wtorek, 6 listopada 2007

Last and first men

Stapledon, O. W. (1930). Last and first men. A story of the near and far future.


THIS is a work of fiction. I have tried to invent a story which may seem a
possible, or at least not wholly impossible, account of the future of man; and I
have tried to make that story relevant to the change that is taking place today
in man's outlook.
To romance of the future may seem to be indulgence in ungoverned speculation for
the sake of the marvellous. Yet controlled imagination in this sphere can be a
very valuable exercise for minds bewildered about the present and its
potentialities. Today we should welcome, and even study, every serious attempt
to envisage the future of our race; not merely in order to grasp the very
diverse and often tragic possibilities that confront us, but also that we may
familiarize ourselves with the certainty that many of our most cherished ideals
would seem puerile to more developed minds. To romance of the far future, then,
is to attempt to see the human race in its cosmic setting, and to mould our
hearts to entertain new values.
But if such imaginative construction of possible futures is to be at all potent,
our imagination must be strictly disciplined. We must endeavour not to go beyond
the bounds of possibility set by the particular state of culture within which we
live. The merely fantastic has only minor power. Not that we should seek
actually to prophesy what will as a matter of fact occur; for in our present
state such prophecy is certainly futile, save in the simplest matters. We are
not to set up as historians attempting to look ahead instead of backwards. We
can only select a certain thread out of the tangle of many equally valid
possibilities. But we must select with a purpose. The activity that we are
undertaking is not science, but art; and the effect that it should have on the
reader is the effect that art should have.
Yet our aim is not merely to create aesthetically admirable fiction. We must
achieve neither mere history, nor mere fiction, but myth. A true myth is one
which, within the universe of a certain culture (living or dead), expresses
richly, and often perhaps tragically, the highest admirations possible within
that culture. A false myth is one which either violently transgresses the limits
of credibility set by its own cultural matrix, or expresses admirations less
developed than those of its culture's best vision. This book can no more claim
to be true myth than true prophecy. But it is an essay in myth creation.
The kind of future which is here imagined, should not, I think, seem wholly
fantastic, or at any rate not so fantastic as to be without significance, to
modern western individuals who are familiar with the outlines of contemporary
thought. Had I chosen matter in which there was nothing whatever of the
fantastic, its very plausibility would have rendered it unplausible. For one
thing at least is almost certain about the future, namely, that very much of it
will be such as we should call incredible. In one important respect, indeed, I
may perhaps seem to have strayed into barren extravagance. I have supposed an
inhabitant of the remote future to be communicating with us of today. I have
pretended that he has the power of partially controlling the operations of minds
now living, and that this book is the product of such influence. Yet even this
fiction is perhaps not wholly excluded by our thought. I might, of course,
easily have omitted it without more than superficial alteration of the theme.
But its introduction was more than a convenience. Only by some such radical and
bewildering device could I embody the possibility that there may be more in
time's nature than is revealed to us. Indeed, only by some such trick could I do
justice to the conviction that our whole present mentality is but a confused and
halting first experiment.
If ever this book should happen to be discovered by some future individual, for
instance by a member of the next generation sorting out the rubbish of his
predecessors, it will certainly raise a smile; for very much is bound to happen
of which no hint is yet discoverable. And indeed even in our generation
circumstances may well change so unexpectedly and so radically that this book
may very soon look ridiculous. But no matter. We of today must conceive our
relation to the rest of the universe as best we can; and even if our images must
seem fantastic to future men, they may none the less serve their purpose today.
Some readers, taking my story to be an attempt at prophecy, may deem it
unwarrantably pessimistic. But it is not prophecy; it is myth, or an essay in
myth. We all desire the future to turn out more happily than I have figured it.
In particular we desire our present civilization to advance steadily toward some
kind of Utopia. The thought that it may decay and collapse, and that all its
spiritual treasure may be lost irrevocably, is repugnant to us. Yet this must be
faced as at least a possibility. And this kind of tragedy, the tragedy of a
race, must, I think, be admitted in any adequate myth.
And so, while gladly recognizing that in our time there are strong seeds of hope
as well as of despair, I have imagined for aesthetic purposes that our race will
destroy itself. There is today a very earnest movement for peace and
international unity; and surely with good fortune and intelligent management it
may triumph. Most earnestly we must hope that it will. But I have figured things
out in this book in such a manner that this great movement fails. I suppose it
incapable of preventing a succession of national wars; and I permit it only to
achieve the goal of unity and peace after the mentality of the race has been
undermined. May this not happen! May the League of Nations, or some more
strictly cosmopolitan authority, win through before it is too late! Yet let us
find room in our minds and in our hearts for the thought that the whole
enterprise of our race may be after all but a minor and unsuccessful episode in
a vaster drama, which also perhaps may be tragic.
Any attempt to conceive such a drama must take into account whatever
contemporary science has to say about man's own nature and his physical
environment. I have tried to supplement my own slight knowledge of natural
science by pestering my scientific friends. In particular, I have been very
greatly helped by conversation with Professors P. G. H. Boswell, J. Johnstone,
and J. Rice, of Liverpool. But they must not be held responsible for the many
deliberate extravagances which, though they serve a purpose in the design, may
jar upon the scientific ear.
To. Dr. L. A. Reid I am much indebted for general comments, and to Mr. E. V.
Rieu for many very valuable suggestions. To Professor and Mrs. L. C. Martin, who
read the whole book in manuscript, I cannot properly express my gratitude for
constant encouragement and criticism. To my wife's devastating sanity I owe far
more than she supposes.
Before closing this preface I would remind the reader that throughout the
following pages the speaker, the first person singular, is supposed to be, not
the actual writer, but an individual living in the extremely distant future.

W. O. S.
West Kirby
July, 1930



THIS book has two authors, one contemporary with its readers, the other an
inhabitant of an age which they would call the distant future. The brain that
conceives and writes these sentences lives in the time of Einstein. Yet I, the
true inspirer of this book, I who have begotten it upon that brain, I who
influence that primitive being's conception, inhabit an age which, for Einstein,
lies in the very remote future.
The actual writer thinks he is merely contriving a work of fiction. Though he
seeks to tell a plausible story, he neither believes it himself, nor expects
others to believe it. Yet the story is true. A being whom you would call a
future man has seized the docile but scarcely adequate brain of your
contemporary, and is trying to direct its familiar processes for an alien
purpose. Thus a future epoch makes contact with your age. Listen patiently; for
we who are the Last Men earnestly desire to communicate with you, who are
members of the First Human Species. We can help you, and we need your help.
You cannot believe it. Your acquaintance with time is very imperfect, and so
your understanding of it is defeated. But no matter. Do not perplex yourselves
about this truth, so difficult to you, so familiar to us of a later aeon. Do but
entertain, merely as a fiction, the idea that the thought and will of
individuals future to you may intrude, rarely and with difficulty, into the
mental processes of some of your contemporaries. Pretend that you believe this,
and that the following chronicle is an authentic message from the Last Men.
Imagine the consequences of such a belief. Otherwise I cannot give life to the
great history which it is my task to tell.
When your writers romance of the future, they too easily imagine a progress
toward some kind of Utopia, in which beings like themselves live in unmitigated
bliss among circumstances perfectly suited to a fixed human nature. I shall not
describe any such paradise. Instead, I shall record huge fluctuations of joy and
woe, the results of changes not only in man's environment but in his fluid
nature. And I must tell how, in my own age, having at last achieved spiritual
maturity and the philosophic mind, man is forced by an unexpected crisis to
embark on an enterprise both repugnant and desperate.
I invite you, then, to travel in imagination through the aeons that lie between
your age and mine. I ask you to watch such a history of change, grief, hope, and
unforeseen catastrophe, as has nowhere else occurred, within the girdle of the
Milky Way. But first, it is well to contemplate for a few moments the mere
magnitudes of cosmical events. For, compressed as it must necessarily be, the
narrative that I have to tell may seem to present a sequence of adventures and
disasters crowded together, with no intervening peace. But in fact man's career
has been less like a mountain torrent hurtling from rock to rock, than a great
sluggish river, broken very seldom by rapids. Ages of quiescence, often of
actual stagnation, filled with the monotonous problems and toils of countless
almost identical lives, have been punctuated by rare moments of racial
adventure. Nay, even these few seemingly rapid events themselves were in fact
often long-drawn-out and tedious. They acquire a mere illusion of speed from the
speed of the narrative.
The receding depths of time and space, though they can indeed be haltingly
conceived even by primitive minds, cannot be imaged save by beings of a more
ample nature. A panorama of mountains appears to naive vision almost as a flat
picture, and the starry void is a roof pricked with light. Yet in reality, while
the immediate terrain could be spanned in an hour's walking, the sky-line of
peaks holds within it plain beyond plain. Similarly with time. While the near
past and the near future display within them depth beyond depth, time's remote
immensities are foreshortened into flatness. It is almost inconceivable to
simple minds that man's whole history should be but a moment in the life of the
stars, and that remote events should embrace within themselves aeon upon aeon.
In your day you have learnt to calculate something of the magnitudes of time and
space. But to grasp my theme in its true proportions, it is necessary to do more
than calculate. It is necessary to brood upon these magnitudes, to draw out the
mind toward them, to feel the littleness of your here and now, and of the moment
of civilization which you call history. You cannot hope to image, as we do, such
vast proportions as one in a thousand million, because your sense-organs, and
therefore your perceptions, are too coarse-grained to discriminate so small a
fraction of their total field. But you may at least, by mere contemplation,
grasp more constantly and firmly the significance of your calculations.
Men of your day, when they look back into the history of their planet, remark
not only the length of time but also the bewildering acceleration of life's
progress. Almost stationary in the earliest period of the earth's career, in
your moment it seems headlong Mind in you, it is said, not merely stands higher
than ever before in respect of percipience, knowledge, insight, delicacy of
admiration, and sanity of will, but also it moves upward century by century ever
more swiftly. What next? Surely, you think, there will come a time when there
will be no further heights to conquer.
This view is mistaken. You underestimate even the foothills that stand in front
of you, and never suspect that far above them, hidden by cloud, rise precipices
and snow-fields. The mental and spiritual advances which, in your day, mind in
the solar system has still to attempt, are overwhelmingly more complex, more
precarious and dangerous, than those which have already been achieved. And
though in certain humble respects you have attained full development, the
loftier potencies of the spirit in you have not yet even begun to put forth
Somehow, then, I must help you to feel not only the vastness of time and space,
but also the vast diversity of mind's possible modes. But this I can only hint
to you, since so much lies wholly beyond the range of your imagination.
Historians living in your day need grapple only with one moment of the flux of
time. But I have to present in one book the essence not of centuries but of
aeons. Clearly we cannot walk at leisure through such a tract, in which a
million terrestrial years are but as a year is to your historians. We must fly.
We must travel as you do in your aeroplanes, observing only the broad features
of the continent. But since the flier sees nothing of the minute inhabitants
below him, and since it is they who make history, we must also punctuate our
flight with many descents, skimming as it were over the house-tops, and even
alighting at critical points to speak face to face with individuals. And as the
plane's journey must begin with a slow ascent from the intricate pedestrian view
to wider horizons, so we must begin with a somewhat close inspection of that
little period which includes the culmination and collapse of your own primitive
OBSERVE now your own epoch of history as it appears to the Last Men.
Long before the human spirit awoke to clear cognizance of the world and itself,
it sometimes stirred in its sleep, opened bewildered eyes, and slept again. One
of these moments of precocious experience embraces the whole struggle of the
First Men from savagery toward civilization. Within that moment, you stand
almost in the very instant when the species attains its zenith. Scarcely at all
beyond your own day is this early culture to be seen progressing, and already in
your time the mentality of the race shows signs of decline.
The first, and some would say the greatest, achievement of your own "Western"
culture was the conceiving of two ideals of conduct, both essential to the
spirit's well-being. Socrates, delighting in the truth for its own sake and not
merely for practical ends, glorified unbiased thinking, honesty of mind and
speech. Jesus, delighting in the actual human persons around him, and in that
flavour of divinity which, for him, pervaded the world, stood for unselfish love
of neighbours and of God. Socrates woke to the ideal of dispassionate
intelligence, Jesus to the ideal of passionate yet self-oblivious worship.
Socrates urged intellectual integrity, Jesus integrity of will. Each, of course,
though starting with a different emphasis, involved the other.
Unfortunately both these ideals demanded of the human brain a degree of vitality
and coherence of which the nervous system of the First Men was never really
capable. For many centuries these twin stars enticed the more precociously human
of human animals, in vain. And the failure to put these ideals in practice
helped to engender in the race a cynical lassitude which was one cause of its
There were other causes. The peoples from whom sprang Socrates and Jesus were
also among the first to conceive admiration for Fate. In Greek tragic art and
Hebrew worship of divine law, as also in the Indian resignation, man
experienced, at first very obscurely, that vision of an alien and supernal
beauty, which was to exalt and perplex him again and again throughout his whole
career. The conflict between this worship and the intransigent loyalty to Life,
embattled against Death, proved insoluble. And though few individuals were ever
clearly conscious of the issue, the first human species was again and again
unwittingly hampered in its spiritual development by this supreme perplexity.
While man was being whipped and enticed by these precocious experiences, the
actual social constitution of his world kept changing so rapidly through
increased mastery over physical energy, that his primitive nature could no
longer cope with the complexity of his environment. Animals that were fashioned
for hunting and fighting in the wild were suddenly called upon to be citizens,
and moreover citizens of a world-community. At the same time they found
themselves possessed of certain very dangerous powers which their petty minds
were not fit to use. Man struggled; but, as you shall hear, he broke under the
The European War, called at the time the War to End War, was the first and least
destructive of those world conflicts which display so tragically the
incompetence of the First Men to control their own nature. At the outset a
tangle of motives, some honourable and some disreputable, ignited a conflict for
which both antagonists were all too well prepared, though neither seriously
intended it. A real difference of temperament between Latin France and Nordic
Germany combined with a superficial rivalry between Germany and England, and a
number of stupidly brutal gestures on the part of the German Government and
military command, to divide the world into two camps; yet in such a manner that
it is impossible to find any difference of principle between them. During the
struggle each party was convinced that it alone stood for civilization. But in
fact both succumbed now and again to impulses of sheer brutality, and both
achieved acts not merely of heroism, but of generosity unusual among the First
Men. For conduct which to clearer minds seems merely sane, was in those days to
be performed only by rare vision and self-mastery.
As the months of agony advanced, there was bred in the warring peoples a genuine
and even passionate will for peace and a united world. Out of the conflict of
the tribes arose, at least for a while, a spirit loftier than tribalism. But
this fervour lacked as yet clear guidance, lacked even the courage of
conviction. The peace which followed the European War is one of the most
significant moments of ancient history; for it epitomizes both the dawning
vision and the incurable blindness, both the impulse toward a higher loyalty and
the compulsive tribalism of a race which was, after all, but superficially
One brief but tragic incident, which occurred within a century after the
European War, may be said to have sealed the fate of the First Men. During this
century the will for peace and sanity was already becoming a serious factor in
history. Save for a number of most untoward accidents, to be recorded in due
course, the party of peace might have dominated Europe during its most dangerous
period; and, through Europe, the world. With either a little less bad luck or a
fraction more of vision and self-control at this critical time, there might
never have occurred that aeon of darkness, in which the First Men were presently
to be submerged. For had victory been gained before the general level of
mentality had seriously begun to decline, the attainment of the world state
might have been regarded, not as an end, but as the first step toward true
civilization. But this was not to be.
After the European War the defeated nation, formerly no less militaristic than
the others, now became the most pacific, and a stronghold of enlightenment.
Almost everywhere, indeed, there had occurred a profound change of heart, but
chiefly in Germany. The victors on the other hand, in spite of their real
craving to be human and generous, and to found a new world, were led partly by
their own timidity, partly by their governors' blind diplomacy, into all the
vices against which they believed themselves to have been crusading. After a
brief period in which they desperately affected amity for one another they began
to indulge once more in physical conflicts. Of these conflicts, two must be
The first outbreak, and the less disastrous for Europe, was a short and
grotesque struggle between France and Italy. Since the fall of ancient Rome, the
Italians had excelled more in art and literature than in martial achievement.
But the heroic liberation of Italy in the nineteenth Christian century had made
Italians peculiarly sensitive to national prestige; and since among Western
peoples national vigour was measured in terms of military glory, the Italians
were fired, by their success against a rickety foreign domination, to vindicate
themselves more thoroughly against the charge of mediocrity in warfare. After
the European War, however, Italy passed through a phase of social disorder and
self-distrust. Subsequently a flamboyant but sincere national party gained
control of the State, and afforded the Italians a new selfrespect, based on
reform of the social services, and on militaristic policy. Trains became
punctual, streets clean, morals puritanical. Aviation records were won for
Italy. The young, dressed up and taught to play at soldiers with real fire-arms,
were persuaded to regard themselves as saviours of the nation, encouraged to
shed blood, and used to enforce the will of the Government. The whole movement
was engineered chiefly by a man whose genius in action combined with his
rhetoric and crudity of thought to make him a very successful dictator. Almost
miraculously he drilled the Italian nation into efficiency. At the same time,
with great emotional effect and incredible lack of humour he trumpeted Italy's
self-importance, and her will to "expand." And since Italians were slow to learn
the necessity of restricting their population, "expansion" was a real need.
Thus it came about that Italy, hungry for French territory in Africa, jealous of
French leadership of the Latin races, indignant at the protection afforded to
Italian "traitors" in France, became increasingly prone to quarrel with the most
assertive of her late allies. It was a frontier incident, a fancied "insult to
the Italian flag," which at last caused an unauthorized raid upon French
territory by a small party of Italian militia. The raiders were captured, but
French blood was shed. The consequent demand for apology and reparation was
calm, but subtly offensive to Italian dignity. Italian patriots worked
themselves into short-sighted fury. The Dictator, far from daring to apologize,
was forced to require the release of the captive militia-men, and finally to
declare war. After a single sharp engagement the relentless armies of France
pressed into North Italy. Resistance, at first heroic, soon became chaotic. In
consternation the Italians woke from their dream of military glory. The populace
turned against the Dictator whom they themselves had forced to declare war. In a
theatrical but gallant attempt to dominate the Roman mob, he failed, and was
killed. The new government made a hasty peace, ceding to France a frontier
territory which she had already annexed for "security."
Thenceforth Italians were less concerned to outshine the glory of Garibaldi than
to emulate the greater glory of Dante, Giotto and Galileo.
France had now complete mastery of the continent of Europe; but having much to
lose, she behaved arrogantly and nervously. It was not long before peace was
once more disturbed.
Scarcely had the last veterans of the European War ceased from wearying their
juniors with reminiscence, when the long rivalry between France and England
culminated in a dispute between their respective Governments over a case of
sexual outrage said to have been committed by a French African soldier upon an
Englishwoman. In this quarrel, the British Government happened to be definitely
in the wrong, and was probably confused by its own sexual repressions. The
outrage had never been committed. The facts which gave rise to the rumour were,
that an idle and neurotic Englishwoman in the south of France, craving the
embraces of a "cave man," had seduced a Senegalese corporal in her own
apartments. When, later, he had shown signs of boredom, she took revenge by
declaring that he had attacked her indecently in the woods above the town. This
rumour was such that the English were all too prone to savour and believe. At
the same time, the magnates of the English Press could not resist this
opportunity of trading upon the public's sexuality, tribalism and
self-righteousness. There followed an epidemic of abuse, and occasional
violence, against French subjects in England; and thus the party of fear and
militarism in France was given the opportunity it had long sought. For the real
cause of this war was connected with air power. France had persuaded the League
of Nations (in one of its less intelligent moments) to restrict the size of
military aeroplanes in such a manner that, while London lay within easy striking
distance of the French coast, Paris could only with difficulty be touched by
England. This state of affairs obviously could not last long. Britain was
agitating more and more insistently for the removal of the restriction. On the
other hand, there was an increasing demand for complete aerial disarmament in
Europe; and so strong was the party of sanity in France, that the scheme would
almost certainly have been accepted by the French Government. On both counts,
therefore, the militarists of France were eager to strike while yet there was
In an instant, the whole fruit of this effort for disarmament was destroyed.
That subtle difference of mentality which had ever made it impossible for these
two nations to understand one another, was suddenly exaggerated by this
provocative incident into an apparently insoluble discord. England reverted to
her conviction that all Frenchmen were sensualists, while to France the English
appeared, as often before, the most offensive of hypocrites. In vain did the
saner minds in each country insist on the fundamental humanity of both. In vain,
did the chastened Germans seek to mediate. In vain did the League, which by now
had very great prestige and authority, threaten both parties with expulsion,
even with chastisement. Rumour got about in Paris that England, breaking all her
international pledges, was now feverishly building giant planes which would
wreck France from Calais to Marseilles. And indeed the rumour was not wholly a
slander, for when the struggle began, the British air force was found to have a
range of intensive action far wider than was expected. Yet the actual outbreak
of war took England by surprise. While the London papers were selling out upon
the news that war was declared, enemy planes appeared over the city. In a couple
of hours a third of London was in ruins, and half her population lay poisoned in
the streets. One bomb, falling beside the British Museum, turned the whole of
Bloomsbury into a crater, wherein fragments of mummies, statues, and manuscripts
were mingled with the contents of shops, and morsels of salesmen and the
intelligentsia. Thus in a moment was destroyed a large proportion of England's
most precious relics and most fertile brains.
Then occurred one of those microscopic, yet supremely potent incidents which
sometimes mould the course of events for centuries. During the bombardment a
special meeting of the British Cabinet was held in a cellar in Downing Street.
The party in power at the time was progressive, mildly pacifist, and timorously
cosmopolitan. It had got itself involved in the French quarrel quite
unintentionally. At this Cabinet meeting an idealistic member urged upon his
colleagues the need for a supreme gesture of heroism and generosity on the part
of Britain. Raising his voice with difficulty above the bark of English guns and
the volcanic crash of French bombs, he suggested sending by radio the following
message: "From the people of England to the people of France. Catastrophe has
fallen on us at your hands. In this hour of agony, all hate and anger have left
us. Our eyes are opened. No longer can we think of ourselves as English merely,
and you as merely French; all of us are, before all else, civilized beings. Do
not imagine that we are defeated, and that this message is a cry for mercy. Our
armament is intact, and our resources still very great. Yet, because of the
revelation which has come to us today, we will not fight. No plane, no ship, no
soldier of Britain shall commit any further act of hostility. Do what you will.
It would be better even that a great people should be destroyed than that the
whole race should be thrown into turmoil. But you will not strike again. As our
own eyes have been opened by agony, yours now will be opened by our act of
brotherhood. The spirit of France and the spirit of England differ. They differ
deeply; but only as the eye differs from the hand. Without you, we should be
barbarians. And without us, even the bright spirit of France would be but half
expressed. For the spirit of France lives again in our culture and in our very
speech; and the spirit of England is that which strikes from you your most
distinctive brilliance."
At no earlier stage of man's history could such a message have been considered
seriously by any government. Had it been suggested during the previous war, its
author would have been ridiculed, execrated, perhaps even murdered. But since
those days, much had happened. Increased communication, increased cultural
intercourse, and a prolonged vigorous campaign for cosmopolitanism, had changed
the mentality of Europe. Even so, when, after a brief discussion, the Government
ordered this unique message to be sent, its members were awed by their own act.
As one of them expressed it, they were uncertain whether it was the devil or the
deity that had possessed them, but possessed they certainly were.
That night the people of London (those who were left) experienced an exaltation
of spirit. Disorganization of the city's life, overwhelming physical suffering
and compassion, the consciousness of an unprecedented spiritual act in which
each individual felt himself to have somehow participated--these influences
combined to produce, even in the bustle and confusion of a wrecked metropolis, a
certain restrained fervour, and a deep peace of mind, wholly unfamiliar to
Meanwhile the undamaged North knew not whether to regard the Government's sudden
pacificism as a piece of cowardice or as a superbly courageous gesture. Very
soon, however, they began to make a virtue of necessity, and incline to the
latter view. Paris itself was divided by the message into a vocal party of
triumph and a silent party of bewilderment. But as the hours advanced, and the
former urged a policy of aggression, the latter found voice for the cry, "Viva
l'Angleterre, viva l'humanité." And so strong by now was the will for
cosmopolitanism that the upshot would almost certainly have been a triumph of
sanity, had there not occurred in England an accident which tilted the whole
precarious course of events in the opposite direction.
The bombardment had occurred on a Friday night. On Saturday the repercussions of
England's great message were echoing throughout the nations. That evening, as a
wet and foggy day was achieving its pallid sunset, a French plane was seen over
the western outskirts of London. It gradually descended, and was regarded by
onlookers as a messenger of peace. Lower and lower it came. Something was seen
to part from it and fall. In a few seconds an immense explosion occurred in the
neighbourhood of a great school and a royal palace. There was hideous
destruction in the school. The palace escaped. But, chief disaster for the cause
of peace, a beautiful and extravagantly popular young princess was caught by the
explosion. Her body, obscenely mutilated, but still recognizable to every
student of the illustrated papers, was impaled upon some high park-railings
beside the main thoroughfare toward the city. Immediately after the explosion
the enemy plane crashed, burst into flame, and was destroyed with its occupants.
A moment's cool thinking would have convinced all onlookers that this disaster
was an accident, that the plane was a belated straggler in distress, and no
messenger of hate. But, confronted with the mangled bodies of schoolboys, and
harrowed by cries of agony and terror, the populace was in no state for
ratiocination. Moreover there was the princess, an overwhelmingly potent sexual
symbol and emblem of tribalism, slaughtered and exposed before the eyes of her
The news was flashed over the country, and distorted of course in such a manner
as to admit no doubt that this act was the crowning deviltry of sexual fiends
beyond the Channel. In an hour the mood of London was changed, and the whole
population of England succumbed to a paroxysm of primitive hate far more
extravagant than any that had occurred even in the war against Germany. The
British air force, all too well equipped and prepared, was ordered to Paris.
Meanwhile in France the militaristic government had fallen, and the party of
peace was now in control. While the streets were still thronged by its
vociferous supporters, the first bomb fell. By Monday morning Paris was
obliterated. There followed a few days of strife between the opposing armaments,
and of butchery committed upon the civilian populations. In spite of French
gallantry, the superior organization, mechanical efficiency, and more cautious
courage of the British Air Force soon made it impossible for a French plane to
leave the ground. But if France was broken, England was too crippled to pursue
her advantage. Every city of the two countries was completely disorganized.
Famine, riot, looting, and above all the rapidly accelerating and quite
uncontrollable spread of disease, disintegrated both States, and brought war to
a standstill.
Indeed, not only did hostilities cease, but also both nations were too shattered
even to continue hating one another. The energies of each were for a while
wholly occupied in trying to prevent complete annihilation by famine and
pestilence. In the work of reconstruction they had to depend very largely on
help from outside. The management of each country was taken over, for the time,
by the League of Nations.
It is significant to compare the mood of Europe at this time with that which
followed the European War. Formerly, though there had been a real effort toward
unity, hate and suspicion continued to find expression in national policies.
There was much wrangling about indemnities, reparations, securities; and the
division of the whole continent into two hostile camps persisted, though by then
it was purely artificial and sentimental. But after the Anglo-French war, a very
different mood prevailed. There was no mention of reparations, no possibility of
seeking security by alliances. Patriotism simply faded out, for the time, under
the influence of extreme disaster. The two enemy peoples co-operated with the
League in the work of reconstructing not only each one itself, but each one the
other. This change of heart was due partly to the temporary collapse of the
whole national organization, partly to the speedy dominance of each nation by
pacifist and anti-nationalist Labour, partly to the fact that the League was
powerful enough to inquire into and publish the whole story of the origins of
the war, and expose each combatant to itself and to the world in a sorry light.
We have now observed in some detail the incident which stands out in man's
history as perhaps the most dramatic example of petty cause and mighty effect.
For consider. Through some miscalculation, or a mere defect in his instruments,
a French airman went astray, and came to grief in London after the sending of
the peace message. Had this not happened, England and France would not have been
wrecked. And, had the war been nipped at the outset, as it almost was, the party
of sanity throughout the world would have been very greatly strengthened; the
precarious will to unity would have gained the conviction which it lacked, would
have dominated man not merely during the terrified revulsion after each spasm of
national strife, but as a permanent policy based on mutual trust. Indeed so
delicately balanced were man's primitive and developed impulses at this time,
that but for this trivial accident, the movement which was started by England's
peace message might have proceeded steadily and rapidly toward the unification
of the race. It might, that is, have attained its goal, before, instead of
after, the period of mental deterioration, which in fact resulted from a long
epidemic of wars. And so the first Dark Age might never have occurred.
A subtle change now began to affect the whole mental climate of the planet. This
is remarkable, since, viewed for instance from America or China, this war was,
after all, but a petty disturbance, scarcely more than a brawl between
quarrelsome statelets, an episode in the decline of a senile civilization.
Expressed in dollars, the damage was not impressive to the wealthy West and the
potentially wealthy East. The British Empire, indeed, that unique banyan tree of
peoples, was henceforward less effective in world diplomacy; but since the bond
that held it together was by now wholly a bond of sentiment, the Empire was not
disintegrated by the misfortune of its parent trunk. Indeed, a common fear of
American economic imperialism was already helping the colonies to remain loyal.
Yet this petty brawl was in fact an irreparable and farreaching disaster. For in
spite of those differences of temperament which had forced the English and
French into conflict, they had co-operated, though often unwittingly, in
tempering and clarifying the mentality of Europe. Though their faults played a
great part in wrecking Western civilization, the virtues from which these vices
sprang were needed for the salvation of a world prone to uncritical romance. In
spite of the inveterate blindness and meanness of France in international
policy, and the even more disastrous timidity of England, their influence on
culture had been salutary, and was at this moment sorely needed. For, poles
asunder in tastes and ideals, these two peoples were yet alike in being on the
whole more sceptical, and in their finest individuals more capable of
dispassionate yet creative intelligence, than any other Western people. This
very character produced their distinctive faults, namely, in the English a
caution that amounted often to moral cowardice, and in the French a certain
myopic complacency and cunning, which masqueraded as realism. Within each nation
there was, of course, great variety. English minds were of many types. But most
were to some extent distinctively English; and hence the special character of
England's influence in the world. Relatively detached, sceptical, cautious,
practical, more tolerant than others, because more complacent and less prone to
fervour, the typical Englishman was capable both of generosity and of spite,
both of heroism and of timorous or cynical abandonment of ends proclaimed as
vital to the race. French and English alike might sin against humanity, but in
different manners. The French sinned blindly, through a strange inability to
regard France dispassionately. The English sinned through faint-heartedness, and
with open eyes. Among all nations they excelled in the union of common sense and
vision. But also among all nations they were most ready to betray their visions
in the name of common sense. Hence their reputation for perfidy.
Differences of national character and patriotic sentiment were not the most
fundamental distinctions between men at this time. Although in each nation a
common tradition or cultural environment imposed a certain uniformity on all its
members, yet in each nation every mental type was present, though in different
proportions. The most significant of all cultural differences between men,
namely, the difference between the tribalists and the cosmopolitans, traversed
the national boundaries. For throughout the world something like a new,
cosmopolitan "nation" with a new all-embracing patriotism was beginning to
appear. In every land there was by now a salting of awakened minds who, whatever
their temperament and politics and formal faith, were at one in respect of their
allegiance to humanity as a race or as an adventuring spirit. Unfortunately this
new loyalty was still entangled with old prejudices. In some minds the defence
of the human spirit was sincerely identified with the defence of a particular
nation, conceived as the home of all enlightenment. In others, social injustice
kindled a militant proletarian loyalty, which, though at heart cosmopolitan,
infected alike its champions and its enemies with sectarian passions.
Another sentiment, less definite and conscious than cosmopolitanism, also played
some part in the minds of men, namely loyalty toward the dispassionate
intelligence, and perplexed admiration of the world which it was beginning to
reveal, a world august, immense, subtle, in which, seemingly, man was doomed to
play a part minute but tragic. In many races there had, no doubt, long existed
some fidelity toward the dispassionate intelligence. But it was England and
France that excelled in this respect. On the other hand, even in these two
nations there was much that was opposed to this allegiance. These, like all
peoples of the age, were liable to bouts of insane emotionalism. Indeed the
French mind, in general so clear sighted, so realistic, so contemptuous of
ambiguity and mist, so detached in all its final valuations, was yet so obsessed
with the idea "France" as to be wholly incapable of generosity in international
affairs. But it was France, with England, that had chiefly inspired the
intellectual integrity which was the rarest and brightest thread of Western
culture, not only within the territories of these two nations, but throughout
Europe and America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth Christian centuries, the
French and English had conceived, more clearly than other peoples, an interest
in the objective world for its own sake, had founded physical science, and had
fashioned out of scepticism the most brilliantly constructive of mental
instruments. At a later stage it was largely the French and English who, by
means of this instrument, had revealed man and the physical universe in
something like their true proportions; and it was chiefly the elect of these two
peoples that had been able to exult in this bracing discovery.
With the eclipse of France and England this great tradition of dispassionate
cognizance began to wane. Europe was now led by Germany. And the Germans, in
spite of their practical genius, their scholarly contributions to history, their
brilliant science and austere philosophy, were at heart romantic. This
inclination was both their strength and their weakness. Thereby they had been
inspired to their finest art and their most profound metaphysical speculation.
But thereby they were also often rendered un-self-critical and pompous. More
eager than Western minds to solve the mystery of existence, less sceptical of
the power of human reason, and therefore more inclined to ignore or argue away
recalcitrant facts, the Germans were courageous systematizers. In this direction
they had achieved greatly. Without them, European thought would have been
chaotic. But their passion for order and for a systematic reality behind the
disorderly appearances, rendered their reasoning all too often biased. Upon
shifty foundations they balanced ingenious ladders to reach the stars. Thus,
without constant ribald criticism from across the Rhine and the North Sea, the
Teutonic soul could not achieve full selfexpression. A vague uneasiness about
its own sentimentalism and lack of detachment did indeed persuade this great
people to assert its virility now and again by ludicrous acts of brfltality, and
to compensate for its dream life by ceaseless hard-driven and brilliantly
successful commerce; but what was needed was a far more radical self-criticism.
Beyond Germany, Russia. Here was a people whose genius needed, even more than
that of the Germans, discipline under the critical intelligence. Since the
Bolshevic revolution, there had risen in the scattered towns of this immense
tract of corn and forest, and still more in the metropolis, an original mode of
art and thought, in which were blended a passion of iconoclasm, a vivid
sensuousness, and yet also a very remarkable and essentially mystical or
intuitive power of detachment from all private cravings. America and Western
Europe were interested first in the individual human life, and only secondarily
in the social whole. For these peoples, loyalty involved a reluctant
self-sacrifice, and the ideal was ever a person, excelling in prowess of various
kinds. Society was but the necessary matrix of this jewel. But the Russians,
whether by an innate gift, or through the influence of agelong political
tyranny, religious devotion, and a truly social revolution, were prone to
self-contemptuous interest in groups, prone, indeed, to a spontaneous worship of
whatever was conceived as loftier than the individual man, whether society, or
God, or the blind forces of nature. Western Europe could reach by way of the
intellect a precise conception of man's littleness and irrelevance when regarded
as an alien among the stars; could even glimpse from this standpoint the cosmic
theme in which all human striving is but one contributory factor. But the
Russian mind, whether orthodox or Tolstoyan or fanatically materialist, could
attain much the same conviction intuitively, by direct perception, instead of
after an arduous intellectual pilgrimage; and, reaching it, could rejoice in it.
But because of this independence of intellect, the experience was confused,
erratic, frequently misinterpreted; and its effect on conduct was rather
explosive than directive. Great indeed was the need that the West and East of
Europe should strengthen and temper one another.
After the Bolshevic revolution a new element appeared in Russian culture, and
one which had not been known before in any modern state. The old regime was
displaced by a real proletarian government, which, though an oligarchy, and
sometimes bloody and fanatical, abolished the old tyranny of class, and
encouraged the humblest citizen to be proud of his partnership in the great
community. Still more important, the native Russian disposition not to take
material possessions very seriously co-operated with the political revolution,
and brought about such a freedom from the snobbery of wealth as was quite
foreign to the West. Attention which elsewhere was absorbed in the massing or
display of money was in Russia largely devoted either to spontaneous instinctive
enjoyments or to cultural activity.
In fact it was among the Russian townsfolk, less cramped by tradition than other
city-dwellers, that the spirit of the First Men was beginning to achieve a fresh
and sincere readjustment to the facts of its changing world. And from the
townsfolk something of the new way of life was spreading even to the peasants;
while in the depths of Asia a hardy and ever-growing population looked
increasingly to Russia, not only for machinery, but for ideas. There were times
when it seemed that Russia might transform the almost universal autumn of the
race into a new spring.
After the Bolshevic revolution the New Russia had been boycotted by the West,
and had therefore passed through a stage of self-conscious extravagance.
Communism and naďve materialism became the dogmas of a new crusading atheist
church. All criticism was suppressed, even more rigorously than was the opposite
criticism in other countries; and Russians were taught to think of themselves as
saviours of mankind. Later, however, as economic isolation began to hamper the
Bolshevic state, the new culture was mellowed and broadened. Bit by bit,
economic intercourse with the West was restored, and with it cultural
intercourse increased. The intuitive mystical detachment of Russia began to
define itself, and so consolidate itself, in terms of the intellectual
detachment of the best thought of the West. Iconoclasm was harnessed. The life
of the senses and of impulse was tempered by a new critical movement. Fanatical
materialism, whose fire had been derived from a misinterpreted, but intense,
mystical intuition of dispassionate Reality, began to assimilate itself to the
far more rational stoicism which was the rare flower of the West. At the same
time, through intercourse with peasant culture and with the peoples of Asia, the
new Russia began to grasp in one unifying act of apprehension both the grave
disillusion of France and England and the ecstasy of the East.
The harmonizing of these two moods was now the chief spiritual need of mankind.
Failure to integrate them into an all-dominant sentiment could not but lead to
racial insanity. And so in due course it befell. Meanwhile this task of
integration was coming to seem more and more urgent to the best minds in Russia,
and might have been finally accomplished had they been longer illumined by the
cold light of the West.
But this was not to be. The intellectual confidence of France and England,
already shaken through progressive economic eclipse at the hands of America and
Germany, was now undermined. For many decades England had watched these
newcomers capture her markets. The loss had smothered her with a swarm of
domestic problems, such as could never be solved save by drastic surgery; and
this was a course which demanded more courage and energy than was possible to a
people without hope. Then came the war with France, and harrowing
disintegration. No delirium seized her, such as occurred in France; yet her
whole mentality was changed, and her sobering influence in Europe was lessened.
As for France, her cultural life was now grievously reduced. It might, indeed,
have recovered from the final blow, had it not already been slowly poisoned by
gluttonous nationalism. For love of France was the undoing of the French. They
prized the truly admirable spirit of France so extravagantly, that they regarded
all other nations as barbarians.
Thus it befell that in Russia the doctrines of communism and materialism,
products of German systematists, survived uncriticized. On the other hand, the
practice of communism was gradually undermined. For the Russian state came
increasingly under the influence of Western, and especially American, finance.
The materialism of the official creed also became a farce, for it was foreign to
the Russian mind. Thus between practice and theory there was, in both respects,
a profound inconsistency. What was once a vital and promising culture became
The discrepancy between communist theory and individualist practice in Russia
was one cause of the next disaster which befell Europe. Between Russia and
Germany there should have been close partnership, based on interchange of
machinery and corn. But the theory of communism stood in the way, and in a
strange manner. Russian industrial organization had proved impossible without
American capital; and little by little this influence had transformed the
communistic system. From the Baltic to the Himalayas and the Behring Straits,
pasture, timber lands, machine-tilled corn-land, oilfields, and a spreading rash
of industrial towns, were increasingly dependent on American finance and
organization. Yet not America, but the far less individualistic Germany, had
become in the Russian mind the symbol of capitalism. Selfrighteous hate of
Germany compensated Russia for her own betrayal of the communistic ideal. This
perverse antagonism was encouraged by the Americans; who, strong in their own
individualism and prosperity, and by now contemptuously tolerant of Russian
doctrines, were concerned only to keep Russian finance to themselves. In truth,
of course, it was America that had helped Russia's self-betrayal; and it was the
spirit of America that was most alien to the Russian spirit. But American wealth
was by now indispensable to Russia; so the hate due to America had to be borne
vicariously by Germany.
The Germans, for their part, were aggrieved that the Americans had ousted them
from a most profitable field of enterprise, and in particular from the
exploitation of Russian Asiatic oil. The economic life of the human race had for
some time been based on coal, but latterly oil had been found a far more
convenient source of power; and as the oil store of the planet was much smaller
than its coal store, and the expenditure of oil had of course been wholly
uncontrolled and wasteful, a shortage was already being felt. Thus the national
ownership of the remaining oil fields had become a main factor in politics and a
fertile source of wars. America, having used up most of her own supplies, was
now anxious to compete with the still prolific sources under Chinese control, by
forestalling Germany in Russia. No wonder the Germans were aggrieved. But the
fault was their own. In the days when Russian communism had been seeking to
convert the world, Germany had taken over England's leadership of
individualistic Europe. While greedy for trade with Russia, she had been at the
same time frightened of contamination by Russian social doctrine, the more so
because communism had at first made some headway among the German workers.
Later, even when sane industrial reorganization in Germany had deprived
communism of its appeal to the workers, and thus had rendered it impotent, the
habit of anti-communist vituperation persisted.
Thus the peace of Europe was in constant danger from the bickerings of two
peoples who differed rather in ideals than in practice. For the one, in theory
communistic, had been forced to delegate many of the community's rights to
enterprising individuals; while the other, in theory organized on a basis of
private business, was becoming ever more socialized.
Neither party desired war. Neither was interested in military glory, for
militarism as an end was no longer reputable. Neither was professedly
nationalistic, for nationalism, though still potent, was no longer vaunted. Each
claimed to stand for internationalism and peace, but accused the other of narrow
patriotism. Thus Europe, though more pacific than ever before, was doomed to
Like most wars, the Anglo-French War had increased the desire for peace, yet
made peace less secure. Distrust, not merely the old distrust of nation for
nation, but a devastating distrust of human nature, gripped men like the dread
of insanity. Individuals who thought of themselves as wholehearted Europeans,
feared that at any moment they might succumb to some ridiculous epidemic of
patriotism and participate in the further crippling of Europe.
This dread was one cause of the formation of a European Confederacy, in which
all the nations of Europe, save Russia, surrendered their sovereignty to a
common authority and actually pooled their armaments. Ostensibly the motive of
this act was peace; but America interpreted it as directed against herself, and
withdrew from the League of Nations. China, the "natural enemy" of America,
remained within the League, hoping to use it against her rival.
From without, indeed, the Confederacy at first appeared as a close-knit whole;
but from within it was known to be insecure, and in every serious crisis it
broke. There is no need to follow the many minor wars of this period, though
their cumulative effect was serious, both economically and psychologically.
Europe did at last, however, become something like a single nation in sentiment,
though this unity was brought about less by a common loyalty than by a common
fear of America.
Final consolidation was the fruit of the Russo-German War, the cause of which
was partly economic and partly sentimental. All the peoples of Europe had long
watched with horror the financial conquest of Russia by the United States, and
they dreaded that they also must presently succumb to the same tyrant. To attack
Russia, it was thought, would be to wound America in her only vulnerable spot.
But the actual occasion of the war was sentimental. Half a century after the
Anglo-French War, a second-rate German author published a typically German book
of the baser sort. For as each nation had its characteristic virtues, so also
each was prone to characteristic follies. This book was one of those brilliant
but extravagant works in which the whole diversity of existence is interpreted
under a single formula, with extreme detail and plausibility, yet with amazing
naďveté. Highly astute within its own artificial universe, it was none the less
in wider regard quite uncritical. In two large volumes the author claimed that
the cosmos was a dualism in which a heroic and obviously Nordic spirit ruled by
divine right over an un-self-disciplined, yet servile and obviously Slavonic
spirit. The whole of history, and of evolution, was interpreted on this
principle; and of the contemporary world it was said that the Slavonic element
was poisoning Europe. One phrase in particular caused fury in Moscow, "the
anthropoid face of the Russian sub-man."
Moscow demanded apology and suppression of the book. Berlin regretted the
insult, but with its tongue in its cheek; and insisted on the freedom of the
press. Followed a crescendo of radio hate, and war.
The details of this war do not matter to one intent upon the history of mind in
the Solar System, but its result was important. Moscow, Leningrad and Berlin
were shattered from the air. The whole West of Russia was flooded with the
latest and deadliest poison gas, so that, not only was all animal and vegetable
life destroyed, but also the soil between the Black Sea and the Baltic was
rendered infertile and uninhabitable for many years. Within a week the war was
over, for the reason that the combatants were separated by an immense territory
in which life could not exist. But the effects of the war were lasting. The
Germans had set going a process which they could not stop. Whiffs of the poison
continued to be blown by fickle winds into every country of Europe and Western
Asia. It was spring-time; but save in the Atlantic coast-lands the spring
flowers shrivelled in the bud, and every young leaf had a withered rim. Humanity
also suffered; though, save in the regions near the seat of war, it was in
general only the children and the old people who suffered greatly. The poison
spread across the Continent in huge blown tresses, broad as principalities,
swinging with each change of wind. And wherever it strayed, young eyes, throats,
and lungs were blighted like the leaves.
America, after much debate, had at last decided to defend her interests in
Russia by a punitive expedition against Europe. China began to mobilize her
forces. But long before America was ready to strike, news of the widespread
poisoning changed her policy. Instead of punishment, help was given. This was a
fine gesture of goodwill. But also, as was observed in Europe, instead of being
costly, it was profitable; for inevitably it brought more of Europe under
American financial control.
The upshot of the Russo-German war, then, was that Europe was unified in
sentiment by hatred of America, and that European mentality definitely
deteriorated. This was due in part to the emotional influence of the war itself,
partly to the socially damaging effects of the poison. A proportion of the
rising generation had been rendered sickly for life. During the thirty years
which intervened before the EuroAmerican war, Europe was burdened with an
exceptional weight of invalids. First-class intelligence was on the whole rarer
than before, and was more strictly concentrated on the practical work of
Even more disastrous for the human race was the fact that the recent Russian
cultural enterprise of harmonizing Western intellectuabsm and Eastern mysticism
was now wrecked.
OVER the heads of the European tribes two mightier peoples regarded each other
with increasing dislike. Well might they; for the one cherished the most ancient
and refined of all surviving cultures, while the other, youngest and most
self-confident of the great nations, proclaimed her novel spirit as the spirit
of the future.
In the Far East, China, already half American, though largely Russian and wholly
Eastern, patiently improved her rice lands, pushed forward her railways,
organized her industries, and spoke fair to all the world. Long ago, during her
attainment of unity and independence, China had learnt much from militant
Bolshevism. And after the collapse of the Russian state it was in the East that
Russian culture continued to live. Its mysticism influenced India. Its social
ideal influenced China. Not indeed that China took over the theory, still less
the practice, of communism; but she learnt to entrust herself increasingly to a
vigorous, devoted and despotic party, and to feel in terms of the social whole
rather than individualistically. Yet she was honeycombed with individualism, and
in spite of her rulers she had precipitated a submerged and desperate class of
wage slaves.
In the Far West, the United States of America openly claimed to be custodians of
the whole planet. Universally feared and envied, universally respected for their
enterprise, yet for their complacency very widely despised, the Americans were
rapidly changing the whole character of man's existence. By this time every
human being throughout the planet made use of American products, and there was
no region where American capital did not Support local labour. Moreover the
American press, gramophone, radio, cinematograph and televisor ceaselessly
drenched the planet with American thought. Year by year the aether reverberated
with echoes of New York's pleasures and the religious fervours of the Middle
West. What wonder, then, that America, even while she was despised, irresistibly
moulded the whole human race. This, perhaps, would not have mattered, had
America been able to give of her very rare best. But inevitably only her worst
could be propagated. Only the most vulgar traits of that potentially great
people could get through into the minds of foreigners by means of these crude
instruments. And so, by the floods of poison issuing from this people's baser
members, the whole world, and with it the nobler parts of America herself, were
irrevocably corrupted.
For the best of America was too weak to withstand the worst. Americans had
indeed contributed amply to human thought. They had helped to emancipate
philosophy from ancient fetters. They had served science by lavish and rigorous
research. In astronomy, favoured by their costly instruments and clear
atmosphere, they had done much to reveal the dispositions of the stars and
galaxies. In literature, though often they behaved as barbarians, they had also
conceived new modes of expression, and moods of thought not easily appreciated
in Europe. They had also created a new and brilliant architecture. And their
genius for organization worked upon a scale that was scarcely conceivable, let
alone practicable, to other peoples. In fact their best minds faced old problems
of theory and of valuation with a fresh innocence and courage, so that fogs of
superstition were cleared away wherever these choice Americans were present. But
these best were after all a minority in a huge wilderness of opinionated
self-deceivers, in whom, surprisingly, an outworn religious dogma was championed
with the intolerant optimism of youth. For this was essentially a race of
bright, but arrested, adolescents. Something lacked which should have en abled
them to grow up. One who looks back across the aeons to this remote people can
see their fate already woven of their circumstance and their disposition, and
can appreciate the grim jest that these, who seemed to themselves gifted to
rejuvenate the planet, should have plunged it, inevitably, through spiritual
desolation into senility and age-long night.
Inevitably. Yet here was a people of unique promise, gifted innately beyond all
other peoples. Here was a race brewed of all the races, and mentally more
effervescent than any. Here were intermingled Anglo-Saxon stubbornness, Teutonic
genius for detail and systematization, Italian gaiety, the intense fire of
Spain, and the more mobile Celtic flame. Here also was the sensitive and stormy
Slav, a youth-giving Negroid infusion, a faint but subtly stimulating trace of
the Red Man, and in the West a sprinkling of the Mongol. Mutual intolerance no
doubt isolated these diverse stocks to some degree; yet the whole was
increasingly one people, proud of its individuality, of its success, of its
idealistic mission in the world, proud also of its optimistic and
anthropocentric view of the universe. What might not this energy have achieved,
had it been more critically controlled, had it been forced to attend to life's
more forbidding aspects! Direct tragic experience might perhaps have opened the
hearts of this people. Intercourse with a more mature culture might have refined
their intelligence. But the very success which had intoxicated them rendered
them also too complacent to learn from less prosperous competitors.
Yet there was a moment when this insularity promised to wane. So long as England
was a serious economic rival, America inevitably regarded her with suspicion.
But when England was seen to be definitely in economic decline, yet culturally
still at her zenith, America conceived a more generous interest in the last and
severest phase of English thought. Eminent Americans themselves began to whisper
that perhaps their unrivalled prosperity was not after all good evidence either
of their own spiritual greatness or of the moral rectitude of the universe. A
minute but persistent school of writers began to affirm that America lacked
self-criticism, was incapable of seeing the joke against herself, was in fact
wholly devoid of that detachment and resignation which was the finest, though of
course the rarest, mood of latter-day England. This movement might well have
infused throughout the American people that which was needed to temper their
barbarian egotism, and open their ears once more to the silence beyond man's
strident sphere. Once more, for only latterly had they been seriously deafened
by the din of their own material success. And indeed, scattered over the
continent throughout this whole period, many shrinking islands of true culture
contrived to keep their heads above the rising tide of vulgarity and
superstition. These it was that had looked to Europe for help, and were
attempting a rally when England and France blundered into that orgy of
emotionalism and murder which exterminated so many of their best minds and
permanently weakened their cultural influence.
Subsequently it was Germany that spoke for Europe. And Germany was too serious
an economic rival for America to be open to her influence. Moreover German
criticism, though often emphatic, was too heavily pedantic, too little ironical,
to pierce the hide of American complacency. Thus it was that America sank
further and further into Americanism. Vast wealth and industry, and also
brilliant invention, were concentrated upon puerile ends. In particular the
whole of American life was organized around the cult of the powerful individual,
that phantom ideal which Europe herself had only begun to outgrow in her last
phase. Those Americans who wholly failed to realize this ideal, who remained at
the bottom of the social ladder, either consoled themselves with hopes for the
future, or stole symbolical satisfaction by identifying themselves with some
popular star, or gloated upon their American citizenship, and applauded the
arrogant foreign policy of their government. Those who achieved power were
satisfied so long as they could merely retain it, and advertise it uncritically
in the conventionally self-assertive manners.
It was almost inevitable that when Europe had recovered from the Russo-German
disaster she should come to blows with America; for she had long chafed under
the saddle of American finance, and the daily life of Europeans had become more
and more cramped by the presence of a widespread and contemptuous foreign
"aristocracy" of American business men. Germany alone was comparatively free
from this domination, for Germany was herself still a great economic power. But
in Germany, no less than elsewhere, there was constant friction with the
Of course neither Europe nor America desired war. Each was well aware that war
would mean the end of business prosperity, and for Europe very possibly the end
of all things; for it was known that man's power of destruction had recently
increased, and that if war were waged relentlessly, the stronger side might
exterminate the other. But inevitably an "incident" at last occurred which
roused blind rage on each side of the Atlantic. A murder in South Italy, a few
ill-considered remarks in the European Press, offensive retaliation in the
American Press accompanied by the lynching of an Italian in the Middle West, an
uncontrollable massacre of American citizens in Rome, the dispatch of an
American air fleet to occupy Italy, interception by the European air fleet, and
war was in existence before ever it had been declared. This aerial action
resulted, perhaps unfortunately for Europe, in a momentary check to the American
advance. The enemy was put on his mettle, and prepared a crushing blow.
While the Americans were mobilizing their whole armament, there occurred the
really interesting event of the war. It so happened that an international
society of scientific workers was meeting in England at Plymouth, and a young
Chinese physicist had expressed his desire to make a report to a select
committee. As he had been experimenting to find means for the utilization of
subatomic energy by the annihilation of matter, it was with some excitement
that, according to instruction, the forty international representatives
travelled to the north coast of Devon and met upon the bare headland called
Hartland Point.
It was a bright morning after rain. Eleven miles to the north-west, the cliffs
of Lundy Island displayed their markings with unusual detail. Sea-birds wheeled
about the heads of the party as they seated themselves on their raincoats in a
cluster upon the rabbit-cropped turf.
They were a remarkable company, each one of them a unique person, yet
characterized to some extent by his particular national type. And all were
distinctively "scientists" of the period. Formerly this would have implied a
rather uncritical leaning toward materialism, and an affectation of cynicism;
but by now it was fashionable to profess an equally uncritical belief that all
natural phenomena were manifestations of the cosmic mind. In both periods, when
a man passed beyond the sphere of his own serious scientific work he chose his
beliefs irresponsibly, according to his taste, much as he those his recreation
or his food.
Of the individuals present we may single out one or two for notice. The German,
an anthropologist, and a product of the long-established cult of physical and
mental health, sought to display in his own athletic person the characters
proper to Nordic man. The Frenchman, an old but still sparkling psychologist,
whose queer hobby was the collecting of weapons, ancient and modern, regarded
the proceedings with kindly cynicism. The Englishman, one of the few remaining
intellectuals of his race, compensated for the severe study of physics by a
scarcely less devoted research into the history of English expletives and slang,
delighting to treat his colleagues to the fruits of his toil. The West African
president of the Society was a biologist, famous for his interbreeding of man
and ape.
When all were settled, the President explained the purpose of the meeting. The
utilization of subatomic energy had indeed been achieved, and they were to be
given a demonstration.
The young Mongol stood up, and produced from a case an instrument rather like
the old-fashioned rifle. Displaying this object, he spoke as follows, with that
quaintly stilted formality which had once been characteristic of all educated
Chinese: "Before describing the details of my rather delicate process, I will
illustrate its importance by showing what can be done with the finished product.
Not only can I initiate the annihilation of matter, but also I can do so at a
distance and in a precise direction. Moreover, I can inhibit the process. As a
means of destruction, my instrument is perfect. As a source of power for the
constructive work of mankind, it has unlimited potentiality. Gentlemen, this is
a great moment in the history of Man. I am about to render into the hands of
organized intelligence the means to stop for ever man's internecine brawls.
Henceforth this great Society, of which you are the elite, will beneficently
rule the planet. With this little instrument you will stop the ridiculous war;
and with another, which I shall soon perfect, you will dispense unlimited
industrial power wherever you consider it needed. Gentlemen, with the aid of
this handy instrument which I have the honour to demonstrate, you are able to
become absolute masters of this planet."
Here the representative of England muttered an archaism whose significance was
known only to himself, "Gawd 'elp us!" In the minds of some of those foreigners
who were not physicists this quaint expression was taken to be a technical word
having some connexion with the new source of energy.
The Mongol continued. Turning towards Lundy, he said, "That island is no longer
inhabited, and as it is something of a danger to shipping, I will remove it." So
saying he aimed his instrument at the distant cliff, but continued speaking.
"This trigger will stimulate the ultimate positive and negative charges which
constitute the atoms at a certain point on the rock face to annihilate each
other. These stimulated atoms will infect their neighbours, and so on
indefinitely. This second trigger, however, will stop the actual annihilation.
Were I to refrain from using it, the process would indeed continue indefinitely,
perhaps until the whole of the planet had disintegrated."
There was an anxious movement among the spectators, but the young man took
careful aim, and pressed the two triggers in quick succession. No sound from the
instrument. No visible effect upon the smiling face of the island. Laughter
began to gurgle from the Englishman, but ceased. For a dazzling point of light
appeared on the remote cliff. It increased in size and brilliance, till all eyes
were blinded in the effort to continue watching. It lit up the under parts of
the clouds and blotted out the sun-cast shadows of gorse bushes beside the
spectators. The whole end of the island facing the mainland was now an
intolerable scorching sun. Presently, however, its fury was veiled in clouds of
steam from the boiling sea. Then suddenly the whole island, three miles of solid
granite, leaped asunder; so that a covey of great rocks soared heavenward, and
beneath them swelled more slowly a gigantic mushroom of steam and debris. Then
the sound arrived. All hands were clapped to ears, while eyes still strained to
watch the bay, pocked white with the hail of rocks. Meanwhile a great wall of
sea advanced from the centre of turmoil. This was seen to engulf a coasting
vessel, and pass on toward Bideford and Barnstaple.
The spectators leaped to their feet and clamoured, while the young author of
this fury watched the spectacle with exultation, and some surprise at the
magnitude of these mere after-effects of his process.
The meeting was now adjourned to a neighbouring chapel to hear the report of the
research. As the representatives were filing through the door it was observed
that the steam and smoke had cleared, and that open sea extended where had been
Lundy. Within the chapel, the great Bible was decorously removed and the windows
thrown open, to dispel somewhat the odour of sanctity. For though the early and
spiritistic interpretations of relativity and the quantum theory had by now
accustomed men of science to pay their respects to the religions, many of them
were still liable to a certain asphyxia when they were actually within the
precincts of sanctity. When the scientists had settled themselves upon the
archaic and unyielding benches, the President explained that the chapel
authorities had kindly permitted this meeting because they realized that, since
men of science had gradually discovered the spiritual foundation of physics,
science and religion must henceforth be close allies. Moreover the purpose of
this meeting was to discuss one of those supreme mysteries which it was the
glory of science to discover and religion to transfigure. The President then
complimented the young dispenser of power upon his triumph, and called upon him
to address the meeting.
At this point, however, the aged representative of France intervened, and was
granted a hearing. Born almost a hundred and forty years earlier, and preserved
more by native intensity of spirit than by the artifices of the regenerator,
this ancient seemed to speak out of a remote and wiser epoch. For in a declining
civilization it is often the old who see furthest and see with youngest eyes. He
concluded a rather long, rhetorical, yet closely reasoned speech as follows: "No
doubt we are the intelligence of the planet; and because of our consecration to
our calling, no doubt we are comparatively honest. But alas, even we are human.
We make little mistakes now and then, and commit little indiscretions. The
possession of such power as is offered us would not bring peace. On the contrary
it would perpetuate our national hates. It would throw the world into confusion.
It would undermine our own integrity, and turn us into tyrants. Moreover it
would ruin science. And,--well, when at last through some little error the world
got blown up, the disaster would not be regrettable. I know that Europe is
almost certainly about to be destroyed by those vigorous but rather spoilt
children across the Atlantic. But distressing as this must be, the alternative
is far worse. No, Sir! Your very wonderful toy would be a gift fit for developed
minds; but for us, who are still barbarians,--no, it must not be. And so, with
deep regret I beg you to destroy your handiwork, and, if it were possible, your
memory of your marvellous research. But above all breathe no word of your
process to us, or to any man."
The German then protested that to refuse would be cowardly. He briefly described
his vision of a world organized under organized science, and inspired by a
scientifically organized religious dogma. "Surely," he said, "to refuse were to
refuse the gift of God, of that God whose presence in the humblest quantum we
have so recently and so surprisingly revealed." Other speakers followed, for and
against; but it soon grew clear that wisdom would prevail. Men of science were
by now definitely cosmopolitan in sentiment. Indeed so far were they from
nationalism, that on this occasion the representative of America had urged
acceptance of the weapon, although it would be used against his own countrymen.
Finally, however, and actually by a unanimous vote, the meeting, while recording
its deep respect for the Chinese scientist, requested, nay ordered, that the
instrument and all account of it should be destroyed.
The young man rose, drew his handiwork from its case, and fingered it. So long
did he remain thus standing in silence with eyes fixed on the instrument, that
the meeting became restless. At last, however, he spoke. "I shall abide by the
decision of the meeting. Well, it is hard to destroy the fruit of ten years'
work, and such fruit, too. I expected to have the gratitude of mankind; but
instead I am an outcast." Once more he paused. Gazing out of the window, he now
drew from his pocket a field-glass, and studied the western sky. "Yes, they are
American. Gentlemen, the American air fleet approaches."
The company leapt to its feet and crowded to the windows. High in the west a
sparse line of dots stretched indefinitely into the north and the south. Said
the Englishman, "For God's sake use your damned tool once more, or England's
done. They must have smashed our fellows over the Atlantic."
The Chinese scientist turned his eyes on the President. There was a general cry
of "Stop them." Only the Frenchman protested. The representative of the United
States raised his voice and said, "They are my people, I have friends up there
in the sky. My own boy is probably there. But they're mad. They want to do
something hideous. They're in the lynching mood. Stop them." The Mongol still
gazed at the President, who nodded. The Frenchman broke down in senile tears.
Then the young man, leaning upon the window sill, took careful aim at each black
dot in turn. One by one, each became a blinding star, then vanished. In the
chapel, a long silence. Then whispers; and glances at the Chinaman, expressive
of anxiety and dislike.
There followed a hurried ceremony in a neighbouring field. A fire was lit. The
instrument and the no less murderous manuscript were burnt. And then the grave
young Mongol, having insisted on shaking hands all round, said, "With my secret
alive in me, I must not live. Some day a more worthy race will re-discover it,
but today I am a danger to the planet. And so I, who have foolishly ignored that
I live among savages, help myself now by the ancient wisdom to pass hence." So
saying, he fell dead.
Rumour spread by voice and radio throughout the world. An island had been
mysteriously exploded. The American fleet had been mysteriously annihilated in
the air. And in the neighbourhood where these events had occurred, distinguished
scientists were gathered in conference. The European Government sought out the
unknown saviour of Europe, to thank him, and secure his process for their own
use. The President of the scientific society gave an account of the meeting and
the unanimous vote. He and his colleagues were promptly arrested, and
"pressure," first moral and then physical, was brought to bear on them to make
them disclose the secret; for the world was convinced that they really knew it,
and were holding it back for their own purposes.
Meanwhile it was learned that the American air commander, after he had defeated
the European fleet, had been instructed merely to "demonstrate" above England
while peace was negotiated. For in America, big business had threatened the
government with boycott if unnecessary violence were committed in Europe. Big
business was by now very largely international in sentiment, and it was realized
that the destruction of Europe would inevitably unhinge American finance. But
the unprecedented disaster to the victorious fleet roused the Americans to blind
hate, and the peace party was submerged. Thus it turned out that the Chinaman's
one hostile act had not saved England, but doomed her.
For some days Europeans lived in panic dread, knowing not what horror might at
any moment descend on them. No wonder, then, that the Government resorted to
torture in order to extract the secret from the scientists. No wonder that out
of the forty individuals concerned, one, the Englishman, saved himself by
deceit. He promised to do his best to "remember" the intricate process. Under
strict supervision, he used his own knowledge of physics to experiment in search
of the Chinaman's trick. Fortunately, however, he was on the wrong scent. And
indeed he knew it. For though his first motive was mere self-preservation, later
he conceived the policy of indefinitely preventing the dangerous discovery by
directing research along a blind alley. And so his treason, by seeming to give
the authority of a most eminent physicist to a wholly barren line of research,
saved this undisciplined and scarcely human race from destroying its planet.
The American people, sometimes tender even to excess, were now collectively
insane with hate of the English and of all Europeans. With cold efficiency they
flooded Europe with the latest and deadliest of gasses, till all the peoples
were poisoned in their cities like rats in their holes. The gas employed was
such that its potency would cease within three days. It was therefore possible
for an American sanitary force to take charge of each metropolis within a week
after the attack. Of those who first descended into the great silence of the
murdered cities, many were unhinged by the overwhelming presence of dead
populations. The gas had operated first upon the ground level, but, rising like
a tide, it had engulfed the top stories, the spires, the hills. Thus, while in
the streets lay thousands who had been overcome by the first wave of poison,
every roof and pinnacle bore the bodies of those who had struggled upwards in
the vain hope of escaping beyond the highest reach of the tide. When the
invaders arrived they beheld on every height prostrate and contorted figures.
Thus Europe died. All centres of intellectual life were blotted out, and of the
agricultural regions only the uplands and mountains were untouched. The spirit
of Europe lived henceforth only in a piece-meal and dislocated manner in the
minds of Americans, Chinese, Indians, and the rest.
