William Simpson.

The man from Mars; his morals, politics and religion online

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in their entirety, or of others that they should be abol-
ished, cuts no figure ; because, whether for good or evil
in the opinions of men, Providence has ordained, that
those only which represent the truth shall live, and know-
ing this of a certainty, it becomes of the greatest interest
to discover what society is likely to lose or gain by that
modification of religious beliefs, wherein only the truth
shall remain. If we cannot foretell this future condition
with certainty, it is largely foreshadowed by past and
present experience. What the world has lost in the
modification of religious beliefs, would be hard to find,
what it has gained would take volumes to recount. In
the most important of all human interests, liberty of per-


son, liberty of conscience, and libertj' of speech, there
has been, as yet, no adequate acknowledgement by man-
kind of the great services of the silent and avowed skep-
ticism which brought about the consumation of these
blessings. The writings of Moses, the recorded wisdom
of Solomon, the encyclicals of popes, and the sermons of
bishops and priests, both Protestant and Catholic, in their
rising up of the lowly, in their encouragement of brother-
hood, and in that exact and even justice to all men, so
far as their practical services to humanitj'- in these direc-
tions can be measured, sink into an empty insignificance,
when compared with those organic declarations and laws,
upon which this great republic was founded, and which
were the outcome and product of a then recent enlighten-
ment, due to the combined efforts of European skeptical
writers, who by their genius of sarcasm and incisive
argument, were disturbing the old theological modes of
thought, and awaking the world to wide strides in ration-
alism. That these new American rules of political equal-
ity, beacons of liberty for men to follow and admire,
obtained their inspiration and incentive from those new
lights in literature, which, at that time, were stirring the
world of thought, there can be no question. In these


famous American documents, were embodied the practical
carrying out of principles, enunciated, and suggested by the
European writers, and the most active of the men engaged
in the noble work of forming the new government, are
known to have been diciples of these leaders of anti-theo-
logic thought. Our Declaration of Independence and
Federal Constitution, stand, to-day, grand achievements
of modern scientific thought, and conspicious triumphs of
rationalism, over old methods, foreshadowing in these,
its great works, a better wisdom to govern the affairs of
men, than all the ages guided by Hebrew tradition. Yet,
in these documents will be seen an overflowing of natural
religion, and the spirit of the Master. ' ' Do unto others
as ye would that others shall do unto you. ' '

If we have for more than fifteen centuries, yeilded our-
selves to doctrines, conveyed to us through all the high-
ways of life, so assiduously, that neither infancy, youth,
manhood or old age, have escaped their tireless impor-
tunities for acceptance ; doctrines, which consign seven-
eighths of humanity to eternal torture for no faults to
most of them but a lack of opportunity, which under
Providence has been denied, it is not unreasonable to con-
clude, with this experience of the mutability of human


understanding, that there are other beliefs fastened on our
minds by ages of custom and mistaken thought, equally
untenable, which may be as justly placed in our cata-
logue of errors. Where then shall we look for truth?
Authority, as we have seen, is not an infallible guide.
We shall never know how much the industrious promul-
gation of error is due to the selfish love of corporate
power, how much to a pure benevolence. Neither are
the brightest minds safe monitors in all things of thought.
Aristotle defended slavery, Hobbes persecution, Johnson
witchcraft, and Gladstone religious superstition ; but, for
all that, we shall never arrive at the extremity of despair ;
for a cultivation of the mind, the deductive use of positive
knowledge, and the untrammeled exercise of reason, lead
to truth, as directly, as the line of gravity points to the
center of the earth, and only by these will its reign be
established in the world.

W. S.


My habitation is upon the plateau of a mountain in
California. I entered this region and became a settler by
a fortuituous event. About thirty -five years ago, I took a
summer outing from a close application to business in the
metropolis, and came here for a deer hunt. One of those
beautiful animals that I had wounded with my rifle led
me further into this wild and picturesque locality than I
had intended to go, and I thus arrived upon this spot, as
I believe, the first white man that ever sat foot upon it.
Reaching here late in the afternoon, I found myself too
far out of my path to return by daylight, and so, building
a fire, I spent my first night alone in this weird place. It
was the first time in my life that I had slept where some
human creature was not within the sound of my voice,
and from that night I date a change of sentiment,
thought, and feeling, which has altered my career, and
made me, what I have chosen to be, a recluse.


