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    THE LIBRARYOFTHE UNIVERSITYOF CALIFORNIALOS ANGELES

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    DEATH

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    THE WORKS OF MAURICE MAETERLINCK INUNIFORM STYLE AND BINDING

    ESSAYSThe Treasure of the HumbleWisdom and DestinyThe Life of the BeeThe Buried TempleThe Double GardenThe Measure of the HoursDeath

    PLAYSSister Beatrice and Ardiane and Barbe Bleuejoyzelle and monna vannaThe Blue Bird, A Fairy PlayMary MagdalenePelleas and Melisande, and Other PlaysPrincess MaleineThe Intruder, and Other PlaysAglavaine and Selysette

    HOLIDAY EDITIONSThe text in each case is an extract from one of

    the above mentioned books.Our Friend the DogOld-Fashioned FlowersThe SwarmThe Intelligence of the FlowersChrysanthemumsThe Leaf of OliveThoughts from Maeterlinck

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    Camera Portrait by E. O. Hoppe, London

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    Copyright, 191 1

    By Maurice MaeterlinckPublished, January, 191a

    All rights resei'ved

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    CONTENTSCHAP. PAGB

    XIV THE SAME, CONTINUED 45XV IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, IT WOULD NOT

    BE DREADFUL 48XVI THE SURVIVAL WITHOUT CONSCIOUS-

    NESS 5 1XVII THE SAME, CONTINUED 54XVIII THE LIMITED EGO WOULD BECOME A

    TORTURE 57XIX A NEW EGO CAN FIND A NUCLEUS AND

    DEVELOP ITSELF IN INFINITY . . 60XX THE ONLY SORROW THAT CAN TOUCH

    OUR MIND 65XXI INFINITY AS CONCEIVED BY OUR REASON 68XXII INFINITY AS PERCEIVED BY OUR SENSES 7 1XXIII WHICH OF THE TWO SHALL WE KNOW? 74XXIV THE INFINITY WHICH BOTH OUR REASON

    AND OUR SENSES CAN ADMIT . . 77XXV OUR FAITH IN INFINITY .... 8 1XXVI THE SAME, CONTINUED 84XXVII SHALL WE BE UNHAPPY THERE? . . 87XXVIII QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS? . . 0,0XXIX THE SAME, CONTINUED 0,5XXX IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO ANSWER

    THEM 99XXXI EVERYTHING MUST FINISH EXEMPT FROM

    SUFFERING 102

    VI

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    DEATH

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    DEATHI

    OUR IDEA OF DEATH

    T has been well said :" Death and death alone is whatwe must consult about life ; andnot some vague future or survival,in which we shall not be present.It is our own end ; and every-thing happens in the intervalbetween death and now. Do nottalk to me of those imaginary pro-longations which wield over usthe childish spell of number; donot talk to me to me who am

    H 3 H

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    DEATHto die

    outright of societies and

    peoples ! There is no reality,there is no true duration, savethat between the cradle and thegrave. The rest is mere bombast,show, delusion! They call me amaster because of some magicin my speech and thoughts ; butI am a frightened child in thepresence of death!" 1

    1 Marie Leneru, Les Affranchis, Act in., Sc. iv.

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    IIA PRIMITIVE IDEA

    HAT is where we stand.For us , death is the one event thatcounts in our life and in our uni-verse. It is the point whereat allthat escapes our vigilance unitesand conspires against our happi-ness. The more our thoughtsstruggle to turn away from it,the closer do they press aroundit. The more we dread it, themore dreadful it becomes, for itbattens but on our fears. He whoseeks to forget it burdens hismemory with it; he who tries toshun it meets naught else. But,H5h

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    DEATHthough we think of death inces-santly, we do so unconsciously,without learning to know death.We compel our attention to turnits back upon it, instead of goingto it with uplifted head. We ex-haust all our forces, which oughtto face death boldly, in distract-ing our will from it. We deliverdeath into the dim hands ofinstinct and we grant it not onehour of our intelligence. Is itsurprising that the idea of death,which should be the most perfectand the most luminousbeingthe most persistent and the mostinevitable remains the flimsiestof our ideas and the only one thatis backward ? How should weknow the one power which wenever looked in the face? Howcould it profit by flashes kindled

    H6H

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    DEATHgrown so bold and active, hasnot worked upon this figure,has added no single touch to it.Though we may no longer believein the tortures of the damned, allthe vital cells of the most skepti-cal among us are still steeped inthe appalling mystery of theHebrew Sheol, the pagan Hades,or the Christian Hell. Thoughit may no longer be lighted byvery definite flames, the gulf stillopens at the end of life, and, ifless known, is all the more formi-dable. And, therefore, when theimpending hour strikes to whichwe dared not raise our eyes, every-thing fails us at the same time.Those two or three uncertain ideaswhereon, without examining them,we had meant to lean, give waylike rushes beneath the weight

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    DEATHof the last moments. In vain weseek a refuge among reflectionsthat rave or are strange to us anddo not know the roads to ourheart. No one awaits us on thelast shore where all is unprepared,where naught remains afoot saveterror.

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    .

    IllWE MUST ENLIGHTEN AND ESTABLISH

    OUR IDEA OF DEATH

    T were a salutary thing foreach of us to work out his idea ofdeath in the light of his days andthe

    strengthof his

    intelligenceand

    to learn to stand by it. He wouldsay to death:"I know not who you are, orI would be your master ; but, indays when my eyes saw clearerthan to-day, I learnt what you arenot : that is enough to preventyou from becoming my master."He would thus carry, imprintedon his memory, a tried image

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    DEATHagainst

    which the last agony wouldnot prevail and in which thephantom-stricken eyes would takefresh comfort. Instead of theterrible prayer of the dying, whichis the prayer of the depths, hewould say his own prayer, thatof the peaks of his life, wherewould be gathered, like angels ofpeace, the most limpid, the mostpellucid thoughts of his life. Isnot that the prayer of prayers?After all, what is a true andworthy prayer, if not the mostardent and disinterested effort toreach and grasp the unknown ?

