Keely and His Discoveries, Chapter II - 1882 to 1886
ETHER THE TRUE PROTOPLASM,
AN EPITOME OF MACVICAR'S SKETCH OF A PHILOSOPHY.
All that has been predicted of atoms, their attractions and repulsions, according to the primary laws of their being, only becomes intelligible when we assume the presence of mind. - Sir John F. W. Herschell, 1865.
It is in no small degree reassuring to find that we are not chained to inert matter, but to the living energies of its forms. . . . This leads us to the inference, long suspected, that all matter, as well as the ethereal medium itself consists ultimately of one and the same primordial element. - [Col. A. T. Fraser, Darkness, and Light in the Land of Egypt]
For ten years Keely's demonstrations were confined to the liberation, at will, of the energy he had "stumbled over" while experimenting on vibrations in 1872; and his efforts were put forth for the construction of "the perfect engine," which he had promised to the Keely Motor Company. He made the mistake of pursuing his researches on the line of invention instead of discovery. All his thoughts were concentrated in this direction up to the year 1882. Engine after engine was abandoned and sold as old metal, in his repeated failures to construct one that would keep up the rotary motion of the ether that was necessary to hold it in any structure. Explosion after explosion occurred, sometimes harmless to him, at other times laying him up for weeks at a time.
Two more years were lost in efforts to devise an automatic arrangement, which should enable the machine, invented by Keely for liberating the energy, to be handled by any operator, and it was not until 1884 that steady progress was seen, from years to years, as the result of his enlarged researches. When Keely was asked, at this time, how long he thought it would be before he would have the engine he was then at work upon ready to patent, he illustrated his situation by an anecdote: "A man fell down, one dark night, into a mine; catching a rope in his descent, he clung to it until morning. With the first glimpse of daylight, he saw that had he let go his hold of the rope he would have had but a few inches to fall. I am precisely in the situation of that man. I do not know how near success may be nor yet how far off it is."
August 5th, 1885, the New York Home Journal announced that Keely had imprisoned the ether; and, as was then wrongly supposed, that the unknown force was the ether itself; not the medium of the force, as it is now known to be. The late George Perry, who was then editor of that journal, heralded the announcement with these comments:- "No object seems to be too high or remote for human endeavour. It is not strange that some of these attempts should stagger the faith of all but the boldest imaginations. A notable example of this class is the famous etheric motor invented by Keely, of Philadelphia, and the subject of a communication which we below from a well-known American lady in Italy. The inventor claims to have found a new force, one that entirely transcends those that have been hitherto appropriated for human use. Heat, steam, electricity, magnetism are but crude antetypes of this new discovery. It is essentially the creator of these forces. It is scarcely less than the 'primum mobile.'
Indeed in reading the exposition of its potentialities one can hardly help doubting whether the concrete matter of our earth is not too weak and volatile to contain, restrain, and direct this vast cosmic energy except in infinitesimal proportions. How shall iron and steel stand before the power which builds up and clasps the very atoms of their mass? Where shall the inventor look for safety discs to stay his new-found force, when every substance within his reach is but a residuum of the activity of his identical principle? How shall strength of materials avail against the power that gives, and indeed is, strength of materials? This, however, is but a metaphysical doubt, and as the invention has already demonstrated its practical efficiency on a small scale, there is a presumption that it may be extended to the higher degrees. At all events, whether the force can or cannot be harnessed to do the daily work of the world, the discovery is one that will mark an epoch in the progress of science and give the inventor and his patrons a meed of immortality. Granted they are but poets building a lofty cosmical rhyme, their work shall have not the less an enduring honour."
The New Force - Etheric Vapour.
The discoverer of a hitherto unknown force in nature which, when certain inventions are perfected, will create a revolution in science, as well as in mechanics, has for many years concentrated his mind upon gaining supreme control over one of nature's greatest and grandest forces. Or, more correctly speaking, in efforts to control and apply to mechanics one of the various manifestations of the one force in nature.
