Quærens: Two years have fled, Lumen, since the day when you granted me that mysterious interview. During this period, unconsciously for the inhabitants of eternal space, but most consciously for us dwellers upon the Earth, I have often raised my thoughts to the great problems in which you have initiated me, and to the horizons developed before my mind's eye.
Doubtless, also, since your departure from the Earth you have made, through your observations and studies, great advance upon a field of research more and more vast. Doubtless, also, you have numberless marvels to declare to me, now that my intelligence is better prepared to receive them. If I am worthy, and if I can comprehend them, give me an account, Lumen, of the celestial voyages which have transported your spirit into the higher spheres; of the unknown truths which they have revealed to you; of the grandeurs which they have opened out to you, and of the principles they have taught you in reference to that mysterious subject, viz., the destiny of man, and other beings.
Lumen: I have prepared your mind, my dear old friend, to receive marvellous impressions, such as no earthly spectacle ever has, or could produce. It is, nevertheless, necessary that you should keep your understanding free from all earthly prejudice. That which I am going to unfold will astonish you, but receive it from the first with attention as an undeniable truth, and not as a romance. This is the first condition that I demand from my earnest pupil. When you comprehend--and you will comprehend, if you bring to the task a mathematical mind and an unprejudiced spirit--you will see that all the facts which constitute our ultra-terrestrial existence are not only possible, but also real, and moreover, are in perfect harmony with our intellectual faculties as already manifested upon the earth.
Quærens: Be assured, Lumen, that I bring to you an open mind, cleared from all prejudice, and I am eagerly expecting to hear revelations such as the human ear has never before heard.
Lumen: The events which will form the subject of this recital have not only the Earth and its neighbouring stars for their subject, but they will extend over immense fields of sidereal astronomy, and make us acquainted with their marvels. Their explanation will be solved, as was that of former difficulties, by the study of light, a magic bridge thrown from one star to another, from the Earth to the Sun, from the Earth to the stars--of light, the universal movement which fills space, sustains worlds in their orbits, and constitutes the eternal life of nature. Take care, then, to keep ever in mind, the fact of the succcessive transmission of light in space.
Quærens: I know that light, whatever it may be, is the agent by which objects are rendered visible to our eyes, that it is not transmitted instantaneously from one point to another, but gradually, like all motion. I know that it flies at the rate of 75,000 leagues a second, that it runs 750,000 leagues in ten seconds, and 4,500,000 each minute. I know that it takes more than eight minutes to cross the distance of 37 millions of leagues which separate us from the Sun. Modern astronomy has made these facts familiar.
Lumen: Do you perfectly realise its undulatory movement?
Quærens: I think so. I compare it to that of sound, although it be accomplished upon a scale incomparably more vast. By undulation following undulation, sound is diffused in the air. When the bells peal forth their sonorous sound, this is heard at the very moment when the clapper strikes the bell, by those living round the church, but is not heard till one second after, by those living at a distance of 492 yards; two seconds later by those at 765 yards; and three seconds later still, by those at a distance of 1093 yards from the church. Thus sound only gradually reaches one village after another as far as it can go.
In the same way light passes successively from one region in space to another at a greater distance, and travels without being extinguished into the far-off realms of Infinity. If we could see from the Earth an event which is being accomplished upon the Moon; for instance, if we had sufficiently good instruments to perceive from here, a fruit falling from a tree on the surface of the Moon, we should not see the fact at the moment of its occurrence, but one second and a quarter after, because light requires about that time to travel the distance from the Moon to the Earth. Similarly, could we see an event taking place upon a world at ten times greater distance than the Moon, we could not witness it until 13 seconds after it had really happened. If this world were a hundred times farther off than the Moon, we could not see an event until 130 seconds after it had taken place; were it a thousand times more distant, we should not see it until 1300 seconds, or 21 minutes 40 seconds had elapsed. And so on according to the distance.
Lumen: Exactly, and you are aware that the luminous ray sent to the Earth by the star Capella takes seventy-two years in reaching it. It follows, therefore, that if we only receive the luminous ray to-day, which left its surface seventy-two years ago, the denizens of Capella see only that which happened on the Earth seventy-two years ago. The Earth reflects in space the light that it gets from the Sun, and from a distance, appears as brilliant as Venus and Jupiter appear to you, planets lighted by the same Sun that lights the Earth. The luminous aspect of the Earth, its photograph, journeys in space at the rate of 75,000 leagues a second, and only reaches Capella after seventy-two years of incessant travel. I recall these elementary principles in order that you may have them thoroughly fixed in your memory; you will then be able to comprehend, without difficulty, the facts which have happened to me during my ultra-terrestrial life since our last interview.
Quærens: These principles of optics are, to my mind, clearly established. The day after your death in October 1864, when, as you have confided to me, you found yourself rapidly transported to Capella, you were astonished to arrive there at the moment when the philosophical astronomers of the country were observing the Earth in the year 1793, and witnessing one of the most significant acts of the French Revolution. You were not less surprised to see yourself again as a child, running about in the streets of Paris. Then, leaving Capella and coming nearer to the Earth, you arrived at the zone where that part of the terrestrial photography passed before your vision, which showed you your infancy, and you saw yourself at six years of age, not in memory, but in reality. Out of all your previous revelations, this is the one I had the most difficulty in believing--I mean, in grasping its meaning.
Lumen: That which I now wish to make you comprehend is stranger still. But it was first necessary for you to admit that one, before I could adequately reveal to you this one.
On leaving Capella and approaching the Earth, I saw again my seventy-two years of earthly existence, my entire life such as it has been, passed before me; for, in approaching the Earth, I passed through successive zones of earthly scenes, where I saw spread out as in a scroll the visible history of our planet, because in going back towards the Earth, I was continually meeting the various zones which carried through space the visible history of our planet, comprising that of Paris as well as my own, for I was there. Taking thus in one day a retrospective survey of the road which it had taken light seventy-two years to traverse, I had reviewed my whole life in that one day, and I perceived even my own interment.
Quærens: It is as if, on returning from Capella to the Earth, you had seen, as in a mirror, the seventy-two years of your life photographed year by year. The one the farthest from the Earth, but which had started the first, and was the oldest, showed events as they were in 1793; the second, which left the Earth a year later, and had not yet reached Capella, contained those of 1794; the tenth, those of 1803; the thirty-sixth, having reached midway on the road, gave those of 1829; the fiftieth, those of 1843; the seventy-first, those of 1864.
Lumen: It is impossible to have better grasped these facts, which seem so mysterious and incomprehensible at first sight. Now I can recount to you that which happened to me upon Capella, after having thus witnessed over again my existence on the Earth.
Lumen: Whilst not very long ago (but I can no longer express that time by earthly measurements), in a melancholy region of Capella, I was contemplating the starry heavens at the beginning of a clear night, occupied in noting the star which is your earthly Sun, and near it the little azure planet, your Earth, I observed one of the scenes of my childhood--my young mother seated in the midst of a garden, holding an infant in her arms (my brother), having at her side a little girl of two summers (my sister), and a boy two years older (myself). I saw myself at that age when man is not yet conscious of his intellectual existence, though he bears even then upon his brow the germ of future promise. Whilst dreaming of this singular spectacle, which showed me myself at the entrance of my earthly career, I felt my attention drawn from your planet by a superior power, and directed towards another point in the heavens, which, even at that moment, seemed to be linked with the Earth and my career there, by some mysterious tie. I could not turn my gaze from this new point in the heavens, my eyes being, as it were, chained to the spot by some magnetic power I was unable to resist. Several times I endeavoured to withdraw my eyes, and to fix them on the Earth I love so well; but in vain, for I was ever re-attracted to the same unknown star.
