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Title: Eureka: - A Prose Poem
Author: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eureka: - A Prose Poem" ***

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                              A PROSE POEM.


                              EDGAR A. POE.

                             GEO. P. PUTNAM,
                    OF LATE FIRM OF “WILEY & PUTNAM,”
                              155 BROADWAY.


        ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1848,
                            BY EDGAR A. POE,
           In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court for the
                     Southern District of New-York.

                        LEAVITT, TROW & CO Prs.,
                             33 Ann-street.

                       WITH VERY PROFOUND RESPECT,
                         This Work is Dedicated
                         ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT.


To the few who love me and whom I love—to those who feel rather than to
those who think—to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams as in
the only realities—I offer this Book of Truths, not in its character of
Truth-Teller, but 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 a Romance; or, if I be not urging too lofty a claim, as a

_What I here propound is true_:—therefore it cannot die:—or if by any
means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will “rise again to the
Life Everlasting.”

Nevertheless it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged
after I am dead.

E. A. P.



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 I approach the reader with the most solemn—the most
comprehensive—the most difficult—the most august.

What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their
sublimity—sufficiently sublime in their simplicity—for the mere
enunciation of my theme?

I design to speak of the _Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical—of the
Material and Spiritual Universe:—of its Essence, its Origin, its
Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny_. I shall be so rash,
moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to
question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly
reverenced of men.

In the beginning, let me as distinctly as possible announce—not the
theorem which I hope to demonstrate—for, whatever the mathematicians may
assert, there is, in this world at least, _no such thing_ as
demonstration—but the ruling idea which, throughout this volume, I shall
be continually endeavoring to suggest.

My general proposition, then, is this:—_In the Original Unity of the
First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of
their Inevitable Annihilation_.

In illustration of this idea, I propose to take such a survey of the
Universe that the mind may be able really to receive and to perceive an
individual impression.

He who from the top of Ætna casts his eyes leisurely around, is affected
chiefly by the _extent_ and _diversity_ of the scene. Only by a rapid
whirling on his heel could he hope to comprehend the panorama in the
sublimity of its _oneness_. But as, on the summit of Ætna, _no_ man has
thought of whirling on his heel, so no man has ever taken into his brain
the full uniqueness of the prospect; and so, again, whatever
considerations lie involved in this uniqueness, have as yet no practical
existence for mankind.

I do not know a treatise in which a survey of the _Universe_—using the
word in its most comprehensive and only legitimate acceptation—is taken
at all:—and it may be as well here to mention that by the term
“Universe,” wherever employed without qualification in this essay, I
mean to designate _the utmost conceivable expanse of space, with all
things, spiritual and material, that can be imagined to exist within the
compass of that expanse_. In speaking of what is ordinarily implied by
the expression, “Universe,” I shall take a phrase of limitation—“the
Universe of stars.” Why this distinction is considered necessary, will
be seen in the sequel.

But even of treatises on the really limited, although always assumed as
the _un_limited, Universe of _stars_, I know none in which a survey,
even of this limited Universe, is so taken as to warrant deductions from
its _individuality_. The nearest approach to such a work is made in the
“Cosmos” of Alexander Von Humboldt. He presents the subject, however,
_not_ in its individuality but in its generality. His theme, in its last
result, is the law of _each_ portion of the merely physical Universe, as
this law is related to the laws of _every other_ portion of this merely
physical Universe. His design is simply synœretical. In a word, he
discusses the universality of material relation, and discloses to the
eye of Philosophy whatever inferences have hitherto lain hidden _behind_
this universality. But however admirable be the succinctness with which
he has treated each particular point of his topic, the mere multiplicity
of these points occasions, necessarily, an amount of detail, and thus an
involution of idea, which precludes all _individuality_ of impression.

It seems to me that, in aiming at this latter effect, and, through it,
at the consequences—the conclusions—the suggestions—the speculations—or,
if nothing better offer itself the mere guesses which may result from
it—we require something like a mental gyration on the heel. We need so
rapid a revolution of all things about the central point of sight that,
while the minutiæ vanish altogether, even the more conspicuous objects
become blended into one. Among the vanishing minutiæ, in a survey of
this kind, would be all exclusively terrestrial matters. The Earth would
be considered in its planetary relations alone. A man, in this view,
becomes mankind; mankind a member of the cosmical family of

And now, before proceeding to our subject proper, let me beg the
reader’s attention to an extract or two from a somewhat remarkable
letter, which appears to have been found corked in a bottle and floating
on the _Mare Tenebrarum_—an ocean well described by the Nubian
geographer, Ptolemy Hephestion, but little frequented in modern days
unless by the Transcendentalists and some other divers for crotchets.
The date of this letter, I confess, surprises me even more particularly
than its contents; for it seems to have been written in the year _two_
thousand eight hundred and forty-eight. As for the passages I am about
to transcribe, they, I fancy, will speak for themselves.

“Do you know, my dear friend,” says the writer, addressing, no doubt, a
contemporary—“Do you know that it is scarcely more than eight or nine
hundred years ago since the metaphysicians first consented to relieve
the people of the singular fancy that there exist _but two practicable
roads to Truth_? Believe it if you can! It appears, however, that long,
long ago, in the night of Time, there lived a Turkish philosopher called
Aries and surnamed Tottle.” [Here, possibly, the letter-writer means
Aristotle; the best names are wretchedly corrupted in two or three
thousand years.] “The fame of this great man depended mainly upon his
demonstration that sneezing is a natural provision, by means of which
over-profound thinkers are enabled to expel superfluous ideas through
the nose; but he obtained a scarcely less valuable celebrity as the
founder, or at all events as the principal propagator, of what was
termed the _de_ductive or _à priori_ philosophy. He started with what he
maintained to be axioms, or self-evident truths:—and the now well
understood fact that _no_ truths are _self_-evident, really does not
make in the slightest degree against his speculations:—it was sufficient
for his purpose that the truths in question were evident at all. From
axioms he proceeded, logically, to results. His most illustrious
disciples were one Tuclid, a geometrician,” [meaning Euclid] “and one
Kant, a Dutchman, the originator of that species of Transcendentalism
which, with the change merely of a C for a K, now bears his peculiar

“Well, Aries Tottle flourished supreme, until the advent of one Hog,
surnamed ‘the Ettrick shepherd,’ who preached an entirely different
system, which he called the _à posteriori_ or _in_ductive. His plan
referred altogether to sensation. He proceeded by observing, analyzing,
and classifying facts—_instantiæ Naturæ_, as they were somewhat
affectedly called—and arranging them into general laws. In a word, while
the mode of Aries rested on _noumena_, that of Hog depended on
_phenomena_; and so great was the admiration excited by this latter
system that, at its first introduction, Aries fell into general
disrepute. Finally, however, he recovered ground, and was permitted to
divide the empire of Philosophy with his more modern rival:—the savans
contenting themselves with proscribing all _other_ competitors, past,
present, and to come; putting an end to all controversy on the topic by
the promulgation of a Median law, to the effect that the Aristotelian
and Baconian roads are, and of right ought to be, the solo possible
avenues to knowledge:—‘Baconian,’ you must know, my dear friend,” adds
the letter-writer at this point, “was an adjective invented as
equivalent to Hog-ian, and at the same time more dignified and

“Now I do assure you most positively”—proceeds the epistle—“that I
represent these matters fairly; and you can easily understand how
restrictions so absurd on their very face must have operated, in those
days, to retard the progress of true Science, which makes its most
important advances—as all History will show—by seemingly intuitive
_leaps_. These ancient ideas confined investigation to crawling; and I
need not suggest to you that crawling, among varieties of locomotion, is
a very capital thing of its kind;—but because the tortoise is sure of
foot, for this reason must we clip the wings of the eagles? For many
centuries, so great was the infatuation, about Hog especially, that a
virtual stop was put to all thinking, properly so called. No man dared
utter a truth for which he felt himself indebted to his soul alone. It
mattered not whether the truth was even demonstrably such; for the
dogmatizing philosophers of that epoch regarded only _the road_ by which
it professed to have been attained. The end, with them, was a point of
no moment, whatever:—‘the means!’ they vociferated—‘let us look at the
means!’—and if, on scrutiny of the means, it was found to come neither
under the category Hog, nor under the category Aries (which means ram),
why then the savans went no farther, but, calling the thinker a fool
and branding him a ‘theorist,’ would never, thenceforward, have any
thing to do either with _him_ or with his truths.

“Now, my dear friend,” continues the letter-writer, “it cannot be
maintained that by the crawling system, exclusively adopted, men would
arrive at the maximum amount of truth, even in any long series of ages;
for the repression of imagination was an evil not to be counterbalanced
even by _absolute_ certainty 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 who fancies he must necessarily see
an object the more distinctly, the more closely he holds it to his eyes.
They blinded themselves, too, with the impalpable, titillating Scotch
snuff of _detail_; and thus the boasted facts of the Hog-ites were by no
means always facts—a point of little importance but for the assumption
that they always _were_. The vital taint, however, in Baconianism—its
most lamentable fount of error—lay in its tendency to throw power and
consideration into the hands of merely perceptive men—of those
inter-Tritonic minnows, the microscopical savans—the diggers and pedlers
of minute _facts_, for the most part in physical science—facts all of
which they retailed at the same price upon the highway; their value
depending, it was supposed, simply upon the _fact of their fact_,
without reference to their applicability or inapplicability in the
development of those ultimate and only legitimate facts, called Law.

“Than the persons”—the letter goes on to say—“Than the persons thus
suddenly elevated by the Hog-ian philosophy into a station for which
they were unfitted—thus transferred from the sculleries into the parlors
of Science—from its pantries into its pulpits—than these individuals a
more intolerant—a more intolerable set of bigots and tyrants never
existed on the face of the earth. Their creed, their text and their
sermon were, alike, the one word ‘_fact_’—but, for the most part, even
of this one word, they knew not even the meaning. On those who ventured
to _disturb_ their facts with the view of putting them in order and to
use, the disciples of Hog had no mercy whatever. All attempts at
generalization were met at once by the words ‘theoretical,’ ‘theory,’
‘theorist’—all _thought_, to be brief, was very properly resented as a
personal affront to themselves. Cultivating the natural sciences to the
exclusion of Metaphysics, the Mathematics, and Logic, many of these
Bacon-engendered philosophers—one-idead, one-sided and lame of a
leg—were more wretchedly helpless—more miserably ignorant, in view of
all the comprehensible objects of knowledge, than the veriest unlettered
hind who proves that he knows something at least, in admitting that he
knows absolutely nothing.

“Nor had our forefathers any better right to talk about _certainty_,
when pursuing, in blind confidence, the _à priori_ path of axioms, or of
the Ram. At innumerable points this path was scarcely as straight as a
ram’s-horn. The simple truth is, that the Aristotelians erected their
castles upon a basis far less reliable than air; _for no such things as
axioms ever existed or can possibly exist at all_. This they must have
been very blind, indeed, not to see, or at least to suspect; for, even
in their own day, many of their long-admitted ‘axioms’ had been
abandoned:—‘_ex nihilo nihil fit_,’ for example, and a ‘thing cannot act
where it is not,’ and ‘there cannot be antipodes,’ and ‘darkness cannot
proceed from light.’ These and numerous similar propositions formerly
accepted, without hesitation, as axioms, or undeniable truths, were,
even at the period of which I speak, seen to be altogether
untenable:—how absurd in these people, then, to persist in relying upon
a basis, as immutable, whose mutability had become so repeatedly

“But, even through evidence afforded by themselves against themselves,
it is easy to convict these _à priori_ reasoners of the grossest
unreason—it is easy to show the futility—the impalpability of their
axioms in general. I have now lying before me”—it will be observed that
we still proceed with the letter—“I have now lying before me a book
printed about a thousand years ago. Pundit assures me that it is
decidedly the cleverest ancient work on its topic, which is ‘Logic.’ The
author, who was much esteemed in his day, was one Miller, or Mill; and
we find it recorded of him, as a point of some importance, that he rode
a mill-horse whom he called Jeremy Bentham:—but let us glance at the
volume itself!

“Ah!—‘Ability or inability to conceive,’ says Mr. Mill very properly,
‘is _in no case_ to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth.’ Now,
that this is a palpable truism no one in his senses will deny. _Not_ to
admit the proposition, is to insinuate a charge of variability in Truth
itself, whose very title is a synonym of the Steadfast. If ability to
conceive be taken as a criterion of Truth, then a truth to _David_ Hume
would very seldom be a truth to _Joe_; and ninety-nine hundredths of
what is undeniable in Heaven would be demonstrable falsity upon Earth.
The proposition of Mr. Mill, then, is sustained. I will not grant it to
be an _axiom_; and this merely because I am showing that _no_ axioms
exist; but, with a distinction which could not have been cavilled at
even by Mr. Mill himself, I am ready to grant that, _if_ an axiom _there
be_, then the proposition of which we speak has the fullest right to be
considered an axiom—that no _more_ absolute axiom _is_—and,
consequently, that any subsequent proposition which shall conflict with
this one primarily advanced, must be either a falsity in itself—that is
to say no axiom—or, if admitted axiomatic, must at once neutralize both
itself and its predecessor.

“And now, by the logic of their own propounder, let us proceed to test
any one of the axioms propounded. Let us give Mr. Mill the fairest of
play. We will bring the point to no ordinary issue. We will select for
investigation no common-place axiom—no axiom of what, not the less
preposterously because only impliedly, he terms his secondary class—as
if a positive truth by definition could be either more or less
positively a truth:—we will select, I say, no axiom of an
unquestionability so questionable as is to be found in Euclid. We will
not talk, for example, about such propositions as that two straight
lines cannot enclose a space, or that the whole is greater than any one
of its parts. We will afford the logician _every_ advantage. We will
come at once to a proposition which he regards as the acme of the
unquestionable—as the quintessence of axiomatic undeniability. Here it
is:—‘Contradictions cannot _both_ be true—that is, cannot cöexist in
nature.’ Here Mr. Mill means, for instance,—and I give the most forcible
instance conceivable—that a tree must be either a tree or _not_ a
tree—that it cannot be at the same time a tree _and_ not a tree:—all
which is quite reasonable of itself and will answer remarkably well as
an axiom, until we bring it into collation with an axiom insisted upon a
few pages before—in other words—words which I have previously
employed—until we test it by the logic of its own propounder. ‘A tree,’
Mr. Mill asserts, ‘must be either a tree or _not_ a tree.’ Very
well:—and now let me ask him, _why_. To this little query there is but
one response:—I defy any man living to invent a second. The sole answer
is this:—‘Because we find it _impossible to conceive_ that a tree can be
any thing else than a tree or not a tree.’ This, I repeat, is Mr. Mill’s
sole answer:—he will not _pretend_ to suggest another:—and yet, by his
own showing, his answer is clearly no answer at all; for has he not
already required us to admit, _as an axiom_, that ability or inability
to conceive is _in no case_ to be taken as a criterion of axiomatic
truth? Thus all—absolutely _all_ his argumentation is at sea without a
rudder. Let it not be urged that an exception from the general rule is
to be made, in cases where the ‘impossibility to conceive’ is so
peculiarly great as when we are called upon to conceive a tree _both_ a
tree and _not_ a tree. Let no attempt, I say, be made at urging this
sotticism; for, in the first place, there are no _degrees_ of
‘impossibility,’ and thus no one impossible conception can be _more_
peculiarly impossible than another impossible conception:—in the second
place, Mr. Mill himself, no doubt after thorough deliberation, has most
distinctly, and most rationally, excluded all opportunity for exception,
by the emphasis of his proposition, that, _in no case_, is ability or
inability to conceive, to be taken as a criterion of axiomatic
truth:—in the third place, even were exceptions admissible at all, it
remains to be shown how any exception is admissible _here_. That a tree
can be both a tree and not a tree, is an idea which the angels, or the
devils, _may_ entertain, and which no doubt many an earthly Bedlamite,
or Transcendentalist, _does_.

“Now I do not quarrel with these ancients,” continues the letter-writer,
“_so much_ on account of the transparent frivolity of their logic—which,
to be plain, was baseless, worthless and fantastic altogether—as on
account of their pompous and infatuate proscription of all _other_ roads
to Truth than the two narrow and crooked paths—the one of creeping and
the other of crawling—to which, in their ignorant perversity, they have
dared to confine the Soul—the Soul which loves nothing so well as to
soar in those regions of illimitable intuition which are utterly
incognizant of ‘_path_.’

“By the bye, my dear friend, is it not an evidence of the mental slavery
entailed upon those bigoted people by their Hogs and Rams, that in spite
of the eternal prating of their savans about _roads_ to Truth, none of
them fell, even by accident, into what we now so distinctly perceive to
be the broadest, the straightest and most available of all mere
roads—the great thoroughfare—the majestic highway of the _Consistent_?
Is it not wonderful that they should have failed to deduce from the
works of God the vitally momentous consideration that _a perfect
consistency can be nothing but an absolute truth_? How plain—how rapid
our progress since the late announcement of this proposition! By its
means, investigation has been taken out of the hands of the ground-moles,
and given as a duty, rather than as a task, to the true—to the _only_ true
thinkers—to the generally-educated men of ardent imagination. These
latter—our Keplers—our Laplaces—‘speculate’—‘theorize’—these are the
terms—can you not fancy the shout of scorn with which they would be
received by our progenitors, were it possible for them to be looking
over my shoulders as I write? The Keplers, I repeat, speculate—theorize—and
their theories are merely corrected—reduced—sifted—cleared, little by
little, of their chaff of inconsistency—until at length there stands
apparent an unencumbered _Consistency_—a consistency which the most
stolid admit—because it _is_ a consistency—to be an absolute and an
unquestionable _Truth_.

“I have often thought, my friend, that it must have puzzled these
dogmaticians of a thousand years ago, to determine, even, by which of
their two boasted roads it is that the cryptographist attains the
solution of the more complicate cyphers—or by which of them Champollion
guided mankind to those important and innumerable truths which, for so
many centuries, have lain entombed amid the phonetical hieroglyphics of
Egypt. In especial, would it not have given these bigots some trouble to
determine by which of their two roads 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. Kepler admitted that these
laws he _guessed_—these laws whose investigation disclosed to the
greatest of British astronomers that principle, the basis of all
(existing) physical principle, in going behind which we enter at once
the nebulous kingdom of Metaphysics. Yes!—these vital laws Kepler
_guessed_—that is to say, he _imagined_ them. Had he been asked to point
out either the _de_ductive or _in_ductive route by which he attained
them, his reply might have been—‘I know nothing about _routes_—but I
_do_ know the machinery of the Universe. Here it is. I grasped it with
_my soul_—I reached it through mere dint of _intuition_.’ Alas, poor
ignorant old man! Could not any metaphysician have told him that what he
called ‘intuition’ was but the conviction resulting from _de_ductions or
_in_ductions of which the processes were so shadowy as to have escaped
his consciousness, eluded his reason, or bidden defiance to his capacity
of expression? How great a pity it is that some ‘moral philosopher’ had
not enlightened him about all this! How it would have comforted him on
his death-bed to know that, instead of having gone intuitively and thus
unbecomingly, he had, in fact, proceeded decorously and
legitimately—that is to say Hog-ishly, or at least Ram-ishly—into the
vast halls where lay gleaming, untended, and hitherto untouched by
mortal hand—unseen by mortal eye—the imperishable and priceless secrets
of the Universe!

“Yes, Kepler was essentially a _theorist_; but this title, _now_ of so
much sanctity, was, in those ancient days, a designation of supreme
contempt. It is only _now_ that men begin to appreciate that divine old
man—to sympathize with the prophetical and poetical rhapsody of his
ever-memorable words. For _my_ part,” continues the unknown
correspondent, “I glow with a sacred fire when I even think of them, and
feel that I shall never grow weary of their repetition:—in concluding
this letter, let me have the real pleasure of transcribing them once
again:—‘_I care not whether my work be read now or by posterity. I can
afford to wait a century for readers when God himself has waited six
thousand years for an observer. I triumph. I have stolen the golden
secret of the Egyptians. I will indulge my sacred fury._’”

Here end my quotations from this very unaccountable and, perhaps,
somewhat impertinent epistle; and perhaps it would be folly to comment,
in any respect, upon the chimerical, not to say revolutionary, fancies
of the writer—whoever he is—fancies so radically at war with the
well-considered and well-settled opinions of this age. Let us proceed,
then, to our legitimate thesis, _The Universe_.

This thesis admits a choice between two modes of discussion:—We may
_as_cend or _de_scend. 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 our system considered collectively—and thence,
through other systems, indefinitely outwards; or, commencing on high at
some point as definite as we can make it or conceive it, we may come
down to the habitation of Man. Usually—that is to say, in ordinary
essays on Astronomy—the first of these two modes is, with certain
reservation, adopted:—this for the obvious reason that astronomical
_facts_, merely, and principles, being the object, that object is best
fulfilled in stepping from the known because proximate, gradually onward
to the point where all certitude becomes lost in the remote. For my
present purpose, however,—that of enabling the mind to take in, as if
from afar and at one glance, a distinct conception of the _individual_
Universe—it is clear that a descent to small from great—to the outskirts
from the centre (if we could establish a centre)—to the end from the
beginning (if we could fancy a beginning) would be the preferable
course, but for the difficulty, if not impossibility, of presenting, in
this course, to the unastronomical, a picture at all comprehensible in
regard to such considerations as are involved in _quantity_—that is to
say, in number, magnitude and distance.

Now, distinctness—intelligibility, at all points, is a primary feature
in my general design. On important topics it is better to be a good deal
prolix than even a very little obscure. But abstruseness is a quality
appertaining to no subject _per se_. All are alike, in facility of
comprehension, to him who approaches them by properly graduated steps.
It is merely because a stepping-stone, here and there, is heedlessly
left unsupplied in our road to the Differential Calculus, that this
latter is not altogether as simple a thing as a sonnet by Mr. Solomon

By way of admitting, then, no _chance_ for misapprehension, I think it
advisable to proceed as if even the more obvious facts of Astronomy were
unknown to the reader. In combining the two modes of discussion to which
I have referred, I propose to avail myself of the advantages peculiar to
each—and very especially of the _iteration in detail_ which will be
unavoidable as a consequence of the plan. Commencing with a descent, I
shall reserve for the return upwards those indispensable considerations
of _quantity_ to which allusion has already been made.

Let us begin, then, at once, with that merest of words, “Infinity.”
This, like “God,” “spirit,” and some other expressions of which the
equivalents exist in all languages, is by no means the expression of an
idea—but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at an
impossible conception. Man needed a term by which to point out the
_direction_ of this effort—the cloud behind which lay, forever
invisible, the _object_ of this attempt. A word, in fine, was demanded,
by means of which one human being might put himself in relation at once
with another human being and with a certain _tendency_ of the human
intellect. Out of this demand arose the word, “Infinity;” which is thus
the representative but of the _thought of a thought_.

As regards _that_ infinity now considered—the infinity of space—we often
hear it said that “its idea is admitted by the mind—is acquiesced in—is
entertained—on account of the greater difficulty which attends the
conception of a limit.” But this is merely one of those _phrases_ by
which even profound thinkers, time out of mind, have occasionally taken
pleasure in deceiving _themselves_. The quibble lies concealed in the
word “difficulty.” “The mind,” we are told, “entertains the idea of
_limitless_, through the greater _difficulty_ which it finds in
entertaining that of _limited_, space.” Now, were the proposition but
fairly _put_, its absurdity would become transparent at once. Clearly,
there is no mere _difficulty_ in the case. The assertion intended, if
presented _according_ to its intention and without sophistry, would run
thus:—“The mind admits the idea of limitless, through the greater
_impossibility_ of entertaining that of limited, space.”

