Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon

Chapter 15

The Maker and His Works

1. Immature Creating

ACCORDING to the fantastic myth or dream that was evoked from my mind after the supreme moment of experience, the particular cosmos which I had come to regard as “myself” falls somewhere neither early nor late in the vast series of creations. It appeared to be in some respects the Star Maker’s first mature work; but in comparison with later creations it was in many ways juvenile in spirit.

Though the early creations express the nature of the Star Maker merely in his immature phase, for the most part they fall in important respects aside from the direction of human thought, and therefore I cannot now recapture them. They have left me with little more than a vague sense of the multiplicity and diversity of the Star Maker’s works. Nevertheless a few humanly intelligible traces remain and must be recorded.

In the crude medium of my dream the first cosmos of all appeared as a surprisingly simple thing. The infant Star Maker, teased, as it seemed to me, by his unexpressed potency, conceived and objectified from himself two qualities. With these alone he made his first toy cosmos, a temporal rhythm, as it were of sound and silence. From this first simple drum-beat, premonitory of a thousand creations, he developed with infantile but god-like zest a flickering tattoo, a changeful complexity of rhythm. Presently, through contemplation of his creature’s simple form, he conceived the possibility of more subtle creating. Thus the first of all creatures itself bred in its creator a need that itself could never satisfy. Therefore the infant Star Maker brought his first cosmos to a close. Regarding it from outside the cosmical time which it had generated, he apprehended its whole career as present, though none the less a flux. And when he had quietly assessed his work, he withdrew his attention from it and brooded for a second creation.

Thereafter, cosmos upon cosmos, each more rich and subtle than the last, leapt from his fervent imagination. In some of his earliest creations he seemed to be concerned only with the physical aspect of the substance which he had objectified from himself. He was blind to its physical potentiality. In one early cosmos, however, the patterns of physical quality with which he played simulated an individuality and a life which they did not in fact possess. Or did they possess it? In a later creation, certainly, true life broke out most strangely. This was a cosmos which the Star Maker apprehended physically much as men apprehended music. It was a rich sequence of qualities diverse in pitch and in intensity. With this toy the infant Star Maker played delightedly, inventing an infinite wealth of melody and counterpoint. But before he had worked out all the subtleties of pattern implied in this little world of cold, mathematical music, before he had created more than a few kinds of lifeless, musical creatures, it became evident that some of his creatures were manifesting traces of a life of their own, recalcitrant to the conscious purpose of the Star Maker. The themes of the music began to display modes of behavior that were not in accord with the canon which he had ordained for them. It seemed to me that he watched them with intense interest, and that they spurred him to new conceptions, beyond the creatures’ power to fulfil. Therefore he brought this cosmos to completion; and in a novel manner. He contrived that the last state of the cosmos should lead immediately back to the first. He knotted the final event temporally to the beginning, so that the cosmical time formed an endless circlet. After considering his work from outside its proper time, he set it aside, and brooded for a fresh creation.

For the next cosmos he consciously projected something of his own percipience and will, ordaining that certain patterns and rhythms of quality should be the perceivable bodies of perceiving minds. Seemingly these creatures were intended to work together to produce the harmony which he had conceived for this cosmos; but instead, each sought to mold the whole cosmos in accordance with its own form. The creatures fought desperately, and with self-righteous conviction. When they were damaged, they suffered pain. This, seemingly, was something which the young Star Maker had never experienced or conceived. With rapt, surprised interest, and (as it seemed to me) with almost diabolical glee, he watched the antics and the sufferings of his first living creatures, till by their mutual strife and slaughter they had reduced this cosmos to chaos.

Thenceforth the Star Maker never for long ignored his creatures’ potentiality for intrinsic life. It seemed to me, however, that many of his early experiments in vital creation went strangely awry, and that sometimes, seemingly in disgust with the biological, he would revert for a while to purely physical fantasies.

I can only briefly describe the host of the early creations. Suffice it that they issued from the divine though still infantile imagination one after the other like bright but trivial bubbles, gaudy with color, rich with all manner of physical subtleties, lyrical and often tragic with the loves and hates, the lusts and aspirations and communal enterprises of the Star Maker’s early experimental conscious beings.