This star, upon which my eyes sought instinctively to divine something, belongs to the constellation of Virgo, whose form varies slightly as seen from Capella. It is a double star, that is to say, an association of two suns, one of a silvery whiteness, the other of a bright golden yellow, which revolve round one another once in 175 years.
This star can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and its sign is the letter γ (Gamma), in the constellation of Virgo. Around each of the suns which form it there is a planetary system. My sight was fixed upon one of the planets belonging to the golden sun. On that planet there are animals and vegetables as upon the Earth; their forms bear a similarity to earthly ones, although there is an essential difference in their organisms.
Their animal kingdom is analogous to yours; they have fishes in the seas, quadrupeds in the air, in which men can fly without wings, by reason of the extreme density of the atmosphere. The men of this planet possess almost the same form as those on the Earth, but no hair grows upon their heads, and they have three large thin thumbs instead of five fingers on their hands, and three great toes at the heel in place of soles to their feet, the extremities of their arms and legs being supple as india-rubber. They have, nevertheless, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, which give them their resemblance to earthly beings. They have not two ears, one on each side of the head, but one only, in the shape of a cone, which is placed on the upper part of the skull like a little hat.
They live in societies and wear clothing. Thus, you see, in their exterior they differ little from the inhabitants of the Earth.
Quærens: Are there, then, in other worlds beings entirely distinct from us, but who, notwithstanding their dissimilarities, can be compared with us?
Lumen: A distinction profound and unimaginable by you separates in general the animal life of the different worlds. These forms are the result of elements special to each globe, and of the forces which regulate them: matter, density, weight, heat, light, electricity, atmosphere, &c., differ essentially on each globe. Even in the same system these forms differ.
Thus the men of Uranus and Mercury do not in any way resemble the men of the Earth; those who see them for the first time cannot perceive that they possess either head, members, or senses. On the contrary, the forms of those in the planetary system of Virgo, towards which my attention was being persistently drawn, are nearly similar to those of the inhabitants of the Earth, whom they also resemble morally and intellectually. Slightly inferior to ourselves, they belong to that scale in the order of souls which immediately precedes that of terrestrial humanity as a whole.
Quærens: Yet there is a wide divergence between human beings themselves in all that pertains both to intellect and morals. We in Europe differ greatly from the tribes of Abyssinia and from the savages of the Oceanic Isles. What people do you take as a type of the highest degree of intelligence on the Earth?
Lumen: The Arabs. They are capable of producing their Keplers, their Newtons, their Galileos, their Archimedes, their Euclids, their D'Alemberts. Besides, they sprang from those primitive hordes whose roots reach down to the bed rock of humanity. But it is not necessary to choose a people for a type. It is better to consider modern civilisation as a whole. Nor is there so marked a distance as you appear to suppose, between the brain capacity of a negro and that of the Latin race.
However, if you insist upon a comparison, I can assure you that the men of the planet of Virgo are almost on a par intellectually with the Scandinavians.
The most vital difference which exists between their world and the Earth, is the absence of sex. Neither plants, animals, nor human beings have sex. Generation is effected spontaneously, as the natural result of the union of certain physiological conditions in some of the fertile isles of this planet, man not being formed in the womb of his mother as upon earth. It would be useless to explain the process, to one whose earthly faculties prevent him comprehending the facts of a world distinctly different from his own. It results from this organic arrangement, that marriage in any form does not exist in this world, and that the friendships between human beings are never mixed with the carnal desires, which are inevitably manifested on the Earth between people of different sexes, even when the attraction is most pure. Probably you will remember that during the protozoic period, the inhabitants of the Earth were all deaf, dumb, and sexless. The division into sexes took place much later in the history of Nature both among animals and plants.
Being attracted towards this far-off planet I attentively examined its surface with my spiritual sight, and I was specially drawn, without knowing the cause, to a white city, resembling from afar a region covered with snow; but it is improbable that it was snow, as it is unlikely that water can exist on that globe in the same physical and chemical conditions as upon the Earth. Upon the borders of this city an avenue led to a neighbouring wood of yellow trees. I soon remarked three persons who seemed to be slowly sauntering towards this wood. This little group was formed of two friends, who were in close conversation, and of a third, who differed from both by his red garment and the burden he bore, and who was probably their servant, their slave, or some domestic animal. Whilst intently regarding the two principal personages, I observed the one to the right raise his face to the sky, as if some one had called him from a balloon, and turn his gaze towards Capella, a star which, doubtless, he did not see, because for him it was then daylight. Oh, my old friend, I shall never forget the sudden surprise this sight gave me! I can still scarcely believe that I was not dreaming. . .
This person on the planet of Virgo, who was looking towards me without knowing it, was. . . Can I tell you? Well, it was myself!
Quærens: How yourself?
Lumen: Yes, my very self. I recognised myself instantly, and you can judge of my surprise!
Quærens: Certainly I can. I cannot comprehend it at all.
Lumen: The fact is, the situation was so entirely novel that it demands explanation. It was in truth myself, and I was not long in finding out, not only that it was my former face and figure, but also that the person walking by my side was my dear Kathleen, an intimate friend, and the companion of my studies upon that planet. My gaze followed them as far as the Yellow Wood, across picturesque valleys, beneath golden cupolas, under trees covered with large orange-tinted branches, and through hedges of elms with amber-coloured leaves. A purling brook babbled on the fine sand, and we seated ourselves on its banks.
I recall sweet hours we have passed together, the happy years which have glided away in this far-off country, the fraternal confidences, and the impressions we shared, in the midst of woodland scenes, of silent plains, of mist-covered hills, and of little lakes which smilingly reflected the heavens. With aspirations raised towards all that was grand and sacred in nature, we adored God in His works. With what joy I saw again this phase of my previous existence, and riveted anew the golden chain, whose links life on Earth had broken!
In truth, dear Quærens, it was my very self who then was living on that planet of Virgo. I really saw myself, and I could follow in sequence the events of my life and the happiest moments of that existence, now so far remote.
Besides, if I had had any doubt of my identity, the uncertainty would have ceased during my observation, for whilst pondering upon the matter, I saw Berthor--my brother during that existence--come out of the wood, approach us, and join in our conversation by the side of the murmuring brook.
Quærens: Master, I fail still to comprehend how you could really see yourself on that planet of Virgo. Were you then gifted with ubiquity?
Could you, like Francis of Assisi or Apollonius of Tyana, be in two places at the same time?
Lumen: Certainly not. But in examining the astronomical co-ordinates of the Sun Gamma in Virgo, and knowing its parallax as seen from Capella, I came to the conclusion that the light from this Sun could not employ less than 172 years in traversing the distance which separates it from Capella.
I was then actually receiving the luminous ray which left that world 172 years before. And it so happens that at that epoch I was absolutely living upon the planet of which we speak, and that I was then in my twentieth year. In verifying these periods, and in comparing the different planetary styles, I found, in fact, that I was born on the world of Virgo in the year 45904 (which corresponds to the year 1677 of the Christian era on Earth), and that I died--through an accident--in the year 45913, which corresponds to the year 1767. Each year of this planet equals ten of yours. When I saw myself, as I have just told you, I appeared to be about twenty years of age according to earthly reckoning, but following the way of reckoning on that planet, I was only two years old. There the age of fifteen years is often reached, which is considered the limit of life on that globe, and is equivalent to 150 years on the Earth.
The luminous ray, or, to speak more accurately, the aspect or photograph of the world of Virgo, takes 172 earthly years to traverse the immense space which separates it from Capella; consequently, upon finding myself upon this last star I was receiving at that very moment the image which left the constellation of Virgo 172 years previously. And although things have changed greatly, though generations have followed generations, though I died there myself, and have had time to be born again and live seventy-two years on the Earth, nevertheless light had taken all this time to cross the space which separates Virgo from Capella, and was bringing afresh to me impressions of events long passed away.
