"In studying any branch of science men begin and end with an unknown. The chemist accepts as data such conditions of matter as he finds about him, and connects ponderable matter with the displays of energy that have impressed his senses, building therefrom a span of theoretical science, but he can not formulate as yet an explanation regarding the origin or the end of either mind, matter, or energy. The piers supporting his fabric stand in a profound invisible gulf,, into which even his imagination can not look to form a theory concerning basic formations—corner-stones.
"The geologist, in a like manner, grasps feebly the lessons left in the superficial fragments of earth strata, impressions that remain to bear imperfect record of a few of the disturbances that have affected the earth's crust, and he endeavors to formulate a story of the world's life, but he is neither able to antedate the records shown by the meager testimony at his command, scraps of a leaf out of God's great book of history, nor to anticipate coming events. The birth, as well as the death, of this planet is beyond his page.
"The astronomer directs his telescope to the heavens, records the position of the planets, and hopes to discover the influences worlds exert upon one another. He explores space to obtain data to enable him to delineate a map of the visible solar universe, but the instruments he has at command are so imperfect, and mind is so feeble that, like mockery seems his attempt to study behind the facts connected with the motions and conditions of the nearest heavenly bodies, and he can not offer an explanation of the beginning or cessation of their movements. He can neither account for their existence, nor foretell their end."
"Are you not mistaken?" I interrupted; "does not the astronomer foretell eclipses, and calculate the orbits of the planets, and has he not verified predictions concerning their several motions?"
"Yes; but this is simply a study of passing events. The astronomer is no more capable of grasping an idea that reaches into an explanation of the origin of motion, than the chemist or physicist, from exact scientific data, can account for the creation of matter. Give him any amount of material at rest, and he can not conceive of any method by which motion can disturb any part of it, unless such motion be mass motion communicated from without, or molecular motion, already existing within. He accounts for the phases of present motion in heavenly bodies, not for the primal cause of the actual movements or intrinsic properties they possess. He can neither originate a theory that will permit of motion creating itself, and imparting itself to quiescent matter, nor imagine how an atom of quiescent matter can be moved, unless motion from without be communicated thereto. The astronomer, I assert, can neither from any data at his command postulate nor prove the beginning nor the end of the reverberating motion that exists in his solar system, which is itself the fragment of a system that is circulating and revolving in and about itself, and in which, since the birth of man, the universe he knows has not passed the first milestone in the road that universe is traveling in space immensity.
"The mathematician starts a line from an imaginary point that he informs us exists theoretically without occupying any space, which is a contradiction of terms according to his human acceptation of knowledge derived from scientific experiment, if science is based on verified facts. He assumes that straight lines exist, which is a necessity for his calculation; but such a line he has never made. Even the beam of sunshine, radiating through a clear atmosphere or a cloud bank, widens and contracts again as it progresses through the various mediums of air and vapor currents, and if it is ever spreading and deflecting can it be straight? He begins his study in the unknown, it ends with the unknowable.
"The biologist can conceive of no rational, scientific beginning to life of plant or animal, and men of science must admit the fact. Whenever we turn our attention to nature's laws and nature's substance, we find man surrounded by the infinity that obscures the origin and covers the end. But perseverance, study of nature's forces, and comparison of the past with the present, will yet clarify human knowledge and make plain much of this seemingly mysterious, but never will man reach the beginning or the end. The course of human education, to this day, has been mostly materialistic, although, together with the study of matter, there has been more or less attention given to its moving spirit. Newton was the dividing light in scientific thought; he stepped between the reasonings of the past and the provings of the present, and introduced problems that gave birth to a new scientific tendency, a change from tile study of matter from the material side to that of force and matter, but his thought has since been carried out in a mode too realistic by far. The study of material bodies has given way, it is true, in a few cases to the study of the spirit of matter, and evolution is beginning to teach men that matter is crude. As a result, thought will in its sequence yet show that modifications of energy expression are paramount. This work is not lost, however, for the consideration of the nature of sensible material, is preliminary and necessary to progression (as the life of the savage prepares the way for that of the cultivated student), and is a meager and primitive child's effort, compared with the richness of the study in unseen energy expressions that are linked with matter, of which men will yet learn."
