Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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her teaching will never be divorced from that philosophy
or united with any other. Indeed every attempt to present
important doctrines, such as that of the Eucharist, in the
framework of other metaphysical systems has usually com-
pletely failed. Still it must never be imagined that the
Catholic Church is bound to stand or fall with the Scholastic
Philosophy. It existed and spread and taught the world
for a thousand years before that philosophy was heard of.
Its doctrinal teaching is on a different plane and guaranteed
by a different authority from the most unanimously accepted
theses and speculations of the schools.

Neither the metaphysics of Aristotle nor its scholastic
development is any part of the revealed deposit of Faith.
Even at the zenith of his glory no accredited Catholic
theologian taught that Aristotle was inspired — at any rate
by the Holy Ghost. Nay, the great Theological Faculty
of the University of Paris in the thirteenth century
solemnly condemned him as a most dangerous enemy of
the Christian Faith, and several of his works were for a long
time actually on the Roman Index. Nevertheless, all this
being borne in mind, the historical fact remains that the
Catholic Church has approved the Scholastic Philosophy as
she has done none other ; she has adopted it officially in
her schools, and she has again and again commended St.
Thomas, the greatest Master and Doctor of the Scholastic
Philosophy, to all her students throughout the world. And
now, when we turn to consider the trend of the most recent
philosophico-scientific speculation, we find that most impor-
tant doctrines of Schoolmen which had been treated with
the greatest contempt by modern science — the science that
is of but yesterday — and never more so than in the nine-
teenth century, prove to be the opposite of the absurd
things which a temporary attitude of science would have
made them out to be.


In the case of Matter and Form, we have a far-reaching
theory which had been held by all the Schoolmen, indeed
by all learned men for centuries. It conflicts with a novel
theory of science adopted with that ardour with which we
are prone to accept new doctrines of science — the Theory
of the Chemical Elements. As it conflicts with that Theory,
the Theory of " Matter and Form " is not only neglected
but assumed to have been disposed of for ever and to have
become a laughing-stock and a patent evidence of the
foolishness of Catholic Philosophers.

" Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel and lower the proud."
The day arrives when Science changes her mind as to the
Theory of the Chemical Elements and lo ! it becomes
evident to all who take the trouble to study the subject,
that the new standpoint of Science, if not identical with
that of Scholasticism, is at least so close to it as to be in-
distinguishable save by the expert ; and even by him ad-
mitted as being whole regions closer to it than the view in
favour until recently. It is not now argued that this
proves the Scholastic view to be unassailable, but it at least
shows that it is worthy of serious and respectful attention.

When a Theory — a philosophical theory — shows itself
adaptable to the newest discoveries of science — when, still
more, it may be looked upon without any straining of facts
as having actually predicted those discoveries, or precon-
ceived them, if that word is to be preferred — then indeed we
have every reason to feel that our confidence in the accuracy
of that theory is greatly increased, and it is increased
by the remarkable similarity which has been seen to exist
between the theory of " Matter and Form " and the Electri-
cal Theory of Matter as now widely taught.

Note to Chapter IX. — It is so exceedingly important for
any person desirous of grasping much of what appears in the
earlier chapters of this book to comprehend the essentials at least
of the Theory of Matter and Form, that I append another state-
ment of the various " forms " which has been placed at my
disposal by a learned friend, and which may throw additional
light on the question as dealt with in this chapter.

As to " forms " : There are (i) accidental forms, i.e. determin-
ations or qualifications of a being which make it such-and-such
but do not constitute its essence, e.g. colour, size, etc. Some



of these may be specific determinants or inseparable properties
of an entity, e.g. yellowness of gold, or the invariable concomi-
tants of a zoological species.

There are (2) substantial forms, which constitute the actual
concrete existent substances or are the physical actualities which
make a being be what it is, which, in fact, make it a unitary
entity (e.g. a rabbit).