Quærens: This duration of the passage of light being proved, I have not any objection to urge on this point, but I frankly own that to credit an experience of such amazing singularity, taxes my imagination beyond its just limits.
Lumen: This is not any imagination, my old friend. It is a reality, eternal and sacred, holding its fixed place in the universal plan of creation. The light of every star, direct or reflected--say otherwise, the aspect of each Sun, and of each planet--is diffused in space, according to a rate of rapidity already known to you, and the luminous ray contains in itself all that is visible. As nothing can be lost, the history of each world is contained in the light which incessantly emanates from it in successive waves, eternally travelling into infinite space without any possibility of its being annihilated. True, the terrestrial eye cannot read it; but there are eyes immeasurably superior to your earthly ones.
I make use of the terms sight and light, in these conversations, in order that you may comprehend them; but, as I told you in a previous communication, speaking absolutely, there is not such a thing as light, only vibrations of ether; neither is there any sight, only perceptions of the mind. Moreover, even upon the Earth, when you examine the nature of a star with a telescope, or better still with a spectroscope, you well know it is not its actual state you have before your eyes, but its past state, transmitted to you by a ray of light which left it, perhaps, ten thousand years ago. You know, besides, that a contain number of stars, of which your astronomers on the Earth are seeking to determine the physical and numerical properties, and which shine brilliantly over your heads, have long ago ceased even to exist--may indeed have ceased to exist since the beginning of your world.
Quærens: We know this is so. Thus you have seen, unrolled before your eyes, your existence previous to the last one, 172 years after it had flown by.
Lumen: Say rather one phase of this existence; but I could have been able, and could now indeed review my entire life by going closer to that planet, as I have already done for my terrestrial existence.
Quærens: So, through the medium of light, you have really seen again your last two incarnations?
Lumen: Precisely; and what is more, I have seen them, and continue to see them, simultaneously, side by side as it were of one another.
Quærens: You see them again both at the same time?
Lumen: This fact is easily explained. The light from the Earth takes seventy-two years to reach Capella. The light from the planet of Virgo, being once and a half farther off than Capella, takes once and a half longer time to travel, which would make it about 172 years. As I lived seventy-two years upon the Earth, and one hundred years before that upon the other planet, these two periods reach me at precisely the same time upon Capella. Thus by simply looking at these two worlds, I have before me my last two existences, which unroll themselves as if I were not here to see them, and without my being able to change any of the acts that I see myself upon the point of accomplishing, either upon the one or the other, since those acts, although present and future to my actual observation, are in reality past.
Quærens: This is indeed a strange experience!
Lumen: But what struck me most in this unexpected observation of two of my previous existences in two different worlds, thus unrolled before me, was the odd resemblance between these two lives. I found that I had almost the same tastes in the one as in the other, the same passions, the same errors. Nothing criminal, nothing saintly in either.
Furthermore (extraordinary coincidence), I have witnessed scenes in the first analogous to those I have seen upon the Earth. This explains the innate tastes I brought into the terrestrial world, for the poetry of the North, the poems of Ossian, the dreamy landscape of Ireland, for its mountains and its Aurora Borealis. For Scotland, Scandinavia, Sweden, Norway with its fiords, Spitzbergen with its solitudes--all alike attracted me. Old towers in ruins, rocks and wild ravines, sombre pines soughing with the northern winds--all these appealed to me on the Earth, and seemed to have some mysterious link with my deepest thoughts. When I saw Ireland for the first time, I felt as if I had lived there before. When for the first time I ascended the Rigi and the Finsteraarhorn, and saw the superb sunrise over the snowy summits of the Alps, it seemed as if I had previously seen all this. The spectre of the Brocken was not new, the reason being that I had in a former life inhabited similar regions on the planet of Virgo. The same life, the same actions, the same circumstances, the same conditions--analogies, analogies! Almost all that I have seen, done, thought on the Earth, I had already seen, done, thought a hundred years before upon that anterior world. I had always suspected it! Taking it altogether, however, my terrestrial life as a whole was superior to the one preceding it. Each child in coming into the world brings with him different faculties, special predispositions, innate dissimilarities, which no one denies, and can only be explained to the philosophical mind, --or in view of eternal Justice,--by the supposition of works previously accomplished by free souls.
But though my terrestrial life was superior to its anterior one, evincing, as it did, a more accurate and profound knowledge of the system of the World, it yet lacked, I am bound to state, the possession of certain moral and physical qualities which belonged to me in my former existence.
On the other hand, I had faculties on that World which I had not had upon the Earth. I may cite one specially, that of flying.
I see that on the planet of Virgo I could fly, just as easily as walk, and this without either aeronautic apparatus or wings, by simply stretching my arms and legs as if I were swimming in the water. On closely examining the mode of locomotion in use on that planet, I see clearly that I have (or rather had) neither wings, balloon, nor any kind of mechanical appliance. At a given moment I spring from the ground by a vigorous leap, and, spreading out my arms, sail in the air without fatigue. At other times, descending a steep mountain on foot, I spring out into space, with feet pressed together, and float at will, with a slow and oblique motion, to any point I wish, standing upright as soon as my feet touch the ground.
Then again, when I wish to do so, I fly slowly in the manner of a dove which describes a curve in returning to its dovecot. All this I distinctly see myself doing in this world. Not once, but a hundred, a thousand times have I thus felt myself transported in my dreams on Earth softly, naturally, and without apparatus. How can such impossibilities so often present themselves to us in our dreams? Nothing can explain them, for nothing analogous exists upon this earthly globe. Obeying instinctively this innate tendency, I have frequently soared into the atmosphere suspended from the car of a balloon, but the sensation is not the same; one does not feel one's self flying; on the contrary, one has the feeling of being stationary.
I now have the key to my dreams. During the slumber of my terrestrial senses my soul had reminiscences of its anterior existence.
Quærens: But I also often feel, and see myself flying in dreams in precisely the way you describe, without wings or machinery, and simply by an effort of will. Is this, then, a proof that I also have lived upon the planet of Virgo?
Lumen: I do not know. If you had abnormal sight, or instruments, or eyes sufficiently piercing, you could see this planet from your globe, examine its surface, and if, perchance, you had existed there when it parted with the luminous rays which have actually reached the Earth, you might perhaps find yourself again there. But your eyes are too feeble to make a like research. Besides, it does not follow that because you have been able to fly, that therefore you have lived in that world. There are a considerable number of worlds where flying is the normal condition, and where all the human race possess this faculty. In reality, there are but few planets where the living creatures crawl as upon the Earth.
Quærens: The conclusion resulting then from your experience is, that you have had a life anterior to that upon the Earth. Do you, then, believe in a plurality of existences for the soul?
Lumen: You forget that you speak to a disembodied spirit. I ought to be well fitted to give such evidence, having before me both my earthly life and my anterior life upon the planet of Virgo. Besides, I can recall many other existences.
Quærens: Ah! that is precisely what I lack in order to possess a similar conviction. I can recall absolutely nothing that preceded my birth into this world.
Lumen: You are yet in the flesh; you must wait for freedom from earthly fetters before you can recall your spiritual life. The soul has only full remembrance, full possession of itself in its normal, its celestial life; that is to say, between its incarnations. It then sees not only its life on the Earth, but all its anterior lives.
How could a soul, enveloped in the gross materialities of the flesh, and fixed there for a transitory work, recall its spiritual life? Would not such a remembrance even prove hurtful? What trammels would not be put upon the soul's liberty of action, could it see its life from beginning to the end?
Where would be the merit of striving if one's destiny could be foreseen?
Souls incarnated upon the Earth have not yet attained to a sufficiently elevated state of advancement, for the memory of their anterior life to be of use to them.
