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the same size ? and, after fulfilment of their diffusion
into space, is absolute inequidistance, each from each,
to be understood of all of them ? In such arrange
ment, under such conditions, we most easily and im
mediately comprehend the subsequent most feasible
carrying out to completion of any such design as that
which I have suggested the design of variety out of
unity, diversity out of sameness, heterogeneity out of
homogeneity, complexity out of simplicity, in a word,
the utmost possible multiplicity of relation out of the
emphatically irrelative one. Undoubtedly, therefore,
we should be warranted hi assuming all that has been
mentioned but for the reflection, first, that superero
gation is not presumable of any Divine Act; and,
secondly, that the object supposed in view appears as
feasible when some of the conditions hi question are
dispensed with, in the beginning, as when all are un
derstood immediately to exist. I mean to say that some
are involved in the rest, or so instantaneous a conse
quence of them as to make the distinction inappre
ciable. Difference of size, for example, will at once
be brought about through the tendency of one atom
to a second, in preference to a third, on account of par
ticular inequidistance; which is to be comprehended

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as particular inequidistances between centres of quan
tity, in neighboring atoms of different form a matter
not at all interfering with the generally equable dis
tribution of the atoms. Difference of kind, too, is
easily conceived to be merely a result of differences in
size and form, taken more or less conjointly ; in fact,
since the unity of the particle proper implies absolute
homogeneity, we cannot imagine the atoms, at their
diffusion, differing in kind, without imagining, at the
same time, a special exercise of the Divine Will, at the
emission of each atom, for the purpose of effecting, in
each, a change of its essential nature : so fantastic an
idea is the less to be indulged, as the object proposed is
seen to be thoroughly attainable without such minute
and elaborate interposition. We perceive, therefore,
upon the whole, that it would be supererogation, and
consequently unphilosophical, to predicate of the at
oms, in view of their purposes, anything more than
difference of form at their dispersion, with particular
inequidistance after it, all other differences arising at
once out of these, in the very first processes of mass
constitution. We thus establish the universe on a
purely geometrical basis. Of course, it is by no means
necessary to assume absolute difference, even of form,
among all the atoms irradiated, any more than abso
lute particular inequidistance of each from each. We
are required to conceive merely that no neighboring
atoms are of similar form, no atoms which can ever

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a* particular inequidistances between centres of qui
tity, in neighboring atoms of different form a mal
not at all interfering with the generally equable c
tribution of the atoms. Difference of kind, too,
easily conceived to be merely a result of differences
size and form, taken more or less conjointly ; in f i
since the unity of the particle proper implies absol
homogeneity, we cannot imagine the atoms, at tt
diffusion, differing in kind, without imagining, at
same time, a special exercise of the Divine Will, at
emission of each atom, for the purpose of effecting,
each, a change of its ellftpifilS^ure : so fantastic
11 1 il iTiihaljaatlaily ihdniptijM tin qbjecta&f$c$
site r tftPB a aHEfcughly attainable without such min
and elaborate interpoefelea. We perceive, therefc
upon the whote, tfcMtt it WiM it ffiftrerogation, i
consequently uapteftaaopfcicai, to frattcate el fee
oms, in vi*w of tMr fMpMe* aaqpMQ( more tt
difference of fern *t ifeeir dtapersion, with particu
inequidistanct dtr it, all other differences arising
once out of that*, in the very first processes of m
constitution. We thus establish the universe or
purely geometrical basis. Of course, it is by no me;
necessary to assume absolute difference, even of foi
among all the atoms irradiated, any more than ab
lute particular inequidistance of each from each,
are required to conceive merely that no neighbor
atoms are of similar form, no atoms which can e



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approximate until their inevitable reunition at the
end.

Although the immediate and perpetual tendency of
the disunited atoms to return into their normal unity
is implied, as I have said, in their abnormal diffusion,
still it is clear that this tendency will be without con
sequence a tendency and no more until the diffu
sive energy, in ceasing to be exerted, shall leave it, the
tendency, free to seek its satisfaction. The Divine
Act, however, being considered determinate, and dis
continued on fulfilment of the diffusion, we under
stand, at once, a reaction, in other words, a satisfi-
able tendency of the disunited atoms to return into
one.