I had been living in the world about thirty years amid
the artifical surroundings of a city. I had scarcely looked
upon the sky and heavens, except between the margins
of opposite house-tops. I had viewed from infancy,
without emotion, the rising and setting of the sun from a
horizon of chimneys and steeples; and when these exhib-
itions first presented themselves to me here in this crystal
atmosphere, with an expanse from this altitude so new
to me, they appeared like a revelation. I seemed to have
been suddenlj^ ushered into the world, and to be looking
for the first time in my life upon the stupendous
phenomena about me.

Until this moment I had not approached a realization
of the magnificence and prodigious wonders which the
heavens afford to our observation. It was here also that I
began for the first time to enjoy those beautiful and curious
processes of nature, where the bursting germs, ascending
gradually out of the soil, change their shapes, multiply
their organs, and after a time crown themselves with
brilliant and deliciously flavored flowers. In my new
observation and intimacy with plant growth, with some
previous knowledge of the science appertaining to it, and
with a newly discovered delight in marking the changes


of position and the characters of the heavenly bodies by
the greedy acquirement of all the information within my
reach, I have come to forego, without regrets, the social
pleasures of life.

By the liberal laws of my country, I have become
possessed of this attractive spot, and thus far, I have
chosen to retain it in its natural state. I came here a
young man. I am now old. Thirty-five years of my life
have been spent on this elevation, with a self-banishment
from society, without in the least abating my interest in
human affairs. My communication with the world is
mostly through books. A weekly newspaper or two, and
such other publications as I may order, are left for me in
a hollow tree several miles away by the district messenger ;
and thus no important event or new discovery in the
world escapes me.

I have constructed with my own hands a cabin, having
much convenience and comfort, and also some outhouses,
which shelter my poultry and a pair of gentle cows,
which latter, finding abundant food in the natural grasses
about, come to me regularly at milking time, seemingly
as much for the pleasure of being caressed, as to furnish
me the principal nourishment of my life.


There is a trout steam iu the center of my possession,
with expansions here and there, which serve as bathing
places for myself, and out of which pure and cool drink is
supplied to the few domestic animals about me. This
stream makes its way through the bottom of a hollow,
and is so overhung by the lofty branches of trees which
grow upon its borders that the sunlight only enters in
patches, and is so reflected by the restless surface of the
water as to mark its devious way with the appearance of
a line of flashing mirrors. The surrounding dense body
of foliage, from at least a hundred varieties of trees and
shrubs, is tinted with a variegation of color seldom seen
outside the tropics. This charming spot has its voices,
as restless as the lights and shadows which play about
within. Each miniature waterfall has its liquid note;
while during certain hours there comes from every
quarter of the foilage above a confused melody of birds,
who, I have reason to believe, assemble there for enter-
ment and gossip.

Outside of this watered region, my homestead is inter-
spersed with openmgs, where the rich loam only awaits
the labor of cultivation to produce a wealth of grain or
fruit. Every tree and shrub within my possession of


half a mile square, by long familiarity, seems to have
become a part of myself. We are living and ageing
together. I have watched in them the development of
infancy, the slow and gradual approach to youth, and the
turning point from maturity to old age. Among these
old monarchs of the woods is here and there one tipped
with the signs of superannuated decay. About their feet
lay many of their withered, sapless limbs. They have
lost their symmetery, and stand in scraggy outline. I
see from year to year their gradual giving up of life,
while beside them a new generation arises. There is a
fellow feeling between us. My hair grows thin and white
and iriy step is no longer firm and elastic. Like them mj^
share of life is growing to a close, and j^et I am an infant
in years compared to many of them. I bow to them with
a sentiment of reverence. They are my old men. The
younger ones are my children — mine ! What a grand
thing it is to have these in my possession, — to hold in m)^
own right such a choice piece of this blossoming earth,
where all the mysterious forces are at work day and
night for me alone !