There were indeed the British Colonies, but they were by now far less European
than American. The war had, of course, disintegrated the British Empire. Canada
sided with the United States. South Africa and India declared their neutrality
at the outbreak of war. Australia, not through cowardice, but through conflict
of loyalties, was soon reduced to neutrality. The New Zealanders took to their
mountains and maintained an insane but heroic resistance for a year. A simple
and gallant folk, they had almost no conception of the European spirit, yet
obscurely and in spite of their Americanization they were loyal to it, or at
least to that symbol of one aspect of Europeanism, "England." Indeed so
extravagantly loyal were they, or so innately dogged and opinionated, that when
further resistance became impossible, many of them, both men and women, killed
themselves rather than submit.
But the most lasting agony of this war was suffered, not by the defeated, but by
the victors. For when their passion had cooled the Americans could not easily
disguise from themselves that they had committed murder. They were not at heart
a brutal folk, but rather a kindly. They liked to think of the world as a place
of innocent pleasure-seeking, and of themselves as the main purveyors of
delight. Yet they had been somehow drawn into this fantastic crime; and
henceforth an all-pervading sense of collective guilt warped the American mind.
They had ever been vainglorious and intolerant; but now these qualities in them
became extravagant even to insanity. Both as individuals and collectively, they
became increasingly frightened of criticism, increasingly prone to blame and
hate, increasingly self-righteous, increasingly hostile to the critical
intelligence, increasingly superstitious.
Thus was this once noble people singled out by the gods to be cursed, and the
minister of curses.
AFTER the eclipse of Europe, the allegiance of men gradually crystallized into
two great national or racial sentiments, the American and the Chinese. Little by
little all other patriotisms became mere local variants of one or other of these
two major loyalties. At first, indeed, there were many internecine conflicts. A
detailed history of this period would describe how North America, repeating the
welding process of the ancient "American Civil War," incorporated within itself
the already Americanized Latins of South America; and how Japan, once the bully
of young China, was so crippled by social revolutions that she fell a prey to
American Imperialism; and how this bondage turned her violently Chinese in
sentiment, so that finally she freed herself by an heroic war of independence,
and joined the Asiatic Confederacy, under Chinese leadership.
A full history would also tell of the vicissitudes of the League of Nations.
Although never a cosmopolitan government, but an association of national
governments, each concerned mainly for its own sovereignty, this great
organization had gradually gained a very real prestige and authority over all
its members. And in spite of its many short-comings, most of which were involved
in its fundamental constitution, it was invaluable as the great concrete
focusing point of the growing loyalty toward humanity. At first its existence
had been precarious; and indeed it had only preserved itself by an extreme
caution, amounting almost to servility toward the "great powers." Little by
little, however, it had gained moral authority to such an extent that no single
power, even the mightiest, dared openly and in cold blood either to disobey the
will of the League or reject the findings of the High Court. But, since human
loyalty was still in the main national rather than cosmopolitan, situations were
all too frequent in which a nation would lose its head, run amok, throw its
pledges to the winds, and plunge into fear-inspired aggression. Such a situation
had produced the Anglo-French War. At other times the nations would burst apart
into two great camps, and the League would be temporarily forgotten in their
disunion. This happened in the Russo-German War, which was possible only because
America favoured Russia, and China favoured Germany. After the destruction of
Europe, the world had for a while consisted of the League on one side and
America on the other. But the League was dominated by China, and no longer stood
for cosmopolitanism. This being so, those whose loyalty was genuinely human
worked hard to bring America once more into the fold, and at last succeeded.
In spite of the League's failure to prevent the "great" wars, it worked
admirably in preventing all the minor conflicts which had once been a chronic
disease of the race. Latterly, indeed, the world's peace was absolutely secure,
save when the League itself was almost equally divided. Unfortunately, with the
rise of America and China, this kind of situation became more and more common.
During the war of North and South America an attempt was made to recreate the
League as a Cosmopolitan Sovereignty, controlling the pooled armaments of all
nations. But, though the cosmopolitan will was strong, tribalism was stronger.
The upshot was that, over the Japanese question, the League definitely split
into two Leagues, each claiming to inherit universal sovereignty from the old
League, but each in reality dominated by a kind of supernational sentiment, the
one American, the other Chinese.
This occurred within a century after the eclipse of Europe. The second century
completed the process of crystallization into two systems, political and mental.
On the one hand was the wealthy and close-knit American Continental Federation,
with its poor relations, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the bedridden
remains of Western Europe, and part of the soulless body that was Russia. On the
other hand were Asia and Africa. In fact the ancient distinction between East
and West had now become the basis of political sentiment and organization.
Within each system there were of course real differences of culture, of which
the chief was the difference between the Chinese and Indian mentalities. The
Chinese were interested in appearances, in the sensory, the urbane, the
practical; while the Indians inclined to seek behind appearances for some
ultimate reality, of which this life, they said, was but a passing aspect. Thus
the average Indian never took to heart the practical social problem in all its
seriousness. The ideal of perfecting this world was never an all-absorbing
interest to him; since he had been taught to believe that this world was mere
shadow. There was, indeed, a time when China had mentally less in common with
India than with the West, but fear of America had drawn the two great Eastern
peoples together. They agreed at least in earnest hate of that strange blend of
the commercial traveller, the missionary, and the barbarian conqueror, which was
the American abroad.
China, owing to her relative weakness and irritation caused by the tentacles of
American industry within her, was at this time more nationalistic than her
rival, America. Indeed, professed to have outgrown nationalism, and to stand for
political and cultural world unity. But she conceived this unity as a Unity
under American organization; and by culture she meant Americanism. This kind of
cosmopolitanism was regarded by Asia and Africa without sympathy. In China a
concerted effort had been made to purge the foreign element from her culture.
Its success, however, was only superficial. Pigtails and chopsticks had once
more come into vogue among the leisured, and the study of Chinese classics was
once more compulsory in all schools. Yet the manner of life of the average man
remained American. Not only did he use American cutlery, shoes, gramophones,
domestic labour-saving devices, but also his alphabet was European, his
vocabulary was permeated by American slang, his newspapers and radio were
American in manner, though anti-American in politics. He saw daily in his
domestic television screen every phase of American private life and every
American public event. Instead of opium and joss sticks, he affected cigarettes
and chewing gum.
His thought also was largely a Mongolian variant of American thought. For
instance, since his was a non-metaphysical mind, but since also some kind of
metaphysics is unavoidable, he accepted the naďvely materialistic metaphysics
which had been popularized by the earliest Behaviourists. In this view the only
reality was physical energy, and the mind was but the system of the body's
movements in response to stimulus. Behaviourism had formerly played a great part
in purging the best Western minds of superstition; and indeed at one time it was
the chief growing point of thought.
This early, pregnant, though extravagant, doctrine it was that had been absorbed
by China. But in its native land Behaviorism had gradually been infected by the
popular demand for comfortable ideas, and had finally changed into a curious
kind of spiritism, according to which, though the ultimate reality was indeed
physical energy, this energy was identified with the divine spirit. The most
dramatic feature of American thought in this period was the merging of
Behaviorism and Fundamentalism, a belated and degenerate mode of Christianity.
Behaviourism itself, indeed, had been originally a kind of inverted Puritan
faith, according to which intellectual salvation involved acceptance of a crude
materialistic dogma, chiefly because it was repugnant to the self-righteous, and
unintelligible to intellectuals of the earlier schools. The older Puritans
trampled down all fleshy impulses; these newer Puritans trampled no less
self-righteously upon the spiritual cravings. But in the increasingly
spiritistic inclination of physics itself, Behaviorism and Fundamentalism had
found a meeting place. Since the ultimate stuff of the physical universe was now
said to be multitudinous and arbitrary "quanta" of the activity of "spirits,"
how easy was it for the materialistic and the spiritistic to agree! At heart,
indeed, they were never far apart in mood, though opposed in doctrine. The real
cleavage was between the truly spiritual view on the one hand, and the
spiritistic and materialistic on the other. Thus the most materialistic of
Christian sects and the most doctrinaire of scientific sects were not long in
finding a formula to express their unity, their denial of all those finer
capacities which had emerged to be the spirit of man.
These two faiths were at one in their respect for crude physical movement. And
here lay the deepest difference between the American and the Chinese minds. For
the former, activity, any sort of activity, was an end in itself; for the
latter, activity was but a progress toward the true end, which was rest, and
peace of mind. Action was to be undertaken only when equilibrium was disturbed.
And in this respect China was at one with India. Both preferred contemplation to
Thus in China and India the passion for wealth was less potent than in America.
Wealth was the power to set things and people in motion; and in America,
therefore, wealth came to be frankly regarded as the breath of God, the divine
spirit immanent in man. God was the supreme Boss, the universal Employer. His
wisdom was conceived as a stupendous efficiency, his love as munificence towards
his employees. The parable of the talents was made the corner-stone of
education; and to be wealthy, therefore, was to be respected as one of God's
chief agents. The typical American man of big business was one who, in the midst
of a show of luxury, was at heart ascetic. He valued his splendour only because
it advertised to all men that he was of the elect. The typical Chinese wealthy
man was one who savoured his luxury with a delicate and lingering palate, and
was seldom tempted to sacrifice it to the barren lust of power.
On the other hand, since American culture was wholly concerned with the values
of the individual life, it was more sensitive than the Chinese with regard to
the well-being of humble individuals. Therefore industrial conditions were far
better under American than under Chinese capitalism. And in China both kinds of
capitalism existed side by side. There were American factories in which the
Chinese operatives thrived on the American system, and there were Chinese
factories in which the operatives were by comparison abject wage-slaves. The
fact that many Chinese industrial workers could not afford to keep a motor-car,
let alone an aeroplane, was a source of much self-righteous indignation amongst
American employers. And the fact that this fact did not cause a revolution in
China, and that Chinese employers were able to procure plenty of labour in spite
of the better conditions in American factories, was a source of perplexity. But
in truth what the average Chinese worker wanted was not symbolical
self-assertion through the control of privately owned machines, but security of
life, and irresponsible leisure. In the earlier phase of "modern" China there
had indeed been serious explosions of class hatred. Almost every one of the
great Chinese industrial centres had, at some point in its career, massacred its
employers, and declared itself an independent communist city-state. But
communism was alien to China, and none of these experiments was permanently
successful. Latterly, when the rule of the Nationalist Party had become secure,
and the worst industrial evils had been abolished, class feeling had given place
to a patriotic loathing of American interference and American hustle, and those
who worked under American employers were often called traitors.
The Nationalist Party was not, indeed, the soul of China; but it was, so to
speak, the central nervous system, within which the soul presided as a
controlling principle. The Party was an intensely practical yet idealistic
organization, half civil service, half religious order, though violently opposed
to every kind of religion. Modelled originally on the Boishevic Party of Russia,
it had also drawn inspiration from the native and literary civil service of old
China, and even from the tradition of administrative integrity which had been
the best, the sole, contribution of British Imperialism to the East. Thus, by a
route of its own, the Party had approached the ideal of the Platonic governors.
In order to be admitted to the Party, it was necessary to do two things, to pass
a very strict written examination on Western and Chinese social theory, and to
come through a five years' apprenticeship in actual administrative work. Outside
the Party, China was still extremely corrupt; for peculation and nepotism were
not censured, so long as they were kept decently hidden. But the Party set a
brilliant example of self-oblivious devotion; and this unheard-of honesty was
one source of its power. It was universally recognized that the Party man was
genuinely interested in social rather than private matters; and consequently he
was trusted. The supreme object of his loyalty was not the Party, but China, not
indeed the mass of Chinese individuals, whom he regarded with almost the same
nonchalance as he regarded himself, but the corporate unity and culture of the
The whole executive power in China was now in the hands of members of the Party,
and the final legislative authority was the Assembly of Party Delegates. Between
these two institutions stood the President. Sometimes no more than chairman of
the Executive Committee, this individual was now and then almost a dictator,
combining in himself the attributes of Prime Minister, Emperor, and Pope. For
the head of the Party was the head of the state; and like the ancient emperors,
he became the symbolical object of ancestor worship.
The Party's policy was dominated by the Chinese respect for culture. Just as
Western states had been all too often organized under the will for military
prestige, so the new China was organized under the will for prestige of culture.
For this end the American state was reviled as the supreme example of barbarian
vulgarity; and so patriotism was drawn in to strengthen the cultural policy of
the Party. It was boasted that, while indeed in America every man and woman
might hope to fight a way to material wealth, in China every intelligent person
could actually enjoy the cultural wealth of the race. The economic policy of the
Party was based on the principle of affording to all workers security of
livelihood and full educational opportunity. (In American eyes, however, the
livelihood thus secured was scarcely fit for beasts, and the education provided
was out of date and irreligious.) The Party took good care to gather into itself
all the best of every social class, and also to encourage in the unintelligent
masses a respect for learning, and the illusion that they themselves shared to
some extent in the national culture.
But in truth this culture, which the common people so venerated in their
superiors and mimicked in their own lives, was scarcely less superficial than
the cult of power against which it was pitted. For it was almost wholly a cult
of social rectitude and textual learning; not so much of the merely litçrary
learning which had obsessed ancient China, as of the vast corpus of contemporary
scientific dogma, and above all of pure mathematics. In old days the candidate
for office had to show minute but uncritical knowledge of classical writers; now
he had to give proof of a no less barren agility in describing the established
formula of physics, biology, psychology, and more particularly of economics and
social theory. And though never encouraged to puzzle over the philosophical
basis of mathematics, he was expected to be familiar with the intricacy of at
least one branch of that vast game of skill. So great was the mass of
information forced upon the student, that he had no time to think of the mutual
implications of the various branches of his knowledge.
Yet there was a soul in China. And in this elusive soul of China the one hope of
the First Men now lay. Scattered throughout the Party was a minority of original
minds, who were its source of inspiration and the growing point of the human
spirit in this period. Well aware of man's littleness, these thinkers regarded
him none the less as the crown of the universe. On the basis of a positivistic
and rather perfunctory metaphysic, they built a social ideal and a theory of
art. Indeed, in the practice and appreciation of art they saw man's highest
achievement. Pessimistic about the remote future of the race, and contemptuous
of American evangelism, they accepted as the end of living the creation of an
intricately unified pattern of human lives set in a fair environment. Society,
the supreme work of art (so they put it), is a delicate and perishable texture
of human intercourse. They even entertained the possibility that in the last
resort, not only the individual's life, but the whole career of the race, might
be tragic, and to be valued according to the standards of tragic art.
Contrasting their own spirit with that of the Americans, one of them had said,
"America, a backward youth in a playroom equipped with luxury and electric
power, pretends that his mechanical toy moves the world. China, a gentleman
walking in his garden in the evening, admires the fragrance and the order all
the more because in the air is the first nip of winter, and in his ear rumour of
the irresistible barbarian."
In this attitude there was something admirable, and sorely needed at the time;
but also there was a fatal deficiency. In its best exponents it rose to a
detached yet fervent salutation of existence, but all too easily degenerated
into a supine complacency, and a cult of social etiquette. In fact it was ever
in danger of corruption through the inveterate Chinese habit of caring only for
appearances. In some respects the spirit of America and the spirit of China were
complementary, since the one was restless and the other bland, the one zealous
and the other dispassionate, the one religious, the other artistic, the one
superficially mystical or at least romantic, the other classical and
rationalistic, though too easy-going for prolonged rigorous thought. Had they
co-operated, these two mentalities might have achieved much. On the other hand,
in both there was an identical and all-important lack. Neither of them was
disturbed and enlightened by that insatiable lust for the truth, that passion
for the free exercise of critical intelligence, the gruelling hunt for reality,
which had been the glory of Europe and even of the earlier America, but now was
no longer anywhere among the First Men. And, consequent on this lack, another
disability crippled them. Both were by now without that irreverent wit which
individuals of an earlier generation had loved to exercise upon one another and
on themselves, and even on their most sacred values.
In spite of this weakness, with good luck they might have triumphed. But, as I
shall tell, the spirit of America undermined the integrity of China, and thereby
destroyed its one chance of salvation. There befell, in fact, one of those
disasters, half inevitable and half accidental, which periodically descended on
the First Men, as though by the express will of some divinity who cared more for
the excellence of his dramatic creation than for the sentient puppets which he
had conceived for its enacting.
After the Euro-American War there occurred first a century of minor national
conflicts, and then a century of strained peace, during which America and China
became more and more irksome to each other. At the close of this period the
great mass of men were in theory far more cosmopolitan than nationalist, yet the
inveterate tribal spirit lurked within each mind, and was ever ready to take
possession. The planet was now a delicately organized economic unit, and big
business in all lands was emphatically contemptuous of patriotism. Indeed the
whole adult generation of the period was consciously and without reserve
internationalist and pacifist. Yet this logically unassailable conviction was
undermined by a biological craving for adventurous living. Prolonged peace and
improved social conditions had greatly reduced the danger and hardship of life,
and there was no socially harmless substitute to take the place of war in
exercising the primitive courage and anger of animals fashioned for the wild.
Consciously men desired peace, unconsciously they still needed some such
gallantry as war afforded. And this repressed combative disposition ever and
again expressed itself in explosions of irrational tribalism.
Inevitably a serious conflict at last occurred. As usual the cause was both
economic and sentimental. The economic cause was the demand for fuel. A century
earlier a very serious oil famine had so sobered the race that the League of
Nations had been able to impose a system of cosmopolitan control upon the
existing oil fields, and even the coal fields. It had also imposed strict
regulations as to the use of these invaluable materials. Oil in particular was
only to be used for enterprises in which no other source of power would serve.
The cosmopolitan control of fuel was perhaps the supreme achievement of the
League, and it remained a fixed policy of the race long after the League had
been superseded. Yet, by a choice irony of fate, this quite unusually sane
policy contributed largely to the downfall of civilization. By means of it, as
will later transpire, the end of coal was postponed into the period when the
intelligence of the race was so deteriorated that it could no longer cope with
such a crisis. Instead of adjusting itself to the novel situation, it simply
But at the time with which we are at present dealing, means had recently been
found of profitably working the huge deposits of fuel in Antarctica. This vast
supply unfortunately lay technically beyond the jurisdiction of the World Fuel
Control Board. America was first in the field, and saw in Antarctic fuel a means
for her advancement, and for her selfimposed duty of Americanizing the planet.
China, fearful of Americanization, demanded that the new sources should be
brought under the jurisdiction of the Board. For some years feeling had become
increasingly violent on this point, and both peoples had by now relapsed into
the crude old nationalistic mood. War began to seem almost inevitable.
The actual occasion of conflict, however, was, as usual, an accident. A scandal
was brought to light about child labour in certain Indian factories. Boys and
girls under twelve were being badly sweated, and in their abject state their
only adventure was precocious sex. The American Government protested, and in
terms which assumed that America was the guardian of the world's morals. India
immediately held up the reform which she had begun to impose, and replied to
America as to a busy-body. America threatened an expedition to set things right,
"backed by the approval of all the morally sensitive races of the earth." China
now intervened to keep the peace between her rival and her partner, and
undertook to see that the evil should be abolished, if America would withdraw
her extravagant slanders against the Eastern conscience. But it was too late. An
American bank in China was raided, and its manager's severed head was kicked
along the street. The tribes of men had once more smelled blood. War was
declared by the West upon the East.
Of the combatants, Asia, with North Africa, formed geographically the more
compact system, but America and her dependents were economically more organized.
At the outbreak of war neither side had any appreciable armament, for war had
long ago been "outlawed." This fact, however, made little difference; since the
warfare of the period could be carried on with great effect simply by the vast
swarms of civil air-craft, loaded with poison, high explosives, disease
microbes, and the still more lethal "hypobiological" organisms, which
contemporary science sometimes regarded as the simplest living matter, sometimes
as the most complex molecules.
The struggle began with violence, slackened, and dragged on for a quarter of a
century. At the close of this period, Africa was mostly in the hands of America.
But Egypt was an uninhabitable no-man's land, for the South Africans had very
successfully poisoned the sources of the Nile. Europe was under Chinese military
rule. This was enforced by armies of sturdy Central-Asiatics, who were already
beginning to wonder why they did not make themselves masters of China also. The
Chinese language, with European alphabet, was taught in all schools. In England,
however, there were no schools, and no population; for early in the war, an
American air-base had been established in Ireland, and England had been
repeatedly devastated. Airmen passing over what had been London, could still
make out the lines of Oxford Street and the Strand among the green and grey
tangle of ruins. Wild nature, once so jealously preserved in national "beauty
spots" against the incursion of urban civilization, now rioted over the whole
island. At the other side of the world, the Japanese islands had been similarly
devastated in the vain American effort to establish there an air-base from which
to reach the heart of the enemy. So far, however, neither China nor America had
been very seriously damaged; but recently the American biologists had devised a
new malignant germ, more infectious and irresistible than anything hitherto
known. Its work was to disintegrate the highest levels of the nervous system,
and therefore to render all who were even slightly affected incapable of
intelligent action; while a severe attack caused paralysis and finally death.
With this weapon the American military had already turned one Chinese city into
a bedlam; and wandering bacilli had got into the brains of several high
officials throughout the province, rendering their behaviour incoherent. It was
becoming the fashion to attribute all one's blunders to a touch of the new
microbe. Hitherto no effective means of resisting the spread of this plague had
been discovered. And as in the early stages of the disease the patient became
restlessly active, undertaking interminable and objectless journeys on the
flimsiest pretexts, it seemed probable that the "American madness" would spread
throughout China.
On the whole, then, the military advantage lay definitely with the Americans;
but economically they were perhaps the more damaged, for their higher standard
of prosperity depended largely on foreign investment and foreign trade.
Throughout the American continent there was now real poverty and serious
symptoms of class war, not indeed between private workers and employers, but
between workers and the autocratic military governing caste which inevitably war
had created. Big business had at first succumbed to the patriotic fever, but had
soon remembered that war is folly and ruinous to trade. Indeed upon both sides
the fervour of nationalism had lasted only a couple of years, after which the
lust of adventure had given place to mere dread of the enemy. For on each side
the populace had been nursed into the belief that its foe was diabolic. When a
quarter of a century had passed since there had been free intercourse between
the two peoples, the real mental difference which had always existed between
them appeared to many almost as a difference of biological species. Thus in
America the Church preached that no Chinaman had a soul. Satan, it was said, had
tampered with the evolution of the Chinese race when first it had emerged from
the pre-human animal. He had contrived that it should be cunning, but wholly
without tenderness. He had induced in it an insatiable sensuality, and wilful
blindness toward the divine, toward that superbly masterful
energyfor-energy's-sake which was the glory of America. Just as in a prehistoric
era the young race of mammals had swept away the sluggish, brutish and demoded
reptiles, so now, it was said, young soulful America was destined to rid the
planet of the reptilian Mongol. In China, on the other hand, the official view
was that the Americans were a typical case of biological retrogression. Like all
parasitic organisms, they had thriven by specializing in one low-grade mode of
behaviour at the expense of their higher nature; and now, "tape-worms of the
planet," they were starving out the higher capacities of the human race by their
frantic acquisitiveness.
Such were the official doctrines. But the strain of war had latterly produced on
each side a grave distrust of its own government, and an emphatic will for peace
at any price. The governments hated the peace party even more than each other,
since their existence now depended on war. They even went so far as to inform
one another of the clandestine operations of the pacifists, discovered by their
own secret service in enemy territory.
Thus when at last big business and the workers on each side of the Pacific had
determined to stop the war by concerted action, it was very difficult for their
representatives to meet.
Save for the governments, the whole human race now earnestly desired peace; but
opinion in America was balanced between the will merely to effect an economic
and political unification of the world, and a fanatical craving to impose
American culture on the East. In China also there was a balance of the purely
commercial readiness to sacrifice ideals for the sake of peace and prosperity,
and the will to preserve Chinese culture. The two individuals who were to meet
in secret for the negotiation of peace were typical of their respective races;
in both of them the commercial and cultural motives were present, though the
commercial was by now most often dominant.
It was in the twenty-sixth year of the war that two seaplanes converged by night
from the East and West upon an island in the Pacific, and settled on a secluded
inlet. The moon, destined in another age to smother this whole equatorial region
with her shattered body, now merely besparkled the waves. From each plane a
traveller emerged, and rowed himself ashore in a rubber coracle. The two men met
upon the beach, and shook hands, the one with ceremony, the other with a
slightly forced brotherliness. Already the sun peered over the wall of the sea,
shouting his brilliance and his heat. The Chinese, taking off his air-helmet,
uncoiled his pigtail with a certain emphasis, stripped off his heavy coverings,
and revealed a sky-blue silk pyjama suit, embroidered with golden dragons. The
other, glancing with scarcely veiled dislike at this finery, flung off his wraps
and displayed the decent grey coat and breeches with which the American business
men of this period unconsciously symbolized their reversion to Puritanism.
Smoking the Chinese envoy's cigarettes, the two sat down to re-arrange the
The conversation was amicable, and proceeded without hitch; for there was
agreement about the practical measures to be adopted. The government in each
country was to be overthrown at once. Both representatives were confident that
this could be done if it could be attempted simultaneously on each side of the
Pacific; for in both countries finance and the people could be trusted. In place
of the national governments, a World Finance Directorate was to be created. This
was to be composed of the leading commercial and industrial magnates of the
world, along with representatives of the workers' organizations. The American
representative should be the first president of the Directorate, and the Chinese
the first vice-president. The Directorate was to manage the whole economic
re-organization of the world. In particular, industrial conditions in the East
were to be brought into line with those of America, while on the other hand the
American monopoly of Antarctica was to be abolished. That rich and almost virgin
land was to be subjected to the control of the Directorate.
Occasionally during the conversation referende was made to the great cultural
difference between the East and West; but both the negotiants seemed anxious to
believe that this was only a minor matter which need not be allowed to trouble a
business discussion.
At this point occurred one of those incidents which, minute in themselves, have
disproportionately great effects. The unstable nature of the First Men made them
peculiarly liable to suffer from such accidents, and especially so in their
The talk was interrupted by the appearance of a human figure swimming round a
promontory into the little bay. In the shallows she arose, and walked out of the
water towards the creators of the World State. A bronze young smiling woman,
completely nude, with breasts heaving after her long swim, she stood before
them, hesitating. The relation between the two men was instantly changed, though
neither was at first aware of it.
"Delicious daughter of Ocean," said the Chinese, in that somewhat archaic and
deliberately un-American English which the Asiatics now affected in
communication with foreigners, "what is there that these two despicable land
animals can do for you? For my friend, I cannot answer, but I at least am
henceforth your slave." His eyes roamed carelessly, yet as it were with perfect
politeness, all over her body. And she, with that added grace which haloes women
when they feel the kiss of an admiring gaze, pressed the sea from her hair and
stood at the point of speech.
But the American protested, "Whoever you are, please do not interrupt us. We are
really very busy discussing a matter of great importance, and we have no time to
spare. Please go. Your nudity is offensive to one accustomed to civilized
manners. In a modern country you would not be allowed to bathe without a
costume. We are growing very sensitive on this point."
A distressful but enhancing blush spread under the wet bronze, and the intruder
made as if to go. But the Chinese cried, "Stay! We have almost finished our
business talk. Refresh us with your presence. Bring the realities back into our
discussion by permitting us to contemplate for a while the perfect vase line of
your waist and thigh. Who are you? Of what race are you? My anthropological
studies fail to place you. Your skin is fairer than is native here, though rich
with sun. Your breasts are Grecian. Your lips are chiselled with a memory of
Egypt. Your hair, night though it was, is drying with a most bewildering hint of
gold. And your eyes, let me observe them. Long, subtle, as my countrywomen's,
unfathomable as the mind of India, they yet reveal themselves to your new slave
as not wholly black, but violet as the zenith before dawn. Indeed this exquisite
unity of incompatibles conquers both my heart and my understanding."
During this harangue her composure was restored, though she glanced now and then
at the American, who kept ever removing his gaze from her.
She answered in much the same diction as the other; but, surprisingly, with an
old-time English accent, "I am certainly a mongrel. You might call me, not
daughter of Ocean, but daughter of Man; for wanderers of every race have
scattered their seed on this island. My body, I know, betrays its diverse
ancestry in a rather queer blend of characters. My mind is perhaps unusual too,
for I have never left this island. And though it is actually less than a quarter
of a century since I was born, a past century has perhaps had more meaning for
me than the obscure events of today. A hermit taught me. Two hundred years ago
he lived actively in Europe; but towards the end of his long life he retreated
to this island. As an old man he loved me. And day by day he gave me insight
into the great spirit of the past; but of this age he gave me nothing. Now that
he is dead, I struggle to familiarize myself with the present, but I continue to
see everything from the angle of another age. And so" (turning to the American),
"if I have offended against modern customs, it is because my insular mind has
never been taught to regard nakedness as indecent. I am very ignorant, truly a
savage. If only I could gain experience of your great world! If ever this war
ends, I must travel."
"Delectable," said the Chinese, "exquisitely proportioned, exquisitely civilized
savage! Come with me for a holiday in modern China. There you can bathe without
a costume, so long as you are beautiful."
She ignored this invitation, and seemed to have fallen into a reverie. Then
absently she continued, "Perhaps I should not suffer from this restlessness,
this craving to experience the world, if only I were to experience motherhood
instead. Many of the islanders from time to time have enriched me with their
embraces. But with none of them could I permit myself to conceive. They are
dear; but not one of them is at heart more than a child."
The American became restless. But again the Mongol intervened, with lowered and
deepened voice. "I," he said, "I, the Vice-President of the World Finance
Directorate, shall be honoured to afford you the opportunity of motherhood."
She regarded him gravely, then smiled as on a child who asks more than it is
reasonable to give. But the Amercian rose hastily. Addressing the silken Mongol,
he said, "You probably know that the American Government is in the act of
sending a second poison fleet to turn your whole population insane, more insane
than you are already. You cannot defend yourselves against this new weapon; and
if I am to save you, I must not trifle any longer. Nor must you, for we must act
simultaneously. We have settled all that matters for the moment. But before I
leave, I must say that your behaviour toward this woman has very forcibly
reminded me that there is something wrong with the Chinese way of thought and
life. In my anxiety for peace, I overlooked my duty in this respect. I now give
you notice that when the Directorate is established, we Americans must induce
you to reform these abuses, for the world's sake and your own."
The Chinese rose and answered, "This matter must be settled locally. We do not
expect you to accept our standards, so do not you expect us to accept yours." He
moved toward the woman, smiling. And the smile outraged the American.
We need not follow the wrangle which now ensued between the two representatives,
each of whom, though in a manner cosmopolitan in sentiment, was heartily
contemptuous of the other's values. Suffice it that the American became
increasingly earnest and dictatorial, the other increasingly careless and
ironical. Finally the American raised his voice and presented an ultimatum. "Our
treaty of world-union," he said, "will remain unsigned unless you add a clause
promising drastic reforms, which, as a matter of fact, my colleagues had already
proposed as a condition of co-operation. I had decided to withhold them, in case
they should wreck our treaty; but now I see they are essential. You must educate
your people out of their lascivious and idle ways, and give them modern
scientific religion. Teachers in your schools and universities must pledge
themselves to the modern fundamentalized physics and behaviourism, and must
enforce worship of the Divine Mover. The change will be difficult, but we will
help you. You will need a strong order of Inquisitors, responsible to the
Directorate. They will see also to the reform of your people's sexual frivolity
in which you squander so much of the Divine Energy. Unless you agree to this, I
cannot stop the war. The law of God must be kept, and those who know it must
enforce it."
The woman interrupted him. "Tell me, what is this 'God' of yours? The Europeans
worshipped love, not energy. What do you mean by energy? Is it merely to make
engines go fast, and to agitate the ether?"
He answered flatly, as if repeating a lesson, "God is the all-pervading spirit
of movement which seeks to actualize itself wherever it is latent. God has
appointed the great American people to mechanize the universe." He paused,
contemplating the clean lines of his sea-plane. Then he continued with emphasis,
"But come! Time is precious. Either you work for God, or we trample you out of
God's way."
The woman approached him, saying, "There is certainly something great in this
enthusiasm. But somehow, though my heart says you are right, my head is doubting
still. There must be a mistake somewhere."
"Mistake!" he laughed, overhanging her with his mask of power. "When a man's
soul is action, how can he be mistaken that action is divine? I have served the
great God, Energy, all my life, from garage boy to World President. Has not the
whole American people proved its faith by its success?"
With rapture, but still in perplexity, she gazed at him. "There's something
terribly wrong-headed about you Amer icans," she said, "but certainly you are
great." She looked him in the eyes. Then suddenly she laid a hand on him, and
said with conviction, "Being what you are, you are probably right. Anyhow you
are a man, a real man. Take me. Be the father of my boy. Take me to the
dangerous cities of America to work with you."
The President was surprised with sudden hunger for her body, and she saw it; but
he turned to the Vice-President and said, "She has seen where the truth lies.
And you? War, or co-operation in God's work?"
"The death of our bodies, or the death of our minds," said the Chinese, but with
a bitterness that lacked conviction; for he was no fanatic. "Well, since the
soul is only the harmoniousness of the body's behaviour, and since, in spite of
this little dispute, we are agreed that the co-ordination of activity is the
chief need of the planet today, and since in respect of our differences of
temperament this lady has judged in favour of America, and moreover since, if
there is any virtue in our Asiatic way of life, it will not succumb to a little
propaganda, but rather will be strengthened by opposition--since all these
matters are so, I accept your terms. But it would be undignifled in China to let
this great change be imposed upon her externally. You must give me time to form
in Asia a native and spontaneous party of Energists, who will themselves
propagate your gospel, and perhaps give it an elegance which, if I may say so,
it has not yet. Even this we will do to secure the cosmopolitan control of
Thereupon the treaty was signed; but a new and secret codicil was drawn up and
signed also, and both were witnessed by the Daughter of Man, in a clear, round,
oldfashioned script.
Then, taking a hand of each, she said, "And so at last the world is united. For
how long, I wonder. I seem to hear my old master's voice scolding, as though I
had been rather stupid. But he failed me, and I have chosen a new master, Master
of the World."
She released the hand of the Asiatic, and made as if to draw the American away
with her. And he, though he was a strict monogamist with a better half waiting
for him in New York, longed to crush her sun-clad body to his Puritan cloth. She
drew him away among the palm trees.
The Vice-President of the World sat down once more, lit a cigarette, and
meditated, smiling.
WE have now reached that point in the history of the First Men when, some three
hundred and eighty terrestrial years after the European War, the goal of world
unity was at last achieved--not, however, before the mind of the race had been
seriously crippled.
There is no need to recount in detail the transition from rival national
sovereignties to unitary control by the World Financial Directorate. Suffice it
that by concerted action in America and China the military governments found
themselves hamstrung by the passive resistance of cosmopolitan big business. In
China this process was almost instantaneous and bloodless; in America there was
serious disorder for a few weeks, while the bewildered government attempted to
reduce its rebels by martial law. But the population was by now eager for peace;
and, although a few business magnates were shot, and a crowd of workers here and
there mown down, the opposition was irresistible. Very soon the governing clique
The new order consisted of a vast system akin to guild socialism, yet at bottom
individualistic. Each industry was in theory democratically governed by all its
members, but in practice was controlled by its dominant individuals.
Co-ordination of all industries was effected by a World Industrial Council,
whereon the leaders of each industry discussed the affairs of the planet as a
whole. The status of each industry on the Council was determined partly by its
economic power in the world, partly by public esteem. For already the activities
of men were beginning to be regarded as either "noble" or "ignoble"; and the
noble were not necessarily the most powerful economically. Thus upon the Council
appeared an inner ring of noble "industries," which were, in approximate order
of prestige, Finance, Flying, Engineering, Surface Locomotion, Chemical
Industry, and Professional Athletics. But the real seat of power was not the
Council, not even the inner ring of the Council, but the Financial Directorate.
This consisted of a dozen millionaires, with the American President and the
Chinese Vice-President at their head.
Within this august committee internal dissensions were inevitable. Shortly after
the system had been inaugurated the Vice-President sought to overthrow the
President by publishing his connection with a Polynesian woman who now styled
herself the Daughter of Man. This piece of scandal was expected to enrage the
virtuous American public against their hero. But by a stroke of genius the
President saved both himself and the unity of the world. Far from denying the
charge, he gloried in it. In that moment of sexual triumph, he said, a great
truth had been revealed to him. Without this daring sacrifice of his private
purity, he would never have been really fit to be President of the World; he
would have remained simply an American. In this lady's veins flowed the blood of
all races, and in her mind all cultures mingled. His union with her, confirmed
by many subsequent visits, had taught him to enter into the spirit of the East,
and had given him a broad human sympathy such as his high office demanded. As a
private individual, he insisted, he remained a monogamist with a wife in New
York; and, as a private individual, he had sinned, and must suffer for ever the
pangs of conscience. But as President of the World, it was incumbent upon him to
espouse the World. And since nothing could be said to be real without a physical
basis, this spiritual union had to be embodied and symbolized by his physical
union with the Daughter of Man. In tones of grave emotion he described through
the microphone how, in the presence of that mystical woman, he had suddenly
triumphed over his private moral scruples; and how, in a sudden access of the
divine energy, he had consummated his marriage with the World in the shade of a
banana tree.
The lovely form of the Daughter of Man (decently clad) was transmitted by
television to every receiver in the world. Her face, blended of Asia and the
West, became a most potent symbol of human unity. Every man on the planet became
in imagination her lover. Every woman identified herself with this supreme
Undoubtedly there was some truth in the plea that the Daughter of Man had
enlarged the President's mind, for his policy had been unexpectedly tactful
toward the East. Often he had moderated the American demand for the immediate
Americanization of China. Often he had persuaded the Chinese to welcome some
policy which at first they had regarded with suspicion.
The President's explanation of his conduct enhanced his prestige both in America
and Asia. America was hypnotized by the romantic religiosity of the story. Very
soon it became fashionable to be a strict monogamist with one domestic wife, and
one "symbolical" wife in the East, or in another town, or a neighbouring street,
or with several such in various localities. In China the cold tolerance with
which the President was first treated was warmed by this incident into something
like affection. And it was partly through his tact, or the influence of his
symbolical wife, that the speeding up of China's Americanization was effected
without disorder.
For some months after the foundation of the World State, China had been wholly
occupied in coping with the plague of insanity, called "the American madness,"
with which her former enemy had poisoned her. The coast region of North China
had been completely disorganized. Industry, agriculture, transport, were at a
standstill. Huge mobs, demented and starving, staggered about the country
devouring every kind of vegetable matter and wrangling over the flesh of their
own dead. It was long before the disease was brought under control; and indeed
for years afterwards an occasional outbreak would occur, and cause panic
throughout the land.
To some of the more old-fashioned Chinese it appeared as though the whole
population had been mildly affected by the germ; for throughout China a new
sect, apparently a spontaneous native growth, calling themselves Energists,
began to preach a new interpretation of Buddhism in terms of the sanctity of
action. And, strange to say, this gospel throve to such an extent that in a few
years the whole educational system was captured by its adherents, though not
without a struggle with the reactionary members of the older universities.
Curiously enough, however, in spite of this general acceptance of the New Way,
in spite of the fact that the young of China were now taught to admire movement
in all its forms, in spite of a much increased wage-scale, which put all workers
in possession of private mechanical locomotion, the masses of China continued at
heart to regard action as a mere means toward rest. And when at last a native
physicist pointed out that the supreme expression of energy was the tense
balance of forces within the atom, the Chinese applied the doctrine to
themselves, and claimed that in them quiescence was the perfect balance of
mighty forces. Thus did the East contribute to the religion of this age. The
worship of activity was made to include the worship of Inactivity. And both were
founded on the principles of natural science.
Science now held a position of unique honour among the First Men. This was not
so much because it was in this field that the race long ago during its high noon
had thought most rigorously, nor because it was through science that men had
gained some insight into the nature of the physical world, but rather because
the application of scientific principles had revolutionized their material
circumstances. The once fluid doctrines of science had by now begun to
crystallize into a fixed and intricate dogma; but inventive scientific
intelligence still exercised itself brilliantly in improving the technique of
industry, and thus completely dominated the imagination of a race in which the
pure intellectual curiosity had waned. The scientist was regarded as an
embodiment, not merely of knowledge, but of power; and no legends of the potency
of science seemed too fantastic to be believed.
A century after the founding of the first World State a rumour began to be heard
in China about the supreme secret of scientific religion, the awful mystery of
Gordelpus, by means of which it should he possible to utilize the energy locked
up in the opposition of proton and electron. Long ago discovered by a Chinese
physicist and saint, this invaluable knowledge was now reputed to have been
preserved ever since among the elite of science, and to be ready for publication
as soon as the world seemed fit to possess it. The new sect of Energists claimed
that the young Discoverer was himself an incarnation of Buddha, and that, since
the world was still unfit for the supreme revelation, he had entrusted his
secret to the Scientists. On the side of Christianity a very similar legend was
concerned with the same individual. The Regenerate Christian Brotherhood, by now
overwhelmingly the most powerful of the Western Churches, regarded the
Discoverer as the Son of God, who, in this his Second Coming, had proposed to
bring about the millennium by publishing the secret of divine power; but,
finding the peoples still unable to put in practice even the more primitive
gospel of love which was announced at his First Coming, he had suffered
martyrdom for man's sake, and had entrusted his secret to the Scientists.
The scientific workers of the world had long ago organized themselves as a close
corporation. Entrance to the International College of Science was to be obtained
only by examination and the payment of high fees. Membership conferred the title
of "Scientist," and the right to perform experiments. It was also an essential
qualification for many lucrative posts. Moreover, there were said to be certain
technical secrets which members were pledged not to reveal. Rumour had it that
in at least one case of minor blabbing the traitor had shortly afterwards
mysteriously died.
Science itself, the actual corpus of natural knowledge, had by now become so
complex that only a tiny fraction of it could be mastered by one brain. Thus
students of one branch of science knew practically nothing of the work of others
in kindred branches. Especially was this the case with the huge science called
Subatomic Physics. Within this were contained a dozen studies, any one of which
was as complex as the whole of the physics of the Nineteenth Christian Century.
This growing complexity had rendered students in one field ever more reluctant
to criticize, or even to try to understand, the principles of other fields. Each
petty department, jealous of its own preserves, was meticulously respectful of
the preserves of others. In an earlier period the sciences had been co-ordinated
and criticized philosophically by their own leaders and by the technical
philosophers. But, philosophy, as a rigorous technical discipline, no longer
existed. There was, of course, a vague framework of ideas, or assumptions, based
on science, and common to all men, a popular pseudo-science, constructed by the
journalists from striking phrases current among scientists. But actual
scientific workers prided themselves on the rejection of this ramshackle
structure, even while they themselves were unwittingly assuming it. And each
insisted that his own special subject must inevitably remain unintelligible even
to most of his brother scientists.
Under these circumstances, when rumour declared that the mystery of Gordelpus
was known to the physicists, each department of subatomic physics was both
reluctant to deny the charge explicitly in its own case, and ready to believe
that some other department really did possess the secret. Consequently the
conduct of the scientists as a body strengthened the general belief that they
knew and would not tell.
About two centuries after the formation of the first World State, the President
of the World declared that the time was ripe for a formal union of science and
religion, and called a conference of the leaders of these two great disciplines.
Upon that island in the Pacific which had become the Mecca of cosmopolitan
sentiment, and was by now one vast many-storied, and cloud-capped Temple of
Peace, the heads of Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, the Regenerate Christian
Brotherhood and the Modern Catholic Church in South America, agreed that their
differences were but differences of expression. One and all were worshippers of
the Divine Energy, whether expressed in activity, or in tense stillness. One and
all recognized the saintly Discoverer as either the last and greatest of the
prophets or an actual incarnation of divine Movement, And these two concepts
were easily shown, in the light of modern science, to be identical.
In an earlier age it had been the custom to single out heresy and extirpate it
with fire and sword. But now the craving for uniformity was fulfilled by
explaining away differences, amid universal applause.
When the Conference had registered the unity of the religions, it went on to
establish the unity of religion and science. All knew, said the President, that
some of the scientists were is possession of the supreme secret, though, wisely,
they would not definitely admit it. It was time, then, that the organizations of
Science and Religion should be merged, for the better guidance of men. He,
therefore, called upon the International College of Science to nominate from
amongst themselves a select body, which should be sanctified by the Church, and
called the Sacred Order of Scientists. These custodians of the supreme secret
were to be kept at public expense. They were to devote themselves wholly to the
service of science, and in particular to research into the most scientific
manner of worshipping the Divine Gordelpus.
Of the scientists present, some few looked distinctly uncomfortable, but the
majority scarcely concealed their delight under dignified and thoughtful
hesitation. Amongst the priests aiso two expressions were visible; but on the
whole it was felt that the Church must gain by thus gathering into herself the
unique prestige of science. And so it was that the Order was founded which was
destined to become the dominant force in human affairs until the downfall of the
first world civilization.
Save for occasional minor local conflicts, easily quelled by the World Police,
the race was now a single social unit for some four thousand years. During the
first of these millennia material progress at least was rapid, but subsequently
there was little change until the final disintegration. The whole energy of man
was concentrated on maintaining at a constant pitch the furious routine of his
civilization, until, after another three thousand years of lavish expenditure,
certain essential sources of power were suddenly exhausted. Nowhere was there
the mental agility to cope with this novel crisis. The whole social order
We may pass over the earlier stages of this fantastic civilization, and examine
it as it stood just before the fatal change began to be felt.
The material circumstances of the race at this time would have amazed all its
predecessors, even those who were in the true sense far more civilized beings.
But to us, the Last Men, there is an extreme pathos and even comicality, not
only in this most thorough confusion of material development with civilization,
but also in the actual paucity of the vaunted material development itself,
compared with that of our own society.
All the continents, indeed, were by now minutely artificialized. Save for the
many wild reserves which were cherished as museums and playgrounds, not a square
mile of territory was left in a natural state. Nor was there any longer a
distinction between agricultural and industrial areas. All the continents were
urbanized, not of course in the manner of the congested industrial cities of an
earlier age, but none the less urbanized. Industry and agriculture
interpenetrated everywhere. This was possible partly through the great
development of aerial communication, partly through a no less remarkable
improvement of architecture. Great advances in artificial materials had enabled
the erection of buildings in the form of slender pylons which, rising often to a
height of three miles, or even more, and founded a quarter of a mile beneath the
ground, might yet occupy a ground plan of less than half a mile across. In
section these structures were often cruciform; and on each floor, the centre of
the long-armed cross consisted of an aerial landing, providing direct access
from the air for the dwarf private aeroplanes which were by now essential to the
life of every adult. These gigantic pillars of architecture, prophetic of the
still mightier structures of an age to come, were scattered over every continent
in varying density. Very rarely were they permitted to approach one another by a
distance less than their height; on the other hand, save in the arctic, they
were very seldom separated by more than twenty miles. The general appearance of
every country was thus rather like an open forest of lopped tree-trunks,
gigantic in stature. Clouds often encircled the middle heights of these
artificial peaks, or blotted out all but the lower stories. Dwellers in the
summits were familiar with the spectacle of a dazzling ocean of cloud, dotted on
all sides with steep islands of architecture. Such was the altitude of the upper
floors that it was sometimes necessary to maintain in them, not merely
artificial heating, but artificial air pressure and oxygen supply.
Between these columns of habitation and industry, the land was everywhere green
or brown with the seasonal variations of agriculture, park, and wild reserve.
Broad grey thoroughfares for heavy freight traffic netted every continent; but
lighter transport and the passenger services were wholly aerial. Over all the
more populous districts the air was ever aswarm with planes up to a height of
five miles, where the giant air-liners plied between the continents.
The enterprise of an already distant past had brought every land under
civilization. The Sahara was a lake district, crowded with sun-proud holiday
resorts. The arctic islands of Canada, ingeniously warmed by directed tropical
currents, were the homes of vigorous northerners. The coasts of Antarctica,
thawed in the same manner, were permanently inhabited by those engaged in
exploiting the mineral wealth of the hinterland.
Much of the power needed to keep this civilization in being was drawn from the
buried remains of prehistoric vegetation, in the form of coal. Although after
the foundation of the World State the fuel of Antarctica had been very carefully
husbanded, the new supply of oil had given out in less than three centuries, and
men were forced to drive their aeroplanes by electricity generated from coal. It
soon became evident, however, that even the unexpectedly rich coal-fields of
Antarctica would not last for ever. The cessation of oil had taught men a much
needed lesson, had made them feel the reality of the power problem. At the same
time the cosmopolitan spirit, which was learning to regard the whole race as
compatriots, was also beginning to take a broader view temporally, and to see
things with the eyes of remote generations. During the first and sanest thousand
years of the World State, there was a widespread determination not to incur the
blame of the future by wasting power. Thus not only was there serious economy
(the first large-scale cosmopolitan enterprise), but also efforts were made to
utilize more permanent sources of power. Wind was used extensively. On every
building swarms of windmills generated electricity, and every mountain range was
similarly decorated, while every considerable fall of water forced its way
through turbines. More important still was the utilization of power derived from
volcanos and from borings into the subterranean heat. This, it had been hoped,
would solve the whole problem of power, once and for all. But even in the
earlier and more intelligent period of the World State inventive genius was not
what it had been, and no really satisfactory method was found. Consequently at
no stage of this civilization did volcanic sources do more than supplement the
amazingly rich coal seams of Antarctica. In this region coal was preserved at
far greater depths than elsewhere, because, by some accident, the earth's
central heat was not here fierce enough (as it was elsewhere) to turn the deeper
beds into graphite. Another possible source of power was known to exist in the
ocean tides; but the use of this was forbidden by the S.O.S. because, since
tidal motion was so obviously astronomical in origin, it had come to be regarded
as sacred.
Perhaps the greatest physical achievement of the First World State in its
earlier and more vital phase had been in preventive medicine. Though the
biological sciences had long ago become stereotyped in respect of fundamental
theories, they continued to produce many practical benefits. No longer did men
and women have to dread for themselves or those dear to them such afflictions as
cancer, tuberculosis, angina pectoris, the rheumatic diseases, and the terrible
disorders of the nervous system. No longer were there sudden microbic
devastations. No longer was childbirth an ordeal, and womanhood itself a source
of suffering. There were no more chronic invalids, no more life-long cripples.
Only senility remained; and even this could be repeatedly alleviated by
physiological rejuvenation. The removal of all these ancient sources of weakness
and misery, which formerly had lamed the race and haunted so many individuals
either with definite terrors or vague and scarcely conscious despond, brought
about now a pervading buoyancy and optimism impossible to earlier peoples.
Such was the physical achievement of this civilization. Nothing half so
artificial and intricate and prosperous had ever before existed. An earlier age,
indeed, had held before itself some such ideal as this; but its nationalistic
mania prevented it from attaining the necessary economic unity. This latter-day
civilization, however, had wholly outgrown nationalism, and had spent many
centuries of peace in consolidating itself. But to what end? The terrors of
destitution and ill-health having been abolished, man's spirit was freed from a
crippling burden, and might have dared great adventures. But unfortunately his
intelligence had by now seriously declined. And so this age, far more than the
notorious "nineteenth century," was the great age of barren complacency.
Every individual was a well-fed and physically healthy human animal. He was also
economically independent. His working day was never more than six hours, often
only four. He enjoyed a fair share of the products of industry; and in his long
holidays he was free to wander in his own aeroplane all over the planet. With
good luck he might find himself rich, even for those days, at forty; and if
fortune had not favoured him, he might yet expect affluence before he was
eighty, when he could still look forward to a century of active life.
But in spite of this material prosperity he was a slave. His work and his
leisure consisted of feverish activity, punctuated by moments of listless
idleness which he regarded as both sinful and unpleasant. Unless he was one of
the furiously successful minority, he was apt to be haunted by moments of
brooding, too formless to be called meditation, and of yearning, too blind to be
called desire. For he and all his contemporaries were ruled by certain ideas
which prevented them from living a fully human life.
Of these ideas one was the ideal of progress. For the individual, the goal
imposed by his religious teaching was continuous advancement in aeronautical
prowess, legal sexual freedom, and millionaireship. For the race also the ideal
was progress, and progress of the same unintelligent type. Ever more brilliant
and extensive aviation, ever more extensive legal sexual intercourse, ever more
gigantic manufacture, and consumption, were to be co-ordinated in an ever more
intricately organized social system. For the last three thousand years, indeed,
progress even of this rude kind had been minute; but this was a source of pride
rather than of regret. It implied that the goal was already almost attained, the
perfection which should justify the release of the secret of divine power, and
the inauguration of an era of incomparably mightier activity.
For the all-pervading idea which tyrannized over the race was the fanatical
worship of movement. Gordelpus, the Prime Mover, demanded of his human
embodiments swift and intricate activity, and the individual's prospect of
eternal life depended on the fulfilment of this obligation. Curiously, though
science had long ago destroyed the belief in personal immortality as an
intrinsic attribute of man, a complementary belief had grown up to the effect
that those who justified nhemselves in action were preserved eternally, by
special miracle, in the swift spirit of Gordelpus. Thus from childhood to death
the individual's conduct was determined by the obligation to produce as much
motion as possible, whether by his own muscular activity or by the control of
natural forces. In the hierarchy of industry three occupations were honoured
almost as much as the Sacred Order of Scientists, namely, flying, dancing, and
athletics. Every one practised all three of these crafts to some extent, for
they were imposed by religion; but the professional fliers and aeronautical
engineers, and the professional dancers and athletes, were a privileged class.
Several causes had raised flying to a position of unique honour. As a means of
communication it was of extreme practical importance; and as the swiftest
locomotion it constituted the supreme act of worship. The accident that the form
of the aeroplane was reminiscent of the main symbol of the ancient Christian
religion lent flying an additional mystical significance. For though the spirit
of Christianity was lost, many of its symbols had been preserved in the new
faith. A more important source of the dominance of flying was that, since
warfare had long ceased to exist, aviation of a gratuitously dangerous kind was
the main outlet for the innate adventurousness of the human animal. Young men
and women risked their lives fervently for the glory of Gordelpus and their own
salvation, while their seniors took vicarious satisfaction in this endless
festival of youthful prowess. Indeed apart from the thrills of devotional aerial
acrobats, it is unlikely that the race would so long have preserved its peace
and its unity. On each of the frequent Days of Sacred Flight special rituals of
communal and solo aviation were performed at every religious centre. On these
occasions the whole sky would he intricately patterned with thousands of planes,
wheeling, tumbling, soaring, plunging, in perfect order and at various
altitudes, the dance at one level being subtly complementary to the dance at
others. It was as though the spontaneous evolutions of many distinct flocks of
redshank and dunlin were multiplied a thousand-fold in complexity, and
subordinated to a single ever-developing terpsichorean theme. Then suddenly the
whole would burst asunder to the horizon, leaving the sky open for the quartets,
duets and solos of the most brilliant stars of flight. At night also, regiments
of planes bearing coloured lights would inscribe on the zenith ever-changing and
symbolical patterns of fire. Besides these aerial dances, there had existed for
eight hundred years a custom of spelling out periodically in a dense flight of
planes six thousand miles long the sacred rubrics of the gospel of Gordelpus, so
that the living word might be visible to other plants.
In the life of every individual, flying played a great part. Immediately after
birth he was taken up by a priestess of flight and dropped, clinging to a
parachute, to be deftly caught upon the wings of his father's plane. This ritual
served as a substitute for contraception (forbidden as an interference with the
divine energy); for since in many infants the old simian grasping-instinct was
atrophied, a large proportion of the new-born let go and were smashed upon the
paternal wings. At adolescence the individual (male or female) took charge of a
plane for the first time, and his life was subsequently punctuated by severe
aeronautical tests. From middle age onwards, namely as a centenarian, when he
could no longer hope to rise in the hierarchy of active flight, he continued to
fly daily for practical purposes.
The two other forms of ritual activity, dancing and athletics, were scarcely
less important. Nor were they confined wholly to the ground. For certain rites
were celebrated by dances upon the wings of a plane in mid air.
Dancing was especially associated with the Negro race, which occupied a very
peculiar position in the world at this time. As a matter of fact the great
colour distinctions of mankind were now beginning to fade. Increased aerial
communication had caused the black, brown, yellow and white stocks so to mingle
that everywhere there was by now a large majority of the racially
indistinguishable. Nowhere was there any great number of persons of marked
racial character. But each of the ancient types was liable to crop up now and
again in isolated individuals, especially in its ancient homeland. These
"throw-backs" were customarily treated in special and historically appropriate
manners. Thus, for instance, it was to "sports" of definite Negro character that
the most sacred dancing was entrusted.
In the days of the nations, the descendants of emancipated African slaves in
North America had greatly influenced the artistic and religious life of the
white population, and had inspired a cult of negroid dancing which survived till
the end of the First Men. This was partly due to the sexual and primitive
character of Negro dancing, sorely needed in a nation ridden by sexual taboos.
But it had also a deeper source. The American nation had acquired its slaves by
capture, and had long continued to spurn their descendants. Later it
unconsciously compensated for its guilt by a cult of the Negro spirit. Thus when
American culture dominated the planet, the pure Negroes became a sacred caste.
Forbidden many of the rights of citizenship, they were regarded as the private
servants of Gordelpus. They were both sacred and outcast. This dual role was
epitomized in an extravagant ritual which took place once a year in each of the
great national parks. A white woman and a Negro, both chosen for their prowess
in dance, performed a long and symbolical ballet, which culminated in a ritual
act of sexual violation, performed in full view of the maddened spectators. This
over, the Negro knifed his victim, and fled through the forest pursued by an
exultant mob. If he reached sanctuary, he became a peculiarly sacred object for
the rest of his life. But if he was caught, he was torn to pieces or drenched
with inflammable spirit and burned. Such was the superstition of the First Men
at this time that the participants in this ceremony were seldom reluctant; for
it was firmly believed that both were assured of eternal life in Gordelpus. In
America this Sacred Lynching was the most popular of all festivals; for it was
both sexual and bloody, and afforded a fierce joy to the masses whose sex-life
was restricted and secret. In India and Africa the violator was always an
"Englishman," when such a rare creature could be found. In China the whole
character of the ceremony was altered; for the violation became a kiss, and the
murder a touch with a fan.
One other race, the Jews, were treated with a similar combination of honour and
contempt, but for very different reasons. In ancient days their general
intelligence, and in particuiar their financial talent, had co-operated with
their homelessness to make them outcasts; and now, in the decline of the First
Men, they retained the fiction, if not strictly the fact, of racial integrity.
They were still outcasts, though indispensable and powerful. Almost the only
kind of intelligent activity which the First Men could still respect was
financial operation, whether private or cosmopolitan. The Jews had made
themselves invaluable in the financial organization of the world state, having
far outstripped the other races because they alone had preserved a furtive
respect for pure intelligence. And so, long after intelligence had come to be
regarded as disreputable in ordinary men and women, it was expected of the Jews.
In them it was called satanic cunning, and they were held to be embodiments of
the powers of evil, harnessed in the service of Gordelpus. Thus in time the Jews
had made something like "a corner" in intelligence. This precious commodity they
used largely for their own purposes; for two thousand years of persecution had
long ago rendered them permanently tribalistic, subconsciously if not
consciously. Thus when they had gained control of the few remaining operations
which demanded originality rather than routine, they used this advantage chiefly
to strengthen their own position in the world. For, though relatively bright,
they had suffered much of the general coarsening and limitation which had beset
the whole world. Though capable to some extent of criticizing the practical
means by which ends should be realized, they were by now wholly incapable of
criticizing the major ends which had dominated their race for thousands of
years. In them intelligence had become utterly subservient to tribalism. There
was thus some excuse for the universal hate and even physical repulsion with
which they were regarded; for they alone had failed to make the one great
advance, from tribalism to a cosmopolitanism which in other races was no longer
merely theoretical. There was good reason also for the respect which they
received, since they retained and used somewhat ruthlessly a certain degree of
the most distinctively human attribute, intelligence.
In primitive times the intelligence and sanity of the race had been preserved by
the inability of its unwholesome members to survive. When humanitarianism came
into vogue, and the unsound were tended at public expense, this natural
selection ceased. And since these unfortunates were incapable alike of prudence
and of social responsibility, they procreated without restraint, and threatened
to infect the whole species with their rottenness. During the zenith of Western
Civilization, therefore, the subnormal were sterilized. But the latter-day
worshippers of Gordelpus regarded both sterilization and contraception as a
wicked interference with the divine potency. Consequently the only restriction
on population was the suspension of the new-born from aeroplanes, a process
which, though it eliminated weaklings, favoured among healthy infants rather the
primitive than the highly developed. Thus the intelligence of the race steadily
declined. And no one regretted it.
The general revulsion from intelligence was a corollary of the adoration of
instinct, and this in turn was an aspect of the worship of activity. Since the
unconscious source of human vigour was the divine energy, spontaneous impulse
must so far as possible never be thwarted. Reasoning was indeed permitted to the
individual within the sphere of his official work, but never beyond. And not
even specialists might indulge in reasoning and experiment without obtaining a
licence for the particular research. The licence was expensive, and was only
granted if the goal in view could be shown to be an increase of world activity.
In old times certain persons of morbid curiosity had dared to criticize the
time-honoured methods of doing things, and had suggested "better" methods not
convenient to the Sacred Order of Scientists. This had to be stopped. By the
fourth millennium of the World State the operations of civilization had become
so intricately stereotyped that novel situations of a major order never
One kind of intellectual pursuit in addition to finance was, indeed. honoured,
namely mathematical calculation. All ritual movements, all the motions of
industrial machinery, all observable natural phenomena, had to be minutely
described in mathematical formulae. The records were filed in the sacred
archives of the S.O.S. And there they remained. The vast enterprise of
mathematical description was the main work of the scientists, and was said to be
the only means by which the evanescent thing, movement, could be passed into the
eternal being of Gordelpus.
The cult of instinct did not result simply in a life of ungoverned impulse. Far
from it. For the fundamental instinct, it was said, was the instinct to worship
Gordelpus in action, and this should rule all the other instincts. Of these, the
most important and sacred was the sexual impulse, which the First Men had ever
tended to regard as both divine and obscene. Sex, therefore, was now very
strictly controlled. Reference to sexuality, save by circumlocution, was
forbidden by law. Persons who remarked on the obvious sexual significance of the
religious dances, were severely punished. No sexual activity and no sex
knowledge were permitted to the individual until he had won his (or her) wings.
Much information, of a distorted and perverted nature could, indeed, be gained
meanwhile by observation of the religious writings and practices; but officially
these sacred matters were all given a metaphysical, not a sexual interpretation.
And though legal maturity, the Wing-Winning, might occur as early as the age of
fifteen, sometimes it was not attained till forty. If at that age the individual
still failed in the test, he or she was forbidden sexual intercourse and
information for ever.
In China and India this extravagant sexual taboo was somewhat mitigated. Many
easy-going persons had come to feel that the imparting of sex knowledge to the
"immature" was only wrong when the medium of communication was the sacred
American language. They therefore made use of the local patois. Similarly,
sexual activity of the "immature" was permissible so long as it was performed
solely in the wild reserves, and without American speech. These subterfuges,
however, were condemned by the orthodox, even in Asia.
When a man had won his wings, he was formally initiated into the mystery of sex
and all its "biologico-religious" significance. He was also allowed to take a
"domestic wife." and after a much more severe aviation test, any number of
"symbolical" wives. Similarly with the woman. These two kinds of partnership
differed greatly. The "domestic" husband and wife appeared in public together,
and their union was indissoluble. The "symbolic" union, on the other hand, could
be dissolved by either party. Also it was too sacred ever to be revealed, or
even mentioned, in public.
A very large number of persons never passed the test which sanctioned sexuality.
These either remained virgin, or indulged in sexual relations which were not
only illegal but sacrilegious. The successful, on the other hand, were apt to
consummate sexually every casual acquaintance.
Under these circumstances it was natural that there should exist among the
sexually submerged part of the population certain secret cults which sought
escape from harsh reality into worlds of fantasy. Of these illicit sects, two
were most widespread. One was a perversion of the ancient Christian faith in a
God of Love. All love, it was said, is sexual; therefore in worship, private or
public, the individual must seek a direct sexual relation with God. Hence arose
a grossly phallic cult, very contemptible to those more fortunate persons who
had no need of it.
The other great heresy was derived partly from the energy of repressed
intellective impulses, and was practised by persons of natural curiosity who,
nevertheless, shared the universal paucity of intelligence. These pathetic
devotees of intellect were inspired by Socrates. That great primitive had
insisted that clear thought is impossible without clear definition of terms, and
that without clear thinking man misses fullness of being. These his last
disciples were scarcely less fervent admirers of truth than their master, yet
they missed his spirit completely. Only by knowing the truth, they said, can the
individual attain immortality; only by defining can he know the truth.
Therefore, meeting together in secret, and in constant danger of arrest for
illicit intellection, they disputed endlessly about the definition of things.
But the things which they were concerned to define were not the basic concepts
of human thought; for these, they affirmed, had been settled once for all by
Socrates and his immediate followers. Therefore, accepting these as true, and
grossly misunderstanding them, the ultimate Socratics undertook to define all
the processes of the world state and the ritual of the established religion, all
the emotions of men and women, all the shapes of noses, mouths, buildings,
mountains, clouds, and in fact the whole superficies of their world. Thus they
believe that they emancipated themselves from the philistinism of their age, and
secured comradeship with Socrates in the hereafter.
The collapse of this first world-civilization was due to the sudden failure of
the supplies of coal. All the original fields had been sapped centuries earlier,
and it should have been obvious that those more recently discovered could not
last for ever. For some thousands of years the main supply had come from
Antarctica. So prolific was this continent that latterly a superstition had
arisen in the clouded minds of the world-citizens that it was in some mysterious
manner inexhaustible. Thus when at last, in spite of strict censorship, the news
began to leak out that even the deepest possible borings had failed to reveal
further vegetable deposits of any kind, the world was at first incredulous.
