Lumen, by Camille Flammarion

Third Conversation

Homo Homunculus

Clouds no impediment to vision.

Quærens: I have listened to you with interest, Lumen, without, I own, being entirely convinced that all you have told me is actually real. Indeed it is difficult to believe that it is possible to see with absolute certainty all the things of which you speak. When, for instance, there are clouds across your field of view, you cannot see clearly what passes on the Earth. The same objection obtains for the interior of houses.

Light a vibration of ether.

Lumen: You are mistaken, my friend. The undulations of ether pass through obstacles that you woud believe impenetrable. Clouds are formed of molecules between which rays of light frequently pass. In the contrary case, there are here and there vistas or gaps, across which one can only see obliquely. The case is very rare when nothing can be distinguished. Besides, light is not what it appears to be; it is a vibration of ether, and there are other ways of seeing than by means of the retina and the optic nerve.

The vibrations of ether are perceptible to senses other than those you possess. Therefore, if this be your sole objection, it is, I must say, far from being an insurmountable one.

Quærens: You have a special faculty for resolving all doubts. Perhaps this is one of the gifts granted to spiritual beings. I have been obliged successively to admit, that you have been transported to Capella with a swiftness exceeding that of light; that you reached another world as a spirit; that your soul is liberated from the flesh; that your ultra-earthly perception is able to distinguish from that height all that passes here; that you can advance or recede in space according to your fancy; and lastly, that the clouds themselves are no obstacles to your clearly seeing the surface of our globe. It must be owned that these are grave difficulties indeed.

Lumen: You are very material, my old friend! Should you be very surprised if I undertook to prove to you that all these difficulties exist only in name, and that all the objections which oppose themselves to your conception of phenomena are the effects of ignorance?

What should you think if I affirmed that no one has a single true idea of what takes place upon the Earth, and that man utterly fails to understand nature?

Quærens: In the name of all the indisputable truths of modern science, I should dare to think that you were trying to impose upon me.

Lumen: God forbid! Listen to me, my friend. The marvellous discoveries of contemporary science ought to enlarge the sphere of your conceptions.

The marvels of spectral analysis.

You have just discovered spectral analysis! By this methodic examination of a simple ray of light shot from a far-off star, you learn what are the elements which compose this inaccessible star and feed its brilliancy. This knowledge, my brother, is of more value than all the conquests of Alexander, of Cæsar, and of Napoleon, than all the discoveries of Ptolemy, of Columbus, of Gutenberg, than all the books of Moses and of Confucius. Only think, trillions of leagues span the abyss which separates us from Sirius, from Arcturus, from Vega, from Capella, from Castor and Pollux, and it is now possible to analyse the substances which constitute these suns, just as accurately as if you could take them in your hand and submit them to the crucible of the laboratory!

Piercing nature of the soul's sight.

How then can you refuse to admit that, by processes which are unknown to you, the soul's sight can be sufficiently piercing to see clearly a bright far-off world, and to distinguish even its smallest details? Does not the telegraph carry in an inappreciable moment your thought from Europe to America through the depths of the ocean? Cannot two people converse in a low voice at a distance of thousands of leagues, and still you hesitate to admit the truth of my narrations, because you do not altogether comprehend them? But can you explain how the telegraphic message is transmitted? No, you cannot. Cease then to retain doubts which have not even the merit of being scientific.

Quærens: My objections, learned master, have not any other end in view than to elicit fresh light upon the subject. I am far from denying the truth of all you tell me, and I but seek to form a rational and exact idea of it.

The inadequacy of the earthly senses.

Lumen: Be assured, my friend, I do not take any offence at your objections. My only desire is to develop and enlarge the sphere of your conceptions. I can at this very instant open your eyes to see the utter inadequacy of your terrestrial faculties, and the fatal poverty of positive science itself by inviting you to reflect that the causes of your impressions are solely modes of motion, and that what is proudly termed science is only a very limited organic perception.

The limitations of the senses.

Light by which your eyes see--sound by which your ears hear--are different forms of motion by which you are impressed; odours, flavours, &c., are emanations which strike upon your olfactory nerve or touch your palate; these are solely vibratory motions which are transmitted to your brain. You can only appreciate a few of these movements through the senses you possess, principally those of sight and hearing. You, in your simplicity, believe that you see and hear nature? Nothing of the kind. All you do is to receive some of the movements in activity upon your sublunary atom. That is all. Beyond the impressions you receive there are an infinitely greater number unperceived by you.