There are various gradations of substantial forms. To adopt
one simple scheme we may classify them thus :

(1) Mineral or inorganic (e.g. gold). — It is generally held that
this lowest kind of form is extended, i.e. related in a one-to-one
mode with space. Thus the form of a lump of gold can be sub-
divided by breaking the lump. Or we might take the molecule to
have the substantial form, the lump being merely an accidental
congeries of substantial forms.

(2) Plant-form (or soul). — Here we have a higher unity than
in (1). We might almost say that we have the beginning of a
conquest over space. The plant is more than a mere collection
of inorganic chemicals. It is an organic unity. It is one in a
sense in which its spatial parts are not one. The functional unity
of a plant argues an ontological unity — as yet, however, im-

(3) Sensitive or animal form (or soul). — Here we have a still
higher unity — the unity of sense-consciousness. It is unthink-
able that the percept (e.g. landscape) should be correlated by a
one-to-one process with the percipient's brain. In the end the
percept must be perceived as a whole. (Even K in consciousness
is not the sum of I and <.) Hence it is absurd to seek the
sensitive soul among brain-cells — the soul is the synthesis of
them all ; it is present in each and in all. It has a mode of
presentiality of its own. The evidence for the morphological
and physiological unity of an animal also shows that we must
adopt the concept of such an entity.

(4) Spiritual or intellectual form (or soul). — Of this the only
instance is man. Man not only perceives but conceives. Only
to man have things a meaning. It is true that every concept is
accompanied by a percept (and so probably by a physiological
change). But this accompaniment is accidental, i.e. it influences
only the process, not the object. Even to think of God we must
see or pronounce His name or some name. Both reason and
free-will postulate a soul which is not only simple and un-
extended (as is the animal soul) but also spiritual, i.e. a soul
whose existence (esse) is independent of matter. In a word the
human soul not only " informs " (actualises) the human body,
but (as it were) has something left over after so doing. As the
Schoolmen put it, it is " not wholly immersed in matter."


IT is a mere platitude to say that a large book might be
written about the Universe — a library of books — and
yet the subject would in no way be exhausted. In the brief
space which can be allotted to it here, all that can be at-
tempted is to give some sort of idea of what is meant by the
term ; of the immensity of the subject dealt with ; of what
has been suggested as to the origin, proximate and ultimate,
of the Universe.

In Chapter iii the controversy usually associated with
the name of Galileo was outlined, and it was then pointed
out that, at his time, there were two views as to the
solar system, that corner of the visible universe best
known to us. There was the geocentric system which made
the earth the centre of all things, and the heliocentric
which made the planets of our system circle around the sun
as their centre. The latter was the theory of Copernicus
and Galileo, and is that which everybody now accepts.
When it was put forward, this explanation, as we have seen,
was only a likely solution of the difficulty. It was not till
Copernicus had been some two hundred years in his grave
that Bradley (in 1726) discovered the aberration of light,
and converted, what had up to then been a more or less
probable theory, into an incontrovertible fact.

We may commence with the solar system, comparatively
small though it is, and work upward from it towards the
immensities of the Universe. Now our solar system con-
sists of what we call " the " sun, though it is only one of
many such bodies. Our sun forms the centre of a system of
planets thus arranged :

Mercury, is the nearest to the sun and has no satellite.



Venus, also without a satellite.

The Earth, with one satellite, the Moon.

Mars, with two satellites.

A zone of minor planets or asteroids.

Jupiter, with seven satellites.

Saturn, with ten satellites.

Uranus, with four satellites.

Neptune, with one satellite.
When we come to ask the distances which intervene between
these members of the solar system, and still more between
the solar system and others of the visible bodies in the
universe, we slowly begin to realise that we enter a realm
of numerical relations utterly unlike anything which we
are otherwise acquainted with — a realm having units other-
wise unknown and only imperfectly realisable after long
and careful thought has been bestowed upon them.

