About the Author
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The Tarcher Cornerstone Editions
About the Author
A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You’ll read them—or they’ll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.
Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There are giants that will walk by, though sound asleep. There are things that are theorems and things that are rags: they’ll go by like Euclid arm in arm with the spirit of anarchy. Here and there will flit little harlots. Many are clowns. But many are of the highest respectability. Some are assassins. There are pale stenches and gaunt superstitions and mere shadows and lively malices: whims and amiabilities. The naïve and the pedantic and the bizarre and the grotesque and the sincere and the insincere, the profound and the puerile.
A stab and a laugh and the patiently folded hands of hopeless propriety.
The ultra-respectable, but the condemned, anyway.
The aggregate appearance is of dignity and dissoluteness: the aggregate voice is a defiant prayer: but the spirit of the whole is processional.
The power that has said to all these things that they are damned, is Dogmatic Science.
But they’ll march.
The little harlots will caper, and freaks will distract attention, and the clowns will break the rhythm of the whole with their buffooneries—but the solidity of the procession as a whole: the impressiveness of things that pass and pass and pass, and keep on and keep on and keep on coming.
The irresistibleness of things that neither threaten nor jeer nor defy, but arrange themselves in mass-formations that pass and pass and keep on passing.
SO, BY THE DAMNED, I mean the excluded.
But by the excluded I mean that which will some day be the excluding.
Or everything that is, won’t be.
And everything that isn’t, will be—
But, of course, will be that which won’t be—
It is our expression that the flux between that which isn’t and that which won’t be, or the state that is commonly and absurdly called “existence,” is a rhythm of heavens and hells: that the damned won’t stay damned; that salvation only precedes perdition. The inference is that some day our accursed tatterdemalions will be sleek angels. Then the sub-inference is that some later day, back they’ll go whence they came.
IT IS OUR EXPRESSION that nothing can attempt to be, except by attempting to exclude something else: that that which is commonly called “being” is a state that is wrought more or less definitely proportionately to the appearance of positive difference between that which is included and that which is excluded.
But it is our expression that there are no positive differences: that all things are like a mouse and a bug in the heart of a cheese. Mouse and a bug: no two things could seem more unlike. They’re there a week, or they stay there a month: both are then only transmutations of cheese. I think we’re all bugs and mice, and are only different expressions of an all-inclusive cheese.
Or that red is not positively different from yellow: is only another degree of whatever vibrancy yellow is a degree of: that red and yellow are continuous, or that they merge in orange.
So then that, if, upon the basis of yellowness and redness, Science should attempt to classify all phenomena, including all red things as veritable, and excluding all yellow things as false or illusory, the demarcation would have to be false and arbitrary, because things colored orange, constituting continuity, would belong on both sides of the attempted border-line.
As we go along, we shall be impressed with this:
That no basis for classification, or inclusion and exclusion, more reasonable than that of redness and yellowness has ever been conceived of.
Science has, by appeal to various bases, included a multitude of data. Had it not done so, there would be nothing with which to seem to be. Science has, by appeal to various bases, excluded a multitude of data. Then, if redness is continuous with yellowness: if every basis of admission is continuous with every basis of exclusion, Science must have excluded some things that are continuous with the accepted. In redness and yellowness, which merge in orangeness, we typify all tests, all standards, all means of forming an opinion—
Or that any positive opinion upon any subject is illusion built upon the fallacy that there are positive differences to judge by—
That the quest of all intellection has been for something—a fact, a basis, a generalization, law, formula, a major premise that is positive: that the best that has ever been done has been to say that some things are self-evident—whereas, by evidence we mean the support of something else—
That this is the quest; but that it has never been attained; but that Science has acted, ruled, pronounced, and condemned as if it had been attained.
What is a house?
It is not possible to say what anything is, as positively distinguished from anything else, if there are no positive differences.
A barn is a house, if one lives in it. If residence constitutes houseness, because style of architecture does not, then a bird’s nest is a house: and human occupancy is not the standard to judge by, because we speak of dogs’ houses; nor material, because we speak of snow houses of Eskimos—or a shell is a house to a hermit crab—or was to the mollusk that made it—or things seemingly so positively different as the White House at Washington and a shell on the seashore are seen to be continuous.
So no one has ever been able to say what electricity is, for instance. It isn’t anything, as positively distinguished from heat or magnetism or life. Metaphysicians and theologians and biologists have tried to define life. They have failed, because, in a positive sense, there is nothing to define: there is no phenomenon of life that is not, to some degree, manifest in chemism, magnetism, astronomic motions.
White coral islands in a dark blue sea.
Their seeming of distinctness: the seeming of individuality, or of positive difference one from another—but all are only projections from the same sea bottom. The difference between sea and land is not positive. In all water there is some earth: in all earth there is some water.
So then that all seeming things are not things at all, if all are inter-continuous, any more than is the leg of a table a thing in itself, if it is only a projection from something else: that not one of us is a real person, if, physically, we’re continuous with environment; if, psychically, there is nothing to us but expression of relation to environment.
Our general expression has two aspects:
Conventional monism, or that all “things” that seem to have identity of their own are only islands that are projections from something underlying, and have no real outlines of their own.
But that all “things,” though only projections, are projections that are striving to break away from the underlying that denies them identity of their own.
I conceive of one inter-continuous nexus, in which and of which all seeming things are only different expressions, but in which all things are localizations of one attempt to break away and become real things, or to establish entity or positive difference or final demarcation or unmodified independence—or personality or soul, as it is called in human phenomena—
That anything that tries to establish itself as a real, or positive, or absolute system, government, organization, self, soul, entity, individuality, can so attempt only by drawing a line about itself, or about the inclusions that constitute itself, and damning or excluding, or breaking away from, all other “things”:
That, if it does not so act, it cannot seem to be;
That, if it does so act, it falsely and arbitrarily and futilely and disastrously acts, just as would one who draws a circle in the sea, including a few waves, saying that the other waves, with which the included are continuous, are positively different, and stakes his life upon maintaining that the admitted and the damned are positively different.
Our expression is that our whole existence is animation of the local by an ideal that is realizable only in the universal:
That, if all exclusions are false, because always are included and excluded continuous: that if all seeming of existence perceptible to us is the product of exclusion, there is nothing that is perceptible to us that really is: that only the universal can really be.