But the diffusive energy being withdrawn, and the
reaction having commenced in furtherance of the ulti
mate design, that of the utmost possible relation,
this design is now in danger of being frustrated, in de
tail, by reason of that very tendency to return which
is to effect its accomplishment in general. Multi
plicity is the object; but there is nothing to prevent
proximate atoms from lapsing at once, through the
now satisfiable tendency, before the fulfilment of any
ends proposed in multiplicity, into absolute oneness
among themselves; there is nothing to impede the
aggregation of various unique masses, at various points
of space ; in other words, nothing to interfere with the
accumulation of various masses, each absolutely one.

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For the effectual and thorough completion of the
general design, we thus see the necessity for a repul
sion of limited capacity, a separative something which,
on withdrawal of the diffusive Volition, shall at the same
time allow the approach, and forbid the junction, of
the atoms, suffering them infinitely to approximate,
while denying them positive contact ; in a word, hav
ing the power, up to a certain epoch, of preventing
their coalition, but no ability to interfere with their
coalescence in any respect or degree. The repulsion,
already considered as so peculiarly limited in other
regards, must be understood, let me repeat, as having
power to prevent absolute coalition, only up to a cer
tain epoch. Unless we are to conceive that the ap
petite for unity among the atoms is doomed to be
satisfied never ; unless we are to conceive that what
had a beginning is to have no end, a conception
which cannot really be entertained, however much
we may talk or dream of entertaining it, we are forced
to conclude that the repulsive influence imagined, will,
finally, under pressure of the uni-tendency collectively
applied, but never and in no degree until, on fulfil
ment of the Divine purposes, such collective applica
tion shall be naturally made, yield to a force which,
at that ultimate epoch, shall be the superior force
precisely to the extent required, and thus permit the
universal subsidence into the inevitable, because
original and therefore normal, one. The conditions

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here to be reconciled are difficult indeed; we cannot
even comprehend the possibility of their conciliation ;
nevertheless, the apparent impossibility is brilliantly
suggestive.

That the repulsive something actually exists, we see.
Man neither employs, nor knows a force sufficient to
bring two atoms into contact. This is but the well-
established proposition of the impenetrability of matter.
All experiment proves, all philosophy admits it. The
design of the repulsion, the necessity for its existence,
I have endeavored to show, but from all attempt at in
vestigating its nature have religiously abstained, this
on account of an intuitive conviction that the prin
ciple at issue is strictly spiritual; lies in a recess im
pervious to our present understanding; lies involved
in a consideration of what now, in our human state ; is
not to be considered in a consideration of Spirit in
itself. I feel, in a word, that here the God has inter
posed, and here only, because here and here only the
knot demanded the interposition of the God.

In fact, while the tendency of the diffused atoms to
return into unity will be recognized at once as the
principle of the Newtonian gravity, what I have spoken
of as a repulsive influence prescribing limits to the
(immediate) satisfaction of the tendency will be un
derstood as that which we have been hi the practice
of designating now as heat, now as magnetism, now
as electricity, displaying our ignorance of its awful

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character in the vacillation of the phraseology with
which we endeavor to circumscribe it.

Calling it, merely for the moment, electricity, we
know that all experimental analysis of electricity has
given, as an ultimate result, the principle, or seeming
principle, heterogeneity. Only where things differ is
electricity apparent; and it is presumable that they
never differ where it is not developed at least, if not
apparent. Now, this result is in the fullest keeping
with that which I have reached unempirically. The
design of the repulsive influence I have maintained to
be that of preventing immediate unity among the dif
fused atoms ; and these atoms are represented as dif
ferent each from each. Difference is their character,
their essentiality, just as no-difference was the essen
tiality of their course. When we say, then, that an at
tempt to bring any two of these atoms together would
induce an effort, on the part of the repulsive influence,
to prevent the contact, we may as well use the strictly
convertible sentence that an attempt to bring together
any two differences will result in a development of
electricity. All existing bodies, of course, are com
posed of these atoms in proximate contact, and are
therefore to be considered as mere assemblages of more
or fewer differences; and the resistance made by the
repulsive spirit, on bringing together any two such
assemblages, would be in the ratio of the two sums of
the differences in each, an expression which, when