Many of these early universes were non-spatial, though none the less physical. And of these non-spatial universes not a few were of the “musical” type, in which space was strangely represented by a dimension corresponding to musical pitch, and capacious with myriads of tonal differences. The creatures appeared to one another as complex patterns and rhythms of tonal characters. They could move their tonal bodies in the dimension of pitch, and sometimes in other dimensions, humanly inconceivable. A creature’s body was a more or less constant tonal pattern, with much the same degree of flexibility and minor changefulness as a human body. Also, it could traverse other living bodies in the pitch dimension much as wave-trains on a pond may cross one another. But though these beings could glide through one another, they could also grapple, and damage one another’s tonal tissues. Some, indeed, lived by devouring others; for the more complex needed to integrate into their own vital patterns the simpler patterns that exfoliated throughout the cosmos directly from the creative power of the Star Maker. The intelligent creatures could manipulate for their own ends elements wrenched from the fixed tonal environment, thus constructing artifacts of tonal pattern. Some of these served as tools for the more efficient pursuit of “agricultural” activities, by which they enhanced the abundance of their natural food. Universes of this non-spatial kind, though incomparably simpler and more meager than our own cosmos, were rich enough to produce societies capable not only of “agriculture” but of “handicrafts,” and even a kind of pure art that combined the characteristics of song and dance and verse. Philosophy, generally rather Pythagorean, appeared for the first time in a cosmos of this “musical” kind. In nearly all the Star Maker’s works, as revealed in my dream, time was a more fundamental attribute than space. Though in some of his earliest creations he excluded time, embodying merely a static design, this plan was soon abandoned. It gave little scope to his skill. Moreover, since it excluded the possibility of life and mind, it was incompatible with all but the earliest phase of his interest.

Space, my dream declared, appeared first as a development of a non-spatial dimension in a “musical” cosmos. The tonal creatures in this cosmos could move not merely “up” and “down” the scale but “sideways.” In human music particular themes may seem to approach or retreat, owing to variations of loudness and timbre. In a rather similar manner the creatures in this “musical” cosmos could approach one another or retreat and finally vanish out of earshot. In passing “sideways” they traveled through continuously changing tonal environments. In a subsequent cosmos this “sideways” motion of the creatures was enriched with true spatial experience.

There followed creations with spatial characters of several dimensions, creations Euclidean and non-Euclidean, creations exemplifying a great diversity of geometrical and physical principles. Sometimes time, or space-time, was the fundamental reality of the cosmos, and the entities were but fleeting modifications of it; but more often, qualitative events were fundamental, and these were related in spatio-temporal manners. In some cases the system of spatial relations was infinite, in others finite though boundless. In some the finite extent of space was of constant magnitude in relation to the atomic material constituents of the cosmos; in some, as in our own cosmos, it was manifested as in many respects “expanding.” In others again space “contracted”; so that the end of such a cosmos, rich perhaps in intelligent communities, was the collision and congestion of all its parts, and their final coincidence and vanishing into a dimensionless point.

In some creations expansion and ultimate quiescence were followed by contraction and entirely new kinds of physical activity. Sometimes, for example, gravity was replaced by anti-gravity. All large lumps of matter tended to burst asunder, and all small ones to fly apart from each other. In one such cosmos the law of entropy also was reversed. Energy, instead of gradually spreading itself evenly throughout the cosmos, gradually piled itself upon the ultimate material units. I came in time to suspect that my own cosmos was followed by a reversed cosmos of this kind, in which, of course, the nature of living things was profoundly different from anything conceivable to man. But this is a digression, for I am at present describing much earlier and simpler universes. Many a universe was physically a continuous fluid in which the solid creatures swam. Others were constructed as series of concentric spheres, peopled by diverse orders of creatures. Some quite early universes were quasi-astronomical, consisting of a void sprinkled with rare and minute centers of power.

Sometimes the Star Maker fashioned a cosmos which was without any single, objective, physical nature. Its creatures were wholly without influence on one another; but under the direct stimulation of the Star Maker each creature conceived an illusory but reliable and useful physical world of its own, and peopled it with figments of its imagination. These subjective worlds the mathematical genius of the Star Maker correlated in a manner that was perfectly systematic.

I must not say more of the immense diversity of physical form which, according to my dream, the early creations assumed. It is enough to mention that, in general, each cosmos was more complex, and in a sense more voluminous than the last; for in each the ultimate physical units were smaller in relation to the whole, and more multitudinous. Also, in each the individual conscious creatures were generally more in number, and more diverse in type; and the most awakened in each cosmos reached a more lucid mentality than any creatures in the previous cosmos.