Our especial interest is in modern science as a manifestation of this one ideal or purpose or process:
That it has falsely excluded, because there are no positive standards to judge by: that it has excluded things that, by its own pseudo-standards, have as much right to come in as have the chosen.
OUR GENERAL EXPRESSION:
That the state that is commonly and absurdly called “existence,” is a flow, or a current, or an attempt, from negativeness to positiveness, and is intermediate to both.
By positiveness we mean:
Harmony, equilibrium, order, regularity, stability, consistency, unity, realness, system, government, organization, liberty, independence, soul, self, personality, entity, individuality, truth, beauty, justice, perfection, definiteness—
That all that is called development, progress, or evolution is movement toward, or attempt toward, this state for which, or for aspects of which, there are so many names, all of which are summed up in the one word “positiveness.”
At first this summing up may not be very readily acceptable. At first it may seem that all these words are not synonyms: that “harmony” may mean “order,” but that by “independence,” for instance, we do not mean “truth,” or that by “stability” we do not mean “beauty,” or “system,” or “justice.”
I conceive of one inter-continuous nexus, which expresses itself in astronomic phenomena, and chemic, biologic, psychic, sociologic: that it is everywhere striving to localize positiveness: that to this attempt in various fields of phenomena—which are only quasi-different—we give different names. We speak of the “system” of the planets, and not of their “government”: but in considering a store, for instance, and its management, we see that the words are interchangeable. It used to be customary to speak of chemic equilibrium, but not of social equilibrium: that false demarcation has been broken down. We shall see that by all these words we mean the same state. As every-day conveniences, or in terms of common illusions, of course, they are not synonyms. To a child an earth worm is not an animal. It is to the biologist.
By “beauty,” I mean that which seems complete.
Obversely, that the incomplete, or the mutilated, is the ugly.
Venus de Milo.
To a child she is ugly.
When a mind adjusts to thinking of her as a completeness, even though, by physiologic standards, incomplete, she is beautiful.
A hand thought of only as a hand, may seem beautiful.
Found on a battlefield—obviously a part—not beautiful.
But everything in our experience is only a part of something else that in turn is only a part of still something else—or that there is nothing beautiful in our experience: only appearances that are intermediate to beauty and ugliness—that only universality is complete: that only the complete is the beautiful: that every attempt to achieve beauty is an attempt to give to the local the attribute of the universal.
By stability, we mean the immovable and the unaffected. But all seeming things are only reactions to something else. Stability, too, then, can be only the universal, or that besides which there is nothing else. Though some things seem to have—or have—higher approximations to stability than have others, there are, in our experience, only various degrees of intermediateness to stability and instability. Every man, then, who works for stability under its various names of “permanency,” “survival,” duration,” is striving to localize in something the state that is realizable only in the universal.
By independence, entity, and individuality, I can mean only that besides which there is nothing else, if given only two things, they must be continuous and mutually affective, if everything is only a reaction to something else, and any two things would be destructive of each other’s independence, entity, or individuality.
All attempted organizations and systems and consistencies, some approximating far higher than others, but all only intermediate to Order and Disorder, fail eventually because of their relations with outside forces. All are attempted completenesses. If to all local phenomena there are always outside forces, these attempts, too, are realizable only in the state of completeness, or that to which there are no outside forces.
Or that all these words are synonyms, all meaning the state that we call the positive state—
That our whole “existence” is a striving for the positive state.
The amazing paradox of it all:
That all things are trying to become the universal by excluding other things.
That there is only this one process, and that it does animate all expressions, in all fields of phenomena, of that which we think of as one inter-continuous nexus:
The religious and their idea or ideal of the soul. They mean distinct, stable entity, or a state that is independent, and not a mere flux of vibrations or complex of reactions to environment, continuous with environment, merging away with an infinitude of other interdependent complexes.
But the only thing that would not merge away into something else would be that besides which there is nothing else.
That Truth is only another name for the positive state, or that the quest for Truth is the attempt to achieve positiveness:
Scientists who have thought that they were seeking Truth, but who were trying to find out astronomic, or chemic, or biologic truths. But Truth is that besides which there is nothing: nothing to modify it, nothing to question it, nothing to form an exception: the all-inclusive, the complete—
By Truth I mean the Universal.
So chemists have sought the true, or the real, and have always failed in their endeavors, because of the outside relations of chemical phenomena: have failed in the sense that never has a chemical law, without exceptions, been discovered: because chemistry is continuous with astronomy, physics, biology— For instance, if the sun should greatly change its distance from this earth, and if human life could survive, the familiar chemic formulas would no longer work out: a new science of chemistry would have to be learned—
Or that all attempts to find Truth in the special are attempts to find the universal in the local.
And artists and their striving for positiveness, under the name of “harmony”—but their pigments that are oxydizing, or are responding to a deranging environment—or the strings of musical instruments that are differently and disturbingly adjusting to outside chemic and thermal and gravitational forces—again and again this oneness of all ideals, and that it is the attempt to be, or to achieve, locally, that which is realizable only universally. In our experience there is only intermediateness to harmony and discord. Harmony is that besides which there are no outside forces.
And nations that have fought with only one motive: for individuality, or entity, or to be real, final nations, not subordinate to, or parts of, other nations. And that nothing but intermediateness has ever been attained, and that history is record of failures of this one attempt, because there always have been outside forces, or other nations contending for the same goal.
As to physical things, chemic, mineralogic, astronomic, it is not customary to say that they act to achieve Truth or Entity, but it is understood that all motions are toward Equilibrium: that there is no motion except toward Equilibrium, of course always away from some other approximation to Equilibrium.
All biologic phenomena act to adjust: there are no biologic actions other than adjustments.
Adjustment is another name for Equilibrium. Equilibrium is the Universal, or that which has nothing external to derange it.
But that all that we call “being” is motion: and that all motion is the expression, not of equilibrium, but of equilibrating, or of equilibrium unattained: that life-motions are expressions of equilibrium unattained: that all thought relates to the unattained: that to have what is called being in our quasi-state, is not to be in the positive sense, or is to be intermediate to Equilibrium and Inequilibrium.
