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We pass to make a few closing remarks on some points connected with the “ Star-eyed Science," premising that we are mere amateurs, and know very little of the details of the study.
We yield to no man in admiration of the splendors of the heavens. They are a book of beauty, opened up every night over our heads, and each beautiful line includes a great and living moral. But we think, first, that the terms “ Infinity," and “Immensity," are unduly applied to them. Secondly, that they give us no new light as to the history or destiny of man. Thirdly, that the telescope, as a mental and magical instrument, has been overrated. Fourthly, that the inference of the insignificance of man, drawn from the vastness of the uni. verse, is altogether illogical. Fifthly, that astronomical discovery has nearly reached its limits. Sixthly, that the astronomy of man's soul is infinitely grander than that of the starry heavens, and is but distantly related to it; and, finally, that there is no reason to believe that death and the immortality which lie beyond, will allow us to remain in those material regions of which the stars are the shining summits. We hope for our readers' indulgence as we try to explain more fully what we mean.
First. We hear astronomers often speaking of those " Infinities," those “Immensities; ” words which, though used sometimes rhetorically, are always fitted to give a false impression to the general mind. The universe is not infinite. As well say of a drop of water that it is infinite, as that a universe is. The vastest and most complicated firmament is not one step nearer the abstract and absolute idea of Infinity, than is a curled shaving in a joiner's shop. The infinite aspect the Creation assumes is a mere illusion of our eye, the dimness of a weak and bounded vision. The universe is just the multiplication of a sand-grain or fire-particle, and by multiplying the finite, how can we reach the infinite? Who can, by searching, find out God? “ To an inconceivably superior being,” says Coleridge," the whole fabric of Creation may appear as one plain, the distance between stars and systems seeming to him but as that between particles of earth to us;" say, rather, it is highly probable that this vast universe seems to God but as one distinctly rounded pea, swimming on the viewless ocean of that true Infinite which is “higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea."
"A metaphysical difficulty," says Isaac Taylor (if we need clench a statement so obvious by authority), "prevents us from ever regarding the material universe as infinite." And if not infinite, what is it but an elongation and fiery exaggeration of any boy-bubble blown on the streets ? Away, then, with the words which sound much, and mean nothing, of “infinity” and “immensity," applied to that mere scaffolding to the eternal and inner fabric, which is all our earthly eyes or telescopes now or ever can possibly behold!
Secondly. Those enormous discoveries of the Newtonian and Herschellian heavens have not really told us anything new in reference to the great mystery of man-of his being, history, destiny, or relation to God. They have simply trans. ferred and magnified the difficulties by which we are environed on this isle of earth. They have not, hitherto, shed one beam of light on any moral theme. It is, as yet, utterly uncertain, for all the stars can teach us, whether the universe beyond our globe be peopled or not; on the moral state of their populations (if populations there be) the sky, however strictly questioned or cross-questioned, remains quite silent. In fact, it large crowd of silent human faces, looking up towards an urcommon phenomenon in the heavens, reflect as much light up on it, as do the stars down upon the anomalous and awful condition of the human family. Blank ignorance, blind astonishment, or helpless pity, are all the feelings with which even imagination can invest their still, persevering, yet solemn gaze. Foster, in one of his journals, seems rather to rejoice in the notion that they are made of fire ; because in this there is one link connecting us with the remotest luminaries of heaven. Some philosophers doubt, we believe, if this be a fact; but, at all events, we wonder that he did not see, on his own showing, and in accordance with his own gloomy notions, that the universe might be literally called one vast hell; a “burning fiery furnace,” to be quenched only in the final extinction of all things. If the stars are fire, it may be a fire in which all the carths and alkalis around them are slowly, but certainly, to be consumed. And thus the great mirror of the midnight heaveus becomes rather a reflector of the austere purposes
of the Divine Destructiveness, than of the prosperous career of even regenerated man. In fact, we humbly conceive that the discovery of a new family of animalculæ, or of a new gallery of minerals, would cast as much light upon human nature and history as the revelation of firmaments upon firmaments of what seems distant and inscrutable flame.
Thirdly. The telescope, as a mental and magical instrument, has been overrated. The imagination of a poet, in a single dream, has often immeasurably outrun all its revelations. What has it told us, after all, but that our sun, a bright and burning point, has innumerable duplicates throughout space, and that these duplicates, by their position near each other, have assumed certain shapes, which are, however, perpetually shifting and changing, like the clouds on a windy day, in proportion to the power of the instrument which surveys them ? In truth, there are views of astronomy in Addison's “Spectator," a century old, as sublime as any written since. And what have the two Herschells, or Arago, or Nichol, done to answer the questions- What is a sun, what is a system, what is a comet, what is a firmament, or what is the one “ fiery particle" which pervades and forms, it is said, by expansion the whole ? It is as if a man, questioned as to the essence of the matter constituting an umbrella, were to reply by unfurling it, and deeming that thus the query was answered. The telescope, in one word, has only broadened the periphery of our view, but has not admitted us really into one of the secrets of heaven; the mystery of the atom has merely been transferred, unsolved, to that of the Star-universe.