"I comprehend some of this," I replied; "but I am neither prepared to assent to nor dissent from your conclusions, and my mind is not clear as to whether your logic is good or bad. I am more ready to speak plainly about my own peculiar situation than to become absorbed in abstruse arguments in science, and I marvel more at the soft light that is here surrounding us than at the metaphysical reasoning in which you indulge."
"The child ignorant of letters wonders at the resources of those who can spell and read, and, in like manner, many obscure natural phenomena are marvelous to man only because of his ignorance. You do not comprehend the fact that sunlight is simply a matter-bred expression, an outburst of interrupted energy, and that the modification this energy undergoes makes it visible or sensible to man. What, think you, becomes of the flood of light energy that unceasingly flows from the sun? For ages, for an eternity, it has bathed this earth and seemingly streamed into space, and space it would seem must have long since have been filled with it, if, as men believe, space contains energy of any description. Man may say the earth casts the amount intercepted by it back into space, and yet does not your science teach that the great bulk of the earth is an absorber, and a poor radiator of light and heat? What think you, I repeat, becomes of the torrent of light and heat and other forces that radiate from the sun, the flood that strikes the earth? It disappears, and, in the economy of nature, is not replaced by any known force or any known motion of matter. Think you that earth substance really presents an obstacle to the passage of the sun's energy? Is it not probable that most of this light producing essence, as a subtle fluid, passes through the surface of the earth and into its interior, as light does through space, and returns thence to the sun Again, in a condition not discernible by man?" He grasped my arm and squeezed it as though to emphasize the words to follow. "You have used the term sunshine freely; tell me what is sunshine? Ah! you do not reply; well, what evidence have you to show that sunshine (heat and light) is not earth-bred, a condition that exists locally only, the result of contact between matter and some unknown force expression? What reason have you for accepting that, to other forms unknown and yet transparent to this energy, your sunshine may not be as intangible as the ether of space is to man? What reason have you to believe that a force torrent is not circulating to and from the sun and earth, inappreciable to man, excepting the mere trace of this force which, modified by contact action with matter appears as heat, light, and other force expressions? How can I, if this is true, in consideration of your ignorance, enter into details explanatory of the action that takes place between matter and a portion of this force, whereby in the earth, first at the surface, darkness is produced, and then deeper down an earth light that man can perceive by the sense of sight, as you now realize? I will only say that this luminous appearance about us is produced by a natural law, whereby the flood of energy, invisible to man, a something clothed now under the name of darkness, after streaming into the crust substance of the earth, is at this depth, revivified, and then is made apparent to mortal eye, to be modified again as it emerges from the opposite earth crust, but not annihilated. For my vision, however, this central light is not a necessity; my physical and mental development is such that the energy of darkness is communicable; I can respond to its touches on my nerves, and hence I can guide you in this dark cavern. I am all eye."
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "that reminds me of a remark made by my former guide who, referring to the instinct of animals, spoke of that as a natural power undeveloped in man. Is it true that by mental cultivation a new sense can be evolved whereby darkness may become as light?"
"Yes; that which you call light is a form of sensible energy to which the faculties of animals who live on the surface of the earth have become adapted, through their organs of sight. The sun's energy is modified when it strikes the surface of the earth; part is reflected, but most of it passes onward into the earth's substance, in an altered or disturbed condition. Animal organisms within the earth must possess a peculiar development to utilize it under its new form, but such a sense is really possessed in a degree by some creatures known to men. There is consciousness behind consciousness; there are grades and depths of consciousness. Earth worms, and some fishes and reptiles in underground streams (lower organizations, men call them) do not use the organ of sight, but recognize objects, seek their food, and flee from their enemies."
"They have no eyes," I exclaimed, forgetting that I spoke to an eyeless being; "how can they see?"
