and Christian Trinities, and their common origin. It is manifestly but one system, which, divided into two branches, one extending to the east, and the other to the west, assumed two different forms: its principal trunk is the Pythagorean system of the soul of the world, or, Iou-piter. The epithet piter, or father, having been applied to the demi-ourgos of Plato, gave rife to an ambiguity which caused an enquiry to be made respecting the son of this father. In the opinion of the philosophers the son was understanding, Nons and Logos, from which the Latins made their Vtrbum. And thus we clearly perceive the origin of the eternalfather and of the Verbum his son, proceeding from him (Mens ex Deo nata, says Macrobius): the anima orspiritus mundi was the Holy Ghost; and it is for this reason that Manes, Basilides, Valentinius, and other pretended heretics of the first ages, who traced things to their source, said, that God the Father was the supreme inaccessible light (that of the heaven, the primum mobile, or the aplanes); the Son the secondary light resident in the sun, and the Holy Ghost the atmosphere of the earth (See Beaufob. Vol. II. p. 586): hence, among the Syrians, the representation of the Holy Ghost by a dove? the bird of Venus Urania, that is, of the air. The Syrians (lays Nigidlus de Germanico) assert that a dove fat for a certain number of days on the egg of a fish, and that from this incubation Venus was born: Sextus Empiricus also observes (Inst. Pyrrh. lib. 3. c. 23.) that the Syrians abstain from eating doves; which intimates to us a period commencing in the sign Pisces, in the winter solstice. We may farther observe, that if Chris comes from Harisch by a chin, it will signify artificer, an epithet belonging to the sun. These variations, which must have embarrassed the ancients, prove it to be the real type of Jesus, as had been already remarked in the time of Tertullian. "Many," fays this writer, " suppose with "greater probability that the sun is our God, and they re"for us to the religion of the Persians." Jpologet. c. 16.

Page 293. (99). One of the solar periods. See a curious ode to the Sun, by Martianus Capella, translated by Gebeiin.

Volney, according to George Wells (1969), said that the resurrection of Jesus was an allegory for the growth of the sun's strength in the sign of Aries at the spring equinox. [4]

Abraham / Brahma | Sarah / Saraswati
Volney’s complementary Abraham [=] Braham, Sarah [=] Saraswati digression, supposedly, is in another part of the book. Nigel Leask, in his British Romantic Writers and the East (2004), summarized Volney’s Abraham / Brahma connection as follows: [3]

Egyptian mythology. Volney infuriated Christian apologists in Britain by arguing that ‘Christ was etymologically connected to Christna’, and that ‘Abraham’ and his wife ‘Sarah’ were derived from ‘Brahma’ and his wife ‘Saraswadi’. Notwithstanding the expediency which Volney had urged on Napoleon in governing Egypt ‘orientally'’, on the home front the French ideologues Volney and Dupuis could be more scientific in breaking down the complex elaborations of religious myths into their basic elements, showing them to originate in a zodiacal system derived from astronomical observations. ‘These various theological opinions are mere chimeras’, wrote Volney, ‘…allegories and mysterious symbols, under which moral ideas, and the knowledge of the operations of nature in the actions of the elements and the revolutions of the planets, are ingeniously depicted!’ The whole world was exposed in its transparency to the penetrating gaze of reason and natural law, the official, cosmopolitan ideology of the new French regime and its sympathizers (like the young Shelley) abroad.”

In 2016, Reddit user -Ecce_Homo- posted (Ѻ), in the linguistics section, a thread query: ‘Common origin of biblical names and ancient Hindu names?’, per the Volney citation in the Wikipedia “Christ myth theory” (§: Volney and Dupuis), to which religio-mythology denialists quickly attempted to etymologically argue that “it’s just coincidence”.

Influence | On
In 1795, Volney, during his stay in America, arranged with Thomas Jefferson, via secret arrangement, for Jefferson to do a translation of his Ruins of Empires. Jefferson, based on evidence discovered by the French researcher Gilbert Chinard, translated the invocation plus the first 20 or 25 (Jacoby, 2004) chapters of the 1802 Paris edition of Volney’s Ruins.