"The force which binds the atoms, which controls secreting glands,
Is the same that guides the planets acting by divine commands."
The hypothetical ether conceived of by scientists, to account for the transmission of light, is not hypothetical to this discoverer. He knows its nature and its power. By the operation of an instrument of his own invention, he can release it at will from the suspension in which it is always held in our atmosphere. It is so liberated, by an almost instantaneous process of intense vibratory action, and passed through a tube the opening of which is no larger than a pin's head furnishing sufficient power to run a one hundred horse-power engine. The importance of this discovery cannot be conceived; its limit seems boundless; its value cannot be put in figures. Step by step, with a patient perseverance which one day the world will honour, this man of genius has made his researches, fighting with and overcoming difficulties which seemed insurmountable, during years in which no disinterested hands were extended to aid him, no encouraging words of appreciation bestowed upon him by the scientists whom he vainly tried to interest in his experiments; assailed by calumnies, which, emanating from those who should have been the first to extend aid, have over and over pierced his noble heart like poisoned arrows.
History will not forget that, in the nineteenth century, the story of Prometheus found a counterpart, and that the greatest man of the age, seeking to scale the heavens to bring down blessings for mankind, met with Prometheus' reward from the vultures of calumny who, up to the present moment, have not spared their talons upon him.
The dangerous conditions attending the introductory features of the development of etheric vapour are not yet entirely overcome; but this throws no shadow of a doubt as to the inventor's eventual success in the minds of those who know the magnitude of the difficulties he has already mastered.
O. W. Babcock, in an American journal says of this discovery, "Human comprehension is inadequate to grasp its possibilities or power, for prosperity and for peace. It includes all that relates mechanically to travel, manufacture, mining, engineering and warfare. The discoverer has entered a new world, and although an unexplored wilderness of untold wealth lies beyond, he is treading firmly its border, which daily widens as with ever-increasing interest he pursues his explorations. He has passed the dreary realm where scientists are groping. His researches are made in the open field of elemental force, where gravity, inertia, cohesion, momentum are disturbed in their haunts and diverted to use; where, from the unity of origin, emanates infinite energy in its diversified forms," and to this I would add - where he the discoverer, is able to look from nature up to nature's God, understanding and explaining, as no mortal ever before understood and explained, how simple is the way in which God "works His wonders to perform."
A compilation of Macvicar's "Sketch of a Philosophy," entitled "Ether the true Protoplasm," was sent to Mr. Keely; and shortly after, Mrs. Hughes' book on the evolution of tones and colours (Harmonies of Tones and Colours - Developed by Evolution). Mr. Keely will himself, in his theoretical expose' make known the manner in which he was led, by the writings of Dr. Macvicar and Mrs. Hughes, into the knowledge which raised the veil that had before hidden from him the operations of Nature with this "the most powerful and most general of all her forces;" operations which will explain all that is now mysterious to us in the workings of gravity.
The question has been asked whether science, having destroyed faith, has supplied us with anything better. But has science destroyed faith? Certainly not. There would be no such thing as counterfeit coin were it not for the existence of sterling gold. True science has its counterfeit, and it is due to spurious science, that the bulwarks of religious faith have been besieged; but they are not destroyed. Drummond says that it will be the splendid task of the future theology to disclose to scepticism the naturalness of the supernatural.