    Huh

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    IVWE MUST RID DEATH OF THAT

    WHICH GOES BEFORE

    HE doctors and thepriests," said Napoleon, "havelong been making death grievous.''

    Let us, then, learn to look uponit as it is in itself, free from thehorrors of matter and stripped ofthe terrors of the imagination.Let us first get rid of all that goesbefore and does not belong to it.Thus, we impute to it the torturesof the last illness ; and that is notright. Illnesses have nothing incommon with that which endsthem . They form part of life and

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    DEATHnot of death. We easily forgetthe most cruel sufferings thatrestore us to health ; and the firstsun of convalescence destroys themost unbearable memories of thechamber of pain. But let deathcome ; and at once we overwhelmit with all the evil done before it.Not a tear but is remembered andused as a reproach, not a cry ofpain but becomes a cry of accusa-tion. Death alone bears theweight of the errors of natureor the ignorance of science thathave uselessly prolonged tormentsin whose name we curse deathbecause it puts an end to them.

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    THE PANGS OF DEATH MUST BEATTRIBUTED TO MAN ALONE

    N point of fact, whereas thesicknesses belong to nature or tolife, the agony, which seems pecu-liar to death, is wholly in thehands of men. Now Avhat wemost dread is the awful struggleat the end and especially the hate-ful moment of rupture which weshall perhaps see approaching dur-ing long hours of helplessnessand which suddenly hurls us, dis-armed, abandoned and stripped,into an unknown that is the homeof the only invincible terrors

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    DEATHwhich the human soul has everfelt.

    It is twice unjust to impute thetorments of that moment to death.We shall see presently in whatmanner a man of to-day, if hewould remain faithful to his ideas,should picture to himself the un-known into which death flings us.Let us confine ourselves here tothe last struggle. As science pro-gresses, it prolongs the agonywhich is the most dreadful momentand the sharpest peak of humanpain and horror, for the witnesses,at least; for, often, the sensibilityof him who, in Bossuet's phrase,is "at bay with death," is alreadygreatly blunted and perceives nomore than the distant murmur ofthe sufferings which he seemsto be enduring. All the doctorsH i5 h

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    DEATHconsider it their first duty to pro-tract as long as possible even themost excruciating convulsions ofthe most hopeless agony. Whohas not, at a bedside, twenty timeswished and not once dared tothrow himself at their feet andimplore them to show mercy?They are filled with so great acertainty and the duty which theyobey leaves so little room for theleast doubt that pity and reason,blinded by tears, curb their revoltand shrink back before a law whichall recognize and revere as thehighest law of human conscience.

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    VITHE MISTAKE OF THE DOCTORS INPROLONGING THE PANGS OF DEATH

    NE day, this prejudice willstrike us as barbarian. Its rootsgo down to the unacknowledgedfears left in the heart by religionsthat have long since died out inthe mind of men. That is whythe doctors act as though theywere convinced that there is noknown torture but is preferable tothose awaiting us in the unknown.They seem persuaded that everyminute gained amidst the mostintolerable sufferings is snatchedfrom the incomparably more-\ 17 H

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    DEATHdreadful sufferings which the mys-teries of the hereafter reserve formen ; and, of two evils to avoidthat which they know to be imagi-nary, they choose the real one.Besides, in thus postponing theend of a torture, which, as goodSeneca says, is the best part ofthat torture, they are only yield-ing to the unanimous error whichdaily strengthens the circle whereinit is confined : the prolongationof the agony increasing the horrorof death ; and the horror of deathdemanding the prolongation of theagony.

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    VIITHEIR ARGUMENTS

    HEY, on their part, sayor might say that, in the presentstage of science, two or threecases excepted, there is never acertainty of death. Not to sup-port life to its last limits, even atthe cost of insupportable torments,were perhaps to kill. Doubtlessthere is not one chance in a hun-dred thousand that the suffererescape. No matter. If thatchance exist which, in the major-ity of cases, will give but a fewdays, or, at the utmost, a few

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    DEATHmonths of a life that will not be thereal life, but much rather, as theLatin said, "an extended death,"those hundred thousand tormentswill not have been in vain. Asingle hour snatched from deathoutweighs a whole existence oftortures.

    Here are, face to face, twovalues that cannot be compared;and, if we mean to weigh themin the same balance, we mustheap the scale which we see withall that remains to us, that is,with every imaginable pain, forat the decisive hour this is theonly weight which counts andwhich is heavy enough to raiseby a few degrees the other scalethat dips into what we do not seeand is loaded with the thick dark-ness of another world.

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    VIIITHAT WHICH DOES NOT BELONG

    TO DEATH

    NCREASED by so manyadventitious horrors, the horror ofdeath becomes such that, withoutreasoning, we accept the doctors'reasons. And yet there is onepoint on which they are beginningto yield and to agree. They areslowly consenting, when there isno hope left, if not to deaden,at least to lull the last agonies.Formerly, none of them wouldhave dared to do so ; and, evento-day, many of them hesitate and,like misers, measure out dropH 21 y*

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    DEATHby drop the clemency and peacewhich they grudge and which theyought to lavish, dreading lest theyshould weaken the last resistance,that is to say, the most uselessand painful quiverings of life thatdoes not wish to give place to thecoming quiet.