I have come also to have an abiding interest in the
creatures who by nature are inhabitants of this place.


lyOng ago have I laid aside my gun as an instrument of
destruction, and it rests now on its pegs above my pillow
only as a defense. By slow degrees I have gained a con-
fidence with the native birds and animals which surround
me, so that it is wonderful how many of them welcome
me and enjoy my presence. There swarm to my poultry
fold at feeding time myriads of quail and other birds, who
with an amusing assurance, run about my feet and dis-
pute for the crumbs that I scatter. The gray squirrels
may be often seen scampering down from their hiding
places in the trees to meet me, in expectation of their
accustomed relish of wheat grains, which are stowed
away for them in my pockets. I have three pet deer,
quite tame and domesticated, whose intimate acquaint-
ance was brought about in a singular way. Sitting on
my doorstep one bright afternoon, I had listened for some
time to the baying of hounds in the neighboring moun-
tains, when presently there came bounding toward me,
in terror, a trembling doe, and with her beaming eyes
fixed upon me, seeming to invoke my pity, she literally
threw herself into my arms. Taking in the situation at a
glance, I tried to force her into my door before the dogs
arrived. Too late for that, I could only arm myself with


a Stick from my woodpile, when the whole yelping pack
were upon us. It was a hard fight, and only after many
bites and scratches from the disappointed hounds did I
beat them off. I kept her in a secure outhouse for a few
days, where two beautiful fawns were born to her ; and
ever since the mother and offspring have been my favor-
ite pets, following me about like children. My acquaint-
ance with other of the creatures about, though not so
intimate, is still of such a confidential kind that they
manifest no terror at my approach, and I am thus enabled
to realize, by this free exhibition of them, how teeming
with animal life is the earth in its most favored parts.

In my earlier years I have felt the cold blasts and tor-
rid heats of other climes. I now rest myself in the happy
satisfaction that I have found in this equable temperature
and agreeable surroundings a place where one nia.y look
upon life as a blessing. I have acquired enough knowl-
edge of some of the sciences to make an instrument or two
of service to me, and I take especial interest in my tele-
scope of three inches aperture, in the use of which I
spend many an hour which otherwise might hang heavily
on my hands. I have also a good microscope and field
glass. Through the latter I bring to view the distant


hillsides and mountain tops, observing, frequently, groups
of deer grazing tranquilly, and at times a family of
panthers gamboling on the green carpet of an opening, or
an eagle feeding her young upon the inaccessible brink of
a precipice ; and on rarer occasions, a bear complacently
munching acorns under some prolific old oak a mile
away. My microscope has revealed to me a world of
wonders. I have discovered by it the limitable range of
our senses, and how far below as well as above us the
infinite extends, I grope about in the darkness of my
understanding between an atom and the outside limit
of the stars, every step toward either showing an increase
of distance. These things I pursue, not with the spirit
and application of a student, but rather for the entertain-
ment which they furnish and the meditation they invoke.
I have learned all that is known of the motions and eccen-
tricities of heavenly bodies within my telescopic vision,
and I never look upon them without rapture. What are
all other shows to this? How many of these countless
worlds are inhabited? What beings are upon them?
How do they compare with us? Has it been given to
them to comprehend eternity ? Is knowledge with them
intuitive or acquired? Thus do I lose myself in these


bevaldering fancies.

It may appear that I have avoided my share in the
cares and duties of human association. If I have, it is
from no lack of sympathy with my kind. I look upon
my fellow-men from my distant and somewhat isolated
point of view, without the usual diversion of active affairs,
and both my pity and admiration are aroused. The
sufferings and sorrows of my kind seem appalling to me
from this position, while their heroism in the struggle for
knowledge seems to me grand beyond expression. I feel
myself in the midst of civilization, and yet apart from it.
If I have been a loser from that lack of social attrition
whicTi arouses the activities of thought, it is, neverthe-
less, certain that I have not been submitted to a combina-
tion of those influences which render and error plausible.
The opinions and thoughts of the world come to me, and
I pass them in review with a full sense of the fallibility
of individual opinion, as well as an abiding faith in the
steady approach of that collective truth, which, sooner or
later, will overspread the world.