To begin with, the association of numbers known as a
million miles is to the Universe something like what an inch
is to our ordinary maximum measurements. Yet it is not
easy to grasp what is meant by a million, even in these
days when we read of that figure in connection with the
vast armies of the Continent of Europe or as the cost of
some enormous ship of war. The late A. R. Wallace had a
scheme for supplying every important public school with a
room in which the walls and ceiling were covered with one
million black wafers, the object of the whole being to habitu-
ate the mind of the child to the meaning of the word and
to make him understand what is meant in pounds or dollars
of taxation and national expenditure. 1 Perhaps it may
assist the imagination of the reader if he is told that all
the words in the present book amount to something con-
siderably less than one-fifth of a million : it is possible that
the letters in it may reach the larger total.

At any rate, it is with figures of this size that astronomy
and astronomical calculations have to do, and we must try
to understand what they have to teach us. Let us still
confine ourselves to our own solar system. In the measure-
ments of this system the million sinks to the place of an

1 " Man's Place in the Universe," London, Chapman & Hal), 1904,
p. 82.



inch and we have to seek for another unit which we may
find in the distance of the earth from the sun, i.e. 92,830,000
miles. Utilising this unit we can arrange the solar system
thus : —

The Sun.


. T V of a unit.

Venus . a


more than -fo of a unit.

Earth .

. 1 unit, i.e. 92,830,000 miles


. i| unit.

Jupiter .


. over 5 units.

Saturn .

. gl units.

Uranus .

. 19 units.


. 30 units.

So that to obtain the distance from the Sun to Neptune
it is necessary to multiply 92,830,000 miles by 30 : when
the reader has done that and allowed the figures to sink
into his mind, he has next to learn that, comparatively
speaking, they are quite trivial in relation to other measure-
ments which have been made between the various observable
objects in the visible universe. In order to study these we
have to abandon even the huge unit with which we have
been dealing and find another in order that our figures may
become at all manageable. To do this we must turn to the
question of light. Light, as we have already learnt, travels
at an absolutely definite and unalterable rate of 186,000
miles per second — thus it takes eight minutes to come from
the Sun to the earth. Some idea of its rapidity may be
formed if we consider that an untiring and everlasting
express train which never required to stop for repairs, coal
or water, but went on and on at the even rate of sixty miles
per hour, would require 175 years to traverse that awful
gap. Or, to take a smaller distance, a beam of light could
do the double journey from London to New York and from
New York to London about thirty times in one second.

Let us leave that point for one moment to grasp the fact
that our sun is only one of many such objects in the universe.
How many such there may be it is hard to say, since each
improvement in astronomical apparatus reveals more and
more to the trained observer. Whether the enormous
telescope of Mount Wilson, with its five foot reflector, is to


remain the largest thing of the kind time will tell ; but
at any rate the mammoth telescope and, above all, the
improvements in celestial photography have greatly ex-
tended our knowledge of the heavenly bodies.

As a recent writer 1 puts it : " Unlike the eye, the photo-
graphic plate never tires, and the longer it is exposed,
provided the telescope can be pointed exactly at the same
celestial object, 2 the more it sees. The action of light upon
the silver salts on the plate is in such cases cumulative, and
hence after exposures of nine or ten or more hours the plate
when developed will show structure in a nebula, which the
eye could never have grasped even when aided with the
most powerful optical power as yet available."

Up to the present time the result of all these unwearied
observations has been to show that there are something
like 100,000,000 stars, that is to say suns, visible to the
astronomer by one or other of his methods. Thus our
star, the Sun, which seems, and indeed is, so important to
us, is only one out of an almost inconceivable multitude of
suns in" the visible universe.

The nearest neighbouring sun to our system is the star
known as Alpha Centauri, as to the distance of which from
us the following facts may give some idea. We return to
the question of light and its rate of transmission. Light,
travelling at the rate of 186,000 miles per second, takes

Eight minutes to come from the Sun (92,830,000 miles).
Four hours to come from Neptune, the most distant

planet of our system.
Four and a half years to come from Alpha Centauri, the
nearest neighbouring sun to our system.
Here we are introduced to a new unit — that of the " light-
year," which is the distance travelled by a beam of light in
the course of one year. Thus Sirius, the " Dog-Star," the
brightest of what are called the fixed stars, is nearly nine
light-years distant. Any reader of this book can now perform

1 Fr. Cortie. s. j., " The Origin of the Sun and Stars," in " The Month."
January, 1914. To this article and another on "The System of the
Stars," published in " The Month " for March, 1912, I am indebted for a
number of the facts given in this and the immediately succeeding chapters.