    It is not for me to decidewhether their pity might showgreater daring. It is enough tostate once more that all this doesnot concern death. It happensbefore it and below it. It is notthe arrival of death, but the de-parture of life that is appalling.It is not death, but life that wemust act upon. It is not deaththat attacks life ; it is life thatwrongfully resists death. Evilshasten up from every side at theapproach of death, but not at

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    DEATHits call ; and, though they gatherround it, they did not come withit. Do you accuse sleep of thefatigue that oppresses you if youdo not yield to it? All thosestrugglings, those waitings, thosetossings, those tragic cursings areon this same side of the slope towhich we cling and not on theother side. They are, for thatmatter, accidental and temporaryand emanate only from our igno-rance. All our knowledge onlyhelps us to die in greater pain thanthe animals that know nothing.A day will come when sciencewill turn against its error and nolonger hesitate to shorten our mis-fortunes. A day will come whenit will dare and act with certainty ;when life, grown wiser, will de-part silently at its hour, knowingH a3 h

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    DEATHthat it has reached its term, evenas it withdraws silently e\eryevening, knowing that its task isdone. Once the doctor and thesick man have learnt what theyhave to learn, there will be nophysical nor metaphysical reasonwhy the advent of death shouldnot be as salutary as that of sleep.Perhaps even, as there will beother things to consider, it will bepossible to surround death withdeeper delights and fairer dreams.Henceforth, in any case, oncedeath is exonerated from all thatgoes before, it will be easier to faceit without fear and to

    enlightenthat which follows after.

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    IXTHE HORRORS OF THE GRAVE ALSO

    DO NOT BELONG TO DEATH

    EATH, as we usuallypicture it, has two terrors loomingbehind it. The first has neitherface nor shape and overshadowsthe whole region of our mind;the other is more definite, moreexplicit, but almost as powerfuland strikes all our senses. Letus first examine the latter.

    Even as we impute to death allthe evils that precede it, so do weadd to the dread which it inspiresall that happens beyond it, thusdoing it the same injustice at its

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    DEATHgoing

    as at its coming. Is itdeath that digs our graves andorders us to keep there that whichwas made to disappear ? If wecannot think without horror ofthe fate of the beloved in thegrave, is it death or we thatplaced him there ? Because deathcarries the spirit to some placeunknown, shall we reproach itwith our bestowal of the bodywhich it leaves with us ? Deathdescends upon us to take awaya life or change its form : let usjudge it by what it does and notby what we do before it comesand after it is gone. And it isalready far away when we beginthe frightful work which we tryhard to prolong as much as wepossibly can, as though we werepersuaded that it is our only

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    DEATHsecurity against forgetfulness. Iam well aware that, from anyother than the human point ofview, this proceeding is very in-noxious. Looked upon from asufficient height, decomposingflesh is no more repulsive thana fading flower or a crumblingstone. But, when all is said, itoffends our senses, shocks ourmemory, daunts our courage,whereas it would be so easy forus to avoid the hateful test. Puri-fied by fire, the memory lives inthe heights as a beautiful idea;and death is naught but an im-mortal birth cradled in flames.This has been well understood bythe wisest and happiest nationsin history. What happens in ourgraves poisons our thoughts to-gether with our bodies. TheH 27 h

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    DEATHfigure of death, in the imaginationof men, depends before all uponthe form of burial; and thefuneral rites govern not only thefate of those who depart, but alsothe

    happinessof those who stay,

    for they raise in the very back-ground of life the great imageupon which their eyes linger inconsolation or despair.

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    WHEN CONTEMPLATING THE UNKNOWNINTO WHICH DEATH HURLS US,LET US FIRST PUT RELIGIOUSFEARS FROM OUR MINDS

    HERE is, therefore, butone terror particular to death :that of the unknown into whichit hurls us. In facing it, let usnot delay in putting from ourminds all that the positive re-ligions have left there. Let usremember only that it is not forus to prove that they are notproved, but for them to establishthat they are true. Now not oneof them brings us a proof before

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    DEATHwhich a candid intelligence canbow. Nor would it suffice if thatintelligence were able to bow ;for man lawfully to believe andthus to limit his endless seeking,the proof would need to be irre-sistible. The God offered to usby the best and strongest proofhas given us our reason to employloyally and fully, that is to say,to try to attain, before all and inall things, that which appears tobe the truth. Can He exact thatwe should accept, in spite of it,a belief of which the wisest andthe most ardent do not, from thehuman point of view, deny theuncertainty? He proposes for ourconsideration a very doubtfulstory which, even if scientificallyestablished, would prove nothingand which is buttressed by proph-H 3o h

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    DEATHecies and miracles no less uncer-tain. If not by our reason, bywhat then would He have usdecide? By usage? By the acci-dents of race or birth, by someaesthetic or sentimental hazard ?Or has He set within us anotherhigher and surer faculty beforewhich the understanding mustyield? If so, where is it? Whatis its name ? If that God punishesus for not having blindly followeda faith that does not force itselfirresistibly upon the intelligencewhich He gave us ; if He chastisesus for not having made, in thepresence of the great enigma withwhich He confronts us, a choicewhich condemns the best and mostdivine part of that which He hasplaced in us, we have nothing leftto reply : we are the dupes of aH3ih

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    DEATHcruel and incomprehensible sport,we are the victims of a terriblesnare and an immense injustice ;and, whatever the torments where-with the latter loads us, they willbe less intolerable than the eternalpresence of its Author.

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    XIANNIHILATION IMPOSSIBLE

    ERE we stand beforethe abyss. It is void of all thedreams with which our fatherspeopled it. They thought thatthey knew what was there ; weknow only what is not there. Ithas enlarged itself with all thatwe have learnt to know nothingof. While waiting for a scientificcertainty to break through itsdarkness for man has the rightto hope for that which he doesnot yet conceive the only pointthat interests us, because it is situ-ated in the little circle which our

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    DEATHactual intelligence traces in thethickest blackness of the night, isto know whether the unknownfor which we are bound will bedreadful or not.

    Outside the religions, there arefour imaginable solutions and nomore : total annihilation ; survivalwith our consciousness of to-day ;survival without any sort of con-sciousness ; lastly, survival withuniversal consciousness differentfrom that which we possess inthis world.

