And such is my fortune also. Every now and then there appear to me emissaries, sent by Satan, who try to persuade me that I am Count P of M, and that I ought to betake myself to the life of Courts, and all sorts of unholiness. Were it not for the efficacy of prayer, I should take these people by the shoulders, turn them out of my little garden, and carefully barricade it against them.
But I need not do so in your case; for you are, most unmistakably, the very feeblest of all the adversaries who have ever come to me, and I can vanquish you with your own weapons—those of ratiocination. It is insanity that is in question be I ween us. But if one of us two is suffering from that sad malady, it is evident that jyoa are so in a much greater degree than I. You maintain that it is a case of Fixed Idea that I believe myself to be Serapion the martyr—and I am quite aware that many persons hold the same opinion, or pretend that they do.
Now, if I am really insane, none but a lunatic can think that he could argue me out of the Fixed Idea which insanity has engendered in me.
Were such a proceeding possible, there would soon be no madmen on the face of the earth, for men would be able to rule, and command, their mental power, which is not their own, but merely lent to them for a time by that Higher Power which disposes of them. But if I am not mad, and if I am really Serapion the martyr, it is insane to set about arguing me out of that, and leading me to adopt the fixed idea.
You say that Serapion the martyr lived several centuries ago, and that, consequently, I cannot be that martyr, presumably for the reason that human beings cannot remain so long on this earth. Well, as regards this, the notion of time is just as relative a notion as that of number; and I may say to you that, according to the notion of time which I have in me, it is scarcely three hours (or whatever appellation you may choose to give to the divisions of time) since I was put to martyrdom by the Emperor Decius.
But, leaving this on one side, can you assert, in opposition to me, that a life of such length as I say I have lived, is unexampled and contrary to human nature? Have you cognizance of the precise length of the life of every human being who has existed in all this wide world, that you can employ the expression “unexampled” in this pert and decisive manner? Do you compare God’s omnipotence to the wretched art of the clockmaker, who can’t save his lifeless machinery from destruction? You say this place where we are is not the Theban desert, but a little woodland district eight miles from B, daily frequented by country folk, sportsmen and others. Prove that to me.’
“Here I thought I had my man.
“ ‘Come with me,’ said I, ‘and in a couple of hours we shall be in B, and what I assert will be proved.’
“ ‘Poor blinded fool,’ said Serapion. ‘What a wide distance lies between us! But put the case that I went with you to some town which you call; would you be able to convince me that we had been traveling for two hours only, and the place we had arrived at was really? If I were to assert that you were insane, and suppose the Theban desert is a little bit of wooded country, and far away Alexandria the town of in the south of Germany, what would you say in reply?