by Edgar Allan Poe -
To the few who love me and whom I love- to those who feel rather than tothose who think- to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams as in theonly realities- I offer this Book of Truthsnot in its character ofTruth-Tellerbut for the Beauty that abounds in its Truth; constituting it true.To these I present the composition as an Art-Product alone:- let us say as aRomance; orif I be not urging too lofty a claimas a Poem.
What I here propound is true:- * therefore it cannot die:- or if by any meansit be now trodden down so that it dieit will "rise again to the LifeEverlasting." -
* In DOS versions italicized text is enclosed in chevrons . -
Nevertheless it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged after Iam dead.
E. A. P.
AN ESSAY ON THE MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE -
IT is with humility really unassumed- it is with a sentiment even of awe-that I pen the opening sentence of this work: for of all conceivable subjects Iapproach the reader with the most solemn- the most comprehensive- the mostdifficult- the most august.
What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their sublimity- sufficientlysublime in their simplicity- for the mere enunciation of my theme?
I design to speak of the PhysicalMetaphysical and Mathematical- of theMaterial and Spiritual Universe:- of its Essenceits Originits CreationitsPresent Condition and its Destiny. I shall be so rashmoreoveras to challengethe conclusionsand thusin effectto question the sagacityof many of thegreatest and most justly reverenced of men.
In the beginninglet me as distinctly as possible announce- not the theoremwhich I hope to demonstrate- forwhatever the mathematicians may assertthereisin this world at leastno such thing as demonstration- but the ruling ideawhichthroughout this volumeI shall be continually endeavoring to suggest.
My general propositionthenis this:- In the Original Unity of the FirstThing lies the Secondary Cause of All Thingswith the Germ of their InevitableAnnihilation.
In illustration of this ideaI propose to take such a survey of the Universethat the mind may be able really to receive and to perceive an individualimpression.
He who from the top of AEtna casts his eyes leisurely aroundis affectedchiefly by the extent and diversity of the scene. Only by a rapid whirling onhis heel could he hope to comprehend the panorama in the sublimity of itsoneness. But ason the summit of AEtnano man has thought of whirling on hisheelso no man has ever taken into his brain the full uniqueness of theprospect; and soagainwhatever considerations lie involved in this uniquenesshave as yet no practical existence for mankind.
I do not know a treatise in which a survey of the Universe - using the wordin its most comprehensive and only legitimate acceptation- is taken at all:- andit may be as well here to mention that by the term "Universe"wherever employed without qualification in this essayI mean to designate theutmost conceivable expanse of spacewith all thingsspiritual and materialthat can he imagined to exist within the compass of that expanse. In speaking ofwhat is ordinarily implied by the expression"Universe" I shall takea phrase of limitation- "the Universe of stars." Why this distinctionis considered necessarywill be seen in the sequel.
But even of treatises on the really limitedalthough always assumed as theun limitedUniverse of starsI know none in which a surveyeven of thislimited Universeis so taken as to warrant deductions from its individuality.The nearest approach to such a work is made in the "Cosmos" ofAlexander Von Humboldt. He presents the subjecthowevernot in itsindividuality but in its generality. His themein its last resultis the lawof each portion of the merely physical Universeas this law is related to thelaws of every other portion of this merely physical Universe. His design issimply synoeretical. In a wordhe discusses the universality of materialrelationand discloses to the eye of Philosophy whatever inferences havehitherto lain hidden behind this universality. But however admirable be thesuccinctness with which he has treated each particular point of his topicthemere multiplicity of these points occasionsnecessarilyan amount of detailand thus an involution of ideawhich preclude all individuality of impression.
It seems to me thatin aiming at this latter effectandthrough itat theconsequences- the conclusions- the suggestions- the speculations- orif nothingbetter offer itselfthe mere guesses which may result from it- we requiresomething like a mental gyration on the heel. We need so rapid a revolution ofall things about the central point of sight thatwhile the minutiae vanishaltogethereven the more conspicuous objects become blended into one. Among thevanishing minutiaein a survey of this kindwould be all exclusivelyterrestrial matters. The Earth would be considered in its planetary relationsalone. A manin this viewbecomes mankind; mankind a member of the cosmicalfamily of Intelligences.
And nowbefore proceeding to our subject properlet me beg the reader'sattention to an extract or two from a somewhat remarkable letterwhich appearsto have been found corked in a bottle and floating on the Mare Tenebrarum - anocean well described by the Nubian geographerPtolemy Hephestionbut littlefrequented in modern days unless by the Transcendentalists and some other diversfor crotchets. The date of this letterI confesssurprises me even moreparticularly than its contents; for it seems to have been written in the yeartwo thousand eight hundred and forty-eight. As for the passages I am about totranscribetheyI fancywill speak for themselves.
"Do you knowmy dear friend" says the writeraddressingnodoubta contemporary- "Do you know that it is scarcely more than eight ornine hundred years ago since the metaphysicians first consented to relieve thepeople of the singular fancy that there exist but two practicable roads to Truth?Believe it if you can! It appearshoweverthat longlong agoin the night ofTimethere lived a Turkish philosopher called Aries and surnamed Tottle."[Herepossiblythe letter-writer means Aristotle; the best names arewretchedly corrupted in two or three thousand years.] "The fame of thisgreat man depended mainly upon his demonstration that sneezing is a naturalprovisionby means of which over-profound thinkers are enabled to expelsuperfluous ideas through the nose; but he obtained a scarcely less valuablecelebrity as the founderor at all events as the principal propagatorof whatwas termed the de ductive or a priori philosophy. He started with what hemaintained to be axiomsor self-evident truths:- and the now well-understoodfact that no truths are self -evidentreally does not make in the slightestdegree against his speculations:- it was sufficient for his purpose that thetruths in question were evident at all. From axioms he proceededlogicallytoresults. His most illustrious disciples were one Tuclida geometrician" [meaningEuclid] "and one Kanta Dutchmanthe originator of that species ofTranscendentalism whichwith the change merely of a C for a Know bears hispeculiar name.
"WellAries Tottle flourished supremeuntil the advent of one Hogsurnamed 'the Ettrick shepherd' who preached an entirely different systemwhich he called the a posteriori or in ductive. His plan referred altogether tosensation. He proceeded by observinganalyzingand classifying facts-instantiae Naturaeas they were somewhat affectedly called- and arranging theminto general laws. In a wordwhile the mode of Aries rested on noumenathat ofHog depended on phenomena; and so great was the admiration excited by thislatter system thatat its first introductionAries fell into general disrepute.Finallyhoweverhe recovered groundand was permitted to divide the empire ofPhilosophy with his more modern rival:- the savans contenting themselves withproscribing all other competitorspastpresentand to come; putting an end toall controversy on the topic by the promulgation of a Median lawto the effectthat the Aristotelian and Baconian roads areand of right ought to bethe solepossible avenues to knowledge:- 'Baconian' you must knowmy dear friend"adds the letter-writer at this point"was an adjective invented asequivalent to Hog-ianand at the same time more dignified and euphonious.
"Now I do assure you most positively"- proceeds the epistle- "thatI represent these matters fairly; and you can easily understand how restrictionsso absurd on their very face must have operatedin those daysto retard theprogress of true Sciencewhich makes its most important advances- as allHistory will show- by seemingly intuitive leaps. These ancient ideas confinedinvestigation to crawling; and I need not suggest to you that crawlingamongvarieties of locomotionis a very capital thing of its kind;- but because thetortoise is sure of footfor this reason must we clip the wings of the eagles?For many centuriesso great was the infatuationabout Hog especiallythat avirtual stop was put to all thinkingproperly so called. No man dared utter atruth for which he felt himself indebted to his soul alone. It mattered notwhether the truth was even demonstrably such; for the dogmatizing philosophersof that epoch regarded only the road by which it professed to have been attained.The endwith themwas a point of no momentwhatever:- 'the means!' theyvociferated- 'let us look at the means!'- and ifon scrutiny of the meansitwas found to come neither under the category Hognor under the category Aries (whichmeans ram)why then the savans went no fartherbutcalling the thinker a fooland branding him a 'theorist' would neverthenceforwardhave any thing to doeither with him or with his truths.
"Nowmy dear friend" continues the letter-writer"it cannotbe maintained that by the crawling systemexclusively adoptedmen would arriveat the maximum amount of trutheven in any long series of ages; for therepression of imagination was an evil not to be counterbalanced even by absolutecertainty in the snail processes. But their certainty was very far from absolute.The error of our progenitors was quite analogous with that of the wiseacre whofancies he must necessarily see an object the more distinctlythe more closelyhe holds it to his eyes. They blinded themselvestoowith the impalpabletitillating Scotch snuff of detail; and thus the boasted facts of the Hog-iteswere by no means always facts- a point of little importance but for theassumption that they always were. The vital tainthoweverin Baconianism- itsmost lamentable fount of error- lay in its tendency to throw power andconsideration into the hands of merely perceptive men- of those inter-Tritonicminnowsthe microscopical savans- the diggers and pedlers of minute factsforthe most part in physical science- facts all of which they retailed at the sameprice upon the highway; their value dependingit was supposedsimply upon thefact of their factwithout reference to their applicability or inapplicabilityin the development of those ultimate and only legitimate factscalled Law.
"Than the persons"- the letter goes on to say- "than thepersons thus suddenly elevated by the Hog-ian philosophy into a station forwhich they were unfitted- thus transferred from the sculleries into the parlorsof Science- from its pantries into its pulpits- than these individuals a moreintolerant- a more intolerable set of bigots and tyrants never existed on theface of the earth. Their creedtheir text and their sermon werealikethe oneword 'fact' - butfor the most parteven of this one wordthey knew not eventhe meaning. On those who ventured to disturb their facts with the view ofputting them in order and to usethe disciples of Hog had no mercy whatever.All attempts at generalization were met at once by the words 'theoretical' 'theory''theorist'- all thoughtto be briefwas very properly resented as a personalaffront to themselves. Cultivating the natural sciences to the exclusion ofMetaphysicsthe Mathematicsand Logicmany of these Bacon-engenderedphilosophers- one-ideadone-sided and lame of a leg- were more wretchedlyhelpless- more miserably ignorantin view of all the comprehensible objects ofknowledgethan the veriest unlettered hind who proves that he knows somethingat leastin admitting that he knows absolutely nothing.
"Nor had our forefathers any better right to talk about certaintywhenpursuingin blind confidencethe a priori path of axiomsor of the Ram. Atinnumerable points this path was scarcely as straight as a ram's-horn. Thesimple truth isthat the Aristotelians erected their castles upon a basis farless reliable than air; for no such things as axioms ever existed or canpossibly exist at all. This they must have been very blindindeednot to seeor at least to suspect; foreven in their own daymany of their
long-admitted 'axioms' had been abandoned:- 'ex nihilo nihil fit' forexampleand a 'thing cannot act where it is not' and 'there cannot beantipodes' and 'darkness cannot proceed from light.' These and numerous similarpropositions formerly acceptedwithout hesitationas axiomsor undeniabletruthswereeven at the period of which I speakseen to be altogetheruntenable:- how absurd in these peoplethento persist in relying upon a basisas immutablewhose mutability had become so repeatedly manifest!
"Buteven through evidence afforded by themselves against themselvesit is easy to convict these a priori reasoners of the grossest unreason- it iseasy to show the futility- the impalpability of their axioms in general. I havenow lying before me"- it will be observed that we still proceed with theletter- "I have now lying before me a book printed about a thousand yearsago. Pundit assures me that it is decidedly the cleverest ancient work on itstopicwhich is 'Logic.' The authorwho was much esteemed in his daywas oneMiller or Mill; and we find it recorded of himas a point of some importancethat he rode a mill-horse whom he called Jeremy Bentham:- but let us glance atthe volume itself!
"Ah!- 'Ability or inability to conceive' says Mr. Mill very properly'isin no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth.' Nowthat this isa palpable truism no one in his senses will deny. Not to admit the propositionis to insinuate a charge of variability in Truth itselfwhose very title is asynonym of the Steadfast. If ability to conceive be taken as a criterion ofTruththen a truth to David Hume would very seldom be a truth to Joe; andninety-nine hundredths of what is undeniable in Heaven would be demonstrablefalsity upon Earth. The proposition of Mr. Millthenis sustained. I will notgrant it to be an axiom; and this merely because I am showing that no axiomsexist; butwith a distinction which could not have been cavilled at even by Mr.Mill himselfI am ready to grant thatif an axiom there bethen theproposition of which we speak has the fullest right to be considered an axiom-that no more absolute axiom is - andconsequentlythat any subsequentproposition which shall conflict with this one primarily advancedmust beeither a falsity in itself- that is to say no axiom- orif admitted axiomaticmust at once neutralize both itself and its predecessor.
"And nowby the logic of their own propounderlet us proceed to testany one of the axioms propounded. Let us give Mr. Mill the fairest of play. Wewill bring the point to no ordinary issue. We will select for investigation nocommon-place axiom- no axiom of whatnot the less preposterously because onlyimpliedlyhe terms his secondary class- as if a positive truth by definitioncould be either more or less positively a truth:- we will selectI saynoaxiom of an unquestionability so questionable as is to be found in Euclid. Wewill not talkfor exampleabout such propositions as that two straight linescannot enclose a spaceor that the whole is greater than any one of its parts.We will afford the logician every advantage. We will come at once to aproposition which he regards as the acme of the unquestionable- as thequintessence of axiomatic undeniability. Here it is:- 'Contradictions cannotboth be true- that iscannot coexist in nature.' Here Mr. Mill meansforinstance- and I give the most forcible instance conceivable- that a tree mustbe either a tree or not a tree- that it cannot be at the same time a tree andnot a tree:- all which is quite reasonable of itself and will answer remarkablywell as an axiomuntil we bring it into collation with an axiom insisted upon afew pages before- in other words- words which I have previously employed- untilwe test it by the logic of its own propounder. 'A tree' Mr. Mill asserts'mustbe either a tree or not a tree.' Very well:- and now let me ask himwhy. Tothis little query there is but one response:- I defy any man living to invent asecond. The sole answer is this:- 'Because we find it impossible to conceivethat a tree can be anything else than a tree or not a tree.' ThisI repeatisMr. Mill's sole answer:- he will not pretend to suggest another:- and yetbyhis own showinghis answer is clearly no answer at all; for has he not alreadyrequired us to admitas an axiomthat ability or inability to conceive is inno case to be taken as a criterion of axiomatic truth? Thus all- absolutely allhis argumentation is at sea without a rudder. Let it not be urged that anexception from the general rule is to be madein cases where the 'impossibilityto conceive' is so peculiarly great as when we are called upon to conceive atree both a tree and not a tree. Let no attemptI saybe made at urging thissotticism; forin the first placethere are no degrees of 'impossibility' andthus no one impossible conception can be more peculiarly impossible than anotherimpossible conception:- in the second placeMr. Mill himselfno doubt afterthorough deliberationhas most distinctlyand most rationallyexcluded allopportunity for exceptionby the emphasis of his propositionthatin no caseis ability or inability to conceiveto be taken as a criterion of axiomatictruth:- in the third placeeven were exceptions admissible at allit remainsto be shown how any exception is admissible here. That a tree can be both a treeand not a treeis an idea which the angelsor the devilsmay entertainandwhich no doubt many an earthly Bedlamiteor Transcendentalistdoes.
"Now I do not quarrel with these ancients" continues theletter-writer"so much on account of the transparent frivolity of theirlogic- whichto be plainwas baselessworthless and fantastic altogether- ason account of their pompous and infatuate proscription of all other roads toTruth than the two narrow and crooked paths- the one of creeping and the otherof crawling- to whichin their ignorant perversitythey have dared to confinethe Soul- the Soul which loves nothing so well as to soar in those regions ofillimitable intuition which are utterly incognizant of 'path.'
"By the byemy dear friendis it not an evidence of the mental slaveryentailed upon those bigoted people by their Hogs and Ramsthat in spite of theeternal prating of their savans about roads to Truthnone of them felleven byaccidentinto what we now so distinctly perceive to be the broadestthestraightest and most available of all mere roads- the great thoroughfare- themajestic highway of the Consistent? Is it not wonderful that they should havefailed to deduce from the works of God the vitally momentous consideration thata perfect consistency can be nothing but an absolute truth? How plain- how rapidour progress since the late announcement of this proposition! By its meansinvestigation has been taken out of the hands of the ground-molesand given asa dutyrather than as a taskto the true- to the only true thinkers- to thegenerally-educated men of ardent imagination. These latter- our Keplers- ourLaplaces- 'speculate'- 'theorize'- these are the terms- can you not fancy theshout of scorn with which they would be received by our progenitorswere itpossible for them to be looking over my shoulders as I write? The KeplersIrepeatspeculate- theorize- and their theories are merely corrected- reduced-sifted- clearedlittle by littleof their chaff of inconsistency- until atlength there stands apparent an unencumbered Consistency - a consistency whichthe most stolid admit- because it is a consistency- to be an absolute andunquestionable Truth.
"I have often thoughtmy friendthat it must have puzzled thesedogmaticians of a thousand years agoto determineevenby which
of their two boasted roads it is that the cryptographist attains the solutionof the more complicated cyphers- or by which of them Champollion guided mankindto those important and innumerable truths whichfor so many centurieshavelain entombed amid the phonetical hieroglyphics of Egypt. In especialwould itnot have given these bigots some trouble to determine by which of their tworoads was reached the most momentous and sublime of all their truths- the truth-the fact of gravitation? Newton deduced it from the laws of Kepler. Kepleradmitted that these laws he guessed - these laws whose investigation disclosedto the greatest of British astronomers that principlethe basis of all(existing) physical principlein going behind which we enter at once thenebulous kingdom of Metaphysics. Yes!- these vital laws Kepler guessed - that itis to sayhe imagined them. Had he been asked to point out either the deductive or in ductive route by which he attained themhis reply might havebeen- 'I know nothing about routes - but I do know the machinery of theUniverse. Here it is. I grasped it with my soul - I reached it through mere dintof intuition.' Alaspoor ignorant old man! Could not any metaphysician havetold him that what he called 'intuition' was but the conviction resulting fromde ductions or in ductions of which the processes were so shadowy as to haveescaped his consciousnesseluded his reasonor bidden defiance to his capacityof expression? How great a pity it is that some 'moral philosopher' had notenlightened him about all this! How it would have comforted him on his death-bedto know thatinstead of having gone intuitively and thus unbecominglyhe hadin factproceeded decorously and legitimately- that is to say Hog-ishlyor atleast Ram-ishly- into the vast halls where lay gleaminguntendedand hithertountouched by mortal hand- unseen by mortal eye- the imperishable and pricelesssecrets of the Universe!
"YesKepler was essentially a theorist; but this titlenow of so muchsanctitywasin those ancient daysa designation of supreme contempt. It isonly now that men begin to appreciate that divine old man- to sympathize withthe prophetical and poetical rhapsody of his ever-memorable words. For mypart" continues the unknown correspondent"I glow with a sacred firewhen I even think of themand feel that I shall never grow weary of theirrepetition:- in concluding this letterlet me have the real pleasure oftranscribing them once again:- 'I care not whether my work be read now or byposterity. I can afford to wait a century for readers when God himself haswaited six thousand years for an observer. I triumph. I have stolen the goldensecret of the Egyptians. I will indulge my sacred fury.'"
Here end my quotations from this very unaccountable andperhapssomewhatimpertinent epistle; and perhaps it would be folly to commentin any respectupon the chimericalnot to say revolutionaryfancies of the writer- whoever heis- fancies so radically at war with the well-considered and well-settledopinions of this age. Let us proceedthento our legitimate thesisTheUniverse.
This thesis admits a choice between two modes of discussion:- We may as cendor des cend. Beginning at our own point of view- at the Earth on which we stand-we may pass to the other planets of our system- thence to the Sun- thence to oursystem considered collectively- and thencethrough other systemsindefinitelyoutwards; orcommencing on high at some point as definite as we can make it orconceive itwe may come down to the habitation of Man. Usually- that is to sayin ordinary essays on Astronomy- the first of these two modes iswith certainreservationadopted:- this for the obvious reason that astronomical factsmerelyand principlesbeing the objectthat object is best fulfilled instepping from the known because proximategradually onward to the point whereall certitude becomes lost in the remote. For my present purposehowever- thatof enabling the mind to take inas if from afar and at one glancea distantconception of the individual Universe- it is clear that a descent to small fromgreat- to the outskirts from the centre (if we could establish a centre)- to theend from the beginning (if we could fancy a beginning) would be the preferablecoursebut for the difficultyif not impossibilityof presentingin thiscourseto the unastronomicala picture at all comprehensible in regard to suchconsiderations as are involved in quantity - that is to sayin numbermagnitude and distance.
Nowdistinctness- intelligibilityat all pointsis a primary feature in mygeneral design. On important topics it is better to be a good deal prolix thaneven a very little obscure. But abstruseness is a quality appertaining to nosubject per se. All are alikein facility of comprehensionto him whoapproaches them by properly graduated steps. It is merely because astepping-stonehere and thereis heedlessly left unsupplied in our road to theDifferential Calculusthat this latter is not altogether as simple a thing as asonnet by Mr. Solomon Seesaw.
By way of admittingthenno chance for misapprehensionI think itadvisable to proceed as if even the more obvious facts of Astronomy were unknownto the reader. In combining the two modes of discussion to which I havereferredI propose to avail myself of the advantages peculiar to each- and veryespecially of the iteration in detail which will be unavoidable as a consequenceof the plan. Commencing with a descentI shall reserve for the return upwardsthose indispensable considerations of quantity to which allusion has alreadybeen made.
Let us beginthenat oncewith that merest of words"Infinity."Thislike "God" "spirit" and some other expressions ofwhich the equivalents exist in all languagesis by no means the expression ofan idea- but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at animpossible conception. Man needed a term by which to point out the direction ofthis effort- the cloud behind which layforever invisiblethe object of thisattempt. A wordin finewas demandedby means of which one human being mightput himself in relation at once with another human being and with a certaintendency of the human intellect. Out of this demand arose the word"Infinity;" which is thus the representative but of the thought of athought.
As regards that infinity now considered- the infinity of space- we often hearit said that "its idea is admitted by the mind- is acquiesced in- isentertained- on account of the greater difficulty which attends the conceptionof a limit." But this is merely one of those phrases by which even profoundthinkerstime out of mindhave occasionally taken pleasure in deceivingthemselves. The quibble lies concealed in the word "difficulty.""The mind" we are told"entertains the idea of limitlessthrough the greater difficulty which it finds in entertaining that of limitedspace." Nowwere the proposition but fairly putits absurdity wouldbecome transparent at once. Clearlythere is no mere difficulty in the case.The assertion intendedif presented according to its intention and withoutsophistrywould run thus:- "The mind admits the idea of limitlessthroughthe greater impossibility of entertaining that of limitedspace."