    Total annihilation is impossible.We are the prisoners of an infin-ity without outlet, wherein noth-ing perishes, wherein everythingis dispersed, but nothing lost.Neither a body nor a thought candrop out of the universe, out oftime and space. Not an atom of

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    DEATHour flesh, not a quiver of ournerves will go where they willcease to be, for there is no placewhere anything ceases to be. Thebrightness of a star extinguishedmillions of years ago still wandersin the ether where our eyes willperhaps behold it this very night,pursuing its endless road. It isthe same with all that we see, aswith all that we do not see. To beable to do away with a thing, thatis to say, to fling it into nothing-ness, nothingness would have toexist; and, if it exist, under what-ever form, it is no longer nothing-ness. As soon as we try toanalyze it, to define it, or to un-derstand it, thoughts and expres-sions fafl us, or create that whichthey are struggling to deny. It isas contrary to the nature of our

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    DEATHreason and

    probablyof all

    imagina-ble reason to conceive nothingnessas to conceive limits to infinity.Nothingness, besides, is but anegative infinity, a sort of infin-ity of darkness opposed to thatwhich our intelligence strives toenlighten, or rather it is but achild-name or nickname whichour mind has bestowed upon thatwhich it has not attempted to em-brace, for we call nothingness allthat which escapes our senses orour reason and exists without ourknowledge. The more that humanthought rises and increases, theless

    comprehensibledoes

    nothing-ness become. In any case andthis is what matters here ifnothingness were possible, sinceit could not be anything whatever,it could not be dreadful.

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    XIITHE SURVIVAL OF OUR CONSCIOUSNESS

    EXT comes survivalwith our consciousness of to-day.I have broached this question inan essay on Immortality, 1 of whichI will only reproduce an essentialpassage, contenting myself withsupporting it with a few newconsiderations.What composes this sense of

    the ego which turns each of usinto the centre of the universe,the only point that matters in

    1 This essay forms part of the volume pub-lished under the title of The Measure of the Hours. Translator's Note.

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    DEATHspace and time ? Is it formed ofsensations of our body, or ofthoughts independent of our body ?Would our body be conscious ofitself without our mind ? And,on the other hand, what wouldour mind be without our body?We know bodies without mind,but no mind without a body. Itis almost certain that an intellectdevoid of senses, devoid of organsto create and nourish it, exists ;but it is impossible to imaginethat ours could thus exist and yetremain similar to that which de-rived from our sensibility all thatgave it life.

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    XIIIIT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE

    HIS ego, as we conceiveit when we reflect upon the con-sequences of its destruction, thisego is neither our mind nor ourbody, since we recognize that bothare waves that flow away and arerenewed incessantly. Is it animmovable point, which couldnot be form or substance, forthese are always in evolution, norlife, which is the cause or effectof form and substance? In truth,it is impossible for us to appre-hend or define it, to tell where itdwells. When we try to go backH 39 H

    ur

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    DEATHto its last source, we find hardlymore than a succession of memo-ries, a series of ideas, confused,for that matter, and unsettled,attached to the one instinct ofliving : a series of habits of oursensibility and of conscious or un-conscious reactions against the sur-

    ^rounding phenomena. When allis said, the most steadfast point ofthat nebula is our memory, whichseems, on the other hand, to be asomewhat external, a somewhataccessory faculty and, in any case,one of the frailest faculties ofour brain, one of those whichdisappear the most promptly atthe least disturbance of our health."As an English poet has very trulysaid, that which clamours aloudfor eternity is the very part of methat will perish."

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    DEATHIt matters not : that uncertain,

    indiscernible, fleeting and pre-carious ego is so much the centreof our being, interests us soexclusively, that every reality ofour life disappears before thisphantom. It is a matter of utterindifference to us that throughouteternity our body or its substanceshould know every joy and everyglory, undergo the most splendidand delightful transformations,become flower, perfume, beauty,light, air, star ; it is likewise in-different to us that our intellectshould expand until it mixes withthe life of the worlds, understandsand governs it. We are per-suaded that all this will not affectus, will give us no pleasure, willnot happen to ourselves, unlessthat memory of a few almost

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    >#/.

    DEATHalways insignificant facts accom-pany us and witness those un-imaginable joys."I care not," says this narrowego, in its firm resolve to under-stand nothing. "I care not ifthe loftiest, the freest, the fairestportions of my mind be eternallyliving and radiant in the supremegladnesses: they are no longermine ; I do not know them.Death has cut the network ofnerves or memories that connectedthem with I know not what centrewherein lies the sensitive pointwhich I feel to be all myself.They are now set loose, floatingin space and time, and their fateis as unknown to me as that ofthe most distant constellations.Anything that occurs exists forme only upon condition that IH 4a h

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    DEATHbe able to recall it within thatmysterious being which is I knownot where and precisely nowhere,which I turn like a mirror aboutthis world whose phenomena takeshape only in so far as they arereflected in it."

    Let us then consider that allthat composes our consciousnesscomes first of all from our body.Our mind does but organize thatwhich is supplied by our senses ;and even the images and words which in reality are but images by the aid of which it strivesto tear itself from those sensesand deny

    theirsway

    are borrowedfrom them. How could that mindremain what it was when there isnothing left to it of that whichformed it ? When our mind nolonger has a body, what shall it

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    DEATHcarry with it into infinity wherebyto recognize itself, seeing that itknows itself only by grace of thatbody ? A few memories of a lifein common ? Will those memo-ries, which were already fadingin this world, suffice to separateit for ever from the rest of theuniverse, in boundless space andin unlimited time ?

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    XIVTHE SAME, CONTINUED

    UT," I shall be told,' ' there is more in us than theintellect discovers. We havemany things within us which oursenses have not placed there ; wecontain a being superior to theone we know."

    That is probable, nay, certain :the share occupied by uncon-sciousness, that is to say, by that , ^pwhich represents the universe, isenormous and preponderant. Buthow shall the ego which we knowand whose destiny alone concernsus recognize all those things andH 45 h

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    DEATHcommencing, a life whose joys andsorrows will pass above my head,not even brushing with their newwings that which I feel myself tobe to-day?

