Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon

Chapter 12

A Stunted Cosmical Spirit

WHEN at last our galaxy was able to make a full telepathic exploration of the cosmos of galaxies it discovered that the state of life in the cosmos was precarious. Very few of the galaxies were now in their youth; most were already far past their prime. Throughout the cosmos the dead and lightless stars far outnumbered the living and luminous. In many galaxies the strife of stars and worlds had been even more disastrous than in our own. Peace had been secured only after both sides had degenerated past hope of recovery. In most of the younger galaxies, however, this strife had not yet appeared; and efforts were already being made by the most awakened galactic spirits to enlighten the ignorant stellar and planetary societies about one another before they should blunder into conflict.

The communal spirit of our galaxy now joined the little company of the most awakened beings of the cosmos, the scattered band of advanced galactic spirits, whose aim it was to create a real cosmical community, with a single mind, the communal spirit of its myriad and diverse worlds and individual intelligences. Thus it was hoped to acquire powers of insight and of creativity impossible on the merely galactic plane.

With grave joy we, the cosmical explorers, who were already gathered up into the communal mind of our own galaxy, now found ourselves in intimate union with a score of other galactic minds. We, or rather I, now experienced the slow drift of the galaxies much as a man feels the swing of his own limbs. From my score of viewpoints I observed the great snow-storm of many million galaxies, streaming and circling, and ever withdrawing farther apart from one another with the relentless “expansion” of space. But though the vastness of space was increasing in relation to the size of galaxies and stars and worlds, to me, with my composite, scattered body, space seemed no bigger than a great vaulted hall.

My experience of time also had changed; for now, as on an earlier occasion, the aeons had become for me as brief as minutes. I conceived the whole life of the cosmos not as an immensely protracted and leisurely passage from a remote and shadowy source to a glorious and a still more remote eternity, but as a brief, a headlong and forlorn, race against galloping time.

Confronted by the many backward galaxies, I seemed to myself to be a lonely intelligence in a wilderness of barbarians and beasts. The mystery, the futility, the horror of existence now bore down upon me most cruelly. For to me, to the spirit of that little band of awakened galaxies, surrounded by unawakened and doomed hordes in the last day of the cosmos, there appeared no hope of any triumph elsewhere. For to me the whole extent, seemingly, of existence was revealed. There could be no “elsewhere.” I knew with exactness the sum of cosmical matter. And though the “expansion” of space was already sweeping most of the galaxies apart more swiftly than light could bridge the gulf, telepathic exploration still kept me in touch with the whole extent of the cosmos. Many of my own members were physically divided from one another by the insurmountable gulf created by the ceaseless “expansion”; but telepathically they were still united.

I, the communal mind of a score of galaxies, seemed now to myself to be the abortive and crippled mind of the cosmos itself. The myriad-fold community that supported me ought surely to have expanded to embrace the whole of existence. In the climax of cosmical history the fully awakened mind of the cosmos ought surely to have won through to the fullness of knowledge and of worship. But this was not to be. For even now, in the late phase of the cosmos, when the physical potency was almost all exhausted, I had reached only to a lowly state of spiritual growth. I was mentally still adolescent, yet my cosmical body was already in decay. I was the struggling embryo in the cosmical egg, and the yolk was already in decay.

Looking back along the vistas of the aeons, I was impressed less by the length of the journey that had led me to my present state than by its haste and confusion, and even its brevity. Peering into the very earliest of the ages, before the stars were born, before the nebulae were formed from chaos, I still failed to see any clear source, but only a mystery as obscure as any that confronts the little inhabitants of the Earth.

Equally, when I tried to probe the depths of my own being, I found impenetrable mystery. Though my self-consciousness was awakened to a degree thrice removed beyond the self-consciousness of human beings, namely from the simple individual to the world-mind, and from the world-mind to the galactic mind, and thence to the abortively cosmical, yet the depth of my nature was obscure.

Although my mind now gathered into itself all the wisdom of all worlds in all ages, and though the life of my cosmical body was itself the life of myriads of infinitely diverse worlds and myriads of infinitely diverse individual creatures, and though the texture of my daily life was one of joyful and creative enterprise, yet all this was as nothing. For around lay the host of the unfulfilled galaxies; and my own flesh was already grievously impoverished by the death of my stars; and the aeons were slipping past with fatal speed. Soon the texture of my cosmical brain must disintegrate. And then inevitably I must fall away from my prized though imperfect state of lucidity, and descend, through all the stages of the mind’s second childhood, down to the cosmical death.

It was very strange that I, who knew the whole extent of pace and time, and counted the wandering stars like sheep, overlooking none, but I who was the most awakened of all beings, I, the glory which myriads in all ages had given their lives to establish, and myriads had worshipped, should now look about me with the same overpowering awe, the same abashed and tongue-tied worship as that which human travelers in the desert feel under the stars.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30