HAD I been the sport of a dream? Had my spirit been really transported to the planet Mars, or was I rather the dupe of a purely imaginary illusion?
The feeling of reality had been so vivid, so intense, and the things I had witnessed were so completely in accord with the scientific notions we already have of the physical nature of Mars, that I could not entertain a doubt on this point, astonished as I still was by my ecstatic journey, and while asking myself a thousand contradictory questions.
The absence of Spero from the vision surprised me somewhat. His memory was still so dear, that it seemed to me that I should have divined his presence had he been there, flown straight to him, seen him, spoken to him, listened to his voice. But was not the subject at Nancy rather himself the sport of his imagination, or of mine, or of that of the experimenter? Besides, even admitting that my two friends were reincarnated on this neighbor planet, I told myself in answer to this question, that it was very possible for two persons to traverse the same city without meeting each other, and with how much more probability the whole world. But it is not assuredly the doctrine of probabilities that must be invoked here, for a feeling of attraction, such as united us, ought to modify the chances of meeting and throw into the balance an element which would predominate over all the rest.
While these thoughts were passing through my mind, I entered my observatory at Jurisy, where I had prepared some electric batteries for the purpose of making an experiment in optics, in connection with the tower of Montlhéry. When I had assured myself that everything was in readiness, I left my assistant to make the signals agreed upon, between the hours of ten and eleven, and I myself set out for the old tower, on which I took my stand an hour later. Night had fallen. From the height of the ancient donjon the horizon forms a perfect circle, visible in its whole circumference, having a radius of from twenty to twenty-five kilometres. A third post of observation, situated at Paris, was in communication with us. The object of the experiment was to learn if the rays of the spectrum all travel with an equal velocity of three hundred thousand kilometres a second. The result proved this to be the case.
The experiments being ended at about eleven o’clock, and it being a glorious starlit night, as soon as I had put my apparatus away safely in the tower, I returned to the terrace above to contemplate the landscape, lighted by the first rays of the rising moon. The air was calm and mild, almost warm. But just as I reached the last step I stood still, petrified with horror. I tried to cry out; but no sound came. Spero — Spero himself was there before me, seated on the parapet. I raised my arms toward Heaven, feeling as if I were going to faint, but he said to me in the sweet voice which I knew so well.
“Can it be that you are afraid of me?”
I had not the strength either to answer or to advance. I ventured, however, to look straight at my friend, who was smiling. His dear face, lighted by the moon, was just as I had seen it before his departure for Christiania, youthful and pleasing, his air thoughtful, his glance keen. I took a step, strongly impelled to rush forward and embrace him. But my courage failed me and I remained where I was, gazing at him.
I had recovered the use of my faculties. “Spero! It is thou!” I cried.
“I was with you during your experiment,” he replied, “and it was I who inspired you with the idea of comparing the extreme violet with the extreme red rays.”
“Can it be possible? Let me look at you, let me touch you.”
I passed my hands over his face, his body, his hair, and I received from them exactly the same impression as if he had been a living being. My reason refused to admit the testimony of my senses, and yet I could not doubt that it was he. No twin brother could be so like him. And then my doubts would have fled at his first words, for he added immediately afterward:
“My body sleeps at this moment in Mars.”
“So then,” I said, “you still live, you continue to exist, and at last you have solved the great problem that tormented you so much. And Iclea?”
“Let us talk together,” he replied. “I have many things to tell you.”
I seated myself beside him on the edge of the parapet of the old tower, and this is what I heard:
Some time after the accident at the Lake of Tyrifiorden he had felt himself awakening as if from a long and profound sleep. He was alone in the darkness of the night on the borders of a lake. He felt himself to be living, but he could neither see nor feel. The air did not strike him. His body was not only light but imponderable. The only thing that seemed to survive in him was his faculty of thinking.
His first idea, on collecting his thoughts, was that he was returning to himself after his fall near the Norwegian lake. But when day dawned he perceived that he was in another world. The two moons revolving rapidly in the heavens in opposite directions, made him think that he was on our neighbor planet, Mars, and it was not long before other proofs came to convince him that this was the case.
