XXXII. (113) Thus, therefore, putting all these things together, God appropriated the dominion over them all to himself, but the use and enjoyment of themselves and of each other he allowed to those who are subject to him; for we have the complete use of our own faculties and of everything which affects us: I therefore, consisting of soul and body, and appearing to have a mind, and reason, and outward sense, find that not one of all these things is my own property. (114) For where was my body before my birth? and where will it go when I am departed? And what becomes of the differences of age of that being which at present appears to exist? Where is now the infant?–where the child?–where the boy?–where the youth just arriving at the age of puberty?–where the young man?–where is he now whose beard is just budding, the vigorous and perfect man? Whence came the soul, and whither will it go? and how long will it remain with us? and what is its essence, or what may we speak of as such? Moreover, when did we acquire it? Was it before our birth?–But then we ourselves did not exist. Shall we have it after our death?–But then we shall not exist, we who are now a combination of distinctive qualities in combination with our bodies; but rather we shall then be hastening to a regeneration, becoming in combination with incorporeal beings: (115) and now, when we are alive we are governed rather than governing, and we are understood ourselves rather than understanding anything else; for our soul understands us without being understood by us, and it imposes commands upon us which we are necessitated to obey, as servants are compelled to obey a mistress; and whenever it chooses to abandon us and to depart to the Ruler of all things, it will depart, leaving our house destitute of life. And even if we attempt to compel it to remain, it will disappear; for its nature is composed of unsubstantial parts, such as afford no handle to the body.
XXXIII. (116) But the mind is my peculiar place of abode. Is this the language of the mistaken conjecturer, of the former of erroneous opinions, of the man out of his mind, of the fool, of him who is found to be destitute of his senses through a trance, or through melancholy, or from old age? Will any one then say, reason is my possession, or the organs of voice are my possession? Has not a very slight pretext of disease disabled the voice? has it now sewn up the mouths of even very eloquent men? Has not an expectation of danger, when it has come upon men, rendered myriads speechless? (117) And in truth I am not found to be the governor of the outward senses, or perhaps I may even turn out to be their slave, following where they lead me, to colours, to shapes, to sounds, to smells, to flavours, or to other kinds of substances. By all which I think it is shown that we have the use of possessions which in reality belong to others, and that neither glory, nor riches, nor honours, nor authority, nor anything else which concerns our bodies or souls is really our own, nor indeed even life itself. (118) But having the use of these things, if we are judicious and prudent, we shall take care of them as possessions of God, being well aware beforehand that it is the law, that the master, whenever he pleases, may reclaim his own property. For by these considerations we shall diminish our grief for the deprivation of such things. But now, men in general, thinking that every thing is really their own property, are in a moment afflicted with extraordinary grief at the absence or loss of any thing. (119) It is, therefore, not only true, but a thing also which most especially tends to consolation, to consider that the world and all the things in the world are the works and the property of him who created them. And his own work, he who is its real possessor, gives to others, because he has no need of it himself. But he who uses it has no property in it, because there is one Lord and master of all things, who says most truly, “All the earth is mine,” a saying which is equivalent to–every created thing is mine; and “he are all strangers and sojourners in my sight.”