It must be immediately seen that this is not a question of two statementsbetween whose respective credibilities- or of two arguments between whoserespective validities- the reason is called upon to decide:- it is a matter oftwo conceptionsdirectly conflicting
and each avowedly impossibleone of which the intellect is supposed to becapable of entertainingon account of the greater impossibility of entertainingthe other. The choice is not made between two difficulties;- it is merelyfancied to be made between two impossibilities. Now of the formerthere aredegrees- but of the latternone:- just as our impertinent letter-writer hasalready suggested. A task may be more or less difficult; but it is eitherpossible or not possible:- there are no gradations. It might be more difficultto overthrow the Andes than an ant-hill; but it can be no more impossible toannihilate the matter of the one than the matter of the other. A man may jumpten feet with less difficulty than he can jump twentybut the impossibility ofhis leaping to the moon is not a whit less than that of his leaping to thedog-star.
Since all this is undeniable: since the choice of the mind is to be madebetween impossibilities of conception: since one impossibility cannot be greaterthan another: and sincethusone cannot be preferred to another: thephilosophers who not only maintainon the grounds mentionedman's idea ofinfinity buton account of such supposititious ideainfinity itself - areplainly engaged in demonstrating one impossible thing to be possible by showinghow it is that some one other thing- is impossible too. Thisit will be saidis nonsense; and perhaps it is:- indeed I think it very capital nonsense- butforego all claim to it as nonsense of mine.
The readiest modehoweverof displaying the fallacy of the philosophicalargument on this questionis by simply adverting to a fact respecting it whichhas been hitherto quite overlooked- the fact that the argument alluded to bothproves and disproves its own proposition. "The mind is impelled" saythe theologians and others"to admit a First Causeby the superiordifficulty it experiences in conceiving cause beyond cause without end."The quibbleas beforelies in the word "difficulty"- but here whatis it employed to sustain? A First Cause. And what is a First Cause? An ultimatetermination of causes. And what is an ultimate termination of causes? Finity-the Finite. Thus the one quibblein two processesby God knows how manyphilosophersis made to support now Finity and now Infinity- could it not bebrought to support something besides? As for the quibblers- theyat leastareinsupportable. But- to dismiss them:- what they prove in the one case is theidentical nothing which they demonstrate in the other.
Of courseno one will suppose that I here contend for the absoluteimpossibility of that which we attempt to convey in the word"Infinity." My purpose is but to show the folly of endeavoring toprove Infinity itselfor even our conception of itby any such blunderingratiocination as that which is ordinarily employed.
Neverthelessas an individualI may be permitted to say that I cannotconceive Infinityand am convinced that no human being can. A mind notthoroughly self-conscious- not accustomed to the introspective analysis of itsown operations- willit is trueoften deceive itself by supposing that it hasentertained the conception of which we speak. In the effort to entertain itweproceed step beyond step- we fancy point still beyond point; and so long as wecontinue the effortit may be saidin factthat we are tending to theformation of the idea designed; while the strength of the impression that weactually form or have formed itis in the ratio of the period during which wekeep up the mental endeavor. But it is in the act of discontinuing the endeavor-of fulfilling (as we think) the idea- of putting the finishing stroke (as wesuppose) to the conception- that we overthrow at once the whole fabric of ourfancy by resting upon some one ultimate and therefore definite point. This facthoweverwe fail to perceiveon account of the absolute coincidencein timebetween the settling down upon the ultimate point and the act of cessation inthinking.- In attemptingon the other handto frame the idea of a limitedspacewe merely converse the processes which involve the impossibility.
We believe in a God. We may or may not believe in finite or in infinitespace; but our beliefin such casesis more properly designated as faithandis a matter quite distinct from that belief proper- from that intellectualbelief- which presupposes the mental conception.
The fact isthatupon the enunciation of any one of that class of terms towhich "Infinity" belongs- the class representing thoughts of thought -he who has a right to say that he thinks at allfeels himself called uponnotto entertain a conceptionbut simply to direct his mental vision toward somegiven pointin the intellectual firmamentwhere lies a nebula never to beresolved. To solve itindeedhe makes no effort; for with a rapid instinct hecomprehendsnot only the impossibilitybutas regards all human purposestheinessentialityof its solution. He perceives that the Deity has not designed itto be solved. He seesat oncethat it lies out of the brain of manand evenhowif not exactly whyit lies out of it. There are peopleI am awarewhobusying themselves in attempts at the unattainableacquire very easilyby dintof the jargon they emitamong those thinkers-that-they-think with whom darknessand depth are synonymousa kind of cuttle-fish reputation for profundity; butthe finest quality of Thought is its self-cognizance; andwith some littleequivocationit may be said that no fog of the mind can well be greater thanthat whichextending to the very boundaries of the mental domainshuts outeven these boundaries themselves from comprehension.
It will now be understood thatin using the phrase"Infinity ofSpace" I make no call upon the reader to entertain the impossibleconception of an absolute infinity. I refer simply to the "utmostconceivable expanse" of space- a shadowy and fluctuating domainnowshrinkingnow swellingin accordance with the vacillating energies of theimagination.
Hithertothe Universe of stars has always been considered as coincident withthe Universe properas I have defined it in the commencement of this Discourse.It has been always either directly or indirectly assumed- at least since thedawn of intelligible Astronomy- thatwere it possible for us to attain anygiven point in spacewe should still findon all sides of usan interminablesuccession of stars. This was the untenable idea of Pascal when making perhapsthe most successful attempt ever madeat periphrasing the conception for whichwe struggle in the word "Universe." "It is a sphere" hesays"of which the centre is everywherethe circumferencenowhere."But although this intended definition isin factno definition of the Universeof starswe may accept itwith some mental reservationas a definition(rigorous enough for all practical purposes) of the Universe proper - that is tosayof the Universe of space. This latterthenlet us regard as "asphere of which the centre is everywherethe circumference nowhere." Infactwhile we find it impossible to fancy an end to spacewe have nodifficulty in picturing to ourselves any one of an infinity of beginnings.
As our starting pointthenlet us adopt the Godhead. Of this Godheadinitselfhe alone is not imbecile- he alone is not impious who propounds-nothing. "Nous ne connaissons rien" says the Baron de Bielfeld-"Nous ne connaissons rien de la nature ou de l'essence de Dieu:- poursavoir ce qu'il estil faut etre Dieu meme." - "We know absolutelynothing of the nature or essence of God:-
in order to comprehend what he iswe should have to be God ourselves."
"We should have to be God ourselves!" - With a phrase so startlingas this yet ringing in my earsI nevertheless venture to demand if this ourpresent ignorance of the Deity is an ignorance to which the soul iseverlastingly condemned.
By Himhowever- nowat leastthe Incomprehensible- by Him- assuming him asSpirit - that is to sayas not Matter - a distinction whichfor allintelligible purposeswill stand well instead of a definition- by Himthenexisting as Spiritlet us content ourselvesto-nightwith supposing to havebeen createdor made out of Nothingby dint of his Volition- at some point ofSpace which we will take as a centre- at some period into which we do notpretend to inquirebut at all events immensely remote- by Himthen againletus suppose to have been created- what? This is a vitally momentous epoch in ourconsiderations. What is it that we are justified- that alone we are justified insupposing to have beenprimarily and solelycreated?
We have attained a point where only Intuition can aid us:- but now let merecur to the idea which I have already suggested as that alone which we canproperly entertain of intuition. It is but the conviction arising from thoseinductions or deductions of which the processes are so shadowy as to escape ourconsciousnesselude our reasonor defy our capacity of expression. With thisunderstandingI now assert- that an intuition altogether irresistiblealthoughinexpressibleforces me to the conclusion that what God originally created-that that Matter whichby dint of his Volitionhe first made from his Spiritor from Nihilitycould have been nothing but Matter in its utmost conceivablestate of- what?- of Simplicity?
This will be found the sole absolute assumption of my Discourse. I use theword "assumption" in its ordinary sense; yet I maintain that even thismy primary propositionis veryvery far indeedfrom being really a mereassumption. Nothing was ever more certainly- no human conclusion was everinfactmore regularly- more rigorously de duced:- butalas! the processes lieout of the human analysis- at all events are beyond the utterance of the humantongue.
Let us now endeavor to conceive what Matter must bewhenor ifin itsabsolute extreme of Simplicity. Here the Reason flies at once toImparticularity- to a particle- to one particle- a particle of one kind- of onecharacter- of one nature- of one size - of one form-a particletherefore"without form and void"- a particle positively a particle at allpoints- a particle absolutely uniqueindividualundividedand not indivisibleonly because He who created itby dint of his Willcan by an infinitely lessenergetic exercise of the same Willas a matter of coursedivide it.
Onenessthenis all that I predicate of the originally created Matter; butI propose to show that this Oneness is a principle abundantly sufficient toaccount for the constitutionthe existing phaenomena and the plainly inevitableannihilation of at least the material Universe.
The willing into being the primordial particlehas completed the actormore properly the conceptionof Creation. We now proceed to the ultimatepurpose for which we are to suppose the Particle created- that is to saytheultimate purpose so far as our considerations yet enable us to see it- theconstitution of the Universe from itthe Particle.
This constitution has been effected by forcing the originally and thereforenormally One into the abnormal condition of Many. An action of this characterimplies reaction. A diffusion from Unityunder the conditionsinvolves atendency to return into Unity- a tendency ineradicable until satisfied. But onthese points I will speak more fully hereafter.
The assumption of absolute Unity in the primordial Particle includes that ofinfinite divisibility. Let us conceive the Particlethento be only nottotally exhausted by diffusion into Space. From the one Particleas a centrelet us suppose to be irradiated spherically- in all directions- to immeasurablebut still to definite distances in the previously vacant space- a certaininexpressibly great yet limited number of unimaginably yet not infinitely minuteatoms.
Nowof these atomsthus diffusedor upon diffusionwhat conditions are wepermitted- not to assumebut to inferfrom consideration as well of theirsource as of the character of the design apparent in their diffusion? Unitybeing their sourceand difference from Unity the character of the designmanifested in their diffusionwe are warranted in supposing this character tobe at least generally preserved throughout the designand to form a portion ofthe design itself:- that is to saywe shall be warranted in conceivingcontinual differences at all points from the uniquity and simplicity of theorigin. Butfor these reasonsshall we be justified in imagining the atomsheterogeneousdissimilarunequaland inequidistant? More explicitly- are weto consider no two atoms asat their diffusionof the same natureor of thesame formor of the same size?- andafter fulfilment of their diffusion intoSpaceis absolute inequidistanceeach from eachto be understood of all ofthem? In such arrangementunder such conditionswe most easily and immediatelycomprehend the subsequent most feasible carrying out to completion of any suchdesign as that which I have suggested- the design of variety out of unity-diversity out of sameness- heterogeneity out of homogeneity- complexity out ofsimplicity- in a wordthe utmost possible multiplicity of relation out of theemphatically irrelative One. Undoubtedlythereforewe should be warranted inassuming all that has been mentionedbut for the reflectionfirstthatsupererogation is not presumable of any Divine Act; andsecondlythat theobject supposed in viewappears as feasible when some of the conditions inquestion are dispensed within the beginningas when all are understoodimmediately to exist. I mean to say that some are involved in the restor soinstantaneous a consequence of them as to make the distinction inappreciable.Difference of sizefor examplewill at once be brought about through thetendency of one atom to a secondin preference to a thirdon account ofparticular inequidistance; which is to be comprehended as particularinequidistances between centres of quantityin neighboring atoms of differentform - a matter not at all interfering with the generally-equable distributionof the atoms. Difference of kindtoois easily conceived to be merely a resultof differences in size and formtaken more or less conjointly:- in factsincethe Unity of the Particle Proper implies absolute homogeneitywe cannot imaginethe atomsat their diffusiondiffering in kindwithout imaginingat the sametimea special exercise of the Divine Willat the emission of each atomforthe purpose of effectingin eacha change of its essential nature:- sofantastic an idea is the less to be indulgedas the object proposed is seen tobe thoroughly attainable without such minute and elaborate interposition. Weperceivethereforeupon the wholethat it would be supererogatoryandconsequently unphilosophicalto predicate of the atomsin view of theirpurposesany thing more than difference of form at their dispersionwithparticular inequidistance after it- all other differences arising at once out ofthesein the very first processes of mass-constitution:- We thus establish theUniverse on a purely geometrical basis. Of courseit is by no means necessaryto assume absolute differenceeven of formamong all the atoms irradiated- anymore than absolute particular inequidistance of each from each. We are requiredto conceive merely that no neighboring atoms are of similar form- no atoms whichcan ever approximateuntil their inevitable reunition at the end.
Although the immediate and perpetual tendency of the disunited atoms toreturn into their normal Unityis impliedas I have saidin their abnormaldiffusion; still it is clear that this tendency will be without consequence- atendency and no more- until the diffusive energyin ceasing to be exertedshall leave itthe tendencyfree to seek its satisfaction. The Divine Acthoweverbeing considered as determinateand discontinued on fulfilment of thediffusionwe understandat oncea reaction - in other wordsa satisfiabletendency of the disunited atoms to return into One.
But the diffusive energy being withdrawnand the reaction having commencedin furtherance of the ultimate design- that of the utmost possible Relation -this design is now in danger of being frustratedin detailby reason of thatvery tendency to return which is to effect its accomplishment in general.Multiplicity is the object; but there is nothing to prevent proximate atomsfrom lapsing at oncethrough the now satisfiable tendency- before thefulfilment of any ends proposed in multiplicity- into absolute oneness amongthemselves:- there is nothing to impede the aggregation of various uniquemassesat various points of space:- in other wordsnothing to interfere withthe accumulation of various masseseach absolutely One.
For the effectual and thorough completion of the general designwe thus seethe necessity for a repulsion of limited capacity- a separate something whichon withdrawal of the diffusive Volitionshall at the same time allow theapproachand forbid the junctionof the atoms; suffering them infinitely toapproximatewhile denying them positive contact; in a wordhaving the power-up to a certain epoch - of preventing their coalitionbut no ability tointerfere with their coalescence in any respect or degree. The repulsionalready considered as so peculiarly limited in other regardsmust beunderstoodlet me repeatas having power to prevent absolute coalitiononlyup to a certain epoch. Unless we are to conceive that the appetite for Unityamong the atoms is doomed to be satisfied never; - unless we are to conceivethat what had a beginning is to have no end- a conception which cannot really beentertainedhowever much we may talk or dream of entertaining it- we are forcedto conclude that the repulsive influence imaginedwillfinally- under pressureof the Uni-tendency collectively appliedbutnever and in no degree untilonfulfilment of the Divine purposessuch collective application shall benaturally made- yield to a force whichat that ultimate epochshall be thesuperior force precisely to the extent requiredand thus permit the universalsubsidence into the inevitablebecause original and therefore normalOne. -The conditions here to be reconciled are difficult indeed:- we cannot evencomprehend the possibility of their conciliation;- neverthelessthe apparentimpossibility is brilliantly suggestive.
That the repulsive something actually existswe see. Man neither employsnor knowsa force sufficient to bring two atoms into contact. This is but thewell-established proposition of the impenetrability of matter. All Experimentproves- all Philosophy admits it. The design of the repulsion- the necessity forits existence- I have endeavored to show; but from all attempt at investigatingits nature have religiously abstained; this on account of an intuitiveconviction that the principle at issue is strictly spiritual- lies in a recessimpervious to our present understanding- lies involved in a consideration ofwhat now- in our human state- is not to be considered- in a consideration ofSpirit in itself. I feelin a wordthat here the God has interposedand hereonlybecause here and here only the knot demanded the interposition of the God.
In factwhile the tendency of the diffused atoms to return into Unitywillbe recognizedat onceas the principle of the Newtonian Gravitywhat I havespoken of as a repulsive influence prescribing limits to the (immediate)satisfaction of the tendencywill be understood as that which we have been inthe practice of designating now as heatnow as magnetismnow as electricity;displaying our ignorance of its awful character in the vacillation of thephraseology with which we endeavor to circumscribe it.
Calling itmerely for the momentelectricitywe know that all experimentalanalysis of electricity has givenas an ultimate resultthe principleorseeming principleheterogeneity. Only where things differ is electricityapparent; and it is presumable that they never differ where it is not developedat leastif not apparent. Nowthis result is in the fullest keeping with thatwhich I have reached unempirically. The design of the repulsive influence I havemaintained to be that of preventing immediate Unity among the diffused atoms;and these atoms are represented as different each from each. Difference is theircharacter- their essentiality- just as no-difference was the essentiality oftheir course. When we saythenthat an attempt to bring any two of these atomstogether would induce an efforton the part of the repulsive influencetoprevent the contact we may as well use the strictly convertible sentence that anattempt to bring together any two differences will result in a development ofelectricity. All existing bodiesof courseare composed of these atoms inproximate contactand are therefore to be considered as mere assemblages ofmore or fewer differences; and the resistance made by the repulsive spiritonbringing together any two such assemblageswould be in the ratio of the twosums of the differences in each:- an expression whichwhen reducedisequivalent to this:- The amount of electricity developed on the approximation oftwo bodiesis proportional to the difference between the respective sums of theatoms of which the bodies are composed. That no two bodies are absolutely alikeis a simple corollary from all that has been here said. Electricitythereforeexisting alwaysis developed whenever any bodiesbut manifested only whenbodies of appreciable differenceare brought into approximation.
To electricity- sofor the presentcontinuing to call it- we may not bewrong in referring the various physical appearances of lightheat andmagnetism; but far less shall we be liable to err in attributing to thisstrictly spiritual principle the more important phaenomena of vitalityconsciousness and Thought. On this topichoweverI need pause here merely tosuggest that these phaenomenawhether observed generally or in detailseem toproceed at least in the ratio of the heterogeneous.
Discarding now the two equivocal terms"gravitation" and"electricity" let us adopt the more definite expressions"attraction" and "repulsion." The former is the body; thelatter the soul: the one is the material; the other the spiritualprinciple ofthe Universe. No other principles exist. All phaenomena are referable to oneorto the otheror to both combined. So rigorously is this the case- so thoroughlydemonstrable is it that attraction and repulsion are the sole properties throughwhich we perceive the Universe- in other wordsby which Matter is manifested toMind- thatfor all merely argumentative purposeswe are fully justified inassuming that matter exists only as attraction and repulsion- that attractionand repulsion are matter:- there being no conceivable case in which we may notemploy the term "matter" and the terms "attraction" and"repulsion" taken togetheras equivalentand therefore convertibleexpressions in Logic.
I saidjust nowthat what I have described as the tendency of the diffusedatoms to return into their original unitywould be understood as the principleof the Newtonian law of gravity: andin factthere can be but littledifficulty in such an understandingif we look at the Newtonian gravity in amerely general viewas a force impelling matter to seek matter; that is to saywhen we pay no attention to the known modus operandi of the Newtonian force. Thegeneral coincidence satisfies us; butupon looking closelywe seein detailmuch that appears in coincidentand much in regard to which no coincidenceatleastis established. For example; the Newtonian gravitywhen we think of itin certain moodsdoes not seem to be a tendency to oneness at allbut rather atendency of all bodies in all directions- a phrase apparently expressive of atendency to diffusion. Herethenis an in coincidence. Again; when we reflecton the mathematical law governing the Newtonian tendencywe see clearly that nocoincidence has been made goodin respect of the modus operandiat leastbetween gravitation as known to exist and that seemingly simple and directtendency which I have assumed.
In factI have attained a point at which it will be advisable to strengthenmy position by reversing my processes. So farwe have gone on a priorifrom anabstract consideration of Simplicityas that quality most likely to havecharacterized the original action of God. Let us now see whether the establishedfacts of the Newtonian Gravitation may not afford usa posteriorisomelegitimate inductions.
What does the Newtonian law declare?- That all bodies attract each other withforces proportional to their quantities of matter and inversely proportional tothe squares of their distances. PurposelyI have here givenin the firstplacethe vulgar version of the law; and I confess that in thisas in mostother vulgar versions of great truthswe find little of a suggestive character.Let us now adopt a more philosophical phraseology:- Every atomof every bodyattracts every other atomboth of its own and of every other bodywith a forcewhich varies inversely as the squares of the distances between the attractingand attracted atom. - Hereindeeda flood of suggestion bursts upon the mind.
But let us see distinctly what it was that Newton proved - according to thegrossly irrational definitions of proof prescribed by the metaphysical schools.He was forced to content himself with showing how thoroughly the motions of animaginary Universecomposed of attracting and attracted atoms obedient to thelaw he announcedcoincide with those of the actually existing Universe so faras it comes under our observation. This was the amount of his demonstration -that is to saythis was the amount of itaccording to the conventional cant ofthe "philosophies." His successes added proof multiplied by proof-such proof as a sound intellect admits- but the demonstration of the law itselfpersist the metaphysicianshad not been strengthened in any degree."Ocularphysical proof" howeverof attractionhere upon Earthinaccordance with the Newtonian theorywasat lengthmuch to the satisfactionof some intellectual grovellersafforded. This proof arose collaterally andincidentally (as nearly all important truths have arisen) out of an attempt toascertain the mean density of the Earth. In the famous MaskelyneCavendish andBailly experiments for this purposethe attraction of the mass of a mountainwas seenfeltmeasuredand found to be mathematically consistent with theimmortal theory of the British astronomer.
But in spite of this confirmation of that which needed none- in spite of theso-called corroboration of the "theory" by the so-called "ocularand physical proof"- in spite of the character of this corroboration- theideas which even really philosophical men cannot help imbibing of gravity- andespeciallythe ideas of it which ordinary men get and contentedly maintainareseen to have been derivedfor the most partfrom a consideration of theprinciple as they find it developed- merely in the planet upon which they stand.
Nowto what does so partial a consideration tend- to what species of errordoes it give rise? On the Earth we see and feelonly that gravity impels allbodies towards the centre of the Earth. No man in the common walks of life couldbe made to see or feel anything else- could be made to perceive that anythinganywherehas a perpetualgravitating tendency in any other direction than tothe centre of the Earth; yet (with an exception hereafter to be specified) it isa fact that every earthly thing (not to speak now of every heavenly thing) has atendency not only to the Earth's centre but in every conceivable directionbesides.