The permanence of the anterior impressions of the soul is not manifested in this world of passage. The caterpillar does not remember its rudimentary existence in the egg. The sleeping chrysalis cannot recall the days it spent in work when it crawled upon the herbage. The butterfly, which flits from flower to flower, has not any memory of the time when its cocoon dreamed, as it hung suspended from its web; nor of the twilight, when its larvæ trailed from plant to plant; nor of the night, when it was buried like a nut in its shell. This does not alter the fact that the egg, the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly, are one and the same being.
In certain cases, even of terrestrial life, you have remarkable examples of forgetfulness, such as that of somnambulism, either natural or artificial, and also in certain psychical conditions of which modern science makes a study. Hence it is not surprising that during one existence we should not remember our anterior ones. Uranic life and planetary life represent two states, free and distinct the one from the other.
Quærens: Still, master, if we had already lived a life before this one, something of it would remain with us, otherwise these anterior existences might as well never have been.
Lumen: Do you, then, call it nothing to be upon on the Earth with innate tendencies? Such a thing as intellectual heredity does not exist. Take two children of the same parentage, receiving identically the same education, surrounded by the same care, and having in every respect similar environments. Now examine each of them. Are they equal? Not in any way; equality of souls does not exist. The one is born with pacific instincts and great intelligence.
He will be good, learned, wise, illustrious perchance, amid the thinkers of his age. The other one brings with him a domineering, envious perhaps, or even a brutal instinct. His career defines and accentuates itself as each year passes, and will lead him eventually to high rank in military life, and will give him the honour (little to be coveted, though still admired upon the Earth) which is attached to the title of an official assassin.
Whether feebly or strongly pronounced, this dissimilarity of character, which depends neither upon family, nor upon race, nor upon education, nor upon material conditions, is manifest in every man. Reflect upon this at your leisure; you will arrive at the conviction that it is absolutely inexplicable, and can only be accounted for by belief in an anterior life of the soul.
Quærens: Have not most philosophers and theologians taught that the soul and the body are created at one and the same time?
Lumen: And which, pray, is the precise moment of its creation? Is it at the moment of birth? Legislation, enlightened by anatomical physiology, knows that a child lives before being delivered from its uterine prison, therefore the destruction of an embryo of eight months is regarded as murder. At what period do you then suppose, that the soul appears in the fluid brain of the foetus or of the embryo?
Quærens: It was thought in olden times that the real spiritual quickening of the human being took place during the sixth week of gestation, but the modern belief is that it occurs at the moment of conception.
Lumen: Oh, bitter mockery! In accordance with this view you would have the eternal designs of the Creator dependent in their execution upon capricious desires, upon the intermittent flames of two amorous hearts! You would dare to admit that our immortal being is created by the physical contact of two human beings! You would be disposed to believe that the Divine Head which governs the worlds, is influenced by intrigue, by passion, even by crime! You would think that the number of souls depends upon the number of flowers impregnated by the touch of the sweet pollen dust borne to them on golden wings?
Is not such a doctrine, such a supposition, an outrage upon the Divine dignity and the spiritual grandeur of the soul itself? And would it not, besides, be the complete materialisation of our intellectual faculties?
Quærens: And yet----
Lumen: Yes; that seems so to you, because upon your planet no soul can incarnate itself otherwise than in a human embryo. It is a law of life on the Earth. But you must look through the veil. The soul is not an effect. The body serves it only as its garment.
Quærens: I admit that it would indeed be singular that an event of such dire importance as the creation of an immortal soul should spring from a carnal cause, should be the result of casual unions, more or less legitimate. Also, I agree with you that organic causes do not explain the different degrees of capacity with which mankind is born into this world.
But I ask, of what use would be those various existences if, on beginning a new life, we retain no remembrance of those that precede it? Also, if it is really desirable to have in prospect a journey without end through endless worlds, and an eternal transmigration? For at last there must be an end to it all, and, after many æons of voyages, we must some day finish our existence and seek repose. Would it not be as well to do so after one existence only?
Lumen: O men! You do not comprehend either time or space. Do you not know that outside the movement of the stars time no longer exists, and that eternity is no longer measured? Do you not know that in the infinite extent of the sidereal universe space is but a vain word, no longer measurable? You ignore all; principles, causes, all escape you: atoms upon a movable atom, you have not any exact appreciation of the universe; and yet, despite ignorance so dense, and comprehension so obscure, you would attempt to judge all, to envelop all, to seize all! But it would be easier to put the ocean into a nutshell than it would be to make you, with your terrestrial brain, understand the law of destiny.
Can you not, then, by making a legitimate use of the faculty of induction which has been given you, gather the direct consequences resulting from observation supported by reason? Observation, sustained by proof, shows conclusively that all are not equal on coming into this world; that the past is not unlike the future; and that the eternity which is before us is equally behind us;
that nothing is created in nature, and that nothing is annihilated; that nature includes all things existing, and that God, spirit, law, number, are no more outside nature than matter, weight, motion; that moral truth, justice, wisdom, virtue, exist in the progress of the world as surely as its physical reality; that justice decrees equity in the distribution of its destinies; that our destinies are not accomplished upon this earthly planet; that the empyrean heaven does not exist, and that the Earth is a star in the sky; that other inhabited planets soar with ours in the vast expanse; opening out to the wings of the soul an inexhaustible field of vision, and that the infinite in the universe corresponds, in the material creation, with the eternity of our intelligence in the spiritual creation.
Are not certainties such as these, followed by the inductions with which they inspire us, sufficient to liberate your mind from ancient prejudices, and to open out, to an enlightened judgment, a panorama worthy of the vague yet profound desires of our souls? I could illustrate this general sketch by examples and details which would surprise you still more. Let it suffice for me to add that there are in nature other forces than those you know, which, both in essence and in mode of action, differ from electricity, attraction, light, &c.
Now, among these natural and unknown forces there is one in particular, the study of which will ultimately lead to singular discoveries in elucidating the problems of the soul and of life. This is the psychic force. This invisible fluidic force establishes a mysterious bond, unknown to themselves, between living beings, and already in many cases you have been able to recognise its existence. Take the case of two beings in love (as the saying is). It seems impossible for them to live apart.
Should circumstances lead to their being separated, our two lovers become absent-minded, and their souls as it were leave their bodies, and span any distance which prevents them re-uniting with one another. The thoughts of the one are shared by the other, and they live together despite their separation.
Should any misfortune touch one, the other becomes immediately conscious of it; and such separations have been known to end in death. How many facts have been stated by trustworthy witnesses of the sudden apparition of a person to an intimate friend, of a wife to a husband, of a mother to a son, and vice versâ, just at the moment of death, even though many leagues might separate them! The most captious critic cannot in these days deny facts thus circumstantially proved. Twin children living ten leagues apart, and under very different conditions, are stricken at the same time with the same malady, or if one is excessively fatigued, the other feels the same without apparently any assignable cause. And so on. Those facts prove that ties of sympathy exist between souls and even between bodies, and give room for the repeated reflection, that we are far from knowing all the forces operating in nature.
If I communicate these views to you, my friend, it is chiefly to show that you can not only have a foretaste of truth before death, but also that earthly existence is not so entirely deprived of light, as to prevent one's reason recognising the chief characteristics of the moral world. Besides, all these truths will be emphasised by my further narration, when you learn that it is not only the previous existence before my last one that I have seen again, thanks to the slowness of light, but also my ante-penultimate planetary life, inclusive of more than ten existences preceding that one in which we came to know each other upon this Earth.
Quærens: Reflection and study had already inclined me, Lumen, to believe in the plurality of the existences of the soul. Yet this doctrine lacks proofs, logical, moral, and even physical, as numerous and as weighty as are those in favour of the plurality of the inhabited worlds. I own that until now I had grave doubts on the subject. Modern optics and marvellous calculations, which enable us to touch, as it were, the other worlds, show us their years, their seasons, their days, and make us acquainted with the varieties of nature living on their surface. All these elements have enabled contemporaneous astronomy to establish the fact of human existence in the other worlds on a strong and imperishable foundation. But I repeat that it is not so with palingenesis, though I am strongly inclined towards the doctrine of the transmigration of souls in the actual heaven, since this is the only way by which we can gain an idea of eternal life. My desires, however, need to be sustained by the help of a light, and inspired by a confidence I do not yet possess.
