Lumen: Conversation V
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LUMEN: You know the splendid constellation of Orion which reigns like a sovereign over your winter nights, and the curious multiple star θ (theta) which is to be found below the sword suspended from the Belt, and shines in the midst of the famous nebula. This system θ of Orion is one of the most singular which is to be found in the vast treasure-house which contains such a variety of celestial jewels. It is composed of four principal Suns disposed in a quadrilateral form. Two of these Suns, forming what I may call the base of the quadrilateral, are accompanied, the one by a single Sun, the other by two Suns. Thus it is a system of seven Suns around each of which circulate inhabited planets.
I was on a planet turning round one of the secondary Suns. This revolved round another of the four principal Suns. That in its turn circulated, in concert with the others and at the same time, around an invisible centre of gravity in the interior of the quadrilateral. I do not insist on these movements, but the celestial mechanism explains them.
I was therefore lighted and warmed on my planet by seven Suns at the same time; by one larger and more brilliant in appearance than the other six, because it was nearer to me; by a second very large and equally bright; by a third of moderate size, and by two who were like twins. These different Suns are never all together above the horizon. There are day Suns and night Suns; that is to say, they have there no night properly so called.
QUÆRENS: Really? Are there in the heavens double and multiple Suns?
LUMEN: Yes, a very great number. The system of which I am speaking to you, amongst others, is known to the astronomers of the Earth, who count by thousands in their catalogues, systems of double stars, of multiple stars, and of coloured stars. You can study them yourself with your telescope. Now, on the planet of Orion, which I have just mentioned to you, the inhabitants are neither vegetables nor animals. They could not be placed in any classification of terrestrial life, nor in either of the two great divisions of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. In truth I do not know with what to compare them in order to give you an idea of their form.
Inhabitants of Theta Orionis.
Have you ever seen, in botanic gardens, the gigantic tapering plant the Cereus Giganticus?
QUÆRENS: I know this plant very well. Its name comes from its resemblance to the wax tapers, placed in three or more branched stands, with which churches are lighted.
LUMEN: Well, the men of θ Orionis bear some likeness to this form. Only they move slowly, and maintain an upright position by means of a process of suction analogous to that of the ampullæ of certain plants. The lower part of the vertical stem, where it rests on the ground, is slightly elongated, like a starfish, with little appendages which fix themselves to the soil by means of suction. These beings often go in troops, and change their latitude according to the seasons. But the most singular peculiarity of their organisation is that which illustrates the principle of which I have spoken to you, of the union of elementary souls in the human body. One day I visited this world, and found myself in the midst of an Orionic landscape. I beheld a being standing there like a plant ten metres high, without leaves or flowers.
He consisted in fact of a cylindrical stalk, the uppermost part of which separated into many branches like those of a chandelier. The central stem, as well as those of the branches, measured about a third of a metre in diameter. The tops of the stalk and of the branches were crowned with a diadem of silver fringe. Suddenly I saw this being agitate his brandies and then vanish. The fact is that in this world individuals, although quite well, fall to pieces literally in an instant.
Analysis of the nervous system.
The molecules of which they are constituted fall altogether to the ground. The personal existence of the individual comes to an end. His molecules separate and are dispersed.
QUÆRENS: They disintegrate, and the atoms fly apart, like truants from school.
LUMEN: Just so. I can recollect this disintegration of the body often took place in their lives. Sometimes it was the result of contrariety, sometimes of fatigue, and in other cases of a want of organic accord between the different parts. They exist in their entirety actual and complete, then suddenly they are reduced into the most simple elementary form. The cerebral molecule, which constitutes each one in reality, feels itself descending in consequence of the fall of its sister molecules of the long branches, and it arrives at the surface of the ground solitary and independent.
QUÆRENS: This mode of dissolution would sometimes be a very convenient proceeding here below. To get out of an embarrassing situation, for example a conjugal scene à la Moliére, or a bad quarter of an hour such as Rabelais describes, or a mournful situation such as the scaffold for an execution, one would only have to let loose one's constituent atoms, and--bid good-bye to the company. . . .
LUMEN: You seem to regard the matter as a joke, but I assure you it is an undoubted reality. It would exist on the Earth as well as on the planet of Orion, if the principle of authority were not so firmly fixed with you. There it is only in an elementary form. Your body is formed of animated molecules.
