Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker

Week 8.  Cosmological Questions.

excerpts from
Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven (1755)
by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
translated by Ian C. Johnston

To the most serene, the mightiest king and master
King of Prussia
Margrave of Brandenburg
Lord Chamberlain and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire
Sovereign and Highest Lord of Silesia, etc. etc. 

My all honored King and Master, 
Most serene and mighty king,
All honored King and Master,

The feeling of my lack of worth and the radiance from the throne cannot make me so foolish and timid, when the honor which the most gracious monarch dispenses with equal magnanimity among all his subjects gives me grounds for hope that the boldness which I undertake will be looked upon graciously.  In most submissive respect I lay at the feet of your eternal kingly majesty one of the most trifling samples of that eager spirit with which your highness's schools, through the encouragement and the protection of their illustrious sovereign, strive to emulate other nations in the sciences.  How fortunate I would be if the present endeavor succeeded in making the efforts with which the humblest and most respectful subject constantly tries to make himself in some way of service to the Fatherland win the highest possible feeling of goodwill of his king.  With the utmost devotion until my dying day, 

Your eternal majesty's most humble servant 

The author
14 March, 1755 
Text Navigator
  • Part I--The systematic arrangement of the fixed stars.
  • Part II--The first condition of Nature, the development of the celestial bodies, the causes of their movement and their systematic interrelationship both with the structure of particular planets and also with the entire creation.
    • Section One--The Origin of the Planetary World Structure in General and the Causes of Its Movements.
    • Section Seven--Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity Both in Space and Time.
    • Supplement to Section Seven--Universal Theory and History of the Sun in General.
  • Part III--A comparison between the inhabitants of different planets.


I have selected a subject which, in view both of its inherent difficulty and also of religion, can right from the start elicit from many readers an unfavorable judgment.  To discover the systematic arrangement linking large parts of creation in its entire infinite extent and to bring out by means of mechanical principles the development of the cosmic bodies themselves and the cause of their movements from the first state of nature, such insights seem to overstep by a long way the powers of human reason.

From another perspective, religion threatens with a fiery accusation about the presumption that one is allowed to be so venturesome as to attribute to nature in and of itself such consequences in which we rightly become aware of the immediate hand of the Highest Being and worries about meeting in the inquiry into such views a defense of the atheist.

I really perceive all these difficulties, and yet I am not fainthearted.  I feel all the power of the obstacles ranged against me, and I am not despondent.  On the basis of a slight assumption I have undertaken a dangerous journey, and I already see the promontories of new lands....

If the planetary structure, with all its order and beauty, is only an effect of the laws of motion in matter left to itself, if the blind mechanism of natural forces knows how to develop itself out of chaos in such a masterful way and to reach such perfection on its own, then the proof of the primordial Divine Author, which we derive from a glance at the beauty of the cosmic structure, is wholly discredited.  Nature is self-sufficient, the divine rule is unnecessary, Epicurus lives once again in the midst of Christendom, and an unholy philosophy steps on the faith which emits a bright light to illuminate it.

If I found this criticism valid, then the conviction which I have of the infallibility of divine truths is for me so empowering, that I would consider everything which contradicts it sufficiently refuted by that fact and would reject it.  But the very agreement which I encounter between my system and religion raises my confidence in the face of all difficulties to an unshakable composure....

In my theory ... I find matter bound by certain necessary laws.  I see a beautiful and orderly totality developing quite naturally out of its total dissolution and scattering.  This does not happen by accident or chance.  We see that natural characteristics necessarily bring this condition with them.

  • Hence, will we not be moved to inquire why matter must have just such laws which forcefully bring order and prosperity?
  • Was it really possible that many things, each of which has a nature independent of the others, should on their own constitute themselves in such a way that a well ordered totality arises?
  • And if they do this, is there not an undeniable proof of the commonality of their primordial origin, which must be a self-sufficient Highest Reason, in which the natures of things were designed for common purposes?
The material which is the primordial stuff for all things is thus bound by certain laws.  Freely left subject to these laws, it must necessarily bring forth beautiful combinations.  It has no freedom to deviate from this planned perfection.  Since it also finds itself subject to the loftiest wise purpose, it must of necessity be set in such a harmonious relations through a First Cause which rules it.  There is a God for just this reason, that Nature, even in a chaotic state can develop only in an orderly and rule-governed manner....

I maintain that among all the natural phenomena whose first cause we investigate, the origin of the planetary system and the production of the heavenly bodies, together with the cause of their movement, is the one which we may hope to consider reliably from first principles.  The reason for this is easy to perceive.  The heavenly bodies are round masses with the simplest development which a body whose origin we are exploring can ever have.  Their movements similarly are clear.  They are nothing other than a free continuation of an impetus impressed upon them once, a motion which, combined with the force of attraction of the body at the mid-point, becomes circular.  Above them the space in which they move is empty; the in-between distances, which separate them from each other, are uncommonly large, and everything is laid out for undisturbed motion as well as for clear observation of them in as manifest a way as possible.

In my view, we could say here with certain understanding and without presumption:  Give me the material, and I will build a world out of it!  That is, give me the material and I will show you how a world must come into being out of it.  For if the material present is endowed with an inherent power of attraction, then it is not difficult to establish the cause which could have led to the arrangement of the planetary system, considered on a large scale.  We know what is involved for a body to acquire a spherical shape.  We grasp what is required for freely suspended spheres to take on a circular orbital movement around the middle point towards which they are attracted.  The position of the orbits relative to each other, the harmony in the arrangement, the eccentricity, everything can arise from the simplest mechanical causes, and we may hope with confidence to discover them, because they can be established on the easiest and clearest principles.

However, can we boast of such advantages for the smallest plant or insect?  Are we in a position to say, give me the material, and I will show you how a caterpillar could have developed?  Do we not remain here on the bottom rung because of our ignorance of the true inner constitution of things and of the development inherent in the multiple elements in it?  Thus, people must not let themselves be surprised when I venture to say that we will be able to understand the development of all the cosmic bodies, the causes of their movements, in short, the origin of the entire present arrangement of the planetary system, before we completely and clearly understand the development of a single plant or a single caterpillar on mechanical principles.

These are the reasons on which my confidence rests that the physical part of natural philosophy gives us the hope that in future it will have the same perfection to which Newton raised the mathematical part of the subject.  Next to the laws according to which the arrangement of the cosmic structure stands in its present state perhaps there are no others in the entire study of nature so capable of such mathematical accuracy as these laws by which it has developed, and without doubt the hand of an experienced mathematician would find working these fields not unproductive.

Now that I have allowed myself to promote a favorable reception for the subject I am examining, I will be permitted briefly to explain the way I have dealt with it.  The first part is concerned with a new system for the structure of the cosmos on a large scale.  Mr. [Thomas] Wright [1711-1786] from Durham, whose essay I learned about in the Hamburg Freie Urteile for the year 1751, first gave me the occasion to consider the fixed stars, not as a scattered confusion without perceptible rules, but as one system with the closest similarity to a planetary system.  Thus, just as in the latter the planets are located very near to a common plane, the fixed stars are related as closely as possible to a certain plane which must be imagined drawn through the entire heavens.  And in their densest accumulation on this same plane they project that band of light called the Milky Way.

I have become convinced that, because this zone illuminated by countless suns is very precisely structured in the shape of a very large circle, our sun must similarly be located very near this large interconnecting plane.  While I was exploring the cause of this structure, I have found it very probable that the so-called fixed or firm stars could really be slowly moving, wandering stars of a higher order....

I cannot precisely determine the boundaries between Mr. Wright's system and my own, nor in what parts I have merely copied his design or developed it further.  However, I had very good reasons to develop one aspect of the design considerably.  I took into account the species of nebulous stars, which M. [Pierre Louis Moreau] de Maupertuis [1698-1759] considered in his treatment of the shape of the stars and which display more or less open elliptical shapes, and I easily convinced myself that they could only be an accumulation of many fixed stars.

The fact that these shapes, when measured, were always round tells me that here there must be arranged an unimaginably numerous host of stars and, further, that they are around a common mid-point.  Otherwise their free positioning in relation to each other would display a wholly irregular shape, not something measurable.  I also perceived that they must be located in a unified system and especially that they must be restricted to a single plane, because they are not circular but elliptical in shape, and that because of their pale light they are located incredibly far away from us....

In the second part, which contains the subject most germane to this dissertation, I endeavor to develop the arrangement of the cosmic structure from the simplest condition of nature merely by mechanical laws....

...I have rejected with the greatest care all arbitrary fictions.  After I place the world in the simplest chaos, I have applied to it no forces other than the powers of attraction and repulsion, so as to develop the great order of nature.  These two forces are both equally certain, equally simple, and at the same time equally primal and universal.  Both are taken from Newtonian philosophy.  The first is now an incontestably established law of nature.  The second, which Newtonian philosophy perhaps cannot establish with as much clarity as the first, I here assume only in the sense which no one disputes, that is, in connection with the smallest distributed particles of matter, as, for example, in vapors.  From such simple grounds as these, I have produced the system which follows in an unaffected style and without imagining any consequences other than those which the reader's attentiveness must observe entirely on its own....