Biologically and psychologically the early creations were very diverse. In some cases there was a biological evolution such as we know. A small minority of species would precariously ascend toward greater individuation and mental clarity. In other creations the species were biologically fixed, and progress, if it occurred, was wholly cultural. In a few most perplexing creations the most awakened state of the cosmos was at the beginning, and the Star Maker calmly watched this lucid consciousness decay.

Sometimes a cosmos started as a single lowly organism with an internal, non-organic environment. It then propagated by fission into an increasing host of increasingly small and increasingly individuated and awakened creatures. In some of these universes evolution would continue till the creatures became too minute to accommodate the complexity of organic structure necessary for intelligent minds. The Star Maker would then watch the cosmical societies desperately striving to circumvent the fated degeneration of their race.

In some creations the crowning achievement of the cosmos was a chaos of mutually unintelligible societies, each devoted to the service of some one mode of the spirit, and hostile to all others. In some the climax was a single Utopian society of distinct minds; in others a single composite cosmical mind.

Sometimes it pleased the Star Maker to ordain that each creature in a cosmos should be an inevitable, determinate expression of the environment’s impact on its ancestors and itself. In other creations each creature had some power of arbitrary choice, and some modicum of the Star Maker’s own creativity. So it seemed to me in my dream; but even in my dream I suspected that to a more subtle observer both kinds would have appeared as in fact determinate, and yet both of them also spontaneous and creative.

In general the Star Maker, once he had ordained the basic principles of a cosmos and created its initial state, was content to watch the issue; but sometimes he chose to interfere, either by infringing the natural laws that he himself had ordained, or by introducing new emergent formative principles, or by influencing the minds of the creatures by direct revelation. This according to my dream, was sometimes done to improve a cosmical design; but, more often, interference was included in his original plan. Sometimes the Star Maker flung off creations which were in effect groups of many linked universes, wholly distinct physical systems of very different kinds, yet related by the fact that the creatures lived their lives successively in universe after universe, assuming in each habitat an indigenous physical form, but bearing with them in their transmigration faint and easily misinterpreted memories of earlier existences. In another way also, this principle of transmigration was some-times used. Even creations that were not thus systematically linked might contain creatures that mentally echoed in some vague but haunting manner the experience or the temperament of their counterparts in some other cosmos.

One very dramatic device was used in cosmos after cosmos. I mentioned earlier that in my dream the immature Star Maker had seemed to regard the tragic failure of his first biological experiment with a kind of diabolical glee. In many subsequent creations also he appeared to be two-minded. Whenever his conscious creative plan was thwarted by some unsuspected potentiality of the substance which he had objectified from his unconscious depth, his mood seemed to include not only frustration but also surprised satisfaction, as of some unrecognized hunger unexpectedly satisfied. This two-mindedness at length gave rise to a new mode of creating. There came a stage in the Star Maker’s growth, as my dream represented it, when he contrived to dissociate himself as two independent spirits, the one his essential self, the spirit that sought positive creation of vital and spiritual forms and ever more lucid awareness, the other a rebellious, destructive and cynical spirit, that could have no being save as a parasite upon the works of the other.

Again and again he dissociated these two moods of himself, objectified them as independent spirits, and permitted them to strive within a cosmos for mastery. One such cosmos, which consisted of three linked universes, was somewhat reminiscent of Christian orthodoxy. The first of these linked universes was inhabited by generations of creatures gifted with varying degrees of sensibility, intelligence, and moral integrity. Here the two spirits played for the souls of the creatures. The “good” spirit exhorted, helped, rewarded, punished; the “evil” spirit deceived, tempted, and morally destroyed. At death the creatures passed into one or other of the two secondary universes, which constituted a timeless heaven and a timeless hell. There they experienced an eternal moment either of ecstatic comprehension and worship or of the extreme torment of remorse.

When my dream presented me with this crude, this barbaric figment, I was at first moved with horror and incredulity. How could the Star Maker, even in his immaturity, condemn his creatures to agony for the weakness that he himself had allotted to them? How could such a vindictive deity command worship? In vain I told myself that my dream must have utterly falsified the reality; for I was convinced that in this respect it was not false, but in some sense true, at least symbolically. Yet, even when I was confronted by this brutal deed, even in the revulsion of pity and horror, I saluted the Star Maker.