According to one of your most eminent physiologists, your spinal marrow is a series of centres, linked together independently, and yet under control. The essential constituents of your blood, of your flesh, and of your bones, are in a like case. They are provinces self-governed, but subject to a superior authority. The working of this superior authority is a condition of human life--a condition which is less exclusive amongst the inferior animals. Each ring of the worm called lombric is a complete worm, so that a lombric represents a series of similar beings constituting a veritable living cooperative society. Cut into rings, the worm would be so many independent individuals.
In the tape-worm, a solitary worm, the head is of more importance than the rest of the body, and possesses the faculty of reproducing the rest of the body after it has been cut off. The leech is another example of united individuals. Cut it into five or six rings, and the operation gives you as many leeches. Thus also, a cutting of a branch of a tree will grow. In like manner a crab's claw or a lizard's tail will be reproduced. In reality the vertebrate animals, such as man, are essentially composite in structure. The spinal marrow, and its highest expansion in the brain, consist of segments placed in juxtaposition, with nervous centres, each of which possesses an elementary soul.
The law of authority in action on the Earth, has determined in the animal series a preponderating direction. You are composed of a multitude of beings grouped together, and dominated by the plastic attraction of your personal soul, which from the centre of your being has formed your body from the embryo, and has united round itself, in a microcosm, a whole world of beings, who have not any consciousness of their individuality.
Power of the personal soul.
QUÆRENS: On the planet of Orion nature itself is then in a state of absolute Republicanism.
LUMEN: Republicanism governed by law.
QUÆRENS: But when a being finds itself thus disintegrated, how can he afterwards reconstitute himself as a whole?
LUMEN: By an act of the will, and often without the least effort, and even by a casual desire. Although separated from the cerebral molecule, the corporeal molecules are still intimately connected with one another. At a given moment they combine, and each takes its place. The directing molecule draws the other from a distance, as the loadstone attracts iron filings.
QUÆRENS: I can easily picture to myself the spectacle of this Lilliputian army, when summoned by a whistle, drawing to its centre to organise a reunion; all the little soldiers climbing one over the other, and in a moment taking their places to reconstruct the man-taper that you have described to me. One really ought to leave the Earth to behold such rare wonders!
LUMEN: You still judge of universal nature by the atom that you have before your eyes, and you are only qualified to comprehend the facts which are within the sphere of your observations. But I assure you the Earth is not the type of the universe.
This world of θ Orionis, with its seven revolving Suns, is peopled by an organic system analogous to that which I have just described to you.
I lived there 2400 years ago, and I can see myself there again in accordance with the time that light occupied in coming from that point in space to Capella. When there, I was acquainted with the spirit who in this century was incarnated on the Earth and published his studies under the name of Allan Kardec.
We did not recollect that we had known one another before, during our terrestrial life, but we often felt attracted to one another by peculiar intellectual sympathies. Now that he has returned, like myself, into the world of spirits, he also remembers the singular republic of Orion and can see it. Yes, this is very curious, but it is quite true. You have no idea, on your poor planet, of the unimaginable diversity which separates the worlds in their geological, as much as in their physiological organisations.
These conversations may serve to throw light on your knowledge of this general truth, so important in the conception of the universe. But the scientific service that these conversations can specially render you is in making you understand that light is the mode of transmission of universal history.
With the powerful visual faculty which we enjoy here, we can distinguish the surface of distant worlds. The eye of our ''perispirit'' is not identical with the bodily eye. In the terrestrial sight the rays diverge, so that a very small object, placed quite near the eye fills the interval of the two rays, whilst at a greater distance, a larger object is necessary to fill the space, proportionately increased, which separates the same rays. In our eye, on the contrary, the visual rays enter in parallel lines, so that we see each object in its real proportions, and in its normal size, its apparent size being quite unaffected by distance. We do not see the whole of large objects, but only sections of them proportional to the openings of our special retina, but these parts are seen by us with equal clearness at any distance (when there is no atmosphere to veil this distance).
Sense of sight in spirits.
A tree in a prairie on a celestial body, as far as Theta of Orion is from Capella, is perfectly visible to us. On the other hand, in accordance with the law of the successive transmission of the rays of light, all the events in nature, and the history of all the worlds, are depicted in space as a universal tableau, the most true and the most magnificent in all nature.