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reduced, is equivalent to this: The amount of elec
tricity developed on the approximation of two bodies is
proportional to the difference between the respective
sums of the atoms of which the bodies are composed.
That no two bodies are absolutely alike is a simple
corollary from all that has been here said. Electricity,
therefore, existing always, is developed whenever any
bodies, but manifested only when bodies of appreciable
difference, are brought into approximation.

To electricity so, for the present, continuing to call
it we may not be wrong in referring the various
physical appearances of light, heat, and magnetism;
but far less shall we be liable to err in attributing to
this strictly spiritual principle the more important phe
nomena of vitality, consciousness, and thought. On
this topic, however, I need pause here merely to sug
gest that these phenomena, whether observed gener
ally or in detail, seem to proceed at least hi the ratio
of the heterogeneous.

Discarding, now, the two equivocal terms " gravita
tion " and " electricity," let us adopt the more definite
expressions " attraction " and " repulsion." The for
mer is the body, the latter the soul; the one is the
material, the other the spiritual, principle of the uni
verse. No other principles exist. All phenomena are
referable to one or to the other, or to both combined.
So rigorously is this the case, so thoroughly demon
strable is it that attraction and repulsion are the sole

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properties through which we perceive the universe, in
other words, by which matter is manifested to mind,
that, for all merely argumentative purposes, we are
fully justified in assuming that matter exists only as
attraction and repulsion that attraction and repul
sion are matter, there being no conceivable case in
which we may not employ the term " matter," and the
terms " attraction " and " repulsion," taken together,
as equivalent, and therefore convertible, expressions in
logic.

I said, just now, that what I have described as the
tendency of the diffused atoms to return into their
original unity would be understood as the principle of
the Newtonian law of gravity; and, in fact, there can
be but little difficulty in such an understanding, if we
look at the Newtonian gravity in a merely general
view, as a force impelling matter to seek matter ; that
is to say, when we pay no attention to the known
modus operand! of the Newtonian force. The general
coincidence satisfies us ; but, upon looking closely, we
see in detail much that appears in coincident, and
much in regard to which no coincidence, at least, is
established. For example: the Newtonian gravity,
when we think of it in certain moods, does not seem
to be a tendency to oneness at all, but rather a ten
dency of all bodies in all directions a phrase appar
ently expressive of a tendency to diffusion. Here,
then, is an /^coincidence. Again; when we reflect

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on the mathematical law governing the Newtonian
tendency, we see clearly that no coincidence has been
made good, in respect of the modus operand*', at
least, between gravitation as known to exist and that
seemingly simple and direct tendency which I have
assumed.

In fact, I have attained a point at which it will be
advisable to strengthen my position by reversing my
processes. So far, we have gone on a priori, from an
abstract consideration of simplicity, as that quality
most likely to have characterized the original action
of God. Let us now see whether the established facts
of the Newtonian gravitation may not afford us, a
posteriory some legitimate inductions.

What does the Newtonian law declare ? That all
bodies attract each other with forces proportional to
the squares of their distances. Purposely, I have given,
in the first place, the vulgar version of the law; and I
confess that in this, as in most other vulgar versions of
great truths, we find little of a suggestive character.
Let us now adopt a more philosophical phraseology:
Every atom, of every body, attracts every other atom,
both of its own and of every other body, with a force
which varies inversely as the squares of the distances
.between the attracting and attracted atom. Here, in
deed, a flood of suggestion bursts upon the mind.