That all phenomena in our intermediate state, or quasi-state, represent this one attempt to organize, stabilize, harmonize, individualize—or to positivize, or to become real:
That only to have seeming is to express failure or intermediateness to final failure and final success;
That every attempt—that is observable—is defeated by Continuity, or by outside forces—or by the excluded that are continuous with the included:
That our whole “existence” is an attempt by the relative to be the absolute, or by the local to be the universal.
In this book, my interest is in this attempt as manifested in modern science:
That it has attempted to be real, true, final, complete, absolute:
That, if the seeming of being, here, in our quasi-state, is the product of exclusion that is always false and arbitrary, if always are included and excluded continuous, the whole seeming system, or entity, of modern science is only quasi-system, or quasi-entity, wrought by the same false and arbitrary process as that by which the still less positive system that preceded it, or the theological system, wrought the illusion of its being.
In this book, I assemble some of the data that I think are of the falsely and arbitrarily excluded.
The data of the damned.
I have gone into the outer darkness of scientific and philosophical transactions and proceedings, ultra-respectable, but covered with the dust of disregard. I have descended into journalism. I have come back with the quasi-souls of lost data.
They will march.
AS TO THE LOGIC of our expressions to come—
That there is only quasi-logic in our mode of seeming:
That nothing ever has been proved—
Because there is nothing to prove.
When I say that there is nothing to prove, I mean that to those who accept Continuity, or the merging away of all phenomena into other phenomena, without positive demarcations one from another, there is, in a positive sense, no one thing. There is nothing to prove.
For instance nothing can be proved to be an animal—because animalness and vegetableness are not positively different. There are some expressions of life that are as much vegetable as animal, or that represent the merging of animalness and vegetableness. There is then no positive test, standard, criterion, means of forming an opinion. As distinct from vegetables, animals do not exist. There is nothing to prove. Nothing could be proved to be good, for instance. There is nothing in our “existence” that is good, in a positive sense, or as really outlined from evil. If to forgive be good in times of peace, it is evil in wartime. There is nothing to prove: good in our experience is continuous with, or is only another aspect of evil.
As to what I’m trying to do now—I accept only. If I can’t see universally, I only localize.
So, of course then, that nothing ever has been proved:
That theological pronouncements are as much open to doubt as ever they were, but that, by a hypnotizing process, they became dominant over the majority of minds in their era;
That, in a succeeding era, the laws, dogmas, formulas, principles, of materialistic science never were proved, because they are only localizations simulating the universal; but that the leading minds of their era of dominance were hypnotized into more or less firmly believing them.
Newton’s three laws, and that they are attempts to achieve positiveness, or to defy and break Continuity, and are as unreal as are all other attempts to localize the universal:
That, if every observable body is continuous, mediately or immediately, with all other bodies, it cannot be influenced only by its own inertia, so that there is no way of knowing what the phenomena of inertia may be; that, if all things are reacting to an infinitude of forces, there is no way of knowing what the effects of only one impressed force would be; that if every reaction is continuous with its action, it cannot be conceived of as a whole, and that there is no way of conceiving what it might be equal and opposite to—
Or that Newton’s three laws are three articles of faith;
Or that demons and angels and inertias and reactions are all mythological characters;
But that, in their eras of dominance, they were almost as firmly believed in as if they had been proved.
ENORMITIES AND PREPOSTEROUSNESSES will march.
They will be “proved” as well as Moses or Darwin or Lyell ever “proved” anything.
WE SUBSTITUTE ACCEPTANCE for belief.
Cells of an embryo take on different appearances in different eras.
The more firmly established, the more difficult to change.
That social organism is embryonic.
That firmly to believe is to impede development.
That only temporarily to accept is to facilitate.
Except that we substitute acceptance for belief, our methods will be the conventional methods; the means by which every belief has been formulated and supported: or our methods will be the methods of theologians and savages and scientists and children. Because, if all phenomena are continuous, there can be no positively different methods. By the inconclusive means and methods of cardinals and fortune tellers and evolutionists and peasants, methods which must be inconclusive, if they relate always to the local, and if there is nothing local to conclude, we shall write this book.
If it function as an expression of its era, it will prevail.
ALL SCIENCES BEGIN with attempts to define.
Nothing ever has been defined.
Because there is nothing to define.
Darwin wrote The Origin of Species.
He was never able to tell what he meant by a “species.”
It is not possible to define.
Nothing has ever been finally found out.
Because there is nothing final to find out.
It’s like looking for a needle that no one ever lost in a haystack that never was—
But that all scientific attempts really to find out something, whereas really there is nothing to find out, are attempts, themselves, really to be something.
A seeker of Truth. He will never find it. But the dimmest of possibilities—he may himself become Truth.
Or that science is more than an inquiry:
That it is a pseudo-construction, or a quasi-organization: that it is an attempt to break away and locally establish harmony, stability, equilibrium, consistency, entity—
Dimmest of possibilities—that it may succeed.
THAT OURS IS A PSEUDO-EXISTENCE, and that all appearances in it partake of its essential fictitiousness—
But that some appearances approximate far more highly to the positive state than do others.
We conceive of all “things” as occupying gradations, or steps in series between positiveness and negativeness, or realness and unrealness: that some seeming things are more nearly consistent, just, beautiful, unified, individual, harmonious, stable—than others.
We are not realists. We are not idealists. We are intermediatists—that nothing is real, but that nothing is unreal: that all phenomena are approximations one way or the other between realness and unrealness.
That our whole quasi-existence is an intermediate stage between positiveness and negativeness or realness and unrealness.
Like purgatory, I think.
But in our summing up, which was very sketchily done, we omitted to make clear that Realness is an aspect of the positive state.
By Realness, I mean that which does not merge away into something else, and that which is not partly something else: that which is not a reaction to, or an imitation of, something else. By a real hero, we mean one who is not partly a coward, or whose actions and motives do not merge away into cowardice. But, if in Continuity, all things do merge, by Realness, I mean the Universal, besides which there is nothing with which to merge.
That, though the local might be universalized, it is not conceivable that the universal can be localized: but that high approximations there may be, and that these approximate successes may be translated out of Intermediateness into Realness—quite as, in a relative sense, the industrial world recruits itself by translating out of unrealness, or out of the seemingly less real imaginings of inventors, machines which seem, when set up in factories, to have more of Realness than they had when only imagined.