To excuse my worship, I told myself that this dread mystery lay far beyond my comprehension, and that in some sense even such flagrant cruelty must, in the Star Maker, be right. Did barbarity perhaps belong to the Star Maker only in his immaturity? Later, when he was fully himself, would he finally outgrow it? No! Already I deeply knew that this ruthlessness was to be manifested even in the ultimate cosmos. Could there, then, be some key fact, overlooked by me, in virtue of which such seeming vindictiveness was justified? Was it simply that all creatures were indeed but figments of the creative power, and that in tormenting his creatures the Star Maker did but torment himself in the course of his adventure of self-expression? Or was it perhaps that even the Star Maker himself, though mighty, was limited in all creation by certain absolute logical principles, and that one of these was the indissoluble bond between betrayal and remorse in half-awakened spirits? Had he, in this strange cosmos, simply accepted and used the ineluctable limitations of his art? Or again, was my respect given to the Star Maker only as the “good” spirit, not as the “evil” spirit? And was he in fact striving to eject evil from himself by means of this device of dissociation?

Some such explanation was suggested by the strange evolution of this cosmos. Since its denizens had mostly a very low degree of intelligence and moral integrity, the hell was soon overcrowded, while the heaven remained almost empty. But the Star Maker in his “good” aspect loved and pitied his creatures. The “good” spirit therefore entered into the mundane sphere to redeem the sinners by his own suffering. And so at last the heaven was peopled, though the hell was not depopulated.

Was it, then, only the “good” aspect of the Star Maker that I worshipped? No! Irrationally, yet with conviction, I gave my adoration to the Star Maker as comprising both aspects of his dual nature, both the “good” and the “evil,” both the mild and the terrible, both the humanly ideal and the incomprehensibly inhuman. Like an infatuated lover who denies or excuses the flagrant faults of the beloved, I strove to palliate the inhumanity of the Star Maker, nay positively I gloried in it. Was there then something cruel in my own nature? Or did my heart vaguely recognize that love, the supreme virtue in creatures, must not in the creator be absolute?

This dire and insoluble problem confronted me again and again in the course of my dream. For instance there appeared a creation in which the two spirits were permitted to strive in a novel and more subtle manner. In its early phase this cosmos manifested only physical characters; but the Star Maker provided that its vital potentiality should gradually express itself in certain kinds of living creatures which, generation by generation, should emerge from the purely physical and evolve toward intelligence and spiritual lucidity. In this cosmos he permitted the two spirits, the “good” and the “evil,” to compete even in the very making of the creatures.

In the long early ages the spirits struggled over the evolution of the innumerable species. The “good” spirit worked to produce creatures more highly organized, more individual, more delicately related to the environment, more skilled in action, more comprehensively and vividly aware of their world, of themselves, and of other selves. The “evil” spirit tried to thwart this enterprise.

The organs and tissues of every species manifested throughout their structure the conflict of the two spirits. Sometimes the “evil” spirit contrived seemingly unimportant but insidious and lethal features for a creature’s undoing. Its nature would include some special liability to harbor parasites, some weakness of digestive machinery, some instability of nervous organization. In other cases the “evil” spirit would equip some lower species with special weapons for the destruction of the pioneers of evolution, so that they should succumb, either to some new disease, or to plagues of the vermin of this particular cosmos, or to the more brutish of their own kind.

A still more ingenious plan the evil spirit sometimes used with great effect. When the “good” spirit had hit upon some promising device, and from small beginnings had worked up in its favoured species some new organic structure or mode of behavior, the evil spirit would contrive that the process of evolution should continue long after it had reached perfect adjustment to the creature’s needs. Teeth would grow so large that eating became excessively difficult, protective shells so heavy that they hampered locomotion, horns so curved that they pressed upon the brain, the impulse to individuality so imperious that it destroyed society, or the social impulse so obsessive that individuality was crushed.

Thus in world after world of this cosmos, which greatly surpassed all earlier creations in complexity, almost every species came sooner or later to grief. But in some worlds a single species reached the “human” level of intelligence and I of spiritual sensibility. Such a combination of powers ought to have secured it from all possible attack. But both intelligence and spiritual sensibility were most skilfully perverted by the “evil” spirit. For though by nature they were complementary, they could be brought into conflict; or else one or both could be exaggerated so as to become as lethal as the extravagant horns and teeth of earlier kinds. Thus intelligence, which led on the one hand to the mastery of physical force and on the other to intellectual subtlety, might, if divorced from spiritual sensibility, cause disaster. The mastery of physical force often produced a mania for power, and the dissection of society into two alien classes, the powerful and the enslaved. Intellectual subtlety might produce a mania for analysis and abstraction, with blindness to all that intellect could not expound. Yet sensibility itself, when it rejected intellectual criticism and the claims of daily life, would be smothered in dreams.

