There has been very great Reason, on several Accounts, for the learned World to endeavour at settling what it was that might be said to compose personal Identity.
Mr. Lock, after having premised that the Word Person properly signifies a thinking intelligent Being that has Reason and Reflection, and can consider it self as it self; concludes That it is Consciousness alone, and not an Identity of Substance, which makes this personal Identity of Sameness. Had I the same Consciousness (says that Author) that I saw the Ark and Noah's Flood, as that I saw an Overflowing of the Thames last Winter; or as that I now write; I could no more doubt that I who write this now, that saw the Thames overflow last Winter, and that viewed the Flood at the general Deluge, was the same Self, place that Self in what Substance you please, than that I who write this am the same My self now whilst I write, (whether I consist of all the same Substance material or immaterial or no) that I was Yesterday; For as to this Point of being the same Self, it matters not whether this present Self be made up of the same or other Substances.
I was mightily pleased with a Story in some Measure applicable to this Piece of Philosophy, which I read the other Day in the Persian Tales, as they are lately very well translated by Mr. Philips; and with an Abridgement whereof I shall here present my Readers.
I shall only premise that these Stories are writ after the Eastern Manner, but somewhat more correct.
'Fadlallah, a Prince of great Virtues, succeeded his Father Bin-Ortoc, in the Kingdom of Mousel. He reigned over his faithful Subjects for some time, and lived in great Happiness with his beauteous Consort Queen Zemroude; when there appeared at his Court a young Dervis of so lively and entertaining a Turn of Wit, as won upon the Affections of every one he conversed with. His Reputation grew so fast every Day, that it at last raised a Curiosity in the Prince himself to see and talk with him. He did so, and far from finding that common Fame had flatter'd him, he was soon convinced that every thing he had heard of him fell short of the Truth.
'Fadlallah immediately lost all Manner of Relish for the Conversation of other Men; and as he was every Day more and more satisfied of the Abilities of this Stranger, offered him the first Posts in his Kingdom. The young Dervis, after having thanked him with a very singular Modesty, desired to be excused, as having made a Vow never to accept of any Employment, and preferring a free and independent State of Life to all other Conditions.
'The King was infinitely charmed with so great an Example of Moderation; and tho' he could not get him to engage in a Life of Business, made him however his chief Companion and first Favourite.
'As they were one Day hunting together, and happened to be separated from the rest of the Company, the Dervis entertained Fadlallah with an Account of his Travels and Adventures. After having related to him several Curiosities which he had seen in the Indies, It was in this Place, says he, that I contracted an Acquaintance with an old Brachman, who was skilled in the most hidden Powers of Nature: He died within my Arms, and with his parting Breath communicated to me one of the most valuable of his Secrets, on Condition I should never reveal it to any Man. The King immediately reflecting on his young Favourite's having refused the late Offers of Greatness he had made him, told him he presumed it was the Power of making Gold. No Sir, says the Dervis, it is somewhat more wonderful than that; it is the Power of re-animating a dead Body, by flinging my own Soul into it.
'While he was yet speaking a Doe came bounding by them; and the King, who had his Bow ready, shot her through the Heart; telling the Dervis, that a fair Opportunity now offered for him to show his Art. The young Man immediately left his own Body breathless on the Ground, while at the same Instant that of the Doe was re-animated, she came to the King, fawned upon him, and after having play'd several wanton Tricks, fell again upon the Grass; at the same Instant the Body of the Dervis recovered its Life. The King was infinitely pleased at so uncommon an Operation, and conjured his Friend by every thing that was sacred to communicate it to him. The Dervis at first made some Scruple of violating his Promise to the dying Brachman; but told him at last that he found he could conceal nothing from so excellent a Prince; after having obliged him therefore by an Oath to Secrecy, he taught him to repeat two Cabalistick Words, in pronouncing of which the whole Secret consisted. The King, impatient to try the Experiment, immediately repeated them as he had been taught, and in an Instant found himself in the Body of the Doe. He had but little Time to contemplate himself in this new Being; for the treacherous Dervis shooting his own Soul into the Royal Corps, and bending the Prince's own Bow against him, had laid him dead on the Spot, had not the King, who perceiv'd his Intent, fled swiftly to the Woods.