Therefore, when in the seventh section I pursue the consequences of this theory as far as possible, attracted by the fecundity of the system and the pleasing nature of the greatest and most awesome subject imaginable, always on the theme of analogy and a reasonable credibility, although with a certain boldness, and when I propose to the power of imagination the infinite nature of the entire creation, the development of new worlds and the destruction of old ones, the unlimited space of chaos, I hope that people will be sufficiently indulgent to the attractive charm of the subject and the pleasure which we have in witnessing the harmony in a theory on a large scale not to judge according to the strictest geometrical precision, which, in any case, does not occur in a theory of this sort.  I await just the same fairness with respect to the third part.  There people will come across something more than merely arbitrary, although always something less than certain.


First Part

On the Systematic Arrangement of the Fixed Stars

The systematic arrangement which occurs in the union of the planets which move around the sun disappeared altogether in the crowd of fixed stars.  And it seemed as if the rule-governed relationship encountered in miniature does not hold sway on a large scale among the structures of all the worlds.  The fixed stars were subject to no law, by which their paths were confined relative to each other, and we saw all heaven and the heaven of all heavens without order and without design.  Since human curiosity limited itself in this way, we did nothing further, other than to derive from this state the immensity of the One who had revealed Himself in such inconceivably huge works and to admire Him.

Mr. Wright, an Englishman from Durham, stumbled across a lucky idea, which he himself does not seem to have developed into anything insightful, for he did not make enough observations to produce something useful.  He looked at the fixed stars not as a disorganized, scattered swarm without design but saw them in total as a systematic arrangement in a general stellar interrelationship with reference to the principal spatial plane which they occupy.

We wish to develop the idea which he came up with and to try to bring out fully its implications, so that it can generate fertile consequences.  The complete confirmation of these will be something left for future ages.

Anyone who gazes at the starry heaven on a clear night will notice the bright band which presents a steady light through the crowd of stars, which are more numerous there than elsewhere and which perceptibly lose themselves in the huge expanse.  People have called this band the Milky Way.  Because of the structure of this recognizable and distinct area in the sky, it is remarkable that observers of the Heavens were not long ago prompted to derive from it certain conclusions about the locations of the fixed stars.  For we see that the band is organized in a huge circle and in a continuous arrangement taking up the entire sky.  These two factors are so precisely determined and, in comparison with the uncertainty of chance, with such recognizable indicators, that from them long ago attentive astronomers should naturally have been motivated to trace accurately the explanation for such a phenomenon.

The stars are not placed on the apparently hollow sphere of the heavens, but from our point of view stand at some distance from each other, some further than others, disappearing into the depths of the skies.  From this phenomenon it follows that, at those distances where they are located one behind the other in relation to us, they do not occur in an equal scattering in every direction, but must be arranged on some plane which goes through our viewpoint.  They are located as close as possible to this plane.

This relationship is such an unambiguous phenomenon that the other stars, which are not included in the white band of the Milky Way, are themselves observed to be that much closer together and more dense, the nearer they are located to the circle of the Milky Way.  Thus, of the 2000 stars which the naked eye perceives in the sky, we find the largest number in a relatively narrow area in the middle of which is the Milky Way.

Now, if we imagine a flat plane drawn through the starry heavens and extending an unlimited distance and if we assume that all the fixed stars and all the solar systems have a common spatial relationship to this plane, so that they are closer to it than to any other areas, then the eye which is located on this common plane, as it looks out into this field of stars, into the hollow spherical surface of the firmament, will see the thickest crowd of stars in the direction of the drawn plane, in the form of an area illuminated with more lights.  This band of light will sweep out in the shape of huge circle, if the onlooker's viewpoint in on the plane itself.  This area will be full of stars.

Because of the undifferentiated smallness of bright points, a single one of which escapes the eye, and because of the apparent density of a uniform white gleam, it will look, in a word, like a Milky Way.  The rest of the heavenly stars, whose relationship with the drawn plane becomes less and less apparent or which are also located closer to the observer's position, will seem to be more scattered, although their accumulation will be precisely related to this plane.  From this finally it will follow that, because from our solar system the system of fixed stars will be seen in the shape of a very large circle, our solar system will be in the same large plane and make one system with the fixed stars.

In order that much better to explore the arrangement of the common interrelationship governing this cosmic structure, we wish to try to discover the cause which has arranged the positions of the fixed stars in this way on a single common plane.

The Sun does not limit the extent of its powers of attraction to the narrow region of the planetary system.  According to all observation, this power extends an infinite distance.  The comets which go far above Saturn's orbit are forced by the sun's powers of attraction to turn back and move in orbits.  Whether it is more likely for the nature of a force apparently incorporated into the essence of matter to act without limits and whether, in addition, it will be really recognized as such by those who assume Newton's principles, we wish only to concede that this power of attraction of the sun extends approximately to the nearest fixed star and that the fixed stars act on each other as just so many suns in the same way.  Thus, it follows that the entire host of fixed stars is forced to come closer together through this power of attraction, so that all the world systems are in a situation where sooner or later they fall into one clump, through this reciprocal moving closer together, which is continuous and unhindered, unless these systems are saved from this disaster by forces which pull away from the central point, as with the spheres in our planetary system.  These forces prevent the heavenly bodies from falling directly and, working together with the forces of attraction, bring about the timeless orbits.  Thus the structure of creation will be preserved from collapse and has been created to last eternally.

Thus, all the suns in the firmament have an orbiting motion, either around one common central point or around many.  But with them, we can everywhere apply the analogy of what we observe about the orbital path of our own solar system, namely, that just as that very cause which subjects the planets to a force moving them away from the center, through which they maintain their orbits, has organized their orbital paths so that they are all on a single plane, so also the cause, whatever it might be, which has given the suns and so many wandering stars of the higher world structure the force of their orbits has also brought their orbits as much as possible into one plane and has worked to limit deviation from this plane.

According to this conception, we can picture the system of fixed stars to a certain extent by means of the planetary system, if we magnify the latter infinitely.  For if instead of six planets with their ten satellites we assume many thousands of similar bodies, and instead of the twenty-eight or thirty comets which we have observed, we assume a hundred or a thousand times more of them, and if we think of these bodies as generating their own light, then to the eye of the observer who looks out from earth it would appear as it does with the fixed stars of the Milky Way....

The shape of the heaven of fixed stars thus has no cause other than the same systematic arrangement on a grand scale as the cosmic structure of the planetary system on a small scale.  All the suns in them make up one system, whose common connecting plane is the Milky Way.  Those which are the least related to this plane will be seen to the side of it; for that reason however, they are less dense, more widely scattered, and less frequent.  They are, so to speak, comets among the suns.

This new theory, however, attributes a forward motion to the suns, and yet everyone acknowledges that they are motionless and that they have been fixed in their positions from the start.  The name which the fixed stars have acquired from this seems confirmed and unambiguous because of all the centuries of observation....  But this lack of movement, when we consider it, is only apparent.  It is either only an exceeding slowness, caused by the enormous distance of their orbits from the common mid-point or an oversight brought about by the distant location of the observer....

If a system of fixed stars, all spatially related to a common plane, exactly as we have sketched out the Milky Way, is so far distant from us that all perception of individual stars making up the system is no longer possible, even with a telescope, if the distance of this system has exactly the same relationship to the distance of the stars in the Milky Way as the latter has to the distance of the sun from us, in short, if such a world of fixed stars is seen at such an immeasurable distance from the eye of the observer located outside this world, then this world will appear in a small angle as a tiny and weakly lit area, with a circular shape if its plane is oriented directly in the line of sight and elliptical if it is viewed from the side.  The weakness of the light, the shape, and the recognizable extent of its diameter will be clearly distinguish such a phenomenon, when present, from all the stars which are seen individually....

We are talking about the nebulous stars or, rather, a type of them, which M. de Maupertuis wrote about as follows:  there are small planets whose light is somewhat more than the darkness of the empty heavens, which all are alike in the fact that they display more or less open ellipses; but their light is much weaker than any other that we are aware of in heaven.

The author of the Astro-theology imagines that these are openings in the firmament through which he believed he saw heavenly fire.  A philosopher of illuminating insights, the above-mentioned M. de Maupertuis, in thinking about the shape and the recognizable diameter of these stars, considers that they are astonishingly large celestial bodies which display an elliptical shape because of the large flattening caused by their rotation, when viewed from the side....

In fact, we see that the elliptical shapes of these sorts of nebulous stars, which M. de Maupertuis mentions, have a very close relationship to the plane of the Milky Way.  Here a wide field stands open for discovery, for which observation must provide the key.  The properly named nebulous stars and those about which there is a dispute whether we should call them nebulous must be investigated and tested according to the guidelines of this theory.  If we view the parts of nature according to a design and a plan we have discovered, then certain characteristics reveal themselves which otherwise will be overlooked and remain hidden, when observation squanders its time on all objects without any guidance.

The theory which we have proposed opens up for us a view of the infinite field of creation and offers an idea of the work of God appropriate to the infinite nature of the Great Masterbuilder.  If the size of a planetary system in which the Earth is hardly seen as a grain of sand fills the understanding with wonder, how delightfully astonished we will be when we examine the infinite crowd of worlds and systems which fill the totality of the Milky Way.  How much greater this wonder when we know that all these immeasurable orders of stars once again create a numbered unity, whose end purpose we do not know and which is perhaps, like the previous one, inconceivably large and yet, once again, still a unified system of a new numbered series.  We see the first links of a progressive relationship of worlds and systems, and the first part of this unending progression allows us to recognize what we should assume about the totality.  Here there is no end, but an abyss of a true infinity, in which all capacity of human thought sinks, even when it is uplifted with the help of mathematics.  The wisdom, goodness, and power which has revealed itself is limitless and, to exactly the same extent, fruitful and busy.  The plan of its revelation must, therefore, be, just like it, without borders and timeless.

