Poe's hieroglyphic universe: the master keys.
The "infinite play of mirror imagery" in Poe's cosmological equation, best typified in the cause-effect interchangeability, may well be connected in his thought system with the notion of ambiguity, uncertainty and the arabesque.
In this sense, Manfred Putz (2011: 42) brilliantly described Poe's remarkable technique of the use of ambiguities, whereby uncertainty is definitively fixated into his narratives, thus generating a cascading effect--uncertainties propagate as if in a chemical chain reaction--a fact originating from a "mysterious calculation that must have constituted an essential component of Poe's narrative strategy." The arabesque was decoded by Manfred Putz in this context by an association with the famous story Ligeia: here the arabesque is connected with a "phantasmagoric effect." Namely, just as the arabesque tapestry has multiple iridescences / waters / waves, the arabesque figures on it appearing different (some being monstrous, others divine) from various angles, and being truly arabesque only from a certain mysterious angle, likewise behaves the polysemantic multidimensional text of a story: it is an arabesque texture with multiple semantic irisations, with multiple strata, but it has a single arabesque essence--only one of its irisations is the authentic one, the one essentially arabesque.
Discovering the essence of the arabesque resembles therefore finding the light source from inside a labyrinth of irisations and mirrors: to reach this arabesque essence means to reach the real, clear, true light, to attain the true purpose of art. Through the arabesque, Poe "warns the reader on his own role as a person who gives the perspective and the direction" (Putz 2011: 45) (the directed "flow" of the images, of perspective, between the observed-circumference and the observer-center, the latter governing the direction of the "flow" of force lines of the images as a fascicled assemblage or bunch of rays), and on the fact that a story does not necessarily have a single meaning, instead it being susceptible to contain an entire multidimensional iridescent spring of possible meanings. According to Putz, it is over this complex phenomenon that Poe's wilful calculation is superposed, whereby his stories are made to be impossible to interpret:
But these figures partook of the true character of the arabesque only when regarded from a single point of view. By a contrivance now common, and indeed traceable to a very remote period of antiquity, they were made changeable in aspect. To one entering the room, they bore the appearance of simple monstrosities; but upon a farther advance, this appearance gradually departed; and step by step, as the visiter moved his station in the chamber, he saw himself surrounded by an endless succession of the ghastly forms which belong to the superstition of the Norman, or arise in the guilty slumbers of the monk. The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by the artificial introduction of a strong continual current of wind behind the draperies--giving a hideous and uneasy animation to the whole. (Ligeia; Poe 1996: 271; cf. also Putz 2011: 44, n. 2)
The space in which this most important "phantasmagoric effect" is created is Lady Rowena's bridal chamber. Inside it, Ligeia, the deceased first wife of the narrator of the story, is seen by the narrator to overtake in the end the body of Lady Rowena, as the latter dies poisoned by him with this purpose in mind. So this story is about a desperate attempt to conquer death. To make this plausible, Poe endowed the chamber with a few mysterious artefacts:
There is no individual portion of the architecture and decoration of that bridal chamber which is not now visibly before me. [...] The room lay in a high turret of the castellated abbey, was pentagonal in shape, and of capacious size. Occupying the whole southern face of the pentagon was the sole window an immense sheet of unbroken glass from Venice--a single pane, and tinted of a leaden hue, so that the rays of either the sun or moon, passing through it, fell with a ghastly lustre on the objects within. Over the upper portion of this huge window, extended the trellice-work of an aged vine, which clambered up the massy walls of the turret. The ceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively lofty, vaulted, and elaborately fretted with the wildest and most grotesque specimens of a semi-Gothic, semi-Druidical device. From out the most central recess of this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain of gold with long links, a huge censer of the same metal, Saracenic in pattern, and with many perforations so contrived that there writhed in and out of them, as if endued with a serpent vitality, a continual succession of parti-colored fires. / Some few ottomans and golden candelabra, of Eastern figure, were in various stations about--and there was the couch, too--the bridal couch --of an Indian model, and low, and sculptured of solid ebony, with a pall-like canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamber stood on end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, from the tombs of the kings over against Luxor, with their aged lids full of immemorial sculpture. But in the draping of the apartment lay, alas! the chief phantasy of all. The lofty walls, gigantic in height--even unproportionably so --were hung from summit to foot, in vast folds, with a heavy and massive-looking tapestry--tapestry of a material which was found alike as a carpet on the floor, as a covering for the ottomans and the ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as the gorgeous volutes of the curtains which partially shaded the window. The material was the richest cloth of gold. It was spotted all over, at irregular intervals, with arabesque figures, about a foot in diameter, and wrought upon the cloth in patterns of the most jetty black. (Ligeia; Poe 1996: 270-271)
