Book of the Damned Chapter X
EARLY explorers have Florida mixed up with Newfoundland. But the
confusion is worse than that still earlier. It arises from simplicity.
Very early explorers think that all land westward is one land, India:
awareness of other lands as well as India comes as a slow process. I do
not now think of things arriving upon this earth from some especial other
world. That was my notion when I started to collect our data. Or, as is a
commonplace of observation, all intellection begins with the illusion of
homogeneity. It's one of Spencer's data: we see homogeneousness in all
things distant, or with which we have small acquaintance. Advance from the
relatively homogeneous to the relatively heterogeneous is Spencerian
Philosophy--like everything else, so-called: not that it was really
Spencer's discovery, but was taken from von Baer, who, in turn, was
continuous with preceding evolutionary speculation. Our own expression is
that all things are acting to advance to the homogeneous, or are trying to
localize Homogeneousness. Homogeneousness is an aspect of the Universal,
wherein it is a state that does not merge away into something else. We
regard homogeneousness as an aspect of positiveness, but it is our
acceptance that infinite frustrations of attempts to positivize manifest
themselves in infinite heterogeneity: so that though things try to
localize homogeneousness they end up in heterogeneity so great that it
amounts to infinite dispersion or indistinguishability.
So all concepts are little attempted positivenesses, but soon have to
give in to compromise, modification, nullification, merging away into
indistinguishability--unless, here and there, in the world's history,
there may have been a super-dogmatist, who, for only an infinitesimal of
time, has been able to hold out against heterogeneity or modification or
doubt or "listening to reason," or loss of identity--in which
case--instant translation to heaven or the Positive Absolute.
Odd thing about Spencer is that he never recognized that "homogeneity,"
"integration," and "definiteness" are all words for the same state, or the
state we call "positiveness." What we call his mistake is in that he
regarded "homogeneousness" as negative.
I began with a notion of some one other world, from which objects and
substances have fallen to this earth; which had, or which, to less degree,
has a tutelary interest in this earth; which is now attempting to
communicate with this earth--modifying, because of data which will pile up
later, into acceptance that some other world is not attempting but has
been, for centuries, in communication with a sect, perhaps, or a secret
society, or certain esoteric ones of this earth's inhabitants.
I lose a great deal of hypnotic power in not being able to concentrate
attention upon some one other world.
As I have admitted before I'm intelligent, as contrasted with the
orthodox. I haven't the aristocratic disregard of a New York curator or an
I have to dissipate myself in acceptance of a host of other worlds:
size of the moon, some of them: one of them, at least,--tremendous thing:
we'll take that up later. Vast, amorphous aerial regions, to which such
definite words as "worlds" and "planets" seem inapplicable. And artificial
constructions that I have called "super-constructions": one of them about
the size of Brooklyn, I should say, off hand. And one or more of them
wheel-shaped things, a goodly number of square miles in area.
I think that earlier in this book, before we liberalized into embracing
everything that comes along, your indignation, or indigestion would have
expressed in the notion that, if this were so, astronomers would have seen
these other worlds and regions and vast geometric constructions. You'd
have had that notion: you'd have stopped there.
But the attempt to stop is saying "enough" to the insatiable. In cosmic
punctuation there are no periods: illusions of periods is incomplete view
of colons and semi-colons.
We can't stop with the notion that if there were such phenomena,
astronomers would have seen them. Because of our experience with
suppression and disregard, we suspect, before we go into the subject at
all, that astronomers have seen them; that navigators and meteorologists
have seen them; that individual scientists and other trained observers
have seen them many times--
That it is the System that has excluded data of them.
As to the Law of Gravitation, and astronomers' formulas, remember that
these formulas worked out in the time of La Place as well as they do now.
But there are hundreds of planetary bodies now known that were then not
known. So a few hundred worlds more of ours won't make any difference. La
Place knew of about only thirty bodies in this solar system: about six
hundred are recognized now--
What are the discoveries of geology and biology to a theologian?
His formulas still work out as well as they ever did.
