THE ETERNAL SUCCESSION OF WORLDS
48. We have seen that one primordial and general law alone has been given to the universe in order to insure eternal stability, and that this universal law is perceptible to our senses by means of the many modes of operation we call the directing forces of nature. We are going to show today that the harmony of the entire universe, considered under the double aspect of eternity and of space, is assured by this supreme law.
49. Indeed, if we go back to the primitive origin or first agglomerations of cosmic substance, we must remark that, already under the empire of this law, matter is submitted to the necessary transformations which develop from the germ to the ripe fruit, and that, under the impulsion of diverse forces of this law, the Earth climbs over the ladder of its periodical revolutions. At first the fluidic center of motion, generator of worlds, thence the central and attractive nucleus of spheres which have been cradled on its bosom.
We know already that one law presides throughout the history of cosmos. That which it is important for us to know now is that it presides equally at the destruction of astral bodies; for death is not only a metamorphosis for living beings, but a transformation for inanimate matter. If it is correct to say, in the literal sense, that all life is amenable to the scythe of death, it is also just to add that all substance must of necessity submit to the inherent transformations of its constitution.
50. Here is a world that from its cradle has passed through all the succession of years allotted to it by its special organization; the interior focus of its existence is extinguished: its elements have lost their original virtue. The phenomena of nature which claimed for their production the presence and action of forces found in this world, henceforth cannot present themselves, because the lever of their activity can no longer sustain them.
Now, what would one think if this extinguished Earth, without life, should continue to gravitate in celestial space without an object and pass like a useless cinder in the whirlwind of the heavens? Can any of us think it should remain inscribed in the book of universal life when it is only a dead letter denuded of meaning? No; the same laws which have elevated it above the dead chaos, and which have adorned it with the splendors of life, the same forces which have governed it throughout its adolescence, which have supported its first steps in existence, and which have conducted it to a ripe old age, preside at the disintegration of its constituent elements, in order to render it in the laboratory from which creative power draws unceasingly the means of general stability. These elements return to this common mass of ether in order to assimilate with other bodies, or to help in the formation of other suns. And this death will neither be a useless event to this or to its sister planets. It will renew in other regions other creations of a different nature; and there, where some systems of worlds have vanished, will soon be born a new and more brilliant garden of flowers, more beauteous and fragrant still.
51. Thus the real and effective eternity of the universe is assured by the same laws which direct the operations of time. Thus worlds succeed to worlds, suns to suns, without the immense mechanism of the heavens ever reaching the limit of its gigantic resources.
There, where your eyes admire the splendid stars under the vault of night, — there, where your mind contemplates the magnificent radiance, resplendent in far-distant space — through countless ages, the finger of death has extinguished these splendors. Long ago void has succeeded to this radiance, and received new creations yet unknown. It takes millions of years for the light of these stars to reach us, by reason of their immense distance from us; and the rays that we receive today are those that were sent in our direction a long time before the formation of this Earth. We continue to admire them long ages after their extinction.*
What are the six thousand years of historic humanity compared with the measureless ages before them? Seconds to your ages! What are your astronomical observations compared with the actual state of the universe? The shadow eclipsed by the sun.
* Here there is an effect of the time the light takes to cross the space. Scientists have defined the speed of light in a vacuum to be exactly 299,792,458 meters per second (about 186,000 miles per second). Since the mean distance of the earth from the sun is 149,503,000 km (92,897,000 mi), it takes approximately 8 minutes and 30 seconds from the sun to earth. From this results that a phenomenon that takes place on the surface of the sun will only be perceived eight minutes later; and for the same reason, we will see it only eight minutes after its disappearance. If, due to its distance, the light of a star takes a thousand years to reach us, we cannot see this star until a thousand years after its formation. (For complete explanation and description of this phenomenon, see the “Revue Spirite” of March and May of 1867, pgs. 93 and 151; clarifications from “Lumen,” by M. C. Flammarion).
52. Here, then, as in our other studies, let us recognize that Earth and man are as nothingness compared to that which is; and that the most colossal operations of our minds extend yet only near unto the confines of an immensity and eternity of existence in a universe which will have no end.
And when measureless periods in our immortality shall have passed over our heads, when the actual history of the Earth will appear to us like a vaporous shadow in the depth of our remembrance, when we shall have inhabited during countless ages all the multiple degrees of our cosmological hierarchy, when the most distant domains shall have in future, ages been passed through by innumerable peregrinations, we shall have still before us an unlimited succession of worlds, — an unending eternity for perspective.