Quærens: Pardon, master, but this new aspect of nature is not sufficiently clear for me to understand it. Would you. . .

The extent of the gamut re vibrations of sound.

Lumen: This aspect is indeed new to you, but attentive reflection will enable you to grasp it. Sound is formed by vibrations in the air which strike upon the membrane of the tympanum and give you the impression of various tones. Man does not hear all sounds. When the vibrations are too slow (below forty a second), the sound is too low; your ear cannot catch it. When the vibrations are too rapid (above 36,000 a second), the sound is too sharp; your ear cannot receive it. Above and below these two limits, therefore, human beings do not perceive them. These vibrations exist, however, and are perceived by creatures of other kinds, as, for example, certain insects. The same rules apply to light. The different aspects of light, the shades and colours of objects, are equally due to the vibrations which strike upon the optic nerve and give you the impression of the different degrees of intensity in light.

The extent of the vibrations of light.

Man does not by any means see all that is visible. When the vibrations are too slow (under 458 billions a second), light is too feeble; your eye sees nothing. When the vibrations are too rapid (over 727 billions a second), light outruns your organic faculty of perception and is invisible to you. Above and below these two limits the vibrations of ether still exist, and are perceived by other beings. You do not know therefore, nor can you receive, any impressions except those that can be made to vibrate upon the two chords of your organic lyre, called respectively the optic nerve and the auditory nerve.

Imagine for one instant the extent of all the sights and sounds which are not perceptible to you. All the undulatory movements that exist in the universe between the figures of 36,ooo and those represented by 438,000,000,000,000 in the same unity of time, can neither be heard nor be seen by you, and remain utterly unknown to you.

Try to measure that distance! Contemporary science is beginning to penetrate a little into this invisible world, and you know that it has just calculated the vibrations below 458 billions (these are the caloric invisible rays) and the vibrations above 727 billions (these are the chemical rays, also equally invisible to the human eye). Scientific methods can enlarge the sphere of the perceptions but a little; you remain isolated in the midst of infinitude. Moreover, an endless number of other vibrations exist in nature which have no correspondence with your organisation, and therefore cannot be received by you, consequently you remain for ever utterly ignorant of them.

Man deaf to the concert of universal harmonies by reason of his limitations.

Did you possess other strings to your lyre--ten, a hundred, a thousand--the harmony of nature could more completely translate itself to you, each of the myriad vibrations according to their kind. You would perceive a number of facts which are certainly passing around you, whose very existence you cannot even now guess, and in place of two dominant notes you would be conscious of the grand concert of us harmonies everywhere about you.

But although thus ignorant, you are unconscious of it, because all around you are equally ignorant, and therefore it is impossible to compare your limited faculties with those of beings much more highly organised.

Were the eye a combined spectroscope and telescope, it would see the chemical elements composing bodies.

The senses you do possess suffice, however, to indicate the existence of other senses, not only more powerful, but of a totally different order. By the sense of touch, for example, you can, it is true, feel the sensation of heat; but it is easy to conceive the existence of a special sense, analogous to that by which light reveals to you the aspect of exterior objects, and which would render man capable of judging of the form and substance of an object, its interior structure, and other qualities, by the action of the caloric waves radiating from it. The same reasoning would hold good on the subject of electricity. You could equally well conceive the existence of a sense, endowing the eye with the powers of a spectroscope and telescope in one, thus enabling it to see the chemical elements, of which bodies are composed.

Thus already, from a scientific point of view, you have sufficient ground for imagining modes of perception, quite different from those which characterise human beings. These faculties exist in other worlds, and there are endless ways of perceiving the action of the forces of nature.

Our terrestrial senses are limited.

Quærens: Certainly, master, I own that as you unfold these possibilities a new and singular clearness enlightens my understanding, and your teachings appear to me a true interpretation of the reality. I had already dreamed that similar marvels might be possible, but I had not been able to explain them, enveloped as I still am in my terrestrial senses. One thing is certain, we must be lifted out of our earth-bound limitations ere we are capable of comprehending, or even of attempting to judge, of the scope of the universe.

Thus, being endowed with only a few limited senses, we can but know the facts that are perceptible to them. The remainder is naturally unknown. Can it be that the unknown is infinitely more than the known?

The ordinary senses are insensible to many physical movements.