Nowalthough the philosophic cannot be said to err with the vulgar in thismatterthey nevertheless permit themselves to be influencedwithout knowingitby the sentiment of the vulgar idea. "Although the Pagan fables are notbelieved" says Bryantin his very erudite "Mythology""yet we forget ourselves continually and make inferences from them as fromexisting realities." I mean to assert that the merely sensitive perceptionof gravity as we experience it on Earthbeguiles mankind into the fancy ofconcentralization or especiality respecting it- has been continually biasingtowards this fancy even the mightiest intellects- perpetuallyalthoughimperceptiblyleading them away from the real characteristics of the principle;thus preventing themup to this datefrom ever getting a glimpse of that vitaltruth which lies in a diametrically opposite direction- behind the principle'sessential characteristics- thosenot of concentralization or especiality- butof universality and diffusion. This "vital truth" is Unity as thesource of the phaenomenon.
Let me now repeat the definition of gravity:- Every atomof every bodyattracts every other atomboth of its own and of every other bodywith a forcewhich varies inversely as the squares of the distances of the attracting andattracted atom.
Here let the reader pause with mefor a momentin contemplation of themiraculous- of the ineffable- of the altogether unimaginable complexity ofrelation involved in the fact that each atom attracts every other atom -involved merely in this fact of the attractionwithout reference to the law ormode in which the attraction is manifested- involved merely in the fact thateach atom attracts every other atom at allin a wilderness of atoms so numerousthat those which go to the composition of a cannon-ballexceedprobablyinmere point of numberall the stars which go to the constitution of theUniverse.
Had we discoveredsimplythat each atom tended to some one favorite point-to some especially attractive atom- we should still have fallen upon a discoverywhichin itselfwould have sufficed to overwhelm the mind:- but what is itthat we are actually called upon to comprehend? That each atom attracts-sympathizes with the most delicate movements of every other atomand with eachand with all at the same timeand foreverand according to a determinate lawof which the complexityeven considered by itself solelyis utterly beyond thegrasp of the imagination of man. If I propose to ascertain the influence of onemote in a sunbeam upon its neighboring moteI cannot accomplish my purposewithout first counting and weighing all the atoms in the Universe and definingthe precise positions of all at one particular moment. If I venture to displaceby even the billionth part of an inchthe microscopical speck of dust whichlies now upon the point of my fingerwhat is the character of that act uponwhich I have adventured? I have done a deed which shakes the Moon in her pathwhich causes the Sun to be no longer the Sunand which alters forever thedestiny of the multitudinous myriads of stars that roll and glow in the majesticpresence of their Creator.
These ideas- conceptions such as these - unthought-like thoughts-soul-reveries rather than conclusions or even considerations of the intellect:-ideasI repeatsuch as theseare such as we can alone hope profitably toentertain in any effort at grasping the great principleAttraction.
But now- with such ideas- with such a vision of the marvellous complexity ofAttraction fairly in his mind- let any person competent of thought on suchtopics as theseset himself to the task of imagining a principle for thephaenomena observed- a condition from which they sprang.
Does not so evident a brotherhood among the atoms point to a commonparentage? Does not a sympathy so omniprevalentso ineradicableand sothoroughly irrespectivesuggest a common paternity as its source? Does not oneextreme impel the reason to the other? Does not the infinitude of division referto the utterness of individuality? Does not the entireness of the complex hintat the perfection of the simple? It is not that the atomsas we see themaredivided or that they are complex in their relations- but that they areinconceivably divided and unutterably complex:- it is the extremeness of theconditions to which I now alluderather than to the conditions themselves. In awordnot because the atoms wereat some remote epoch of timeeven more thantogether - is it not because originallyand therefore normallythey were One -that nowin all circumstances- at all points- in all directions- by all modesof approach- in all relations and through all conditions- they struggle back tothis absolutelythis irrelativelythis unconditionally one?
Some person may here demand:- "Why- since it is to the One that theatoms struggle back- do we not find and define Attraction 'a merely generaltendency to a centre?'- whyin especialdo not your atoms- the atoms which youdescribe as having been irradiated from a centre- proceed at oncerectilinearlyback to the central point of their origin?"
I reply that they do; as will be distinctly shown; but that the cause oftheir so doing is quite irrespective of the centre as such. They all tendrectilinearly towards a centrebecause of the sphereicity with which they havebeen irradiated into space. Each atomforming one of a generally uniform globeof atomsfinds more atoms in the direction of the centreof coursethan inany otherand in that directionthereforeis impelled- but is not thusimpelled because the centre is the point of its origin. It is not to any pointthat the atoms are allied. It is not any localityeither in the concrete or inthe abstractto which I suppose them bound. Nothing like location was conceivedas their origin. Their source lies in the principleUnity. This is their lostparent. This they seek always- immediately- in all directions- wherever it iseven partially to be found; thus appeasingin some measurethe ineradicabletendencywhile on the way to its absolute satisfaction in the end. It followsfrom all thisthat any principle which shall be adequate to account for thelawor modus operandiof the attractive force in generalwill account forthis law in particular:- that is to sayany principle which will show why theatoms should tend to their general centre of irradiation with forces inverselyproportional to the squares of the distanceswill be admitted as satisfactorilyaccountingat the same timefor the tendencyaccording to the same lawofthese atoms each to each:- for the tendency to the centre is merely the tendencyeach to eachand not any tendency to a centre as such.- Thus it will be seenalsothat the establishment of my propositions would involve no necessity ofmodification in the terms of the Newtonian definition of Gravitywhich declaresthat each atom attracts each other atom and so forthand declares this merely;but (always under the supposition that what I propose bein the endadmitted)it seems clear that some error might occasionally be avoidedin the futureprocesses of Sciencewere a more ample phraseology adopted:- for instance:-"Each atom tends to every other atom &c. with a force &c.: thegeneral result being a tendency of allwith a similar forceto a generalcentre."
The reversal of our processes has thus brought us to an identical result;butwhile in the one process intuition was the starting-pointin the other itwas the goal. In commencing the former journey I could only say thatwith anirresistable intuitionI felt Simplicity to have been the characteristic of theoriginal action of God:- in ending the latter I can only declare thatwith anirresistible intuitionI perceive Unity to have been the source of the observedphaenomena of the Newtonian gravitation. Thusaccording to the schoolsI provenothing. So be it:- I design but to suggest-and to convince through thesuggestion. I am proudly aware that there exist many of the most profound andcautiously discriminative human intellects which cannot help being abundantlycontent with my- suggestions. To these intellects- as to my own- there is nomathematical demonstration which could bring the least additional true proof ofthe great Truth which I have advanced- the truth of Original Unity as thesource- as the principle of the Universal Phaenomena. For my partI am not surethat I speak and see- I am not so sure that my heart beats and that my soullives:- of the rising of to-morrow's sun- a probability that as yet lies in theFuture- I do not pretend to be one thousandth part as sure- as I am of theirretrievably by-gone Fact that All Things and All Thoughts of Thingswith alltheir ineffable Multiplicity of Relationsprang at once into being from theprimordial and irrelative One.
Referring to the Newtonian GravityDr. Nicholthe eloquent author of"The Architecture of the Heavens" says:- "In truth we have noreason to suppose this great Lawas now revealedto be the ultimate orsimplestand therefore the universal and all-comprehensiveform of a greatOrdinance. The mode in which its intensity diminishes with the element ofdistancehas not the aspect of an ultimate principle; which always assumes thesimplicity and self-evidence of those axioms which constitute the basis ofGeometry."
Nowit is quite true that "ultimate principles" in the commonunderstanding of the wordsalways assume the simplicity of geometrical axioms-(as for "self-evidence" there is no such thing)- but these principlesare clearly not "ultimate;" in other terms what we are in the habit ofcalling principles are no principlesproperly speaking- since there can be butone principlethe Volition of God. We have no right to assumethenfrom whatwe observe in rules that we choose foolishly to name "principles"anything at all in respect to the characteristics of a principle proper. The"ultimate principles" of which Dr. Nichol speaks as having geometricalsimplicitymay and do have this geometrical turnas being part and parcel of avast geometrical systemand thus a system of simplicity itself- in whichneverthelessthe truly ultimate principle isas we knowthe consummation ofthe complex- that is to sayof the unintelligible- for is it not the SpiritualCapacity of God?
I quoted Dr. Nichol's remarkhowevernot so much to question itsphilosophyas by way of calling attention to the fact thatwhile all men haveadmitted some principle as existing behind the Law of Gravityno attempt hasbeen yet made to point out what this principle in particular is: - if we exceptperhapsoccasional fantastic efforts at referring it to MagnetismorMesmerismor Swedenborgianismor Transcendentalismor some other equallydelicious ism of the same speciesand invariably patronized by one and the samespecies of people. The great mind of Newtonwhile boldly grasping the Lawitselfshrank from the principle of the Law. The more fluent and comprehensiveat leastif not the more patient and profoundsagacity of Laplacehad not thecourage to attack it. But hesitation on the part of these two astronomers it isperhapsnot so very difficult to understand. Theyas well as all the firstclass of mathematicianswere mathematicians solely: - their intellectatleasthad a firmly-pronounced mathematico-physical tone. What lay notdistinctly within the domain of Physicsor of Mathematicsseemed to themeither Non-Entity or Shadow. Neverthelesswe may well wonder that Leibnitzwhowas a marked exception to the general rule in these respectsand whose mentaltemperament was a singular admixture of the mathematical with thephysico-metaphysicaldid not at once investigate and establish the point atissue. Either Newton or Laplaceseeking a principle and discovering nonephysicalwould have rested contentedly in the conclusion that there wasabsolutely none; but it is almost impossible to fancyof Leibnitzthathavingexhausted in his search the physical dominionshe would not have stepped atonceboldly and hopefullyamid his old familiar haunts in the kingdom ofMetaphysics. Hereindeedit is clear that he must have adventured in search ofthe treasure:- that he did not find it after allwasperhapsbecause hisfairy guideImaginationwas not sufficiently well-grownor well-educatedtodirect him aright.
I observedjust nowthatin factthere had been certain vague attempts atreferring Gravity to some very uncertain isms. These attemptshoweveralthoughconsidered bold and justly so consideredlooked no farther than to thegenerality- the merest generality- of the Newtonian Law. Its modus operandi hasneverto my knowledgebeen approached in the way of an effort at explanation.It isthereforewith no unwarranted fear of being taken for a madman at theoutsetand before I can bring my propositions fairly to the eye of those whoalone are competent to decide upon themthat I here declare the modus operandiof the Law of Gravity to be an exceedingly simple and perfectly explicablething- that is to saywhen we make our advances towards it in just gradationsand in the true direction- when we regard it from the proper point of view.
Whether we reach the idea of absolute Unity as the source of All Thingsfroma consideration of Simplicity as the most probable characteristic of theoriginal action of God;- whether we arrive at it from an inspection of theuniversality of relation in the gravitating phaenomena;- or whether we attain itas a result of the mutual corroboration afforded by both processes;- stilltheidea itselfif entertained at allis entertained in inseparable connectionwith another idea- that of the condition of the Universe of stars as we nowperceive it- that is to saya condition of immeasurable diffusion throughspace. Now a connection between these two ideas- unity and diffusion- cannot beestablished unless through the entertainment of a third idea- that ofirradiation. Absolute Unity being taken as a centrethen the existing Universeof stars is the result of irradiation from that centre.
Nowthe laws of irradiation are known. They are part and parcel of thesphere. They belong to the class of indisputable geometrical properties. We sayof them"they are true- they are evident." To demand why they aretruewould be to demand why the axioms are true upon which their demonstrationis based. Nothing is demonstrablestrictly speaking; but if anything bethenthe properties- the laws in question are demonstrated.
But these laws- what do they declare? Irradiation- how- by what steps does itproceed outwardly from a centre?
From a luminous centreLight issues by irradiation; and the quantities oflight received upon any given planesupposed to be shifting its position so asto be now nearer the centre and now farther from itwill be diminished in thesame proportion as the squares of the distances of the plane from the lumimousbodyare increased; and will be increased in the same proportion as thesesquares are diminished.
The expression of the law may be thus generalized:- the number oflight-particles (orif the phrase be preferredthe number oflight-impressions) received upon the shifting planewill be inverselyproportional with the squares of the distances of the plane. Generalizing yetagainwe may say that the diffusion- the scattering- the irradiationin aword- is directly proportional with the squares of the distances.
For example: at the distance Bfrom the luminous centre Aa certain numberof particles are so diffused as to occupy the surface B (see illustration). Thenat double the distance- that is to say at C- they will be so much fartherdiffused as to occupy four such surfaces:- at treble the distanceor at Dtheywill be so much farther separated as to occupy nine such surfaces:- whileatquadruple the distanceor at Ethey will have become so scattered as to spreadthemselves over sixteen such surfaces- and so on forever.
In sayinggenerallythat the irradiation proceeds in direct proportion withthe squares of the distanceswe use the term irradiation to express the degreeof the diffusion as we proceed outwardly from the centre. Conversing the ideaand employing the word "concentralization" to express the degree ofthe drawing together as we come back toward the centre from an outward positionwe may say that concentralization proceeds inversely as the squares of thedistances. In other wordswe have reached the conclusion thaton thehypothesis that matter was originally irradiated from a centre and is nowreturning to itthe concentralizationin the returnproceeds exactly as weknow the force of gravitation to proceed.
Now hereif we could be permitted to assume that concentralization exactlyrepresented the force of the tendency to the centre - that the one was exactlyproportional to the otherand that the two proceeded together- we should haveshown all that is required. The sole difficulty existingthenis to establisha direct proportion between "concentralization" and the force ofconcentralization; and this is doneof courseif we establish such proportionbetween "irradiation" and the force of irradiation.
A very slight inspection of the Heavens assures us that the stars have acertain general uniformityequabilityor equidistanceof distribution throughthat region of space in whichcollectivelyand in a roughly globular formthey are situated:- this species of very generalrather than absoluteequabilitybeing in full keeping with my deduction of inequidistancewithincertain limitsamong the originally diffused atomsas a corollary from theevident design of infinite complexity of relation out of irrelation. I startedit will be rememberedwith the idea of a generally uniform but particularly ununiform distribution of the atoms;- an ideaI repeatwhich an inspection ofthe starsas they existconfirms.
But even in the merely general equability of distributionas regards theatomsthere appears a difficulty whichno doubthas already suggested itselfto those among my readers who have borne in mind that I suppose this equabilityof distribution effected through irradiation from a centre. The very firstglance at the ideairradiationforces us to the entertainment of the hithertounseparated and seemingly inseparable idea of agglomeration about a centrewithdispersion as we recede from it- the ideain a wordof in equability ofdistribution in respect to the matter irradiated.
NowI have elsewhere * observed that it is by just such difficulties as theone now in question- such roughnesses- such peculiarities- such protuberancesabove the plane of the ordinary- that Reason feels her wayif at allin hersearch for the True. By the difficulty- the "peculiarity"- nowpresentedI leap at once to the secret- a secret which I might never haveattained but for the peculiarity and the inferences whichin its mere characterof peculiarityit affords me. -
* "Murders in the Rue Morgue." -
The process of thoughtat this pointmay be thus roughly sketched:- I sayto myself- "Unityas I have explained itis a truth- I feel it. Diffusionis a truth- I see it. Irradiationby which alone these two truths arereconciledis a consequent truth- I perceive it. Equability of diffusionfirstdeduced a priori and then corroborated by the inspection of phaenomenais alsoa truth- I fully admit it. So far all is clear around me:- there are no cloudsbehind which the secret- the great secret of the gravitating modus operandi -can possibly lie hidden;- but this secret lies hereaboutsmost assuredly; andwere there but a cloud in viewI should be driven to suspicion of thatcloud." And nowjust as I say thisthere actually comes a cloud intoview. This cloud is the seeming impossibility of reconciling my truthirradiationwith my truthequability of diffusion. I say now:- "Behindthis seeming impossibility is to be found what I desire." I do not say"real impossibility;" for invincible faith in my truths assures methat it is a mere difficulty after all- but I go on to saywith unflinchingconfidencethatwhen this difficulty shall be solvedwe shall findwrappedup in the recess of solutionthe key to the secret at which we aim. Moreover- Ifeel that we shall discover but one possible solution of the difficulty; thisfor the reason thatwere there twoone would be supererogatory- would befruitless- would be empty- would contain no key- since no duplicate key can beneeded to any secret of Nature.
And nowlet us see:- Our usual notions of irradiation- in fact all ourdistinct notions of it- are caught merely from the process as we see itexemplified in Light. Here there is a continuous outpouring of ray-streamsandwith a force which we have at least no right to suppose varies at all. Nowinany such irradiation as this - continuous and of unvarying force- the regionsnearer the centre must inevitably be always more crowded with the irradiatedmatter than the regions more remote. But I have assumed no such irradiation asthis. I assumed no continuous irradiation; and for the simple reason that suchan assumption would have involvedfirstthe necessity of entertaining aconception which I have shown no man can entertainand which (as I will morefully explain hereafter) all observation of the firmament refutes- theconception of the absolute infinity of the Universe of stars- and would haveinvolvedsecondlythe impossibility of understanding a reaction- that isgravitation- as existing now- sincewhile an act is continuedno reactionofcoursecan take place. My assumptionthenor rather my inevitable deductionfrom just premises- was that of a determinate irradiation- one finally discontinued.
Let me now describe the sole possible mode in which it is conceivable thatmatter could have been diffused through spaceso as to fulfil the conditions atonce of irradiation and of generally equable distribution.
For convenience of illustrationlet us imaginein the first placea hollowsphere of glassor of anything elseoccupying the space throughout which theuniversal matter is to be thus equally diffusedby means of irradiationfromthe absoluteirrelativeunconditional particleplaced in the centre of thesphere.
Nowa certain exertion of the diffusive power (presumed to be the DivineVolition)- in other wordsa certain force - whose measure is the quantity ofmatter- that is to saythe number of atoms- emitted; emitsby irradiationthis certain number of atoms; forcing them in all directions outwardly from thecentre- their proximity to each other diminishing as they proceed- untilfinallythey are distributedlooselyover the interior surface of the sphere.
When these atoms have attained this positionor while proceeding to attainita second and inferior exercise of the same force- or a second and inferiorforce of the same character- emitsin the same manner- that is to saybyirradiation as before- a second stratum of atoms which proceeds to deposititself upon the first; the number of atomsin this case as in the formerbeingof course the measure of the force which emitted them; in other words the forcebeing precisely adapted to the purpose it effects- the force and the number ofatoms sent out by the forcebeing directly proportional.
When this second stratum has reached its destined position- or whileapproaching it- a third still inferior exertion of the forceor a thirdinferior force of a similar character- the number of atoms emitted being in allcases the measure of the force- proceeds to deposit a third stratum upon thesecond:- and so onuntil these concentric stratagrowing gradually less andlesscome down at length to the central point; and the diffusive mattersimultaneously with the diffusive forceis exhausted.
We have now the sphere filledthrough means of irradiationwith atomsequably diffused. The two necessary conditions- those of irradiation and ofequable diffusion- are satisfied; and by the sole process in which thepossibility of their simultaneous satisfaction is conceivable. For this reasonI confidently expect to findlurking in the present condition of the atoms asdistributed throughout the spherethe secret of which I am in search- theall-important principle of the modus operandi of the Newtonian law. Let usexaminethenthe actual condition of the atoms.
They lie in a series of concentric strata. They are equably diffusedthroughout the sphere. They have been irradiated into these states.
The atoms being equably distributedthe greater the superficial extent ofany of these concentric strataor spheresthe more atoms will lie upon it. Inother wordsthe number of atoms lying upon the surface of any one of theconcentric spheresis directly proportional with the extent of that surface.
Butin any series of concentric spheresthe surfaces are directlyproportional with the squares of the distances from the centre. *
* Succinctly- The surfaces of spheres are as the squares of their radii. -
Therefore the number of atoms in any stratum is directly proportional withthe square of that stratum's distance from the centre.
But the number of atoms in any stratum is the measure of the force whichemitted that stratum- that is to sayis directly proportional with the force.
Therefore the force which irradiated any stratum is directly proportionalwith the square of that stratum's distance from the centre:- orgenerally
The force of the irradiation has been directly proportional with the squaresof the distances.
NowReactionas far as we know any thing of itis Action conversed. Thegeneral principle of Gravity beingin the first placeunderstood as thereaction of an act- as the expression of a desire on the part of Matterwhileexisting in a state of diffusionto return into the Unity whence it wasdiffused; andin the second placethe mind being called upon to determine thecharacter of the desire- the manner in which it wouldnaturallybe manifested;in other wordsbeing called upon to conceive a probable lawor modus operandifor the return; could not well help arriving at the conclusion that this law ofreturn would be precisely the converse of the law of departure. That such wouldbe the caseany oneat leastwould be abundantly justified in taking forgranteduntil such time as some person should suggest something like aplausible reason why it should not be the case- until such a period as a law ofreturn shall be imagined which the intellect can consider as preferable.
Matterthenirradiated into space with a force varying as the squares ofthe distancesmighta prioribe supposed to return towards its centre ofirradiation with a force varying inversely as the squares of the distances: andI have already shown * that any principle which will explain why the atomsshould tendaccording to any lawto the general centremust be admitted assatisfactorily explainingat the same timewhyaccording to the same lawthey should tend each to each. Forin factthe tendency to the general centreis not to a centre as suchbut because of its being a point in tending towardswhich each atom tends most directly to its real and essential centreUnity -the absolute and final Union of all. -
* See previous paragraph"I reply that they do; as will bedistinctly..." -
The consideration here involved presents to my own mind no embarrassmentwhatever- but this fact does not blind me to the possibility of its beingobscure to those who may have been less in the habit of dealing withabstractions:- andupon the wholeit may be as well to look at the matter fromone or two other points of view.