In the impressive description above, in which items from many corners of the Earth are brought together as if to be present in a magic pageant, the most striking elements, apart from the giant tapestry, are the four Egyptian black sarcophagi, which a little later are described as governing the entire perspective on things in the feverish mind of the unnamed narrator:
I sat alone, with her [Lady Rowena's] shrouded body, in that fantastic chamber which had received her as my bride. Wild visions, opium-engendered, flitted, shadow-like, before me. I gazed with unquiet eye upon the sarcophagi in the angles of the room, upon the varying figures of the drapery, and upon the writhing of the parti-colored fires in the censer overhead. (Ligeia; Poe 1996: 274)
In this dramatic scene heaven and earth appear to converge in the framework formed by the four sarcophagi and the vast tapestry. The stately sarcophagi seem to play the role of the four Pillars of Shu (the god of Air and patron of light), believed by the Egyptians to support the sky. [The Egyptian pet makes reference to the four "heavens"--the northern, the southern, the eastern and the western; cf. Budge 1991: 153]. These pillars were placed at each corner of the rectangle that symbolized the heavens, and they were guarded by four sons of Horus; they were ritually associated with Ra's solar boat. In Memphis, pillars were generally considered emblems of justice, related to the cult of Ptah, there known as the "First of the Gods" (Bunson 2002: 303, 307, 313).
Poe may have been aware that for the Egyptians a sarcophagus was a "house of gold" or a "house of golden light" (het-nub was a synonym for "sarcophagus"; Egyptian het = "house"; nub = "gold," "golden light"; nub-heh meant "eternal gold" and it was a name of Osiris; Budge 1991: 195; cf. heh = "million," "number past counting," "eternity"; Budge 1991: 277). As a holder of the sarcophagi, the chamber containing such tombs would be called by the Egyptians per-em-nub, i.e. the "gold chamber/ temple" (Budge 1978i: 238); the tomb itself was called by the Egyptians the "house of eternity" (per-neheh, with per = "house," "abode," "temple," "habitation"; neheh = "eternity," "for ever," "with time without beginning or end"; Budge 1991: 144-145, 214).
By introducing these artefacts, Poe may have alluded to Egyptian magic rites by which death was supposed to be conquered (he mentioned Egyptian sarcophagi as such only in Ligeia and in The premature burial--the latter, as mentioned, a story about catalepsy; in Some words with a mummy Poe uses the terms "tomb," "coffin" and "Theban sepulchres" which imply sarcophagi).
Thus, the mummy of the deceased was preserved in such Egyptian sarcophagi for a long time--for five thousand years in one version (Walt Whitman adopted this idea in his Song of myself; for this and related reasons Tapscott--1978: 58--called this poem a "cumulative hieroglyph"). After this very long time, the Ba soul (i.e. the vital essence of man, which emerges when the Ka double unites with the body) resurrects the mummy by uniting, inside the mummy, with the Ka double (i.e. the astral being, playing the role of conscience and protector sometimes represented in statues as an image identical to that of the pharaoh, and placed just beside it). [Poe played with the theme of the double or alter ego in William Wilson, 1840]. The Ka double during the 5000 years between incarnations is said to reside in or near the mummy, and is considered to be the "vital element of eternal life." For this very reason, the Ba soul was supposed to stay close to the Ka double in the tomb and in the afterlife, if it was to survive, the Ba being a kind of servant for the Ka (cf Bunson 2002: 62, 189). Like Whitman, Poe himself had adopted the 5000-year period as the time needed between two successive incarnations:
"But what we are especially at a loss to understand," said Doctor Ponnonner, "is how it happens that, having been dead and buried in Egypt five thousand years ago, you are here to-day all alive, and looking so delightfully well." (Some words with a mummy, 1845; Poe 1976: 162)
And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life? / I do not despise you priests, all time, the world over, / My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths, / Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern, / Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years [...]. (Song of myself, 42, 43; Whitman 1997: 70; cf. also Tapscott 1978: 62)
