QUÆRENS: Two years have fled, Lumen, since the day when you granted me that mysterious interview. During this period, unconsciously for the inhabitants of eternal space, but most consciously for us dwellers upon the Earth, I have often raised my thoughts to the great problems in which you have initiated me, and to the horizons developed before my mind's eye.
Doubtless, also, since your departure from the Earth you have made, through your observations and studies, great advance upon a field of research more and more vast. Doubtless, also, you have numberless marvels to declare to me, now that my intelligence is better prepared to receive them. If I am worthy, and if I can comprehend them, give me an account, Lumen, of the celestial voyages which have transported your spirit into the higher spheres; of the unknown truths which they have revealed to you; of the grandeurs which they have opened out to you, and of the principles they have taught you in reference to that mysterious subject, viz., the destiny of man, and other beings.
LUMEN: I have prepared your mind, my dear old friend, to receive marvellous impressions, such as no earthly spectacle ever has, or could produce. It is, nevertheless, necessary that you should keep your understanding free from all earthly prejudice. That which I am going to unfold will astonish you, but receive it from the first with attention as an undeniable truth, and not as a romance. This is the first condition that I demand from my earnest pupil. When you comprehend--and you will comprehend, if you bring to the task a mathematical mind and an unprejudiced spirit--you will see that all the facts which constitute our ultra-terrestrial existence are not only possible, but also real, and moreover, are in perfect harmony with our intellectual faculties as already manifested upon the earth.
QUÆRENS: Be assured, Lumen, that I bring to you an open mind, cleared from all prejudice, and I am eagerly expecting to hear revelations such as the human ear has never before heard.
LUMEN: The events which will form the subject of this recital have not only the Earth and its neighbouring stars for their subject, but they will extend over immense fields of sidereal astronomy, and make us acquainted with their marvels. Their explanation will be solved, as was that of former difficulties, by the study of light, a magic bridge thrown from one star to another, from the Earth to the Sun, from the Earth to the stars--of light, the universal movement which fills space, sustains worlds in their orbits, and constitutes the eternal life of nature. Take care, then, to keep ever in mind, the fact of the succcessive transmission of light in space.
Space and light.
QUÆRENS: I know that light, whatever it may be, is the agent by which objects are rendered visible to our eyes, that it is not transmitted instantaneously from one point to another, but gradually, like all motion. I know that it flies at the rate of 75,000 leagues a second, that it runs 750,000 leagues in ten seconds, and 4,500,000 each minute. I know that it takes more than eight minutes to cross the distance of 37 millions of leagues which separate us from the Sun. Modern astronomy has made these facts familiar.
Velocity of light.
LUMEN: Do you perfectly realise its undulatory movement?
QUÆRENS: I think so. I compare it to that of sound, although it be accomplished upon a scale incomparably more vast. By undulation following undulation, sound is diffused in the air. When the bells peal forth their sonorous sound, this is heard at the very moment when the clapper strikes the bell, by those living round the church, but is not heard till one second after, by those living at a distance of 492 yards; two seconds later by those at 765 yards; and three seconds later still, by those at a distance of 1093 yards from the church. Thus sound only gradually reaches one village after another as far as it can go.
Undulatory movement of Sound.
In the same way light passes successively from one region in space to another at a greater distance, and travels without being extinguished into the far-off realms of Infinity. If we could see from the Earth an event which is being accomplished upon the Moon; for instance, if we had sufficiently good instruments to perceive from here, a fruit falling from a tree on the surface of the Moon, we should not see the fact at the moment of its occurrence, but one second and a quarter after, because light requires about that time to travel the distance from the Moon to the Earth. Similarly, could we see an event taking place upon a world at ten times greater distance than the Moon, we could not witness it until 13 seconds after it had really happened. If this world were a hundred times farther off than the Moon, we could not see an event until 130 seconds after it had taken place; were it a thousand times more distant, we should not see it until 1300 seconds, or 21 minutes 40 seconds had elapsed. And so on according to the distance.
LUMEN: Exactly, and you are aware that the luminous ray sent to the Earth by the star Capella takes seventy-two years in reaching it. It follows, therefore, that if we only receive the luminous ray to-day, which left its surface seventy-two years ago, the denizens of Capella see only that which happened on the Earth seventy-two years ago. The Earth reflects in space the light that it gets from the Sun, and from a distance, appears as brilliant as Venus and Jupiter appear to you, planets lighted by the same Sun that lights the Earth. The luminous aspect of the Earth, its photograph, journeys in space at the rate of 75,000 leagues a second, and only reaches Capella after seventy-two years of incessant travel. I recall these elementary principles in order that you may have them thoroughly fixed in your memory; you will then be able to comprehend, without difficulty, the facts which have happened to me during my ultra-terrestrial life since our last interview.
Time taken by Light in travelling from the Earth to the star Capella.
QUÆRENS: These principles of optics are, to my mind, clearly established. The day after your death in October 1864, when, as you have confided to me, you found yourself rapidly transported to Capella, you were astonished to arrive there at the moment when the philosophical astronomers of the country were observing the Earth in the year 1793, and witnessing one of the most significant acts of the French Revolution. You were not less surprised to see yourself again as a child, running about in the streets of Paris. Then, leaving Capella and coming nearer to the Earth, you arrived at the zone where that part of the terrestrial photography passed before your vision, which showed you your infancy, and you saw yourself at six years of age, not in memory, but in reality. Out of all your previous revelations, this is the one I had the most difficulty in believing--I mean, in grasping its meaning.
LUMEN: That which I now wish to make you comprehend is stranger still. But it was first necessary for you to admit that one, before I could adequately reveal to you this one.
On leaving Capella and approaching the Earth, I saw again my seventy-two years of earthly existence, my entire life such as it has been, passed before me; for, in approaching the Earth, I passed through successive zones of earthly scenes, where I saw spread out as in a scroll the visible history of our planet, because in going back towards the Earth, I was continually meeting the various zones which carried through space the visible history of our planet, comprising that of Paris as well as my own, for I was there. Taking thus in one day a retrospective survey of the road which it had taken light seventy-two years to traverse, I had reviewed my whole life in that one day, and I perceived even my own interment.
Retrospective survey of life on Earth.
QUÆRENS: It is as if, on returning from Capella to the Earth, you had seen, as in a mirror, the seventy-two years of your life photographed year by year. The one the farthest from the Earth, but which had started the first, and was the oldest, showed events as they were in 1793; the second, which left the Earth a year later, and had not yet reached Capella, contained those of 1794; the tenth, those of 1803; the thirty-sixth, having reached midway on the road, gave those of 1829; the fiftieth, those of 1843; the seventy-first, those of 1864.
LUMEN: It is impossible to have better grasped these facts, which seem so mysterious and incomprehensible at first sight. Now I can recount to you that which happened to me upon Capella, after having thus witnessed over again my existence on the Earth.