2. Mature Creating

According to the myth that my mind conceived when the supreme moment of my cosmical experience had passed, the Star Maker at length entered into a state of rapt meditation in which his own nature suffered a revolutionary change. So at least I judged from the great change that now came over his creative activity.

After he had reviewed with new eyes all his earlier works, dismissing each, as it seemed to me, with mingled respect and impatience, he discovered in himself a new and pregnant conception.

The cosmos which he now created was that which contains the readers and the writer of this book. In its making he used, but with more cunning art, many of the principles which had already served him in earlier creations; and he wove them together to form a more subtle and more capacious unity than ever before.

It seemed to me, in my fantasy, that he approached this new enterprise in a new mood. Each earlier cosmos appeared to have been fashioned with conscious will to embody certain principles, physical, biological, psychological. As has already been reported, there often appeared a conflict between his intellectual purpose and the raw nature which he had evoked for his creature out of the depth of his own obscure being. This time, however, he dealt more sensitively with the medium of his creation. The crude spiritual “material” which he objectified from his own hidden depth for the formation of his new creature was molded to his still tentative purpose with more sympathetic intelligence, with more respect for its nature and its potentiality, though with detachment from its more extravagant demands.

To speak thus of the universal creative spirit is almost childishly anthropomorphic. For the life of such a spirit, if it exists at all, must be utterly different from human mentality, and utterly inconceivable to man. Nevertheless, since this childish symbolism did force itself upon me, I record it. In spite of its crudity, perhaps it does contain some genuine reflection of the truth, however distorted.

In the new creation there occurred a strange kind of discrepancy between the Star Maker’s own time and the time proper to the cosmos itself. Hitherto, though he could detach himself from the cosmical time when the cosmical history had completed itself, and observe all the cosmical ages as present, he could not actually create the later phases of a cosmos before he had created the earlier. In his new creation he was not thus limited.

Thus although this new cosmos was my own cosmos, I regarded it from a surprising angle of vision. No longer did it appear as a familiar sequence of historical events beginning with the initial physical explosion and advancing to the final death. I saw it now not from within the flux of the cosmical time but quite otherwise. I watched the fashioning of the cosmos in the time proper to the Star Maker; and the sequence of the Star Maker’s creative acts was very different from the sequence of historical events.

First he conceived from the depth of his own being a something, neither mind nor matter, but rich in potentiality, and in suggestive traits, gleams, hints for his creative imagination. Over this fine substance for a long while he pondered. It was a medium in which the one and the many demanded to be most subtly dependent upon one another; in which all parts and all characters must pervade and be pervaded by all other parts and all other characters; in which each thing must seemingly be but an influence in all other things; and yet the whole must be no other than the sum of all its parts, and each part an all-pervading determination of the whole. It was a cosmical substance in which any individual spirit must be, mysteriously, at once an absolute self and a mere figment of the whole.

This most subtle medium the Star Maker now rough-hewed into the general form of a cosmos. Thus he fashioned a still indeterminate space-time, as yet quite ungeometrized; an amorphous physicality with no clear quality or direction, no intricacy of physical laws; a more distinctly conceived vital trend and epic adventure of mentality; and a surprisingly definite climax and crown of spiritual lucidity. This last, though its situation in the cosmical time was for the most part late, was given a certain precision of outline earlier in the sequence of creative work than any other factor in the cosmos. And it seemed to me that this was so because the initial substance itself so clearly exposed its own potentiality for some such spiritual form. Thus it was that the Star Maker at first almost neglected the physical minutiae of his work, neglected also the earlier ages of cosmical history, and devoted his skill at first almost entirely to shaping the spiritual climax of the whole creature. Not till he had blocked in unmistakably the most awakened phase of the cosmical spirit did he trace any of the variegated psychological trends which, in the cosmical time, should lead up to it. Not till he had given outline to the incredibly diverse themes of mental growth did he give attention fully to constructing the biological evolutions and the physical and geometrical intricacy which could best evoke the more subtle potentialities of his still rough-hewn cosmical spirit. But, as he geometrized, he also intermittently turned again to modify and elucidate the spiritual climax itself. Not till the physical and geometrical form of the cosmos was almost completely fashioned could he endow the spiritual climax with fully concrete individuality.