It must be immediately seen that this is not a question of two
statements between whose respective credibilities—or of two arguments
between whose respective validities—the _reason_ is called upon to
decide:—it is a matter of two conceptions, directly conflicting, and
each avowedly impossible, one of which the _intellect_ is supposed to be
capable of entertaining, on account of the greater _impossibility_ of
entertaining the other. The choice is _not_ made between two
difficulties;—it is merely _fancied_ to be made between two
impossibilities. Now of the former, there _are_ degrees—but of the
latter, none:—just as our impertinent letter-writer has already
suggested. A task _may_ be more or less difficult; but it is either
possible or not possible:—there are no gradations. It _might_ be more
_difficult_ to overthrow the Andes than an ant-hill; but it _can_ be no
more _impossible_ to annihilate the matter of the one than the matter of
the other. A man may jump ten feet with less _difficulty_ than he can
jump twenty, but the _impossibility_ of his leaping to the moon is not a
whit less than that of his leaping to the dog-star.

Since all this is undeniable: since the choice of the mind is to be made
between _impossibilities_ of conception: since one impossibility cannot
be greater than another: and since, thus, one cannot be preferred to
another: the philosophers who not only maintain, on the grounds
mentioned, man’s _idea_ of infinity but, on account of such
supposititious idea, _infinity itself_—are plainly engaged in
demonstrating one impossible thing to be possible by showing how it is
that some one other thing—is impossible too. This, it will be said, is
nonsense; and perhaps it is:—indeed I think it very capital
nonsense—but forego all claim to it as nonsense of mine.

The readiest mode, however, of displaying the fallacy of the
philosophical argument on this question, is by simply adverting to a
_fact_ respecting it which has been hitherto quite overlooked—the fact
that the argument alluded to both proves and disproves its own
proposition. “The mind is impelled,” say the theologians and others, “to
admit a _First Cause_, by the superior difficulty it experiences in
conceiving cause beyond cause without end.” The quibble, as before, lies
in the word “difficulty”—but _here_ what is it employed to sustain? A
First Cause. And what is a First Cause? An ultimate termination of
causes. And what is an ultimate termination of causes? Finity—the
Finite. Thus the one quibble, in two processes, by God knows how many
philosophers, is made to support now Finity and now Infinity—could it
not be brought to support something besides? As for the
quibblers—_they_, at least, are insupportable. But—to dismiss them:—what
they prove in the one case is the identical nothing which they
demonstrate in the other.

Of course, no one will suppose that I here contend for the absolute
impossibility of _that_ which we attempt to convey in the word
“Infinity.” My purpose is but to show the folly of endeavoring to prove
Infinity itself or even our conception of it, by any such blundering
ratiocination as that which is ordinarily employed.

Nevertheless, as an individual, I may be permitted to say that _I
cannot_ conceive Infinity, and am convinced that no human being can. A
mind not thoroughly self-conscious—not accustomed to the introspective
analysis of its own operations—will, it is true, often deceive itself by
supposing that it _has_ entertained the conception of which we speak. In
the effort to entertain it, we proceed step beyond step—we fancy point
still beyond point; and so long as we _continue_ the effort, it may be
said, in fact, that we are _tending_ to the formation of the idea
designed; while the strength of the impression that we actually form or
have formed it, is in the ratio of the period during which we keep 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 we suppose) to the conception—that we overthrow at once the
whole fabric of our fancy by resting upon some one ultimate and
therefore definite point. This fact, however, we fail to perceive, on
account of the absolute coincidence, in time, between the settling down
upon the ultimate point and the act of cessation in thinking.—In
attempting, on the other hand, to frame the idea of a _limited_ space,
we merely converse the processes which involve the impossibility.

We _believe_ in a God. We may or may not _believe_ in finite or in
infinite space; but our belief, in such cases, is more properly
designated as _faith_, and is a matter quite distinct from that belief
proper—from that _intellectual_ belief—which presupposes the mental

The fact is, that, upon the enunciation of any one of that class of
terms to which “Infinity” belongs—the class representing _thoughts of
thought_—he who has a right to say that he thinks _at all_, feels
himself called upon, _not_ to entertain a conception, but simply to
direct his mental vision toward some given point, in the intellectual
firmament, where lies a nebula never to be resolved. To solve it,
indeed, he makes no effort; for with a rapid instinct he comprehends,
not only the impossibility, but, as regards all human purposes, the
_inessentiality_, of its solution. He perceives that the Deity has not
_designed_ it to be solved. He sees, at once, that it lies _out_ of the
brain of man, and even _how_, if not exactly _why_, it lies out of it.
There _are_ people, I am aware, who, busying themselves in attempts at
the unattainable, acquire very easily, by dint of the jargon they emit,
among those thinkers-that-they-think with whom darkness and depth are
synonymous, a kind of cuttle-fish reputation for profundity; but the
finest quality of Thought is its self-cognizance; and, with some little
equivocation, it may be said that no fog of the mind can well be greater
than that which, extending to the very boundaries of the mental domain,
shuts out even these boundaries themselves from comprehension.

It will now be understood that, in using the phrase, “Infinity of
Space,” I make no call upon the reader to entertain the impossible
conception of an _absolute_ infinity. I refer simply to the “_utmost
conceivable expanse_” of space—a shadowy and fluctuating domain, now
shrinking, now swelling, in accordance with the vacillating energies of
the imagination.

_Hitherto_, the Universe of stars has always been considered as
coincident with the Universe proper, as I have defined it in the
commencement of this Discourse. It has been always either directly or
indirectly assumed—at least since the dawn of intelligible
Astronomy—that, were it possible for us to attain any given point in
space, we should still find, on all sides of us, an interminable
succession of stars. This was the untenable idea of Pascal when making
perhaps the most successful attempt ever made, at periphrasing the
conception for which we struggle in the word “Universe.” “It is a
sphere,” he says, “of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference,
nowhere.” But although this intended definition is, in fact, _no_
definition of the Universe of _stars_, we may accept it, with some
mental reservation, as a definition (rigorous enough for all practical
purposes) of the Universe _proper_—that is to say, of the Universe of
_space_. This latter, then, let us regard as “_a sphere of which the
centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere_.” In fact, while we
find it impossible to fancy an _end_ to space, we have no difficulty in
picturing to ourselves any one of an infinity of _beginnings_.

As our starting-point, then, let us adopt the _Godhead_. Of this
Godhead, _in itself_, he 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:—pour savoir ce qu’il est, il faut être Dieu même._”—“We know
absolutely _nothing_ of the nature or essence of God:—in order to
comprehend what he is, we should have to be God ourselves.”

“_We should have to be God ourselves!_”—With a phrase so startling as
this yet ringing in my ears, I nevertheless venture to demand if this
our present ignorance of the Deity is an ignorance to which the soul is
_everlastingly_ condemned.

By _Him_, however—_now_, at least, the Incomprehensible—by Him—assuming
him as _Spirit_—that is to say, as _not Matter_—a distinction which, for
all intelligible purposes, will stand well instead of a definition—by
Him, then, existing as Spirit, let us content ourselves, to-night, with
supposing to have been _created_, or made out of Nothing, by dint of his
Volition—at some point of Space which we will take as a centre—at some
period into which we do not pretend to inquire, but at all events
immensely remote—by Him, then again, let us suppose to have been
created——_what_? This is a vitally momentous epoch in our
considerations. _What_ is it that we are justified—that alone we are
justified in supposing to have been, primarily and solely, _created_?

We have attained a point where only _Intuition_ can aid us:—but now let
me recur to the idea which I have already suggested as that alone which
we can properly entertain of intuition. It is but _the conviction
arising from those inductions or deductions of which the processes are
so shadowy as to escape our consciousness, elude our reason, or defy our
capacity of expression_. With this understanding, I now assert—that an
intuition altogether irresistible, although inexpressible, forces me to
the conclusion that what God originally created—that that Matter which,
by dint of his Volition, he first made from his Spirit, or from
Nihility, _could_ have been nothing but Matter in its utmost conceivable
state of——what?—of _Simplicity_?

This will be found the sole absolute _assumption_ of my Discourse. I use
the word “assumption” in its ordinary sense; yet I maintain that even
this my primary proposition, is very, very far indeed, from being really
a mere assumption. Nothing was ever more certainly—no human conclusion
was ever, in fact, more regularly—more rigorously _de_duced:—but, alas!
the processes lie out of the human analysis—at all events are beyond the
utterance of the human tongue.

Let us now endeavor to conceive what Matter must be, when, or if, in its
absolute extreme of _Simplicity_. Here the Reason flies at once to
Imparticularity—to a particle—to _one_ particle—a particle of _one_
kind—of _one_ character—of _one_ nature—of _one size_—of one form—a
particle, therefore, “_without_ form and void”—a particle positively a
particle at all points—a particle absolutely unique, individual,
undivided, and not indivisible only because He who _created_ it, by dint
of his Will, can by an infinitely less energetic exercise of the same
Will, as a matter of course, divide it.

_Oneness_, then, is all that I predicate of the originally created
Matter; but I propose to show that this _Oneness is a principle
abundantly sufficient to account for the constitution, the existing
phænomena and the plainly inevitable annihilation of at least the
material Universe_.

The willing into being the primordial particle, has completed the act,
or more properly the _conception_, of Creation. We now proceed to the
ultimate purpose for which we are to suppose the Particle created—that
is to say, the ultimate purpose so far as our considerations _yet_
enable us to see it—the constitution of the Universe from it, the

This constitution has been effected by _forcing_ the originally and
therefore normally _One_ into the abnormal condition of _Many_. An
action of this character implies rëaction. A diffusion from Unity, under
the conditions, involves a tendency to return into Unity—a tendency
ineradicable until satisfied. But on these points I will speak more
fully hereafter.

The assumption of absolute Unity in the primordial Particle includes
that of infinite divisibility. Let us conceive the Particle, then, to be
only not totally exhausted by diffusion into Space. From the one
Particle, as a centre, let us suppose to be irradiated spherically—in
all directions—to immeasurable but still to definite distances in the
previously vacant space—a certain inexpressibly great yet limited number
of unimaginably yet not infinitely minute atoms.

Now, of these atoms, thus diffused, or upon diffusion, what conditions
are we permitted—not to assume, but to infer, from consideration as well
of their source as of the character of the design apparent in their
diffusion? _Unity_ being their source, and _difference from Unity_ the
character of the design manifested in their diffusion, we are warranted
in supposing this character to be at least _generally_ preserved
throughout the design, and to form a portion of the design itself:—that
is to say, we shall be warranted in conceiving continual differences at
all points from the uniquity and simplicity of the origin. But, for
these reasons, shall we be justified in imagining the atoms
heterogeneous, dissimilar, unequal, and inequidistant? More
explicitly—are we to consider no two atoms as, at their diffusion, of
the same nature, or of the same form, or of the same size?—and, after
fulfilment of their diffusion into Space, is absolute inequidistance,
each from each, to be understood of all of them? In such arrangement,
under such conditions, we most easily and immediately comprehend the
subsequent most feasible carrying out to completion of any such design
as that which I have suggested—the design of variety out of
unity—diversity out of sameness—heterogeneity out of
homogeneity—complexity out of simplicity—in a word, the utmost possible
multiplicity of _relation_ out of the emphatically irrelative _One_.
Undoubtedly, therefore, we _should_ be warranted in assuming all that
has been mentioned, but for the reflection, first, that supererogation
is not presumable of any Divine Act; and, secondly, that the object
supposed in view, appears as feasible when some of the conditions in
question are dispensed with, in the beginning, as when all are
understood immediately to exist. I mean to say that some are involved in
the rest, or so instantaneous a consequence of them as to make the
distinction inappreciable. Difference of _size_, for example, will at
once be brought about through the tendency of one atom to a second, in
preference to a third, on account of particular inequidistance; which is
to be comprehended as _particular inequidistances between centres of
quantity, in neighboring atoms of different form_—a matter not at all
interfering with the generally-equable distribution of the atoms.
Difference of _kind_, too, is easily conceived to be merely a result of
differences in size and form, taken more or less conjointly:—in fact,
since the _Unity_ of the Particle Proper implies absolute homogeneity,
we cannot imagine the atoms, at their diffusion, differing in kind,
without imagining, at the same time, a special exercise of the Divine
Will, at the emission of each atom, for the purpose of effecting, in
each, a change of its essential nature:—so fantastic an idea is the
less to be indulged, as the object proposed is seen to be thoroughly
attainable without such minute and elaborate interposition. We perceive,
therefore, upon the whole, that it would be supererogatory, and
consequently unphilosophical, to predicate of the atoms, in view of
their purposes, any thing more than _difference of form_ at their
dispersion, with particular inequidistance after it—all other
differences arising at once out of these, in the very first processes of
mass-constitution:—We thus establish the Universe on a purely
_geometrical_ basis. Of course, it is by no means necessary to assume
absolute difference, even of form, among _all_ the atoms irradiated—any
more than absolute particular inequidistance of each from each. We are
required to conceive merely that no _neighboring_ atoms are of similar
form—no atoms which can ever approximate, until their inevitable
rëunition at the end.

Although the immediate and perpetual _tendency_ of the disunited atoms
to return into their normal Unity, is implied, as I have said, in their
abnormal diffusion; still it is clear that this tendency will be without
consequence—a tendency and no more—until the diffusive energy, in
ceasing to be exerted, shall leave _it_, the tendency, free to seek its
satisfaction. The Divine Act, however, being considered as determinate,
and discontinued on fulfilment of the diffusion, we understand, at once,
a _rëaction_—in other words, a _satisfiable_ tendency of the disunited
atoms to return into _One_.

But the diffusive energy being withdrawn, and the rëaction having
commenced in furtherance of the ultimate design—_that of the utmost
possible Relation_—this design is now in danger of being frustrated, in
detail, by reason of that very tendency to return which is to effect its
accomplishment in general. _Multiplicity_ is the object; but there is
nothing to prevent proximate atoms, from lapsing _at once_, through the
now satisfiable tendency—_before_ the fulfilment of any ends proposed in
multiplicity—into absolute oneness among themselves:—there is nothing to
impede the aggregation of various _unique_ masses, at various points of
space:—in other words, nothing to interfere with the accumulation of
various masses, each absolutely One.

For the effectual and thorough completion of the general design, we thus
see the necessity for a repulsion of limited capacity—a separative
_something_ which, on withdrawal of the diffusive Volition, shall at the
same time allow the approach, and forbid the junction, of the atoms;
suffering them infinitely to approximate, while denying them positive
contact; in a word, having the power—_up to a certain epoch_—of
preventing their _coalition_, but no ability to interfere with their
_coalescence_ in any respect _or degree_. The repulsion, already
considered as so peculiarly limited in other regards, must be
understood, let me repeat, as having power to prevent absolute
coalition, _only up to a certain epoch_. Unless we are to conceive that
the appetite for Unity among the atoms is doomed to be satisfied
_never_;—unless we are to conceive that what had a beginning is to have
no end—a conception which cannot _really_ be entertained, however much
we may talk or dream of entertaining it—we are forced to conclude that
the repulsive influence imagined, will, finally—under pressure of the
_Unitendency collectively_ applied, but never and in no degree _until_,
on fulfilment of the Divine purposes, such collective application shall
be naturally made—yield to a force which, at that ultimate epoch, shall
be the superior force precisely to the extent required, and thus permit
the universal subsidence into the inevitable, because original and
therefore normal, _One_.—The conditions here to be reconciled are
difficult indeed:—we cannot even comprehend the possibility of their
conciliation;—nevertheless, the apparent impossibility is brilliantly

That the repulsive something actually exists, _we see_. Man neither
employs, nor knows, a force sufficient to bring two atoms into contact.
This is but the well-established proposition of the impenetrability of
matter. All Experiment proves—all Philosophy admits it. The _design_ of
the repulsion—the necessity for its existence—I have endeavored to show;
but from all attempt at investigating its nature have religiously
abstained; this on account of an intuitive conviction that the principle
at issue is strictly spiritual—lies in a recess impervious to our
present understanding—lies involved in a consideration of what now—in
our human state—is _not_ to be considered—in a consideration of _Spirit
in itself_. I feel, in a word, that here the God has interposed, and
here only, because here and here only the knot demanded the
interposition of the God.

In fact, while the tendency of the diffused atoms to return into Unity,
will be recognized, at once, as the principle of the Newtonian Gravity,
what I have spoken of as a repulsive influence prescribing limits to the
(immediate) satisfaction of the tendency, will be understood as _that_
which we have been in the practice of designating now as heat, now as
magnetism, now as _electricity_; displaying our ignorance of its awful
character in the vacillation of the phraseology with which we endeavor
to circumscribe it.

Calling it, merely for the moment, electricity, we know that all
experimental analysis of electricity has given, as an ultimate result,
the principle, or seeming principle, _heterogeneity_. _Only_ where
things differ is electricity apparent; and it is presumable that they
_never_ differ where it is not developed at least, if not apparent. Now,
this result is in the fullest keeping with that which I have reached
unempirically. The design of the repulsive influence I have maintained
to be that of preventing immediate Unity among the diffused atoms; and
these atoms are represented as different each from each. _Difference_ is
their character—their essentiality—just as _no-difference_ was the
essentiality of their source. When we say, then, that an attempt to
bring any two of these atoms together would induce an effort, on the
part of the repulsive influence, to prevent the contact, we may as well
use the strictly convertible sentence that an attempt to bring together
any two differences will result in a development of electricity. All
existing bodies, of course, are composed of these atoms in proximate
contact, and are therefore to be considered as mere assemblages of more
or fewer differences; and the resistance made by the repulsive spirit,
on bringing together any two such assemblages, would be in the ratio of
the two sums of the differences in each:—an expression which, when
reduced, is equivalent to this:—_The amount of electricity developed on
the approximation of two bodies, is proportional to the difference
between the respective sums of the atoms of which the bodies are
composed._ That _no_ two bodies are absolutely alike, is a simple
corollary from all that has been here said. Electricity, therefore,
existing always, is _developed_ whenever _any_ bodies, but _manifested_
only when bodies of appreciable difference, are brought into

To electricity—so, for the present, continuing to call it—we _may_ not
be wrong in referring the various physical appearances of light, heat
and magnetism; but far less shall we be liable to err in attributing to
this strictly spiritual principle the more important phænomena of
vitality, consciousness and _Thought_. On this topic, however, I need
pause _here_ merely to suggest that these phænomena, whether observed
generally or in detail, seem to proceed _at least in the ratio of the

Discarding now the two equivocal terms, “gravitation” and “electricity,”
let us adopt the more definite expressions, “_attraction_” and
“_repulsion_.” The former is the body; the latter the soul: the one is
the material; the other the spiritual, principle of the Universe. _No
other principles exist._ _All_ phænomena are referable to one, or to the
other, or to both combined. So rigorously is this the case—so thoroughly
demonstrable is it that attraction and repulsion are the _sole_
properties through which we perceive the Universe—in other words, by
which Matter is manifested to Mind—that, for all merely argumentative
purposes, we are fully justified in assuming that matter _exists_ only
as attraction and repulsion—that attraction and repulsion _are_
matter:—there being no conceivable case in which we may not employ the
term “matter” and the terms “attraction” and “repulsion,” taken
together, as equivalent, and therefore convertible, expressions in

I said, just now, that what I have described as the tendency of the
diffused atoms to return into their original unity, would be understood
as the principle of the Newtonian law of gravity: and, in fact, there
can be little difficulty in such an understanding, if we look at the
Newtonian gravity in a merely general view, as a force impelling matter
to seek matter; that is to say, when we pay no attention to the known
_modus operandi_ of the Newtonian force. The general coincidence
satisfies us; but, upon looking closely, we see, in detail, much that
appears _in_coincident, and much in regard to which no coincidence, at
least, is established. For example; the Newtonian gravity, when we think
of it in certain moods, does _not_ seem to be a tendency to _oneness_ at
all, but rather a tendency of all bodies in all directions—a phrase
apparently expressive of a tendency to diffusion. Here, then, is an
_in_coincidence. Again; when we reflect on the mathematical _law_
governing the Newtonian tendency, we see clearly that no coincidence has
been made good, in respect of the _modus operandi_, at least, between
gravitation as known to exist and that seemingly simple and direct
tendency which I have assumed.

In fact, I have attained a point at which it will be advisable to
strengthen my position by reversing my processes. So far, we have gone
on _à priori_, from an abstract consideration of _Simplicity_, as that
quality most likely to have characterized the original action of God.
Let us now see whether the established facts of the Newtonian
Gravitation may not afford us, _à posteriori_, some legitimate

What does the Newtonian law declare?—That all bodies attract each other
with forces proportional to their quantities of matter and inversely
proportional to the squares of their distances. Purposely, I have here
given, in the first place, the vulgar version of the law; and I confess
that in this, as in most other vulgar versions of great truths, we find
little of a suggestive character. Let us now adopt a more philosophical
phraseology:—_Every atom, of every body, attracts every other atom, both
of its own and of every other body, with a force which varies inversely
as the squares of the distances between the attracting and attracted
atom._—Here, indeed, a flood of suggestion bursts upon the mind.

But let us see distinctly what it was that Newton _proved_—according to
the grossly irrational definitions of _proof_ prescribed by the
metaphysical schools. He was forced to content himself with showing how
thoroughly the motions of an imaginary Universe, composed of attracting
and attracted atoms obedient to the law he announced, coincide with
those of the actually existing Universe so far as it comes under our
observation. This was the amount of his _demonstration_—that is to say,
this was the amount of it, according to the conventional cant of the
“philosophies.” His successes added proof multiplied by proof—such proof
as a sound intellect admits—but the _demonstration_ of the law itself,
persist the metaphysicians, had not been strengthened in any degree.
“_Ocular_, _physical_ proof,” however, of attraction, here upon Earth,
in accordance with the Newtonian theory, was, at length, much to the
satisfaction of some intellectual grovellers, afforded. This proof arose
collaterally and incidentally (as nearly all important truths have
arisen) out of an attempt to ascertain the mean density of the Earth. In
the famous Maskelyne, Cavendish and Bailly experiments for this purpose,
the attraction of the mass of a mountain was seen, felt, measured, and
found to be mathematically consistent with the immortal theory of the
British astronomer.

But in spite of this confirmation of that which needed none—in spite of
the so-called corroboration of the “theory” by the so-called “ocular and
physical proof”—in spite of the _character_ of this corroboration—the
ideas which even really philosophical men cannot help imbibing of
gravity—and, especially, the ideas of it which ordinary men get and
contentedly maintain, are _seen_ to have been derived, for the most
part, from a consideration of the principle as they find it
developed—_merely in the planet upon which they stand_.

Now, to what does so partial a consideration tend—to what species of
error does it give rise? On the Earth we _see_ and _feel_, only that
gravity impels all bodies towards the _centre_ of the Earth. No man in
the common walks of life could be _made_ to see or to feel anything
else—could be made to perceive that anything, anywhere, has a perpetual,
gravitating tendency in any _other_ direction than to the centre of the
Earth; yet (with an exception hereafter to be specified) it is a fact
that every earthly thing (not to speak now of every heavenly thing) has
a tendency not _only_ to the Earth’s centre but in every conceivable
direction besides.