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    XVIF IT WERE POSSIBLE, IT WOULD

    NOT BE DREADFUL

    T seems, therefore, that asurvival with our present con-sciousness is as impossible and asincomprehensible as total annihi-lation. Moreover, even if it wereadmissible, it would not be dread-ful. It is certain that, when thebody disappears, all physical suf-ferings will disappear at the sametime ; for we cannot imagine asoul suffering in a body which itno longer possesses. With themwill vanish simultaneously all thatwe call mental or moral suffer-

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    DEATHon earth. But, in the eyes ofthat which no longer counts thedays, those troubles will seem sobrief that it will not grasp theirduration; and, knowing what theyare and whither they lead, it willnot behold their severity.The soul is insensible to allthat is not happiness. It is madeonly for infinite joy, which is thejoy of knowing and understand-ing. It can grieve only at per-ceiving its own limits ; but toperceive those limits, when oneis no longer bound by space andtime, is already to transcend them.

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    '^^^m^^^^s^^^^^^XVI

    THE SURVIVAL WITHOUTCONSCIOUSNESS

    HERE remains but thesurvival without consciousness,or survival with a consciousnessdifferent from that of to-day.A survival without conscious-ness seems at first sight the mostprobable. From the point of viewof the good or ill awaiting us onthe other side of the grave, itamounts to annihilation. It islawful, therefore, for those whoprefer the easiest solution and thatmost consistent with the presentstate of human thought, to set

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    DEATHthat limit to their

    anxiety there.They have nothing to dread ; forevery fear, if any remain, would,if we look into it carefully, deckitself with hopes. The body dis-integrates and can no longer suffer ;the mind, separated from thesource of pleasure and pain, isextinguished, scattered and lost ina boundless darkness ; and whatcomes is the great peace so oftenprayed for, the sleep withoutmeasure, without dreams and with-out awakening.But this is only a solution thatflatters indolence. If we pressthose who

    speakof a survival

    without consciousness, we per-ceive that they mean only theirpresent consciousness, for manconceives no other ; and we havejust seen that it is almost impos-

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    sO*

    XVIITHE SAME, CONTINUED

    HIS question is closelyallied to our modified conscious-ness. There is for the moment nohope of solving it; but we are freeto grope in its darkness, which isnot perhaps equally dense at allpoints.Here begins the open sea. Herebegins the glorious adventure, theonly one abreast with humancuriosity, the only one that soars ashigh as its highest longing. Letus accustom ourselves to regarddeath as a form of life which wedo not yet understand ; let us

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    DEATHlearn to look upon it with thesame eye that looks upon birth ;and soon our mind will be accom-panied to the steps of the tombwith the same glad expectationthat greets a birth. If, beforebeing born, we were permitted tochoose between the great peaceof non-existence and a life thatshould not be completed by themagnificent hour of death, whichof us, knowing what we ought toknow, would accept the disquiet-ing problem of an existence thatwould not end in the reassuringmystery of its conclusion? Whichof us would care to come into aworld where there is so little tolearn, if he did not know that hemust enter it if he would leaveit and learn more ? The best partof life is that it prepares this hourH 55 H

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    3SW*

    XVIIITHE LIMITED EGO WOULD BECOME

    A TORTURE

    EFORE fathoming thatsea, let us remark to those whoaspire to maintain their ego thatthey are calling down the suffer-ings which they dread. The egoimplies limits. The ego cannotsubsist except in so far as it isseparated from that which sur-rounds it. The stronger the ego,the narrower its limits and theclearer the separation. The morepainful too ; for the mind, if itremain as we know it and weare not able to imagine it different

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    DEATH will no sooner have seen itslimits than it will wish to over-step them: and, the more sep-arated it feels, the greater will beits longing to unite with thatwhich lies outside. There willtherefore be an eternal strugglebetween its being and its aspira-tions. And really there were noobject in being born and dyingonly for the purpose of theseendless contests. Have we nothere yet one more proof that ourego, as we conceive it, couldnever subsist in the infinity whereit must needs go, since it cannotgo elsewhere? It behooves ustherefore to get rid of imagina-tions that emanate only from ourbody, even as the mists that veilthe daylight from our sight em-anate only from low places.

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    DEATHPascal has said, once and for all :' ' The narrow limits of our beingconceal infinity from our view."

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    XIXA NEW EGO CAN FIND A NUCLEUS AND

    DEVELOP ITSELF IN INFINITY

    N the other hand for wemust be honest, probe the con-flicting darkness which we believenearest to the truth and show nobiason the other hand, we cangrant to those who are wedded tothe thought of remaining as theyare that the survival of a mereparticle of themselves would suf-fice to renew them again in theheart of an infinity wherefromtheir body no longer separatesthem. If it seems impossible thatanything a movement, a vibra-tion, a radiation should stop or

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    DEATHdisappear, why then shouldthought be lost? There will, nodoubt, subsist more than one ideapowerful enough to allure the newego, which will nourish itself andthrive on all that it will find inthat new and endless environment,just as the other ego, on this earth,nourished itself and throve on allthat it met there. Since we havebeen able to acquire our presentconsciousness, why should it beimpossible for us to acquireanother? For that ego which isso dear to us and which we be-lieve ourselves to possess was notmade in a day ; it is not at pres-ent what it was at the hour of ourbirth. Much more chance thanpurpose has entered into it ; andmuch more foreign substance thanany inborn substance which it con-

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    DEATHtained. It is but a long series ofacquisitions and transformations,of which we do not become awareuntil the awakening of our mem-ory ; and its nucleus, of whichwe do not know the nature, isperhaps more immaterial and lessconcrete than a thought. If thenew environment which we enteron leaving our mother's wombtransforms us to such a point thatthere is, so to speak, no connexionbetween the embryo that we wereand the man that we have become,is it not right to think that themuch newer, more unknown,wider and more fertile environ-ment which we enter on quittinglife will transform us even more ?One can see in what happens tous here a figure of that whichawaits us elsewhere and readdyH 62 h