However, there are important discoveries to be made, and not just in large things serving to expand the ideas we can formulate about the magnitude of creation.  In small things there is no less undiscovered, and we see even in our solar system the links of a system, which stand immeasurably far from one another and between which we have not yet discovered the intermediate parts.

Saturn is the outermost of the wandering stars which we know about.  Must there be no more planets between Saturn and the least eccentric comet which perhaps comes down to us from a distance ten or more times removed, a planet whose orbit could approach more closely a comet's orbit than Saturn does?  And must not yet other planets be changing into comets by means of a series of intermediate types approximating the composition of comets and linking together the family of planets with the family of comets?...


Second Part

Concerning the first condition of Nature, the development of the celestial bodies, the causes of their movement and their systematic interrelationship both with the structure of particular planets and also with the entire creation.

Section One

Concerning the Origin of the Planetary World Structure in General and the Causes of Its Movements

So far as concerns the reciprocal relationships which the parts of the cosmic structure have among themselves and through which they reveal their original cause, observation of this arrangement displays two aspects, both of which are equally probable and worthy of consideration.  On the one hand, if we think of the fact that six planets with ten companions describe orbits with the sun at the mid-point, that all move in the same direction, the very same as the axial rotational of the sun itself, which governs all their orbits though the power of attraction, that their orbits do not deviate far from a common plane, namely, the extrapolated equatorial plane of the sun, that among the furthest celestial bodies belonging to the solar system, in the region where the common cause of movement was, according to our hypothesis, not so strong as in the regions close to the mid-point, deviations from the precision of this condition occur, which are significantly related to the lack of impressed motion, if, I say, we consider all this interconnection, then we will come to believe that one cause, whatever it may be, had a pervasive influence throughout the entire system and that the conformity in the direction and position of the planetary orbits is a consequence of a harmony which they must have had with that material cause through which they were set in motion.

On the other hand, if we consider the space in which the planets of our system orbit, then we find it is completely empty and deprived of all material stuff which could have subjected these celestial bodies to a common set of influences and brought harmony to their movements.  This emptiness has been established with more perfect certainty and is possibly more likely than the previous condition.  Swayed by this matter, Newton could not point to any material cause which must maintain by its extension into the space of the planetary system the commonality of movements.  He maintained that the unmediated hand of God had set up this order without the use of any natural forces.

Considering the matter impartially, we see that the reasons here on both sides are equally strong.  And they have an equal value as completely certain.  However, it is also just as clear that there must be an theory which can and should unite these two apparently widely conflicting reasons and that in this theory we must seek the true system.  We wish briefly to indicate that theory.

In the present arrangement of space, in which the spheres of all the planetary system move around, there is no material cause present which could impress itself on or govern their movements.  This space is completely empty, or at least as good as empty.  Thus it must have in earlier times been differently constituted and full of matter capable of conferring movement on all the celestial bodies located there and of bringing them into harmony with its motion and, as a consequence, into harmony with each other.

When the power of attraction brought unity to all of space and collected all the scattered matter in particular clusters, the planets must have then freely and unchangingly continued the orbital movement, once impressed upon them, in an unresisting space....

I assume that all the matter making up the spheres belonging to our solar system, all the planets and comets, at the origin of all things was broken down into elementary basic material filling the entire space of the cosmic structure around which these bodies now move.  If we consider this state of nature in and of itself, without reference to a system, it seems to be only the simplest which can follow upon nothing.  At that time nothing had yet developed.

The incorporation of heavenly bodies separate from one another, with their distance from each other controlled according to the power of attraction, and their shape, arising from the equilibrium of the collected materials, are a later condition.  Nature, on the immediate edge of creation, was as raw and undeveloped as possible.  Only in the essential properties of the elements which made up the chaos can we perceive the sign of that perfection which nature has from its origin, since its being is a consequence arising from the eternal idea of the Divine Understanding.  The simplest and most universal characteristics, apparently designed without purpose, had in their most rudimentary state an impulse to develop to perfection by natural means the material stuff, which apparently was merely passive and lacking form and organization.

The difference in the types of elements by itself led to the movement of nature and to the development of chaos in the most noble manner, so that the tranquillity which would have ruled with a universal calm throughout the scattered elements disappeared, and the chaos began to develop itself at points where the particles had a stronger power of attraction....

The materials with the greatest specific density and power of attraction, which by themselves take up less room and are also rarer, were then more scattered in space than the lighter varieties of material.....  Thus, the heavier sort of dispersed elements will be much further from each other than the lighter ones.

The universal tranquillity in space replete in this way lasts only for an instant.  The elements have inherent forces which set each other in motion and are, indeed, themselves, an origin of life.  The material is under an immediate impulse to develop.  The denser type of scattered materials, through the power of attraction, collect from a spherical area around them all the material with a lesser specific gravity.  These materials, together with the stuff which they have united with them, are assembled in the points where the small pieces of an even denser type are located, and these again to even denser points, and so on.  When we think about this idea of a self-developing nature throughout the entire extent of chaos, we will easily see that all the consequences of this process will finally consist of the assembling of different clusters, which, according to the way in which they developed, would be calm and eternally motionless because of the equilibrium in the force of attraction.

But nature has still other forces in store, which manifest themselves especially when the material is dispersed in fine particles, so that these particles repel each other and by their conflict with the power of attraction induce movement, which is, as it were, the enduring life of nature.  This force of repulsion reveals itself in the elastic nature of vapors and the diffusion of all gasses and from objects with a strong smell.  It is an uncontested feature of nature.  Because of it, the elements sinking towards the point of attraction will move each other sideways from their vertical movement, and the straight linear descent will end up as an orbital movement with the point towards which they were sinking at the center.  In order clearly to grasp the development of the cosmic structure, we want to limit our observation of the infinite essence of nature to a particular system, similar to the one to which our sun belongs.  Once we have explored the development of this system, then we will be able to proceed in a similar way to the origin of the higher world order and bring together into one theory the infinite nature of the entire creation.

Thus, when a point is located in a very large space where the power of attraction of the elements placed there exerts a stronger influence than at any other points around it, then the basic material stuff of elementary particles in all the surrounding area will sink to this point.  The first effect of this general sinking is the development of a body at the mid-point of the forces of attraction which, so to speak, proceeds to grow from an infinitely small seed in rapid stages.  As this mass increases, it will, in exactly the same proportion, through its more powerful force move the surrounding particles to unite with it.  When the mass of this central body has grown so extensive that the velocity with which it draws the small particles to itself from great distances is diverted sideways by the weak level of the force of repulsion with which these particles interfere with one another, it produces lateral movements, which, thanks to the centrifugal force, are such that they move in a circle around the central body.

Thus, large eddies of particles develop, each of which, because of the combination of the force of attraction and the force leading to a sideways rotation describes its own curving path.  These sorts of circles all intersect each other, as a result of their large scattering in this space.  Meanwhile, these movements, in various ways in conflict with each other, strive naturally to bring each other into equilibrium, that is, into a single state where the movement of one hinders the movement of another as little as possible.

This occurs, firstly, because the small particles limit the movement of other particles until they all are moving forward in one direction; second, because the particles restrict their vertical movement, which brings them closer to the center of the attraction, until the time when they are all moving horizontally, that is, in circles running parallel around the sun at the mid-point.

At this stage, they no longer intersect with one another.  They maintain constant free circular orbits at the heights where they are suspended, thanks to the equilibrium between the projectile force (centrifugal force) and the force drawing them downwards (centripetal force).  Thus, finally only those particles remain suspended in celestial space which have attained through their fall a velocity and through the resistance of other particles a direction by means of which they can continue a free circular movement.

In this condition, where all the small particles run around the central body in one direction and in circles arranged in parallel, namely, in free circular movements by means of the required projectile force, the conflict and the collision of the elements disappear.  Everything is in the condition of the smallest reciprocal interaction.  This result always occurs naturally with materials subject to conflicting movements.

It is also clear that from the scattered number of particles a large number must, on account of the resistance through which they seek to bring each other to this state, succeed in attaining such an exact arrangement, although a much greater number do not reach this condition and serve only to increase the cluster of the central body, into which they sink, since they cannot maintain themselves freely at the height where they are suspended, but intersect the circles of the lower particles and eventually through the resistance lose all their movement.

Consequently, because of the amount of its assembled material, this body at the mid-point of the attraction will become the main piece of the planetary structure.  This is the sun, although at this time it does not yet immediately have that flaming glow, which breaks out on its surface when its development is fully complete.

We must also observe that while all the elements of self-developing Nature, as demonstrated, move in one direction around the sun as the mid-point, in the case of such orbits which are set up in a single direction and which occur, so to speak, around a common axis, the rotation of fine material cannot remain in this way, because, according to the laws of the centripetal force, all orbital movements must intersect the mid-point of the force of attraction with the plane of their rotation.

Among all these orbits moving in one direction around a common axis, however, there is only one which intersects the mid-point of the sun.  Thus, all the material from both side of this imagined axis moves quickly to that circle which goes directly through the axis of rotation at the central point of the common downward movement.  This circle is the plane of movement for all the elements orbiting around; as much as possible they accumulate there and, by contrast, leave the regions far away from this plane empty.

Those elements which cannot approach so closely to this plane towards which everything is drawn will not be able to maintain themselves indefinitely in those place where they are suspended, but, as they collide with the orbiting elements, will initiate their own fall toward the sun.

If we also consider this fundamental material of the planets whirling about in a state where it develops itself through the power of attraction and the mechanical consequence of the general law of repulsion, then we see a space which is contained between two planes standing not far from each other.

In the middle of these planes is located the common interconnecting plane, extending from the mid-point of the sun out to an unknown extent.  All the particles we can conceive have their mathematically precise circular orbits on this common plane, each proportional to the extent of its distance and to the force of attraction which governs there.

Because in such an arrangement they interfere with each other as little as possible, they would remain in this form for ever, if the force of attraction of these particles of basic matter did not then start to have an effect and initiate developments, thus producing the seeds of planets which are to arise.

For as the elements moving around the sun in parallel circles take up positions where the distances from the sun are not very different, circles which, because of the equality in the parallel movements, are almost in relative calm in relation to each other, then the force of elements there with an excessive specific power of attraction begins at once a significant process of collecting the nearest particles for the development of a body.  As the mass of its growing cluster increases, the power of attraction of this body expands, and elements from a wide area move to combine with it.

In this system, the development of the planets has this advantage over any other theoretical possibility:  the cause of the masses provides simultaneously the cause of the motion and the position of the orbits at the same moment in time.

Indeed, even the deviations from the greatest precision in this arrangement, as well as the harmonies, are illuminated.  The planets are developed out of particles, which at the heights where they are suspended have precise movements in circular orbits.  Thus, the masses formed by their combination will continue exactly the same movement at the same level and in exactly the same direction.  This is sufficient to understand why the paths of the planets are approximately circular and why their orbits are on a single plane.

Moreover, they would be exactly circular if the distance from which the elements gather in their development were very small and also if the difference in their movements were very insignificant .  But because the development of a thick planetary cluster involves a wider surrounding area, throughout which the fine basic stuff is scattered in celestial space, the difference in the distances of these elements from the sun and thus, in addition, the difference in their velocities is no longer insignificant.

As a result, given this distance in the movements, it would be necessary, in order to maintain on the planet an equilibrium between the centripetal forces and the circular velocity, for the particles which collide with the planet from different distances and with different velocities mutually to offset each other's aberrations.  Although this occurs fairly accurately, it is not perfect, and it brings the deviations from circular movement and eccentricity with it.

Similarly it is easy to see that although the orbits of all planets should properly be in one plane, nevertheless here also we will come across a small deviation, because, as already discussed, the elementary particles located as close as possible to the general plane of movement nevertheless take up some space on either side.

It would be a really fortunate coincidence if all the planets should begin to develop exactly half way between these two sides on the plane connecting them, which would already cause some inclination of their orbits relative to each other, although the impulse of the particles from both sides limit this deviation as much as possible, allowing it only within narrow limits.

Moreover, we should not wonder about the fact that here we rarely come across the most precise accuracy in the arrangements, as is the case with all natural things, because generally the multiplicity of circumstances involved in every natural condition does not permit an exact regularity....


Section Seven

Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity Both in Space and Time

With its immeasurable size and its infinite multiplicity and beauty radiating out from all around it, the cosmic structure presents a silent wonder.  If the picture of all this perfection now stirs the imaginative power, from a different perspective the understanding derives another type of delight, when it observes how so much splendor, such an enormous greatness, flows out from one single universal rule in an eternal and justified order.  The planetary structure in which the sun at the center makes all the active spheres of its system orbit in eternal circles by means of it powerful force of attraction is entirely developed, as we have seen, from the originally distributed basic stuff of all planetary material.  All the fixed stars which the eye discovers in the high recesses of Heaven and which appear to display a certain excess are suns and central points of similar systems.  The analogy permits us here no doubt that these were built and developed in the same manner as the one in which we find ourselves, from the smallest particles of elementary materials filling empty space, the infinite extension of the Divine Presence.

Now, if all planets and planetary systems acknowledge the same sort of origin, if the power of attraction is unlimited and universal, if the power of repulsion is similarly continuously at work, and if in comparison with the Infinite, the large and the small are both small, should not the cosmic structures have acquired in like manner an interconnecting relationship and a systematic coordination among themselves, as the celestial bodies of our solar system have on a small scale, like Saturn, Jupiter, and the Earth, which are special systems on their own and yet are linked together amongst themselves as rungs in a much greater system?

If we take one point in the infinite space in which all the suns of the Milky Way were developed, a point around which, for some unknown reason, the first development of nature out of chaos began, then at that location the largest mass and a body of uncommon power of attraction will have arisen, which thus would have become capable of forcing all the development in the comprehensive systems within a huge sphere around it to move down towards it as their central point and to build around it on a large scale a system like the one which the same basic material which developed the planets created around the sun on a small scale.  Observation makes this supposition almost certain.  The army of stars through its orientation in relation to a common plane makes up a system just as much as the planets of our solar system do around the sun.

The Milky Way is the zodiac of this higher world order, deviating from its zone as little as possible.  Its band is always illuminated by its lights, just as the zodiac of planets is illuminated here and there by the shining of these spheres, although only in a very few points.  Each one of these suns, along with its orbiting planets, makes up a particular system of its own, but this does not prevent them from being parts of an even greater system, just as Jupiter or Saturn, in spite of their own satellites, are confined in the systematic arrangement of an ever greater cosmic structure.  Can we not acknowledge with such a precise harmony in the arrangement the same cause and manner of production?

Now, if the fixed stars make up a system whose extent is determined by the sphere of the force of attraction of the body located at the center, will not more solar systems and, so to speak, more Milky Ways arise, which will be produced in the limitless field of space?  With astonishment we have seen figures in Heaven which are nothing other than such systems of fixed stars restricted to a common plane, such Milky Ways, if I may express myself in this way, which present themselves to our eyes in different positions with a weakly glimmering elliptical shape appropriate to their infinite distance away.  They are systems, so to speak, of infinitely greater diameter than the diameter of our solar system, but without doubt they arose in the same way, are organized and arranged by the same causes, and maintain themselves by the same dynamics as our system in its arrangement.

If we see these systems of stars once more as links on collective nature's great chain, we have just as many reasons as before to think of them in a mutual relationship and in combinations which, thanks to the laws governing throughout all nature, make up the first development of a new and even greater system, controlled by the force of attraction of a body of incomparably more power than were all former systems, from the center of their rule-bound positions.  The force of attraction, the cause of the systematic arrangement among the fixed stars of the Milky Way, works at a distance even in this cosmic structure to bring them out of their positions and to bury the world in an unavoidable impending chaos, unless the allotted rule-bound forces of motion achieve an equilibrium with the force of attraction and produce from the combination of the two of them that relationship which is the basis of the systematic arrangement.


The force of attraction is without doubt a characteristic of matter as widely extensive as the coexistence which creates space, because it unites substances through a mutual dependency, or to speak more precisely, the power of attraction is just this common relationship which unites the parts of nature in space.  It extends itself thus through the total extent of space right into all its infinite distances.  If the light from these remote systems, which is only an impressed movement, reaches us, must not the power of attraction, this primordial origin of motion, which antedates all motion, which requires no foreign cause and cannot be halted by any barrier, because it works in the inner core of matter in the universal calm of nature without any external impulse, must not the force of attraction, I say, have set in motion these systems of fixed stars with their material in an undeveloped scattering at the first movements of nature, regardless of their immeasurable distances away?  This is, as we have seen precisely on a small scale, the origin of the systematic union and the enduring permanence of its links, the factor which keeps them secure from collapse.

But then what will finally be the end of the systematic arrangements?  Where will creation itself cease?  We well note that to think of creation in relation to the power of the Infinite Being means it must have no boundaries.  We come no nearer to the infinity of the creative power of God if we enclose its revelation in a sphere described with the radius of the Milky Way than if we enclose it in a ball with a diameter an inch long.  Everything finite which has its limits and a determined relationship to unity is a long way distant from equaling infinity.

Now, it would be absurd to set the Divine into effective action with an infinitely small part of its creative capacity and to imagine its infinite power, the treasure house of a true infinity of natures and worlds, incapacitated and locked into an eternal deficiency in practice.  Is it not much more appropriate or, to express the matter better, is it not necessary to present the embodiment of creation as something which cannot be measured by any standard, which is how it must be, in order to bear witness to that power.  For this reason the field of the revelation of divine properties is just as infinite as these properties.  Eternity is not sufficient to bear witness to the Highest Essence where it is not united with spatial infinity.

It is true that attraction, shape, beauty, and perfection are relationships of the basic elements and of substance making up the material of the cosmic structure.  And we notice it in the arrangement which the wisdom of God still effects at all times.  It is also most appropriate to the wisdom of God that these develop themselves in an unforced succession out of the universal laws implanted in them.  And therefore we can with good reason establish that the order and arrangement of the cosmic structure take place gradually from the supply of created natural matter in a temporal succession.  But the basic material itself, whose properties and forces form the basis for all changes, is an immediate result of the Divine Being and itself must be simultaneously so rich and so perfect that the development of its compositions could in the flow of eternity extend over a plane enclosing in itself everything which can be, a plane which has no dimensions, which is, in short, infinite.