Now, although the philosophic cannot be said to _err with_ the vulgar in
this matter, they nevertheless permit themselves to be influenced,
without knowing it, by the _sentiment_ of the vulgar idea. “Although the
Pagan fables are not believed,” says Bryant, in his very erudite
“Mythology,” “yet we forget ourselves continually and make inferences
from them as from existing realities.” I mean to assert that the merely
_sensitive perception_ of gravity as we experience it on Earth, beguiles
mankind into the fancy of _concentralization_ or _especiality_
respecting it—has been continually biasing towards this fancy even the
mightiest intellects—perpetually, although imperceptibly, leading them
away from the real characteristics of the principle; thus preventing
them, up to this date, from ever getting a glimpse of that vital truth
which lies in a diametrically opposite direction—behind the principle’s
_essential_ characteristics—those, _not_ of concentralization or
especiality—but of _universality_ and _diffusion_. This “vital truth” is
_Unity_ as the _source_ of the phænomenon.

Let me now repeat the definition of gravity:—_Every atom, of every body,
attracts every other atom, both of its own and of every other body_,
with a force which varies inversely as the squares of the distances of
the attracting and attracted atom.

Here let the reader pause with me, for a moment, in contemplation of the
miraculous—of the ineffable—of the altogether unimaginable complexity of
relation involved in the fact that _each atom attracts every other
atom_—involved merely in this fact of the attraction, without reference
to the law or mode in which the attraction is manifested—involved
_merely_ in the fact that each atom attracts every other atom _at all_,
in a wilderness of atoms so numerous that those which go to the
composition of a cannon-ball, exceed, probably, in mere point of number,
all the stars which go to the constitution of the Universe.

Had we discovered, simply, that each atom tended to some one favorite
point—to some especially attractive atom—we should still have fallen
upon a discovery which, in itself, would have sufficed to overwhelm the
mind:—but what is it that we are actually called upon to comprehend?
That each atom attracts—sympathizes with the most delicate movements of
every other atom, and with each and with all at the same time, and
forever, and according to a determinate law of which the complexity,
even considered by itself solely, is utterly beyond the grasp of the
imagination of man. If I propose to ascertain the influence of one mote
in a sunbeam upon its neighboring mote, I cannot accomplish my purpose
without first counting and weighing all the atoms in the Universe and
defining the precise positions of all at one particular moment. If I
venture to displace, by even the billionth part of an inch, the
microscopical speck of dust which lies now upon the point of my finger,
what is the character of that act upon which I have adventured? I have
done a deed which shakes the Moon in her path, which causes the Sun to
be no longer the Sun, and which alters forever the destiny of the
multitudinous myriads of stars that roll and glow in the majestic
presence of their Creator.

_These_ ideas—conceptions such as _these_—unthoughtlike
thoughts—soul-reveries rather than conclusions or even considerations
of the intellect:—ideas, I repeat, such as these, are such as we can
alone hope profitably to entertain in any effort at grasping the great
principle, _Attraction_.

But now,—_with_ such ideas—with such a _vision_ of the marvellous
complexity of Attraction fairly in his mind—let any person competent of
thought on such topics as these, set himself to the task of imagining a
_principle_ for the phænomena observed—a condition from which they

Does not so evident a brotherhood among the atoms point to a common
parentage? Does not a sympathy so omniprevalent, so ineradicable, and so
thoroughly irrespective, suggest a common paternity as its source? Does
not one extreme impel the reason to the other? Does not the infinitude
of division refer to the utterness of individuality? Does not the
entireness of the complex hint at the perfection of the simple? It is
_not_ that the atoms, as we see them, are divided or that they are
complex in their relations—but that they are inconceivably divided and
unutterably complex:—it is the extremeness of the conditions to which I
now allude, rather than to the conditions themselves. In a word, is it
not because the atoms were, at some remote epoch of time, even _more
than together_—is it not because originally, and therefore normally,
they were _One_—that now, in all circumstances—at all points—in all
directions—by all modes of approach—in all relations and through all
conditions—they struggle _back_ to this absolutely, this irrelatively,
this unconditionally _one_?

Some person may here demand:—“Why—since it is to the _One_ that the
atoms struggle back—do we not find and define Attraction ‘a merely
general tendency to a centre?’—why, in especial, do not _your_
atoms—the atoms which you describe as having been irradiated from a
centre—proceed at once, rectilinearly, back to the central point of
their origin?”

I reply that _they do_; as will be distinctly shown; but that the cause
of their so doing is quite irrespective of the centre _as such_. They
all tend rectilinearly towards a centre, because of the sphereicity with
which they have been irradiated into space. Each atom, forming one of a
generally uniform globe of atoms, finds more atoms in the direction of
the centre, of course, than in any other, and in that direction,
therefore, is impelled—but is _not_ thus impelled because the centre is
_the point of its origin_. It is not to any _point_ that the atoms are
allied. It is not any _locality_, either in the concrete or in the
abstract, to which I suppose them bound. Nothing like _location_ was
conceived as their origin. Their source lies in the principle, _Unity_.
_This_ is their lost parent. _This_ they seek always—immediately—in all
directions—wherever it is even partially to be found; thus appeasing, in
some measure, the ineradicable tendency, while on the way to its
absolute satisfaction in the end. It follows from all this, that any
principle which shall be adequate to account for the _law_, or _modus
operandi_, of the attractive force in general, will account for this law
in particular:—that is to say, any principle which will show why the
atoms should tend to their _general centre of irradiation_ with forces
inversely proportional to the squares of the distances, will be admitted
as satisfactorily accounting, at the same time, for the tendency,
according to the same law, of these atoms each to each:—_for_ the
tendency to the centre _is_ merely the tendency each to each, and not
any tendency to a centre as such.—Thus it will be seen, also, that the
establishment of my propositions would involve no _necessity_ of
modification in the terms of the Newtonian definition of Gravity, which
declares that each atom attracts each other atom and so forth, and
declares this merely; but (always under the supposition that what I
propose be, in the end, admitted) it seems clear that some error might
occasionally be avoided, in the future processes of Science, were a more
ample phraseology adopted:—for instance:—“Each atom tends to every other
atom &c. with a force &c.: _the general result being a tendency of all,
with a similar force, to a general centre_.”

The reversal of our processes has thus brought us to an identical
result; but, while in the one process _intuition_ was the
starting-point, in the other it was the goal. In commencing the former
journey I could only say that, with an irresistible intuition, I _felt_
Simplicity to have been the characteristic of the original action of
God:—in ending the latter I can only declare that, with an irresistible
intuition, I perceive Unity to have been the source of the observed
phænomena of the Newtonian gravitation. Thus, according to the schools,
I _prove_ nothing. So be it:—I design but to suggest—and to _convince_
through the suggestion. I am proudly aware that there exist many of the
most profound and cautiously discriminative human intellects which
cannot _help_ being abundantly content with my—suggestions. To these
intellects—as to my own—there is no mathematical demonstration which
_could_ bring the least additional _true proof_ of the great _Truth_
which I have advanced—_the truth of Original Unity as the source—as the
principle of the Universal Phænomena_. For my part, I am not so sure
that I speak and see—I am not so sure that my heart beats and that my
soul lives:—of the rising of to-morrow’s sun—a probability that as yet
lies in the Future—I do not pretend to be one thousandth part as sure—as
I am of the irretrievably by-gone _Fact_ that All Things and All
Thoughts of Things, with all their ineffable Multiplicity of Relation,
sprang at once into being from the primordial and irrelative _One_.

Referring to the Newtonian Gravity, Dr. Nichol, the eloquent author of
“The Architecture of the Heavens,” says:—“In truth we have no reason to
suppose this great Law, as now revealed, to be the ultimate or simplest,
and therefore the universal and all-comprehensive, form of a great
Ordinance. The mode in which its intensity diminishes with the element
of distance, has not the aspect of an ultimate _principle_; which always
assumes the simplicity and self-evidence of those axioms which
constitute the basis of Geometry.”

Now, it is quite true that “ultimate principles,” in the common
understanding of the words, always assume the simplicity of geometrical
axioms—(as for “self-evidence,” there is no such thing)—but these
principles are clearly _not_ “ultimate;” in other terms what we are in
the habit of calling principles are no principles, properly
speaking—since there can be but one _principle_, the Volition of God. We
have no right to assume, then, from what we 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 geometrical simplicity, may and do
have this geometrical turn, as being part and parcel of a vast
geometrical system, and thus a system of simplicity itself—in which,
nevertheless, the _truly_ ultimate principle is, _as we know_, the
consummation of the complex—that is to say, of the unintelligible—for is
it not the Spiritual Capacity of God?

I quoted Dr. Nichol’s remark, however, not so much to question its
philosophy, as by way of calling attention to the fact that, while all
men have admitted _some_ principle as existing behind the Law of
Gravity, no attempt has been yet made to point out what this principle
in particular _is_:—if we except, perhaps, occasional fantastic efforts
at referring it to Magnetism, or Mesmerism, or Swedenborgianism, or
Transcendentalism, or some other equally delicious _ism_ of the same
species, and invariably patronized by one and the same species of
people. The great mind of Newton, while boldly grasping the Law itself,
shrank from the principle of the Law. The more fluent and comprehensive
at least, if not the more patient and profound, sagacity of Laplace, had
not the courage to attack it. But hesitation on the part of these two
astronomers it is, perhaps, not so very difficult to understand. They,
as well as all the first class of mathematicians, were mathematicians
_solely_:—their intellect, at least, had a firmly-pronounced
mathematico-physical tone. What lay not distinctly within the domain of
Physics, or of Mathematics, seemed to them either Non-Entity or Shadow.
Nevertheless, we may well wonder that Leibnitz, who was a marked
exception to the general rule in these respects, and whose mental
temperament was a singular admixture of the mathematical with the
physico-metaphysical, did not at once investigate and establish the
point at issue. Either Newton or Laplace, seeking a principle and
discovering none _physical_, would have rested contentedly in the
conclusion that there was absolutely none; but it is almost impossible
to fancy, of Leibnitz, that, having exhausted in his search the physical
dominions, he would not have stepped at once, boldly and hopefully, amid
his old familiar haunts in the kingdom of Metaphysics. Here, indeed, it
is clear that he _must_ have adventured in search of the treasure:—that
he did not find it after all, was, perhaps, because his fairy guide,
Imagination, was not sufficiently well-grown, or well-educated, to
direct him aright.

I observed, just now, that, in fact, there had been certain vague
attempts at referring Gravity to some very uncertain _isms_. These
attempts, however, although considered bold and justly so considered,
looked no farther than to the generality—the merest generality—of the
Newtonian Law. Its _modus operandi_ has never, to my knowledge, been
approached in the way of an effort at explanation. It is, therefore,
with no unwarranted fear of being taken for a madman at the outset, and
before I can bring my propositions fairly to the eye of those who alone
are competent to decide upon them, that I here declare the _modus
operandi_ of the Law of Gravity to be an exceedingly simple and
perfectly explicable thing—that is to say, when we make our advances
towards it in just gradations and 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
Things, from a consideration of Simplicity as the most probable
characteristic of the original action of God;—whether we arrive at it
from an inspection of the universality of relation in the gravitating
phænomena;—or whether we attain it as a result of the mutual
corroboration afforded by both processes;—still, the idea itself, if
entertained at all, is entertained in inseparable connection with
another idea—that of the condition of the Universe of stars as we _now_
perceive it—that is to say, a condition of immeasurable _diffusion_
through space. Now a connection between these two ideas—unity and
diffusion—cannot be established unless through the entertainment of a
third idea—that of _irradiation_. Absolute Unity being taken as a
centre, then the existing Universe of stars is the result of
_irradiation_ from that centre.

Now, the laws of irradiation are _known_. They are part and parcel of
the _sphere_. They belong to the class of _indisputable geometrical
properties_. We say of them, “they are true—they are evident.” To demand
_why_ they are true, would be to demand why the axioms are true upon
which their demonstration is based. _Nothing_ is demonstrable, strictly
speaking; but _if_ anything _be_, then the properties—the laws in
question are demonstrated.

But these laws—what do they declare? Irradiation—how—by what steps does
it proceed outwardly from a centre?

From a _luminous_ centre, _Light_ issues by irradiation; and the
quantities of light received upon any given plane, supposed to be
shifting its position so as to be now nearer the centre and now farther
from it, will be diminished in the same proportion as the squares of the
distances of the plane from the luminous body, are increased; and will
be increased in the same proportion as these squares are diminished.

The expression of the law may be thus generalized:—the number of
light-particles (or, if the phrase be preferred, the number of
light-impressions) received upon the shifting plane, will be _inversely_
proportional with the squares of the distances of the plane.
Generalizing yet again, we may say that the diffusion—the scattering—the
irradiation, in a word—is _directly_ proportional with the squares of
the distances.


For example: at the distance B, from the luminous centre A, a certain
number of particles are so diffused as to occupy the surface B. Then at
double the distance—that is to say at C—they will be so much farther
diffused as to occupy four such surfaces:—at treble the distance, or at
D, they will be so much farther separated as to occupy nine such
surfaces:—while, at quadruple the distance, or at E, they will have
become so scattered as to spread themselves over sixteen such
surfaces—and so on forever.

In saying, generally, that the irradiation proceeds in direct proportion
with the squares of the distances, we use the term irradiation to
express _the degree of the diffusion_ as we proceed outwardly from the
centre. Conversing the idea, and employing the word “concentralization”
to express _the degree of the drawing together_ as we come back toward
the centre from an outward position, we may say that concentralization
proceeds _inversely_ as the squares of the distances. In other words, we
have reached the conclusion that, on the hypothesis that matter was
originally irradiated from a centre and is now returning to it, the
concentralization, in the return, proceeds _exactly as we know the force
of gravitation to proceed_.

Now here, if we could be permitted to assume that concentralization
exactly represented the _force of the tendency to the centre_—that the
one was exactly proportional to the other, and that the two proceeded
together—we should have shown all that is required. The sole difficulty
existing, then, is to establish a direct proportion between
“concentralization” and the _force_ of concentralization; and this is
done, of course, if we establish such proportion between “irradiation”
and the _force_ of irradiation.

A very slight inspection of the Heavens assures us that the stars have a
certain general uniformity, equability, or equidistance, of distribution
through that region of space in which, collectively, and in a roughly
globular form, they are situated:—this species of very general, rather
than absolute, equability, being in full keeping with my deduction of
inequidistance, within certain limits, among the originally diffused
atoms, as a corollary from the evident design of infinite complexity of
relation out of irrelation. I started, it will be remembered, with the
idea of a generally uniform but particularly _un_uniform distribution of
the atoms;—an idea, I repeat, which an inspection of the stars, as they
exist, confirms.

But even in the merely general equability of distribution, as regards
the atoms, there appears a difficulty which, no doubt, has already
suggested itself to those among my readers who have borne in mind that I
suppose this equability of distribution effected through _irradiation
from a centre_. The very first glance at the idea, irradiation, forces
us to the entertainment of the hitherto unseparated and seemingly
inseparable idea of agglomeration about a centre, with dispersion as we
recede from it—the idea, in a word, of _in_equability of distribution in
respect to the matter irradiated.

Now, I have elsewhere[1] observed that it is by just such difficulties
as the one now in question—such roughnesses—such peculiarities—such
protuberances above the plane of the ordinary—that Reason feels her way,
if at all, in her search for the True. By the difficulty—the
“peculiarity”—now presented, I leap at once to _the_ secret—a secret
which I might never have attained _but_ for the peculiarity and the
inferences which, _in its mere character of peculiarity_, it affords me.

    [1] “_Murders in the Rue Morgue_”—p. 133.

The process of thought, at this point, may be thus roughly sketched:—I
say to myself—“Unity, as I have explained it, is a truth—I feel it.
Diffusion is a truth—I see it. Irradiation, by which alone these two
truths are reconciled, is a consequent truth—I perceive it. _Equability_
of diffusion, first deduced _à priori_ and then corroborated by the
inspection of phænomena, is also a truth—I fully admit it. So far all is
clear around me:—there are no clouds behind which _the_ secret—the great
secret of the gravitating _modus operandi_—can possibly lie hidden;—but
this secret lies _hereabouts_, most assuredly; and _were_ there but a
cloud in view, I should be driven to suspicion of that cloud.” And now,
just as I say this, there actually comes a cloud into view. This cloud
is the seeming impossibility of reconciling my truth, _irradiation_,
with my truth, _equability of diffusion_. I say now:—“Behind this
_seeming_ impossibility is to be found what I desire.” I do not say
“_real_ impossibility;” for invincible faith in my truths assures me
that it is a mere difficulty after all—but I go on to say, with
unflinching confidence, that, _when_ this _difficulty_ shall be solved,
we shall find, _wrapped up in the process of solution_, the key to the
secret at which we aim. Moreover—I _feel_ that we shall discover _but
one_ possible solution of the difficulty; this for the reason that, were
there two, one would be supererogatory—would be fruitless—would be
empty—would contain no key—since no duplicate key can be needed to any
secret of Nature.

And now, let us see:—Our usual notions of irradiation—in fact _all_ our
distinct notions of it—are caught merely from the process as we see it
exemplified in _Light_. Here there is a _continuous_ outpouring of
_ray-streams_, and _with a force which we have at least no right to
suppose varies at all_. Now, in any such irradiation _as
this_—continuous and of unvarying force—the regions nearer the centre
must _inevitably_ be always more crowded with the irradiated matter than
the regions more remote. But I have assumed _no_ such irradiation _as
this_. I assumed no _continuous_ irradiation; and for the simple reason
that such an assumption would have involved, first, the necessity of
entertaining a conception which I have shown no man _can_ entertain, and
which (as I will more fully explain hereafter) all observation of the
firmament refutes—the conception of the absolute infinity of the
Universe of stars—and would have involved, secondly, the impossibility
of understanding a rëaction—that is, gravitation—as existing now—since,
while an act is continued, no rëaction, of course, can take place. My
assumption, then, or rather my inevitable deduction from just
premises—was that of a _determinate_ irradiation—one finally

Let me now describe the sole possible mode in which it is conceivable
that matter could have been diffused through space, so as to fulfil the
conditions at once of irradiation and of generally equable distribution.

For convenience of illustration, let us imagine, in the first place, a
hollow sphere of glass, or of anything else, occupying the space
throughout which the universal matter is to be thus equally diffused, by
means of irradiation, from the absolute, irrelative, unconditional
particle, placed in the centre of the sphere.

Now, a certain exertion of the diffusive power (presumed to be the
Divine Volition)—in other words, a certain _force_—whose measure is the
quantity of matter—that is to say, the number of atoms—emitted; emits,
by irradiation, this certain number of atoms; forcing them in all
directions outwardly from the centre—their proximity to each other
diminishing as they proceed—until, finally, they are distributed,
loosely, over the interior surface of the sphere.

When these atoms have attained this position, or while proceeding to
attain it, a second and inferior exercise of the same force—or a second
and inferior force of the same character—emits, in the same manner—that
is to say, by irradiation as before—a second stratum of atoms which
proceeds to deposit itself upon the first; the number of atoms, in this
case as in the former, being of course the measure of the force which
emitted them; in other words the force being precisely adapted to the
purpose it effects—the force and the number of atoms sent out by the
force, being _directly proportional_.

When this second stratum has reached its destined position—or while
approaching it—a third still inferior exertion of the force, or a third
inferior force of a similar character—the number of atoms emitted being
in _all_ cases the measure of the force—proceeds to deposit a third
stratum upon the second:—and so on, until these concentric strata,
growing gradually less and less, come down at length to the central
point; and the diffusive matter, simultaneously with the diffusive
force, is exhausted.

We have now the sphere filled, through means of irradiation, with atoms
equably diffused. The two necessary conditions—those of irradiation and
of equable diffusion—are satisfied; and by the _sole_ process in which
the possibility of their simultaneous satisfaction is conceivable. For
this reason, I confidently expect to find, lurking in the present
condition of the atoms as distributed throughout the sphere, the secret
of which I am in search—the all-important principle of the _modus
operandi_ of the Newtonian law. Let us examine, then, the actual
condition of the atoms.

They lie in a series of concentric strata. They are equably diffused
throughout the sphere. They have been irradiated into these states.

The atoms being _equably_ distributed, the greater the superficial
extent of any of these concentric strata, or spheres, the more atoms
will lie upon it. In other words, the number of atoms lying upon the
surface of any one of the concentric spheres, is directly proportional
with the extent of that surface.

_But, in any series of concentric spheres, the surfaces are directly
proportional with the squares of the distances from the centre._[2]

    [2] Succinctly—The surfaces of spheres are as the squares of
    their radii.

Therefore the number of atoms in any stratum is directly proportional
with the square of that stratum’s distance from the centre.

But the number of atoms in any stratum is the measure of the force which
emitted that stratum—that is to say, is _directly proportional_ with the

Therefore the force which irradiated any stratum is directly
proportional with the square of that stratum’s distance from the
centre:—or, generally,

_The force of the irradiation has been directly proportional with the
squares of the distances._

Now, Rëaction, as far as we know anything of it, is Action conversed.
The _general_ principle of Gravity being, in the first place, understood
as the rëaction of an act—as the expression of a desire on the part of
Matter, while existing in a state of diffusion, to return into the Unity
whence it was diffused; and, in the second place, the mind being called
upon to determine the _character_ of the desire—the manner in which it
would, naturally, be manifested; in other words, being called upon to
conceive a probable law, or _modus operandi_, for the return; could not
well help arriving at the conclusion that this law of return would be
precisely the converse of the law of departure. That such would be the
case, any one, at least, would be abundantly justified in taking for
granted, until such time as some person should suggest something like a
plausible reason why it should _not_ be the case—until such period as a
law of return shall be imagined which the intellect can consider as

Matter, then, irradiated into space with a force varying as the squares
of the distances, might, _à priori_, be supposed to return towards its
centre of irradiation with a force varying _inversely_ as the squares of
the distances: and I have already shown[3] that any principle which will
explain why the atoms should tend, according to any law, to the general
centre, must be admitted as satisfactorily explaining, at the same time,
why, according to the same law, they should tend each to each. For, in
fact, the tendency to the general centre is not to a centre as such, but
because of its being a point in tending towards which each atom tends
most directly to its real and essential centre, _Unity_—the absolute
and final Union of all.

    [3] Page 44.

The consideration here involved presents to my own mind no embarrassment
whatever—but this fact does not blind me to the possibility of its being
obscure to those who may have been less in the habit of dealing with
abstractions:—and, upon the whole, it may be as well to look at the
matter from one or two other points of view.

The absolute, irrelative particle primarily created by the Volition of
God, must have been in a condition of positive _normality_, or
rightfulness—for wrongfulness implies _relation_. Right is positive;
wrong is negative—is merely the negation of right; as cold is the
negation of heat—darkness of light. That a thing may be wrong, it is
necessary that there be some other thing in _relation_ to which it _is_
wrong—some condition which it fails to satisfy; some law which it
violates; some being whom it aggrieves. If there be no such being, law,
or condition, in respect to which the thing is wrong—and, still more
especially, if no beings, laws, or conditions exist at all—then the
thing can_not_ be wrong and consequently must be _right_. Any deviation
from normality involves a tendency to return into 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 the force which overcomes
the difficulty be not infinitely continued, the ineradicable tendency to
return will at length be permitted to act for its own satisfaction. Upon
withdrawal of the force, the tendency acts. This is the principle of
rëaction as the inevitable consequence of finite action. Employing a
phraseology of which the seeming affectation will be pardoned for its
expressiveness, we may say that Rëaction is the return from the
condition of _as it is and ought not to be_ into the condition of _as it
was, originally, and therefore ought to be_:—and let me add here that
the _absolute_ force of Rëaction would 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 this latter:—and,
consequently, the greatest of all conceivable reactions must be that
produced by the tendency which we now discuss—the tendency to return
into the _absolutely original_—into the _supremely_ primitive. Gravity,
then, _must be the strongest of forces_—an idea reached _à priori_ and
abundantly confirmed by induction. What use I make of the idea, will be
seen in the sequel.