My telescope is mounted in an apartment adjoining my
cabin, with an elevated exposure, and has some extra
contrivances for the convenience of adjustment, designed
and constructed by myself. The instrument can be raised
and lowered at pleasure, and is protected by a movable
dome, which is easily laid aside by means of a couple of
pulHes. It is a good one, and for its size has remarkable
power. I have been enabled to reach with it double stars
of the sixth magnitude, frequently observing even Orion,
with its beautiful double and multiple systems. I can
easily discover with it the most distant planet Neptune,
and by their progressive displacement, I have seen and
recognized with it most of the asteroids. I can get with
it a fine view of Jupiter, that magnificent planet fourteen


hundred times larger than our Earth, and have observed
the black spots upon its surface, and the transit of its
moons. The grand spectacle of Saturn and its rings is
brought to my observation with remarkable clearness. I
have so frequently looked into the dismal caverns and
upon the towering mountains of our satellite, the Moon,
that its marks and bounds are as familiar to me as the
neighboring hills. But life is short, and amid all this
illimitable sea of worlds, I have fixed my attention upon
but one, for that special study which my few remaining
years will permit. The heavenly body which most en-
gages my attention is, excepting our satelite, the nearest
one to us, our neighboring planet Mars.

I believe that body to be inhabited by beings in many
respects like those of the earth. My conclusion is
adduced from many known facts concerning it. Mars has
an atmosphere like ours. Its density does not differ ma-
terially from the Earth. The heat it derives from the sun,
possibly modified by atmospheric conditions, is quite
likely the same as ours. It has zones of varying temper-
ature, and seasons of summer and winter like the Earth.
Its days are about the same length as ours. The ice and
snow of its polar regions are plainly perceptible, and vary


in arrears exactly in accordance with its changing posi-
tions and distances from the sun. From which we may-
infer, without a doubt, that its atmosphere contains moist-
ure of the same chemical composition as ours, and is con-
densed into rain and snow as with us.

There are striking points of difference, however,
between Mars and the Earth. Its diameter is a little less
than half that of our planet, and its surface is only about
a quarter of ours, while its volume is but a seventh part
of our globe. Furthermore, instead of a single satellite
like ours it has two moons, which revolve in opposite
directions around it, neither of which in point of size can
be compared to ours.

My knowledge of astronomy not being profound, it has
been the greatest pleasure and gratification to me to verify,
by my own observations, the calculations and theories of
the abler scientists. Appertaining to Mars, it is perhaps
needless to say that there is a diversity of opinion among
astronomers touching its physical conditions. The un-
usual red color of its reflected light, its bright and dark
spots, and the variation which is observed in the forms
overspreading its disc, are differently accounted for. It is
among such questions as these, then, that my imagination

the; man from mars. 77

and ingenuity are free to exercise themselves, and the de-
sire to settle some of these disputed points to my own sat-
isfaction increases the eagerness of my observation.

I have watched for many years, with anticipations of
pleasure, when Mars would be in opposition, — or in other
words, when, during its revolution upon its orbit, it
comes nearest to the Earth. These occurrences of about
every two years are holidays of pleasure and enjoyment
to me. There are, however, rarer oppositions of Mars,
which occur only twice in a century, when the distance
between us is reduced to the smallest limit ; and it has
been my good fortune to get a finer view of this heavenly
body at this shorter distance than will few human beings
at present alive.