The dead body was thus preserved by the Egyptians maybe also as if to resemble the divine condition of gold: everlastingness and immutability. The ancient Egyptians had a concept for describing the "form of a man that exists in heaven," namely the (perfect/divine) "spirit-body" or "spiritual body," which was incorruptible and was called sah or sahu (the spirit-body of Orion, and the god of all spirit-bodies were also called Sah; cf. Budge 1978ii: 646; sah was later used to designate a mummy; cf. Budge 1991: 332). The sah(u) was the essence of man which could attain eternal joy; it was a semi-material and semi-spiritual entity which attained the condition of gold, incorruptibility:
[The sah] was the ancient Egyptian concept of the spiritual body of an individual being released from the material bonds of the flesh. Also called sahu, this spiritual essence was released from the body during mummification processes and the funerary rituals. Glorified in its new state, the sah was empowered by prayers and litanies to experience spiritual bliss. (Bunson 2002: 350)
[T]he words of Thoth and the prayers of the priests caused the body to become changed into a "sahu," or incorruptible, spiritual body, which passed straightway out of the tomb and made its way to heaven where it dwelt with the gods. When in the Book of the Dead the deceased says, "I exist, I exist; I live, I live; I germinate, I germinate," [chap. 154] and again, "I germinate like the plants," [chap. 88, 3] the deceased does not mean that his physical body is putting forth the beginnings of another body like the old one, but a spiritual body which "hath neither defect nor, like Ra, shall suffer diminution for ever." Into the sahu passed the [Ba] soul which had lived in the body of a man upon earth, and it seems as if the new, incorruptible body formed the dwelling-place of the [Ba] soul in heaven just as the physical body had been its earthly abode. The reasons why the Egyptians continued to mummify their dead is thus apparent; they did not do so believing that their physical bodies would rise again, but because they wished the spiritual body to "sprout" or "germinate" from them, and if possible--at least it seems so--to be in the form of the physical body. In this way did the dead rise according to the Egyptians, and in this body did they come. (Budge 1987: 170)
This divine condition of the sah(u)--reminding us of the condition of the body of glory in Christianity (to be attained by man at resurrection like Christ) or the condition of the body of diamond in various gnostic traditions of alchemical extraction--could be attained, in the belief of the ancient Egyptians, by the union of the Ba (soul) and the Ka (double) apart from the mummy, in which case man became an akh (spirit; cf. Budge 1978i: LXVIII) or one of the akhu or the "beings of light" or "divine spirits" (Budge 1978i: 9), i.e. a spirit that was liberated from the bonds of flesh, the Ba soul in this case being called ba-ankh, i.e. a "living soul."
Reaching the condition of gold was thus equivalent to having reached paradise; an akh who attained paradise could assume human form at will if he/she wished to pay Earth a visit (Bunson 2002: 1, 62, 189, 296; see also Daniel 1985: 203, 220, 242). This is probably why between the akh (being of light: accent on spirit) and the sah (spiritual body / spirit-body: accent on spirit, but also on the material body) there is a relation of partial synonymy: in the sah there is still a strong mystic connection with the material body preserved physically as the mummy (which is probably why sah became a term by which a mummy too was designated), the latter itself for this reason being more than just a physical form --somehow the mummy itself was transformed to have a dual reality, being a kind of channel, a portal, a presence bridging both realms, the physical and the supernatural. The Ka double is thus said to have had also the role of assimilating all the life energy contained in the funerary offerings (these and all the rituals attracted the Ka double to the deceased) brought for the mummy to the tomb, this energy being transferred by the Ka, as its food, into the Tuat or the Afterlife in the benefit of the mummy. In fact, this entire activity of mediation between the two worlds made it possible for the mummy to be actually resurrected fully after the lapse of the five thousand years; this process undoubtedly resembles in a way the Christian version of the resurrection: body /mummy, khat/ and soul /ba/ are reunited together in a new physical reality by the power of spirit /ka and khu/.
The akh, on the other hand, is pure light or spirit, much like the Ka double itself; in this sense, the latter is also said to go to the gods after burial in order to become one with the essence of Osiris, who is known as the Ka of the pyramids and as Asar-ankhti ("Osiris the Living One"), and was regarded (like all the gods or neteru) as a manifestation of Ra, the Sun-god, the latter considered as "the type and symbol of God," i.e. of the supreme Being that was designated by the word Neter (cf. Budge 1987: 9, 13; 1991: 59). The union of this Ka double with the essence of Osiris took place only if it was found worthy in the judgment passed by the 42 Judges in the Hall of Osiris (these were known as Tchatcha-t Tuat). If that union happened, then the Ka double could go back to the mummy and resurrect it together with the Ba soul after the appointed period of time, or it could unite with the Ba to form the akh that could then take on human physical form at will, apart from the 5000-year cycle (cf. Budge 1978ii: 901-902; cf. also Tapscott 1978: 62; Bunson 2002: 62, 189).