The atoms, now, having been diffused from their normal condition of
Unity, seek to return to——what? Not to any particular _point_,
certainly; for it is clear that if, upon the diffusion, the whole
Universe of matter had been projected, collectively, to a distance from
the point of irradiation, the atomic tendency to 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 were
originally impelled. It is merely the _condition_, and not the point or
locality at which this condition took its rise, that these atoms seek to
re-establish;—it is merely _that condition which is their normality_,
that they desire. “But they seek a centre,” it will be said, “and a
centre is a point.” True; but they seek this point not in its character
of point—(for, were the whole sphere moved from its position, they would
seek, equally, the centre; and the centre _then_ would be a _new_
point)—but because it so happens, on account of the form in which they
collectively exist—(that of the sphere)—that only _through_ the point in
question—the sphere’s centre—they can attain their true object, Unity.
In the direction of the centre each atom perceives more atoms than in
any other direction. Each atom is impelled towards the centre because
along the straight line joining it and the centre and passing on to the
circumference beyond, there lie a greater number of atoms than along any
other straight line—a greater number of objects that seek it, the
individual atom—a greater number of tendencies to Unity—a greater number
of satisfactions for its own tendency to Unity—in a word, because in the
direction of the centre lies the utmost possibility of satisfaction,
generally, for its own individual appetite. To be brief, the
_condition_, Unity, is all that is really sought; and if the atoms
_seem_ to seek the centre of the sphere, it is only impliedly, through
implication—because such centre happens to imply, to include, or to
involve, the only essential centre, Unity. But _on account of_ this
implication or involution, there is no possibility of practically
separating the tendency to Unity in the abstract, from the tendency to
the concrete centre. Thus the tendency of the atoms to the general
centre _is_, to all practical intents and for all logical purposes, the
tendency each to each; and the tendency each to each _is_ 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; and, in conclusion, whatever principle will satisfactorily
explain the one, cannot be questioned as an explanation of the other.

In looking carefully around me for rational objection to what I have
advanced, I am able to discover _nothing_;—but of that class of
objections usually urged by the doubters for Doubt’s sake, I very
readily perceive _three_; and proceed to dispose of them in order.

It may be said, first: “The proof that the force of irradiation (in the
case described) is directly proportional to the squares of the
distances, depends upon an unwarranted assumption—that of the number of
atoms in each stratum being the measure of the force with which they are

I reply, not only that I am warranted in such assumption, but that I
should be utterly _un_warranted in any other. What I assume is, simply,
that an effect is the measure of its cause—that every exercise of the
Divine Will will be proportional to that which demands the exertion—that
the means of Omnipotence, or of Omniscience, will be exactly adapted to
its purposes. Neither can a deficiency nor an excess of cause bring to
pass any effect. Had the force which irradiated any stratum to its
position, been either more or less than was needed for the purpose—that
is to say, not _directly proportional_ to the purpose—then to its
position that stratum could not have been irradiated. Had the force
which, with a view to general equability of distribution, emitted the
proper number of atoms for each stratum, been not _directly
proportional_ to the number, then the number would _not_ have been the
number demanded for the equable distribution.

The second supposable objection is somewhat better entitled to an

It is an admitted principle in Dynamics that every body, on receiving an
impulse, or disposition to move, will move onward in a straight line, in
the direction imparted by the impelling force, until deflected, or
stopped, by some other force. How then, it may be asked, is my first or
external stratum of atoms to be understood as discontinuing their
movement at the circumference of the imaginary glass sphere, when no
second force, of more than an imaginary character, appears, to account
for the discontinuance?

I reply that the objection, in this case, actually does arise out of “an
unwarranted assumption”—on the part of the objector—the assumption of a
principle, in Dynamics, at an epoch when _no_ “principles,” in
_anything_, exist:—I use the word “principle,” of course, in the
objector’s understanding of the word.

“In the beginning” we can admit—indeed we can comprehend—but one _First
Cause_—the truly ultimate _Principle_—the Volition of God. The primary
_act_—that of Irradiation from Unity—must have been independent of all
that which the world now calls “principle”—because all that we so
designate is but a consequence of the rëaction of that primary act:—I
say “_primary_” act; for the creation of the absolute material particle
is more properly to be regarded as a _conception_ than as an “_act_” in
the ordinary meaning of the term. Thus, we must regard the primary act
as an act for the establishment of what we now call “principles.” But
this primary act itself is to be considered as _continuous Volition_.
The Thought of God is to be understood as originating the Diffusion—as
proceeding with it—as regulating it—and, finally, as being withdrawn
from it upon its completion. _Then_ commences Rëaction, and through
Rëaction, “Principle,” as we employ the word. It will be advisable,
however, to limit the application of this word to the two _immediate_
results of the discontinuance of the Divine Volition—that is, to the two
agents, _Attraction_ and _Repulsion_. Every other Natural agent depends,
either more or less immediately, upon these two, and therefore would be
more conveniently designated as _sub_-principle.

It may be objected, thirdly, that, in general, the peculiar mode of
distribution which I have suggested for the atoms, is “an hypothesis and
nothing more.”

Now, I am aware that the word hypothesis is a ponderous sledge-hammer,
grasped immediately, if not lifted, by all very diminutive thinkers,
upon the first appearance of any proposition wearing, in any particular,
the garb of _a theory_. But “hypothesis” cannot be wielded _here_ to any
good purpose, even by those who succeed in lifting it—little men or

I maintain, first, that _only_ in the mode described is it conceivable
that Matter could have been diffused so as to fulfil at once the
conditions of irradiation and of generally equable distribution. I
maintain, secondly, that these conditions themselves have been imposed
upon me, as necessities, in a train of ratiocination _as rigorously
logical as that which establishes any demonstration in Euclid_; and I
maintain, thirdly, that even if the charge of “hypothesis” were as fully
sustained as it is, in fact, unsustained and untenable, still the
validity and indisputability of my result would not, even in the
slightest particular, be disturbed.

To explain:—The Newtonian Gravity—a law of Nature—a law whose existence
as such no one out of Bedlam questions—a law whose admission as such
enables us to account for nine-tenths of the Universal phænomena—a law
which, merely because it does so enable us to account for these
phænomena, we are perfectly willing, without reference to any other
considerations, to admit, and cannot help admitting, as a law—a law,
nevertheless, of which neither the principle nor the _modus operandi_ of
the principle, has ever yet been traced by the human analysis—a law, in
short, which, neither in its detail nor in its generality, has been
found susceptible of explanation _at all_—is at length seen to be at
every point thoroughly explicable, provided only we yield our assent
to——what? To an hypothesis? Why _if_ an hypothesis—if the merest
hypothesis—if an hypothesis for whose assumption—as in the case of that
_pure_ hypothesis the Newtonian law itself—no shadow of _à priori_
reason could be assigned—if an hypothesis, even so absolute as all this
implies, would enable us to perceive a principle for the Newtonian
law—would enable us to understand as satisfied, conditions so
miraculously—so ineffably complex and seemingly irreconcileable as those
involved in the relations of which Gravity tells us,—what rational being
_could_ so expose his fatuity as to call even this absolute hypothesis
an hypothesis any longer—unless, indeed, he were to persist in so
calling it, with the understanding that he did so, simply for the sake
of consistency _in words_?

But what is the true state of our present case? What is _the fact_? Not
only that it is _not_ an hypothesis which we are required _to adopt_,
in order to admit the principle at issue explained, but that it _is_ a
logical conclusion which we are requested _not_ to adopt if we can avoid
it—which we are simply invited to _deny if we can_:—a conclusion of so
accurate a logicality that to dispute it would be the effort—to doubt
its validity beyond our power:—a conclusion from which we see no mode of
escape, turn as we will; a result which confronts us either at the end
of an _in_ductive journey from the phænomena of the very Law discussed,
or at the close of a _de_ductive career from the most rigorously simple
of all conceivable assumptions—_the assumption, in a word, of Simplicity

And if here, for the mere sake of cavilling, it be urged, that although
my starting-point is, as I assert, the assumption of absolute
Simplicity, yet Simplicity, considered merely in itself, is no axiom;
and that only deductions from axioms are indisputable—it is thus that I

Every other science than Logic is the science of certain concrete
relations. Arithmetic, for example, is the science of the relations of
number—Geometry, of the relations of form—Mathematics in general, of the
relations of quantity in general—of whatever can be increased or
diminished. Logic, however, is the science of Relation in the
abstract—of absolute Relation—of Relation considered solely in itself.
An axiom in any particular science other than Logic is, thus, merely a
proposition announcing certain concrete relations which seem to be too
obvious for dispute—as when we say, for instance, that the whole is
greater than its part:—and, thus again, the principle of the _Logical_
axiom—in other words, of an axiom in the abstract—is, simply,
_obviousness of relation_. Now, it is clear, not only that what is
obvious to one mind may not be obvious to another, but that what is
obvious to one mind at one epoch, may be anything but obvious, at
another epoch, to the same mind. It is clear, moreover, that what,
to-day, is obvious even to the majority of mankind, or to the majority
of the best intellects of mankind, may to-morrow be, to either majority,
more or less obvious, or in no respect obvious at all. It is seen, then,
that the _axiomatic principle_ itself is susceptible of variation, and
of course that axioms are susceptible of similar change. Being mutable,
the “truths” which grow out of them are necessarily mutable too; or, in
other words, are never to be positively depended upon as truths at
all—since Truth and Immutability are one.

It will now be readily understood that no axiomatic idea—no idea founded
in the fluctuating principle, obviousness of relation—can possibly be so
secure—so reliable a basis for any structure erected by the Reason, as
_that_ idea—(whatever it is, wherever we can find it, or _if_ it be
practicable to find it anywhere)—which is _ir_relative altogether—which
not only presents to the understanding _no obviousness_ of relation,
either greater or less, to be considered, but subjects the intellect,
not in the slighest degree, to the necessity of even looking at _any
relation at all_. If such an idea be not what we too heedlessly term “an
axiom,” it is at least preferable, as a Logical basis, to any axiom ever
propounded, or to all imaginable axioms combined:—and such, precisely,
is the idea with which my deductive process, so thoroughly corroborated
by induction, commences. My _particle proper_ is but _absolute
Irrelation_. To sum up what has been here advanced:—As a starting point
I have taken it for granted, simply, that the Beginning had nothing
behind it or before it—that it was a Beginning in fact—that it was a
beginning and nothing different from a beginning—in short that this
Beginning was——_that which it was_. 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
announcing that _the Law which we have been in the habit of calling
Gravity exists on account of Matter’s having been irradiated, at its
origin, atomically, into a limited[4] sphere of Space, from one,
individual, unconditional, irrelative, and absolute Particle Proper, by
the sole process in which it was possible to satisfy, at the same time,
the two conditions, irradiation, and generally-equable distribution
throughout the sphere—that is to say, by a force varying in direct
proportion with the squares of the distances between the irradiated
atoms, respectively, and the Particular centre of Irradiation_.

    [4] Limited sphere—A sphere is _necessarily_ limited. I prefer
    tautology to a chance of misconception.

I have already given my reasons for presuming Matter to have been
diffused by a determinate rather than by a continuous or infinitely
continued force. Supposing a continuous force, we should be unable, in
the first place, to comprehend a rëaction at all; and we should be
required, in the second place, to entertain the impossible conception of
an infinite extension of Matter. Not to dwell upon the impossibility of
the conception, the infinite extension of Matter is an idea which, if
not positively disproved, is at least not in any respect warranted by
telescopic observation of the stars—a point to be explained more fully
hereafter; and this empirical reason for believing in the original
finity of Matter is unempirically confirmed. For example:—Admitting, for
the moment, the possibility of understanding Space _filled_ with the
irradiated atoms—that is to say, admitting, as well as we can, for
argument’s sake, that the succession of the irradiated atoms had
absolutely _no end_—then it is abundantly clear that, even when the
Volition of God had been withdrawn from them, and thus the tendency to
return into Unity permitted (abstractly) to be satisfied, this
permission would have been nugatory and invalid—practically valueless
and of no effect whatever. No Rëaction could have taken place; no
movement toward Unity could have been made; no Law of Gravity could have

To explain:—Grant the _abstract_ tendency of any one atom to any one
other as the inevitable result of diffusion from the normal Unity:—or,
what is the same thing, admit any given atom as _proposing_ to move in
any given direction—it is clear that, since there is an _infinity_ of
atoms on all sides of the atom proposing to move, it never can actually
move toward the satisfaction of its tendency in the direction given, on
account of a precisely equal and counterbalancing tendency in the
direction diametrically opposite. In other words, exactly as many
tendencies to Unity are behind the hesitating atom as before it; for it
is a mere sotticism to say that one infinite line is longer or shorter
than another infinite line, or that one infinite number is greater or
less than another number that is infinite. Thus the atom in question
must remain stationary forever. Under the impossible circumstances which
we have been merely endeavoring to conceive for argument’s sake, there
could have been no aggregation of Matter—no stars—no worlds—nothing but
a perpetually atomic and inconsequential Universe. In fact, view it as
we will, the whole idea of unlimited Matter is not only untenable, but
impossible and preposterous.

With the understanding of a _sphere_ of atoms, however, we perceive, at
once, a _satisfiable_ tendency to union. The general result of the
tendency each to each, being a tendency of all to the centre, the
_general_ process of condensation, or approximation, commences
immediately, by a common and simultaneous movement, on withdrawal of the
Divine Volition; the _individual_ approximations, or coalescences—_not_
cöalitions—of atom with atom, being subject to almost infinite
variations of time, degree, and condition, on account of the excessive
multiplicity of relation, arising from the differences of form assumed
as characterizing the atoms at the moment of their quitting the Particle
Proper; as well as from the subsequent particular inequidistance, each
from each.

What I wish to impress upon the reader is the certainty of there
arising, at once, (on withdrawal of the diffusive force, or Divine
Volition,) out of the condition of the atoms as described, at
innumerable points throughout the Universal sphere, innumerable
agglomerations, characterized by innumerable specific differences of
form, size, essential nature, and distance each from each. The
development of Repulsion (Electricity) must have commenced, of course,
with the very earliest particular efforts at Unity, and must have
proceeded constantly in the ratio of Coalescence—that is to say, _in
that of Condensation_, or, again, of Heterogeneity.

Thus the two Principles Proper, _Attraction_ and _Repulsion_—the
Material and the Spiritual—accompany each other, in the strictest
fellowship, forever. Thus _The Body and The Soul walk hand in hand_.

If now, in fancy, we select _any one_ of the agglomerations considered
as in their primary stages throughout the Universal sphere, and suppose
this incipient agglomeration to be taking place at that point where the
centre of our Sun exists—or rather where it _did_ exist originally; for
the Sun is perpetually shifting his position—we shall find ourselves
met, and borne onward for a time at least, by the most magnificent of
theories—by the Nebular Cosmogony of Laplace:—although “Cosmogony” is
far too comprehensive a term for what 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 the subject
of my present Discourse.

Confining himself to an _obviously limited_ region—that of our solar
system with its comparatively immediate vicinity—and _merely_
assuming—that is to say, assuming without any basis whatever, either
deductive or inductive—_much_ of what I have been just endeavoring to
place upon a more stable basis than assumption; assuming, for example,
matter as diffused (without pretending to account for the diffusion)
throughout, and somewhat beyond, the space occupied by our
system—diffused in a state of heterogeneous nebulosity and obedient to
that omniprevalent law of Gravity at whose principle he ventured to make
no guess;—assuming all this (which is quite true, although he had no
logical right to its assumption) Laplace has shown, dynamically and
mathematically, that the results in such case necessarily ensuing, are
those and those alone which we find manifested in the actually existing
condition of the system itself.

To explain:—Let us conceive _that_ particular agglomeration of which we
have just spoken—the one at the point designated by our Sun’s centre—to
have so far proceeded that a vast quantity of nebulous matter has here
assumed a roughly globular form; its centre being, of course, coincident
with what is now, or rather was originally, the centre of our Sun; and
its periphery extending out beyond the orbit of Neptune, the most remote
of our planets:—in other words, let us suppose the diameter of this
rough sphere to be some 6000 millions of miles. For ages, this mass of
matter has been undergoing condensation, until at length it has become
reduced into the bulk we imagine; having proceeded gradually, of course,
from its atomic and imperceptible state, into what we understand of
visible, palpable, or otherwise appreciable nebulosity.

Now, the condition of this mass implies a rotation about an imaginary
axis—a rotation which, commencing with the absolute incipiency of the
aggregation, has been ever since acquiring velocity. The very first two
atoms which met, approaching each other from points not diametrically
opposite, would, in rushing partially past each other, form a nucleus
for the rotary movement described. How this would increase in velocity,
is readily seen. The two atoms are joined by others:—an aggregation is
formed. The mass continues to rotate while condensing. But any atom at
the circumference has, of course, a more rapid motion than one nearer
the centre. The outer atom, however, with its superior velocity,
approaches the centre; carrying this superior velocity with it as it
goes. Thus every atom, proceeding inwardly, and finally attaching itself
to the condensed centre, adds something to the original velocity of that
centre—that is to say, increases the rotary movement of the mass.

Let us now suppose this mass so far condensed that it occupies
_precisely_ the space circumscribed by the orbit of Neptune, and that
the velocity with which the surface of the mass moves, in the general
rotation, is precisely that velocity with which Neptune now revolves
about the Sun. At this epoch, then, we are to understand that the
constantly increasing centrifugal force, having gotten the better of the
non-increasing centripetal, loosened and separated the exterior and
least condensed stratum, or a few of the exterior and least condensed
strata, at the equator of the sphere, where the tangential velocity
predominated; so that these strata formed about the main body an
independent ring encircling the equatorial regions:—just as the exterior
portion thrown off, by excessive velocity of rotation, from a
grindstone, would form a ring about the grindstone, but for the solidity
of the superficial material: were this caoutchouc, or anything similar
in consistency, precisely the phænomenon I describe would be presented.

The ring thus whirled from the nebulous mass, _revolved_, of course,
_as_ a separate ring, with just that velocity with which, while the
surface of the mass, it _rotated_. In the meantime, condensation still
proceeding, the interval between the discharged ring and the main body
continued to increase, until the former was left at a vast distance from
the latter.

Now, admitting the ring to have possessed, by some seemingly accidental
arrangement of its heterogeneous materials, a constitution nearly
uniform, then this ring, _as_ such, would never have ceased revolving
about its primary; but, as might have been anticipated, there appears to
have been enough irregularity in the disposition of the materials, to
make them cluster about centres of superior solidity; and thus the
annular form was destroyed.[5] No doubt, the band was soon broken up
into several portions, and one of these portions, predominating in mass,
absorbed the others into itself; the whole settling, spherically, into a
planet. That this latter, _as_ a planet, continued the revolutionary
movement which characterized it while a ring, is sufficiently clear; and
that it took upon itself also, an additional movement in its new
condition of sphere, is readily explained. The ring being understood as
yet unbroken, we see that its exterior, while the whole revolves about
the parent body, moves more rapidly than its interior. When the rupture
occurred, then, some portion in each fragment must have been moving
with greater velocity than the others. The superior movement prevailing,
must have whirled each fragment round—that is to say, have caused it to
rotate; and the direction of the rotation must, of course, have been the
direction of the revolution whence it arose. _All_ the fragments having
become subject to the rotation described, must, in coalescing, have
imparted it to the one planet constituted by their coalescence.—This
planet was Neptune. Its material continuing to undergo condensation, and
the centrifugal force generated in its rotation getting, at length, the
better of the centripetal, as before in the case of the parent orb, a
ring was whirled also from the equatorial surface of this planet: this
ring, having been ununiform in its constitution, was broken up, and its
several fragments, being absorbed by the most massive, were collectively
spherified into a moon. Subsequently, the operation was repeated, and a
second moon was the result. We thus account for the planet Neptune, with
the two satellites which accompany him.

    [5] Laplace assumed his nebulosity heterogeneous, merely that
    he might be thus enabled to account for the breaking up of the
    rings; for had the nebulosity been homogeneous, they would not
    have broken. I reach the same result—heterogeneity of the
    secondary masses immediately resulting from the atoms—purely
    from an _à priori_ consideration of their general

In throwing off a ring from its equator, the Sun re-established that
equilibrium between its centripetal and centrifugal forces which had
been disturbed in the process of condensation; but, as this condensation
still proceeded, the equilibrium was again immediately disturbed,
through the increase of rotation. By the time the mass had so far shrunk
that it occupied a spherical space just that circumscribed by the orbit
of Uranus, we are to understand that the centrifugal force had so far
obtained the ascendency that new relief was needed: a second equatorial
band was, consequently, thrown off, which, proving ununiform, was
broken up, as before in the case of Neptune; the fragments settling into
the planet Uranus; the velocity of whose actual revolution about the Sun
indicates, of course, the rotary speed of that Sun’s equatorial surface
at the moment of the separation. Uranus, adopting a rotation from the
collective rotations of the fragments composing it, as previously
explained, now threw off ring after ring; each of which, becoming broken
up, settled into a moon:—three moons, at different epochs, having been
formed, in this manner, by the rupture and general spherification of as
many distinct ununiform rings.

By the time the Sun had shrunk until it occupied a space just that
circumscribed by the orbit of Saturn, the balance, we are to suppose,
between its centripetal and centrifugal forces had again become so far
disturbed, through increase of rotary velocity, the result of
condensation, that a third effort at equilibrium became necessary; and
an annular band was therefore whirled off as twice before; which, on
rupture through ununiformity, became consolidated into the planet
Saturn. This latter threw off, in the first place, seven uniform bands,
which, on rupture, were spherified respectively into as many moons; but,
subsequently, it appears to have discharged, at three distinct but not
very distant epochs, three rings whose equability of constitution was,
by apparent accident, so considerable as to present no occasion for
their rupture; thus they continue to revolve as rings. I use the phrase
“_apparent_ accident;” for of accident in the ordinary sense there was,
of course, nothing:—the term is properly applied only to the result of
indistinguishable or not immediately traceable _law_.

Shrinking still farther, until it occupied just the space circumscribed
by the orbit of Jupiter, the Sun now found need of farther effort to
restore the counterbalance of its two forces, continually disarranged in
the still continued increase of rotation. Jupiter, accordingly, was now
thrown off; passing from the annular to the planetary condition; and, on
attaining this latter, threw off in its turn, at four different epochs,
four rings, which finally resolved themselves into so many moons.

Still shrinking, until its sphere occupied just the space defined by the
orbit of the Asteroids, the Sun now discarded a ring which appears to
have had _eight_ centres of superior solidity, and, on breaking up, to
have separated into eight fragments no one of which so far predominated
in mass as to absorb the others. All therefore, as distinct although
comparatively small planets, proceeded to revolve in orbits whose
distances, each from each, may be considered as in some degree the
measure of the force which drove them asunder:—all the orbits,
nevertheless, being so closely coincident as to admit of our calling
them _one_, in view of the other planetary orbits.

Continuing to shrink, the Sun, on becoming so small as just to fill the
orbit of Mars, now discharged this planet—of course by the process
repeatedly described. Having no moon, however, Mars could have thrown
off no ring. In fact, an epoch had now arrived in the career of the
parent body, the centre of the system. The _de_crease of its nebulosity,
which is the _in_crease of its density, and which again is the
_de_crease of its condensation, out of which latter arose the constant
disturbance of equilibrium—must, by this period, have attained a point
at which the efforts for restoration would have been more and more
ineffectual just in proportion as they were less frequently needed. Thus
the processes of which we have been speaking would everywhere show signs
of exhaustion—in the planets, first, and secondly, in the original mass.
We must not fall into the error of supposing the decrease of interval
observed among the planets as we approach the Sun, to be in any respect
indicative of an increase of frequency in the periods at which they were
discarded. Exactly the converse is to be understood. The longest
interval of time must have occurred between the discharges of the two
interior; the shortest, between those of the two exterior, planets. The
decrease of the interval of space is, nevertheless, the measure of the
density, and thus inversely of the condensation, of the Sun, throughout
the processes detailed.

