LUMEN: The first circumstance is connected with the battle of Waterloo.
QUÆRENS: No one remembers that catastrophe better than I do. I received a ball in my shoulder there, in the neighbourhood of Mont Saint-Jean, and a sabre-cut on my right hand from one of Blucher's blackguards.
History read backwards.
LUMEN: Well, my old comrade, in taking part in this battle again, I found it quite different from what it was in the past, as you may judge from what I will relate to you. When I had recognised the field of Waterloo, to the south of Brussels, I distinguished first a considerable number of dead bodies lying on the ground indiscriminately. Far off; through the mist, I perceived Napoleon walking backwards, holding his horse by the bridle. The officers who accompanied him were marching backwards also. The cannon began to boom, and from time to time I saw the lurid gleam of their flashes. When my sight was sufficiently habituated to the scene, I perceived some soldiers coming to life out of the eternal night, and by a single effort standing up. Group after group, a considerable number, were thus resuscitated. The dead horses revived like the dead cavaliers, and the latter remounted them. As soon as two or three thousand men had returned to life, I saw them form unconsciously in line of battle. The two armies took their places fronting one another, and began to fight desperately with a fury that one might have taken for despair. As the combat deepened on both sides, the soldiers came to life more rapidly. French, English, Prussians, Germans, Hanoverians, Belgians--grey coats, blue uniforms, red tunics, green, white--arose from the field of the dead and fought. In the centre of the French army I espied the Emperor, a battalion in square surrounded him; the Imperial Guard was resuscitated. Their immense battalions advanced from the two camps and engaged in a fierce onslaught; from the left and from the right, squadrons advanced. The white manes of the white horses floated in the wind. I remembered the strange picture by Raffet, and the spectral epigram of the German poet Sedlitz:--
"La caisse sonne, étrange,
Fortement elle retentit.
Dans leur fosse ressuscitent
Les vieux soldats péris."
And this other:--
"C'est la grande revue,
Qu'à l'heure de miniut
Tient César décédé."
It was really Waterloo, but a Waterloo beyond the tomb, for the combatants were raised from the dead. Besides, in this singular apparition they marched backwards one against the other. Such a battle had a magical effect, and impressed me more forcibly, because I foresaw the event itself, and this event was strangely transformed in its counterpart image. Not less singular was the fact, that the longer they fought, the more the number of combatants increased; at each gap made by the cannon in the serried ranks a group of resuscitated dead filled up the gaps immediately. When the belligerents had spent the whole day in tearing one another to pieces with grape-shot, with cannons and bullets, with bayonets, sabres, and swords--when the great battle was over, there was not a single person killed, no one was even wounded; even uniforms that before it were torn and in disorder were in good condition, the men were safe and sound, and the ranks in correct form. The two armies slowly withdrew from one another, as if the heat of the battle and all its fury had no other object than the restoration to life, amid the smoke of the combat, of the two hundred thousand corpses which had lain on the field a few hours before. What an exemplary and desirable battle it was!
Waterloo beyond the tomb.
Assuredly it was the most singular of military episodes, and the moral aspect of it far surpassed the physical, when I found that this battle resulted not in the defeat of Napoleon, but in placing him upon the throne. Instead of losing the battle, it was the Emperor who gained it; instead of a prisoner, he became a sovereign. Waterloo was an 18th Brumaire! . . .
Reascending the ages.
QUÆRENS: Dear Lumen, I do not half understand this new effect of the laws of light. If you have discovered it, I shall be grateful to you if you will give me an explanation of it.
LUMEN: I have helped you to divine it by telling you that I removed from the Earth with a greater velocity than that of light.
QUÆRENS: But tell me, I pray you, how does this retrogression in space enable you to see events in an order inverse to that in which they took place?
LUMEN: The theory is very simple. Suppose you set out from the Earth with the velocity exactly equal to that of light, you would always have with you the aspect that the Earth assumed at the moment you set out, since you would be receding from the globe with a swiftness precisely equal to that which bore this very aspect into space. Thus, even if you voyaged for a thousand years or a hundred thousand years, this aspect would accompany you always like a photograph which did not grow old; whilst the original is made old by the years that elapse.
QUÆRENS: I understood this fact already in our first conversation.
LUMEN: Well, suppose now that you remove from the Earth with a velocity superior to that of light, what will happen? You will find again, as fast as you advance into space, the rays that set out before you, that is to say the successive photographs which, from second to second, from instant to instant, project their rays into space. If, for example, you set out in 1867 with the velocity equal to that of light, you would retain for ever the year 1867 in sight. If you went more quickly, you would find before you the rays that had set out in former years, and which bore upon them the photographs of those years. In order further to illustrate this fact, reflect, I pray you, on the many luminous rays that have set out from the Earth in different epochs. Let us suppose the first to be at some instant of the 1st January 1867. At the rate of 300,000 kilometres a second, it has, at the moment in which I am speaking to you, already passed a portion of space from the instant of its departure till it reached a certain distance which I shall express by the letter A. Let us now suppose that a second ray sets out from the Earth a hundred years before, on the 1st January 1767; it is a hundred years in advance of the first, and is found at a still greater distance--a distance that I shall express by the letter B. A third ray which I shall in like manner suppose on the 1st January 1667, is still further off by a length equal to the distance that the light would travel in a hundred years. I call the place where this third ray reaches, C. Then a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, on respectively the 1st January 1567, 1467, 1367, &c., are posted at equal distances D, E, F, penetrating more and more into the infinite.