The absoluteirrelative particle primarily created by the Volition of Godmust have been in a condition of positive normalityor rightfulness- forwrongfulness implies relation. Right is positive; wrong is negative- is merelythe negation of right; as cold is the negation of heat- darkness of light. Thata thing may be wrongit is necessary that there be some other thing in relationto which it is wrong- some condition which it fails to satisfy; some law whichit violates; some being whom it aggrieves. If there be no such beinglaworconditionin respect to which the thing is wrong- andstill more especiallyif no beingslawsor conditions exist at all- then the thing cannot be wrongand consequently must be right. Any deviation from normality involves a tendencyto return to it. A difference from the normal- from the right- from the just-can be understood as effected only by the overcoming a difficulty; and if theforce which overcomes the difficulty be not infinitely continuedtheineradicable tendency to return will at length be permitted to act for its ownsatisfaction. Upon withdrawal of the forcethe tendency acts. This is theprinciple of reaction as the inevitable consequence of finite action. Employinga phraseology of which the seeming affectation will be pardoned for itsexpressivenesswe may say that Reaction is the return from the condition of asit is and ought not to be into the condition of as it wasoriginallyandtherefore ought to be: - and let me add here that the absolute force of Reactionwould no doubt be always found in direct proportion with the reality- the truth-the absoluteness- of the originality - if ever it were possible to measure thislatter:- andconsequentlythe greatest of all conceivable reactions must bethat produced by the tendency which we now discuss- the tendency to return intothe absolutely original - into the supremely primitive. Gravitythenmust bethe strongest of forces - an idea reached a priori and abundantly confirmed byinduction. What use I make of the ideawill be seen in the sequel.
The atomsnowhaving been diffused from their normal condition of Unityseek to return to- what? Not to any particular pointcertainly; for it is clearthat ifupon the diffusionthe whole Universe of matter had been projectedcollectivelyto a distance from the point of irradiationthe atomic tendencyto the general centre of the sphere would not have been disturbed in the least:-the atoms would not have sought the point in absolute space from which they wereoriginally impelled. It is merely the conditionand not the point or localityat which this condition took its risethat these atoms seek to re-establish;-it is merely that condition which is their normalitythat they desire."But they seek a centre" it will be said"and a centre is apoint." True; but they seek this point not in its character of point- (forwere the whole sphere moved from its positionthey would seekequallythecentre; and the centre then would be a new point)- but because it so happensonaccount of the form in which they collectively exist- (that of the sphere)- thatonly through the point in question- the sphere's centre- they can attain theirtrue objectUnity. In the direction of the centre each atom perceives moreatoms than in any other direction. Each atom is impelled towards the centrebecause along the straight line joining it and the centre and passing on to thecircumference beyondthere lie a greater number of atoms than along any otherstraight line- a greater number of objects that seek itthe individual atom- agreater number of tendencies to Unity- a greater number of satisfactions for itsown tendency to Unity- in a wordbecause in the direction of the centre liesthe utmost possibility of satisfactiongenerallyfor its own individualappetite. To be briefthe conditionUnityis all that is really sought; andif the atoms seem to seek the centre of the sphereit is only impliedlythrough implication- because such centre happens to implyto includeor toinvolvethe only essential centreUnity. But on account of this implication orinvolutionthere is no possibility of practically separating the tendency toUnity in the abstractfrom the tendency to the concrete centre. Thus thetendency of the atoms to the general centre isto all practical intents and forall logical purposesthe tendency each to each; and the tendency each to eachis the tendency to the centre; and the one tendency may be assumed as the other;whatever will apply to the one must be thoroughly applicable to the other; andin conclusionwhatever principle will satisfactorily explain the onecannot bequestioned as an explanation of the other.
In looking carefully around me for rational objection to what I haveadvancedI am able to discover nothing; - but of that class of objectionsusually urged by the doubters for Doubt's sakeI very readily perceive three;and proceed to dispose of them in order.
It may be saidfirst: "The proof that the force of irradiation (in thecase described) is directly proportional to the squares of the distancesdepends upon an unwarranted assumption- that of the number of atoms in eachstratum being the measure of the force with which they are emitted."
I replynot only that I am warranted in such assumptionbut that I shouldbe utterly un warranted in any other. What I assume issimplythat an effectis the measure of its cause- that every exercise of the Divine Will will beproportional to that which demands the exertion- that the means of Omnipotenceor of Omnisciencewill be exactly adapted to its purposes. Neither can adeficiency nor an excess of cause bring to pass any effect. Had the force whichirradiated any stratum to its positionbeen either more or less than was neededfor the purpose- that is to saynot directly proportional to the purpose- thento its position that stratum could not have been irradiated. Had the forcewhichwith a view to general equability of distributionemitted the propernumber of atoms for each stratumbeen not directly proportional to the numberthen the number would not have been the number demanded for the equabledistribution.
The second supposable objection is somewhat better entitled to an answer.
It is an admitted principle in Dynamics that every bodyon receiving animpulseor disposition to movewill move onward in a straight linein thedirection imparted by the impelling forceuntil deflectedor stoppedby someother force. How thenit may be askedis my first or external stratum of atomsto be understood as discontinuing their movement at the circumference of theimaginary glass spherewhen no second forceof more than an imaginarycharacterappearsto account for the discontinuance?
I reply that the objectionin this caseactually does arise out of "anunwarranted assumption"- on the part of the objector- the assumption of aprinciplein Dynamicsat an epoch when no "principles" in anythingexist:- I use the word "principle" of coursein the objector'sunderstanding of the word.
"In the beginning" we can admit- indeed we can comprehend- but oneFirst Cause - the truly ultimate Principle - the Volition of God. The primaryact - that of Irradiation from Unity- must have been independent of all thatwhich the world now calls "principle"- because all that we sodesignate is but a consequence of the reaction of that primary act:- I say"primary" act; for the creation of the absolute material particle ismore properly to be regarded as a conception than as an "act" in theordinary meaning of the term. Thuswe must regard the primary act as an act forthe establishment of what we now call "principles". But this primaryact itself is to be considered as continuous Volition. The Thought of God is tobe understood as originating the Diffusion- as proceeding with it- as regulatingit- andfinallyas being withdrawn from it upon its completion. Then commencesReactionand through Reaction"Principle" as we employ the word. Itwill be advisablehoweverto limit the application of this word to the twoimmediate results of the discontinuance of the Divine Volition- that isto thetwo agentsAttraction and Repulsion. Every other Natural agent dependseithermore or less immediatelyupon these twoand therefore would be moreconveniently designated as sub -principle.
It may be objectedthirdlythatin generalthe peculiar mode ofdistribution which I have suggested for the atomsis "an hypothesis andnothing more."
NowI am aware that the word hypothesis is a ponderous sledge-hammergrasped immediatelyif not liftedby all very diminutive thinkersupon thefirst appearance of any proposition wearingin any particularthe garb of atheory. But "hypothesis" cannot be wielded here to any good purposeeven by those who succeed in lifting it- little men or great.
I maintainfirstthat only in the mode described is it conceivable thatMatter could have been diffused so as to fulfil at once the conditions ofirradiation and of generally equable distribution. I maintainsecondlythatthese conditions themselves have been imposed upon meas necessitiesin atrain of ratiocination as rigorously logical as that which establishes anydemonstration in Euclid; and I maintainthirdlythat even if the charge of"hypothesis" were as fully sustained as it isin factunsustainedand untenablestill the validity and indisputability of my result would noteven in the slightest particularbe disturbed.
To explain: The Newtonian Gravity- a law of Nature- a law whose existence assuch no one out of Bedlam questions- a law whose admission as such enables us toaccount for nine-tenths of the Universal phaenomena- a law whichmerely becauseit does so enable us to account for these phaenomenawe are perfectly willingwithout reference to any other considerationsto admitand cannot helpadmittingas a law- a lawneverthelessof which neither the principle nor themodus operandi of the principlehas ever yet been traced by the human analysis-a lawin shortwhichneither in its detail nor in its generalityhas beenfound susceptible of explanation at all - is at length seen to be at every pointthoroughly explicableprovided we only yield our assent to- what? To anhypothesis? Why if an hypothesis- if the merest hypothesis- if an hypothesis forwhose assumption- as in the case of that pure hypothesis the Newtonian lawitself- no shadow of a priori reason could be assigned- if an hypothesisevenso absolute as all this implieswould enable us to perceive a principle for theNewtonian law- would enable us to understand as satisfiedconditions somiraculously- so ineffably complex and seemingly irreconcileable as thoseinvolved in the relations of which Gravity tells us- what rational being couldso expose his fatuity as to call even this absolute hypothesis an hypothesis anylonger- unlessindeedhe were to persist in so calling itwith theunderstanding that he did sosimply for the sake of consistency in words?
But what is the true state of our present case? What is the fact? Not onlythat it is not an hypothesis which we are required to adoptin order to admitthe principle at issue explainedbut that it is a logical conclusion which weare requested not to adopt if we can avoid it- which we are simply invited todeny if we can: - a conclusion of so accurate a logicality that to dispute itwould be the effort- to doubt its validity beyond our power:- a conclusion fromwhich we see no mode of escapeturn as we will; a result which confronts useither at the end of an in ductive journey from the phaenomena of the very Lawdiscussedor at the close of a de ductive career from the most rigorouslysimple of all conceivable assumptions- the assumptionin a wordof Simplicityitself.
And if herefor the mere sake of cavillingit be urgedthat although mystarting-point isas I assertthe assumption of absolute SimplicityyetSimplicityconsidered merely in itselfis no axiom; and that only deductionsfrom axioms are indisputable- it is thus that I reply:-
Every other science than Logic is the science of certain concrete relations.Arithmeticfor exampleis the science of the relations of number- Geometryofthe relations of form- Mathematics in generalof the relations of quantity ingeneral- of whatever can be increased or diminished. Logichoweveris thescience of Relation in the abstract- of absolute Relation- of Relationconsidered solely in itself. An axiom in any particular science other than Logicisthusmerely a proposition announcing certain concrete relations which seemto be too obvious for dispute- as when we sayfor instancethat the whole isgreater than its part:- andthus againthe principle of the Logical axiom- inother wordsof an axiom in the abstract- issimplyobviousness of relation.Nowit is clearnot only that what is obvious to one mind may not be obviousto anotherbut that what is obvious to one mind at one epochmay be anythingbut obviousat another epochto the same mind. It is clearmoreoverthatwhatto-dayis obvious even to the majority of mankindor to the majority ofthe best intellects of mankindmay to-morrow beto either majoritymore orless obviousor in no respect obvious at all. It is seenthenthat theaxiomatic principle itself is susceptible of variationand of course thataxioms are susceptible of similar change. Being mutablethe "truths"which grow out of them are necessarily mutable too; orin other wordsarenever to be positively depended upon as truths at all- since Truth andImmutability are one.
It will now be readily understood that no axiomatic idea- no idea founded inthe fluctuating principleobviousness of relation- can possibly be so secure-so reliable a basis for any structure erected by the Reasonas that idea-(whatever it iswherever we can find itor if it be practicable to find itanywhere)- which is ir relative altogether- which not only presents to theunderstanding no obviousness of relationeither greater or lessto beconsideredbut subjects the intellectnot in the slightest degreeto thenecessity of even looking at any relation at all. If such an idea be not what wetoo heedlessly term "an axiom" it is at least preferableas aLogical basisto any axiom ever propoundedor to all imaginable axiomscombined:- and suchpreciselyis the idea with which my deductive processsothoroughly corroborated by inductioncommences. My particle proper is butabsolute Irrelation. To sum up what has been advanced:- As a starting point Ihave taken it for grantedsimplythat the Beginning had nothing behind it orbefore it- that it was a Beginning in fact- that it was a beginning and nothingdifferent from a beginning- in shortthat this Beginning was- that which itwas. If this be a "mere assumption" then a "mere assumption"let it be.
To conclude this branch of the subject:- I am fully warranted in announcingthat the Law which we have been in the habit of calling Gravity exists onaccount of Matter's having been irradiatedat its originatomicallyinto alimited * sphere of Spacefrom oneindividualunconditionalirrelativeandabsolute Particle Properby the sole process in which it was possible tosatisfyat the same timethe two conditionsirradiationandgenerally-equable distribution throughout the sphere- that is to sayby a forcevarying in direct proportion with the squares of the distances between theirradiated atomsrespectivelyand the Particular centre of Irradiation. -
* "Limited sphere"- A sphere is necessarily limited. I prefertautology to a chance of misconception. -
I have already given my reasons for presuming Matter to have been diffused bya determinate rather than by a continuous or infinitely continued force.Supposing a continuous forcewe should be unablein the first placetocomprehend a reaction at all; and we should be requiredin the second placetoentertain the impossible conception of an infinite extension of Matter. Not todwell upon the impossibility of the conceptionthe infinite extension of Matteris an idea whichif not positively disprovedis at least not in any respectwarranted by telescopic observation of the stars- a point to be explained morefully hereafter; and this empirical reason for believing in the original finityof Matter is unempirically confirmed. For example:- Admittingfor the momentthe possibility of understanding Space filled with the irradiated atoms- that isto sayadmittingas well as we canfor argument's sakethat the successionof the irradiated atoms had absolutely no end - then it is abundantly clearthateven when the Volition of God had been withdrawn from themand thus thetendency to return into Unity permitted (abstractly) to be satisfiedthispermission would have been nugatory and invalid- practically valueless and of noeffect whatever. No Reaction could have taken place; no movement toward Unitycould have been made; no Law of Gravity could have obtained.
To explain:- Grant the abstract tendency of any one atom to any one other asthe inevitable result of diffusion from the normal Unity:- orwhat is the samethingadmit any given atom as proposing to move in any given direction- it isclear thatsince there is an infinity of atoms on all sides of the atomproposing to moveit never can actually move toward the satisfaction of itstendency in the direction givenon account of a precisely equal andcounter-balancing tendency in the direction diametrically opposite. In otherwordsexactly as many tendencies to Unity are behind the hesitating atom asbefore it; for it is a mere sotticism to say that one infinite line is longer orshorter than another infinite lineor that one infinite number is greater orless than another number that is infinite. Thus the atom in question must remainstationary forever. Under the impossible circumstances which we have been merelyendeavoring to conceive for argument's sakethere could have been noaggregation of Matter- no stars- no worlds- nothing but a perpetually atomic andinconsequential Universe. In factview it as we willthe whole idea ofunlimited Matter is not only untenablebut impossible and preposterous.
With the understanding of a sphere of atomshoweverwe perceiveat onceasatisfiable tendency to union. The general result of the tendency each to eachbeing a tendency of all to the centrethe general process of condensationorapproximationcommences immediatelyby a common and simultaneous movementonwithdrawal of the Divine Volition; the individual approximationsorcoalescences-not coalitions- of atom with atombeing subject to almost infinitevariations of timedegreeand conditionon account of the excessivemultiplicity of relationarising from the differences of form assumed ascharacterizing the atoms at the moment of their quitting the Particle Proper; aswell as from the subsequent particular inequidistanceeach from each.
What I wish to impress upon the reader is the certainty of there arisingatonce(on withdrawal of the diffusive forceor Divine Volition) out of thecondition of the atoms as describedat innumerable points throughout theUniversal sphereinnumerable agglomerationscharacterized by innumerablespecific differences of formsizeessential natureand distance each fromeach. The development of Repulsion (Electricity) must have commencedof coursewith the very earliest particular efforts at Unityand must have proceededconstantly in the ratio of Coalescence- that is to sayin that of Condensationoragainof Heterogeneity.
Thus the two Principles ProperAttraction and Repulsion - the Material andthe Spiritual- accompany each otherin the strictest fellowshipforever. ThusThe Body and The Soul walk hand in hand.
If nowin fancywe select any one of the agglomerations considered as intheir primary stages throughout the Universal sphereand suppose this incipientagglomeration to be taking place at that point where the centre of our Sunexists- or rather where it did exist originally; for the Sun is perpetuallyshifting his position- we shall find ourselves metand borne onward for a timeat leastby the most magnificent of theories- by the Nebular Cosmogony ofLaplace:- although "Cosmogony" is far too comprehensive a term forwhat he really discusses- which is the constitution of our solar system alone-of one among the myriad of similar systems which make up the Universe Proper-that Universal sphere- that all-inclusive and absolute Kosmos which forms thesubject of my present Discourse.
Confining himself to an obviously limited region- that of our solar systemwith its comparatively immediate vicinity- and merely assuming- that is to sayassuming without any basis whatevereither deductive or inductive- much of whatI have been just endeavoring to place upon a more stable basis than assumption;assumingfor examplematter as diffused (without pretending to account for thediffusion) throughoutand somewhat beyondthe space occupied by our system-diffused in a state of heterogeneous nebulosity and obedient to thatomniprevalent law of Gravity at whose principle he ventured to make no guess;-assuming all this (which is quite truealthough he had no logical right to itsassumption) Laplace has showndynamically and mathematicallythat the resultsin such case necessarily ensuingare those and those alone which we findmanifested in the actually existing condition of the system itself.
To explain:- Let us conceive that particular agglomeration of which we havejust spoken- the one at the point designated by our Sun's centre- to have so farproceeded that a vast quantity of nebulous matter has here assumed a roughlyglobular form; its centre beingof coursecoincident with what is noworrather was originallythe centre of our Sun; and its periphery extending outbeyond the orbit of Neptunethe most remote of our planets:- in other wordslet us suppose the diameter of this rough sphere to be some 6000 millions ofmiles. For agesthis mass of matter has been undergoing condensationuntil atlength it has become reduced into the bulk we imagine; having proceededgraduallyof coursefrom its atomic and imperceptible stateinto what weunderstand of visiblepalpableor otherwise appreciable nebulosity.
Nowthe condition of this mass implies a rotation about an imaginary axis- arotation whichcommencing with the absolute incipiency of the aggregationhasbeen ever since acquiring velocity. The very first two atoms which metapproaching each other from points not diametrically oppositewouldin rushingpartially past each otherform a nucleus for the rotary movement described. Howthis would increase in velocityis readily seen. The two atoms are joined byothers:- an aggregation is formed. The mass continues to rotate whilecondensing. But any atom at the circumference hasof coursea more rapidmotion than one nearer the centre. The outer atomhoweverwith its superiorvelocityapproaches the centre; carrying this superior velocity with it as itgoes. Thus every atomproceeding inwardlyand finally attaching itself to thecondensed centreadds something to the original velocity of that centre- thatis to sayincreases the rotary movement of the mass.
Let us now suppose this mass so far condensed that it occupies precisely thespace circumscribed by the orbit of Neptuneand that the velocity with whichthe surface of the mass movesin the general rotationis precisely thatvelocity with which Neptune now revolves about the Sun. At this epochthenweare to understand that the constantly increasing centrifugal forcehavinggotten the better of the non-increasing centripetalloosened and separated theexterior and least condensed stratumor a few of the exterior and leastcondensed strataat the equator of the spherewhere the tangential velocitypredominated; so that these strata formed about the main body an independentring encircling the equatorial regions:- just as the exterior portion thrownoffby excessive velocity of rotationfrom a grindstonewould form a ringabout the grindstonebut for the solidity of the superficial material: werethis caoutchoucor anything similar in consistencyprecisely the phaenomenon Idescribe would be presented.
The ring thus whirled from the nebulous massrevolvedof courseas aseparate ringwith just that velocity with whichwhile the surface of themassit rotated. In the meantimecondensation still proceedingthe intervalbetween the discharged ring and the main body continued to increaseuntil theformer was left at a vast distance from the latter.
Nowadmitting the ring to have possessedby some seemingly accidentalarrangement of its heterogeneous materialsa constitution nearly uniformthenthis ringas suchwould never have ceased revolving about its primary; butasmight have been anticipatedthere appears to have been enough irregularity inthe disposition of the materialsto make them cluster about centres of superiorsolidity; and thus the annular form was destroyed. * No doubtthe band was soonbroken up into several portionsand one of these portionspredominating inmassabsorbed the others into itself; the whole settlingsphericallyinto aplanet. That this latteras a planetcontinued the revolutionary movementwhich characterized it while a ringis sufficiently clear; and that it tookupon itselfalsoan additional movement in its new condition of sphereisreadily explained. The ring being understood as yet unbrokenwe see that itsexteriorwhile the whole revolves about the parent bodymoves more rapidlythan its interior. When the rupture occurredthensome portion in eachfragment must have been moving with greater velocity than the others. Thesuperior movement prevailingmust have whirled each fragment round- that is tosayhave caused it to rotate; and the direction of the rotation mustofcoursehave been the direction of the revolution whence it arose. All thefragments having become subject to the rotation describedmustin coalescinghave imparted it to the one planet constituted by their coalescence.- Thisplanet was Neptune. Its material continuing to undergo condensationand thecentrifugal force generated in its rotation gettingat lengththe better ofthe centripetalas before in the case of the parent orba ring was whirledalso from the equatorial surface of this planet: this ringhaving beenununiform in its constitutionwas broken upand its several fragmentsbeingabsorbed by the most massivewere collectively spherified into a moon.Subsequentlythe operation was repeatedand a second moon was the result. Wethus account for the planet Neptunewith the two satellites which accompanyhim. -
* Laplace assumed his nebulosity heterogeneousmerely that he might be thusenabled to account for the breaking up of the rings; for had the nebulosity beenhomogeneousthey would not have broken. I reach the same result- heterogeneityof the secondary masses immediately resulting from the atoms- purely from an apriori consideration of
their general design- Relation. -
In throwing of a ring from its equatorthe Sun re-established thatequilibrium between its centripetal and centrifugal forces which had beendisturbed in the process of condensation; butas this condensation stillproceededthe equilibrium was again immediately disturbedthrough the increaseof rotation. By the time the mass had so far shrunk that it occupied a sphericalspace just that circumscribed by the orbit of Uranuswe are to understand thatthe centrifugal force had so far obtained the ascendency that new relief wasneeded: a second equatorial band wasconsequentlythrown offwhichprovingununiformwas broken upas before in the case of Neptune; the fragmentssettling into the planet Uranus; the velocity of whose actual revolution aboutthe Sun indicatesof coursethe rotary speed of that Sun's equatorial surfaceat the moment of the separation. Uranusadopting a rotation from the collectiverotations of the fragments composing itas previously explainednow threw offring after ring; each of whichbecoming broken upsettled into a moon:- threemoonsat different epochshaving been formedin this mannerby the ruptureand general spherification of as many distinct ununiform rings.
By the time the Sun had shrunk until it occupied a space just thatcircumscribed by the orbit of Saturnthe balancewe are to supposebetweenits centripetal and centrifugal forces had again become so far disturbedthrough increase of rotary velocitythe result of condensationthat a thirdeffort at equilibrium became necessary; and an annular band was thereforewhirled offas twice before; whichon rupture through ununiformitybecameconsolidated into the planet Saturn. This latter threw offin the first placeseven uniform bandswhichon rupturewere spherified respectively into asmany moons; butsubsequentlyit appears to have dischargedat three distinctbut not very distant epochsthree rings whose equability of constitution wasby apparent accidentso considerable as to present no occasion for theirrupture; thus they continue to revolve as rings. I use the phrase "apparentaccident;" for of accident in the ordinary sense there wasof coursenothing:- the term is properly applied only to the result of indistinguishableor not immediately traceable law.