As these conversations will have shown you, I have traversed a great many different celestial countries, and have actually studied creation without fixing myself in any place. I hope in the course of the next century to be reincarnated on a world dependent on the train of Sirius. The humanity there is more beautiful than that of the Earth. Birth is effected by means of an organic system less ridiculous and less brutal than that of the Earth.
Infinite diversity in Sirius.
But the most remarkable characteristic of the life on this world is, that there men perceive the physico-chemical operations which take place for the maintenance of the body. From each molecule of the body, so to speak, proceeds a nerve which transmits to the brain the various impressions that it receives, so that the soul absolutely knows its body, and rules over it as a sovereign.
There is an immense variety amongst the worlds. On one of the planets of the system of Aldebaran, very curious from this point of view, the vegetables are all composed of a substance analogous to the loadstone, because silica and magnesia predominate in its constitution. The animals feed on this substance only. Most of the beings inhabiting this world are incombustible.
Vegetable life in Aldebaran.
Upon the world of which I speak night is illumined by phosphorescent lights. I have visited other worlds where night does not exist at all, where day and night do not succeed each other as upon the Earth, because every portion of their spheres is continuously supplied with light by several suns, which never leave them in darkness for an instant. There sleep is unnecessary, either for man, for animals, or for plants.
Upon your planet sleep consumes a third portion of your life, its primary cause being the rotation of the earth on its axis, which produces day and night in succession, on the various parts of the globe.
Upon these worlds where it is always day, the inhabitants never sleep, and it would greatly surprise them to learn, that there exists a humanity where a third of life is passed in a lethargy resembling death.
Not far from this, a world revolves where night is almost unknown, although it does not possess a nocturnal sun, as in the quadrilateral of Orion, and it has no satellites. The rocks of its mountains, being of a chemical composition that reminds one of the phosphates and the sulphates of barytes, store up the solar light received during the day; and during the night they radiate a sweet, calm, translucent light, which illuminates the scenery with a tranquil nocturnal clearness. There, also, one sees curious trees, bearing flowers which shine in the evening like fire-flies. These resemble horse-chestnuts, but the snowy flowers are luminous.
Phosphorus enters largely into the composition of this curious and singular world. Its atmosphere is constantly electrical; its animals are luminous, as well as its plants, and its humanity partakes of the same nature.
The temperature is very high, and the inhabitants have not much need to invent clothes. Now, it happens that certain passions are manifested by the illumination of part of the body. This is, on a large scale, what takes place on a small scale in your terrestrial meadows, where one sees in the sweet summer evenings the glow-worms silently consumed in an amorous flame. In the fire-flies of the north, that you see in France, the male is winged and is not luminous; the female, on the contrary, is luminous, but does not possess the aerial faculty. In Italy the two sexes are winged, and both can become luminous. The humanity which I am describing to you has all the advantages of this latter type.
The passions phosphorescent.
Certain forms of terrestrial life are to be met with among the sidereal humanities. Thus we find in some of them, the same thing that takes place on the Earth in the ant world, where, on the day of their aerial unions, all the males die of exhaustion; and again in the world of bees, where the procreators are pitilessly sacrificed; and amongst spiders, where they are devoured by their companions unless they can immediately escape. We find reproduced the habits of a great number of insects, which never see their offspring, and lay their eggs in surroundings in which the newly-born will find their first food.
The human body on this Earth owes its form and its state of being to the atmospheric environment, and to the conditions of density, of weight, and nutrition, by means of which terrestrial evolution operates.
The human being proceeds from the fusion of a microscopic masculine corpuscle with a minute feminine ovule. This fusion gives birth to a little cell which is transformed into the embryo, in which gradually appear the heart, the head, the limbs, and the different organs. The nervous system of this embryo may be compared to rays of delicate threads, proceeding from a central point which will become the brain.
Under the influence of the Solar light and of the vibrations of the air, one of these nerves is developed at its extremity, and forms the eye. This is undefined at first, and almost blind in an elementary state, like the eyes of the trilobites and of the fishes of the Silurian period, but it develops into the admirable eyes of birds, of the vertebræ, and of man. The senses of smell and taste proceed from the nerves in the same way. These last two senses, with that of touch, are the most primitive, the earliest, and the most necessary to life. There are but two of the senses which place man in communication with the outer world--sight and hearing,--but the eye is the sole organ which puts us in communication with the whole universe.