He remained there for a certain length of time as a spirit, and found the inhabitants to be an extremely cultivated race, among whom the feminine sex rules supreme, owing to its incontestable superiority over the masculine. The organisms are light and delicate, the density of the body very slight, its weight still less. On this planet force plays only a secondary rôle in nature; fineness of sensation is the determining power. There are a great many species of animals, and several races of human beings. In all those species and all those races the female sex is the more beautiful and the stronger (strength consisting in the superior delicacy of sensation), and this sex it is that rules the world.
His intense desire to learn something of the life that was before him, decided Spero not to remain long a spectator and a spirit, but to be reborn under a corporeal human form, and — having made himself acquainted with the organic condition of this planet — in the female form.
Already, among the terrestrial souls floating about in the atmosphere of Mars, he had recognized (for souls feel each other’s presence), the soul of Iclea, who had followed him, drawn by a ceaseless attraction. She, on her side, had felt herself inclined to an incarnation in a masculine form.
They were thus brought together in one of the most favored lands in this planet; were near each other; predestined to meet each other again in existence, and to share the same emotions, the same thoughts, the same labors. Thus, although the remembrance of their terrestrial existence was obscured and effaced as it were, by the new transformation, a vague feeling of spiritual kinship and a sudden sympathy had drawn them together from the moment of their awakening.Their psychic superiority, the habitual nature of their thoughts, the condition of their minds, accustomed as they were to search for the relation between cause and effect, had bestowed upon both a species of secret clairvoyance that freed them from the general ignorance of their fellow beings. They had loved each other with so sudden a passion; they yielded themselves so completely to the magnetic influences of their re-union, that they soon formed one single being, united as at the moment of their terrestrial separation. They had a remembrance of having already known each other; they were convinced that it was upon the Earth, that neighbor planet that shines in the evening with so bright a light in the sky of Mars, and at times, in their solitary flights above the hills clothed by aerial vegetation, they gazed at “the evening star,” and sought to unite the broken thread of memory.
An unexpected event took place, which explained their reminiscences and showed them that they were not deceived.
The inhabitants of Mars are very superior to those of the Earth in their organization, in the number and fineness of their senses, and in their intellectual faculties.
The fact that in this world, density is very slight, and that the material substances which form the body are less heavy than with us, permits the formation of beings incomparably lighter, more ethereal, more delicate, more sensitive than we are. The fact that the atmosphere supplies nutrition has freed the beings on Mars from the grossness of terrestrial wants.
It is an altogether different state of being. Light there is less intense, that planet being further removed from the Sun than ours, and the optic nerve is more sensitive. Magnetic and electric influences being there extremely powerful, the inhabitants possess senses unknown to terrestrial organisms; senses which place them in communication with those influences. Everything in nature is consistent. Beings everywhere are adapted to their environment. Terrestrial organisms could no more exist on Mars than beings formed to inhabit the atmosphere could live at the bottom of the sea.
In addition to this the superior state, which is the result of these conditions, has developed of itself because of the ease with which intellectual labor is carried on. Nature seems to obey the thought. The architect who wishes to construct a building, the engineer who wishes to change the surface of the ground, whether it be to excavate or to raise it, to cut down mountains or to fill up valleys, has not to contend, as with us, against the density and other drawbacks of matter.
Still more — Martian humanity, being several hundred thousand years older than earthly humanity — has passed before the latter through all the phases of its development.
Our most transcendent triumphs in scientific discovery are only child’s play compared with the scientific knowledge of the inhabitants of that planet.
They have invented, among other things, a sort of tele-photographic apparatus by means of which a roll of stuff receives, as it unrolls, the image of our world, which remains fixed upon it ineffaceably. A vast museum, devoted specially to the planets of the solar system, contains, in chronological order, all those photographic images fixed forever. There may be re-read all the history of the Earth; of France at the time of Charlemagne; Greece, at the time of Alexander; Egypt at the time of Rhameses. By means of the microscope may be seen the minutest historical details, such as Paris during the French Revolution, Rome under the pontificate of Borgia, the Spanish fleet of Christopher Columbus arriving in America, the Franks under Clovis conquering the Gauls, the army of Julius Caesar interrupted in its conquest of England by the tide carrying away its vessels, the troops of King David, the founder of standing armies, as well as the greater number of historical events, all recognizable by certain special characters.
One day, when the two friends were visiting this museum, their reminiscences, vague until now, grew clear, as a dark night is suddenly illuminated by a flash of lightning. All at once they recognized Paris as it appeared during the Exposition of 1867. Their recollections took definite shape. Each felt convinced of having lived there at one time, and, their memory stimulated by the vividness of this impression, they were immediately seized by the conviction that they had lived there together. Light gradually broke on their minds, not by flashes, but rather like the gradually increasing light of dawn.
They both called to mind then, as by an inspiration, these words of the Evangelist: “In my Father’s House there are many mansions.”
And those other words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “Verily I say unto you, unless a man be born again he shall not see the Kingdom of God.”
From that day they did not entertain the slightest doubt concerning their anterior terrestrial existence, and were firmly convinced that they should continue on the planet Mars their preceding life. They belonged to the circle of the great minds of every age who know that human life does not cease here, but is continued in the heavens; and who also know that every planet, whether it be the Earth, Mars or any other, is a star in those heavens.
The peculiarity of the transformation of sex, which had appeared to me to have a certain importance, had in reality none, it would seem. Contrary to the opinion generally held among us, he informed me that souls are without sex, and that the destiny of all souls is the same. I learned too that on this planet, less material than our own, the constitution of the body resembles in nothing the constitution of the terrestrial body. Conception and birth take place there in an altogether different manner, which resembles, but in a spiritual form, the fecundation and blooming of a flower. Pleasure is without bitterness. They know nothing there of the heavy burdens we of the Earth bear, nor of the pangs of anguish that we suffer. Everything is more spiritual, more ethereal, more unsubstantial. One might call the Martians thinking and living winged flowers. But indeed there is nothing on Earth by means of a comparison with which we could form a conception of their form and mode of life.
I had listened to the words of the spirit, scarcely daring to interrupt him, lest he should vanish from my gaze as suddenly as he had appeared before it. Remembering my dream, however, which was recalled to my mind by the coincidence of the descriptions he had just given me of the planet, with what I myself had seen, I could not refrain from telling him of my extraordinary vision, and expressing my astonishment at not having seen him in my travels there.
“But,” he answered, “I saw you perfectly well, and you saw me also and spoke to me. For I it was — ”
There was something in the intonation of his voice, as he uttered the last words, that made me suddenly recognize in it the melodious voice of the beautiful Martian who had so much attracted me.
“Yes,” he resumed, “it was I. I tried to make myself known, but dazzled by a spectacle which captivated your eye, you were unable to free yourself from terrestrial sensations; you remained terrestrial and a slave to your senses, and could not succeed in attaining to a true perception of things. Yes, I it was who reached out my arms to you to assist you to descend from the aerial chariot into our dwelling, when you suddenly awoke.”
“But then,” I cried, “if you are indeed that inhabitant of Mars, how is it that you appear to me now under the form of Spero, who is no longer in existence?”
“The impression you receive of me,” he replied, “is produced neither on your retina nor on your optic nerve. I am at this moment in communication with you. I directly influence the seat of sensation in your brain. In reality, my mental being is without form like yours, like that of all spirits. But when I place myself, as at this moment, in direct relation with your thoughts, you can only see me as you have known me. Thus it is in dreams; that is to say, during more than a quarter of your terrestrial life, during twenty years out of seventy, you see, you hear, you speak, you feel with the same sense of reality, the same clearness, the same exactness as during normal life, yet your eyes are closed, your tympanum is insensible to sound, your lips are mute, your arms are stretched out and motionless. Thus it is, also, in the states of somnambulism, hypnotism and suggestion. You see me, you hear me, you touch me through the influence exercised upon your brain. But I no more exist in the form you see than the rainbow exists in the spot where the spectator sees it.”
“Could you then appear to me under your Martian form also?”
“No; at least not unless you were really transported in spirit to that planet. There the mode of communication would be altogether different. Here as we are talking now, everything is subjective with you. The elements of Martian form do not exist in the terrestrial atmosphere and your brain could not imagine them. You could not behold me again except through the remembrance of your dream of today; but in the moment in which you should seek to analyze its details, the image would vanish. You have not seen us as we are, because your spirit can judge only by means of your terrestrial eyes, which are not sensible to all the radiations of light, and because you do not possess as many senses as we do.”
“I confess,” I replied, “that I cannot very well conceive your state of existence on Mars, as beings possessing six limbs.”
“If those forms you saw had not been as graceful as they are, they would have appeared to you monstrous. Each world is inhabited by organisms adapted to the condition of existence upon it. I will confess, in my turn, that, for the inhabitants of Mars, the Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de Medicis, are veritable monstrosities because of their animal grossness.
“With us everything is of an exquisite lightness. Although our planet is much smaller than yours, its inhabitants are much larger than those of your planet, because density is less there than here and beings may be tall without being clumsy, or putting their equilibrium in peril. They are larger and lighter because the constituent materials of that planet have less density than those of yours. The same thing has happened there which would happen on the Earth if density were not so great as it is. The winged species would have dominated the world, instead of dwindling away because of the impossibility of development. On Mars the evolution of being has been effected in a series of winged species. Martian humanity is, in fact, a race of sextuple origin; but it is, at present, biped, bimanous and what may be called bipennate, since those beings have two wings. Life there is altogether different from terrestrial life. First, because the inhabitants live as much in the air and on aerial plants as on the ground; and, second, because they do not eat, the atmosphere affording them nutrition. The passions there are not the same as here. Murder is unknown, Humanity being without material wants, and has never lived there, even in the primitive ages, in the barbarism of rapine and war. Thoughts and feelings are all of an intellectual order. Nevertheless, there may be found in that planet, if not resemblances, at least analogies, to earthly conditions. Thus there is there, as here, a succession of days and nights, which do not differ essentially from yours. The duration of the day and of the night there, is twenty-four hours, thirty-nine minutes, thirty-five seconds. As there are six hundred and sixty-eight of these days in the Martian year, we have more time than you for our labors, our researches, our studies, and our enjoyments. Our seasons, too, are almost twice as long as yours, but are otherwise the same. The climates are not very different from those of the Earth. A country of Mars situated on the borders of the equatorial sea differs less in climate from France, than Lapland differs from India.
“An inhabitant of the Earth would not find himself there very much a stranger. The greatest dissimilarity between the two worlds consists indeed in the great superiority of our humanity to yours.
“This superiority is due chiefly to the progress made in astronomical science, and to the general diffusion among the inhabitants of the planet of that science without a knowledge of which it is impossible to think clearly or to form any just conception of existence, of creation, or of destiny. We are as fortunate in the purity of our sky as we are in the acuteness of our senses. There is much less water on the surface of Mars than on that of the Earth, and the atmosphere is less cloudy.
“The sky there is almost always beautiful, especially in the temperate zone.”
“Yet you often have inundations?”
“Yes; and quite recently your telescopes gave you notice of an extensive one, which took place on the borders of a sea to which your colleagues have given a name that will be always dear to me, far away though I be from Earth. Our coasts are mostly level plains. We have few mountains and our seas are shallow. The inhabitants avail themselves of these inundations for the irrigation of vast fields. They have altered the course of rivers — enlarged their beds and banked in their waters, and have constructed on the continents networks of immense canals. These continents are not like those of the terrestrial globe, bristling with Alpine or Himalayan heights, but are immense plains traversed on all sides by embanked streams, and by canals which put all the seas into communication with each other. Formerly there was almost as much water, relatively to the size of the planet, on Mars, as there is on the Earth. Imperceptibly, however, for some ages past, a part of the rains has sunk into the deeper strata of the soil, and has not returned to the surface. It has become chemically combined with the rocks and cut off from the action of the atmosphere. For centuries, also, the rains, the snows, the winds, the frosts of winter, the droughts of summer, have been disintegrating mountains and drying up rivers, carrying this débris to the bed of the seas, which they have been gradually filling up. We no longer have either large or deep bodies of water on our planet; we have only inland seas; we have many straits, gulfs, and lakes like the British Channel, the Red Sea, the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Caspian; agreeable shores, tranquil harbors; lakes, great rivers, aerial, rather than aquatic fleets, and a sky always clear, especially in the morning. There are no terrestrial mornings as bright as ours.
“Meteorological conditions differ sensibly from those of the Earth, because the atmosphere being more rarified, the waters, which are shallow besides, evaporate more easily, and also because in condensing themselves anew, instead of forming clouds, they pass almost without change from the gaseous to the liquid state. We have few clouds and few fogs.
“The study of astronomy is favored, on our planet, by the clearness of the sky. We have two satellites, whose revolutions would appear strange to the astronomers of the Earth, for, while one of them gives us months of one hundred and thirty-one hours, or five Martian days and eight hours, the other, owing to the combination of its own motion with the diurnal rotation of the planet, rises in the West and sets in the East, traversing the heavens from the West to the East in five hours and a half, and passing from the one point to the other in less than three hours — this is a spectacle altogether unique in the solar system, and one which has greatly contributed to direct the attention of the inhabitants to the study of the heavens. In addition, we have lunar eclipses almost every day, but never total eclipses of the sun, because our satellites are too small.
“The Earth appears to us as Venus appears to you. She is our morning and evening star also. In former times, before the invention of optical instruments, by means of which we have learned that she is like your planet, inhabited — but by beings of an inferior grade — our ancestors worshipped her, regarding her as a tutelar deity. All the planets have in the first stages of their existence a mythology, and mythology had for its origin, its foundation and its object, the aspects of the heavenly bodies.
“At times the Earth, accompanied by the Moon, passes between us and the Sun, on whose disk it projects its shadow, like a small, black spot, accompanied by another shadow still smaller. Here, everybody watches those celestial phenomena with interest. Our newspapers occupy themselves much more with scientific matters than with theatres, literary fantasies, political discussions or courts of law.
“The Sun appears to us a little smaller than it does to you, and we receive from it a slightly less degree of light and heat. Our eyes, more sensitive, can see better than yours. The temperature is a little higher.”
“How,” I rejoined: “you are further away from the Sun, yet your temperature is higher than ours?”
“Chamonnix is a little further from the noonday sun than the summit of Mont Blanc,” he replied. “It is not the distance of a planet from the sun alone that governs the temperature; the constitution of the atmosphere must also be taken into account. Our polar snows melt more rapidly than yours under our summer sun.”
“Which are the most populous countries of Mars?”
“Scarcely any part of the planet but the polar regions (where you can see from your earth, the ice and snow melting in the Spring) is uninhabited. The population of the temperate regions is very dense, but the equatorial regions are still more thickly populated — the population there is almost as dense as in China — and especially on the sea-coasts, notwithstanding the inundations. A great many cities are built almost on the water, suspended partly in the air above the reach of the inundations, counted upon beforehand and prepared for.”
“And your arts and manufactures, do they resemble ours? Have you railroads, steamers, telegraphy, the telephone?”
“They are altogether different. We have never had either steamers or railroads, because we have always had a knowledge of electricity, and because aerial navigation is natural to us. Our ships are moved by electricity, and are aerial rather than aquatic. We live chiefly in the air, and have dwellings of neither stone, iron nor wood. We know nothing of the rigors of winter, because no one is exposed to them; those who do not inhabit the equatorial regions emigrate every autumn, like your birds. It would be extremely difficult for you to form an exact idea of our manner of life.”
“Are there many human beings on Mars who have already inhabited the Earth?”
“No; the greater number of the inhabitants of your planet are either ignorant of or indifferent to, or they are materialists and not prepared for, the life of the spirit. They are attached to the Earth and continue so for a long time. Many souls pass their entire lives in a sleep. Only those souls that truly live, that unfold their faculties, and aspire to a knowledge of the truth, are destined to a conscious immortality. These are the only souls whom the spiritual world interests, and who are capable of comprehending it. Those souls, when they quit the Earth, live again in other worlds. Many of them come to dwell for a time upon Mars, the first stage of the ultra-terrestial journey, beyond the Sun, or on Venus, the first stage on this side of it. But Venus is a world similar to the Earth, and one still less favored, on account of the rapidity with which its seasons change, which subjects its inhabitants to violent alterations of temperature. Certain spirits take flight at once to the starry regions. As you know, space does not exist. To sum up, justice reigns in the system of the moral world, as equilibrium reigns in the system of the physical world, and the destiny of the soul is always the result of its aptitudes, its aspirations, and, as a consequence, of its works. The day will come when there shall not be, even on your planet, any other creed, or any other religion, than a knowledge of the universe, and a conviction of immortal life in its boundless regions, its eternal domains.”