Now, if creation is spatially infinite or at least was really already that from the beginning as far as its material is concerned and according to its form or development is prepared to become so, will space become active with worlds without number and without end?  Will then that systematic union, which we have previously mentioned in particular among all the particles extend to the totality and the universe collectively, the All of nature, tied together in a single system through the unifying power of attraction and the centrifugal force?  I say yes.

If nothing but separate cosmic structures without any unifying relationship to a totality were the only things present, then, if we were to assume this chain of links as truly endless, we could imagine that a precise equality in the power of attraction in its parts on all sides could keep this system secure from destruction which the inner reciprocal force of attraction threatens them with.  But this condition needs to be determined with such precise measurements of the distances proportional to the power of attraction that the slightest displacement would bring destruction to the universe and would deliver it over to collapse.  The time would be long, but finally it would have to come to an end.  A cosmic arrangement which did not keep itself going in the absence of a miracle does not have the mark of permanence which is the sign of God's choice.  Thus, we find it much more appropriate if we make of creation collectively a single system creating all worlds and world structures and filling all infinite space and related to a single central point.  In a scattered confusion, the cosmic structures might be separated from each other by distances less great and could have an unhindered tendency to rush to dissolution and destruction, unless a certain arrangement in relation to a common central point, the center of the power of attraction in the universe and the foundation point of all of nature and its systematic movements, were in place.

At this universal central point of all downward movement in all nature, both developed and raw, is undoubtedly located the cluster with the most extensive power of attraction, encompassing in its sphere of attraction all worlds and ordered systems which time has produced and eternity will produce.  We can probably assume that nature initiated its development and that around its location the systems have accumulated in the greatest density.  Further away from that mid-point, the systems are lost in ever increasing stages of disorder.  We could assume this principle from the analogy to our own solar system, and this arrangement could, in any case, serve to show that at great distances not only the common central body but also all the systems moving in close proximity to it collectively combine their power of attraction and, as if they were one cluster, exercise their effect on systems every further away.  This will then help to include all nature in its extended infinite totality into one single system.

Now, in order to trace the foundation of this universal system of nature from the mechanical laws of matter striving to develop, in the endless space of the dispersed elementary basic material some point or other of this matter must have accumulated with the greatest density, so as to have assembled through the development going on there more than anywhere else a mass which serves as the foundation point of the whole universe.  It is indeed the case that in an infinite space no point can really justifiably be called the center.  But thanks to a certain relationship based upon the inherent levels of density, according to which at the time of creation this material had accumulated more densely particularly at one certain location and its density decreased with the distance away from this point, such a place can correctly be called the center.  And it becomes the mid-point with the development of the central mass through its stronger power of attraction.  It becomes the point to which all the remaining basic material incorporated in particular developments moves down and thus, no matter how far unfolding nature may extend, creates only a single system in creation's infinite sphere.

However, what is important and what, if it wins approval, is worthy of the greatest attention is the fact that, as a consequence of the ordering of nature in this system of ours, creation or, rather, the development nature first begins with this central point and with constantly progressive steps extends itself gradually out into the far distances, in order to fill limitless space with worlds and order in the progress of eternity.

Let us for a moment contemplate this picture with quiet pleasure.  I find nothing which can elevate the human spirit to a more noble wonder than this part of the theory concerning the successive completion of creation, as it opens up for humanity a glimpse into the unending field of the Almighty.

If people grant me that the matter which is the building stuff of all worlds is not homogeneous in the entire infinite space of the divine present but was distributed in accordance with a certain law which perhaps concerned itself with the density of the particles and according to which with the increasing distance from a certain point, like the location of the densest accumulation, the disorder in this basic material increases, then in the original movement of nature the development will have started in the region near this center and then, in a progressive temporal sequence, the more remote space will have gradually developed worlds and planetary structures in a systematic arrangement linked to this center.

Any one finite period, whose duration is connected to the magnitude of the completed work, will, in its development, always produce a sphere only a finite distance from this central point.  The remaining infinite part will meanwhile be combating confusion and chaos and will be that much further from a condition of complete development, the further away it is located from already developed nature.

As a consequence of this, although from our location we have a view into, as it seems, a fully completed world and, so to speak, into an infinite host of planetary structures systematically united, nevertheless we find ourselves in reality only in proximity to the mid-point of all nature, where it has already developed out of chaos and attained its appropriate completion.

If we could step over to a certain sphere, we would there witness chaos and the scattering of the elements, which, in proportion to their proximity to the central point partly leave their raw condition and are closer to their complete development.  But with the degrees of distance away they gradually are lost in a total scattering.  We would see how the limitless space of the divine present, in which we find the store of all possible natural developments, buried in a quiet night, full of matter to serve as the stuff of worlds to be produced in the future and full of the initiating energies to bring it into motion.

With a weak stimulus these begin those movements with which immeasurable nature in this barren space is yet still to be activated.  Perhaps a succession of millions of years and centuries is to flow by before the sphere of developed nature in which we find ourselves grows to the perfection inherent in it.  And perhaps an even longer period will elapse before nature will take such a wide step into chaos.

But the sphere of developed nature is ceaselessly occupied with expanding itself.  Creation is not the work of a moment.  After creation made a beginning by producing an infinity of substances and materials, it is efficacious with constantly increasing degrees of fecundity throughout the total succession of eternity.  Millions and numberless millions of centuries will pass, during which new worlds and new world systems will constantly develop and reach completion, one after the other, in the expanses far from the central point of nature.

Regardless of the systematic arrangement among their parts individually, they will have a common relationship to the central point, which became the first point of development and the center of creation through the capacity of the power of attraction of its preponderant mass.  The infinity of the future temporal succession, through which eternity is inexhaustible, will thoroughly activate all the space of God's present and gradually set it into rule-bound regularity, appropriate to the excellence of its design.

And if, in a daring picture, we could, so to speak, sum up eternity in a single idea, then we would be able thus to see the entire spatial infinity filled with world systems and a complete creation.  However, because, in fact, in the temporal sequence of eternity the part to come is always infinite and the part gone by is finite, the sphere of developed nature is always only a small finite part of that comprehensive totality which has in it the seeds of future worlds and works, in order to develop itself out of the raw state of chaos in longer or shorter periods.

Creation is never complete.  True, it once began, but it will never cease.  It is always busy bringing forth new natural phenomena, new things, and new worlds.  The work which it brings into being has a relationship to the time nature expends on it.  It needs no less than an eternity to bring the entire limitless extent of infinite spaces alive with numberless worlds without end....


There is no small pleasure in letting one's imagination roam over the limits of completed creation into the space of chaos and to see half raw nature in the vicinity of the sphere of the developed world losing itself gradually through all the stages and shades of incompletion in the entire undeveloped space.  But is that not a culpable daring, people will say, to set down a hypothesis and to praise it as a delightful subject for the understanding when it is perhaps only arbitrary, claiming that nature is only developed to an infinitely small extent and limitless spaces still are at strife with chaos, so that they will display in the succession of future times entire hosts of worlds and world systems in all appropriate order and beauty?.

I am not so devoted to the consequences which my theory offers that I should not acknowledge how the conjecture about the successive expansion of creation through endless spaces containing material in themselves cannot fully counter the charge that it is beyond proof.  However, I expect from those who are in a position to appreciate levels of probability, that such a map of infinity, although containing a subject that certainly seems to be concealed forever from human understanding, will not for that reason immediately be seen as a chimera, especially when we take the analogy as an aid which must always guide us in such cases where the understanding lacks the guiding threads of indubitable proofs.

However, we can still reinforce the analogy with principles worthy of consideration.  The insight of the reader who, I may flatter myself, will approve will be able perhaps to multiply these principles with more important ones.

Creation does not bring with it a characteristic constancy.  It does not establish for the common striving of the power of attraction, which works through all its parts, such an exact general determination which can sufficiently withstand the tendency of this power to bring destruction and disorder, unless creation allotted the orbital forces which in combination with the central tendency fixes in place a systematic arrangement.

When we consider this, we will be required to assume a common central point for the entire totality of worlds, a point which holds all the parts of this totality together in a united relationship and makes only one system out of the entire comprehensive essence of nature.  If we pursue the idea of the development of world systems out of scattered elementary matter, as we have outlined the subject previously, but do not limit the idea here to one particular system, extending it rather to all nature, then we will have to imagine such a distribution of the basic matter in the space of primordial chaos.

This naturally involves a central point of all creation, so that the effective mass which encompasses all nature collectively in its sphere of attraction could bring the material together and make the general relationship work, so that all worlds make up only one single structure.  However, in limitless space a sort of distribution of the primordial basic material can hardly be imagined of the sort which is to establish a true central point towards which collective nature sinks down other than one in which the distribution is arranged according to a law of increasing disorder from this point out into the far distances.

This law, however, at the same time establishes a difference in the time which a system requires in the different regions of limitless space to come to its mature development.  This period is shorter, the closer the location of the development of a world system is to the center of creation, because in the closer region the elements of matter accumulate more thickly; by contrast, the further the distance away from this center, the longer the time required, because the particles there are more scattered and come together later to develop.


If people think about the entire hypothesis to the full extent that I have stated, as well as about what I will still present, people will at least not consider that there is no excuse for the daring of its claims.  We can calculate that the inevitable tendency which each world system brought to completion has to move towards its destruction is among the reasons which can establish that the universe, in contrast to that destruction, is fertile with worlds in other regions, to make up for the deficiency which it has suffered in one location.