Millions of these little nerve-threads proceed from the brain, through the body, without producing any other than the five senses, unless we except certain sensations of touch, which are intimate and personal, and which have even been described as a sixth sense. You shall hear.
Now there is no reason why that which has taken place and been arrested on our little planet, should take place and be arrested in the same fashion elsewhere.
In proof of this I must tell you that I visited, not long since, two worlds on which human beings have two senses of which we have not any idea on our Earth.
One of these senses may be described as electrical. One of the little nerve-threads of which I have just told you is developed into a multitude of ramifications which form a sort of cornet. These, under the scalpel and the microscope, appear to be tubes placed in juxtaposition, the outer extremity of which receives the electric fluid and transmits it to the brain, much as our optic nerves receive the waves of light, and our auditory nerves receive the undulations of sound.
The beings provided with this sense perceive the electrical condition of bodies, of material things, of plants and flowers, of animals, of the atmosphere and of clouds. To these beings this electric sense is a source of knowledge which is wholly forbidden to us. Their organic sensations are all different from yours. Their eyes are not constructed like yours; they do not see what you see; they see what you do not see. They are conscious only of the invisible violet rays. But their mode of existence differs from yours, especially through their electric sense. The electric constitution of their world is the cause of the existence and of the development of this sense.
Another sense with which I was still more struck, and which was of quite a different character, I found on a second world. This was the sense of orientation. Another of the nerve-threads proceeding from the brain produced a species of winged ear, very light, by means of which the living being perceives its direct bearings. He is conscious of the points of the compass, and turns to the north or the south, the east or the west, instinctively.
The atmosphere is full of emanations which you never perceive. This singular sense orients the possessors of it infallibly. It enables them also to discover things concealed in the interior of the Sun, and gives them an insight into some of Nature's secrets which are absolutely hidden from you.
I would thus demonstrate to you that in the vast domains of creation an infinite variety exists, and that eternity will be inexhaustibly occupied in gathering and partaking of its flowers, and of its fruits.
There are worlds where old age is unknown--where lovers are consumed in a delirious fantasy, transported by the intoxication of the body, and careless of the morrow. The active sex never survive these nuptials; the passive sex, oviparous, having secured the perpetuity of the species, sleep their last sleep. Those celestial worlds, where one never grows old, are not without their advantages.
Worlds exist in which the vital movements, respiration, assimilation, the organic periods, day and night, the seasons and the years, are all of extreme length. Although the nervous system of the human inhabitants is highly developed, and thought has a prodigious activity, life there appears to be of an endless length. Those who die of old age have lived more than a thousand of these years, but they are so rare that the memory of a few only have been preserved in the historical records of this humanity.
War between the nations has never been invented, because there is only one race, one people, one language. The natural constitutions of these organisms are remarkable. Diseases are almost unknown; there are no doctors. As a result of this great mental activity, the length of life becomes a perspective without end, and before long becomes a burden. Hence suicide is almost universal. This custom has been habitual from very ancient times. The few old men who from any special motive have not put an end to their lives, are looked upon as exceptional beings, originals, and more or less eccentric. Suicide is the general law.
But, my dear friend, it is impossible for me to describe to you all the curiosities of the universe. Let it suffice that I have raised the veil sufficiently, to give you a glimpse of the incommensurable diversity that exists, in the animated productions of all the various systems disseminated through space.
While accompanying me in spirit in this interstellar voyage, you have passed several hours away from the Earth. It is well to isolate one's self thus at times amongst the celestial solitudes. The soul obtains a fuller possession of itself, and in its solitary reflections it penetrates profoundly into the universal reality. Terrestrial humanity, you understand, is, as regards moral as well as physical life, the result virtually of the forces of the Earth. Human strength, figure, weight, all depend on these forces. The organic functions are determined by the planet. If life is divided with you between work and rest, between activity and sleep, it is because of the rotation of the globe, and day and night. In the luminous globes, and those lighted by many suns alternately, they do not sleep. If you need to eat and drink, it is in consequence of the insufficiency of the atmosphere. The bodies of the beings who do not eat are not constructed like yours, since they have no need of a stomach and intestines. The terrestrial eye enables you to see the universe in a certain way, the Saturnian eye sees in a different manner.