Shrinking still fartheruntil it occupied just the space circumscribed bythe orbit of Jupiterthe Sun now found need of farther effort to restore thecounterbalance of its two forcescontinually disarranged in the still continuedincrease of rotation. Jupiteraccordinglywas now thrown off; passing from theannular to the planetary condition; andon attaining this latterthrew off inits turnat four different epochsfour ringswhich finally resolvedthemselves into so many moons.
Still shrinkinguntil its sphere occupied just the space defined by theorbit of the Asteroidsthe Sun now discarded a ring which appears to have hadeight centres of superior solidityandon breaking upto have separated intoeight fragments no one of which so far predominated in mass as to absorb theothers. All thereforeas distinct although comparatively small planetsproceeded to revolve in orbits whose distanceseach from eachmay beconsidered as in some degree the measure of the force which drove them asunder:-all the orbitsneverthelessbeing so closely coincident as to admit of ourcalling them onein view of the other planetary orbits.
Continuing to shrinkthe Sunon becoming so small as just to fill the orbitof Marsnow discharged this planet- of course by the process repeatedlydescribed. Having no moonhoweverMars could have thrown off no ring. In factan epoch had now arrived in the career of the parent bodythe centre of thesystem. The de crease of its nebulositywhich is the in crease of its densityand which again is the de crease of its condensationout of which latter arosethe constant disturbance of equilibrium- mustby this periodhave attained apoint at which the efforts for restoration would have been more and moreineffectual just in proportion as they were less frequently needed. Thus theprocesses of which we have been speaking would everywhere show signs ofexhaustion- in the planetsfirstand secondlyin the original mass. We mustnot fall into the error of supposing the decrease of interval observed among theplanets as we approach the Sunto be in any respect indicative of an increaseof frequency in the periods at which they were discarded. Exactly the converseis to be understood. The longest interval of time must have occurred between thedischarges of the two interior; the shortestbetween those of the two exteriorplanets. The decrease of the interval of space isneverthelessthe measure ofthe densityand thus inversely of the condensationof the Sunthroughout theprocesses detailed.
Having shrunkhoweverso far as to fill only the orbit of our Earththeparent sphere whirled from itself still one other body- the Earth- in acondition ~~~~so nebulous as to admit of this body's discardingin its turnyet anotherwhich is our Moon;- but here terminated the lunar formations.
Finallysubsiding to the orbits first of Venus and then of Mercurythe Sundiscarded these two interior planets; neither of which has given birth to anymoon.
Thus from his original bulk- orto speak more accuratelyfrom the conditionin which we first considered him- from a partially spherified nebular masscertainly much more than 5600 millions of miles in diameter- the great centralorb and origin of our solar-planetary-lunar systemhas gradually descendedbycondensationin obedience to the law of Gravityto a globe only 882000 milesin diameter; but it by no means followseither that its condensation is yetcompleteor that it may not still possess the capacity of whirling from itselfanother planet.
I have here given- in outline of coursebut still with all the detailnecessary for distinctness- a view of the Nebular Theory as its author himselfconceived it. From whatever point we regard itwe shall find it beautifullytrue. It is by far too beautifulindeednot to possess Truth as itsessentiality- and here I am very profoundly serious in what I say. In therevolution of the satellites of Uranusthere does appear something seeminglyinconsistent with the assumptions of Laplace; but that one inconsistency caninvalidate a theory constructed from a million of intricate consistenciesis afancy fit only for the fantastic. In prophecyingconfidentlythat the apparentanomaly to which I referwillsooner or laterbe found one of the strongestpossible corroborations of the general hypothesisI pretend to no especialspirit of divination. It is a matter which the only difficulty seems not toforesee. * -
* I am prepared to show that the anomalous revolution of the satellites ofUranus is a simply perspective anomaly arising from the inclination of the axisof the planet. -
The bodies whirled off in the processes describedwould exchangeit hasbeen seenthe superficial rotation of the orbs whence they originatedfor arevolution of equal velocity about these orbs as distant centres; and therevolution thus engendered must proceedso long as the centripetal forceorthat with which the discarded body gravitates toward its parentis neithergreater nor less than that by which it was discarded; that isthan thecentrifugalorfar more properlythan the tangentialvelocity. From theunityhoweverof the origin of these two forceswe might have expected tofind them as they are found- the one accurately counterbalancing the other. Ithas been shownindeedthat the act of whirling-off isin every casemerelyan act for the preservation of the counterbalance.
After referringhoweverthe centripetal force to the omniprevalent law ofGravityit has been the fashion with astronomical treatisesto seek beyond thelimits of mere Nature- that is to sayof Secondary Cause- a solution of thephaenomenon of tangential velocity. This latter they attribute directly to aFirst Cause- to God. The force which carries a stellar body around its primarythey assert to have originated in an impulse given immediately by the finger-this is the childish phraseology employed- by the finger of Deity itself. Inthis viewthe planetsfully formedare conceived to have been hurled from theDivine handto a position in the vicinity of the sunswith an impetusmathematically adapted to the massesor attractive capacitiesof the sunsthemselves. An idea so grossly unphilosophicalalthough so supinely adoptedcould have arisen only from the difficulty of otherwise accounting for theabsolutely accurate adaptationeach to eachof two forces so seeminglyindependentone of the otheras are the gravitating and tangential. But itshould be remembered thatfor a long timethe coincidence between the moon'srotation and her sidereal revolution- two matters seemingly far more independentthan those now considered- was looked upon as positively miraculous; and therewas a strong dispositioneven among astronomersto attribute the marvel to thedirect and continual agency of God- whoin this caseit was saidhad found itnecessary to interposespeciallyamong his general lawsa set of subsidiaryregulationsfor the purpose of forever concealing from mortal eyes the gloriesor perhaps the horrorsof the other side of the Moon- of that mysterioushemisphere which has always avoidedand must perpetually avoidthe telescopicscrutiny of mankind. The advance of Sciencehoweversoon demonstrated- what tothe philosophical instinct needed no demonstration- that the one movement is buta portion- something moreeventhan a consequence- of the other.
For my partI have no patience with fantasies at once so timorousso idleand so awkward. They belong to the veriest cowardice of thought. That Nature andthe God of Nature are distinctno thinking being can long doubt. By the formerwe imply merely the laws of the latter. But with the very idea of Godomnipotentomniscientwe entertainalsothe idea of the infallibility of hislaws. With Him there being neither Past nor Future- with Him all being Now - dowe not insult him in supposing his laws so contrived as not to provide for everypossible contingency?- orratherwhat idea can we have of any possiblecontingencyexcept that it is at once a result and a manifestation of his laws?He whodivesting himself of prejudiceshall have the rare courage to thinkabsolutely for himselfcannot fail to arrivein the endat the condensationof laws into Law -cannot fail of reaching the conclusion that each law of Natureis dependent at all points upon all other lawsand that all are butconsequences of one primary exercise of the Divine Volition. Such is theprinciple of the Cosmogony whichwith all necessary deferenceI here ventureto suggest and to maintain.
In this viewit will be seen thatdismissing as frivolousand evenimpiousthe fancy of the tangential force having been imparted to the planetsimmediatelyby "the finger of God" I consider this force asoriginating in the rotation of the stars:- this rotation as brought about by thein-rushing of the primary atomstowards their respective centres ofaggregation:- this in-rushing as the consequence of the law of Gravity:- thislaw as but the mode in which is necessarily manifested the tendency of the atomsto return into imparticularity:- this tendency to return as but the inevitablereaction of the first and most sublime of Acts- that act by which a Godself-existing and alone existingbecame all things at oncethrough dint of hisvolitionwhile all things were thus constituted a portion of God.
The radical assumptions of this Discourse suggest to meand in fact implycertain important modifications of the Nebular Theory as given by Laplace. Theefforts of the repulsive power I have considered as made for the purpose ofpreventing contact among the atomsand thus as made in the ratio of theapproach to contact- that is to sayin the ratio of condensation. * In otherwordsElectricitywith its involute phaenomenaheatlight and magnetismisto be understood as proceeding as condensation proceedsandof courseinversely as density proceedsor the cessation to condense. Thus the Suninthe process of its aggregationmust soonin developing repulsionhave becomeexcessively heated- perhaps incandescent: and we can perceive how the operationof discarding its rings must have been materially assisted by the slightincrustation of its surface consequent on cooling. Any common experiment showsus how readily a crust of the character suggestedis separatedthroughheterogeneityfrom the interior mass. Buton every successive rejection of thecrustthe new surface would appear incandescent as before; and the period atwhich it would again become so far encrusted as to be readily loosened anddischargedmay well be imagined as exactly coincident with that at which a neweffort would be neededby the whole massto restore the equilibrium of its twoforcesdisarranged through condensation. In other words:- by the time theelectric influence (Repulsion) has prepared the surface for rejectionwe are tounderstand that the gravitating influence (Attraction) is precisely ready toreject it. Herethenas everywherethe Body and the Soul walk hand in hand. -
* See previous paragraph"With the understanding of a sphere ofatoms..." -
These ideas are empirically confirmed at all points. Since condensation canneverin any bodybe considered as absolutely at an endwe are warranted inanticipating thatwhenever we have an opportunity of testing the matterweshall find indications of resident luminosity in all the stellar bodies- moonsand planets as well as suns. That our Moon is strongly self-luminouswe see ather every total eclipsewhenif not soshe would disappear. On the dark partof the satellitetooduring her phaseswe often observe flashes like our ownAuroras; and that these latterwith our various other so-called electricalphaenomenawithout reference to any more steady radiancemust give our Earth acertain appearance of luminosity to an inhabitant of the Moonis quite evident.In factwe should regard all the phaenomena referred toas meremanifestationsin different moods and degreesof the Earth's feebly-continuedcondensation.
If my views are tenablewe should be prepared to find the newer planets-that is to saythose nearer the Sun- more luminous than those older and moreremote:- and the extreme brilliancy of Venus (on whose dark portionsduring herphasesthe Auroras are frequently visible) does not seem to be altogetheraccounted for by her mere proximity to the central orb. She is no doubt vividlyself-luminousalthough less so than Mercury: while the luminosity of Neptunemay
be comparatively nothing.
Admitting what I have urgedit is clear thatfrom the moment of the Sun'sdiscarding a ringthere must be a continuous diminution both of his heat andlighton account of the continuous encrustation of his surface; and that aperiod would arrive- the period immediately previous to a new discharge- when avery material decrease of both light and heatmust become apparent. Nowweknow that tokens of such changes are distinctly recognizable. On the Melvilleislands- to adduce merely one out of a hundred examples- we find traces ofultra-tropical vegetation- of plants that never could have flourished withoutimmensely more light and heat than are at present afforded by our Sun to anyportion of the surface of the Earth. Is such vegetation referable to an epochimmediately subsequent to the whirling-off of Venus? At this epoch must haveoccurred to us our greatest access of solar influence; andin factthisinfluence must then have attained its maximum:- leaving out of viewof coursethe period when the Earth itself was discarded- the period of its mereorganization.
Again:- we know that there exist non-luminous suns - that is to saysunswhose existence we determine through the movements of othersbut whoseluminosity is not sufficient to impress us. Are these suns invisible merely onaccount of the length of time elapsed since their discharge of a planet? And yetagain:- may we not- at least in certain cases- account for the suddenappearances of suns where none had been previously suspectedby the hypothesisthathaving rolled with encrusted surfaces throughout the few thousand years ofour astronomical historyeach of these sunsin whirling off a new secondaryhas at length been enabled to display the glories of its still incandescentinterior?- To the well-ascertained fact of the proportional increase of heat aswe descend into the EarthI need of coursedo nothing more than refer:- itcomes in the strongest possible corroboration of all that I have said on thetopic now at issue.
In speakingnot long agoof the repulsive or electrical influenceIremarked that "the important phaenomena of vitalityconsciousnessandthoughtwhether we observe them generally or in detailseem to proceed atleast in the ratio of the heterogeneous. " * I mentionedtoothat I wouldrecur to the suggestion:- and this is the proper point at which to do so.Looking at the matterfirstin detailwe perceive that not merely themanifestation of vitalitybut its importanceconsequencesand elevation ofcharacterkeep pacevery closelywith the heterogeneityor complexityofthe animal structure. Looking at the questionnowin its generalityandreferring to the first movements of the atoms towards mass-constitutionwe findthat heterogeneousnessbrought about directly through condensationisproportional with it forever. We thus reach the proposition that the importanceof the development of the terrestrial vitality proceeds equably with theterrestrial condensation. -
* See previous paragraph"To electricity- sofor the presentcontinuing to call it..." -
Now this is in precise accordance with what we know of the succession ofanimals on the Earth. As it has proceeded in its condensationsuperior andstill superior races have appeared. Is it impossible that the successivegeological revolutions which have attendedat leastif not immediately causedthese successive elevations of vitalic character- is it improbable that theserevolutions have themselves been produced by the successive planetary dischargesfrom the Sun- in other wordsby the successive variations in the solarinfluence on the Earth? Were this idea tenablewe should not be unwarranted inthe fancy that the discharge of yet a new planetinterior to Mercurymay giverise to yet a new modification of the terrestrial surface- a modification fromwhich may spring a race both materially and spiritually superior to Man. Thesethoughts impress me with all the force of truth- but I throw them outofcoursemerely in their obvious character of suggestion.
The Nebular Theory of Laplace has lately received far more confirmation thanit neededat the hands of the philosopherCompte. These two have thus togethershown- notto be surethat Matter at any period actually existed as describedin a state of nebular diffusionbut thatadmitting it so to have existedthroughout the space and much beyond the space now occupied by our solar systemand to have commenced a movement towards a centre - it must gradually haveassumed the various forms and motions which are now seenin that systemtoobtain. A demonstration such as this- a dynamical and mathematicaldemonstrationas far as demonstration can be- unquestionable and unquestioned-unlessindeedby that unprofitable and disreputable tribethe professionalquestioners- the mere madmen who deny the Newtonian law of Gravity on which theresults of the French mathematicians are based- a demonstrationI saysuch asthiswould to most intellects be conclusive- and I confess that it is so tomine- of the validity of the nebular hypothesis upon which the demonstrationdepends.
That the demonstration does not prove the hypothesisaccording to the commonunderstanding of the word "proof" I admitof course. To show thatcertain existing results- that certain established facts- may beevenmathematicallyaccounted for by the assumption of a certain hypothesisis byno means to establish the hypothesis itself. In other words:- to show thatcertain data being givena certain existing result mightor even musthaveensuedwill fail to prove that this result did ensuefrom the datauntil suchtime as it shall be also shown that there areand can beno other data fromwhich the result in question might equally have ensued. Butin the case nowdiscussedalthough all must admit the deficiency of what we are in the habit ofterming "proof" still there are many intellectsand those of theloftiest order to which no proof could bring one iota of additional conviction.Without going into details which might impinge upon the Cloud-Land ofMetaphysicsI may as well here observe that the force of convictionin casessuch as thiswill alwayswith the right-thinkingbe proportional to theamount of complexity intervening between the hypothesis and the result. To beless abstract:- The greatness of the complexity found existing among cosmicalconditionsby rendering great in the same proportion the difficulty ofaccounting for all these conditions at oncestrengthensalso in the sameproportionour faith in that hypothesis which doesin such mannersatisfactorily account for them:- and as no complexity can well be conceivedgreater than that of the astronomical conditionsso no conviction can bestronger- to my mind at least- than that with which I am impressed by anhypothesis that not only reconciles these conditionswith mathematicalaccuracyand reduces them into a consistent and intelligible wholebut isatthe same timethe sole hypothesis by means of which the human intellect hasbeen ever enabled to account for them at all.
A most unfounded opinion has been latterly current and even in scientificcircles- the opinion that the so-called Nebular Cosmogony has been overthrown.This fancy has arisen from the report of late observations madeamong whathitherto have been termed the "nebulae" through the large telescopeof Cincinnatiand the world-renowned instrument of Lord Rosse. Certain spots inthe firmament which presentedeven to the most powerful of the old telescopesthe appearance of nebulosityor hazehad been regarded for a long time asconfirming the theory of Laplace. They were looked upon as stars in that veryprocess of condensation which I have been attempting to describe. Thus it wassupposed that we "had ocular evidence"- an evidenceby the waywhichhas always been found very questionable- of the truth of the hypothesis; andalthough certain telescopic improvementsevery now and thenenabled us toperceive that a spothere and therewhich we had been classing among thenebulaewasin factbut a cluster of stars deriving its nebular characteronly from its immensity of distance- still it was thought that no doubt couldexist as to the actual nebulosity of numerous other massesthe strong-holds ofthe nebulistsbidding defiance to every effort at segregation. Of these latterthe most interesting was the great "nebulae" in the constellationOrion:- but thiswith innumerable other miscalled "nebulae" whenviewed through the magnificent modern telescopeshas become resolved into asimple collection of stars. Now this fact has been very generally understood asconclusive against the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace; andon announcement ofthe discoveries in questionthe most enthusiastic defender and most eloquentpopularizer of the theoryDr. Nicholwent so far as to "admit thenecessity of abandoning" an idea which had formed the material of his mostpraiseworthy book. * -
* "Views of the Architecture of the Heavens." A letterpurportingto be from Dr. Nichol to a friend in Americawent the rounds of our newspapersabout two years agoI thinkadmitting "the necessity" to which Irefer. In a subsequent LecturehoweverDr. N. appears in some manner to havegotten the better of the necessityand does not quite renounce the theoryalthough he seems to wish that he could sneer at it as "a purelyhypothetical one." What else was the Law of Gravity before the Maskelyneexperiments? and who questioned the Law of Gravityeven then? -
Many of my readers will no doubt be inclined to say that the result of thesenew investigations has at least a strong tendency to overthrow the hypothesis;while some of themmore thoughtfulwill suggest thatalthough the theory isby no means disproved through the segregation of the particular"nebulae" alluded tostill a failure to segregate themwith suchtelescopesmight well have been understood as a triumphant corroboration of thetheory:- and this latter class will be surprisedperhapsto hear me say thateven with them I disagree. If the propositions of this Discourse have beencomprehendedit will be seen thatin my viewa failure to segregate the"nebulae" would have tended to the refutationrather than to theconfirmationof the Nebular Hypothesis.
Let me explain:- The Newtonian Law of Gravity we mayof courseassume asdemonstrated. This lawit will be rememberedI have referred to the reactionof the first Divine Act- to the reaction of an exercise of the Divine Volitiontemporarily overcoming a difficulty. This difficulty is that of forcing thenormal into the abnormal- of impelling that whose originalityand thereforewhose rightful conditionwas Oneto take upon itself the wrongful condition ofMany. It is only by conceiving this difficulty as temporarily overcomethat wecan comprehend a reaction. There could have been no reaction had the act beeninfinitely continued. So long as the act lastedno reactionof coursecouldcommence; in other wordsno gravitation could take place- for we haveconsidered the one as but the manifestation of the other. But gravitation hastaken place; therefore the act of Creation has ceased: and gravitation has longago taken place; therefore the act of Creation has long ago ceased. We can nomore expectthento observe the primary processes of Creation; and to theseprimary processes the condition of nebulosity has already been explained tobelong.
Through what we know of the propagation of lightwe have direct proof thatthe more remote of the stars have existedunder the forms in which we now seethemfor an inconceivable number of years. So far back at leastthenas theperiod when these stars underwent condensationmust have been the epoch atwhich the mass-constitutive processes began. That we may conceive theseprocessesthenas still going on in the case of certain "nebulae"while in all other cases we find them thoroughly at an endwe are forced intoassumptions for which we have really no basis whatever- we have to thrust inagainupon the revolting Reasonthe blasphemous idea of special interposition-we have to suppose thatin the particular instances of these"nebulae" an unerring God found it necessary to introduce certainsupplementary regulations- certain improvements of the general law- certainretouchings and emendationsin a wordwhich had the effect of deferring thecompletion of these individual stars for centuries of centuries beyond the aeraduring which all the other stellar bodies had timenot only to be fullyconstitutedbut to grow hoary with an unspeakable old age.
Of courseit will be immediately objected that since the light by which werecognize the nebulae nowmust be merely that which left their surfaces a vastnumber of years agothe processes at present observedor supposed to beobservedarein factnot processes now actually going onbut the phantoms ofprocesses completed long in the Past- just as I maintain all thesemass-constitutive processes must have been.
To this I reply that neither is the now-observed condition of the condensedstars their actual conditionbut a condition completed long in the Past; sothat my argument drawn from the relative condition of the stars and the"nebulae" is in no manner disturbed. Moreoverthose who maintain theexistence of nebulaedo not refer the nebulosity to extreme distance; theydeclare it a real and not merely a perspective nebulosity. That we may conceiveindeeda nebular mass as visible at allwe must conceive it as very near us incomparison with the condensed stars brought into view by the modern telescopes.In maintaining the appearances in questionthento be really nebulouswemaintain their comparative vicinity to our point of view. Thustheir conditionas we see them nowmust be referred to an epoch far less remote than that towhich we may refer the now-observed condition of at least the majority of thestars.- In a wordshould Astronomy ever demonstrate a "nebula" inthe sense at present intendedI should consider the Nebular Cosmogony- notindeedas corroborated by the demonstration- but as thereby irretrievablyoverthrown.
By wayhoweverof rendering unto Caesar no more than the things that areCaesar'slet me here remark that the assumption of the hypothesis which led himto so glorious a resultseems to have been suggested to Laplace in greatmeasure by a misconception- by the very misconception of which we have just beenspeaking- by the generally prevalent misunderstanding of the character of thenebulaeso mis-named. These he supposed to bein realitywhat theirdesignation implies. The fact isthis great man hadvery properlyan inferiorfaith in his own merely perceptive powers. In respectthereforeto the actualexistence of nebulae- an existence so confidently maintained by his telescopiccontemporaries- he depended less upon what he saw than upon what he heard.
It will be seen that the only valid objections to his theoryare those madeto its hypothesis as such- to what suggested it- not to what it suggests; to itspropositions rather than to its results. His most unwarranted assumption wasthat of giving the atoms a movement towards a centrein the very face of hisevident understanding that these atomsin unlimited successionextendedthroughout the Universal space. I have already shown thatunder suchcircumstancesthere could have occurred no movement at all; and Laplaceconsequentlyassumed one on no more philosophical ground than that something ofthe kind was necessary for the establishment of what he intended to establish.
