LUMEN: My existence anterior to that upon the world of Andromeda was passed upon Venus, a planet near to the Earth, where I can remember myself as a woman. Not that I have directly seen myself there, for, according to the law of light, it would require the same length of time to travel from Venus to Capella as it would from the Earth to Capella, and I consequently see Venus only as it was seventy-two years ago, and not as it was nine hundred years ago, which was the epoch of my existence upon that planet.
Organisation of beings on Andromeda.
My fourth life, previous to my terrestrial one, was passed upon an immense annular planet belonging to the constellation Cygnus, situated in the zone of the Milky Way. This singular world is inhabited solely by trees.
QUÆRENS: That is to say, that so far only plants are there, and neither animals nor intelligent speaking beings?
LUMEN: Not exactly. There are only plants there, it is true. But in this vast world of plants there are vegetable races more advanced than those existing upon the Earth. There plants live as we do--feel, think, reason, and speak.
QUÆRENS: But this is impossible! Pardon!--I would say improbable, incomprehensible, and entirely inconceivable.
LUMEN: These intelligent vegetable races really exist--so much so, that I myself belonged to them. Fifteen centuries ago I was a tree possessed of reason.
QUÆRENS: But tell me, how can a plant reason without a brain, and speak without a tongue?
LUMEN: Tell me, I beg of you, by what process you yourself think, and by what transformation of motion your soul translates its mute conceptions into audible language?
QUÆRENS: I am seeking, O Master, but I fail to find, the material explanation of this fact, however ordinary it may be.
LUMEN: We have no right to declare an unknown fact impossible, when we are so ignorant ourselves of the laws regulating our own being. Because the brain is the physiological organ of intelligence placed at the service of man on the Earth, do you therefore believe that there are similar brains and spinal marrows upon all the worlds in space? This would be an error too childish. The law of progress governs the vital system of each world. This vital system differs according to the secret nature of the special forces peculiar to each. When a world has reached a sufficient degree of evolution to fit it for entering into the service of moral life, mind, more or less developed, appears on it.
Facts not impossible because unknown.
Do not imagine that the Eternal Father creates at once a human race on each globe. Not so. The first step in the ladder of the animal kingdom receives the human transfiguration by force of circumstance, and by natural law, which ennobles it, as soon as progress has brought it to a state of relative superiority.
Graduation of the human race.
Do you know why you have a chest, a stomach, two legs, two arms, and a head furnished with visual, auditory, and olfactory senses? It is because the quadrupeds, the mammalia, which preceded the appearance of man on the Earth, had them already. Monkeys, dogs, lions, bears, horses, oxen, tigers, cats, &c., and before them the horned rhinoceros, the cave-hyena, the elk, the mastodon, the opossum, &c., and prior to these the pleiosaurus, the ichthyosaurus, the iguanodon, the pterodactyl, &c., and again before these the fishes, the crustacea, the mollusca, &c., have been the result of the vital forces in action upon the Earth, dependent upon the state of the soil, of the atmosphere, of inorganic chemistry, of the quantity of heat, and of terrestrial gravity. The earthly animal kingdom has followed, from its origin, this continuous and progressive march towards the perfection of its typical forms of mammalia, freeing itself more and more from the grossness of its material.
The development of life.
Man is more beautiful than the horse, the horse than the bear, the bear than the tortoise. A similar law governs the vegetable kingdom.
Heavy, coarse vegetables without leaves and without flowers began the series. Then, as the ages advanced, their forms became more pure, and graceful leaves appeared filling the woods with silent shadows.
Flowers in their turn began to beautify the gardens of the Earth, and spread sweet perfumes in an atmosphere until then insipid.
To the scrutinising eye of the geologist who visits these tertiary, secondary, and primordial districts, this double progressive series of two kingdoms is to be seen to this day. There was a period upon the Earth when a few islands had but just emerged from the bosom of the warm waters, into an atmosphere surcharged with vapour, when the only living things distinguishing this inorganic kingdom were long floating filaments held in suspension in the waves.