The pure Philosophy which true science seems about to reveal discloses not a universe of dead matter, but a universe alive from its core to its outermost extremity, and animated by mind and means, to which matter, perfectly organized, is absolutely subservient. It illuminates mysteries of nature which have only been partially revealed to us, and lifts the veil which has hitherto shrouded in darkness still greater mysteries involved in this universal power, which keeps and sustains all systems of worlds in their relation towards each and all. More and more clearly shall we be led by true science to see that the universe "is founded upon a distinct idea," and that the harmony of this distinct idea is manifested in all of God's works. Sir Isaac Newton, in his "Fundamental Principles of Natural Philosophy," call the great magnetic agent "the soul of the world," and says, "all senses are excited by this spirit, and through it the animals move their limbs; but these things cannot be explained in few words, and we have not yet sufficient experience to determine fully the laws by which this universal spirit operates." Centuries may pass before these laws will be "fully understood"; but Etheric Philosophy casts a plummet into depths that have never been sounded, and reveals this "unparticled substance," "the cosmic matter," "the primal stuff" "the celestial ocean of universal ether," as the true protoplasm, and the medium by which mind shapes matter and gives it all its properties. It teaches us that, through it, we are connected in sympathy with all other souls and with all the objects of nature, even, to the stars and all the heavenly bodies. But even though we do not understand the laws which control its operations, we find therein a legitimate field of research. It is surely more legitimate for science to ascribe failures in such researches to our still existing ignorance of that which we may possibly know in time than to set such laws down as unknowable. "Thought in its spontaneity has the run of the universe, and there should be no bar to discovery." Our only hope, says Macvicar, lies in the universality of the cosmical laws and the ultimate homogeneity of created substances, or reality.
In stating some of the various hypotheses which have been put forward by Macvicar, more as a sketch than as a new system of philosophy, it is not necessary to make any comments. If the scaffolding be good the edifice will appear in time. If worthless, no edifice can be constructed. Therefore, it must be remembered that it is only with the scaffolding that we have to do at present. If it has been left for our age to demonstrate the truth or the falsity of certain deductions made in past ages - if we arrive at a partial knowledge, even, of truths which ancient wisdom saw with dim vision, we must never forget that our century has had the benefit of the light reflected down the stream of time. Macvicar's "Sketch of a Philosophy" was published in 1868. He said that his ideas would not be acceptable, or even intelligible, to an age when the popular demand is for very light reading; when science is marvelously content with the attainments which it has already made; and when, "as to the method of science we are told, with more and more confidence every day, that all we can do for the discovery of realities is to go out of doors, leaving "the inner man all alone, and to compare the odour of the present with the smell of the past, and then, turning our noses towards the future, to follow them wherever they may lead us." He continues, Sensation, we are taught, is the alone architect of all trustworthy knowledge; the author both as to form and substance of all that is belief-worthy. No such thing as intuition, we are told; reason merely a habit, rising from the long-continued use of the organism. This looking only to mechanism is as much the plague and sorrow of our times as it was when Macvicar complained of it as divorcing science from philosophy. Philosophic wisdom, says Willcox, is a structure built up of all knowledges - grand and sublime: permanent, not of the present nor the past. Science holds, in its relation to philosophy, the same position that theology sustains to religion. "En dehors de toutes les sciences speciales et au-dessus d'elles, il y a lieu a une science plus haute et plus generale, et, c'est ce qu' on appele philosophie." (Paul Janet, Revue des Deux Mondes.)