Lumen: It is precisely this light which we have under consideration, and will be brought out by this interview.
I have, I own, an advantage over you, since I speak de visu, and that I strictly limit myself to interpret with exactitude the events with which my spiritual life is actually woven. But since you can see the possibility and probability of the scientific explanation of my statement, you cannot fail as you listen to increase your light and augment your knowledge.
Quærens: It is for this cause chiefly that I am always eager to hear you.
Lumen: Light, you understand, is the means of giving to the disincarnated soul a direct vision of its planetary existences.
After having reviewed my earthly existence, I saw once more my life previous to my last one, upon one of the planets of Gamma in Virgo, light bringing to me the former only after 72 years, and the latter after 172 years. I see myself at present from Capella as I was upon the earth 72 years ago, and as I was upon Virgo 172 years ago. Thus two existences, both past and successive, are here shown me as present and simultaneous, by virtue of the laws of light which transmit them to me.
Nearly five hundred years ago, I lived upon a world whose astronomical position as seen from the earth is precisely that of the left breast of Andromeda. Assuredly the inhabitants of that world do not suspect that the denizens of a little planet in space have joined the stars by fictitious lines, tracing figures of men, women, animals, and divers objects, incorporating all the stars in figures more or less original, in order to give them a name. It would greatly astonish some of these planetary people if they were told, that upon the Earth certain stars bear the names of Heart-of-the-Scorpion (what a heart!), Head-of-the-Dog, Tail-of-the-Great-Bear, Eye-of-the-Bull, Neck-of-the-Dragon, Brow-of-Capricorn.
You are, of course, aware that neither the constellations drawn upon the celestial globe, nor the position of the stars upon that globe, are either real or absolute, but are only the result of the position of the Earth in space, and thus are simply a question of perspective. Go to the top of a mountain and fix upon a map the respective positions of all the summits surrounding you in that circular panorama, its hills, its valleys, its villages, its lakes; a map so constructed could only serve for the place from whence it was drawn. Now transport yourself ten miles further; the same summits are visible, but their respective positions in regard to each other are different, resulting from the change in perspective. The panorama of the Alps and of the Oberland, as seen from Lucerne, and Pilatus does not in the least resemble that seen from the Fulkhorn, or from the Schynige Platte above Interlaken. Yet these are the same summits and the same lakes. It is exactly so with the stars. The same aspect is seen both from the star Delta in Andromeda and from the Earth; but there is not a constellation that can be recognised, because all the celestial perspectives have changed; stars of the first magnitude have become of the second and of the third; whilst others, of lesser magnitudes, seen nearer, shine with increased brilliancy; and, above all, the respective situation of the stars as regards one another has completely changed in consequence of the different position of that star and of the Earth.
Quærens: Therefore the appearance of the constellation which one has so long believed to be ineffaceably traced upon the vaulted sky is only due to perspective. In changing our position we change our perspective, and our sky is no longer the same. But, then, ought we not to have a change of celestial perspective every six months, since during this interval the Earth has greatly altered its position, having removed to a distance of seventy-four millions of leagues from the place it formerly occupied?
Lumen: This objection proves that you have perfectly comprehended the principle of the deformation of the constellations as one moves in any direction in space.
It would be, as you suppose, if the Earth's orbit were of a dimension sufficiently vast for the two opposite points of this orbit to change the view of this celestial scenery.
Quærens: Seventy-four millions of leagues----
Lumen: Are as nothing in the order of celestial distances, and can no more affect the perspectives of the stars, than taking a step in the cupola of the Pantheon would change the apparent position of the buildings in Paris to the eye of the observer.
Quærens: Certain charts of the Middle Ages represent the Zodiac as an arch in the heavens, and place some of the constellations, such as Andromeda, the Lyre, Cassiopea, and the Eagle, in the same region as the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Thrones. That, therefore, was simply fancy, since constellations have no real existence, but are simply appearances due to perspective.
Lumen: Certainly the old heaven of theology has no legitimate place to-day, and simple common sense shows that it does not exist. Two truths cannot oppose one another; it is a necessity that the spiritual heaven should accord with the physical heaven, and the object of my various conversations is the demonstration of this truth. Upon the world of Andromeda of which I speak, there is nothing resembling the constellation of Andromeda. Seen from the Earth, those stars which appear joined and have served on the celestial landscape to distinguish the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopea, are in reality spread out in space at all sorts of distances, and in every direction. One cannot find either there or elsewhere the least vestige of the tracings of terrestrial mythology.
Quærens: All its poetry is lost.. . . I shall feel, however, a certain satisfaction in believing that for a part of my life I have rested on the bosom of Andromeda. It is a pleasant fancy. There is in it a mythological perfume and a comforting sensation. I should like to be transported there without fear of the monster, and without solicitude for the young Perseus bearing the head of the Medusa, and mounted on his famous Pegasus. But now, thanks to the scalpel of science, there is no longer an unveiled princess bound to a rock on the sea-shore, nor a virgin holding an ear of golden corn, nor Orion pursuing the Pleiades; Venus has vanished from our evening sky, and old Saturn has let fall his scythe in the night. Science has caused these ancient myths to disappear! I regret its progress.
Lumen: Do you, then, prefer illusion to reality? Do you not know that truth is immeasurably more beautiful, grander, and infinitely more marvellous than error, however that may be embellished? What can be compared in all the mythologies past and present, to the rapt scientific contemplation of celestial grandeurs and the sublime movements of nature? What impression can strike the soul more profoundly than the fact of the expanse crowded with worlds, and the immensity of the sidereal systems? What voice is more eloquent than the silence of a star-lit night? What wild flight of imagination could conceive an image surpassing that, of the interstellar voyage of light, stamping with the seal of eternity the transitory events of the life of each world?
Throw off, then, my friend, your old errors and become worthy of the majesty of science. Listen to what follows:--
By reason of the time light employs in coming from the system δ of Andromeda to Capella, I have seen again, in this year of 1869, my ante-penultimate existence, already ended five hundred years ago. That world is very singular according to our ideas. It has only one kingdom on its surface, and that is the animal kingdom. The vegetable kingdom does not exist there. But that animal kingdom is very different from ours, and of a superior kind, although it is endowed with five senses similar to those on the Earth. It is a world without sleep and without fixity. It is entirely enveloped in a rose-coloured ocean, less dense than terrestrial water, and more dense than our atmosphere. It is a substance holding a middle place as a fluid, between air and water. Terrestrial chemistry does not produce any similar substance, therefore it would be in vain to try and represent it to you. Carbolic acid gas that can be held invisible at the bottom of a glass, and can be poured out like water, will give you the nearest idea of it. This is due to a fixed quantity of heat and electricity held in permanence upon that globe.
You are aware that the composition of all things upon the Earth, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, is in three states, solid, liquid, and gaseous, and that the sole cause of these different conditions is the heat radiated from the Sun upon the surface of the Earth. The interior heat of the globe has now hardly any appreciable effect upon its surface.
Less solar heat would liquefy gases and solidify liquids. Greater heat would dissolve solids and evaporate liquids. A more or less quantity of heat would produce liquid air (yes, liquid air), and marble would be turned into gas. If by any cause whatever the earthly planet were one day to fly off from its orbit at a tangent, and rush away into the glacial obscurity of space, you would see all the water on the Earth become solid, and gases in their turn become liquids; then as to solids themselves. . . you would see!