In fact, the Egyptians distinguished no less than eight parts making up man as a whole:
1) the physical body: the khat (pl. khatu), in the sense of something subject to decay--it meant "corpse" or "mummified body" (Budge 1978i: 570; 1991: 293). The dead body was called also mat (mummy) or khaat (cf. Budge 1978i: 280, 528) or qeres (Budge 1991: 418). The term tschet designated a "bodily form," a "person," or a "body," or a "divine body" (i.e. a god), or a "dead body" (Budge 1978ii: 893). The term for "living body" in the sense of "divine flesh" or "the god's body" was also auau (Budge 1991: 18; 1978i: 33).
2) the double: the ka (pl. kau), which had a strong connection with the ba, the heart and the sekhem (vitality) (Budge 1978ii: 783); it could be imprisoned in the tomb; special verbal formulae devised by Thoth were recited to prevent this from happening. It was in this sense crucial that the formulae be pronounced flawlessly; such a perfect pronounciation was designated by the term an-uh, and it could guarantee the procurement of resurrection. [cf. Budge 1987: 169; an = "no," "not," "I am not," negatory marker; uh = "to be troubled"; cf. Budge 1991: 43, 112; uhi = "to fail," "to err," "to miss the mark" of an arrow; uha = "to fail," "to miss the mark"; uhaha = "to fail"; cf. Budge 1978i: 176]. The act of pronouncing well such formulaic words was thus considered by the Egyptians to generate some mysterious, invisible, "magical powers," whereby one's will could be made to come true (in this case, liberating an imprisoned ka). [The terms for "magical power" were heka; pl. hekau; hekat = "incantations," "enchantments," "charms," "magical formulae," "words of power," "magic," "amulets"; cf. Budge 1991: 110, 280; urheka = "great words of power"; ur-hekau = "magician" (god or man); hekai = "enchanter," "sorcerer," "magician"; hekait = "sorceress"; heka = "to recite words of power," "to utter incantations," "to utter spells," "to bewitch," "magic," "spell," "word of power," "the power of working magic"; cf. Budge 1978i: 171, 514, 515]. The ka was thus a kind of "external soul" manifesting in the "likeness of the individual" the Greeks had a similar concept, the eidolon, i.e. a statue or an apparition bearing the likeness of a person (the Greek angelos was similar to this); the Mesopotamians also had a similar notion: the lamassu (Oppenheim 1977: 200).
3) the soul or the "heart-soul": the ba (lit. "noble," "mighty," "sublime"), residing in the ka; it was ethereal in nature and had the power to become flesh or incorporeal at will, being depicted as a hawk with a man's head; it could reanimate the body, being the center of life in man; it was closely connected with the heart (Budge 1987: 164-165; 1991: 124).
4) the heart: the ab, as the central dwelling place of life; ab means "physical heart," "will," "wish," "love," "desire"; hati, hat or heti = "heart"; ub = "heart," "limit," "frontier." The heart was intimately connected with the ba and the ka (Budge 1991: 22, 124, 256, 285; 1978i: 158).
5) the spirit or spiritual intelligence or "spirit-soul" or the "perfect soul": the khu, depicted as a luminous impalpable form having the contour of the body. It could also be imprisoned in the grave, but it was immortal and independent of the ba and the ka. The word khu also meant "high," "fire," "flame" (Budge 1978i: 537, 538); "to protect," "to strengthen" (also khui); or "protection" (the latter also khut; cf. Budge 1991: 295).
6) the power: the sekhem (pl. sekhemu), in the sense of natural power, physical or spiritual; as a verb, sekhem = lit. "to have the mastery over something;" it means man's "vital force." The word also means "to be strong," "to prevail over," "victor," "brave in heart," "mighty one," "shrine," "sanctuary," "to read," "to recite," "metal weapon"; sekh = "to make to be," "width," "breadth," "to stretch out the sky," "to reap," "to cut"; sekht = "hall," "chamber" (Budge 1991: 366, 367; 1978ii: 685, 705).
7) the shadow: the khaibit, associated with the soul (ba), and keeping in its proximity. The word could also refer either to the good or the bad shadows in the other World; khaibit neter = "divine shadow"; khaibit Ra = "the shadow of Ra" or the "shadow-house of Ra"; Sankhi-khaibitu was a bird-god who resurrected the dead shadows of humans (cf. sankh = "to vivify," "to keep alive," "vivifier of hearts" as a name of Osiris; Budge 1978i: 529; 1978ii: 645; 1991: 331).