Although the entire part of nature that we know about is only equivalent to an atom in comparison with what remains hidden over or under the circles visible to us, it nevertheless confirms this fertility of nature, which is without limit because it is nothing other than the working out of the Divine Omnipotence itself.  Numberless animals and plants are destroyed every day and are a sacrifice to mortality.  But nature, with its inexhaustible productive capacity, creates just as many over again in other places and fills up the emptiness.

Considerable parts of the earth's surface which we inhabit are being buried once again in the sea out of which they were brought at a favorable time.  But in other places, nature makes up for the loss and produces other areas which were hidden deep under water, in order to extend over these areas new riches from her fertile store.  In the same way, worlds and world systems go under and are swallowed up in the abyss of eternity.  But, on the other hand, creation is always busy organizing new development in other regions of heaven and making up for the loss with advantage.

We should be amazed to admit mortality even in the greatness of God's work.  Everything finite, with a original starting point, has within itself the mark of its limited nature.  It must die and have an end.  On account of the excellence of its arrangements, the duration of a world system has a permanence which, according to our ideas, comes close to a limitless time span.

Perhaps a thousand, perhaps millions of centuries do not destroy it.  But because vanity, which adheres to finite natures, works continuously for their destruction, so eternity will hold in itself all possible periods, in order finally to bring about through a gradual decay the moment of its collapse.

Newton, that great admirer of the properties of God in the perfection of His works, the one who with the deepest insight into the excellence of nature combined the greatest devotion for Divine Omnipotence, saw himself compelled to predict the decay of nature through the natural tendency which the mechanics of movement had to bring it about.  If a systematic arrangement comes close to a state of confusion as the essential result of its fallibility over a long period of time, even in the very smallest part that we can imagine, then in the endless current of eternity there must be a moment in time when this gradual diminution exhausts all movement.

However, we need not lament the destruction of a cosmic structure as a real loss for nature.  It demonstrates its richness with a kind of dissipation which, when a few parts pay the tribute to mortality, maintains it in the full extent of nature's perfection with numberless new productions.

What a countless number of flowers and insects a single cold day destroys.  But how little we miss them, regardless of the fact that they are beautiful works of art and proofs of the Divine Omnipotence.  In another place, this death will be made up once again with excess.

Humanity, apparently the masterpiece of creation, is itself no exception to this principle.  Nature shows that it is just as rich and just as inexhaustible in the production of the most excellent of creatures as it is of the most insignificant and that their destruction is a necessary shadow amid the multiplicity of its suns, because producing humanity cost nature nothing.  The harmful effects of infected air, earthquakes, and inundations wipe out entire peoples from the surface of the earth, but it does not appear that, on this account, nature has suffered any damage.

In the same way, entire worlds and systems leave the stage when they have played out their roles.  The infinite nature of creation is large enough that it looks upon a world or a Milky Way of worlds in comparison with it as we look upon a flower or an insect in comparison with the Earth.  In the meantime, while nature beautifies eternity with changing scenes, God remains busy with a ceaseless creation, forming material for the development of even greater worlds.

Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
--Alexander Pope
Let us get used to the picture of these terrifying collapses as the customary methods of providence and look at them with even a kind of delight.  In fact, nothing is more appropriate to the richness of nature than this.  For when a world system in the long sequence of its duration exhausts all the multiplicity which its organization can contain, when it has now become an expendable link in the chain of being, then nothing is more fitting than that it play the last role in the drama of the passing changes of the universe, which is part of every finite thing, namely, it gives up what it owes to mortality.

Nature demonstrates, as mentioned, even in the small parts of its being this rule of its processes, which eternal fate has prescribed for it on a large scale.  And I repeat that the magnitude of what is to pass away is in this matter not the slightest obstacle, for everything large becomes small.  Yes, it becomes just like a point, if we compare it with the infinity which creation will present throughout the succession of eternity in limitless space.

It appears that for worlds, as for all natural things, this fatal ending is subject to a certain law whose consideration gives the theory something new and appropriate.  According to this principle, the fatal ending originates among those celestial bodies located closest to the central point of the universe, just as the production and development first began close to this mid-point.  From there the decay and destruction gradually work their way outward into the further distances, in order to bury all the world which has gone through its time, by means of a gradual decline in its motions, finally in a single chaos.

On the other hand, nature is ceaselessly busy on the borders opposite to the developed world producing worlds from the raw material of the scattered elements.  While nature on one side close to the mid-point is aging, on the other side it is young and fertile in new generations.  The developed world, according to this, finds itself in a limited space in the middle, between the ruins of what has been destroyed and the chaos of undeveloped nature.

If we imagine, as is probable, that a world already growing to completion could last a longer time than it required to become developed, then the extent of the universe will in general increase, regardless of all the destruction which mortality ceaselessly brings about.

However, if we now allow an idea which is just as probable as the arrangement of the divine works is appropriate, then the satisfaction aroused by such a description of nature's changes will be lifted to the highest level of delight.


Can we not believe that nature, which was capable of setting itself up out of chaos into a rule-bound order and a finely tuned system, is equally in a position just as easily to organize itself once more out of the new chaos into which the diminution of motions has lowered it and to renew the first unity?  Might the energies which brought the scattered material stuff into motion and order not be able once more to be made effective by forces from a distance after the motionlessness of the machine rendered them inert and, through the same universal principles, be harmoniously regulated in the way in which the original development was produced?

We will not examine the matter very long before conceding, if we consider that, after the final exhaustion of the orbital motions in the cosmic structure has thrown the planets and comets together down onto the sun, the sun's fire must increase immeasurably through the addition of so many large bodies, especially since the furthest spheres of the solar system, as a consequence of the theory we have previously established, contain the lightest and most effective fuel in all nature.

This fire, given the highest intensity by the new fuel and the volatile materials, will without doubt not only break down everything into the smallest elements but will also in this way spread them out with an expansive force appropriate to the heat and at a velocity which is not weakened by any resistance in the middle regions.  It will scatter them once again in the same wide space which they occupied before the first development of nature, so that, after the intensity of the central fire is damped down by the almost total destruction of the sun's mass, through the combination of the forces of attraction and repulsion the old generations, together with their systematically interrelated movements, will be repeated with no less regularity and will present a new cosmic structure.

Thus, when a particular planetary system suffers destruction in this way and has been re-established by the essential forces, when indeed this entire play repeats itself again, then finally the period approaches when, in the same manner, the large system of which the fixed stars are links will collectively experience chaos through the lessening of it motion.  We will have even fewer doubts here that the uniting of such an endless number of rich fiery store houses as these burning suns, together with their attendant planets, dissolved by the indescribable inferno, will scatter the material making up their masses, and there the material will provide for new developments through the same mechanical laws.

As a result of this, the barren space can become active with worlds and systems once again.  When we follow this phoenix of nature, which is only burned up in order to live again, renewed once more from its ashes, through all infinity of times and spaces, when we see how it progresses, even in the region where it decays and grows old, inexhaustible in new phenomena and, on another border of creation, in the space of undeveloped raw matter takes constant strides to unfold the plans of the divine revelation to fill eternity as well as space with its wonders, then the spirit contemplating all this is lost in deep wonder....


Supplement to Section Seven

Universal Theory and History of the Sun in General

There is still a major question the answer to which is essential in the natural theory of heaven and in a complete cosmogony, namely, why will the middle point of a such a system consist of a burning body?  Our planetary system has the sun as the central body, and the fixed stars visible to us are, all things considered, mid-points of similar systems.

In order to grasp why in the development of a planetary structure the body serving as the mid-point of the power of attraction must have a fiery body, while the other structures in the sphere of its power of attraction remain dark and cold worlds, we need only remember back to the way in which a planetary system is produced, something we have outlined in detail in the previous part.  In the greatly expanded space in which the spread out elementary basic material initiates developments and systematic movements, the planets and comets are built up only out of that portion of the elementary basic matter moving downward towards the central point of the force of attraction which, through their fall and the reciprocal interaction of the particles collectively, was precisely adjusted for the velocity and direction required for orbital motion.  This portion is, as established above, the smallest part of the total amount of matter moving downward, indeed is only the remaining dense varieties which have been able to attain the degree of precision from the resistance of the other parts.

In this mixture there are particularly light types of matter floating around, which, hindered by the resistance in space, do not in their descent push on through to the velocity appropriate to periodic orbits.  Consequently, given their insufficient orbital momentum they will all collectively fall down to the central body.  Now, these lightest and most volatile parts are also the most effective at maintaining a fire.  We see that with the addition of them the central point has a preponderant tendency to become a flaming sphere, in a word, a sun.  By contrast, the heavier and inert materials and those particles which are poor fuel for a fire create in planets only cold and dead clusters....

I firmly maintain that we can have no doubt that the sun is truly a flaming body and not a smoldering and glowing material heated to the highest degree, as a few people have wished to infer from certain difficulties they claim to find in connection with the former view.  For a flaming fire has this essential factor over and above any other form of heat, that it, so to speak, works on its own, instead of being diminished or exhausted by its interaction.  Through this it rather acquires more strength and intensity.  Thus, it requires only material and fuel to maintain itself so as to keep up its strength continuously.

By contrast, the glow of a mass heated to the highest degree is in a merely passive condition, which by the common interaction with the material in contact with it constantly diminishes and has no forces of its own to expand from a small beginning or to revive itself again should it diminish.  When we consider this, I say, (and I say nothing of the other reasons) then we will already be sufficiently capable of seeing that this property must, in all probability, be attributed to the sun, the fountain of light and heat in every planetary system.