* As, of course, it can be for any desired length of time with the aid cf
modern machinery.


a long but simple sum in multiplication in order to afford
himself some idea of what a " light-year " really means.
Let him first of all multiply 186,000 by 60 in order to arrive
at the number of miles per minute. He will find it
comes to quite a respectable total. But this again has to
be multiplied by 60 to account for the miles per hour, and
that sum by 24 so that we may know how many per day.
Finally, the enormous line of figures now arrived at has to be
multiplied by 365 to make up the sum total for a " light-
year." Now if he chooses to do so, he can multiply this by
four and a half and he will have arrived at the distance
which separates us from the nearest sun not that of our
own particular solar system.

But that is the nearest sun, and there are millions further
off. For example, let any reader who is approaching his
fortieth birthday make up his mind on the evening of that
day, if the condition of the sky permits him to do so, to
look at the North or Pole Star. If he does so he may bear
in mind that the beam of light which has that moment
caught his eye started on its mad race of 186,000 miles
per second on the day when he first saw the light of earth.
But this is a mere trifle, if it be true, as Kapteyn, a recent
writer, maintains, that there are stars in the visible universe
which are as much as 30,000 " light-years " off.

It is quite impossible for anyone, even after long medita-
tion on the subject, thoroughly to appreciate what all this
really means ; but a couple of illustrations of the subject
may now be set down in the hope that they may in some
measure enable the reader to comprehend something of
the awful distances of the visible universe. One of the most
recent manuals dealing with the subject 1 says : " Many
have tried to find some way of picturing the distances which
separate star from star in the sun's neighbourhood. Perhaps
there is no way better than to imagine a model in which
the sun is represented by a grain of sand one hundredth of
an inch in diameter " — (the actual diameter of the sun
being 864,000 miles) — " and the earth " — (actual diameter
at equator 7926 miles) — " by a quite invisible speck one
inch away" — (actual distance of the earth from the sun
1 Hinks, " Astronomy," Home University Library, p. 169.


92,830,000 miles). " Upon this scale the nearest star will
be another grain of sand some four miles away, and the
other stars will be scattered at somewhat greater distances
apart. To this incredible sparseness are the stars reduced
when we try to look at them in three dimensions."

Or let us look at it in another way. 1

Everybody knows that maps are drawn to certain scales.
There is in this country a six-inch scale, i.e. six inches of
map represent one mile of land. That is a large scale and
enables every small road and other details to be delineated,
but it is too large a scale for ordinary use. The one-inch
is the standard ordnance map, and every mile of ground
is there represented by one inch of paper. That again is
far too large a scale to be used for great countries. For
instance, I have just been looking at a map in a school
atlas, which represents the United States on the scale of
250 miles to the inch, making about eleven inches from
San Francisco to a point on the eastern coast. Two hundred
and fifty miles of land represented by one inch of paper :
it is about as small a scale as is compatible with usefulness.
Now, suppose we were to try to plot out the visible universe
to scale on paper, what scale could we employ ? As a matter
of fact we should find the thing quite impossible on any
scale, but let us suppose that we adopted a scale of one-
million-millionth of an inch to the mile, or, in similar terms
to those used above, one mile of space represented by one-
million-millionth of an inch, how large a map should we
require ? We should need a strip of paper two miles and
three-quarters in length to work upon. We may well say
that the task is an impossible one.