"You should reflect that man can not offer a satisfactory explanation of the fact that he can see with his eyes. In one respect, these so-called lower creatures are higher in the scale of life than man is, for they see (appreciate) without eyes. The surfaces of their bodies really are sources of perception, and seats of consciousness. Man must yet learn to see with his skin, taste with his fingers, and hear with the surface of his body. The dissected nerve, or the pupil of man's eye, offers to the physiologist no explanation of its intrinsic power. Is not man unfortunate in having to risk so much on so frail an organ? The physiologist can not tell why or how the nerve of the tongue can distinguish between bitter and sweet, or convey any impression of taste, or why the nerve of the ear communicates sound, or the nerve of the eye communicates the impression of sight. There is an impassable barrier behind all forms of nerve impressions, that neither the microscope nor other methods of investigation can help the reasoning senses of man to remove. The void that separates the pulp of the material nerve from consciousness is broader than the solar universe, for even from the most distant known star we can imagine the never-ending flight of a ray of light, that has once started on its travels into space. Can any man outline the bridge that connects the intellect with nerve or brain, mind, or with any form of matter? The fact that the surface of the bodies of some animals is capable of performing the same functions for these animals that the eye of man performs for him, is not more mysterious than is the function of that eye itself. The term darkness is an expression used to denote the fact that to the brain which governs the eye of man, what man calls the absence of light, is unrecognizable. If men were more magnanimous and less egotistical, they would open their minds to the fact that some animals really possess certain senses that are better developed than they are in man. The teachers of men too often tell the little they know and neglect the great unseen. The cat tribe, some night birds, and many reptiles can see better in darkness than in daylight. Let man compare with the nerve expanse of his own eye that of the highly developed eye of any such creature, and he will understand that the difference is one of brain or intellect, and not altogether one of optical vision surface. When men are able to explain how light can affect the nerves of their own eyes and produce such an effect on distant brain tissues as to bring to his senses objects that he is not touching, he may be able to explain how the energy in darkness can affect the nerve of the eye in the owl and impress vision on the brain of that creature. Should not man's inferior sense of light lead him to question if, instead of deficient visual power, there be not a deficiency of the brain capacity of man? Instead of accepting that the eye of man is incapable of receiving the impression of night energy, and making no endeavor to improve himself in the direction of his imperfection, man should reflect whether or not his brain may, by proper cultivation or artificial stimulus, be yet developed so as to receive yet deeper nerve impressions, thereby changing darkness into daylight. Until man can explain the modus operandi of the senses he now possesses, he can not consistently question the existence of a different sight power in other beings, and unquestioned existing conditions should lead him to hope for a yet higher development in himself."
"This dissertation is interesting, very," I said. "Although inclined toward agnosticism, my ideas of a possible future in consciousness that lies before mankind are broadened. I therefore accept your reasoning, perhaps because I can not refute it, neither do I wish to do so. And now I ask again, can not you explain to me how darkness, as deep as that of midnight, has been revivified so as to bring this great cavern to my view?"
"That may be made plain at a future time," he answered; "let us proceed with our journey."
We passed through a dry, well ventilated apartment. Stalactite formations still existed, indicative of former periods of water drippings, but as we journeyed onward I saw no evidence of present percolations, and the developing and erosive agencies that had worked in ages past must long ago have been suspended. The floor was of solid stone, entirely free from loose earth and fallen rocky fragments. It was smooth upon the surface, but generally disposed in gentle undulations. The peculiar, soft, radiant light to which my guide referred as "vitalized darkness" or "revivified sunshine," pervaded all the space about me, but I could not by its agency distinguish the sides of the vast cavern. The brightness was of a species that while it brought into distinctness objects that were near at hand, lost its unfolding power or vigor a short distance beyond. I would compare the effect to that of a bright light shining through a dense fog, were it not that the medium about us was transparent—not milky. The light shrunk into nothingness. It passed from existence behind and about me as if it were annihilated, without wasting away in the opalescent appearance once familiar as that of a spreading fog. Moreover, it seemed to detail such objects as were within the compass of a certain area close about me, but to lose in intensity beyond. The buttons on my coat appeared as distinct as they ever did when I stood in the sunlight, and fully one-half larger than I formerly knew them to be. The corrugations on the palms of my hands stood out in bold serpentine relief that I observed clearly when I held my hands near my eye, my fingers appeared clumsy, and all parts of my person were magnified in proportion. The region at the limits of my range of perception reminded me of nothingness, but not of darkness. A circle of obliteration defined the border of the luminous belt which advanced as we proceeded, and closed in behind us. This line, or rather zone of demarkation that separated the seen from the unseen, appeared to be about two hundred feet away, but it might have been more or less, as I had no method of measuring distances.