That all progress, if all progress is toward stability, organization, harmony, consistency, or positiveness, is the attempt to become real.
So, then, in general metaphysical terms, our expression is that, like a purgatory, all that is commonly called “existence,” which we call Intermediateness, is quasi-existence, neither real nor unreal, but expression of attempt to become real, or to generate for or recruit a real existence.
Our acceptance is that Science, though usually thought of so specifically, or in its own local terms, usually supposed to be a prying into old bones, bugs, unsavory messes, is an expression of this one spirit animating all Intermediateness: that, if Science could absolutely exclude all data but its own present data, or that which is assimilable with the present quasi-organization, it would be a real system, with positively definite outlines—it would be real.
Its seeming approximation to consistency, stability, system—positiveness or realness—is sustained by damning the irreconcilable or the unassimilable—
All would be well.
All would be heavenly—
If the damned would only stay damned.
In the autumn of 1883, and for years afterward, occurred brilliant-colored sunsets, such as had never been seen before within the memory of all observers. Also there were blue moons.
I think that one is likely to smile incredulously at the notion of blue moons. Nevertheless they were as common as were green suns in 1883.
Science had to account for these unconventionalities. Such publications as Nature and Knowledge were besieged with inquiries.
I suppose, in Alaska and in the South Sea Islands, all the medicine men were similarly upon trial.
Something had to be thought of.
Upon the 28th of August, 1883, the volcano of Krakatoa, of the Straits of Sunda, had blown up.
We’re told that the sound was heard 2,000 miles, and that 36,380 persons were killed. Seems just a little unscientific, or impositive, to me: marvel to me we’re not told 2,163 miles and 36,387 persons. The volume of smoke that went up must have been visible to other planets—or, tormented with our crawlings and scurryings, the earth complained to Mars; swore a vast black oath at us.
In all text-books that mention this occurrence—no exception so far so I have read—it is said that the extraordinary atmospheric effects of 1883 were first noticed in the last of August or the first of September.
That makes a difficulty for us.
It is said that these phenomena were caused by particles of volcanic dust that were cast high in the air by Krakatoa.
This is the explanation that was agreed upon in 1883—
But for seven years the atmospheric phenomena continued—
Except that, in the seven, there was a lapse of several years—and where was the volcanic dust all that time?
You’d think that such a question as that would make trouble?
Then you haven’t studied hypnosis. You have never tried to demonstrate to a hypnotic that a table is not a hippopotamus. According to our general acceptance, it would be impossible to demonstrate such a thing. Point out a hundred reasons for saying that a hippopotamus is not a table: you’ll have to end up agreeing that neither is a table a table—it only seems to be a table. Well, that’s what the hippopotamus seems to be. So how can you prove that something is not something else, when neither is something else some other thing? There’s nothing to prove.
This is one of the profundities that we advertised in advance.
You can oppose an absurdity only with some other absurdity. But Science is established preposterousness. We divide all intellection: the obviously preposterousness and the established.
But Krakatoa: that’s the explanation that the scientists gave. I don’t know what whopper the medicine men told.
We see, from the start, the very strong inclination of science to deny, as much as it can, external relations of this earth.
This book is an assemblage of data of external relations of this earth. We take the position that our data have been damned, upon no consideration for individual merits or demerits, but in conformity with a general attempt to hold out for isolation of this earth. This is attempted positiveness. We take the position that science can no more succeed than, in a similar endeavor, could the Chinese, or than could the United States. So then, with only pseudo-consideration of the phenomena of 1883, or as an expression of positivism in its aspect of isolation, or unrelatedness, scientists have perpetrated such an enormity as suspension of volcanic dust seven years in the air—disregarding the lapse of several years—rather than to admit the arrival of dust from somewhere beyond this earth. Not that scientists themselves have ever achieved positiveness, in its aspect of unitedness, among themselves—because Nordenskiold, before 1883, wrote a great deal upon his theory of cosmic dust, and Prof. Cleveland Abbe contended against the Krakatoan explanation—but that this is the orthodoxy of the main body of scientists.
My own chief reason for indignation here:
That this preposterous explanation interferes with some of my own enormities.
It would cost me too much explaining, if I should have to admit that this earth’s atmosphere has such sustaining power.
Later, we shall have data of things that have gone up in the air and that have stayed up—somewhere—weeks—months—but not by the sustaining power of this earth’s atmosphere. For instance, the turtle of Vicksburg. It seems to me that it would be ridiculous to think of a good-sized turtle hanging, for three or four months, upheld only by the air, over the town of Vicksburg. When it comes to the horse and the barn—I think that they’ll be classics some day, but I can never accept that a horse and a barn could float several months in this earth’s atmosphere.
The orthodox explanation:
See the Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society. It comes out absolutely for the orthodox explanation—absolutely and beautifully, also expensively. There are 492 pages in the “Report,” and 40 plates, some of them marvelously colored. It was issued after an investigation that took five years. You couldn’t think of anything done more efficiently, artistically, authoritatively. The mathematical parts are especially impressive: distribution of the dust of Krakatoa; velocity of translation and rates of subsidence; altitudes and persistences—
Annual Register, 1883-105:
That the atmospheric effects that have been attributed to Krakatoa were seen in Trinidad before the eruption occurred;
That they were seen in Natal, South Africa, six months before the eruption.
INERTIA AND ITS INHOSPITALITY.
Or raw meat should not be fed to babies.
We shall have a few data initiatorily.
I fear me that the horse and the barn were a little extreme for our budding liberalities.
The outrageous is the reasonable, if introduced politely.
Hailstones, for instance. One reads in the newspapers of hailstones the size of hens’ eggs. One smiles. Nevertheless I will engage to list one hundred instances, from the Monthly Weather Review, of hailstones the size of hens’ eggs. There is an account in Nature, Nov. 1, 1894, of hailstones that weighed almost two pounds each. See Chambers’ Encyclopedia for three-pounders. Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1870-479—two-pounders authenticated, and six-pounders reported. At Seringapatam, India, about the year 1800, fell a hailstone—
I fear me, I fear me: this is one of the profoundly damned. I blurt out something that should, perhaps, be withheld for several hundred pages—but that damned thing was the size of an elephant.