Volney was influential to Mary Shelley (Ѻ); in her Frankenstein (1818), the Creature first learns (Ѻ) about mankind through his reading of Volney’s The Ruins; this is recounted as follows: (Ѻ)

“The Monster acquired a remarkable knowledge of human civilization. It found shelter in a shed near a farmhouse, and it tried to observe and imitate its new neighbors as closely as possible. In this way, it quickly mastered the French language; and because its unsuspecting host family consisted of educated persons who had the habit of regularly reading aloud to each other, the Monster soon was introduced to several masterpieces of European literature. These writings offered an uncomforting view of the world in which it so abruptly found itself: Milton’s Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther. But the Monster had already learned about doubt and dejection from the very first book which it overheard being read by the fireplace in the evening hours. This was The Ruins by C.-F. Volney.”


In 1831 to 1837, Abraham Lincoln read Volney's The Ruins, supposedly the Jefferson translated American edition. [2]

In 1897, Robert Ingersoll, in his “Why I Am an Agnostic”, cites Volney. [5] Walt Whitman also read Volney.

Surname
Volnay was first surnamed “Boisgirais” after his father’s estate, but afterwards assumed the name of Volney, a portmanteau (see: anagram) of Voltaire, the philosopher, and Ferney (Ѻ), a town in eastern France were Voltaire resided.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Volney:

Volney’s Ruins of Empires (Les Ruines, 1791) is a lost classic in Western Literature. Thomas Jefferson like the book so much he anonymously translated it into English. Jefferson believed the book’s central premise—Empires Rise If Government Allows Enlightened Self-Interest to Flourish—best described the enlightenment-based principles upon which the United States was founded. Volney saw his book as a direct challenge to Jean Rousseau’s Social Contract—if you refute the Social Contract, you refute the moral foundation of the big government social programs that exist in the world today. Jefferson, however, insisted on complete anonymity for his translation due to the book’s controversial religious content. In the last four chapters of the book (translated by Joel Barlow) Volney reviews the history of the world’s major religions and concludes with a call for all nations to adopt the principle of separation of church and state—only then, Volney writes, can our species achieve world peace. These last four chapters have a renewed resonance in the post-9/11 world. The Jefferson/Barlow translation went through many reprints in the USA during the 19th & 20th centuries. The book was read by the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman, but has fallen out of favor in recent decades. The Left does not like Volney because he refutes Rousseau. The Right does not like him because Volney constructs a universal system of morality without reference to god. But in a world beset by massive government deficits and resurgent religious conflict, Volney’s Ruins of Empires provides a roadmap for the future. In a word, Volney’s Ruins isn’t about Yesterday. It’s about Today. And Tomorrow.”
— Thomas Williams (2013), Amazon Review (Ѻ), Nov 17

Quotes | By
The following are quotes by Volney:

“But that passion which mistaketh, that ignorance which observeth neither causes nor effects, hath said in its folly: "All things flow from ‘chance’; a blind fatality poureth out good and evil upon the earth; success is not to the prudent, nor felicity to the wise;" or, assuming the language of hypocrisy, she hath said, "all things are from ‘god’; he taketh pleasure in deceiving wisdom and confounding reason."”
— Constantin Volney (1791), The Ruins (§III: The Apparition) (see: chance or god)

“Let man then know these laws! let him comprehend the nature of the elements which surround him, and also his own nature, and he will know the regulators of his destiny; he will know the causes of his evils and the remedies he should apply.”
— Constantin Volney (1791), The Ruins (§V: Condition of Man in the Universe)

“When the hidden power which animates the universe, formed the globe which man inhabits, he implanted in the beings composing it, essential properties which became the law of their individual motion, the bond of their reciprocal relations, the cause of the harmony of the whole; he thereby 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; weight and density to matter; he made air lighter than water, metal heavier than earth, wood less cohesive than steel; he decreed flame to ascend, stones to fall, plants to vegetate; to man, who was to be exposed to the action of so many different beings, and still to preserve his frail life, he gave the faculty of sensation.”
— Constantin Volney (1791), The Ruins (§V: Condition of Man in the Universe)

