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is unknown, no being, not omniscient, can arrive at certainty.” “ Yet let us not," said the astronomer,
too arrogantly limit the Creator's power.”
“ It is no limitation of omnipotence,” replied the poet, " to suppose that one thing is not consistent with another, that the same proposition cannot be at once true and false, that the same number cannot be even and odd, that cogitation cannot be conferred on that which is created incapable of cogitation.”
“ I know not,” said Nekayah," any great nise of this question. Does that immateriality, which, in my opinion, you have sufficiently proved, necessarily include eternal duration?"
“ Of immateriality,” said Imlac, “our ideas are negative, and therefore obscure. Immateriality seems to imply a natural power of perpetual duration, as a consequence of exemption from all causes of decay : whatever perishes is destroyed by the solution of its contexture, and separation of its parts; mind possesses the idea of a pyramid, and therefore admits no solution, can be naturally corrupted or impaired.”
I know not,” said Rasse las, “how to conceive any thing without extension : what is extended must have parts, and you will allow that whatever has parts may be destroyed."
“ Consider your own conceptions,” replied Imlac, " and the difficulty will be less. You will find sub-' stance without extension. An ideal form is no less real than material bulk; yet an ideal form has no extension. It is no less certain, when you think on a
pyramid, nor can we conceive how that which has no parts, than the pyramid itself is standing. What space does the idea of a pyramid occupy more than the idea of a grain of corn? or how can either idea suffer laceration? As is the effect such is the cause, as thought, such is the power that thinks, a power impassive and indiscernible.”
“ But the Being,” said Nekayah," whom I fear to name, the Being which made the soul can destroy it."
“ He surely can destroy it,” answered Imlac, "since, however unperishable, it receives from a superior nature its power of duratiòn. That it will not perish by any inherent cause of decay, or principle of corruption, may be shown by philosophy; but philosophy can tell
That it will not be annihilated by him that made it, we must humbly learn from higher authority."
The whole assembly stood a while silent and collected. “Let us return,” said Rasselas," from this scene of mortality. How gloomy would be these mansions of the dead to him who did not know that he should never die; that what now acts shall continue its agency, and what now thinks shall think on for ever. Those that lie here stretched before us, the wise and the powerful of ancient times, warn us to remember the shortness of our present state: they were, perhaps, snatched away while they were busy, like us, in the choice of life.”
“ To me,” said the Princess, “ the choice of life is · become less important; I hope hereafter to think only on the choice of eternity.”
They then hastened out of the caverns, and, under the protection of their guard, returned to Cairo.
The Conclusion, in which nothing is concluded.
was now the time of the inundation of the Nile : a few days after their visit to the catacombs the river began to rise.
They were confined to their house. The whole region being under water, gave them no invitation to any excursions, and being well supplied with materials for talk, they diverted themselves with comparisons of the different forms of life which they had observed, and with various schemes of happiness, which each of them had formed.
Pekuah was never so much charmed with any place as the convent of St Anthony, where the Arab restored her to the Princess, and wished only to fill it with pious maidens, and to be made prioress of the order : she was weary of expectation and disgust, and would gladly be fixed in some unvariable state.
The Princess thought, that of all sublunary things knowledge was the best. She desired first to learn all sciences, and then purposed to found a college of learned women, in which she would preside, that, by
conversing with the old, and educating the young, she might divide her time between the acquisition and communication of wisdom, and raise up for the next age models of prudence, and patterns of piety.
The prince desired a little kingdom, in which he might administer justice in his own person, and see all the parts of government with his own eyes'; but he could never fix the limits of his dominions, and was always adding to the number of his subjects.
Imlac and the astronomer were contented to be driven along the stream of life, without directing their course to any particular port.
Of these wishes that they had formed, they well knew that none could be obtained. They deliberated a while what was to be done, and resolved, when the inundation should cease, to return to Abissinia.
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