The sane policy would have been to abolish the huge expense of power on ritual
flying, which used more of the community's resources than the whole of
productive industry. But to believers in Gordelpus such a course was almost
unthinkable. Moreover it would have undermined the flying aristocracy. This
powerful class now declared that the time had come for the release of the secret
of divine power, and called on the S.O.S. to inaugurate the new era. Vociferous
agitation in all lands put the scientists in an awkward plight. They gained time
by declaring that, though the moment of revelation was approaching, it had not
yet arrived; for they had received a divine intimation that this failure of coal
was imposed as a supreme test of man's faith. The service of Gordelpus in ritual
flight must be rather increased than reduced. Spending a bare mimimum of its
power on secular matters, the race must concentrate upon religion. When
Gordelpus had evidence of their devotion and trust, he would permit the
scientists to save them.
Such was the prestige of science that at first this explanation was universally
accepted. The ritual flights were maintained. All luxury trades were abolished,
and even vital services were reduced to a minimum. Workers thus thrown out of
employment were turned over to agricultural labour; for it was felt that the use
of mechanical power in mere tillage must he as soon as possible abolished. These
changes demanded far more organizing ability than was left in the race.
Confusion was widespread, save here and there where serious organization was
attempted by certain Jews.
The first result of this great movement of economy and self-denial was to cause
something of a spiritual awakening among many who had formerly lived a life of
bored ease. This was augmented by the widespread sense of crisis and impending
marvels. Religion, which, in spite of its universal authority in this age, had
become a matter of ritual rather than of inward experience, began to stir in
many hearts,--not indeed as a movement of true worship, but rather as a vague
awe, not unmixed with selfimportance.
But as the novelty of this enthusiasm dwindled, and life became increasingly
uncomfortable, even the most zealous began to notice with horror that in moments
of inactivity they were prone to doubts too shocking to confess. And as the
situation worsened, even a life of ceaseless action could not suppress these
wicked fantasies.
For the race was now entering upon an unprecedented psychological crisis,
brought about by the impact of the economic disaster upon a permanently
unwholesome mentality. Each individual, it must be remembered, had once been a
questioning child, but had been taught to shun curiosity as the breath of Satan.
Consequently the whole race was suffering from a kind of inverted repression, a
repression of the intellective impulses. The sudden economic change, which
affected all classes throughout the planet, thrust into the focus of attention a
shocking curiosity, an obsessive scepticism, which had hitherto been buried in
the deepest recesses of the mind.
It is not easy to conceive the strange mental disorder that now afflicted the
whole race, symbolizing itself in some cases by fits of actual physical vertigo.
After centuries of prosperity, of routine, of orthodoxy, men were suddenly
possessed by a doubt which they regarded as diabolical. No one said a word of
it; but in each man's own mind the fiend raised a whispering head, and each was
haunted by the troubled eyes of his fellows. Indeed the whole changed
circumstances of his life jibed at his credulity.
Earlier in the career of the race, this world crisis might have served to wake
men into sanity. Under the first pressure of distress they might have abandoned
the extravagances of their culture. But by now the ancient way of life was too
deeply rooted. Consequently, we observe the fantastic spectacle of a world
engaged, devotedly and even heroically, on squandering its resources in vast
aeronautical displays, not through single-minded faith in their rightness and
efficacy, but solely in a kind of desperate automatism. Like those little
rodents whose migration became barred by an encroachment of the sea, so that
annually they drowned themselves in thousands, the First Men helplessly
continued in their ritualistic behaviour; but unlike the lemmings, they were
human enough to be at the same time oppressed by unbelief, an unbelief which,
moreover, they dared not recognize.
Meanwhile the scientists were earnestly and secretly delving in the ancient
literature of their science, in hope of discovering the forgotten talisman. They
undertook also clandestine experiments, but upon a false trail laid by the wily
English contemporary of the Discoverer. The main results were, that several
researchers were poisoned or electrocuted, and a great college was blown up.
This event impressed the populace, who supposed the accident to be due to an
overdaring exercise of the divine potency. The misunderstanding inspired the
desperate scientists to rig further impressive "miracles," and moreover to use
them to dispel the increasing restlessness of hungry industrial workers. Thus
when a deputation arrived outside the offices of Cosmopolitan Agriculture to
demand more flour for industrialists, Gordelpus miraculously blew up the ground
on which they stood, and flung their bodies among the onlookers. When the
agriculturists of China struck to obtain a reasonable allowance of electric
power for their tillage, Gordelpus affected them with an evil atmosphere, so
that they choked and died in thousands. Stimulated in this manner by direct
divine intervention, the doubting and disloyal elements of the world population
recovered their faith and their docility. And so the world jogged on for a
while, as nearly as possible as it had done for the last four thousand years,
save for a general increase of hunger and ill-health.
But inevitably, as the conditions of life became more and more severe. docility
gave place to desperation. Daring spirits began publicly to question the wisdom,
and even the piety, of so vast an expenditure of power upon ritual flight, when
prime necessities such as food and clothing were becoming so scarce. Did not
this helpless devotion merely ridicule them in the divine eyes? God helps him
who helps himself. Already the death rate had risen alarmingly. Emaciated and
ragged persons were beginning to beg in public places. In certain districts
whole populations were starving, and the Directorate did nothing for them. Yet,
elsewhere, harvests were being wasted for lack of power to reap them. In all
lands an angry clamour arose for the inauguration of the new era.
The scientists were by now panic-stricken. Nothing had come of their researches,
and it was evident that in future all wind and water-power must be devoted to
the primary industries. Even so, there was starvation ahead for many. The
President of the Physical Society suggested to the Directorate that ritual
flying should at once be reduced by half as a compromise with Gordelpus.
Immediately the hideous truth, which few hitherto had dared to admit even to
themselves, was blurted out upon the ether by a prominent Jew: the whole hoary
legend of the divine secret was a lie, else why were the physicists temporizing?
Dismay and rage spread over the planet. Everywhere the people rose against the
scientists, amid against the governing authority which they controlled.
Massacres and measures of retaliation soon developed into civil wars. China and
India declared themselves free national states, but could not achieve internal
unity. In America, ever a stronghold of science and religion, the Government
maintained its authority for a while; but as its seat became less secure, its
methods became more ruthless. Finally it made the mistake of using not merely
poison gas, but microbes; and such was the decayed state of medical science that
no one could invent a means of restraining their ravages. The whole American
continent succumbed to a plague of pulmonary and nervous diseases. The ancient
"American Madness," which long ago had been used against China, now devastated
America. The great stations of waterpower and Windpower were wrecked by lunatic
mobs who sought vengeance upon anything associated with authority. Whole
populations vanished in an orgy of cannibalism.
In Asia and Africa, some semblance of order was maintained for a while.
Presently, however, the American Madness spread to these continents also, and
very soon all living traces of their civilization vanished.
Only in the most natural fertile areas of the world could the diseased remnant
of a population now scrape a living from the soil. Elsewhere, utter desolation.
With easy strides the jungle came hack into its own.
WE have reached a period in man's history rather less than five thousand years
after the life of Newton. In this chapter we must cover about one hundred and
fifteen thousand years, and in the next chapter another ten million years. That
will bring us to a point as remotely future from the First World State as the
earliest anthropoids were remotely past. During the first tenth of the first
million years after the fall of the World State, during a hundred thousand
years, man remained in complete eclipse. Not till the close of this span, which
we will call the First Dark Age, did he struggle once more from savagery through
barbarism into civilization and then his renaissance was relatively brief. From
its earliest beginnings to its end, it covered only fifteen thousand years; and
in its final agony the planet was so seriously damaged that mind lay henceforth
in deep slumber for ten more millions of years. This was the Second Dark Age.
Such is the field which we must observe in this and the following chapter.
It might have been expected that, after the downfall of the First World State,
recovery would have occurred within a few generations. Historians have, indeed,
often puzzled over the cause of this surprisingly complete and lasting
degradation. Innate human nature was roughly the same immediately after as
immediately before the crisis; yet minds that had easily maintained a
world-civilization in being, proved quite incapable of building a new order on
the ruins of the old. Far from recovering, man's estate rapidly deteriorated
till it had sunk into abject savagery.
Many causes contributed to this result, some relatively superficial and
temporary, some profound and lasting. It is as though Fate, directing events
toward an allotted end, had availed herself of many diverse instruments, none of
which would have sufficed alone, though all worked together irresistibly in the
same sense. The immediate cause of the helplessness of the race during the
actual crisis of the World State was of course the vast epidemic of insanity and
still more widespread deterioration of intelligence, which resulted from the use
of microbes. This momentary seizure made it impossible for man to check his
downfall during its earliest and least unmanageable stage. Later, when the
epidemic was spent, even though civilization was already in ruins, a concerted
effort of devotion might yet have rebuilt it on a more modest plan. But among
the First Men only a minority had ever been capable of wholehearted devotion.
The great majority were by nature too much obsessed by private impulses. And in
this black period, such was the depth of disillusion and fatigue, that even
normal resolution was impossible. Not only man's social structure but the
structure of the universe itself, it seemed, had failed. The only reaction was
supine despair. Four thousand years of routine had deprived human nature of all
its suppleness. To expect these things to refashion their whole behaviour, were
scarcely less unreasonable than to expect ants, when their nest was flooded, to
assume the habits of water beetles.
But a far more profound and lasting cause doomed the First Men to lie prone for
a long while, once they had fallen. A subtle physiological change, which it is
tempting to call "general senescence of the species," was undermining the human
body and mind. The chemical equilibrium of each individual was becoming more
unstable, so that, little by little, man's unique gift of prolonged youth was
being lost. Far more rapidly than of old, his tissues failed to compensate for
the wear and tear of living. This disaster was by no means inevitable; but it
was brought on by influences peculiar to the make-up of the species, and
aggravated artificially. For during some thousands of years man had been living
at too high a pressure in a biologically unnatural environment, and had found no
means of compensating his nature for the strain thus put upon it.
Conceive, then, that after the fall of the First World State, the generations
slid rapidly through dusk into night. To inhabit those centuries was to live in
the conviction of universal decay, and under the legend of a mighty past. The
population was derived almost wholly from the agriculturists of the old order,
and since agriculture had been considered a sluggish and base occupation, fit
only for sluggish natures, the planet was now peopled with yokels. Deprived of
power, machinery, and chemical fertilizers, these bumpkins were hard put to it
to keep themselves alive. And indeed only a tenth of their number survived the
great disaster. The second generation knew civilization only as a legend. Their
days were filled with ceaseless tillage, and in banding together to fight
marauders. Women became once more sexual and domestic chattels. The family, or
tribe of families, became the largest social whole. Endless brawls and feuds
sprang up between valley and valley, and between the tillers and the brigand
swarms. Small military tyrants rose and fell; but no permanent unity of control
could be maintained over a wide region. There was no surplus wealth to spend on
such luxuries as governments and trained armies.
Thus without appreciable change the millennia dragged on in squalid drudgery.
For these latter-day barbarians were hampered by living in a used planet. Not
only were coal and oil no more, but almost no mineral wealth of any kind
remained within reach of their feeble instruments and wits. In particular the
minor metals, needed for so many of the multifarious activities of developed
material civilization, had long ago disappeared fromn the more accessible depths
of the earth's crust. Till-age moreover was hampered by the fact that iron
itself, which was no longer to be had without mechanical mining, was now
inaccessible. Men had been forced to resort once more to stone implements, as
their first human ancestors had done. But they lacked both the skill and the
persistence of the ancients. Not for them the delicate flaking of the Paleoliths
nor the smooth symmetry of the Neoliths. Their tools were but broken pebbles,
chipped improvements upon natural stones. On almost every one they engraved the
same pathetic symbol, the Swastika or cross, which had been used by the First
Men as a sacred emblem throughout their existence, though with varying
significance. In this instance it had originally been the figure of an aeroplane
diving to destruction, and had been used by the rebels to symbolize the downfall
of Gordelpus and the State. But subsequent generations reinterpreted the emblem
as the sign manual of a divine ancestor, and as a memento of the golden age from
which they were destined to decline for ever, or until the gods should
intervene. Almost one might say that in its persistent use of this symbol the
first human species unwittingly epitomized its own dual and self-thwarting
The idea of irresistible decay obsessed the race at this time. The generation
which brought about the downfall of the World State oppressed its juniors with
stories of past amenities and marvels, and hugged to itself the knowledge that
the young men had not the wit to rebuild such complexity. Generation by
generation, as the circumstance of actual life became more squalid, the legend
of past glory became more extravagant. The whole mass of scientific knowledge
was rapidly lost, save for a few shreds which were of practical service even in
savage life. Fragments of the old culture were indeed preserved in the tangle of
folk-lore that meshed the globe, but they were distorted beyond recognition.
Thus there was a widespread belief that the world had begun as fire, and that
life had evolved out of the fire. After the apes had appeared, evolution ceased
(so it was said), until divine spirits came down and possessed the female apes,
thereby generating human beings. Thus had arisen the golden age of the divine
ancestors. But unfortunately after a while the beast in man had triumphed over
the god, so that progress had given place to age-long decay. And indeed decay
was now unavoidable, until such time as the gods should see fit to come down to
cohabit with women and fire the race once more. This faith in the second coming
of the gods persisted here and there throughout the First Dark Age, and consoled
men for their vague conviction of degeneracy.
Even at the close of the First Dark Age the ruins of the ancient residential
pylons still characterized every landscape, often with an effect of senile
domination over the hovels of latter-day savages. For the living races dwelt
beneath these relics like puny grandchildren playing around the feet of their
fathers' once mightier fathers. So well had the past built, and with such
durable material, that even after a hundred millennia the ruins were still
recognizably artifacts. Though for the most part they were of course by now
little more than pyramids of debris overgrown with grass and brushwood, most of
them retained some stretch of standing wall, and here and there a favoured
specimen still reared from its rubble-encumbered base a hundred foot or so of
cliff, punctured with windows. Fantastic legends now clustered round these
relics. In one myth the men of old had made for themselves huge palaces which
could fly. For a thousand years (an aeon to these savages) men had dwelt in
unity, and in reverence of the gods; but at last they had become puffed up with
their own glory, and had undertaken to fly to the sun and moon and the field of
stars, to oust the gods from their bright home. But the gods sowed discord among
them, so that they fell a-fighting one another in the upper air, and their swift
palaces crashed down to the earth in thousands, to be monuments of man's folly
for ever after. In yet another saga it was the men themselves who were winged.
They inhabited dovecots of masonry, with summits overtopping the stars and
outraging the gods; who therefore destroyed them. Thus in one form or another,
this theme of the downfall of the mighty fliers of old tyrannized over these
abject peoples. Their crude tillage, their hunting, their defence against the
reviving carnivora, were hampered at every turn by fear of offending the gods by
any innovation.
As the centuries piled up, the human species had inevitably diverged once more
into many races in the various geographical areas. And each race consisted of a
swarm of tribes, each ignorant of all but its immediate neighbours. After many
millennia this vast diversification of stocks and cultures made it possible for
fresh biological transfusions and revivifications to occur. At last, after many
racial copulations, a people arose in whom the ancient dignity of humanity was
somewhat restored. Once more there was a real distinction between the
progressive and the backward regions, between "primitive" and relatively
enlightened cultures.
This rebirth occurred in the Southern Hemisphere. Complex climatic changes had
rendered the southern part of South America a fit nursery for civilization.
Further, an immense warping of the earth's crust to the east and south of
Patagonia, had turned what was once a relatively shallow region of the ocean
into a vast new land connecting America with Antarctica by way of the former
Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and stretching thence east and north-east
into the heart of the Atlantic.
It happened also that in South America the racial conditions were more
favourable than elsewhere. After the fall of the First World State the European
element in this region had dwindled, and the ancient "Indian" and Peruvian stock
had come into dominance. Many thousands of years earlier, this race had achieved
a primitive civilization of its own. After its ruin at the hands of the
Spaniards, it had seemed a broken and negligible thing; yet it had ever kept
itself curiously aloof in spirit from its conquerors. Though the two stocks had
mingled inextricably, there remained ever in the remoter parts of this continent
a way of life which was foreign to the dominant Americanism. Superficially
Americanized, it remained fundamentally "Indian" and unintelligible to the rest
of the world. Throughout the former civilization this spirit had lain dormant
like a seed in winter; but with the return of barbarism it had sprouted, and
quietly spread in all directions. From the interaction of this ancient primitive
culture and the many other racial elements left over in the continent from the
old cosmopolitan civilization, civil life was to begin once more. Thus in a
manner the Incas were at last to triumph over their conquerors.
Various causes, then, combined in South America, and especially in the new and
virgin plains of Patagonia, to bring the First Dark Age to an end. The great
theme of mind began to repeat itself. But in a minor key. For a grave disability
hampered the Patagonians. They began to grow old before their adolescence was
completed. In the days of Einstein, an individual's youth lasted some
twenty-five years, and under the World State it had been artificially doubled.
After the downfall of civilization the increasing natural brevity of the
individual life was no longer concealed by artifice, and at the end of the First
Dark Age a boy of fifteen was already settling into middle age. Patagonian
civilization at its height afforded considerable ease and security of life, and
enabled man to live to seventy or even eighty; but the period of sensitive and
supple youth remained at the very best little more than a decade and a half.
Thus the truly young were never able to contribute to culture before they were
already at heart middleaged. At fifteen their bones were definitely becoming
brittle, their hair grizzled, their faces lined. Their joints and muscles were
stiffening, their brains were no longer quick to learn new adjustments, their
fervour was evaporating.
It may seem strange that under these circumstances any kind of civilization
could be achieved by the race, that any generation should ever have been able to
do more than learn the tricks of its elders. Yet in fact, though progress was
never swift, it was steady. For though these beings lacked much of the vigour of
youth, they were compensated somewhat by escaping much of youth's fevers and
distractions. The First Men, in fact, were now a race whose wild oats had been
sown; and though their youthful escapades had somewhat crippled them, they had
now the advantage of sobriety and singleness of purpose. Though doomed by
lassitude, and a certain fear of extravagance, to fall short of the highest
achievements of their predecessors, they avoided much of the wasteful
incoherence and mental conflict which had tortured the earlier civilization at
its height, though not in its decline. Moreover, because their animal nature was
somewhat subdued, the Patagonians were more capable of dispassionate cognition,
and more inclined toward intellectualism. They were a people in whom rational
behaviour was less often subverted by passion, though more liable to fail
through mere indolence or faint-heartedness. Though they found detachment
relatively easy, theirs was the detachment of mere lassitude, not the leap from
the prison of life's cravings into a more spacious world.
One source of the special character of the Patagonian mind was that in it the
sexual impulse was relatively weak. Many obscure causes had helped to temper
that lavish sexuality in respect of which the first human species differed from
all other animals, even the continuously sexual apes. These causes were diverse,
but they combined to produce in the last phase of the life of the species a
general curtailment of excess energy. In the Dark Age the severity of the
struggle for existence had thrust the sexual interest back almost into the
subordinate place which it occupies in the animal mind. Coitus became a luxury
only occasionally desired, while selfpreservation had become once more an urgent
and ever-present necessity. When at last life began to be easier, sexuality
remained in partial eclipse, for the forces of racial "senescence" were at work.
Thus the Patagonian culture differed in mood from all the earlier cultures of
the First Men. Hitherto it had been the clash of sexuality and social taboo that
had generated half the fervour and half the delusions of the race. The excess
energy of a victorious species, directed by circumstance into the great river of
sex, and dammed by social convention, had been canalized for a thousand labours.
And though often it would break loose and lay all waste before it, in the main
it had been turned to good account. At all times indeed, it had been prone to
escape in all directions and carve out channels for itself, as a lopped tree
stump sends forth not one but a score of shoots. Hence the richness, diversity,
incoherence, violent and uncomprehended cravings and enthusiasms, of the earlier
peoples. In the Patagonians there was no such luxuriance. That they were not
highly sexual was not in itself a weakness. What mattered was that the springs
of energy which formerly happened to flood into the channel of sex were
themselves impoverished.
Conceive, then, a small and curiously sober people established east of the
ancient Bahia Blanca, and advancing century by century over the plains and up
the valleys. In time it reached and encircled the heights which were once the
island of South Georgia, while to the north and west it spread into the
Brazilian highlands and over the Andes. Definitely of higher type than any of
their neighbours, definitely more vigorous and acute, the Patagonians were
without serious rivals. And since by temperament they were peaceable and
conciliatory, their cultural progress was little delayed, either by military
imperialism or internal strife. Like their predecessors in the northern
hemisphere, they passed through phases of disruption and union, retrogression
and regeneration; but their career was on the whole more steadily progressive,
and less dramatic, than anything that had occurred before. Earlier peoples had
leapt from barbarism to civil life and collapsed again within a thousand years.
The slow march of the Patagonians took ten times as long to pass from a tribal
to a civic organization.
Eventually they comprised a vast and highly organized community of autonomous
provinces, whose political and cultural centre lay upon the new coast north-east
of the ancient Falkland Islands, while its barbarian outskirts included much of
Brazil and Peru. The absence of serious strife between the various parts of this
"empire" was due partly to an innately pacific disposition, partly to a genius
for organization. These influences were strengthened by a curiously potent
tradition of cosmopolitanism, or human unity, which had been born in the agony
of disunion before the days of the World State, and was so burnt into men's
hearts that it survived as an element of myth even through the Dark Age. So
powerful was this tradition, that even when the sailing ships of Patagonia had
founded colonies in remote Africa and Australia, these new communities remained
at heart one with the mother country. Even when the almost Nordic culture of the
new and temperate Antarctic coasts had outshone the ancient centre, the
political harmony of the race was never in danger.
The Patagonians passed through all the spiritual phases that earlier races had
experienced, but in a distinctive manner. They had their primitive tribal
religion, derived from the dark past, and based on the fear of natural forces.
They had their monotheistic impersonation of Power as a vindictive Creator.
Their most adored racial hero was a god-man who abolished the old religion of
fear. They had their phases, also, of devout ritual and their phases of
rationalism, and again their phases of empirical curiosity.
Most significant for the historian who would understand their special mentality
is the theme of the god-man; so curiously did it resemble, yet differ from,
similar themes in earlier cultures of the first human species. He was conceived
as eternally adolescent, and as mystically the son of all men and women. Far
from being the Elder Brother, he was the Favourite Child; and indeed he
epitomizes that youthful energy and enthusiasm which the race now guessed was
slipping away from it. Though the sexual interest of this people was weak, the
parental interest was curiously strong. But the worship of the Favourite Son was
not merely parental; it expressed also both the individual's craving for his own
lost youth, and his obscure sense that the race itself was senescent.
It was believed that the prophet had actually lived a century as a fresh
adolescent. He was designated the Boy who Refused to Grow Up. And this vigour of
will was possible to him, it was said, because in him the feeble vitality of the
race was concentrated many millionfold. For he was the fruit of all parental
passion that ever was and would be; and as such he was divine. Primarily he was
the Son of Man, but also he was God. For God, in this religion, was no prime
Creator but the fruit of man's endeavour. The Creator was brute power, which had
quite inadvertently begotten a being nobler than itself. God, the adorable, was
the eternal outcome of man's labour in time, the eternally realized promise of
what man himself should become. Yet though this cult was based on the will for a
young-hearted future, it was also overhung by a dread, almost at times a
certainty, that in fact such a future would never be, that the race was doomed
to grow old and die, that spirit could never conquer the corruptible flesh, but
must fade and vanish. Only by taking to heart the message of the Divine Boy, it
was said, could man hope to escape this doom.
Such was the legend. It is instructive to examine the reality. The actual
individual, in whom this myth of the Favourite Son was founded, was indeed
remarkable. Born of shepherd parents among the Southern Andes, he had first
become famous as the leader of a romantic "youth movement"; and it was this
early stage of his career that won him followers. He urged the young to set an
example to the old, to live their own life undaunted by conventions, to enjoy,
to work hard but briefly, to be loyal comrades. Above all, he preached the
religious duty of remaining young in spirit. No one, he said, need grow old, if
he willed earnestly not to do so, if he would but keep his soul from falling
asleep, his heart open to all rejuvenating influences and shut to every breath
of senility. The delight of soul in soul, he said, was the great rejuvenator; it
re-created both lover and beloved. If Patagonians would only appreciate each
other's beauty without jealousy, the race would grow young again. And the
mission of his ever-increasing Band of Youth was nothing less than the
rejuvenation of man.
The propagation of this attractive gospel was favoured by a seeming miracle. The
prophet turned out to be biologically unique among Patagonians. When many of his
coevals were showing signs of senescence, he remained physically young. Also he
possessed a sexual vigour which to the Patagonians seemed miraculous. And since
sexual taboo was unknown, he exercised himself so heartily in love-making, that
he had paramours in every village, and presently his offspring were numbered in
hundreds. In this respect his followers strove hard to live up to him, though
with small success. But it was not only physically that the prophet remained
young. He preserved also a striking youthful agility of mind. His sexual
prodigality, though startling to his contemporaries, was in him a temperate
overflow of surplus energy. Far from exhausting him, it refreshed him.
Presently, however, this exuberance gave place to a more sober life of work and
meditation. It was in this period that he began to differentiate himself
mentally from his fellows. For at twenty-five, when most Patagonians were deeply
settled into a mental groove, he was still battling with successive waves of
ideas, and striking out into the unknown. Not till ime was forty, and still
physically in earlier prime, did he gather his strength and deliver himself of
his mature gospel. This, his considered view of existence, turned out to be
almost unintelligible to Patagonians. Though in a sense it was an expression of
their own culture, it was an expression upon a plane of vitality to which very
few of them could ever reach.
The climax came when, during a ceremony in the supreme temple of the capital
city, while the worshippers were all prostrated before the hideous image of the
Creator, the ageless prophet strode up to the altar, regarded first the
congregation and then the god, burst into a hearty peal of laughter, slapped the
image resoundingly, and cried, "Ugly, I salute you! Not as almighty, but as the
greatest of all jokers. To have such a face, and yet to be admired for it! To be
so empty, and yet so feared!" Instantly there was a hubbub. But such was the
young iconoclast's god-like radiance, confidence, unexpectedness, and such his
reputation as the miraculous Boy, that when he turned upon the crowd, they fell
silent, and listened to his scolding.
"Fools!" he cried. "Senile infants! If God really likes your adulation, and all
this hugger-mugger, it is because he enjoys the joke against you, and against
himself, too. You are too serious, yet not serious enough; too solemn, and all
for puerile ends. You are so eager for life, that you cannot live. You cherish
your youth so much that it flies from you. When I was a boy, I said, 'Let us
keep young'; and you applauded, and went about hugging your toys and refusing to
grow up. What I said was not bad for a boy, but it was not enough. Now I am a
man; and I say, 'For God's sake, grow up!" Of course we must keep young; but it
is useless to keep young if we do not also grow up, and never stop growing up.
To keep young, surely, is just to keep supple and keen; and to grow up is not at
all a mere sinking into stiffness and into disillusion, but a rising into ever
finer skill in all the actions of the game of living. There is something else,
too, which is a part of growing up--to see that life is really, after all, a
game; a terribly serious game, no doubt, but none the less a game. When we play
a game, as it should be played, we strain every muscle to win; but all the while
we care less for winning than for the game. And we play the better for it. When
barbarians play against a Patagonian team, they forget that it is a game, and go
mad for victory. And then how we despise them! If they find themselves losing,
they turn savage; if winning, blatant. Either way, the game is murdered, and
they cannot see that they are slaughtering a lovely thing. How they pester and
curse the umpire, too! I have done that myself, of course, before now; not in
games but in life. I have actually cursed the umpire of life. Better so, anyhow,
than to insult him with presents, in the hope of being favoured; which is what
you are doing here, with your salaams and your vows. I never did that. I merely
hated him. Then later I learned to laugh at him, or rather at the thing you set
up in his place. But now at last I see him clearly, and laugh with him, at
myself, for having missed the spirit of the game. But as for you! Coming here to
fawn and whine and cadge favours of the umpire!"
At this point the people rushed toward him to seize him. But he checked them
with a young laugh that made them love while they hated. He spoke again.
"I want to tell you how I came to learn my lesson. I have a queer love for
clambering about the high mountains; and once when I was up among the
snow-fields and precipices of Aconcagua, I was caught in a blizzard. Perhaps
some of you may know what storms can be like in the mountains. The air became a
hurtling flood of snow. I was swallowed up and carried away. After many hours of
floundering, I fell into a snow-drift. I tried to rise, but fell again and
again, till my head was buried. The thought of death enraged me, for there was
still so much that I wanted to do. I struggled frantically, vainly. Then
suddenly--how can I put it?--I saw the game that I was losing, and it was good.
Good, no less to lose than to win. For it was the game, now, not victory, that
mattered. Hitherto I had been blindfold, and a slave to victory; suddenly I was
free, and with sight. For now I saw myself, and all of us, through the eyes of
the umpire. It was as though a play-actor were to see the whole play, with his
own part in it, through the author's eyes, from the auditorium. Here was I,
acting the part of a rather fine man who had come to grief through his own
carelessness before his work was done. For me, a character in the play, the
situation was hideous; yet for me, the spectator, it had become excellent,
within a wider excellence. I saw that it was equally so with all of us, and with
all the worlds. For I seemed to see a thousand worlds taking part with us in the
great show. And I saw everything through the calm eyes, the exultant, almost
derisive, yet not unkindly, eyes of the playwright.
"Well, it had seemed that my exit had come; but no, there was still a cue for
me. Somehow I was so strengthened by this new view of things that I struggled
out of the snow-drift. And here I am once more. But I am a new man. My spirit is
free. While I was a boy, I said, 'Grow more alive'; but in those days I never
guessed that there was an aliveness far intenser than youth's flicker, a kind of
still incandescence. Is there no one here who knows what I mean? No one who at
least desires this keener living? The first step is to outgrow this adulation of
life itself, and this cadging obsequiousness toward Power. Come! Put it away!
Break the ridiculous image in your hearts, as I now smash this idol."
So saying he picked up a great candlestick and shattered the image. Once more
there was an uproar, and the temple authorities had him arrested. Not long
afterwards he was tried for sacrilege and executed. For this final extravagance
was but the climax of many indiscretions, and those in power were glad to have
so obvious a pretext for extinguishing this brilliant but dangerous lunatic.
But the cult of the Divine Boy had already become very popular, for the earlier
teaching of the prophet expressed the fundamental craving of the Patagonians.
Even his last and perplexing message was accepted by his followers, though
without real understanding. Emphasis was laid upon the act of iconoclasm, rather
than upon the spirit of his exhortation.
Century by century, the new religion, for such it was, spread over the civilized
world. And the race seemed to have been spiritually rejuvenated to some extent
by widespread fervour. Physically also a certain rejuvenation took place; for
before his death this unique biological "sport," or throw-back to an earlier
vitality, produced some thousands of sons and daughters; and they in turn
propagated the good seed far and wide. Undoubtedly it was this new strain that
brought about the golden age of Patagonia, greatly improving the material
conditions of the race, carrying civilization into the northern continents and
attacking problems of science and philosophy with renewed ardour.
But the revival was not permanent. The descendants of the prophet prided
themselves too much on violent living. Physically, sexually, mentally, they
over-reached themselves and became enfeebled. Moreover, little by little the
potent strain was diluted and overwhelmed by intercourse with the greater volume
of the innately "senile"; so that, after a few centuries, the race returned to
its middle-aged mood. At the same time the vision of the Divine Boy was
gradually distorted. At first it had been youth's ideal of what youth should be,
a pattern woven of fanatical loyalty, irresponsible gaiety, comradeship,
physical gusto, and not a little pure devilry. But insensibly it became a
pattern of that which was expected of youth by sad maturity. The violent young
hero was sentimentalized into the senior's vision of childhood, naďve and
docile. All that had been violent was forgotten; and what was left became a
whimsical and appealing stimulus to the parental impulses. At the same time this
phantom was credited with all the sobriety and caution which are so easily
appreciated by the middleaged.
Inevitably this distorted image of youth became an incubus upon the actual young
men and women of the race. It was held up as the model social virtue; but it was
a model to which they could never conform without doing violence to their best
nature, since it was not any longer an expression of youth at all. Just as, in
an earlier age, women had been idealized and at the same time hobbled, so now,
Some few, indeed, throughout the history of Patagonia, attained a clearer vision
of the prophet. Fewer still were able to enter into the spirit of his final
message, in which his enduring youthfulness raised him to a maturity alien to
Patagonia. For the tragedy of this people was not so much their "senescence" as
their arrested growth. Feeling themselves old, they yearned to be young again.
But, through fixed immaturity of mind, they could never recognize that the true,
though unlooked-for, fulfilment of youth's passionate craving is not the mere
achievement of the ends of youth itself, but an advance into a more awake and
far-seeing vitality.
It was in these latter days that the Patagonians discovered the civilization
that had preceded them. In rejecting the ancient religion of fear, they had
abandoned also the legend of a remote magnificence, and had come to regard
themselves as pioneers of the mind. In the new continent which was their
homeland there were, of course, no relics of the ancient order; and the ruins
that besprinkled the older regions had been explained as mere freaks of nature.
But latterly, with the advance of natural knowledge, archaeologists had
reconstructed something of the forgotten world. And the crisis came when, in the
basement of a shattered pylon in China, they found a store of metal plates
(constructed of an immensely durable artificial element), on which were embossed
crowded lines of writing. These objects were, in fact, blocks from which books
were printed a thousand centuries earlier. Other deposits were soon discovered,
and bit by bit the dead language was deciphered. Within three centuries the
outline of the ancient culture was laid bare; and presently the whole history of
man's rise and ruin fell upon this latter-day civilization with crushing effect,
as though an ancient pylon were to have fallen on a village of wigwams at its
foot. The pioneers discovered that all the ground which they had so painfully
won from the wild had been conquered long ago, and lost; that on the material
side their glory was nothing beside the glory of the past; and that in the
sphere of mind they had established only a few scattered settlements where
formerly was an empire. The Patagonian system of natural knowledge had been
scarcely further advanced than that of preNewtonian Europe. They had done little
more than conceive the scientific spirit and unlearn a few superstitions. And
now suddenly they came into a vast inheritance of thought.
This in itself was a gravely disturbing experience for a people of strong
intellectual interest. But even more overwhelming was the discovery, borne in on
them in the course of their research, that the past had been not only brilliant
but crazy, and that in the long run the crazy element had completely triumphed.
For the Patagonian mind was by now too sane and empirical to accept the ancient
knowledge without testing it. The findings of the archaeologists were handed
over to the physicists and other scientists, and the firm thought and valuation
of Europe and America at their zenith were soon distinguished from the
degenerate products of the World State.
The upshot of this impact with a more developed civilization was dramatic and
tragic. It divided the Patagonians into loyalists and rebels, into those who
clung to the view that the new learning was a satanic lie, and those who faced
the facts. To the former party the facts were thoroughly depressing; the latter,
though overawed, found in them a compelling majesty, and also a hope. That the
earth was a mote among the star-clouds was the least subversive of the new
doctrines, for the Patagonians had already abandoned the geocentric view. What
was so distressing to the reactionaries was the theory that an earlier race had
long ago possessed and spent the vitality that they themselves so craved. The
party of progress, on the other hand, urged that this vast new knowledge must be
used; and that, thus equipped, Patagonia might compensate for lack of
youthfulness by superior sanity.
This divergence of will resulted in a physical conflict such as had never before
occurred in the Patagonian world. Something like nationalism emerged. The more
vigorous Antarctic coasts became modern, while Patagonia itself clung to the
older culture. There were several wars, but as physics and chemistry advanced in
Antarctica, the Southerners were able to devise engines of war which the
Northerners could not resist. In a couple of centuries the new "culture" had
triumphed. The world was once more unified.
Hitherto Patagonian civilization had been of a mediaeval type. Under the
influence of physics and chemistry it began to change. Wind and water-power
began to be used for the generation of electricity. Vast mining operations were
undertaken in search of the metals and other minerals which no longer occurred
at easy depths. Architecture began to make use of steel. Electrically driven
aeroplanes were made, but without real success. And this failure was
symptomatic; for the Patagonians were not sufficiently foolhardy to master
aviation, even had their planes been more efficient. They themselves naturally
attributed their failure wholly to lack of a convenient source of power, such as
the ancient petrol. Indeed this lack of oil and coal hampered them at every
turn. Volcanic power, of course, was available; but, never having been really
mastered by the more resourceful ancients, it defeated the Patagonians
As a matter of fact, in wind and water they had all that was needed. The
resources of the whole planet were available, and the world population was less
than a hundred million. With this source alone they could never, indeed, have
competed in luxury with the earlier World State, but they might well have
achieved something like Utopia.
But this was not to be. Industrialism, though accompanied by only a slow
increase of population, produced in time most of the social discords which had
almost ruined their predecessors. To them it appeared that all their troubles
would be solved if only their material power were far ampler. This strong and
scarcely rational conviction was a symptom of their ruling obsession, the
craving for increased vitality.
Under these circumstances it was natural that one event and one strand of
ancient history should fascinate them. The secret of limitless material power
had once been known and lost. Why should not Patagonians rediscover it, and use
it, with their superior sanity, to bring heaven on earth? The ancients, no
doubt, did well to forgo this dangerous source of power; but the Patagonians,
level-headed and single-minded, need have no fear. Some, indeed, considered it
less important to seek power than to find a means of checking biological
senescence; but, unfortunately, though physical science had advanced so rapidly,
the more subtle biological sciences had remained backward, largely because among
the ancients themselves little more had been done than to prepare their way.
Thus it happened that the most brilliant minds of Patagonia, fascinated by the
prize at stake, concentrated upon the problem of matter. The state encouraged
this research by founding and endowing laboratories whose avowed end was this
sole work.
The problem was difficult, and the Patagonian scientists, though intelligent,
were somewhat lacking in grit. Only after some five hundred years of
intermittent research was the secret discovered, or partially so. It was found
possible, by means of a huge initial expenditure of energy, to annihilate the
positive and negative electric charges in one not very common kind of atom. But
this limitation mattered not at all; the human race now possessed an
inexhaustible source of power which could be easily manipulated and easily
controlled. But though controllable, the new gift was not foolproof; and there
was no guarantee that those who used it might not use it foolishly, or
inadvertently let it get out of hand.
Unfortunately, at the time when the new source of energy was discovered, the
Patagonians were more divided than of old. Industrialism, combined with the
innate docility of the race, had gradually brought about a class cleavage more
extreme even than that of the ancient world, though a cleavage of a curiously
different kind. The strongly parental disposition of the average Patagonian
prevented the dominant class from such brutal exploitation as had formerly
occurred. Save during the first century of industrialism, there was no serious
physical suffering among the proletariat. A paternal government saw to it that
all Patagonians were at least properly fed and clothed, that all had ample
leisure and opportunities of amusement. At the same time they saw to it also
that the populace became more and more regimented. As in the First World State,
civil authority was once more in the hands of a small group of masters of
industry, but with a difference. Formerly the dominant motive of big business
had been an almost mystical passion for the creation of activity; now the ruling
minority regarded themselves as standing towards the populace in loco parentis,
and aimed at creating "a young-hearted people, simple, gay, vigorous and loyal."
Their ideal of the state was something between a preparatory school under a
sympathetic but strict adult staff, and a jointstock company, in which the
shareholders retained only one function, to delegate their powers thankfully to
a set of brilliant directors.
That the system had worked so well and survived so long was due not only to
innate Patagonian docility, but also to the principle by which the governing
class recruited itself. One lesson at least had been learnt from the bad example
of the earlier civilization, namely respect for intelligence. By a system of
careful testing, the brightest children were selected from all classes and
trained to be governors. Even the children of the governors themselves were
subjected to the same examination, and only those who qualified were sent to the
"schools for young governors." Some corruption no doubt existed, but in the main
this system worked. The children thus selected were very carefully trained in
theory and practice, as organizers, scientists, priests and logicians.
The less brilliant children of the race were educated very differently from the
young governors. It was impressed on them that they were less able than the
others. They were taught to respect the governors as superior beings, who were
called upon to serve the community in specially skilled and arduous work, simply
because of their ability. It would not be true to say that the less intelligent
were educated merely to be slaves; rather they were expected to be the docile,
diligent and happy sons and daughters of the fatherland. They were taught to be
loyal and optimistic. They were given vocational training for their various
occupations, and encouraged to use their intelligence as much as possible upon
the plane suited to it; but the affairs of the state and the problems of
religion and theoretical science were strictly forbidden. The official doctrine
of the beauty of youth was fundamental in their education. They were taught all
the conventional virtues of youth, and in particular modesty and simplicity. As
a class they were extremely healthy, for physical training was a very important
part of education in Patagonia. Moreover, the universal practice of sun-bathing,
which was a religious rite, was especially encouraged among the proletariat, as
it was believed to keep the body "young" and the mind placid. The leisure of the
governed class was devoted mostly to athletics and other sport, physical and
mental. Music and other forms of art were also practised, f or these were
considered fit occupations for juveniles. The government exercised a censorship
over artistic products, but it was seldom enforced; for the common folk of
Patagonia were mostly too phlegmatic and too busy to conceive anything but the
most obvious and respectable art. They were fully occupied with work and
pleasure. They suffered no sexual restraints. Their impersonal interests were
satisfied with the official religion of youth-worship and loyalty to the
This placid condition lasted for some four hundred years after the first century
of industrialism. But as time passed the mental difference between the two
classes increased. Superior intelligence became rarer and rarer among the
proletariat; the governors were recruited more and more from their own
offspring, until finally they became an hereditary caste. The gulf widened. The
governors began to lose all mental contact with the governed. They made a
mistake which could never have been committed had their psychology kept pace
with their other sciences. Ever confronted with the workers' lack of
intelligence, they came to treat them more and more as children, and forgot
that, though simple, they were grown men and women who needed to feel themselves
as free partners in a great human enterprise. Formerly this illusion of
responsibility had been sedulously encouraged. But as the gulf widened the
proletarians were treated rather as infants than as adolescents, rather as
well-cared-for domestic animals than as human beings. Their lives became more
and more minutely, though benevolently, systematized for them. At the same time
less care was taken to educate them up to an understanding and appreciation of
the common human enterprise. Under these circumstances the temper of the people
changed. Though their material condition was better than had ever been known
before, save under the First World State, they became listless, discontented,
mischievous, ungrateful to their superiors.
Such was the state of affairs when the new source of energy was discovered. The
world community consisted of two very different elements, first a small, highly
intellectual caste, passionately devoted to the state and to the advancement of
culture amongst themselves; and, second, a much more numerous population of
rather obtuse, physically well-cared-for, and spiritually starved
industrialists. A serious clash between the two classes had already occurred
over the use of a certain drug, favoured by the people for the bliss it
produced, forbidden by the governors for its evil after-effects. The drug was
abolished; but the motive was misinterpreted by the proletariat. This incident
brought to the surface a hate that had for long been gathering strength in the
popular mind, though unwittingly.
When rumour got afoot that in future mechanical power would be unlimited, the
people expected a millennium. Every one would have his own limitless source of
energy. Work would cease. Pleasure would be increased to infinity. Unfortunately
the first use made of the new power was extensive mining at unheard-of depths in
search of metals and other minerals which had long ago ceased to be available
near the surface. This involved difficult and dangerous work for the miners.
There were casualties. Riots occurred. The new power was used upon the rioters
with murderous effect, the governors declaring that, though their paternal
hearts bled for their foolish children, this chastisement was necessary to
prevent worse evils. The workers were urged to face their troubles with that
detachment which the Divine Boy had preached in his final phase; but this advice
was greeted with the derision which it deserved. Further strikes, riots,
assassinations. The proletariat had scarcely more power against their masters
than sheep against the shepherd, for they had not the brains for large-scale
organization. But it was through one of these pathetically futile rebellions
that Patagonia was at last destroyed.
A petty dispute had occurred in one of the new mines. The management refused to
allow miners to teach their trade to their sons; for vocational education, it
was said, should be carried on professionally. Indignation against this
interference with parental authority caused a sudden flash of the old rage. A
power unit was seized, and after a bout of insane monkeying with the machinery,
the mischief-makers inadvertently got things into such a state that at last the
awful djin of physical energy was able to wrench off his fetters and rage over
the planet. The first explosion was enough to blow up the mountain range above
the mine. In those mountains were huge tracts of the critical element, and these
were detonated by rays from the initial explosion. This sufficed to set in
action still more remote tracts of the elements. An incandescent hurricane
spread over the whole of Patagonia, reinforcing itself with fresh atomic fury
wherever it went, It raged along the line of the Andes and the Rockies,
scorching both continents with its heat. It undermined and blew up the Behring
Straits, spread like a brood of gigantic fiery serpents into Asia, Europe and
Africa. Martians, already watching the earth as a cat a bird beyond its spring,
noted that the brilliance of the neighbour planet was suddenly enhanced.
Presently the oceans began to boil here and there with submarine commotion.
Tidal waves mangled the coasts and floundered up the valleys. But in time the
general sea level sank considerably through evaporation and the opening of
chasms in the ocean floor. All volcanic regions became fantastically active. The
polar caps began to melt, but prevented the arctic regions from being calcined
like the rest of the planet. The atmosphere was a continuous dense cloud of
moisture, fumes and dust, churned in ceaseless hurricanes. As the fury of the
electromagnetic collapse proceeded, the surface temperature of the planet
steadily increased, till only in the Arctic and a few favoured corners of the
sub-Arctic could life persist.
Patagonia's death agony was brief. In Africa and Europe a few remote settlements
escaped the actual track of the eruptions, but succumbed in a few weeks to the
hurricanes of steam. Of the two hundred million members of the human race, all
were burnt or roasted or suffocated within three months--all but thirty-five,
who happened to be in the neighbourhood of the North Pole.
BY one of those rare tricks of fortune, which are as often favourable as hostile
to humanity, an Arctic exploration ship had recently been embedded in the
pack-ice for a long drift across the Polar sea. She was provisioned for four
years, and when the catastrophe occurred she had already been at sea for six
months. She was a sailing vessel; the expedition had been launched before it was
practicable to make use of the new source of power. The crew consisted of
twenty-eight men and seven women. Individuals of an earlier and more sexual
race, proportioned thus, in such close proximity and isolation, would almost
certainly have fallen foul of one another sooner or later. But to Patagonians
the arrangement was not intolerable. Besides managing the whole domestic side of
the expedition, the seven women were able to provide moderate sexual delight for
all, for in this people the female sexuality was much less reduced than the
male. There were, indeed, occasional jealousies and feuds in the little
community, but these were subordinated to a strong esprit de corps. The whole
company had, of course, been very carefully chosen for comradeship, loyalty, and
health, as well as for technical skill. All claimed descent from the Divine Boy.
All were of the governing class. One quaint expression of the strongly parental
Patagonian temperament was that a pair of diminutive pet monkeys was taken with
the expedition.
The crew's first intimation of the catastrophe was a furious hot wind that
melted the surface of the ice. The sky turned black. The Arctic summer became a
weird and sultry night, torn by fantastic thunderstorms. Rain crashed on the
ship's deck in a continuous waterfall. Clouds of pungent smoke and dust
irritated the eyes and nose. Submarine earthquakes buckled the pack-ice.
A year after the explosion, the ship was labouring in tempestuous and
berg-strewn water near the Pole. The bewildered little company now began to feel
its way south; but, as they proceeded, the air became more fiercely hot and
pungent, the storms more savage. Another twelve months were spent in beating
about the Polar sea, ever and again retreating north from the impossible
southern weather. But at length conditions improved slightly, and with great
difficulty these few survivors of the human race approached their original
objective in Norway, to find that the lowlands were a scorched and lifeless
desert, while on the heights the valley vegetation was already struggling to
establish itself, in patches of sickly green. Their base town had been flattened
by a hurricane, and the skeletons of its population still lay in the streets.
They coasted further south. Everywhere the same desolation. Hoping that the
disturbance might be merely local, they headed round the British Isles and
doubled back on France. But France turned out to be an appalling chaos of
volcanoes. With a change of wind, the sea around them was infuriated with
falling debris, often red hot. Miraculously they got away and fled north again.
After creeping along the Siberian coast they were at last able to find a
tolerable restingplace at the mouth of one of the great rivers. The ship was
brought to anchor, and the crew rested. They were a diminished company, for six
men and two women had been lost on the voyage.
Conditions even here must recently have been far more severe, since much of the
vegetation had been scorched, and dead animals were frequent. But evidently the
first fury of the vast explosion was now abating.
By this time the voyagers were beginning to realize the truth. They remembered
the half jocular prophecies that the new power would sooner or later wreck the
planet, prophecies which had evidently been all too well founded. There had been
a world-wide disaster; and they themselves had been saved only by their
remoteness and the Arctic ice from a fate that had probably overwhelmed all
their fellow men.
So desperate was the outlook for a handful of exhausted persons on a devastated
planet, that some urged suicide. All dallied with the idea, save a woman, who
had unexpectedly become pregnant. In her the strong parental disposition of her
race was now awakened, and she implored the party to make a fight for the sake
of her child. Reminded that the baby would only be born into a life of hardship,
she reiterated with more persistence than reason, "My baby must live."
The men shrugged their shoulders. But as their tired bodies recovered after the
recent struggle, they began to realize the solemnity of their position. It was
one of the biologists who expressed a thought which was already present to all.
There was at least a chance of survival, and if ever men and women had a sacred
duty, surely these had, For they were now the sole trustees of the human spirit.
At whatever cost of toil and misery they must people the earth again.
This common purpose now began to exalt them, and brought them all into a rare
intimacy. "We are ordinary folk," said the biologist, "but somehow we must
become great." And they were, indeed, in a manner made great by their unique
position. In generous minds a common purpose and common suffering breed a deep
passion of comradeship, expressed perhaps not in words but in acts of devotion.
These, in their loneliness and their sense of obligation, experienced not only
comradeship, but a vivid communion with one another as instruments of a sacred
The party now began to build a settlement beside the river. Though the whole
area had, of course, been devastated, vegetation had soon revived, from roots
and seeds, buried or Windborne. The countryside was now green with those plants
that had been able to adjust themselves to the new climate. Animals had suffered
far more seriously. Save for the Arctic fox, a few small rodents, and one herd
of reindeer, none were left but the dwellers in the actual Arctic seas, the
Polar bear, various cetaceans, and seals. Of fish there were plenty. Birds in
great numbers had crowded out of the south, and had died off in thousands
through lack of food, but certain species were already adjusting themselves to
the new environment. Indeed, the whole remaining fauna and flora of the planet
was passing through a phase of rapid and very painful readjustment. Many
well-established species had wholly failed to get a footing in the new world,
while certain hitherto insignificant types were able to forge ahead.
The party found it possible to grow maize and even rice from seed brought from a
ruined store in Norway. But the great heat, frequent torrential rain, and lack
of sunlight, made agriculture laborious and precarious. Moreover, the atmosphere
had become seriously impure, and the human organism had not yet succeeded in
adapting itself. Consequently the party were permanently tired and liable to
The pregnant woman had died in child-birth, but her baby lived. It became the
party's most sacred object, for it kindled in every mind the strong parental
disposition so characteristic of Patagonians.
Little by little the numbers of the settlement were reduced by sickness,
hurricanes and volcanic gases. But in time they achieved a kind of equilibrium
with their environment, and even a certain strenuous amenity of life. As their
prosperity increased, however, their unity diminished. Differences of
temperament began to be dangerous. Among the men two leaders had emerged, or
rather one leader and a critic. The original head of the expedition had proved
quite incapable of dealing with the new situation, and had at last committed
suicide. The company had then chosen the second navigating officer as their
chief, and had chosen him unanimously. The other born leader of the party was a
junior biologist, a man of very different type. The relations of these two did
much to determine the future history of man, and are worthy of study in
themselves; but here we can only glance at them. In all times of stress the
navigator's authority was absolute, for everything depended on his initiative
and heroic example. But in less arduous periods, murmurs arose against him for
exacting discipline when discipline seemed unnecessary. Between him and the
young biologist there grew up a strange blend of hostility and affection; for
the latter, though critical, loved and admired the other, and declared that the
survival of the party depended on this one man's practical genius.
Three years after their landing, the community, though reduced in numbers and in
vitality, was well established in a routine of hunting, agri culture and
building. Three fairly healthy infants rejoiced and exasperated their elders.
With security, the navigator's genius for action found less scope, while the
knowledge of the scientists became more valuable. Plant and poultry-breeding
were beyond the range of the heroic leader, and in prospecting for minerals he
was equally helpless. Inevitably as time passed he and the other navigators grew
restless and irritable; and at last, when the leader decreed that the party
should take to the ship and explore for better land, a serious dispute occurred.
All the sea-farers applauded; but the scientists, partly through clearer
understanding of the calamity that had befallen the planet, partly through
repugnance at the hardship involved, refused to go.
Violent emotions were aroused; but both sides restrained themselves through
well-tried mutual respect and loyalty to the community. Then suddenly sexual
passion set a light to the tinder. The woman who, by general consent, had come
to be queen of the settlement, and was regarded as sacred to the leader,
asserted her independence by sleeping with one of the scientists. The leader
surprised them, and in sudden rage killed the young man. The little community at
once fell into two armed factions, and more blood was shed. Very soon, however,
the folly and sacrilege of this brawl became evident to these few survivors of a
civilized race, and after a parley a grave decision was made.
The company was to be divided. One party, consisting of five men and two women,
under the young biologist, was to remain in the settlement. The leader himself,
with the remaining nine men and two women, were to navigate the ship toward
Europe, in search of a better land. They promised to send word, if possible,
during the following year.
With this decision taken the two parties once more became amicable. All worked
to equip the pioneers. When at last it was the time of departure, there was a
solemn leave-taking. Every one was relieved at the cessation of a painful
incompatibility; but more poignant than relief was the distressed affection of
those who had so long been comrades in a sacred enterprise.
It was a parting even more momentous than was supposed. For from this act arose
at length two distinct human species.
Those who stayed behind heard no more of the wanderers, and finally concluded
that they had come to grief. But in fact they were driven West and South-west
past Iceland, now a cluster of volcanoes, to Labrador. On this voyage through
fantastic storms and oceanic convulsions they lost nearly half their number, and
were at last unable to work the ship. When finally they were wrecked on a rocky
coast, only the carpenter's mate, two women, and the pair of monkeys succeeded
in clambering ashore.
These found themselves in a climate far more sultry than Siberia; but like
Siberia, Labrador contained uplands of luxuriant vegetation. The man and his two
women had at first great difficulty in finding food, but in time they adapted
themselves to a diet of berries and roots. As the years passed, however, the
climate undermined their mentality and their descendants sank into abject
savagery, finally degenerating into a type that was human only in respect of its
The little Siberian settlement was now hard-pressed but single-minded.
Calculation had convinced the scientists that the planet would not return to its
normal state for some millions of years; for though the first and superficial
fury of the disaster had already ceased, the immense pent-up energy of the
central explosions would take millions of years to leak out through volcanic
vents. The leader of the party, by rare luck a man of genius, conceived their
situation thus. For millions of years the planet would be uninhabitable save for
a fringe of Siberian coast. The human race was doomed for ages to a very
restricted and uncongenial environment. All that could be hoped for was the
persistence of a mere remnant of civilized humanity, which should be able to lie
dormant until a more favourable epoch. With this end in view the party must
propagate itself, and make some possibility of cultured life for its offspring.
Above all it must record in some permanent form as much as it could remember of
Patagonian culture. "We are the germ," he said. "We must play for safety, mark
time, preserve man's inheritance. The chances against us are almost
overwhelming, but just possibly we shall win through."
And so in fact they did. Several times almost exterminated at the outset, these
few harassed individuals preserved their spark of humanity. A close inspection
of their lives would reveal an intense personal drama; for, in spite of the
sacred purpose which united them, almost as muscles in one limb, they were
individuals of different temperaments. The children, moreover, caused jealousy
between their parentally hungry elders, There was ever a subdued, and sometimes
an open, rivalry to gain the affection of these young things, these few and
precious buds on the human stem. Also there was sharp disagreement about their
education. For though all the elders adored them simply for their childishness,
one at least, the visionary leader of the party, thought of them chiefly as
potential vessels of the human spirit, to be moulded strictly for their great
function. In this perpetual subdued antagonism of aims and temperaments the
little society lived from day to day, much as a limb functions in the antagonism
of its muscles.
The adults of the party devoted much of their leisure during the long winters to
the heroic labour of recording the outline of man's whole knowledge. This task
was very dear to the leader, but the others often grew weary of it. To each
person a certain sphere of culture was assigned; and after he or she had thought
out a section and scribbled it down on slate, it was submitted to the company
for criticism, and finally engraved deeply on tablets of hard stone. Many
thousands of such tablets were produced in the course of years, and were stored
in a cave which was carefully prepared for them. Thus was recorded something of
the history of the earth and of man, the outlines of physics, chemistry,
biology, psychology, and geometry. Each scribe set down also in some detail a
summary of his own special study, and added a personal manifesto of his own
views about existence. Much ingenuity was spent in devising a vast pictorial
dictionary and grammar, with which, it was hoped, the remote future might
interpret the whole library.
Years passed while this immense registration of human thought was still in
progress. The founders of the settlement grew feebler while the eldest of the
next generation were still adolescent. Of the two women, one had died and the
other was almost a cripple, both martyrs to the task of motherhood. A youth, an
infant boy, and four girls of various ages--on these the future of man now
depended. Unfortunately these precious beings had suffered from their very
preciousness. Their education had been bungled. They had been both pampered and
oppressed. Nothing was thought too good for them, but they were overwhelmed with
cherishing and teaching. Thus they came to hold the elders at arm's length, and
to weary of the ideals imposed on them. Brought into a ruined world without
their own consent, they refused to accept the crushing obligation toward an
improbable future. Hunting, and the daily struggle of a pioneering age, afforded
their spirits full exercise in courage, mutual loyalty, and interest in one
another's personality. They would live for the present only, and for the
tangible reality, not for a culture which they knew only by hearsay. In
particular, they loathed the hardship of engraving endless verbiage upon
granitic slabs.
The crisis came when the eldest girl had crossed the threshold of physical
maturity. The leader told her that it was her duty to begin bearing children at
once, and ordered her to have intercourse with her halfbrother, his own son.
Having herself assisted at the last birth, which had destroyed her mother, she
refused; and when pressed she dropped her graving tool and fled. This was the
first serious act of rebellion. In a few years the older generation was deposed
from authority. A new way of life, more active, more dangerous, zestful and
careless, resulted in a lowering of the community's standard of comfort and
organization, but also in greater health and vitality. Experiments in plant and
stock-breeding were neglected, buildings went out of repair; but great feats of
hunting and exploration were undertaken. Leisure was given over to games of
hazard and calculation, to dancing, singing and romantic story-telling. Music
and romance, indeed, were now the main expression of the finer nature of these
beings, and became the vehicles of obscure religious experience. The
intellectualism of the elders was ridiculed. What could their poor sciences tell
of reality, of the many-faced, never-for-a-moment-the-same, superbly
inconsequent, and ever-living Real? Man's intelligence was all right for hunting
and tillage in the world of common sense; but if he rode it further afield, he
would find himself in a desert, and his soul would starve. Let him live as
nature prompted. Let him keep the young god in his heart alive. Let him give
free play to the struggling, irrational, dark vitality that sought to realize
itself in him not as logic but as beauty.
The tablets were now engraved only by the aged.
But one day, after the infant boy had reached the early Patagonian adolescence,
his curiosity was roused by the tail-like hind limbs of a seal. The old people
timidly encouraged him. He made other biological observations, and was led on to
envisage the whole drama of life on the planet, and to conceive loyalty to the
cause which they had served.
Meanwhile, sexual and parental nature had triumphed where schooling had failed.
The young things inevitably fell in love with each other, and in time several
infants appeared.
Thus, generation by generation, the little settlement maintained itself with
varying success, varying zestfulness, and varying loyalty toward the future.
With changing conditions the population fluctuated, sinking as low as two men
and one woman, but increasing gradually up to a few thousand, the limit set by
the food capacity of their strip of coast. In the long run, though circumstances
did not prevent material survival, they made for mental decline. For the
Siberian coast remained a tropical land bounded on the south by a forest of
volcanoes; and consequently in the long run the generations declined in mental
vigour and subtlety. This result was perhaps due in part to too intensive
inbreeding; but this factor had also one good effect. Though mental vigour
waned, certain desirable characteristics were consolidated. The founders of the
group represented the best remaining stock of the first human species. They had
been chosen for their hardihood and courage, their native loyalty, their strong
cognitive interest. Consequently, in spite of phases of depression, the race not
only survived but retained its curiosity and its group feeling. Even while the
ability of men decreased, their will to understand, and their sense of racial
unity, remained. Though their conception of man and the universe gradually sank
into crude myth, they preserved a strong unreasoning loyalty towards the future,
and toward the now sacred stone library which was rapidly becoming
unintelligible to them. For thousands and even millions of years, after the
species had materially changed its nature, there remained a vague admiration for
mental prowess, a confused tradition of a noble past, and pathetic loyalty
toward a still nobler future. Above all, internecine strife was so rare that it
served only to strengthen the clear will to preserve the unity and harmony of
the race.
We must now pass rapidly over the Second Dark Age, observing merely those
influences which were to affect the future of humanity.
Century by century the pent energy of the vast explosion dispersed itself; but
not till many hundred thousand years had passed did the swarms of upstart
volcanoes begin to die, and not till after millions of years did the bulk of the
planet become once more a possible home for life.
During this period many changes took place. The atmosphere became clearer, purer
and less turbulent. With the fall of temperature, frost and snow appeared
occasionally in the Arctic regions, and in due course the Polar caps were formed
again. Meanwhile, ordinary geological processes, augmented by the strains to
which the planet was subjected by increased internal pressure, began to change
the continents. South America mostly collapsed into the hollows blasted beneath
it, but a new land rose to join Brazil with West Africa. The East Indies and
Australia became a continuous continent. The huge mass of Thibet sank deeply
into its disturbed foundations, lunged West, and buckled Afghanistan into a
range of peaks nearly forty thousand feet above the sea. Europe sank under the
Atlantic. Rivers writhed shiftingly hither and thither upon the continents, like
tortured worms. New alluvial areas were formed. New strata were laid upon one
another under new oceans. New animals and plants developed from the few
surviving Arctic species, and spread south through Asia and America. In the new
forests and grass-lands appeared various specialized descendants of the
reindeer, and swarms of rodents. Upon these preyed the large and small
descendants of the Arctic fox, of which one species, a gigantic wolflike
creature, rapidly became the "King of Beasts" in the new order, and remained so,
until it was ousted by the more slowly modified offspring of the polar bears. A
certain genus of seals, reverting to the ancient terrestrial habit, had
developed a slender snake-like body and an almost swift, and very serpentine,
mode of locomotion among the coastal sand-dunes. There it was wont to stalk its
rodent prey, and even follow them into their burrows. Everywhere there were
birds. Many of the places left vacant by the destruction of the ancient fauna
were now filled by birds which had discarded flight and developed pedestrian
habits. Insects, almost exterminated by the great conflagration, had afterwards
increased so rapidly, and had refashioned their types with such versatility,
that they soon reached almost to their ancient profusion. Even more rapid was
the establishment of the new micro-organisms. In general, among all the beasts
and plants of the earth there was a great change of habit, and a consequent
overlaying of old body-forms with new forms adapted to a new way of life.
The two human settlements had fared very differently. That of Labrador,
oppressed by a more sweltering climate, and unsupported by the Siberian will to
preserve human culture, sank into animality; but ultimately it peopled the whole
West with swarming tribes. The human beings in Asia remained a mere handful
throughout the ten million years of the Second Dark Age. An incursion of the sea
cut them off from the south. The old Taimyr Peninsula, where their settlements
clustered, became the northern promontory of an island whose coasts were the
ancient valley-edges of the Yenessi, the Lower Tunguska and the Lena. As the
climate became less oppressive, the families spread toward the southern coast of
the island, but the sea checked them. Temperate conditions enabled them to
regain a certain degree of culture. But they had no longer the capacity to
profit much from the new clemency of nature, for the previous ages of tropical
conditions had undermined them. Moreover, toward the end of the ten million
years of the Second Dark Age, the Arctic climate spread south into their island.
Their crops failed, the rodents that formed their chief cattle dwindled, their
few herds of deer faded out through lack of food. Little by little this scanty
human race degenerated into a mere remnant of Arctic savages. And so they
remained for a million years. Psychologically they were so crippled that they
had almost completely lost the power of innovation. When their sacred quarries
in the hills were covered with ice, they had not the wit to use stone from the
valleys, but were reduced to making implements of bone. Their language
degenerated into a few grunts to signify important acts, and a more complex
system of emotional expressions. For emotionally these creatures still preserved
a certain refinement. Moreover, though they had almost wholly lost the power of
intelligent innovation, their instinctive responses were often such as a more
enlightened intelligence would justify. They were strongly social, deeply
respectful of the individual human life, deeply parental, and often terribly
earnest in their religion.
Not till long after the rest of the planet was once more covered with life, not
till nearly ten million years after the Patagonian disaster, did a group of
these savages, adrift on an iceberg, get blown southward across the sea to the
mainland of Asia. Luckily, for Arctic conditions were increasing, and in time
the islanders were extinguished.
The survivors settled in the new land and spread, century by century, into the
heart of Asia. Their increase was very slow, for they were an infertile and
inflexible race. But conditions were now extremely favourable. The climate was
temperate; for Russia and Europe were now a shallow sea warmed by currents from
the Atlantic. There were no dangerous animals save the small grey bears, an
offshoot from the polar species, and the large wolf-like foxes. Various kinds of
rodents and deer provided meat in plenty. There were birds of all sizes and
habits. Timber, fruit, wild grains and other nourishing plants throve on the
well-watered volcanic soil. The prolonged eruptions, moreover, had once more
enriched the upper layers of the rocky crust with metals.