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    DEATHadmit that our spiritual being,liberated from its body, if it doesnot mingle at the first onset withthe infinite, will develop itselfthere gradually, will choose itselfa substance and, no longer tram-melled by space and time, willgrow without end. It is very pos-sible that our loftiest wishes ofto-day will become the law of ourfuture development. It is verypossible that our best thoughtswill welcome us on the otherbank and that the quality of ourintellect will determine that of theinfinite that crystallizes around it.Every hypothesis is permissibleand every question, provided it beaddressed to happiness ; for un-happiness is no longer able toanswer us. It finds no place inthe human imagination that ex-H 63 h

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    DEATHplores the future methodically.And, whatever be the force thatsurvives us and presides over ourexistence in the other world, thisexistence, to presume the worst,could be no less great, no lesshappy than that of to-day. It willhave no other career than infinity ;and infinity is nothing if it be notfelicity. In any case, it seemsfairly certain that we spend in thisworld the only narrow, grudging,obscure and sorrowful moment ofour destiny.n

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    DEATHmight seem admissible and which,in anj case, could be but ephem-eral would arise from the sight ofthe pain and misery that remainon the earth which we have left.But this sorrow, after all, wouldbe but one side and an insignifi-cant phase of the sorrow ofpowerlessness and of not under-standing. As for the latter,though it is not only beyond thedomain of our intelligence, buteven at an insuperable distancefrom our imagination, we maysay that it would be intolerableonly if it were without hope.But, in order to be without hope,the universe would have to aban-don any attempt to understanditself, or admit within itself anobject that remained for everforeign to it. Either the mind willH 66 I-

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    DEATHnot perceive its limits and, conse-quently, will not suffer from them,or else it will overstep them as itperceives them; for how couldthe universe have parts eternallycondemned to form no part ofitself and of its knowledge?Hence we cannot understand thatthe torture of not understanding,supposing it to exist for a moment,should not end hy mingling withthe state of infinity, which, if itbe not happiness as we compre-hend it, could be naught but anindifference higher and purer than

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    XXIINFINITY AS CONCEIVED BY OUR

    REASON

    ET us turn our thoughtstowards it. The problem extendsbeyond humanity and embracesall things. It is possible, I think,to view infinity under two dis-tinct aspects and try to foreseeour fate therein. Let us contem-plate the first of these aspects.We are plunged into a universethat has no limits in space or time.It never began, nor will it everend. It could not have an aim,for, if it had one, it would haveattained it in the infinity of yearsH 68 h

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    DEATHthat preceded us. It is not mak-ing for anywhere, for it would havearrived there ; consequently, allthat the worlds within its pale, allthat we ourselves do can have noinfluence upon it. If it have nothought, it will never have one.If it have one, that thought hasbeen at its climax since all timeand will remain there, changelessand immovable. It is as youngas it has ever been and as old asit will ever be. It has made inthe past all the efforts and all theexperiments which it will make inthe future; and, as all the possi-ble combinations have been ex-hausted since all time, it does notseem as if that which has nottaken place in the eternity thatextends before our birth can hap-pen in that which will follow afterH 69 h

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    DEATHour death. If it have not becomeconscious, it will never becomeso ; if it know not what it wishes,it will continue in ignorance,hopelessly, knowing all or know-ing nothing and remaining as nearits end as its beginning.

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    XXIIINFINITY AS PERCEIVED BY OUR

    SENSES

    LL this would be, ifnot intelligible, at least acceptableto our reason ; but in that uni-verse float thousands of millionsof worlds limited by space andtime. They are born, they dieand they are born again. Theyform part of the whole ; and wesee, therefore, that parts of thatwhich has neither beginning norend themselves begin and end.We, in fact, know only thoseparts ; and they are of a numberso infinite that in our eyes they

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    DEATHfill all infinity. That which isgoing nowhere teems with thatwhich appears to be going some-where. That which has alwaysknown what it wants, or willnever learn, seems eternally to bemaking more or less unfortunateexperiments. What is that whichhas already attained perfection try-ing to achieve? Everything thatwe discover in that which couldnot possibly have an aim looks asthough it were pursuing one withinconceivable ardour ; and thespirit that animates what we seein that which should know every-thing and possess itself seems toknow nothing and to seek itselfwithout intermission. Thus allthat is apparent to our senses ininfinity gainsays that which ourreason is compelled to ascribe to

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    DEATHit. According as we fathom it,we understand better the depthof our want of understanding ;and, the more we strive to pene-trate the two incomprehensibilitiesthat stand face to face, the morethey contradict each other.

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    XXIIIWHICH OF THE TWO SHALL WEKNOW?

    HAT will become ofus amid all this obscurity? Shallwe leave the finite wherein wedwell to be swallowed up in thisor the other infinite? In otherwords, shall we end by minglingwith the infinite which our reasonconceives, or shall we remaineternally in that which our eyesbehold, that is to say, in number-less changing and ephemeralworlds? Shall we never leavethose worlds which seem doomedto die and to be reborn eternally,to enter at last into that which,

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    DEATHsince all

    eternity,can neither have

    been born nor have died andwhich exists without either futureor past ? Shall we one day escape,with all that surrounds us, fromthe unhappy experiments, to findour way at last into peace, wisdom,the changeless and boundless con-sciousness, or into the hopelessunconsciousness? Shall we havethe fate which our senses foretell,or that which our intelligence de-mands? Or are both senses andintelligence illusions, puny imple-ments, vain weapons of a briefhour that were never intended toprobe or contend with the uni-verse? If there really be a con-tradiction, is it wise to accept itand to deem impossible that whichwe do not understand, seeing thatwe understand almost nothing?H 75 {-

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    DEATHIs truth not at an immeasurabledistance from those inconsistencieswhich appear to us enormous andirreducible and which, doubtless,are of no more importance thanthe rain that falls upon the sea?

