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Eleven days of Pascal's life: 1654, the night of fire


FIGARO HORS-SÉRIE (6/11) - In the hollow of a winter night, Pascal, in a mystical impulse, experiences a second conversion.

This article is taken from the

Figaro Hors-Série Blaise Pascal, the heart and the reason.

They are two yellowed pages, scarred with hasty, feverish writing on one, applied to the other.

They carry the same message.

The key to explaining a transformation that occurred in "

the year of grace 1654

", in the depths of a winter's night.

Lightning strikes have a specific date and time.

This one took place from November 23 to 24, 1654, and lasted “

from about half past ten in the evening until about half past midnight


For many months, the one whose brilliance and scientific brilliance the world has been celebrating has actually been in the grip of deep boredom.

November of the soul.

At the beginning of this dismal month, the jovial Jacques Le Pailleur, an honest man of exquisite company, who had attended the Euclidean revelation of little Blaise, went to join Étienne Pascal in the world of eternal realities, leaving his friends in the bleak plain of regrets and finitude.

A few days earlier, a final exchange had closed Blaise's correspondence with Fermat on the geometry of chance.

Libido sentiendi, libido sciendi, libido dominandi.

Woe to the land of curse which these three rivers of fire kindle rather than water!

(Thoughts 460).

This land of curse on which he is thrown wearies him to the highest degree.

It will however be ablaze with a fire that does not go out, in the silence of this winter evening.

What happened exactly?

Nobody knows.

The only evidence of this are these two parchment sheets, this “


” sewn into the lining of his doublet closest to his heart, and found after his death.

A bulwark for the days of doubt, the gusts of discouragement, the icy wind of skepticism.

The words follow one another like so many flashes.


God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not philosophers and scholars.

Certainty, certainty, feeling, joy, peace.

God of Jesus Christ.


Read alsoThe editorial of Le Figaro Hors-Série: Blaise Pascal, a man for eternity

The God of philosophers and scholars is this Supreme Being necessary to start the machine of the world, the first cause without which it could not turn.

Can this God fill the soul?

Founding a theory, yes.

To seduce an intelligence, no doubt.

But to transfigure a man to the point of touching his heart, and making him shed tears of mingled exultation and repentance?

Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.

I separated from it.

(…) Jesus Christ.

I fled it, renounced it, crucified it, I separated myself from it, may I never be separated from it!


If, according to his sister Gilberte, Blaise was "

preserved, by a particular protection of God, from all the vices of youth

", she nevertheless writes that his social period "

was the worst time of his life. employee


No one knows his baseness better than himself.

Pascal will mention later, in his Prayer to ask God for the good use of illnesses, his "

delicious and criminal use of the world


If he thinks he has crucified Jesus Christ, if he begs twice in this short "


" not to be separated from this God whose fire burned him, it is because he has made him the real, concrete, carnal experience.

Certainty, certainty, feeling, joy, peace.

Blaise Pascal is one of the greatest scientists of his time.

God is not a concept of philosophers.

He is a person.

The “

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob (…), God of Jesus Christ


The burning words of the “memorial” attest to an intimate knowledge of God, which makes him copy the words of Christ in Gethsemane: “

Just Father, the world did not know you, but I knew you.

(John 17:25).

And a little further down: "

eternal life, that they know you, the only true God and the one you sent, J.-C.

" At the end of this "

night of fire

", Pascal chose: "

Oblivion du world and of everything except God.

(…) Total and gentle renunciation.


Later, certain scientistic minds will not admit that such an intelligence capitulates thus, of its own free will, and takes the yoke of Christ.

They will invent the fable of a coach accident on the Neuilly bridge, from which Pascal would have emerged so shaken that he would have found in faith a therapeutic remedy.

What Pascal writes of having discovered, that night, is not the remedy for a fear, the consolation for an existential sadness.

It is a "



That of the “

greatness of the human soul

”, when it knew its Saviour.

Blaise Pascal, heart and reason

, 164 pages, €13.90, available on newsstands and on

Le Figaro Store


Cover after the posthumous portrait of Blaise Pascal by François II Quesnel, after 1662 Figaro-Hors-Série

Source: lefigaro

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