Having shrunk, however, so far as to fill only the orbit of our Earth,
the parent sphere whirled from itself still one other body—the Earth—in
a condition so nebulous as to admit of this body’s discarding, in its
turn, yet another, which is our Moon;—but here terminated the lunar

Finally, subsiding to the orbits first of Venus and then of Mercury, the
Sun discarded these two interior planets; neither of which has given
birth to any moon.

Thus from his original bulk—or, to speak more accurately, from the
condition in which we first considered him—from a partially spherified
nebular mass, _certainly_ much more than 5,600 millions of miles in
diameter—the great central orb and origin of our solar-planetary-lunar
system, has gradually descended, by condensation, in obedience to the
law of Gravity, to a globe only 882,000 miles in diameter; but it by no
means follows, either that its condensation is yet complete, or that it
may not still possess the capacity of whirling from itself another

I have here given—in outline of course, but still with all the detail
necessary for distinctness—a view of the Nebular Theory as its author
himself conceived it. From whatever point we regard it, we shall find it
_beautifully true_. It is by far too beautiful, indeed, _not_ to possess
Truth as its essentiality—and here I am very profoundly serious in what
I say. In the revolution of the satellites of Uranus, there does appear
something seemingly inconsistent with the assumptions of Laplace; but
that _one_ inconsistency can invalidate a theory constructed from a
million of intricate consistencies, is a fancy fit only for the
fantastic. In prophecying, confidently, that the apparent anomaly to
which I refer, will, sooner or later, be found one of the strongest
possible corroborations of the general hypothesis, I pretend to no
especial spirit of divination. It is a matter which the only difficulty
seems _not_ to foresee.[6]

    [6] I am prepared to show that the anomalous revolution of the
    satellites of Uranus is a simply perspective anomaly arising
    from the inclination of the axis of the planet.

The bodies whirled off in the processes described, would exchange, it
has been seen, the superficial _rotation_ of the orbs whence they
originated, for a _revolution_ of equal velocity about these orbs as
distant centres; and the revolution thus engendered must proceed, so
long as the centripetal force, or that with which the discarded body
gravitates toward its parent, is neither greater nor less than that by
which it was discarded; that is, than the centrifugal, or, far more
properly, than the tangential, velocity. From the unity, however, of the
origin of these two forces, we might have expected to find them as they
are found—the one accurately counterbalancing the other. It has been
shown, indeed, that the act of whirling-off is, in every case, merely an
act for the preservation of the counterbalance.

After referring, however, the centripetal force to the omniprevalent law
of Gravity, it has been the fashion with astronomical treatises, to seek
beyond the limits of mere Nature—that is to say, of _Secondary_ Cause—a
solution of the phænomenon of tangential velocity. This latter they
attribute directly to a _First_ Cause—to God. The force which carries a
stellar body around its primary they assert to have originated in an
impulse given immediately by the finger—this is the childish phraseology
employed—by the finger of Deity itself. In this view, the planets, fully
formed, are conceived to have been hurled from the Divine hand, to a
position in the vicinity of the suns, with an impetus mathematically
adapted to the masses, or attractive capacities, of the suns themselves.
An idea so grossly unphilosophical, although so supinely adopted, could
have arisen only from the difficulty of otherwise accounting for the
absolutely accurate adaptation, each to each, of two forces so seemingly
independent, one of the other, as are the gravitating and tangential.
But it should be remembered that, for a long time, the coincidence
between the moon’s rotation and her sidereal revolution—two matters
seemingly far more independent than those now considered—was looked
upon as positively miraculous; and there was a strong disposition, even
among astronomers, to attribute the marvel to the direct and continual
agency of God—who, in this case, it was said, had found it necessary to
interpose, specially, among his general laws, a set of subsidiary
regulations, for the purpose of forever concealing from mortal eyes the
glories, or perhaps the horrors, of the other side of the Moon—of that
mysterious hemisphere which has always avoided, and must perpetually
avoid, the telescopic scrutiny of mankind. The advance of Science,
however, soon demonstrated—what to the philosophical instinct needed
_no_ demonstration—that the one movement is but a portion—something
more, even, than a consequence—of the other.

For my part, I have no patience with fantasies at once so timorous, so
idle, and so awkward. They belong to the veriest _cowardice_ of thought.
That Nature and the God of Nature are distinct, no thinking being can
long doubt. By the former we imply merely the laws of the latter. But
with the very idea of God, omnipotent, omniscient, we entertain, also,
the idea of _the infallibility_ of his laws. With Him there being
neither Past nor Future—with Him all being _Now_—do we not insult him in
supposing his laws so contrived as not to provide for every possible
contingency?—or, rather, what idea _can_ we have of _any_ possible
contingency, except that it is at once a result and a manifestation of
his laws? He who, divesting himself of prejudice, shall have the rare
courage to think absolutely for himself, cannot fail to arrive, in the
end, at the condensation of _laws_ into _Law_—cannot fail of reaching
the conclusion that _each law of Nature is dependent at all points upon
all other laws_, and that all are but consequences of one primary
exercise of the Divine Volition. Such is the principle of the Cosmogony
which, with all necessary deference, I here venture to suggest and to

In this view, it will be seen that, dismissing as frivolous, and even
impious, the fancy of the tangential force having been imparted to the
planets immediately by “the finger of God,” I consider this force as
originating in the rotation of the stars:—this rotation as brought about
by the in-rushing of the primary atoms, towards their respective centres
of aggregation:—this in-rushing as the consequence of the law of
Gravity:—this law as but the mode in which is necessarily manifested the
tendency of the atoms to return into imparticularity:—this tendency to
return as but the inevitable rëaction of the first and most sublime of
Acts—that act by which a God, self-existing and alone existing, became
all things at once, through dint of his volition, while all things were
thus constituted a portion of God.

The radical assumptions of this Discourse suggest to me, and in fact
imply, certain important _modifications_ of the Nebular Theory as given
by Laplace. The efforts of the repulsive power I have considered as made
for the purpose of preventing contact among the atoms, and thus as made
in the ratio of the approach to contact—that is to say, in the ratio of
condensation.[7] In other words, _Electricity_, with its involute
phænomena, heat, light and magnetism, is to be understood as proceeding
as condensation proceeds, and, of course, inversely as density proceeds,
or the _cessation to condense_. Thus the Sun, in the process of its
aggregation, must soon, in developing repulsion, have become excessively
heated—perhaps incandescent: and we can perceive how the operation of
discarding its rings must have been materially assisted by the slight
incrustation of its surface consequent on cooling. Any common experiment
shows us how readily a crust of the character suggested, is separated,
through heterogeneity, from the interior mass. But, on every successive
rejection of the crust, the new surface would appear incandescent as
before; and the period at which it would again become so far encrusted
as to be readily loosened and discharged, may well be imagined as
exactly coincident with that at which a new effort would be needed, by
the whole mass, to restore the equilibrium of its two forces,
disarranged through condensation. In other words:—by the time the
electric influence (Repulsion) has prepared the surface for rejection,
we are to understand that the gravitating influence (Attraction) is
precisely ready to reject it. Here, then, as everywhere, _the Body and
the Soul walk hand in hand_.

    [7] See page 70.

These ideas are empirically confirmed at all points. Since condensation
can never, in any body, be considered as absolutely at an end, we are
warranted in anticipating that, whenever we have an opportunity of
testing the matter, we shall find indications of resident luminosity in
_all_ the stellar bodies—moons and planets as well as suns. That our
Moon is strongly self-luminous, we see at her every total eclipse, when,
if not so, she would disappear. On the dark part of the satellite, too,
during her phases, we often observe flashes like our own Auroras; and
that these latter, with our various other so-called electrical
phænomena, without reference to any more steady radiance, must give our
Earth a certain appearance of luminosity to an inhabitant of the Moon,
is quite evident. In fact, we should regard all the phænomena referred
to, as mere manifestations, in different moods and degrees, of the
Earth’s feebly-continued condensation.

If my views are tenable, we should be prepared to find the newer
planets—that is to say, those nearer the Sun—more luminous than those
older and more remote:—and the extreme brilliancy of Venus (on whose
dark portions, during her phases, the Auroras are frequently visible)
does not seem to be altogether accounted for by her mere proximity to
the central orb. She is no doubt vividly self-luminous, although less so
than Mercury: while the luminosity of Neptune may be comparatively

Admitting what I have urged, it is clear that, from the moment of the
Sun’s discarding a ring, there must be a continuous diminution both of
his heat and light, on account of the continuous encrustation of his
surface; and that a period would arrive—the period immediately previous
to a new discharge—when a _very material_ decrease of both light and
heat, must become apparent. Now, we know that tokens of such changes are
distinctly recognizable. On the Melville islands—to adduce merely one
out of a hundred examples—we find traces of _ultra-tropical_
vegetation—of plants that never could have flourished without immensely
more light and heat than are at present afforded by our Sun to any
portion of the surface of the Earth. Is such vegetation referable to an
epoch immediately subsequent to the whirling-off of Venus? At this epoch
must have occurred to us our greatest access of solar influence; and,
in fact, this influence must then have attained its maximum:—leaving out
of view, of course, the period when the Earth itself was discarded—the
period of its mere organization.

Again:—we know that there exist _non-luminous suns_—that is to say, suns
whose existence we determine through the movements of others, but whose
luminosity is not sufficient to impress us. Are these suns invisible
merely on account of the length of time elapsed since their discharge of
a planet? And yet again:—may we not—at least in certain cases—account
for the sudden appearances of suns where none had been previously
suspected, by the hypothesis that, having rolled with encrusted surfaces
throughout the few thousand years of our astronomical history, each of
these suns, in whirling off a new secondary, has at length been enabled
to display the glories of its still incandescent interior?—To the
well-ascertained fact of the proportional increase of heat as we descend
into the Earth, I need of course, do nothing more than refer:—it comes
in the strongest possible corroboration of all that I have said on the
topic now at issue.

In speaking, not long ago, of the repulsive or electrical influence, I
remarked that “the important phænomena of vitality, consciousness, and
thought, whether we observe them generally or in detail, seem to proceed
_at least in the ratio of the heterogeneous_.”[8] I mentioned, too, that
I would recur to the suggestion:—and this is the proper point at which
to do so. Looking at the matter, first, in detail, we perceive that not
merely the _manifestation_ of vitality, but its importance, consequence,
and elevation of character, keep pace, very closely, with the
heterogeneity, or complexity, of the animal structure. Looking at the
question, now, in its generality, and referring to the first movements
of the atoms towards mass-constitution, we find that heterogeneousness,
brought about directly through condensation, is proportional with it
forever. We thus reach the proposition that _the importance of the
development of the terrestrial vitality proceeds equably with the
terrestrial condensation_.

    [8] Page 36.

Now this is in precise accordance with what we know of the succession of
animals on the Earth. As it has proceeded in its condensation, superior
and still superior races have appeared. Is it impossible that the
successive geological revolutions which have attended, at least, if not
immediately caused, these successive elevations of vitalic character—is
it improbable that these revolutions have themselves been produced by
the successive planetary discharges from the Sun—in other words, by the
successive variations in the solar influence on the Earth? Were this
idea tenable, we should not be unwarranted in the fancy that the
discharge of yet a new planet, interior to Mercury, may give rise to yet
a new modification of the terrestrial surface—a modification from which
may spring a race both materially and spiritually superior to Man. These
thoughts impress me with all the force of truth—but I throw them out, of
course, merely in their obvious character of suggestion.

The Nebular Theory of Laplace has lately received far more confirmation
than it needed, at the hands of the philosopher, Compte. These two have
thus together shown—_not_, to be sure, that Matter at any period
actually existed as described, in a state of nebular diffusion, but
that, admitting it so to have existed throughout the space and much
beyond the space now occupied by our solar system, _and to have
commenced a movement towards a centre_—it must gradually have assumed
the various forms and motions which are now seen, in that system, to
obtain. A demonstration such as this—a dynamical and mathematical
demonstration, as far as demonstration can be—unquestionable and
unquestioned—unless, indeed, by that unprofitable and disreputable
tribe, the professional questioners—the mere madmen who deny the
Newtonian law of Gravity on which the results of the French
mathematicians are based—a demonstration, I say, such as this, would to
most intellects be conclusive—and I confess that it is so to mine—of the
validity of the nebular hypothesis upon which the demonstration depends.

That the demonstration does not _prove_ the hypothesis, according to the
common understanding of the word “proof,” I admit, of course. To show
that certain existing results—that certain established facts—may be,
even mathematically, accounted for by the assumption of a certain
hypothesis, is by no means to establish the hypothesis itself. In other
words:—to show that, certain data being given, a certain existing result
might, or even _must_, have ensued, will fail to prove that this result
_did_ ensue, _from the data_, until such time as it shall be also shown
that there are, _and can be_, no other data from which the result in
question might _equally_ have ensued. But, in the case now discussed,
although all must admit the deficiency of what we are in the habit of
terming “proof,” still there are many intellects, and those of the
loftiest order, to which _no_ proof could bring one iota of additional
_conviction_. Without going into details which might impinge upon the
Cloud-Land of Metaphysics, I may as well here observe that the force of
conviction, in cases such as this, will always, with the right-thinking,
be proportional to the amount of _complexity_ intervening between the
hypothesis and the result. To be less abstract:—The greatness of the
complexity found existing among cosmical conditions, by rendering great
in the same proportion the difficulty of accounting for all these
conditions _at once_, strengthens, also in the same proportion, our
faith in that hypothesis which does, in such manner, satisfactorily
account for them:—and as _no_ complexity can well be conceived greater
than that of the astronomical conditions, so no conviction can be
stronger—to _my_ mind at least—than that with which I am impressed by an
hypothesis that not only reconciles these conditions, with mathematical
accuracy, and reduces them into a consistent and intelligible whole, but
is, at the same time, the _sole_ hypothesis by means of which the human
intellect has been ever enabled to account for them _at all_.

A most unfounded opinion has become latterly current in gossiping and
even in scientific circles—the opinion that the so-called Nebular
Cosmogony has been overthrown. This fancy has arisen from the report of
late observations made, among what hitherto have been termed the
“nebulæ,” through the large telescope of Cincinnati, and the
world-renowned instrument of Lord Rosse. Certain spots in the firmament
which presented, even to the most powerful of the old telescopes, the
appearance of nebulosity, or haze, had been regarded for a long time as
confirming the theory of Laplace. They were looked upon as stars in that
very process of condensation which I have been attempting to describe.
Thus it was supposed that we “had ocular evidence”—an evidence, by the
way, which has always been found very questionable—of the truth of the
hypothesis; and, although certain telescopic improvements, every now and
then, enabled us to perceive that a spot, here and there, which we had
been classing among the nebulæ, was, in fact, but a cluster of stars
deriving its nebular character only from its immensity of distance—still
it was thought that no doubt could exist as to the actual nebulosity of
numerous other masses, the strong-holds of the nebulists, bidding
defiance to every effort at segregation. Of these latter the most
interesting was the great “nebulæ” in the constellation Orion:—but this,
with innumerable other mis-called “nebulæ,” when viewed through the
magnificent modern telescopes, has become resolved into a simple
collection of stars. Now this fact has been very generally understood as
conclusive against the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace; and, on
announcement of the discoveries in question, the most enthusiastic
defender and most eloquent popularizer of the theory, Dr. Nichol, went
so far as to “admit the necessity of abandoning” an idea which had
formed the material of his most praiseworthy book.[9]

    [9] “_Views of the Architecture of the Heavens._” A letter,
    purporting to be from Dr. Nichol to a friend in America, went
    the rounds of our newspapers, about two years ago, I think,
    admitting “the necessity” to which I refer. In a subsequent
    Lecture, however, Dr. N. appears in some manner to have gotten
    the better of the necessity, and does not quite _renounce_ the
    theory, although he seems to wish that he could sneer at it as
    “a purely hypothetical one.” What else was the Law of Gravity
    before the Maskelyne experiments? and who questioned the Law of
    Gravity, even then?

Many of my readers will no doubt be inclined to say that the result of
these new investigations _has_ at least a strong _tendency_ to overthrow
the hypothesis; while some of them, more thoughtful, will suggest that,
although the theory is by no means disproved through the segregation of
the particular “nebulæ,” alluded to, still a _failure_ to segregate
them, with such telescopes, might well have been understood as a
triumphant _corroboration_ of the theory:—and this latter class will be
surprised, perhaps, to hear me say that even with _them_ I disagree. If
the propositions of this Discourse have been comprehended, it will be
seen that, in my view, a failure to segregate the “nebulæ” would have
tended to the refutation, rather than to the confirmation, of the
Nebular Hypothesis.

Let me explain:—The Newtonian Law of Gravity we may, of course, assume
as demonstrated. This law, it will be remembered, I have referred to the
rëaction of the first Divine Act—to the rëaction of an exercise of the
Divine Volition temporarily overcoming a difficulty. This difficulty is
that of forcing the normal into the abnormal—of impelling that whose
originality, and therefore whose rightful condition, was _One_, to take
upon itself the wrongful condition of _Many_. It is only by conceiving
this difficulty as _temporarily_ overcome, that we can comprehend a
rëaction. There could have been no rëaction had the act been infinitely
continued. So long as the act _lasted_, no rëaction, of course, could
commence; in other words, no _gravitation_ could take place—for we have
considered the one as but the manifestation of the other. But
gravitation _has_ taken place; therefore the act of Creation has ceased:
and gravitation has long ago taken place; therefore the act of Creation
has long ago ceased. We can no more expect, then, to observe _the
primary processes_ of Creation; and to these primary processes the
condition of nebulosity has already been explained to belong.

Through what we know of the propagation of light, we have direct proof
that the more remote of the stars have existed, under the forms in which
we now see them, for an inconceivable number of years. So far back _at
least_, then, as the period when these stars underwent condensation,
must have been the epoch at which the mass-constitutive processes began.
That we may conceive these processes, then, as still going on in the
case of certain “nebulæ,” while in all other cases we find them
thoroughly at an end, we are forced into assumptions for which we have
really _no_ basis whatever—we have to thrust in, again, upon the
revolting Reason, the blasphemous idea of special interposition—we have
to suppose that, in the particular instances of these “nebulæ,” an
unerring God found it necessary to introduce certain supplementary
regulations—certain improvements of the general law—certain retouchings
and emendations, in a word, which had the effect of deferring the
completion of these individual stars for centuries of centuries beyond
the æra during which all the other stellar bodies had time, not only to
be fully constituted, but to grow hoary with an unspeakable old age.

Of course, it will be immediately objected that since the light by which
we recognize the nebulæ now, must be merely that which left their
surfaces a vast number of years ago, the processes at present observed,
or supposed to be observed, are, in fact, _not_ processes now actually
going on, but the phantoms of processes completed long in the Past—just
as I maintain all these mass-constitutive processes _must_ have been.

To this I reply that neither is the now-observed condition of the
condensed stars their actual condition, but a condition completed long
in the Past; so that my argument drawn from the _relative_ condition of
the stars and the “nebulæ,” is in no manner disturbed. Moreover, those
who maintain the existence of nebulæ, do _not_ refer the nebulosity to
extreme distance; they declare it a real and not merely a perspective
nebulosity. That we may conceive, indeed, a nebular mass as visible at
all, we must conceive it as _very near us_ in comparison with the
condensed stars brought into view by the modern telescopes. In
maintaining the appearances in question, then, to be really nebulous, we
maintain their comparative vicinity to our point of view. Thus, their
condition, as we see them now, must be referred to an epoch _far less
remote_ than that to which we may refer the now-observed condition of at
least the majority of the stars.—In a word, should Astronomy ever
demonstrate a “nebula,” in the sense at present intended, I should
consider the Nebular Cosmogony—_not_, indeed, as corroborated by the
demonstration—but as thereby irretrievably overthrown.

By way, however, of rendering unto Cæsar _no more_ than the things that
are Cæsar’s, let me here remark that the assumption of the hypothesis
which led him to so glorious a result, seems to have been suggested to
Laplace in great measure by a misconception—by the very misconception of
which we have just been speaking—by the generally prevalent
misunderstanding of the character of the nebulæ, so mis-named. These he
supposed to be, in reality, what their designation implies. The fact is,
this great man had, very properly, an inferior faith in his own merely
_perceptive_ powers. In respect, therefore, to the actual existence of
nebulæ—an existence so confidently maintained by his telescopic
contemporaries—he depended less upon what he saw than upon what he

It will be seen that the only valid objections to his theory, are those
made to its hypothesis _as_ such—to what suggested it—not to what it
suggests; to its propositions rather than to its results. His most
unwarranted assumption was that of giving the atoms a movement towards a
centre, in the very face of his evident understanding that these atoms,
in unlimited succession, extended throughout the Universal space. I have
already shown that, under such circumstances, there could have occurred
no movement at all; and Laplace, consequently, assumed one on no more
philosophical ground than that something of the 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
atoms with the false nebulæ of his contemporaries; and thus his theory
presents us with the singular anomaly of absolute truth deduced, as a
mathematical result, from a hybrid datum of ancient imagination
intertangled with modern inacumen. Laplace’s real strength lay, in fact,
in an almost miraculous mathematical instinct:—on this he relied; and in
no instance did it fail or deceive him:—in the case of the Nebular
Cosmogony, it led him, blindfolded, through a labyrinth of Error, into
one of the most luminous and stupendous temples of Truth.

Let us now fancy, for the moment, that the ring first thrown off by the
Sun—that is to say, the ring whose breaking-up constituted Neptune—did
not, in fact, break up until the throwing-off of the ring out of which
Uranus arose; that this latter ring, again, remained perfect until the
discharge of that out of which sprang Saturn; that this latter, again,
remained entire until the discharge of that from which originated
Jupiter—and so on. Let us imagine, in a word, that no dissolution
occurred among the rings until the final rejection of that which gave
birth to Mercury. We thus paint to the eye of the mind a series of
cöexistent concentric circles; and looking as well at _them_ as at the
processes by which, according to Laplace’s hypothesis, they were
constructed, we perceive at once a very singular analogy with the atomic
strata and the process of the original irradiation as I have described
it. Is it impossible that, on measuring the _forces_, respectively, by
which each successive planetary circle was thrown off—that is to say, on
measuring the successive excesses of rotation over gravitation which
occasioned the successive discharges—we should find the analogy in
question more decidedly confirmed? _Is it improbable that we should
discover these forces to have varied—as in the original
radiation—proportionally to the squares of the distances?_

Our solar system, consisting, in chief, of one sun, with sixteen planets
certainly, and possibly a few more, revolving about it at various
distances, and attended by seventeen moons assuredly, but _very_
probably by several others—is now to be considered as _an example_ of
the innumerable agglomerations which proceeded to take place throughout
the Universal Sphere of atoms on withdrawal of the Divine Volition. I
mean to say that our solar system is to be understood as affording a
_generic instance_ of these agglomerations, or, more correctly, of the
ulterior conditions at which they arrived. If we keep our attention
fixed on the idea of _the utmost possible Relation_ as the Omnipotent
design, and on the precautions taken to accomplish it through difference
of form, among the original atoms, and particular inequidistance, we
shall find it impossible to suppose for a moment that even any two of
the incipient agglomerations reached precisely the same result in the
end. We shall rather be inclined to think that _no two_ stellar bodies
in the Universe—whether suns, planets or moons—are particularly, while
_all_ are generally, similar. Still less, then, can we imagine any two
_assemblages_ of such bodies—any two “systems”—as having more than a
general resemblance.[10] Our telescopes, at this point, thoroughly
confirm our deductions. Taking our own solar system, then, as merely a
loose or general type of all, we have so far proceeded in our subject as
to survey the Universe under the aspect of a spherical space, throughout
which, dispersed with merely general equability, exist a number of but
generally similar _systems_.