But let us see distinctly what it was that Newton
proved, according to the grossly irrational definitions

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of proof prescribed by the metaphysical schools. He
was forced to content himself with showing how
thoroughly the motions of an imaginary universe, com
posed of attracting and attracted atoms obedient to the
law he announced, coincide with those of the actually
existing universe so far as it comes under our observa
tion. This was the amount of his demonstration, that
is to say, this was the amount of it, according to the
conventional cant of the " philosophies." His suc
cesses added proof multiplied by proof, such proof as a
sound intellect admits; but the demonstration of the
law itself, persist the metaphysicians, had not been
strengthened in any degree. " Ocular physical proof,"
however, of attraction, here upon earth, in accord
ance with the Newtonian theory, was, at length, much
to the satisfaction of some intellectual grovellers,
afforded. This proof arose collaterally and incident
ally (as nearly all important truths have arisen) out
of an attempt to ascertain the mean density of the
earth. In the famous Maskelyne, Cavendish, and
Bailly experiments for this purpose, the attraction of
the mass of a mountain was seen, felt, measured, and
found to be mathematically consistent with the im
mortal theory of the British astronomer.

But in spite of this confirmation of that which
needed none, in spite of the so-called corroboration of
the " theory " by the so-called " ocular and physical
proof," in spite of the character of this corroboration,

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the ideas which even really philosophical men cannot
help imbibing of gravity, and, especially, the ideas of
it which ordinary men get and contentedly maintain,
are seen to have been derived, for the most part, from
a consideration of the principle as they find it devel
oped, merely in the planet upon which they stand.

Now, to what does so partial a consideration tend,
to what species of error does it give rise ? On the
earth we see and feel only that gravity impels all
bodies toward the centre of the earth. No man in the
common walks of life could be made to see or feel any
thing else, could be made to perceive that anything,
anywhere, has a perpetual gravitating tendency in any
other direction than to the centre of the earth; yet
(with an exception hereafter to be specified) it is a
fact that every earthly thing (not to speak now of every
heavenly thing) has a tendency not only to the earth's
centre, but in every conceivable direction besides.

Now, although the philosophic cannot be said to err
with the vulgar in this matter, they nevertheless per
mit themselves to be influenced, without knowing it,
by the sentiment of the vulgar idea. " Although the
pagan fables are not believed," says Bryant, in his very
erudite Mythology t " yet we forget ourselves continu
ally and make inferences from them as from existing
realities." I mean to assert that the merely sensitive
perception of gravity as we experience it upon earth
beguiles mankind into the fancy of concentralization

VOL. X. 14. 20



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or especially respecting it, has been continually bias
ing toward this fancy even the mightiest intellects,
perpetually, although imperceptibly, leading them
away from the real characteristics of the principle,
thus preventing them, up to this date, from ever get
ting a glimpse of that vital truth which lies in a dia
metrically opposite direction, behind the principle's
essential characteristics, those not of concentraliza-
tion or especiality, but of universality and diffusion.
This " vital truth " is unity as the source of the phe
nomenon.

Let me now repeat the definition of gravity : Every
atom, of every body, attracts every other atom, both
of its own and of every other body, with a force which
varies inversely as the squares of the distances of the
attracting and attracted atom.

Here let the reader pause with me, for a moment, in
contemplation of the miraculous, of the ineffable, of
the altogether unimaginable, complexity of relation
involved hi the fact that each atom attracts every
other atom ; involved merely hi this fact of the attrac
tion, without reference to the law or mode in which
the attraction is manifested; involved merely in the
fact that each atom attracts every other atom at all, in
a wilderness of atoms so numerous that those which
go to the composition of a cannon-ball exceed, prob
ably, in mere point of number, all the stars which go
to the constitution of the universe.