“By this faculty all action hurtful to his existence gives him a feeling of pain and evil, and all which is salutary, of pleasure and happiness. By these sensations, man, sometimes averted from that which wounds his senses, sometimes allured towards that which soothes them, has been obliged to cherish and preserve his own life; thus, self-love, the desire of happiness, aversion to pain, become the essential and primary laws imposed on man by nature herself—the laws which the directing power, whatever it be, has established for his government—and which laws, like those of motion in the physical world, are the simple and fruitful principle of whatever happens in the moral world.”
— Constantin Volney (1791), The Ruins (§V: Condition of Man in the Universe)

“In the [future] modern world, especially in Europe, great nations having allied themselves in language, and established vast communities of opinions, the minds of men are assimilated, and their affections extended; there is a sympathy of opinion and a unity of action; then that gift of heavenly Genius, the holy art of printing, having furnished the means of communicating in an instant the same idea to millions of men, and of fixing it in a durable manner, beyond the power of tyrants to arrest or annihilate, there arose a mass of progressive instruction, an expanding atmosphere of science, which assures to future ages a solid amelioration. This amelioration is a necessary effect of the laws of nature; for, by the law of sensibility, man as invincibly tends to render himself happy as the flame to mount, the stone to descend, or the water to find its level. His obstacle is his ignorance, which misleads him in the means, and deceives him in causes and effects. He will enlighten himself by experience; he will become right by dint of errors; he will grow wise and good because it is his interest so to be. Ideas being communicated through the nation, whole classes will gain instruction; science will become a vulgar possession, and all men will know what are the principles of individual happiness and of public prosperity. They will know the relations they bear to society, their duties and their rights; they will learn to guard against the illusions of the lust of gain; they will perceive that the science of morals is a physical science, composed, indeed, of elements complicated in their operation, but simple and invariable in their nature, since they are only the elements of the organization of man. They will see the propriety of being moderate and just, because in that is found the advantage and security of each; they will perceive that the wish to enjoy at the expense of another is a false calculation of ignorance, because it gives rise to reprisal, hatred, and vengeance, and that dishonesty is the never-failing offspring of folly.”
— Constantin Volney (1791), The Ruins (§XIII: Will the Human Race Improve?)

References
1. (a) Volney, Constantin. (1791). The Ruins: a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (Les ruines; ou, Méditation sur les révolutions des empires) (Arc) (txt) (Abraham, pgs. 348, 360-61, 383). London: J. Johnson, 1796.
(b) Author. (2007). “The Criminal History of the Papacy: Part 3 of 3” (Ѻ), Nexus Magazine, 14(3), Apr-May.
2. (a) Scott, Sean A. (2014). “Review: Stephen Mansfield. Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America (2012)”, Journal of Abraham Lincoln Association, 35(1):71-77.
(b) Jacoby, Susan. (2004). Freethinkers: a History of American Secularism (pg. 115). Henry Holt and Co.
3. (a) Volney, Constantin. (1795). The Ruins: a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (2nd edition) (pg. 292). London: Joseph Johnson.
(b) Leask, Nigel. (2004). British Romantic Writers and the East (pg. 105). Cambridge University Press.
4. Wells, George. A. (1969). “Stages of New Testament Criticism” (abs), Journal of the History of Ideas, 30(2):147-60.
5. Ingersoll, Robert. (1896). “Why I Am an Agnostic” (Ѻ), in: The Works of Robert Ingersoll, Volume Four. Publisher.
6. Volney, Constantine. (1791). The Ruins: Mediation on the Revolutions of Empires (translators: Thomas Jefferson (§1-20) and Joel Barlow (§21-24)) (txt) (Amz) . New York: Dixon and Sickles, 1828.

Further reading
● Volney, Constantin. (1793). The Law of Nature: Physical Principles of Morality. Publisher.
● Volney, Constantin. (1797). A Letter to Dr. Priestley. Publisher.
● Volney, Constantin. (1813). The Ruins: or Mediation on the Revolutions of Empires: and the Law of Nature, to which is added: Volney’s Answer to Dr. Priestly, and Biographical Notice by Count Daru, and the Zodiacal Signs and Constellations by the Editor. Truth Seeker.

External links
Constantin Volney – Wikipedia.

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