A few hundred thousand years in this new world sufficed for the human species to
increase from a handful of individuals to a swarm of races. It was in the
conflict and interfusion of these races, and also through the absorption of
certain chemicals from the new volcanic soil, that humanity at last recovered
its vitality.
IT was some ten million years after the Patagonian disaster that the first
elements of a few human species appeared, in an epidemic of biological
variations, many of which were extremely valuable. Upon this raw material the
new and stimulating environment worked for some hundred thousand years until at
last there appeared the Second Men.
Though of greater stature and more roomy cranium, these beings were not wholly
unlike their predecessors in general proportions. Their heads, indeed, were
large even for their bodies, and their necks massive. Their hands were huge, but
finely moulded. Their almost titanic size entailed a seemingly excessive
strength of support; their legs were stouter, even proportionately, than the
legs of the earlier species. Their feet had lost the separate toes, and, by a
strengthening and growing together of the internal bones, had become more
efficient instruments of locomotion. During the Siberian exile the First Men had
acquired a thick hairy covering, and most races of the Second Men retained
something of this blonde hirsute appearance throughout their career. Their eyes
were large, and often jade green, their features firm as carved granite, yet
mobile and lucent. Of the second human species one might say that Nature had at
last repeated and far excelled the noble but unfortunate type which she had
achieved once, long ago, with the first species, in certain pre-historic
cave-dwelling hunters and artists.
Inwardly the Second Men differed from the earlier species in that they had shed
most of those primitive relics which had hampered the First Men more than was
realized. Not only were they free of appendix, tonsils and other useless
excrescences, but also their whole structure was more firmly knit into unity.
Their chemical organization was such that their tissues were kept in better
repair. Their teeth, though proportionately small and few, were almost
completely immune from caries. Such was their glandular equipment that puberty
did not begin till twenty; and not till they were fifty did they reach maturity.
At about one hundred and ninety their powers began to fail, and after a few
years of contemplative retirement they almost invariably died before true
senility could begin. It was as though, when a man's work was finished, and he
had meditated in peace upon his whole career, there were nothing further to hold
his attention and prevent him from falling asleep. Mothers carried the foetus
for three years, suckled the infant for five years, and were sterile during this
period and for another seven years. Their climacteric was reached at about a
hundred and sixty. Architecturally massive like their mates, they would have
seemed to the First Men very formidable titanesses; but even those early
half-human beings would have admired the women of the second species both for
their superb vitality and for their brilliantly human expression.
In temperament the Second Men were curiously different from the earlier species.
The same factors were present, but in different proportions, and in far greater
subordination to the considered will of the individual. Sexual vigour had
returned. But sexual interest was strangely altered. Around the ancient core of
delight in physical and mental contact with the opposite sex there now appeared
a kind of innately sublimated, and no less poignant, appreciation of the unique
physical and mental forms of all kinds of live things. It is difficult for less
ample natures to imagine this expansion of the innate sexual interest; for to
them it is not apparent that the lusty admiration which at first directs itself
solely on the opposite sex is the appropriate attitude to all the beauties of
flesh and spirit in beast and bird and plant. Parental interest also was strong
in the new species, but it too was universalized. It had become a strong innate
interest in, and a devotion to, all beings that were conceived as in need of
help. In the earlier species this passionate spontaneous altruism occurred only
in exceptional persons. In the new species, however, all normal men and women
experienced altruism as a passion. And yet at the same time primitive parenthood
had become tempered to a less possessive and more objective love, which among
the First Men was less common than they themselves were pleased to believe.
Assertiveness had also greatly changed. Formerly very much of a man's energy had
been devoted to the assertion of himself as a private individual over against
other individuals; and very much of his generosity had been at bottom selfish.
But in the Second Men this competitive selfassertion, this championship of the
most intimately known animal against all others, was greatly tempered. Formerly
the major enterprises of society would never have been carried through had they
not been able to annex to themselves the egoism of their champions. But in the
Second Men the parts were reversed. Few individuals could ever trouble to exert
themselves to the last ounce for merely private ends, save when those ends
borrowed interest or import from some public enterprise. It was only his vision
of a world-wide community of persons, and of his own function therein, that
could rouse the fighting spirit in a man. Thus it was inwardly, rather than in
outward physical characters, that the Second Men differed from the First. And in
nothing did they differ more than in their native aptitude for cosmopolitanism.
They had their tribes and nations. War was not quite unknown amongst them. But
even in primitive times a man's most serious loyalty was directed toward the
race as a whole; and wars were so hampered by impulses of kindliness toward the
enemy that they were apt to degenerate into rather violent athletic contests,
leading to an orgy of fraternization.
It would not be true to say that the strongest interest of these beings was
social. They were never prone to exalt the abstraction called the state, or the
nation, or even the world-commonwealth. For their most characteristic factor was
not mere gregariousness but something novel, namely an innate interest in
personality, both in the actual diversity of persons and in the ideal of
personal development. They had a remarkable power of vividly intuiting their
fellows as unique persons with special needs. Individuals of the earlier species
had suffered from an almost insurmountable spiritual isolation from one another.
Not even lovers, and scarcely even the geniuses with special insight into
personality, ever had anything like accurate vision of one another. But the
Second Men, more intensely and accurately self-conscious, were also more
intensely and accurately conscious of one another. This they achieved by no
unique faculty, but solely by a more ready interest in each other, a finer
insight, and a more active imagination.
They had also a remarkable innate interest in the higher kinds of mental
activity, or rather in the subtle objects of those activities. Even children
were instinctively inclined toward a genuinely aesthetic interest in their world
and their own behaviour, and also toward scientific inquiry and generalization.
Small boys, for instance, would delight in collecting not merely such things as
eggs or crystals, but mathematical formuhe expressive of the different shapes of
eggs and crystals, or of the innumerable rhythms of shells, fronds, leaflets,
grass-nodes. And there was a wealth of traditional fairy-stories whose appeal
was grounded in philosophical puzzles. Little children delighted to hear how the
poor things called Illusions were banished from the Country of the Real, how
one-dimensional Mr. Line woke up in a two-dimensional world, and how a brave
young tune slew cacophonous beasts and won a melodious bride in that strange
country where the landscape is all of sound and all living things are music. The
First Men had attained to interest in science, mathematics, philosophy, only
after arduous schooling, but in the Second Men there was a natural propen sity
for these activities, no less vigorous than the primitive instincts. Not, of
course, that they were absolved from learning; but they had the same zest and
facility in these matters as their predecessors had enjoyed only in humbler
In the earlier species, indeed, the nervous system had maintained only a very
precarious unity, and was all too liable to derangement by the rebellion of one
of its subordinate parts. But in the second species the highest centres
maintained an almost absolute harmony among the lower. Thus the moral conflict
between momentary impulse and considered will, and again between private and
public interest, played a very subordinate part among the Second Men.
In actual cognitive powers, also, this favoured species far outstripped its
predecessor. For instance, vision had greatly developed. The Second Men
distinguished in the spectrum a new primary colour between green and blue; and
beyond blue they saw, not a reddish blue, but again a new primary colour, which
faded with increasing ruddiness far into the old ultraviolet. These two new
primary colours were complementary to one another. At the other end of the
spectrum they saw the infra-red as a peculiar purple. Further, owing to the very
great size of their retina, and the multiplication of rods and cones, they
discriminated much smaller fractions of their field of vision.
Improved discrimination combined with a wonderful fertility of mental imagery to
produce a greatly increased power of insight into the character of novel
situations. Whereas among the First Men, native intelligence had increased only
up to the age of fourteen, among the Second Men it progressed up to forty. Thus
an average adult was capable of immediate insight into problems which even the
most brilliant of the First Men could only solve by prolonged reasoning. This
superb clarity of mind enabled the second species to avoid most of those
age-long confusions and superstitions which had crippled its predecessor. And
along with great intelligence went a remarkable flexibility of will. In fact the
Second Men were far more able than the First to break habits that were seen to
be no longer justified.
To sum the matter, circumstance had thrown up a very noble species. Essentially
it was of the same type as the earlier species, but it had undergone extensive
improvements. Much that the First Men could only achieve by long schooling and
self-discipline the Second Men performed with effortless fluency and delight. In
particular, two capacities which for the First Men had been unattainable ideals
were now realized in every normal individual, namely the power of wholly
dispassionate cognition, and the power of loving one's neighbour as oneself,
without reservation. Indeed, in this respect the Second Men might be called
"Natural Christians," so readily and constantly did they love one another in the
manner of Jesus, and infuse their whole social policy with loving-kindness.
Early in their career they conceived the religion of love, and they were
possessed by it again and again, in diverse forms, until their end. On the other
hand, their gift of dispassionate cognition helped them to pass speedily to the
admiration of fate. And being by nature rigorous thinkers, they were peculiarly
liable to be disturbed by the conflict between their religion of love and their
loyalty to fate.
Well might it seem that the stage was now set for a triumphant and rapid
progress of the human spirit. But though the second human species constituted a
real improvement on the first, it lacked certain faculties without which the
next great mental advance could not be made.
Moreover its very excellence involved one novel defect from which the First Men
were almost wholly free. In the lives of humble individuals there are many
occasions when nothing but an heroic effort can wrest their private fortunes
from stagnation or decline, and set them pioneering in new spheres. Among the
First Men this effort was often called forth by passionate regard for self. And
it was upon the tidal wave of innumerable egoisms, blindly surging in one
direction, that the first species was carried forward. But, to repeat, in the
Second Men self-regard was never an over-mastering motive. Only at the call of
social loyalty or personal love would a man spur himself to desperate efforts.
Whenever the stake appeared to be mere private advancement, he was apt to prefer
peace to enterprise, the delights of sport, companionship, art or intellect, to
the slavery of self-regard. And so in the long run, though the Second Men were
fortunate in their almost complete immunity from the lust of power and personal
ostentation (which cursed the earlier species with industrialism and
militarism), and though they enjoyed long ages of idyllic peace, often upon a
high cultural plane, their progress toward full self-conscious mastery of the
planet was curiously slow.
In a few thousand years the new species filled the region from Afghanistan to
the China Sea, overran India, and penetrated far into the new Australasian
continent. Its advance was less military than cultural. The remaining tribes of
the First Men, with whom the new species could not normally interbreed, were
unable to live up to the higher culture that flooded round them and over them.
They faded out.
For some further thousands of years the Second Men remained as noble savages,
then passed rapidly through the pastoral into the agricultural stage. In this
era they sent an expedition across the new and gigantic Hindu Kush to explore
Africa. Here it was that they came upon the subhuman descendants of the ship's
crew that had sailed from Siberia millions of years earlier. These animals had
spread south through America and across the new Atlantic Isthmus into Africa.
Dwarfed almost to the knees of the superior species, bent so that as often as
not they used their arms as aids to locomotion, flat-headed and curiously
long-snouted, these creatures were by now more baboon-like than human. Yet in
the wild state they maintained a very complicated organization into castes,
based on the sense of smell. Their powers of scent, indeed, had developed at the
expense of their intelligence. Certain odours, which had become sacred through
their very repulsiveness, were given off only by individuals having certain
diseases. Such individuals were treated with respect by their fellows; and
though, in fact, they were debilitated by their disease, they were so feared
that no healthy individual dared resist them. The characteristic odours were
themselves graded in nobility, so that those individuals who bore only the less
repulsive perfume, owed respect to those in whom a widespread rotting of the
body occasioned the most nauseating stench. These plagues had the special effect
of stimulating reproductive activity; and this fact was one cause both of the
respect felt for them, and of the immense fertility of the species, such a
fertility that, in spite of plagues and obtuseness, it had flooded two
continents. For though the plagues were fatal, they were slow to develop.
Further, though individuals far advanced in disease were often incapable of
feeding themselves, they profited by the devotion of the healthy, who were
well-pleased if they also became infected.
But the most startling fact about these creatures was that many of them had
become enslaved to another species. When the Second Men had penetrated further
into Africa they came to a forest region where companies of diminutive monkeys
resisted their intrusion. It was soon evident that any interference with the
imbecile and passive sub-humans in this district was resented by the monkeys.
And as the latter made use of a primitive kind of bow and poisoned arrows, their
opposition was seriously inconvenient to the invaders. The use of weapons and
other tools, and a remarkable co-ordination in warfare, made it clear that in
intelligence this simian species had far outstripped all creatures save man.
Indeed, the Second Men were now face to face with the only terrestrial species
which ever evolved so far as to compete with man in versatility and practical
As the invaders advanced, the monkeys were seen to round up whole flocks of the
sub-men and drive them out of reach. It was noticed also that these domesticated
sub-men were wholly free from the diseases that infected their wild kinsfolk,
who on this account greatly despised the healthy drudges. Later it transpired
that the sub-men were trained as beasts of burden by the monkeys and that their
flesh was a much relished article of diet. An arboreal city of woven branches
was discovered, and was apparently in course of construction, for the sub-men
were dragging timber and hauling it aloft, goaded by the bone-headed spears of
the monkeys. It was evident also that the authority of the monkeys was
maintained less by force than by intimidation. They anointed themselves with the
juice of a rare aromatic plant, which struck terror into their poor cattle, and
reduced them to abject docility.
Now the invaders were only a handful of pioneers. They had come over the
mountains in search of metals, which had been brought to the earth's surface
during the volcanic era. An amiable race, they felt no hostility toward the
monkeys, but rather amusement at their habits and ingenuity. But the monkeys
resented the mere presence of these mightier beings; and, presently collecting
in the tree-tops in thousands, they annihilated the party with their poisoned
arrows. One man alone escaped into Asia. In a couple of years he returned, with
a host. Yet this was no punilive expedition, for the bland Second Men were
strangely lacking in resentment. Establishing themselves on the outskirts of the
forest region, they contrived to communicate and barter with the little people
of the trees, so that after a while they were allowed to enter the territory
unmolested, and begin their great metallurgical survey.
A close study of the relations of these very different intelligences would be
enlightening, but we have no time for it. Within their own sphere the monkeys
showed perhaps a quicker wit than the men; but only within very narrow limits
did their intelligence work at all. They were deft at finding new means for the
better satisfaction of their appetites. But they wholly lacked self-criticism.
Upon a normal outfit of instinctive needs they had developed many acquired,
traditional cravings, most of which were fantastic and harmful. The Second Men,
on the other hand, though often momentarily outwitted by the monkeys, were in
the long run incomparably more able and more sane.
The difference between the two species is seen clearly in their reaction to
metals. The Second Men sought metal solely for the carrying on of an already
well-advanced civilization. But the monkeys, when for the first time they saw
the bright ingots, were fascinated. They had already begun to hate the invaders
for their native superiority and their material wealth; and now this jealousy
combined with primitive acquisitiveness to make the slabs of copper and tin
become in their eyes symbols of power. In order to remain unmolested in their
work, the invaders had paid a toll of the wares of their own country, of
baskets, pottery and various specially designed miniature tools. But at the
sight of the crude metal, the monkeys demanded a share of this noblest product
of their own land. This was readily granted, since it did away with the need of
bringing goods from Asia. But the monkeys had no real use for metal. They merely
hoarded it, and became increasingly avaricious. No one had respect among them
who did not laboriously carry a great ingot about with him wherever he went. And
after a while it came to be considered actually indecent to be seen without a
slab of metal. In conversation between the sexes this symbol of refinement was
always held so as to conceal the genitals.
The more metal the monkeys acquired the more they craved. Blood was often shed
in disputes over the possession of hoards. But this internecine strife gave
place at length to a concerted movement to prevent the whole export of metal
from their land. Some even suggested that the ingots in their possession should
be used for making more effective weapons, with which to expel the invaders.
This policy was rejected, not merely because there were none who could work up
the crude metal, but because it was generally agreed that to put such a sacred
material to any kind of service would be base.
The will to be rid of the invader was augmented by a dispute about the sub-men.
These abject beings were treated very harshly by their masters. Not only were
they overworked, but also they were tortured in cold blood, not precisely
through lust in cruelty, but through a queer sense of humour, or delight in the
incongruous. For instance, it afforded the monkeys a strangely innocent and
extravagant pleasure to compel these cattle to carry on their work in an erect
posture, which was by now quite unnatural to them, or to eat their own excrement
or even their own young. If ever these tortures roused some exceptional sub-man
to rebel, the monkeys flared into contemptuous rage at such a lack of humour, so
incapable were they of realizing the subjective processes of others. To one
another they could, indeed, be kindly and generous; but even among themselves
the imp of humour would sometimes run riot. In any matter in which an individual
was misunderstood by his fellows, he was sure to be gleefully baited, and often
harried to death. But in the main it was only the slavespecies that suffered.
The invaders were outraged by this cruel imbecility, and ventured to protest. To
the monkeys the protest was unintelligible. What were cattle for, but to be used
in the service of superior beings? Evidently, the monkeys thought, the invaders
were after all lacking in the finer capacities of mind, since they failed to
appreciate the beauty of the fantastic.
This and other causes of friction finally led the monkeys to conceive a means of
freeing themselves for ever. The Second Men had proved to be terribly liable to
the diseases of their wretched sub-human kinsfolk. Only by very rigorous
quarantine had they stamped out the epidemic that had revealed this fact. Now
partly for revenge, but partly also through malicious delight in the
topsy-turvy, the monkeys determined to make use of this human weakness. There
was a certain nut, very palatable to both taco and monkeys, which grew in a
remote part of the country. The monkeys had already begun to barter this nut for
extra metal; and the pioneering Second Men were arranging to send caravans laden
with nuts into their own country. In this situation the monkeys found their
opportunity. They carefully infected large quantities of nuts with the plagues
rampant among those herds of sub-men which had not been domesticated. Very soon
caravans of infected nuts were scattered over Asia. The effect upon a race
wholly fresh to these microbes was disastrous. Not only were the pioneering
settlements wiped out, but the bulk of the species also. The submen themselves
had become adjusted to the microbes, and even reproduced more rapidly because of
them. Not so the more delicately organized species. They died off like autumn
leaves. Civilization fell to pieces. In a few generations Asia was peopled only
by a handful of scattered savages, all diseased and mostly crippled.
But in spite of this disaster the species remained potentially the same. Within
a few centuries it had thrown off the infection and had begun once more the
ascent toward civilization. After another thousand years, pioneers again crossed
the mountains and entered Africa. They met with no opposition. The precarious
flicker of simian intelligence had long ago ceased. The monkeys had so burdened
their bodies with metal and their minds with the obsession of metal, that at
length the herds of sub-human cattle were able to rebel and devour their
For nearly a quarter of a million years the Second Men passed through successive
phases of prosperity and decline. Their advance to developed culture was not
nearly so steady and triumphal as might have been expected from a race of such
brilliance. As with individuals, so with species, accidents are all too likely
to defeat even the most cautious expectations. For instance, the Second Men were
for a long time seriously hampered by a "glacial epoch" which at its height
imposed Arctic conditions even as far south as India. Little by little the
encroaching ice crowded their tribes into the extremity of that peninsula, and
reduced their culture to the level of the Esquimaux. In time, of course, they
recovered, but only to suffer other scourges, of which the most devastating were
epidemics of bacteria. The more recently developed and highly organized tissues
of this species were peculiarly susceptible to disease, and not once but many
times a promising barbarian culture or "mediaeval" civilization was wiped out by
But of all the natural disasters which befell the Second Men, the worst was due
to a spontaneous change in their own physical constitution. Just as the fangs of
the ancient sabre-toothed tiger had finally grown so large that the beast could
not eat, so the brain of the second human species threatened to outgrow the rest
of its body. In a cranium that was originally roomy enough, this rare product of
nature was now increasingly cramped; while a circulatory system, that was
formerly quite adequate, was becoming more and more liable to fail in pumping
blood through so cramped a structure. These two causes at last began to take
serious effect. Congenital imbecility became increasingly common, along with all
manner of acquired mental diseases. For some thousands of years the race
remained in a most precarious condition, now almost dying out, now rapidly
attaining an extravagant kind of culture in some region where physical nature
happened to be peculiarly favourable. One of these precarious flashes of spirit
occurred in the Yang-tze valley as a sudden and brief effulgence of city states
peopled by neurotics, geniuses and imbeciles. The lasting upshot of this
civilization was a brilliant literature of despair, dominated by a sense of the
difference between the actual and the potential in man and the universe. Later,
when the race had attained its noontide glory, it was wont to brood upon this
tragic voice from the past in order to remind itself of the underlying horror of
Meanwhile, brains became more and more overgrown, and the race more and more
disorganized. There is no doubt that it would have gone the way of the
sabre-toothed tiger, simply through the fatal direction of its own physiological
evolution, had not a more stable variety of this second human species at last
appeared. It was in North America, into which, by way of Africa, the Second Men
had long ago spread, that the roomierskulled and stronger hearted type first
occurred. By great good fortune this new variety proved to be a dominant
Mendelian character. And as it interbred freely with the older variety, a
superbly healthy race soon peopled America. The species was saved.
But another hundred thousand years were to pass before the Second Men could
reach their zenith. I must not dwell on this movement of the human symphony,
though it is one of great richness. Inevitably many themes are now repeated from
the career of the earlier species, but with special features, and transposed, so
to speak, from the minor to the major key. Once more primitive cultures succeed
one another, or pass into civilization, barbarian or "mediaeval"; and in turn
these fall or are transformed. Twice, indeed, the planet became the home of a
single world-wide community which endured for many thousands of years, until
misfortune wrecked it. The collapse is not altogether surprising, for unlike the
earlier species, the Second Men had no coal and oil. In both these early world
societies of the Second Men there was a complete lack of mechanical power.
Consequently, though world-wide and intricate, they were in a manner
"mediaeval." In every continent intensive and highly skilled agriculture crept
from the valleys up the mountain sides and over the irrigated deserts. In the
rambling garden-cities each citizen took his share of drudgery, practised also
some fine handicraft, and yet had leisure for gaiety and contemplation.
Intercourse within and between the five great continental communities had to be
maintained by coaches, caravans and sailing ships. Sail, indeed, now came back
into its own, and far surpassed its previous achievements. On every sea, fleets
of great populous red-sailed clippers, wooden, with carved poops and prows, but
with the sleek flanks of the dolphin carried the produce of every land, and the
many travellers who delighted to spend a sabbatical year among foreigners.
So much, in the fullness of time, could be achieved, even without mechanical
power, by a species gifted with high intelligence and immune from anti-social
self-regard. But inevitably there came an end. A virus, whose subtle derangement
of the glandular system was never suspected by a race still innocent of
physiology, propagated throughout the world a mysterious fatigue. Century by
century, agriculture withdrew from the hills and deserts, craftsmanship
deteriorated, thought became stereotyped. And the vast lethargy produced a vast
despond. At length the nations lost touch with one another, forgot one another,
forgot their culture, crumbled into savage tribes. Once more Earth slept.
Many thousand years later, long after the disease was spent, several great
peoples developed in isolation. When at last they made contact, they were so
alien that in each there had to occur a difficult cultural revolution, not
unaccompanied by bloodshed, before the world could once more feel as one. But
this second world order endured only a few centuries, for profound subconscious
differences now made it impossible for the races to keep whole-heartedly loyal
to each other. Religion finally severed the unity which all willed but none
could trust. An heroic nation of monothesist sought to impose its faith on a
vaguely pantheist world. For the first and last time the Second Men stumbled
into a world-wide civil war; and just because the war was religious it developed
a brutality hitherto unknown. With crude artillery, but with fanaticism, the two
groups of citizen armies harried one another. The fields were laid waste, the
cities burned, the rivers, and finally the winds, were poisoned. Long after that
pitch of horror had been passed, at which an inferior species would have lost
heart, these heroic madmen continued to organize destruction. And when at last
the inevitable breakdown came, it was the more complete. In a sensitive species
the devastating enlightenment which at last began to invade every mind, the
overwhelming sense of treason against the human spirit, the tragic comicality of
the whole struggle, sapped all energy. Not for thousands of years did the Second
Men achieve once more a world-community. But they had learnt their lesson.
The third and most enduring civilization of the Second Men repeated the
glorified mediaevalism of the first, and passed beyond it into a phase of
brilliant natural science. Chemical fertilizers increased the crops, and
therefore the world population. Wind and water-power was converted into
electricity to supplement human and animal labour. At length, after many
failures, it became possible to use volcanic and subterranean energy to drive
dynamos. In a few years the whole physical character of civilization was
transformed. Yet in this headlong passage into industrialism the Second Men
escaped the errors of ancient Europe, America and Patagonia. This was due partly
to their greater gift of sympathy, which, save during the one great aberration
of the religious war, made them all in a very vivid manner members one of
another. But partly also it was due to their combination of a practical common
sense that was more than British, with a more than Russian immunity from the
glamour of wealth, and a passion for the life of the mind that even Greece had
never known. Mining and manufacture, even with plentiful electric power, were
occupations scarcely less arduous than of old; but since each individual was
implicated by vivid sympathy in the lives of all persons within his ken, there
was little or no obsession with private economic power. The will to avoid
industrial evils was effective, because sincere.
At its height, the culture of the Second Men was dominated by respect for the
individual human personality. Yet contemporary individuals were regarded both as
end and as means, as a stage toward far ampler individuals in the remote future.
For, although they themselves were more long-lived than their predecessors, the
Second Men were oppressed by the brevity of human life, and the pettiness of the
individual's achievement in comparison with the infinity round about him which
awaited apprehension and admiration. Therefore they were determined to produce a
race endowed with much greater natural longevity. Again, though they
participated in one another far more than their predecessors, they themselves
were dogged by despair at the distortion and error which spoiled every mind's
apprehension of others. Like their predecessors, they had passed through all the
more naďve phases of self-consciousness and other-consciousness, and through
idealizations of various modes of personality. They had admired the barbarian
hero, the rornantical, the sensitive-subtle, the bluff and hearty, the decadent,
the bland, the severe. And they had concluded that each person, while being
himself an expression of some one mode of personality, should seek to be also
sensitive to every other mode. They even conceived that the ideal community
should be knit into one mind by each unique individual's direct telepathic
apprehension of the experience of all his fellows. And the fact that this ideal
seemed utterly unattainable wove through their whole culture a thread of
darkness, a yearning for spiritual union, a horror of loneliness, which never
seriously troubled their far more insulated predecessors.
This craving for union influenced the sexual life of the species. In the first
place, so closely was the mental related to the physiological in their
composition, that when there was no true union of minds, the sexual act failed
to give conception. Casual sexual relations thus came to be regarded very
differently from those which expressed a deeper intimacy. They were treated as a
delightful embroidery on life, affording opportunity of much elegance,
light-hearted tenderness, banter, and of course physical inebriation; but they
were deemed to signify nothing more than the delight of friend in friend. Where
there was a marriage of minds, but then only during the actual passion of
communion, sexual intercourse almost always resulted in conception. Under these
circumstances, intimate persons had often to practise contraception, but
acquaintances never. And one of the most beneficial inventions of the
psychologists was a technique of autosuggestion, which, at will, either
facilitated conception, or prevented it, surely, harmlessly, and without
inaesthetic accompaniments.
The sexual morality of the Second Men passed through all the phases known to the
First Men; but by the time that they had established a single world-culture it
had a form not known before. Not only were both men and women encouraged to have
as much casual sexual intercourse as they needed for their enrichment, but also,
on the higher plane of spiritual union, strict monogamy was deprecated. For in
sexual union of this higher kind they saw a symbol of that communion of minds
which they longed to make universal. Thus the most precious gift that a lover
could bring to the beloved was not virginity but sexual experience. The union,
it was felt, was the more pregnant the more each party could contribute from
previous sexual and spiritual intimacy with others. Yet though as a prin ciple
monogamy was not applauded, the higher kind of union would in practice sometimes
result in a life-long partnership. But since the average life was so much longer
than among the First Men, such fortuitously peren nial unions were often
deliberately interrupted for a while, by a change of partners, and then restored
with their vitality renewed. Sometimes, on the other hand, a group of persons of
both sexes would maintain a composite and permanent marriage together. Sometimes
such a group would exchange a member, or members, with another group, or
disperse itself completely among other groups, to come together again years
afterwards with enriched experience. In one form or another, this "marriage of
groups" was much prized, as an extension of the vivid sexual participation into
an ampler sphere. Among the First Men the brevity of life made these novel forms
of union impossible; for obviously no sexual, and no spiritual, relation can be
developed with any richness in less than thirty years of close intimacy. It
would be interesting to examine the social institutions of the Second Men at
their zenith; but we have not time to spare for this subject, nor even for the
brilliant intellectual achievements in which the species so far outstripped its
predecessor. Obviously any account of the natural science and the philosophy of
the Second Men would be unintelligible to readers of this book. Suffice it that
they avoided the errors which had led the First Men into false abstraction, and
into metaphysical theories which were at once sophisticated and naďve.
Not until after they had passed beyond the best work of the First Men in science
and philosophy did the Second Men discover the remains of the great stone
library in Siberia. A party of engineers happened upon it while they were
preparing to sink a shaft for subterranean energy. The tablets were broken,
disordered, weathered. Little by little, however, they were reconstructed and
interpreted, with the aid of the pictorial dictionary. The finds were of extreme
interest to the Second Men, but not in the manner which the Siberian party had
intended, not as a store of scientific and philosophic truth, but as a vivid
historical document. The view of the universe which the tablets recorded was
both too naďve and too artificial; but the insight which they afforded into the
mind of the earlier species was invaluable. So little of the old world had
survived the volcanic epoch that the Second Men had failed hitherto to get a
clear picture of their predecessors.
One item alone in this archaeological treasure had more than historical
interest. The biologist leader of the little party in Siberia had recorded much
of the sacred text of the Life of the Divine Boy. At the end of the record came
the prophet's last words, which had so baffled Patagonia. This theme was full of
meaning for the Second Men, as indeed it would have been even for the First Men
in their prime. But whereas for the First Men the dispassionate ecstasy which
the Boy had preached was rather an ideal than a fact of experience, the Second
Men recognized in the prophet's words an intuition familiar to themselves. Long
ago the tortured geniuses of the Yang-tze cities had expressed this same
intuition. Subsequently also it had often been experienced by the more healthy
generations, but always with a certain shame. For it had become associated with
morbid mentality. But now with growing conviction that it was wholesome, the
Second Men had begun to grope for a wholesome expression of it. In the life and
the last words of the remote apostle of youth they found an expression which was
not wholly inadequate. The species was presently to be in sore need of this
The world-community reached at length a certain relative perfection and
equilibrium. There was a long summer of social harmony, prosperity, and cultural
embellishment. Almost all that could be done by mind in the stage to which it
had then reached seemed to have been done. Generations of long-lived, eager, and
mutually delightful beings succeeded one another. There was a widespread feeling
that the time had come for man to gather all his strength for a flight into some
new sphere of mentality. The present type of human being, it was recognized, was
but a rough and incoherent natural product. It was time for man to take control
of himself and remake himself upon a nobler pattern. With this end in view, two
great works were set afoot, research into the ideal of human nature, and
research into practical means of remaking human nature. Individuals in all
lands, living their private lives, delighting in each other, keeping the tissue
of society alive and vigorous, were deeply moved by the thought that their world
community was at last engaged upon this heroic task.
But elsewhere in the solar system life of a very different kind was seeking, in
its own strange manner, ends incomprehensible to man, yet at bottom identical
with his own ends. And presently the two were to come together, not in
UPON the foot-hills of the new and titanic mountains that were once the Hindu
Kush, were many holiday centres, whence the young men and women of Asia were
wont to seek Alpine dangers and hardships for their souls' refreshment. It was
in this district, and shortly after a summer dawn, that the Martians were first
seen by men. Early walkers noticed that the sky had an unaccountably greenish
tinge, and that the climbing sun, though free from cloud, was wan. Observers
were presently surprised to see the green concentrate itself into a thousand
tiny cloudlets, with clear blue between. Field-glasses revealed within each
fleck of green some faint hint of a ruddy nucleus, and shifting strands of an
infra-red colour, which would have been invisible to the earlier human race.
These extraordinary specks of cloud were all of about the same size, the largest
of them appearing smaller than the moon's disk; but in form they varied greatly,
and were seen to be changing their shapes more rapidly than the natural cirrus
which they slightly resembled. In fact, though there was much that was cloudlike
in their form and motion, there was also something definite about them, both in
their features and behaviour, which suggested life. Indeed they were strongly
reminiscent of primitive amoeboid organisms seen through a microscope.
The whole sky was strewn with them, here and there in concentrations of unbroken
green, elsewhere more sparsely. And they were observed to be moving. A general
drift of the whole celestial population was setting toward one of the snowy
peaks that dominated the landscape. Presently the foremost individuals reached
the mountain's crest, and were seen to be creeping down the rock-face with a
very slow amoeboid action.
Meanwhile a couple of aeroplanes, electrically driven, had climbed the sky to
investigate the strange phenomenon at close quarters. They passed among the
drifting cloudlets, and actually through many of them, without hindrance, and
almost without being obscured from view.
On the mountain a vast swarm of the cloudlets was collecting, and creeping down
the precipices and snow-fields into a high glacier valley. At a certain point,
where the glacier dropped steeply to a lower level, the advance guard slowed
down and stopped, while hosts of their fellows continued to pack in on them from
behind. In half an hour the whole sky was once more clear, save for normal
clouds; but upon the glacier lay what might almost have been an exceptionally
dark solid-looking thunder-cloud, save for its green tinge and seething motion.
For some minutes this strange object was seen to concentrate itself into a
somewhat smaller bulk and become darker. Then it moved forward again, and passed
over the cliffy end of the glacier into the pine-clad valley. An intervening
ridge now hid it from its first observers.
Lower down the valley there was a village. Many of the inhabitants, when they
saw the mysterious dense fume advancing upon them, took to their mechanical
vehicles and fled; but some waited out of curiosity. They were swallowed up in a
murky olive-brown fog, shot here and there with queer shimmering streaks of a
ruddier tint. Presently there was complete darkness. Artificial lights were
blotted out almost at arm's length. Breathing became difficult. Throats and
lungs were irritated. Every one was seized with a violent attack of sneezing and
coughing. The cloud streamed through the village, and seemed to exercise
irregular pressures upon objects, not always in the general direction of
movement hut sometimes in the opposite direction, as though it were getting a
purchase upon human bodies and walls, and actually elbowing its way along.
Within a few minutes the fog lightened; and presently it left the village behind
it, save for a few strands and whiffs of its smoke-like substance, which had
become entangled in side-streets and isolated. Very soon, however, these seemed
to get themselves clear and hurry to overtake the main body.
When the gasping villagers had somewhat recovered, they sent a radio message to
the little town lower down the valley, urging temporary evacuation. The message
was not broadcast, but transmitted on a slender beam of rays. It so happened
that the beam had to be directed through the noxious matter itself. While the
message was being given, the cloud's progress ceased, and its outlines became
vague and ragged. Fragments of it actually drifted away on the winds and
dissipated themselves. Almost as soon as the message was completed, the cloud
began to define itself again, and lay for a quarter of an hour at rest. A dozen
bold young men from the town now approached the dark mass out of curiosity. No
sooner did they come face to face with it, round a bend in the valley, than the
cloud rapidly contracted, till it was no bigger than a house. Looking now
something between a dense, opaque fume and an actual jelly, it lay still until
the party had ventured within a few yards. Evidently their courage failed, for
they were seen to turn. But before they had retreated three paces, a long
proboscis shot out of the main mass with the speed of a chameleon's tongue, and
enveloped them. Slowly it withdrew; but the young men had been gathered in with
it. The cloud, or jelly, churned itself violently for some seconds, then ejected
the bodies in a single chewed lump.
The murderous thing now elbowed itself along the road toward the town, leaned
against the first house, crushed it, and proceeded to wander hither and thither,
pushing everything down before it, as though it were a lava-stream. The
inhabitants took to their heels, but several were licked up and slaughtered.
Powerful beam radiation was now poured into the cloud from all the neighbouring
installations. Its destructive activity slackened, and once more it began to
disintegrate and expand. Presently it streamed upwards as a huge column of
smoke; and, at a great altitude, it dissipated itself again into a swarm of the
original green cloudlets, noticeably reduced in numbers. These again faded into
a uniform greenish tinge, which gradually vanished.
Thus ended the first invasion of the Earth from Mars.
Our concern is with humanity, and with the Martians only in relation to men. But
in order to understand the tragic intercourse of the two planets, it is
necessary to glance at conditions on Mars, and conceive something of those
fantastically different yet fundamentally similar beings, who were now seeking
to possess man's home.
To describe the biology, psychology and history of a whole world in a few pages
is as difficult as it would be to give the Martians themselves in the same
compass a true idea of man. Encyclopaedias, libraries, would be needed in either
case. Yet, somehow, I must contrive to suggest the alien sufferings and
delights, and the many aeons of struggle, which went to the making of these
strange nonhuman intelligences, in some ways so inferior yet in others
definitely superior to the human species which they encountered.
Mars was a world whose mass was about one-tenth that of the earth. Gravity
therefore had played a less tyrannical part in Martian than in terrestrial
history. The weakness of Martian gravity combined with the paucity of the
planet's air envelope to make the general atmospheric pressure far lighter than
on earth. Oxygen was far less plentiful. Water also was comparatively rare.
There were no oceans or seas, but only shallow lakes and marshes, many of which
dried up in summer. The climate of the planet was in general very dry, and yet
very cold. Being without cloud, it was perennially bright with the feeble rays
of a distant sun.
Earlier in the history of Mars, when there were more air, more water, and a
higher temperature from internal heat, life had appeared in the coastal waters
of the seas, and evolution had proceeded in much the same manner as on earth.
Primitive life was differentiated into the fundamental animal and vegetable
types. Multicellular structures appeared, and specialized themselves in diverse
manners to suit diverse environments. A great variety of plant forms clothed the
lands, often with forests of gigantic and slender-stemmed plumes. Mollusc-like
and insect-like animals crept or swam, or shot themselves hither and thither in
fantastic jumps. Huge spidery creatures of a type not wholly unlike crustaceans,
or gigantic grasshoppers, bounded after their prey, and developed a versatility
and cunning which enabled them to dominate the planet almost as, at a much later
date, early man was to dominate the terrestrial wild.
But meanwhile a rapid loss of atmosphere, and especially of watervapor, was
changing Martian conditions beyond the limits of adaptability of this early
fauna and flora. At the same time a very different kind of vital organization
was beginning to profit by the change. On Mars, as on the Earth, life had arisen
from one of many "subvital" forms. The new type of life on Mars evolved from
another of these subvital kinds of molecular organization, one which had
hitherto failed to evolve at all, and had played an insignificant part, save
occasionally as a rare virus in the respiratory organs of animals. These
fundamental subvital units of organization were ultra-microscopic, and indeed
far smaller than the terrestrial bacteria, or even the terrestrial viruses. They
originally occurred in the marshy ponds, which dried up every spring, and became
depressions of baked mud and dust. Certain of their species, borne into the air
upon dust particles, developed an extremely dry habit of life. They maintained
themselves by absorbing chemicals from the Windborne dust, and a very slight
amount of moisture from the air. Also they absorbed sunlight by a
photo-synthesis almost identical with that of the Plants.
To this extent they were similar to the other living things, but they had also
certain capacities which the other stock had lost at the very outset of its
evolutionary career. Terrestrial organisms, and Martian organisms of the
terrestrial type, maintained themselves as vital unities by means of nervous
systems, or other forms of material contact between parts. In the most developed
forms, an immensely complicated neural "telephone" system connected every part
of the body with a vast central exchange, the brain. Thus on the earth a single
organism was without exception a continuous system of matter, which maintained a
certain constancy of form. But from the distinctively Martian subvital unit
there evolved at length a very different kind of complex organism, in which
material contact of parts was not necessary either to coordination of behaviour
or unity of consciousness. These ends were achieved upon a very different
physical basis. The ultra-microscopic subvital members were sensitive to all
kinds of etherial vibrations, directly sensitive, in a manner impossible to
terrestrial life; and they could also initiate vibrations. Upon this basis
Martian life developed at length the capacity of maintaining vital organization
as a single conscious individual without continuity of living matter. Thus the
typical Martian organism was a cloudlet, a group of free-moving members
dominated by a "group-mind." But in one species individuality came to inhere,
for certain purposes, not in distinct cloudlets only, but in a great fluid
system of cloudlets. Such was the single-minded Martian host which invaded the
The Martian organism depended, so to speak, not on "telephone" wires, but on an
immense crowd of mobile "wireless stations," transmitting and receiving
different wave-lengths according to their function. The radiation of a single
unit was of course very feeble; but a great system of units could maintain
contact with its wandering parts over a considerable distance.
One other important characteristic distinguished the dominant form of life on
Mars. Just as a cell, in the terrestrial form of life, has often the power of
altering its shape (whence the whole mechanism of muscular activity), so in the
Martian form the free-floating ultra-microscopic unit might be specialized for
generating around itself a magnetic field, and so either repelling or attracting
its neighbours. Thus a system of materially disconnected units had a certain
cohesion. Its consistency was something between a smoke-cloud and a very tenuous
jelly. It had a definite, though ever-changing contour and resistant surface. By
massed mutual repulsions of its constituent units it could exercise pressure on
surrounding objects; and in its most concentrated form the Martian cloud-jelly
could bring to bear immense forces which could also be controlled for very
delicate manipulation. Magnetic forces were also responsible for the
mollusc-like motion of the cloud as a whole over the ground, and again for the
transport of lifeless material and living units from region to region within the
The magnetic field of repulsion and attraction generated by a subvital unit was
much more restricted than its field of "wireless" communication. Similarly with
organized systems of units. Thus each of the cloudlets which the Second Men saw
in their sky was an independent motor unit; but also it was in a kind of
"telepathic" communication with all its fellows. Indeed in every public
enterprise, such as the terrestrial campaigns, almost perfect unity of
consciousness was maintained within the limits of a huge field of radiation. Yet
only when the whole population concentrated itself into a small and relatively
dense cloud-jelly, did it become a single magnetic motor unit. The Martians, it
should be noted, had three possible forms, or formations, namely: first, an
"open order" of independent and very tenuous cloudlets in "telepathic"
communication, and often in strict unity as a group mind; second, a more
concentrated and less vulnerable corporate cloud; and third, an extremely
concentrated and formidable cloud-jelly.
Save for these very remarkable characteristics, there was no really fundamental
difference between the distinctively Martian and the distinctively terrestrial
forms of life. The chemical basis of the former was somewhat more complicated
than that of the latter; and selenium played a part in it, to which nothing
corresponded in terrestrial life. The Martian organism, moreover, was unique in
that it fulfilled within itself the functions of both animal and vegetable. But,
save for these peculiarities, the two types of life were biochemically much the
same. Both needed material from the ground, both needed sunlight. Each lived in
the chemical changes occurring in its own "flesh." Each, of course, tended to
maintain itself as an organic unity. There was a certain difference, indeed, in
respect of reproduction; for the Martian suhvital units retained the power of
growth and sub-division. Thus the birth of a Martian cloud arose from the
sub-division of myriads of units within the parent cloud, followed by their
ejection as a new individual. And, as the units were highly specialized for
different functions, representatives of many types had to pass into the new
In the earliest stages of evolution on Mars the units had become independent of
each other as soon as they parted in reproduction. But later the hitherto
useless and rudimentary power of emitting radiation was specialized, so that,
after reproduction, free individuals came to maintain radiant contact with one
another, and to behave with ever-increasing coordination. Still later, these
organized groups themselves maintained radiant contact with groups of their
offspring, thus constituting larger individuals with specialized members. With
each advance in complexity the sphere of radiant influence increased; until, at
the zenith of Martian evolution, the whole planet (save for the remaining animal
and vegetable representatives of the other and unsuccessful kind of life)
constituted sometimes a single biological and psychological individual. But this
occurred as a rule only in respect of matters which concerned the species as a
whole. At most times the Martian individual was a cloudlet, such as those which
first astonished the Second Men. But in great public crises each cloudlet would
suddenly wake up to find himself the mind of the whole race, sensing through
many individuals, and interpreting his sensations in the light of the experience
of the whole race.
The life which dominated Mars was thus something between an extremely
well-disciplined army of specialized units, and a body possessed by one mind.
Like an army, it could take any form without destroying its organic unity. Like
an army it was sometimes a crowd of free-wandering units, yet at other times
also it disposed itself in very special orders to fulfil special functions. Like
an army it was composed of free, experiencing individuals who voluntarily
submitted themselves to discipline. On the other hand, unlike an army, it woke
occasionally into unified consciousness.
The same fluctuation between individuality and multiplicity which characterized
the race as a whole, characterized also each of the cloudlets themselves. Each
was sometimes an individual, sometimes a swarm of more primitive individuals.
But while the race rather seldom rose to full individuality, the cloudlets
declined from it only in very special circumstances. Each cloudlet was an
organization of specialized groups formed of minor specialized groups, which in
turn were composed of the fundamental specialized varieties of subvital units.
Each free-roving group of free-roving units constituted a special organ,
fulfilling some particular function in the whole. Thus some were specialized for
attraction and repulsion, some for chemical operations, some for storing the
sun's energy, some for emitting radiation, some for absorbing and storing water,
some for special sensitivities, such as awareness of mechanical pressure and
vibration, or temperature changes, or light rays. Others again were specialized
to fulfil the function of the brain of man; but in a peculiar manner. The whole
volume of the cloudlet vibrated with innumerable "wireless" messages in very
many wave-lengths from the different "organs." It was the function of the
"brain" units to receive, and correlate, and interpret these messages in the
light of past experience, and to initiate responses in the wave-lengths
appropriate to the organs concerned.
All these subvital units, save a few types that were too highly special ized,
were capable of independent life as air-borne bacteria or viruses. And whenever
they lost touch with the radiation of the whole system, they continued to live
their own simple lives until they were once more controlled. All were
free-floating units, but normally they were under the influence of the
cloudlet's system of electro-magnetic fields, and were directed hither and
thither for their special functions. And under this influence some of them might
be held rigidly in position in relation to one another. Such was the case of the
organs of sight. In early stages of evolution, some of the units had specialized
for carrying minute globules of water. Later, much larger droplets were carried,
millions of units holding between them a still microscopic globule of life's
most precious fluid. Ultimately this function was turned to good account in
vision. Aqueous lenses as large as the eye of an ox, were supported by a
scaffolding of units; while, at focal length from the lens, a rigid retina of
units was held in position. Thus the Martian could produce eyes of every variety
whenever he wanted them, and telescopes and microscopes too. This production and
manipulation of visual organs was of course largely subconscious, like the
focussing mechanism in man. But latterly the Martians had greatly increased
their conscious control of physiological processes; and it was this achievement
which facilitated their remarkable optical triumphs.
One other physiological function we must note before considering the Martian
psychology. The fully evolved, but as yet uncivilized, Martian had long ago
ceased to depend for his chemicals on Windborne volcanic dust. Instead, he
rested at night on the ground, like a knee-high mist on terrestrial meadows, and
projected specialized tubular groups of units into the soil, like rootlets. Part
of the day also had to be occupied in this manner. Somewhat later this process
was supplemented by devouring the declining plant-life of the planet. But the
final civilized Martians had greatly improved their methods of exploiting the
ground and the sunlight, both by mechanical means and by artificial
specialization of their own organs. Even so, however, as their activities
increased, these vegetable functions became an ever more serious problem for
them. They practised agriculture; but only a very small area of the arid planet
could be induced to bear. It was terrestrial water and terrestrial vegetation
that finally determined them to make the great voyage.
The Martian mind was of a very different type from the terrestrial,--different,
yet at bottom identical. In so strange a body, the mind was inevitably equipped
with alien cravings, and alien manners of apprehending its environment. And with
so different a history, it was confused by prejudices very unlike those of man.
Yet it was none the less mind, concerned in the last resort with the maintenance
and advancement of life, and the exercise of vital capacities. Fundamentally the
Martian was like all other living beings, in that he delighted in the free
working of his body and his mind. Yet superficially, he was as unlike man in
mind as in body.
The most distinctive feature of the Martian, compared with man, was that his
individuality was both far more liable to disruption, and at the same time
immeasurably more capable of direct participation in the minds of other
individuals. The human mind in its solid body maintained its unity and its
dominance over its members in all normal circumstances. Only in disease was man
liable to mental or physical dissociation. On the other hand, he was incapable
of direct contact with other individuals, and the emergence of a "super-mind" in
a group of individuals was quite impossible. The Martian cloudlet, however,
though he fell to pieces physically, and also mentally, far more readily than a
man, might also at any moment wake up to be the intelligent mind of his race,
might begin to perceive with the sense-organs of all other individuals, and
experience thoughts and desires which were, so to speak, the resultant of all
individual thoughts and desires upon some matter of general interest. But
unfortunately, as I shall tell, the common mind of the Martians never woke into
any order of mentality higher than that of the individual.
These differences between the Martian and the human psyche entailed
characteristic advantages and disadvantages. The Martian, immune from man's
inveterate selfishness and spiritual isolation from his fellows, lacked the
mental coherence, the concentrated attention and far-reaching analysis and
synthesis, and again the vivid self-consciousness and relentless selfcriticism,
which even the First Men, at their best, had attained in some degree, and which
in the Second Men were still more developed. The Martians, moreover, were
hampered by being almost identical in character. They possessed perfect harmony;
but only through being almost wholly in temperamental unison. They were all
hobbled by their sameness to one another. They were without that rich diversity
of personal character, which enabled the human spirit to cover so wide a field
of mentality. This infinite variety of human nature entailed, indeed, endless
wasteful and cruel personal conflicts in the first, and even to some extent in
the second, species of man; but also it enabled every individual of developed
sympathy to enrich his spirit by intercourse with individuals whose temperament,
thought and ideals differed from his own. And while the Martians were little
troubled by internecine strife and the passion of hate, they were also almost
wholly devoid of the passion of love. The Martian individual could admire, and
be utterly faithful to, the object of his loyalty; but his admiration was given,
not to concrete and uniquely charactered persons of the same order as himself,
but at best to the vaguely conceived "spirit of the race." Individuals like
himself he regarded merely as instruments or organs of the "supermind."
This would not have been amiss, had the mind of the race, into which he so
frequently awoke under the influence of the general radiation, been indeed a
mind of higher rank than his own. But it was not. It was but a pooling of the
percipience and thought and will of the cloudlets. Thus it was that the superb
loyalty of the Martians was squandered upon something which was not greater than
themselves in mental calibre, but only in mere bulk.
The Martian cloudlet, like the human animal, had a complex instinctive nature.
By night and day, respectively, he was impelled to perform the vegetative
functions of absorbing chemicals from the ground and energy from the sunlight.
Air and water he also craved, though he dealt with them, of course, in his own
manner. He had also his own characteristic instinctive impulses to move his
"body," both for locomotion and manipulation. Martian civilization provided an
outlet for these cravings, both in the practice of agriculture and in intricate
and wonderfully beautiful cloud-dances and gymnastics. For these perfectly
supple beings rejoiced in executing aerial evolutions, flinging out wild
rhythmical streamers, intertwining with one another in spirals, concentrating
into opaque spheres, cubes, cones, and all sorts of fantastical volumes. Many of
these movements and shapes had intense emotional significance for them in
relation to the operations of their life, and were executed with a religious
fervour and solemnity.
The Martian had also his impulses of fear and pugnacity. In the remote past
these had often been directed against hostile members of his own species; but
since the race had become unified, they found exercise only upon other types of
life and upon inanimate nature. Instinctive gregariousness was, of course,
extremely developed in the Martian at the expense of instinctive self-assertion.
Sexuality the Martian had not; there were no partners in reproduction. But his
impulse to merge physically and mentally with other individuals, and wake up as
the super-mind, had in it much that was characteristic of sex in man. Parental
impulses, of a kind, he knew; but they were scarcely worthy of the name. He
cared only to eject excessive living matter from his system, and to keep en
rapport with the new individual thus formed, as he would with any other
individual. He knew no more of the human devotion to children as budding
personalities than of the subtle intercourse of male and female temperaments. By
the time of the first invasion, however, reproduction had been greatly
restricted; for the planet was fully populated, and each individual cloudlet was
potentially immortal. Among the Martians there was no "natural death," no
spontaneous death through mere senility. Normally the cloudlet's members kept
themselves in repair indefinitely by the reproduction of their constituent
units. Diseases, indeed, were often fatal. And chief among them was a plague,
corresponding to terrestrial cancer, in which the subvital units lost their
sensitivity to radiation, so that they proceeded to live as primitive organisms
and reproduced without restraint. As they also became parasitic on the
unaffected units, the cloudlet inevitably died.
Like the higher kinds of terrestrial mammal, the Martians had strong impulses of
curiosity. Having also many practical needs to fulfil as a result of their
civilization, and being extremely well equipped by nature for physical
experiment and microscopy, they had gone far in the natural sciences. In
physics, astronomy, chemistry and even in the chemistry of life, man had nothing
to teach them.
The vast corpus of Martian knowledge had taken many thousands of years to grow.
All its stages, and its current achievements were recorded on immense scrolls of
paper made from vegetable pulp, and stored in libraries of stone. For the
Martians, curiously enough, had become great masons, and had covered much of
their planet with buildings of feathery and toppling design, such as would have
been quite impossible on earth. They had no need of buildings for habitation,
save in the arctic regions; but as workshops, granaries, and store rooms of all
sorts, buildings had become very necessary to the Martians. Moreover these
extremely tenuous creatures took a peculiar joy in manipulating solids. Even
their most utilitarian architecture blossomed with a sort of gothic or arabesque
ornateness and fantasy, wherein the ethereal seemed to torture the substance of
solid rocks into its own likeness.
At the time of the invasion, the Martians were still advancing intellectually;
and, indeed, it was through an achievement in theoretical physics that they were
able to leave their planet. They had long known that minute particles at the
upper limit of the atmosphere might be borne into space by the pressure of the
sun's rays at dawn and sunset. And at length they discovered how to use this
pressure as the wind is used in sailing. Dissipating themselves into their
ultra-microscopic units, they contrived to get a purchase on the gravitational
fields of the solar system, as a boat's keel and rudder get a purchase on the
water. Thus they were able to tack across to the earth as an armada of
ultra-microscopic vessels. Arrived in the terrestrial sky, they re-formed
themselves as eloudlets, swam through the dense air to the alpine summit, and
climbed downwards, as a swimmer may climb down a ladder under water.
This achievement involved very intricate calculations and chemical inventions,
especially for the preservation of life in transit and on an alien planet. It
could never have been done save by beings with far-reaching and accurate
knowledge of the physical world. But though in respect of "natural knowledge"
the Martians were so well advanced, they were extremely backward in all those
spheres which may be called "spiritual knowledge." They had little understanding
of their own mentality, and less of the place of mind in the cosmos. Though in a
sense a highly intelligent species, they were at the same time wholly lacking in
philosophical interest. They scarcely conceived, still less tackled, the
problems which even the First Men had faced so often, though so vainly. For the
Martians there was no mystery in the distinction between reality and appearance
or in the relation of the one and the many, or in the status of good and evil.
Nor were they ever critical of their own ideals. They aimed whole-heartedly at
the advancement of the Martian super-individual. But what should constitute
individuality, and its advancement, they never seriously considered. And the
idea that they were under obligation also toward beings not included in the
Martian system of radiation, proved wholly beyond them. For, though so clever,
they were the most naive of self-deceivers, and had no insight to see what it is
that is truly desirable.
To understand how the Martians tricked themselves, and how they were finally
undone by their own insane will, we must glance at their history.
The civilized Martians constituted the sole remaining variety of a species. That
species itself, in the remote past, had competed with, and exterminated, many
other species of the same general type. Aided by the changing climate, it had
also exterminated almost all the species of the more terrestrial kind of fauna,
and had thereby much reduced the vegetation which it was subsequently to need
and foster so carefully. This victory of the species had been due partly to its
versatility and intelligence, partly to a remarkable zest in ferocity, partly to
its unique powers of radiation and sensitivity to radiation, which enabled it to
act with a coordination impossible even to the most gregarious of animals. But,
as with other species in biological history, the capacity by which it triumphed
became at length a source of weakness. When the species reached a stage
corresponding to primitive human culture, one of its races, achieving a still
higher degree of radiant intercourse and physical unity, was able to behave as a
single vital unit; and so it succeeded in exterminating all its rivals. Racial
conflict had persisted for many thousands of years, but as soon as the favoured
race had developed this almost absolute solidarity of will, its victory was
sweeping, and was clinched by joyous massacre of the enemy.
But ever afterwards the Martians suffered from the psychological effects of
their victory at the close of the epoch of racial wars. The extreme brutality
with which the other races had been exterminated conflicted with the generous
impulses which civilization had begun to foster, and left a scar upon the
conscience of the victors. In self-defence they persuaded themselves that since
they were so much more admirable than the rest, the extermination was actually a
sacred duty. And their unique value, they said, consisted in their unique
radiational development. Hence arose a gravely insincere tradition and culture,
which finally ruined the species. They had long believed that the physical basis
of consciousness must necessarily be a system of units directly sensitive to
ethereal vibrations, and that organisms dependent on the physical contact of
their parts were too gross to have any experience whatever. After the age of the
racial massacres they sought to persuade themselves that the excellence, or
ethical worth, of any organism depended upon the degree of complexity and unity
of its radiation. Century by century they strengthened their faith in this
vulgar doctrine, and developed also a system of quite irrational delusions and
obsessions based upon an obsessive and passionate lust in radiation.
It would take too long to tell of all these subsidiary fantasies, and of the
ingenious ways in which they were reconciled with the main body of sane
knowledge. But one at least must be mentioned, because of the part it played in
the struggle with man. The Martians knew, of course, that "solid matter" was
solid by virtue of the interlocking of the minute electromagnetic systems called
atoms. Now rigidity had for them somewhat the same significance and prestige
that air, breath, spirit, had for early man. It was in the quasi-solid form that
Martians were physically most potent; and the maintenance of this form was
exhausting and difficult. These facts combined in the Martian consciousness with
the knowledge that rigidity was after all the outcome of interlocked
electro-magnetic systems. Rigidity was thus endowed with a peculiar sanctity.
The superstition was gradually consolidated, by a series of psychological
accidents, into a fanatical admiration of all very rigid materials, but
especially of hard crystals, and above all of diamonds. For diamonds were
extravagantly resistant; and at the same time, as the Martians themselves put
it, diamonds were superb jugglers with the ethereal radiation called light.
Every diamond was therefore a supreme embodiment of the tense energy and eternal
equilibrium of the cosmos, and must be treated with reverence. In Mars, all
known diamonds were exposed to sunlight on the pinnacles of sacred buildings;
and the thought that on the neighbour planet might be diamonds which were not
properly treated, was one motive of the invasion.
Thus did the Martian mind, unwittingly side-tracked from its true development,
fall sick, and strive ever more fanaticafly toward mere phantoms of its goal. In
the early stages of the disorder, radiation was merely regarded as an infallible
sign of mentality, and radiative complexity was taken as an infallible measure,
merely, of spiritual worth. But little by little, radiation and mentality failed
to be distinguished, and radiative organization was actually mistaken for
spiritual worth.
In this obsession the Martians resembled somewhat the First Men during their
degenerate phase of servitude to the idea of movement; but with a difference.
For the Martian intelligence was still active, though its products were severely
censored in the name of the "spirit of the race." Every Martian was a case of
dual personality. Not merely was he sometimes a private consciousness, sometimes
the consciousness of the race, but further, even as a private individual he was
in a manner divided against himself. Though his practical allegiance to the
super-individual was absolute, so that he condemned or ignored all thoughts and
impulses that could not be assimilated to the public consciousness, he did in
fact have such thoughts and impulses, as it were in the deepest recesses of his
being. He very seldom noticed that he was having them, and whenever he did
notice it, he was shocked and terrified; yet he did have them. They constituted
an intermittent, sometimes almost a continuous, critical commentary on all his
more reputable experience.
This was the great tragedy of the spirit on Mars. The Martians were in many ways
extremely well equipped for mental progress and for true spiritual adventure,
but through a trick of fortune which had persuaded them to prize above all else
unity and uniformity, they were driven to thwart their own struggling spirits at
every turn.
Far from being superior to the private mind, the public mind which obsessed
every Martian was in many ways actually inferior. It had come into dominance in
a crisis which demanded severe military co-ordination; and though, since that
remote age, it had made great intellectual progress, it remained at heart a
military mind. Its disposition was something between that of a field-marshal and
the God of the ancient Hebrews. A certain English philosopher once described and
praised the fictitious corporate personality of the state, and named it
"Leviathan." The Martian superindividual was Leviathan endowed with
consciousness. In this consciousness there was nothing hut what was easily
assimilated and in accord with tradition. Thus the public mind was always
intellectually and culturally behind the times. Only in respect of practical
social organization did it keep abreast of its own individuals. Intellectual
progress had always been initiated by private individuals, and had only
penetrated the public mind when the mass of individuals had been privately
infected by intercourse with the pioneers. The public consciousness itself
initiated progress only in the sphere of social, military, and economic
The novel circumstances which were encountered on the earth put the mentality of
the Martians to a supreme test. For the unique enterprise of tackling a new
world demanded the extremes of both public and private activity, and so led to
agonizing conflicts within each private mind. For, while the undertaking was
essentially social and even military, and necessitated very strict co-ordination
and unity of action, the extreme novelty of the new environment demanded all the
resources of the untrammelled private consciousness. Moreover the Martians
encountered much on the earth which made nonsense of their fundamental
assumptions. And in their brightest moments of private consciousness they
sometimes recognized this fact.
SUCH were the beings that invaded the earth when the Second Men were gathering
their strength for a great venture in artificial evolution. The motives of the
invasion were both economic and religious. The Martians sought water and
vegetable matter; but they came also in a crusading spirit, to "liberate" the
terrestrial diamonds.
Conditions on the earth were very unfavourable to the invaders. Excessive
gravitation troubled them less than might have been expected. Only in their
roost concentrated form did they find it oppressive. More harmful was the
density of the terrestrial atmosphere, which constricted the tenuous animate
cloudlets very painfully, hindering their vital processes, and deadening all
their movements. In their native atmosphere they swam hither and thither with
ease and considerable speed; but the treacly air of the earth hampered them as a
bird's wings are hampered under water. Moreover, owing to their extreme buoyancy
as individual cloudlets, they were scarcely able to dive down so far as the
mountain-tops. Excessive oxygen was also a source of distress; it tended to put
them into a violent fever, which they had only been able to guard against very
imperfectly. Even more damaging was the excessive moisture of the atmosphere,
both through its solvent effect upon certain factors in the subvital units, and
because heavy rain interfered with the physiological processes of the cloudlets
and washed many of their materials to the ground.
The invaders had also to cope with the tissue of "radio" messages that
constantly enveloped the planet, and tended to interfere with their own organic
systems of radiation. They were prepared for this to some extent; but "beam
wireless" at close range surprised, bewildered, tortured, and finally routed
them; so that they fled back to Mars, leaving many of their number disintegrated
in the terrestrial air.
But the pioneering army (or individual, for throughout the adventure it
maintained unity of consciousness) had much to report at home. As was expected,
there was rich vegetation, and water was even too abundant. There were solid
animals, of the type of the prehistoric Martian fauna, but mostly two-legged and
erect. Experiment had shown that these creatures died when they were pulled to
pieces, and that though the sun's rays affected them by setting up chemical
action in their visual organs, they had no really direct sensitivity to
radiation. Obviously, therefore, they must be unconscious. On the other hand,
the terrestrial atmosphere was permanently alive with radiation of a violent and
incoherent type. It was still uncertain whether these crude ethereal agitations
were natural phenomena, mere careless offshoots of the cosmic mind, or whether
they were emitted by a terrestrial organism. There was reason to suppose this
last to be the case, and that the solid organisms were used by some hidden
terrestrial intelligence as instruments; for there were buildings, and many of
the bipeds were found within the buildings. Moreover, the sudden violent
concentration of beam radiation upon the Martian cloud suggested purposeful and
hostile behaviour. Punitive action had therefore been taken, and many buildings
and bipeds had been destroyed. The physical basis of such a terrestrial
intelligence was still to be discovered. It was certainly not in the terrestrial
clouds, for these had turned out to be insensitive to radiation. Anyhow, it was
obviously an intelligence of very low order, for its radiation was scarcely at
all systematic, and was indeed excessively crude. One or two unfortunate
diamonds had been found in a building. There was no sign that they were properly
The Terrestrials, on their side, were left in complete bewilderment by the
extraordinary events of that day. Some had jokingly suggested that since the
strange substance had behaved in a manner obviously vindictive, it must have
been alive and conscious; but no one took the suggestion seriously. Clearly,
however, the thing had been dissipated by beam radiation. That at least was an
important piece of practical knowledge. But theoretical knowledge about the real
nature of the clouds, and their place in the order of the universe, was for the
present wholly lacking. To a race of strong cognitive interest and splendid
scientific achievement, this ignorance was violently disturbing. It seemed to
shake the foundations of the great structure of knowledge. Many frankly hoped,
in spite of the loss of life in the first invasion, that there would soon be
another opportunity for studying these amazing objects, which were not quite
gaseous and not quite solid, not (apparently) organic, yet capable of behaving
in a manner suggestive of life. An opportunity was soon afforded.
Some years after the first invasion the Martians appeared again, and in far
greater force. This time, moreover, they were almost immune from man's offensive
radiation. Operating simultaneously from all the alpine regions of the earth,
they began to dry up the great rivers at their sources; and, venturing further
afield, they spread over jungle and agricultural land, and stripped off every
leaf. Valley after valley was devastated as though by endless swarms of locusts,
so that in whole countries there was not a green blade left. The booty was
carried off to Mars. Myriads of the subvital units, specialized for transport of
water and food materials, were loaded each with a few molecules of the treasure,
and dispatched to the home planet. The traffic continued indefinitely. Meanwhile
the main body of the Martians proceeded to explore and loot. They were
irresistible. For the absorption of water and leafage, they spread over the
countryside as an impalpable mist which man had no means to dispel. For the
destruction of civilization, they became armies of gigantic cloud-jellies, far
bigger than the brute which had formed itself during the earlier invasion.