8) the name: the ren, one of the most important parts of man; by blotting out the name of a man, it was believed that that man himself was annihilated; a nameless living being could thus not be introduced to the gods, hence it could not enter heaven/paradise. As a verb, ren means "to nurse," "to suckle." The term ren can also mean "divine name" or "accursed name" or "imperishable name" (Budge 1978i: 426). (For the eight aspects of man we mainly followed Budge 1987: 163-169).
Of the eight, three were fundamental: the body (khat), the soul (ba), the spirit (khu).
By contrast, the Mesopotamians spoke of four essential aspects of man as a whole, four "spirits" or "souls" protecting him:
1) the divine element/spark in man: the ilu (lit. "god"), as a male part; similar to the Greek eudaimon, i.e. "good daimon." A man who had an ilu was called an ilanu (lit. "one who has an ilu," i.e. is lucky; see the Greek tyche = "luck," synonymous with the Latin fortuna).
2) the fate: the ishtaru, as the female counterpart of the ilu, i.e. "protective goddess," who carries the individual's shimtu (shimta, shamu) (equivalent to the Sumerian NAM = unalterable predetermined "destiny"; and NAMTAR, the "allotted NAM" = predetermined, but alterable "fate"; cf. the root TAR = "to cut," "to break," "to change"; cf. Sitchin 2007vi: 61), i.e. the individual "share" of fortune and misfortune (functions and duties), the natural personality and its death as fulfilment (NAMTAR, the "Terminator," was the one announcing death; cf. also Sitchin 1990: 275; the Greek demon ker is the invisible companion of man from birth onwards, who announces death, becoming then only manifest for the first time). The two aspects of shimtu are thus well summed up by: a) the moira (function, power, competence); and b) the physis (assigned nature; Latin natura).
The Egyptians expressed the notion of destiny or luck by the god of this function, Shai, who had in charge the days of men. The verb sha = "to (pre)destine," "to foreordain"; shau = "destiny," "what is decreed/ordered"; shait = "evil destiny," "ill-luck," "blow of fate"; Shait = the Fate goddess; Meskhenit was the goddess of the birth-chamber, of luck or of fate / destiny; meskhen-t = "tablet of destiny," "birthplace," "cradle" (Budge 1991: 392; 1978i: 326; 1978ii: 724).
3) the double (the individualizing corporeal characteristics): the lamassu, as a female part; approx. "angel" and eidolon. It is possibly associated with Lamashtu, a dangerous female demon.
4) the elan vital, the sexual power: the shedu (Sumerian ALAD, derived from a Semitic root meaning "to procreate") as the male counterpart of the lamassu; it is connected with the spirits of the dead, and was translated in the Septuagint as "daimon." Its synonym was sometimes the Akkadian word bashtu (sexual potency), and so it is similar to the Latin genius. (We followed Oppenheim 1977: 199ff).
It is thus important to point out that both in the Mesopotamian space, as well as in the Egyptian, the human being was seen as a composite entity, containing also elusive and intangible elements that were believed to have access, in certain conditions, to other, invisible, dimensions of reality, among which the one deemed most important was the land of the Afterlife.
The Egyptian paradise can be variously identified with the following mysterious spaces:
1) Amenti, Amentet or Ament, located in the west (the name literally means the "hidden place/ land"; Budge 1991: 41);
2) Aaru or Sekhet-Aaru, or the Elysian Fields (lit. Sekhet-Aaru/-Aanru = the "Field of Reeds," with sekhet = "field," "meadow"; Budge 1991: 370-371; 1978ii: 686);
3) Maati as the first field in the Tuat (or Duat); the place where the dead buried the "flame of fire" and the "crystal sceptre" (Budge 1978i: 272);
4) Ta-Ankh, i.e. the "land of life" (ta = "land"), where Osiris is ruler (and thus called Asar-Nebta-Ankh, Osiris, Lord of the Land of Life; Budge 1978i: 86).
It is ironic, however, that the sarcophagi, portals for entering Amenti, Sekhet-Aaru, Maati or Ta-Ankh, in Poe's story are black, the exact opposite of "golden light," and indeed the very Greek name (sarco-phagus) for the Egyptian tombs (het-nub) means "flesh eater" (sarx, sarkos = "flesh"; phagein = "to eat"): the Greeks believed limestone (called by them sarcophagus) had the property of consuming the flesh of the corpses placed inside it, and so they used it for coffins. In this case, if the body of the mummy vanished, then the only possibility was for the Ba soul and the Ka double to unite to form an akh, that could then at will become again incarnate on Earth.
The whole story of Ligeia seems to be Poe's desperate attempt to deal with the question of conquering death in this way, either by stealing another body (the most desperate solution: Ligeia is tempted by the unnamed narrator to steal the body of Lady Rowena) or by ideally becoming incarnate at will. Poe must have been fascinated by the latter perspective, as by the Egyptians' entire system of belief implying the existence of a secret field of correspondence between the macrocosmic condition and the microcosmic human condition (such a correspondence was believed to exist also in the thought system of the ancient Mesopotamian culture):
The Egyptians were always anxious to equate human endeavors with cosmic events as observed in the night sky, and much of their writings and teachings about the spirit of Ma'at were concerned with a need to mirror the divine order demonstrated by the heavenly bodies. (Bunson 2002: 57)
From the example above we catch a glimpse of how the "phantasmagoric effect" may work: depending on the perspective we adopt, we may come to strike "semantic" gold, as it were. The method of the arabesque is thus of utmost importance, because it may have been used by Poe, consciously or not, also in Eureka: the right ("divine") perspective might thus lead us to the "master keys" Poe may have hidden--in plain view--for us to find in his very own text, which, as he put it, leads the reader to a discovery of the "golden secret" of the Egyptians.
The secrets that Poe referred to in Eureka were probably related also to the power of words and names (the ren) that the Egyptians believed in, attributing names a demiurgic creative force: uttering a name would bring life into existence; destroying a name would obliterate the life of the one bearing that name.
Poe seems to have played with this idea in Morella. In this story, Morella is the wife of an unnamed narrator; she is an erudite woman with deep knowledge of mystical lore; this erudition, however, eventually makes her husband hate her. Despised by her husband, she dies in labour, giving birth to a daughter that will grow to look just like her, being loved dearly by her father (the unnamed narrator). The narrator keeps his daughter unbaptized until she is an adult, at which time he decides to give her a name in order to protect her from misfortunes such as he experienced, but when asked by the priest to tell him what name he chose for his daughter, he utters compulsively, unwillingly, "Morella," as if driven to this by some evil power. By uttering her name, in the view of the Egyptians, the narrator gave the dead Morella power to become manifest in the body of the living daughter who was yet unnamed, and so could not yet be presented to the gods; this way, Morella was granted the power to kill her daughter as punishment for her husband's having hated Morella while she was alive, and for his having loved instead her daughter.
Poe must have been fascinated with the Egyptian cosmogonical ideas, according to which the supreme Being or Ptah formed the Universe by the power of words:
God hath made the universe, and He hath created all that therein is: He is the Creator of what is in this world, of what was, of what is, and of what shall be. He is the Creator of the world, and it was He Who fashioned it with His hands before there was any beginning; and He stablished [sic] it with that which went forth from Him. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth; the Creator of the heavens, and the earth, and the deep; the Creator of the heavens, and the earth, and the deep, and the waters, and the mountains. God hath stretched out the heavens and founded the earth. What His heart conceived came to pass straightway, and when He had spoken His word came to pass, and it shall endure for ever. (cf. Budge 1987:21)
In this cosmogony, the act of "stretching out the heavens" (sekh) may have been construed by Poe (if he came across it) as an act of expansion of space and matter; the founding of earth, as an act of contraction of space and matter; the "coming to pass straightway," i.e. "at once," may have suggested to Poe that the cosmogonical act occurred in a flash; finally, the "enduring for ever" indeed suggests Poe's notion that words as vibrations travel eternally through the spiritual ether. Furthermore, the conception inside the heart can be understood as an act of will:
[...] I made everything which was made. I was alone. I made a foundation for my heart (or will), and I created multitudes of things which evolved themselves like unto the evolutions of the god Khepera, and their offspring came into being from the evolutions of their births. I emitted from myself the gods Shu and Tefnut, and from being One I became Three; they sprang from me, and came into existence in this earth. [...] Shu and Tefnut brought forth Seb and Nut, and Nut brought forth Osiris, Horus-khentan-maa, Sut, Isis, and Nephthys at one birth. (cf. Budge 1987: 26-27)