Of what nature are the ideas which Macvicar was so sure would be unpopular? In compiling from his writings, such are selected as seem to be the best, toward elucidating the mysteries which lie in the operation of the laws governing the universal ether, so far as his hypotheses carried him. If matter without form preceded the creation of vitality, "it is only when the principle of life had been given," says Charpignon, "that the intrinsic properties of atoms were compelled, by the law of affinities, to form individualities; which, from that moment, becoming a centre of action, were enabled to act as modifying causes of the principle of life, and assimilate themselves to it, according to the ends of their creation." Here is a conjecture, to start with, that it will be well to remember; for, as in the hypotheses of Macvicar and the demonstration of Keely, the law of assimilation is made the pivot upon which all turns, "providing at once for the free and the forced, at once for mind and for matter, and placing them in a scientific relationship to one another." This law Macvicar calls the "cosmical law," because to it alone, ever operating under the eye and fulfilling the design of the great Creator who is always and in all places immanent to His creation, an appeal, is ever made. By this law a far greater number of the phenomena of nature and the laboratory can be explained than have been otherwise explained by scores of laws which are frankly admitted to be empirical. Surely this is no slight claim for this law to be studied, with a view to its acceptance or rejection. To repeat, this law is to the effect that every individualized object tends to assimilate itself to itself, in successive moments of its existence, and all objects to assimilate one another. The ground of it is, that the simple and pure substance of creation, has for its special function to manifest the Creator; and consequently to assimilate itself to His will and attributes, in so far as the finite can assimilate itself to the Infinite. Hence it is in its own nature, wholly plastic or devoid of fixed innate properties, and wholly assimilative, both with respect to its own portions or parts and to surrounding objects, as well as to its position in space, and, in so far as it is capable, to the mind of the Creator. Thus, there immediately awake, in the material elements, individuality and the properties of sphericity, elasticity, and inertia, along with a tendency to be assimilated as to place, or, as it is commonly called, reciprocal attraction. Hence, in the first place, the construction in the ether, or realm of light, of groups of ethereal elements, generating material elements. Hence, secondly, a tendency in the material elements, when previously distributed in space, to form into groups, in which their etherial atmospheres may become completely confluent; while their material nuclei, being possessed of a more powerful individuality than ethereal elements, come into juxtaposition merely, thus constituting molecules. By legitimate deductions from cosmical law, the forms and structures of these molecules must always be as symmetrical as the reaction of their own constituent particles, and that of their surroundings, will allow. The law of assimilation gives the same results as mathematics in determining the forms of systems of equal, and similar, elastic and reciprocally attractive spherical forces, or centres of force, when they have settled in a state of equilibrium; proving these forms to be symmetrical in the highest degree. Here, however, Macvicar and Keely differ, in hypothesis, as to the structure of the ultimate material element; but this difference does not affect "the scaffolding" of pure philosophy, in which everything that is cognized has it own place, is on a solid basis, is harmonious with its surroundings, and is explained and justified by them:- raising chemistry to the level and bringing it within the sphere of mechanics; investing its objects, at the same time, with all the distinctness of the objects of other branches of natural science.
Because the chemist in his laboratory cannot succeed in decomposing certain substances, it has been inferred that they are essentially undecomposable, simple and untransformable; and on this hypothesis the whole science of mineralogy proceeds. But when it is considered that all of these chemical atoms, before they have come into the chemist's hands, have been securely consolidated and mineralized, so as to be able to withstand the ordeal of the volcano and the central heat, compared with which the most powerful analytic agencies of the laboratory are but a mimicry, is it for a moment to be supposed, although their internal structure were still molecular, that they would break down in the chemist's hands? Surely, all his containing vessels, which are but things of human art, must go to pieces before them.
The present prevailing theory of development contradicts one half by the other half. It extends the doctrine of development and transmutation to species which happen to be visible to such eyes as we have; it denies it to such as happen to be invisible to us. If all animals and plants have been obtained by the secular synthesis of transformed monera, and the differentiation of the organs composing them - thus giving in the last analysis one form and kind of protoplasm as the root of all; the pursuit of the same line of thought - the same theory, applied to the atoms of the chemist, with their various properties and atomic weights, gives, as the common ground of all, a single material element; each chemical atom being a structure composed of this material element, but so stable as to be indecomposable in the laboratory. Let this be granted, as asserted by Macvicar in 1868, and by Keely now, and the theory of evolution, whatever may be the case as to its cogency, at least possesses a scientific form. It is no longer a conception which breaks down midway between its first