'The Dervis, now triumphant in his Villany, returned to Mousel, and filled the Throne and Bed of the unhappy Fadlallah.
'The first thing he took Care of, in order to secure himself in the Possession of his new-acquired Kingdom, was to issue out a Proclamation, ordering his Subjects to destroy all the Deer in the Realm. The King had perished among the rest, had he not avoided his Pursuers by re-animating the Body of a Nightingale which he saw lie dead at the Foot of a Tree. In this new Shape he winged his Way in Safety to the Palace, where perching on a Tree which stood near his Queen's Apartment, he filled the whole Place with so many melodious and Melancholy Notes as drew her to the Window. He had the Mortification to see that instead of being pitied, he only moved the Mirth of his Princess, and of a young Female Slave who was with her. He continued however to serenade her every Morning, 'till at last the Queen, charmed with his Harmony, sent for the Bird-catchers, and ordered them to employ their utmost Skill to put that little Creature into her Possession. The King, pleased with an Opportunity of being once more near his beloved Consort, easily suffered himself to be taken; and when he was presented to her, tho' he shewed a Fearfulness to be touched by any of the other Ladies, flew of his own Accord, and hid himself in the Queen's Bosom. Zemroude was highly pleased at the unexpected Fondness of her new Favourite, and ordered him to be kept in an open Cage in her own Apartment. He had there an Opportunity of making his Court to her every Morning, by a thousand little Actions which his Shape allowed him. The Queen passed away whole Hours every Day in hearing and playing with him. Fadlallah could even have thought himself happy in this State of Life, had he not frequently endured the inexpressible Torment of seeing the Dervis enter the Apartment and caress his Queen even in his Presence.
The Usurper, amidst his toying with the Princess, would often endeavour to ingratiate himself with her Nightingale; and while the enraged Fadlallah peck'd at him with his Bill, beat his Wings, and shewed all the Marks of an impotent Rage, it only afforded his Rival and the Queen new Matter for their Diversion.
Zemroude was likewise fond of a little Lap-Dog which she kept in her Apartment, and which one Night happened to die.
The King immediately found himself inclined to quit the shape of the Nightingale, and enliven this new Body. He did so, and the next Morning Zemroude saw her favourite Bird lie dead in the Cage. It is impossible to express her Grief on this Occasion, and when she called to mind all its little Actions, which even appeared to have somewhat in them like Reason, she was inconsolable for her Loss.
Her Women immediately sent for the Dervis, to come and comfort her, who after having in vain represented to her the Weakness of being grieved at such an Accident, touched at last by her repeated Complaints; Well Madam, says he, I will exert the utmost of my Art to please you. Your Nightingale shall again revive every Morning and serenade you as before. The Queen beheld him with a Look which easily shewed she did not believe him; when laying himself down on a Sofa, he shot his Soul into the Nightingale, and Zemroude was amazed to see her Bird revive.
'The King, who was a Spectator of all that passed, lying under the Shape of a Lap-Dog, in one Corner of the Room, immediately recovered his own Body, and running to the Cage with the utmost Indignation, twisted off the Neck of the false Nightingale.
'Zemroude was more than ever amazed and concerned at this second Accident, 'till the King entreating her to hear him, related to her his whole Adventure.
'The Body of the Dervis, which was found dead in the Wood, and his Edict for killing all the Deer, left her no Room to doubt of the Truth of it: But the Story adds, That out of an extream Delicacy (peculiar to the Oriental Ladies) she was so highly afflicted at the innocent Adultery in which she had for some time lived with the Dervis, that no Arguments even from Fadlallah himself could compose her Mind. She shortly after died with Grief, begging his Pardon with her last Breath for what the most rigid Justice could not have interpreted as a Crime.
'The King was so afflicted with her Death, that he left his Kingdom to one of his nearest Relations, and passed the rest of his Days in Solitude and Retirement.Translation of motto: