The Book of the Damned/Chapter 24
WE shall have an outcry of silences. If a single instance of anything be disregarded by a System—our own attitude is that a single instance is a powerless thing. Of course our own method of agreement of many instances is not a real method. In Continuity, all things must have resemblances with all other things. Anything has any quasi-identity you please. Some time ago conscription was assimilated with either autocracy or democracy with equal facility. Note the need for a dominant to correlate to. Scarcely anybody said simply that we must have conscription: but that we must have conscription, which correlates with democracy, which was taken as a base, or something basically desirable. Of course between autocracy and democracy nothing but false demarcation can be drawn. So I can conceive of no subject upon which there should be such poverty as a single instance, if anything one pleases can be whipped into line. However, we shall try to be more nearly real than the Darwinites who advance concealing coloration as Darwinism, and then drag in proclaiming luminosity, too, as Darwinism. I think the Darwinites had better come in with us as to the deep-sea fishes—and be sorry later, I suppose. It will be amazing or negligible to read all the instances now to come of things that have been seen in the sky, and to think that all have been disregarded. My own opinion is that it is not possible, or very easy, to disregard them, now that they have been brought together—but that, if prior to about this time we had attempted such an assemblage, the Old Dominant would have withered our typewriter—as it is the letter "e" has gone back on us, and the "s" is temperamental.
"Most extraordinary and singular phenomenon," North Wales, Aug. 26, 1894; a disk from which projected an orange-colored body that looked like "an elongated flatfish," reported by Admiral Ommanney (Nature, 50-524); disk from which projected a hook-like form, India, about 1838; diagram of it given; disk about size of the moon, but brighter than the moon; visible about twenty minutes; by G. Pettit, in Prof. Baden-Powell's Catalogue (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1849); very brilliant hook-like form, seen in the sky at Poland, Trumbull Co., Ohio, during the stream of meteors, of 1833; visible more than an hour: large luminous body, almost stationary "for a time"; shaped like a square table; Niagara Falls, Nov. 13, 1833 (Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-25-391); something described as a bright white cloud, at night, Nov. 3, 1886, at Hamar, Norway; from it were emitted brilliant rays of light; drifted across the sky; "retained throughout its original form" (Nature, Dec. 16, 1886-158); thing with an oval nucleus, and streamers with dark bands and lines very suggestive of structure; New Zealand, May 4, 1888 (Nature, 42-402); luminous object, size of full moon, visible an hour and a half, Chili, Nov. 5, 1883 (Comptes Rendus, 103-682); bright object near sun, Dec. 21, 1882 (Knowledge, 3-13); light that looked like a great flame, far out at sea, off Ryook Phyoo, Dec. 2, 1845 (London Roy. Soc. Proc., 5-627); something like a gigantic trumpet, suspended, vertical, oscillating gently, visible five or six minutes, length estimated at 425 feet, at Oaxaca, Mexico, July 6, 1874 (Sci. Am. Sup., 6-2365); two luminous bodies, seemingly united, visible five or six minutes, June 3, 1898 (La Nature, 1898-1-127); thing with a tail, crossing moon, transit half a minute, Sept. 26, 1870 (London Times, Sept. 30, 1870); object four or five times size of moon, moving slowly across sky, Nov. 1, 1885, near Adrianople (L'Astronomie, 1886-309); large body, colored red, moving slowly, visible 15 minutes, reported by Coggia, Marseilles, Aug. 1, 1871 (Chem. News, 24-193); details of this observation, and similar observation by Guillemin, and other instances by de Fonville (Comptes Rendus, 73-297, 755); thing that was large and that was stationary twice in seven minutes, Oxford, Nov. 19, 1847; listed by Lowe (Rec. Sci., 1-136) ; grayish object that looked to be about three and a half feet long, rapidly approaching the earth at Saarbruck, April 1, 1826; sound like thunder; object expanding like a sheet (Am. Jour. Sci., 1-26-133; Quar. Jour. Roy. Inst., 24-488); report by an astronomer, N. S. Drayton upon an object duration of which seemed to him extraordinary; duration three-quarters of a minute, Jersey City, July 6, 1882 (Sci. Amer., 47-53); object like a comet, but with proper motion of 10 degrees an hour; visible one hour; reported by Purine and Clancy from the Cordoba Observatory, Argentine, March 14, 1916 (Sci. Amer., 115-493); something like a signal light, reported by Glaisher, Oct. 4, 1844; bright as Jupiter, "sending out quick flickering waves of light" (Year Book of Facts, 1845-278).