Cities were knocked down and flattened, human beings masticated into pulp. Man
tried weapon after weapon in vain.
Presently the Martians discovered the sources of terrestrial radiation in the
innumerable wireless transmitting stations. Here at last was the physical basis
of the terrestrial intelligence! But what a lowly creature! What a caricature of
life! Obviously in respect of complexity and delicacy of organization these
wretched immobile systems of glass, metal and vegetable compounds were not to be
compared with the Martian cloud. Their only feat seemed to be that they had
managed to get control of the unconscious bipeds who tended them.
In the course of their explorations the Martians also discovered a few more
diamonds. The second human species had outgrown the barbaric lust for jewellery;
but they recognized the beauty of gems and precious metals, and used them as
badges of office. Unfortunately, the Martians, in sacking a town, came upon a
woman who was wearing a large diamond between her breasts; for she was mayor of
the town, and in charge of the evacuation. That the sacred stone should be used
thus, apparently for the mere identification of cattle, shocked the invaders
even more than the discovery of fragments of diamonds in certain
cutting-instruments. The war now began to be waged with all the heroism and
brutality of a crusade. Long after a rich booty of water and vegetable matter
had been secured, long after the Terrestrials had developed an effective means
of attack, and were slaughtering the Martian clouds with high-tension
electricity in the form of artificial lightning flashes, the misguided fanatics
stayed on to rescue the diamonds and carry them away to the mountain tops,
where, years afterwards, climbers discovered them, arranged along the rock-edges
in glittering files, like seabird's eggs. Thither the dying remnant of the
Martian host had transported them with its last strength, scorning to save
itself before the diamonds were borne into the pure mountain air, to be lodged
with dignity. When the Second Men learned of this great hoard of diamonds, they
began to be seriously persuaded that they had been dealing, not with a freak of
physical nature, nor yet (as some said) with swarms of bacteria, but with
organisms of a higher order. For how could the jewels have been singled out,
freed from their metallic settings, and so carefully regimented on the rocks,
save by conscious purpose? The murderous clouds must have had at least the
piltering mentality of jackdaws, since evidently they had been fascinated by the
treasure. But the very action which revealed their consciousness suggested also
that they were no more intelligent than the merely instinctive animals. There
was no opportunity of correcting this error, since all the clouds had been
The struggle had lasted only a few months. Its material effects on Man were
serious but not insurmountable. Its immediate psychological effect was
invigorating. The Second Men had long been accustomed to a security and
prosperity that were almost utopian. Suddenly they were overwhelmed by a
calamity which was quite unintelligible in terms of their own systematic
knowledge. Their predecessors, in such a situation, would have behaved with
their own characteristic vacillation between the human and the subhuman. They
would have contracted a fever of romantic loyalty, and have performed many
random acts of secretly self-regarding self-sacrifice. They would have sought
profit out of the public disaster, and howled at all who were more fortunate
than themselves. They would have cursed their gods, and looked for more useful
ones. But also, in an incoherent manner, they would sometimes have behaved
reasonably, and would even have risen now and again to the standards of the
Second Men. Wholly unused to large-scale human bloodshed, these more developed
beings suffered an agony of pity for their mangled fellows. But they said
nothing about their pity, and scarcely noticed their own generous grief; for
they were busy with the work of rescue. Suddenly confronted with the need of
extreme loyalty and courage, they exulted in complying, and experienced that
added keenness of spirit which comes when danger is well faced. But it did not
occur to them that they were bearing themselves heroically; for they thought
they were merely behaving reasonably, showing common sense. And if any one
failed in a tight place, they did not call him coward, but gave him a drug to
clear his head; or, if that failed, they put him under a doctor. No doubt, among
the First Men such a policy would not have been justified, for those bewildered
beings had not the clear and commanding vision which kept all sane members of
the second species constant in loyalty.
The immediate psychological effect of the disaster was that it afforded this
very noble race healthful exercise for its great reserves of loyalty and
heroism. Quite apart from this immediate invigoration, however, the first agony,
and those many others which were to follow, influenced the Second Men for good
and ill in a train of effects which may be called spiritual. They had long known
very well that the universe was one in which there could be not only private but
also great public tragedies; and their philosophy did not seek to conceal this
fact. Private tragedy they were able to face with a bland fortitude, and even an
ecstasy of acceptance, such as the earlier species had but rarely attained.
Public tragedy, even world-tragedy, they declared should be faced in the same
spirit. But to know world-tragedy in the abstract, is very different from the
direct acquaintance with it. And now the Second Men, even while they held their
attention earnestly fixed upon the practical work of defence, were determined to
absorb this tragedy into the very depths of their being, to scrutinize it
fearlessly, savour it, digest it, so that its fierce potency should henceforth
be added to them. Therefore they did not curse their gods, nor supplicate them.
They said to themselves, "Thus, and thus, and thus, is the world. Seeing the
depth we shall see also the height; and we shall praise both."
But their schooling was yet scarcely begun. The Martian invaders were all dead,
but their subvital units were dispersed over the planet as a virulent
ultra-microscopic dust. For, though as members of the living cloud they could
enter the human body without doing permanent harm, now that they were freed from
their functions within the higher organic system, they became a predatory virus.
Breathed into man's lungs, they soon adapted themselves to the new environment,
and threw his tissues into disorder. Each cell that they entered overthrew its
own constitution, like a state which the enemy has successfully infected with
lethal propaganda through a mere handful of agents. Thus, though man was
temporarily victor over the Martian super-individual, his own vital units were
poisoned and destroyed by the subvital remains of his dead enemy. A race whose
physique had been as utopian as its body politic, was reduced to timid
invalidity. And it was left in possession of a devastated planet. The loss of
water proved negligible; but the destruction of vegetation in all the war areas
produced for a while a world famine such as the Second Men had never known. And
the material fabric of civilization had been so broken that many decades would
have to be spent in rebuilding it.
But the physical damage proved far less serious than the physiological. Earnest
research discovered, indeed, a means of checking the infection; and, after a few
years of rigorous purging, the atmosphere and man's flesh were clean once more.
But the generations that had been stricken never recovered; their tissues had
been too seriously corroded. Little by little, of course, there arose a fresh
population of undamaged men and women. But it was a small population; for the
fertility of the stricken had been much reduced. Thus the earth was now occupied
by a small number of healthy persons below middle age and a very large number of
ageing invalids. For many years these cripples had contrived to carry on the
work of the world in spite of their frailty, but gradually they began to fail
both in endurance and competence. For they were rapidly losing their grip on
life, and sinking into a long-drawn-out senility, from which the Second Men had
never before suffered; and at the same time the young, forced to take up work
for which they were not yet equipped, committed all manner of blunders and
crudities of which their elders would never have been guilty. But such was the
general standard of mentality in the second human species, that What might have
been an occasion for recrimination produced an unparalleled example of human
loyalty at its best. The stricken generations decided almost unanimously that
whenever an individual was declared by his generation to have outlived his
competence, he should commit suicide. The younger generations, partly through
affection, partly through dread of their own incompetence, were at first
earnestly opposed to this policy. "Our elders," one young man said, "may have
declined in vigour, but they are still beloved, and still wise. We dare not
carry on without them." But the elders maintained their point. Many members of
the rising generation were no longer juveniles. And, if the body politic was to
survive the economic crisis, it must now ruthlessly cut out all its damaged
tissues. Accordingly the decision was carried out. One by one, as occasion
demanded, the stricken "chose the peace of annihilation," leaving a scanty,
inexperienced, but vigorous, population to rebuild what had been destroyed.
Four centuries passed, and then again the Martian clouds appeared in the sky.
Once more devastation and slaughter. Once more a complete failure of the two
mentalities to conceive one another. Once more the Martians were destroyed. Once
more the pulmonary plague, the slow purging, a crippled population, and generous
Again, and again they appeared, at irregular intervals for fifty thousand years.
On each occasion the Martians came irresistibly fortified against whatever
weapon humanity had last used against them. And so, by degrees, men began to
recognize that the enemy was no merely instinctive brute, but intelligent. They
therefore made attempts to get in touch with these alien minds, and make
overtures for a peaceful settlement. But since obviously the negotiations had to
be performed by human beings, and since the Martians always regarded human
beings as the mere cattle of the terrestrial intelligence, the envoys were
always either ignored or destroyed.
During each invasion the Martians contrived to dispatch a considerable bulk of
water to Mars. And every time, not satisfied with this material gain, they
stayed too long crusading, until man had found a weapon to circumvent their new
defences; and then they were routed. After each invasion man's recovery was
slower and less complete, while Mars, in spite of the loss of a large proportion
of its population, was in the long run invigorated with the extra water.
Rather more than fifty thousand years after their first appearance, the Martians
secured a permanent footing on the Antarctic table-land and over-ran Australasia
and South Africa. For many centuries they remained in possession of a large part
of the earth's surface, practising a kind of agriculture, studying terrestrial
conditions, and spending much energy on the "liberation" of diamonds.
During the considerable period before their settlement their mentality had
scarcely changed; but actual habitation of the earth now began to undermine
their self-complacency and their unity. It was borne in upon certain exploring
Martians that the terrestrial bipeds, though insensitive to radiation, were
actually the intelligences of the planet. At first this fact was studiously
shunned, but little by little it gripped the attention of all terrestrial
Martians. At the same time they began to realize that the whole work of research
into terrestrial conditions, and even the social construction of their colony,
depended, not on the public mind, but on private individuals, acting in their
private capacity. The colonial super-individual inspired only the diamond
crusade, and the attempt to extirpate the terrestrial intelligence, or
radiation. These various novel acts of insight woke the Martian colonists from
an age-long dream. They saw that their revered super-individual was scarcely
more than the least common measure of themselves, a bundle of atavistic
fantasies and cravings, knit into one mind and gifted with a certain practical
cunning. A rapid and bewildering spiritual renascence now came over the whole
Martian colony. The central doctrine of it was that what was valuable in the
Martian species was not radiation but mentality. These two utterly different
things had been confused, and even identified, since the dawn of Martian
civilization. At last they were clearly distinguished. A fumbling but sincere
study of mind now began; and distinction was even made between the humbler and
loftier mental activities.
There is no telling whither this renascence might have led, had it run its
course. Possibly in time the Martians might have recognized worth even in minds
other than Martian minds. But such a leap was at first far beyond them. Though
they now understood that human animals were conscious and intelligent, they
regarded them with no sympathy, rather indeed, with increased hostility. They
still rendered allegiance to the Martian race, or brotherhood, just because it
was in a sense one flesh, and, indeed, one mind. For they were concerned not to
abolish but to recreate the publie mind of the colony, and even that of Mars
But the colonial public mind still largely dominated them in their more
somnolent periods, and actually sent some of those who, in their private phases,
were revolutionaries across to Mars for help against the revolutionary movement.
The home planet was quite untouched by the new ideas. Its citizens co-operated
whole-heartedly in an attempt to bring the colonists to their senses. But in
vain. The colonial public mind itself changed its character as the centuries
passed, until it became seriously alienated from Martian orthodoxy. Presently,
indeed, it began to undergo a very strange and thorough metamorphosis, from
which, conceivably, it might have emerged as the noblest inhabitant of the solar
system. Little by little it fell into a kind of hypnotic trance. That is to say,
it ceased to possess the attention of its private members, yet remained as a
unity of their subconscious, or un-noticed mentality. Radiational unity of the
colony was maintained, but only in this subconscious manner; and it was at that
depth that the great metamorphosis began to take place under the fertilizing
influence of the new ideas; which, so to speak, were generated in the tempest of
the fully conscious mental revolution, and kept on spreading down into the
oceanic depth of the subconsciousness. Such a condition was likely to produce in
time the emergence of a qualitatively new and finer mentality, and to waken at
last into a fully conscious super-individual of higher order than its own
members. But meanwhile this trance of the public consciousness incapacitated the
colony for that prompt and co-ordinated action which had been the most
successful faculty of Martian life. The public mind of the home planet easily
destroyed its disorderly offspring, and set about re-colonizing the earth.
Several times during the next three hundred thousand years this process repeated
itself. The changeless and terribly efficient super-individual of Mars
extirpated its own offspring on the earth, before it could emerge from the
chrysalis. And the tragedy might have been repeated indefinitely, but for
certain changes that took place in humanity.
The first few centuries after the foundation of the Martian colony had been
spent in ceaseless war. But at last, with terribly reduced resources, the Second
Men had reconciled themselves to the fact that they must live in the same world
with their mysterious enemy. Moreover, constant observation of the Martians
began to restore somewhat man's shattered self-confidence. For during the fifty
thousand years before the Martian colony was founded his opinion of himself had
been undermined. He had formerly been used to regarding himself as the sun's
ablest child. Then suddenly a stupendous new phenomenon had defeated his
intelligence. Slowly he had learned that he was at grips with a determined and
versatile rival, and that this rival hailed from a despised planet. Slowly he
had been forced to suspect that he himself was outclassed, outshone, by a race
whose very physique was incomprehensible to man. But after the Martians had
established a permanent colony, human scientists began to discover the real
physiological nature of the Martian organism, and were comforted to find that it
did not make nonsense of human science. Man also learned that the Martians,
though very able in certain spheres, were not really of a high mental type.
These discoveries restored human self-confidence. Man settled down to make the
best of the situation. Impassable barriers of high-power electric current were
devised to keep the Martians out of human territory, and men began patiently to
rebuild their ruined home as best they could. At first there was little respite
from the crusading zeal of the Martians, but in the second millennium this began
to abate, and the two races left one another alone, save for occasional revivals
of Martain fervour. Human civilization was at last reconstructed and
consolidated, though upon a modest scale. Once more, though interrupted now and
again by decades of agony, human beings lived in peace and relative prosperity.
Life was somewhat harder than formerly, and the physique of the race was
definitely less reliable than of old; but men and women still enjoyed conditions
which most nations of the earlier species would have envied. The age of
ceaseless personal sacrifice in service of the stricken community had ended at
last. Once more a wonderful diversity of untrammelled personalities was put
forth. Once more the minds of men and women were devoted without hindrance to
the joy of skilled work, and all the subtleties of personal intercourse. Once
more the passionate interest in one's fellows, which had for so long been hushed
under the all-dominating public calamity, refreshed and enlarged the mind. Once
more there was music, sweet and backward-hearkening towards a golden past. Once
more a wealth of literature, and of the visual arts. Once more intellectual
exploration into the nature of the physical world and the potentiality of mind.
And once more the religious experience, which had for so long been coarsened and
obscured by all the violent distractions and inevitable selfdeceptions of war,
seemed to be refining itself under the influence of reawakened culture.
In such circumstances the earlier and less sensitive human species might well
have prospered indefinitely. Not so the Second Men. For their very refinement of
sensibility made them incapable of shunning an everpresent conviction that in
spite of all their prosperity they were undermined. Though superficially they
seemed to be making a slow but heroic recovery they were at the same time
suffering from a still slower and far more profound spiritual decline.
Generation succeeded generation. Society became almost perfected, within its
limited territory and its limitations of material wealth. The capacities of
personality were developed with extreme subtlety and richness. At last the race
proposed to itself once more its ancient project of re-making human nature upon
a loftier plane. But somehow it had no longer the courage and self-respect for
such work. And so, though there was much talk, nothing was done. Epoch succeeded
epoch, and everything human remained apparently the same. Like a twig that has
been broken but not broken off, man settled down to retain his life and culture,
but could make no progress.
It is almost impossible to describe in a few words the subtle malady of the
spirit that was undermining the Second Men. To say that they were suffering from
an inferiority complex, would not be wholly false, but it would be a misleading
vulgarization of the truth. To say that they had lost faith, both in themselves
and in the universe, would be almost as inadequate. Crudely stated, their
trouble was that, as a species, they had attempted a certain spiritual feat
beyond the scope of their still-primitive flature. Spiritually they had
over-reached themselves, broken every muscle (so to speak) and incapacitated
themselves for any further effort. For they had determined to see their own
racial tragedy as a thing of beauty, and they had failed. It was the obscure
sense of this defeat that had poisoned them, for, being in many respects a very
noble species, they could not simply turn their backs upon their failure and
pursue the old way of life with the accustomed zest and thoroughness.
During the earliest Martian raids, the spiritual leaders of humanity had
preached that the disaster must be an occasion for a supreme religious
experience. While striving mightily to save their civilization, men must yet (so
it was said) learn not merely to endure, but to admire, even the sternest issue.
"Thus and thus is the world. Seeing the depth, we shall see also the height, and
praise both." The whole population had accepted this advice. At first they had
seemed to succeed. Many noble literary expressions were given forth, which
seemed to define and elaborate, and even actually to create in men's hearts,
this supreme experience. But as the centuries passed and the disasters were
repeated, men began to fear that their forefathers had deceived themselves.
Those remote generations had earnestly longed to feel the racial tragedy as a
factor in the cosmic beauty; and at last they had persuaded themselves that this
experience had actually befallen them. But their descendants were slowly coming
to suspect that no such experience had ever occurred, that it would never occur
to any man, and that there was in fact no such cosmic beauty to be experienced.
The First Men would probably, in such a situation, have swung violently either
into spiritual nihilism, or else into some comforting religious myth. At any
rate, they were of too coarse-grained a nature to be ruined by a trouble so
impalpable. Not so the Second Men. For they realized all too clearly that they
were faced with the supreme crux of existence. And so, age after age the
generations clung desperately to the hope that, if only they could endure a
little longer, the light would break in on them. Even after the Martian colony
had been three times established and destroyed by the orthodox race in Mars, the
supreme preoccupation of the human species was with this religious crux. But
afterwards, and very gradually, they lost heart. For it was borne in on them
that either they themselves were by nature too obtuse to perceive this ultimate
excellence of things (an excellence which they had strong reason to believe in
intellectually, although they could not actually experience it), or the human
race had utterly deceived itself, and the course of cosmic events after all was
not significant, but a meaningless rigmarole.
It was this dilemma that poisoned them. Had they been still physically in their
prime, they might have found fortitude to accept it, and proceed to the patient
exfoliation of such very real excellencies as they were still capable of
creating. But they had lost the vitality which alone could perform such acts of
spiritual abnegation. All the wealth of personality, all the intricacies of
personal relationship, all the complex enterprise of a very great community, all
art, all intellectual research, had lost their savour. It is remarkable that a
purely religious disaster should have warped even the delight of lovers in one
another's bodies, actually taken the flavour out of food, and drawn a veil
between the sun-bather and the sun. But individuals of this species, unlike
their predecessors, were so closely integrated, that none of their functions
could remain healthy while the highest was disordered. Moreover, the general
slight failure of physique, which was the legacy of age-long war, had resulted
in a recurrence of those shattering brain disorders which had dogged the
earliest races of their species. The very horror of the prospect of racial
insanity increased their aberration from reasonableness. Little by little,
shocking perversions of desire began to terrify them. Masochistic and sadistic
orgies alternated with phases of extravagant and ghastly revelry. Acts of
treason against the community, hitherto almost unknown, at last necessitated a
strict police system. Local groups organized predatory raids against one
another. Nations appeared, and all the phobias that make up nationalism.
The Martian colonists, when they observed man's disorganization, prepared, at
the instigation of the home planet, a very great offensive. It so happened that
at this time the colony was going through its phase of enlightenment, which had
always hitherto been followed sooner or later by chastisement from Mars. Many
individuals were at the moment actually toying with the idea of seeking harmony
with man, rather than war. But the public mind of Mars, outraged by this
treason, sought to overwhelm it by instituting a new crusade. Man's disunion
offered a great opportunity.
The first attack produced a remarkable change in the human race. Their madness
seemed suddenly to leave them. Within a few weeks the national governments had
surrendered their sovereignty to a central authority. Disorders, debauchery,
perversions, wholly ceased. The treachery and self-seeking and corruption, which
had by now been customary for many centuries, suddenly gave place to universal
and perfect devotion to the social cause. The species was apparently once more
in its right mind. Everywhere, in spite of the war's horrors, there was gay
brotherliness, combined with a heroism, which clothed itself in an odd
extravagance of jocularity.
The war went ill for man. The general mood changed to cold resolution. And still
victory was with the Martians. Under the influence of the huge fanatical armies
which were poured in from the home planet, the colonists had shed their
tentative pacifism, and sought to vindicate their loyality by ruthlessness. In
reply the human race deserted its sanity, and succumbed to an uncontrollable
lust for destruction. It was at this stage that a human bacteriologist announced
that he had bred a virus of peculiar deadliness and transmissibility, with which
it would be possible to infect the enemy, but at the cost of annihilating also
the human race. It is significant of the insane condition of the human
population at this time that, when these facts were announced and broadcast,
there was no discussion of the desirability of using this weapon. It was
immediately put in action, the whole human race applauding.
Within a few months the Martian colony had vanished, their home planet itself
had received the infection, and its population was already aware that nothing
could save it. Man's constitution was tougher than that of the animate clouds,
and he appeared to be doomed to a somewhat more lingering death. He made no
effort to save himself, either from the disease which he himself had propagated,
or from the pulmonary plague which was caused by the disintegrated substance of
the dead Martian colony. All the public processes of civilization began to fall
to pieces; for the community was paralysed by disillusion, and by the
expectation of death. Like a bee-hive that has no queen, the whole population of
the earth sank into apathy. Men and women stayed in their homes, idling, eating
whatever food they could procure, sleeping far into the mornings, and, when at
last they rose, listlessly avoiding one another. Only the children could still
be gay, and even they were oppressed by their elders' gloom. Meanwhile the
disease was spreading. Household after household was stricken, and was left
unaided by its neighbours. But the pain in each individual's flesh was strangely
numbed by his more poignant distress in the spiritual defeat of the race. For
such was the high development of this species, that even physical agony could
not distract it from the racial failure. No one wanted to save himself; and each
knew that his neighbours desired not his aid. Only the children, when the
disease crippled them, were plunged into agony and terror. Tenderly, yet
listlessly, their elders would then give them the last sleep. Meanwhile the
unburied dead spread corruption among the dying. Cities fell still and silent.
The corn was not harvested.
So contagious and so lethal was the new bacterium, that its authors expected the
human race to be wiped out as completely as the Martian colony. Each dying
remnant of humanity, isolated from its fellows by the breakdown of
communications, imagined its own last moments to be the last of man. But by
accident, almost one might say by miracle, a spark of human life was once more
preserved, to hand on the sacred fire. A certain stock or strain of the race,
promiscuously scattered throughout the continents, proved less susceptible than
the majority. And, as the bacterium was less vigorous in a hot climate, a few of
these favoured individuals, who happened to be in the tropical jungle, recovered
from the infection. And of these few a minority recovered also from the
pulmonary plague which, as usual, was propagated from the dead Martians.
It might have been expected that from this human germ a new civilized community
would have soon arisen. With such brilliant beings as the Second Men, surely a
few generations, or at the most a few thousand years, should have sufficed to
make up the lost ground.
But no. Once more it was in a manner the very excellence of the species that
prevented its recovery, and flung the spirit of Earth into a trance which lasted
longer than the whole previous career of mammals. Again and again, some thirty
million times, the seasons were repeated; and throughout this period man
remained as fixed in bodily and mental character as, formerly, the platypus.
Members of the earlier human species must find it difficult to understand this
prolonged impotence of a race far more developed than themselves. For here
apparently were both the requisites of progressive culture, namely a world rich
and unpossessed, and a race exceptionally able. Yet nothing was done.
When the plagues, and all the immense consequent putrefactions, had worked
themselves off, the few isolated groups of human survivors settled down to an
increasingly indolent tropical life. The fruits of past learning were not
imparted to the young, who therefore grew up in extreme ignorance of almost
everything beyond their immediate experience. At the same time the elder
generation cowed their juniors with vague suggestions of racial defeat and
universal futility. This would not have mattered, had the young themselves been
normal; they would have reacted with fervent optimism. But they themselves were
now by nature incapable of any enthusiasm. For, in a species in which the lower
functions were so strictly disciplined under the higher, the long-drawn-out
spiritual disaster had actually begun to take effect upon the germ-plasm; so
that individuals were doomed before birth to lassitude, and to mentality in a
minor key. The First Men, long ago, had fallen into a kind of racial senility
through a combination of vulgar errors and indulgences. But the second species,
like a boy whose mind has been too soon burdened with grave experience, lived
henceforth in a sleep-walk.
As the generations passed, all the lore of civilization was shed, save the
routine of tropical agriculture and hunting. Not that intelligence itself had
waned. Not that the race had sunk into mere savagery. Lassitude did not prevent
it from readjusting itself to suit its new circumstances. These sleep-walkers
soon invented convenient ways of making, in the home and by hand, much that had
hitherto been made in factories and by mechanical power. Almost without mental
effort they designed and fashioned tolerable instruments out of wood and flint
and bone. But though still intelligent, they had become by disposition, supine,
indifferent. They would exert themselves only under the pressure of urgent
primitive need. No man seemed capable of putting forth the full energy of a man.
Even suffering had lost its poignancy. And no ends seemed worth pursuing that
could not be realized speedily. The sting had gone out of experience. The soul
was calloused against every goad. Men and women worked and played, loved and
suffered; but always in a kind of rapt absent-mindedness. It was as though they
were ever trying to remember something important which escaped them. The affairs
of daily life seenicd too trivial to be taken seriously. Yet that other, and
supremely important thing, which alone deserved consideration, was so obscure
that no one had any idea what it was. Nor indeed was anyone aware of this
hypnotic subjection, any more than a sleeper is aware of being asleep.
The minimum of necessary work was performed, and there was even a dreamy zest in
the performance, but nothing which would entail extra toil ever seemed worth
while. And so, when adjustment to the new circumstances of the world had been
achieved, complete stagnation set in. Practical intelligence was easily able to
cope with a slowly changing environment, and even with sudden natural upheavals
such as floods, earthquakes and disease epidemics. Man remained in a sense
master of his world, but he had no idea what to do with his mastery. It was
everywhere assumed that the sane end of living was to spend as many days as
possible in indolence, lying in the shade. Unfortunately human beings had, of
course, many needs which were irksome if not appeased, and so a good deal of
hard work had to be done. Hunger and thirst had to be satisfied. Other
individuals besides oneself had to be cared for, since man was cursed with
sympathy and with a sentiment for the welfare of his group. The only fully
rational behaviour, it was thought, would be general suicide, but irrational
impulses made this impossible. Beatific drugs offered a temporary heaven. But,
far as the Second Men had fallen, they were still too clear-sighted to forget
that such beatitude is outweighed by subsequent misery.
Century by century, epoch by epoch, man glided on in this seemingly precarious,
yet actually unshakable equilibrium. Nothing that happened to him could disturb
his easy dominance over the beasts and over physical nature; nothing could shock
him out of his racial sleep. Long-drawn-out climatic changes made desert, jungle
and grass-land fluctuate like the clouds. As the years advanced by millions,
ordinary geological processes, greatly accentuated by the immense strains set up
by the Patagonian upheaval, remodelled the surface of the planet. Continents
were submerged, or lifted out of the sea, till presently there was little of the
old configuration. And along with these geological changes went changes in the
fauna and flora. The bacterium which had almost exterminated man had also
wrought havoc amongst other mammals. Once more the planet had to be re-stocked,
this time from the few surviving tropical species. Once more there was a great
re-making of old types, only less revolutionary than that which had followed the
Patagonian disaster. And since the human race remained minute, through the
effects of its spiritual fatigue, other species were favoured. Especially the
ruminants and the large carnivora increased and diversified themselves into many
habits and forms.
But the most remarkable of all the biological trains of events in this period
was the history of the Martian subvital units that had been disseminated by the
slaughter of the Martian colony, and had then tormented men and animals with
pulmonary diseases. As the ages passed, certain species of mammals so readjusted
themselves that the Martian virus became not only harmless but necessary to
their well-being. A relationship which was originally that of parasite and host
became in time a true symbiosis, a co-operative partnership, in which the
terrestrial animals gained something of the unique attributes of the vanished
Martian organisms. The time was to come when Man himself should look with envy
on these creatures, and finally make use of the Martian "virus" for his own
But meanwhile, and for many million years, almost all kinds of life were on the
move, save Man. Like a ship-wrecked sailor, he lay exhausted and asleep on his
raft, long after the storm had abated.
But his stagnation was not absolute. Imperceptibly, he was drifting on the
oceanic currents of life, and in a direction far out of his original course.
Little by little, his habit was becoming simpler, less artificial, more animal.
Agriculture faded out, since it was no longer necessary in the luxuriant garden
where man lived. Weapons of defence and of the chase became more precisely
adapted to their restricted purposes, but at the same time less diversified and
more stereotyped. Speech almost vanished; for there was no novelty left in
experience. Familiar facts and familiar emotions were conveyed increasingly by
gestures which were mostly unwitting. Physically, the species had changed
little. Though the natural period of life was greatly reduced, this was due less
to physiological change than to a strange and fatal increase of
absent-mindedness in middle-age. The individual gradually ceased to react to his
environment; so that even if he escaped a violent death, he died of starvation.
Yet in spite of this great change, the species remained essentially human. There
was no bestialization, such as had formerly produced a race of sub-men. These
tranced remnants of the second human species were not beasts but innocents,
simples, children of nature, perfectly adjusted to their simple life. In many
ways their state was idyllic and enviable. But such was their dimmed mentality
that they were never clearly aware even of the blessings they had, still less,
of course, of the loftier experiences which had kindled and tortured their
WE have now followed man's career during some forty million years. The whole
period to be covered by this chronicle is about two thousand million. In this
chapter, and the next, therefore, we must accomplish a swift flight at great
altitude over a tract of time more than three times as long as that which we
have hitherto observed. This great expanse is no desert, but a continent teeming
with variegated life, and many successive and very diverse civilizations. The
myriads of human beings who inhabit it far outnumber the First and Second Men
combined. And the content of each one of these lives is a universe, rich and
poignant as that of any reader of this book.
In spite of the great diversity of this span of man's history, it is a single
movement within the whole symphony, just as the careers of the First and of the
Second Men are each a single movement. Not only is it a period dominated by a
single natural human species and the artificial human species into which the
natural species at length transformed itself; but, also, in spite of innumerable
digressions, a single theme, a single mood of the human will, informs the whole
duration. For now at last man's main energy is devoted to remaking his own
physical and mental nature. Throughout the rise and fall of many successive
cultures this purpose is progressively clarifying itself, and expressing itself
in many tragic and even devastating experiments; until, toward the close of this
immense period, it seems almost to achieve its end.
When the Second Men had remained in their strange racial trance for about thirty
million years, the obscure forces that make for advancement began to stir in
them once more. This reawakening was favoured by geological accident. An
incursion of the sea gradually isolated some of their number in an island
continent, which was once part of the North Atlantic ocean-bed. The climate of
this island gradually cooled from sub-tropical to temperate and sub-arctic. The
vast change of conditions caused in the imprisoned race a subtle chemical
re-arrangement of the germ-plasm, such that there ensued an epidemic of
biological variation. Many new types appeared, but in the long run one, more
vigorous and better adapted than the rest, crowded out all competitors and
slowly consolidated itself as a new species, the Third Men.
Scarcely more than half the stature of their predecessors, these beings were
proportionally slight and lithe. Their skin was of a sunny brown, covered with a
luminous halo of red-gold hairs, which on the head became a russet mop. Their
golden eyes, reminiscent of the snake, were more enigmatic than profound. Their
faces were compact as a cat's muzzle, their lips full, but subtle at the
corners. Their ears, objects of personal pride and of sexual admiration, were
extremely variable both in individuals and races. These surprising organs, which
would have seemed merely ludicrous to the First Men, were expressive both of
temperament and passing mood. They were immense, delicately involuted, of a
silken texture, and very mobile. They gave an almost bat-like character to the
otherwise somewhat feline heads. But the most distinctive feature of the Third
Men was their great lean hands, on which were six versatile fingers, six
antennae of living steel.
Unlike their predecessors, the Third Men were short-lived. They had a brief
childhood and a brief maturity, followed (in the natural course) by a decade of
senility, and death at about sixty. But such was their abhorrence of
decrepitude, that they seldom allowed themselves to grow old. They preferred to
kill themselves when their mental and physical agility began to decline. Thus,
save in exceptional epochs of their history, very few lived to be fifty.
But though in some respects the third human species fell short of the high
standard of its predecessor, especially in certain of the finer mental
capacities, it was by no means simply degenerate. The admirable sensory
equipment of the second species was retained, and even improved. Vision was no
less ample and precise and colourful. Touch was far more discriminate,
especially in the delicately pointed sixth finger-tip. Hearing was so developed
that a man could run through wooded country blind-fold without colliding with
the trees. Moreover the great range of sounds and rhythms had acquired an
extremely subtle gamut of emotional significance. Music was therefore one of the
main preoccupations of the civilizations of this species.
Mentally the Third Men were indeed very unlike their predecessors. Their
intelligence was in some ways no less agile; but it was more cunning than
intellectual, more practical than theoretical. They were interested more in the
world of sense-experience than in the world of abstract reason, and again far
more in living things than in the lifeless. They excelled in certain kinds of
art, and indeed also in some fields of science. But they were led into science
more through practical, aesthetic or religious needs than through intellectual
curiosity. In mathematics, for instance (helped greatly by the duodecimal
system, which resulted from their having twelve fingers), they became wonderful
calculators; yet they never had the curiosity to inquire into the essential
nature of number. Nor, in physics, were they ever led to discover the more
obscure properties of space. They were, indeed, strangely devoid of curiosity.
Hence, though sometimes capable of a penetrating mystical intuition, they never
seriously disciplined themselves under philosophy, nor tried to relate their
mystical intuitions with the rest of their experience.
In their primitive phases the Third Men were keen hunters; but also, owing to
their strong parental impulses, they were much addicted to making pets of
captured animals. Throughout their career they displayed what earlier races
would have called an uncanny sympathy with, and understanding of, all kinds of
animals and plants. This intuitive insight into the nature of living things, and
this untiring interest in the diversity of vital behaviour, constituted the
dominating impulse throughout the whole career of the third human species. At
the outset they excelled not only as hunters but as herdsmen and domesticators.
By nature they were very apt in every kind of manipulation, but especially in
the manipulation of living things. As a species they were also greatly addicted
to play of all kinds, but especially to manipulative play, and above all to the
playful manipulation of organisms. From the first they performed great feats of
riding on the moose-like deer which they had domesticated. They tamed also a
certain gregarious coursing beast. The pedigree of this great leonine wolf led,
through the tropical survivors of the Martian plague, back to those descendants
of the arctic fox which had over-run the world after the Patagonian disaster.
This animal the Third Men trained not only to help them in shepherding and in
the chase, but also to play intricate hunting games. Between this hound and its
master or mistress there frequently arose a very special relation, a kind of
psychical symbiosis, a dumb intuitive mutual insight, a genuine love, based on
economic co-operation, but strongly toned also, in a manner peculiar to the
third human species, with religious symbolism and frankly sexual intimacy.
As herdsmen and shepherds the Third Men very early practised selective breeding;
and increasingly they became absorbed in the perfecting and enriching of all
types of animals and plants. It was the boast of every local chieftain not only
that the men of his tribe were more manly and the women more beautiful than all
others, but also that the bears in his territory were the noblest and most
bear-like of all bears, that the birds built more perfect nests and were more
skilful fliers and singers than birds elsewhere. And so on, through all the
animal and vegetable races.
This biological control was achieved at first by simple breeding experiments,
but later and increasingly by crude physiological manipulation of the young
animal, the fcetus and (later still) the germ-plasm. Hence arose a perennial
conflict, which often caused wars of a truly religious bitterness, between the
tender-hearted, who shrank from the infliction of pain, and the passionately
manipulative, who willed to create at whatever cost. This conflict, indeed, was
waged not only between individuals but within each mind; for all were innately
hunters and manipulators, but also all had intuitive sympathy even with the
quarry which they tormented. The trouble was increased by a strain of sheer
cruelty which occurred even in the most tender-hearted. This sadism was at
bottom an expression of an almost mystical reverence for sensory experience.
Physical pain, being the most intense of all sensed qualities, was apt to be
thought the most excellent. It might be expected that this would lead rather to
self-torture than to cruelty. Sometimes it did. But in general those who could
not appreciate pain in their own flesh were yet able to persuade themselves that
in inflicting pain on lower animals they were creating vivid psychic reality,
and therefore high excellence. It was just the intense reality of pain, they
said, that made it intolerable to men and animals. Seen with the detachment of
the divine mind, it appeared in its true beauty. And even man, they declared,
could appreciate its excellence when it occurred not in men but in animals.
Though the Third Men lacked interest in systematic thought, their minds were
often concerned with matters outside the fields of private and social economy.
They experienced not only aesthetic but mystical cravings. And though they were
without any appreciation of those finer beauties of human personality, which
their predecessors had admired as the highest attainment of life on the planet,
the Third Men themselves, in their own way, sought to make the best of human
nature, and indeed of animal nature. Man they regarded in two aspects. In the
first place he was the noblest of all animals, gifted with unique aptitudes. He
was, as was sometimes said, God's chief work of art. But secondly, since his
special virtues were his insight into the nature of all living things and his
manipulative capacity, he was himself God's eye and God's hand. These
convictions were expressed over and over again in the religions of the Third
Men, by the image of the deity as a composite animal, with wings of the
albatross, jaws of the great wolf-dog, feet of the deer, and so on. For the
human element was represented in this deity by the hands, the eyes, and the
sexual organs of man. And between the divine hands lay the world, with all its
diverse population. Often the world was represented as being the fruit of God's
primitive potency, but also as in process of being drastically altered and
tortured into perfection by the hands.
Most of the cultures of the Third Men were dominated by this obscure worship of
Life as an all-pervading spirit, expressing itself in myriad diverse
individuals. And at the same time the intuitive loyalty to living things and to
a vaguely conceived life-force was often complicated by sadism. For in the first
place it was recognized, of course, that what is valued by higher beings may be
intolerable to lower; and, as has been said, pain itself was thought to be a
superior excellence of this kind. And again in a second manner sadism expressed
itself. The worship of Life, as agent or subject, was complemented by worship of
environment, as obj ect to life's subj ectivity, as that which remains ever
foreign to life, thwarting its enterprises, torturing it, yet making it
possible, and, by its very resistance, goading it into nobler expressions. Pain,
it was said, was the most vivid apprehension of the sacred and universal Object.
The thought of the third human species was never systematic. But in some such
manner as the foregoing it strove to rationalize its obscure intuition of the
beauty which includes at once Life's victory and defeat.
Such, in brief, was the physical and mental nature of the third human species.
In spite of innumerable distractions, the spirit of the Third Men kept on
returning to follow up the thread of biological interest through a thousand
variegated cultures. Again and again folk after folk would clamber out of
savagery and barbarism into relative enlightenment; and mostly, though not
always, the main theme of this enlightenment was some special mood either of
biological creativeness or of sadism, or of both. To a man born into such a
society, no dominant characteristic would be apparent. He would be impressed
rather by the many-sidedness of human activities in his time. He would note a
wealth of personal intercourse, of social organization and industrial invention,
of art and speculation, all set in that universal matrix, the private struggle
to preserve or express the self. Yet the historian may often see in a society,
over and above this multifarious proliferation, some one controlling theme.
Again and again, then, at intervals of a few thousand or a few hundred thousand
years, man's whim was imposed upon the fauna and flora of the earth, and at
length directed to the task of remaking man himself. Again and again, through a
diversity of causes, the effort collapsed, and the species sank once more into
chaos. Sometimes indeed there was an interlude of culture in some quite
different key. Once, early in the history of the species, and before its nature
had become fixed, there occurred a nonindustrial civilization of a genuinely
intellectual kind, almost like that of Greece. Sometimes, but not often, the
third human species fooled itself into an extravagantly industrial world
civilization, in the manner of the Americanized First Men. In general its
interest was too much concerned with other matters to become entangled with
mechanical devices. But on three occasions at least it succumbed. Of these
civilizations one derived its main power from wind and falling water, one from
the tides, one from the earth's internal heat. The first, saved from the worst
evils of industrialism by the limitations of its power, lasted some hundred
thousand years in barren equilibrium, until it was destroyed by an obscure
bacterium. The second was fortunately brief; but its fifty thousand years of
unbridled waste of tidal energy was enough to interfere appreciably with the
orbit of the moon. This world-order collapsed at length in a series of
industrial wars. The third endured a quarter of a million years as a brilliantly
sane and efficient world organization. Throughout most of its existence there
was almost complete social harmony with scarcely as much internal strife as
occurs in a bee-hive. But once more civilization came at length to grief, this
time through the misguided effort to breed special human types for specialized
industrial pursuits.
Industrialism, however, was never more than a digression, a lengthy and
disastrous irrelevance in the life of this species. There were other
digressions. There were for instance cultures, enduring sometimes for several
thousand years, which were predominantly musical. This could never have occurred
among the First Men; but, as was said, the third species was peculiarly
developed in hearing, and in emotional sensitivity to sound and rhythm.
Consequently, just as the First Men at their height were led into the wilderness
by an irrational obsession with mechanical contrivances, just as the Third Men
themselves were many times undone by their own interest in biological control,
so, now and again, it was their musical gift that hypnotized them.
Of these predominantly musical cultures the most remarkable was one in which
music and religion combined to form a tyranny no less rigid than that of
religion and science in the remote past. It is worth while to dwell on one of
these episodes for a few moments.
The Third Men were very subject to a craving for personal immortality. Their
lives were brief, their love of life intense. It seemed to them a tragic flaw in
the nature of existence that the melody of the individual life must either fade
into a dreary senility or be cut short, never to be repeated. Now music had a
special significance for this race. So intense was their experience of it, that
they were ready to regard it as in some manner the underlying reality of all
things. In leisure hours, snatched from a toilful and often tragic life, groups
of peasants would seek to conjure about them by song or pipe or viol a universe
more beautiful, more real, than that of daily labour. Concentrating their
sensitive hearing upon the inexhaustible diversity of tone and rhythm, they
would seem to themselves to be possessed by the living presence of music, and to
be transported thereby into a lovelier world. No wonder they believed that every
melody was a spirit, leading a life of its own within the universe of music. No
wonder they imagined that a symphony or chorus was itself a single spirit
inhering in all its members. No wonder it seemed to them that when men and women
listened to great music, the barriers of their individuality were broken down,
so that they became one soul through communion with the music.
The prophet was born in a highland village where the native faith in music was
intense, though quite unformulated. In time he learnt to raise his peasant
audiences to the most extravagant joy and the most delicious sorrow. Then at
last he began to think, and to expound his thoughts with the authority of a
great bard. Easily he persuaded men that music was the reality, and all else
illusion, that the living spirit of the universe was pure music, and that each
individual animal and man, though he had a body that must die and vanish for
ever, had also a soul that was music and eternal. A melody, he said, is the most
fleeting of things. It happens and ceases. The great silence devours it, and
seemingly annihilates it. Passage is essential to its being. Yet though for a
melody, to halt is to die a violent death, all music, the prophet affirmed, has
also eternal life. After silence it may occur again, with all its freshness and
aliveness. Time cannot age it; for its home is in a country outside time. And
that country, thus the young musician earnestly preached, is also the home land
of every man and woman, nay of every living thing that has any gift of music.
Those who seek immortality, must strive to waken their tranced souls into melody
and harmony. And according to their degree of musical originality and
proficiency will be their standing in the eternal life.
The doctrine, and the impassioned melodies of the prophet, spread like fire.
Instrumental and vocal music sounded from every pasture and corn plot. The
government tried to suppress it, partly because it was thought to interfere with
agricultural productivity, largely because its passionate significance
reverberated even in the hearts of courtly ladies, and threatened to undo the
refinement of centuries. Nay, the social order itself began to crumble. For many
began openly to declare that what mattered was not aristocratic birth, nor even
proficiency in the time-honoured musical forms (so much prized by the leisured),
but the gift of spontaneous emotional expression in rhythm and harmony.
Persecution strengthened the new faith with a glorious company of martyrs who,
it was affirmed, sang triumphantly even in the flames.
One day the sacred monarch himself, hitherto a prisoner within the conventions,
declared half sincerely, half by policy, that he was converted to his people's
faith. Bureaucracy gave place to an enlightened dictatorship, the monarch
assumed the title of Supreme Melody, and the whole social order was
re-fashioned, more to the taste of the peasants. The subtle prince, backed by
the crusading zeal of his people, and favoured by the rapid spontaneous spread
of the faith in all lands, conquered the whole world, and founded the Universal
Church of Harmony. The prophet himself, meanwhile, dismayed by his own too
facile success, had retired into the mountains to perfect his art under the
influence of their great quiet, or the music of wind, thunder and waterfall.
Presently, however, the silence of the fells was shattered by the blare of
military bands and ecclesiastical choirs, which the emperor had sent to salute
him and conduct him to the metropolis. He was secured, though not without a
scrimmage, and lodged in the High Temple of Music. There he was kept a prisoner,
dubbed God's Big Noise, and used by the world-government as an oracle needing
interpretation. In a few years the official music of the temple, and of
deputations from all over the world, drove him into raving madness; in which
state he was the more useful to the authorities.
Thus was founded the Holy Empire of Music, which gave order and purpose to the
species for a thousand years. The sayings of the prophet, interpreted by a
series of able rulers, became the foundation of a great system of law which
gradually supplanted all local codes by virtue of its divine authority. Its root
was madness; but its final expression was intricate common sense, decorated with
harmless and precious flowers of folly. Throughout, the individual was wisely,
but tacitly, regarded as a biological organism having definite needs or rights
and definite social obligations; but the language in which this principle was
expressed and elaborated was a jargon based on the fiction that every human
being was a melody, demanding completion within a greater musical theme of
Toward the close of this millennium of order a schism occurred among the devout.
A new and fervent sect declared that the true spirit of the musical religion had
been stifled by ecclesiasticism. The founder of the religion had preached
salvation by individual musical experience, by an intensely emotional communion
with the Divine Music. But little by little, so it was said, the church had lost
sight of this central truth, and had substituted a barren interest in the
objective forms and principles of melody and counterpoint. Salvation, in the
official view, was not to be had by subjective experience, but by keeping the
rules of an obscure musical technique. And what was this technique? Instead of
making the social order a practical expression of the divine law of music,
churchmen and statesmen had misinterpreted these divine laws to suit mere social
convenience, until the true spirit of music had been lost. Meanwhile on the
other side a counter-revival took place. The self-centred and soul-saving mood
of the rebels was ridiculed. Men were urged to care rather for the divine and
exquisitely ordered forms of music itself than for their own emotion.
It was amongst the rebel peoples that the biological interest of the race,
hitherto subordinate, came into its own. Mating, at least among the more devout
sort of women, began to be influenced by the desire to have children who should
be of outstanding musical brilliance and sensitivity. Biological sciences were
rudimentary, but the general principle of selective breeding was known. Within a
century this policy of breeding for music, or breeding "soul," developed from a
private idiosyncrasy into a racial obsession. It was so far successful that
after a while a new type became common, and thrived upon the approbation and
devotion of ordinary persons. These new beings were indeed extravagantly
sensitive to music, so much so that the song of a sky-lark caused them serious
torture by its banality, and in response to any human music of the kind which
they approved, they invariably fell into a trance. Under the stimulus of music
which was not to their taste they were apt to run amok and murder the
We need not pause to trace the stages by which an infatuated race gradually
submitted itself to the whims of these creatures of human folly, until for a
brief period they became the tyrannical ruling caste of a musical theocracy. Nor
need we observe how they reduced society to chaos; and how at length an age of
confusion and murder brought mankind once more to its senses, but also into so
bitter a disillusionment that the effort to re-orientate the whole direction of
its endeavour lacked determination. Civilization fell to pieces and was not
rebuilt till after the race had lain fallow for some thousands of years.
So ended perhaps the most pathetic of racial delusions. Born of a genuine and
potent aesthetic experience, it retained a certain crazy nobility even to the
Many scores of other cultures occurred, separated often by long ages of
barbarism, but they must be ignored in this brief chronicle. The great majority
of them were mainly biological in spirit. Thus one was dominated by an obsessive
interest in flight, and therefore in birds, another by the concept of
metabolism, several by sexual creativity, and very many by some general but
mostly unenlightened policy of eugenics. All these we must pass over, so that we
may descend to watch the greatest of all the races of the third species torture
itself into a new form.
It was after an unusually long period of eclipse that the spirit of the third
human species attained its greatest brilliance. We need not watch the stages by
which this enlightenment was reached. Suffice it that the upshot was a very
remarkable civilization, if such a word can be applied to an order in which
agglomerations of architecture were unknown, clothing was used only when needed
for warmth, and such industrial development as occurred was wholly subordinated
to other activities.
Early in the history of this culture the requirements of hunting and
agriculture, and the spontaneous impulse to manipulate live things, gave rise to
a primitive but serviceable system of biological knowledge. Not until the
culture had unified the whole planet, did biology itself give rise to chemistry
and physics. At the same time a well-controlled industrialism, based first on
wind and water, and later on subterranean heat, afforded the race all the
material luxuries it desired, and much leisure from the business of keeping
itself in existence. Had there not already existed a more powerful and
all-dominating interest, industrialism itself would probably have hypnotized the
race, as it had so many others. But in this race the interest in live things,
which characterized the whole species, was dominant before industrialism began.
Egotism among the Third Men could not be satisfied by the exercise of economic
power, nor by the mere ostentation of wealth. Not that the race was immune from
egotism. On the contrary, it had lost almost all that spontaneous altruism which
had distinguished the Second Men. But in most periods the only kind of personal
ostentation which appealed to the Third Men was directly connected with the
primitive interest in "pecunia." To own many and noble beasts, whether they were
economically productive or not, was ever the mark of respectability. The vulgar,
indeed, were content with mere numbers, or at most with the conventional virtues
of the recognized breeds. But the more refined pursued, and flaunted, certain
very exact principles of aesthetic excellence in their control of living forms.
In fact, as the race gained biological insight, it developed a very remarkable
new art, which we may call "plastic vital art." This was to become the chief
vehicle of expression of the new culture. It was practised universally, and with
religious fervour; for it was very closely connected With the belief in a
life-god. The canons of this art, and the precepts of this religion, fluctuated
from age to age, but in general certain basic principles Were accepted. Or
rather, though there was almost always universal agreement that the practice of
vital art was the supreme goal, and should not be treated in a utilitarian
spirit, there were two conflicting sets of principles which were favoured by
opposed sets. One mode of vital art sought to evoke the full potentiality of
each natural type as a harmonious and perfected nature, or to produce new types
equally harmonious. The other prided itself on producing monsters. Sometimes a
single capacity was developed at the expense of the harmony and welfare of the
organism as a whole. Thus a bird was produced which could fly faster than any
other bird; but it could neither reproduce nor even feed, and therefore had to
be maintained artificially. Sometimes, on the other hand, certain characters
incompatible in nature were forced upon a single organism, and maintained in
precarious and torturing equilibrium. To give examples, one much-talked-of feat
was the production of a carnivorous mammal in which the fore limbs had assumed
the structure of a bird's wings, complete with feathers. This creature could not
fly, since its body was wrongly proportioned. Its only mode of locomotion was a
staggering run with outstretched wings. Other examples of monstrosity were an
eagle with twin heads, and a deer in which, with incredible ingenuity, the
artists had induced the tail to develop as a head, with brain, sense organs, and
jaws. In this monstrous art, interest in living things was infected with sadism
through the preoccupation with fate, especially internal fate, as the divinity
that shapes our ends. In its more vulgar forms, of course, it was a crude
expression of egotistical lust in power.
This motif of the monstrous and the self-discrepant was less prominent than the
other, the motif of harmonious perfection; but at all times it was apt to
exercise at least a subconscious influence. The supreme aim of the dominant,
perfection-seeking movement was to embellish the planet with a very diverse
fauna and flora, with the human race as at once the crown and the instrument of
terrestrial life. Each species, and each variety, was to have its place and
fulfil its part in the great cycle of living types. Each was to be internally
perfected to its function. It must have no harmful relics of a past manner of
life; and its capacities must be in true accord with one another. But, to
repeat, the supreme aim was not concerned merely with individual types, but with
the whole vital economy of the planet. Thus, though there were to be types of
every order from the most humble bacterium up to man, it was contrary to the
canon of orthodox sacred art that any type should thrive by the destruction of a
type higher than itself. In the sadistic mode of the art, however, a peculiarly
exquisite tragic beauty was said to inhere in situations in which a lowly type
exterminated a higher. There were occasions in the history of the race when the
two sects indulged in bloody conflict because the sadists kept devising
parasites to undermine the noble products of the orthodox.
Of those who practised vital art, and all did so to some extent, a few, though
they deliberately rejected the orthodox principles, gained notoriety and even
fame by their grotesques; while others, less fortunate, were ready to accept
ostracism and even martyrdom, declaring that what they had produced was a
significant symbol of the universal tragedy of vital nature. The great majority,
however, accepted the sacred canon. They had therefore to choose one or other of
certain recognized modes of expression. For instance, they might seek to enhance
some extant type of organism, both by perfecting its capacities and by
eliminating from it all that was harmful or useless. Or else, a more original
and precarious work, they might set about creating a new type to fill a niche in
the world, which had not yet been occupied. For this end they would select a
suitable organism, and seek to remake it upon a new plan, striving to produce a
creature of perfectly harmonious nature precisely adapted to the new way of
life. In this kind of work sundry strict aesthetic principles must be observed.
Thus it was considered bad art to reduce a higher type to a lower, or in any
manner to waste the capacities of a type. And further, since the true end of art
was not the production of individual types, but the production of a world-wide
and perfectly systematic fauna and flora, it was inadmissible to harm even
accidentally any type higher than that which it was intended to produce. For the
practice of orthodox vital art was regarded as a co-operative enterprise. The
ultimate artist, under God, was mankind as a whole; the ultimate work of art
must be an ever more subtle garment of living forms for the adornment of the
planet, and the delight of the supreme Artist, in relation to whom man was both
creature and instrument.
Little was achieved, of course, until the applied biological sciences had
advanced far beyond the high-water mark attained long ago during the career of
the Second Men. Much more was needed than the rule-of-thumb principles of
earlier breeders. It took this brightest of all the races of the third species
many thousands of years of research to discover the more delicate principles of
heredity, and to devise a technique by which the actual hereditary factors in
the germ could be manipulated. It was this increasing penetration of biology
itself that opened up the deeper regions of chemistry and physics. And owing to
this historical sequence the latter sciences were conceived in a biological
manner, with the electron as the basic organism, and the cosmos as an organic
Imagine, then, a planet organized almost as a vast system of botanical and
zoological gardens, or wild parks, interspersed with agriculture and industry.
In every great centre of communications occurred annual and monthly shows. The
latest creations were put through their paces, judged by the high priests of
vital art, awarded distinctions, and consecrated with religious ceremony. At
these shows some of the exhibits would be utilitarian, others purely aesthetic.
There might be improved grains, vegetables, cattle, some exceptionally
intelligent or sturdy variety of herdsman's dog, or a new micro-organism with
some special function in agriculture or in human digestion. But also there would
be the latest achievements in pure vital art. Great sleek-limbed, hornless,
racing deer, birds or mammals adapted to some hitherto unfulfilled role, bears
intended to outclass all existing varieties in the struggle for existence, ants
with specialized organs and instincts, improvements in the relations of parasite
and host, so as to make a true symbiosis in which the host profited by the
parasite. And so on. And everywhere there would be the little unclad ruddy
faun-like beings who had created these marvels. Shy forest-dwelling folk of
Gurkha physique would stand beside their antelopes, vultures, or new great
cat-like prowlers. A grave young woman might cause a stir by entering the
grounds followed by several gigantic bears. Crowds would perhaps press round to
examine the creatures' teeth or limbs, and she might scold the meddlers away
from her patient flock. For the normal relation between man and beast at this
time was one of perfect amity, rising, sometimes, in the case of domesticated
animals, to an exquisite, almost painful, mutual adoration. Even the wild beasts
never troubled to avoid man, still less to attack him, save in the special
circumstances of the hunt and the sacred gladiatorial show.
These last need special notice. The powers of combat in beasts were admired no
less than other powers. Men and women alike experienced a savage joy, almost an
ecstasy, in the spectacle of mortal combat. Consequently there were formal
occasions when different kinds of beasts were enraged against one another and
allowed to fight to the death. Not only so, but also there were sacred contests
between beast and man, between man and man, between woman and woman, and, most
surprising to the readers of this book, between woman and man. For in this
species, woman in her prime was not physically weaker than her partner.
Almost from the first, vital art had been applied to some extent to man himself,
though with hesitation. Certain great improvements had been effected, but only
improvements about which there could be no two opinions. The many diseases and
abnormalities left over from past civilizations were patiently abolished, and
various more fundamental defects were remedied. For instance, teeth, digestion,
glandular equipment and the circulatory system were greatly improved. Extreme
good health and considerable physical beauty became universal. Child-bearing was
made a painless and health-giving process. Senility was postponed. The standard
of practical intelligence was appreciably raised. These reforms were made
possible by a vast concerted effort of research and experiment supported by the
worldcommunity. But private enterprise was also effective, for the relation
between the sexes was much more consciously dominated by the thought of
offspring than among the First Men. Every individual knew the characteristics of
his or her hereditary composition, and knew what kinds of offspring were to be
expected from intercourse of different hereditary types. Thus in courtship the
young man was not content to persuade his beloved that his mind was destined by
nature to afford her mind joyful completion; he sought also to persuade her that
with his help she might bear children of a peculiar excellence. Consequently
there was at all times going on a process of selective breeding towards the
conventionally ideal type. In certain respects the ideal remained constant for
many thousands of years. It included health, cat-like agility, manipulative
dexterity, musical sensitivity, refined perception of rightness and wrongness in
the sphere of vital art, and an intuitive practical judgment in all the affairs
of life. Longevity, and the abolition of senility, were also sought, and
partially attained. Waves of fashion sometimes directed sexual selection toward
prowess in combat, or some special type of facial expression or vocal powers.
But these fleeting whims were negligible. Only the permanently desired
characters were actually intensified by private selective breeding.
But at length there came a time when more ambitious aims were entertained. The
world-community was now a highly organized theocratic hierarchy, strictly but on
the whole benevolently ruled by a supreme council of vital priests and
biologists. Each individual, down to the humblest agricultural worker, had his
special niche in society, allotted him by the supreme council or its delegates,
according to his known heredity and the needs of society. This system, of
course, sometimes led to abuse, but mostly it worked without serious friction.
Such was the precision of biological knowledge that each person's mental calibre
and special aptitudes were known beyond dispute, and rebellion against his lot
in society would have been rebellion against his own heredity. This fact was
universally known, and accepted without regret. A man had enough scope for
emulation and triumph among his peers, without indulging in vague attempts to
transcend his own nature, by rising into a superior hierarchical order. This
state of affairs would have been impossible had there not been universal faith
in the religion of life and the truth of biological science. Also it would have
been impossible had not all normal persons been active practitioners of the
sacred vital art, upon a plane suited to their capacity. Every individual adult
of the rather scanty world-population regarded himself or herself as a creative
artist, in however humble a sphere. And in general he, or she, was so fascinated
by the work, that he was well content to leave social organization and control
to those who were fitted for it. Moreover, at the back of every mind was the
conception of society itself as an organism of specialized members. The strong
sentiment for organized humanity tended, in this race, to master even its strong
egotistical impulses, though not without a struggle.
It was such a society, almost unbelievable to the First Men, that now set about
remaking human nature. Unfortunately there were conflicting views about the
goal. The orthodox desired only to continue the work that had for long been on
foot; though they proposed greater enterprise and co-ordination. They would
perfect man's body, but upon its present plan; they would perfect his mind, but
without seeking to introduce anything new in essence. His physique, percipience,
memory, intelligence and emotional nature, should be improved almost beyond
recognition; but they must, it was said, remain essentially what they always had
A second party, however, finally persuaded orthodox opinion to amplify itself in
one important respect. As has already been said, the Third Men were prone to
phases of preoccupation with the ancient craving for personal immortality. This
craving had often been strong among the First Men; and even the Second Men, in
spite of their great gift of detachment, had sometimes allowed their admiration
for human personality to persuade them that souls must live for ever. The
short-lived and untheoretical Third Men, with their passion for living things of
all kinds, and all the diversity of vital behaviour, conceived immortality in a
variety of manners. In their final culture they imagined that at death all
living things whom the Life God approved passed into another world, much like
the familiar world, but happier. There they were said to live in the presence of
the deity, serving him in untrammelled vital creativeness of sundry kinds.
Now it was believed that communication might occur between the two worlds, and
that the highest type of terrestrial life was that which communicated most
effectively, and further that the time had now arrived for much fuller
revelation of the life to come. It was therefore proposed to breed highly
specialized communicants whose office should be to guide this world by means of
advice from the other. As among the First Men, this communication with the
unseen world was believed to take place in the mediumistic trance. The new
enterprise, then, was to breed extremely sensitive mediums, and to increase the
mediumistic powers of the average individual.
There was yet another party, whose aim was very different. Man, they said, is a
very noble organism. We have dealt with other organisms so as to enhance in each
its noblest attributes. It is time to do the same with man. What is most
distinctive in man is intelligent manipulation, brain and hand. Now hand is
really outclassed by modern mechanisms, but brain will never be outclassed.
Therefore we must breed strictly for brain, for intelligent co-ordination of
behaviour. All the organic functions which can be performed by machinery, must
be relegated to machinery, so that the whole vitality of the organism may be
devoted to brain-building and brain-working. We must produce an organism which
shall be no mere bundle of relics left over from its primitive ancestors and
precariously ruled by a glimmer of intelligence. We must produce a man who is
nothing but man. When we have done this we can, if we like, ask him to find out
the truth about immortality. And also, we can safely surrender to him the
control of all human affairs.
The governing caste were strongly opposed to this policy. They declared that, if
it succeeded, it would only produce a most inharmonious being whose nature would
violate all the principles of vital aesthetics. Man, they said, was essentially
an animal, though uniquely gifted. His whole nature must be developed, not one
faculty at the expense of others. In arguing thus, they were probably influenced
partly by the fear of losing their authority; but their arguments were cogent,
and the majority of the community agreed with them. Nevertheless a small group
of the governors themselves were determined to carry through the enterprise in
There was no need of secrecy in breeding communicants. The world state
encouraged this policy and even set up institutions for its pursuit.
THOSE who sought to produce a super-brain embarked upon a great enterprise of
research and experiment in a remote corner of the planet. It is unnecessary to
tell in detail how they fared. Working first in secret, they later strove to
persuade the world to approve of their scheme, but only succeeded in dividing
mankind into two parties. The body politic was torn asunder. There were
religious wars. But after a few centuries of intermittent bloodshed the two
sects, those who sought to produce communicants and those who sought the
super-brain, settled down in different regions to pursue their respective aims
unmolested. In time each developed into a kind of nation, united by a religious
faith and crusading spirit. There was little cultural intercourse between the
Those who desired to produce the super-brain employed four methods, namely
selective breeding, manipulation of the hereditary factors in germ cells
(cultivated in the laboratory), manipulation of the fertilized ovum (cultivated
also in the laboratory), and manipulation of the growing body. At first they
produced innumerable tragic abortions. These we need not observe. But at length,
several thousand years after the earliest experiments, something was produced
which seemed to promise success. A human ovum had been carefully selected,
fertilized in the laboratory, and largely reorganized by artificial means. By
inhibiting the growth of the embryo's body, and the lower organs of the brain
itself, and at the same time greatly stimulating the growth of the cerebral
hemispheres, the dauntless experimenters succeeded at last in creating an
organism which consisted of a brain twelve feet across, and a body most of which
was reduced to a mere vestige upon the under-surface of the brain. The only
parts of the body which were allowed to attain the natural size were the arms
and hands. These sinewy organs of manipulation were induced to key themselves at
the shoulders into the solid masonry which formed the creature's house. Thus
they were able to get a purchase for their work. The hands were the normal
six-fingered hands of the Third Men, very greatly enlarged and improved. The
fantastic organism was generated and matured in a building designed to house
both it and the complicated machinery which was necessary to keep it alive. A
self-regulating pump, electrically driven, served it as a heart. A chemical
factory poured the necessary materials into its blood and removed waste
products, thus taking the place of digestive organs and the normal battery of
glands. Its lungs consisted of a great room full of oxidizing tubes, through
which a constant wind was driven by an electric fan. The same fan forced air
through the artificial organs of speech. These organs were so constructed that
the natural nerve-fibres, issuing from the speech centres of the brain, could
stimulate appropriate electrical controls so as to produce sounds identical with
those which they would have produced from a living throat and mouth. The sensory
equipment of this trunkless brain was a blend of the natural and the artificial.
The optic nerves were induced to grow out along two flexible probosces, five
feet long, each of which bore a huge eye at the end. But by a very ingenious
alteration of the structure of the eye, the natural lens could be moved aside at
will, so that the retina could be applied to any of a great diversity of optical
instruments. The ears also could be projected upon stalks, and were so arranged
that the actual nerve endings could be brought into contact with artificial
resonators of various kinds, or could listen directly to the miscroscopic
rhythms of the most minute organisms. Scent and taste were developed as a
chemical sense, which could distinguish almost all compounds and elements by
their flavour. Pressure, warmth and cold were detected only by the fingers, but
there with great subtlety. Sensory pain was to have been eliminated from the
organism altogether; but this end was not achieved.
The creature was successfully launched upon life, and was actually kept alive
for four years. But though at first all went well, in his second year the
unfortunate child, if such he may be called, began to suffer severe pain, and to
show symptoms of mental derangement. In spite of all that his devoted
foster-parents could do, he gradually sank into insanity and died. He had
succumbed to his own brain weight and to certain failures in the chemical
regulation of his blood.