and its last terms. But letting science, in this respect, stand for the present as it is, and supposing the seventy recognized elements of the laboratory (which do not include the twenty or more new elements recently said to have been discovered by Kruss and Nilson in certain rare Scandinavian minerals) or rather, perhaps, some very high multiple of their number to constitute that cosmic gas from which the solar system has been evolved, the theory of development shows itself to be as imperfect on the great scale, and in point of extent, as it is in point of homogeneity in its intimate material. Macvicar continues - Beyond that cosmic gas there certainly is the ether, a medium which no longer can be ignored in any physical theory of nature. What, then, is the relation of the cosmic gas to the ether? Evolutionists do not answer this question, but Macvicar seeks to render the whole system of thought homogeneous, and to show that, just as all organisms are the synthetic developments of one kind of moneron, and all chemical atoms and molecules the synthetic development of one kind of material element, so is the material element a synthetic development of ethereal elements. These also are Mr. Keely's views; but neither Macvicar nor Keely rest in the conception of a congeries of particles which are wholly blind and devoid of feeling and thought, diffused throughout all space, believing such particles to be the first of things. "Reason, if it is to enjoy intellectual repose, can have it only in finding, beyond and above all things else, a unity, a power, intelligence, personality - in one word, God. This is the only legitimate haven of a theory of development sending back the tide of materialism and pantheism which has swept its mire over our age into the ebb again; as, after having reached the full, it has so often done already, before the constitutional instincts or inspirations of humanity, with which speculative minds may, indeed, dally for a generation but which are ultimately inexorable." Macvicar maintains with Keely that from God, as the Author of all, nature may be reached with those very features which it is seen to possess; that it is essential to every philosophy, which is or shall be in harmony with intelligence, that it shall be based upon a unity; that no philosophy possesses all the claims to intellectual regard which it may possibly have, unless that unity be an intelligent Being; that to suppose thought and feeling to wake up for the first time in that which was previously blind and dead from all eternity, is nothing short of absurd to those who are led by the evidence of design, to look from nature up to nature's God, in whom all nature lives and moves and has its being.
While the protoplasm of the biologist is a substance which is more or less opaque or visible, the protoplasm now conceived of as the material of the whole creation in its first state, when development is to begin, must, on the contrary, be altogether homogeneous and invisible. But none the less is it entitled to the name of protoplasm; may, it alone must be justly entitled to that name, for it is the first of created things, and, being the product of an Almighty Being, it must be altogether plastic in His hands. It can have no constitution of its own derived from itself; but must, so far as the finite can, with respect to the infinite, reflect, represent, embody, show forth His attributes and being. Still, there is limitation to this. Certain properties demands with regard to that which exists, with limited extension, in space, are inexorable. Macvicar reasons that with such limitations the primal substance of creation must be fully obedient or assimilated to the Creator - not in a transient manner, but permanently; and that in its nature the primal substance, the true protoplasm, must be an assimilative substance. Granting that this protoplasm be partitioned into individualities, he makes the deductions that each and all of these individualized beings and things would, up to the full measure of their capacity, not only tend to assimilate themselves to the ever-present Being to whom they owe their own being, but they would tend also to assimilate themselves each to itself, with respect both to space and time; as also that they would all tend to assimilate one another. Taking this as the cosmical mode of action, or law, and on the strength of this law alone, without invoking the aid of any other law, be attempts to explain all those phenomena to which the physicist, the chemist, and the biologist usually address themselves. Illustrating the manner in which this law applies itself to phenomena, he gives as the first products of this law the perpetuation of an original mode of existence, and the establishment of permanence of properties under certain restrictions; the ground of the remarkable persistency and permanence of well-constituted species; a general harmony and homology throughout all creation: proceeding to illustrate its action on the mental or spiritual world; accounting for perception, remembrance, reasoning, imagining, judging, and upon all our other modes of mental activity, as operations of the cosmical law of assimilation.
In the world of physics he gives, as illustrations of this same law of assimilation, attraction, inertia, elasticity, heredity, reversion, symmetry culminating in sphericity or symmetrical cellularity, chemical and electrical action; especially in voltaic action the influence and the persistence of this law is most remarkably displayed. By the way of familiar illustration, he takes the original voltaic cell, and without attempting to explain how one solid, copper or platinum, come to be less assimilable to a liquid than another, such as zinc, he shows that just what we are to expect, from this law of assimilation, takes place - viz., that at the zinc there tends to form a stratum of oxygen, and that, at the platinum, there tends to form a stratum of hydrogen. Pursuing the old view as to the cause of the state of tension induced in the dilute sulphuric and, the continuous decomposition of the water, the solidifying action of the zinc surface, he confines his attention to the current of force instituted by the oxygen; advancing the idea that this is not merely force in general, of which all that is to be considered is its quantity and direction; but force, of which the form of its elements or their formative power is also to be considered; - that formative power being representative or productive of oxygen. To the objection that such a conception is occult and mysterious than what is implied and confessed to be hid under the term electricity, or in the phenomena of heredity, or than anything else which is adduced as a cause of a particular phenomenon. The cosmical law of assimilation explains all these phenomena, and, without any special hypothesis, is precisely what is wanted, in order to render natural knowledge as a whole accessible to the student: something which puts him in possession, from the first, of a master-thought, which, if he carry it along with him, will present all nature as a harmony; explaining all that stands in need of explanation. Macvicar continues:-
"If it be asked possibly out of one law, and such a one, there could arise anything like that endless variety which nature displays, the answer is, that the law operates between two limits, poles, or points of assimilation, which are entirely dissimilar, and by two processes simultaneously, analysis and synthesis, which are the opposites of each other. Hence it comes to pass that actual nature is a web, in which unity and multiplicity, identity and difference, are everywhere interwoven, and in such harmony that nature is everywhere beautiful."
It is not necessary here to repeat the illustrations by which Macvicar seeks to demonstrate that existence is force - self-manifesting, or spontaneously radiant, so to speak, into that which is idea if there be a recipient of ideas, or a percipient of ideas; or more generally a percipient within, the sphere of its action. He does not prescribe any limits, in space, as to the extent of this manifesting power. Thus, it is one of the most certain facts in physics that every atom of this planet, nay, every atom of the planet Neptune, whose distance from the sun is thirty times as great as our distance, manifests itself to every atom of this planet - not, indeed, as a percept, but as the subject and the object of attraction or motion. Nay, by the aid of the ether, which is the grand medium whereby the self-manifesting power of being is enabled to take effect at a distance when no other being is interposed, the fixed stars manifests themselves at our planet, though their distances be inconceivably great. Distant objects acting like all objects assimilatively, assimilate the intervening ether and the optic apparatus to themselves, and thus render themselves perceptible. This they do, indeed, only under great limitation, imposed by the laws of inertia or motion in space, to which the ether is subject - limitation which, in man, it requires self-teaching and experience to remove, so that he may perceive the object in its true forms and dimensions. But this is only man's peculiarity, in consequence of his organic defects at birth. The chick, the day it leaves the egg, can run up with equal precision to a crumb of bread, or to an ant's egg at a distance. And so with all species whose myo-neuro-cerebral system functions perfectly from their birth. At his best, the embodied mind in man sees objects only in perspective. But the nature of this self-manifesting power need not be dwelt upon since it is only the existence of this power that is insisted upon. How far beyond the visible and tangible parts of the body, the spirit, as a power exerting some kind of action or other, extends, Macvicar thinks cannot be determined. No doubt, every force has a centre of action; but as to the full extent in space of a unit of natural force, as an agent of one kind or another, no limits can be assigned. Who shall tell us the boundary in the outward of that power which says "I will," "I feel," "I see"? Its modes of acting mechanically are, no doubt, limited to the extent of the investing organism. Nay, in order to their extending even so far, it is necessary that the unity of the organism be maintained by the healthy integrity of the nervous system. In that case consciousness claims all the organism as its domain; and not only when the organism is entire does it refer any pain that arises to the region that is hurt, but after a limb has been amputated, and when it exists only as a phantom, consciousness still feels towards it as if it were still the old reality. Such is the effect of habit, or present assimilation to previous practice.
Our cosmical law, the law of assimilation, must determine, if not the nature, at least the mode of action of this force - this self-manifesting power - for plainly this action must be assimilative. And that it is so, when giving rise to perception, is clearly and distinctly seen; for what is the perceiving of an object, but the mind, as a percipient, assimilating itself to that object? and what is the percept or remembrance of the object, which remains in the mind but the idea - that is, the assimilated symbol of the object, which, however, in consequence of the intrusion in the perception of the mind's own activity, and of other previously acquired ideas, as also the perceptive image is often very defective as a representation of the reality perceived? We may say that this self-manifesting power, which is thus the characteristic of all that exists, is the agency provided whereby the cosmical law of assimilation shall be realized, though the intimate nature of that agency remains, as now, wholly inscrutable. Nor can it be said to be physical until it is embodied in the ether. In that case, it is rhythmical, or undulatory, and formally representative of the object whence it emanates. But it is enough to know that the most intimate and ultimate property - the characteristic, in short, of that which exists - is self-manifesting power. Now, the existence of a self-manifesting power in an object implies that the object is itself a power or force, or an aggregate of such. This is enough for the purposes of philosophy and science, and we only deceive ourselves when we suppose that we can think of anything that exists and which is not at the same time a force or power. . . .
Of most things that exist, if not of all, let us say that they are capable of existing in either of two states - the dynamical or the statical - and that, when viewed as dynamical, they are force or power; when viewed as statical, they are substances. When we exhaust or think away the properties of existence, the last which vanishes is self-manifesting power in the object which exists, the property being such that when it vanishes so does the object to which existence was awarded. In the science of the day it is maintained by our most popular authors and lecturers that the "physical forces" - taken in the singular number, physical force - is the last word, the ultimate principle. The physical forces are represented as all that there is for God, whereas they are but as the fingers of God.
The idea of antecedent design, either in reference to nature as a whole or in reference to any object in particular, is dropped as unscientific, or repudiated as unsound; in short, a reference to the physical forces, is the last word permitted in any treatise, if that treatise is to be admitted as possessing a scientific character. Or, if there be one word more, it is only the "correlation" of those same physical forces, and their "conservation," or persistence eternally in the same amount of energy in the universe. In their own place and within their own sphere, these are physical truths, which are of the greatest value. The former is a wholesome relapse into the old philosophy of nature. The latter is also a return to a view which is more sound than that which was popular before the doctrine of conservation was resuscitated.
Descartes' opinion, that there was a conservation of motion in the universe, was demonstrated by Newton to be a mistake. Leybnitz adjusted the truth between these great men, showing that it was not motion, but the possibility or means of motion - in one word, energy - that was conserved in the universe.
The doctrine of the conservation of energy amounts to nothing more than that inasmuch as every ultimate atom of matter is perfectly elastic, so is the whole universe of atoms perfectly elastic. Hence it is a doctrine which cannot be legitimately extended beyond the merely material sphere; except on the assumption that matter is the only reality, and that there is no such thing as a spiritual world at all - an assumption which, however often it has been made, serves only to awaken a prevailing voice to the contrary, and the firm vote of a large majority to the effect that mind exists as well as matter.
Taking the law of assimilation as the cosmical law, together with self-manifesting power as the characteristic of being, we reach a primary classification of created objects, which corresponds with that which is known as mind and matter - or rather let us say mind and that which is not mind; for there is ground for the apprehension that mind and matter do not include all that exists; and that, along with matter, ether ought to be considered as something intimately related to matter indeed, but yet not just matter. When the elements of the ethereal medium are regarded as truly and simply material however small and light they may be, the elasticity and pressure which must be assigned to that medium in order to admit of the velocity of light, are altogether out of the harmony of things; and wholly incredible, especially when confronted with the phenomena and the theory of astronomy. Thus, to justify the velocity of light on the same principles as those of sound, in various material media, the ethereal pressure must be 122,400,000,000 times greater than that of the atmosphere - which is incredible, says Macvicar.
But what as to mind? To find what shall be called mind, let us suppose an individualized object which is not an isolated object, or a universe to itself, but a member in a system; then, in obedience to what has been stated, that object must be at once self-manifesting and impressed by the other objects around it, and, in being so impressed, assimilated to them more or less . . . Admitting the self-manifesting power to be sensitive, percipient, or conscious, then quantity or intensity of substance or power in a monad is the condition requisite for feeling and thought. And thus, by an immediate coordination of our fundamental ideas of self-manifesting power and assimilative action, more or less, we reach a distinct conception of mind viewed in relation with that which is not mind. By this deduction, the primeval created substance, the true protoplasm is still supposed to be homogeneous, animated by its assimilation to the everlasting the Infinite.
