“William, will you give me your idea of death?” “I can give you my opinion, but you would say an opinion is no proof, and therefore is of no force.” “Well, tell me what you think.” “Well, if you want me to tell you what I have no proof of and what is only my opinion, I suppose I can do it if it will be of any use. You remember when I was sick in bed and one night when you were sitting by me, you know I was very weak, and you all thought I was worse and I thought so. Mother thought I would die, and I thought sometimes that I should; but don't you remember that I told you to put me to sleep?” “Yes.” “Well, that was to get rid of that feeling, and when I went to sleep I felt a little nervous, I suppose, and I had a dream that I never told of before because it troubled the family and it made them feel badly. I dreamed that I was dead and you wanted me to go to Bangor and stay till the trouble was over, and I seemed to go there, but I knew all about it. But as it was a dream, and the association made me feel so badly, I could never speak of it to mother, for it seemed they had the same dream, so I kept it to myself.” “How long did you sleep?” “Till the trouble was over, and when I woke up, it seemed like a reality.” “Did you have any sort of knowledge in this sleep of your opinion while awake?” “Yes, I reasoned I was with you, just as you and I used to be when you would talk me to sleep before, but I never was conscious before of the idea of death having so much effect on a person. For I could reason with myself, and I am satisfied if I had been taught to believe as some people do, my belief would have governed my dream, and I should have been ten times more unhappy; for when I woke up it did not affect me so long, from the fact that I knew it was only an opinion. And you say that is no proof, and I always remembered that. But I know how to pity those who take an opinion for a truth, for an opinion is as real to the person who believes it as though it were true.
“As I have reasoned myself into the belief that man never dies, I shall not try to give myself any trouble about others' beliefs. If people believe that they die and their spirits come back and talk with their friends, I have no doubt but what they do. But it is their opinion, and that is of no consequence except to lessen their belief that there is such a state as death; perhaps it gives them some happiness. But as far as I am concerned I am satisfied with my belief.” “Suppose I should believe that you were dead?” “Suppose that you should, would that make it so?” “No.” “Suppose I should believe that you were dead, what would you say to that?” “I should say, if I knew anything, I know I am alive.” “Well, can't you be as charitable toward another as you would like them to be towards you?” “Yes, but I can't believe that you are dead.” “Did you ever know a dead man to speak?” “No, but you know that we all believe that the body dies and the soul lives.” “Yes, but did you ever see a soul?” “No.” “Then why do you believe the soul lives when you say an opinion is of no force?” “Have you any proof that a person is alive when you see him dead?” “No, only my belief.” “You say that your belief is of no force, for it contains no proof, is it not so?” “Yes.” “Well, suppose I admit that I am dead, will that make you any better satisfied?” “No.” “Well, what shall I admit?” “I don't know, but I wish I really knew that I was talking to you.” “Don't you believe your own senses?” “Certainly, but you don't come within my senses.” “Why not?” “Because I can't see you.” “Then because you think you can't see me, I am dead?” “Yes.” “Can you see John?” “No.” “How do you know?” “I think he is alive.” “That is nothing but an opinion which you say is of no force.” “Will you give me your opinion about it?” “I have no opinion about it. I know that I am here now, and that is all I care about it. If I am dead, it is news to me. I don't know any more about it than Lucius knew when he was asleep, that he was asleep. So if death is only a mesmeric sleep, it is not much to go through.”