If the Law of Gravitation could be stated as a real utterance, it might
be a real resistance to us. But we are told only that gravitation is
gravitation. Of course to an intermediatist, nothing can be defined in
terms of itself--but even the orthodox, in what seems to me to be the
innate premonitions of realness, not founded upon experience, agree that
to define a thing in terms of itself is not real definition. It is said
that by gravitation is meant the attraction of all things proportionately
to mass and inversely as the square of the distance. Mass would mean
inter-attraction holding together final particles, if there were final
particles. Then, until final particles be discovered, only one term of
this expression survives, or mass is attraction. But distance is only
extent of mass, unless one holds out for absolute vacuum among planets, a
position against which we could bring a host of data. But there is no
possible means of expressing that gravitation is anything other than
attraction. So there is nothing to resist us but such a phantom as--that
gravitation is the gravitation of all gravitations proportionately to
gravitation and inversely as the square of gravitation. In a
quasi-existence, nothing more sensible than this can be said upon any
so-called subject--perhaps there are higher approximations to ultimate
Nevertheless we seem to have a feeling that with the System against us
we have a kind of resistance here. We'd have felt so formerly, at any
rate: I think the Dr. Grays and Prof. Hitchcocks have modified our
trustfulness toward indistinguishability. As to the perfection of this
System that quasi-opposes us and the infallibility of its mathematics--as
if there could be real mathematics in a mode of seeming where twice two
are not four--we've been told over and over again of their vindication in
the discovery of Neptune.
I'm afraid that the course we're taking will turn out like every other
development. We began humbly, admitting that we're of the damned--
But our eyebrows--
Just a faint flicker in them, or in one of them, every time we hear of
the "triumphal discovery of Neptune"--this "monumental achievement of
theoretical astronomy," as the text books call it.
The whole trouble is that we've looked it up.
The text-books omit this:
That, instead of the orbit of Neptune agreeing with the calculations of
Adams and Leverrier, it was so different--that Leverrier said that it was
not the planet of his calculations.
Later it was thought best to say no more upon that subject.
The text-books omit this:
That, in 1846, everyone who knew a sine from a cosine was out sining
and cosining for a planet beyond Uranus.
Two of them guessed right.
To some minds, even after Leverrier's own rejection of Neptune, the
word "guessed" may be objectionable--but, according to Prof. Peirce, of
Harvard, the calculations of Adams and Leverrier would have applied quite
as well to positions many degrees from the position of Neptune.
Or for Prof. Peirce's demonstration that the discovery of Neptune was
only a "happy accident," see Proc. Amer. Acad. Sciences, 1-65.
For references, see Lowell's Evolution of Worlds.
Or comets: another nebulous resistance to our own notions. As to
eclipses, I have notes upon several of them that did not occur upon
scheduled time, though with differences only of seconds--and one
delightful lost soul, deep-buried, but buried in the ultra-respectable
records of the Royal Astronomical Society, upon an eclipse that did not
occur at all. That delightful, ultra-sponsored thing of perdition is too
good and malicious to be dismissed with passing notice: we'll have him
Throughout the history of astronomy, every comet that has come back
upon predicted time--not that, essentially, there was anything more
abstruse about it than is a prediction that you can make of a postman's
periodicities to-morrow--was advertised for all it was worth. It's the way
reputations are worked up for fortune-tellers by the faithful. The comets
that didn't come back--omitted or explained. Or Encke's comet. It came
back slower and slower. But the astronomers explained. They had it all
worked out and formulated and "proved" why that comet was coming back
slower and slower--and there the dam thing began coming faster and faster.
Astronomy--"the perfect science, as we astronomers like to call it."
It's my own notion that if, in a real existence, an astronomer could
not tell one longitude from another, he'd be sent back to this purgatory
of ours until he could meet that simple requirement.
Halley was sent to the Cape of Good Hope to determine its longitude. He
got it degrees wrong. He gave to Africa's noble Roman promontory a
retroussé twist that would take the pride out of any Kaffir.