There are senses which perceive other things than those which you perceive in nature. Each of the worlds is inhabited by a race essentially different, and sometimes the inhabitants are neither vegetables nor animals. There are men of all possible forms, of all dimensions, of all weights, of all colours, of all sensations, of every variety of characteristics. The universe is infinite. Our terrestrial existence is only one phase of the infinite. An inexhaustible diversity enriches this marvellous field of the eternal Sower. The function of science is, to study all that the terrestrial senses are capable of perceiving. The function of philosophy is, to form a synthesis of all defined and determined ideas and facts, and to develop the sphere of thought.
Other senses than those of the Earth.
What would you say if I told you not only of the physical differences of humanity, but also of its moral and intellectual diversities? Its varieties are great--too much so, indeed, for you to thoroughly understand them. As an instance, I will give you just one noteworthy example. In your terrestrial humanity, intellectual or moral worth counts for nothing in advancing a man, whatever may be the value of his ideas, or the worth of his personal character, unless he possesses the means and the determination to push himself forward. No one seeks for hidden merit. A man must needs make his own way, and struggle against intrigue, cupidity, and ambition--a strife which is the antipodes of what ought to be. It results, therefore, that the noblest and most worthy people remain in obscurity, whilst position, wealth, and social distinction are often showered on worthless intriguers.
Ah well! I recently visited a world belonging to one of the most luminous regions of the Milky Way, where an intellectual order absolutely different exists; where the constitution of the Government is such, that only those distinguished for their virtues are placed at the head of the State; and their function is to seek out, and place in responsible positions, men worthy of the trust.
In that country, in short, the search is as eager for the discovery of merit and intelligence, as it is in yours for gold and diamonds. All is done there for the benefit of humanity. They have not invented any Academy, as they cannot conceive that a man of worth (instead of being sought after) should be compelled to waste his time in visits of ceremony, and find, probably, that a titled nobody (who has known better than he how to cajole votes) has been preferred to himself. So true it is, that the system prevailing in other worlds is far more enlightened than that of yours.
Now, my dear terrestrial friend, you know what the Earth is in the universe; you know something of what the heavens contain; and you know also what Life is, and what Death is. We shall soon see the dawn of morning, which puts spirits to flight and brings our conversations to an end, as the approach of your terrestrial day causes the brightness of Venus to fade. But I should like to add to the preceding ideas a very interesting remark suggested by the same observations.
It is this: If you set out from the Earth at the moment that a flash of lightning bursts forth, and if you travelled for an hour or more with the light, you would see lightning as long as you continued to look at it. This fact is established by the foregoing principles. But if, instead of travelling exactly with the velocity of light, you were to travel with a little less velocity; note the observation that you might make. I will suppose that this voyage away from the Earth, during which you look at the lightning, lasts a minute. I will suppose also, that the lightning lasts a thousandth part of a second. You will continue to see the lightning during 60,000 times its duration. In our first supposition this voyage is identical with that of light. Light has occupied 60,000 tenths of seconds to go from the Earth to the point in space where you are. Your voyage and that of light have co-existed. Now if instead of flying with just the same velocity as light, you had flown a little less quickly, and if you had employed a thousandth part of a second more to arrive at the same point, instead of always seeing the same moment of the lightning, you would have seen, successively, the different moments which consulted the total duration of the lightning, equal to 1000 parts of a second. In this whole minute you would have had time to see first the beginning of the flash of lightning, and could analyse the development of it, the successive phases of it, to the very end. You may imagine what strange discoveries one could make in the secret nature of lightning, increased 60,000 times in the order of its duration, what frightful battles you would have time to discover in the flames! what pandemonium! what unlucky atoms! what a world hidden by its volatile nature from the imperfect eyes of mortals!
The magnifying power of time.
If you could see by your imagination sufficiently, to separate and count the atoms which constitute the body of a man, that body would disappear before you, for it consists of thousands of millions of atoms in motion, and to the analysing eye it would be a nebula animated by the forces of gravitation. Did not Swedenborg imagine that the universe by which he was surrounded, seen as a whole, was in the form of an immense man? That was anthropomorphism. But there are analogies everywhere. What we know most certainly is, that things are not what they appear to be, either in space or in time. But let us return to the delayed flash of lightning.