Observe that what we have so far been discussing refers
only to the visible universe. In that universe our solar
system is only a very small item. The planets which com-
prise it are whirling round the sun, their centre, as we all
know ; but they and the sun are also constantly rushing
through space towards the constellation known as Hercules
at the rate of twelve and a half miles per second, a com-
paratively moderate rate in comparison with what we have

1 Suggested to me by my friend Professor Conran who has made the


recently been considering, yet one which makes up quite a
respectable total for a year — to take it no further — if we
make the calculation. Hence the members of our solar
system are constantly altering their positions, as a whole,
with regard to the visible universe. Can we form any con-
ception of where we are in respect to its other portions, or
what the general contour of that universe may be ?

In attempting to answer these questions, we must
first direct our attention to that well-known object in the
heavens, the Milky Way. This object is a ring of clouds of
stars which lies in the central plane of the whole system of
stars. As we approach this ring it is found that the stars
have a greater density, and that this increase in density is
progressively carried on from the poles of the Milky Way
to its circumference. This, and other facts which cannot
here be dealt with, " lead to the conception of the universe
of stars as flattened into a lenticular form, our sun occupying
a position in the median plane and not far removed from
its centre. Ptolemy placed the earth at the centre of the
planetary system, modern astronomers give it a far more
dignified position as near the centre of the whole congeries
of stars." 1 Much was made of this point and of the unique
possibilities of this earth as a place of habitation for men
by the late A. R. Wallace in his book " Man's Place in the
Universe." As to this it may be said that, as far as we know,
with the single possible exception of Mars, life for men,
constituted as men on this earth are constituted, or indeed
life of any kind recognisable by us as life, would not be
possible upon any other planet of our system — perhaps,
though this is a large assumption, not anywhere else in the
visible universe. This is, of course, very far from saying
that there may not be other forms of existence of which we
can form no notion on other planets, or indeed in other
parts of the vast universe on which we have been bestowing
so cursory a consideration.

Of course we cannot really comprehend all these im-
mensities : they terrify the mind which tries to take them
in. Mr. Hardy's astronomer in " Two on a Tower," says :
" There is a size at which dignity begins ; further on there

1 Cortie, " System of Stars," ut supra, p. 248.


is a size at which grandeur begins ; further on a size at
which awfulness begins ; further on a size at which ghastli-
ness begins. That size faintly approaches the size of the
stellar universe." And then, with that pessimism which is
characteristic of his more thoughtful characters, the author
makes his hero add : "Am I not right in saying that those
minds who exert their imaginative powers to bury them-
selves in the depths of that universe merely strain their
faculties to obtain a new horror ? "

So far we have only thought of the visible universe,
but what are we to say about Space, which in one of its
corners, so to speak, contains this vast visible universe.
Space presents itself to us as represented by our possible
or actual forms of motion. Thus we can walk forwards
or backwards or from side to side, and we can jump
into the air or down into a hole. That is to say, we have
experience of a three-dimensional state of things and we
refer this experience to what we call space. But we actually
know of Infusorians which only move backwards and for-
wards and which would, therefore, had they any ideas, only
have an idea of a two-dimensional space. We can certainly
conceive a one-dimensional space, and the mathematicians
claim to show us that it may be possible to conceive of space
of four or even more dimensions with results completely
subversive of all our ideas regarding material objects.
This territory is, however, confessedly misty and obscure. 1
Unconsciously no doubt in most cases, but none the less
really, we think, so far as we do think at all, of Space on the
lines indicated, that is as three-dimensional. Of course,
the vast majority of people never trouble to think what is
really meant by Space — or by Time either, for the matter of
that, a subject whose problems are closely associated with
those of space. These are metaphysical problems, and it
must be the task of the metaphysician to endeavour to ex-
plain to us what reality outside our own minds corresponds
to those two terms " Space " and " Time." Most people
who think about such things at all no doubt envisage the
problem, as many writers have done, as one of an objective

1 On this point see a very interesting article in " Mathematical Essays,"
by Schubert (Trans. McCormack), " Open Court," Chicago, 1898.


nature. They think of space, as we may think of the ocean,

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 10 of 38)