Lumen: This "remainder" is immense, and all you at present know will seem as nothing by comparison. Not only do your senses not perceive physical movements--such as solar and terrestrial electricity whose currents cross in the atmosphere, the magnetism of minerals, of plants, and of beings, the affinities of organisms, &c., which are invisible to you--but they perceive still less the movements of the moral world, its sympathies and antipathies, its presentiments, its spiritual attractions, &c. I only speak the simple truth when I say, that all that you know, and all that you could know, through the medium of your earthly senses, is as nothing compared to that which is.

Beings exist with other than our senses.

This truth is so profound that it might well be asserted, that beings exist upon the Earth essentially different from you, possessing neither eyes, nor ears, nor any of your senses, but endowed with other senses, and capable of perceiving that which you cannot perceive, and who, while living in the same world as yourself, know that which you cannot know, and form an idea of nature completely at variance with your own.

Quærens: All this is utterly beyond my comprehension.

Lumen: Moreover, my earthly friend, I can add most emphatically that the perceptions you receive, and that constitute the bases of your science, are not even the perceptions of the reality. No. Light, lucidity, colours, looks, tones, noises, harmonies, sounds, perfumes, flavours, apparent qualities of bodies, &c., are nothing but forms.

These forms enter into your mind by the avenue of the eye, and the ear, by the senses of smell, and taste, and are represented to you by their appearances, but not even by the essence of the things themselves.

The real nature of things entirely escapes your understanding, and you are utterly incapable of comprehending the universe.

Matter is not solid.

Matter itself is not what you believe it to be. To speak absolutely, there is not anything that is solid; your own body, a piece of iron or of granite, are not more solid than the air you breathe. All these things are composed of atoms which do not touch each other, and which are in perpetual movement. The Earth, atom of the Heavens, moves in space with a swiftness of 643,000 leagues a day; but, in proportion to their dimensions, each atom which constitutes your own body and that circulates in your blood, moves much more quickly. If your vision were sufficiently powerful to see through this stone, you would no longer see it thus, because your sight would pass through and beyond it. . .

How man errs in thinking his limited sensations describe those of the universe.

But I see by the disturbance of your brain, and the rapid movements of the fluid which crosses your closely-concentrated lobes, that you no longer understand my revelations. I will not then pursue this subject which I have thus merely lightly touched upon, with the end in view of thereby demonstrating how greatly you would err, did you attach any importance to difficulties born of your terrestrial sensations, and to assure you that neither you nor any man upon the Earth could form even an approximate idea of the universe. What is earthly man but a mere pigmy! Ah! if you were but acquainted with the organisms which vibrate upon Mars or upon Uranus;

The difference of organisms on Mars, Uranus, &c.

if it had but been granted to you, to appreciate the senses in action, upon Venus and upon a ring of Saturn; if during centuries of travel you had been permitted to glance at and observe the forms of life in the systems of the double stars; at the sensations of sight in the coloured suns, to glean the impressions of an electric sense, of which you can know absolutely nothing, in the groups of multiple suns; if a suitable comparison of this ultra-terrestrial state had furnished you with the elements of a fresh knowledge, you would then have comprehended that beings exist--who can see, hear, feel, or, to be more accurate, understand nature without eyes, without ears, without sense of smell; that an incredible number of other senses exist in nature, senses essentially different from yours; and that there are in creation an incalculable number of marvellous facts which it is absolutely impossible for you to imagine.

The tie uniting the physical and spiritual world.

In this general contemplation of the universe, my friend, one perceives the solidarity--the tie which unites the physical with the spiritual world; one sees from a higher ground the instinctive strength which raises certain souls, tried by the coarseness of matter but purified by sacrifice, towards the higher regions of spiritual light; and one understands how immense is the happiness reserved for those beings, who, even while on Earth, have succeeded in gradually overcoming their lower nature.

Quærens: To return to the transmission of light in space. Does not light lose itself at last? Does the aspect of the Earth remain eternally visible, and never, on the contrary, diminish in proportion to the square of distance, thus becoming finally annihilated?

Lumen: Your expression "at last" is without meaning, because there is no end in space.

The world end applied to space meaningless.

Light becomes attenuated, it is true, with distance, the scenes become less vivid, but nothing is lost entirely. Any number, whatever it may be, perpetually reduced by half, for example, can never become equal to zero. The Earth is not visible to all eyes at a certain distance. Nevertheless it still exists, even though it may not be seen by all; and only spiritual sight can see it.

Besides, the image of a star, borne upon the wings of light, goes into the unfathomable depths of the mysterious abysses of space.

Vast regions exist without stars.