We hear everlastingly of Halley's comet. It came back--maybe. But,
unless we look the matter up in contemporaneous records, we hear nothing
of--the Leonids, for instance. By the same methods as those by which
Halley's comet was predicted, the Leonids were predicted. Nov., 1898--no
Leonids. It was explained. They had been perturbed. They would appear in
November, 1899. Nov., 1899--Nov., 1900--no Leonids.
My notion of astronomic accuracy:
Who could not be a prize marksman, if only his hits be recorded?
As to Halley's comet, of 1910--everybody now swears he saw it. He has
to perjure himself: otherwise he'd be accused of having no interest in
great, inspiring things that he's never given attention to.
That there was never a moment when there is not some comet in the sky.
Virtually there is no year in which several new comets are not discovered,
so plentiful are they. Luminous fleas on a vast black dog--in popular
impressions, there is no realization of the extent to which this solar
system is flea-bitten.
If a comet has not the orbit that astronomers have
predicted--perturbed. If--like Halley's comet--it be late--even a year
late--perturbed. When a train is an hour late, we have small opinion of
the prediction of timetables. When a comet's a year late, all we ask
is--that it be explained. We hear of the inflation and arrogance of
astronomers. My own acceptance is not that they are imposing upon us: that
they are requiting us. For many of us priests no longer function to give
us seeming rapport with Perfection, Infallibility--the Positive Absolute.
Astronomers have stepped forward to fill a vacancy--with quasi-phantomosity--but,
in our acceptance, with a higher approximation to substantiality than had
the attenuations that preceded them. I should say, myself, that all that
we call progress is not so much response to "urge" as it is response to a
hiatus--or if you want something to grow somewhere, dig out everything
else in its area. So I have to accept that the positive assurances of
astronomers are necessary to us, or the blunderings, evasions and
disguises of astronomers would never be tolerated: that, given such
latitude as they are permitted to take, they could not be very
disastrously mistaken. Suppose the comet called Halley's had not
Early in 1910, a far more important comet than the anaemic luminosity
said to be Halley's, appeared. It was so brilliant that it was visible in
daylight. The astronomers would have been saved anyway. If this other
comet did not have the predicted orbit--perturbation. If you're going to
Coney Island, and predict there'll be a special kind of pebble on the
beach, I don't see how you can disgrace yourself, if some other pebble
will do just as well--because the feeble thing said to have been seen in
1910 was no more in accord with the sensational descriptions given out by
astronomers in advance than is a pale pebble with a brick-red bowlder.
I predict that next Wednesday, a large Chinaman, in evening clothes,
will cross Broadway, at 42nd Street, at 9 P.M. He doesn't, but a
tubercular Jap in a sailor's uniform does cross Broadway, at 35th Street,
Friday, at noon. Well, a Jap is a perturbed Chinaman, and clothes are
I remember the terrifying predictions made by the honest and credulous
astronomers, who must have been themselves hypnotized, or they could not
have hypnotized the rest of us, in 1909. Wills were made. Human life might
be swept from this planet. In quasi-existence, which is essentially
Hibernian, that would be no reason why wills should not be made. The less
excitable of us did expect at least some pretty good fireworks.
I have to admit that it is said that, in New York, a light was seen in
It was about as terrifying as the scratch of a match on the seat of
some breeches half a mile away.
It was not on time.
Though I have heard that a faint nebulosity, which I did not see,
myself, though I looked when I was told to look, was seen in the sky, it
appeared several days after the time predicted.
A hypnotized host of imbeciles of us: told to look up at the sky: we
did--like a lot of pointers hypnotized by a partridge.
Almost everybody now swears that he saw Halley's comet, and that is was
a glorious spectacle.
An interesting circumstance here is that seemingly we are trying to
discredit astronomers because astronomers oppose us--that's not my
impression. We shall be in the Brahmin caste of the hell of the Baptists.