No, you could not see this by remaining upon the Earth, but you could from the depths of space witness this curious spectacle, should your globe ever indulge in the freak of escaping from its orbit at a tangent. And note further, that should this colossal cold ever take place suddenly, all creatures would find themselves immediately frozen on the spot, and the globe would carry into space the singular panorama of the whole human race, and every animal immovably congealed for all eternity, in the various attitudes assumed by each individual and each creature, at the moment of the catastrophe.
There are worlds now in this state. They are eccentric worlds, the life of whose inhabitants has been insensibly arrested by the rapid flight of their planet away from the Sun, and they have been transformed into millions of statues. Most of them are lying down asleep, seeing that this profound change of temperature takes many days in its accomplishment. There they are by millions, pell-mell, dead, or, to be more accurate, sunk in a complete lethargy. The cold preserves them. Three or four thousand years later, when the planet returns from its dark and frozen aphelion to its brilliant perihelion, towards the sun--whose fertilising heat caressing its surface with welcoming rays will rapidly increase--and when it has reached the degree which betokens the normal temperature of these beings, they will be resuscitated at the age at which they were when overtaken by sleep;
they will take up their affairs from the moment of their interruption (long interruption indeed!) without any consciousness that they had slept a dreamless sleep for so many ages. One may see some continuing a game, or finishing a phrase whose first words have been uttered four thousand years ago. All this is perfectly simple, for we have seen that time does not in reality exist. This, on a large scale, is exactly what passes on a small one on the Earth when you revive infusoria, which take a fresh lease of life under the rain, after several years of apparent death.
But to return to our world of Andromeda; the rose-coloured and quasi-liquid atmosphere, surrounding it entirely as an ocean without islands, is the abode of living beings, who are perpetually floating in the depths of that ocean which none have ever sounded: from their birth to their death they have not one moment's repose. Incessant activity is the condition of their existence. Should they become stationary they would perish. In order to breathe, that is to say, to enable this fluid element to penetrate to their bosom, they are constrained to keep their tentacles in unceasing motion, and their lungs (I use this word the better to be understood) constantly open.
The external form of this human race resembles that of the sirens of antiquity, but is less elegant, and their organism approaches that of the seal. Do you see the essential difference between their constitution and that of terrestrial man? It is that on the Earth we breathe without being conscious of the act, and obtain oxygen without exertion, not being compelled with difficulty to convert venous into arterial blood by the absorption of oxygen. Upon this other world, on the contrary, this nourishment is only obtained with labour, and at the price of incessant effort.
Quærens: Then this world is inferior to ours in the scale of progress?
Lumen: Without any doubt, seeing that I inhabited it before coming upon the Earth. But do not think that the Earth is much superior by reason of our being able to breathe whilst we are asleep. Doubtless, it is a great advantage to be furnished with a pneumatic mechanism, which opens involuntarily every time that our organism needs the least breath of air, and which acts automatically and unceasingly night and day. But man does not live on air alone; his earthly organism requires to be nourished with something more solid, and this solid something does not come to him involuntarily as does air.
What is the result? Look for a moment at the Earth. See what sorrow, what desolation! What a world of misery and brutality! Multitudes bowed down with bent backs to the soil, which they dig with toil and pain, that they may gain their daily bread! All these heads bent down to the grossness of matter, in place of being raised up to the contemplation of nature! All these efforts and these labours, bringing in their wake feebleness and disease! All this trouble to amass a little gold at the expense of others! Man taking advantage of his brother man! Castes, aristocracies, robbery and ruin, ambitions, thrones, wars! In a word, personal interests, always selfish, often sordid, and the reign of matter over mind. Such is the normal state of the Earth, a condition forced by the law which rules over your bodies, compelling you to kill in order to live, and to prefer the possession of material goods that cannot be carried beyond the grave, to the possession of intellectual gifts, which the soul can keep as a rich and inalienable possession.
Quærens: You speak, master, as if you thought it were possible to live without eating.
Lumen: Do you, then, believe that the beings of every world in space are subject to an operation so ridiculous as this? Happily, in many of the worlds, the spirit is not subjected to such ignominy.
It is not so difficult as you may suppose, on first thoughts, to believe in the possibility of atmospheric nutriment. The maintenance of life among man and the animals depends upon two causes, respiration and nutrition. The first is found naturally in the atmosphere; the second is derived from nourishment. Nutrition produces blood; from the blood come the tissues, the muscles, the bones, the cartilages, the flesh, the brain, the nerves, in a word, the organic constituents of the body. The oxygen we breathe can itself be considered as a nutritive substance, inasmuch as it combines with the principal aliments absorbed by the stomach, and completes the formation of the blood and the development of the tissues.
Now, to imagine nutrition passing entirely into the domain of the atmosphere, it is only necessary to observe that, as a whole, a complete aliment is made up of albumen, of sugar, of fat, and of salt, and to imagine also that an atmospheric fluid, in place of being composed of azote and oxygen only, should be formed of these different substances in a gaseous state. These aliments are found in the solids that you absorb; digestion is the function which separates them, and which causes them to assimilate with the organs to which they belong.
When, for example, you eat a morsel of bread, you introduce into your stomach a grain of starch, a substance insoluble in water, and which is not found in the blood. The saliva, and the pancreatic juice, transform the insoluble starch into soluble sugar. The bile, the pancreatic juice, and the intestinal secretions, change the sugar into fat. Both sugar and fat are present in the blood, and it is by the processes of alimentation that substances are separated and assimilated in your body.
It astonishes you, my friend, that after living five years--according to terrestrial reckoning--in the celestial world, I can remember all these material terms, and condescend to make use of them. But the memories that I have brought from the Earth are still vivid, and as we speak on this occasion on a question of organic physiology, I do not feel ashamed of calling things by their own names.
If, then, we suppose that in place of being combined or mixed in the constitution of bodies, solid or liquid, these aliments could be found in a gaseous state in the composition of the atmosphere, we should create by this means nutritive atmospheres, which would dispense with digestion and its attendant coarse and humiliating functions.
That which man is capable of imagining in the restricted sphere of his observation, Nature has put in practice in more than one spot of the universe.
Besides, I can assure you that when one has ceased to be accustomed to this material process of the introduction of nourishment into the digestive tube, one cannot avoid being impressed with its coarseness. This was the reflection I made a few days ago whilst observing one of the richest countries on your planet. I was struck by the suave and angelic beauty of a maiden, reclining in a gondola as it floated gently on the blue waters of the Bosphorus before Constantinople. Red velvet cushions, embroidered with brilliant silks, whose heavy tassels of gold touched the water, formed the divan of this young Circassian. Before her knelt a little black slave playing upon some stringed instrument. Her form was so juvenile and graceful, her bended arm so elegant, her eyes so pure and innocent, her pensive brow so calm under the light of heaven, that for an instant I was captivated by a kind of retrospective admiration for this masterpiece of living nature.
Well! while this pure vision of awakening youth, sweet as a flower opening its petals to the sun's rays, held me in a kind of passing enchantment, the bark reached the landing-stage, and the maiden, leaning on a slave, seated herself on a couch near a well-spread table, around which others had already gathered. She began to eat! Yes! for near an hour she was eating!
I could scarcely tolerate the earthly recollections recalled by this ridiculous spectacle. To see a being like that partaking of food through the mouth, and making her charming body the receptacle for I do not know what substances! What vulgarity! Masticating morsels of some kind of animal which her pearly teeth did not disdain to chew, and again fragments of another animal which her virginal lips opened without hesitation to receive and swallow! What a diet: a medley of ingredients drawn from cattle, or from deer, which have lived in the mire and afterwards been slaughtered. Horror! I turned away with sadness from this strange contrast, and directed my gaze to the system of Saturn, where humanity need not stoop to such necessities.
