“A secret Academy of which Voltaire was the president … Fabrication of books of all kinds against Christianity … books imputed as posthumous to deceased writers of reputation …” – Yale President Timothy Dwight, July 4, 1798.
Dan Brown’s novel, “The DaVinci Code,” with its assault on Christianity, fits the genre’ of famed French cynic Voltaire (1694-1778).
But was Voltaire part of a secret society to defame Christianity? Timothy Dwight, president of Yale from 1795 to 1817, thought so.
Timothy Dwight has impressive credentials. The grandson of Princeton president Jonathan Edwards, he entered Yale at age 13, was a chaplain in the Continental Army and served in Massachusetts’ first state Legislature before becoming the fourth president of Yale. During his 22-year term, he created the Departments of Chemistry, Geology, Medicine and Law. Dwight pioneered women’s education, opposed slavery and encroachment on Indian lands. One of his students, Samuel Morse, invented the telegraph.
Concerned with the growing enticement of France’s deistic “cult of reason,” which birthed the bloody French Revolution, Timothy Dwight gave an address in New Haven on July 4, 1798, titled “The Duty of Americans at the Present Crisis” (Encyclopedia Britannica’s Annals of America, Volume 4) in which he uncovered some clues:
“About the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy and not less distinguished for his hatred of Christianity and his abandonment of principle, formed a systematical design to destroy Christianity and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism. For this purpose he associated with himself Frederick the II, king of Prussia, and Mess. D’Alembert and Diderot, the principal compilers of the Encyclopedie, all men of talents, atheists and in the like manner abandoned.
“The principle parts of this system were:
“1. The compilation of the Encyclopedie: in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of … Christian theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty.
“2. The overthrow of the religious orders in Catholic countries, a step essentially necessary to the destruction of the religion professed in those countries.
“3. The establishment of a sect of philosophists to serve, it is presumed as a conclave, a rallying point, for all their followers.
“4. The appropriation to themselves, and their disciples, of the places and honors of members of the French Academy, the most respectable literary society in France, and always considered as containing none but men of prime learning and talents. In this way they designed to hold out themselves and their friends as the only persons of great literary and intellectual distinction in that country, and to dictate all literary opinions to the nation.
“5. The fabrication of books of all kinds against Christianity, especially such as excite doubt and generate contempt and derision. Of these they issued by themselves and their friends who early became numerous, an immense number; so printed as to be purchased for little or nothing, and so written as to catch the feelings, and steal upon the approbation, of every class of men.
“6. The formation of a secret Academy, of which Voltaire was the standing president, and in which books were formed, altered, forged, imputed as posthumous to deceased writers of reputation, and sent abroad with the weight of their names. These were printed and circulated at the lowest price through all classes of men in an uninterrupted succession, and through every part of the kingdom.”
After reading Dwight’s address, it appears that there may be the workings of a new novel, “The Voltaire Code,” in which Dan Brown could be a chief protagonist.
We could mimic the detective sleuthing of “The DaVinci Code,” where our search would also begin in Paris, at Voltaire’s enormous sarcophagus, opposite Rousseau’s. But, lo and behold, his remains were stolen in 1814 and dumped in a garbage heap. Upon a little more inspection, we discover that his heart had been previously removed from his body and is in Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale. His brain, also removed, disappeared after an auction.
As “The Voltaire Code” movie concludes, we hear the closing line of Timothy Dwight’s address: “To destroy us therefore … our enemies must first … seduce us from the house of God.”
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