Vast regions exist in space without stars, regions decimated by time, whence worlds have been successively removed by the attraction of exterior suns. The image of a star in crossing these dark abysses, would be in a condition analogous to that of a person, or object, that the photographer had forgotten and left in the camera.

It is not impossible that such images encounter in these vast spaces an obscure star (celestial mechanics state the existence of many such) in a special condition whose surface (formed perhaps of iodine, if one is to credit spectral analysis) would be sensitised, and capable of fixing upon itself the image of this far-off world.

Thus terrestrial events might be printed upon a dark globe. And if this globe turns upon itself, like other celestial bodies, it would present successively its different zones to the terrestrial image, and would this take a sort of continuous photograph of successive events.

Images of this world's events photographed spirally upon other globes in space.

Following moreover, in ascending, or descending, a perpendicular line to its equator, the line where the images were reproduced would no longer be described in a circle, but in a spiral; and after the first movement of rotation was finished, the new images would not coincide with the old ones, nor superimpose them, but would follow above and below. The imagination could now suppose that this world is not spherical, but cylindrical, and thus see in space an imperishable column around which would be engraved the great events of the world's history.

I have not myself seen this realisation. It is so short a time since I left the Earth, that I have barely done more than glance superficially at these celestial marvels. Before long I shall seek to verify this fact, and see if its reality does not form a part of the infinite richness of the astral creations.

Quærens: If the ray which leaves the Earth is never destroyed, master, our actions are then eternal?

Lumen: Certainly they are.

Actions carried for ever on rays of light.

An act once accomplished can never be effaced, and no power can ever cause it to be as if it had never been. Say that a crime is committed in the heart of a desert country. The criminal goes far away, remains unknown, and supposes that the act which he has committed has passed for ever. He has washed his hands of it, he has repented, he believes his action obliterated. But in reality nothing is destroyed. At the moment when this act was accomplished, the light seized it and carried it into space with the rapidity of lightning. It became incorporated in a ray of light; eternal, it will transmit itself eternally into infinitude.

Likewise a good action is done in secret; the benefactor thinks it is concealed, but a ray of light has taken possession of it. Far from being forgotten, it will live for ever.

Napoleon, in order to satisfy his personal ambition, was voluntarily the cause of the death of five millions of men, whose ages averaged about thirty years, and who, according to the laws of life, had thirty-seven more years to live. Therefore, by this calculation, he caused the destruction of 185 millions of years of human life.

Napoleon's punishment.

His chastisement, his expiation, consists in being carried along by that ray of light which left the plains of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815, and to be ever moving in space with the quickness of light itself; to have constantly in sight that critical scene, where he saw for ever crumbling to pieces the scaffolding of his vain ambition; to feel, without respite, the bitterness of despair; and to remain bound to this ray of light for the 185 millions of years for whose destruction he was responsible. By thus acting, in place of worthily fulfilling his mission, he has retarded for a similar length of time his progress in the spiritual life.

And if it were given to you to see that which goes on in the moral world, as clearly as you now see that which passes in the physical one, you would recognise vibrations and transmissions of another nature, which imprint in the arcana of the spiritual world, not only the actions, but even the most secret thoughts.

Speculation upon the problem of communication by luminous signals between the Earth and stars.

Quærens: Your revelations, Lumen, are awful! Thus, our eternal destinies are intimately bound up with the construction of the universe itself. I have many times speculated upon the problem of communication between the worlds by the aid of light. Many physicists have supposed that it will be possible to establish communication between the Earth and the Moon, and even the planets, by the aid of luminous signals. But suppose one could make signs from the Earth to a star, by employing the light, for example, a hundred years must come and go before the signal from the Earth could reach its destination, and the response could only return after the same interval of time had elapsed.

An interval of two centuries between question and answer.

Two centuries must consequently elapse between the question and its answer. The terrestrial observer would have died long before his signal could have reached his sidereal observer, and the latter would doubtless have undergone a similar fate before his answer could have been received!

Lumen: It would, in fact, be a conversation between the living and the dead.

Quærens: Pardon a last question, master--one perhaps a little indiscreet, but a last one, for I see Venus is paling, and I feel that your voice will soon cease to be heard. If actions are thus visible in ethereal regions, we can then see, after our death, not only our own actions, but also those of others--I mean those which specially interest us?

For instance, a pair of twin souls, dwelling in perfect unity, would like to see again for a thousand years the delightful hours passed together on the Earth; they would rush into space with a rapidity equal to that of light, in order to have always before their eyes the same hours of joy.