We may overlook the next four hundred years, during which sundry vain attempts
were made to repeat the great experiment more successfully. Let us pass on to
the first true individual of the fourth human species. He was produced in the
same artificial manner as his forerunners, and was designed upon the same
general plan. His mechanical and chemical machinery, however, was far more
efficient; and his makers expected that, owing to careful adjustments of the
mechanisms of growth and decay, he would prove to be immortal. His general plan,
also, was changed in one important respect. His makers built a large circular
"brain-turret" which they divided with many partitions, radiating from a central
space, and covered everywhere with pigeon-holes. By a technique which took
centuries to develop, they induced the cells of the growing embryonic brain to
spread outwards, not as normal hemispheres of convolutions, but into the
pigeon-holes which had been prepared for them. Thus the artificial "cranium" had
to be a roomy turret of ferro-concrete some forty feet in diameter. A door and a
passage led from the outer world into the centre of the turret, and thence other
passages radiated between tiers of little cupboards. Innumerable tubes of glass,
metal and a kind of vulcanite conveyed blood and chemicals over the whole
system. Electric radiators preserved an even warmth in every cupboard, and
throughout the innumerable carefully protected channels of the nerve-fibres.
Thermometers, dials, pressure gauges, indicators of all sorts, informed the
attendants of every physical change in this strange half-natural,
half-artificial system, this preposterous factory of mind.
Eight years after its inception the organism had filled its brain room, and
attained the mentality of a new-born infant. His advance to maturity seemed to
his foster-parents dishearteningly slow. Not till almost at the end of his fifth
decade could he be said to have reached the mental standard of a bright
adolescent. But there was no real reason for disappointment. Within another
decade this pioneer of the Fourth Men had learned all that the Third Men could
teach him, and had also seen that a great part of their wisdom was folly. In
manual dexterity he could already vie with the best; but though manipulation
afforded him intense delight, he used his hands almost wholly in service of his
tireless curiosity. In fact, it was evident that curiosity was his main
characteristic. He was a huge bump of curiosity equipped with most cunning
hands. A department of state had been created to look after his nurture and
education. An army of learned persons was kept in readiness to answer his
impatient questions and assist him in his own scientific experiments. Now that
he had attained maturity these unfortunate pundits found themselves hopelessly
outclassed, and reduced to mere clerks, bottle-washers and errand-boys. Hundreds
of his servants were for ever scurrying into every corner of the planet to seek
information and specimens; and the significance of their errands was by now
often quite beyond the range of their own intelligence. They were careful,
however, not to let their ignorance appear to the public. On the contrary, they
succeeded in gaining much prestige from the mere mysteriousness of their
The great brain was wholly lacking in all normal instinctive responses, save
curiosity and constructiveness. Instinctive fear he knew not, though of course
he was capable of cold caution in any circumstances which threatened to damage
him and hinder his passionate research. Anger he knew not, but only an
adamantine firmness in the face of opposition. Normal hunger and thirst he knew
not, but only an experience of faintness when his blood was not properly
supplied with nutriment. Sex was wholly absent from his mentality. Instinctive
tenderness and instinctive group-feeling were not possible to him, for he was
without the bowels of mercy. The heroic devotion of his most intimate servants
called forth no gratitude, but only cold approval.
At first he interested himself not at all in the affairs of the society which
maintained him, served his every whim, and adored him. But in time he began to
take pleasure in suggesting brilliant solutions of all the current problems of
social organization. His advice was increasingly sought and accepted. He became
autocrat of the state. His own intelligence and complete detachment combined
with the people's superstitious reverence to establish him far more securely
than any ordinary tyrant. He cared nothing for the petty troubles of his people,
but he was determined to be served by a harmonious, healthy and potent race. And
as relaxation from the more serious excitement of research in physics and
astronomy, the study of human nature was not without attractions. It may seem
strange that one so completely devoid of human sympathy could have the tact to
govern a race of the emotional Third Men. But he had built up for himself a very
accurate behaviouristic psychology; and like the skilful master of animals, he
knew unerringly how much could be expected of his people, even though their
emotions were almost wholly foreign to him. Thus, for instance, while he
thoroughly despised their admiration of animals and plants, and their religion
of life, he soon learned not to seem hostile to these obsessions, but rather to
use them for his own ends. He himself was interested in animals only as material
for experiments. In this respect his people readily helped him, partly because
he assured them that his goal was the further improvement of all types, partly
because they were fascinated by his complete disregard, in his experimentation,
of the common technique for preventing pain. The orgy of vicarious suffering
awakened in his people the long-suppressed lust in cruelty which, in spite of
their intuitive insight into animal nature, was so strong a factor in the third
human species.
Little by little the great brain probed the material universe and the universe
of mentality. He mastered the principles of biological evolution, and
constructed for his own delight a detailed history of life on earth. He learned,
by marvellous archaeological technique, the story of all the earlier human
peoples, and of the Martian episode, matters which had remained hidden from the
Third Men. He discovered the principles of relativity and the quantum theory,
the nature of the atom as a complex system of wave trains. He measured the
cosmos; and with his delicate instruments he counted the planetary systems in
many of the remote universes. He casually solved, to his own satisfaction at
least, the ancient problems of good and evil, of mind and its object, of the one
and the many, and of truth and error. He created many new departments of state
for the purpose of recording his discoveries in an artificial language which he
devised for the purpose. Each department consisted of many colleges of carefully
bred and educated specialists who could understand the subject of their own
department to some extent. But the co-ordination of all, and true insight into
each, lay with the great brain alone.
When some three thousand years had passed since his beginning, the unique
individual determined to create others of his kind. Not that he suffered from
loneliness. Not that he yearned for love, or even for intellectual
companionship. But solely for the undertaking of more profound research, he
needed the co-operation of beings of his own mental stature. He therefore
designed, and had built in various regions of the planet, turrets and factories
like his own, though greatly improved. Into each he sent, by his servants, a
cell of his own vestigial body, and directed how it should be cultivated so as
to produce a new individual. At the same time he caused far-reaching operations
to be performed upon himself, so that he should be remade upon a more ample
plan. Of the new capacities which he inculcated in himself and his progeny the
most important was direct sensitivity to radiation. This was achieved by
incorporating in each braintissue a specially bred strain of Martian parasites.
These henceforth were to live in the great brain as integral members of each one
of its cells. Each brain was also equipped with a powerful wireless transmitting
apparatus. Thus should the widely scattered sessile population maintain direct
"telepathic" contact with one another.
The undertaking was successfully accomplished. Some ten thousand of these new
individuals, each specialized for his particular locality and office, now
constituted the Fourth Men. On the highest mountains were super-astronomers with
vast observatories, whose instruments were partly artificial, partly natural
excrescences of their own brains. In the very entrails of the planet others,
specially adapted to heat, studied the subterranean forces, and were kept in
"telepathic" union with the astronomers. In the tropics, in the Arctic, in the
forests, the deserts, and on the ocean floor, the Fourth Men indulged their
immense curiosity; and in the homeland, around the father of the race, a group
of great buildings housed a hundred individuals. In the service of this
world-wide population, those races of Third Men which had originally co-operated
to produce the new human species, tilled the land, tended the cattle,
manufactured the immense material requisites of the new civilization, and
satisfied their spirits with an ever more stereotyped ritual of their ancient
vital art. This degradation of the whole race to a menial position had occurred
slowly, imperceptibly. But the result was none the less irksome. Occasionally
there were sparks of rebellion, but they always failed to kindle serious
trouble; for the prestige and persuasiveness of the Fourth Men were
At length, however, a crisis occurred. For some three thousand years the Fourth
Men had pursued their research with constant success, but latterly progress had
been slow. It was becoming increasingly difficult to devise new lines of
research. True, there was still much detail to be filled in, even in their
knowledge of their own planet, and very much in their knowledge of the stars.
But there was no prospect of opening up entirely new fields which might throw
some light on the essential nature of things. Indeed, it began to dawn on them
that they had scarcely plumbed a surface ripple of the ocean of mystery. Their
knowledge seemed to them perfectly systematic, yet wholly enigmatic. They had a
growing sense that though in a manner they knew almost everything, they really
knew nothing.
The normal mind, when it experiences intellectual frustration, can seek
recreation in companionship, or physical exercise, or art. But for the Fourth
Men there was no such escape. These activities were impossible and meaningless
to them. The Great Brains were whole-heartedly interested in the objective
world, but solely as a vast stimulus to intellection, never for its own sake.
They admired only the intellective process itself and the interpretative
formulae and principles which it devised. They cared no more for men and women
than for material in a test-tube, no more for one another than for mechanical
calculators. Nay, of each one of them it might almost be said that he cared even
for himself solely as an instrument of knowing. Many of the species had actually
sacrificed their sanity, even in some cases their lives, to the obsessive lust
of intellection.
As the sense of frustration became more and more oppressive, the Fourth Men
suffered more and more from the one-sidedness of their nature. Though so
completely dispassionate while their intellectual life proceeded smoothly, now
that it was thwarted they began to be confused by foolish whims and cravings
which they disguised from themselves under a cloak of excuses. Sessile and
incapable of affection, they continually witnessed the free movement, the group
life, the love-making of their menials. Such activities became an offence to
them, and filled them with a cold jealousy, which it was altogether beneath
their dignity to notice. The affairs of the serf-population began to be
conducted by their masters with less than the accustomed justice. Serious
grievances arose.
The climax occurred in connexion with a great revival of research, which, it was
said, would break down the impalpable barriers and set knowledge in progress
again. The Great Brains were to be multiplied a thousandfold, and the resources
of the whole planet were to be devoted far more strictly than before to the
crusade of intellection. The menial Third Men would therefore have to put up
with more work and less pleasure. Formerly they would willingly have accepted
this fate for the glory of serving the super-human brains. But the days of their
blind devotion was past. It was murmured among them that the great experiment of
their forefathers had proved a great disaster, and that the Fourth Men, the
Great Brains, in spite of their devilish cunning, were mere abortions.
Matters came to a head when the tyrants announced that all useless animals must
be slaughtered, since their upkeep was too great an economic burden upon the
world-community. The vital art, moreover, was to be practised in future only by
the Great Brains themselves. This announcement threw the Third Men into violent
excitement, and divided them into two parties. Many of those whose lives were
spent in direct service of the Great Brains favoured implicit obedience, though
even these were deeply distressed. The majority, on the other hand, absolutely
refused to permit the impious slaughter, or even to surrender their privileges
as vital artists. For, they said, to kill off the fauna of the planet would be
to violate the fair form of the universe by blotting out many of its most
beautiful features. It would be an outrage to the Life-God, and he would surely
avenge it. They therefore urged that the time was come for all true human beings
to stand together and depose the tyrants. And this, they pointed out, could
easily be done. It was only necessary to cut a few electric cables, connecting
the Great Brains with the subterranean generating stations. The electric pumps
would then cease to supply the brain-turrets with aerated blood. Or, in the few
cases in which the Great Brains were so located that they could control their
own source of power in wind or water, it was necessary merely to refrain from
transporting food to their digestion-laboratories.
The personal attendants of the Great Brains shrank from such action; for their
whole lives had been devoted, proudly and even in a manner lovingly, to service
of the revered beings. But the agriculturists determined to withhold supplies.
The Great Brains, therefore, armed their servitors with a diversity of ingenious
weapons. Immense destruction was done; but since the rebels were decimated,
there were not enough hands to work the fields. Some of the Great Brains, and
many of their servants, actually died of starvation. And as hardship increased,
the servants themselves began to drift over to the rebels. It now seemed certain
to the Third Men that the Great Brains would very soon be impotent, and the
planet once more under the control of natural beings. But the tyrants were not
to be so easily defeated. Already for some centuries they had been secretly
experimenting with a means of gaining a far more thorough dominion over the
natural species. At the eleventh hour they succeeded.
In this undertaking they had been favoured by the results which a section of the
natural species itself had produced long ago in the effort to breed specialized
communicants to keep in touch with the unseen world. That sect, or theocratic
nation, which had striven for many centuries toward this goal, had finally
attained what they regarded as success. There came into existence an hereditary
caste of communicants. Now, though these beings were subject to mediumistic
trances in which they apparently conversed with denizens of the other world and
received instructions about the ordering of matters terrestrial, they were in
fact merely abnormally suggestible. Trained from childhood in the lore of the
unseen world, their minds, during the trance, were amazingly fertile in
developing fantasies based on that lore. Left to themselves, they were merely
folk who were abnormally lacking in initiative and intelligence. Indeed, so
naďve were they, and so sluggish, that they were mentally more like cattle than
human beings. Yet under the influence of suggestion they became both intelligent
and vigorous. Their intelligence, however, operating strictly in service of the
suggestion, was wholly incapable of criticizing the suggestion itself.
There is no need to revert to the downfall of this theocratic society, beyond
saying that, since both private and public affairs were regulated by reference
to the sayings of the communicants, inevitably the state fell into chaos. The
other community of the Third Men, that which was engaged upon breeding the Great
Brains, gradually dominated the whole planet. The mediumistic stock, however,
remained in existence, and was treated with a half-contemptuous reverence. The
mediums were still generally regarded as in some manner specially gifted with
the divine spirit, but they were now thought to be too holy for their sayings to
have any relation to mundane affairs.
It was by means of this mediumistic stock that the Great Brains had intended to
consolidate their position. Their earlier efforts may be passed over. But in the
end they produced a race of living and even intelligent machines whose will they
could control absolutely, even at a great distance. For the new variety of Third
Men was "telepathically" united with its masters. Martian units had been
incorporated in its nervous system.
At the last moment the Great Brains were able to put into the field an army of
these perfect slaves, which they equipped with the most efficient lethal
weapons. The remnant of original servants discovered too late that they had been
helping to produce their supplanters. They joined the rebels, only to share in
the general destruction. In a few months all the Third Men, save the new docile
variety, were destroyed; except for a few specimens which were preserved in
cages for experimental purposes. And in a few years every type of animal that
was not known to be directly or indirectly necessary to human life had been
exterminated. None were preserved even as specimens, for the Great Brains had
already studied them through and through.
But though the Great Brains were now absolute possessors of the Earth, they were
after all no nearer their goal than before. The actual struggle with the natural
species had provided them with an aim; but now that the struggle was over, they
began to be obsessed once more with their intellectual failure. With painful
clarity they realized that, in spite of their vast weight of neural tissue, in
spite of their immense knowledge and cunning, they were practically no nearer
the ultimate truth than their predecessors had been. Both were infinitely far
from it.
For the Fourth Men, the Great Brains, there was no possible life but the life of
intellect; and the life of intellect had become barren. Evidently something more
than mere bulk of brain was needed for the solving of the deeper intellectual
problems. They must, therefore, somehow create a new brain-quality, or organic
formation of brain, capable of a mode of vision or insight impossible in their
present state. They must learn somehow to remake their own brain-tissues upon a
new plan. With this aim, and partly through unwitting jealousy of the natural
and more balanced species which had created them, they began to use their
captive specimens of that species for a great new enterprise of research into
the nature of human braintissue. It was hoped thus to find some hint of the
direction in which the new evolutionary leap should take place. The unfortunate
specimens were therefore submitted to a thousand ingenious physiological and
psychological tortures. Some were kept alive with their brains spread out
permanently on a laboratory table, for microscopic observation during their
diverse psychological reactions. Others were put into fantastic states of mental
abnormality. Others were maintained in perfect health of body and mind, only to
be felled at last by some ingeniously contrived tragic experience. New types
were produced which, it was hoped, might show evidence of emergence into a
qualitatively higher mode of mentality; but in fact they succeeded only in
ranging through the whole gamut of insanity.
The research continued for some thousands of years, but gradually slackened, so
utterly barren did it prove to be. As this frustration became more and more
evident, a change began to come over the minds of the Fourth Men.
They knew, of course, that the natural species valued many things and activities
which they themselves did not appreciate at all. Hitherto this had seemed a
symptom merely of the low mental development of the natural species. But the
behaviour of the unfortunate specimens upon whom they had been experimenting had
gradually given the Fourth Men a greater insight into the likings and
admirations of the natural species, so that they had learned to distinguish
between those desires which were fundamental and those merely accidental
cravings which clear thinking would have dismissed. In fact, they came to see
that certain activities and certain objects were appreciated by these beings
with the same clear-sighted conviction as they themselves appreciated knowledge.
For instance, the natural human beings valued one another, and were sometimes
capable of sacrificing themselves for the sake of others. They also valued love
itself. And again they valued very seriously their artistic activities; and the
activities of their bodies and of animal bodies appeared to them to have
intrinsic excellence.
Little by little the Fourth Men began to realize that what was wrong with
themselves was not merely their intellectual limitation, but, far more
seriously, the limitation of their insight into values. And this weakness, they
saw, was the result, not of paucity of intellective brain, but of paucity of
body and lower brain tissues. This defect they could not remedy. It was
obviously impossible to remake themselves so radically that they should become
of a more normal type. Should they concentrate their efforts upon the production
of new individuals more harmonious than themselves? Such a work, it might be
supposed, would have seemed unattractive to them. But no. They argued thus: "It
is our nature to care most for knowing. Full knowledge is to be attained only by
minds both more penetrating and more broadly based than ours. Let us, therefore,
waste no more time in seeking to achieve the goal in ourselves. Let us seek
rather to produce a kind of being, free from our limitations, in whom we may
attain the goal of perfect knowledge vicariously. The producing of such a being
will exercise all our powers, and will afford the highest kind of fulfilment
possible to us. To refrain from this work would be irrational."
Thus it came about that the artificial Fourth Men began to work in a new spirit
upon the surviving specimens of the Third Men to produce their own supplanters.
The plan of the proposed new human being was worked out in great detail before
any attempt was made to produce an actual individual. Essentially he was to be a
normal human organism, with all the bodily functions of the natural type; but he
was to be perfected through and through. Care must be taken to give him the
greatest possible bulk of brain compatible with such a general plan, but no
more. Very carefully his creators calculated the dimensions and internal
proportions which their creature must have. His brain could not be nearly as
large as their own, since he would have to carry it about with him, and maintain
it with his own physiological machinery. On the other hand, if it was to be at
all larger than the natural brain, the rest of the organism must be
proportionately sturdy. Like the Second Men, the new species must be titanic.
Indeed, it must be such as to dwarf even those natural giants. The body,
however, must not be so huge as to be seriously hampered by its own weight, and
by the necessity of having bones so massive as to be unmanageable.
In working out the general proportions of the new man, his makers took into
account the possibility of devising more efficient bone and muscle. After some
centuries of patient experiment they did actually invent a means of inducing in
germ cells a tendency toward far stronger bone-tissues and far more powerful
muscle. At the same time they devised nerve-tissues more highly specialized for
their particular functions. And in the new brain, so minute compared with their
own, smallness was to be compensated for by efficiency of design, both in the
individual cells and in their organization.
Further, it was found possible to economize somewhat in bulk and vital energy by
improvements in the digestive system. Certain new models of micro-organisms were
produced, which, living symbiotically in the human gut, should render the whole
process of digestion easier, more rapid, and less erratic.
Special attention was given to the system of self-repair in all tissues,
especially in those which had hitherto been the earliest to wear out. And at the
same time the mechanism regulating growth and general senescence was so designed
that the new man should reach maturity at the age of two hundred years, and
should remain in full vigour, for at least three thousand years, when, with the
first serious symptom of decay, his heart should suddenly cease functioning.
There had been some dispute whether the new being should be endowed with
perennial life, like his makers. But in the end it had been decided that, since
he was intended only as a transitional type, it would be safer to allow him only
a finite, though a prolonged lifetime. There must be no possibility that he
should be tempted to regard himself as life's final expression.
In sensory equipment, the new man was to have all the advantages of the Second
and Third Men, and, in addition a still wider range and finer discrimination in
every sense organ. More important was the incorporation of Martian units in the
new model of germ cell. As the organism developed, these should propagate
themselves and congregate in the cells of the brain, so that every brain area
might be sensitive to ethereal vibrations, and the whole might emit a strong
system of radiation. But care was taken that this "telepathic" faculty of the
new species should remain subordinate. There must be no danger that the
individual should become a mere resonator of the herd.
Long-drawn-out chemical research enabled the Fourth Men to design also
far-reaching improvements in the secretions of the new man, so that he should
maintain both a perfect physiological equilibrium and a wellbalanced
temperament. For they were determined that though he should experience all the
range of emotional life, his passions should not run into disastrous excess; nor
should he be prone to some one emotion in season and out of season. It was
necessary also to revise in great detail the whole system of natural reflexes,
abolishing some, modifying others, and again strengthening others. All the more
complex, "instinctive" responses, which had persisted in man since the days of
Pithecanthropus Erectus, had also to be meticulously revised, both in respect of
the form of activity and the objects upon which they should be instinctively
directed. Anger, fear, curiosity, humour, tenderness, egoism, sexual passion,
and sociality must all be possible, but never uncontrollable. In fact, as with
the Second Men, but more emphatically, the new type was to have an innate
aptitude for, and inclination toward, all those higher activities and objects
which, in the First Men, were only achieved after laborious discipline. Thus,
while the design included self-regard, it also involved a disposition to prize
the self chiefly as a social and intellectual being, rather than as a primeval
savage. And while it included strong sociality, the group upon which instinctive
interest was to be primarily directed was to be nothing less than the organized
community of all minds. And again, while it included vigorous primitive
sexuality and parenthood, it provided also those innate "sublimations" which had
occurred in the second species; for instance, the native aptitude for altruistic
love of individual spirits of every kind, and for art and religion. Only by a
miracle of pure intellectual skill could the cold-natured Great Brains, who were
themselves doomed never to have actual experience of such activities, contrive,
merely by study of the Third Men, to see their importance, and to design an
organism splendidly capable of them. It was much as though a blind race, after
studying physics, should invent organs of sight.
It was recognized, of course, that in a race in which the average lifespan
should be counted in thousands of years, procreation must be very rare. Yet it
was also recognized that, for full development of mind, not only sexual
intercourse but parenthood was necessary in both sexes. This difficulty was
overcome partly by designing a very prolonged infancy and childhood; which,
necessary in themselves for the proper mental and physical growth of these
complicated organisms, provided also a longer exercise of parenthood for the
mature. At the same time the actual process of childbirth was designed to be as
easy as among the Third Men. And it was expected that with its greatly improved
physiological organization the infant would not need that anxious and absorbing
care which had so seriously hobbled most mothers among the earlier races.
The mere sketching out of these preliminary specifications of an improved human
being involved many centuries of research and calculation which taxed even the
ingenuity of the Great Brains. Then followed a lengthy period of tentative
experiment in the actual production of such a type. For some thousands of years
little was done but to show that many promising lines of attack were after all
barren. And several times during this period the whole work was held up by
disagreements among the Great Brains themselves as to the policy to be adopted.
Once, indeed, they took to violence, one party attacking the other with
chemicals, microbes, and armies of human automata.
In short it was only after many failures, and after many barren epochs during
which, for a variety of reasons, the enterprise was neglected, that the Fourth
Men did at length fashion two individuals almost precisely of the type they had
originally designed. These were produced from a single fertilized ovum, in
laboratory conditions. Identical twins, but of opposite sexes, they became the
Adam and Eve of a new and glorious human species, the Fifth Men.
It may fittingly be said of the Fifth Men that they were the first to attain
true human proportions of body and mind. On the average they were more than
twice as tall as the First Men, and much taller than the Second Men. Their lower
limbs had therefore to be extremely massive compared with the torso which they
had to support. Thus, upon the ample pedestal of their feet, they stood like
columns of masonry. Yet though their proportions were in a manner elephantine,
there was a remarkable precision and even delicacy in the volumes that composed
them. Their great arms and shoulders, dwarfed somewhat by their still mightier
legs, were instruments not only of power but also of fine adjustment. Their
hands also were fashioned both for power and for minute control; for, while the
thumb and forefinger constituted a formidable vice, the delicate sixth finger
had been induced to divide its tip into two Lilliputian fingers and a
corresponding thumb. The contours of the limbs were sharply visible, for the
body bore no hair, save for a close, thick skull-cap which, in the original
stock, was of ruddy brown. The well-marked eyebrows, when drawn down, shaded the
sensitive eyes from the sun. Elsewhere there was no need of hair, for the brown
skin had been so ingeniously contrived that it maintained an even temperature
alike in tropical and subarctic climates, with no aid either from hair or
clothes. Compared with the great body, the head was not large, though the brain
capacity was twice that of the Second Men. In the original pair of individuals
the immense eyes were of a deep violet, the features strongly moulded and
mobile. These facial characters had not been specially designed, for they seemed
unimportant to the Fourth Men; but the play of biological forces resulted in a
face not unlike that of the Second Men, though with an added and indescribable
expression which no human face had hitherto attained.
How from this pair of individuals the new population gradually arose; how at
first it was earnestly fostered by its creators; how it subsequently asserted
its independence and took control of its own destiny; how the Great Brains
failed piteously to understand and sympathize with the mentality of their
creatures, and tried to tyrannize over them; how for a while the planet was
divided into two mutually intolerant communities, and was at last drenched with
man's blood, until the human automata were exterminated, the Great Brains
starved or blown to pieces, and the Fifth Men themselves decimated; how, as a
result of these events, a dense fog of barbarism settled once more upon the
planet, so that the Fifth Men, like so many other races, had after all to start
rebuilding civilization and culture from its very foundations; how all these
things befell we must not in detail observe.
It is not possible to recount the stages by which the Fifth Men advanced toward
their greatest civilization and culture; for it is that fully developed culture
itself which concerns us. And even of their highest achievement, which persisted
for so many millions of years, I can say but little, not merely because I must
hasten to the end of my story, but also because so much of that achievement lies
wholly beyond the comprehension of those for whom this book is intended. For I
have at last reached that period in the history of man when he first began to
reorganize his whole mentality to cope with matters whose very existence had
been hitherto almost completely hidden from him. The old aims persist, and are
progressively realized as never before; but also they become increasingly
subordinate to the requirements of new aims which are more and more insistently
forced upon him by his deepening experience. Just as the interests and ideals of
the First Men lie beyond the grasp of their ape contemporaries, so the interests
and ideals of the Fifth Men in their full development lie beyond the grasp of
the First Men. On the other hand, just as, in the life of primitive man, there
is much which would be meaningful even to the ape, so in the life of the Fifth
Men much remains which is meaningful even to the First Men.
Conceive a world-society developed materially far beyond the wildest dreams of
America. Unlimited power, derived partly from the artificial disintegration of
atoms, partly from the actual annihilation of matter through the union of
electrons and protons to form radiation, completely abolished the whole
grotesque burden of drudgery which hitherto had seemed the inescapable price of
civilization, nay of life itself. The vast economic routine of the
world-community was carried on by the mere touching of appropriate buttons.
Transport, mining, manufacture, and even agriculture were performed in this
manner. And indeed in most cases the systematic co-ordination of these
activities was itself the work of selfregulating machinery. Thus, not only was
there no longer need for any human beings to spend their lives in unskilled
monotonous labour, but further, much that earlier races would have regarded as
highly skilled though stereotyped work, was now carried on by machinery. Only
the pioneering of industry, the endless exhilarating research, invention, design
and reorganization, which is incurred by an ever-changing society, still engaged
the minds of men and women. And though this work was of course immense, it could
not occupy the whole attention of a great world-community. Thus very much of the
energy of the race was free to occupy itself with other no less difficult and
exacting matters, or to seek recreation in its many admirable sports and arts.
Materially every individual was a multi-millionaire, in that he had at his beck
and call a great diversity of powerful mechanisms; but also he was a penniless
friar, for he had no vestige of economic control over any other human being. He
could fly through the upper air to the ends of the earth in an hour, or hang
idle among the clouds all day long. His flying machine was no cumbersome
aeroplane, but either a wingless aerial boat, or a mere suit of overalls in
which he could disport himself with the freedom of a bird. Not only in the air,
but in the sea also, he was free. He could stroll about the ocean bed, or gambol
with the deep-sea fishes. And for habitation he could make his home, as he
willed, either in a shack in the wilderness or in one of the great pylons which
dwarfed the architecture even of the American age. He could possess this huge
palace in loneliness and fill it with his possessions, to be automatically cared
for without human service; or he could join with others and create a hive of
social life. All these amenities he took for granted as the savage takes tor
granted the air which he breathes. And because they were as universally
available as air, no one craved them in excess, and no one grudged another the
use of them.
Yet the population of the earth was now very numerous. Some ten thousand million
persons had their homes in the snow-capped pylons which covered the continents
with an open forest of architecture. Between these great obelisks lay corn-land,
park, and wilderness. For there were very many areas of hill-country and forest
which were preserved as playgrounds. And indeed one whole continent, stretching
from the Tropics to the Arctic, was kept as nearly as possible in its natural
state. This region was chosen mainly for its mountains; for since most of the
Alpine tracts had by now been worn into insignificance by water and frost,
mountains were much prized. Into this Wild Continent individuals of all ages
repaired to spend many years at a time in living the life of primitive man
without any aid whatever from civilization. For it was recognized that a highly
sophisticated race, devoted almost wholly to art and science, must take special
measures to preserve its contact with the primitive. Thus in the Wild Continent
was to be found at any time a sparse population of "savages," armed with flint
and bone, or more rarely with iron, which they or their friends had wrested from
the earth. These voluntary primitives were intent chiefly upon hunting and
simple agriculture. Their scanty leisure was devoted to art, and meditation, and
to savouring fully all the primeval human values. Indeed it was a hard life and
a dangerous that these intellectuals periodically imposed on themselves. And
though of course they had zest in it, they often dreaded its hardship and the
uncertainty that they would ever return from it. For the danger was very real.
The Fifth Men had compensated for the Fourth Men's foolish destruction of the
animals by creating a whole system of new types, which they set at large in the
Wild Continent; and some of these creatures were extremely formidable carnivora,
which man himself, armed only with primitive weapons, had very good reason to
fear. In the Wild Continent there was inevitably a high death-rate. Many
promising lives were tragically cut short. But it was recognized that from the
point of view of the race this sacrifice was worth while, for the spiritual
effects of the institution of periodic savagery were very real. Beings whose
natural span was three thousand years, given over almost wholly to civilized
pursuits, were greatly invigorated and enlightened by an occasional decade in
the wild.
The culture of the Fifth Men was influenced in many respects by their
"telepathic" communication with one another. The obvious advantages of this
capacity were now secured without its dangers. Each individual could isolate
himself at will from the radiation of his fellows, either wholly or in respect
of particular elements of his mental process; and thus he was in no danger of
losing his individuality. But, on the other hand, he was immeasurably more able
to participate in the experience of others than were beings for whom the only
possible communication was symbolic. The result was that, though conflict of
wills was still possible, it was far more easily resolved by mutual
understanding than had ever been the case in earlier species. Thus there were no
lasting and no radical conflicts, either of thought or desire. It was
universally recognized that every discrepancy of opinion and of aim could be
abolished by telepathic discussion. Sometimes the process would be easy and
rapid; sometimes it could not be achieved without a patient and detailed "laying
of mind to mind," so as to bring to light the point where the difference
One result of the general "telepathic" facility of the species was that speech
was no longer necessary. It was still preserved and prized, but only as a medium
of art, not as a means of communication. Thinking, of course, was still carried
on largely by means of words; but in communication there was no more need
actually to speak the words than in thinking in private. Written language
remained essential for the recording and storing of thought. Both language and
the written expression of it had become far more complex and accurate than they
had ever been, more faithful instruments for the expression and creation of
thought and emotion.
"Telepathy" combined with longevity and the extremely subtle brainstructure of
the species to afford each individual an immense number of intimate friendships,
and some slight acquaintance actually with the whole race. This, I fear, must
seem incredible to my readers, unless they can be persuaded to regard it as a
symptom of the high mental development of the species. However that may be, it
is a fact that each person was aware of every other, at least as a face, or a
name, or the holder of a certain office. It is impossible to exaggerate the
effects of this facility of personal intercourse. It meant that the species
constituted at any moment, if not strictly a community of friends, at least a
vast club or college. Further, since each individual saw his own mind reflected,
as it were, in very many other minds, and since there was great variety of
psychological types, the upshot in each individual was a very accurate
In the Martians, "telepathic" intercourse had resulted in a true group mind, a
single psychical process embodied in the electro-magnetic radiation of the whole
race; but this group-mind was inferior in calibre to the individual minds. All
that was distinctive of an individual at his best failed to contribute to the
group-mind. But in the fifth human species "telepathy" was only a means of
intercourse between individuals; there was no true group-mind. On the other
hand, telepathic intercourse occurred even on the highest planes of experience.
It was by "telepathic" intercourse in respect of art, science, philosophy, and
the appreciation of personalities, that the public mind, or rather the public
culture, of the Fifth Men had being. With the Martians, "telepathic" union took
place chiefly by elimination of the differences between individuals; with the
Fifth Men "telepathic" communication was, as it were, a kind of spiritual
multiplication of mental diversity, by which each mind was enriched with the
wealth of ten thousand million. Consequently each individual was, in a very real
sense, the cultured mind of the species; but there were as many such minds as
there were individuals. There was no additional racial mind over and above the
minds of the individuals. Each individual himself was a conscious centre which
participated in, and contributed to, the experience of all other centres.
This state of affairs would not have been possible had not the worldcommunity
been able to direct so much of its interest and energy into the higher mental
activities. The whole structure of society was fashioned in relation to its best
culture. It is almost impossible to give even an inkling of the nature and aims
of this culture, and to make it believable that a huge population should have
spent scores of millions of years not wholly, not even chiefly, on industrial
advancement, but almost entirely on art, science and philosophy, without ever
repeating itself or falling into ennui. I can only point out that, the higher a
mind's development, the more it discovers in the universe to occupy it.
Needless to say, the Fifth Men had early mastered all those paradoxes of
physical science which had so perplexed the First Men. Needless to say, they had
a very complete knowledge of the geography of the cosmos and of the atom. But
again and again the very foundations of their science were shattered by some new
discovery, so that they had patiently to reconstruct the whole upon an entirely
new plan. At length, however, with the clear formulation of the principles of
psycho-physics, in which the older psychology and the older physics were held,
so to speak, in chemical combination, they seemed to have built upon the rock.
In this science, the fundamental concepts of psychology were given a physical
meaning, and the fundamental concepts of physics were stated in a psychological
manner. Further, the most fundamental relations of the physical universe were
found to be of the same nature as the fundamental principles of art. But, and
herein lay mystery and horror even for the Fifth Men, there was no shred of
evidence that this aesthetically admirable cosmos was the work of a conscious
artist, nor yet that any mind would ever develop so greatly as to be able to
appreciate the Whole in all its detail and unity.
Since art seemed to the Fifth Men to be in some sense basic to the cosmos, they
were naturally very much preoccupied with artistic creation. Consequently, all
those who were not social or economic organizers, or scientific researchers, or
pure philosophers, were by profession creative artists or handicraftsmen. That
is to say, they were engaged on the production of material objects of various
kinds, whose form should be aesthetically significant to the perceiver. In some
cases the material object was a pattern of spoken words, in others pure music,
in others moving coloured shapes, in others a complex of steel cubes and bars,
in others some translation of the human figure into a particular medium, and so
on. But also the aesthetic impulse expressed itself in the production, by hand,
of innumerable common utensils, indulging sometimes in lavish decoration,
trusting at other times to the beauty of function. Every medium of art that had
ever beers employed was employed by the Fifth Men, and innumerable new vehicles
were also used. They prized on the whole more highly those kinds of art which
were not static; but involved time as well as space; for as a race they were
peculiarly fascinated by time.
These innumerable artists held that they were doing something of great
importance. The cosmos was to be regarded as an asthetic unity in four
directions, and of inconceivable complexity. Human works of pure art were
thought of as instruments through which man might behold and admire some aspect
of the cosmic beauty. They were said to focus together features of the cosmos
too vast and elusive for man otherwise to apprehend their form. The work of art
was sometimes likened to a compendious mathematical formula expressive of some
immense and apparently chaotic field of facts. But in the case of art, it was
said, the unity which the artistic object elicited was one in which factors of
vital nature and of mind itself were essential members.
The race thus deemed itself to be engaged upon a great enterprise both of
discovery and creation in which each individual was both an originator of some
unique contribution, and an appraiser of all.
Now, as the years advanced in millions and in decades of millions, it began to
be noticed that the movement of world culture was in a manner spiral. There
would be an age during which the interest of the race was directed almost wholly
upon certain tracts or aspects of existence; and then, after perhaps a hundred
thousand years, these would seem to have been fully cultivated, and would be
left fallow. During the next epoch attention would be in the main directed to
other spheres, and then afterwards to yet others, and again others. But at
length a return would be made to the fields that had been deserted, and it would
be discovered that they could now miraculously bear a million-fold the former
crop. Thus, in both science and art man kept recurring again and again to the
ancient themes, to work over them once more in meticulous detail and strike from
them new truth and new beauty, such as, in the earlier epoch, he could never
have conceived. Thus it was that, though science gathered to itself
unfalteringly an ever wider and more detailed view of existence, it periodically
discovered some revolutionary general principle in terms of which its whole
content had to be given a new significance. And in art there would appear in one
age works superficially almost identical with works of another age, yet to the
discerning eye incomparably more significant. Similarly, in respect of human
personality itself, those men and women who lived at the close of the aeon of
the Fifth Men could often discover in the remote beginning of their own race
beings curiously like themselves, yet, as it were, expressed in fewer dimensions
than their own many-dimensional natures. As a map is like the mountainous land,
or the picture like the landscape, or indeed as the point and the circle are
like the sphere, so, and only so, the earlier Fifth Men resembled the flower of
the species.
Such statements would be in a manner true of any period of steady cultural
progress. But in the present instance they have a peculiar significance which I
must now somehow contrive to suggest.
THE Fifth Men had not been endowed with that potential immortality which their
makers themselves possessed. And from the fact that they were mortal and yet
long-lived, their culture drew its chief brilliance and poignancy. Beings for
whom the natural span was three thousand years, and ultimately as much as fifty
thousand, were peculiarly troubled by the prospect of death, and by the loss of
those dear to them. The mere ephemeral kind of spirit, that comes into being and
then almost immediately ceases, before it has entered at all deeply into
consciousness of itself, can face its end with a courage that is half unwitting.
Even its smart in the loss of other beings with whom it has been intimate is but
a vague and dreamlike suffering. For the ephemeral spirit has no time to grow
fully awake, or fully intimate with another, before it must lose its beloved,
and itself once more fade into unconsciousness. But with the long-lived yet not
immortal Fifth Men the case was different. Gathering to themselves experience of
the cosmos, acquiring an ever more precise and vivid insight and appreciation,
they knew that very soon all this wealth of the soul must cease to be. And in
love, though they might be fully intimate not merely with one but with very many
persons, the death of one of these dear spirits seemed an irrevocable tragedy,
an utter annihilation of the most resplendent kind of glory, an impoverishment
of the cosmos for evermore.
In their brief primitive phase, the Fifth Men, like so many other races, sought
to console themselves by unreasoning faith in a life after death, They
conceived, for instance, that at death terrestrial beings embarked upon a career
continuous with earthly life, but far more ample, either in some remote
planetary system, or in some wholly distinct orb of space-time. But though such
theories were never disproved in the primitive era, they gradually began to seem
not merely improbable but ignoble. For it came to be recognized that the
resplendent glories of personality, even in that degree of beauty which now for
the first time was attained, were not after all the extreme of glory. It was
seen with pain, but also with exultation, that even love's demand that the
beloved should have immortal life is a betrayal of man's paramount allegiance.
And little by little it became evident that those who used great gifts, and even
genius, to establish the truth of the after life, or to seek contact with their
beloved dead, suffered from a strange blindness, and obtuseness of the spirit.
Though the love which had misled them was itself a very lovely thing, yet they
were misled. Like children, searching for lost toys, they wandered. Like
adolescents seeking to recapture delight in the things of childhood, they
shunned those more difficult admirations which are proper to the grown mind.
And so it became a constant aim of the Fifth Men to school themselves to admire
chiefly even in the very crisis of bereavement, not persons, but that great
music of innumerable personal lives, which is the life of the race. And quite
early in their career they discovered an unexpected beauty in the very fact that
the individual must die. So that, when they had actually come into possession of
the means to make themselves immortal, they refrained, choosing rather merely to
increase the life-span of succeeding generations to fifty thousand years. Such a
period seemed to be demanded for the full exercise of human capacity; but
immortality, they held, would lead to spiritual disaster.
Now as their science advanced they saw that there had been a time, before the
stars were formed, when there was no possible footing for minds in the cosmos;
and that there would come a time when mentality would be driven out of
existence. Earlier human species had not needed to trouble about mind's ultimate
fate; but for the long-lived Fifth Men the end, though remote, did not seem
infinitely distant. The prospect distressed them. They had schooled themselves
to live not for the individual but for the race; and now the life of the race
itself was seen to be a mere instant between the endless void of the past and
the endless void of the future. Nothing within their ken was more worthy of
admiration than the organized progressive mentality of mankind; and the
conviction that this most admired thing must soon cease, filled many of their
less ample minds with horror and indignation. But in time the Fifth Men, like
the Second Men long before them, came to suspect that even in this tragic
brevity of mind's course there was a quality of beauty, niore difficult than the
familiar beauty, but also more exquisite. Even thus imprisoned in an instant,
the spirit of man might yet plumb the whole extent of space, and also the whole
past and the whole future; and so, from behind his prison bars, he might render
the universe that intelligent worship which, they felt, it demanded of him.
Better so, they said, than that he should fret himself with puny efforts to
escape. He is dignified by his very weakness, and the cosmos by its very
indifference to him.
For aeons they remained in this faith. And they schooled their hearts to
acquiesce in it, saying, if it is so, it is best, and somehow we must learn to
see that it is best. But what they meant by "best" was not what their
predecessors would have meant. They did not, for instance, deceive themselves by
pretending that after all they themselves actually preferred life to be
evanescent. On the contrary, they continued to long that it might be otherwise.
But having discovered, both behind the physical order and behind the desires of
minds, a fundamental principle whose essence was aesthetic, they were faithful
to the conviction that whatever was fact must somehow in the universal view be
fitting, right, beautiful, integral to the form of the cosmos. And so they
accepted as right a state of affairs which in their own hearts they still felt
grievously wrong. This conviction of the irrevocability of the past and of the
evanescence of mind induced in them a great tenderness for all beings that had
lived and ceased. Deeming themselves to be near the crest of life's achievement,
blessed also with longevity and philosophic detachment, they were often smitten
with pity for those humbler, briefer and less free spirits whose lot had fallen
in the past. Moreover, themselves extremely complex, subtle, conscious, they
conceived a generous admiration for all simple minds, for the early men, and for
the beasts. Very strongly they condemned the action of their predecessors in
destroying so many joyous and delectible creatures. Earnestly they sought to
reconstruct in imagination all those beings that blind intellectualism had
murdered. Earnestly they delved in the near and the remote past so as to recover
as much aspossible of the history of life on the planet. With meticulous love
they would figure out the life stories of extinct types, such as the
brontosaurus, the hippopotamus, the chimpanzee, the Englishman, the American, as
also of the still extant amoeba. And while they could not but relish the
comicality of these remote beings, their amusement was the outgrowth of
affectionate insight into simple natures, and was but the obverse of their
recognition that the primitive is essentially tragic, because blind. And so,
while they saw that the main work of man must have regard to the future, they
felt that he owed also a duty toward the past. He must preserve it in his own
mind, if not actually in life at least in being. In the future lay glory, joy,
brilliance of the spirit. The future needed service, not pity, not piety; but in
the past lay darkness, confusion, waste, and all the cramped primitive minds,
bewildered, torturing one another in their stupidity, yet one and all in some
unique manner, beautiful.
The reconstruction of the past, not merely as abstract history but with the
intimacy of the novel, thus became one of the main preoccupations of the Fifth
Men. Many devoted themselves to this work, each individual specializing very
minutely in some particular episode of human or animal history, and transmitting
his work into the culture of the race. Thus increasingly the individual felt
himself to be a single flicker between the teeming gulf of the never-more and
the boundless void of the not-yet. Himself a member of a very noble and
fortunate race, his zest in existence was tempered, deepened, by a sense of the
presence, the ghostly presence, of the myriad less fortunate beings in the past.
Sometimes, and especially in epochs when the contemporary world seemed most
satisfactory and promis ing, this piety toward the primitive and the past became
the dominant activity of the race, giving rise to alternating phases of
rebellion against the tyrannical nature of the cosmos, and faith that in the
universal view, after all, this horror must be right. In this latter mood it was
held that the very irrevocability of the past dignified all past existents, and
dignified the cosmos, as a work of tragic art is dignified by the irrevocability
of disaster. It was this mood of acquiescence and faith which in the end became
the characteristic attitude of the Fifth Men for many millions of years.
But a bewildering discovery was in store for the Fifth Men, a discovery which
was to change their whole attitude toward existence. Certain obscure biological
facts began to make them suspect, on purely empirical grounds, that past events
were not after all simply non-existent, that though no longer existent in the
temporal manner, they had eternal existence in some other manner. The effect of
this increasing suspicion about the past was that a once harmonious race was
divided for a while into two parties, those who insisted that the formal beauty
of the universe demanded the tragic evanescence of all things, and those who
determined to show that living minds could actually reach back into past events
in all their pastness.
The readers of this book are not in a position to realize the poignancy of the
conflict which now threatened to wreck humanity. They cannot approach it from
the point of view of a race whose culture had consisted of an age-long schooling
in admiration of an ever-vanishing cosmos. To the orthodox it seemed that the
new view was iconoclastic, impertinent, vulgar. Their opponents, on the other
hand, insisted that the matter must be decided dispassionately, according to the
evidence. They were also able to point out that this devotion to evanescence was
after all but the outcome of the conviction that the cosmos must be supremely
noble. No one, it was said, really had direct vision of evanescence as in itself
an excellence. So heartfelt was the dispute that the orthodox party actually
broke off all "telepathic" communication with the rebels, and even went so far
as to plan their destruction. There can be no doubt that if violence had
actually been used the human race would have succumbed; for in a species of such
high mental development internecine war would have been a gross violation of its
nature. It would never have been able to live down so shameful a spiritual
disaster. Fortunately, however, at the eleventh hour, common sense prevailed.
The iconoclasts were permitted to carry on their research, and the whole race
awaited the result.
This first attack upon the nature of time involved an immense co-operative work,
both theoretical and practical. It was from biology that the first hint had come
that the past persisted. And it would be necessary to restate the whole of
biology and the physical sciences in terms of the new idea. On the practical
side it was necessary to undertake a great campaign of experiment, physiological
and psychological. We cannot stay to watch this work. Millions of years passed
by. Sometimes, for thousands of years at a spell, temporal research was the main
preoccupation of the race: sometimes it was thrust into the background, or
completely ignored, during epochs which were dominated by other interests. Age
after age passed, and always the effort of man in this sphere remained barren.
Then at last there was a real success.
A child had been selected from among those produced by an age-long breeding
enterprise, directed towards the mastery of time. From infancy this child's
brain had been very carefully controlled physiologically. Psychologically also
he had been subjected to a severe treatment, that he might be properly schooled
for his strange task. In the presence of several scientists and historians he
was put into a kind of trance, and brought out of it again, half an hour later.
He was then asked to give an account "telepathically" of his experiences during
the trance. Unfortunately he was now so shattered that his evidence was almost
unintelligible. After some months of rest he was questioned again, and was able
to describe a curious episode which turned out to be a terrifying incident in
the girlhood of his dead mother. He seemed to have seen the incident through her
eyes, and to have been aware of all her thoughts. This alone proved nothing, for
he might have received the information from some living mind. Once more,
therefore, and in spite of his entreaties, he was put into the peculiar trance.
On waking he told a rambling story of "little red people living in a squat white
tower." It was clear that he was referring to the Great Brains and their
attendants. But once more, this proved nothing; and before the account was
finished the child died.
Another child was chosen, but was not put to the test until late in adolescence.
After an hour of the trance, he woke and became terribly agitated, but forced
himself to describe an episode which the historians assigned to the age of the
Martian invasions. The importance of this incident lay in his account of a
certain house with a carved granite portico, situated at the head of a waterfall
in a mountain valley. He said he had found himself to be an old woman, and that
he, or she, was being hurriedly helped out of the house by the other inmates.
They watched a formless monster creep down the valley, destroy their house, and
mangle two persons who failed to get away in time. Now this house was not at all
typical of the Second Men, but must have expressed the whim of some freakish
individual. From evidence derived from the boy himself, it proved possible to
locate the valley with reference to a former mountain, known to history. No
valley survived in that spot; but deep excavations revealed the ancient slopes,
the fault that had occasioned the waterfall, and the broken pillars.
This and many similar incidents confirmed the Fifth Men in their new view of
time. There followed an age in which the technique of direct inspection of the
past was gradually improved, but not without tragedy. In the early stages it was
found impossible to keep the "medium" alive for more than a few weeks after his
venture into the past. The experience seemed to set up a progressive mental
disintegration which produced first insanity, then paralysis, and, within a few
months, death. This difficulty was at last overcome. By one means and another a
type of brain was produced capable of undergoing the strain of supra-temporal
experience without fatal results. An increasingly large proportion of the rising
generation had now direct access to the past, and were engaged upon a great
re-statement of history in relation to their first-hand experience; but their
excursions into the past were uncontrollable. They could not go where they
wanted to go, but only where fate flung them. Nor could they go of their own
will, but only through a very complicated technique, and with the cooperation of
experts. After a time the process was made much easier, in fact, too easy. The
unfortunate medium might slip so easily into the trance that his days were eaten
up by the past. He might suddenly fall to the ground, and lie rapt, inert,
dependent on artificial feeding, for weeks, months, even for years. Or a dozen
times in the same day he might be flung into a dozen different epochs of
history. Or, still more distressing, his experience of past events might not
keep pace with the actual rhythm of those events themselves. Thus he might
behold the events of a month, or even a lifetime, fantastically accelerated so
as to occupy a trance of no more than a day's duration. Or, worse, he might find
himself sliding backwards down the vista of the hours and experiencing events in
an order the reverse of the natural order. Even the magnificent brains of the
Fifth Men could not stand this. The result was maniacal behaviour, followed by
death. Another trouble also beset these first experimenters. Supra-temporal
experience proved to be like a dangerous and habit-forming drug. Those who
ventured into the past might become so intoxicated that they would try to spend
every moment of their natural lives in roaming among past events. Thus gradually
they would lose touch with the present, live in absent-minded brooding, fail to
react normally to their environment, turn socially worthless, and often come
actually to physical disaster through inability to look after themselves.
Many more thousands of years passed before these difficulties and dangers were
overcome. At length, however, the technique of supra-temporal experience was so
perfected that every individual could at will practise it with safety, and
could, within limits, project his vision into any locality of space-time which
he desired to inspect. It was only possible, however, to see past events through
the mind of some past organism, no longer living. And in practice only human
minds, and to some extent the minds of the higher mammals, could be entered. The
explorer retained throughout his adventure his own personality and system of
memory. While experiencing the past individual's perceptions, memories,
thoughts, desires, and in fact the whole process and content of the past mind,
the explorer continued to be himself, and to react in terms of his own
character, now condemning, now sympathizing, now critically enjoying the
The task of explaining the mechanism of this new faculty occupied the scientists
and philosophers of the species for a very long period. The final account, of
course, cannot be presented save by parable; for it was found necessary to
recast many fundamental concepts in order to interpret the facts coherently. The
only hint that I can give of the explanation is in saying, metaphorically of
course, that the living brain had access to the past, not by way of some
mysterious kind of racial memory, nor by some equally impossible journey up the
stream of time, but by a partial awakening, as it were, into eternity, and into
inspection of a minute tract of spacetime through some temporal mind in the
past, as though through an optical instrument. In the early experiments the
fantastic speeding, slowing and reversal of the temporal process resulted from
disorderly inspection. As a reader may either skim the pages of a book, or read
at a comfortable pace, or dwell upon one word, or spell the sentence backwards,
so, unintentionally, the novice in eternity might read or misread the mind that
was presented to him.
This new mode of experience, it should be noted, was the activity of living
brains, though brains of a novel kind. Hence what was to be discovered "through
the medium of eternity" was limited by the particular exploring brain's capacity
of understanding what was presented to it. And, further, though the actual
supra-temporal contact with past events occupied no time in the brain's natural
life, the assimilating of that moment of vision, the reduction of it to normal
temporal memory in the normal brain structures, took time, and had to be done
during the period of the trance. To expect the neural structure to record the
experience instantaneously would be to expect a complicated machine to effect a
complicated readjustment without a process of readjusting.
The access to the past had, of course, far-reaching effects upon the culture of
the Fifth Men, Not only did it give them an incomparably more accurate knowledge
of past events, and insight into the motives of historical personages, and into
large-scale cultural movements, but also it effected a subtle change in their
estimate of the importance of things. Though intellectually they had, of course,
realized both the vastness and the richness of the past, now they realized it
with an overwhelming vividness. Matters that had been known hitherto only
historically, schematically, were now available to be lived through by intimate
acquaintance. The only limit to such acquaintance was set by the limitations of
the explorer's own braincapacity. Consequently the remote past came to enter
into a man and shape his mind in a manner in which only the recent past, through
memory, had shaped him hitherto. Even before the new kind of experience was
first acquired, the race had been, as was said, peculiarly under the spell of
the past; but now it was infinitely more so. Hitherto the Fifth Men had been
like stay-at-home folk who had read minutely of foreign parts, but had never
travelled; now they had become travellers experienced in all the continents of
human time. The presences that had hitherto been ghostly were now presences of
flesh and blood seen in broad daylight. And so the moving instant called the
present appeared no longer as the only, and infinitesimal, real, but as the
growing surface of an everlasting tree of existence. It was now the past that
seemed most real, while the future still seemed void, and the present merely the
impalpable becomingness of the indestructible past.
The discovery that past events were after all persistent, and accessible, was of
course for the Fifth Men a source of deep joy; but also it caused them a new
distress. While the past was thought of as a mere gulf of nonexistence, the
inconceivably great pain, misery, baseness, that had fallen into that gulf,
could be dismissed as done with; and the will could be concentrated wholly on
preventing such horrors from occurring in the future. But now, along with past
joy, past distress was found to be everlasting. And those who, in the course of
their voyaging in the past, encountered regions of eternal agony, came back
distraught. It was easy to remind these harrowed explorers that if pain was
eternal, so also was joy. Those who had endured travel in the tragic past were
apt to dismiss such assurances with contempt, affirming that all the delights of
the whole population of time could not compensate for the agony of one tortured
individual. And anyhow, they declared, it was obvious that there had been no
preponderance of joy over pain. Indeed, save in the modern age, pain had been
overwhelmingly in excess.
So seriously did these convictions prey upon the minds of the Fifth Men, that in
spite of their own almost perfect social order, in which suffering had actually
to be sought out as a tonic, they fell into despair. At all times, in all
pursuits, the presence of the tragic past haunted them, poisoning their lives,
sapping their strength. Lovers were ashamed of their delight in one another, As
in the far-off days of sexual taboo, guilt crept between them, and held their
spirits apart even while their bodies were united.
It was while they were struggling in the grip of this vast social melancholy,
and anxiously erasing some new vision by which to reinterpret or transcend the
agony of the past, that the Fifth Men were confronted with a most unexpected
physical crisis. It was discovered that something queer was happening to the
moon; in fact, that the orbit of the satellite was narrowing in upon the earth
in a manner contrary to all the calculations of the scientists.
The Fifth Men had long ago fashioned for themselves an all-embracing and
minutely coherent system of natural sciences, every factor in which had been put
to the test a thousand times and had never been shaken. Imagine, then, their
bewilderment at this extraordinary discovery. In ages when science was still
fragmentary, a subversive discovery entailed merely a reorganization of some one
department of science; but by now, such was the coherence of knowledge, that any
minute discrepancy of fact and theory must throw man into a state of complete
intellectual vertigo.
The evolution of the lunar orbit had, of course, been studied from time
immemorial. Even the First Men had learned that the moon must first withdraw
from and subsequently once more approach the earth, till it should reach a
critical proximity and begin to break up into a swarm of fragments likes the
rings of Saturn. This view had been very thoroughly confirmed by the Fifth Men
themselves. The satellite should have continued to withdraw for yet many
hundreds of millions of years; but in fact it was now observed that not only had
the withdrawal ceased, but a comparatively rapid approach had begun.
Observations and calculations were repeated, and ingenious theoretical
explanations were suggested; but the truth remained completely hidden. It was
left to a future and more brilliant species to discover the connexion between a
planet's gravitation and its cultural development. Meanwhile, the Fifth Men knew
only that the distance between the earth and the moon was becoming smaller with
ever-increasing rapidity.
This discovery was a tonic to a melancholy race. Men turned from the tragic past
to the bewildering present and the uncertain future.
For it was evident that, if the present acceleration of approach were to be
maintained, the i-noon would enter the critical zone and disintegrate in less
than ten million years; and, further, that the fragments would not maintain
themselves as a ring, but would soon crash upon the earth. Heat generated by
their impact would make the surface of the earth impossible as the home of life.
A short-lived and short-sighted species might well have considered ten million
years as equivalent to eternity. Not so the Fifth Men. Thinking primarily in
terms of the race, they recognized at once that their whole social policy must
now be dominated by this future catastrophe. Some there were indeed who at first
refused to take the matter seriously, saying that there was no reason to believe
that the moon's odd behaviour would continue indefinitely. But as the years
advanced, this view became increasingly improbable. Some of those who had spent
much of their lives in exploration of the past now sought to explore the future
also, hoping to prove that human civilization would always be discoverable on
the earth in no matter how remote a future. But the attempt to unveil the future
by direct inspection failed completely. It was surmised, erroneously, that
future events, unlike past events, must be strictly non-existent until their
creation by the advancing present.
Clearly humanity must leave its native planet. Research was therefore
concentrated on the possibility of flight through empty space, and the
suitability of neighbouring worlds. The only alternatives were Mars and Venus.
The former was by now without water and without atmosphere. The latter had a
dense moist atmosphere; but one which lacked oxygen. The surface of Venus,
moreover, was known to be almost completely covered with a shallow ocean.
Further the planet was so hot by day that, even at the poles, man in his present
state would scarcely survive.
It did not take the Fifth Men many centuries to devise a tolerable means of
voyaging in interplanetary space. Immense rockets were constructed, the motive
power of which was derived from the annihilation of matter. The vehicle was
propelled simply by the terrific pressure of radiation thus produced. "Fuel" for
a voyage of many months, or even years, could, of course, easily be carried,
since the annihilation of a minute amount of matter produced a vast wealth of
energy. Moreover, when once the vessel had emerged from the earth's atmosphere,
and had attained full speed, she would, of course, maintain it without the use
of power from the rocket apparatus. The task of rendering the "ether ship"
properly manageable and decently habitable proved difficult, but not
insurmountable. The first vessel to take the ether was a cigar-shaped hull some
three thousand feet long, and built of metals whose artificial atoms were
incomparably more rigid than anything hitherto known. Batteries of "rocket"
apparatus at various points on the hull enabled the ship not only to travel
forward, but to reverse, turn in any direction, or side-step. Windows of an
artificial transparent element, scarcely less strong than the metal of the hull,
enabled the voyagers to look around them. Within there was ample accommodation
for a hundred persons and their provisions for three years. Air for the same
period was manufactured in transit from protons and electrons stored under
pressure comparable to that in the interior of a star. Heat was, of course,
provided by the annihilation of matter. Powerful refrigeration would permit the
vessel to approach the sun almost to the orbit of Mercury. An "artificial
gravity" system, based on the properties of the electro-magnetic field, could be
turned on and regulated at will, so as to maintain a more or less normal
environment for the human organism.
This pioneer ship was manned with a navigating crew and a company of scientists,
and was successfully dispatched upon a trial trip. The intention was to approach
close to the surface of the moon, possibly to circumnavigate it at an altitude
of ten thousand feet, and to return without landing. For many days those on
earth received radio messages from the vessel's powerful installation, reporting
that all was going well. But suddenly the messages ceased, and no more was ever
heard of the vessel. Almost at the moment of the last message, telescopes had
revealed a sudden flash of light at a point on the vessel's course. It was
therefore surmised that she had collided with a meteor and fused with the heat
of the impact.
Other vessels were built and dispatched on trial voyages. Many failed to return.
Some got out of control, and reported that they were heading for outer space or
plunging toward the sun, their hopeless messages continuing until the last of
the crew succumbed to suffocation. Other vessels returned successfully, but with
crews haggard and distraught from long confinement in bad atmosphere. One,
venturing to land on the moon, broke her back, so that the air rushed out of
her, and her people died. After her last message was received, she was detected
from the earth, as an added speck on the stippled surface of a lunar "sea."
As time passed, however, accidents became rarer; indeed, so rare that trips in
the void began to be a popular form of amusement. Literature of the period
reverberates with the novelty of such experiences, with the sense that man had
at last learned true flight, and acquired the freedom of the solar system.
Writers dwelt upon the shock of seeing, as the vessel soared and accelerated,
the landscape dwindle to a mere illuminated disk or crescent, surrounded by
constellations. They remarked also the awful remoteness and mystery which
travellers experienced on these early voyages, with dazzling sunlight on one
side of the vessel and dazzling bespangled night on the other. They described
how the intense sun spread his corona against a black and star-crowded sky. They
expatiated also on the overwhelming interest of approaching another planet; of
inspecting from the sky the still visible remains of Martian civilization; of
groping through the cloud banks of Venus to discover islands in her almost
coastless ocean; of daring an approach to Mercury, till the heat became
insupportable in spite of the best refrigerating mechanism; of feeling a way
across the belt of the asteroids and onwards toward Jupiter, till shortage of
air and provisions forced a return.
But though the mere navigation of space was thus easily accomplished, the major
task was still untouched. It was necessary either to remake man's nature to suit
another planet, or to modify conditions upon another planet to suit man's
nature. The former alternative was repugnant to the Fifth Men. Obviously it
would entail an almost complete refashioning of the human organism. No existing
individual could possibly be so altered as to live in the present conditions of
Mars or Venus. And it would probably prove impossible to create a new being,
adapted to these conditions, without sacrificing the brilliant and harmonious
constitution of the extant species.
On the other hand, Mars could not be made habitable without first being stocked
with air and water; and such an undertaking seemed impos sible. There was
nothing for it, then, but to attack Venus. The polar surfaces of that planet,
shielded by impenetrable depths of cloud, proved after all not unendurably hot.
Subsequent generations might perhaps be modified so as to withstand even the
sub-arctic and "temperate" climates. Oxygen was plentiful, but it was all tied
up in chemical combination. Inevitably so, since oxygen combines very readily,
and on Venus there was no vegetable life to exhale the free gas and replenish
the ever-vanishing supply. It was necessary, then, to equip Venus with an
appropriate vegetation, which in the course of ages should render the planet's
atmosphere hospitable to man. The chemical and physical conditions on Venus had
therefore to be studied in great detail, so that it might be possible to design
a kind of life which would have a chance of flourishing. This research had to be
carried out from within the ether ships, or with gas helmets, since no human
being could live in the natural atmosphere of the planet.
We must not dwell upon the age of heroic research and adventure which now began.
Observations of the lunar orbit were showing that ten millions years was too
long an estimate of the future habitability of the earth; and it was soon
realized that Venus could not be made ready soon enough unless some more rapid
change was set on foot. It was therefore decided to split up some of the ocean
of the planet into hydrogen and oxygen by a vast process of electrolysis. This
would have beets a more difficult task, had not the ocean been relatively free
from salt, owing to the fact that there was so little dry land to be denuded of
salts by rain and river. The oxygen thus formed by electrolysis would be allowed
to mix with the atmosphere. The hydrogen had to be got rid of somehow, and an
ingenious method was devised by which it should be ejected beyond the limits of
the atmosphere at so great a speed that it would never return. Once sufficient
free oxygen had been produced, the new vegetation would replenish the loss due
to oxidation. This work was duly set on foot. Great automatic electrolysing
stations were founded on several of the islands; and biological research
produced at length a whole flora of specialized vegetable types to cover the
land surface of the planet. It was hoped that in less than a million years Venus
would be fit to receive the human race, and the race fit to live on Venus.
Meanwhile a careful survey of the planet had been undertaken. Its land surface,
scarcely more than a thousandth that of the earth, consisted of an unevenly
distributed archipelago of mountainous islands. The planet had evidently not
long ago been through a mountain-forming era, for soundings proved its whole
surface to be extravagantly corrugated. The ocean was subject to terrific storms
and currents; for since the planet took several weeks to rotate, there was a
great difference of temperature and atmospheric pressure between the almost
arctic hemisphere of night and the sweltering hemisphere of day. So great was
the evaporation, that open sky was almost never visible from any part of the
planet's surface; and indeed the average day-time weather was a succession of
thick fogs and fantastic thunderstorms. Rain in the evening was a continuous
torrent. Yet before night was over the waves clattered with fragments of ice.
Man looked upon his future home with loathing, and on his birthplace with an
affection which became passionate. With its blue sky, its incomparable starry
nights, its temperate and varied continents, its ample spaces of agriculture,
wilderness and park, its well-known beasts and plants, and all the material
fabric of the most enduring of terrestrial civilizations, it seemed to the men
and women who were planning flight almost a living thing imploring them not to
desert it. They looked often with hate at the quiet moon, now visibly larger
than the moon of history. They revised again and again their astronomical and
physical theories, hoping for some flaw which should render the moon's observed
behaviour less mysterious, less terrifying. But they found nothing. It was as
though a fiend out of some ancient myth had come to life in the modern world, to
interfere with the laws of nature for man's undoing.