Almost all our data, in some regiments of this procession, are
observations by astronomers, few of them mere amateur astronomers. It is
the System that opposes us. It is the System that is suppressing
astronomers. I think we pity them in their captivity. Ours is not
malice--in a positive sense. It's chivalry--somewhat. Unhappy astronomers
looking out from high towers in which they are imprisoned--we appear on
But, as I have said, our data do not relate to some especial other
world. I mean very much what a savage upon an ocean island might think of
in his speculations--not upon some other land, but complexes of continents
and their phenomena: cities, factories in cities, means of communication--
Now all the other savages would know of a few vessels sailing in their
regular routes, passing this island in regularized periodicities. The
tendency in these minds would be expression of the universal tendency
toward positivism--or Completeness--or conviction that these few
regularized vessels constituted all. Now I think of some especial savage
who suspects otherwise--because he's very backward and unimaginative and
insensible to the beautiful ideals of the others: not piously occupied,
like the others, in bowing before impressive-looking sticks of wood;
dishonestly taking time for his speculations, while the other are
patriotically witch-finding. So the other higher and nobler savages know
about the few regularized vessels: know when to expect them; have their
periodicities all worked out; just about when vessels will pass, or
eclipse each other--explaining all vagaries were due to atmospheric
They'd come out strong in explaining.
You can't read a book upon savages without noting what resolute
explainers they are.
They'd say all this mechanism was founded upon the mutual attraction of
vessels--deduced from the fall of a monkey from a palm tree--or, if not
that, that devils were pushing the vessels--something of the kind.
Débris, not from these vessels, cast up by the waves.
How can one think of something and something else, too?
I'm in a state of mind of a savage who might find upon a shore, washed
up by the same storm, buoyant parts of a piano and a paddle that is carved
by cruder hands than his own: something light and summery from India, and
a fur overcoat from Russia--or all science, though approximating wider and
wider, is attempt to conceive of India in terms of an ocean island, and of
Russia in terms of India so interpreted. Though I am trying to think of
Russia and India in world-wide terms, I cannot think that that, or the
universalizing of the local, is cosmic purpose. The higher idealist is the
positivist who tries to localize the universal, and is in accord with
cosmic purpose: the super-dogmatist of a local savage who can hold out,
without a flurry of doubt, that a piano washed up on a beach is the trunk
of a palm tree that a shark has bitten, leaving his teeth in it. So we
fear for the soul of Dr. Gray, because he did not devote his whole life to
that one stand that, whether possible or inconceivable, thousands of
fishes had been cast from one bucket.
So, unfortunately for myself, if salvation be desirable, I look out
widely but amorphously, indefinitely and heterogeneously. If I say I
conceive of another world that is now in secret communication with certain
esoteric inhabitants of this earth, I say I conceive of still other worlds
that are trying to establish communication with all the inhabitants of
this earth. I fit my notions to the data I find. That is supposed to be
the right and logical and scientific thing to do; but it is no way to
approximate to form, system, organization. Then I think I conceive of
other worlds and vast structures that pass us by, within a few miles,
without the slightest desire to communicate, quite as tramp vessels pass
many islands without particularizing one from another. Then I think I have
data of a vast construction that has often come to this earth, dipped into
an ocean, submerged there a while, then going away--Why? I'm not
absolutely sure. How would an Eskimo explain a vessel, sending ashore for
coal, which is plentiful upon some Arctic beaches, though of unknown use
to the natives, then sailing away, with no interest in the natives?
A great difficulty in trying to understand vast constructions that show
no interest in us:
The notion that we must be interesting.
I accept that, though we're usually avoided, probably for moral
reasons, sometimes this earth has been visited by explorers. I think that
the notion that there have been extra-mundane visitors to China, within
what we call the historic period, will be only ordinarily absurd, when we
come to that datum.
I accept that some of the other worlds are of conditions very similar
to our own. I think of others that are very different--so that visitors
from them could not live here--without artificial adaptations.
How some of them could breathe our attenuated air, if they came from a
The masks that have been found in ancient deposits.
Most of them are of stone, and are said to have been ceremonial regalia
But the mask that was found in Sullivan County, Missouri, in 1879 (American
It is made of iron and silver.