In another sense, a husband would trace with interest the entire life of his companion; and should some unexpected situation have presented itself, he could at leisure examine the causes leading to the same. He might even, if his disembodied companion resided in some neighbouring region, call upon her to observe, in common with himself, these retrospective incidents.

No denial could be admissible before such palpable evidence, and might not this power exercised by these spirits give rise to some strange revelations?

Lumen: You are very earthly, my friend, to think that in the Heavens memories of a material kind will be valued, and I am astonished that you can continue to think them of importance. What should specially strike you in all we have said during these two interviews is, that by virtue of the laws of light, we can see events after they have been accomplished, although they are past, and indeed when they have entirely vanished.

Quærens: Believe me, master, this truth will never more be effaced from my memory. It is precisely this point which I find so exceedingly marvellous.

Forget, I pray you, my last digression.

To say the truth, that which from our first interview has most taxed and surpassed the bounds of my imagination, was to think that the duration of the voyage of the spirit can be not only nil--negative--but also retrograde!

Time retrogressive.

"Time retrogressive!" These two words involve a contradiction in terms. Dare one believe it?

You start to-day for a star, and you arrive yesterday! What do I say--yesterday? You will arrive there seventy-two years ago, even a hundred years ago! The further you go, the sooner you will arrive! Terms in grammar must be remade for such extraordinary reckoning.

Lumen: This is undeniable.

Speaking according to terrestrial style, there is not any error in this mode of expression, since the Earth was only in 1793, &c., for the world in which we arrived, or for the world which we reached.

You have, however, on your little globe certain apparent paradoxes, which give an idea of this one.

Apparent paradoxes anent time.

For example, a telegram sent from Paris at noon arrives at Brest twenty minutes before noon. But these curious aspects of particular application are not of sufficient significance for you to dwell upon, but rather the revelation of which they are the metaphysical form and the outward expression. Know that time is not an absolute reality, but only a transitory measure caused by the movements of the Earth in the Solar System.

Regarded with the eyes of the soul, and not with those of the body, this picture of human life, not imaginary but real, such as it was, dissimulation being impossible, touches on one side the domain of theology, inasmuch as it explains physically a mystery hitherto inexplicable: I mean "individual judgment" of ourselves after death.

From the point of view of the whole question, the present of a world is no longer a momentary actuality, which disappears as soon as it has appeared, it is no longer a phase without consistency, a gate through which the past is precipitated unceasingly towards the future, a mathematical plan in space. It is, on the contrary, an effective reality, which flies away from this world with the swiftness of light, sinking for ever in the infinite, and remaining thus an eternal present.

Events live forever.

The metaphysical reality of this vast problem is such, that one can now conceive the omnipresence of the world throughout all its duration. Events vanish from the place in which they were born, but they exist in space. This successive and endless projection of all the facts enacted upon every world takes place in the bosom of the Infinite Being, whose ubiquity holds everything in an eternal permanence.

Scientific explanation of ubiquity.

The events which have been accomplished upon the surface of the Earth since its creation are visible in space at distances proportioned to their remoteness in the past. The whole history of the globe, and the life of each one of its inhabitants, could thus be seen at a glance by an eye which could embrace that space. We thus understand optically, as it were, that the eternal Spirit, present everywhere, can see all the past at one and the same moment.

That which is true of our Earth is true of all the worlds in space. Thus the entire history of the whole universe can be present at once to the universal ubiquity of the Creator. I may add that God knows all the past, not only in consequence of this direct sight, but also by the knowledge of each thing in the present. If a naturalist, such as Cuvier, knows how to reconstruct, by the aid of a fragment of bone, any species of extinct animals, surely the Author of Nature knows by the present Earth the Earth which is past, the Planetary System, and the Sun of the past, and all the conditions of temperatures, aggregations, and combinations, by which the elements have produced the complex condition of things at present in existence.

On the other hand, the future can be as completely present to God in its actual germs, as the past is in its fruits.

Each event is bound in an indissoluble manner with the past and the future.

Present, past, and future, all one.

The future will be as inevitably the outcome of the present, and is, as logically deducible from it, and exists in it as exactly, as that the past itself is therein inscribed for those who are able to decipher it. But--and I emphasise it--the main point of this recital is to state, to make you understand, that the past life of all worlds, and of all beings, is always visible in space, thanks to the successive transmission of light across and through the vast regions of the infinite.

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