Retrogressive light pictures.
Here, then, we have a series of photographs, taken on the same line, from post to post in space. Now, the mind which travels on in passing successively by the points A, B, C, D, E, F, can retrace successively the secular history of the Earth in those epochs.
QUÆRENS: Master, at what distance are these photographs from one another?
LUMEN: The calculation is very easy. The interval which separates them is of necessity that which light travels in a hundred years. Now, at the rate of 75,000 leagues per second, you see at once that it travels 4,500,000 leagues in a minute, 270,000,000 leagues in an hour, 6,480,800,000 leagues in a day, 2,366,820,000,000 in a year, allowing for leap-years; consequently, the result would be that the interval between two points of departure at the distance of a century from one another, is nearly 236 billions 682 thousand millions of leagues.
Here, then, I say we have a series of terrestrial photographs, imprinted in space, at corresponding distances, one after another. Let us now suppose that between each of these centennial pictures we should find annual pictures, between each of which the distance is preserved in accordance with the time that light travels in a year, which I have just given you; then between each of the annual pictures we have those of every day, and as each day contains the photographs of each hour, every hour the photographs of its minutes, and every minute of its seconds, all succeeding one another, according to their respective distances apart--we shall have in a ray of light, or rather in a jet of light, composed of a series of distinct pictures in juxtaposition, the aerial register of the history of the Earth.
Photographs of the life on Earth imprinted in space.
When the spirit travels in this ethereal ray of pictures with a swiftness greater than that of light, it sees in succession, backwards, the ancient pictures. When it arrives at the distance at which the aspect of events that set out in 1767 is to be seen, it has already retraced a hundred years of terrestrial history. When it reaches the point where the aspect of 1667 has arrived, it retraces two centuries. When it attains to the photograph of 1567, it has seen, again, three centuries, and so on successively. I told you in the beginning that I directed my course toward a group of stars situated at the left of Capella. This group proved to be at an incomparably greater distance than that star, although from the Earth it appeared to be close beside it, because the two visual rays are near one another. This apparent proximity is solely due to the perspective. In order to give you an idea of the remoteness of this far-off universe, I may tell you that it is not less vast in size than the Milky Way. One may then ask to what distance should the Milky Way be transported to reduce it to the apparent size of this nebula. My learned friend Arago made this calculation, of which you must be aware, as he repeated it every year in his course of lectures at the Observatory, that have been published since his death. It would be necessary to suppose the Milky Way to be transported to a distance equal to 334 times its own length. Now, as light takes 15,000 years to traverse the Milky Way from one end to another, it follows that it cannot take less than 334 times 15,000 years, that is to say, less than 5,000,000 years, in coming from thence. I have ascended a ray of light from the Earth to these remote regions, and if my spiritual sight had been more perfect, I should have been able to distinguish not only the retrogression of history for 10,000 years or 100,000 years, but even for 5,000,000 years.
QUÆRENS: Can the mind, then, by its powers alone, cross in this way the immeasurable spaces of the heavens?
LUMEN: Not by its own power alone, but by making use of the forces of nature. Attraction is one of these forces. It is transmitted with a velocity incomparably superior to that of light, and the most rigorously exact astronomical calculations are obliged to consider this transmission as almost instantaneous. I will add that if I have been able to perceive events at such distances, it is not by the apprehension of a physical sense that I know them, but by a process incomparably more subtle, which belongs to the psychic order. The movements of the ether, which constitute light, are not luminous by themselves, as you know. The eye is not necessary in order to perceive them. A soul vibrating under their influence perceives them as well, and often incomparably better than an organic optical apparatus. This being psychical optics. For example, attraction crosses instantaneously the 148,000,000 of kilometres that separate the Earth from the Sun, whilst light occupies 493 seconds in this passage.
QUÆRENS: What length of time did your voyage to that remote universe occupy?
LUMEN: Have I not told you that time does not exist outside the movements of the Earth? Whether I employed a year or an hour, it would have been exactly the same period in infinity.
QUÆRENS: I have thought it over, and the physical difficulties seem to me enormous. Permit me now to submit to you a strange thought that has just come into my head.
LUMEN: It is to hear your reflections that I give you this narrative.
QUÆRENS: I want to ask you if the same inversion would take place with the hearing as well as the sight? If you can see an event backwards from its real occurrence, can you also hear a discourse backwards, beginning at the end? This is perhaps a daring question, and apparently ridiculous, but in paradoxes where can one stop?