Or snowflakes. Size of saucers. Said to have fallen at Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 24, 1891. One smiles.
“In Montana, in the winter of 1887, fell snowflakes 15 inches across, and 8 inches thick.” (Monthly Weather Review, 1915-73.)
In the topography of intellection, I should say that what we call knowledge is ignorance surrounded by laughter.
BLACK RAINS—RED RAINS—the fall of a thousand tons of butter.
Jet-black snow—pink snow—blue hailstones—hailstones flavored like oranges.
Punk and silk and charcoal.
ABOUT ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago, if anyone was so credulous as to think that stones had ever fallen from the sky, he was reasoned with:
In the first place there are no stones in the sky:
Therefore no stones can fall from the sky.
Or nothing more reasonable or scientific or logical than that could be said upon any subject. The only trouble is the universal trouble: that the major premise is not real, or is intermediate somewhere between realness and unrealness.
In 1772, a committee, of whom Lavoisier was a member, was appointed by the French Academy, to investigate a report that a stone had fallen from the sky at Luce, France. Of all attempts at positiveness, in its aspect of isolation, I don’t know of anything that has been fought harder for than the notion of this earth’s unrelatedness. Lavoisier analyzed the stone of Luce. The exclusionists’ explanation at that time was that stones do not fall from the sky: that luminous objects may seem to fall, and that hot stones may be picked up where a luminous object seemingly had landed—only lightning striking a stone, heating, even melting it.
The stone of Luce showed signs of fusion.
Lavoisier’s analysis “absolutely proved” that this stone had not fallen: that it had been struck by lightning.
So, authoritatively, falling stones were damned. The stock means of exclusion remained the explanation of lightning that was seen to strike something—that had been upon the ground in the first place.
But positiveness and the fate of every positive statement. It is not customary to think of damned stones raising an outcry against a sentence of exclusion, but, subjectively, aerolites did—or data of them bombarded the walls raised against them—
Monthly Review, 1796-426
“The phenomenon which is the subject of the remarks before us will seem to most persons as little worthy of credit as any that could be offered. The falling of large stones from the sky, without any assignable cause of their previous ascent, seems to partake so much of the marvelous as almost entirely to exclude the operation of known and natural agents. Yet a body of evidence is here brought to prove that such events have actually taken place, and we ought not to withhold from it a proper degree of attention.”
The writer abandons the first, or absolute, exclusion, and modifies it with the explanation that the day before a reported fall of stones in Tuscany, June 16, 1794, there had been an eruption of Vesuvius—
Or that stones do fall from the sky, but that they are stones that have been raised to the sky from some other part of the earth’s surface by whirlwinds or by volcanic action.
It’s more than one hundred and twenty years later. I know of no aerolite that has ever been acceptably traced to terrestrial origin.
Falling stones had to be undamned—though still with a reservation that held out for exclusion of outside forces.
One may have the knowledge of a Lavoisier, and still not be able to analyze, not be able even to see, except conformably with the hypnoses, or the conventional reactions against hypnoses, of one’s era.
We believe no more.
Little by little the whirlwind and volcano explanations had to be abandoned, but so powerful was this exclusion-hypnosis, sentence of damnation, or this attempt at positiveness, that far into our own times some scientists, notably Prof. Lawrence Smith and Sir Robert Ball, continued to hold out against all external origins, asserting that nothing could fall to this earth, unless it had been cast up or whirled up from some other part of this earth’s surface.
It’s as commendable as anything ever has been—by which I mean it’s intermediate to the commendable and the censurable.
Meteorites, data of which were once of the damned, have been admitted, but the common impression of them is only a retreat of attempted exclusion: that only two kinds of substance fall from the sky: metallic and stony: that the metallic objects are of iron and nickel—
Butter and paper and wool and silk and resin.
We see, to start with, that the virgins of science have fought and wept and screamed against external relations—upon two grounds:
There in the first place;
Or up from one part of this earth’s surface and down to another.
As late as November, 1902, in Nature Notes, 13-231, a member of the Selborne Society still argued that meteorites do not fall from the sky; that they are masses of iron upon the ground “in the first place,” that attract lightning; that the lightning is seen, and is mistaken for a falling, luminous object—
By progress we mean rape.
Butter and beef and blood and a stone with strange inscriptions upon it.
So then, it is our expression that Science relates to real knowledge no more than does the growth of a plant, or the organization of a department store, or the development of a nation: that all are assimilative, or organizing, or systematizing processes that represent different attempts to attain the positive state—the state commonly called heaven, I suppose I mean.
There can be no real science where there are indeterminate variables, but every variable is, in finer terms, indeterminate, or irregular, if only to have the appearance of being in Intermediateness is to express regularity unattained. The invariable, or the real and stable, would be nothing at all in Intermediateness—rather as, but in relative terms, an undistorted interpretation of external sounds in the mind of a dreamer could not continue to exist in a dreaming mind, because that touch of relative realness would be of awakening and not of dreaming. Science is the attempt to awaken to realness, wherein it is attempt to find regularity and uniformity. Or the regular and uniform would be that which has nothing external to disturb it. By the universal we mean the real. Or the notion is that the underlying super-attempt, as expressed in Science, is indifferent to the subject-matter of Science: that the attempt to regularize is the vital spirit. Bugs and stars and chemical messes: that they are only quasi-real, and that of them there is nothing real to know; but that systematization of pseudo-data is approximation to realness or final awakening—
Or a dreaming mind—and its centaurs and canary birds that turn into giraffes—there could be no real biology upon such subjects, but attempt, in a dreaming mind, to systematize such appearances would be movement toward awakening—if better mental co-ordination is all that we mean by the state of being awake—relatively awake.
So it is, that having attempted to systematize, by ignoring externality to the greatest possible degree, the notion of things dropping in upon this earth, from externality, is as unsettling and as unwelcome to Science as—tin horns blowing in upon a musician’s relatively symmetric composition—flies alighting upon a painter’s attempted harmony, and tracking colors one into another—suffragist getting up and making a political speech at a prayer meeting.