    [10] It is not _impossible_ that some unlooked-for optical
    improvement may disclose to us, among innumerable varieties of
    systems, a luminous sun, encircled by luminous and non-luminous
    rings, within and without and between which, revolve luminous
    and non-luminous planets, attended by moons having moons—and
    even these latter again having moons.

Let us now, expanding our conceptions, look upon each of these systems
as in itself an atom; which in fact it is, when we consider it as but
one of the countless myriads of systems which constitute the Universe.
Regarding all, then, as but colossal atoms, each with the same
ineradicable tendency to Unity which characterizes the actual atoms of
which it consists—we enter at once upon a new order of aggregations. The
smaller systems, in the vicinity of a larger one, would, inevitably, be
drawn into still closer vicinity. A thousand would assemble here; a
million there—perhaps here, again, even a billion—leaving, thus,
immeasurable vacancies in space. And if now, it be demanded why, in the
case of these systems—of these merely Titanic atoms—I speak, simply, of
an “assemblage,” and not, as in the case of the actual atoms, of a more
or less consolidated agglomeration:—if it be asked, for instance, why I
do not carry what I suggest to its legitimate conclusion, and describe,
at once, these assemblages of system-atoms as rushing to consolidation
in spheres—as each becoming condensed into one magnificent sun—my reply
is that μελλοντα ταυτα—I am but pausing, for a moment, on the awful
threshold of _the Future_. For the present, calling these assemblages
“clusters,” we see them in the incipient stages of their consolidation.
Their _absolute_ consolidation is _to come_.

We have now reached a point from which we behold the Universe as a
spherical space, interspersed, _unequably_, with _clusters_. It will be
noticed that I here prefer the adverb “unequably” to the phrase “with a
merely general equability,” employed before. It is evident, in fact,
that the equability of distribution will diminish in the ratio of the
agglomerative processes—that is to say, as the things distributed
diminish in number. Thus the increase of _in_-equability—an increase
which must continue until, sooner or later, an epoch will arrive at
which the largest agglomeration will absorb all the others—should be
viewed as, simply, a corroborative indication of the _tendency to One_.

And here, at length, it seems proper to inquire whether the ascertained
_facts_ of Astronomy confirm the general arrangement which I have thus,
deductively, assigned to the Heavens. Thoroughly, they _do_. Telescopic
observation, guided by the laws of perspective, enables us to understand
that the perceptible Universe exists as _a cluster of clusters,
irregularly disposed_.

The “clusters” of which this Universal “_cluster of clusters_” consists,
are merely what we have been in the practice of designating
“nebulæ”—and, of these “nebulæ,” _one_ is of paramount interest to
mankind. I allude to the Galaxy, or Milky Way. This interests us, first
and most obviously, on account of its great superiority in apparent
size, not only to any one other cluster in the firmament, but to all the
other clusters taken together. The largest of these latter occupies a
mere point, comparatively, and is distinctly seen only with the aid of a
telescope. The Galaxy sweeps throughout the Heaven and is brilliantly
visible to the naked eye. But it interests man chiefly, although less
immediately, on account of its being his home; the home of the Earth on
which he exists; the home of the Sun about which this Earth revolves;
the home of that “system” of orbs of which the Sun is the centre and
primary—the Earth one of sixteen secondaries, or planets—the Moon one of
seventeen tertiaries, or satellites. The Galaxy, let me repeat, is but
one of the _clusters_ which I have been describing—but one of the
mis-called “nebulæ” revealed to us—by the telescope alone, sometimes—as
faint hazy spots in various quarters of the sky. We have no reason to
suppose the Milky Way _really_ more extensive than the least of these
“nebulæ.” Its vast superiority in size is but an apparent superiority
arising from our position in regard to it—that is to say, from our
position in its midst. However strange the assertion may at first appear
to those unversed in Astronomy, still the astronomer himself has no
hesitation in asserting that we are _in the midst_ of that inconceivable
host of stars—of suns—of systems—which constitute the Galaxy. Moreover,
not only have _we_—not only has _our_ Sun a right to claim the Galaxy as
its own especial cluster, but, with slight reservation, it may be said
that all the distinctly visible stars of the firmament—all the stars
Visible to the naked eye—have equally a right to claim it as _their_

There has been a great deal of misconception in respect to the _shape_
of the Galaxy; which, in nearly all our astronomical treatises, is said
to resemble that of a capital Y. The cluster in question has, in
reality, a certain general—_very_ general resemblance to the planet
Saturn, with its encompassing triple ring. Instead of the solid orb of
that planet, however, we must picture to ourselves a lenticular
star-island, or collection of stars; our Sun lying excentrically—near
the shore of the island—on that side of it which is nearest the
constellation of the Cross and farthest from that of Cassiopeia. The
surrounding ring, where it approaches our position, has in it a
longitudinal _gash_, which does, in fact, cause _the ring, in our
vicinity_, to assume, loosely, the appearance of a capital Y.

We must not fall into the error, however, of conceiving the somewhat
indefinite girdle as at all _remote_, comparatively speaking, from the
also indefinite lenticular cluster which it surrounds; and thus, for
mere purpose of explanation, we may speak of our Sun as actually
situated at that point of the Y where its three component lines unite;
and, conceiving this letter to be of a certain solidity—of a certain
thickness, very trivial in comparison with its length—we may even speak
of our position as _in the middle_ of this thickness. Fancying ourselves
thus placed, we shall no longer find difficulty in accounting for the
phænomena presented—which are perspective altogether. When we look
upward or downward—that is to say, when we cast our eyes in the
direction of the letter’s _thickness_—we look through fewer stars than
when we cast them in the direction of its _length_, or _along_ either of
the three component lines. Of course, in the former case, the stars
appear scattered—in the latter, crowded.—To reverse this explanation:—An
inhabitant of the Earth, when looking, as we commonly express ourselves,
_at_ the Galaxy, is then beholding it in some of the directions of its
length—is looking _along_ the lines of the Y—but when, looking out into
the general Heaven, he turns his eyes _from_ the Galaxy, he is then
surveying it in the direction of the letter’s thickness; and on this
account the stars seem to him scattered; while, in fact, they are as
close together, on an average, as in the mass of the cluster. _No_
consideration could be better adapted to convey an idea of this
cluster’s stupendous extent.

If, with a telescope of high space-penetrating power, we carefully
inspect the firmament, we shall become aware of _a belt of clusters_—of
what we have hitherto called “nebulæ”—a _band_, of varying breadth,
stretching from horizon to horizon, at right angles to the general
course of the Milky Way. This band is the ultimate _cluster of
clusters_. This belt is _The Universe_. Our Galaxy is but one, and
perhaps one of the most inconsiderable, of the clusters which go to the
constitution of this ultimate, Universal _belt_ or _band_. The
appearance of this cluster of clusters, to our eyes, _as_ a belt or
band, is altogether a perspective phænomenon of the same character as
that which causes us to behold our own individual and roughly-spherical
cluster, the Galaxy, under guise also of a belt, traversing the Heavens
at right angles to the Universal one. The shape of the all-inclusive
cluster is, of course _generally_, that of each individual cluster which
it includes. Just as the scattered stars which, on looking _from_ the
Galaxy, we see in the general sky, are, in fact, but a portion of that
Galaxy itself, and as closely intermingled with it as any of the
telescopic points in what seems the densest portion of its mass—so are
the scattered “nebulæ” which, on casting our eyes _from_ the Universal
_belt_, we perceive at all points of the firmament—so, I say, are these
scattered “nebulæ” to be understood as only perspectively scattered, and
as part and parcel of the one supreme and Universal _sphere_.

No astronomical fallacy is more untenable, and none has been more
pertinaciously adhered to, than that of the absolute _illimitation_ of
the Universe of Stars. The reasons for limitation, as I have already
assigned them, _à priori_, seem to me unanswerable; but, not to speak of
these, _observation_ assures us that there is, in numerous directions
around us, certainly, if not in all, a positive limit—or, at the very
least, affords us no basis whatever for thinking otherwise. Were the
succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would
present us an uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the
Galaxy—_since there could be absolutely no point, in all that
background, at which would not exist a star._ The only mode, therefore,
in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the _voids_
which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by
supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no
ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all. That this _may_ be so,
who shall venture to deny? I maintain, simply, that we have not 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
as tending merely to the Earth’s centre, I observed that, “with certain
exceptions to be specified hereafter, every body on the Earth tended not
only to the Earth’s centre, but in every conceivable direction
besides.”[11] The “exceptions” refer to those frequent gaps in the
Heavens, where our utmost scrutiny can detect not only no stellar
bodies, but no indications of their existence:—where yawning chasms,
blacker than Erebus, seem to afford us glimpses, through the boundary
walls of the Universe of Stars, into the illimitable Universe of
Vacancy, beyond. Now as any body, existing on the Earth, chances to
pass, either through its own movement or the Earth’s, into a line with
any one of these voids, or cosmical abysses, it clearly is no longer
attracted _in the direction of that void_, and for the moment,
consequently, is “heavier” than at any period, either after or before.
Independently of the consideration of these voids, however, and looking
only at the generally unequable distribution of the stars, we see that
the absolute tendency of bodies on the Earth to the Earth’s centre, is
in a state of perpetual variation.

    [11] Page 62.

We comprehend, then, the insulation of our Universe. We perceive the
isolation of _that_—of _all_ that which we grasp with the senses. We
know that there exists one _cluster of clusters_—a collection around
which, on all sides, extend the immeasurable wildernesses of a Space _to
all human perception_ untenanted. But _because_ upon the confines of
this Universe of Stars we are compelled to pause, through want of
farther evidence from the senses, is it right to conclude that, in fact,
there _is_ no material point beyond that which we have thus been
permitted to attain? Have we, or have we not, an analogical right to the
inference that this perceptible Universe—that this cluster of
clusters—is but one of _a series_ of clusters of clusters, the rest of
which are invisible through distance—through the diffusion of their
light being so excessive, ere it reaches us, as not to produce upon our
retinas a light-impression—or from there being no such emanation as
light at all, in these unspeakably distant worlds—or, lastly, from the
mere interval being so vast, that the electric tidings of their presence
in Space, have not yet—through the lapsing myriads of years—been enabled
to traverse that interval?

Have we any right to inferences—have we any ground whatever for visions
such as these? If we have a right to them in _any_ degree, we have a
right to their infinite extension.

The human brain has obviously a leaning to the “_Infinite_,” and fondles
the phantom of the idea. It seems to long with a passionate fervor for
this impossible conception, with the hope of intellectually believing it
when conceived. What is general among the whole race of Man, of course
no individual of that race can be warranted in considering abnormal;
nevertheless, there _may_ be a class of superior intelligences, to whom
the human bias alluded to may wear all the character of monomania.

My question, however, remains unanswered:—Have we any right to infer—let
us say, rather, to imagine—an interminable succession of the “clusters
of clusters,” or of “Universes” more or less similar?

I reply that the “right,” in a case such as this, depends absolutely
upon the hardihood of that imagination which ventures to claim the
right. Let me declare, only, that, as an individual, I myself feel
impelled to the _fancy_—without daring to call it more—that there _does_
exist a _limitless_ succession of Universes, more or less similar to
that of which we have cognizance—to that of which _alone_ we shall ever
have cognizance—at the very least until the return of our own particular
Universe into Unity. _If_ such clusters of clusters exist, however—_and
they do_—it is abundantly clear that, having had no part in our origin,
they have no portion in our laws. They neither attract us, nor we them.
Their material—their spirit is not ours—is not that which obtains in any
part of our Universe. They could not impress our senses or our souls.
Among them and us—considering all, for the moment, collectively—there
are no influences in common. Each exists, apart and independently, _in
the bosom of its proper and particular God_.

In the conduct of this Discourse, I am aiming less at physical than at
metaphysical order. The clearness with which even material phænomena are
presented to the understanding, depends very little, I have long since
learned to perceive, upon a merely natural, and almost altogether upon a
moral, arrangement. If then I seem to step somewhat too discursively
from point to point of my topic, let me suggest that I do so in the hope
of thus the better keeping unbroken that chain of _graduated impression_
by which alone the intellect of Man can expect to encompass the
grandeurs of which I speak, and, in their majestic totality, to
comprehend them.

So far, our attention has been directed, almost exclusively, to a
general and relative grouping of the stellar bodies in space. Of
specification there has been little; and whatever ideas of _quantity_
have been conveyed—that is to say, of number, magnitude, and
distance—have been conveyed incidentally and by way of preparation for
more definitive conceptions. These latter let us now attempt to

Our solar system, as has been already mentioned, consists, in chief, of
one sun and sixteen planets certainly, but in all probability a few
others, revolving around it as a centre, and attended by seventeen moons
of which we know, with possibly several more of which as yet we know
nothing. These various bodies are not true spheres, but oblate
spheroids—spheres flattened at the poles of the imaginary axes about
which they rotate:—the flattening being a consequence of the rotation.
Neither is the Sun absolutely the centre of the system; for this Sun
itself, with all the planets, revolves about a perpetually shifting
point of space, which is the system’s general centre of gravity. Neither
are we to consider the paths through which these different spheroids
move—the moons about the planets, the planets about the Sun, or the Sun
about the common centre—as circles in an accurate sense. They are, in
fact, _ellipses—one of the foci being the point about which the
revolution is made_. An ellipse is a curve, returning into itself, one
of whose diameters is longer than the other. In the longer diameter are
two points, equidistant from the middle of the line, and so situated
otherwise that if, from each of them a straight line be drawn to any one
point of the curve, the two lines, taken together, will be equal to the
longer diameter itself. Now let us conceive such an ellipse. At one of
the points mentioned, which are the _foci_, let us fasten an orange. By
an elastic thread let us connect this orange with a pea; and let us
place this latter on the circumference of the ellipse. Let us now move
the pea continuously around the orange—keeping always on the
circumference of the ellipse. The elastic thread, which, of course,
varies in length as we move the pea, will form what in geometry is
called a _radius vector_. Now, if the orange be understood as the Sun,
and the pea as a planet revolving about it, then the revolution should
be made at such a rate—with a velocity so varying—that the _radius
vector_ may pass over _equal areas of space in equal times_. The
progress of the pea _should be_—in other words, the progress of the
planet _is_, of course,—slow in proportion to its distance from the
Sun—swift in proportion to its proximity. Those planets, moreover, move
the more slowly which are the farther from the Sun; _the squares of
their periods of revolution having the same proportion to each other, as
have to each other the cubes of their mean distances from the Sun_.

The wonderfully complex laws of revolution here described, however, are
not to be understood as obtaining in our system alone. They _everywhere_
prevail where Attraction prevails. They control _the Universe_. Every
shining speck in the firmament is, no doubt, a luminous sun, resembling
our own, at least in its general features, and having in attendance upon
it a greater or less number of planets, greater or less, whose still
lingering luminosity is not sufficient to render them visible to us at
so vast a distance, but which, nevertheless, revolve, moon-attended,
about their starry centres, in obedience to the principles just
detailed—in obedience to the three omniprevalent laws of revolution—the
three immortal laws _guessed_ by the imaginative Kepler, and but
subsequently demonstrated and accounted for by the patient and
mathematical Newton. Among a tribe of philosophers who pride themselves
excessively upon matter-of-fact, it is far too fashionable to sneer at
all speculation under the comprehensive _sobriquet_, “guess-work.” The
point to be considered is, _who_ guesses. In guessing with Plato, we
spend our time to better purpose, now and then, than in hearkening to a
demonstration by Alcmæon.

In many works on Astronomy I find it distinctly stated that the laws of
Kepler are _the basis_ of the great principle, Gravitation. This idea
must have arisen from the fact that the suggestion of these laws by
Kepler, and his proving them _à posteriori_ to have an actual existence,
led Newton to account for them by the hypothesis of Gravitation, and,
finally, to demonstrate them _à priori_, as necessary consequences of
the hypothetical principle. Thus so far from the laws of Kepler being
the basis of Gravity, Gravity is the basis of these laws—as it is,
indeed, of all the laws of the material Universe which are not referable
to Repulsion alone.

The mean distance of the Earth from the Moon—that is to say, from the
heavenly body in our closest vicinity—is 237,000 miles. Mercury, the
planet nearest the Sun, is distant from him 37 millions of miles. Venus,
the next, revolves at a distance of 68 millions:—the Earth, which comes
next, at a distance of 95 millions:—Mars, then, at a distance of 144
millions. Now come the eight Asteroids (Ceres, Juno, Vesta, Pallas,
Astræa, Flora, Iris, and Hebe) at an average distance of about 250
millions. Then we have Jupiter, distant 490 millions; then Saturn, 900
millions; then Uranus, 19 hundred millions; finally Neptune, lately
discovered, and revolving at a distance, say of 28 hundred millions.
Leaving Neptune out of the account—of which as yet we know little
accurately and which is, possibly, one of a system of Asteroids—it will
be seen that, within certain limits, there exists an _order of interval_
among the planets. Speaking loosely, we may say that each outer planet
is twice as far from the Sun as is the next inner one. May not the
_order_ here mentioned—_may not the law of Bode—be deduced from
consideration of the analogy suggested by me as having place between the
solar discharge of rings and the mode of the atomic irradiation_?

The numbers hurriedly mentioned in this summary of distance, it is folly
to attempt comprehending, unless in the light of abstract arithmetical
facts. They are not practically tangible ones. They convey no precise
ideas. I have stated that Neptune, the planet farthest from the Sun,
revolves about him at a distance of 28 hundred millions of miles. So far
good:—I have stated a mathematical fact; and, without comprehending it
in the least, we may put it to use—mathematically. But in mentioning,
even, that the Moon revolves about the Earth at the comparatively
trifling distance of 237,000 miles, I entertained no expectation of
giving any one to understand—to know—to feel—how far from the Earth the
Moon actually _is_. 237,000 _miles_! There are, perhaps, few of my
readers who have not crossed the Atlantic ocean; yet how many of them
have a distinct idea of even the 3,000 miles intervening between shore
and shore? I doubt, indeed, whether the man lives who can force into his
brain the most remote conception of the interval between one milestone
and its next neighbor upon the turnpike. We are in some measure aided,
however, in our consideration of distance, by combining this
consideration with the kindred one of velocity. Sound passes through
1100 feet of space in a second of time. Now were it possible for an
inhabitant of the Earth to see the flash of a cannon discharged in the
Moon, and to hear the report, he would have to wait, after perceiving
the former, more than 13 entire days and nights before getting any
intimation of the latter.

However feeble be the impression, even thus conveyed, of the Moon’s real
distance from the Earth, it will, nevertheless, effect a good object in
enabling us more clearly to see the futility of attempting to grasp such
intervals as that of the 28 hundred millions of miles between our Sun
and Neptune; or even that of the 95 millions between the Sun and the
Earth we inhabit. A cannon-ball, flying at the greatest velocity with
which such a ball has ever been known to fly, could not traverse the
latter interval in less than 20 years; while for the former it would
require 590.

Our Moon’s real diameter is 2160 miles; yet she is comparatively so
trifling an object that it would take nearly 50 such orbs to compose one
as great as the Earth.

The diameter of our own globe is 7912 miles—but from the enunciation of
these numbers what positive idea do we derive?

If we ascend an ordinary mountain and look around us from its summit, we
behold a landscape stretching, say 40 miles, in every direction; forming
a circle 250 miles in circumference; and including an area of 5000
square miles. The extent of such a prospect, on account of the
_successiveness_ with which its portions necessarily present themselves
to view, can be only very feebly and very partially appreciated:—yet the
entire panorama would comprehend no more than one 40,000th part of the
mere _surface_ of our globe. Were this panorama, then, to be succeeded,
after the lapse of an hour, by another of equal extent; this again by a
third, after the lapse of another hour; this again by a fourth after
lapse of another hour—and so on, until the scenery of the whole Earth
were exhausted; and were we to be engaged in examining these various
panoramas for twelve hours of every day; we should nevertheless, be 9
years and 48 days in completing the general survey.

But if the mere surface of the Earth eludes the grasp of the
imagination, what are we to think of its cubical contents? It embraces a
mass of matter equal in weight to at least 2 sextillions, 200
quintillions of tons. Let us suppose it in a state of quiescence; and
now let us endeavor to conceive a mechanical force sufficient to set it
in motion! Not the strength of all the myriads of beings whom we may
conclude to inhabit the planetary worlds of our system—not the combined
physical strength of _all_ these beings—even admitting all to be more
powerful than man—would avail to stir the ponderous mass _a single inch_
from its position.

What are we to understand, then, of the force, which under similar
circumstances, would be required to move the _largest_ of our planets,
Jupiter? This is 86,000 miles in diameter, and would include within its
periphery more than a thousand orbs of the magnitude of our own. Yet
this stupendous body is actually flying around the Sun at the rate of
29,000 miles an hour—that is to say, with a velocity 40 times greater
than that of a cannon-ball! The thought of such a phænomenon cannot well
be said to _startle_ the mind:—it palsies and appals it. Not
unfrequently we task our imagination in picturing the capacities of an
angel. Let us fancy such a being at a distance of some hundred miles
from Jupiter—a close eye-witness of this planet as it speeds on its
annual revolution. Now _can_ we, I demand, fashion for ourselves any
conception so distinct of this ideal being’s spiritual exaltation, as
_that_ involved in the supposition that, even by this immeasurable mass
of matter, whirled immediately before his eyes, with a velocity so
unutterable, he—an angel—angelic though he be—is not at once struck into
nothingness and overwhelmed?

At this point, however, it seems proper to suggest that, in fact, we
have been speaking of comparative trifles. Our Sun, the central and
controlling orb of the system to which Jupiter belongs, is not only
greater than Jupiter, but greater by far than all the planets of the
system taken together. This fact is an essential condition, indeed, of
the stability of the system itself. The diameter of Jupiter has been
mentioned:—it is 86,000 miles:—that of the Sun is 882,000 miles. An
inhabitant of the latter, travelling 90 miles a day, would be more than
80 years in going round a great circle of its circumference. It occupies
a cubical space of 681 quadrillions, 472 trillions of miles. The Moon,
as has been stated, revolves about the Earth at a distance of 237,000
miles—in an orbit, consequently, of nearly a million and a half. Now,
were the Sun placed upon the Earth, centre over centre, the body of the
former would extend, in every direction, not only to the line of the
Moon’s orbit, but beyond it, a distance of 200,000 miles.

And here, once again, let me suggest that, in fact, we have _still_ been
speaking of comparative trifles. The distance of the planet Neptune from
the Sun has been stated:—it is 28 hundred millions of miles; the
circumference of its orbit, therefore, is about 17 billions. Let this be
borne in mind while we glance at some one of the brightest stars.
Between this and the star of _our_ system, (the Sun,) there is a gulf of
space, to convey any idea of which we should need the tongue of an
archangel. From _our_ system, then, and from _our_ Sun, or star, the
star at which we suppose ourselves glancing is a thing altogether
apart:—still, for the moment, let us imagine it placed upon our Sun,
centre over centre, as we just now imagined this Sun itself placed upon
the Earth. Let us now conceive the particular star we have in mind,
extending, in every direction, beyond the orbit of Mercury—of Venus—of
the Earth:—still _on_, beyond the orbit of Mars—of Jupiter—of
Uranus—until, finally, we fancy it filling the circle—17 _billions of
miles in circumference_—which is described by the revolution of
Leverrier’s planet. When we have conceived all this, we shall have
entertained no extravagant conception. There is the very best reason for
believing that many of the stars are even far larger than the one we
have imagined. I mean to say that we have the very best _empirical_
basis for such belief:—and, in looking back at the original, atomic
arrangements for _diversity_, which have been assumed as a part of the
Divine plan in the constitution of the Universe, we shall be enabled
easily to understand, and to credit, the existence of even far vaster
disproportions in stellar size than any to which I have hitherto
alluded. The largest orbs, of course, we must expect to find rolling
through the widest vacancies of Space.