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Had we discovered, simply, that each atom tended
to some one favorite point, to some especially attrac
tive atom, we should still have fallen upon a discovery
which, in itself, would have sufficed to overwhelm the
mind ; but what is it that we are actually called upon
to comprehend? That each atom attracts, sympa
thizes with the most delicate movements of every other
atom, and with each and with all at the same time
and forever, and according to a determinate law of
which the complexity, even considered by itself solely,
is utterly beyond the grasp of the imagination of man.
If I propose to ascertain the influence of one mote in
a sunbeam upon its neighboring mote, I cannot accom
plish my purpose without first counting and weighing
all the atoms in the universe and defining the precise
positions of all at one particular moment. If I ven
ture to displace, by even the billionth part of an inch,
the microscopical speck of dust which lies now upon
the point of my finger, what is the character of that
act upon which I have adventured ? I have done a
deed which shakes the moon in her path, which causes
the sun to be no longer the sun, and which alters for
ever the destiny of the multitudinous myriads of stars
that roll and glow in the majestic presence of their
Creator.

These ideas, conceptions such as these, unthought-
like thoughts, soul-reveries rather than conclusions, or
even considerations of the intellect, ideas, I repeat,

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such as these, are such as we can alone hope profit
ably to entertain in any effort at grasping the great
principle, attraction.

But now, with such ideas, with such a vision of the
marvellous complexity of attraction fairly in his mind,
let any person competent of thought on such topics as
these set himself to the task of imagining a principle
for the phenomena observed, a condition from which
they sprang.

Does not so evident a brotherhood among the atoms
point to a common parentage ? Does not a sym
pathy so omniprevalent, so ineradicable, and so thor
oughly irrespective, suggest a common paternity as its
source ? Does not one extreme impel the reason to
the other ? Does not the infinitude of division refer
to the utterness of individuality ? Does not the en-
tireness of the complex hint at the perfection of the
simple ? It is not that the atoms, as we see them, are
divided or that they are complex in their relations, but
that they are inconceivably divided and unutterably
complex; it is the extremeness of the conditions to
which I now allude, rather than to the conditions
themselves. In a word, is it not because the atoms
were, at some remote epoch of time, even more than
together; is it not because originally, and therefore
normally, they were one, that now, in all circum
stances, at all points, in all directions, by all modes of
approach, in all relations and through all conditions,

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they struggle back to this absolutely, this irrelatively,
this unconditionally one ?

Some person may here demand : " Why, since it is
to the one that the atoms struggle back, do we not
find and define attraction * a merely general tendency
to a centre ' ? why, in especial, do not your atoms,
the atoms which you describe as having been irradi
ated from a centre, proceed at once, rectilinearly, back
to the central point of their origin ? "

I reply that they do, as will be distinctly shown ; but
that the cause of their so doing is quite irrespective of
the centre as such. They all tend rectilinearly toward
a centre, because of the sphericity with which they
have been irradiated into space. Each atom, forming
one of a generally uniform globe of atoms, finds more
atoms in the direction of the centre, of course, than in
any other, and in that direction, therefore, is impelled,
but is not thus impelled because the centre is the point
of its origin. It is not to any point that the atoms are
allied. It is not any locality, either in the concrete or
in the abstract, to which I suppose them bound. Noth
ing like location was conceived as their origin. Their
source lies in the principle, unity. This is their lost
parent. This they seek always, immediately, in all
directions, wherever it is even partially to be found;
thus appeasing, in some measure, the ineradicable ten
dency, while on the way to its absolute satisfaction in
the end. It follows, from all this, that any principle

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which shall be adequate to account for the law, or
modus operand^ of the attractive force in general, will
account for this law in particular ; that is to say, any
principle which will show why the atoms should tend
to their general centre of irradiation with forces in
versely proportioned to the squares of the distances will
be admitted as satisfactorily accounting, at the same
time, for the tendency, according to the same law, of
these atoms each to each; for the tendency to the
centre is merely the tendency each to each, and not
any tendency to a centre as such. Thus it will be
seen, also, that the establishment of my propositions
would involve no necessity of modification in the terms
of the Newtonian definition of gravity, which declares
that each atom attracts each other atom, and so forth,
and declares this merely; but (always under the sup
position that what I propose be, in the end, admitted)
it seems clear that some error might occasionally be
avoided, in the future processes of science, were a
more ample phraseology adopted ; for instance, " Each
atom tends to every other atom, etc., with a force, etc.,


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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 10) → online text (page 12 of 21)