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Pascal's Memorial

Pascal's Memorial

Nov 05, 2022

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a highly regarded French philosopher. On the 23 of November, 1654, between 10:30 and 12:30 at night, Pascal had an intense mystical experience and immediately wrote this brief note to himself:

In the year of grace 1654 Monday, 23 November, the day of St Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology; the eve of St Chrysogonus, Martyr, and others; from about half-past ten in the evening till about half an hour after midnight.

FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, Not of the philosophers and the learned. Certitude. Joy. Certitude. Emotion. Sight. Joy. Forgetfulness of the world and of all outside of God. The world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee.

Joy! joy! joy! Tears of joy.

My God, wilt Thou leave me?

Let me not be separated from Thee for ever.

After Pascal's death this note was found stitched into the lining of his doublet. A scrap of parchment with a rough drawing of a flaming cross, and around it the above few words whereby he tried to keep alive the memory of a mystic experience. These words are now referred to as Pascal's 'memorial'.

In his investigation into western mystical experiences, Cuthbert Butler has the following to say about Pascal's Memorial:

Pascal's words are startling in their directness and simplicity. Of all the attempts to describe such experiences these barely articulate, incoherent exclamations of Pascal-the intellectual, the philosopher, the master of language and style-are, for me, beyond all compare the most eloquent and the most realistic. [Butler, C. (1922) Western Mysticism: The Teaching of Ss. Augustine, Gregory, and Bernard on Contemplation and the Contemplative Life. London: Constable and Company]

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