It was on this date, November 23, 1654, that French mathematician and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal had his famous religious conversion. The story goes that on the proverbial dark and stormy night, while Pascal was riding in a carriage across the Neuilly bridge in the Paris suburb, a sudden fright caused the horses to bolt, sending them over the edge. Somehow, the carriage, bearing Pascal, was miraculously spared. If this was indeed the hand of God in Pascal’s life, it must be admitted that it was a little hard on the horses! And it is probably only coincidence that 109 years before Pascal’s traumatic event, and again 53 years before it, the painters Michelangelo (1545) and Caravaggio (1600) painted scenes using the medieval convention of representing pride as a falling horseman – in their respective paintings of the conversion of Saul to Saint Paul.
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Originally published October 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.
Boswell reported that whenever Hume “heard a man was religious, he concluded that he was a rascal.”