I remarked, just now, that to convey an idea of the interval between our
Sun and any one of the other stars, we should require the eloquence of
an archangel. In so saying, I should not be accused of exaggeration;
for, in simple truth, these are topics on which it is scarcely possible
to exaggerate. But let us bring the matter more distinctly before the
eye of the mind.

In the first place, we may get a general, _relative_ conception of the
interval referred to, by comparing it with the inter-planetary spaces.
If, for example, we suppose the Earth, which is, in reality, 95 millions
of miles from the Sun, to be only _one foot_ from that luminary; then
Neptune would be 40 feet distant; _and the star Alpha Lyræ, at the very
least_, 159.

Now I presume that, in the termination of my last sentence, few of my
readers have noticed anything especially objectionable—particularly
wrong. I said that the distance of the Earth from the Sun being taken at
_one foot_, the distance of Neptune would be 40 feet, and that of Alpha
Lyræ, 159. The proportion between one foot and 159 has appeared,
perhaps, to convey a sufficiently definite impression of the proportion
between the two intervals—that of the Earth from the Sun and that of
Alpha Lyræ from the same luminary. But my account of the matter should,
in reality, have run thus:—The distance of the Earth from the Sun being
taken at one foot, the distance of Neptune would be 40 feet, and that of
Alpha Lyræ, 159——_miles_:—that is to say, I had assigned to Alpha Lyræ,
in my first statement of the case, only the 5280_th_ _part_ of that
distance which is the _least distance possible_ at which it can actually

To proceed:—However distant a mere _planet_ is, yet when we look at it
through a telescope, we see it under a certain form—of a certain
appreciable size. Now I have already hinted at the probable bulk of many
of the stars; nevertheless, when we view any one of them, even through
the most powerful telescope, it is found to present us with _no form_,
and consequently with _no magnitude_ whatever. We see it as a point and
nothing more.

Again;—Let us suppose ourselves walking, at night, on a highway. In a
field on one side of the road, is a line of tall objects, say trees, the
figures of which are distinctly defined against the background of the
sky. This line of objects extends at right angles to the road, and from
the road to the horizon. Now, as we proceed along the road, we see these
objects changing their positions, respectively, in relation to a certain
fixed point in that portion of the firmament which forms the background
of the view. Let us suppose this fixed point—sufficiently fixed for our
purpose—to be the rising moon. We become aware, at once, that while the
tree nearest us so far alters its position in respect to the moon, as to
seem flying behind us, the tree in the extreme distance has scarcely
changed at all its relative position with the satellite. We then go on
to perceive that the farther the objects are from us, the less they
alter their positions; and the converse. Then we begin, unwittingly, to
estimate the distances of individual trees by the degrees in which they
evince the relative alteration. Finally, we come to understand how it
might be possible to ascertain the actual distance of any given tree in
the line, by using the amount of relative alteration as a basis in a
simple geometrical problem. Now this relative alteration is what we call
“parallax;” and by parallax we calculate the distances of the heavenly
bodies. Applying the principle to the trees in question, we should, of
course, be very much at a loss to comprehend the distance of _that_
tree, which, however far we proceeded along the road, should evince _no_
parallax at all. This, in the case described, is a thing impossible; but
impossible only because all distances on our Earth are trivial
indeed:—in comparison with the vast cosmical quantities, we may speak of
them as absolutely nothing.

Now, let us suppose the star Alpha Lyræ directly overhead; and let us
imagine that, instead of standing on the Earth, we stand at one end of a
straight road stretching through Space to a distance equalling the
diameter of the Earth’s orbit—that is to say, to a distance of 190
_millions of miles_. Having observed, by means of the most delicate
micrometrical instruments, the exact position of the star, let us now
pass along this inconceivable road, until we reach its other extremity.
Now, once again, let us look at the star. It is _precisely_ where we
left it. Our instruments, however delicate, assure us that its relative
position is absolutely—is identically the same as at the commencement of
our unutterable journey. _No_ parallax—none whatever—has been found.

The fact is, that, in regard to the distance of the fixed stars—of any
one of the myriads of suns glistening on the farther side of that awful
chasm which separates our system from its brothers in the cluster to
which it belongs—astronomical science, until very lately, could speak
only with a negative certainty. Assuming the brightest as the nearest,
we could say, even of _them_, only that there is a certain
incomprehensible distance on the _hither_ side of which they cannot
be:—how far they are beyond it we had in no case been able to ascertain.
We perceived, for example, that Alpha Lyræ cannot be nearer to us than
19 trillions, 200 billions of miles; but, for all we knew, and indeed
for all we now know, it may be distant from us the square, or the cube,
or any other power of the number mentioned. By dint, however, of
wonderfully minute and cautious observations, continued, with novel
instruments, for many laborious years, _Bessel_, not long ago deceased,
has lately succeeded in determining the distance of six or seven stars;
among others, that of the star numbered 61 in the constellation of the
Swan. The distance in this latter instance ascertained, is 670,000 times
that of the Sun; which last it will be remembered, is 95 millions of
miles. The star 61 Cygni, then, is nearly 64 trillions of miles from
us—or more than three times the distance assigned, _as the least
possible_, for Alpha Lyræ.

In attempting to appreciate this interval by the aid of any
considerations of _velocity_, as we did in endeavoring to estimate the
distance of the moon, we must leave out of sight, altogether, such
nothings as the speed of a cannon-ball, or of sound. Light, however,
according to the latest calculations of Struve, proceeds at the rate of
167,000 miles in a second. Thought itself cannot pass through this
interval more speedily—if, indeed, thought can traverse it at all. Yet,
in coming from 61 Cygni to us, even at this inconceivable rate, light
occupies more than _ten years_; and, consequently, were the star this
moment blotted out from the Universe, still, _for ten years_, would it
continue to sparkle on, undimmed in its paradoxical glory.

Keeping now in mind whatever feeble conception we may have attained of
the interval between our Sun and 61 Cygni, let us remember that this
interval, however unutterably vast, we are permitted to consider as but
the _average_ interval among the countless host of stars composing that
cluster, or “nebula,” to which our system, as well as that of 61 Cygni,
belongs. I have, in fact, stated the case with great moderation:—we have
excellent reason for believing 61 Cygni to be one of the _nearest_
stars, and thus for concluding, at least for the present, that its
distance from us is _less_ than the average distance between star and
star in the magnificent cluster of the Milky Way.

And here, once again and finally, it seems proper to suggest that even
as yet we have been speaking of trifles. Ceasing to wonder at the space
between star and star in our own or in any particular cluster, let us
rather turn our thoughts to the intervals between cluster and cluster,
in the all comprehensive cluster of the Universe.

I have already said that light proceeds at the rate of 167,000 miles in
a second—that is, about 10 millions of miles in a minute, or about 600
millions of miles in an hour:—yet so far removed from us are some of
the “nebulæ” that even light, speeding with this velocity, could not
and does not reach us, from those mysterious regions, in less than 3
_millions of years_. This calculation, moreover, is made by the elder
Herschell, and in reference merely to those comparatively proximate
clusters within the scope of his own telescope. There _are_ “nebulæ,”
however, which, through the magical tube of Lord Rosse, are this instant
whispering in our ears the secrets of _a million of ages_ by-gone. In a
word, the events which we behold now—at this moment—in those worlds—are
the identical events which interested their inhabitants _ten hundred
thousand centuries ago_. In intervals—in distances such as this
suggestion forces upon the _soul_—rather than upon the mind—we find, at
length, a fitting climax to all hitherto frivolous considerations of

Our fancies thus occupied with the cosmical distances, let us take the
opportunity of referring to the difficulty which we have so often
experienced, while pursuing _the beaten path_ of astronomical
reflection, _in accounting_ for the immeasurable voids alluded to—in
comprehending why chasms so totally unoccupied and therefore apparently
so needless, have been made to intervene between star and star—between
cluster and cluster—in understanding, to be brief, a sufficient reason
for the Titanic scale, in respect of mere _Space_, on which the Universe
is seen to be constructed. A rational cause for the phænomenon, I
maintain that Astronomy has palpably failed to assign:—but the
considerations through which, in this Essay, we have proceeded step by
step, enable us clearly and immediately to perceive that _Space and
Duration are one_. That the Universe might _endure_ throughout an æra
at all commensurate with the grandeur of its component material portions
and with the high majesty of its spiritual purposes, it was necessary
that the original atomic diffusion be made to so inconceivable an extent
as to be only not infinite. It was required, in a word, that the stars
should be gathered into visibility from invisible nebulosity—proceed
from nebulosity to consolidation—and so grow grey in giving birth and
death to unspeakably numerous and complex variations of vitalic
development:—it was required that the stars should do all this—should
have time thoroughly to accomplish all these Divine purposes—_during the
period_ in which all things were effecting their return into Unity with
a velocity accumulating in the inverse proportion of the squares of the
distances at which lay the inevitable End.

Throughout all this we have no difficulty in understanding the absolute
accuracy of the Divine _adaptation_. The density of the stars,
respectively, proceeds, of course, as their condensation diminishes;
condensation and heterogeneity keep pace with each other; through the
latter, which is the index of the former, we estimate the vitalic and
spiritual development. Thus, in the density of the globes, we have the
measure in which their purposes are fulfilled. _As_ density
proceeds—_as_ the divine intentions _are_ accomplished—_as_ less and
still less remains _to be_ accomplished—so—in the same ratio—should we
expect to find an acceleration of _the End_:—and thus the philosophical
mind will easily comprehend that the Divine designs in constituting the
stars, advance _mathematically_ to their fulfilment:—and more; it will
readily give the advance a mathematical expression; it will decide that
this advance is inversely proportional with the squares of the distances
of all created things from the starting-point and goal of their

Not only is this Divine adaptation, however, mathematically accurate,
but there is that about it which stamps it _as divine_, in distinction
from that which is merely the work of human constructiveness. I allude
to the complete _mutuality_ of adaptation. For example; in human
constructions a particular cause has a particular 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 the cause; the intention
does not change relations with the object. In Divine constructions the
object is either design or object as we choose to regard it—and we may
take at any time a cause for an effect, or the converse—so that we can
never absolutely decide which is which.

To give an instance:—In polar climates the human frame, to maintain its
animal heat, requires, for combustion in the capillary system, an
abundant supply of highly azotized food, such as train-oil. But
again:—in polar climates nearly the sole food afforded man is the oil of
abundant seals and whales. Now, whether is oil at hand because
imperatively demanded, or the only thing demanded because the only thing
to be obtained? It is impossible to decide. There is an absolute
_reciprocity of adaptation_.

The pleasure which we derive from any display of human ingenuity is in
the ratio of _the approach_ to this species of reciprocity. In the
construction of _plot_, for example, in fictitious literature, we
should aim at so arranging the incidents that we shall not be able to
determine, of any one of them, whether it depends from any one other or
upholds it. In this sense, of course, _perfection_ of _plot_ is really,
or practically, unattainable—but only because it is a finite
intelligence that constructs. The plots of God are perfect. The Universe
is a plot of God.

And now we have reached a point at which the intellect is forced, again,
to struggle against its propensity for analogical inference—against its
monomaniac grasping at the infinite. Moons have been seen _revolving_
about planets; planets about stars; and the poetical instinct of
humanity—its instinct of the symmetrical, if the symmetry be but a
symmetry of surface:—this _instinct_, which the Soul, not only of Man
but of all created beings, took up, in the beginning, from the
_geometrical_ basis of the Universal irradiation—impels us to the fancy
of an endless extension of this system of _cycles_. Closing our eyes
equally to _de_duction and _in_duction, we insist upon imagining a
_revolution_ of all the orbs of the Galaxy about some gigantic globe
which we take to be the central pivot of the whole. Each cluster in the
great cluster of clusters is imagined, of course, to be similarly
supplied and constructed; while, that the “analogy” may be wanting at no
point, we go on to conceive these clusters themselves, again, as
_revolving_ about some still more august sphere;—this latter, still
again, _with_ its encircling clusters, as but one of a yet more
magnificent series of agglomerations, _gyrating_ about yet another orb
central _to them_—some orb still more unspeakably sublime—some orb, let
us rather say, of infinite sublimity endlessly multiplied by the
infinitely sublime. Such are the conditions, continued in perpetuity,
which the voice of what some people term “analogy” calls upon the Fancy
to depict and the Reason to contemplate, if possible, without becoming
dissatisfied with the picture. Such, _in general_, are the interminable
gyrations beyond gyration which we have been instructed by Philosophy to
comprehend and to account for, at least in the best manner we can. Now
and then, however, a philosopher proper—one whose phrenzy takes a very
determinate turn—whose genius, to speak more reverentially, has a
strongly-pronounced washerwomanish bias, doing every thing up by the
dozen—enables us to see _precisely_ that point out of sight, at which
the revolutionary processes in question do, and of right ought to, come
to an end.

It is hardly worth while, perhaps, even to sneer at the reveries of
Fourrier:—but much has been said, latterly, of the hypothesis of
Mädler—that there exists, in the centre of the Galaxy, a stupendous
globe about which all the systems of the cluster revolve. The _period_
of our own, indeed, has been stated—117 millions of years.

That our Sun has a motion in space, independently of its rotation, and
revolution about the system’s centre of gravity, has long been
suspected. This motion, granting it to exist, would be manifested
perspectively. The stars in that firmamental region which we were
leaving behind us, would, in a very long series of years, become
crowded; those in the opposite quarter, scattered. Now, by means of
astronomical History, we ascertain, cloudily, that some such phænomena
have occurred. On this ground it has been declared that our system is
moving to a point in the heavens diametrically opposite the star Zeta
Herculis:—but this inference is, perhaps, the maximum to which we have
any logical right. Mädler, however, has gone so far as to designate a
particular star, Alcyone in the Pleiades, as being at or about the very
spot around which a general _revolution_ is performed.

Now, since by “analogy” we are led, in the first instance, to these
dreams, it is no more than proper that we should abide by analogy, at
least in some measure, during their development; and that analogy which
suggests the revolution, suggests at the same time a central orb about
which it should be performed:—so far the astronomer was consistent. This
central orb, however, should, dynamically, be greater than all the orbs,
taken together, which surround it. Of these there are about 100
millions. “Why, then,” it was of course demanded, “do we not _see_ this
vast central sun—_at least equal_ in mass to 100 millions of such suns
as ours—why do we not _see_ it—_we_, especially, who occupy the mid
region of the cluster—the very locality _near_ which, at all events,
must be situated this incomparable star?” The reply was ready—“It must
be non-luminous, as are our planets.” Here, then, to suit a purpose,
analogy is suddenly let fall. “Not so,” it may be said—“we know that
non-luminous suns actually exist.” It is true that we have reason at
least for supposing so; but we have certainly no reason whatever for
supposing that the non-luminous suns in question are encircled by
_luminous_ suns, while these again are surrounded by non-luminous
planets:—and it is precisely all this with which Mädler is called upon
to find any thing analogous in the heavens—for it is precisely all this
which he imagines in the case of the Galaxy. Admitting the thing to be
so, we cannot help here picturing to ourselves how sad a puzzle the _why
it is so_ must prove to all _à priori_ philosophers.

But granting, in the very teeth of analogy and of every thing else, the
non-luminosity of the vast central orb, we may still inquire how this
orb, so enormous, could fail of being rendered visible by the flood of
light thrown upon it from the 100 millions of glorious suns glaring in
all directions about it. Upon the urging of this question, the idea of
an actually solid central sun appears, in some measure, to have been
abandoned; and speculation proceeded to assert that the systems of the
cluster perform their revolutions merely about an immaterial centre of
gravity common to all. Here again then, to suit a purpose, analogy is
let fall. The planets of our system revolve, it is true, about a common
centre of gravity; but they do this in connexion with, and in
consequence of, a 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 geometry, is merely the mathematical, as contradistinguished
from the practical, idea—is, in sober fact, the _practical_ conception
which alone we have any right to entertain in regard to the majestic
circle with which we have to deal, at least in fancy, when 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 step
towards the comprehension of a sweep so ineffable! It would scarcely be
paradoxical to say that a flash of lightning itself, travelling
_forever_ upon the circumference of this unutterable circle, would
still, _forever_, be travelling in a straight line. That the path of our
Sun in such an orbit would, to any human perception, deviate in the
slightest degree from a straight line, even in a million of years, is a
proposition not to be entertained:—yet we are required to believe that a
curvature has become apparent during the brief period of our
astronomical history—during a mere point—during the utter nothingness of
two or three thousand years.

It may be said that Mädler _has_ really ascertained a curvature in the
direction of our system’s now well-established progress through Space.
Admitting, if necessary, this fact to be in reality such, I maintain
that nothing is thereby shown except the reality of this fact—the fact
of a curvature. For its _thorough_ determination, ages will be required;
and, when determined, it will be found indicative of some binary or
other multiple relation between our Sun and some one or more of the
proximate stars. I hazard nothing however, in predicting, that, after
the lapse of many centuries, all efforts at determining the path of our
Sun through Space, will be abandoned as fruitless. This is easily
conceivable when we look at the infinity of perturbation it must
experience, from its perpetually-shifting relations with other orbs, in
the common approach of all to the nucleus of the Galaxy.

But in examining other “nebulæ” than that of the Milky Way—in surveying,
generally, the clusters which overspread the heavens—do we or do we not
find confirmation of Mädler’s hypothesis? We do _not_. The forms of the
clusters are exceedingly diverse when casually viewed; but on close
inspection, through powerful telescopes, we recognize the sphere, very
distinctly, as at least the proximate form of all:—their constitution,
in general, being at variance with the idea of revolution about a common

“It is difficult,” says Sir John Herschell, “to form any conception of
the dynamical state of such systems. On one hand, without a rotary
motion and a centrifugal force, it is hardly possible not to regard them
as in a state of _progressive collapse_. On the other, granting such a
motion and such a force, we find it no less difficult to reconcile their
forms with the rotation of the whole system [meaning cluster] around any
single axis, without which internal collision would appear to be

Some remarks lately made about the “nebulæ” by Dr. Nichol, in taking
quite a different view of the cosmical conditions from any taken in this
Discourse—have a very peculiar applicability to the point now at issue.
He says:

“When our greatest telescopes are brought to bear upon them, we find
that those which were thought to be irregular, are not so; they approach
nearer to a globe. Here is one that looked oval; but Lord Rosse’s
telescope brought it into a circle.... Now there occurs a very
remarkable circumstance in reference to these comparatively sweeping
circular masses of nebulæ. We find they are not entirely circular, but
the reverse; and that all around them, on every side, there are volumes
of stars, _stretching out apparently as if they were rushing towards a
great central mass in consequence of the action of some great

    [12] I must be understood as denying, _especially_, only the
    _revolutionary_ portion of Mädler’s hypothesis. Of course, if
    no great central orb exists _now_ in our cluster, such will
    exist hereafter. Whenever existing, it will be merely the
    _nucleus_ of the consolidation.

Were I to describe, in my own words, what must necessarily be the
existing condition of each nebula on the hypothesis that all matter is,
as I suggest, now returning to its original Unity, I should simply be
going over, nearly verbatim, the language here employed by Dr. Nichol,
without the faintest suspicion of that stupendous truth which is the key
to these nebular phænomena.

And here let me fortify my position still farther, by the voice of a
greater than Mädler—of one, moreover, to whom all the data of Mädler
have long been familiar things, carefully and thoroughly considered.
Referring to the elaborate calculations of Argelander—the very
researches which form Mädler’s basis—_Humboldt_, whose generalizing
powers have never, perhaps been equalled, has the following observation:

“When we regard the real, proper, or non-perspective motions of the
stars, we find _many groups of them moving in opposite directions_; and
the data as yet in hand render it not necessary, at least, to conceive
that the systems composing the Milky Way, or the clusters, generally,
composing the Universe, are revolving about any particular centre
unknown, whether luminous or non-luminous. It is but Man’s longing for a
fundamental First Cause, that impels both his intellect and his fancy
to the adoption of such an hypothesis.”[13]

    [13] Betrachtet man die nicht perspectivischen eigenen
    Bewegungen der Sterne, so scheinen viele gruppenweise in ihrer
    Richtung entgegengesetzt; und die bisher gesammelten Thatsachen
    machen es auf’s wenigste nicht nothwendig, anzunehmen, dass
    alle Theile unserer Sternenschicht oder gar der gesammten
    Sterneninseln, welche den Weltraum füllen, sich um einen
    grossen, unbekannten, leuchtenden oder dunkeln Centralkörper
    bewegen. Das Streben nach den letzten und höchsten
    Grundursachen macht freilich die reflectirende Thätigkeit des
    Menschen, wie seine Phantasie, zu einer solchen Annahme

The phænomenon here alluded to—that of “many groups moving in opposite
directions”—is quite inexplicable by Mädler’s idea; but arises, as a
necessary consequence, from that which forms the basis of this
Discourse. While the _merely general direction_ of each atom—of each
moon, planet, star, or cluster—would, on my hypothesis, be, of course,
absolutely rectilinear; while the _general_ path of all bodies would be
a right line leading to the centre of all; it is clear, nevertheless,
that this general rectilinearity would be compounded of what, with
scarcely any exaggeration, we may term an infinity of particular
curves—an infinity of local deviations from rectilinearity—the result of
continuous differences of relative position among the multitudinous
masses, as each proceeded on its own proper journey to the End.

I quoted, just now, from Sir John Herschell, the following words, used
in reference to the clusters:—“On one hand, without a rotary motion and
a centrifugal force, it is hardly possible not to regard them as in a
state of _progressive collapse_.” The fact is, that, in surveying the
“nebulæ” with a telescope of high power, we shall find it quite
impossible, having once conceived this idea of “collapse,” not to
gather, at all points, corroboration of the idea. A nucleus is always
apparent, in the direction of which the stars seem to be precipitating
themselves; nor can these nuclei be mistaken for merely perspective
phænomena:—the clusters are _really_ denser near the centre—sparser in
the regions more remote from it. In a word, we see every thing as we
_should_ see it were a collapse taking place; but, in general, it may be
said of these clusters, that we can fairly entertain, while looking at
them, the idea of _orbitual movement about a centre_, only by admitting
the _possible_ existence, in the distant domains of space, of dynamical
laws with which _we_ are unacquainted.

On the part of Herschell, however, there is evidently _a reluctance_ to
regard the nebulæ as in “a state of progressive collapse.” But if
facts—if even appearances justify the supposition of their being in this
state, _why_, it may well be demanded, is he disinclined to admit it?
Simply on account of a prejudice;—merely because the supposition is at
war with a preconceived and utterly baseless notion—that of the
endlessness—that of the eternal stability of the Universe.