The floating beings belonging to the world of Andromeda, where my antepenultimate existence was passed, are submitted to a still more degrading manner of sustaining life than are the inhabitants of the Earth. They have not the advantage of finding three parts of their nutriment supplied by the air, as is the case on your globe: they must work to obtain what may be called their oxygen, and, without ceasing, they are condemned to use their lungs in order to prepare the nutritious air they need, without sleeping, and without ever feeling satisfied, because, despite their incessant toil they cannot absorb more than a small quantity at a time. Thus they pass their entire life, and finally die victims to the struggle for existence.
Quærens: Better far never to have been born! But does not the same reflection apply to the Earth?
What is the use of being born, to weary one's self with endless work and worry, to turn in the same daily treadmill for sixty or a hundred years; to sleep, to eat, to work, to speak, to run, to err, to agitate, to dream, ad infinitum? Of what use is all this? Would not one be just as advanced if one were extinguished the day after birth, or, better still, if one did not take the trouble to come into the world? Nature would not go on in any worse fashion, and even if it did, no one would be the wiser. And one might ask, of what use is Nature herself and why does the universe exist at all?
Lumen: That is the great mystery. Yet must all destinies be accomplished. The world of Andromeda is decidedly an inferior one. To give you an idea of the poor mental calibre of its inhabitants, I will cite two examples, selecting the subjects of religion and politics, as these are generally the best criterions of the value of a people. In religion, in place of seeking for God in nature, and of basing their judgment on science, instead of aspiring to the truth, and of using their eyes to see and their reason to comprehend--in a word, in place of establishing the foundations of their philosophy upon knowledge as exact as possible of the order which governs the world--they are divided into sects,
who are voluntarily blind, and believe they render homage to their pretended God by ceasing to reason, and think they adore Him, in maintaining that their anthill is unique in space; by reciting phrases and in injuring other sects, and alas! by blessing swords, and burnings at the stake, and in authorising massacres and wars. Their doctrines contain assertions which seem expressly imagined to outrage common sense. These are precisely those which constitute the articles of their faith and belief!
They are stupid in politics. The most intelligent and pure-minded do not understand each other. Therefore the Republic seems to be a form of government which cannot be realised. Tracing the annals of their history as far back as possible, one sees a people, cowardly and indifferent, deliberately choosing, rather than govern themselves, to be led by an individual claiming to be their Basileus, their king. This chief deprives them of three-fourths of their resources, keeping for himself and his, the atmosphere containing the greatest amount of rose-essence--that is to say, that he keeps the best in the land for his own use; he numbers his subjects, and from time to time sends them to fight with neighbouring peoples, who, like themselves, are subject to a similar Basileus.
Marshalling them like shoals of herrings, he directs them on either side towards the field of battle, which they call the field of honour, they then destroy one another like furious fools, without knowing why, and without, for that matter, the power to comprehend, as they do not even speak the same language.
And do you imagine that those who, most favoured by chance, live to return, feel any hatred against their Basileus?
Nothing of the kind. The remnant of the army who live to see their homes again, think nothing more natural than to celebrate their thanksgivings in company with the dignitaries of their sects, supplicating their God to grant long life to, and to pour blessings upon, the worthy man whom they designate their father and king.
Quærens: I gather from this narration, that the inhabitants of Delta Andromeda are, both physically and intellectually, greatly our inferiors, for upon the Earth we do not regulate our affairs in this manner. . . In short, upon their globe there is only one living kingdom, and that a mobile one, without repose, without sleep, kept in perpetual agitation by reason of an inexorable fate. A world like this strikes me as being very fantastic.
Lumen: What, then, would you say of the one I inhabited fifteen centuries ago? A world also containing only one kingdom, and that not a movable one, but, on the contrary, as fixed as is your vegetable kingdom?
Quærens: How! Animals and men held down by roots?
Lumen: My existence anterior to that upon the world of Andromeda was passed upon Venus, a planet near to the Earth, where I can remember myself as a woman. Not that I have directly seen myself there, for, according to the law of light, it would require the same length of time to travel from Venus to Capella as it would from the Earth to Capella, and I consequently see Venus only as it was seventy-two years ago, and not as it was nine hundred years ago, which was the epoch of my existence upon that planet.
My fourth life, previous to my terrestrial one, was passed upon an immense annular planet belonging to the constellation Cygnus, situated in the zone of the Milky Way. This singular world is inhabited solely by trees.
Quærens: That is to say, that so far only plants are there, and neither animals nor intelligent speaking beings?
Lumen: Not exactly. There are only plants there, it is true. But in this vast world of plants there are vegetable races more advanced than those existing upon the Earth. There plants live as we do--feel, think, reason, and speak.
Quærens: But this is impossible! Pardon!--I would say improbable, incomprehensible, and entirely inconceivable.
Lumen: These intelligent vegetable races really exist--so much so, that I myself belonged to them. Fifteen centuries ago I was a tree possessed of reason.
Quærens: But tell me, how can a plant reason without a brain, and speak without a tongue?
Lumen: Tell me, I beg of you, by what process you yourself think, and by what transformation of motion your soul translates its mute conceptions into audible language?
Quærens: I am seeking, O Master, but I fail to find, the material explanation of this fact, however ordinary it may be.
Lumen: We have no right to declare an unknown fact impossible, when we are so ignorant ourselves of the laws regulating our own being. Because the brain is the physiological organ of intelligence placed at the service of man on the Earth, do you therefore believe that there are similar brains and spinal marrows upon all the worlds in space? This would be an error too childish. The law of progress governs the vital system of each world. This vital system differs according to the secret nature of the special forces peculiar to each. When a world has reached a sufficient degree of evolution to fit it for entering into the service of moral life, mind, more or less developed, appears on it.
Do not imagine that the Eternal Father creates at once a human race on each globe. Not so. The first step in the ladder of the animal kingdom receives the human transfiguration by force of circumstance, and by natural law, which ennobles it, as soon as progress has brought it to a state of relative superiority.
Do you know why you have a chest, a stomach, two legs, two arms, and a head furnished with visual, auditory, and olfactory senses? It is because the quadrupeds, the mammalia, which preceded the appearance of man on the Earth, had them already. Monkeys, dogs, lions, bears, horses, oxen, tigers, cats, &c., and before them the horned rhinoceros, the cave-hyena, the elk, the mastodon, the opossum, &c., and prior to these the pleiosaurus, the ichthyosaurus, the iguanodon, the pterodactyl, &c., and again before these the fishes, the crustacea, the mollusca, &c., have been the result of the vital forces in action upon the Earth, dependent upon the state of the soil, of the atmosphere, of inorganic chemistry, of the quantity of heat, and of terrestrial gravity. The earthly animal kingdom has followed, from its origin, this continuous and progressive march towards the perfection of its typical forms of mammalia, freeing itself more and more from the grossness of its material.
Man is more beautiful than the horse, the horse than the bear, the bear than the tortoise. A similar law governs the vegetable kingdom.
Heavy, coarse vegetables without leaves and without flowers began the series. Then, as the ages advanced, their forms became more pure, and graceful leaves appeared filling the woods with silent shadows.
Flowers in their turn began to beautify the gardens of the Earth, and spread sweet perfumes in an atmosphere until then insipid.
To the scrutinising eye of the geologist who visits these tertiary, secondary, and primordial districts, this double progressive series of two kingdoms is to be seen to this day. There was a period upon the Earth when a few islands had but just emerged from the bosom of the warm waters, into an atmosphere surcharged with vapour, when the only living things distinguishing this inorganic kingdom were long floating filaments held in suspension in the waves.