Vision of the analysing eye.
When you travel with the velocity of light, you see constantly the scene which was in existence at the moment of your departure. If you were carried away for a year, at the same rate, you would have before your eyes the same event for that time. But if, in order to see more distinctly an event which would have taken only a few seconds, such as the fall of a mountain, an avalanche, or an earthquake, you were to delay, to see the commencement of the catastrophe (in slackening a little, your steps on those of light), you would see the progress of the catastrophe, its first moment, its second, and so on successively, in thus nearly following the light, you would only see the end after an hour of observation. The event would last for you an hour instead of a few seconds. You would see the rocks, or the stones suspended in the air, and could thus ascertain the mode of production of the phenomenon, and its incidental delays. Already your terrestrial scientific knowledge enables you to take instantaneous photographs of the successive aspects of rapid phenomena, such as lightning, a meteor, the waves of the sea, a volcanic eruption, the fall of a building, and to make them pass before you graduated in accordance with their effect on the retina. Similarly you can, on the contrary, photograph the pollen of a flower, through each stage of expansion to its completion in the fruit, or the development of a child from its birth to maturity, and project these phases upon a screen, depicting in a few seconds the life of a man, or a tree.
I see in your thoughts that you compare this effect to that of a microscope which would magnify time. That is exactly what it is; we thus see time amplified. This process cannot strictly speaking be called that of the microscope, but rather that of a chronoscope or of a chrono-telescope (to see time from afar). The duration of a reign might, by the same process, be augmented according to the good pleasure of the parti politique.
Thus, for example Napoleon II. reigned only three hours, but one could see him reign for fifteen years successively, by dispersing the 180 minutes of the three hours over the length of 180 months (in removing one's self from the Earth with a velocity a little inferior to that of light); so, by setting out at the very moment that the Chamber had proclaimed Napoleon II., one would arrive at the last minute of his supposed reign, only at the end of fifteen years. Each minute would be seen for a month, each second for twelve hours.
The conclusions of this discourse are based entirely on this principle, my dear Quærens. I have endeavoured to show you that the physical law of the successive transmission of Light in space, is one of the fundamental elements of the conditions of eternal life. According to this law every event is imperishable, and the past is always present. The image of the Earth as it was 6000 years ago, is actually now in space at the distance that light crossed it 6000 years since. The worlds situated in that region see the Earth of that epoch. We could see again our own direct existence and our different anterior existences. All that we need for this is to be at the proper distance from the worlds in which we had lived. There are stars which you see from the Earth, and which no longer exist, because they became extinct after they had emitted the luminous ray which has only just reached you.
Light transmission in space.
In the same way you might hear the voice of a man at a distance, who might be dead before the moment at which you heard him, if, perchance, he had been struck with apoplexy immediately after he had uttered his last cry.
I am very much pleased that this last sketch has enabled me at the same time to trace for you a picture of the diversities of existence and of the possibility of living forms unknown to the Earth. Here also you see the revelations of Uriania are grander and more profound than those of all her sisters. The Earth is only an atom in the universe.
There are living forms unknown to Earth.
I must pause here, for all these numerous and diverse applications of the laws of light are not apparent to you. On the Earth, in this dark cavern, as Plato appropriately termed it, you vegetate in ignorance of the gigantic forces in action in the universe. The day will come when physical science will discover in light the principle of every movement and the inner reason of things. Already within the last few years spectrum analysis has demonstrated to you that by the examination of a luminous ray from the Sun, or from a Star, you can learn what substances constitute that Sun and that Star. Already you call determine, across a distance of millions and millions of miles, the nature of celestial bodies from which a ray of light has come to you! And the study of light will afford still more splendid results, both in experimental science, and in its application to the philosophy of the universe.
But the refraction of the earth's atmosphere is projecting beyond the zenith the light shed forth by the distant Sun. The vibrations of the light of day will let me talk with you no longer. Farewell, my good friend. Farewell! or rather, au revoir! Great things are going to happen around you.
After the storm I shall perhaps return for one last visit to give you proof of my existence, and to show that I have not forgotten you. Then, later, when your life upon this little planet is done, I shall come to you once more, and together we will take our real journey through the unspeakable splendours of speed. Nor can you ever, in your wildest dreams, form even a faint idea of the stupendous surprises, the inconceivable wonders which there await you.
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