The Desire of knowing future Events is one of the strongest Inclinations in the Mind of Man. Indeed an Ability of foreseeing probable Accidents is what, in the Language of Men, is called Wisdom and Prudence: But, not satisfied with the Light that Reason holds out, Mankind hath endeavoured to penetrate more compendiously into Futurity. Magick, Oracles, Omens, lucky Hours, and the various Arts of Superstition, owe their Rise to this powerful Cause. As this Principle is founded in Self-Love, every Man is sure to be sollicitous in the first Place about his own Fortune, the Course of his Life, and the Time and Manner of his Death.
If we consider that we are free Agents, we shall discover the Absurdity of Enquiries. One of our Actions, which we might have performed or neglected, is the Cause of another that succeeds it, and so the whole Chain of Life is link'd together. Pain, Poverty, or Infamy, are the natural Product of vicious and imprudent Acts; as the contrary Blessings are of good ones; so that we cannot suppose our Lot to be determined without Impiety. A great Enhancement of Pleasure arises from its being unexpected; and Pain is doubled by being foreseen. Upon all these, and several other Accounts, we ought to rest satisfied in this Portion bestowed on us; to adore the Hand that hath fitted every Thing to our Nature, and hath not more display'd his Goodness in our Knowledge than in our Ignorance.
It is not unworthy Observation, that superstitious Enquiries into future Events prevail more or less, in proportion to the Improvement of liberal Arts and useful Knowledge in the several Parts of the World. Accordingly we find, that magical Incantations remain in Lapland, in the more remote Parts of Scotland they have their second Sight, and several of our own Countrymen see abundance of Fairies. In Asia this Credulity is strong; and the greatest Part of refined Learning there consists in the Knowledge of Amulets, Talismans, occult Numbers, and the like.
While I was at Grand Cairo, I fell into the Acquaintance of a good-natured Mussulman, who promised me many good Offices, which he designed to do me when he became the Prime Minister, which was a Fortune bestowed on his Imagination by a Doctor very deep in the curious Sciences. At his repeated Sollicitations I went to learn my Destiny of this wonderful Sage. For a small Sum I had his Promise, but was requir'd to wait in a dark Apartment till he had run thro' the preparatory Ceremonies. Having a strong Propensity, even then, to Dreaming, I took a Nap upon the Sofa where I was placed, and had the following Vision, the Particulars whereof I picked up the other Day among my Papers.
I found my self in an unbounded Plain, where methought the whole World, in several Habits and with different Tongues, was assembled. The Multitude glided swiftly along, and I found in my self a strong Inclination to mingle in the Train. My Eyes quickly singled out some of the most splendid Figures. Several in rich Caftans and glittering Turbans bustled through the Throng, and trampled over the Bodies of those they threw down; till to my great Surprize I found that the great Pace they went only hastened them to a Scaffold or a Bowstring. Many beautiful Damsels on the other Side moved forward with great Gaiety; some danced till they fell all along; and others painted their Faces till they lost their Noses. A Tribe of Creatures with busie Looks falling into a Fit of Laughter at the Misfortunes of the unhappy Ladies, I turn'd my Eyes upon them. They were each of them filling his Pockets with Gold and Jewels, and when there was no Room left for more, these Wretches looking round with Fear and Horror, pined away before my Face with Famine and Discontent.
This Prospect of human Misery struck me dumb for some Miles. Then it was that, to disburthen my Mind, I took Pen and Ink, and did every Thing that hath since happen'd under my Office of SPECTATOR. While I was employing my self for the Good of Mankind, I was surpriz'd to meet with very unsuitable Returns from my Fellow-Creatures. Never was poor Author so beset with Pamphleteers, who sometimes marched directly against me, but oftner shot at me from strong Bulwarks, or rose up suddenly in Ambush. They were of all Characters and Capacities, some with Ensigns of Dignity, and others in Liveries; but what most surpriz'd me, was to see two or three in black Gowns among my Enemies. It was no small Trouble to me, sometimes to have a Man come up to me with an angry Face, and reproach me for having lampooned him, when I had never seen or heard of him in my Life. With the Ladies it was otherwise: Many became my Enemies for not being particularly pointed out; as there were others who resented the Satyr which they imagined I had directed against them. My great Comfort was in the Company of half a Dozen Friends, who, I found since, were the Club which I have so often mentioned in my Papers. I laughed often at Sir Roger in my Sleep, and was the more diverted with Will Honeycomb's Gallantries, (when we afterwards became acquainted) because I had foreseen his Marriage with a Farmer's Daughter. The Regret which arose in my Mind upon the Death of my Companions, my Anxieties for the Publick, and the many Calamities still fleeting before my Eyes, made me repent my Curiosity; when the Magician entered the Room, and awakened me, by telling me (when it was too late) that he was just going to begin.
N. B. I have only deliver'd the Prophecy of that Part of my Life which is past, it being inconvenient to divulge the second Part 'till a more proper Opportunity.Translation of motto: