Whether science turns its glass out into the immensities of space, or in toward the equally fathomless abysses of the minute, there seems no bounds to the possibilities of discovery regarding the processes of nature. Yet each and every pathway leads at least to impenetrable mystery.
What use to know of the ultimate molecule and atom, if we are never to learn what endows it with life. What is life? What is death? What is pain? What is color? Perfume? What is there in a minor chord to make one weep? Thousands of hungry eyes are peering into the dark in search of clues to these encircling mysteries. But a little rift has appeared in the veil, through which some think they can see a great and illuminating truth. This truth is called sympathetic vibration.
A new era dawned, we passed under a new scientific dispensation when heat and light were pronounced simply modes of motion, and when the hitherto solid earth was found to be only seemingly so, while in reality it is a congeries of whirling atoms. Under this new dispensation the door hiding those two baffling mysteries, matter and force, begins to yield. The former has surrendered its secrets down to the ultimate atom, and now we are told that energy, that inscrutable thing which makes matter its slave and plaything, is simply a mode of motion in the atom.
The initial impulse is still as remote as ever. We have not yet discovered on what our tortoise stands. What imparted the first movement to the atom, may be an ever receding mystery; but an enormous advance has been made upon the outlying territory. Science has gone one generation farther back in the pedigree of energy; for the law of sympathetic vibration must be the Law of Laws.
We are told that what we have known as sound, heat and light are simply ascending stages of increasing rates of velocity, in atmospheric or etheric atoms. Between sixteen a second and thirty-eight thousand a second these vibrations are appreciable by the human ear, and we call them sound. As the rate of velocity increases these are lost in silence, and finally reappear to the sense as heat. Then, after they are further accelerated, the optic nerve begins to tremble at their approach, and we call them light. Nor can we suppose this to be a final limit, but must believe that, accelerated to still higher velocity, they may reach us in some new form, which to man's perception, at least, is not sound, nor heat, nor yet light, and which, perhaps, we call electricity.
But this protean thing, it will be observed, is one and the same throughout. It is energy, evolved into higher and higher forms, under the action of the law of vibration. Nor can we stop here. What right have we to suppose that the stage bounded by our perception is final? Much more easy is it to believe that the process goes on, and forces are developed as far beyond electricity as electricity is beyond our starting point, sixteen vibrations a second; and so we are inevitably led to a conception of potential energies lying all around us, sufficient to hold the stars in their courses, or to tear them from their orbits.
Thus far we are standing on solid scientific ground. He who doubts this ascending ladder of energy, arrays himself against so high an authority as Prof. Tyndall. But we are going to venture soon upon a region where the footing is not so secure; and perhaps may be properly rebuked for the folly of attempting to map out the highways and byways in cloudland.
There is an unwritten law that science is for the scientific. This article is a protest against this law. The writer is speaking for the unlearned, "of whom she is chief," and she maintains that there can be no exclusive ownership in established scientific truths; which may, and should, be used as stepping stones by anyone, where they seem to lead to higher inclusive truths.
The average man of science is intent upon his own particular rung, and his soul is little vexed with wondering where the ladder leads. Scientific imagination is not always the companion of the microscope nor of the crucible. But Newton's discovery would have been a small affair without the genius to see its cosmical application. So there is a stage in the unfolding of natural truth when the poet, with his wings, can do more than the delver with his pick-axe. He does not discover, he divines. Shakespeare knew nothing of "vibratory physics," nor of "ultra-musical silence;" but two hundred and fifty years ago he said:
"There's not the smallest orb, which thou beholdest,
But in its motion like an angel sings,
still querying to the young-eyed cherubim.
Such harmony is in immortal souls.
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it."
We sometimes wonder at the admirable docility with which the unlearned accept mystifying explanations. After being told that things act so and so because they have an "affinity" for each other, they feel that there is no more to be said. The question is answered. One mystery has been explained by another. But now we are on the track of this inscrutable "affinity."
Every atom behaves as it does because of its essential nature. It is not helplessly drifting in space, waiting for stray streams of energy to gather it up and determine its fate. It has an attribute which compels it to find its own place in creation. It has inherently a certain rate of vibration, and an impulse to join others constituted with a like rate of velocity or one numerically allied to it. This tendency, this sympathetic hunger, is "affinity." "Oh, the depth of meaning in those words, "sympathy" and "affinity!" They are the world-builders, the creative agents which brought order out of chaos.
For an uncomprehended reason, atoms have arranged themselves according to their numerical affinities. Those with like velocities of a certain kind were drawn into close union and became rocks. Others singing a different rhythm came together in less stable combination, and are gases. And so down to the minutest classification of matter, all has been arranged by the compelling law of sympathetic vibration.
It is a well-known fact that when a musical note is sounded over a piano, all the strings attuned to the same, or to a numerically related number of vibrations, will sing in response. This is "sympathetic vibration."
The reason the string gives audible response is because its molecular condition has been sympathetically stimulated to activity. This activity is of course a manifestation of energy, and according to Mr. Lascelles-Scott (Physicist at the Government Laboratories, at Forest-Gate near London,) and other competent observers, this energy is often sufficient to tear the atoms apart; as illustrated by the breaking of a glass tankard by singing near it its "response note," which was in this instance the bass note D flat, which is not far from the lowest audible form of musical energy.
Now if in some of its lowest appreciable forms energy thus sympathetically evolved will break a glass tankard, or "fiddle a bridge down," what must be the force which might be sympathetically awakened in its higher rates of velocity?
Professor Tyndall says- "With a few vibrations a second sound is generated. When more numerous, you may have light, heat and electricity. Again multiplying these by the square of millions, who can say what might, or might not, be the result?" Now we are compelled to believe that every step of acceleration from sixteen vibrations a second to the velocities attained when "multiplied by the square of millions" (as Professor Tyndall says), that every step of this steeply ascending increase is capable of being acted upon sympathetically, if the response note could be found.
Is there any limit to the energies thus slumbering in the apparent void? Whether Mr. Keely has captured them or not, these streams of potential energy are a reality, and might be liberated by just the means he is using.
But of one thing there can be no slightest doubt. As man has risen to higher stages of development he has appropriated progressively higher stages of energy. There was a period when stored sunshine (light) was sufficient for his material uses. Then heat was harnessed and drove his engines, his wheels and spindles. Then he reached higher and captured electricity, which was found to be no less obedient and vastly more effective. Who dare say this is the end? It was after drawing upon the resources of the invisible, that such enormous impulse came into the life of humanity; and the farther we have gone into that supersensible creation, the swifter has been the advance!
It will be seen that as we pass through these ascending grades of energy, its manifestations become more subtle. Increase of power means a corresponding increase of subtlety. The waves of light and heat must be like the heavy beatings of the surf, and the motions of electricity gross and sluggish, compared with the rhythm of those ethereal vibrations which could only be wielded by Omnipotence! And is it not obvious that the agent which sympathetically reaches these, must become correspondingly fine? Is thought such an agent?
If a single tone of the human voice be the initial stage of an energy so inconceivable, what, on the other hand, does that voice become when attenuated "by the square of millions?" Does this measure the distance between an audible human cry and the thought which produces it? Is "the hearts sincere desire," the note attuned to those energies whose subtlety, as well as velocity, has been "multiplied by the square of millions?"
The mind cannot go back or stop on such a journey. It is compelled to go on and on until it reaches something with sufficient potency to tear the stars from their orbits, and yet so attenuated that it trembles responsively to something as light as thought. If this be not "spiritual energy," it bears a strange resemblance to it!
Have we by inevitable steps reached the verge of that kingdom we have been accustomed to regard as separate and distinct? If so, matter is lifted from its long abasement. The pulsations in the heart of granite are the throbbings of the Divine, as truly as when it makes the soul of man tremble with new life. And what wonder that music thrills, if it be a manifestation different in degree, but identical in kind, with the spiritual energy which nourishes the universe?
If it be true that spiritual atoms, no less than material ones, are arranging themselves according to their velocities, then every relation, human and divine, is comprehensible. If this law underlies both worlds, then those spiritual atoms numerically and rhythmically allied have an "affinity" for each other; they rush together in irresistible embrace; and there is a scientific basis for human affections, for conduct, and for prayer!
Race affinities exist because of a general rhythmic identity. Individual temperament is determined by the rate at which the spiritual atoms of the man move - making, as it were, a musical-key to which his being is set. Observe that when you sing a note over the piano, not alone the C strings, but E, G, and B vibrate responsively, because harmoniously related. So - two beings who love each other may make a richer harmony for not having identically the same rhythm in their souls. But on the other hand, union with one outside this harmonious group is impossible. Discord is a violation of nature. Two notes inharmoniously related can never combine. They may be simultaneously sounded; but they do not blend. Discord is in its essence a destructive force. Unhappy marriages, in fact one-half the tragedies of human life, find their solution in the laws which govern music; and the language of metaphor is profoundly and scientifically true.
The unfolding soul invites to itself vibrations constructive and destructive, and grows by what it feeds upon toward heaven or hell; harmonious vibrations making for the one, and discordant ones for the other. If, as is probable, these velocities have a tendency to be accelerated in multiples of the same rate, we can see how the wretched being is sometimes lost in the vortex of a terrible rhythm, only to be rescued by that one flawless rhythm left by Christ upon earth.
Does this sound fantastic? Will it be worse than fantastic, prosaic, to say that every human impulse is in its last analysis a mathematical fact? That love, hate and all their diverse manifestations might be expressed by mathematical formula? A mathematical basis for spiritual phenomena sounds uninteresting. But to the soul that comprehends it, it is sublime. Mathematical conceptions are the only ones which do not vanish in the analysis of an illusive, elusive, creation. The multiplication table would survive the wreck of worlds and of matter!