While he was still working upon the detail of the countless, poignant individual lives, upon the fortunes of men, of ichthyoids, of nautiloids, and the rest, I became convinced that his attitude to his creatures was very different from what it had been for any other cosmos. For he was neither cold to them nor yet simply in love with them. In love with them, indeed, he still was; but he had seemingly outgrown all desire to save them from the consequences of their finitude and from the cruel impact of the environment. He loved them without pity. For he saw that their distinctive virtue lay in their finitude, their minute particularity, their tortured balance between dullness and lucidity; and that to save them from these would be to annihilate them.

When he had given the last touches to all the cosmical ages from the supreme moment back to the initial explosion and on to the final death, the Star Maker contemplated his work. And he saw that it was good.

As he lovingly, though critically, reviewed our cosmos in all its infinite diversity and in its brief moment of lucidity, I felt that he was suddenly filled with reverence for the creature that he had made, or that he had ushered out of his own secret depth by a kind of divine self-midwifery. He knew that this creature, though imperfect, though a mere creature, a mere figment of his own creative power, was yet in a manner more real than himself. For beside this concrete splendor what was he but a mere abstract potency of creation? Moreover in another respect the thing that he had made was his superior, and his teacher. For as he contemplated this the loveliest and subtlest of all his works with exultation, even with awe, its impact upon him changed him, clarifying and deepening his will. As he discriminated its virtue and its weakness, his own perception and his own skill matured. So at least it seemed to my bewildered, awe-stricken mind.

Thus, little by little, it came about, as so often before, that the Star Maker outgrew his creature. Increasingly he frowned upon the loveliness that he still cherished. Then, seemingly with a conflict of reverence and impatience, he set our cosmos in its place among his other works.

Once more he sank into deep meditation. Once more the creative urge possessed him.

Of the many creations which followed I must perforce say almost nothing, for in most respects they lay beyond my mental reach. I could not have any cognizance of them save in so far as they contained, along with much that was inconceivable, some features that were but fantastic embodiments of principles which I had already encountered. Thus all their most vital novelty escaped me.

I can, indeed, say of all these creations that, like our own cosmos, they were immensely capacious, immensely subtle; and that, in some alien manner or other, every one of them had both a physical and a mental aspect; though in many the physical, however crucial to the spirit’s growth, was more transparent, more patently phantasmal than in our own cosmos. In some cases this was true equally of the mental, for the beings were often far less deceived by the opacity of their individual mental processes, and more sensitive to then-underlying unity.

I can say too that in all these creations the goal which, as it seemed to me, the Star Maker sought to realize was richness, delicacy, depth and harmoniousness of being. But what these words in detail mean I should find it hard to say. It seemed to me that in some cases, as in our own cosmos, he pursued this end by means of an evolutionary process crowned by an awakened cosmical mind, which strove to gather into its own awareness the whole wealth of the cosmical existence, and by creative action to increase it. But in many cases this goal was achieved with incomparably greater economy of effort and suffering on the part of the creatures, and without the huge dead loss of utterly wasted, ineffective lives which is to us so heart-rending. Yet in other creations suffering seemed at least as grave and widespread as in our own cosmos.

In his maturity the Star Maker conceived many strange forms of time. For instance, some of the later creations were designed with two or more temporal dimensions, and the lives of the creatures were temporal sequences in one or other dimension of the temporal “area” or “volume.” These beings experienced their cosmos in a very odd manner. Living for a brief period along one dimension, each perceived at every moment of its life a simultaneous vista which, though of course fragmentary and obscure, was actually a view of a whole unique “transverse” cosmical evolution in the other dimension. In some cases a creature had an active life in every temporal dimension of the cosmos. The divine skill which arranged the whole temporal “volume” in such a manner that all the infinite spontaneous acts of all the creatures should fit together to produce a coherent system of transverse evolutions far surpassed even the ingenuity of the earlier experiment in “preestablished harmony.”

In other creations a creature was given only one life, but this was a “zig-zag line,” alternating from one temporal dimension to another according to the quality of the choices that the creature made. Strong or moral choices led in one temporal direction, weak or immoral choices in another.

In one inconceivably complex cosmos, whenever a creature was faced with several possible courses of action, it took them all, thereby creating many distinct temporal dimensions and distinct histories of the cosmos. Since in every evolutionary sequence of the cosmos there were very many creatures, and each was constantly faced with many possible courses, and the combinations of all their courses were innumerable, an infinity of distinct universes exfoliated from every moment of every temporal sequence in this cosmos.