Another trouble now occurred. Several electrolysis stations on Venus were
wrecked, apparently by submarine eruption. Also, a number of etherships, engaged
in surveying the ocean, mysteriously exploded. The explanation was found when
one of these vessels, though damaged, was able to return to the earth. The
commander reported that, when the sounding line was drawn up, a large spherical
object was seen to be attached to it. Closer inspection showed that this object
was fastened to the sounding apparatus by a hook, and was indeed unmistakably
artificial, a structure of small metal plates riveted together. While
preparations were being made to bring the object within the ship, it happened to
bump against the hull, and then it exploded.
Evidently there must be intelligent life somewhere in the ocean of Venus.
Evidently the marine Venerians resented the steady depletion of their aqueous
world, and were determined to stop it. The terrestrials had assumed that water
in which no free oxygen was dissolved could not support life. But observation
soon revealed that in this world-wide ocean there were many living species, some
sessile, others free-swimming, some microscopic, others as large as whales. The
basis of life in these creatures lay not in photosynthesis and chemical
combination, but in the controlled disintegration of radio-active atoms. Venus
was particularly rich in these atoms, and still contained certain elements which
had long ago ceased to exist on the earth. The oceanic fauna subsisted in the
destruction of minute quantities of radio-active atoms throughout its tissues.
Several of the Venerian species had attained considerable mastery over their
physical environment, and were able to destroy one another very competently with
various mechanical contrivances. Many types were indeed definitely intelligent
and versatile within certain limits. And of these intelligent types, one had
come to dominate all the others by virtue of its superior intelligence, and had
constructed a genuine civilization on the basis of radio-active power. These
most developed of all the Venerian creatures were beings of about the size and
shape of a swordfish. They had three manipulative organs, normally sheathed
within the long "sword," but capable of extension beyond its point, as three
branched muscular tentacles. They swam with a curious screw-like motion of their
bodies and triple tails. Three fins enabled them to steer. They had also organs
of phosphorescence, vision, touch, and something analogous to hearing. They
appeared to reproduce asexually, laying eggs in the ooze of the ocean bed. They
had no need of nutrition in the ordinary sense; but in infancy they seemed to
gather enough radio-active matter to keep them alive for many years. Each
individual, when his stock was running out and he began to be feeble, was either
destroyed by his juniors or buried in a radio-active mine, to rise from this
living death in a few months completely rejuvenated.
At the bottom of the Venerian ocean these creatures thronged in cities of
proliferated coral-like buildings, equipped with many complex articles, which
must have constituted the necessities and luxuries of their civilization. So
much was ascertained by the Terrestrials in the course of their submarine
exploration. But the mental life of Venerians remained hidden. It was clear,
indeed, that like all living things, they were concerned with self-maintenance
and the exercise of their capacities; but of the nature of these capacities
little was discoverable. Clearly they used some kind of symbolic language, based
on mechanical vibrations set up in the water by the snapping claws of their
tentacles. But their more complex activities were quite unintelligible. All that
could be recorded with certainty was that they were much addicted to warfare,
even to warfare between groups of one species; and that even in the stress of
military disaster they maintained a feverish production of material articles of
all sorts, which they proceeded to destroy and neglect.
One activity was observed which was peculiarly mysterious. At certain seasons
three individuals, suddenly developing unusual luminosity, would approach one
another with rhythmic swayings and tremors, and would then rise on their tails
and press their bodies together. Sometimes at this stage an excited crowd would
collect, whirling around the three like driven snow. The chief performers would
now furiously tear one another to pieces with their crab-like pincers, till
nothing was left but tangled shreds of flesh, the great swords, and the still
twitching claws. The Terrestrials, observing these matters with difficulty, at
first suspected some kind of sexual intercourse; but no reproduction was ever
traced to this source. Possibly the behaviour had once served a biological end,
and had now become a useless ritual. Possibly it was a kind of voluntary
religious sacrifice. More probably it was of a quite different nature,
unintelligible to the human mind.
As man's activities on Venus became more extensive, the Venerians became more
energetic in seeking to destroy him. They could not come out of the ocean to
grapple with him, for they were deep-sea organisms. Deprived of oceanic
pressure, they would have burst. But they contrived to hurl high explosives into
the centres of the islands, or to undermine them from tunnels. The work of
electrolysis was thus very seriously hampered. And as all efforts to parley with
the Venerians failed completely, it was impossible to effect a compromise. The
Fifth Men were thus faced with a grave moral problem. What right had man to
interfere in a world already possessed by beings who were obviously intelligent,
even though their mental life was incomprehensible to man? Long ago man himself
had suffered at the hands of Martian invaders, who doubtless regarded themselves
as more noble than the human race. And now man was committing a similar crime.
On the other hand, either the migration to Venus must go forward, or humanity
must be destroyed; for it seemed quite certain by now that the moon would fall,
and at no very distant date. And though man's understanding of the Venerians was
so incomplete, what he did know of them strongly suggested that they were
definitely inferior to himself in mental range. The judgment might, of course,
be mistaken; the Venerians might after all be so superior to man that man could
not get an inkling of their superiority. But this argument would apply equally
to jelly-fish and micro-organisms. Judgment had to be passed according to the
evidence available. So far as man could judge at all in the matter, he was
definitely the higher type.
There was another fact to be taken into account. The life of the Venerian
organism depended on the existence of radio-active atoms. Since those atoms are
subject to disintegration, they must become rarer. Venus was far better supplied
than the earth in this respect, but there must inevitably come a time when there
would be no more radio-active matter in Venus. Now submarine research showed
that the Venerian fauna had once been much more extensive, and that the
increasing difficulty of procuring radio-active matter was already the great
limiting factor of civilization. Thus the Venerians were doomed, and man would
merely hasten their destruction.
It was hoped, of course, that in colonizing Venus mankind would be able to
accommodate itself without seriously interfering with the native population. But
this proved impossible for two reasons. In the first place, the natives seemed
determined to destroy the invader even if they should destroy themselves in the
process. Titanic explosions were engineered, which caused the invaders serious
damage, but also strewed the ocean surface with thousands of dead Venerians.
Secondly, it was found that, as electrolysis poured more and more tree oxygen
into the atmosphere, the ocean absorbed some of the potent element back into
itself by solution; and this dissolved oxygen had a disastrous effect upon the
oceanic organisms. Their tissues began to oxidize. They were burnt up,
internally and externally, by a slow fire. Man dared not stop the process of
electrolysis until the atmosphere had become as rich in oxygen as his native
air. Long before this state was reached, it was already clear that the Venerians
were beginning to feel the effects of the poison, and that in a few thousand
years, at most, they would be exterminated. It was therefore determined to put
them out of their misery as quickly as possible. Men could by now walk abroad on
the islands of Venus, and indeed the first settlements were already being
founded. They were thus able to build a fleet of powerful submarine vessels to
scour the ocean and destroy the whole native fauna.
This vast slaughter influenced the mind of the fifth human species in two
opposite directions, now flinging it into despair, now rousing it to grave
elation. For on the one hand the horror of the slaughter produced a haunting
guiltiness in all men's minds, an unreasoning disgust with humanity for having
been driven to murder in order to save itself. And this guiltiness combined with
the purely intellectual loss of self-confidence which had been produced by the
failure of science to account for the moon's approach. It re-awakened, also,
that other quite irrational sense of guilt which had been bred of sympathy with
the everlasting distress of the past. Together, these three influences tended
toward racial neurosis.
On the other hand a very different mood sometimes sprang from the same three
sources. After all, the failure of science was a challenge to be gladly
accepted; it opened up a wealth of possibilities hitherto unimagined. Even the
unalterable distress of the past constituted a challenge; for in some strange
manner the present and future, it was said, must transfigure the past. As for
the murder of Venerian life, it was, indeed, terrible, but right. It had been
committed without hate; indeed, rather in love. For as the navy proceeded with
its relentless work, it had gathered much insight into the life of the natives,
and had learned to admire, even in a sense to love, while it killed. This mood,
of inexorable yet not ruthless will, intensifled the spiritual sensibility of
the species, refined, so to speak, its spiritual hearing, and revealed to it
tones and themes in the universal music which were hitherto obscure.
Which of these two moods, despair or courage, would triumph? All depended on the
skill of the species to maintain a high degree of vitality in untoward
Man now busied himself in preparing his new home. Many kinds of plant life,
derived from the terrestrial stock, but bred for the Venerian environment, now
began to swarm on the islands and in the sea. For so restricted was the land
surface, that great areas of ocean had to be given over to specially designed
marine plants, which now formed immense floating continents of vegetable matter.
On the least torrid islands appeared habitable pylons, forming an architectural
forest, with vegetation on every acre of free ground. Even so, it would be
impossible for Venus ever to support the huge population of the earth. Steps had
therefore been taken to ensure that the birth-rate should fall far short of the
death-rate; so that, when the time should come, the race might emigrate without
leaving any living members behind. No more than a hundred million, it was
reckoned, could live tolerably on Venus. The population had therefore to be
reduced to a hundredth of its former size, And since, in the terrestrial
community, with its vast social and cultural activity, every individual had
fulfilled some definite function in society, it was obvious that the new
community must be not merely small but mentally impoverished. Hitherto, each
individual had been inriched by intercourse with a far more intricate and
diverse social environment than would be possible on Venus.
Such was the prospect when at length it was judged advisable to leave the earth
to its fate. The moon was now so huge that it periodically turned day into
night, and night into a ghastly day. Prodigious tides and distressful weather
conditions had already spoilt the amenities of the earth, and done great damage
to the fabric of civilization. And so at length humanity reluctantly took
flight. Some centuries passed before the migration was completed, before Venus
had received, not only the whole remaining human population, but also
representatives of many other species of organisms, and all the most precious
treasures of man's culture.
MAN'S sojourn on Venus lasted somewhat longer than his whole career on the
Earth. From the days of Pithecanthropus to the final evacuation of his native
planet he passed, as we have seen, through a bewildering diversity of form and
circumstance, On Venus, though the human type was somewhat more constant
biologically, it was scarcely less variegated in culture.
To give an account of this period, even on the minute scale that has been
adopted hitherto, would entail another volume. I can only sketch its bare
outline. The sapling, humanity, transplanted into foreign soil, withers at first
almost to the root, slowly readjusts itself, grows into strength and a certain
permanence of form, burgeons, season by season, with leaf and flower of many
successive civilizations and cultures, sleeps winter by winter, through many
ages of reduced vitality, but at length (to force the metaphor), avoids this
recurrent defeat by attaining an evergreen constitution and a continuous
effiorescence. Then once more, through the whim of Fate, it is plucked up by the
roots and cast upon another world.
The first human settlers on Venus knew well that life would be a sorry business.
They had done their best to alter the planet to suit human nature, but they
could not make Venus into another Earth. The land surface was minute. The
climate was almost unendurable. The extreme difference of temperature between
the protracted day and night produced incredible storms, rain like a thousand
contiguous waterfalls, terrifying electrical disturbances, and fogs in which a
man could not see his own feet. To make matters worse, the oxygen supply was as
yet barely enough to render the air breathable. Worse still, the liberated
hydrogen was not al ways successfully ejected from the atmosphere. It would
sometimes mingle with the air to form an explosive mixture, and sooner or later
there would occur a vast atmospheric flash. Recurrent disasters of this sort
destroyed the architecture and the human inhabitants of many islands, and
further reduced the oxygen supply. In time, however, the increasing vegetation
made it possible to put an end to the dangerous process of electrolysis.
Meanwhile, these atmospheric explosions crippled the race so seriously that it
was unable to cope with a more mysterious trouble which beset it some time after
the migration. A new and inexplicable decay of the digestive organs, which first
occurred as a rare disease, threatened within a few centuries to destroy
mankind. The physical effects of this plague were scarcely more disastrous than
the psychological effects of the complete failure to master it; for, what with
the mystery of the moon's vagaries and the deep-seated, unreasoning, sense of
guilt produced by the extermination of the Venerians, man's self-confidence was
already seriously shaken, and his highly organized mentality began to show
symptoms of derangement. The new plague was, indeed, finally traced to something
in the Venerian water, and was supposed to be due to certain molecular
groupings, formerly rare, but subsequently fostered by the presence of
terrestrial organic matter in the ocean. No cure was discovered.
And now another plague seized upon the enfeebled race. Human tissues had never
perfectly assimilated the Martian units which were the means of "telepathic"
communication. The universal ill-health now favoured a kind of "cancer" of the
nervous system, which was due to the ungoverned proliferation of these units.
The harrowing results of this disease may be left unmentioned. Century by
century it increased; and even those who did not actually contract the sickness
lived in constant terror of madness.
These troubles were aggravated by the devastating heat. The hope that, as the
generations passed, human nature would adapt itself even to the more sultry
regions, seemed to be unfounded. Far otherwise, within a thousand years the
once-populous arctic and antarctic islands were almost deserted. Out of each
hundred of the great pylons, scarcely more than two were inhabited, and these
only by a few plague-stricken and brokenspirited human relics. These alone were
left to turn their telescopes upon the earth and watch the unexpectedly delayed
bombardment of their native world by the fragments of the moon.
Population decreased still further. Each brief generation was slightly less well
developed than its parents. Intelligence declined. Education became superficial
and restricted. Contact with the past was no longer possible. Art lost its
significance, and philosophy its dominion over the minds of men. Even applied
science began to be too difficult. Unskilled control of the sub-atomic sources
of power led to a number of disasters, which finally gave rise to a superstition
that all "tampering with nature" was wicked, and all the ancient wisdom a snare
of Man's Enemy. Books, instruments, all the treasures of human culture, were
therefore burnt. Only the perdurable buildings resisted destruction. Of the
incomparable world-order of the Fifth Men nothing was left but a few island
tribes cut off from one another by the ocean, and from the rest of space-time by
the depths of their own ignorance.
After many thousands of years human nature did begin to adapt itself to the
climate and to the poisoned water without which life was impossible. At the same
time a new variety of the fifth species now began to appear, in which the
Martian units were not included. Thus at last the race regained a certain mental
stability, at the expense of its faculty of "telepathy," which man was not to
regain until almost the last phase of his career. Meanwhile, though he had
recovered somewhat from the effects of an alien world, the glory that had been
was no more. Let us therefore hurry through the ages that passed before
noteworthy events again occurred.
In early days on Venus men had gathered their foodstuff from the great floating
islands of vegetable matter which had been artificially produced before the
migration. But as the oceans became populous with modifications of the
terrestrial fauna, the human tribes turned more and more to fishing. Under the
influence of its marine environment, one branch of the species assumed such an
aquatic habit that in time it actually began to develop biological adaptations
for marine life. It is perhaps surprising that man was still capable of
spontaneous variation; but the fifth human species was artificial, and had
always been prone to epidemics of mutation. After some millions of years of
variation and selection there appeared a very successful species of seal-like
sub-men. The whole body was moulded to stream-lines. The lung capacity was
greatly developed. The spine had elongated, and increased in flexibility. The
legs were shrunken, grown together, and flattened into a horizontal rudder. The
arms also were diminutive and fin-like, though they still retained the
manipulative forefinger and thumb. The head had shrunk into the body and looked
forward in the direction of swimming. Strong carnivorous teeth, emphatic
gregariousness, and a new, almost human, cunning in the chase, combined to make
these seal-men lords of the ocean. And so they remained for many million years,
until a more human race, annoyed at their piscatorial success, harpooned them
out of existence.
For another branch of the degenerated fifth species had retained a more
terrestrial habit and the ancient human form. Sadly reduced in stature and in
brain, these abject beings were so unlike the original invaders that they are
rightly considered a new species, and may therefore be called the Sixth Men. Age
after age they gained a precarious livelihood by grubbing roots upon the
forest-clad islands, trapping the innumerable birds, and catching fish in the
tidal inlets with ground bait. Not infrequently they devoured, or were devoured
by, their seal-like relatives. So restricted and constant was the environment of
these human remnants, that they remained biologically and culturally stagnant
for some millions of years.
At length, however, geological events afforded man's nature once more the
opportunity of change. A mighty warping of the planet's crust produced an island
almost as large as Australia. In time this was peopled, and from the clash of
tribes a new and versatile race emerged. Once more there was methodical tillage,
craftsmanship, complex social organization, and adventure in the realm of
During the next two hundred million years all the main phases of man's life on
earth were many times repeated on Venus with characteristic differences.
Theocratic empires; free and intellectualistic island cities; insecure
overlordship of feudal archipelagos; rivalries of high priest and emperor;
religious feuds over the interpretation of sacred scriptures; recurrent
fluctuations of thought from naďve animism, through polytheism, conflicting
monotheisms, and all the desperate "isms" by which mind seeks to blur the severe
outline of truth; recurrent fashions of comfort-seeking fantasy and cold
intelligence; social disorders through the misuse of volcanic or wind power in
industry; business empires and pseudo-communistic empires--all these forms
flitted over the changing substance of mankind again and again, as in an
enduring hearth fire there appear and vanish the infinitely diverse forms of
flame and smoke. But all the while the brief spirits, in whose massed
configurations these forms inhered, were intent chiefly on the primitive needs
of food, shelter, companionship, crowd-lust, love-making, the two-edged
relationship of parent and child, the exercise of muscle and intelligence in
facile sport. Very seldom, only in rare moments of clarity, only after ages of
misapprehension, did a few of them, here and there, now and again, begin to have
the deeper insight into the world's nature and man's. And no sooner had this
precious insight begun to propagate itself, than it would be blotted out by some
small or great disaster, by epidemic disease, by the spontaneous disruption of
society, by an access of racial imbecility, by a prolonged bombardment of
meteorites, or by the mere cowardice and vertigo that dared not look down the
precipice of fact.
We need not dwell upon these multitudinous reiterations of culture, but must
glance for a moment at the last phase of this sixth human species, so that we
may pass on to the artificial species which it produced.
Throughout their career the Sixth Men had often been fascinated by the idea of
flight. The bird was again and again their most sacred symbol. Their monotheism
was apt to be worship not of a god-man, but of a godbird, conceived now as the
divine sea-eagle, winged with power, now as the giant swift, winged with mercy,
now as a disembodied spirit of air, and once as the bird-god that became man to
endow the human race with flight, physical and spiritual.
It was inevitable that flight should obsess man on Venus, for the planet
afforded but a cramping home for groundlings; and the riotous efflorescenee of
avian species shamed man's pedestrian habit. When in due course the Sixth Men
attained knowledge and power comparable to that of the First Men at their
height, they invented flying-machines of various types. Many times, indeed,
mechanical flight was rediscovered and lost again with the downfall of
civilization. But at its best it was regarded only as a makeshift. And when at
length, with the advance of the biological sciences, the Sixth Men were in a
position to influence the human organism itself, they determined to produce a
true flying man. Many civilizations strove vainly for this result, sometimes
half-heartedly, sometimes with religious earnestness. Finally the most enduring
and brilliant of all the civilizations of the Sixth Men actually attained the
The Seventh Men were pigmies, scarcely heavier than the largest of terrestrial
flying birds. Through and through they were organized for flight. A leathery
membrane spread from the foot to the tip of the immensely elongated and
strengthened "middle" finger. The three "outer" fingers, equally elongated,
served as ribs to the membrane; while the index and thumb remained free for
manipulation. The body assumed the streamlines of a bird, and was covered with a
deep quilt of feathery wool. This, and the silken down of the flight-membranes,
varied greatly from individual to individual in colouring and texture. On the
ground the Seventh Men walked much as other human beings, for the
flight-membranes were folded close to the legs and body, and hung from the arms
like exaggerated sleeves. In flight the legs were held extended as a flattened
tail, with the feet locked together by the big toes. The breastbone was greatly
developed as a keel, and as a base for the muscles of flight. The other bones
were hollow, for lightness, and their internal surfaces were utilized as
supplementary lungs. For, like the birds, these flying men had to maintain a
high rate of oxidation. A state which others would regard as fever was normal to
Their brains were given ample tracts for the organization of prowess in ffight.
In fact, it was found possible to equip the species with a system of reflexes
for aerial balance, and a true, though artificial, instinctive aptitude for
flight, and interest in flight. Compared with their makers their brain volume
was of necessity small, but their whole neural system was very carefully
organized. Also it matured rapidly, and was extremely facile in the acquirement
of new modes of activity. This was very desirable; for the individual's natural
life period was but fifty years, and in most cases it was deliberately cut short
by some impossible feat at about forty, or whenever the symptoms of old age
began to be felt.
Of all human species these bat-like Flying Men, the Seventh Men, were probably
the most care-free. Gifted with harmonious physique and gay temperament, they
came into a social heritage well adapted to their nature. There was no occasion
for them, as there had often been for some others, to regard the world as
fundamentally hostile to life, or themselves as essentially deformed. Of quick
intelligence in respect of daily personal affairs and social organization, they
were untroubled by the insatiable lust of understanding. Not that they were an
unintellectual race, for they soon formulated a beautifully systematic account
of experience. They clearly preceived, however, that the perfect sphere of their
thought was but a bubble adrift in chaos. Yet it was an elegant bubble. And the
system was true, in its own gay and frankly insincere manner, true as
significant metaphor, not literally true. What more, it was asked, could be
expected of human intellect? Adolescents were encouraged to study the ancient
problems of philosophy, for no reason but to convince themselves of the futility
of probing beyond the limits of the orthodox system. "Prick the bubble of
thought at any point," it was said, "and you shatter the whole of it. And since
thought is one of the necessities of human life, it must be preserved."
Natural science was taken over from the earlier species with halfcontemptuous
gratitude, as a necessary means of sane adjustment to the environment. Its
practical applications were valued as the ground of the social order; but as the
millennia advanced, and society approached that remarkable perfection and
stability which was to endure for many million years, scientific inventiveness
became less and less needful, and science itself was relegated to the infant
schools. History also was given in outline during childhood, and subsequently
This curiously sincere intellectual insincerity was due to the fact that the
Seventh Men were chiefly concerned with matters other than abstract thought. It
is difficult to give to members of the first human species an inkling of the
great preoccupation of these Flying Men. To say that it was flight would be
true, yet far less than the truth. To say that they sought to live dangerously
and vividly, to crowd as much experience as possible into each moment, would
again be a caricature of the truth. On the physical plane indeed "the universe
of flight" with all the variety of peril and skill afforded by a tempestuous
atmosphere, was every individual's chief medium of self-expression. Yet it was
not flight itself, but the spiritual aspect of flight, which obsessed the
In the air and on the ground the Seventh Men were different beings. Whenever
they exercised themselves in flight they suffered a remarkable change of spirit.
Much of their time had to be spent on the ground, since most of the work upon
which civilization rested was impossible in the air. Moreover, life in the air
was life at high pressure, and necessitated spells of recuperation on the
ground. In their pedestrian phase the Seventh Men were sober folk, mildly bored,
yet in the main cheerful, humorously impatient of the drabness and irk of
pedestrian affairs, but ever supported by memory and anticipation of the vivid
life of the air. Often they were tired, after the strain of that other life, but
seldom were they despondent or lazy. Indeed, in the routine of agriculture and
industry they were industrious as the wingless ants. Yet they worked in a
strange mood of attentive absentmindedness; for their hearts were ever in the
air. So long as they could have frequent periods of aviation, they remained
bland even on the ground. But if for any reason such as illness they were
confined to the ground for a long period, they pined, developed acute
melancholia, and died. Their makers had so contrived them that with the onset of
any very great pain or misery their hearts should stop. Thus they were to avoid
all serious distress. But, in fact, this merciful device worked only on the
ground. In the air they assumed a very different and more heroic nature, which
their makers had not foreseen, though indeed it was a natural consequence of
their design.
In the air the flying man's heart beat more powerfully. His tempera ture rose.
His sensation became more vivid and more discriminate, his intelligence more
agile and penetrating. He experienced a more intense pleasure or pain in all
that happened to him. It would not be true to say that he became more emotional;
rather the reverse, if by emotionality is meant enslavement to the emotions. For
the most remarkable features of the aerial phase was that this enhanced power of
appreciation was dispassionate. So long as the individual was in the air,
whether in lonely struggle with the storm, or in the ceremonial ballet with
sky-darkening hosts of his fellows; whether in the ecstatic love dance with a
sexual partner, or in solitary and meditative cirelings far above the world;
whether his enterprise was fortunate, or he found himself dismembered by the
hurricane, and crashing to death; always the gay and the tragic fortunes of his
own person were regarded equally with detached aesthetic delight. Even when his
dearest companion was mutilated or destroyed by some aerial disaster, he
exulted; though also he would give his own life in the hope of effecting a
rescue. But very soon after he had returned to the ground he would be
overwhelmed with grief, would strive vainly to recapture the lost vision, and
would perhaps die of heart failure.
Even when, as happened occasionally in the wild climate of Venus, a whole aerial
population was destroyed by some world-wide atmospheric tumult, the few broken
survivors, so long as they could remain in the air, exulted. And actually while
at length they sank exhausted toward the ground, toward certain disillusionment
and death, they laughed inwardly. Yet an hour after they had alighted, their
constitution would be changed, their vision lost. They would remember only the
horror of the disaster, and the memory would kill them.
No wonder the Seventh Men grudged every moment that was passed on the ground.
While they were in the air, of course, the prospect of a pedestrian interlude,
or indeed of endless pedestrianism, though in a manner repugnant, would be
accepted with unswerving gaiety; but while they were on the ground, they grudged
bitterly to be there. Early in the career of the species the proportion of
aerial to terrestrial hours was increased by a biological invention. A minute
foodplant was produced which spent the winter rooted in the ground, and the
summer adrift in the sunlit upper air, engaged solely in photosynthesis.
Henceforth the populations of the Flying Men were able to browse upon the bright
pastures of the sky, like swallows. As the ages passed, material civilization
became more and more simplified. Needs which could not be satisfied without
terrestrial labour tended to be outgrown. Manufactured articles became
increasingly rare. Books were no longer written or read. In the main, indeed,
they were no longer necessary; but to some extent their place was taken by
verbal tradition and discussion, in the upper air. Of the arts, music, spoken
lyric and epic verse, and the supreme art of winged dance, were constantly
practised. The rest vanished. Many of the sciences inevitably faded into
tradition; yet the true scientific spirit was preserved in a very exact
meteorology, a sufficient biology, and a human psychology surpassed only by the
second and fifth species at their height. None of these sciences, however, was
taken very seriously, save in its practical applications. For instance,
psychology explained the ecstasy of flight very neatly as a febrile and
"irrational" beatitude. But no one was disconcerted by this theory; for every
one, while on the wing, felt it to be merely an amusing half-truth.
The social order of the Seventh Men was in essence neither utilitarian, nor
humanistic, nor religious, but aesthetic. Every act and every institution were
to be justified as contributing to the perfect form of the community. Even
social prosperity was conceived as merely the medium in which beauty should be
embodied, the beauty, namely, of vivid individual lives harmoniously related.
Yet not only for the individual, but even for the race itself (so the wise
insisted), death on the wing was more excellent than prolonged life on the
ground. Better, far better, would be racial suicide than a future of
pedestrianism. Yet though both the individual and the race were conceived as
instrumental to objective beauty, there was nothing religious, in any ordinary
sense, in this conviction. The Seventh Men were completely without interest in
the universal and the unseen. The beauty which they sought to create was
ephemeral and very largely sensuous. And they were well content that it should
he so. Personal immortality, said a dying sage, would be as tedious as an
endless song. Equally so with the race. The lovely flame, of which we all are
members, must die, he said, must die; for without death she would fall short of
For close on a hundred million terrestrial years this aerial society endured
with little change. On many of the islands throughout this period stood even yet
a number of the ancient pylons, though repaired almost beyond recognition. In
these nests the men and women of the seventh species slept through the long
Venerian nights, crowded like roosting swallows. By day the same great towers
were sparsely peopled with those who were serving their turn in industry, while
in the fields and on the sea others laboured. But most were in the air. Many
would be skimming the ocean, to plunge, gannetlike, for fish. Many, circling
over land or sea, would now and again swoop like hawks upon the wild-fowl which
formed the chief meat of the species. Others, forty or fifty thousand feet above
the waves, where even the plentiful atmosphere of Venus was scarcely capable of
supporting them, would be soaring, circling, sweeping, for pure joy of flight.
Others, in the calm and sunshine of high altitudes, would be hanging effortless
upon some steady up-current of air for meditation and the rapture of mere
percipience. Not a few love-intoxicated pairs would be entwining their courses
in aerial patterns, in spires, cascades, and true love-knots of flight,
presently to embrace and drop ten thousand feet in bodily union. Some would be
driving hither and thither through the green mists of vegetable particles,
gathering the manna in their open mouths. Companies, circling together, would be
discussing matters social or aesthetic; others would be singing together, or
listening to recitative epic verse. Thousands, gathering in the sky like
migratory birds, would perform massed convolutions, reminiscent of the vast
mechanical aerial choreography of the First World State, but more vital and
expressive, as a bird's flight is more vital than the flight of any machine. And
all the while there would he some, solitary or in companies, who, either in the
pursuit of fish and wildfowl, or out of pure devilment, pitted their strength
and skill against the hurricane, often tragically, but never without zest, and
laughter of the spirit.
It may seem to some incredible that the culture of the Seventh Men should have
lasted so long. Surely it must either have decayed through mere monotony and
stagnation or have advanced into richer experience. But no. Generation succeeded
generation, and each was too short-lived to outlast its young delight and
discover boredom. Moreover, so perfect was the adjustment of these beings to
their world, that even if they had lived for centuries they would have felt no
need of change. Flight provided them with intense physical exhilaration, and
with the physical basis of a genuine and ecstatic, though limited, spiritual
experience. In this their supreme attainment they rejoiced not only in the
diversity of flight itself, but also in the perceived beauties of their
variegated world, and most of all, perhaps, in the thousand lyric and epic
ventures of human intercourse in an aerial community.
The end of this seemingly everlasting elysium was nevertheless involved in the
very nature of the species. In the first place, as the ages lengthened into
aeons, the generations preserved less and less of the ancient scientific lore.
For it became insignificant to them. The aerial community had no need of it.
This loss of mere information did not matter so long as their condition remained
unaltered; but in due course biological changes began to undermine them. The
species had always been prone to a certain biological instability. A proportion
of infants, varying with circumstances, had always been misshapen; and the
deformity had generally been such as to make flight impossible. The normal
infant was able to fly early in its second year. If some accident prevented it
from doing so, it invariably fell into a decline and died before its third year
was passed. But many of the deformed types, being the result of a partial
reversion to the pedestrian nature, were able to live on indefinitely without
flight. According to a merciful custom these cripples had always to be
destroyed. But at length, owing to the gradual exhaustion of a certain marine
salt essential to the high-strung nature of the Seventh Men, infants were more
often deformed than true to type. The world population declined so seriously
that the organized aerial life of the community could no longer be carried on
according to the time-honoured aesthetic principles. No one knew how to check
this racial decay, but many felt that with greater biological knowledge it might
be avoided. A disastrous policy was now adopted. It was decided to spare a
carefully selected proportion of the deformed infants, those namely which,
though doomed to pedestrianism, were likely to develop high intelligence. Thus
it was hoped to raise a specialized group of persons whose work should be
biological research untrammelled by the intoxication of flight.
The brilliant cripples that resulted from this policy looked at existence from a
new angle. Deprived of the supreme experience for which their fellows lived,
envious of a bliss which they knew only by report, yet contemptuous of the naďve
mentality which cared for nothing (it seemed) but physical exercise,
love-making, the beauty of nature, and the elegances of society, these
flightless intelligences sought satisfaction almost wholly in the life of
research and scientific control. At the best, however, they were a tortured and
resentful race. For their natures were fashioned for the aerial life which they
could not lead. Although they received from the winged folk just treatment and a
certain compassionate respect, they writhed under this kindness, locked their
hearts against all the orthodox values, and sought out new ideals. Within a few
centuries they had rehabilitated the life of intellect, and, with the power that
knowledge gives, they had made themselves masters of the world. The amiable
fliers were surprised, perplexed, even pained; and yet withal amused. Even when
it became evident that the pedestrians were determined to create a new
worldorder in which there would be no place for the beauties of natural flight,
the fliers were only distressed while they were on the ground.
The islands were becoming crowded with machinery and flightless industrialists.
In the air itself the winged folk found themselves outstripped by the base but
effective instruments of mechanical flight. Wings became a laughing stock, and
the life of natural flight was condemned as a barren luxury. It was ordained
that in future every flier must serve the pedestrian world-order, or starve. And
as the cultivation of Windborne plants had been abandoned, and fishing and
fowling rights were strictly controlled, this iaw was no empty form. At first it
was impossible for the fliers to work on the ground for long hours, day after
day, without incurring serious ill-health and an early death. But the pedestrian
physiologists invented a drug which preserved the poor wage-slaves in something
like physical health, and actually prolonged their life. No drug, however, could
restore their spirit, for their normal aerial habit was reduced to a few tired
hours of recreation once a week. Meanwhile, breeding experiments were undertaken
to produce a wholly wingless large-brained type. And finally a law was enacted
by which all winged infants must be either mutilated or destroyed. At this point
the fliers made an heroic but ineffectual bid for power. They attacked the
pedestrian population from the air. In reply the enemy rode them down in his
great aeroplanes and blew them to pieces with high explosive.
The fighting squadrons of the natural fliers were finally driven to the ground
in a remote and barren island. Thither the whole flying population, a mere
remnant of its former strength, fled out of every civilized archipelago in
search of freedom: the whole population--save the sick, who committed suicide,
and all infants that could not yet fly. These were stifled by their mothers or
next-of-kin, in obedience to a decree of the leaders. About a million men, women
and children, some of whom were scarcely old enough for the prolonged flight,
now gathered on the rocks, regardless that there was not food in the
neighbourhood for a great company.
Their leaders, conferring together, saw clearly that the day of Flying Man was
done, and that it would be more fitting for a high-souled race to die at once
than to drag on in subjection to contemptuous masters. They therefore ordered
the population to take part in an act of racial suicide that should at least
make death a noble gesture of freedom. The people received the message while
they were resting on the stony moorland. A wail of sorrow broke from them. It
was checked by the speaker, who bade them strive to see, even on the ground, the
beauty of the thing that was to be done. They could not see it; but they knew
that if they had the strength to take wing again they would see it clearly,
almost as soon as their tired muscles bore them aloft. There was no time to
waste, for many were already faint with hunger, and anxious lest they should
fail to rise. At the appointed signal the whole population rose into the air
with a deep roar of wings. Sorrow was left behind. Even the children, when their
mothers explained what was to be done, accepted their fate with zest; though,
had they learned of it on the ground, they would have been terror-stricken. The
company now flew steadily West, forming themselves into a double file many miles
long. The cone of a volcano appeared over the horizon, and rose as they
approached. The leaders pressed on towards its ruddy smoke plume; and
unflinchingly, couple by couple, the whole multitude darted into its fiery
breath and vanished. So ended the career of Flying Man.
The flightless yet still half avian race that now possessed the planet settled
down to construct a society based on industry and science. After many
vicissitudes of fortune and of aim, they produced a new human species, the
Eighth Men. These long-headed and substantial folk were designed to be strictly
pedestrian, physically and mentally. Apt for manipulation, calculation and
invention, they very soon turned Venus into an engineer's paradise. With power
drawn from the planet's central heat, their huge electric ships bored steadily
through the perennial monsoons and hurricanes, which also their aircraft treated
with contempt. Islands were joined by tunnels and by millepede bridges. Every
inch of land served some industrial or agricultural end. So successfully did the
generations amass wealth that their rival races and rival castes were able to
indulge, every few centuries, in vast revelries of mutual slaughter and material
destruction without, as a rule, impoverishing their descendants. And so
insensitive had man become that these orgies shamed him not at all. Indeed, only
by the ardours of physical violence could this most philistine species wrench
itself for a while out of its complacency. Strife which to nobler beings would
have been a grave spiritual disaster, was for these a tonic, almost a religious
exercise. These cathartic paroxysms, it should be observed, were but the rare
and brief crises which automatically punctuated ages of stolid peace. At no time
did they threaten the existence of the species; seldom did they even destroy its
It was after a lengthy period of peace and scientific advancement that the
Eighth Men made a startling astronomical discovery. Ever since the First Men had
learned that in the life of every star there comes a critical moment when the
great orb collapses, shrinking to a minute, dense grain with feeble radiation,
man had periodically suspected that the sun was about to undergo this change,
and become a typical "White Dwarf." The Eighth Men detected sure signs of the
catastrophe, and predicted its date. Twenty thousand years they gave themselves
before the change should begin. In another fifty thousand years, they guessed,
Venus would probably be frozen and uninhabitable. The only hope was to migrate
to Mercury during the great change, when that planet was already ceasing to be
intolerably hot. It was necessary then to give Mercury an atmosphere, and to
breed a new species which should be capable of adapting itself finally to a
world of extreme cold.
This desperate operation was already on foot when a new astronomical discovery
rendered it futile. Astronomers detected, some distance from the solar system, a
volume of non-luminous gas. Calculation showed that this object and the sun were
approaching one another at a tangent, and that they would collide, Further
calculation revealed the probable results of this event. The sun would flare up
and expand prodigiously. Life would be quite impossible on any of the planets
save, just possibly, Uranus, and more probably Neptune. The three planets beyond
Neptune would escape roasting, but were unsuitable for other reasons, The two
outermost would remain glacial, and, moreover, lay beyond the range of the
imperfect etherships of the Eighth Men. The innermost was practically a bald
globe of iron, devoid not merely of atmosphere and water, but also of the normal
covering of rock. Neptune alone might be able to support life; but how could
even Neptune be populated? Not only was its atmosphere very unsuitable, and its
gravitational pull such as to make man's body an intolerable burden, but also up
to the time of the collision it would remain excessively cold. Not till after
the collision could it support any kind of life known to man.
How these difficulties were overcome I have no time to tell, though the story of
man's attack upon his final home is well worthy of recording, Nor can I tell in
detail of the conflict of policy which now occurred, Some, realizing that the
Eighth Men themselves could never live on Neptune, advocated an orgy of
pleasure-living till the end, But at length the race excelled itself in an
almost unanimous resolve to devote its remaining centuries to the production of
a human being capable of carrying the torch of mentality into a new world.
Ether-vessels were able to reach that remote world and set up chemical changes
for the improvement of the atmosphere. It was also possible, by means of the
lately rediscovered process of automatic annihilation of matter, to produce a
constant supply of energy for the warming of an area where life might hope to
survive until the sun should be rejuvenated.
When at last the time for migration was approaching, a specially designed
vegetation was shipped to Neptune and established in the warm area to fit it for
man's use. Animals, it was decided, would be unnecessary. Subsequently a
specially designed human species, the Ninth Men, was transported to man's new
home. The giant Eighth Men could not themselves inhabit Neptune. The trouble was
not merely that they could scarcely support their own weight, let alone walk,
but that the atmospheric pressure on Neptune was unendurable. For the great
planet bore a gaseous envelope thousands of miles deep. The solid globe was
scarcely more than the yolk of a huge egg. The mass of the air itself combined
with the mass of the solid to produce a gravitational pressure greater than that
upon the Venerian ocean floor. The Eighth Men, therefore, dared not emerge from
their ether-ships to tread the surface of the planet save for brief spells in
steel diving suits, For them there was nothing else to do but to return to the
archipelagos of Venus, and make the best of life until the end. They were not
spared for long. A few centuries after the settlement of Neptune had been
completed by transferring thither all the most precious material relics of
humanity, the great planet itself narrowly missed collision with the dark
stranger from space. Uranus and Jupiter were at the time well out of its track.
Not so Saturn, which, a few years after Neptune's escape, was engulfed with all
its rings and satellites. The sudden incandescence which resulted from this
minor collision was but a prelude. The huge foreigner rushed on. Like a finger
poked into a spider's web, it tangled up the planetary orbits. Having devoured
its way through the asteroids, it missed Mars, caught Earth and Venus in its
blazing hair, and leapt at the sun. Henceforth the centre of the solar system
was a star nearly as wide as the old orbit of Mercury, and the system was
I HAVE told man's story up to a point about half-way from his origin to his
annihilation, Behind lies the vast span which includes the whole Terrestrial and
Venerian ages, with all their slow fluctuations of darkness and enlightenment.
Ahead lies the Neptunian age, equally long, equally tragic perhaps, but more
diverse, and in its last phase incomparably more brilliant. It would not be
profitable to recount the history of man on Neptune on the scale of the
preceding chronicle. Very much of it would be incomprehensible to terrestrials,
and much of it repeats again and again, in the many Neptunian modes, themes that
we have already observed in the Terrestrial or the Venerian movements of the
human symphony. To appreciate fully the range and subtlety of the great living
epic, we ought, no doubt, to dwell on its every movement with the same faithful
care. But this is impossible to any human mind. We can but attend to significant
phrases, here and there, and hope to capture some fragmentary hint of its vast
intricate form, And for the readers of this book, who are themselves tremors in
the opening bars of the music, it is best that I should dwell chiefly on things
near to them, even at the cost of ignoring much that is in fact greater.
Before continuing our long flight let us look around us. Hitherto we have passed
over time's fields at a fairly low altitude, making many detailed observations.
Now we shall travel at a greater height and with speed of a new order. We must
therefore orientate ourselves within the wider horizon that opens around us; we
must consider things from the astronomical rather than the human point of view.
I said that we were haltway from man's beginning to his end, Looking back to
that remote beginning we see that the span of time which includes the whole
career of the First Men from Pithecanthropus to the Patagonian disaster is an
unanalysable point. Even the preceding and touch longer period between the first
mammal and the first man, some twenty-five millions of terrestrial years, seems
now inconsiderable. The whole of it, together with the age of the First Men, may
be said to lie half-way between the formation of the planets, two thousand
million years earlier, and their final destruction, two thousand million years
later, Taking a still wider view, we see that this aeon of four thousand million
years is itself no more than a moment in comparison with the sun's age. And
before the birth of the sun the stuff of this galaxy had already endured for
aeons as a nebula. Yet even those aeons look brief in relation to the passage of
time before the myriad great nebula themselves, the future galaxies, condensed
out of the all-pervading mist in the beginning. Thus the whole duration of
humanity, with its many sequent species and its incessant downpour of
generations, is but a flash in the lifetime of the cosmos.
Spatially, also, man is inconceivably minute. If in imagination we reduce this
galaxy of ours to the size of an ancient terrestrial principality, we must
suppose it adrift in the void with millions of other such principalities, very
remote from one another. On the same scale the all-embracing cosmos would bulk
as a sphere whose diameter was some twenty times greater than that of the lunar
orbit in your day; and somewhere within the little wandering asteroid-like
principality which is our own universe, the solar system would be an
ultramicroscopic point, the greatest planet incomparably smaller.
We have watched the fortunes of eight successive human species for a thousand
million years, the first half of that flicker which is the duration of man. Ten
more species now succeed one another, or are contemporary, on the plains of
Neptune. We, the Last Men, are the Eighteenth Men. Of the eight pre-Neptunian
species, some, as we have seen, remained always primitive; many achieved at
least a confused and fleeting civilization, and one, the brilliant Fifth, was
already wakening into true humanity when misfortune crushed it. The ten
Neptunian species show an even greater diversity. They range from the
instinctive animal to modes of consciousness never before attained. The
definitely sub-human degenerate types are confined mostly to the first six
hundred million years of man's sojourn on Neptune. During the earlier half of
this long phase of preparation, man, at first almost crushed out of existence by
a hostile environment, gradually peopled the huge north; but with beasts, not
men. For man, as man, no longer existed. During the latter half of the
preparatory six hundred million years, the human spirit gradually awoke again,
to undergo the fluctuating advance and decline characteristic of the
pre-Neptunian ages. But subsequently, in the last four hundred million years of
his career on Neptune, man has made an almost steady progress toward full
spiritual maturity.
Let us now look rather more closely at these three great epochs of man's
It was in desperate haste that the last Venerian men had designed and fashioned
the new species for the colonization of Neptune. The mere remoteness of the
great planet, moreover, had prevented its nature from being explored at all
thoroughly, and so the new human organism was but partially adapted to its
destined environment. Inevitably it was a dwarf type, limited in size by the
necessity of resisting an excessive gravitation. Its brain was so cramped that
everything but the hare essentials of humanity had to be omitted from it. Even
so, the Ninth Men were too delicately organized to withstand the ferocity of
natural forces on Neptune. This ferocity the designers had seriously
underestimated; and so they were content merely to produce a miniature copy of
their own type. They should have planned a hardy brute, lustily procreative,
cunning in the struggle for physical existence, but above all tough, prolific,
and so insensitive as to be scarcely worthy of the name man. They should have
trusted that if once this crude seed could take root, natural forces themselves
would in time conjure from it something more human. Instead, they produced a
race cursed with the inevitable fragility of miniatures, and designed for a
civilized environment which feeble spirits could not possibly maintain in a
tumultuous world. For it so happened that the still youthful giant, Neptune, was
slowly entering one of his phases of crustal shrinkage, and therefore of
earthquake and eruption. Thus the frail colonists found themselves increasingly
in danger of being swallowed in sudden Fiery crevasses or buried under volcanic
dust, Moreover, their squat buildings, when not actually being trampled by lava
streams, or warped and cracked by their shifting foundations, were liable to be
demolished by the battering-ram thrust of a turbulent and massive atmosphere.
Further, the atmosphere's unwholesome composition killed all possibility of
cheerfulness and courage in a race whose nature was doomed to be, even in
favourable circumstances, neurotic.
Fortunately this agony could not last indefinitely. Little by little,
civilization crumbled into savagery, the torturing vision of better things was
lost, man's consciousness was narrowed and coarsened into brute-consciousness.
By good luck the brute precariously survived.
Long after the Ninth Men had fallen from man's estate, nature herself, in her
own slow and blundering manner, succeeded where man had failed. The brute
descendants of this human species became at length well adapted to their world.
In time there arose a wealth of sub-human forms in the many kinds of environment
afforded by the lands and seas of Neptune, None of them penetrated far toward
the Equator, for the swollen sun had rendered the tropics at this time far too
hot to support life of any kind. Even at the pole the protracted summer put a
great strain on all but the most hardy creatures.
Neptune's year was at this time about one hundred and sixty-five times the
length of the old terrestrial year. The slow seasonal change had an important
effect on life's own rhythms. All but the most ephemeral organisms tended to
live through at least one complete year, and the higher mammals survived longer.
At a much later stage this natural longevity was to play a great and beneficial
part in the revival of man. But, on the other hand, the increasing sluggishness
of individual growth, the length of immaturity in each generation, retarded the
natural evolutionary process on Neptune, so that compared with the Terrestrial
and Venerian epochs the biological story now moves at a snail's pace.
After the fall of the Ninth Men the sub-human creatures had one and all adopted
a quadruped habit, the better to cope with gravity. At first they had indulged
merely in occasional support from their knuckles, but in time many species of
true quadrupeds had appeared. In several of the running types the fingers, like
the toes, had grown together, and a hoof had developed, not on the old
fingertips, which were bent back and atrophied, but on the knuckles.
Two hundred million years after the solar collision innumerable species of
sub-human grazers with long sheep-like muzzles, ample molars, and almost
ruminant digestive systems, were competing with one another on the polar
continent. Upon these preyed the sub-human carnivora, of whom some were built
for speed in the chase, others for stalking and a sudden spring. But since
jumping was no easy matter on Neptune, the cat-like types were all minute. They
preyed upon man's more rabbit-like and rat-like descendants, or on the carrion
of the larger mammals, or on the lusty worms and beetles. These had sprung
originally from vermin which had been transported accidentally from Venus. For
of all the ancient Venerian fauna only man himself, a few insects and other
invertebrates, and many kinds of micro-organisms, succeeded in colonizing
Neptune. Of plants, many types had been artificially bred for the new world, and
from these eventually arose a host of grasses, flowering plants, thick-trunked
bushes, and novel sea-weeds. On this marine flora fed certain highly developed
marine worms; and of these last, some in time became vertebrate, predatory,
swift and fish-like. On these in turn man's own marine descendants preyed,
whether as sub-human seals, or still more specialized subhuman porpoises.
Perhaps most remarkable of these developments of the ancient human stock was
that which led, through a small insectivorous batlike glider, to a great
diversity of true flying mammals, scarcely larger than humming birds, but in
some cases agile as swallows.
Nowhere did the typical human form survive. There were only beasts, fitted by
structure and instinct to some niche or other of their infinitely diverse and
roomy world.
Certainly strange vestiges of human mentality did indeed persist here and there
even as, in the fore-limbs of most species, there still remained buried the
relics of man's once cunning fingers. For instance, there were certain grazers
which in times of hardship would meet together and give tongue in cacophonous
ululation; or, sitting on their haunches with forelimbs pressed together, they
would listen by the hour to the howls of some leader, responding intermittently
with groans and whimpers, and working themselves at last into foaming madness.
And there were carnivora which, in the midst of the spring-time fervour, would
suddenly cease from love-making, fighting, and the daily routine of hunting, to
sit alone in some high place day after day, night after night, watching,
waiting; until at last hunger forced them into action.
Now in the fullness of time, about three hundred million terrestrial years after
the solar collision, a certain minute, hairless, rabbit-like creature,
scampering on the polar grasslands, found itself greatly persecuted by a swift
hound from the south, The sub-human rabbit was relatively unspecialized, and had
no effective means of defence or flight. It was almost exterminated. A few
individuals, however, saved themselves by taking to the dense and thick-trunked
scrub, whither the hound could not follow them. Here they had to change their
diet and manner of life, deserting grass for roots, berries, and even worms and
beetles. Their fore-limbs were now increasingly used for digging and climbing,
and eventually for weaving nests of stick and straw. In this species the fingers
had never grown together. Internally the fore-paw was like a minute clenched
fist from the elongated and exposed knuckles of which separate toes protruded.
And now the knuckles elongated themselves still further, becoming in time a new
set of fingers. Within the palm of the new little monkey-hand there still
remained traces of man's ancient fingers, bent in upon themselves.
As of old, manipulation gave rise to clearer percipience. And this, in
conjunction with the necessity of frequent experiments in diet, hunting, and
defence, produced at length a real versatility of behaviour and suppleness of
mind. The rabbit throve, adopted an almost upright gait, continued to increase
in stature and in brain. Yet, just as the new hand was not merely a resurrection
of the old hand, so the new regions of the brain were no mere revival of the
atrophied human cerebrum, but a new organ, which overlaid and swallowed up that
ancient relic. The creature's mind, therefore, was in many respects a new mind,
though moulded to the same great basic needs. Like his forerunners, of course,
he craved food, love, glory, companionship. In pursuit of these ends he devised
weapons and traps, and built wicker villages. He held pow-wows. He became the
Tenth Men.
For a million terrestrial years these long-armed hairless beings were spreading
their wicker huts and bone implements over the great northern continents, and
for many more millions they remained in possession without making further
cultural progress; for evolution, both biological and cultural, was indeed slow
on Neptune. At last the Tenth Men were attacked by a microorganism and
demolished. From their ruins several primitive human species developed, and
remained isolated in remote territories for millions of decades, until at length
chance or enterprise brought them into contact. One of these early species,
crouched and tusked, was Persistently trapped for its ivory by an abler type,
till it was exterminated. Another, long of muzzle and large of base, habitually
squatted on its haunches like the kangaroo. Shortly after this industrious and
social species had discovered the use of the wheel, a more primitive but more
war-like type crashed into it like a tidal wave and overwhelmed it. Erect, but
literally almost as broad as they were tall, these chunkish and bloody-minded
savages spread over the whole arctic and sub-arctic region and spent some
millions of years in monotonous reiteration of progress and decline; until at
last a slow decay of their germ-plasm almost ended man's career. But after an
aeon of darkness, there appeared another thick-set, but larger brained, species.
This, for the first time on Neptune, conceived the religion of love, and all
those spiritual cravings and agonies which had flickered in man so often and so
vainly upon Earth and Venus. There appeared again feudal empires, militant
nations, economic class wars, and, not once but often, a world-state covering
the whole northern hemisphere. These men it was that first crossed the equator
in artificially cooled electric ships, and explored the huge south. No life of
any kind was discovered in the southern hemisphere; for even in that age no
living matter could have crossed the roasting tropics without artificial
refrigeration. Indeed, it was only because the sun's temporary revival had
already passed its zenith that even man, with all his ingenuity, could endure a
long tropical voyage.
Like the First Men and so many other natural human types, these Fourteenth Men
were imperfectly human, Like the First Men, they conceived ideals of conduct
which their imperfectly organized nervous systems could never attain and seldom
approach. Unlike the First Men, they survived with but minor biological changes
for three hundred million years. But even so long a period did not enable them
to transcend their imperfect spiritual nature. Again and again and again they
passed from savagery to world-civilization and back to savagery. They were
captive within their own nature, as a bird in a cage. And as a caged bird may
fumble with nest-building materials and periodically destroy the fruit of its
aimless toil, so these cramped beings destroyed their civilizations.
At length, however, this second phase of Neptunian history, this era of
fluctuation, was brought to an end. At the close of the six hundred million
years after the first settlement of the planet, unaided nature produced, in the
Fifteenth human species, that highest form of natural man which she had produced
only once before, in the Second species. And this time no Martians interfered,
We must not stay to watch the struggle of this great-headed man to overcome his
one serious handicap, excessive weight of cranium and unwieldy proportions of
body. Suffice it that after a long-drawn-out immaturity, including one great
mechanized war between the northern and southern hemispheres, the Fifteenth Men
outgrew the ailments and fantasies of youth, and consolidated themselves as a
single world-community. This civilization was based economically on volcanic
power, and spiritually on devotion to the fulfilment of human capacity. It was
this species which, for the first time on Neptune, conceived, as an enduring
racial purpose, the will to remake human nature upon an ampler scale.
Henceforth in spite of many disasters, such as another period of earthquake and
eruption, sudden climatic changes, innumerable plagues and biological
aberrations, human progress was relatively steady. It was not by any means swift
and sure. There were still to be ages, often longer than the whole career of the
First Men, in which the human spirit would rest from its pioneering to
consolidate its conquests, or would actually stray into the wilderness. But
never again, seemingly, was it to be routed and crushed into mere animality.
In tracing man's final advance to full humanity we can observe only the broadest
features of a whole astronomical era. But in fact it is an era crowded with many
thousands of long-lived generations. Myriads of individuals, each one unique,
live out their lives in rapt intercourse with one another, contribute their
heart's pulses to the universal music, and presently vanish, giving place to
others. All this age-long sequence of private living, which is the actual tissue
of humanity's flesh, I cannot describe. I can only trace, as it were, the
disembodied form of its growth.
The Fifteenth Men first set themselves to abolish five great evils, namely,
disease, suffocating toil, senility, misunderstanding, ill-will. The story of
their devotion, their many disastrous experiments and ultimate triumph, cannot
here be told, Nor can I recount how they learned and used the secret of deriving
power from the annihilation of matter, nor how they invented ether ships for the
exploration of neighbouring planets, nor how, after ages of experiments, they
designed and produced a new species, the Sixteenth, to supersede themselves.
The new type was analogous to the ancient Fifth, which had colonized Venus.
Artificial rigid atoms had been introduced into its bone-tissues, so that it
might support great stature and an ample brain; in which, moreover, an
exceptionally fine-grained cellular structure permitted a new coinplexity of
organization. "Telepathy," also, was once more achieved, not by means of the
Martian units, which had long ago become extinct, but by the synthesis of new
molecular groups of a similar type. Partly through the immense increase of
mutual understanding, which resulted from "telepathic" rapport, partly through
improved co-ordination of the nervous system, the ancient evil of selfishness
was entirely and finally abolished from the normal human being. Egoistic
impulses, whenever they refused to be subordinated, were henceforth classed as
symptoms of insanity. The sensory powers of the new species were, of course,
greatly improved; and it was even given a pair of eyes in the back of the head.
Henceforth man was to have a circular instead of a semicircular field of vision.
And such was the general intelligence of the new race that many problems
formerly deemed insoluble were now solved in a single flash of insight.
Of the great practical uses to which the Sixteenth Men put their powers, one
only need be mentioned as an example. They gained control of the movement of
their planet. Early in their career they were able, with the unlimited energy at
their disposal, to direct it into a wider orbit, so that its average climate
became more temperate, and snow occasionally covered the polar regions. But as
the ages advanced, and the sun became steadily less ferocious, it became
necessary to reverse this process and shift the planet gradually nearer to the
When they had possessed their world for nearly fifty million years, the
Sixteenth Men, like the Fifth before them, learned to enter into past minds, For
them this was a more exciting adventure than for their forerunners, since they
were still ignorant of Terrestrial and Venerian history. Like their forerunners,
so dismayed were they at the huge volume of eternal misery in the past, that for
a while, in spite of their own great blessings and spontaneous gaiety, existence
seemed a mockery. But in time they came to regard the past's misery as a
challenge. They told themselves that the past was calling to them for help, and
that somehow they must prepare a great "crusade to liberate the past." How this
was to be done, they could not conceive; but they were determined to bear in
mind this quixotic aim in the great enterprise which had by now become the chief
concern of the race, namely the creation of a human type of an altogether higher
It had become clear that man had by now advanced in understanding and
creativeness as far as was possible to the individual human brain acting in
physical isolation. Yet the Sixteenth Men were oppressed by their own impotence.
Though in philosophy they had delved further than had ever before been possible,
yet even at their deepest they found only the shifting sands of mystery. In
particular they were haunted by three ancient problems, two of which were purely
intellectual, namely the mystery of time and the mystery of mind's relation to
the world. Their third problem was the need somehow to reconcile their confirmed
loyalty to life, which they conceived as embattled against death, with their
ever-strengthening impulse to rise above the battle and admire it
Age after age the races of the Sixteenth Men blossomed with culture after
culture. The movement of thought ranged again and again through all the possible
modes of the spirit, ever discovering new significance in ancient themes. Yet
throughout this epoch the three great problems remained unsolved, perplexing the
individual and vitiating the policy of the race.
Forced thus at length to choose between spiritual stagnation and a perilous leap
in the dark, the Sixteenth Men determined to set about devising a type of brain
which, by means of the mental fusion of many individuals, might waken into an
altogether new mode of consciousness. Thus, it was hoped, man might gain insight
into the very heart of existence, whether finally to admire or loathe. And thus
the racial purpose, which had been so much confused by philosophical ignorance,
might at last become clear.
Of the hundred million years which passed before the Sixteenth Men produced the
new human type, I must not pause to tell, They thought they had achieved their
hearts' desire; but in fact the glorious beings which they had produced were
tortured by subtle imperfections beyond their makers' comprehension.
Consequently, no sooner had these Seventeenth Men peopled the world and attained
full cultural stature, than they also bent all their strength to the production
of a new type, essentially like their own, but perfected. Thus after a brief
career of a few hundred thousand years, crowded with splendour and agony, the
Seventeenth gave place to the Eighteenth, and, as it turns out, the Last, human
species. Since all the earlier cultures find their fulfilment in the world of
the Last Men, I pass over them to enlarge somewhat upon our modern age.
IF one of the First Men could enter the world of the Last Men, he would find
many things familiar and much that would seem strangely distorted and perverse.
But nearly everything that is most distinctive of the last human species would
escape him. Unless he were to be told that behind all the obvious and imposing
features of civilization, behind all the social organization and personal
intercourse of a great community, lay a whole other world of spiritual culture,
round about him, yet beyond his ken, he would no more suspect its existence than
a cat in London suspects the existence of finance or literature.
Among the familiar things that he would encounter would be creatures
recognizably human yet in his view grotesque. While he himself laboured under
the weight of his own body, these giants would be easily striding. He would
consider them very sturdy, often thick-set, folk, but he would be compelled to
allow them grace of movement and even beauty of proportion. The longer he stayed
with them the more beauty he would see in them, and the less complacently would
he regard his own type. Some of these fantastic men and women he would find
covered with fur, hirsute, or mole-velvet, revealing the underlying muscles.
Others would display brown, yellow or ruddy skin, and yet others a translucent
ash-green, warmed by the under-flowing blood, As a species, though we are all
human, we are extremely variable in body and mind, so variable that
superficially we seem to be not one species but many. Some characters, of
course, are common to all of us, The traveller might perhaps be surprised by the
large yet sensitive hands which are universal, both in men and women. In all of
us the outermost finger bears at its tip three minute organs of manipulation,
rather similar to those which were first devised for the Fifth Men, These
excrescences would doubtless revolt our visitor. The pair of occipital eyes,
too, would shock him; so would the upward-looking astronomical eye on the crown,
which is peculiar to the Last Men, This organ was so cunningly designed that,
when fully extended, about a hand-breadth from its bony case, it reveals the
heavens in as much detail as your smaller astronomical telescopes. Apart from
such special features as these, there is nothing definitely novel about us;
though every limb, every contour, shows unmistakably that much has happened
since the days of the First Men. We are both more human and more animal. The
primitive explorer might be more readily impressed by our animality than our
humanity, so much of our humanity would lie beyond his grasp. He would perhaps
at first regard us as a degraded type. He would call us faun-like, and in
particular cases, ape-like, bear-like, ox-like, marsupial, or elephantine. Yet
our general proportions are definitely human in the ancient manner. Where
gravity is not insurmountable, the erect biped form is bound to be most
serviceable to intelligent land animals; and so, after long wanderings, man has
returned to his old shape. Moreover, if our observer were himself at all
sensitive to facial expression, he would come to recognize in every one of our
innumerable physiognomic types an indescribable but distinctively human look,
the visible sign of that inward and spiritual grace which is not wholly absent
from his own species. He would perhaps say, "These men that are beasts are
surely gods also." He would be reminded of those old Egyptian deities with
animal heads. But in us the animal and the human interpenetrate in every
feature, in every curve of the body, and with infinite variety. He would observe
us, together with hints of the long-extinct Mongol, Negro, Nordic, and Semetic,
many outlandish features and expressions, deriving from the sub-human period on
Neptune, or from Venus. He would see in every limb unfamiliar contours of
muscle, sinew or bone, which were acquired long after the First Men had
vanished, Besides the familiar eye-colours, he would discover orbs of topaz,
emerald, amethyst and ruby, and a thousand varieties of these, But in all of us
he would see also, if he had discernment, a facial expression and bodily gesture
peculiar to our own species, a certain luminous, yet pungent and ironical
significance, which we miss almost wholly in the earlier human faces.
The traveller would recognize among us unmistakable sexual features, both of
general proportions and special organs. But it would take him long to discover
that some of the most striking bodily and facial differences were due to
differentiation of the two ancient sexes into many sub-sexes, Full sexual
experience involves for us a complicated relationship between individuals of all
these types. Of the extremely important sexual groups I shall speak again.
Our visitor would notice, by the way, that though all persons on Neptune go
habitually nude, save for a pouch or rucksack, clothing, often brightly
coloured, and made of diverse lustrous or homely tissues unknown before our
time, is worn for special purposes.
He would notice also, scattered about the green countryside, many buildings,
mostly of one story; for there is plenty of room on Neptune even for the million
million of the Last Men, Here and there, however, we have great architectural
pylons, cruciform or star-shaped in section, cloudpiercing, dignifying the
invariable planes of Neptune. These mightiest of all buildings, which are
constructed in adamantine materials formed of artificial atoms, would seem to
our visitor geometrical mountains, far taller than any natural mountain could
be, even on the smallest planet. In many cases the whole fabric is translucent
or transparent, so that at night, with internal illumination, it appears as an
edifice of light. Springing from a base twenty or more miles across, the
star-seeking towers attain a height where even Neptune's atmosphere is somewhat
attenuated. In their summits work the hosts of our astronomers, the essential
eyes through which our community, on her little raft, peers across the ocean,
Thither also all men and women repair at one time or another to contemplate this
galaxy of ours and the unnumbered remoter universes, There they perform together
those supreme symbolic acts for which I find no adjective in your speech but the
debased word "religious." There also they seek the refreshment of mountain air
in a world where natural mountains are unknown. And on the pinnacles and
precipices of these loftiest horns many of us gratify that primeval lust of
climbing which was ingrained in man before ever he was man, These buildings thus
combine the functions of observatory, temple, sanatorium and gymnasium. Some of
them are almost as old as the species, some are not yet completed. They embody,
therefore, many styles. The traveller would find modes which he would be tempted
to call Gothic, Classical, Egyptian, Peruvian, Chinese, or American, besides a
thousand architectural ideas unfamiliar to him. Each of these buildings was the
work of the race as a whole at some stage in its career. None of them is a mere
local product. Every successive culture has expressed itself in one or more of
these supreme monuments. Once in forty thousand years or so some new
architectural glory would be conceived and executed, And such is the continuity
of our cultures that there has scarcely ever been need to remove the handiwork
of the past.
If our visitor happened to be near enough to one of these great pylons, he would
see it surrounded by a swarm of midges, which would turn out to be human fliers,
wingless, but with outspread arms, The stranger might wonder how a large
organism could rise from the ground in Neptune's powerful field of gravity. Yet
flight is our ordinary means of locomotion. A man has but to put on a suit of
overalls fitted at various points with radiation-generators. Ordinary flight
thus becomes a kind of aerial swimming. Only when very high speed is desired do
we make use of closed-in air-boats and liners.
At the feet of the great buildings the flat or undulating country is green,
brown, golden, and strewn with houses, Our traveller would recognize that much
land was under cultivation, and would see many persons at work upon it with
tools or machinery. Most of our food, indeed, is produced by artificial photo
synthesis on the broiling planet Jupiter, where even now that the sun is
becoming normal again, no life can exist without powerful refrigeration. As far
as mere nutrition is concerned, we could do without vegetation; but agriculture
and its products have played so great a part in human history that today
agricultural operations and vegetable foods are very beneficial to the race
psychologically. And so it comes about that vegetable matter is in great demand,
not only as raw material for innumerable manufactures, but also for table
delicacies. Green vegetables, fruit, and various alcoholic fruit drinks have
come to have the same kind of ritual significance for us as wine has for you.