Now, if the sun, or rather suns in general, are flaming spheres, then the first requirement of their outer surfaces, which we can deduce from this point, is that air must be found there, because without air no fire burns.  This condition gives rise to remarkable consequences.  For if we first establish the atmosphere of the sun and its weight in relationship to the sun's cluster, how compressed will this air be and how capable will it become on account of this compression to maintain the intensest level of fire through its resilience?

According to all assumptions, in this atmosphere, the clouds of smoke of the material broken up by the flames (which, we cannot doubt, have a mixture of crude and lighter particles in them) after they have risen up to an altitude which keeps the air cooler for them, fall down with heavy rains of pitch and sulfur, which provide new fuel for the flames.  This very atmosphere is also, for the same reasons as on our Earth, not free from the motions of the winds which, according to this view, must far exceed in intensity everything that the power of the imagination can picture.

When some region or other on the surface of the sun, either through the suffocating force of the vapors pouring out or because of the limited supply of combustible material sees the eruption of flames diminish, then the air above cools to some extent, and since it is contracting, it makes room for the air in the immediate vicinity to rush into its space with a force proportional to its expansion and to reignite the extinguished flames.

However, all flames always consume a great deal of air, and there is no doubt that the resilience of the volatile elements of the air which encircle the sun must, in this way, over time suffer significant damage.  If we apply here on a large scale what Hales has, through careful research, proven in this matter with respect to flames in our atmosphere, then we can see the ceaseless striving of the particles of smoke coming out of the flames to destroy the elasticity of the sun's atmosphere as a serious problem, the solution to which is associated with difficulties.

Because the flames which burn over the entire surface of the sun themselves consume the air essential for their combustion, the sun is in danger of going out entirely when the largest portion of its atmosphere has been consumed.  True, from the dissolution of certain materials fire also produces air.  But the experiments demonstrate that more is always consumed than produced.

Indeed, when a part of the sun's fire under the suffocating vapors is deprived of the air which serves to maintain it, then, as we have already noted, strong storms destroy the vapors and work to carry them away.

But on a large scale we will be able to understand the replacement of this necessary element in the following manner, when we keep in mind that in the case of a flaming fire the heat acts almost exclusively above it and only a little underneath it.

When it has suffocated for reasons we have cited, its intensity turns to the inside of the sun's body, forces the deep hollow places to let the air enclosed in their depths break out and to renew the fire once more.  If, using that freedom permitted in dealing with such unknown circumstances, we assume there are in these depths special materials which, like saltpeter, are inexhaustibly rich with elastic air, then the sun's fire will not be able to suffer easily from a deficiency for an extremely long period because the supply of air is constantly renewed.

However, we do see the clear mark of mortality also in this inestimably valuable fire which nature sets up as the world's torch.  There comes a time when it will be extinguished.  The dispersion of the most volatile and finest material which are scattered by the intensity of the heat, which never turns back again, and which increases the zodiacal light, the accumulation of incombustible and burned out materials, for example the ashes on the surface, and finally the lack of air will establish a date when its flames at some point in the future go out and eternal darkness will take over in its place, now the central point of light and life of the entire planetary structure.

The alternating impulse of its fires by which it opens new caverns to become vital again and through which it renews itself perhaps several times could provide an explanation of the disappearance and renewed illumination of a few fixed stars.  There would be suns which are close to being extinguished and which still work again repeatedly from their debris.

This explanation may win approval or not, but we will certainly let this consideration serve for us to see that since, in one way or another, an unavoidable decay threatens the perfection of all planetary systems, we will find no difficulty with the laws referred to previously concerning their collapse through the tendency of mechanistic arrangements.  This, however, will be particularly worthy of consideration, since it brings with it the seeds of a repeated renewal in the interaction with chaos.

Finally, let us use the power of our imaginations to picture such a wonderfully strange object as a burning sun, as it were, at close hand.  We see at a glance wide seas of fire, raising their flames towards heaven, frantic storms, whose fury doubles the intensity of the burning seas.  The storms make the fiery seas overflow their banks, sometimes covering the higher regions of this world, sometimes allowing them to sink back down within their borders.  Burned out rocks extend their frightening peaks up above the flaming chasms, whose inundation or exposure by the boiling fiery elements causes the alternating appearance and disappearance of the sun spots.  Thick vapors which suffocate the fire, lifted up by the power of the winds, make dark clouds, which in fiery downpours crash back down and as burning streams flow from the heights of firm land onto the sun into the flaming valleys, the cracking of the elements, the debris of burned up material and nature wrestling with destruction which bring about, along with the most dreadful condition of disorder, the beauty of the world and the benefits for its creatures.

If, then, the mid-point of all large planetary systems are burning bodies, we can assume that this is most particularly the case with the central body of that immeasurable system which comprises the fixed stars.  Now then, if this body, whose mass must be proportional to the magnitude of its system, were a self-illuminating body or a sun, will it not be visible with a particularly bright illumination?  However, we do not see anything like such a predominantly different fixed star shining out among the host in heaven.  In fact, we should not think it strange if such a thing does not occur.  If the mass of such a sun was equivalent to a mass 1000 times greater than our sun, nevertheless, if its distance away was 100 times greater than the distance of Sirius, it could appear no larger or brighter than Sirius.

However, perhaps it is reserved for future ages to discover at some later date at least the region where the central point of the system of fixed stars to which our sun belongs is located or perhaps really to determine where we must place the central body of the universe towards which all the universe's parts aim with a common downward motion.

As for what the composition of this fundamental part of the entire creation may be and what may be found on it, we will leave it to Mr. Wright from Durham to determine.  With a fantastic enthusiasm he elevates, so to speak, on a throne of nature collectively a powerful essence of the Divine with spiritual forces of attraction and repulsion, effective in an infinite sphere around it, drawing all virtue to it but pushing back all vice.

We will not allow the daring of our conjectures, which we have permitted rather too much, to slip the reins into arbitrary poetical creations....


Part Three

Which contains in it an attempt, based on natural analogies, at a comparison between the inhabitants of different planets.

He, who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied Being peoples every star,
May tell why Heaven has made us as we are.
--Alexander Pope

...It may appear that in this sort of subject the freedom to be poetical has no real limits, that in judging the make-up of those who live in distant worlds we could allow unbridled fantasy much more freely than a painter in an illustration of the flora and fauna of discovered countries, and that these very ideas could not be proved right or wrong.  Nevertheless, we must admit that the distances of the celestial bodies from the sun involve certain relationships which bring with them a vital influence on the different characteristics of the thinking beings found on these very bodies.  Their way of working and suffering is associated with the composition of the material to which they are bound and depends upon the quantity of impressions which the world arouses in them, according to the relationship of their living environment with the center of gravitational power and heat.

I believe that it is not necessary to assert that all planets must be inhabited.  However, it would at the same time be absurd to deny this claim with respect to all or even to most of them.  Given the richness of Nature, where worlds and systems are only sunny dust specks compared to the totality of creation, there could in fact also be deserted and uninhabited regions with not the slightest function in Nature's purpose, namely, the contemplation by reasoning beings.  It would be as if one wished to raise a doubt about the basis of God's wisdom by acknowledging that sandy and uninhabited deserts make up large stretches of the earth's surface and that there are in the earth's oceans abandoned islands where no human being is found.  However, a planet is far less in relation to the totality of creation than is a desert or an island in relation to the earth's surface.

Perhaps all the celestial bodies have not yet completely developed.  Hundreds and maybe thousands of years are necessary for a large celestial body to reach a stable material condition.  Jupiter still appears to be in a state of development.  The remarkable changes in its appearance at different moments have already led astronomers for a long time to assume that the planet must be experiencing large upheavals and is a long way from having a calm outer surface, a condition which must pertain for a planet to be inhabited.  If Jupiter is uninhabited and even if it is never to have any inhabitants, what an infinitely small natural expenditure that would be compared to the immeasurable size of the total creation.  If nature were carefully to display all her richness in every place, would that not be much more a sign of nature's poverty than of her abundance?

But it is more satisfying for us still to assume that if Jupiter is uninhabited right now, nonetheless the planet will be inhabited in the future, when it has had time to develop completely.  Earth perhaps existed for a thousand years or more before it was in a condition to support human beings, animals, and plants.  The fact that a planet reaches this complete state only after some thousand years does nothing to detract from the reason for its existence.  For this very reason the planet will be around for a longer time in the future in its state of complete development, once it has attained it.  For there is a certain natural principle that everything which has a beginning gets steadily closer to its dissolution and that much closer to destruction the further it is from its origin.

One can only approve of the satirical portrayal by that witty person from the Hague who, after setting down the general news from the scientific world, could humorously present the imaginary picture of the necessary habitation of all planets.  "These very creatures who live in the forests of a beggar's head [i.e., lice]," he says, "had for a long time thought of their dwelling place as an immeasurably large ball and themselves as the masterworks of creation.  Then one of them, to whom Heaven had given a more refined soul, a small Fontenelle of his species, unexpectedly learned about a noble man's head.  Immediately he assembled all the witty creatures of his region and told them with delight:  We are not the only living beings in all nature.  Look here at this new land.  More creatures live here." If the last remark provokes laughter, that happens not because, as we judge the matter, it is far removed from human nature, but because that same mistake, which among human beings has basically a similar cause, seems more excusable in our case.