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    XXIVTHE INFINITY WHICH BOTH OUR REASON

    AND OUR SENSES CAN ADMIT

    UT, even to our poorunderstanding of to-day, the dis-crepancy between the infinity con-ceived by our reason and thatperceived by our senses is perhapsmore apparent than real. Whenwe say that, in a universe that hasexisted since all eternity, everyexperiment, every possible com-bination has been made ; whenwe declare that there is not achance that that which has nottaken place in the uncountablepast

    can take place in the un-H 77 h

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    DEATHments and chances are followingone upon the other in unimagin-able worlds, compared wherewithall those which we see on starrynights are no more than a pinchof gold-dust in the ocean depths.Lastly, it is very nearly sure thatwe ourselves, or whatever remainsof us it matters notwill profitone day by those experiments andthose chances. That which hasnot yet happened may suddenlysupervene ; and the best state,as well as the supreme wisdomwhich will recognize and establishit, is perhaps ready to arise fromthe clash of circumstance. Itwere not at all astonishing if theconsciousness of the universe, inthe endeavour to form itself, hadnot yet met with the aid of thenecessary chances and if human

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    DEATHthought were seconding one ofthose decisive chances. Herethere is a hope. Small as manand his thought may appear, hehas exactly the value of the mostenormous forces that he is ableto conceive, since there is neithergreat nor small in the immeasur-able ; and, if our body equalledthe dimensions of all the worldswhich our eyes can see, it wouldhave exactly the same weight andthe same importance with regardto the universe that it has to-day.The mind alone perhaps occupiesin infinity a space which com-parisons do not reduce to nothing.

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    DEATHmust end

    by absorptionin that

    very infinity.The first infinity, the ideal in-finity, is so strangely contrary toall that we see that it is best notto attack it until we have tried toexplore the second. Moreover,it is quite possible that it maysucceed the other. As we havesaid, that which has not takenplace in the eternity before mayhappen in the eternity after us;and nothing save innumerousaccidents is opposed to the pros-pect that the universe may at lastacquire the integral consciousnessthat will establish it at its climax.After giving a glance, useless, forthat matter, and impotent, at allthat may perhaps arise, we shalltry to interrogate, without hopeof answer, the mystery of the

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    DEATHboundless peace into which it ispossible that we may sink withthe other worlds.

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    XXVITHE SAME, CONTINUED

    EHOLD us, then, inthe infinity of those worlds, thestellar infinity, the infinity of theheavens, which assuredly veilsother things from our eyes, butcould never be a total illusion.It seems to us to be peopled onlywith objects planets, suns,stars, nebulae, atoms, imponder-ous fluidswhich move, uniteand separate, repel and attractone another, which shrink andexpand, displace one another in-cessantly and never arrive, whichmeasure space in that which has

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    DEATHof the universe ; and this history,far more than that of our pettyexistence, is our own great history,in which perhaps something ofourselves or something incompar-ably better and vaster will end byfinding us again some day.

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    XXVIISHALL WE BE UNHAPPY THERE ?

    HALL we be unhappythere ? It is hardly reassuringwhen we consider the habits ofour nature and remember that weform part of a universe that hasnot yet collected its wisdom. Wehave seen, it is true, that goodand bad fortune exist only in sofar as regards our body and that,when we have lost the agent ofour sufferings, we shall not meetany of the earthly sorrows again.But our anxiety does not endhere; and will not our mind,lingering upon our erstwhile sor-

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    DEATHrows, drifting derelict from worldto world, unknown to itself inthe unknowable that seeks itselfhopelessly ; will not our mindknow here the frightful tortureof which we have already spokenand which is doubtless the lastwhich the imagination can touchwith its wing? Lastly, if therewere nothing left of our body andour mind, there would still re-main the matter and the spirit(or, at least, the obviously singleforce to which we give that doublename) which composed them andwhose fate must be no more in-different to us than our own fate ;for, let us repeat, from our deathonwards, the adventure of theuniverse becomes our own adven-ture. Let us not, therefore, sayto ourselves:

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    DEATH4 ' What can it matter ? We

    shall not be there."We shall be there always, be-cause everything will be there.

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    XXVIIIQUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS

    ILL all this to whichwe shall belong, in a world everseeking itself, continue a prey tonew, unceasing and perhaps pain-ful experiments? Since the partthat we were was unhappy, whyshould the part that we shall beenjoy a better fortune? Who canassure us that those unending com-binations and endeavours will notbe more sorrowful, more awkwardand more baneful than thosewhich we are leaving; and howshall we explain that these havecome about after so many millions

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    DEATHof otherswhich should have openedthe eyes of the genius of infinity ?It is idle to persuade ourselves,as Hindu wisdom would, that oursorrows are but illusions and ap-pearances : it is none the less truethat they make us very reallyunhappy. Has the universe else-where a more complete conscious-ness, a more just and sereneprinciple of thought than on thisearth and in the worlds which weperceive? And, if it be true thatit has somewhere attained that bet-ter thought, why does the thoughtthat presides over the destinies ofour earth not profit by it? Couldno communication be possiblebetween worlds which must havebeen born of the same idea andare steeped in it? What wouldbe the mystery of that isolation ?