His original idea seems to have been a compound of the true Epicurean atomswith the false nebulae of his contemporaries; and thus his theory presents uswith the singular anomaly of absolute truth deducedas a mathematical resultfrom a hybrid datum of ancient imagination intertangled with modern inacumen.Laplace's real strength layin factin an almost miraculous mathematicalinstinct:- on this he relied; and in no instance did it fail or deceive him:- inthe case of the Nebular Cosmogonyit led himblindfoldedthrough a labyrinthof Errorinto one of the most luminous and stupendous temples of Truth.
Let us now fancyfor the momentthat the ring first thrown off by the Sun-that is to saythe ring whose breaking-up constituted Neptune- did notinfactbreak up until the throwing-off of the ring out of which Uranus arose;that this latter ringagainremained perfect until the discharge of that outof which sprang Saturn; that this latteragainremained entire until thedischarge of that from which originated Jupiter- and so on. Let us imaginein awordthat no dissolution occurred among the rings until the final rejection ofthat which gave birth to Mercury. We thus paint to the eye of the mind a seriesof coexistent concentric circles; and looking as well at them as at theprocesses by whichaccording to Laplace's hypothesisthey were constructedweperceive at once a very singular analogy with the atomic strata and the processof the original irradiation as I have described it. Is it impossible thatonmeasuring the forcesrespectivelyby which each successive planetary circlewas thrown off- that is to sayon measuring the successive excesses of rotationover gravitation which occasioned the successive discharges- we should find theanalogy in question more decidedly confirmed? Is it improbable that we shoulddiscover these forces to have varied- as in the original radiation- proportionalto the squares of the distances?
Our solar systemconsistingin chiefof one sunwith sixteen planetscertainlyand possibly a few morerevolving about it at various distancesandattended by seventeen moons assuredlybut very probably by several others- isnow to be considered as an example of the innumerable agglomerations whichproceeded to take place throughout the Universal Sphere of atoms on withdrawalof the Divine Volition. I mean to say that our solar system is to be understoodas affording a generic instance of these agglomerationsormore correctlyofthe ulterior conditions at which they arrived. If we keep our attention fixed onthe idea of the utmost possible Relation as the Omnipotent designand on theprecautions taken to accomplish it through difference of formamong theoriginal atomsand particular inequidistancewe shall find it impossible tosuppose for a moment that even any two of the incipient agglomerations reachedprecisely the same result in the end. We shall rather be inclined to think thatno two stellar bodies in the Universe- whether sunsplanets or moons- areparticularlywhile all are generallysimilar. Still lessthencan we imagineany two assemblages of such bodies- any two "systems"- as having morethan a general resemblance. * Our telescopesat this pointthoroughly confirmour deductions. Taking our own solar systemthenas merely a loose or generaltype of allwe have so far proceeded in our subject as to survey the Universeunder the aspect of a spherical spacethroughout whichdispersed with merelygeneral equabilityexist a number of but generally similar systems. -
* It is not impossible that some unlooked-for optical improvement maydisclose to usamong innumerable varieties of systemsa luminous sunencircled by luminous and non-luminous ringswithin and without and betweenwhichrevolve luminous and non-luminous planetsattended by moons havingmoons- and even these latter again having moons. -
Let us nowexpanding our conceptionslook upon each of these system as initself an atom; which in fact it iswhen we consider it as but one of thecountless myriads of systems which constitute the Universe. Regarding allthenas but colossal atomseach with the same ineradicable tendency to Unity whichcharacterizes the actual atoms of which it consists- we enter at once upon a neworder of aggregations. The smaller systemsin the vicinity of a larger onewouldinevitablybe drawn into still closer vicinity. A thousand wouldassemble here; a million there- perhaps hereagaineven a billion- leavingthusimmeasurable vacancies in space. And ifnowit be demanded whyin thecase of these systems- of these merely Titanic atoms- I speaksimplyof an"assemblage" and notas in the case of the actual atomsof a moreor less consolidated agglomeration:- if it be askedfor instancewhy I do notcarry what I suggest to its legitimate conclusionand describeat oncetheseassemblages of system-atoms as rushing to consolidation in spheres- as eachbecoming condensed into one magnificent sun- my reply is that mellonta tauta - Iam but pausingfor a momenton the awful threshold of the Future. For thepresentcalling these assemblages "clusters" we see them in theincipient stages of their consolidation. Their absolute consolidation is tocome.
We have now reached a point from which we behold the Universe as a sphericalspaceinterspersedunequablywith clusters. It will be noticed that I hereprefer the adverb "unequably" to the phrase "with a merelygeneral equability" employed before. It is evidentin factthat theequability of distribution will diminish in the ratio of the agglomerativeprocesses- that is to sayas the things distributed diminish in number. Thusthe increase of in equability- an increase which must continue untilsooner orlater an epoch will arrive at which the largest agglomeration will absorb allthe others- should be viewed assimplya corroborative indication of thetendency to One.
And hereat lengthit seems proper to inquire whether the ascertained factsof Astronomy confirm the general arrangement which I have thusdeductivelyassigned to the Heavens. Thoroughlythey do. Telescopic observationguided bythe laws of perspectiveenables us to understand that the perceptible Universeexists as a cluster of clustersirregularly disposed.
The "clusters" of which this Universal "cluster ofclusters" consistsare merely what we have been in the practice ofdesignating "nebulae"- andof these "nebulae" one is ofparamount interest to mankind. I allude to the Galaxyor Milky Way. Thisinterests usfirst and most obviouslyon account of its great superiority inapparent sizenot only to any one other cluster in the firmamentbut to allthe other clusters taken together. The largest of these latter occupies a merepointcomparativelyand is distinctly seen only with the aid of a telescope.The Galaxy sweeps throughout the Heaven and is brilliantly visible to the nakedeye. But it interests man chieflyalthough less immediatelyon account of itsbeing his home; the home of the Earth on which he exists; the home of the Sunabout which this Earth revolves; the home of that "system" of orbs ofwhich the Sun is the centre and primary- the Earth one of sixteen secondariesor planets- the Moon one of seventeen tertiariesor satellites. The Galaxyletme repeatis but one of the clusters which I have been describing- but one ofthe mis-called "nebulae" revealed to us- by the telescope alonesometimes- as faint hazy spots in various quarters of the sky. We have no reasonto suppose the Milky Way really more extensive than the least of these"nebulae". Its vast superiority in size is but an apparent superiorityarising from our position in regard to it- that is to sayfrom our position inits midst. However strange the assertion may at first appear to those unversedin Astronomystill the astronomer himself has no hesitation in asserting thatwe are in the midst of that inconceivable host of stars- of suns- of systems-which constitute the Galaxy. Moreovernot only have we - not only has our Sun aright to claim the Galaxy as its own especial clusterbutwith slightreservationit may be said that all the distinctly visible stars of thefirmament- all the stars visible to the naked eye- have equally a right to claimit as their own.
There has been a great deal of misconception in respect to the shape of theGalaxy; whichin nearly all our astronomical treatisesis said to resemblethat of a capital Y. The cluster in question hasin realitya certain general-very general resemblance to the planet Saturnwith its encompassing triplering. Instead of the solid orb of that planethoweverwe must picture toourselves a lenticular star-islandor collection of stars; our Sun lyingexcentrically- near the shore of the island- on that side of it which is nearestthe constellation of the Cross and farthest from that of Cassiopeia. Thesurrounding ringwhere it approaches our positionhas in it a longitudinalgashwhich does in factcause the ringin our vicinityto assumelooselythe appearance of a capital Y.
We must not fall into the errorhoweverof conceiving the somewhatindefinite girdle as at all remotecomparatively speakingfrom the alsoindefinite lenticular cluster which it surrounds; and thusfor mere purpose ofexplanationwe may speak of our Sun as actually situated at that point of the Ywhere its three component lines unite; andconceiving this letter to be of acertain solidity- of a certain thicknessvery trivial in comparison with itslength- we may even speak of our position as in the middle of this thickness.Fancying ourselves thus placedwe shall no longer find difficulty in accountingfor the phaenomena presented- which are perspective altogether. When we lookupward or downward- that is to saywhen we cast our eyes in the direction ofthe letter's thickness - we look through fewer stars than when we cast them inthe direction of its lengthor along either of the three component lines. Ofcoursein the former casethe stars appear scattered- in the lattercrowded.-To reverse this explanation:- An inhabitant of the Earthwhen lookingas wecommonly express ourselvesat the Galaxyis then beholding it in some of thedirections of its length- is looking along the lines of the Y- but whenlookingout into the general Heavenhe turns his eyes from the Galaxyhe is thensurveying it in the direction of the letter's thickness; and on this account thestars seem to him scattered; whilein factthey are as close togetheron anaverageas in the mass of the cluster. No consideration could be better adaptedto convey an idea of this cluster's stupendous extent.
Ifwith a telescope of high space-penetrating powerwe carefully inspectthe firmamentwe shall become aware of a belt of clusters - of what we havehitherto called "nebulae"- a bandof varying breadthstretching fromhorizon to horizonat right angles to the general course of the Milky Way. Thisband is the ultimate cluster of clusters. This belt is The Universe. Our Galaxyis but oneand perhaps one of the most inconsiderableof the clusters which goto the constitution of this ultimateUniversal belt or band. The appearance ofthis cluster of clustersto our eyesas a belt or bandis altogether aperspective phaenomenon of the same character as that which causes us to beholdour own individual and roughly-spherical clusterthe Galaxyunder guise alsoof a belttraversing the Heavens at right angles to the Universal one. Theshape of the all-inclusive cluster isof course generallythat of eachindividual cluster which it includes. Just as the scattered stars whichonlooking from the Galaxywe see in the general skyarein factbut a portionof that Galaxy itselfand as closely intermingled with it as any of thetelescopic points in what seems the densest portion of its mass- so are thescattered "nebulae" whichon casting our eyes from the Universalbeltwe perceive at all points of the firmament- soI sayare these scattered"nebulae" to be understood as only perspectively scatteredand aspart and parcel of the one supreme and Universal sphere.
No astronomical fallacy is more untenableand none has been morepertinaciously adhered tothan that of the absolute illimitation of theUniverse of Stars. The reasons for limitationas I have already assigned thema prioriseem to me unanswerable; butnot to speak of theseobservationassures us that there isin numerous directions around uscertainlyif not inalla positive limit- orat the very leastaffords us no basis whatever forthinking otherwise. Were the succession of stars endlessthen the background ofthe sky would present us an uniform luminositylike that displayed by theGalaxy- since there could be absolutely no pointin all that backgroundatwhich would not exist a star. The only modethereforein whichunder such astate of affairswe could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find ininnumerable directionswould be by supposing the distance of the invisiblebackground so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all.That this may be sowho shall venture to deny? I maintainsimplythat we havenot even the shadow of a reason for believing that it is so.
When speaking of the vulgar propensity to regard all bodies on the Earth astending merely to the Earth's centreI observed that"with certainexceptions to be specified hereafterevery body on the Earth tended not only tothe Earth's centrebut in every conceivable direction besides." * The"exceptions" refer to those frequent gaps in the Heavenswhere ourutmost scrutiny can detect not only no stellar bodiesbut no indications oftheir existence:- where yawning chasmsblacker than Erebusseem to afford usglimpsesthrough the boundary walls of the Universe of Starsinto theillimitable Universe of Vacancybeyond. Now as any bodyexisting on the Earthchances to passeither through its own movement or the Earth'sinto a linewith any one of these voidsor cosmical abyssesit clearly is no longerattracted in the direction of that voidand for the momentconsequentlyis"heavier" than at any periodeither after or before. Independently ofthe consideration of these voids howeverand looking only at the generallyunequable distribution of the starswe see that the absolute tendency of bodieson the Earth to the Earth's centreis in a state of perpetual variation. -
* See prevous paragraph"Nowto what does so partial a considerationtend..." -
We comprehendthenthe insulation of our Universe. We perceive theisolation of that - of all that which we grasp with the senses. We know thatthere exists one cluster of clusters - a collection around whichon all sidesextend the immeasurable wildernesses of a Space to all human perceptionuntenanted. But because upon the confines of this Universe of Stars we arecompelled to pausethrough want of farther evidence from the sensesis itright to conclude thatin factthere is no material point beyond that which wehave thus been permitted to attain? Have weor have we notan analogical rightto the inference that this perceptible Universe- that this cluster of clusters-is but one of a series of clusters of clustersthe rest of which are invisiblethrough distance- through the diffusion of their light being so excessiveereit reaches usas not to produce upon our retinas a light-impression- or fromthere being no such emanation as light at allin these unspeakably distantworlds- orlastlyfrom the mere interval being so vastthat the electrictidings of their presence in Spacehave not yet- through the lapsing myriads ofyears- been enabled to traverse that interval?
Have we any right to inferences- have we any ground whatever for visions suchas these? If we have a right to them in any degreewe have a right to theirinfinite extension.
The human brain has obviously a leaning to the "Infinite" andfondles the phantom of the idea. It seems to long with a passionate fervor forthis impossible conceptionwith the hope of intellectually believing it whenconceived. What is general among the whole race of Manof course no individualof that race can be warranted in considering abnormal; neverthelessthere maybe a class of superior intelligencesto whom the human bias alluded to may wearall the character of monomania.
My questionhoweverremains unanswered:- Have we any right to infer- let ussayratherto imagine- an interminable succession of the "clusters ofclusters" or of "Universes" more or less similar?
I reply that the "right" in a case such as thisdependsabsolutely upon the hardihood of that imagination which ventures to claim theright. Let me declareonlythatas an individualI myself feel impelled tothe fancy - without daring to call it more- that there does exist a limitlesssuccession of Universesmore or less similar to that of which we havecognizance- to that of which alone we shall ever have cognizance- at the veryleast until the return of our own particular Universe into Unity. If suchclusters of clusters existhowever- and they do - it is abundantly clear thathaving had no part in our originthey have no portion in our laws. They neitherattract usnor we them. Their material- their spirit is not ours- is not thatwhich obtains in any part of our Universe. They could not impress our senses orour souls. Among them and us- considering allfor the momentcollectively-there are no influences in common. Each existsapart and independentlyin thebosom of its proper and particular God.
In the conduct of this DiscourseI am aiming less at physical than atmetaphysical order. The clearness with which even material phaenomena arepresented to the understandingdepends very littleI have long since learnedto perceiveupon a merely naturaland almost altogether upon a moralarrangement. If then I seem to step somewhat too discursively from point topoint of my topiclet me suggest that I do so in the hope of thus the betterkeeping unbroken that chain of graduated impression by which alone the intellectof Man can expect to encompass the grandeurs of which I speakandin theirmajestic totalityto comprehend them.
So farour attention has been directedalmost exclusivelyto a general andrelative grouping of the stellar bodies in space. Of specification there hasbeen little and whatever ideas of quantity have been conveyed- that is to sayof numbermagnitudeand distance- have been conveyed incidentally and by wayof preparation for more definitive conceptions. These latter let us now attemptto entertain.
Our solar systemas has been already mentionedconsistsin chiefof onesun and sixteen planets certainlybut in all probability a few othersrevolving around it as a centreand attended by seventeen moons of which weknowwith possibly several more of which as yet we know nothing. These variousbodies are not true spheresbut oblate spheroids- spheres flattened at thepoles of the imaginary axes about which they rotate:- the flattening being aconsequence of the rotation. Neither is the Sun absolutely the centre of thesystem; for this Sun itselfwith all the planetsrevolves about a perpetuallyshifting point of spacewhich is the system's general centre of gravity.Neither are we to consider the paths through which these different spheroidsmove- the moons about the planetsthe planets about the Sunor the Sun aboutthe common centre- as circles in an accurate sense. They arein factellipses-one of the foci being the point about which the revolution is made. An ellipseis a curvereturning into itselfone of whose diameters is longer than theother. In the longer diameter are two pointsequidistant from the middle of thelineand so situated otherwise that iffrom each of them a straight line bedrawn to any one point of the curvethe two linestaken togetherwillbeequal to the longer diameter itself. Now let us conceive such an ellipse. At oneof the points mentionedwhich are the focilet us fasten an orange. By anelastic thread let us connect this orange with a pea; and let us place thislatter on the circumference of the ellipse. Let us now move the pea continuouslyaround the orange- keeping always on the circumference of the ellipse. Theelastic threadwhichof coursevaries in length as we move the peawill formwhat in geometry is called a radius vector. Nowif the orange be understood asthe Sunand the pea as a planet revolving about itthen the revolution shouldbe made at such a rate- with a velocity so varying- that the radius vector maypass over equal areas of space in equal times. The progress of the pea should be- in other wordsthe progress of the planet isof course- slow in proportionto its distance from the Sun- swift in proportion to its proximity. Thoseplanetsmoreovermove the more slowly which are the farther from the Sun; thesquares of their periods of revolution having the same proportion to each otheras have to each other the cubes of their mean distances from the Sun.
The wonderfully complex laws of revolution here describedhoweverare notto be understood as obtaining in our system alone. They everywhere prevail whereAttraction prevails. They control the Universe. Every shining speck in thefirmament isno doubta luminous sunresembling our ownat least in itsgeneral featuresand having in attendance upon it a greater or less number ofplanetsgreater or lesswhose still lingering luminosity is not sufficient torender them visible to us at so vast a distancebut whichneverthelessrevolvemoon-attendedabout their starry centresin obedience to theprinciples just detailed- in obedience to the three omniprevalent laws ofrevolution the three immortal laws guessed by the imaginative Keplerand butsubsequently demonstrated and accounted for by the patient and mathematicalNewton. Among a tribe of philosophers who pride themselves excessively uponmatter-of-factit is far too fashionable to sneer at all speculation under thecomprehensive sobriquet"guess-work." The point to be considered iswho guesses. In guessing with Platowe spend our time to better purposenowand thenthan in hearkening to a demonstration by Alcmaeon.
In many works on Astronomy I find it distinctly stated that the laws ofKepler are the basis of the great principleGravitation. This idea must havearisen from the fact that the suggestion of these laws by Keplerand hisproving them a posteriori to have an actual existenceled Newton to account forthem by the hypothesis of Gravitationandfinallyto demonstrate them apriorias necessary consequences of the hypothetical principle. Thus so farfrom the laws of Kepler being the basis of GravityGravity is the basis ofthese laws- as it isindeedof all the laws of the material Universe which arenot referable to Repulsion alone.
The mean distance of the Earth from the Moon- that is to sayfrom theheavenly body in our closest vicinity- is 237000 miles. Mercurythe planetnearest the Sunis distant from him 37 millions of miles. Venusthe nextrevolves at a distance of 68 millions:- the Earthwhich comes nextat adistance of 95 millions:- Marsthenat a distance of 144 millions. Now comethe eight Asteroids (CeresJunoVestaPallasAstraeaFloraIrisand Hebe)at an average distance of about 250 millions. Then we have Jupiterdistant 490millions; then Saturn900 millions; then Uranus19 hundred millions; finallyNeptunelately discoveredand revolving at a distancesay of 28 hundredmillions. Leaving Neptune out of the account- of which as yet we know littleaccurately and which ispossiblyone of a system of Asteroids- it will be seenthatwithin certain limitsthere exists an order of interval among theplanets. Speaking looselywe may say that each outer planet is twice as farfrom the Sun as is the next inner one. May not the order here mentioned- may notthe law of Bode- be deduced from consideration of the analogy suggested by me ashaving place between the solar discharge of rings and the mode of the atomicirradiation?
The numbers hurriedly mentioned in this summary of distanceit is folly toattempt comprehendingunless in the light of abstract arithmetical facts. Theyare not practically tangible ones. They convey no precise ideas. I have statedthat Neptunethe planet farthest from the Sunrevolves about him at a distanceof 28 hundred millions of miles. So far good:- I have stated a mathematicalfact; andwithout comprehending it in the leastwe may put it to use-mathematically. But in mentioningeventhat the Moon revolves about the Earthat the comparatively trifling distance of 237000 milesI entertained noexpectation of giving any one to understand- to know- to feel- how far from theEarth the Moon actually is. 237000 miles! There areperhapsfew of my readerswho have not crossed the Atlantic ocean; yet how many of them have a distinctidea of even the 3000 miles intervening between shore and shore? I doubtindeedwhether the man lives who can force into his brain the most remoteconception of the interval between one milestone and its next neighbor upon theturnpike. We are in some measure aidedhoweverin our consideration ofdistanceby combining this consideration with the kindred one of velocity.Sound passes through 1100 feet of space in a second of time. Now were itpossible for an inhabitant of the Earth to see the flash of a cannon dischargedin the Moonand to hear the reporthe would have to waitafter perceiving theformermore than 13 entire days and nights before getting any intimation of thelatter.
However feeble be the impressioneven thus conveyedof the Moon's realdistance from the Earthit willneverthelesseffect a good object in enablingus more clearly to see the futility of attempting to grasp such intervals asthat of the 28 hundred millions of miles between our Sun and Neptune; or eventhat of the 95 millions between the Sun and the Earth we inhabit. A cannon-ballflying at the greatest velocity with which a ball has ever been known to flycould not traverse the latter interval in less than 20 years; while for theformer it would require 590.
Our Moon's real diameter is 2160 miles; yet she is comparatively so triflingan object that it would take nearly 50 such orbs to compose one as great as theEarth.
The diameter of our own globe is 7912 miles- but from the enunciation ofthese numbers what positive idea do we derive?
If we ascend an ordinary mountain and look around us from its summitwebehold a landscape stretchingsay 40 milesin every direction; forming acircle 250 miles in circumference; and including an area of 5000 square miles.The extent of such a prospecton account of the successiveness with which itsportions necessarily present themselves to viewcan be only very feebly andvery partially appreciated:- yet the entire panorama would comprehend no morethan one 40000th part of the mere surface of our globe. Were this panoramathento be succeededafter the lapse of an hourby another of equal extent;this again by a thirdafter the lapse of another hour; this again by a fourthafter lapse of another hour- and so onuntil the scenery of the whole Earthwere exhausted; and were we to be engaged in examining these various panoramasfor twelve hours of every day; we should neverthelessbe 9 years and 48 days incompleting the general survey.
But if the mere surface of the Earth eludes the grasp of the imaginationwhat are we to think of its cubical contents? It embraces a mass of matter equalin weight to at least 2 sextillions200 quintillions of tons. Let us suppose itin a state of quiescence; and now let us endeavor to conceive a mechanical forcesufficient to set it in motion! Not the strength of all the myriads of beingswhom we may conclude to inhabit the planetary worlds of our system- not thecombined physical strength of all these beings- even admitting all to be morepowerful than man- would avail to stir the ponderous mass a single inch from itsposition.
