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XI

ANNIHILATION IMPOSSIBLE

HERE we stand before the abyss. It is void of all the dreams with which our fathers peopled it. They thought that they knew what was there; we know only what is not there. It has enlarged itself with all that we have learnt to know nothing of. While waiting for a scientific certainty to break through its darkness  –  for man has the right to hope for that which he does not yet conceive  –  the only point that interests us, because it is situated in the little circle which our actual intelligence traces in the thickest blackness of the night, is to know whether the unknown for which we are bound will be dreadful or not.

Outside the religions, there are four imaginable solutions and no more: total annihilation; survival with our consciousness of to-day; survival without any sort of consciousness; lastly, survival with universal consciousness different from that which we possess in this world.

Total annihilation is impossible. We are the prisoners of an infinity without outlet, wherein nothing perishes, wherein everything is dispersed, but nothing lost. Neither a body nor a thought can drop out of the universe, out of time and space. Not an atom of our flesh, not a quiver of our nerves will go where they will cease to be, for there is no place where anything ceases to be. The brightness of a star extinguished millions of years ago still wanders in the ether where our eyes will perhaps behold it this very night, pursuing its endless road. It is the same with all that we see, as with all that we do not see. To be able to do away with a thing, that is to say, to fling it into nothingness, nothingness would have to exist; and, if it exist, under whatever form, it is no longer nothingness. As soon as we try to analyze it, to define it, or to understand it, thoughts and expressions fail us, or create that which they are struggling to deny. It is as contrary to the nature of our reason and probably of all imaginable reason to conceive nothingness as to conceive limits to infinity. Nothingness, besides, is but a negative infinity, a sort of infinity of darkness opposed to that which our intelligence strives to enlighten, or rather it is but a child-name or nickname which our mind has bestowed upon that which it has not attempted to embrace, for we call nothingness all that which escapes our senses or our reason and exists without our knowledge. The more that human thought rises and increases, the less comprehensible does nothingness become. In any case  –  and this is what matters here  –  if nothingness were possible, since it could not be anything whatever, it could not be dreadful.


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