« AnteriorContinuar »
THE UNSEEN UNIVERSE.
For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.'--St. PAUL (Rom. viii, 18, 19).
* Rabbi Jacob said, “This world is as it were the anteroom of the world to come. Prepare thyself in the anteroom so that thou .mayest be fit to enter the banquet-room.”—Mishna, Pirke Aboth, chap. iv.
• Eternal process moving on
From state to state the spirit walks,
And these are but the shatter'd stalks,
192. In the preceding chapters we have examined by the light of our present knowledge the possibilities contained in the visible universe. What is it good for in the way of possible immortality ? is the question we have tried to answer. It will have been seen that the reply is eminently unfavourable. If we take the individual man to begin with, we find that he lives his short tale of years, and that then the visible machinery which connects him with the past, as well as that which enables him to act in the present, falls into ruin and is brought to an end. If any germ or potentiality remains, it is certainly not connected with the visible order of things.
If we next consider the human race we find that the state of advancement to which they have attained is in many respects greatly due to their physical surroundings. Coal and iron have been as instrumental in promoting knowledge as Galileo and Newton, but our whole stock of these materials will come to an end. By economy it may be possible to lengthen out the period during which they can be supplied, but is it not manifest that we are year by year exhausting them as sources of available energy?
Are we not inevitably led to conclude that our present state cannot last even for a lengthened period, but will be brought to an end long before the inevitable dissipation of energy shall have rendered our earth unfit for habitation ?
193. But even supposing that man, in some form, is permitted to remain on the earth for a long series of years, we merely lengthen out the period, but we cannot escape the final catastrophe. The earth will gradually lose its energy of rotation, as well as that of revolution round the sun. The sun himself will wax dim and become useless as a source of energy, until at last the favourable conditions of the present solar system will have quite disappeared.
But what happens to our system will happen likewise to the whole visible universe (Art. 116), which will, if finite, become in time a lifeless mass, if indeed it be not doomed to utter dissolution. In fine, it will become old and effete, no less truly than the individual—it is a glorious garment this visible universe, but not an immortal one-we must look elsewhere if we are to be clothed with immortality as with a garment.
194. Now, if we regard the dissipation of energy which is constantly going on, we are at first sight forcibly struck with the apparently wasteful character of the arrangements of the visible universe. All but a very small portion of the sun's heat goes day by day into what we call empty space, and it is only this very small remainder which can be made use of by the various planets for purposes of their own. Could anything be more perplexing than this seemingly prodigal expenditure of the very life and essence of our system? That all but a petty fraction of this vast store of high-class energy should be doing nothing but travelling outwards in space at the rate of 188,000 miles per second is hardly conceivable, especially when the result of it is the inevitable destruction of the visible universe, unless we imagine this to be infinite, and so capable of endless degradation.
195. If, however, we continue to dwell upon this astounding phenomenon, we begin to perceive that
are not entitled to assert that this luminous energy does nothing but continue to travel outwards. It is perhaps too much to say that Struve's speculations prove an ethereal absorption, but they must be taken in connection with other considerations. We have already maintained (Art. 151), that we cannot regard the ether as a perfect fluid. Now it is not easy to suppose that in such a substance all vibratory motion should pass outwards without in the smallest degree becoming absorbed or changing its type.
We are prepared doubtless to expect a great difference between the ether and visible matter in this respect, but can hardly imagine that it is absolutely
free from the capacity of altering the type of the energy which passes through it. Such a hypothesis appears to us to violate the principle of continuity.
196. But we may go even further than luminiferous vibrations which take their rise chiefly at the surfaces of bodies, and extend our speculations into the interior of substances, since the law of gravitation assures us that any displacement which takes place in the very heart of the earth will be felt throughout the universe, and we may even imagine that the same thing will hold true of those molecular motions (Art. 56) which accompany thought. For every thought we think is accompanied by a displacement and motion of the particles of the brain, and we may imagine that somehow these motions are propagated throughout the universe. Views of this nature were long ago entertained by Babbage, and they have since commended themselves to several men of science, and amongst others to Jevons. “Mr. Babbage,' says this author, 'has pointed out that if we had power to follow and detect the minutest effects of any disturbance, each particle of existing matter must be a register of all that has happened.'
197. But again, we are compelled to imagine (Art. 215) that what we see has originated in the unseen, and in using this term, we desire to go back even further than the ether, which, according to one hypothesis (Art. 152), has given rise to the visible order of things.
nd again, we must resort to the unseen not only for the origin of the molecules of the visible universe, but also for an explanation of the forces which animate these molecules (Art. 150), and not
only so, but we are always carried back from one order of the unseen to another (Art. 220). Now if this be the case—if THE UNIVERSE be constructed with successive orders of this description connected with one another—it is manifest that no event whatever, whether we regard its antecedent or its consequent, can possibly be confined to one order only, but must spread throughout THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.
198. To conclude: we are thus led to believe that there exists now an invisible order of things intimately connected with the present, and capable of acting energetically upon it-for, in truth, the energy of the present system is to be looked upon as originally derived from the invisible universe, while the forces which give rise to transmutations of energy probably take their origin in the same region.
And it appears to us to be more natural to imagine that a universe of this nature, which we have reason to think exists, and is connected by bonds of energy with the visible universe, is also capable of receiving energy from it, and of transforming the energy so received. In fine, it appears to us less likely that by far the larger portion of the high-class energy of the present universe is travelling outwards into space with an immense velocity, than that it is being gradually transferred into an invisible order of things. This last conclusion is, however, more of the nature of a speculation, and is by no means essential to our argument.
199. If we now turn to thought, we find (Art: 59) that, inasmuch as it affects the substance of the present visible universe, it produces a material organ of memory.
But the motions which accompany thought must originate in and also affect the invisible