Here what strikes the cosmologist is the notion of "evolutions," in the original Egyptian rendered by the word kheperu, lit. "rollings" [kheper or kheperu = "to create," "to fashion," "to come into being," "to become," "to exist," "to turn into something," "self-created," "something evolved," "transformation," "change"; kheper or kheprer = "scarab," "beetle"; Budge 1991: 300-301]. Khepera (lit. "he who rolls") was thus the "Beetle-god"--a form of the Sun-god represented as a scarabaeus (the latter is famous for the characteristic way in which it rolls along its own ball of eggs that maturate as they roll about)--who was credited with having caused all things to come into being (including Osiris himself): in the eyes of the Egyptians, the Sun, like the scarabaeus, rolls along on his path in the sky emitting light and warmth, which generate life. Because the scarabaeus (as an emblem of Khepera) was believed to have sprung self-begotten from the nostrils of the head of Osiris, it became also a symbol of the resurrection (in Egyptian: tun; or nehas-t = "a waking up"; tun can also mean "rising flood," "inundation") and of life everlasting (ankh tchetta = "the living for ever") (Budge 1978i: 381; 1978ii: 824; 1991: 83; 1987: 62, 99, 100). Also, what is impressive in this cosmogony is the notion of the "germ of primeval matter," which reminds one of Poe's primordial Particle:
I evolved the evolving of evolutions. I evolved myself under the form of the evolutions of the god Khepera, which were evolved at the beginning of all time. I evolved with the evolutions of the god Khepera; I evolved by the evolution of evolutions--that is to say, I developed myself from the primeval matter which I made, I developed myself out of the primeval matter. My name is Ausares (Osiris), the germ of primeval matter. I have wrought my will wholly in this earth, I have spread abroad and filled it, I have strengthened it [with] my hand. I was alone, for nothing had been brought forth; I had not then emitted from myself either Shu or Tefnut. I uttered my own name, as a word of power, from my own mouth, and I straightway evolved myself. I evolved myself under the form of the evolutions of the god Khepera, and I developed myself out of the primeval matter which has evolved multitudes of evolutions from the beginning of time. (cf. Budge 1987: 23-24)
The Egyptian word for "primeval matter" was pau-t; it meant the "stuff," "substance," "matter," out of which all things, including the gods, were made (it also referred to "dough," "bread," "offering," "food," "product"). Also: pa = "to be," "to exist"; pa, pai = "to fly"; pa-t = "primeval time," "remote ages"; pau = "primeval time"; Pau = the primeval god, lit. "he who is," "he who exists," "the self-existent"; Pauti = the god of primeval matter; paut = "beings," "men," "women"; pautiu = "primeval beings"; pauti taui = "the beginning of time"; paut neteru = all the primordial gods (Budge 1991: 140; 1978i: 230, 231).
Indeed, the Egyptians' Universe was, like Poe's, one undergoing permanent evolution, under the power of all-pervading vibrations (words) generated from the "germ of primeval matter" that modulates creation in accordance with its "will" or "heart," and which thus "emits" the cosmic substances: Shu = air, dryness, light; Tefnut = water; the son of these two is Geb = earth; Geb is the husband of Nuth / Nunuth, i.e. the sky; Geb is the father of Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus; Geb also created the "Cosmic Egg," a notion that reminds us of Poe's universal Sphere that was created as a consequence of the spherical radiation of matter followed by its spherical contraction in the phase of cosmic creative collapse.
Cause-effect interchangeability, periodicity and the quantum connection
Prom a quantum perspective, Poe's model becomes thus uncannily relevant. Thus, the interdependence and possibly the, at least partial, interchangeability between all fundamental forms of reality--space, time, energy (light), matter and gravity, or what we might call the "Big Five"--may explain the nature of deep truth that Poe might well have had in mind when he designed his model of "hieroglyphic," mysteriously paradoxical Universe: this nature of truth might be such that, as Blake had intuited, contraries are equally true, precisely because they are embedded in a total field of "complete mutuality" and "absolute reciprocity of adaptation." Niels Bohr had this kind of intuition as a consequence of the quantum equation of reality:
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. (apud Heisenberg 1971:102)
William Blake put it thus:
Negations are not Contraries: Contraries mutually Exist; / But Negations Exist Not. Exceptions & Objections & Unbeliefs / Exist not, nor shall they ever be Organized for ever & ever. (Jerusalem, plate 17, 33-35; Blake 1979: 639)
Beneath the bottoms of the Graves, which is Earth's central joint, / There is a place where Contrarieties are equally true: [...]. (Jerusalem, plate 48, 13-14; Blake 1979: 677)
The idea that the laws are interdependent is obviously holistic in nature (see Leibniz: the grain of sand out of which could be extracted the physical laws of the entire universe) and it has great affinity with David Bohm's notion about the infinite hierarchy of laws that might hope to explain the infinitely complex behaviour of known reality. The consequence is that Poe practically postulates the existence of a Law of laws, which is the total result of the convergence of all laws into one field of nomic coherence:
[T]hat omniprevalent law of laws, the law of periodicity. (Poe 1848: 139)
It is interesting to observe here that periodicity as a supreme law operating in the Universe was also postulated by Goethe (The theory of colours: the didactic part, Physiological colours, 38) in his view according to which the "eternal rule of life" (of the organic, of the individual, of experience) and of history as a whole (the rule of the collective) is the perpetual sequence of two fundamental and opposite movements:
1) Systole or syncrisis, i.e. "union": contraction, similar to expiration/exhaling.