“How strange it is,” I exclaimed, “that on the Earth we should have no knowledge of those sublime truths! No one thinks of looking at the sky. We live here as if our little island were alone in the Universe.”
“Terrestrial humanity is young,” rejoined Spero. “You must not despair. It is in its childhood, and has not yet emerged from its primitive ignorance. It amuses itself with trifles and obeys masters whom it has imposed upon itself.
“You love to divide yourselves into nations, and to dress yourselves in national costumes that you may exterminate each other to the sound of music. Afterward you erect statues to those who have been your leaders in the butchery. You ruin yourselves and then commit suicide, yet you can exist at all only on condition of tearing from the bosom of the Earth your daily bread. A deplorable condition of things, truly, but one that suffices to the greater number of the inhabitants of your planet. If some few, of loftier aspirations, have at times directed their thoughts to questions of a higher order — the nature of the soul, the existence of God — the result has been no better, for they have placed the soul outside of nature, they have invented strange gods, infamous gods who have never had an existence, save in their perverted imaginations, and in whose name they have committed every outrage against human conscience, sought to justify every crime, and enslaved weak minds in a bondage from which it will be difficult to free them. The lowest of the animals in Mars is better, more beautiful, gentler, more intelligent, more amiable, and greater than the god of the armies of David, Constantine, and Charlemagne, and all your crowned assassins. We should, not be astonished, then, at the folly and grossness of terrestrial humanity. But the law of progress governs the world. You are more advanced than your ancestors of the Age of Stone, whose wretched existence was passed in defending themselves day and night against wild beasts. In some thousands of years you will be more advanced than you are now. Then Uranie will reign in your hearts.
“Some gross material fact is necessary in order to teach humanity and convince them. If, for instance, we could one day enter into communication with the neighboring planet you inhabit — not into psychic communication with an isolated being, as I do now with you — but with the planet itself, in the presence of hundreds and thousands of witnesses, that would be a gigantic stride toward knowledge.
“You might do so now if you would, for so far as we on Mars are concerned, we are all ready for it, and have even made the attempt to do so several times. But you have never responded to us. Solar reflectors, tracing geometrical figures on our vast plains, prove to you that we exist. You could respond to us by similar figures traced on your plains, either during the day, by the sun, or during the night by electric light. But you do not even dream of this, and if anyone among you were to propose the attempt, your magistrates would prevent it, for the mere idea is immeasurably removed beyond the comprehension of the majority of the inhabitants of your planet. How do your scientific assemblies occupy themselves? In keeping alive the traditions of the past. How do your political assemblies occupy themselves? In increasing the public burdens. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king.
“But we must not altogether despair. Progress carries you on in spite of yourselves. One day you too will know that you are dwellers in the skies. Then you will live in the light, in knowledge, in the true world of the spirit!”
While the inhabitant of Mars was thus making me acquainted with the principal facts relating to his new country, the terrestrial globe had moved toward the East, the horizon had sunk and the moon was rising in the heavens, which she illumined with her light. Lowering my eyes suddenly to the spot where Spero was seated; I gave a start of surprise. The moon shed her light on his figure as on mine, but while my body cast its shadow on the parapet, his cast none!
I rose hastily, the better to convince myself of the fact, reaching out to touch his shoulder as I did so, and watching at the same time the shadow cast by the movement on the parapet. But my visitant had disappeared. I was entirely alone on the silent tower; my shadow, black and sharply defined, fell on the parapet. The moon shone brightly. The village slept at my feet. The air was warm and motionless.
I fancied that I heard steps, however. I listened attentively; they seemed to be drawing nearer. Some one was evidently ascending the stairs of the tower.
“Monsieur has not yet gone down?” said the guard, on reaching the top. “I was waiting to close the doors, and thought the experiments were certainly over by this time.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:08