Seaweed and sea-wrack were the first forms of vegetation. On the rocks, live creatures for which one has no name. There, sponges swell out. Here, a tree of coral lifts up itself. Further on, the Medusæ detach themselves and float like balls of jelly. Are these animals? Are these plants? Science does not answer. They are animal-plants, zoophites. But life is not limited to these forms. There are creatures not less primitive, and as simple, which typify a special species. These are the annelides, worms, fish in the form of a simple tube, creatures without eyes, ears, blood, nerves, will, a vegetative species, yet endowed with the power of motion. Later on rudimentary organs of sight and of locomotion appeared, and life became less elemental. Then fishes and amphibious creatures came into existence. The animal kingdom began to form itself.
The genealogical tree of life.
What would have been the result if the first creature had never quitted its rock? If these primitive elements of terrestrial life had remained stationary at the point of their formation, and if, for any cause whatever, the faculty of locomotion had never had a beginning? The consequence would have been, that in place of the system of terrestrial vitality being manifested in two different directions, viz., in the world of plants and the world of animals, it would have continued manifesting itself solely in the first direction, with the result that there would have been but one kingdom instead of two, and the creative progress would have operated in that kingdom as it operated in the animal kingdom. It would not have been arrested at the formation of sensitives, superior plants which are already gifted with a veritable nervous system; nor would it have stopped at the formation of flowers, which are already bordering on ours in their organic functions; but, continuing its ascension, would have produced, in the vegetable kingdom, that which has already been produced in the animal kingdom. As it is, many vegetables feel and act; here would have been vegetables feeling and making themselves understood. The Earth would not have been on that account deprived of the human species. Only mankind, instead of being gifted with locomotion as it is, would have been fixed by the feet. Such is the state of the annular world in which I lived fifteen centuries ago in the heart of the Milky Way.
Formation of the animal kingdom.
QUÆRENS: Of a truth, this world of men-plants astonishes me more than the previous one, and I find it difficult to picture to myself the life and manners of these singular beings.
LUMEN: Their kind of life is indeed very different from yours. They neither build cities nor make voyages; they have no need of any form of government; they are ignorant of war, that scourge of terrestrial humanity, and they have nothing of that national self-love called patriotism which is one of your characteristics. Prudent, patient, and gifted with constancy, they have neither the mobility nor the fragility of the denizens of the Earth. Life there reaches an average of five or six centuries, and is calm, sweet, uniform, and without revolutions. But do not think that these men-plants live only a vegetable life. On the contrary, they have an existence both personal and positive. They are divided, not by caste, regulated by birth and fortune, according to that absurd custom on the earth, but by families, whose native value differs precisely according to its kind. They have an unwritten social history, but nothing which happens amongst them can be lost, inasmuch as they have neither emigrations nor conquests, but their records and traditions are handed down from one generation to another. Each one knows the history of his own race. They have also two sexes, as upon the Earth, and unions take place there in a similar manner, but are purer, more disinterested, and invariably affectionate. Nor are these unions always consanguineous; impregnation can even be effected at a distance.
QUÆRENS: But, after all, how can they communicate their thoughts if it be true that they think? And besides, master, how was it possible for you to recognise yourself on this singular world?
LUMEN: The same reply will satisfactorily answer your double question. I was looking at that ring in the constellation of Cygnus, being drawn there with persistence by some irresistible instinct. It surprised me to see only vegetable growths upon its surface, and I principally remarked their singular manner of grouping: here two and two, there three and three, farther off ten and ten, besides others in larger clusters. Some were seated, as it were, upon the brink of a fountain, others appeared to be reposing, with little shoots springing up round them. I sought to find there the kinds familiar to me on the Earth, such as pines, oaks, poplars, willows, but I could not find any of these botanical growths.
Manner of life upon Cygnus.
At last I fixed my eyes upon a plant in the shape of a fig-tree, without either leaves or fruit, but full of brilliant scarlet flowers, when suddenly I saw this enormous fig-tree stretch out a bough like a gigantic arm, raise the extremity of this arm to its head, and pluck one of the magnificent flowers ornamenting its crown, and then present the same, with an inclination of the head, to another fig-tree growing some little distance apart, of slender and graceful form, and bearing sweet blue flowers. This one appeared to receive the red flower with a certain pleasure, for it extended a branch, or one might say a cordial hand, to its neighbour, which was apparently held in a long clasp.