LUMEN: The paradox is only apparent. The laws of sound are essentially different from the laws of light. Sound travels only at the rate of 340 metres a second, and its effects have absolutely nothing in common with those of light. Nevertheless it is evident that if we were to advance into the air with a velocity superior to that of sound, we should hear inversely the sounds that left the lips of a speaker. If, for instance, some one were to recite an alexandrine, an auditor in moving with the aforesaid velocity, starting at the moment when he heard the last foot of the line, would find successively the eleven other feet which had been uttered before, and would thus hear the alexandrine backwards.
Light and sound.
As to the theory itself, it suggests a curious reflection, that nature might have caused sound to travel, not at the rate of 340 metres a second, and that its velocity, which depends on the density and the elasticity of the air, might have been very much less. Why, for instance, might it not have been transmitted at the rate of only a few centimetres a second? Now see what would be the result if this were the case. Men would not be able to speak to one another when walking together. Let two friends be conversing, and suppose one takes a step or two in advance, or goes on, say the distance or a metre; now, if sound were to take many seconds to cross this metre, the consequence would be that, instead of hearing the phrases spoken in their right order by his friend, the foremost walker would hear in an inverse order the sounds conveying the anterior phrases. In that case we could not speak whilst walking, and three-fourths of mankind would not be able to hear one another.
These remarks, my friend, induce me to suggest to you, in this connection, for your consideration, a subject well worthy of attention, and which has hitherto received little notice--that of the adaptation of the human organism to its terrestrial environment. The manner in which man sees, in which he hears; his sensations, his nervous system, his build, his weight, his density, his walk, his functions--in a word, all his actions are regulated and constituted by the condition of your planet. None of your acts are absolutely free and independent. Man is the obedient, though unconscious, creature of the organic forces of the Earth.
Undoubtedly the human soul, not being a function of the brain, and existing by itself, enjoys relative liberty; but this liberty is limited by its faculties, its powers, and its energies; it is determined, according to the causes which decide it, at the moment of the birth of every man. Could one know exactly the faculties of his soul and the circumstances which were to surround his life, one could write beforehand that man's life in all its details. The human organism is the product of the planet. It is not by a Divine fantasy, by a miracle, or by a direct creation that terrestrial man is constituted such as he is. His form, his figure, his weight, his sense, his whole organisation, are derived from the state or condition of your planet, the atmosphere that you breathe, the food that nourishes you, the gravity of the surface of the Earth, the density of terrestrial matter, &c. The human body does not differ anatomically from that of one of the higher mammalia, and if you go back to the origin of species, you will find gradual transformations established by unimpeachable evidence. The whole of terrestrial life, from the mollusc to man, is the development of one single and sole genealogical tree. The human form has its origin in the animal form. Man is the butterfly developed from the chrysalis of the palæontological ages.
The human organism derived from the Earth.
From this fact the consequence results that on other worlds organic life is different from what it is here, and that their humanities, which, like our own, are the result of forces in activity on each planet, differ absolutely in their forms from that of terrestrial humanity. For example, on the worlds where they do not eat, the digestive apparatus and the intestines do not exist. On the worlds which are very highly electric, the beings inhabiting them are gifted with an electric sense. On others, sight is adapted for the ultra-violet rays, and the eyes have nothing in common with your eyes; they do not see what you see, and they see what you cannot see. The organs are adapted to the functions they have to fulfil.
Organic life accords with its habitat on each planet.
QUÆRENS: We are not, then, the absolute type of creation? Creation itself is, it appears, a perpetual development of forces in activity.
LUMEN: The soul itself is subject to a similar law. There are as many diversities of souls as of bodies. In order that the soul should exist as an independent being having a consciousness of itself, in order that it should preserve the recollection of its identity and be qualified for immortality, it is necessary that even in this life it should know that it really exists. Otherwise it is no more advanced the day after death than the day before death, and falls as an insensible breath into the blind cosmos, neither more nor less than any other centre of unconscious force. Many men on the Earth boast that they do not believe in anything but matter, without knowing what they say, since they do not know what matter is. These last, and those, still more numerous, who do not think at all, are not immortal, since they have no consciousness of their existence. The spirits who live really the spiritual life are the only ones who are fitted for immortality.
The soul and destiny.
QUÆRENS: Are there many of them?
LUMEN: My friend, behold the dawn of morning which invites me anew to return into the depths of space, peopled with things unknown on Earth, that fruitful mine in which spirits find again the wrecks of past existences, the secrets of many mysteries, the ruins of disintegrated worlds, and the genesis of future worlds. And for the rest, it would be superfluous to lengthen out this recital with useless details. My object has been to show you that, in order to have the spectacle of a world and of a system exactly opposite to yours, all that is needed is to recede from the Earth with a velocity greater than that of light. In this flight of the soul towards the inaccessible horizons of the infinite, one retraces the luminous rays reflected by the Earth and by the other planets for millions and myriads of years, and while observing the planets at this vast distance one can be present in vision at the events of their past history. Thus one ascends the stream of time to its source. Such a faculty ought to illuminate for you the regions of eternity with a new light. If, as I hope, you admit the scientific value of my expositions of these ultra-terrestrial studies, I look forward to unfolding to you before long their metaphysical consequences.