If all things are of a oneness, which is a state intermediate to unrealness and realness, and if nothing has succeeded in breaking away and establishing entity for itself, and could not continue to “exist” in intermediateness, if it should succeed, any more than could the born still at the same time be the uterine, I of course know of no positive difference between Science and Christian Science—and the attitude of both toward the unwelcome is the same—“it does not exist.”
A Lord Kelvin and a Mrs. Eddy, and something not to their liking—it does not exist.
Of course not, we Intermediates say: but, also, that, in Intermediateness, neither is there absolute non-existence.
Or a Christian Scientist and a toothache—neither exists in the final sense: also neither is absolutely non-existent, and, according to our therapeutics, the one that more highly approximates to realness will win.
A secret of power—
I think it’s another profundity.
Do you want power over something?
Be more nearly real than it.
We’ll begin with yellow substances that have fallen upon this earth: we’ll see whether our data of them have a higher approximation to realness than have the dogmas of those who deny their existence—that is, as products from somewhere external to this earth.
In mere impressionism we take our stand. We have no positive tests nor standards. Realism in art: realism in science—they pass away. In 1859, the thing to do was to accept Darwinism; now many biologists are revolting and trying to conceive of something else. The thing to do was to accept it in its day, but Darwinism of course was never proved:
The fittest survive.
What is meant by the fittest?
Not the strongest; not the cleverest—
Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive.
There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive.
“Fitness,” then, is only another name for “survival.”
That survivors survive.
Although Darwinism, then, seems positively baseless, or absolutely irrational, its massing of supposed data, and its attempted coherence approximate more highly to Organization and Consistency than did the inchoate speculations that preceded it.
Or that Columbus never proved that the earth is round.
Shadow of the earth on the moon?
No one has ever seen it in its entirety. The earth’s shadow is much larger than the moon. If the periphery of the shadow is curved—but the convex moon—a straight-edged object will cast a curved shadow upon a surface that is convex.
All the other so-called proofs may be taken up in the same way. It was impossible for Columbus to prove that the earth is round. It was not required: only that with a higher seeming of positiveness than that of his opponents, he should attempt. The thing to do, in 1492, was nevertheless to accept that beyond Europe, to the west, were other lands.
I offer for acceptance, as something concordant with the spirit of this first quarter of the 20th century, the expression that beyond this earth are—other lands—from which come things as, from America, float things to Europe.
As to yellow substances that have fallen upon this earth, the endeavor to exclude extra-mundane origins is the dogma that all yellow rains and yellow snows are colored with pollen from this earth’s pine trees. Symons’ Meteorological Magazine is especially prudish in this respect and regards as highly improper all advances made by other explainers.
Nevertheless, the Monthly Weather Review, May, 1877, reports a golden-yellow fall, of Feb. 27, 1877, at Peckloh, Germany, in which four kinds of organisms, not pollen, were the coloring matter. There were minute things shaped like arrows, coffee beans, horns, and disks.
They may have been symbols. They may have been objective hieroglyphics—
Mere passing fancy—let it go—
In the Annales de Chimie, 85-288, there is a list of rains said to have contained sulphur. I have thirty or forty other notes. I’ll not use one of them. I’ll admit that every one of them is upon a fall of pollen. I said, to begin with, that our methods would be the methods of theologians and scientists, and they always begin with an appearance of liberality. I grant thirty or forty points to start with. I’m as liberal as any of them—or that my liberality won’t cost me anything—the enormousness of the data that we shall have.
Or just to look over a typical instance of this dogma, and the way it works out:
In the American Journal of Science, 1-42-196, we are told of a yellow substance that fell by the bucketful upon a vessel, one “windless” night in June, in Pictou Harbor, Nova Scotia. The writer analyzed the substance, and it was found to “give off nitrogen and ammonia and an animal odor.”
Now, one of our Intermediatist principles, to start with, is that so far from positive, in the aspect of Homogeneousness, are all substances, that, at least in what is called an elementary sense, anything can be found anywhere. Mahogany logs on the coast of Greenland; bugs of a valley on the top of Mt. Blanc; atheists at a prayer meeting; ice in India. For instance, chemical analysis can reveal that almost any dead man was poisoned with arsenic, we’ll say, because there is no stomach without some iron, lead, tin, gold, arsenic in it and of it—which, of course, in a broader sense, doesn’t matter much, because a certain number of persons must, as a restraining influence, be executed for murder every year; and, if detectives aren’t able really to detect anything, illusion of their success is all that is necessary, and it is very honorable to give up one’s life for society as a whole.
The chemist who analyzed the substance of Pictou sent a sample to the Editor of the Journal. The Editor of course found pollen in it.
My own acceptance is that there’d have to be some pollen in it: that nothing could very well fall through the air, in June, near the pine forests of Nova Scotia, and escape all floating spores of pollen. But the Editor does not say that this substance “contained” pollen. He disregards “nitrogen, ammonia, and an animal odor,” and says that the substance was pollen. For the sake of our thirty or forty tokens of liberality, or pseudo-liberality, if we can’t be really liberal, we grant that the chemist of the first examination probably wouldn’t know an animal odor if he were janitor of a menagerie. As we go along, however, there can be no such sweeping ignoring of this phenomenon:
The fall of animal-matter from the sky.
I’d suggest, to start with, that we’d put ourselves in the place of deep-sea fishes:
How would they account for the fall of animal-matter from above?
They wouldn’t try—
Or it’s easy enough to think of most of us as deep-sea fishes of a kind.
Jour. Franklin Inst., 90-11:
That, upon the 14th of February, 1870, there fell, at Genoa, Italy, according to Director Boccardo, of the Technical Institute of Genoa, and Prof. Castellani, a yellow substance. But the microscope revealed numerous globules of cobalt blue, also corpuscles of a pearly color that resembled starch. See Nature, 2-166.
Comptes Rendus, 56-972:
M. Bouis says of a substance, reddish varying to yellowish, that fell enormously and successively, or upon April 30, May 1 and May 2, in France and Spain, that it carbonized and spread the odor of charred animal matter—that it was not pollen—that in alcohol it left a residue of resinous matter.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of this matter must have fallen.
“Odor of charred animal matter.”
