Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon

Chapter 13

The Beginning and the End

1. Back to the Nebulae

WHILE the awakened galaxies were striving to make full use of the last phase of their lucid consciousness, while I, the imperfect cosmical mind, was thus striving, I began to have a strange new experience. I seemed to be telepathically stumbling upon some being or beings of an order that was at first quite incomprehensible to me.

At first I supposed that I had inadvertently come into touch with subhuman beings in the primitive age of some natural planet, perhaps with some very lowly amoeboid micro-organisms, floating in a primeval sea. I was aware only of crude hungers of the body, such as the lust to assimilate physical energy for the maintenance of life, the lust of movement and of contact, the lust of light and warmth.

Impatiently I tried to dismiss this trivial irrelevance. But it continued to haunt me, becoming more intrusive and more lucid. Gradually it took on such an intensity of physical vigor and well-being, and such a divine confidence, as was manifested by no spirits up and down the ages since the stars began.

I need not tell of the stages by which I learned at last the meaning of this experience. Gradually I discovered that I had made contact not with micro-organisms, nor yet with worlds or stars or galactic minds, but with the minds of the great nebulae before their substance had disintegrated into stars to form the galaxies.

Presently I was able to follow their history from the time when they first wakened, when they first existed as discrete clouds of gas, flying apart after the explosive act of creation, even to the time when, with the birth of the stellar hosts out of their substance, they sank into senility and death.

In their earliest phase, when physically they were the most tenuous clouds, their mentality was no more than a formless craving for action and a sleepy perception of the infinitely slight congestion of their own vacuous substance. I watched them condense into close-knit balls with sharper contours, then into lentoid discs, featured with brighter streams and darker chasms. As they condensed, each gained more unity, became more organic in structure. Congestion, though so slight, brought greater mutual influence to their atoms, which still were no more closely packed, in relation to their size, than stars in space. Each nebula was now a single great pool of faint radiation, a single system of all-pervasive waves, spreading from atom to atom.

And now mentally these greatest of all megatheria, these amoeboid titans, began to waken into a vague unity of experience. By human standards, and even by the standards of the minded worlds and the stars, the experience of the nebulae was incredibly slow-moving. For owing to their prodigious size and the slow passage of the undulations to which their consciousness was physically related, a thousand years was for them an imperceptible instant. Periods such as men call geological, containing the rise and fall of species after species, they experienced as we experience the hours.

Each of the great nebulae was aware of its own lentoid body as a single volume compact of tingling currents. Each craved fulfilment of its organic potency, craved easement from the pressure of physical energy welling softly within it, craved at the same time free expression of all its powers of movement, craved also something more.

For though, both in physique and in mentality, these primordial beings were strangely like the primeval micro-organisms of planetary life, they were also remarkably different; or at least they manifested a character which even I, the rudimentary cosmical mind, had overlooked in micro-organisms. This was a will or predilection that I can only by halting metaphor suggest.

Though even at their best these creatures were physically and intellectually very simple, they were gifted with something which I am forced to describe as a primitive but intense religious consciousness. For they were ruled by two longings, both of which were essentially religious. They desired, or rather they had a blind urge toward, union with one another, and they had a blind passionate urge to be gathered up once more into the source whence they had come.

The universe that they inhabited was of course a very simple, even a poverty-stricken universe. It was also to them quite small. For each of them the cosmos consisted of two things, the nebula’s own almost featureless body and the bodies of the other nebulae. In this early age of the cosmos the nebulae were very close to one another, for the volume of the cosmos was at this time small in relation to its parts, whether nebulae or electrons. In that age the nebulae, which in man’s day are like birds at large in the sky, were confined, as it were, within a narrow aviary. Thus each exercised an appreciable influence on its fellows. And as each became more organized, more of a coherent physical unity, it distinguished more readily between its native wave-pattern and the irregularities which its neighbors’ influence imposed upon that pattern. And by a native propensity implanted in it at the time of its emergence from the common ancestral cloud, it interpreted this influence to mean the presence of other minded nebulae.

Thus the nebulae in their prime were vaguely but intensely aware of one another as distinct beings. They were aware of one another; but their communication with each other was very meager and very slow. As prisoners confined in separate cells give one another a sense of companionship by tapping on their cell walls, and may even in time work out a crude system of signals, so the nebulae revealed to one another their kinship by exercising gravitational stress upon one another, and by long-drawn-out pulsations of their light. Even in the early phase of their existence, when the nebulae were very close to one another, a message would take many thousands of years to spell itself out from beginning to end, and many millions of years to reach its destination. When the nebulae were at their prime, the whole cosmos reverberated with their talk.

In the earliest phase of all, when these huge creatures were still very close to one another and also immature, their parleying was concerned wholly with the effort to reveal themselves to one another. With child-like glee they laboriously communicated their joy in life, their hungers and pains, their whims, their idiosyncrasies, their common passion to be once more united, and to be, as men have sometimes said, at one in God.

But even in early days, when few nebulae were yet mature, and most were still very unclear in their minds, it became evident to the more awakened that, far from unity, they were steadily drifting apart. As the physical influence of one on another diminished, each nebula perceived its companions shrinking into the distance. Messages took longer and longer to elicit answers.

Had the nebulae been able to communicate telepathically, the “expansion” of the universe might have been faced without despair. But these beings were apparently too simple to make direct and lucid mental contact with one another. Thus they found themselves doomed to separation. And since their life-tempo was so slow, they seemed to themselves to have scarcely found one another before they must be parted. Bitterly they regretted the blindness of their infancy. For as they reached maturity they conceived, one and all, not merely the passion of mutual delight which we call love, but also the conviction that through mental union with one another lay the way to union with the source whence they had come.

When it had become clear that separation was inevitable, when indeed the hard-won community of these naive beings was already failing through the increased difficulty of communication, and the most remote nebulae were already receding from one another at high speed, each perforce made ready to face the mystery of existence in absolute solitude.

There followed an aeon, or rather for the slow-living creatures themselves a brief spell, in which they sought, by self-mastery of their own flesh and by spiritual discipline, to find the supreme illumination which all awakened beings must, in their very nature, seek.

But now there appeared a new trouble. Some of the eldest of the nebulae complained of a strange sickness which greatly hampered their meditations. The outer fringes of their tenuous flesh began to concentrate into little knots. These became in time grains of intense, congested fire. In the void between, there was nothing left but a few stray atoms. At first the complaint was no more serious than some trivial rash on a man’s skin; but later it spread into the deeper tissues of the nebula, and was accompanied by grave mental troubles. In vain the doomed creatures resolved to turn the plague to an advantage by treating it as a heaven-sent test of the spirit. Though for a while they might master the plague simply by heroic contempt of it, its ravages eventually broke down their will. It now seemed clear to them that the cosmos was a place of futility and horror.

Presently the younger nebulae observed that their seniors, one by one, were falling into a state of sluggishness and confusion which ended invariably in the sleep that men call death. Soon it became evident even to the most buoyant spirit that this disease was no casual accident but a fate inherent in the nebular nature.

One by one the celestial megatheria were annihilated, giving place to stars.

Looking back on these events from my post in the far future, I, the rudimentary cosmical mind, tried to make known to the dying nebulae in the remote past that their death, far from being the end, was but an early stage in the life of the cosmos. It was my hope that I might give them consolation by imparting some idea of the vast and intricate future, and of my own final awakening. But it proved impossible to communicate with them. Though within the sphere of their ordinary experience they were capable of a sort of intellection, beyond that sphere they were almost imbecile. As well might a man seek to comfort the disintegrating germ-cell from which he himself sprang by telling it about his own successful career in human society.

Since this attempt to comfort was vain, I put aside compassion, and was content merely to follow to its conclusion the collapse of the nebular community. Judged by human standards the agony was immensely prolonged. It began with the disintegration of the eldest nebulae into stars, and it lasted (or will last) long after the destruction of the final human race on Neptune. Indeed, the last of the nebulae did not sink into complete unconsciousness till many of the corpses of its neighbors had already been transformed into symbiotic societies of stars and minded worlds. But to the slow-living nebulae themselves the plague seemed a galloping disease. One after the other, each great religious beast found itself at grips with the subtle enemy, and fought a gallant losing fight until stupor overwhelmed it. None ever knew that its crumbling flesh teemed with the young and swifter lives of stars, or that it was already sprinkled here and there with the incomparably smaller, incomparably swifter, and incomparably richer lives of creatures such as men, whose crowded ages of history were all compressed within the last few distressful moments of the primeval monsters.

2. The Supreme Moment Nears

The discovery of nebular life deeply moved the incipient cosmical mind that I had become. Patiently I studied those almost formless megatheria, absorbing into my own composite being the fervor of their simple but deep-running nature. For these simple creatures sought their goal with a single-mindedness and passion eclipsing all the worlds and stars. With such earnest imagination did I enter into their history that I myself, the cosmical mind, was in a manner remade by contemplation of these beings. Considering from the nebular point of view the vast complexity and subtlety of the living worlds, I began to wonder whether the endless divagations of the worlds were really due so much to richness of being as to weakness of spiritual perception, so much to the immensely varied potentiality of their nature as to sheer lack of any intense controlling experience. A compass needle that is but feebly magnetized swings again and again to west and east, and takes long to discover its proper direction. One that is more sensitive will settle immediately toward the north. Had the sheer complexity of every world, with its host of minute yet complex members, merely confused its sense of the proper direction of all spirit? Had the simplicity and spiritual vigor of the earliest, hugest beings achieved something of highest value that the complexity and subtlety of the worlds could never achieve?

But no! Excellent as the nebular mentality was, in its own strange way, the stellar and the planetary mentalities had also their special virtues. And of all three the planetary must be most prized, since it could best comprehend all three.

I now allowed myself to believe that I, since I did at last include in my own being an intimate awareness not only of many galaxies but also of the first phase of cosmical life, might now with some justice regard myself as the incipient mind of the cosmos as a whole.

But the awakened galaxies that supported me were still only a small minority of the total population of galaxies. By telepathic influence I continued to help on those many galaxies that were upon the threshold of mental maturity. If I could include within the cosmical community of awakened galaxies some hundreds instead of a mere score of members, perhaps I myself, the communal mind, might be so strengthened as to rise from my present state of arrested mental infancy to something more like maturity. It was clear to me that even now, in my embryonic state, I was ripening for some new elucidation; and that with good fortune I might yet find myself in the presence of that which, in the human language of this book, has been called the Star Maker.

At this time my longing for that presence had become an overmastering passion. It seemed to me that the veil which still hid the source and goal of all nebulae and stars and worlds was already dissolving. That which had kindled so many myriad beings to worship, yet had clearly revealed itself to none, that toward which all beings had blindly striven, representing it to themselves by the images of a myriad divinities, was now, I felt, on the point of revelation to me, the marred but still growing spirit of the cosmos.

I who had myself been worshipped by hosts of my little members, I whose achievement reached far beyond their dreams, was now oppressed, overwhelmed, by the sense of my own littleness and imperfection. For the veiled presence of the Star Maker already overmastered me with dreadful power. The further I ascended along the path of the spirit, the loftier appeared the heights that lay before me. For what I had once thought to be the summit fully revealed was now seen to be a mere foot-hill. Beyond lay the real ascent, steep, cragged, glacial, rising into the dark mist. Never, never should I climb that precipice. And yet I must go forward. Dread was overcome by irresistible craving.

Meanwhile under my influence the immature galaxies one by one attained that pitch of lucidity which enabled them to join the cosmical community and enrich me with their special experience. But physically the enfeeblement of the cosmos continued. By the time that half the total population of galaxies had reached maturity it became clear that few more would succeed.

Of living stars, very few were left in any galaxy. Of the host of dead stars, some, subjected to atomic disintegration, were being used as artificial suns, and were surrounded by many thousands of artificial planets. But the great majority of the stars were now encrusted, and themselves peopled. After a while it became necessary to evacuate all planets, since the artificial suns were too extravagant of energy. The planet-dwelling races therefore one by one destroyed themselves, bequeathing the material of their worlds and all their wisdom to the inhabitants of the extinguished stars. Henceforth the cosmos, once a swarm of blazing galaxies, each a swarm of stars, was composed wholly of star-corpses. These dark grains drifted through the dark void, like an infinitely tenuous smoke rising from an extinguished fire. Upon these motes, these gigantic worlds, the ultimate populations had created here and there with their artificial lighting a pale glow, invisible even from the innermost ring of lifeless planets.

By far the commonest type of being in these stellar worlds was the intelligent swarm of minute worms or insectoids. But there were also many races of larger creatures of a very curious kind adapted to the prodigious gravitation of their giant worlds. Each of these creatures was a sort of living blanket. Its under surface bore a host of tiny legs that were also mouths. These supported a body that was never more than an inch thick, though it might be as much as a couple of yards wide and ten yards long. At the forward end the manipulatory “arms” traveled on their own battalions of legs. The upper surface of the body contained a honeycomb of breathing-pores and a great variety of sense organs. Between the two surfaces spread the organs of metabolism and the vast area of brain. Compared with the worm-swarms and insect-swarms, these tripe-like beings had the advantage of more secure mental unity and greater specialization of organs; but they were more cumbersome, and less adapted to the subterranean life which was later to be forced on all populations.

The huge dark worlds with their immense weight of atmosphere and their incredible breadths of ocean, where the waves even in the most furious storms were never more than ripples such as we know on quicksilver, were soon congested with the honeycomb civilizations of worms and insectoids of many species, and the more precarious shelters of the tripe-like creatures. Life on these worlds was almost like life in a two-dimensional “flat-land.” Even the most rigid of the artificial elements was too weak to allow of lofty structures.

As time advanced, the internal heat of the encrusted stars was used up, and it became necessary to support civilization by atomic disintegration of the star’s rocky core. Thus in time each stellar world became an increasingly hollow sphere supported by a system of great internal buttresses. One by one the populations, or rather the new and specially adapted descendants of the former populations, retired into the interiors of the burnt-out stars.

Each imprisoned in its hollow world, and physically isolated from the rest of the cosmos, these populations telepathically supported the cosmical mind. These were my flesh. In the inevitable “expansion” of the universe, the dark galaxies had already for aeons been flying apart so rapidly that light itself could not have bridged the gulf between them. But this prodigious disintegration of the cosmos was of less account to the ultimate populations than the physical insulation of star from star through the cessation of all stellar radiation and all interstellar travel. The many populations, teeming in the galleries of the many worlds, maintained their telepathic union. Intimately they knew one another in all their diversity. Together they supported the communal mind, with all its awareness of the whole vivid, intricate past of the cosmos, and its tireless effort to achieve its spiritual goal before increase of entropy should destroy the tissue of civilizations in which it inhered.

Such was the condition of the cosmos when it approached the supreme moment of its career, and the illumination toward which all beings in all ages had been obscurely striving. Strange it was that these latter-day populations, cramped and impoverished, counting their past pence of energy, should achieve the task that had defeated the brilliant hosts of earlier epochs. Theirs was indeed the case of the wren that outsoared the eagle. In spite of their straitened circumstances they were still able to maintain the essential structure of a cosmical community, and a cosmical mentality. And with native insight they could use the past to deepen their wisdom far beyond the range of any past wisdom. The supreme moment of the cosmos was not (or will not be) a moment by human standards; but by cosmical standards it was indeed a brief instant. When little more than half the total population of many million galaxies had entered fully into the cosmical community, and it was clear that no more were to be expected, there followed a period of universal meditation. The populations maintained their straitened Utopian civilizations, lived their personal lives of work and social intercourse, and at the same time, upon the communal plane, refashioned the whole structure of cosmical culture. Of this phase I shall say nothing. Suffice it that to each galaxy and to each world was assigned a special creative mental function, and that all assimilated the work of all. At the close of this period I, the communal mind, emerged re-made, as from a chrysalis; and for a brief moment, which was indeed the supreme moment of the cosmos, I faced the Star Maker.

For the human author of this book there is now nothing left of that age-long, that eternal moment which I experienced as the cosmical mind, save the recollection of a bitter beatitude, together with a few incoherent memories of the experience itself which fired me with that beatitude.

Somehow I must tell something of that experience. Inevitably I face the task with a sense of abysmal incompetence. The greatest minds of the human race through all the ages of human history have failed to describe their moments of deepest insight. Then how dare I attempt this task? And yet I must. Even at the risk of well-merited ridicule and contempt and moral censure, I must stammer out what I have seen. If a shipwrecked seaman on his raft is swept helplessly past marvelous coasts and then home again, he cannot hold his peace. The cultivated may turn away in disgust at his rude accent and clumsy diction. The knowing may laugh at his failure to distinguish between fact and illusion. But speak he must.

3. The Supreme Moment and After

In the supreme moment of the cosmos I, as the cosmical mind, seemed to myself to be confronted with the source and the goal of all finite things.

I did not, of course, in that moment sensuously perceive the infinite spirit, the Star Maker. Sensuously I perceived nothing but what I had perceived before, the populous interiors of many dying stellar worlds. But through the medium which in this book is called telepathic I was now given a more inward perception. I felt the immediate presence of the Star Maker. Latterly, as I have said, I had already been powerfully seized by a sense of the veiled presence of some being other than myself, other than my cosmical body and conscious mind, other than my living members and the swarms of the burnt-out stars. But now the veil trembled and grew half-transparent to the mental vision. The source and goal of all, the Star Maker, was obscurely revealed to me as a being indeed other than my conscious self, objective to my vision, yet as in the depth of my own nature; as, indeed, myself, though infinitely more than myself.

It seemed to me that I now saw the Star Maker in two aspects: as the spirit’s particular creative mode that had given rise to me, the cosmos; and also, most dreadfully, as something incomparably greater than creativity, namely as the eternally achieved perfection of the absolute spirit.

Barren, barren and trivial are these words. But not barren the experience.

Confronted with this infinity that lay deeper than my deepest roots and higher than my topmost reach, I, the cosmical mind, the flower of all the stars and worlds, was appalled, as any savage is appalled by the lightning and the thunder. And as I fell abject before the Star Maker, my mind was flooded with a spate of images. The fictitious deities of all races in all worlds once more crowded themselves upon me, symbols of majesty and tenderness, of ruthless power, of blind creativity, and of all-seeing wisdom. And though these images were but the fantasies of created minds, it seemed to me that one and all did indeed embody some true feature of the Star Maker’s impact upon the creatures.

As I contemplated the host of deities that rose to me like a smoke cloud from the many worlds, a new image, a new symbol of the infinite spirit, took shape in my mind. Though born of my own cosmical imagination, it was begotten by a greater than I. To the human writer of this book little remains of that vision which so abashed and exalted me as the cosmical mind. But I must strive to recapture it in a feeble net of words as best I may.

It seemed to me that I had reached back through time to the moment of creation. I watched the birth of the cosmos.

The spirit brooded. Though infinite and eternal, it had limited itself with finite and temporal being, and it brooded on a past that pleased it not. It was dissatisfied with some past creation, hidden from me; and it was dissatisfied also with its own passing nature. Discontent goaded the spirit into fresh creation.

But now, according to the fantasy that my cosmical mind conceived, the absolute spirit, self-limited for creativity, objectified from itself an atom of its infinite potentiality. This microcosm was pregnant with the germ of a proper time and space, and all the kinds of cosmical beings. Within this punctual cosmos the myriad but not unnumbered physical centers of power, which men conceive vaguely as electrons, protons, and the rest, were at first coincident with one another. And they were dormant. The matter of ten million galaxies lay dormant in a point.

Then the Star Maker said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. From all the coincident and punctual centers of power, light leapt and blazed. The cosmos exploded, actualizing its potentiality of space and time. The centers of power, like fragments of a bursting bomb, were hurled apart. But each one retained in itself, as a memory and a longing, the single spirit of the whole; and each mirrored in itself aspects of all others throughout all the cosmical space and time.

No longer punctual, the cosmos was now a volume of inconceivably dense matter and inconceivably violent radiation, constantly expanding. And it was a sleeping and infinitely dissociated spirit.

But to say that the cosmos was expanding is equally to say that its members were contracting. The ultimate centers of power, each at first coincident with the punctual cosmos, themselves generated the cosmical space by their disengagement from each other. The expansion of the whole cosmos was but the shrinkage of all its physical units and of the wave-lengths of its light. Though the cosmos was ever of finite bulk, in relation to its minutiae of light-waves, it was boundless and center-less. As the surface of a swelling sphere lacks boundary and center, so the swelling volume of the cosmos was boundless and center-less. But as the spherical surface is centered on a point foreign to it, in a “third dimension,” so the volume of the cosmos was centered in a point foreign to it, in a “fourth dimension.”

The congested and exploding cloud of fire swelled till it was of a planet’s size, a star’s size, the size of a whole galaxy, and of ten million galaxies. And in swelling it became more tenuous, less brilliant, less turbulent. Presently the cosmical cloud was disrupted by the stress of its expansion in conflict with the mutual clinging of its parts, disrupted into many million cloudlets, the swarm of the great nebulae.

For a while these were as close to one another in relation to their bulk as the flocculations of a mottled sky. But the channels between them widened, till they were separated as flowers on a bush, as bees in a flying swarm, as birds migrating, as ships on the sea. More and more rapidly they retreated from one another; and at the same time each cloud contracted, becoming first a ball of down and then a spinning lens and then a featured whirl of star-streams.

Still the cosmos expanded, till the galaxies that were most remote from one another were flying apart so swiftly that the creeping light of the cosmos could no longer bridge the gulf between them.

But I, with imaginative vision, retained sight of them all. It was as though some other, some hypercosmical and instantaneous light, issuing from nowhere in the cosmical space, illuminated all things inwardly.

Once more, but in a new and cold and penetrating light, I watched all the lives of stars and worlds, and of the galactic communities, and of myself, up to the moment wherein now I stood, confronted by the infinity that men call God, and conceive according to their human cravings.

I, too, now sought to capture the infinite spirit, the Star Maker, in an image spun by my own finite though cosmical nature. For now it seemed to me, it seemed, that I suddenly outgrew the three-dimensional vision proper to all creatures, and that I saw with physical sight the Star Maker. I saw, though nowhere in cosmical space, the blazing source of the hypercosmical light, as though it were an overwhelmingly brilliant point, a star, a sun more powerful than all suns together. It seemed to me that this effulgent star was the center of a four-dimensional sphere whose curved surface was the three-dimensional cosmos. This star of stars, this star that was indeed the Star Maker, was perceived by me, its cosmical creature, for one moment before its splendor seared my vision. And in that moment I knew that I had indeed seen the very source of all cosmical light and life and mind; and of how much else besides I had as yet no knowledge.

But this image, this symbol that my cosmical mind had conceived under the stress of inconceivable experience, broke and was transformed in the very act of my conceiving it, so inadequate was it to the actuality of the experience. Harking back in my blindness to the moment of my vision, I now conceived that the star which was the Star Maker, and the immanent center of all existence, had been perceived as looking down on me, his creature, from the height of his infinitude; and that when I saw him I immediately spread the poor wings of my spirit to soar up to him, only to be blinded and seared and struck down. It had seemed to me in the moment of my vision that all the longing and hope of all finite spirits for union with the infinite spirit were strength to my wings. It seemed to me that the Star, my Maker, must surely stoop to meet me and raise me and enfold me in his radiance. For it seemed to me that I, the spirit of so many worlds, the flower of so many ages, was the Church Cosmical, fit at last to be the bride of God. But instead I was blinded and seared and struck down by terrible light.

It was not only physical effulgence that struck me down in that supreme moment of my life. In that moment I guessed what mood it was of the infinite spirit that had in fact made the cosmos, and constantly supported it, watching its tortured growth. And it was that discovery which felled me.

For I had been confronted not by welcoming and kindly love, but by a very different spirit. And at once I knew that the Star Maker had made me not to be his bride, nor yet his treasured child, but for some other end.

It seemed to me that he gazed down on me from the height of his divinity with the aloof though passionate attention of an artist judging his finished work; calmly rejoicing in its achievement, but recognizing at last the irrevocable flaws in its initial conception, and already lusting for fresh creation.

His gaze anatomized me with calm skill, dismissing my imperfections, and absorbing for his own enrichment all the little excellence that I had won in the struggle of the ages.

In my agony I cried out against my ruthless maker. I cried out that, after all, the creature was nobler than the creator; for the creature loved and craved love, even from the star that was the Star Maker; but the creator, the Star Maker, neither loved nor had need of love.

But no sooner had I, in my blinded misery, cried out, than I was struck dumb with shame. For suddenly it was clear to me that virtue in the creator is not the same as virtue in the creature. For the creator, if he should love his creature, would be loving only a part of himself; but the creature, praising the creator, praises an infinity beyond himself. I saw that the virtue of the creature was to love and to worship, but the virtue of the creator was to create, and to be the infinite, the unrealizable and incomprehensible goal of worshipping creatures.

Once more, but in shame and adoration, I cried out to my maker. I said, “It is enough, and far more than enough, to be the creature of so dread and lovely a spirit, whose potency is infinite, whose nature passes the comprehension even of a minded cosmos. It is enough to have been created, to have embodied for a moment the infinite and tumultuously creative spirit. It is infinitely more than enough to have been used, to have been the rough sketch for some perfected creation.”

And so there came upon me a strange peace and a strange joy.

Looking into the future, I saw without sorrow, rather with quiet interest, my own decline and fall. I saw the populations of the stellar worlds use up more and more of their resources for the maintenance of their frugal civilizations. So much of the interior matter of the stars did they disintegrate, that their worlds were in danger of collapse. Some worlds did indeed crash in fragments upon their hollow centers, destroying the indwelling peoples. Most, before the critical point was reached, were remade, patiently taken to pieces and rebuilt upon a smaller scale. One by one, each star was turned into a world of merely planetary size. Some were no bigger than the moon. The populations themselves were reduced to a mere millionth of their original numbers, maintaining within each little hollow grain a mere skeleton civilization in conditions that became increasingly penurious.

Looking into the future aeons from the supreme moment of the cosmos, I saw the populations still with all their strength maintaining the essentials of their ancient culture, still living their personal lives in zest and endless novelty of action, still practicing telepathic intercourse between worlds, still telepathically sharing all that was of value in their respective world-spirits, still supporting a truly cosmical community with its single cosmical mind. I saw myself still preserving, though with increasing difficulty, my lucid consciousness; battling against the onset of drowsiness and senility, no longer in the hope of winning through to any more glorious state than that which I had already known, or of laying a less inadequate jewel of worship before the Star Maker, but simply out of sheer hunger for experience, and out of loyalty to the spirit.

But inevitably decay overtook me. World after world, battling with increasing economic difficulties, was forced to reduce its population below the numbers needed for the functioning of its own communal mentality. Then, like a degenerating brain-center, it could no longer fulfil its part in the cosmical experience.

Looking forward from my station in the supreme moment of the cosmos, I saw myself, the cosmical mind, sink steadily toward death. But in this my last aeon, when all my powers were waning, and the burden of my decaying body pressed heavily on my enfeebled courage, an obscure memory of past lucidity still consoled me. For confusedly I knew that even in this my last, most piteous age I was still under the zestful though remote gaze of the Star Maker.

Still probing the future, from the moment of my supreme unwithered maturity, I saw my death, the final breaking of those telepathic contacts on which my being depended. Thereafter the few surviving worlds lived on in absolute isolation, and in that barbarian condition which men call civilized. Then in world after world the basic skills of material civilization began to fail; and in particular the techniques of atomic disintegration and photosynthesis. World after world either accidentally exploded its little remaining store of matter, and was turned into a spreading, fading sphere of lightwaves in the immense darkness; or else died miserably of starvation and cold. Presently nothing was left in the whole cosmos but darkness and the dark whiffs of dust that once were galaxies. Aeons incalculable passed. Little by little each whiff of dust-grains contracted upon itself through the gravitational influence of its parts; till at last, not without fiery collisions between wandering grains, all the matter in each whiff was concentrated to become a single lump. The pressure of the huge outer regions heated the center of each lump to incandescence and even to explosive activity. But little by little the last resources of the cosmos were radiated away from the cooling lumps, and nothing was left but rock and the inconceivably faint ripples of radiation that crept in all directions throughout the ever “expanding” cosmos, far too slowly to bridge the increasing gulfs between the islanded grains of rock.

Meanwhile, since each rocky sphere that had once been a galaxy had been borne beyond every possible physical influence of its fellows, and there were no minds to maintain telepathic contact between them, each was in effect a wholly distinct universe. And since all change had ceased, the proper time of each barren universe had also ceased.

Since this apparently was to be the static and eternal end, I withdrew my fatigued attention back once more to the supreme moment which was in fact my present, or rather my immediate past. And with the whole mature power of my mind I tried to see more clearly what it was that had been present to me in that immediate past. For in that instant when I had seen the blazing star that was the Star Maker, I had glimpsed, in the very eye of that splendor, strange vistas of being; as though in the depths of the hypercosmical past and the hypercosmical future also, yet coexistent in eternity, lay cosmos beyond cosmos.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00