THE STONE OF THE WISE MEN 541
—you will not be able to pronounce it, and therefore it may remain unmentioned. He knew everything that a man on earth can know or can get to know ; every invention which had already been or which was yet to be made was known to him ; but nothing more, for everything in the world has its limits. The wise King Solomon was only half as wise as he, and yet he was very wise, and governed the powers of nature, and held sway over potent spirits : yea, Death itself was obliged to give him every morning a list of those who were to die during the day. But King Solomon himself was obliged to die too ; and this thought it was which often in the deepest manner employed the inquirer, the mighty lord in the castle on the Tree of the Sun. He also, however high he might tower above men in wisdom, must die one day. He knew that he and his children also must fade away like the leaves of the forest, and become dust. He saw the human race fade away like the leaves on the tree ; saw new men come to fill their places ; but the leaves that fell off never sprouted forth again—they fell to dust or were transformed into other parts of plants.
' What happens to man,' the wise man asked himself, ' when the angel of death touches him ? What may death be ? The body is dissolved. And the soul ? Yes, what is the soul ? whither doth it go ? To eternal life, says the comforting voice of religion ; but what is the transition ? where does one live and how ? Above, in heaven, says the pious man, thither we go. Thither ? ' repeated the wise man, and fixed his eyes upon the sun and the stars ; ' up yonder ? '
But he saw, from the earthly ball, that up and down were one and the same, according as one stood here or there on the rolling globe ; and even if he mounted as high as the loftiest mountains of earth rear their heads, to the air which we below call clear and transparent—the pure heaven—a black darkness spread abroad like a cloth, and the sun had a coppery glow and sent forth no rays, and our earth lay wrapped in an orange-coloured mist. How narrow were the limits of the bodily eye, and how little the eye of the soul could see !—how little did even the wisest know of that which is the most important to us all!
In the most secret chamber of the castle lay the greatest