And so I looked, and after all, The sky was not so very tall. The sky, I said, must somewhere stop… And—sure enough! And reaching up my hand to try, I screamed, to feel it touch the sky. I screamed, and—lo!
I saw and heard, and knew at last The How and Why of all things, past, And present, and forevermore. The Universe, cleft to the core, Lay open to my probing sense, That, sickening, I would fain pluck thence But could not,—nay! All sin was of my sinning, all Atoning mine, and mine the gall Of all regret. Mine was the weight Of every brooded wrong, the hate That stood behind each envious thrust, Mine every greed, mine every lust. And all the while, for every grief, Each suffering, I craved relief With individual desire; Craved all in vain!
And felt fierce fire About a thousand people crawl; Perished with each,—then mourned for all! A man was starving in Capri; He moved his eyes and looked at me; I felt his gaze, I heard his moan, And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank Between two ships that struck and sank; A thousand screams the heavens smote; And every scream tore through my throat. No hurt I did not feel, no death That was not mine; mine each last breath That, crying, met an answering cry From the compassion that was I. All suffering mine, and mine its rod; Mine, pity like the pity of God. Ah, awful weight! Infinity Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird, Beating against my lips I heard; Yet lay the weight so close about There was no room for it without. And so beneath the weight lay I And suffered death, but could not die. Long had I lain thus, craving death, When quietly the earth beneath Gave way, and inch by inch, so great At last had grown the crushing weight, Into the earth I sank till I Full six feet under ground did lie, And sank no more,—there is no weight Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll, And as it went my tortured soul Burst forth and fled in such a gust That all about me swirled the dust. Deep in the earth I rested now. Cool is its hand upon the brow And soft its breast beneath the head Of one who is so gladly dead.
The rain, I said, is kind to come And speak to me in my new home. I would I were alive again To kiss the fingers of the rain, To drink into my eyes the shine Of every slanting silver line, To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze From drenched and dripping apple-trees. For soon the shower will be done, And then the broad face of the sun Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth Until the world with answering mirth Shakes joyously, and each round drop Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
How can I bear it, buried here, While overhead the sky grows clear And blue again after the storm? Spring-silver, autumn-gold, That I shall never more behold! O God, I cried, give me new birth, And put me back upon the earth! I ceased; and through the breathless hush That answered me, the far-off rush Of herald wings came whispering Like music down the vibrant string Of my ascending prayer, and—crash!
And the big rain in one black wave Fell from the sky and struck my grave. I know not how such things can be; I only know there came to me A fragrance such as never clings To aught save happy living things; A sound as of some joyous elf Singing sweet songs to please himself, And, through and over everything, A sense of glad awakening.
And as I looked a quickening gust Of wind blew up to me and thrust Into my face a miracle Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,— I know not how such things can be! Up then from the ground sprang I And hailed the earth with such a cry As is not heard save from a man Who has been dead, and lives again. Thou canst not move across the grass But my quick eyes will see Thee pass, Nor speak, however silently, But my hushed voice will answer Thee. I know the path that tells Thy way Through the cool eve of every day; God, I can push the grass apart And lay my finger on Thy heart!
The world stands out on either side No wider than the heart is wide; Above the world is stretched the sky,— No higher than the soul is high. Muhammad Shakir And you shall not escape in the earth nor in the heaven, and you have neither a protector nor a helper besides Allah. Pickthall Ye cannot escape from Him in the earth or in the sky, and beside Allah there is for you no friend or helper.
Qaribullah You are not able to frustrate Him either in the earth or heaven, nor have you, other than Allah, a guardian or helper. Sahih Intl And you will not cause failure [to Allah] upon the earth or in the heaven. And you have not other than Allah any protector or any helper. Talal Itani You cannot escape, on earth or in the heaven; and you have no protector and no savior besides God.
To this class of objects seem to belong corporeal nature in general and its extension; the figure of extended things, their quantity or magnitude, and their number, as also the place in, and the time during, which they exist, and other things of the same sort. We will not, therefore, perhaps reason illegitimately if we conclude from this that Physics, Astronomy, Medicine, and all the other sciences that have for their end the consideration of composite objects, are indeed of a doubtful character; but that Arithmetic, Geometry, and the other sciences of the same class, which regard merely the simplest and most general objects, and scarcely inquire whether or not these are really existent, contain somewhat that is certain and indubitable: for whether I am awake or dreaming, it remains true that two and three make five, and that a square has but four sides; nor does it seem possible that truths so apparent can ever fall under a suspicion of falsity [or incertitude].
Nevertheless, the belief that there is a God who is all powerful, and who created me, such as I am, has, for a long time, obtained steady possession of my mind. How, then, do I know that he has not arranged that there should be neither earth, nor sky, nor any extended thing, nor figure, nor magnitude, nor place, providing at the same time, however, for [the rise in me of the perceptions of all these objects, and] the persuasion that these do not exist otherwise than as I perceive them?