Fourthly. The inference of the insignificance of man, from the magnitude of the Creation, as we have already hinted, is miserably illogical. A man, in reality, is as much overborne by the size of a hill or a house, as by that of the Herschellian skies. A mountain is a noble object; but why? because man sees it and sheds the meaning and the glory of his own soul over it. A sun is but a burnished breastplate till the same process passes over it, and man has said of it, in reverent imitation of the Demiurgic Artist, “ It is very good.” The stars too, must all wait in the ante-chamber of the human soul to receive their homage, to be told of their numbers, and to listen to their names. Even although these splendid bodies were peopled, man has no evidence that those beings are greater or purer than himself, any more than he has evidence that snow and torrid sunshine, anxiety, misery, and death, are confined to his sphere; a sphere which, dark, torn, and ruptured, to his eye, is (as the author of “Festus" hath it) “shining fair, whole, and spotless," a “living well of light,” to spectators in the far-off ether What, in fact, are the increasing and receding firmaments of space, but the steps of a ladder on which man is climbing every year, without coming nearer to his great ultimate inheritance—Space, Eternity, and God.
Fifthly. It is clear to us that astronomical discovery has nearly reached its limit. That God designed to it a distinct and not distant period, seems plain from the separation which is effected of other worlds from ours by the nature of the huo man eye, by distance, and by that dancing phenomenon in the objects which we are told increases with the power of the telescope, and which makes the stars reel like drunkards, instead of sitting sober before the calm pictorial power of the instrument. All our recent cosmogonies, too, such as the nebular hypothesis, have been utterly exploded. And it is very curious how the world nearest us (the moon) seems the most perverse and inscrutable of all the heavenly puzzles ; and it seems strange to us how, having looked so long on the absurdities of our world, and particularly on the theories propounded about itself, it has hitherto forborne to laugh! By and by, we suspect, man, even with Lord Rosse's telescope in his hand, may be seen stretching over the great gulf a baffled hand, and foot, and eye, baffled because he has reached at last the limits of his earthly platform.
Sixthly. But why should he, therefore, repine, or sit down and weep? “ Can his own soul afford no scope ?” Are there no stars within, no firmaments of central, yet celestial, fire ? Astronomy is doubtless a magnificent study, but the mind which has made the telescope as an assistant eye for its investigation, is surely as worthy of investigation, nay, far more so. What comet so wonderful as the human will ? What sun so warm and mysterious as the human heart? What doubleorbed Gemini to be compared with the twin eyes of man ?What firmament is like the wiry, waving, knotted, intesselated
and far-stretching brain, sending out its nervous undulations, even as the spiral nebula sends forth its thin films of suns ? What conception of a universe, however vast and complex, can be named in mystery, with man—scarce a mathematical point in size, and yet spanning earth, measuring ocean, analyzing the clouds and the skies above him, poetizing the dust below his feet, worshipping God, and sending out his careering thoughts into Eternity, and yet, like his progenitor Adam, while aiming perpetually to be as a God, as often losing his balance, and becoming inferior to the brute? Why seek so eagerly to explore firmaments, till we have explored the depths which lie enclosed, yet beseechingly open, in our own natures ? And alas ! no light do all the fires of all the firmaments, however beautifully concentred and condensed by the power of poetical genius, cast upon the mystery of man's moral condition, his nature as a sinner, or the hope he has of forgiveness and everlasting life!
We take leave of this brief view of a magnificent theme, by uttering (seventhly) what may appear our most paradoxical assertion—namely, that there is no reason to believe that death and immortality will permit the emancipated soul to remain amid these present starry splendors. However bright, and even, at times, inviting they may seem, they contain no home for us after we are freed from these tabernacles of clay. We often hear men talking as if, somehow, they went up, after death, among the heavenly bodies. It were wrong in us to dogmatise on any such question; but it seems more probable, and more scriptural, too, that we pass, at death, amid a purely spiritual scenery, as well as into a purely spiritual stateor, at least, that the grosser phenomena of matter will be then as invisible to us as are now the microscopic worlds. This conviction came upon us some two years ago, with a sudden and startling force, which we felt more than enough for our own minds. Taking up, shortly after, one of the strange reveries of poor Edgar Poe, we were astonished to find the following language : “At death, these creatures, enjoying the ultimate life-immortality, act all things, and pass everywhere by mere volition—indwelling not the stars, which to us seem the sole palpabilities, and for the accommodation of which we blindly deem space created--but that SPACE itself—that infi