In some creations each being had sensory perception of the whole physical cosmos from many spatial points of view, or even from every possible point of view. In the latter case, of course, the perception of every mind was identical in spatial range, but it varied from mind to mind in respect of penetration or insight. This depended on the mental caliber and disposition of particular minds. Sometimes these beings had not only omnipresent perception but omnipresent volition. They could take action in every region of space, though with varying precision and vigor according to their mental caliber. In a manner they were disembodied spirits, striving over the physical cosmos like chess-players, or like Greek gods over the Trojan Plain.

In other creations, though there was indeed a physical aspect, there was nothing corresponding to the familiar systematic physical universe. The physical experience of the beings was wholly determined by their mutual impact on one another. Each flooded its fellows with sensory “images,” the quality and sequence of which were determined according to psychological laws of the impact of mind on mind.

In other creations the processes of perception, memory, intellection, and even desire and feeling were so different from ours as to constitute in fact a mentality of an entirely different order. Of these minds, though I seemed to catch remote echoes of them, I cannot say anything.

Or rather, though I cannot speak of the alien psychical modes of these beings, one very striking fact about them I can record. However incomprehensible their basic mental fibers and the patterns into which these were woven, in one respect all these beings came fleetingly within my comprehension. However foreign to me their lives, in one respect they were my kin. For all these cosmical creatures, senior to me, and more richly endowed, constantly faced existence in the manner that I myself still haltingly strove to learn. Even in pain and grief, even in the very act of moral striving and of white-hot pity, they met fate’s issue with joy. Perhaps the most surprising and heartening fact that emerged from all my cosmical and hypercosmical experience was this kinship and mutual intelligibility of the most alien beings in respect of the pure spiritual experience. But I was soon to discover that in this connection I had still much to learn.

3. The Ultimate Cosmos and the Eternal Spirit

In vain my fatigued, my tortured attention strained to follow the increasingly subtle creations which, according to my dream, the Star Maker conceived. Cosmos after cosmos issued from his fervent imagination, each one with a distinctive spirit infinitely diversified, each in its fullest attainment more awakened than the last; but each one less comprehensible to me.

At length, so my dream, my myth, declared, the Star Maker created his ultimate and most subtle cosmos, for which all others were but tentative preparations. Of this final creature I can say only that it embraced within its own organic texture the essences of all its predecessors; and far more besides. It was like the last movement of a symphony, which may embrace, by the significance of its themes, the essence of the earlier movements; and far more besides. This metaphor extravagantly understates the subtlety and complexity of the ultimate cosmos. I was gradually forced to believe that its relation to each earlier cosmos was approximately that of our own cosmos to a human being, nay to a single physical atom. Every cosmos that I had hitherto observed now turned out to be a single example of a myriad-fold class, like a biological species, or the class of all the atoms of a single element. The internal life of each “atomic” cosmos had seemingly the same kind of relevance (and the same kind of irrelevance) to the life of the ultimate cosmos as the events within a brain cell, or in one of its atoms, to the life of a human mind. Yet in spite of this huge discrepancy I seemed to sense throughout the whole dizzying hierarchy of creations a striking identity of spirit. In all, the goal was conceived, in the end, to include community and the lucid and creative mind.

I strained my fainting intelligence to capture something of the form of the ultimate cosmos. With mingled admiration and protest I haltingly glimpsed the final subtleties of world and flesh and spirit, and of the community of those most diverse and individual beings, awakened to full self-knowledge and mutual insight. But as I strove to hear more inwardly into that music of concrete spirits in countless worlds, I caught echoes not merely of joys unspeakable, but of griefs inconsolable. For some of these ultimate beings not only suffered, but suffered in darkness. Though gifted with full power of insight, their power was barren. The vision was withheld from them. They suffered as lesser spirits would never suffer. Such intensity of harsh experience was intolerable to me, the frail spirit of a lowly cosmos. In an agony of horror and pity I despairingly stopped the ears of my mind. In my littleness I cried out against my maker that no glory of the eternal and absolute could redeem such agony in the creatures. Even if the misery that I had glimpsed was in fact but a few dark strands woven into the golden tapestry to enrich it, and all the rest was bliss, yet such desolation of awakened spirits, I cried, ought not, ought never to be. By what diabolical malice, I demanded, were these glorious beings not merely tortured but deprived of the supreme consolation, the ecstasy of contemplation and praise which is the birthright of all fully awakened spirits? There had been a time when I myself, as the communal mind of a lowly cosmos, had looked upon the frustration and sorrow of my little members with equanimity, conscious that the suffering of these drowsy beings was no great price to pay for the lucidity that I myself contributed to reality. But the suffering individuals within the ultimate cosmos, though in comparison with the hosts of happy creatures they were few, were beings, it seemed to me, of my own, cosmical, mental stature, not the frail, shadowy existences that had contributed their dull griefs to my making. And this I could not endure.