Or an aerial battle that occurred in inter-planetary space several hundred years ago—effect of time in making diverse remains uniform in appearance—
It’s all very absurd because, even though we are told of a prodigious quantity of animal matter that fell from the sky—three days—France and Spain—we’re not ready yet: that’s all. M. Bouis says that this substance was not pollen; the vastness of the fall makes acceptable that it was not pollen; still, the resinous residue does suggest pollen of pine trees. We shall hear a great deal of a substance with a resinous residue that has fallen from the sky: finally we shall divorce it from all suggestion of pollen.
Blackwood’s Magazine, 3-338:
A yellow powder that fell at Gerace, Calabria, March 14, 1813. Some of this substance was collected by Sig. Simenini, Professor of Chemistry, at Naples. It had an earthy, insipid taste, and is described as “unctuous.” When heated, this matter turned brown, then black, then red. According to the Annals of Philosophy, 11-466, one of the components was a greenish-yellow substance, which, when dried, was found to be resinous.
But concomitants of this fall:
Loud noises were heard in the sky.
Stones fell from the sky.
According to Chladni, these concomitants occurred, and to me they seem—rather brutal?—or not associable with something so soft and gentle as a fall of pollen?
BLACK RAINS AND BLACK SNOWS—rains as black as a deluge of ink—jet-black snowflakes.
Such a rain as that which fell in Ireland, May 14, 1849, described in the Annals of Scientific Discovery, 1850, and the Annual Register, 1849. It fell upon a district of 400 square miles, and was the color of ink, and of a fetid odor and very disagreeable taste.
The rain at Castlecommon, Ireland, April 30, 1887—“thick, black rain.” (Amer. Met. Jour., 4-193.)
A black rain fell in Ireland, Oct. 8 and 9, 1907. (Symons’ Met. Mag. 43-2.) “It left a most peculiar and disagreeable smell in the air.”
The orthodox explanation of this rain occurs in Nature, March 2, 1908—cloud of soot that had come from South Wales, crossing the Irish Channel and all of Ireland.
So the black rain of Ireland, of March, 1898: ascribed in Symons’ Met. Mag. 33-40, to clouds of soot from the manufacturing towns of North England and South Scotland.
Our Intermediatist principle of pseudo-logic, or our principle of Continuity is, of course, that nothing is unique, or individual: that all phenomena merge away into all other phenomena: that, for instance—suppose there should be vast celestial super-oceanic, or inter-planetary vessels that come near this earth and discharge volumes of smoke at times. We’re only supposing such a thing as that now, because, conventionally, we are beginning modestly and tentatively. But if it were so, there would necessarily be some phenomenon upon this earth, with which that phenomenon would merge. Extra-mundane smoke and smoke from cities merge, or both would manifest in black precipitations in rain.
In Continuity, it is impossible to distinguish phenomena at their merging-points, so we look for them at their extremes. Impossible to distinguish between animal and vegetable in some infusoria—but hippopotamus and violet. For all practical purposes they’re distinguishable enough. No one but a Barnum or a Bailey would send one a bunch of hippopotami as a token of regard.
So away from the great manufacturing centers:
Black rain in Switzerland, Jan. 20, 1911. Switzerland is so remote, and so ill at ease is the conventional explanation here, that Nature, 85-451, says of this rain that in certain conditions of weather, snow may take on an appearance of blackness that is quite deceptive.
May be so. Or at night, if dark enough, snow may look black. This is simply denying that a black rain fell in Switzerland, Jan. 20, 1911.
Extreme remoteness from great manufacturing centers:
La Nature, 1888, 2-406:
That Aug. 14, 1888, there fell at the Cape of Good Hope, a rain so black as to be described as a “shower of ink.”
Continuity dogs us. Continuity rules us and pulls us back. We seemed to have a little hope that by the method of extremes we could get away from things that merge indistinguishably into other things. We find that every departure from one merger is entrance upon another. At the Cape of Good Hope, vast volumes of smoke from great manufacturing centers, as an explanation, cannot very acceptably merge with the explanation of extra-mundane origin—but smoke from a terrestrial volcano can, and that is the suggestion that is made in La Nature.
There is, in human intellection, no real standard to judge by, but our acceptance, for the present, is that the more nearly positive will prevail. By the more nearly positive we mean the more nearly Organized. Everything merges away into everything else, but proportionately to its complexity, if unified, a thing seems strong, real, and distinct: so, in aesthetics, it is recognized that diversity in unity is higher beauty, or approximation to Beauty, than is simpler unity; so the logicians feel that agreement of diverse data constitute greater convincingness, or strength, than that of mere parallel instances: so to Herbert Spencer the more highly differentiated and integrated is the more fully evolved. Our opponents hold out for mundane origin of all black rains. Our method will be the presenting of diverse phenomena in agreement with the notion of some other origin. We take up not only black rains but black rains and their accompanying phenomena.
A correspondent to Knowledge, 5-190, writes of a black rain that fell in the Clyde Valley, March 1, 1884: of another black rain that fell two days later. According to the correspondent, a black rain had fallen in the Clyde Valley, March 20, 1828: then again March 22, 1828. According to Nature, 9-43, a black rain fell at Marlsford, England, Sept. 4, 1873; more than twenty-four hours later another black rain fell in the same small town.
The black rains of Slains:
According to Rev. James Rust (Scottish Showers):
A black rain at Slains, Jan. 14, 1862—another at Carluke, 140 miles from Slains, May 1, 1862—at Slains, May 20, 1862—Slains, Oct. 28, 1863.
But after two of these showers, vast quantities of a substance described sometimes as “pumice stone,” but sometimes as “slag,” were washed upon the sea coast near Slains. A chemist’s opinion is given that this substance was slag: that it was not a volcanic product: slag from smelting works. We now have, for black rains, a concomitant that is irreconcilable with origin from factory chimneys. Whatever it may have been the quantity of this substance was so enormous that, in Mr. Rust’s opinion, to have produced so much of it would have required the united output of all the smelting works in the world. If slag it were, we accept that an artificial product has, in enormous quantities, fallen from the sky. If you don’t think that such occurrences are damned by Science, read Scottish Showers and see how impossible it was for the author to have this matter taken up by the scientific world.
The first and second rains corresponded, in time, with ordinary ebullitions of Vesuvius.
The third and fourth, according to Mr. Rust, corresponded with no known volcanic activities upon this earth.