And further, as I sometimes think that others are in error respecting matters of which they believe themselves to possess a perfect knowledge, how do I know that I am not also deceived each time I add together two and three, or number the sides of a square, or form some judgment still more simple, if more simple indeed can be imagined? But perhaps Deity has not been willing that I should be thus deceived, for he is said to be supremely good.
If, however, it were repugnant to the goodness of Deity to have created me subject to constant deception, it would seem likewise to be contrary to his goodness to allow me to be occasionally deceived; and yet it is clear that this is permitted. And as for knowing the truths of mathematics, there are a lot of people who seem absolutely certain of things that I know to be false.
If we think that a good God can allow us to be wrong sometimes - and we must allow this because clearly we can be wrong sometimes — why not think that a good God can allow us to be wrong most of the time, or even all the time? Some, indeed, might perhaps be found who would be disposed rather to deny the existence of a Being so powerful than to believe that there is nothing certain.
But let us for the present refrain from opposing this opinion, and grant that all which is here said of a Deity is fabulous: nevertheless, in whatever way it be supposed that I reach the state in which I exist, whether by fate, or chance, or by an endless series of antecedents and consequents, or by any other means, it is clear since to be deceived and to err is a certain defect that the probability of my being so imperfect as to be the constant victim of deception, will be increased exactly in proportion as the power possessed by the cause, to which they assign my origin, is lessened.
To these reasonings I have assuredly nothing to reply, but am constrained at last to avow that there is nothing of all that I formerly believed to be true of which it is impossible to doubt, and that not through thoughtlessness or levity, but from cogent and maturely considered reasons; so that henceforward, if I desire to discover anything certain, I ought not the less carefully to refrain from assenting to those same opinions than to what might be shown to be manifestly false.
What if I choose not to believe in God? So either way all of your beliefs could be wrong. So, at this point, Descartes has rejected sense experience as a source of foundational belief. This makes him a rationalist. Rationalism is a school of epistemology characterized by its distrust of sense of experience and preference for pure reason as the source of justified belief. But it is not sufficient to have made these observations; care must be taken likewise to keep them in remembrance.
For those old and customary opinions perpetually recur-- long and familiar usage giving them the right of occupying my mind, even almost against my will, and subduing my belief; nor will I lose the habit of deferring to them and confiding in them so long as I shall consider them to be what in truth they are, viz, opinions to some extent doubtful, as I have already shown, but still highly probable, and such as it is much more reasonable to believe than deny. It is for this reason I am persuaded that I shall not be doing wrong, if, taking an opposite judgment of deliberate design, I become my own deceiver, by supposing, for a time, that all those opinions are entirely false and imaginary, until at length, having thus balanced my old by my new prejudices, my judgment shall no longer be turned aside by perverted usage from the path that may conduct to the perception of truth.
For I am assured that, meanwhile, there will arise neither peril nor error from this course, and that I cannot for the present yield too much to distrust, since the end I now seek is not action but knowledge. Second, we correctly recognize that most of the beliefs that we can doubt are, nonetheless, actually true.
This is an important passage to remember when you read the rest of Descartes. Descartes will pretend that certain beliefs are false as part of a larger project of self re-education. He does not actually think that these beliefs are false and he is not crazy. But what if he had been crazy? What effect, if any, would that have on the philosophical validity of what he said?
I will suppose, then, not that Deity, who is sovereignly good and the fountain of truth, but that some malignant demon, who is at once exceedingly potent and deceitful, has employed all his artifice to deceive me; I will suppose that the sky, the air, the earth, colors, figures, sounds, and all external things, are nothing better than the illusions of dreams, by means of which this being has laid snares for my credulity; I will consider myself as without hands, eyes, flesh, blood, or any of the senses, and as falsely believing that I am possessed of these; I will continue resolutely fixed in this belief, and if indeed by this means it be not in my power to arrive at the knowledge of truth, I shall at least do what is in my power, viz, [ suspend my judgment ], and guard with settled purpose against giving my assent to what is false, and being imposed upon by this deceiver, whatever be his power and artifice.
But this undertaking is arduous, and a certain indolence insensibly leads me back to my ordinary course of life; and just as the captive, who, perchance, was enjoying in his dreams an imaginary liberty, when he begins to suspect that it is but a vision, dreads awakening, and conspires with the agreeable illusions that the deception may be prolonged; so I, of my own accord, fall back into the train of my former beliefs, and fear to arouse myself from my slumber, lest the time of laborious wakefulness that would succeed this quiet rest, in place of bringing any light of day, should prove inadequate to dispel the darkness that will arise from the difficulties that have now been raised.
This is a classic thought experiment. Of course, under the Evil Demon assumption, the Evil Demon exists, so at least you can know that, right?