I think that with the object known as Eddie's "comet," passes away the last of our susceptibility to the common fallacy of personifying. It is one of the most deep-rooted of positivist illusions—that people are persons. We have been guilty too often of spleens and spites and ridicules against astronomers, as if they were persons, or final unities, individuals, completenesses, or selves—instead of indeterminate parts. But, so long as we remain in quasi-existence, we can cast out illusion only with some other illusion, though the other illusion may approximate higher to reality. So we personify no more—but we super-personify. We now take into full acceptance our expression that Development is an Autocracy of Successive Dominants—which are not final—but which approximate higher to individuality or self-ness, than do the human tropisms that irresponsibly correlate to them.
Eddie reported a celestial object, from the Observatory at Grahamstown, South Africa. It was in 1890. The New Dominant was only heir presumptive then, or heir apparent but not obvious. The thing that Eddie reported might as well have been reported by a night watchman, who had looked up through an unplaced sewer pipe.
It did not correlate.
The thing was not admitted to Monthly Notices. I think myself that if the Editor had attempted to let it in—earthquake—or a mysterious fire in his publishing house.
The Dominants are jealous gods.
In Nature, presumably a vassal of the new god, though of course also plausibly rendering homage to the old, is reported a comet-like body, of Oct. 27, 1890, observed at Grahamstown, by Eddie. It may have looked comet-like, but it moved 100 degrees while visible, or one hundred degrees in three-quarters of an hour. See Nature, 43-89, 90.
In Nature, 44-519, Prof. Copeland describes a similar appearance that he had seen, Sept. 10, 1891. Dreyer says (Nature, 44-541) that he had seen this object at the Armagh Observatory. He likens it to the object that was reported by Eddie. It was seen by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, Sept. 11, 1891, in Nova Scotia.
But the Old Dominant was a jealous god.
So there were different observations upon something that was seen in November, 1883. These observations were Philistines in 1883. In the Amer. Met. Jour., 1-110, a correspondent reports having seen an object like a comet, with two tails, one up and one down, Nov. 10 or 12, 1883. Very likely this phenomenon should be placed in our expression upon torpedo-shaped bodies that have been seen in the sky—our data upon dirigibles, or super-Zeppelins—but our attempted classifications are far from rigorous—or are mere gropes. In the Scientific American, 50-40, a correspondent writes from Humacao, Porto Rico, that, Nov. 21, 1883, he and several other—persons—or persons, as it were—had seen a majestic appearance, like a comet. Visible three successive nights: disappeared then. The Editor says that he can offer no explanation. If accepted, this thing must have been close to the earth. If it had been a comet, it would have been seen widely, and the news would have been telegraphed over the world, says the Editor. Upon page 97 of this volume of the Scientific American, a correspondent writes that, at Sulphur Springs, Ohio, he had seen "a wonder in the sky," at about the same date. It was torpedo-shaped, or something with a nucleus, at each end of which was a tail. Again the Editor says that he can offer no explanation: that the object was not a comet. He associates it with the atmospheric effects general in 1883. But it will be our expression that, in England and Holland, a similar object was seen in November, 1882.
In the Scientific American, 40-294, is published a letter from Henry Harrison, of Jersey City, copied from the N. Y. Tribune: that upon the evening of April 13, 1879, Mr. Harrison was searching for Brorsen's comet, when he saw an object that was moving so rapidly that it could not have been a comet. He called a friend to look, and his observation was confirmed. At two o'clock in the morning this object was still visible. In the Scientific American Supplement, 7-2885, Mr. Harrison disclaims sensationalism, which he seems to think unworthy, and gives technical details: he says that the object was seen by Mr. J. Spencer Devoe, of Manhattanville.