La Science Pour Tous, 11-26:
That, between October, 1863, and January, 1866, four more black rains fell at Slains, Scotland.
The writer of this supplementary account tells us, with a better, or more unscrupulous, orthodoxy than Mr. Rust’s, that of the eight black rains, five coincided with eruptions of Vesuvius and three with eruptions of Etna.
The fate of all explanation is to close one door only to have another fly wide open. I should say that my own notions upon this subject will be considered irrational, but at least my gregariousness is satisfied in associating here with the preposterous—or this writer, and those who think in his rut, have to say that they can think of four discharges from one far-distant volcano, passing over a great part of Europe, precipitating nowhere else, discharging precisely over one small northern parish—
But also of three other discharges, from another far-distant volcano, showing the same precise preference, if not marksmanship, for one small parish in Scotland.
Nor would orthodoxy be any better off in thinking of exploding meteorites and their débris: preciseness and recurrence would be just as difficult to explain.
My own notion is of an island near an oceanic trade-route: it might receive débris from passing vessels seven times in four years.
Other concomitants of black rains:
In Timb’s Year Book, 1851-270, there is an account of “a sort of rumbling, as of wagons, heard for upward of an hour without ceasing,” July 16, 1850, Bulwick Rectory, Northampton, England. On the 19th, a black rain fell.
In Nature, 30-6, a correspondent writes of an intense darkness at Preston, England, April 26, 1884: page 32, another correspondent writes of black rain at Crowle, near Worcester, April 26: that a week later, or May 3, it had fallen again: another account of black rain, upon the 28th of April, near Church Shetton, so intense that the following day brooks were still dyed with it. According to four accounts by correspondents to Nature there were earthquakes in England at this time.
Or the black rain of Canada, Nov. 9, 1819. This time it is orthodoxy to attribute the black precipitate to smoke of forest fires south of the Ohio River—
Zurcher, Meteors, p. 238:
That this black rain was accompanied by “shocks like those of an earthquake.”
Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 2-381:
That the earthquake had occurred at the climax of intense darkness and the fall of black rain.
Sand blown by the sirocco, from the Sahara to Europe.
Especially in the earthquake regions of Europe, there have been many falls of red substance, usually, but not always, precipitated in rain. Upon many occasions, these substances have been “absolutely identified” as sand from the Sahara. When I first took this matter up, I came across assurance after assurance, so positive to this effect, that, had I not been an Intermediatist, I’d have looked no further. Samples collected from a rain at Genoa—samples of sand forwarded from the Sahara—“absolute agreement” some writers said: same color, same particles of quartz, even the same shells of diatoms mixed in. Then the chemical analyses: not a disagreement worth mentioning.
Our intermediatist means of expression will be that, with proper exclusions, after the scientific or theological method, anything can be identified with anything else, if all things are only different expressions of an underlying oneness.
To many minds there’s rest and there’s satisfaction in that expression “absolutely identified.” Absoluteness, or the illusion of it—the universal quest. If chemists have identified substances that have fallen in Europe as sand from African deserts, swept up in African whirlwinds, that’s assuasive to all the irritations that occur to those cloistered minds that must repose in the concept of a snug, isolated, little world, free from contact with cosmic wickednesses, safe from stellar guile, undisturbed by inter-planetary prowlings and invasions. The only trouble is that a chemist’s analysis, which seems so final and authoritative to some minds, is no more nearly absolute than is identification by a child or description by an imbecile—
I take some of that back: I accept that the approximation is higher—
But that it’s based upon delusion, because there is no definiteness, no homogeneity, no stability, only different stages somewhere between them and indefiniteness, heterogeneity, and instability. There are no chemical elements. It seems acceptable that Ramsay and others have settled that. The chemical elements are only another disappointment in the quest for the positive, as the definite, the homogeneous, and the stable. If there were real elements, there could be a real science of chemistry.
Upon Nov. 12 and 13, 1902, occurred the greatest fall of matter in the history of Australia. Upon the 14th of November, it “rained mud,” in Tasmania. It was of course attributed to Australian whirlwinds, but, according to the Monthly Weather Review, 32-365, there was a haze all the way to the Philippines, also as far as Hong Kong. It may be that this phenomenon had no especial relation with the even more tremendous fall of matter that occurred in Europe, February, 1903.
For several days, the south of England was a dumping ground—from somewhere.
If you’d like to have a chemist’s opinion, even though it’s only a chemist’s opinion, see the report of the meeting of the Royal Chemical Society, April 2, 1903. Mr. E. G. Clayton read a paper upon some of the substance that had fallen from the sky, collected by him. The Sahara explanation applies mostly to falls that occur in southern Europe. Farther away, the conventionalists are a little uneasy: for instance, the editor of the Monthly Weather Review, 29-121, says of a red rain that fell near the coast of Newfoundland, early in 1890: “It would be very remarkable if this was Sahara dust.” Mr. Clayton said that the matter examined by him was “merely wind-borne dust from the roads and lanes of Wessex.” This opinion is typical of all scientific opinion—or theological opinion—or feminine opinion—all very well except for what it disregards. The most charitable thing I can think of—because I think it gives us a broader tone to relieve our malices with occasional charities—is that Mr. Clayton had not heard of the astonishing extent of this fall—had covered the Canary Islands, on the 19th, for instance. I think, myself, that in 1903, we passed through the remains of a powdered world—left over from an ancient inter-planetary dispute, brooding in space like a red resentment ever since. Or, like every other opinion, the notion of dust from Wessex turns into a provincial thing when we look it over.
To think is to conceive incompletely, because all thought relates only to the local. We metaphysicians, of course, like to have the notion that we think of the unthinkable.
As to opinions, or pronouncements, I should say, because they always have such an authoritative air, of other chemists, there is an analysis in Nature, 68-54, giving water and organic matter at 9.08 per cent. It’s that carrying out of fractions that’s so convincing. The substance is identified as sand from the Sahara.
The vastness of this fall. In Nature, 68-65, we are told that it had occurred in Ireland, too. The Sahara, of course—because, prior to February 19, there had been dust storms in the Sahara—disregarding that in that great region there’s always, in some part of it, a dust storm. However, just at present, it does look reasonable that dust had come from Africa, via the Canaries.