The magnitudes of time and space - what are they? Nothing but modes of thought depending upon a point of view. They exist only relatively to your perception. The "solidity" of matter is a fiction. Were you created on a different scale you might gaze through the intermolecular spaces of granite, and see its whirling atoms as constellations in your heaven of ether!
We look out upon the world through a refracting, twisting, distorting medium, so that nothing is what it seems, and were it not for mathematical relations, we should be in a universe of dissolving dreams. But they are everlastingly true. They are the rock-ribbed realities which hold together the shifting, vanishing phenomena of existence. Change your point of view as you may, they are undisturbed.
A truth which has for its mission the upholding of all other truths, has need to be well buttressed and strengthened; and the rocks which bear the Andes on their bosom are not more immovable than the mathematics upon which rests the law of sympathetic vibration.
If there be such scientific basis for human phenomena, then metaphysics and psychology, with their intricacies and complexities expressed in an involved terminology, are artificially contrived systems, and what wonder that they are bewildering, and the despair of ordinary minds?
The human mind is perfectly capable of mastering an artificial system expressed through arbitrary symbols. It has been doing it for ages. (Alas!) But with what result? A few of the initiated know the system, and its terminologies; but neither they, nor any one else, has a vital grip upon the subject. But can a subject be made comprehensible, when its most essential truth is veiled? And what wonder there is confusion existing in men's minds regarding the most vital things? The following definitions of Religion are quoted in Kidd's "Social Evolution." We select them at random. Comte, "The worship of humanity." Hegel, "The knowledge acquired by the finite spirit of its essence as an absolute spirit." Huxley, "Reverence and love for the ethical ideal." Matthew Arnold,"Morality touched by emotion."
These definitions are by men who are masters of thought and of expression, and offer, presumably, the best the world has to say on the subject. Are they convincing? - satisfying? Would any one know that any two of them were intended to define the same thing?
Hear now the definition of religion if sympathetic vibration be a fundamental law: Religion is an expression of a universal impulse, which draws the human heart into rhythmic unity with the Divine heart.
How simple - how true. It is the unconscious utterance of the unlettered in all ages; and of poets, from King David to Tennyson; and at the same time a precise scientific statement, which is - to Ommiscience at least - capable of mathematical demonstration.
But how can there be a satisfying definition if the fact underlying all other facts be not considered? - i.e., that there are precise definite atomic changes in spiritual experiences no less real, for having vanished into a region infinitely subtle, than if transposed to the lower key of sound, heat and light, or to the still lower condition of the visible and ponderable.
Men have discovered a great progressive movement in all organic things which they have called "Evolution." We see it as an imposing mysterious thing moving with awful sincerity on grand lines. But if the source of energy lies in the atom, its beginnings are infinitely small. It is the aggregate of a minute atomic hunger for unity with the Divine. That is the sublime consummation toward which all creation moves; and evolution is a religious impulse! Nature is thinking of the atom - not the mass. All earthly systems which sacrifice the atom are foredoomed, because the great mother knows no great and no small, but only a stern necessity for an adaptation, precise and true, to the Eternal rhythm, which, in the evolutionary process, means an infinite progression, while its absence means disintegration and elimination.
Science might have looked forever in vain through the telescope. Not till it turned its vision in toward the invisible - the supersensible - did any true comprehension come of creative and cosmic realities. And the deeper it penetrates into this region, the stronger does it feel the throbbing of the Divine heart. Its own path is leading it, whether it will or no, where it must some day find itself face to face with Deity.
Two lines started in certain directions from given points in the earthy orbit, must meet at a certain point millions of miles away. You have never been there to see it. But you know it. It is a necessity of thought to believe it. And so, certain truths compel the existence of certain other truths. The mind cannot escape them.
Just such compelling power is in the law of sympathetic vibration. Once started on its ascending ladder, it is impossible to stop, until we find ourselves confronted with energies inconceivably great and inconceivably fine. Surely it is not venturesome to leap the little chasm of uncertainly and call these "spiritual energies," nor to believe that they by their sympathetic action may be the basis of all the phenomena of the life of the soul.
There is something new and strange in the air. A new element in the spiritual as well as the material atmosphere. Men are vaguely conscious of an impending crisis in the life of humanity. Is this because we have reached the confines of the old, and are entering upon a new dispensation of force, one which will enter into the processes of life in a manner more vital even than electricity has done?
However this may be, if the trend of progress is to be in the future the same as it has been in the past, it is man's inevitable destiny to grasp and appropriate higher and higher conditions of an energy which at each remove becomes more spiritualized in its expression. Whether this in fact merges at last into the "spiritual energy" which is the life of the soul, is a question this article is intended to ask - not to answer.