This protoplasm is partitioned in varying degrees so that there are in creation some individualized or separate objects or forces consisting of so small an amount or such weakness of substance that they are wholly fixed and merely perceptible, while there are others consisting of so much more that they are free in their inner life, and have power to perceive themselves also - not, indeed, in the centres of their being, and as unimpressed and without ideas, but as members in a system, impressed or assimilated by other objects and so having ideas, with power to look in this direction or that, and to act accordingly.
Such, then, according to Macvicar, is the nature of mind or spirit. It is a being so constituted as to be at once in possession of ideas, and so far fixed; and also in possession of undetermined life or activity, and so far free. These are, as it were, the opposite poles of its being, and the conditions of its activity. If either is wanting, the other vanishes. Without something fixed in the mind, some object of thought or feeling, there can be no thinking or feeling. Without something unfixed there can be nothing to think or to feel with, much less can there be any thinking or feeling of self - that is, self-consciousness. But, grant this condition in the individual, and add the law of assimilation, operating first from God above, thus giving reason and conscience, on the higher aspect of our being; and, secondly, from nature around, thus giving observation and instincts harmonious with our situation in the system of the universe, and then human nature emerges.
But human nature plainly belongs to the last day of the work of creation rather than the first, where we are now. In man, to all appearance, the organism is the mother and nurse of the spirit. And though the assimilative action of the mind upon the body becomes normally, at least, stronger and stronger as life advances, so long as the organ retains all its perfection, yet at first the assimilative action of the body upon the mind is almost everything. The infant, the child, is little else but the victim of sensation - that is, of assimilations in its mind, effected by the force of external nature, including the organism itself. But as the mind, through the sustained action towards the focus of the myo-neuro-cerebral system, which is in the brain, gains quantity or intensity - in one word, energy - it becomes more independent and free, and more able to react out of itself upon the organism in any direction of which it makes choice. . . .
Hitherto, Macvicar has proceeded analytically, or from the one to the many; now, synthetically, from multiplicity to unity:- he continues:- As to the matter in hand, we may say, shortly, that a world of substances becoming multiple and diffuse, and at last merging into ethereal elements, being now given as the product of the law of assimilation in reference to the immensity of the Creator, the same law, when viewed in reference to the unity of the Creator, lead us to infer a process of quite a contrary character. It leads us to expect to find the ethereal elements tending to construct unities of greater energy than themselves. Then, if all cosmical action is cyclical, matter, when existing free in the ether, must ultimately tend to dissolve into pure ether again; for, if the law of creation is as a cycle, in which, after development and as its fruit, the last term gives the first, then has the grounds for his conjecture that complication in structure is necessary to the segregation of nervous matter, and the construction of a "myo-neuro-cerebral system"; and that ether and matter, after developing a molecular economy, as the mother and nurse of a soul or monad of a higher order than the merely material element, through or by this organism, complete the cycle of the economy of the material nature, and eventually touch upon, the spiritual world again and contribute to it. Whether this inference is correct or not, it presents a noble hypothesis for consideration, and one which should command attention at a time when, the writings of John Worrell Keely, the discoverer of "polar energy" and the inventor of vibratory machinery for the utilization of this force in mechanics, are about to be given to the world, supporting as they do, some of "the unwelcome views" advanced by Macvicar a quarter of a century ago. Although Macvicar and Keely differ in their theories of molecular morphology, they agree entirely in calling the cosmical law of sympathetic association of assimilation the watchword and the law of creation. This true protoplasm, the ether, which Macvicar postulated, Keely claims to have proved "a reality": making use of the ether, which he liberates by vibratory machinery, as the medium of a motive power, which he calls "sympathetic negative attraction."
Keely and His Discoveries