What are we to understandthenof the forcewhich under similarcircumstanceswould be required to move the largest of our planetsJupiter?This is 86000 miles in diameterand would include within its periphery morethan a thousand orbs of the magnitude of our own. Yet this stupendous body isactually flying around the Sun at the rate of 29000 miles an hour- that is tosaywith a velocity 40 times greater than that of a cannon-ball! The thought ofsuch a phaenomenon cannot well be said to startle the mind:- it palsies andappals it. Not unfrequently we task our imagination in picturing the capacitiesof an angel. Let us fancy such a being at a distance of some hundred miles fromJupiter- a close eye-witness of this planet as it speeds on its annualrevolution. Now can weI demandfashion for ourselves any conception sodistinct of this ideal being's spiritual exaltationas that involved in thesupposition thateven by this immeasurable mass of matterwhirled immediatelybefore his eyeswith a velocity so unutterablehe- an angel- angelic though hebe- is not at once struck into nothingness and overwhelmed?
At this pointhoweverit seems proper to suggest thatin factwe havebeen speaking of comparative trifles. Our Sun- the central and controlling orbof the system to which Jupiter belongsis not only greater than Jupiterbutgreater by far than all the planets of the system taken together. This fact isan essential conditionindeedof the stability of the system itself. Thediameter of Jupiter has been mentioned:- it is 86000 miles:- that of the Sun is882000 miles. An inhabitant of the lattertraveling 90 miles a daywould bemore than 80 years in going round a great circle of its circumference. Itoccupies a cubical space of 681 quadrillions472 trillions of miles. The Moonas has been statedrevolves about the Earth at a distance of 237000 miles- inan orbitconsequentlyof nearly a million and a half. Nowwere the Sun placedupon the Earthcentre over centrethe body of the former would extendinevery directionnot only to the line of the Moon's orbitbut beyond itadistance of 200000 miles.
And hereonce againlet me suggest thatin factwe have still beenspeaking of comparative trifles. The distance of the planet Neptune from the Sunhas been stated:- it is 28 hundred millions of miles; the circumference of itsorbitthereforeis about 17 billions. Let this be borne in mind while weglance at some one of the brightest stars. Between this and the star of oursystem(the Sun) there is a gulf of spaceto convey any idea of which weshould need the tongue of an archangel. From our systemthenand from our Sunor starthe star at which we suppose ourselves glancing is a thing altogetherapart:- stillfor the momentlet us imagine it placed upon our Suncentreover centreas we just now imagined this Sun itself placed upon the Earth. Letus now conceive the particular star we have in mindextendingin everydirectionbeyond the orbit of Mercury- of Venus- of the Earth:- still onbeyond the orbit of Mars- of Jupiter- of Uranus- untilfinallywe fancy itfilling the circle- 17 billions of miles in circumference - which is describedby the revolution of Leverrier's planet. When we have conceived all thisweshall have entertained no extravagant conception. There is the very best reasonfor believing that many of the stars are even far larger than the one we haveimagined. I mean to say that we have the very best empirical basis for suchbelief:- andin looking back at the originalatomic arrangements fordiversitywhich have been assumed as a part of the Divine plan in theconstitution of the Universewe shall be enabled easily to understandand tocreditthe existence of even far vaster disproportions in stellar size than anyto which I have hitherto alluded. The largest orbsof coursewe must expect tofind rolling through the widest vacancies of Space.
I remarkedjust nowthat to convey an idea of the interval between our Sunand any one of the other starswe should require the eloquence of an archangel.In so sayingI should not be accused of exaggeration; forin simple truththese are topics on which it is scarcely possible to exaggerate. But let usbring the matter more distinctly before the eye of the mind.
In the first placewe may get a generalrelative conception of the intervalreferred toby comparing it with the inter-planetary spaces. Iffor examplewe suppose the Earthwhich isin reality95 millions of miles from the Sunto be only one foot from that luminary; then Neptune would be 40 feet distant;and the star Alpha Lyraeat the very least159.
Now I presume thatin the termination of my last sentencefew of my readershave noticed anything especially objectionable- particularly wrong. I said thatthe distance of the Earth from the Sun being taken at one footthe distance ofNeptune would be 40 feetand that of Alpha Lyrae159. The proportion betweenone foot and 159has appearedperhapsto convey a sufficiently definiteimpression of the proportion between the two intervals- that of the Earth fromthe Sun and that of Alpha Lyrae from the same luminary. But my account of thematter shouldin realityhave run thus:- The distance of the Earth from theSun being taken at one footthe distance of Neptune would be 40 feetand thatof Alpha Lyrae159- miles: - that is to sayI had assigned to Alpha Lyraeinmy first statement of the caseonly the 5280th part of that distance which isthe least distance possible at which it can actually lie.
To proceed: However distant a mere planet isyet when we look at it througha telescopewe see it under a certain form- of a certain appreciable size. NowI have already hinted at the probable bulk of many of the stars; neverthelesswhen we view any one of themeven through the most powerful telescopeit isfound to present us with no formand consequently with no magnitude whatever.We see it as a point and nothing more.
Again;- Let us suppose ourselves walkingat nighton a highway. In a fieldon one side of the roadis a line of tall objectssay treesthe figures ofwhich are distinctly defined against the background of the sky. This line ofobjects extends at right angles to the roadand from the road to the horizon.Nowas we proceed along the roadwe see these objects changing theirpositionsrespectivelyin relation to a certain fixed point in that portion ofthe firmament which forms the background of the view. Let us suppose this fixedpoint- sufficiently fixed for our purpose- to be the rising moon. We becomeawareat oncethat while the tree nearest us so far alters its position inrespect to the moonas to seem flying behind usthe tree in the extremedistance has scarcely changed at all its relative position with the satellite.We then go on to perceive that the farther the objects are from usthe lessthey alter their positions; and the converse. Then we beginunwittinglytoestimate the distances of individual trees by the degrees in which they evincethe relative alteration. Finallywe come to understand how it might be possibleto ascertain the actual distance of any given tree in the lineby using theamount of relative alteration as a basis in a simple geometrical problem. Nowthis relative alteration is what we call "parallax;" and by parallaxwe calculate the distances of the heavenly bodies. Applying the principle to thetrees in questionwe shouldof coursebe very much at a loss to comprehendthe distance of that treewhichhowever far we proceeded along the roadshould evince no parallax at all. Thisin the case describedis a thingimpossible; but impossible only because all distances on our Earth are trivialindeed:- in comparison with the vast cosmical quantitieswe may speak of themas absolutely nothing.
Nowlet us suppose the star Alpha Lyrae directly overhead; and let usimagine thatinstead of standing on the Earthwe stand at one end of astraight road stretching through Space to a distance equalling the diameter ofthe Earth's orbit- that is to sayto a distance of 190 millions of miles.Having observedby means of the most delicate micrometrical instrumentstheexact position of the starlet us now pass along this inconceivable roaduntilwe reach its other extremity. Nowonce againlet us look at the star. It isprecisely where we left it. Our instrumentshowever delicateassure us thatits relative position is absolutely- is identically the same as at thecommencement of our unutterable journey. No parallax- none whatever- has beenfound.
The fact isthatin regard to the distance of the fixed stars- of any oneof the myriads of suns glistening on the farther side of that awful chasm whichseparates our system from its brothers in the cluster to which it belongs-astronomical scienceuntil very latelycould speak only with a negativecertainty. Assuming the brightest as the nearestwe could sayeven of themonly that there is a certain incomprehensible distance on the hither side ofwhich they cannot be:- how far they are beyond it we had in no case been able toascertain. We perceivedfor examplethat Alpha Lyrae
cannot be nearer to us than 19 trillions200 billions of miles; butfor allwe knewand indeed for all we now knowit may be distant from us the squareor the cubeor any other power of the number mentioned. By dinthoweverofwonderfully minute and cautious observationscontinuedwith novel instrumentsfor many laborious yearsBesselnot long ago deceasedhas lately succeeded indetermining the distance of six or seven stars; among othersthat of the starnumbered 61 in the constellation of the Swan. The distance in this latterinstance ascertainedis 670000 times that of the Sun; which last it will berememberedis 95 millions of miles. The star 61 Cygnithenis nearly 64trillions of miles from us- or more than three times the distance assignedasthe least possiblefor Alpha Lyrae.
In attempting to appreciate this interval by the aid of any considerations ofvelocityas we did in endeavoring to estimate the distance of the moonwe mustleave out of sightaltogethersuch nothings as the speed of a cannon ballorof sound. Lighthoweveraccording to the latest calculations of Struveproceeds at the rate of 167000 miles in a second. Thought itself cannot passthrough this interval more speedily- ifindeedthought can traverse it at all.Yetin coming from 61 Cygni to useven at this inconceivable ratelightoccupies more than ten years; andconsequentlywere the star this momentblotted out from the Universestillfor ten yearswould it continue tosparkle onundimmed in its paradoxical glory.
Keeping now in mind whatever feeble conception we may have attained of theinterval between our Sun and 61 Cygnilet us remember that this intervalhowever unutterably vastwe are permitted to consider as but the averageinterval among the countless host of stars composing that clusteror"nebula" to which our systemas well as that of 61 Cygnibelongs. Ihavein factstated the case with great moderation we have excellent reasonfor believing 61 Cygni to be one of the nearest starsand thus for concludingat least for the presentthat its distance from us is less than the averagedistance between star and star in the magnificent cluster of the Milky Way.
And hereonce again and finallyit seems proper to suggest that even as yetwe have been speaking of trifles. Ceasing to wonder at the space between starand star in our own or in any particular clusterlet us rather turn ourthoughts to the intervals between cluster and clusterin the all comprehensivecluster of the Universe.
I have already said that light proceeds at the rate of 167000 miles in asecond- that isabout 10 millions of miles in a minuteor about 600 millionsof miles in an hour:- yet so far removed from us are some of the"nebulae" that even lightspeeding with this velocitycould not anddoes not reach usfrom those mysterious regionsin less than 3 millions ofyears. This calculationmoreoveris made by the elder Herscheland inreference merely to those comparatively proximate clusters within the scope ofhis own telescope. There are "nebulae" howeverwhichthrough themagical tube of Lord Rosseare this instant whispering in our ears the secretsof a million of ages by-gone. In a wordthe events which we behold now- at thismoment- in those worlds- are the identical events which interested theirinhabitants ten hundred thousand centuries ago. In intervals- in distances suchas this suggestion forces upon the soul - rather than upon the mind- we findatlengtha fitting climax to all hitherto frivolous considerations of quantity.
Our fancies thus occupied with the cosmical distanceslet us take theopportunity of referring to the difficulty which we have so often experiencedwhile pursuing the beaten path of astronomical reflectionin accounting for theimmeasurable voids alluded to- in comprehending why chasms so totally unoccupiedand therefore apparently so needlesshave been made to intervene between starand star- between cluster and cluster- in understandingto be briefasufficient reason for the Titanic scalein respect of mere Spaceon which theUniverse is seen to be constructed. A rational cause for the phaenomenonImaintain that Astronomy has palpably failed to assign:- but the considerationsthrough whichin this Essaywe have proceeded step by stepenable us clearlyand immediately to perceive that Space and Duration are one. That the Universemight endure throughout an aera at all commensurate with the grandeur of itscomponent material portions and with the high majesty of its spiritual purposesit was necessary that the original atomic diffusion be made to so inconceivablean extent as to be only not infinite. It was requiredin a wordthat the starsshould be gathered into visibility from invisible nebulosity- proceed fromnebulosity to consolidation- and so grow grey in giving birth and death tounspeakably numerous and complex variations of vitalic development it wasrequired that the stars should do all this- should have time thoroughly toaccomplish all these Divine purposes- during the period in which all things wereeffecting their return into Unity with a velocity accumulating in the inverseproportion of the squares of the distances at which lay the inevitable End.
Throughout all this we have no difficulty in understanding the absoluteaccuracy of the Divine adaptation. The density of the starsrespectivelyproceedsof courseas their condensation diminishes; condensation andheterogeneity keep pace with each other; through the latterwhich is the indexof the formerwe estimate the vitalic and spiritual development. Thusin thedensity of the globeswe have the measure in which their purposes arefulfilled. As density proceeds- as the divine intentions are accomplished- asless and still less remains to be accomplished- so- in the same ratio- should weexpect to find an acceleration of the End: - and thus the philosophical mindwill easily comprehend that the Divine designs in constituting the starsadvance mathematically to their fulfilment:- and more; it will readily give theadvance a mathematical expression; it will decide that this advance is inverselyproportional with the squares of the distances of all created things from thestarting-point and goal of their creation.
Not only is this Divine adaptationhowevermathematically accuratebutthere is that about it which stamps it as divinein distinction from that whichis merely the work of human constructiveness. I allude to the complete mutualityof adaptation. For example; in human constructions a particular cause has aparticular effect; a particular intention brings to pass a particular object;but this is all; we see no reciprocity. The effect does not re-act upon thecause; the intention does not change relations with the object. In Divineconstructions the object is either design or object as we choose to regard it-and we may take at any time a cause for an effector the converse- so that wecan never absolutely decide which is which.
To give an instance:- In polar climates the human frameto maintain itsanimal heatrequiresfor combustion in the capillary systeman abundantsupply of highly azotized foodsuch as train-oil. But again:- in polar climatesnearly the sole food afforded man is the oil of abundant seals and whales. Nowwhether is oil at hand because imperatively demandedor the only thing demandedbecause the only thing to be obtained? It is impossible to decide. There is anabsolute reciprocity of adaptation.
The pleasure which we derive from any display of human ingenuity is in theratio of the approach to this species of reciprocity. In the construction ofplotfor examplein fictitious literaturewe should aim at so arranging theincidents that we shall not be able to determineof any one of themwhether itdepends from any one other or upholds it. In this senseof courseperfectionof plot is reallyor practicallyunattainable- but only because it is a finiteintelligence that constructs. The plots of God are perfect. The Universe is aplot of God.
And now we have reached a point at which the intellect is forcedagaintostruggle against its propensity for analogical inference- against its monomaniacgrasping at the infinite. Moons have been seen revolving about planets; planetsabout stars; and the poetical instinct of humanity- its instinct of thesymmetricalif the symmetry be but a symmetry of surface:- this instinctwhichthe Soulnot only of Man but of all created beingstook upin the beginningfrom the geometrical basis of the Universal irradiation- impels us to the fancyof an endless extension of this system of cycles. Closing our eyes equally to deduction and in ductionwe insist upon imagining a revolution of all the orbs ofthe Galaxy about some gigantic globe which we take to be the central pivot ofthe whole. Each cluster in the great cluster of clusters is imaginedof courseto be similarly supplied and constructed; whilethat the "analogy"may be wanting at no pointwe go on to conceive these clusters themselvesagainas revolving about some still more august sphere;- this latterstillagainwith its encircling clustersas but one of a yet more magnificent seriesof agglomerationsgyrating about yet another orb central to them - some orbstill more unspeakably sublime- some orblet us rather sayof infinitesublimity endlessly multiplied by the infinitely sublime. Such are theconditionscontinued in perpetuitywhich the voice of what some people term"analogy" calls upon the Fancy to depict and the Reason tocontemplateif possiblewithout becoming dissatisfied with the picture. Suchin generalare the interminable gyrations beyond gyration which we have beeninstructed by Philosophy to comprehend and to account forat least in the bestmanner we can. Now and thenhowevera philosopher proper- one whose frenzytakes a very determinate turn- whose geniusto speak more reverentiallyhas astrongly-pronounced washer-womanish biasdoing every thing up by the dozen-enables us to see precisely that point out of sightat which the revolutionaryprocesses in question doand of right ought tocome to an end.
It is hardly worth whileperhapseven to sneer at the reveries of Fourrier-but much has been saidlatterlyof the hypothesis of Madler- that thereexistsin the centre of the Galaxya stupendous globe about which all thesystems of the cluster revolve. The period of our ownindeedhas been stated-117 millions of years.
That our Sun has a motion in spaceindependently of its rotationandrevolution about the system's centre of gravityhas long been suspected. Thismotiongranting it to existwould be manifested perspectively. The stars inthat firmamental region which we were leaving behind uswouldin a very longseries of yearsbecome crowded; those in the opposite quarterscattered. Nowby means of astronomical Historywe ascertaincloudilythat some suchphaenomena have occurred. On this ground it has been declared that our system ismoving to a point in the heavens diametrically opposite the star Zeta Herculis:-but this inference isperhapsthe maximum to which we have any logical right.Madlerhoweverhas gone so far as to designate a particular starAlcyone inthe Pleiadesas being at or about the very spot around which a generalrevolution is performed.
Nowsince by "analogy" we are ledin the first instanceto thesedreamsit is no more than proper that we should abide by analogyat least insome measureduring their development; and that analogy which suggests therevolutionsuggests at the same time a central orb about which it should beperformed- so far the astronomer was consistent. This central orbhowevershoulddynamicallybe greater than all the orbstaken togetherwhichsurround it. Of these there are about 100 millions. "Whythen" itwas of course demanded"do we not see this vast central sun- at leastequal in mass to 100 millions of such suns as ours- why do we not see it- weespeciallywho occupy the mid region of the cluster- the very locality nearwhichat all eventsmust be situated this incomparable star?" The replywas ready- "It must be non-luminousas are our planets." Herethento suit a purposeanalogy is suddenly let fall. "Not so" it may besaid- "we know that non-luminous suns actually exist." It is true thatwe have reason at least for supposing so; but we have certainly no reasonwhatever for supposing that the non-luminous suns in question are encircled byluminous sunswhile these again are surrounded by non-luminous planets and itis precisely all this with which Madler is called upon to find any thinganalogous in the heavens- for it is precisely all this which he imagines in thecase of the Galaxy. Admitting the thing to be sowe cannot help here picturingto ourselves how sad a puzzle the why is it so must prove to all a prioriphilosophers.
But grantingin the very teeth of analogy and of every thing elsethenon-luminosity of the vast central orbwe may still inquire how this orbsoenormouscould fail of being rendered visible by the flood of light thrown uponit from the 100 millions of glorious suns glaring in all directions about it.Upon the urging of this questionthe idea of an actually solid central sunappearsin some measureto have been abandoned; and speculation proceeded toassert that the systems of the cluster perform their revolutions merely about animmaterial centre of gravity common to all. Here again thento suit a purposeanalogy is let fall. The planets of our system revolveit is trueabout acommon centre of gravity; but they do this in connexion withand in consequenceofa material sun whose mass more than counterbalances the rest of the system.
The mathematical circle is a curve composed of an infinity of straight lines.But this idea of the circle- an idea which in view of all ordinary geometryismerely the mathematicalas contradistinguished from the practicalidea- isinsober factthe practical conception which alone we have any right to entertainin regard to the majestic circle with which we have to dealat least in fancywhen we suppose our system revolving about a point in the centre of the Galaxy.Let the most vigorous of human imaginations attempt but to take a single steptowards the comprehension of a sweep so ineffable! It would scarcely beparadoxical to say that a flash of lightning itselftravelling forever upon thecircumference of this unutterable circlewould stillforeverbe travelling ina straight line. That the path of our Sun in such an orbit wouldto any humanperceptiondeviate in the slightest degree from a straight lineeven in amillion of yearsis a proposition not to be entertained:- yet we are requiredto believe that a curvature has become apparent during the brief period of ourastronomical history- during a mere point- during the utter nothingness of twoor three thousand years.
It may be said that Madler has really ascertained a curvature in thedirection of our system's now well-established progress through Space.Admittingif necessarythis fact to be in reality suchI maintain thatnothing is thereby shown except the reality of this fact the fact of acurvature. For its thorough determinationages will be required; andwhendeterminedit will be found indicative of some binary or other multiplerelation between our Sun and some one or more of the proximate stars. I hazardnothing howeverin predictingthatafter the lapse of many centuriesallefforts at determining the path of our sun through Spacewill be abandoned asfruitless. This is easily conceivable when we look at the infinity ofperturbation it must experiencefrom its perpetually-shifting relations withother orbsin the common approach of all to the nucleus of the Galaxy.
But in examining other "nebulae" than that of the Milky Way- insurveyinggenerallythe clusters which overspread the heavens- do we or do wenot find confirmation of Madler's hypothesis? We do not. The forms of theclusters are exceedingly diverse when casually viewed; but on close inspectionthrough powerful telescopeswe recognize the spherevery distinctlyas atleast the proximate form of all:- their constitutionin generalbeing atvariance with the idea of revolution about a common centre.
"It is difficult" says Sir John Herschel"to form anyconception of the dynamical state of such systems. On one handwithout a rotarymotion and a centrifugal forceit is hardly possible not to regard them as in astate of progressive collapse. On the othergranting such a motion and such aforcewe find it no less difficult to reconcile their forms with the rotationof the whole system [meaning cluster] around any single axiswithout whichinternal collision would appear to be inevitable."
Some remarks lately made about the "nebulae" by Dr. Nicholintaking quite a different view of the cosmical conditions from any taken in thisDiscourse- have a very peculiar applicability to the point now at issue. Hesays:
"When our greatest telescopes are brought to bear upon themwe findthat those which were thought to be irregularare not so; they approach nearerto a globe. Here is one that looked oval; but Lord Rosse's telescope brought itinto a circle.... Now there occurs a very remarkable circumstance in referenceto these comparatively sweeping circular masses of nebulae. We find they are notentirely circularbut the reverse; and that all around themon every sidethere are volumes of starsstretching out apparently as if they were rushingtowards a great central mass in consequence of the action of some greatpower." * -
* I must be understood as denyingespeciallyonly the revolutionary portionof Madler's hypothesis. Of courseif no great central orb exists now in ourclustersuch will exist hereafter. Whenever existingit will be merely thenucleus of the consolidation. -
Were I to describein my own wordswhat must necessarily be the existingcondition of each nebula on the hypothesis that all matter isas I suggestnowreturning to its original UnityI should simply be going overnearly verbatimthe language here employed by Dr. Nicholwithout the faintest suspicion of thatstupendous truth which is the key to these nebular phaenomena.
