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{›Utmost conceivable expanse‹ of Space}

The fact is, that, upon the enunciation of any one of that class of terms to which ›Infinity‹ belongs – the class representing thoughts of thought – he who has a right to say that he thinks at all, feels himself called upon, not to entertain a conception, but simply to direct his mental vision toward some given point, in the intellectual firmament, where lies a nebula never to be resolved. To solve it, indeed, he makes no effort; for with a rapid instinct he comprehends, not only the impossibility, but, as regards all human purposes, the inessentiality, of its solution. He perceives that the Deity has not designed it to be solved. He sees, at once, that it lies out of the brain of man, and even how, if not exactly why, it lies out of it. There are people, I am aware, who, busying themselves in attempts at the unattainable, acquire very easily, by dint of the jargon they emit, among those thinkersthat- they-think with whom darkness and depth are synonymous, a kind of cuttle-fish reputation for profundity; but the finest quality of Thought is its self-cognizance; and, with some little equivocation, it may be said that no fog of the mind can well be greater than that which, extending to the very boundaries of the mental domain, shuts out even these boundaries themselves from comprehension.

It will now be understood that, in using the phrase, ›Infinity of Space,‹ I make no call upon the reader to entertain the impossible conception of an absolute infinity. I refer simply to the ›utmost conceivable expanse‹ of space – a shadowy and fluctuating domain, now shrinking, now swelling, in accordance with the vacillating energies of the imagination.

Hitherto, the Universe of stars has always been considered as coincident with the Universe proper, as I have defined it in the commencement of this Discourse. It has been always either directly or indirectly assumed – at least since the dawn of intelligible Astronomy – that, were it possible for us to attain any given point in space, we should still find, on all sides of us, an interminable succession of stars. This was the untenable idea of Pascal when making perhaps the most successful attempt ever made, at periphrasing the conception for which we struggle in the word ›Universe.‹ »It is a sphere,« he says, »of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference, nowhere.« But although this intended definition is, in fact, no definition of the Universe of stars, we may accept it, with some mental reservation, as a definition (rigorous enough for all practical purposes) of the Universe proper – that is to say, of the Universe of space. This latter, then, let us regard as › a sphere of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.‹ In fact, while we find it impossible to fancy an end to space, we have no difficulty in picturing to ourselves any one of an infinity of beginnings.

As our starting point, then, let us adopt the Godhead. Of this Godhead, in itself, he alone is not imbecile – he alone is not impious who propounds –– nothing. »Nous ne connaissons rien,« says the Baron de Bielfeld – »Nous ne connaissons rien de la nature ou de l'essence de Dieu: – pour savoir ce qu'il est, il faut être Dieu même.« – »We know absolutely nothing of the nature or essence of God: – in order to comprehend what he is, we should have to be God ourselves.«

»We should have to be God ourselves!« – With a phrase so startling as this yet ringing in my ears, I nevertheless venture to demand if this our present ignorance of the Deity is an ignorance to which the soul is everlastingly condemned.

By Him, however – now, at least, the Incomprehensible – by Him – assuming him as Spirit – that is to say, as not Matter – a distinction which, for all intelligible purposes, will stand well instead of a definition – by Him, then, existing as Spirit, let us content ourselves, to-night, with supposing to have been created, or made out of Nothing, by dint of his Volition – at some point of Space which we will take as a centre – at some period into which we do not pretend to inquire, but at all events immensely remote – by Him, then again, let us suppose to have been created –– what? This is a vitally momentous epoch in our considerations. What is it that we are justified – that alone we are justified in supposing to have been, primarily and solely, created?

 &c; textlog.de 2004 • 23.10.2020 10:46:45 •
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