If the propositions of this Discourse are tenable, the “state of
progressive collapse” is _precisely_ that state in which alone we are
warranted in considering All Things; and, with due humility, let me here
confess that, for my part, I am at a loss to conceive how any _other_
understanding of the existing condition of affairs, could ever have made
its way into the human brain. “The tendency to collapse” and “the
attraction of gravitation” are convertible phrases. In using either, we
speak of the rëaction of the First Act. Never was necessity less obvious
than that of supposing Matter imbued with an ineradicable _quality_
forming part of its material nature—a quality, or instinct, _forever_
inseparable from it, and by dint of which inalienable principle every
atom is _perpetually_ impelled to seek its fellow-atom. Never was
necessity less obvious than that of entertaining this unphilosophical
idea. Going boldly behind the vulgar thought, we have to conceive,
metaphysically, that the gravitating principle appertains to Matter
_temporarily_—only while diffused—only while existing as Many instead of
as One—appertains to it by virtue of its state of irradiation
alone—appertains, in a word, altogether to its _condition_, and not in
the slighest degree to _itself_. In this view, when the irradiation
shall have returned into its source—when the rëaction shall be
completed—the gravitating principle will no longer exist. And, in fact,
astronomers, without at any time reaching the idea here suggested, seem
to have been approximating it, in the assertion that “if there were but
one body in the Universe, it would be impossible to understand how the
principle, Gravity, could obtain:”—that is to say, from a consideration
of Matter as they find it, they reach a conclusion at which I
deductively arrive. That so pregnant a suggestion as the one just quoted
should have been permitted to remain so long unfruitful, is,
nevertheless, a mystery which I find it difficult to fathom.

It is, perhaps, in no little degree, however, our propensity for the
continuous—for the analogical—in the present case more particularly for
the symmetrical—which has been leading us astray. And, in fact, the
sense of the symmetrical is an instinct which may be depended upon with
an almost blindfold reliance. It is the poetical essence of the
Universe—_of the Universe_ which, in the supremeness of its symmetry, is
but the most sublime of poems. Now symmetry and consistency are
convertible terms:—thus Poetry and Truth are one. A thing is consistent
in the ratio of its truth—true in the ratio of its consistency. _A
perfect consistency, I repeat, can be nothing but an absolute truth._ We
may take it for granted, then, that Man cannot long or widely err, if he
suffer himself to be guided by his poetical, which I have maintained to
be his truthful, in being his symmetrical, instinct. He must have a
care, however, lest, in pursuing too heedlessly the superficial symmetry
of forms and motions, he leave out of sight the really essential
symmetry of the principles which determine and control them.

That the stellar bodies would finally be merged in one—that, at last,
all would be drawn into the substance of _one stupendous central orb
already existing_—is an idea which, for some time past, seems, vaguely
and indeterminately, to have held possession of the fancy of mankind. It
is an idea, in fact, which belongs to the class of the _excessively
obvious_. It springs, instantly, from a superficial observation of the
cyclic and seemingly _gyrating_, or _vorticial_ movements of those
individual portions of the Universe which come most immediately and most
closely under our observation. There is not, perhaps, a human being, of
ordinary education and of average reflective capacity, to whom, at some
period, the fancy in question has not occurred, as if spontaneously, or
intuitively, and wearing all the character of a very profound and very
original conception. This conception, however, so commonly entertained,
has never, within my knowledge, arisen out of any abstract
considerations. Being, on the contrary, always suggested, as I say, by
the vorticial movements about centres, a reason for it, also,—a _cause_
for the ingathering of all the orbs into one, _imagined to be already
existing_, was naturally sought in the same direction—among these cyclic
movements themselves.

Thus it happened that, on announcement of the gradual and perfectly
regular decrease observed in the orbit of Enck’s comet, at every
successive revolution about our Sun, astronomers were nearly unanimous
in the opinion that the cause in question was found—that a principle was
discovered sufficient to account, physically, for that final, universal
agglomeration which, I repeat, the analogical, symmetrical or poetical
instinct of Man had predetermined to understand as something more than a
simple hypothesis.

This cause—this sufficient reason for the final ingathering—was declared
to exist in an exceedingly rare but still material medium pervading
space; which medium, by retarding, in some degree, the progress of the
comet, perpetually weakened its tangential force; thus giving a
predominance to the centripetal; which, of course, drew the comet nearer
and nearer at each revolution, and would eventually precipitate it upon
the Sun.

All this was strictly logical—admitting the medium or ether; but this
ether was assumed, most illogically, on the ground that no _other_ mode
than the one spoken of could be discovered, of accounting for the
observed decrease in the orbit of the comet:—as if from the fact that we
could _discover_ no other mode of accounting for it, it followed, in any
respect, that no other mode of accounting for it existed. It is clear
that innumerable causes might operate, in combination, to diminish the
orbit, without even a possibility of our ever becoming acquainted with
one of them. In the meantime, it has never been fairly shown, perhaps,
why the retardation occasioned by the skirts of the Sun’s atmosphere,
through which the comet passes at perihelion, is not enough to account
for the phænomenon. That Enck’s comet will be absorbed into the Sun, is
probable; that all the comets of the system will be absorbed, is more
than merely possible; but, in such case, the principle of absorption
must be referred to eccentricity of orbit—to the close approximation to
the Sun, of the comets at their perihelia; and is a principle not
affecting, in any degree, the ponderous _spheres_, which are to be
regarded as the true material constituents of the Universe.—Touching
comets, in general, let me here suggest, in passing, that we cannot be
far wrong in looking upon them as the _lightning-flashes of the cosmical

The idea of a retarding ether and, through it, of a final agglomeration
of all things, seemed at one time, however, to be confirmed by the
observation of a positive decrease in the orbit of the solid moon. By
reference to eclipses recorded 2500 years ago, it was found that the
velocity of the satellite’s revolution _then_ was considerably less than
it is _now_; that on the hypothesis that its motions in its orbit is
uniformly in accordance with Kepler’s law, and was accurately determined
_then_—2500 years ago—it is now in advance of the position it _should_
occupy, by nearly 9000 miles. The increase of velocity proved, of
course, a diminution of orbit; and astronomers were fast yielding to a
belief in an ether, as the sole mode of accounting for the phænomenon,
when Lagrange came to the rescue. He showed that, owing to the
configurations of the spheroids, the shorter axes of their ellipses are
subject to variation in length; the longer axes being permanent; and
that this variation is continuous and vibratory—so that every orbit is
in a state of transition, either from circle to ellipse, or from ellipse
to circle. In the case of the moon, where the shorter axis is
_de_creasing, the orbit is passing from circle to ellipse and,
consequently, is _de_creasing too; but, after a long series of ages, the
ultimate eccentricity will be attained; then the shorter axis will
proceed to _in_crease, until the orbit becomes a circle; when the
process of shortening will again take place;—and so on forever. In the
case of the Earth, the orbit is passing from ellipse to circle. The
facts thus demonstrated do away, of course, with all necessity for
supposing an ether, and with all apprehension of the system’s
instability—on the ether’s account.

It will be remembered that I have myself assumed what we may term _an
ether_. I have spoken of a subtle _influence_ which we know to be ever
in attendance upon matter, although becoming manifest only through
matter’s heterogeneity. To this _influence_—without daring to touch it
at all in any effort at explaining its awful _nature_—I have referred
the various phænomena of electricity, heat, light, magnetism; and
more—of vitality, consciousness, and thought—in a word, of spirituality.
It will be seen, at once, then, that the ether thus conceived is
radically distinct from the ether of the astronomers; inasmuch as theirs
is _matter_ and mine _not_.

With the idea of a material ether, seems, thus, to have departed
altogether the thought of that universal agglomeration so long
predetermined by the poetical fancy of mankind:—an agglomeration in
which a sound Philosophy might have been warranted in putting faith, at
least to a certain extent, if for no other reason than that by this
poetical fancy it _had_ been so predetermined. But so far as
Astronomy—so far as mere Physics have yet spoken, the cycles of the
Universe are perpetual—the Universe has no conceivable end. Had an end
been demonstrated, however, from so purely collateral a cause as an
ether, Man’s instinct of the Divine _capacity to adapt_, would have
rebelled against the demonstration. We should have been forced to regard
the Universe with some such sense of dissatisfaction as we experience in
contemplating an unnecessarily complex work of human art. Creation would
have affected us as an imperfect _plot_ in a romance, where the
_dénoûment_ is awkwardly brought about by interposed incidents external
and foreign to the main subject; instead of springing out of the bosom
of the thesis—out of the heart of the ruling idea—instead of arising as
a result of the primary proposition—as inseparable and inevitable part
and parcel of the fundamental conception of the book.

What I mean by the symmetry of mere surface will now be more clearly
understood. It is simply by the blandishment of this symmetry that we
have been beguiled into the general idea of which Mädler’s hypothesis is
but a part—the idea of the vorticial indrawing of the orbs. Dismissing
this nakedly physical conception, the symmetry of principle sees the end
of all things metaphysically involved in the thought of a beginning;
seeks and finds in this origin of all things the _rudiment_ of this end;
and perceives the impiety of supposing this end likely to be brought
about less simply—less directly—less obviously—less artistically—than
through _the rëaction of the originating Act_.

Recurring, then, to a previous suggestion, let us understand the
systems—let us understand each star, with its attendant planets—as but a
Titanic atom existing in space with precisely the same inclination for
Unity which characterized, in the beginning, the actual atoms after
their irradiation throughout the Universal sphere. As these original
atoms rushed towards each other in generally straight lines, so let us
conceive as at least generally rectilinear, the paths of the
system-atoms towards their respective centres of aggregation:—and in
this direct drawing together of the systems into clusters, with a
similar and simultaneous drawing together of the clusters themselves
while undergoing consolidation, we have at length attained the great
_Now_—the awful Present—the Existing Condition of the Universe.

Of the still more awful Future a not irrational analogy may guide us in
framing an hypothesis. The equilibrium between the centripetal and
centrifugal forces of each system, being necessarily destroyed upon
attainment of a certain proximity to the nucleus of the cluster to which
it belongs, there must occur, at once, a chaotic or seemingly chaotic
precipitation, of the moons upon the planets, of the planets upon the
suns, and of the suns upon the nuclei; and the general result of this
precipitation must be the gathering of the myriad now-existing stars of
the firmament into an almost infinitely less number of almost infinitely
superior spheres. In being immeasurably fewer, the worlds of that day
will be immeasurably greater than our own. Then, indeed, amid
unfathomable abysses, will be glaring unimaginable suns. But all this
will be merely a climacic magnificence foreboding the great End. Of this
End the new genesis described, can be but a very partial postponement.
While undergoing consolidation, the clusters themselves, with a speed
prodigiously accumulative, have been rushing towards their own general
centre—and now, with a thousand-fold electric velocity, commensurate
only with their material grandeur and with the spiritual passion of
their appetite for oneness, the majestic remnants of the tribe of Stars
flash, at length, into a common embrace. The inevitable catastrophe is
at hand.

But this catastrophe—what is it? We have seen accomplished the
ingathering of the orbs. Henceforward, are we not to understand _one
material globe of globes_ as constituting and comprehending the
Universe? Such a fancy would be altogether at war with every assumption
and consideration of this Discourse.

I have already alluded to that absolute _reciprocity of adaptation_
which is the idiosyncrasy of the divine Art—stamping it divine. Up to
this point of our reflections, we have been regarding the electrical
influence as a something by dint of whose repulsion alone Matter is
enabled to exist in that state of diffusion demanded for the fulfilment
of its purposes:—so far, in a word, we have been considering the
influence in question as ordained for Matter’s sake—to subserve the
objects of matter. With a perfectly legitimate reciprocity, we are now
permitted to look at Matter, as created _solely for the sake of this
influence_—solely to serve the objects of this spiritual Ether. Through
the aid—by the means—through the agency of Matter, and by dint of its
heterogeneity—is this Ether manifested—is _Spirit individualized_. It is
merely in the development of this Ether, through heterogeneity, that
particular masses of Matter become animate—sensitive—and in the ratio of
their heterogeneity;—some reaching a degree of sensitiveness involving
what we call _Thought_ and thus attaining Conscious Intelligence.

In this view, we 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 with the return into Unity these purposes cease. The
absolutely consolidated globe of globes would be _objectless_:—therefore
not for a moment could it continue to exist. Matter, created for an end,
would unquestionably, on fulfilment of that end, be Matter no longer.
Let us endeavor to understand that it would disappear, and that God
would remain all in all.

That every work of Divine conception must cöexist and cöexpire with its
particular design, seems to me especially obvious; and I make no doubt
that, on perceiving the final globe of globes to be _objectless_, the
majority of my readers will be satisfied with my “_therefore_ it cannot
continue to exist.” Nevertheless, as the startling thought of its
instantaneous disappearance is one which the most powerful intellect
cannot be expected readily to entertain on grounds so decidedly
abstract, let us endeavor to look at the idea from some other and more
ordinary point of view:—let us see how thoroughly and beautifully it is
corroborated in an _à posteriori_ consideration of Matter as we actually
find it.

I have before said that “Attraction and Repulsion being undeniably the
sole properties by which Matter is manifested to Mind, we are justified
in assuming that Matter _exists_ only as Attraction and Repulsion—in
other words that Attraction and Repulsion _are_ Matter; there being no
conceivable case in which we may not employ the term Matter and the
terms ‘Attraction’ and ‘Repulsion’ taken together, as equivalent, and
therefore convertible, expressions in Logic.”[14]

    [14] Page 37.

Now the very definition of Attraction implies particularity—the
existence of parts, particles, or atoms; for we define it as the
tendency of “each atom &c. to every other atom” &c. according to a
certain law. Of course where there are _no_ parts—where there is
absolute Unity—where the tendency to oneness is satisfied—there can be
no Attraction:—this has been fully shown, and all Philosophy admits it.
When, on fulfilment of its purposes, then, Matter shall have returned
into its original condition of _One_—a condition which presupposes the
expulsion of the separative ether, whose province and whose capacity are
limited to keeping the atoms apart until that great day when, this ether
being no longer needed, the overwhelming pressure of the finally
collective Attraction shall at length just sufficiently predominate[15]
and expel it:—when, I say, Matter, finally, expelling the Ether, shall
have returned into absolute Unity,—it will then (to speak paradoxically
for the moment) be Matter without Attraction and without Repulsion—in
other words, Matter without Matter—in other words, again, _Matter no
more_. In sinking into Unity, it will sink at once into that Nothingness
which, to all Finite Perception, Unity must be—into that Material
Nihility from which alone we can conceive it to have been evoked—to have
been _created_ by the Volition of God.

    [15] “Gravity, therefore, must be the strongest of forces.”—See
    page 39.

I repeat then—Let us endeavor to comprehend that the final globe of
globes will instantaneously disappear, and that God will remain all in

But are we here to pause? Not so. On the Universal agglomeration and
dissolution, we can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally
different series of conditions may ensue—another creation and
irradiation, returning into itself—another action and rëaction of the
Divine Will. Guiding our imaginations by that omniprevalent law of laws,
the law of periodicity, are we not, indeed, more than justified in
entertaining a belief—let us say, rather, in indulging a hope—that the
processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewed forever,
and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and
then subsiding into nothingness, at 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
from that cool exercise of consciousness—from that deep tranquillity of
self-inspection—through which alone we can hope to attain the presence
of this, the most sublime of truths, and look it leisurely in the face.

The _phænomena_ on which our conclusions must at this point depend, are
merely spiritual shadows, but not the less thoroughly substantial.

We walk about, amid the destinies of our world-existence, encompassed by
dim but ever present _Memories_ of a Destiny more vast—very distant in
the by-gone time, and infinitely awful.

We live out a Youth peculiarly haunted by such dreams; yet never
mistaking them for dreams. As Memories we _know_ them. _During our
Youth_ the distinction is too clear to deceive us even for a moment.

So long as this Youth endures, the feeling _that we exist_, is the most
natural of all feelings. We understand it _thoroughly_. That there was a
period at which we did _not_ exist—or, that it might so have happened
that we never had existed at all—are the considerations, indeed, which
_during this youth_, we find difficulty in understanding. Why we should
_not_ exist, is, _up to the epoch of our Manhood_, of all queries the most
unanswerable. Existence—self-existence—existence from all Time and to
all Eternity—seems, up to the epoch of Manhood, a normal and
unquestionable condition:—_seems, because it is_.

But now comes the period at which a conventional World-Reason awakens us
from the truth of our dream. Doubt, Surprise and Incomprehensibility
arrive at the same moment. They say:—“You live and the time was when you
lived not. You have been created. An Intelligence exists greater than
your own; and it is only through this Intelligence you live at all.”
These things we struggle to comprehend and cannot:—_cannot_, because
these things, being untrue, are thus, of necessity, incomprehensible.

No thinking being lives who, at some luminous point of his life of
thought, has not felt himself lost amid the surges of futile efforts at
understanding, or believing, that anything exists _greater than his own
soul_. The utter impossibility of any one’s soul feeling itself inferior
to another; the intense, overwhelming dissatisfaction and rebellion at
the thought;—these, with the omniprevalent aspirations at perfection,
are but the spiritual, coincident with the material, struggles towards
the original Unity—are, to my mind at least, a species of proof far
surpassing what Man terms demonstration, that no one soul _is_ inferior
to another—that nothing is, or can be, superior to any one soul—that
each soul is, in part, its own God—its own Creator:—in a word, that
God—the material _and_ spiritual God—_now_ exists solely in the diffused
Matter and Spirit of the Universe; and that the regathering of this
diffused Matter and Spirit will be but the re-constitution of the
_purely_ Spiritual and Individual God.

In this view, and in this view alone, we comprehend the riddles of
Divine Injustice—of Inexorable Fate. In this view alone the existence of
Evil becomes intelligible; but in this view it becomes more—it becomes
endurable. Our souls no longer rebel at a _Sorrow_ which we ourselves
have imposed upon ourselves, in furtherance of our own purposes—with a
view—if even with a futile view—to the extension of our own _Joy_.

I have spoken of _Memories_ that haunt us during our youth. They
sometimes pursue us even in our Manhood:—assume gradually less and less
indefinite shapes:—now and then speak to us with low voices, saying:

“There was an epoch in the Night of Time, when a still-existent Being
existed—one of an absolutely infinite number of similar Beings that
people the absolutely infinite domains of the absolutely infinite
space.[16] It was not and is not in the power of this Being—any more
than it is in your own—to extend, by actual increase, the joy of his
Existence; but just as it _is_ in your power to expand or to concentrate
your pleasures (the absolute amount of happiness remaining always the
same) so did and does a similar capability appertain to this Divine
Being, who thus passes his Eternity in perpetual variation of
Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion. What you call The
Universe is but his present expansive existence. He now feels his life
through an infinity of imperfect pleasures—the partial and
pain-intertangled pleasures of those inconceivably numerous things which
you designate as his creatures, but which are really but infinite
individualizations of Himself. All these creatures—_all_—those which you
term animate, as well as those to whom you deny life for no better
reason than that you do not behold it in operation—_all_ these creatures
have, in a greater or less degree, a capacity for pleasure and for
pain:—_but the general sum of their sensations is precisely that amount
of Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when
concentrated within Himself_. These creatures are all, too, more or less
conscious Intelligences; conscious, first, of a proper identity;
conscious, secondly and by faint indeterminate glimpses, of an identity
with the Divine Being of whom we speak—of an identity with God. Of the
two classes of consciousness, fancy that the former will grow weaker,
the latter stronger, during the long succession of ages which must
elapse before these myriads of individual Intelligences become
blended—when the bright stars become blended—into One. Think that the
sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general
consciousness—that Man, for example, ceasing imperceptibly to feel
himself Man, will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he
shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah. In the meantime bear
in mind that all is Life—Life—Life within Life—the less within the
greater, and all within the _Spirit Divine_.”

    [16] See pages 102-103—Paragraph commencing “I reply that the
    right,” and ending “proper and particular God.”


155 Broadway, NEW YORK. 142 Strand, LONDON.

Of late firm of WILEY & PUTNAM.

New Works in Press,

Or recently published, by


155 Broadway, New York.

G. P. PUTNAM has the pleasure of announcing that, agreeably to his
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_A new, uniform, and complete edition_


Works of Washington Irving,

Revised and enlarged by the Author,

_In Twelve Elegant Duodecimo Volumes_,

Beautifully printed with new type, and on superior paper, made expressly
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The first volume of the Series will be

The Sketch-Book,

complete in one volume,

which will be ready on the first day of September.

Knickerbocker’s History of New York,

with revisions and copious additions,

will be published on the 1st of October.

The Life and Voyages of Columbus,

Vol. I. on the 1st of November,

and the succeeding volumes will be issued on the first day of each month
until completed;—as follows:

  _The Sketch-Book, in one volume.
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  Bracebridge Hall, in one volume.
  The Conquest of Grenada, in one volume.
  The Alhambra, in one volume.
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  The Crayon Miscellany, in one vol.—Abbotsford, Newstead,
    The Prairies, &c.
  Life and Voyages of Columbus, and The Companions of Columbus, 2 vols.
  Adventures of Captain Bonneville, one vol.
  Astoria, one volume._

The Illustrated Sketch-Book.

In October will be published,

The Sketch-Book.


One volume, square octavo.

Illustrated with a series of highly-finished Engravings on wood, from
Designs by Darley and others, engraved in the best style by Childs,
Herrick, &c. This edition will be printed on paper of the finest
quality, similar in size and style to the new edition of “Halleck’s
Poems.” It is intended that the illustrations shall be superior to any
engravings on wood yet produced in this country, and that the mechanical
execution of the volume, altogether, shall be worthy of the author’s
reputation. It will form an elegant and appropriate gift-book for all

The Illustrated Knickerbocker,

With a series of Original Designs, in one vol., octavo, is also in

Mr. Putnam has also the honor to announce that he will publish at
intervals (in connexion, and uniform with the other collected writings),

_Mr. Irving’s New Works_,

now nearly ready for the press: including

The Life of Mohammed; The Life of Washington; new volumes of
Miscellanies, Biographies, &c.

    ⁂ This being the first uniform and complete edition of Mr.
    Irving’s works, either in this country or in Europe, the
    publisher confidently believes that the undertaking will meet
    with a prompt and cordial response. To say this, is perhaps
    superfluous and impertinent; for it is a truism that no
    _American_ book-case (not to say _library_) can be well filled
    without the works of Washington Irving; while the English
    language itself comprises no purer models of composition.

G. P. Putnam has also made arrangements for the early commencement of
new works or new editions of the works of

  _Miss C. M. Sedgwick,
  Prof. A. Gray,
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  Mrs. E. Oakes Smith,
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  W. M. Thackeray,
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The following new works are now ready, or will be published this season:


Sophisms of the Protective Policy.

Translated from the French of F. Bastiat. With an introduction by
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Encyclopedia Americana, &c. 12mo. 75 cents.

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A new and superior edition of the PEARLS OF AMERICAN POETRY will also be
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Lays of the Western World.


Dr. Klipstein’s Anglo-Saxon Course of Study.

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A Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language. By Louis F. Klipstein, AA.LL.M.
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[The following are also in press.]


Analecta Anglo-Saxonica, with an Introductory Ethnographical Essay,
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shown the Indo-Germanic and other Affinities of the Language. _By the

In this work appear the fruits of considerable research, and, we may
add, learning. The Ethnology of Europe is succinctly, but clearly
illustrated, the Anglo-Saxon language completely analysed, revealing the
utmost harmony of combination from its elements, its forms and roots
compared with those in kindred dialects and cognate tongues, its
position in the Teutonic family and Indo-Germanic range established, and
the genuine relation of the English to its great parent properly set
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Natale Sancti Gregorii Papæ.—Ælfric’s Homily on the Birth-day of St.
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Extracts from the Anglo-Saxon-Gospels, a Portion of the Anglo-Saxon
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These two works are prepared in such a way as in themselves, with the
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_Nearly Ready._

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