It can well be imagined what a supremely interesting
event this was to me. Days before its culmination did I
watch its progress approaching nearer and nearer to the
Earth. Each succeeding night exhibited to me its slowly
magnifying proportions, and the greater distinctness of
objects on its surface. Here was a world of beings, no
doubt, with aims and enterprises like ours, rolling head-
long through the heavens with a known velocity of fifty-
four thousand miles an hour. This planet was now


approaching, hourly, its greatest possible proximity to
the Earth. That I should lose no time in devouring, as
I may say, this unusual spectacle, I had provided my
telescope with a kind of clockwork contrivance, by which
it exactly kept pace v/ith iNIars on its westward course.
Dtiring these few days, I had forgotten everything else in
my eagerness to feast my ej-es on this rare show. The
nights had been favorable to observation; and each eve-
ning after turning my instrument on the rapidly approach-
ing planet, my interest became so transfixed and absorbed
that all mj' ordinary phj'sical wants were suppressed.
I had lost in these few days of mental excitement all inclin-
ation for foed and sleep. No one could be freer from
superstition than I, yet my mind was uneasy under an
unaccountable premonition. It gave some anxiety to
think that on the very night of culmination, when my
interest would be at its height, a change of weather might
cut off the scene. But aside from this, in my somewhat
feverish condition, I could not restrain a sense of some
impending and momentous event in my personal affairs.
Some strange influence seemed to be disturbing the usual
tranquil and placid condition of my mind. I aroused
myself from this, however, and became thoroughly myself


when the sun went down on the evening of my hope, and
left an atmosphere that was as perfect as I could wish for.
The sky was calm and clear, with just enongh moisture
in the air to increase its transparency. The ordinary
evening sounds appeared stilled. Neither nighthawk nor
owl seemed abroad, and the usual rustling of leaves and
swaying of tree-tops was suppressed by a calm that struck
me as strange. The day had been moderately warm, and
the sun-distilled odors of the firs and pines, condensed by
the coolness of twilight, v/ere filling the air with an agree-
able perfume, as though Nature was burning incense in
the celebration of some ancient rite, during which every
living and breathing thing about seemed bowed in silent
reverence. I had never known until now what assurance
there was in the natural sounds which nightly fell upon
my ears. In my mountain home no feeling of loneliness
ever came over me before. I felt an especial longing now
for the sound of a human voice, for a companion upon
whom I might discharge myself of the suggestions and
beliefs appertaining to the subject of my investigation
and study. My mind was filled with conclusions touch-
ing the physical condition of Mars, which each new obser-
vation tended to corroborate. I had my theory to give of


its rose-colored light. I had seen the clouds moving
upon its surface, its polar snows, and its very atmosphere.
I had no doubt whatever, now, that it was inhabited, and
the anticipation of soon seeing it in its most favorable
opposition with the Earth, was accompanied with a yearn-
ing that some human creature might share with me the
rare spectacle.

As the twilight faded, I looked with my naked eyes
toward the east, and my other world was showing its red
light near the horizon like a rising sun in miniature. At
midnight it would reach its culmination, when viewing it
through the least possible thickness of our atmosphere in
its vertical position, I would see it as no human being
could see it again for over half a century. The oppres-
sive silence and tranquility remained unbroken, and as I
seated myself in my observatory and adjusted the tele-
scope, I felt myself not quite in my accustomed vigor of
health. The temperature had perceptiblj' raised, when it
had usuall}'' fallen as the night advanced. The air was
sultry. A sensation of qualmishness came over me. It
came to my mind now that I had abused myself by a long
neglect of sleep and regular meals. But no sooner had I
brought my instrument to a focus than I was myself


again. Our beautiful neighbor was mounting the
heavens, reflecting the sun's light in a delicate crimson
tint, and in size of outline beyond my expectation. I
could plainly mark its rotation upon its axis by noting
the slow movements of spots upon its disc, and their
sudden disappearance over its limb. The hours seemed
minutes to me. My fatigue and illness were forgotten.
In my rapture of enjoyment the lingering wish increased
that some fellow creature might share it with me. My
telescope, in tracing the planet's course had very nearly
obtained a vertical position, when I was astonished to see
the distant world suddenly disappear, and begin to
vibrate back and forth over the aperture of my instru-

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Online LibraryWilliam SimpsonThe man from Mars; his morals, politics and religion → online text (page 4 of 14)