Meat also, though not a part of ordinary diet, is eaten on very rare and sacred
occasions, The cherished wild fauna of the planet contributes its toll to
periodic symbolical banquets. And whenever a human being has chosen to die, his
body is ceremoniously eaten by his friends.
Communication with the food factories of Jupiter and the agricultural polar
regions of the less torrid Uranus, as also with the automatic mining stations on
the glacial outer planets, is maintained by ether ships, which, travelling much
faster than the planets themselves, make the passage to the neighbour worlds in
a small fraction of the Neptunian year. These vessels, of which the smallest are
about a mile in length, may be seen descending on our oceans like ducks, Before
they touch the water they cause a prodigious tumult with the downward pressure
of their radiation; but once upon the surface, they pass quietly into harbour.
The ether ship is in a manner symbolic of our whole community, so highly
organized is it, and so minute in relation to the void which engulfs it. The
ethereal navigators, because they spend so much of their time in the empty
regions, beyond the range of "telepathic" communication and sometimes even of
mechanical radio, form mentally a unique class among us. They are a hardy,
simple, and modest folk, And though they embody man's proud mastery of the
ether, they are never tired of reminding landlubbers, with dour jocularity, that
the most daring voyages are confined within one drop of the boundless ocean of
Recently an exploration ship returned from a voyage into the outer tracts, Half
her crew had died. The survivors were emaciated, diseased, and mentally
unbalanced. To a race that thought itself so well established in sanity that
nothing could disturb it, the spectacle of these unfortunates was instructive.
Throughout the voyage, which was the longest ever attempted, they had
encountered nothing whatever but two comets, and an occasional meteor. Some of
the nearer constellations were seen with altered forms. One or two stars
increased slightly in brightness; and the sun was reduced to being the most
brilliant of stars. The aloof and changeless presence of the constellations
seems to have crazed the voyagers. When at last the ship returned and berthed,
there was a scene such as is seldom witnessed in our modern world. The crew
flung open the ports and staggered blubbering into the arms of the crowd. It
would never have been believed that members of our species could be so far
reduced from the self-possession that is normal to us. Subsequently these poor
human wrecks have shown an irrational phobia of the stars, and of all that is
not human. They dare not go out at night. They live in an extravagant passion
for the presence of others. And since all others are astronomically minded, they
cannot find real companionship. They insanely refuse to participate in the
mental life of the race upon the plane where all things are seen in their just
proportions. They cling piteously to the sweets of individual life; and so they
are led to curse the immensities. They fill their minds with human conceits, and
their houses with toys. By night they draw the curtains and drown the quiet
voice of the stars in revelry. But it is a joyless and a haunted revelry,
desired less for itself than as a defence against reality.
I said that we were all astronomically minded; but we are not without "human"
interests. Our visitor from the earth would soon discover that the low
buildings, sprinkled on all sides, were the homes of individuals, families,
sexual groups, and bands of companions. Most of these buildings are so
constructed that the roof and walls can be removed, completely or partially, for
sun-bathing and for the night. Round each house is a wilderness, or a garden, or
an orchard of our sturdy fruit trees. Here and there men and women may be seen
at work with hoe or spade or secateurs. The buildings themselves affect many
styles; and within doors our visitor would find great variety from house to
house. Even within a single house he might come on rooms seemingly of different
epochs. And while some rooms are crowded with articles, many of which would be
incomprehensible to the stranger, others are bare, save for a table, chairs, a
cupboard, and perhaps some single object of pure art. We have an immense variety
of manufactured goods. But the visitor from a world obsessed with material
wealth would probably remark the simplicity, even austerity, which characterizes
most private houses.
He would doubtless be surprised to see no books. In every room, however, there
is a cupboard filled with minute rolls of tape, microscopically figured. Each of
these rolls contains matter which could not be cramped into a score of your
volumes. They are used in connexion with a pocket-instrument, the size and shape
of the ancient cigarette case. When the roll is inserted, it reels itself off at
any desired speed, and interferes systematically with ethereal vibrations
produced by the instrument. Thus is generated a very complex flow of
"telepathic" language which permeates the brain of the reader. So delicate and
direct is this medium of expression that there is scarcely any possibility of
misunderstanding the author's intention. The rolls themselves, it should be
said, are produced by another special instrument, which is sensitive to
vibrations generated in the author's brain. Not that it produces a mere replica
of his stream of consciousness; it records only those images and ideas with
which he deliberately "inscribes" it. I may mention also that, since we can at
any moment communicate by direct "telepathy" with any person on the planet,
these "books" of ours are not used for the publication of merely ephemeral
thought. Each one of them preserves only the threshed and chosen grains of some
mind's harvest.
Other instruments may be observed in our houses, which I cannot pause to
describe, instruments whose office is either to carry out domestic drudgery, or
to minister directly in one way or another to cultured life. Near the outer door
would be hanging a number of flying-suits, and in a garage attached to the house
would be the private air-boats, gaily coloured torpedo-shaped objects of various
Decoration in our houses, save in those which belong to children, is everywhere
simple, even severe. None the less we prize it greatly, and spend much
consideration upon it. Children, indeed, often adorn their houses with
splendour, which adults themselves can also enjoy through children's eyes, even
as they can enter into the frolics of infants with unaffected glee.
The number of children in our world is small in relation to our immense
population. Yet, seeing that every one of us is potentially immortal, it may be
wondered how we can permit ourselves to have any children at all. The
explanation is two-fold. In the first place, our policy is to produce new
individuals of higher type than ourselves, for we are very far from biologically
perfect. Consequently we need a continuous supply of children. And as these
successively reach maturity, they take over the functions of adults whose nature
is less perfect; and these, when they are aware that they are no longer of
service, elect to retire from life.
But even though every individual, sooner or later, ceases to exist, the average
length of life is not much less than a quarter of a million terrestrial years.
No wonder, then, that we cannot accommodate many children. But we have more than
might be expected, for with us infancy and adolescence are very lengthy. The
foetus is carried for twenty years. Ectogenesis was practised by our
predecessors, but was abandoned by our own species, because, with greatly
improved motherhood, there is no need for it. Our mothers, indeed, are both
physically and mentally most vigorous during the all too rare period of
pregnancy. After birth, true infancy lasts for about a century. During this
period, in which the foundations of body and mind are being laid, very slowly,
but so securely that they will never fail, the individual is cared for by his
mother. Then follow some centuries of childhood, and a thousand years of
Our children, of course, are very different beings from the children of the
First Men. Though physically they are in many respects still childlike, they are
independent persons in the community. Each has either a house of his own, or
rooms in a larger building held in common by himself and his friends. Thousands
of these are to be found in the neighbourhood of every educational centre. There
are some children who prefer to live with their parents, or with one or other of
their parents; but this is rare. Though there is often much friendly intercourse
between parents and children, the generations usually fare better under separate
roofs. This is inevitable in our species. For the adult's overwhelmingly greater
experience reveals the world to him in very different proportions from those
which alone are possible even to the most brilliant of children; while on the
other hand with us the mind of every child is, in some potentiality or other,
definitely superior to every adult mind. Consequently, while the child can never
appreciate what is best in his elders, the adult, in spite of his power of
direct insight into all minds not superior to himself, is doomed to
incomprehension of all that is novel in his own offspring.
Six or seven hundred years after birth a child is in some respects physically
equivalent to a ten-year-old of the First Men. But since his brain is destined
for much higher development, it is already far more complex than any adult brain
of that species. And though temperamentally he is in many ways still a child,
intellectually he has already in some respects passed beyond the culture of the
best adult minds of the ancient races. The traveller, encountering one of our
bright boys, might sometimes be reminded of the wise simplicity of the legendary
Child Christ. But also he might equally well discover a vast exuberance,
boisterousness, impishness, and a complete inability to stand outside the
child's own eager life and regard it dispassionately. In general our children
develop intellectually beyond the level of the First Men long before they begin
to develop the dispassionate will which is characteristic of our adults. When
there is conflict between a child's personal needs and the needs of society, he
will as a rule force himself to the social course; but he does so with
resentment and dramatic self-pity, thereby rendering himself in the adult view
exquisitely ridiculous.
When our children attain physical adolescence, nearly a thousand years after
birth, they leave the safe paths of childhood to spend another thousand years in
one of the antarctic continents, known as the Land of the Young. Somewhat
reminiscent of the Wild Continent of the Fifth Men, this territory is preserved
as virgin bush and prairie. Sub-human grazers and carnivora abound. Volcanic
eruption, hurricanes and glacial seasons afford further attractions to the
adventurous young. There is consequently a high death-rate. In this land our
young people live the half primitive, half sophisticated life to which their
nature is fitted. They hunt, fish, tend cattle and till the ground. They
cultivate all the simple beauties of human individuality. They love and hate.
They sing, paint and carve. They devise heroic myths, and delight in fantasies
of direct intercourse with a cosmic person. They organize themselves as tribes
and nations. Sometimes they even indulge in warfare of a primitive but bloody
type. Formerly when this happened, the adult world interfered; but we have since
learned to let the fever run its course. The loss of life is regrettable; but it
is a small price to pay for the insight afforded even by this restricted and
juvenile warfare, into those primitive agonies and passions which, when they are
experienced by the adult mind, are so transformed by philosophy that their
import is wholly changed. In the Land of the Young our boys and girls experience
all that is precious and all that is abject in the primitive. They live though
in their own persons, century by century, all its toilsomeness and cramped
meanness, all its blind cruelty and precariousness; but also they taste its
glamour, its vernal and lyrical glory. They make in little all the mistakes of
thought and action that men have ever made; but at last they emerge ready for
the larger and more difficult world of maturity.
It was expected that some day, when we should have perfected the species, there
would be no need to build up successive generations, no need of children, no
need of all this schooling. It was expected that the community would then
consist of adults only; and that they would be immortal not merely potentially
but in fact, yet also, of course, perennially in the flower of young maturity.
Thus, death should never cut the string of individuality and scatter the
hard-won pearls, necessitating new strings, and laborious re-gatherings. The
many and very delectable beauties of childhood could still be amply enjoyed in
exploration of the past.
We know now that this goal is not to be attained, since man's end is imminent.
It is easy to speak of children; but how can I tell you anything significant of
our adult experience, in relation to which not only the world of the First Men
but the worlds of the most developed earlier species seem so naďve?
The source of the immense difference between ourselves and all other human races
lies in the sexual group, which is in fact much more than a sexual group.
The designers of our species set out to produce a being that might be capable of
an order of mentality higher than their own. The only possibility of doing so
lay in planning a great increase of brain organization. But they knew that the
brain of an individual human being could not safely be allowed to exceed a
certain weight. They therefore sought to produce the new order of mentality in a
system of distinct and specialized brains held in "telepathic" unity by means of
ethereal radiation. Material brains were to be capable of becoming on some
occasions mere nodes in a system of radiation which itself should then
constitute the physical basis of a single mind. Hitherto there had been
"telepathic" communication between many individuals, but no super-individual, or
group-mind. It was known that such a unity of individual minds had never been
attained before, save on Mars; and it was known how lamentably the racial mind
of Mars had failed to transcend the minds of the Martians. By a combination of
shrewdness and good luck the designers hit upon a policy which escaped the
Martian failure. They planned as the basis of the super-individual a small
multi-sexual group.
Of course the mental unity of the sexual group is not the direct outcome of the
sexual intercourse of its members. Such intercourse does occur. Groups differ
from one another very greatly in this respect; but in most groups all the
members of the male sexes have intercourse with all the members of the female
sexes. Thus sex is with us essentially social. It is impossible for me to give
any idea of the great range and intensity of experience afforded by these
diverse types of union. Apart from this emotional enrichment of the individuals,
the importance of sexual activity in the group lies in its bringing individuals
into that extreme intimacy, temperamental harmony and complementariness, without
which no emergence into higher experience would be possible.
Individuals are not necessarily confined to the same group for ever. Little by
little a group may change every one of its ninety-six members, and yet it will
remain the same super-individual mind, though enriched with the memories grafted
into it by the new-comers. Very rarely does an individual leave a group before
he has been in it for ten thousand years. In some groups the members live
together in a common home. In others they live apart. Sometimes an individual
will form a sort of monogamous relation with another individual of his group,
homing with the chosen one for many thousands of years, or even for a lifetime.
Indeed some claim that lifelong monogamy is the ideal state, so deep and
delicate is the intimacy which it affords. But of course, even in monogamy, each
partner must be periodically refreshed by intercourse with other members of the
group, not only for the spiritual health of the two partners themselves, but
also that the group-mind may be maintained in full vigour. Whatever the sexual
custom of the group, there is always in the mind of each member a very special
loyalty toward the whole group, a peculiar sexually toned esprit de corps,
unparalleled in any other species.
Occasionally there is a special kind of group intercourse in which, during the
actual occurrence of group mentality, all the members of one group will have
intercourse with those of another. Casual intercourse outside the group is not
common, but not discouraged. When it occurs it comes as a symbolic act crowning
a spiritual intimacy.
Unlike the physical sex-relationship, the mental unity of the group involves all
the members of the group every time it occurs, and so long as it persists.
During times of group experience the individual continues to perform his
ordinary routine of work and recreation, save when some particular activity is
demanded of him by the group-mind itself. But all that he does as a private
individual is carried out in a profound absent-mindedness. In familiar
situations he reacts correctly, even to the extent of executing familiar types
of intellectual work or entertaining acquaintances with intelligent
conversation. Yet all the while he is in fact "far away," rapt in the process of
the group-mind. Nothing short of an urgent and unfamiliar crisis can recall him;
and in recalling him it usually puts an end to the group's experience.
Each member of the group is fundamentally just a highly developed human animal.
He enjoys his food. He has a quick eye for sexual attraction, within or without
the group. He has his personal idiosyncrasies and foibles, and is pleased to
ridicule the foibles of others--and of himself. He may be one of those who abhor
children, or one of those who enter into children's antics with fervour, if they
will tolerate him. He may move heaven and earth to procure permission for a
holiday in the Land of the Young. And if he fails, as he almost surely does, he
may go walking with a friend, or boating and swimming, or playing violent games.
Or he may merely potter in his garden, or refresh his mind though not his body
by exploring some favourite region of the past. Recreation occupies a large part
of his life. For this reason he is always glad to get back to work in due
season, whether his function is to maintain some part of the material
organization of our world, or to educate, or to perform scientific research, or
to co-operate in the endless artistic venture of the race, or, as is more
likely, to help in some of those innumerable enterprises whose nature it is
impossible for me to describe.
As a human individual, then, he or she is somewhat of the same type as a member
of the Fifth species. Here once more is the perfected glandular outfit and
instinctive nature. Here too is the highly developed sense perception and
intellection. As in the Fifth species, so in the Eighteenth, each individual has
his own private needs, which he heartily craves to fulfil; but also, in both
species, he subordinates these private cravings to the good of the race
absolutely and without struggle. The only kind of conflict which ever occurs
between individuals is, not the irreconcilable conflict of wills, but the
conflict due to misunderstanding, to imperfect knowledge of the matter under
dispute; and this can always be abolished by patient telepathic explication.
In addition to the brain organization necessary to this perfection of Individual
human nature, each member of a sexual group has in his own brain a special organ
which, useless by itself, can co-operate "telepathically" with the special
organs of other members of the group to produce a single electro-magnetic
system, the physical basis of the group-mind. In each sub-sex this organ has a
peculiar form and function; and only by the simultaneous operation of the whole
ninety-six does the group attain unified mental life. These organs do not merely
enable each member to share the experience of all; for this is already provided
in the sensitivity to radiation which is characteristic of all brain-tissue in
our species. By means of the harmonious activity of the special organs a true
group-mind emerges, with experience far beyond the range of the individuals in
This would not be possible did not the temperament and capacity of each sub-sex
differ appropriately from those of the others. I can only hint at these
differences by analogy. Among the First Men there are many temperamental types
whose essential natures the psychologists of that species never fully analysed.
I may mention, however, as superficial designations of these types, the
meditative, the active, the mystical, the intellectual, the artistic, the
theoretical, the concrete, the placid, the highly-strung. Now our sub-sexes
differ from one another temperamentally in some such manners as these, but with
a far greater range and diversity. These differences of temperament are utilized
for the enrichment of a group self, such as could never have been attained by
the First Men, even if they had been capable of "telepathic" communication and
electro-magnetic unity; for they had not the range of specialized brain form.
For all the daily business of life, then, each of us is mentally a distinct
individual, though his ordinary means of communication with others is
"telepathic." But frequently he wakes up to be a group-mind. Apart from this
"waking of individuals together," if I may so call it, the group-mind has no
existence; for its being is solely the being of the individuals comprehended
together. When this communal awakening occurs, each individual experiences all
the bodies of the group as "his own multiple body," and perceives the world
equally from all those bodies. This awakening happens to all the individuals at
the same time. But over and above this simple enlargement of the experienced
field, is the awakening into new kinds of experience. Of this obviously, I can
tell you nothing, save that it differs from the lowlier state more radically
than the infant mind differs from the mind of the individual adult, and that it
consists of insight into many unsuspected and previously inconceivable features
of the familiar world of men and things. Hence, in our group mode, most, but not
all, of the perennial philosophical puzzles, especially those connected with the
nature of personality, can be so lucidly restated that they cease to be puzzles.
Upon this higher plane of mentality the sexual groups, and therefore the
individuals participating in them, have social intercourse with one another as
super-individuals. Thus they form together a community of minded communities.
For each group is a person differing from other groups in character and
experience somewhat as individuals differ. The groups themselves are not
allocated to different works, in such a manner that one group should be wholly
engaged in industry, another in astronomy, and so on. Only the individuals are
thus allocated. In each group there will be members of many professions. The
function of the group itself is purely some special manner of insight and mode
of appreciation; in relation to which, of course, the work of the individuals is
constantly controlled, not only while they are actually supporting the group
self, but also when they have each fallen once more into the limited experience
which is ordinary individual selfhood. For though, as individuals, they cannot
retain clear insight into the high matters which they so recently experienced,
they do remember so much as is not beyond the range of individual mentality; and
in particular they remember the bearing of the group experience upon their own
conduct as individuals.
Recently another and far more penetrating kind of experience has been attained,
partly by good fortune, partly through research directed by the group-minds. For
these have specialized themselves for particular functions in the mental life of
the race, as previously the individuals were specialized for functions within
the mind of a group. Very rarely and precariously has this supreme experience
been achieved. In it the individual passes beyond this group experience, and
becomes the mind of the race. At all times, of course, he can communicate
"telepathically" with other individuals anywhere upon the planet; and frequently
the whole race "listens in" while one individual addresses the world. But in the
true racial experience the situation is different. The system of radiation which
embraces the whole planet, and includes the million million brains of the race,
becomes the physical basis of a racial self. The individual discovers himself to
be embodied in all the bodies of the race. He savours in a single intuition all
bodily contacts, including the mutual embraces of all lovers. Through the myriad
feet of all men and women he enfolds his world in a single grasp. He sees with
all eyes, and comprehends in a single vision all visual fields. Thus he
perceives at once and as a continuous, variegated sphere, the whole surface of
the planet. But not only so. He now stands above the group-minds as they above
the individuals. He regards them as a man may regard his own vital tissues, with
mingled contempt, sympathy, reverence, and dispassion. He watches them as one
might study the living cells of his own brain; but also with the aloof interest
of one observing an ant hill; and yet again as one enthralled by the strange and
diverse ways of his fellow men; and further as one who, from above the battle,
watches himself and his comrades agonizing in some desperate venture; yet
chiefly as the artist who has no thought but for his vision and its embodiment.
In the racial mode a man apprehends all things astronomically. Through all eyes
and all observatories, he beholds his voyaging world, and peers outward into
space. Thus he merges in one view, as it were, the views of deck-hand, captain,
stoker, and the man in the crow's-nest. Regarding the solar system
simultaneously from both limbs of Nep tune, he perceives the planets and the sun
stereoscopically, as though in binocular vision. Further, his perceived "now"
embraces not a moment but a vast age. Thus, observing the galaxy from every
point in succession along Neptune's wide orbit, and watching the nearer stars
shift hither and thither, he actually perceives some of the constellations in
three dimensions. Nay, with the aid of our most recent instruments the whole
galaxy appears stereoscopically. But the great nebulae and remote universes
remain mere marks upon the flat sky; and in contemplation of their remoteness
man, even as the racial self of the mightiest of all human races, realizes his
own minuteness and impotence.
But chiefly the racial mind transcends the minds of groups and individuals in
philosophical insight into the true nature of space and time, mind and its
objects, cosmical striving and cosmical perfection. Some hints of this great
elucidation must presently be given; but in the main it cannot be communicated.
Indeed such insight is beyond the reach of ourselves as isolated individuals,
and even beyond the group-minds. When we have declined from the racial
mentality, we cannot clearly remember what it was that we experienced.
In particular we have one very perplexing recollection about our racial
experience, one which involves a seeming impossibility. In the racial mind our
experience was enlarged not only spatially but temporally in a very strange
manner. In respect of temporal perception, of course, minds may differ in two
ways, in the length of the span which they can comprehend as "now," and the
minuteness of the successive events which they can discriminate within the
"now." As individuals we can hold within one "now" a duration equal to the old
terrestrial day; and within that duration, we can if we will, discriminate rapid
pulsations such as commonly we hear together as a high musical tone. As the
race-mind we perceived as "now" the whole period since the birth of the oldest
living individuals, and the whole past of the species appeared as personal
memory, stretching back into the mists of infancy. Yet we could, if we willed,
discriminate within the "now" one light-vibration from the next. In this mere
increased breadth and precision of temporal perception there is no
contradiction. But how, we ask ourselves, could the race-mind experience as
"now" a vast period in which it had no existence whatever? Our first experience
of racial mentality lasted only as long as Neptune's moon takes to complete one
circuit. Before that period, then, the race-mind was not. Yet during the month
of its existence it regarded the whole previous career of the race as "present."
Indeed, the racial experience has greatly perplexed us as individuals, and we
can scarcely be said to remember more of it than that it was of extreme subtlety
and extreme beauty. At the same time we often have of it an impression of
unspeakable horror. We who, in our familiar individual sphere are able to regard
all conceivable tragedy not merely with fortitude but with exultation, are
obscurely conscious that as the racial mind we have looked into an abyss of evil
such as we cannot now conceive, and could not endure to conceive. Yet even this
hell we know to have been acceptable as an organic member in the austere form of
the cosmos. We remember obscurely, and yet with a strange conviction, that all
the age-long striving of the human spirit, no less than the petty cravings of
individuals, was seen as a fair component in something far more admirable than
itself; and that man ultimately defeated, no less than man for a while
triumphant, contributes to this higher excellence.
How colourless these words! How unworthy of that wholly satisfying beauty of all
things, which in our awakened racial mode we see face to face. Every human
being, of whatever species, may occasionally glimpse some fragment or aspect of
existence transfigured thus with the cold beauty which normally he cannot see.
Even the First Men, in their respect for tragic art, had something of this
experience. The Second, and still more surely the Fifth, sought it deliberately.
The winged Seventh happened upon it while they were in the air. But their minds
were cramped; and all that they could appreciate was their own small world and
their own tragic story. We, the Last Men, have all their zest in private and in
racial life, whether it fares well or ill. We have it at all times, and we have
it in respect of matters inconceivable to lesser minds. We have it, moreover,
intelligently. Knowing well how strange it is to admire evil along with good, we
see clearly the subversiveness of this experience. Even we, as mere individuals,
cannot reconcile our loyalty to the striving spirit of man with our own divine
aloofness. And so, if we were mere individuals, there would remain conflict in
each of us. But in the racial mode each one of us has now experienced the great
elucidation of intellect and of feeling. And though, as individuals once more,
we can never recapture that far-seeing vision, the obscure memory of it masters
us always, and controls all our policies. Among yourselves, the artist, after
his phase of creative insight is passed, and he is once more a partisan in the
struggle for existence, may carry out in detail the design conceived in his
brief period of clarity. He remembers, but no longer sees the vision. He tries
to fashion some perceptible embodiment of the vanished splendour. So we, living
our individual lives, delighting in the contacts of flesh, the relations of
minds, and all the delicate activities of human culture, co-operating and
conflicting in a thousand individual undertakings and performing each his office
in the material maintenance of our society, see all things as though transfused
With light from a source which is itself no longer revealed.
I have tried to tell you something of the most distinctive characteristics of
our species. You can imagine that the frequent occasions of group mentality, and
even more the rare occasions of race mentality, have a far-reaching effect on
every individual mind, and therefore on our whole social order. Ours is in fact
a society dominated, as no previous society, by a single racial purpose which is
in a sense religious. Not that the individual's private effiorescence is at all
thwarted by the racial purpose. Indeed, far otherwise; for that purpose demands
as the first condition of its fulfilment a wealth of individual fulfilment,
physical and mental. But in each mind of man or woman the racial purpose
presides absolutely; and hence it is the unquestioned motive of all social
I must not stay to describe in detail this society of ours, in which a million
million citizens, grouped in over a thousand nations, live in perfect accord
without the aid of armies or even a police force. I must not tell of our much
prized social organization, which assigns a unique function to each citizen,
controls the procreation of new citizens of every type in relation to social
need, and yet provides an endless supply of originality. We have no government
and no laws, if by law is meant a stereotyped convention supported by force, and
not to be altered without the aid of cumbersome machinery. Yet, though our
society is in this sense an anarchy, it lives by means of a very intricate
system of customs, some of which are so ancient as to have become spontaneous
taboos, rather than deliberate conventions. It is the business of those among us
who correspond to your lawyers and politicians to study these customs and
suggest improvements. Those suggestions are submitted to no representative body,
but to the whole world-population in "telepathic" conference. Ours is thus in a
sense the most democratic of all societies. Yet in another sense it is extremely
bureaucratic, since it is already some millions of terrestrial years since any
suggestion put forward by the College of Organizers was rejected or even
seriously criticized, so thoroughly do these social engineers study their
material. The only serious possibility of conflict lies now between the world
population as individuals and the same individuals as group-minds or racial
mind. But though in these respects there have formerly occurred serious
conflicts, peculiarly distressing to the individuals who experienced them, such
conflicts are now extremely rare. For, even as mere individuals, we are learning
to trust more and more to the judgment and dictates of our own super-individual
It is time to grapple with the most difficult part of my whole task. Somehow,
and very briefly, I must give you an idea of that outlook upon existence which
has determined our racial purpose, making it essentially a religious purpose.
This outlook has come to us partly through the work of individuals in scientific
research and philosophic thought, partly through the influence of our group and
racial experiences. You can imagine that it is not easy to describe this modern
vision of the nature of things in any manner intelligible to those who have not
our advantages. There is much in this vision which will remind you of your
mystics; yet between them and us there is far more difference than similarity,
in respect both of the matter and the manner of our thought. For while they are
confident that the cosmos is perfect, we are sure only that it is very
beautiful. While they pass to their conclusion without the aid of intellect, we
have used that staff every step of the way. Thus, even when in respect of
conclusions we agree with your mystics rather than your plodding intellectuals,
in respect of method we applaud most your intellectuals; for they scorned to
deceive themselves with comfortable fantasies.
We find ourselves living in a vast and boundless, yet finite, order of
spatio-temporal events. And each of us, as the racial mind, has learned that
there are other such orders, other and incommensurable spheres of events,
related to our own neither spatially nor temporally but in another mode of
eternal being. Of the contents of those alien spheres we know almost nothing but
that they are incomprehensible to us, even in our racial mentality.
Within this spatio-temporal sphere of ours we remark what we call the Beginning
and what we call the End. In the Beginning there came into existence, we know
not how, that all-pervading and unimaginably tenuous gas which was the parent of
all material and spiritual existence within time's known span. It was in fact a
very multitudinous yet precisely numbered host. From the crowding together of
this great population into many swarms, arose in time the nehulae, each of which
in its turn condenses as a galaxy, a universe of stars. The stars have their
beginnings and their ends; and for a few moments somewhere in between their
beginnings and their ends a few, very few, may support mind. But in due course
will come the universal End, when all the wreckage of the galaxies will have
drifted together as a single, barren, and seemingly changeless ash, in the midst
of a chaos of unavailing energy.
But the cosmic events which we call the Beginning and the End are final only in
relation to our ignorance of the events which lie beyond them. We know, and as
the racial mind we have apprehended as a clear necessity, that not only space
but time also is boundless, though finite. For in a sense time is cyclic. After
the End, events unknowable will continue to happen during a period much longer
than that which will have passed since the Beginning; but at length there will
recur the identical event which was itself also the Beginning.
Yet though time is cyclic, it is not repetitive; there is no other time within
which it can repeat itself. For time is hut an abstraction from the
successiveness of events that pass; and since all events whatsoever form
together a cycle of successiveness, there is nothing constant in relation to
which there can be repetition. And so the succession of events is cyclic, yet
not repetitive. The birth of the all-pervading gas in the so-called Beginning is
not merely similar to another such birth to occur long after us and long after
the cosmic End, so-called; the past Beginning is the future Beginning.
From the Beginning to the End is but the span from one spoke to the next on
time's great wheel. There is a vaster span, stretching beyond the End and round
to the Beginning. Of the events therein we know nothing, save that there must be
such events.
Everywhere within time's cycle there is endless passage of events. In a
continuous flux, they occur and vanish, yielding to their successors. Yet each
one of then's is eternal. Though passage is of their very nature, and without
passage they are nothing, yet they have eternal being. But their passage is no
illusion. They have eternal being, yet eternally they exist with passage. In our
racial mode we see clearly that this is so; but in our individual mode it
remains a mystery. Yet even in our individual mode we must accept both sides of
this mysterious antinomy, as a fiction needed for the rationalizing of our
The Beginning precedes the End by some hundred million million terrestrial
years, and succeeds it by a period at least nine times longer. In the middle of
the smaller span lies the still shorter period within which alone the living
worlds can occur. And they are very few. One by one they dawn into mentality and
die, successive blooms in life's short summer. Before that season and after it,
even to the Beginning and to the End, and even before the Beginning and after
the End, sleep, utter oblivion. Not before there are stars, and not after the
stars are chilled, can there be life. And then, rarely.
In our own galaxy there have occurred hitherto some twenty thousand worlds that
have conceived life. And of these a few score have attained or surpassed the
mentality of the First Men. But of those that have reached this development, man
has now outstripped the rest, and today man alone survives.
There are the millions of other galaxies, for instance the Andromedan island. We
have some reason to surmise that in that favoured universe mind may have
attained to insight and power incomparably greater than our own. But all that we
know for certain is that it contains four worlds of high order.
Of the host of other universes that lie within range of our mind-detecting
instruments, none have produced anything comparable with man. But there are many
universes too remote to be estimated.
You may wonder how we have come to detect these remote lives and intelligences.
I can say only that the occurrence of mentality produces certain minute
astronomical effects, to which our instruments are sensitive even at great
distances. These effects increase slightly with the mere mass of living matter
on any astronomical body, but far more with its mental and spiritual
development. Long ago it was the spiritual development of the world-community of
the Fifth Men that dragged the moon from its orbit. And in our own case, so
numerous is our society today, and so greatly developed in mental and spiritual
activities, that only by continuous expense of physical energy can we preserve
the solar system from confusion.
We have another means of detecting minds remote from us in space. We can, of
course, enter into past minds wherever they are, so long as they are
intelligible to us; and we have tried to use this power for the discovery of
remote minded worlds. But in general the experience of such minds is too
different in fibre from our own for us to be able even to detect its existence.
And so our knowledge of minds in other worlds is almost wholly derived from
their physical effects.
We cannot say that nowhere save on those rare bodies called planets does life
ever occur. For we have evidence that in a few of the younger stars there is
life, and even intelligence. How it persists in an incandescent environment we
know not, nor whether it is perhaps the life of the star as a whole, as a single
organism, or the life of many flame-like inhabitants of the star. All that we
know is that no star in its prime has life, and therefore that the lives of the
younger ones are probably doomed.
Again, we know that mind occurs, though very seldom, on a few extremely old
stars, no longer incandescent. What the future of these minds will be, we cannot
tell. Perhaps it is with them, and not with man, that the hope of the cosmos
lies. But at present they are all primitive.
Today nothing anywhere in this galaxy of ours can compare with man in respect of
vision and mental creativeness.
We have, therefore, come to regard our community as of some importance,
Especially so in the light of our metaphysics; but I can only hint at our
metaphysical vision of things by means of metaphors which will convey at best a
caricature of that vision.
In the Beginning there was great potency, but little form. And the spirit slept
as the multitude of discrete primordial existents. Thenceforth there has been a
long and fluctuating adventure toward harmonious complexity of form, and toward
the awakening of the spirit into unity, knowledge, delight and self-expression.
And this is the goal of all living, that the cosmos may be known, and admired,
and that it may be crowned with further beauties. Nowhere and at no time, so far
as we can tell, at least within our own galaxy, has the adventure reached
further than in ourselves. And in us, what has been achieved is but a minute
beginning. But it is a real beginning. Man in our day has gained some depth of
insight, some breadth of knowledge, some power of creation, some faculty of
worship. We have looked far afield. We have probed not altogether superficially
into the nature of existence, and have found it very beautiful, though also
terrible. We have created a not inconsiderable community; and we have wakened
together to be the unique spirit of that community. We had proposed to ourselves
a very long and arduous future, which should culminate, at some time before the
End, in the complete achievement of the spirit's ideal. But now we know that
disaster is already near at hand.
When we are in full possession of our faculties, we are not distressed by this
fate. For we know that though our fair community must cease, it has also
indestructible being. We have at least carved into one region of the eternal
real a form which has beauty of no mean order. The great company of diverse and
most lovely men and women in all their subtle relationships, striving with a
single purpose toward the goal which is mind's final goal; the community and
super-individuality of that great host; the beginnings of further insight and
creativeness upon the higher plane--these surely are real achievements--even
though, in the larger view, they are minute achievements.
Yet though we are not at all dismayed by our own extinction, we cannot but
wonder whether or not in the far future some other spirit will fulfil the cosmic
ideal, or whether we ourselves are the modest crown of existence. Unfortunately,
though we can explore the past wherever there are intelligible minds, we cannot
enter into the future. And so in vain we ask, will ever any spirit awake to
gather all spirits into itself, to elicit from the stars their full flower of
beauty, to know all things together, and admire all things justly?
If in the far future this end will be achieved, it is really achieved even now;
for whenever it occurs, its being is eternal. But on the other hand if it is
indeed achieved eternally, this achievement must be the work of spirits or a
spirit not wholly unlike ourselves, though infinitely greater. And the physical
location of that spirit must lie in the far future.
But if no future spirit will achieve this end before it dies, then, though the
cosmos is indeed very beautiful, it is not perfect.
I said that we regard the cosmos as very beautiful. Yet it is also very
terrible. For ourselves, it is easy to look forward with equanimity to our end,
and even to the end of our admired community; for what we prize most is the
excellent beauty of the cosmos. But there are the myriads of spirits who have
never entered into that vision. They have suffered, and they were not permitted
that consolation. There are, first, the incalculable hosts of lowly creatures
scattered over all the ages in all the minded worlds. Theirs was only a dream
life, and their misery not often poignant; but none the less they are to be
pitied for having missed the more poignant experience in which alone spirit can
find fulfilment. Then there are the intelligent beings, human and otherwise; the
many minded worlds throughout the galaxies, that have struggled into cognizance,
striven for they knew not what, tasted brief delights and lived in the shadow of
pain and death, until at last their life has been crushed out by careless fate.
In our solar system there are the Martians, insanely and miserably obsessed; the
native Venerians, imprisoned in their ocean and murdered for man's sake; and all
the hosts of the forerunning human species. A few individuals no doubt in every
period, and many in certain favoured races, have lived on the whole happily. And
a few have even known something of the supreme beatitude. But for most, until
our modern epoch, thwarting has outweighed fulfilment; and if actual grief has
not preponderated over joy, it is because, mercifully, the fulfilment that is
wholly missed cannot be conceived.
Our predecessors of the Sixteenth species, oppressed by this vast horror,
undertook a forlorn and seemingly irrational crusade for the rescue of the
tragic past. We see now clearly that their enterprise, though desperate, was not
quite fantastic. For, if ever the cosmic ideal should be realized, even though
for a moment only, then in that time the awakened Soul of All will embrace
within itself all spirits whatever throughout the whole of time's wide circuit.
And so to each one of them, even to the least, it will seem that he has awakened
and discovered himself to be the Soul of All, knowing all things and rejoicing
in all things. And though afterwards, through the inevitable decay of the stars,
this most glorious vision must be lost, suddenly or in the long-drawn-out defeat
of life, yet would the awakened Soul of All have eternal being, and in it each
martyred spirit would have beatitude eternally, though unknown to itself in its
own temporal mode.
It may be that this is the case. If not, then eternally the martyred spirits are
martyred only, and not blest.
We cannot tell which of these possibilities is fact. As individuals we earnestly
desire that the eternal being of things may include this supreme awakening.
This, nothing less than this, has been the remote but everpresent goal of our
practical religious life and of our social policy.
In our racial mode also we have greatly desired this end, but differently.
Even as individuals, all our desires are tempered by that relentless admiration
of fate which we recognize as the spirit's highest achievement. Even as
individuals, we exult in the issue whether our enterprises succeed or fail. The
pioneer defeated, the lover bereaved and overwhelmed, can find in his disaster
the supreme experience, the dispassionate ecstasy which salutes the Real as it
is and would not change one jot of it. Even as individuals, we can regard the
impending extinction of mankind as a thing superb though tragic. Strong in the
knowledge that the human spirit has already inscribed the cosmos with
indestructible beauty, and that inevitably, whether sooner or later, man's
career must end, we face this too sudden end with laughter in our hearts, and
But there is the one thought by which, in our individual state, we are still
dismayed, namely that the cosmos enterprise itself may fail; that the full
potentiality of the Real may never find expression; that never, in any stage of
time, the multitudinous and conflicting existents should be organized as the
universal harmonious living body; that the spirit's eternal nature, therefore,
should be discordant, miserably tranced; that the inde structible beauties of
this our sphere of space and time should remain imperfect, and remain, too, not
adequately worshipped.
But in the racial mind this ultimate dread has no place. On those few occasions
when we have awakened racially, we have come to regard with piety even the
possibility of cosmical defeat. For as the racial mind, though in a manner we
earnestly desired the fulfilment of the cosmical ideal, yet we were no more
enslaved to this desire than, as individuals, we are enslaved to our private
desires. For though the racial mind wills this supreme achievement, yet in the
same act it holds itself aloof from it, and from all desire, and all emotion,
save the ecstasy which admires the Real as it is, and accepts its dark-bright
form with joy.
As individuals, therefore, we try to regard the whole cosmic adventure as a
symphony now in progress, which may or may not some day achieve its just
conclusion. Like music, however, the vast biography of the stars is to be judged
not in respect of its final moment merely, but in respect of the perfection of
its whole form; and whether its form as a whole is perfect or not, we cannot
know. Actual music is a pattern of intertwining themes which evolve and die; and
these again are woven of simpler members, which again are spun of chords and
unitary tones. But the music of the spheres is of a complexity almost infinitely
more subtle, and its themes rank above and below one another in hierarchy beyond
hierarchy. None but a God, none but a mind subtle as the music itself, could
hear the whole in all its detail, and grasp in one act its close-knit
individuality, if such it has. Not for any human mind to say authoritatively,
"This is music, wholly," or to say, "This is mere noise, flecked now and then by
shreds of significance."
The music of the spheres is unlike other music not only in respect of its
richness, but also in the nature of its medium. It is a music not merely of
sounds but of souls. Each of its minor themes, each of its chords, each single
tone of it, each tremor of each tone, is in its own degree more than a mere
passive factor in the music; it is a listener, and also a creator. Wherever
there is individuality of form, there is also an individual appreciator and
originator. And the more complex the form, the more percipient and active the
spirit. Thus in every individual factor within the music, the musical
environment of that factor is experienced, vaguely or precisely, erroneously, or
with greater approximation to truth; and, being experienced, it is admired or
loathed, rightly or falsely. And it is influenced. Just as in actual music each
theme is in a manner a determination of its forerunners and followers and
present accompaniment, so in this vaster music each individual factor is itself
a determination of its environment. Also it is a determinant, both of that which
precedes and that which follows.
But whether these manifold interdeterminations are after all haphazard, or, as
in music, controlled in relation to the beauty of the whole, we know not; nor
whether, if this is the case, the beautiful whole of things is the work of some
mind; nor yet whether some mind admires it adequately as a whole of beauty.
But this we know: that we ourselves, when the spirit is most awake in us, admire
the Real as it is revealed to us, and salute its dark-bright form with joy.
OURS has been essentially a philosophical age, in fact the supreme age of
philosophy. But a great practical problem has also concerned us. We have had to
prepare for the task of preserving humanity during a most difficult period which
was calculated to being about one hundred million years hence, but might, in
certain circumstances, be sprung upon us at very short notice. Long ago the
human inhabitants of Venus believed that already in their day the sun was about
to enter the "white dwarf" phase, and that the time would therefore soon come
when their world would be frost-bound. This calculation was unduly pessimistic;
but we know now that, even allowing for the slight delay caused by the great
collision, the solar collapse must begin at some date astronomically not very
distant. We had planned that during the comparatively brief period of the actual
shrinkage, we would move our planet steadily nearer to the sun, until finally it
should settle in the narrowest possible orbit.
Man would then be comfortably placed for a very long period. But in the fullness
of time there would come a far more serious crisis. The sun would continue to
cool, and at last man would no longer be able to live by means of solar
radiation. It would become necessary to annihilate matter to supply the
deficiency. The other planets might be used for this purpose, and possibly the
sun itself. Or, given the sustenance for so long a voyage, man might boldly
project his planet into the neighbourhood of some Younger star. Thenceforth,
perhaps, he might operate upon a far grander scale. He might explore and
colonize all suitable worlds in every corner of the galaxy, and organize himself
as a vast community of minded worlds. Even (so we dreamed) he might achieve
intercourse with other galaxies. It did not seem impossible that man himself was
the germ of the world-soul, which, we still hope, is destined to awake for a
while before the universal decline, and to crown the eternal cosmos with its due
of knowledge and admiration, fleeting yet eternal. We dared to think that in
some far distant epoch the human spirit, clad in all wisdom, power, and delight,
might look back upon our primitive age with a certain respect; no doubt with
pity also and amusement, but none the less with admiration for the spirit in us,
still only half awake, and struggling against great disabilities. In such a
mood, half pity, half admiration, we ourselves look back upon the primitive
Our prospect has now suddenly and completely changed, for astronomers have made
a startling discovery, which assigns to man a speedy end. His existence has ever
been precarious. At any stage of his career he might easily have been
exterminated by some slight alteration of his chemical environrnent, by a more
than usually malignant microbe, by a radical change of climate, or by the
manifold effects of his own folly. Twice already he has been almost destroyed by
astronomical events. How easily might it happen that the solar system, now
rushing through a somewhat more crowded region of the galaxy, should become
entangled with, or actually strike, a major astronomical body, and be destroyed.
But fate, as it turns out, has a more surprising end in store for man.
Not long ago an unexpected alteration was observed to be taking place in a near
star. Through no discoverable cause, it began to change from white to violet,
and increase in brightness. Already it has attained such extravagant brilliance
that, though its actual disk remains a mere point in our sky, its dazzling
purple radiance illuminates our nocturnal landscapes with hideous beauty. Our
astronomers have ascertained that this is no ordinary "nova," that it is not one
of those stars addicted to paroxysms of brilliance. It is something
unprecedented, a normal star suffering from a unique disease, a fantastic
acceleration of its vital process, a riotous squandering of the energy which
should have remained locked within its substance for aeons. At the present rate
it will be reduced either to an inert cinder or to actual annihilation in a few
thousand years. This extraordinary event may possibly have been produced by
unwise temperings on the part of intelligent beings in the star's neighbourhood.
But, indeed, since all matter at very high temperature is in a state of unstable
equilibrium, the cause may have been merely some conjunction of natural
The event was first regarded simply as an intriguing spectacle. But further
study roused a more serious interest. Our own planet, and therefore the sun
also, was suffering a continuous and increasing bombardment of ethereal
vibrations, most of which were of incredibly high frequency, and of unknown
potentiality. What would be their effect upon the sun? After some centuries,
certain astronomical bodies in the neighbourhood of the deranged star were seen
to be infected with its disorder. Their fever increased the splendour of our
night sky, but it also confirmed our fears. We still hoped that the sun might
prove too distant to be seriously influenced, but careful analysis now showed
that this hope must be abandoned. The sun's remoteness might cause a delay of
some thousands of years before the cumulative effects of the bombardment could
start the disintegration; but sooner or later the sun itself must be infected.
Probably within thirty thousand years life will be impossible anywhere within a
vast radius of the sun, so vast a radius that it is quite impossible to propel
our planet away fast enough to escape before the storm can catch us.
The discovery of this doom kindled in us unfamiliar emotions. Hitherto humanity
had seemed to be destined for a very long future, and the individual himself had
been accustomed to look forward to very many thousands of years of personal
life, ending in voluntary sleep. We had of course often conceived, and even
savoured in imagination, the sudden destruction of our world. But now we faced
it as a fact. Outwardly every one behaved with perfect serenity, but inwardly
every mind was in turmoil. Not that there was any question of our falling into
panic or despair, for in this crisis our native detachment stood us in good
stead. But inevitably some time passed before our minds became properly adjusted
to the new prospect, before we could see our fate outlined clearly and
beautifully against the cosmic background.
Presently, however, we learned to contemplate the whole great saga of man as a
completed work of art, and to admire it no less for its sudden and tragic end
than for the promise in it which was not to be fulfilled. Grief was now
transfigured wholly into ecstasy. Defeat, which had oppressed us with a sense of
man's impotence and littleness among the stars, brought us into a new sympathy
and reverence for all those myriads of beings in the past out of whose obscure
strivings we had been born. We saw the most brilliant of our own race and the
lowliest of our prehuman forerunners as essentially spirits of equal excellence,
though cast in diverse circumstances. When we looked round on the heavens, and
at the violet splendour which was to destroy us, we were filled with awe and
pity, awe for the inconceivable potentiality of this bright host, pity for its
self-thwarting effort to fulfil itself as the universal spirit.
At this stage it seemed that there was nothing left for us to do but to crowd as
much excellence as possible into our remaining life, and meet our end in the
noblest manner. But now there came upon us once more the rare experience of
racial mentality. For a whole Neptunian year every individual lived in an
enraptured trance, in which, as the racial mind, he or she resolved many ancient
mysteries and saluted many unexpected beauties. This ineffable experience, lived
through under the shadow of death, was the flower of man's whole being. But I
can tell nothing of it, save that when it was over we possessed, even as
individuals, a new peace, in which, strangely but harmoniously, were blended
grief, exaltation, and god-like laughter.
In consequence of this racial experience we found ourselves faced with two tasks
which had not before been contemplated. The one referred to the future, the
other to the past.
In respect of the future, we are now setting about the forlorn task of
disseminating among the stars the seeds of a new humanity. For this purpose we
shall make use of the pressure of radiation from the sun, and chiefly the
extravagantly potent radiation that will later be available. We are hoping to
devise extremely minute electro-magnetic "wave-systems," akin to normal protons
and electrons, which will be individually capable of sailing forward upon the
hurricane of solar radiation at a speed not wholly incomparable with the speed
of light itself. This is a difficult task. But, further, these units must be so
cunningly inter-related that, in favourable conditions, they may tend to combine
to form spores of life, and to develop, not indeed into human beings, but into
lowly organisms with a definite evolutionary bias toward the essentials of human
nature. These objects we shall project from beyond our atmosphere in immense
quantities at certain points of our planet's orbit, so that solar radiation may
carry them toward the most promising regions of the galaxy. The chance that any
of them will survive to reach their destination is small, and still smaller the
chance that any of them will find a suitable environment. But if any of this
human seed should fall upon good ground, it will embark, we hope, upon a
somewhat rapid biological evolution, and produce in due season whatever complex
organic forms are possible in its environment. It will have a very real
physiological bias toward the evolution of intelligence. Indeed it will have a
much greater bias in that direction than occurred on the Earth in those
sub-vital atomic groupings from which terrestrial life eventually sprang.
It is just conceivable, then, that by extremely good fortune man may still
influence the future of this galaxy, not directly but through his creature. But
in the vast music of existence the actual theme of mankind now ceases for ever.
Finished, the long reiterations of man's history; defeated, the whole proud
enterprise of his maturity. The stored experience of many mankinds must sink
into oblivion, and today's wisdom must vanish.
The other task which occupies us, that which relates to the past, is one which
may very well seem to you nonsensical.
We have long been able to enter into past minds and participate in their
experience. Hitherto we have been passive spectators merely, but recently we
have acquired the power of influencing past minds. This seems an impossibility;
for a past event is what it is, and how can it conceivably be altered at a
subsequent date, even in the minutest respect?
Now it is true that past events are what they are, irrevocably; but in certain
cases some feature of a past event may depend on an event in the far future. The
past event would never have been as it actually was (and is, eternally), if
there had not been going to be a certain future event, which, though not
contemporaneous with the past event, influences it directly in the sphere of
eternal being. The passage of events is real, and time is the successiveness of
passing events; but though events have passage, they have also eternal being.
And in certain rare cases mental events far separated in time determine one
another directly by way of eternity.
Our own minds have often been profoundly influenced by direct inspection of past
minds; and now we find that certain events of certain past minds are determined
by present events in our own present minds. No doubt there are some past mental
events which are what they are by virtue of mental processes which we shall
perform but have not yet performed.
Our historians and psychologists, engaged on direct inspection of past minds,
had often complained of certain "singular" points in past minds, where the
ordinary laws of psychology fail to give a full explanation of the course of
mental events; where, in fact, some wholly unknown influence seemed to be at
work. Later it was found that, in some cases at least, this disturbance of the
ordinary principles of psychology corresponded with certain thoughts or desires
in the mind of the observer, living in our own age. Of course, only such matters
as could have significance to the past mind could influence it at all. Thoughts
and desires of ours which have no meaning to the particular past individual fail
to enter into his experience. New ideas and new values are only to be introduced
by arranging familiar matter so that it may gain a new significance.
Nevertheless we now found ourselves in possession of an amazing power of
communicating with the past, and contributing to its thought and action, though
of course we could not alter it.
But, it may he asked, what if, in respect of a particular "singularity" in some
past mind, we do not, after all, choose to provide the necessary influence to
account for it? The question is meaningless. There is no possibility that we
should not choose to influence those past minds which are, as a matter of fact,
dependent on our influence. For it is in the sphere of eternity (wherein alone
we meet past minds), that we really make this free choice. And in the sphere of
time, though the choosing has relations with our modern age, and may be said to
occur in that age, it also has relations with the past mind, and may be said to
have occurred also long ago.
There are in some past minds singularities which are not the product of any
influence that we have exerted today. Some of these singularities, no doubt, we
shall ourselves produce on some occasion before our destruction. But it may be
that some are due to an influence other than ours, perhaps to beings which, by
good fortune, may spring long hence from our forlorn seminal enterprise; or they
may be due perhaps to the cosmic mind, whose future occurrence and eternal
existence we earnestly desire. However that may be, there are a few remarkable
minds, scattered up and down past ages and even in the most primitive human
races, which suggest an influence other than our own. They are so "singular" in
one respect or another, that we cannot give a perfectly clear psychological
account of them in terms of the past only; and yet we ourselves are not the
instigators of their singularity. Your Jesus, your Socrates, your Gautama, show
traces of this uniqueness. But the most original of all were too eccentric to
have any influence on their contemporaries. It is possible that in ourselves
also there are "singularities" which cannot be accounted for wholly in terms of
ordinary biological and psychological laws. If we could prove that this is the
case, we should have very definite evidence of the occurrence of a high order of
mentality somewhere in the future, and therefore of its eternal existence. But
hitherto this problem has proved too subtle for us, even in the racial mode. It
may be that the mere fact that we have succeeded in attaining racial mentality
involves some remote future influence. It is even conceivable that every
creative advance that any mind has ever made involves unwitting co-operation
with the cosmic mind which, perhaps, will awake at some date before the End.
We have two methods of influencing the past through past individuals; for we can
operate either upon minds of great originality and power, or upon any average
individual whose circumstances happen to suit our purpose. In original minds we
can only suggest some very vague intuition, which is then "worked up" by the
individual himself into some form very different from that which we intended,
but very potent as a factor in the culture of his age. Average minds, on the
other hand, we can use as passive instruments for the conveyance of detailed
ideas. But in such cases the individual is incapable of working up the material
into a great and potent form, suited to his age.
But what is it, you may ask, that we seek to contribute to the past? We seek to
afford intuitions of truth and of value, which, though easy to us from our point
of vantage, would be impossible to the unaided past. We seek to help the past to
make the best of itself, just as one man may help another. We seek to direct the
attention of past individuals and past races to truths and beauties which,
though implicit in their experience, would otherwise be overlooked.
We seek to do this for two reasons. Entering into past minds, we become
perfectly acquainted with them, and cannot but love them; and so we desire to
help them. By influencing selected individuals, we seek to influence indirectly
great multitudes. But our second motive is very different. We see the career of
Man in his successive planetary homes as a process of very great beauty. It is
far indeed from the perfect; but it is very beautiful, with the beauty of tragic
art. Now it turns out that this beautiful thing entails our operation at various
points in the past. Therefore we will to operate.
Unfortunately our first inexperienced efforts were disastrous. Many of the
fatuities which primitive minds in all ages have been prone to attribute to the
influence of disembodied spirits, whether deities, fiends, or the dead, are but
the gibberish which resulted from our earliest experiments. And this book, so
admirable in our conception, has issued from the brain of the writer, your
contemporary, in such disorder as to be mostly rubbish.
We are concerned with the past not only in so far as we make very rare
contributions to it, but chiefly in two other manners.
First, we are engaged upon the great enterprise of becoming lovingly acquainted
with the past, the human past, in every detail. This is, so to speak, our
supreme act of filial piety. When one being comes to know and love another, a
new and beautiful thing is created, namely the love. The cosmos is thus far and
at that date enhanced. We seek then to know and love every past mind that we can
enter. In most cases we can know them with far more understanding than they can
know themselves. Not the least of them, not the worst of them, shall be left out
of this great work of understanding and admiration.
There is another manner in which we are concerned with the human past. We need
its help. For we, who are triumphantly reconciled to our fate, are under
obligation to devote our last energies not to ecstatic contemplation but to a
forlorn and most uncongenial task, the dissemination. This task is almost
intolerably repugnant to us. Gladly would we spend our last days in embellishing
our community and our culture, and in pious exploration of the past. But it is
incumbent on us, who are by nature artists and philosophers, to direct the whole
attention of our world upon the arid labour of designing an artificial human
seed, producing it in immense quantities, and projecting it among the stars. If
there is to be any possibility of success, we must undertake a very lengthy
program of physical research, and finally organize a world-wide system of
manufacture. The work will not be completed until our physical constitution is
already being undermined, and the disintegration of our community has already
begun. Now we could never fulfil this policy without a zealous conviction of its
importance. Here it is that the past can help us. We, who have now learnt so
thoroughly the supreme art of ecstatic fatalism, go humbly to the past to learn
over again that other supreme achievement of the spirit, loyalty to the forces
of life embattled against the forces of death. Wandering among the heroic and
often forlorn ventures of the past, we are fired once more with primitive zeal.
Thus, when we return to our own world, we are able, even while we preserve in
our hearts the peace that passeth understanding, to struggle as though we cared
only for victory.
I am speaking to you now from a period about twenty thousand terrestrial years
after the date at which the whole preceding part of this book was communicated.
It has become very difficult to reach you, and still more difficult to speak to
you; for already the Last Men are not the men they were.
Our two great undertakings are still unfinished. Much of the human past remains
imperfectly explored, and the projection of the seed is scarcely begun. That
enterprise has proved far more difficult than was expected. Only within the last
few years have we succeeded in designing an artificial human dust capable of
being carried forward on the sun's radiation, hardy enough to endure the
conditions of a transgalactic voyage of many millions of years, and yet
intricate enough to bear the potentiality of life and of spiritual development.
We are now preparing to manufacture this seminal matter in great quantities, and
to cast it into space at suitable points on the planet's orbit.
Some centuries have now passed since the sun began to show the first symptoms of
disintegration, namely a slight change of colour toward the blue, followed by a
definite increase of brightness and heat. Today, when he pierces the
ever-thickening cloud, he smites us with an intolerable steely brilliance which
destroys the sight of anyone foolish enough to face it. Even in the cloudy
weather which is now normal, the eye is wounded by the fierce violet glare.
Eye-troubles afflict us all, in spite of the special glasses which have been
designed to protect us. The mere heat, too, is already destructive. We are
forcing our planet outward from its old orbit in an everwidening spiral; but, do
what we will, we cannot prevent the climate from becoming more and more deadly,
even at the poles. The intervening regions have already been deserted.
Evaporation of the equatorial oceans has thrown the whole atmosphere into
tumult, so that even at the poles we are tormented by hot wet hurricanes and
incredible electric storms. These have already shattered most of our great
buildings, sometimes burying a whole teeming province under an avalanche of
tumbled vitreous crags.
Our two polar communities at first managed to maintain radio communication; but
it is now some time since we of the south received news of the more distressed
north. Even with us the situation is already desperate. We had recently
established some hundreds of stations for the dissemination, but less than a
score have been able to operate. This failure is due mainly to an increasing
lack of personnel. The deluge of fantastic solar radiation has had disastrous
effect on the human organism. Epidemics of a malignant tumour, which medical
science has failed to conquer, have reduced the southern people to a mere
remnant, and this in spite of the mi gration of the tropical races into the
Antarctic. Each of us, moreover, is but the wreckage of his former self. The
higher mental functions, attained only in the most developed human species, are
already lost or disordered, through the breakdown of their special tissues. Not
only has the racial mind vanished, but the sexual groups have lost their mental
unity. Three of the sub-sexes have already been exterminated by derangement of
their chemical nature. Glandular troubles, indeed, have unhinged many of us with
anxieties and loathings which we cannot conquer, though we know them to be
unreasonable. Even the normal power of "telepathic" communication has become so
unreliable that we have been compelled to fall back upon the archaic practice of
vocal symbolism. Exploration of the past is now confined to specialists, and is
a dangerous profession, which may lead to disorders of temporal experience.
Degeneration of the higher neural centres has also brought about in us a far
more serious and deep-seated trouble, namely a general spiritual degradation
which would formerly have seemed impossible, so confident were we of our
integrity. The perfectly dispassionate will had been for many millions of years
universal among us, and the corner-stone of our whole society and culture. We
had almost forgotten that it has a physiological basis, and that if that basis
were undermined, we might no longer be capable of rational conduct. But,
drenched for some thousands of years by the unique stellar radiation, we have
gradually lost not only the ecstasy of dispassionate worship, but even the
capacity for normal disinterested behaviour. Every one is now liable to an
irrational bias in favour of himself as a private person, as against his
fellows. Personal envy, uncharitableness, even murder and gratuitous cruelty,
formerly unknown amongst us, are now becoming common. At first when men began to
notice in themselves these archaic impulses, they crushed then's svith amused
contempt. But as the highest nerve centres fell further into decay, the brute in
us began to be ever more unruly, and the human more uncertain. Rational conduct
was henceforth to be achieved only after an exhausting and degrading "moral
struggle," instead of spontaneously and fluently. Nay, worse, increasingly often
the struggle ended not in victory but defeat. Imagine then, the terror and
disgust that gripped us when we found ourselves one and all condemned to a
desperate struggle against impulses which we had been accustomed to regard as
insane. It is distressing enough to know that each one of us might at any
momnent, merely to help some dear individual or other, betray his supreme duty
toward the dissemination; but it is harrowing to discover ourselves sometimes so
far sunk as to be incapable even of common loving-kindness toward our
neighbours. For a man to favour himself against his friend or beloved, even in
the slightest respect, was formerly unknown. But today many of us are haunted by
the look of amazed horror and pity in the eyes of an injured friend.
In the early stages of our trouble lunatic asylums were founded, but they soon
became over-crowded and a burden on a stricken community. The insane were then
killed. But it became clear that by former standards we were all insane. No man
now can trust himself to behave reasonably.
And, of course, we cannot trust each other. Partly through the prevalent
irrationality of desire, and partly through the misunderstandings which have
come with the loss of "telepathic" communication, we have been plunged into all
manner of discords. A political constitution and system of laws had to be
devised, but they seem to have increased our troubles. Order of a kind is
maintained by an over-worked police force. But this is in the hands of the
professional organizers, who have now all the vices of bureaucracy. It was
largely through their folly that two of the antarctic nations broke into social
revolution, and are now preparing to meet the armament which an insane
world-government is devising for their destruction. Meanwhile, through the
break-down of the economic order, and the impossibility of reaching the
food-factories on Jupiter, starvation is added to our troubles, and has afforded
to certain ingenious lunatics the opportunity of trading at the expense of
All this folly in a doomed world, and in a community that was yesterday the very
flower of a galaxy! Those of us who still care for the life of the spirit are
tempted to regret that mankind did not choose decent suicide before ever the
putrescence began. But indeed this could not be. The task that was undertaken
had to be completed. For the Scattering of the Seed has come to be for every one
of us the supreme religious duty. Even those who continually sin against it
recognize this as the last office of man. It was for this that we outstayed our
time, and must watch ourselves decline from spiritual estate into that
brutishness from which man has so seldom freed himself.
Yet why do we persist in the forlorn effort? Even if by good luck the seed
should take root somewhere and thrive, there will surely come an end to its
adventure, if not swiftly in fire, then in the ultimate battle of life against
encroaching frost. Our labour will at best sow for death an ampler harvest.
There seems no rational defence of it, unless it be rational to carry out
blindly a purpose conceived in a former and more enlightened state.
But we cannot feel sure that we really were more enlightened. We look back now
at our former selves, with wonder, but also with incomprehension and misgiving.
We try to recall the glory that seemed to be revealed to each of us in the
racial mind, but we remember almost nothing of it. We cannot rise even to that
more homely beatitude which was once within the reach of the unaided individual,
that serenity which, it seemed, should be the spirit's answer to every tragic
event. It is gone from us. It is not only impossible but inconceivable. We now
see our private distresses and the public calamity as merely hideous. That after
so long a struggle into maturity man should be roasted alive like a trapped
mouse, for the entertainment of a lunatic! How can any beauty lie in that?
But this is not our last word to you. For though we have fallen, there is still
something in us left over from the time that is passed. We have become blind and
weak; but the knowledge that we are so has forced us to a great effort. Those of
us who have not already sunk too far have formed themselves into a brotherhood
for mutual strengthening, so that the true human spirit may be maintained a
little longer, until the seed has been well sown, and death be permissible. We
call ourselves the Brotherhood of the Condemned. We seek to be faithful to one
another, and to our common undertaking, and to the vision which is no longer
revealed. We are vowed to the comforting of all distressed persons who are not
yet permitted death. We are vowed also to the dissemination. And we are vowed to
keep the spirit bright until the end.
Now and again we meet together in little groups or great companies to hearten
ourselves with one another's presence. Sometimes on these occasions we can but
sit in silence, groping for consolation and for strength. Sometimes the spoken
word flickers hither and thither amongst us, shedding a brief light but little
warmth to the soul that lies freezing in a torrid world.
But there is among us one, moving from place to place and company to company,
whose voice all long to hear. He is young, the last born of the Last Men; for he
was the latest to be conceived before we learned man's doom, and put an end to
all conceiving. Being the latest, he is also the noblest. Not him alone, but all
his generation, we salute, and look to for strength; but he, the youngest, is
different from the rest. In him the spirit, which is but the flesh awakened into
spirituality, has power to withstand the tempest of solar energy longer than the
rest of us. It is as though the sun itself were eclipsed by this spirit's
brightness. It is as though in him at last, and for a day only, man's promise
were fulfilled. For though, like others, he suffers in the flesh, he is above
his suffering. And though more than the rest of us he feels the suffering of
others, he is above his pity. In his comforting there is a strange sweet
raillery which can persuade the sufferer to smile at his own pain. When this
youngest brother of ours contemplates with us our dying world and the
frustration of all man's striving, he is not, like us, dismayed, but quiet. In
the presence of such quietness despair wakens into peace. By his reasonable
speech, almost by the mere sound of his voice, our eyes are opened, and our
hearts mysteriously filled with exultation. Yet often his words are grave.
Let his words, not mine, close this story:
Great are the stars, and man is of no account to them. But man is a fair spirit,
whom a star conceived and a star kills. He is greater than those bright blind
companies. For though in them there is incalculable potentiality, in him there
is achievement, small, but actual. Too soon, seemingly, he comes to his end. But
when he is done he will not be nothing, not as though he had never been; for he
is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things.
Man was winged hopefully. He had in him to go further than this short flight,
now ending. He proposed even that he should become the Flower of All Things, and
that he should learn to be the All-Knowing, the All-Admiring. Instead, he is to
be destroyed. He is only a fledgling caught in a bush-fire. He is very small,
very simple, very little capable of insight. His knowledge of the great orb of
things is but a fledgling's knowledge. His admiration is a nestling's admiration
for the things kindly to his own small nature. He delights only in food and the
food-announcing call. The music of the spheres passes over him, through him, and
is not heard.
Yet it has used him. And now it uses his destruction. Great, and terrible, and
very beautiful is the Whole; and for man the best is that the Whole should use
But does it really use him? Is the beauty of the Whole really enhanced by our
agony? And is the Whole really beautiful? And what is beauty? Throughout all his
existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed
to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the
whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even
that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if
it exists, it is not for him in his littleness.
But one thing is certain. Man himself, at the very least, is music, a brave
theme that makes music also of its vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and
stars. Man himself in his degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of
things. It is very good to have been man. And so we may go forward together with
laughter in our hearts, and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own
courage. For we shall niake after all a fair conclusion to this brief music that
is man.

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