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    DEATHAre we to believe that the earthmarks the most advanced stageand the most favoured experi-ment? What, then, can thethought of the universe have doneand against what darkness mustit have struggled, to have comeno farther than this ? But, onthe other hand, can it have beenstayed by that darkness or bythose obstacles which, being un-able to arise from any elsewhere,can but have sprung from itself?Who then could have set thoseinsoluble problems to infinity andfrom what more remote and pro-found region than itself wouldthey have issued? Some one,after all, must know what theyask; and, as behind infinitythere can be none that is notinfinity itself, it is impossible to

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    DEATHimagine a malignant will in awill that leaves no point aroundit but what it fills entirely. Orare the experiments begun in thestars continued mechanically, byvirtue of the force acquired, with-out regard to their uselessnessand to their pitiful consequences,according to the custom of nature,which knows nothing of our par-simony and squanders the sunsin space as it does the seed onearth, knowing that nothing canbe lost? Or, again, is the wholequestion of our peace and happi-ness, like that of the fate of theworlds, reduced to knowingwhether or not the infinity ofendeavours and combinations beequal to that of eternity? Or,lastly, to come to the greatestprobability, is it we who deceive

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    DEATHourselves, who know nothing,who see nothing and who con-sider imperfect that which is per-haps faultless, we, who are butan infinitesimal fragment of theintelligence which we judge withthe aid of the little shreds ofthought which it has vouchsafedto lend us?

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    DEATHat the moment when

    theyare

    stopped by an object of the natureof those which his eye is accus-tomed to see upon this earth :were it otherwise, the whole spacefilled with innumerable suns andboundless forces, instead of beingan abyss of absolute darknesswhich absorbs and extinguishesthe clusters of beams that shootacross it from every side, wouldbe but a prodigious, untenableocean of flashes. Shakespeare'sfamous lines :"There are more things in heaven and earth,

    Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    have long since become utterlyinadequate. There are no longermore things than our philosophycan dream of or imagine : thereis none but things which it cannot

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    DEATHdegree whatsoever,

    in the small-est conceivable respect, the pres-ent state of the universe and tosay, as long as we are men,whether it follows a straight lineor describes an immense circle,whether it is growing wiser ormadder, whether it is advancingtowards the eternity which has noend or retracing its steps towardsthat which had no beginning.Our sole privilege within our tinyconfines is to struggle towards thatwhich appears to us the best andto remain heroically persuadedthat no part of what we dowithin those confines can everbe wholly lost.

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    a$r-%

    XXXIT IS NOT NECESSARY TO ANSWER

    THEM

    UT let not all theseinsoluble questions drive ustowards fear. From the point ofview of our future beyond thegrave, it is in no way necessarythat we should have an answerto everything. Whether the uni-verse have already found its con-sciousness, whether it find it oneday or see it everlastingly, it couldnot exist for the purpose of beingunhappy and of suffering, neitherin its entirety, nor in any one ofits parts; and it matters little if

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    DEATHthe latter be invisible or incom-mensurable, considering that thesmallest is as great as the greatestin what has neither limit normeasure. To torture a point isthe same thing as to torture theworlds; and, if it torture theworlds, it is its own substancethat it tortures. Its very destiny,in which we are placed, protectsus. Our sufferings there couldbe but ephemeral ; and nothingmatters that is not eternal. Itis possible, although somewhatincomprehensible, that partsshould err and go astray; but itis

    impossiblethat sorrow should

    be one of its lasting and necessarylaws ; for it would have broughtthat law to bear against itself.In like manner, the universe isand must be its own law and its

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    DEATHsole master: if not, the law orthe master whom it must obeywould then be the universe ; andthe centre of a word which wepronounce without being able tograsp its scope would be simplydisplaced. If it be unhappy,that means that it wills its ownunhappiness ; if it will its un-happiness, it is mad; and, if itappear to us mad, that meansthat our reason works contraryto everything and to the onlylaws possible, seeing that theyare eternal, or, to speak morehumbly, that it judges what itwholly fails to understand.

    -J IOI {-

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    . XXXIEVERYTHING MUST FINISH EXEMPT

    FROM SUFFERING

    VERYTHING, therefore,must finish, or perhaps everythingalready is, if not in a state of hap-piness, at least in a state exemptfrom all suffering, all anxiety, alllasting unhappiness ; and what,after all, is our happiness uponthis earth, if it be not the absence ofsorrow, anxiety and unhappiness?But it is childish to talk ofhappiness and unhappiness whereinfinity is in question. The ideawhich we entertain of happinessand unhappiness is something so

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    DEATHspecial, so human, so fragile thatit does not exceed our stature andfalls to dust as soon as we gobeyond its little sphere. It pro-ceeds entirely from a few accidentsof our nerves, which are made toappreciate very slight happenings,but which could as easily havefelt everything the reverse wayand taken pleasure in that whichis now pain. We believe thatwe see nothing hanging over usbut catastrophes, deaths, tormentsand disasters ; we shiver at themere thought of the great inter-planetary spaces, with their coldand formidable and gloomy soli-tudes ; and we imagine that therevolving worlds are as unhappyas ourselves because they freeze, orclash together, or are consumedin unutterable flames. We infer

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    DEATHfrom this that the genius of theuniverse is an outrageous tyrant,seized with a monstrous madness,and that it delights only in thetorture of itself and all that itcontains. To millions of stars,each many thousand times largerthan our sun, to nebulas whosenature and dimensions no figure,no word in our languages is ableto express, we attribute our mo-mentary sensibility, the littleephemeral and chance working ofour nerves; and we are convincedthat life there must be impossibleor appalling, because we shouldfeel too hot or too cold. It weremuch wiser to say to ourselvesthat it would need but a trifle,a few papillae more or less to ourskin, the slightest modification ofour eyes and ears, to turn the

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    DEATHcollect or

    disperse, pursueor flee

    one another : mind and matter, nolonger united by the same pitifulhazard that joined them in us,must rejoice at all that happens ;for all is but birth and re-birth,a departure into an unknown filledwith wonderful promises andmaybe an anticipation of someunutterable event. . . .

    And, should they stand still oneday, become fixed and remainmotionless, it will not be thatthey have encountered calamity,nullity or death ; but they willhave entered into a thing so fair,so

    great,so

    happyand bathed in

    such certainties that they will forever prefer it to all the prodigiouschances of an infinity whichnothing can impoverish.

    THE END

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    UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARYLos Angeles

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    43 1158 00406 5552

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