And here let me fortify my position still fartherby the voice of a greaterthan Madler- of onemoreoverto whom all the data of Madler have long beenfamiliar thingscarefully and thoroughly considered. Referring to the elaboratecalculations of Argelander- the very researches which form Madler's basis-Humboldtwhose generalizing powers have neverperhaps been equalledhas thefollowing observation:
"When we regard the realproperor non-perspective motions of thestarswe find many groups of them moving in opposite directions; and the dataas yet in hand render it not necessaryat leastto conceive that the systemscomposing the Milky Wayor the clustersgenerallycomposing the Universearerevolving about any particular centre unknownwhether luminous or non-luminous.It is but Man's longing for a fundamental First Causethat impels both hisintellect and fancy to the adoption of such an hypothesis." * -
* Betrachtet man die nicht perspectivischen eigenen Bewegungen der Sternesoscheinen viele gruppenweise in ihrer Richtung entgegengesetzt; und die bishergesammelten Thatsachen machen es auf's wenigste nicht nothwendiganzunehmendass alle Theile unserer Sternenschicht oder gar der gesammten Sterneninselnwelche den Weltraum fullensich um einen grossenunbekanntenleuchtenden oderdunkeln Centralkorper bewegen. Das Streben nach den letzten und hochstenGrundursachen macht freilich die reflectirende Thatigkeit des Menschenwieseine Phantasiezu einer solchen Annahme geneigt. -
The phaenomenon here alluded to- that of "many groups moving in oppositedirections"- is quite inexplicable by Madler's idea; but arisesas anecessary consequencefrom that which forms the basis of this Discourse. Whilethe merely general direction of each atom- of each moonplanetstarorcluster- wouldon my hypothesisbeof courseabsolutely rectilinear; whilethe general path of all bodies would be a right line leading to the centre ofall; it is clearneverthelessthat this general rectilinearity would becompounded of whatwith scarcely any exaggerationwe may term an infinity ofparticular curves- an infinity of local deviations from rectilinearity- theresult of continuous differences of relative position among the multudinousmasses as each proceeded on its own proper journey to the End.
I quotedjust nowfrom Sir John Herschelthe following wordsused inreference to the clusters:- "On one handwithout a rotary motion and acentrifugal forceit is hardly possible not to regard them as in a state ofprogressive collapse." The fact isthatin surveying the"nebulae" with a telescope of high powerwe shall find it quiteimpossiblehaving once conceived this idea of "collapse" not togatherat all pointscorroboration of the idea. A nucleus is always apparentin the direction of which the stars seem to be precipitating themselves; nor canthese nuclei be mistaken for merely perspective phaenomena:- the clusters arereally denser near the centre- sparser in the regions more remote from it. In awordwe see every thing as we should see it were a collapse taking place; butin generalit may be said of these clustersthat we can fairly entertainwhile looking at themthe idea of orbitual movement about a centreonly byadmitting the possible existencein the distant domains of spaceof dynamicallaws with which we are unacquainted.
On the part of Herschelhoweverthere is evidently a reluctance to regardthe nebulae as in "a state of progressive collapse." But if facts- ifeven appearances justify the supposition of their being in this statewhyitmay well be demandedis he disinclined to admit it? Simply on account of aprejudice;- merely because the supposition is at war with a preconceived andutterly baseless notion- that of the endlessness- that of the eternal stabilityof the Universe.
If the propositions of this Discourse are tenablethe "state ofprogressive collapse" is precisely that state in which alone we arewarranted in considering All Things; andwith due humilitylet me here confessthatfor my partI am at a loss to conceive how any other understanding of theexisting condition of affairscould ever have made its way into the humanbrain. "The tendency to collapse" and "the attraction ofgravitation" are convertible phrases.
In using eitherwe speak of the reaction of the First Act. Never wasnecessity less obvious than that of supposing Matter imbued with an ineradicablequality forming part of its material nature- a qualityor instinctforeverinseparable from itand by dint of which inalienable principle every atom isperpetually impelled to seek its fellow-atom. Never was necessity less obviousthan that of entertaining this unphilosophical idea. Going boldly behind thevulgar thoughtwe have to conceivemetaphysicallythat the gravitatingprinciple appertains to Matter temporarily - only while diffused- only whileexisting as Many instead of as One- appertains to it by virtue of its state ofirradiation alone- appertainsin a wordaltogether to its conditionand notin the slightest degree to itself. In this viewwhen the irradiation shall havereturned into its source- when the reaction shall be completed- the gravitatingprinciple will no longer exist. Andin factastronomerswithout at any timereaching the idea here suggestedseem to have been approximating itin theassertion that "if there were but one body in the Universeit would beimpossible to understand how the principleGravitycould obtain":- thatis to sayfrom a consideration of Matter as they find itthey reach aconclusion at which I deductively arrive. That so pregnant a suggestion as theone quoted should have been permitted to remain so long unfruitfulisneverthelessa mystery which I find it difficult to fathom.
It isperhapsin no little degreehoweverour propensity for thecontinuous- for the analogical- in the present case more particularly for thesymmetrical which has been leading us astray. Andin factthe sense of thesymmetrical is an instinct which may be depended upon with an almost blindfoldreliance. It is the poetical essence of the Universe- of the Universe whichinthe supremeness of its symmetryis but the most sublime of poems. Now symmetryand consistency are convertible terms:- thus Poetry and Truth are one. A thingis consistent in the ratio of its truth- true in the ratio of its consistency. APerfect consistencyI repeatcan be nothing but a absolute truth. We may takeit for grantedthenthat Man cannot long or widely errif he suffer himselfto be guided by his poeticalwhich I have maintained to be his truthfulinbeing his symmetricalinstinct. He must have a carehoweverlestin pursuingtoo heedlessly the superficial symmetry of forms and motionshe leave out ofsight the really essential symmetry of the principles which determine andcontrol them.
That the stellar bodies would finally be merged in one- thatat lastallwould be drawn into the substance of one stupendous central orb already existing- is an idea whichfor some time pastseemsvaguely and indeterminatelytohave held possession of the fancy of mankind. It is an ideain factwhichbelongs to the class of the excessively obvious. It springsinstantlyfrom asuperficial observation of the cyclic and seemingly gyratingor vorticialmovements of those individual portions of the Universe which come mostimmediately and most closely under our observation. There is notperhapsahuman beingof ordinary education and of average reflective capacityto whomat some periodthe fancy inquestion has not occurredas if spontaneouslyorintuitivelyand wearing all the character of a very profound and very originalconception. This conceptionhoweverso commonly entertainedhas neverwithinmy knowledgearisen out of any abstract considerations. Beingon the contraryalways suggestedas I sayby the vorticial movements about centresa reasonfor italso- a cause for the ingathering of all the orbs into oneimagined tobe already existingwas naturally sought in the same direction- among thesecyclic movements themselves.
Thus it happened thaton announcement of the gradual and perfectly regulardecrease observed in the orbit of Enck's cometat every successive revolutionabout our Sunastronomers were nearly unanimous in the opinion that the causein question was found- that a principle was discovered sufficient to accountphysicallyfor that finaluniversal agglomeration whichI repeattheanalogicalsymmetrical or poetical instinct of Man had predetermined tounderstand as something more than a simple hypothesis.
This cause- this sufficient reason for the final ingathering- was declared toexist in an exceedingly rare but still material medium pervading space; whichmediumby retardingin some degreethe progress of the cometperpetuallyweakened its tangential force; thus giving a predominance to the centripetal;whichof coursedrew the comet nearer and nearer at each revolutionand wouldeventually precipitate it upon the Sun.
All this was strictly logical- admitting the medium or ether; but this etherwas assumedmost illogicallyon the ground that no other mode than the onespoken of could be discoveredof accounting for the observed decrease in theorbit of the comet:- as if from the fact that we could discover no other mode ofaccounting for itit followedin any respectthat no other mode of accountingfor it existed. It is clear that innumerable causes might operateincombinationto diminish the orbitwithout even a possibility of our everbecoming acquainted with one of them. In the meantimeit has never been fairlyshownperhapswhy the retardation occasioned by the skirts of the Sun'satmospherethrough which the comet passes at perihelionis not enough toaccount for the phaenomenon. That Enck's comet will be absorbed into the Sunisprobable; that all the comets of the system will be absorbedis more thanmerely possible; butin such casethe principle of absorption must be referredto eccentricity of orbit- to the close approximation to the Sunof the cometsat their perihelia; and is a principle not affectingin any degreetheponderous sphereswhich are to be regarded as the true material constituents ofthe Universe.- Touching cometsin generallet me here suggestin passingthat we cannot be far wrong in looking upon them as the lightning-flashes of thecosmical Heaven.
The idea of a retarding ether andthrough itof a final agglomeration ofall thingsseemed at one timehoweverto be confirmed by the observation of apositive decrease in the orbit of the solid moon. By reference to eclipsesrecorded 2500 years agoit was found that the velocity of the satellite'srevolution then was considerably less than it is now; that on the hypothesisthat its motions in its orbit is uniformly in accordance with Kepler's lawandwas accurately determined then - 2500 years ago- it is now in advance of theposition it should occupyby nearly 9000 miles. The increase of velocityprovedof coursea diminution of orbit; and astronomers were fast yielding toa belief in an etheras the sole mode of accounting for the phaenomenonwhenLagrange came to the rescue. He showed thatowing to the configurations of thespheroidsthe shorter axes of their ellipses are subject to variation inlength; the longer axes being permanent; and that this variation is continuousand vibratory- so that every orbit is in a state of transitioneither fromcircle to ellipseor from ellipse to circle. In the case of the moonwhere theshorter axis is de creasingthe orbit is passing from circle to ellipseandconsequentlyis de creasing too; butafter a long series of agesthe ultimateeccentricity will be attained; then the shorter axis will proceed to in creaseuntil the orbit becomes a circle; when the process of shortening will again takeplace;- and so on forever. In the case of the Earththe orbit is passing fromellipse to circle.
The facts thus demonstrated do awayof coursewith all necessity forsupposing an etherand with all apprehension of the system's instability- onthe ether's account.
It will be remembered that I have myself assumed what we may term an ether. Ihave spoken of a subtle influence which we know to be ever in attendance uponmatteralthough becoming manifest only through matter's heterogeneity. To thisinfluence- without daring to touch it at all in any effort at explaining itsawful nature - I have referred the various phaenomena of electricityheatlightmagnetism; and more- of vitalityconsciousnessand thought- in a wordof spirituality. It will be seenat oncethenthat the ether thus conceivedis radically distinct from the ether of the astronomers; inasmuch as theirs ismatter and mine not.
With the idea of material etherseemsthusto have departed altogether thethought of that universal agglomeration so long predetermined by the poeticalfancy of mankind:- an agglomeration in which a sound Philosophy might have beenwarranted in putting faithat least to a certain extentif for no other reasonthan that by this poetical fancy it had been so predetermined. But so far asAstronomy- so far as mere Physics have yet spokenthe cycles of the Universeare perpetual- the Universe has no conceivable end. Had an end beendemonstratedhoweverfrom so purely collateral a cause as an etherMan'sinstinct of the Divine capacity to adaptwould have rebelled against thedemonstration. We should have been forced to regard the Universe with some suchsense of dissatisfaction as we experience in contemplating an unnecessarilycomplex work of human art. Creation would have affected us as an imperfect plotin a romancewhere the denoument is awkwardly brought about by interposedincidents external and foreign to the main subject; instead of springing out ofthe bosom of the thesis- out of the heart of the ruling idea- instead of arisingas a result of the primary proposition- as inseparable and inevitable part andparcel of the fundamental conception of the book.
What I mean by the symmetry of mere surface- will now be more clearlyunderstood. It is simply by the blandishment of this symmetry that we have beenbeguiled into the general idea of which Madler's hypothesis is but a part- theidea of the vorticial indrawing of the orbs. Dismissing this nakedly physicalconceptionthe symmetry of principle sees the end of all things metaphysicallyinvolved in the thought of a beginning; seeks and finds in this origin of allthings the rudiment of this end; and perceives the impiety of supposing this endlikely to be brought about less simply- less directly- less obviously- lessartistically- than through the reaction of the originating Act.
Recurringthento a previous suggestionlet us understand the systems- letus understand each starwith its attendant planets- as but a Titanic atomexisting in space with precisely the same inclination for Unity whichcharacterizedin the beginningthe actual atoms after their irradiationthroughout the Universal sphere. As these original atoms rushed towards eachother in generally straight linesso let us conceive as at least generallyrectilinearthe paths of the system-atoms towards their respective centres ofaggregation:- and in this direct drawing together of the systems into clusterswith a similar and simultaneous drawing together of the clusters themselveswhile undergoing consolidationwe have at length attained the great Now - theawful Present- the Existing Condition of the Universe.
Of the still more awful Future a not irrational analogy may guide us inframing an hypothesis. The equilibrium between the centripetal and centrifugalforces of each systembeing necessarily destroyed upon attainment of a certainproximity to the nucleus of the cluster to which it belongsthere must occurat oncea chaotic or seemingly chaotic precipitationof the moons upon theplanetsof the planets upon the sunsand of the suns upon the nuclei; and thegeneral result of this precipitation must be the gathering of the myriadnow-existing stars of the firmament into an almost infinitely less number ofalmost infinitely superior spheres. In being immeasurably fewerthe worlds ofthat day will be immeasurably greater than our own. Thenindeedamidunfathomable abysseswill be glaring unimaginable suns. But all this will bemerely a climacic magnificence foreboding the great End. Of this End the newgenesis describedcan be but a very partial postponement. While undergoingconsolidationthe clusters themselveswith a speed prodigiously accumulativehave been rushing towards their own general centre- and nowwith a thousandfoldelectric velocitycommensurate only with their material grandeur and with thespiritual passion of their appetite for onenessthe majestic remnants of thetribe of Stars flashat lengthinto a common embrace. The inevitablecatastrophe is at hand.
But this catastrophe- what is it? We have seen accomplished the ingatheringof the orbs. Henceforwardare we not to understand one material globe of globesas constituting and comprehending the Universe? Such a fancy would be altogetherat war with every assumption and consideration of this Discourse.
I have already alluded to that absolute reciprocity of adaptation which isthe idiosyncrasy of the divine Art- stamping it divine. Up to this point of ourreflectionswe have been regarding the electrical influence as a something bydint of whose repulsion alone Matter is enabled to exist in that state ofdiffusion demanded for the fulfilment of its purposes:- so farin a wordwehave been considering the influence in question as ordained for Matter's sake-to subserve the objects of matter. With a perfectly legitimate reciprocityweare now permitted to look at Matteras created solely for the sake of thisinfluence - solely to serve the objects of this spiritual Ether. Through theaid- by the means- through the agency of Matterand by dint of itsheterogeneity- is this Ether manifested- is Spirit individualized. It is merelyin the development of this Etherthrough heterogeneitythat particular massesof Matter become animate- sensitive- and in the ratio of their heterogeneity;-some reaching a degree of sensitiveness involving what we call Thought and thusattaining Conscious Intelligence.
In this viewwe are enabled to perceive Matter as a Means- not as an End.Its purposes are thus seen to have been comprehended in its diffusion; and withthe return into Unity these purposes cease. The absolutely consolidated globe ofglobes would be objectless: - therefore not for a moment could it continue toexist. Mattercreated for an endwould unquestionablyon fulfilment of thatendbe Matter no longer. Let us endeavor to understand that it would disappearand that God would remain all in all.
That every work of Divine conception must coexist and coexpire with itsparticular designseems to me especially obvious; and I make no doubt thatonperceiving the final globe of globes to be objectlessthe majority of myreaders will be satisfied with my "therefore it cannot continue toexist." Neverthelessas the startling thought of its instantaneousdisappearance is one which the most powerful intellect cannot be expectedreadily to entertain on grounds so decidedly abstractlet us endeavor to lookat the idea from some other and more ordinary point of view:- let us see howthoroughly and beautifully it is corroborated in an a posteriori considerationof Matter as we actually find it.
I have before said that "Attraction and Repulsion being undeniably thesole properties by which Matter is manifested to Mindwe are justified inassuming that Matter exists only as Attraction and Repulsion- in other wordsthat Attraction and Repulsion are Matter; there being no conceivable case inwhich we may not employ the term Matter and the terms 'Attraction' and'Repulsion' taken togetheras equivalentand therefore convertibleexpressions of Logic." * -
* See previous paragraph"Discarding now the two equivocalterms..." -
Now the very definition of Attraction implies particularity- the existence ofpartsparticlesor atoms; for we define it as the tendency of "each atom&c. to every other atom" &c. according to a certain law. Of coursewhere there are no parts- where there is absolute Unity- where the tendency tooneness is satisfied- there can be no Attraction:- this has been fully shownand all Philosophy admits it. Whenon fulfilment of its purposesthenMattershall have returned into its original condition of One - a condition whichpresupposes the expulsion of the separative etherwhose province and whosecapacity are limited to keeping the atoms apart until that great day whenthisether being no longer neededthe overwhelming pressure of the finallycollective Attraction shall at length just sufficiently predominate * and expelit:- whenI sayMatterfinallyexpelling the Ethershall have returned intoabsolute Unity- it will then (to speak paradoxically for the moment) be Matterwithout Attraction and without Repulsion- in other wordsMatter without Matter-in other wordsagainMatter no more. In sinking into Unityit will sink atonce into that Nothingness whichto all Finite PerceptionUnity must be- intothat Material Nihility from which alone we can conceive it to have been evoked-to have been created by the Volition of God. -
* "Gravitythereforemust be the strongest of forces." Seeprevious section"Nowalthough the philosophic cannot be said to..."-
I repeat then- Let us endeavor to comprehend that the final globe of globeswill instantaneously disappearand that God will remain all in all.
But are we here to pause? Not so. On the Universal agglomeration anddissolutionwe can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally differentseries of conditions may ensue- another creation and irradiationreturning intoitself- another action and reaction of the Divine Will. Guiding our imaginationsby that omniprevalent law of lawsthe law of periodicityare we notindeedmore than justified in entertaining a belief- let us sayratherin indulging ahope- that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewedforeverand foreverand forever; a novel Universe swelling into existenceandthen subsiding into nothingnessat every throb of the Heart Divine?
And now- this Heart Divine- what is it? It is our own.
Let not the merely seeming irreverence of this idea frighten our souls fromthat cool exercise of consciousness- from that deep tranquillity ofself-inspection- through which alone we can hope to attain the presence of thisthe most sublime of truthsand look it leisurely in the face.
The phaenomena on which our conclusions must at this point dependare merelyspiritual shadowsbut not the less thoroughly substantial.
We walk aboutamid the destinies of our world-existenceencompassed by dimbut ever present Memories of a Destiny more vast- very distant in the bygonetimeand infinitely awful.
We live out a Youth peculiarly haunted by such dreams; yet never mistakingthem for dreams. As Memories we know them. During our Youth the distinction istoo clear to deceive us even for a moment.
So long as this Youth enduresthe feeling that we existis the most naturalof all feelings. We understand it thoroughly. That there was a period at whichwe did not exist- orthat it might so have happened that we never had existedat all- are the considerationsindeedwhich during this youthwe finddifficulty in understanding. Why we should not existisup to the epoch ofManhoodof all queries the most unanswerable. Existence- self-existence-existence from all Time and to all Eternity- seemsup to the epoch of Manhooda normal and unquestionable condition:- seemsbecause it is.
But now comes the period at which a conventional World-Reason awakens us fromthe truth of our dream. DoubtSurprise and Incomprehensibility arrive at thesame moment. They say:- "You live and the time was when you lived not. Youhave been created. An Intelligence exists greater than your own; and it is onlythrough this Intelligence you live at all." These things we struggle tocomprehend and cannot:- cannotbecause these thingsbeing untrueare thusofnecessityincomprehensible.
No thinking being lives whoat some luminous point of his life of thoughthas not felt himself lost amid the surges of futile efforts at understandingorbelievingthat anything exists greater than his own soul. The utterimpossibility of any one's soul feeling itself inferior to another; the intenseoverwhelming dissatisfaction and rebellion at the thought;- thesewith theomniprevalent aspirations at perfectionare but the spiritualcoincident withthe materialstruggles towards the original Unity- areto my mind at leastaspecies of proof far surpassing what Man terms demonstrationthat no one soulis inferior to another- that nothing isor can besuperior to any one soul-that each soul isin partits own God- its own Creator:- in a wordthat God-the material and spiritual God- now exists solely in the diffused Matter andSpirit of the Universe; and that the regathering of this diffused Matter andSpirit will be but the re-constitution of the purely Spiritual and IndividualGod.
In this viewand in this view alonewe comprehend the riddles of DivineInjustice- of Inexorable Fate. In this view alone the existence of Evil becomesintelligible; but in this view it becomes more- it becomes endurable. Our soulsno longer rebel at a Sorrow which we ourselves have imposed upon ourselvesinfurtherance of our own purposes- with a view- if even with a futile view- to theextension of our own Joy.
I have spoken of Memories that haunt us during our youth. They sometimespursue us even in our Manhood:- assume gradually less and less indefiniteshapes:- now and then speak to us with low voicessaying:
"There was an epoch in the Night of Timewhen a still-existent Beingexisted- one of an absolutely infinite number of similar Beings that people theabsolutely infinite domains of the absolutely infinite space. * -
* See previous paragraph'I reply that the "right" in a case suchas this...' -
It was not and is not in the power of this Being- any more than it is in yourown- to extendby actual increasethe joy of his Existence; but just as it isin your power to expand or to concentrate your pleasures (the absolute amount ofhappiness remaining always the same) so did and does a similar capabilityappertain to this Divine Beingwho thus passes his Eternity in perpetualvariation of Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion. What you callThe Universe is but his present expansive existence. He now feels his lifethrough an infinity of imperfect pleasures- the partial and pain-intertangledpleasures of those inconceivably numerous things which you designate as hiscreaturesbut which are really but infinite individualizations of Himself. Allthese creatures- all - those which you term animateas well as those to whomyou deny life for no better reason than that you do not behold it in operation-all these creatures havein a greater or less degreea capacity for pleasureand for pain:- but the general sum of their sensations is precisely that amountof Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when concentratedwithin Himself. These creatures are all toomore or less consciousIntelligences; consciousfirstof a proper identity; conscioussecondly andby faint indeterminate glimpsesof an identity with the Divine Being of whom wespeak- of an identity with God. Of the two classes of consciousnessfancy thatthe former will grow weakerthe latter strongerduring the long succession ofages which must elapse before these myriads of individual Intelligences becomeblended- when the bright stars become blended- into One. Think that the sense ofindividual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness- thatManfor exampleceasing imperceptibly to feel himself Manwill at lengthattain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence asthat of Jehovah. In the meantime bear in mind that all is Life- Life- Lifewithin Life- the less within the greaterand all within the Spirit Divine. - -