Seaweed and sea-wrack were the first forms of vegetation. On the rocks, live creatures for which one has no name. There, sponges swell out. Here, a tree of coral lifts up itself. Further on, the Medusæ detach themselves and float like balls of jelly. Are these animals? Are these plants? Science does not answer. They are animal-plants, zoophites. But life is not limited to these forms. There are creatures not less primitive, and as simple, which typify a special species. These are the annelides, worms, fish in the form of a simple tube, creatures without eyes, ears, blood, nerves, will, a vegetative species, yet endowed with the power of motion. Later on rudimentary organs of sight and of locomotion appeared, and life became less elemental. Then fishes and amphibious creatures came into existence. The animal kingdom began to form itself.
What would have been the result if the first creature had never quitted its rock? If these primitive elements of terrestrial life had remained stationary at the point of their formation, and if, for any cause whatever, the faculty of locomotion had never had a beginning? The consequence would have been, that in place of the system of terrestrial vitality being manifested in two different directions, viz., in the world of plants and the world of animals, it would have continued manifesting itself solely in the first direction, with the result that there would have been but one kingdom instead of two, and the creative progress would have operated in that kingdom as it operated in the animal kingdom. It would not have been arrested at the formation of sensitives, superior plants which are already gifted with a veritable nervous system; nor would it have stopped at the formation of flowers, which are already bordering on ours in their organic functions; but, continuing its ascension, would have produced, in the vegetable kingdom, that which has already been produced in the animal kingdom. As it is, many vegetables feel and act; here would have been vegetables feeling and making themselves understood. The Earth would not have been on that account deprived of the human species. Only mankind, instead of being gifted with locomotion as it is, would have been fixed by the feet. Such is the state of the annular world in which I lived fifteen centuries ago in the heart of the Milky Way.
Quærens: Of a truth, this world of men-plants astonishes me more than the previous one, and I find it difficult to picture to myself the life and manners of these singular beings.
Lumen: Their kind of life is indeed very different from yours. They neither build cities nor make voyages; they have no need of any form of government; they are ignorant of war, that scourge of terrestrial humanity, and they have nothing of that national self-love called patriotism which is one of your characteristics. Prudent, patient, and gifted with constancy, they have neither the mobility nor the fragility of the denizens of the Earth. Life there reaches an average of five or six centuries, and is calm, sweet, uniform, and without revolutions. But do not think that these men-plants live only a vegetable life. On the contrary, they have an existence both personal and positive. They are divided, not by caste, regulated by birth and fortune, according to that absurd custom on the earth, but by families, whose native value differs precisely according to its kind. They have an unwritten social history, but nothing which happens amongst them can be lost, inasmuch as they have neither emigrations nor conquests, but their records and traditions are handed down from one generation to another. Each one knows the history of his own race. They have also two sexes, as upon the Earth, and unions take place there in a similar manner, but are purer, more disinterested, and invariably affectionate. Nor are these unions always consanguineous; impregnation can even be effected at a distance.
Quærens: But, after all, how can they communicate their thoughts if it be true that they think? And besides, master, how was it possible for you to recognise yourself on this singular world?
Lumen: The same reply will satisfactorily answer your double question. I was looking at that ring in the constellation of Cygnus, being drawn there with persistence by some irresistible instinct. It surprised me to see only vegetable growths upon its surface, and I principally remarked their singular manner of grouping: here two and two, there three and three, farther off ten and ten, besides others in larger clusters. Some were seated, as it were, upon the brink of a fountain, others appeared to be reposing, with little shoots springing up round them. I sought to find there the kinds familiar to me on the Earth, such as pines, oaks, poplars, willows, but I could not find any of these botanical growths.
At last I fixed my eyes upon a plant in the shape of a fig-tree, without either leaves or fruit, but full of brilliant scarlet flowers, when suddenly I saw this enormous fig-tree stretch out a bough like a gigantic arm, raise the extremity of this arm to its head, and pluck one of the magnificent flowers ornamenting its crown, and then present the same, with an inclination of the head, to another fig-tree growing some little distance apart, of slender and graceful form, and bearing sweet blue flowers. This one appeared to receive the red flower with a certain pleasure, for it extended a branch, or one might say a cordial hand, to its neighbour, which was apparently held in a long clasp.
Under certain circumstances, as you know, a gesture is sufficient for making yourself known to another. Thus, then, the meaning of this tableau was borne in upon me. This gesture of the fig-tree in the Milky Way awoke within me a world of memories.
This Man-Plant was myself as I was fifteen centuries ago, and in the fig-trees with the violet flowers which were grouped around me I recognised my children; for I recollected that the tints of the flowers borne by the offspring, are the result of the admixture of the two colours distinguishing their parents.
These Men-Plants see without eyes, hear without ears, and speak without larynx. Have you not flowers upon the Earth which can discriminate not only night from day, but also the different hours of the day, the height of the sun above the horizon, a clear sky from a cloudy one, and more, which perceive divers sounds with exquisite sensitiveness; and, in fine, not only hear each other perfectly, but also the butterfly messengers. These rudiments are developed to a veritable degree of civilisation upon the world of which I speak, and these beings are as complete in their kind as you on the Earth are in yours. Their intelligence, it is true, is less advanced than the average intellect of terrestrial humanity; but in their manners and mutual relations, they show in all ways a sweetness and refinement, which might often serve as a model to the dwellers upon the Earth.
Quærens: How is it possible, master, that they see without eyes, and hear without ears?
Lumen: You will cease to be astonished, my old friend, if you will but reflect that light and sound are nothing else than two modes of motion. In order to appreciate either one or the other of these two modes of motion, you must (and that is sufficient) be endowed with an apparatus in correspondence with them, which might be only a simple nerve. The eye and the ear are the apparatus for your terrestrial nature. In another natural organisation the optic nerve and the auditory nerve form quite different origins. Besides, light and sound are not the only two modes of motion in nature. I can even say that light and sound are the result of your manner of feeling, and not of anything real.
There are in nature not one, but ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand different modes of motion. Upon the Earth you are so formed as to be able to appreciate chiefly these two, which constitute almost the whole of your life in its external relations.
Upon other worlds there are other senses with which nature can be appreciated under its various aspects. Some of these senses take the place of your eyes and of your ears, and others are in touch with perceptions entirely foreign to those which are received by terrestrial organs.
Quærens: When you spoke to me just now of the men-plants in the world of Cygnus, the idea occurred to me to ask if earthly plants possess a soul?
Lumen: Most certainly. Terrestrial plants are gifted with a soul just as much as are animals and men. Without a potential soul no organisation could exist. The form of a plant is determined by its soul. An acorn and the kernel of a peach are planted side by side in the same soil, the same situation, under the same conditions; why should the first produce an oak and the second a peach tree?
Because an organic force inherent in the oak will construct its special kind of vegetable, and another organic force, another soul inherent in the peach, will equally draw to itself other elements necessary for its special body, just as the human soul, in the construction of its body, uses the means put by nature at its disposal. Only the soul of the plant has not any self-consciousness.
The souls in vegetables, in animals, and in men, have already attained to that degree of a personality and of authority, which enables them to bend at will, and to command and govern at pleasure, all those non-personal forces which exist in the bosom of immeasurable nature. The human monad, for example, being superior to the monad of salt, or of carbon, or of oxygen, absorbs and incorporates them in its structure.
Our human soul in our terrestrial body upon the Earth governs, without being conscious of it, all the elementary souls forming the constituent parts of its body. Matter is not a solid and compassable substance. It is an assemblage of centres of forces. Substance has not any importance. From one atom to another there is a great distance in proportion to the dimensions of atoms. At the head of the divers centres of forces which constitute and form the human body is the human soul, governing all the ganglionic souls, which are subordinated to it.
Quærens: I must frankly own, most wise instructor, that I fail to clearly grasp this theory.
Lumen: Then I will illustrate it for you by an example which will demonstrate the truth of all I have said, and convince you that it is a fact.
Quærens: A fact? Are you, then, a reincarnation of the Princess Scheherazade, and have you been fascinating me with a new tale from the "Arabian Nights''?
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:08