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XIII
IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE

THIS ego, as we conceive it when we reflect upon the consequences of its destruction, this ego is neither our mind nor our body, since we recognize that both are waves that flow away and are renewed incessantly. Is it an immovable point, which could not be form or substance, for these are always in evolution, nor life, which is the cause or effect of form and substance? In truth, it is impossible for us to apprehend or define it, to tell where it dwells. When we try to go back to its last source, we find hardly more than a succession of memories, a series of ideas, confused, for that matter, and unsettled, attached to the one instinct of living: a series of habits of our sensibility and of conscious or unconscious reactions against the surrounding phenomena. When all is said, the most steadfast point of that nebula is our memory, which seems, on the other hand, to be a somewhat external, a somewhat accessory faculty and, in any case, one of the frailest faculties of our brain, one of those which disappear the most promptly at the least disturbance of our health. "As an English poet has very truly said, that which clamours aloud for eternity is the very part of me that will perish."

It matters not: that uncertain, indiscernible, fleeting and precarious ego is so much the centre of our being, interests us so exclusively, that every reality of our llfe disappears before this phantom. It is a matter of utter indifference to us that throughout eternity our body or its substance should know every joy and every glory, undergo the most splendid and delightful transformations, become flower, perfume, beauty, light, air, star; it is likewise indifferent to ns that our intellect should expand until it mixes with the life of the worlds, understands and governs it. We are persuaded that all this will not affect us, will give us no pleasure, will not happen to ourselves, unless that memory of a few almost always insignificant facts accompany us and witness those unimaginable joys.

"I care not," says this narrow ego, in its firm resolve to understand nothing. "I care not if the loftiest, the freest, the fairest portions of my mind be eternally living and radiant in the supreme gladnesses: they are no longer mine; I do not know them. Death has cut the network of nerves or memories that connected them with I know not what centre wherein lies the sensitive point which I feel to be all myself. They are now set loose, floating in space and time, and their fate is as unknown to me as that of the most distant constellations. Anything that occurs exists for me only upon condition that I be able to recall it within that mysterious being which is I know not where and precisely nowhere, which I turn like a mirror about this world whose phenomena take shape only in so far as they are reflected in it."

Let us then consider that all that composes our consciousness comes first of all from our body. Our mind does but organize that which is supplied by our senses; and even the images and words – which in reality are but images by the aid of which it strives to tear itself from those senses and deny their sway are borrowed from them. How could that mind remain what it was when there is nothing left to it of that which formed it? When our mind no longer has a body, what shall it carry with it into infinity whereby to recognize itself, seeing that it knows itself only by grace of that body? A few memories of a life in common? Will those memories, which were already fading in this world, suffice to separate it for ever from the rest of the universe, in boundless space and in unlimited time?


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