Yet obscurely I saw that the ultimate cosmos was nevertheless lovely, and perfectly formed; and that every frustration and agony within it, however cruel to the sufferer, issued finally, without any miscarriage in the enhanced lucidity of the cosmical spirit itself. In this sense at least no individual tragedy was vain.

But this was nothing. And now, as through tears of compassion and hot protest, I seemed to see the spirit of the ultimate and perfected cosmos face her maker. In her, it seemed, compassion and indignation were subdued by praise. And the Star Maker, that dark power and lucid intelligence, found in the concrete loveliness of his creature the fulfilment of desire. And in the mutual joy of the Star Maker and the ultimate cosmos was conceived, most strangely, the absolute spirit itself, in which all times are present and all being is comprised; for the spirit which was the issue of this union confronted my reeling intelligence as being at once the ground and the issue of all temporal and finite things.

But to me this mystical and remote perfection was nothing. In pity of the ultimate tortured beings, in human shame and rage, I scorned my birthright of ecstasy in that inhuman perfection, and yearned back to my lowly cosmos, to my own human and floundering world, there to stand shoulder to shoulder with my own half animal kind against the powers of darkness; yes, and against the indifferent, the ruthless, the invincible tyrant whose mere thoughts are sentient and tortured worlds.

Then, in the very act of this defiant gesture, as I slammed and bolted the door of the little dark cell of my separate self, my walls were all shattered and crushed inwards by the pressure of irresistible light, and my naked vision was once more seared by lucidity beyond its endurance.

Once more? No. I had but reverted in my interpretative dream to the identical moment of illumination, closed by blindness, when I had seemed to spread wing to meet the Star Maker, and was struck down by terrible light. But now I conceived more clearly what it was that had overwhelmed me. I was indeed confronted by the Star Maker, but the Star Maker was now revealed as more than the creative and therefore finite spirit. He now appeared as the eternal and perfect spirit which comprises all things and all times, and contemplates timelessly the infinitely diverse host which it comprises. The illumination which flooded in on me and struck me down to blind worship was a glimmer, so it seemed to me, of the eternal spirit’s own all-penetrating experience.

It was with anguish and horror, and yet with acquiescence, even with praise, that I felt or seemed to feel something of the eternal spirit’s temper as it apprehended in one intuitive and timeless vision all our lives. Here was no pity, no proffer of salvation, no kindly aid. Or here were all pity and all love, but mastered by a frosty ecstasy. Our broken lives, our loves, our follies, our betrayals, our forlorn and gallant defenses, were one and all calmly anatomized, assessed, and placed. True, they were one and all lived through with complete understanding, with insight and full sympathy, even with passion. But sympathy was not ultimate in the temper of the eternal spirit; contemplation was. Love was not absolute; contemplation was. And though there was love, there was also hate comprised within the spirit’s temper, for there was cruel delight in the contemplation of every horror, and glee in the downfall of the virtuous. All passions, it seemed, were comprised within the spirit’s temper; but mastered, icily gripped within the cold, clear, crystal ecstasy of contemplation.

That this should be the upshot of all our lives, this scientist’s, no, artist’s, keen appraisal! And yet I worshipped!

But this was not the worst. For in saying that the spirit’s temper was contemplation, I imputed to it a finite human experience, and an emotion; thereby comforting myself, even though with cold comfort. But in truth the eternal spirit was ineffable. Nothing whatever could be truly said about it. Even to name it “spirit” was perhaps to say more than was justified. Yet to deny it that name would be no less mistaken; for whatever it was, it was more, not less, than spirit, more, not less, than any possible human meaning of that word. And from the human level, even from the level of a cosmical mind, this “more,” obscurely and agonizingly glimpsed, was a dread mystery, compelling adoration.

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