Under certain circumstances, as you know, a gesture is sufficient for making yourself known to another. Thus, then, the meaning of this tableau was borne in upon me. This gesture of the fig-tree in the Milky Way awoke within me a world of memories.
This Man-Plant was myself as I was fifteen centuries ago, and in the fig-trees with the violet flowers which were grouped around me I recognised my children; for I recollected that the tints of the flowers borne by the offspring, are the result of the admixture of the two colours distinguishing their parents.
These Men-Plants see without eyes, hear without ears, and speak without larynx. Have you not flowers upon the Earth which can discriminate not only night from day, but also the different hours of the day, the height of the sun above the horizon, a clear sky from a cloudy one, and more, which perceive divers sounds with exquisite sensitiveness; and, in fine, not only hear each other perfectly, but also the butterfly messengers. These rudiments are developed to a veritable degree of civilisation upon the world of which I speak, and these beings are as complete in their kind as you on the Earth are in yours. Their intelligence, it is true, is less advanced than the average intellect of terrestrial humanity; but in their manners and mutual relations, they show in all ways a sweetness and refinement, which might often serve as a model to the dwellers upon the Earth.
Faculties of men-plants.
QUÆRENS: How is it possible, master, that they see without eyes, and hear without ears?
LUMEN: You will cease to be astonished, my old friend, if you will but reflect that light and sound are nothing else than two modes of motion. In order to appreciate either one or the other of these two modes of motion, you must (and that is sufficient) be endowed with an apparatus in correspondence with them, which might be only a simple nerve. The eye and the ear are the apparatus for your terrestrial nature. In another natural organisation the optic nerve and the auditory nerve form quite different origins. Besides, light and sound are not the only two modes of motion in nature. I can even say that light and sound are the result of your manner of feeling, and not of anything real.
Light and sound are only modes of motion.
There are in nature not one, but ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand different modes of motion. Upon the Earth you are so formed as to be able to appreciate chiefly these two, which constitute almost the whole of your life in its external relations.
Nature posesses myriads of modes of motion.
Upon other worlds there are other senses with which nature can be appreciated under its various aspects. Some of these senses take the place of your eyes and of your ears, and others are in touch with perceptions entirely foreign to those which are received by terrestrial organs.
QUÆRENS: When you spoke to me just now of the men-plants in the world of Cygnus, the idea occurred to me to ask if earthly plants possess a soul?
LUMEN: Most certainly. Terrestrial plants are gifted with a soul just as much as are animals and men. Without a potential soul no organisation could exist. The form of a plant is determined by its soul. An acorn and the kernel of a peach are planted side by side in the same soil, the same situation, under the same conditions; why should the first produce an oak and the second a peach tree?
Form determined by soul.
Because an organic force inherent in the oak will construct its special kind of vegetable, and another organic force, another soul inherent in the peach, will equally draw to itself other elements necessary for its special body, just as the human soul, in the construction of its body, uses the means put by nature at its disposal. Only the soul of the plant has not any self-consciousness.
Souls of plants.
The souls in vegetables, in animals, and in men, have already attained to that degree of a personality and of authority, which enables them to bend at will, and to command and govern at pleasure, all those non-personal forces which exist in the bosom of immeasurable nature. The human monad, for example, being superior to the monad of salt, or of carbon, or of oxygen, absorbs and incorporates them in its structure.
Souls and atoms.
Our human soul in our terrestrial body upon the Earth governs, without being conscious of it, all the elementary souls forming the constituent parts of its body. Matter is not a solid and compassable substance. It is an assemblage of centres of forces. Substance has not any importance. From one atom to another there is a great distance in proportion to the dimensions of atoms. At the head of the divers centres of forces which constitute and form the human body is the human soul, governing all the ganglionic souls, which are subordinated to it.
Personality of the soul.
QUÆRENS: I must frankly own, most wise instructor, that I fail to clearly grasp this theory.
LUMEN: Then I will illustrate it for you by an example which will demonstrate the truth of all I have said, and convince you that it is a fact.
QUÆRENS: A fact? Are you, then, a reincarnation of the Princess Scheherazade, and have you been fascinating me with a new tale from the "Arabian Nights''?