Let us judge in an unprejudiced manner.  This insect, which in its way of living as well as in its lack of worth expresses very well the condition of most human beings, can be used for such a comparison with good results.  According to the louse's imagination, nature is endlessly well suited to its existence.  Thus, it considers irrelevant all the rest of nature which does not have a precise goal related to its species as the central purpose of nature.  The human being, who similarly stands infinitely far from the highest stages of being, is sufficiently bold to flatter himself with the same imaginative picture of his existence as essential.

The unlimited nature of creation contains within itself with equal necessity all creatures which its superbly fecund richness produces.  From the most refined classes of thinking beings right down to the most despicable insect, no link is irrelevant to nature.  And not a single one can fail to appear without in the process fracturing the beauty of the whole, which consists in the interrelatedness.  Moreover, everything is determined by universal laws which nature effects through the combined forces planted in things at their origin.  Because nature's actions produce only what is appropriate and ordered, no particular purpose must disturb and break her order.

In its initial development a planet's growth was only an infinitely small consequence of nature's fertility.  Now, it would be somewhat absurd if nature's well-grounded laws should defer to the specific purposes of this atom.  If the composition of a celestial body establishes natural barriers against its becoming inhabited, then it will not have inhabitants, even though in and of itself the planet would be more beautiful if it had its own creatures.  The excellence of creation loses nothing in such a case, for among all large quantities the infinite is the one which is not diminished by the subtraction of a finite part.  It would be as if one wished to complain that the space between Jupiter and Mars was unnecessarily empty and that there are comets which are not populated.

In fact, however insignificant that louse may appear to us, to Nature it is certainly more appropriate to maintaining its entire class than a small number of more excellent creatures (of which there would nevertheless be infinitely many, even if one region or locale should lack them).  Because Nature is endlessly fertile in producing both species, in their sustenance and their destruction we really see both equally abandoned disinterestedly to the universal laws.  Indeed, has the possessor of the inhabited forests on the beggar's head ever created more disasters among the races of this colony than the son of Philip [of Macedon, Alexander the Great,] brought about among the race of his fellow citizens, when his wicked genius gave him the idea that the world was created only for his sake?

However, most of the planets are certainly inhabited, and those that are not will be in the future.  Now, what sort of interconnections will occur among the different types of these inhabitants through the relationship between their place in the cosmic structure and the central point from which the warmth which nourishes all life extends outwards?  For it is certain that, with the materials of these celestial bodies this heat will bring with it certain relationships in their composition proportional to the distance from the center.

In this comparison, the human being, who is, of all reasoning beings, the one we know most clearly, although at the same time his inner composition is still an unexplored problem, must serve as the common basic reference point.  We do not wish here to comment on his moral characteristics or his physical structure.  We want only to explore how the capacity to think rationally and the physical movement which obeys rational thought are limited by the material composition proportional to the solar distance.  Regardless of the infinite distance encountered between the power of thought and the movement of matter, between the reasoning spirit and the body, it is nevertheless certain that a human being, who receives all his ideas and conceptions from impressions which the universe awakens in his soul by means of the body (both with respect to their clarity and to the skill of combining and comparing them, which we call the capacity for thought) is totally dependent on the composition of this material stuff to which the Creator has bound him....

The inhabitants of Earth and Venus would not be able to exchange their living environments without the mutual destruction of both.  The material out of which the inhabitants of Earth are made is proportional to the degree of heat for their distance from the sun.  Thus, it is too light and volatile for an even greater heat, and in a hotter sphere it would suffer from violent movements and natural breakdown, arising from the scattering and drying up of the fluids and a powerful tension in its elastic fibers.  The inhabitants of Venus, whose cruder structure and elemental sluggishness require a stronger solar influence, would in a cooler celestial region freeze and die from a lack of vitality.  Hence, the body of an inhabitant of Jupiter would have to consist of far lighter and more volatile material, so that the very small motion which the sun can induce at this distance could move these machines just as powerfully as it does in the lower regions.  I summarize all this in one general idea:  The material stuff out of which the inhabitants of different planets (including the animals and plants) are made must, in general, be of a lighter and finer type and the elasticity of the fibers as well as the advantageous structural design must be more perfect in proportion to their distance away from the sun.

This relationship is so natural and well grounded that not only do the fundamental motives of its higher purpose (which in the study of nature are normally considered weak reasons) lead to it, but also at the same time the proportions of the specific composition of the material stuff making up the planets confirm it.  These are derived from Newton's calculations as well as from the basic principles of cosmogony.  According to these, the material stuff composing the celestial bodies is always of a lighter type in the more distant planets than in those closer to the sun.  This point must necessarily bring with it a similar relationship for the creatures which develop and maintain themselves on the planets....

[W]e can conclude with more than probable assurance that the excellence of thinking beings, the speed of their powers of organization, the clearness and vivacity of their ideas, which come to them from external stimuli, together with the ability to combine ideas, and finally, too, the rapidity in actual performance--in short the entire extent of their perfection--is governed by a particular rule according to which these characteristics will always be more excellent and perfect in proportion to the distance of their dwelling places from the sun....

The beings on the planets Venus and Mercury are far below the perfection of human nature.  What a wonderful view!  On one side we see thinking creatures among whom a Greenlander or a Hottentot would be a Newton; on the other side we see people who would wonder about Newton as if he were an ape....

To the extent that this analogy flows naturally from the consequences of the physical interrelationship between the dwelling places and the center of the system, it will be rightly accepted, in part.  On the other hand, a real look at the most splendid habitations prepared for the superb perfection of these beings in the higher regions confirms this rule so clearly that it should almost compel assent.  The active speed associated with the merits of a lofty nature is better fitted to the rapidly changing time periods of the higher spheres than the slowness of lethargic and more imperfect creatures.

Telescopes teach us that the changes in day and night on Jupiter occur in 10 hours.  What would an inhabitant of Earth really do with this division of time, if he were placed on this planet?  The 10 hours would scarcely be sufficient for the rest this crude machine requires to recuperate in sleep.  What would the preparations for going through waking up, getting dressed, and the time taken up with eating demand as a share of the available time?  How would a creature whose activities occur so slowly not be rendered confused and incapable of anything effective when his 5 hours of business would be suddenly interrupted by an intervening period of darkness of exactly the same duration?  However, if Jupiter is inhabited by more perfect beings who combine a more refined development and a greater agility in practice, then we can believe that these 5 hours are exactly equivalent to or more than the 12 hours of the day for the humble class of human beings.  We know temporal demands are somewhat relative.  This cannot be known and understood except from a comparison of the size of the task to be done and the quickness with which it is carried out.  Thus, the very same time which for one type of creature is, as it were, an instant can for another creature be a long period in which a large sequence of changes develops rapidly and efficiently.  According to the calculations of the probable axial rotation of Saturn, which we have dealt with above, the planet has a very much shorter division of day and night.  It therefore allows us to assume even more advantageous capabilities in the nature of its inhabitants.

Finally, everything comes together to confirm the proposed principle.  Nature has visibly distributed her goods as richly as possible to the far regions of the world.  The moons, which compensate the active beings of these blissful regions for the loss of daylight with a sufficient substitute, are most liberally placed in that area.  Nature appears to have taken care to provide her bounty fully and effectively, so that there may be scarcely any time when the inhabitants are prevented from making use of it.  So far as Jupiter's moons are concerned, the planet has an obvious advantage over all the lower planets, and Saturn once again has the advantage over Jupiter.  Saturn's dwelling places probably derive even greater advantages in the composition of the planet from the beautiful and useful ring surrounding it.  By contrast, the lower planets, for whom this advantageous feature would be an unnecessary waste and whose classes of inhabitants approach much more closely to irrationality, have either not been blessed at all with such a benefit or only very little....


We do not really know what the human being truly is today, although our awareness and understanding should instruct us in this matter.  How much less would we be able to guess what a human being is to become in future.  However, the curiosity of the human soul greedily grasps for this far distant subject and strives to put some light on such unilluminated knowledge.

Must the everlasting soul for the full eternity of its future existence, which the grave itself does not destroy but only changes, always remain fixed at this point of the cosmos, on our Earth?  Must it never share a closer look at the rest of creation's wonders?  Who knows whether it is destined that in future the soul will get to know at close quarters the cosmic structures and the excellence of the dwelling places in those distant spheres which already attract its curiosity from afar?  Perhaps that is why some spheres of the planetary system are already developing, in order to prepare for us in other heavens new places to live after the completion of the time prescribed for our stay here on Earth.  Who knows whether those satellites do not circle around Jupiter so as to provide light for us in the future?...

[T]he sight of a starry heaven on a clear night gives a kind of pleasure which only noble souls experience.  In the universal stillness of nature and the tranquillity of the mind, the hidden capacity to know speaks the unnamable language of the immortal soul and provides inchoate ideas which are certainly felt but are incapable of being described.  If among thinking creatures of this planet there are lower beings who, regardless of all incitements which such a great subject can offer, are nevertheless in the state of being stuck firmly in the service of vanity, how unfortunate this sphere is that it could produce such miserable creatures.  But, on the other hand, how lucky they are that there is a way, one supremely worthy of following, for them to reach a spiritual happiness and nobility, something infinitely far above the advantages which the most beneficial of all nature's arrangements in all planetary bodies can attain!

The End
Go to:
  • Natural History:  General and Particular, vol I (1749), by Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788)
  • The System of the World (1796), by Pierre-Simon de Laplace (1749-1827)
Weekly Readings
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