2) Diastole or diacrisis, i.e. "separation": dilation/ expansion, similar to inspiration/inhaling.
These two movements-forces are perfectly equivalent with Poe's Attraction and Repulsion.
Thus, according to Goethe, inhaling already presupposed exhaling, and vice-versa (cf. Bishop 2008: 105); the same in Poe: cause and effect from a nomic perspective presuppose each other indistinctly. This means that from a divine perspective past and future are mutually interdependent in the present moment, and so an event in the future may influence one in the past through the ever-continuous present moment.
In this sense, it is interesting to notice that in modern science this (from a "clasical" perspective) irrational and anti-logical possibility for the future to influence the past--known as retro-causality--is earnestly researched in the framework of quantum studies given the discovery of the phenomenon of quantum non-locality or quantum entanglement (see at least Zohar 1982; Zohar & Marshall 1990, 1994, 2000; and the TV series Through the wormhole, season 1, episode 3, entitled Is time travel possible?, aired on 23 June 2010).
To show that Goethe saw in the periodic law of systole and diastole no less than the law of all history, Paul Bishop relevantly invoked Goethe's Letter to Schiller, dated 24 January 1798, in which we read:
If one looks at the sequence of intellectual moments of which the history of science actually consists, then one no longer laughs at the notion of writing an a priori history, for everything really does develop out of the progressive and regressive qualities of the human mind, out of the striving, and then self-restraint, of nature. (apud Bishop 2008: 106)
Furthermore, Bishop (2008: 104-105) observes that C. G. Jung compared in Psychological types (1921) the processes of Goethe's systole and diastole with the psychological processes of introversion (contraction) and extraversion (expansion) as "opposed mechanisms" (gegensatzliche Mechanismen), of the kind announced by Goethe, and constituting the fundamental polarity: formation and transformation, magnetic repulsion and attraction, thinking and action, the eyes' necessity to receive light and darkness, losing oneself (Entselbstigung) and finding oneself again (Verselbstung).
This means that reality functions in accordance with a universal law of periodicity, the master law of a universal living pendulum that "breathes" by progress and regress, contraction and expansion, evolution and devolution, as was shown among others, in various registers (cosmopoetic and anthropological, respectively), by William Blake and Franz Boas.
For Poe, this master law looks like a kind of gnostic tree, a tree of conscience and of being which is multi-ramified, having a living substance that communicates through branches just as water communicates in a system of communicating vessels under conditions of gravity, the latter helping the system to be holistically coherent.
Paradoxically, this view on the nomic state of the universe suggests that the history of the Universe is written every moment with a multidimensional pen that is endowed with a tip which is extremely elastic (the future and the present), but whose ink traces left on the papyrus (the past) are comparatively extremely rigid, even irreversible, although they can be annihilated by the irresistible force of the tip of the pen, i.e. of the future and the present: the tip can at any time draw ever new traces that wipe away from existence increasingly more the contents of the past, as in a genuine palimpsest. In other words, the nomic state of the cosmos is intercommunicating, which allows unsuspected states of freedom, but also states of limitation that match the degrees of freedom.
In Poe's hieroglyphic Universe, in other words, each part of the whole mysteriously communicates with all the others: this is the image of a cosmos that looks like a living system of channels that form a giant unique organism (like the giant tapestry in Ligeia) in which the master law (the Law of laws) and the master freedom (the Freedom of freedoms) paradoxically meet.
From the perspective of the "phantasmagoric effect" mentioned above, it would appear that the individual laws are precisely a huge network or "tapestry" of "irisations" or iridescent fields of one great unique Master Law. Significantly, M theory is the result of a unique privileged revelation that Edward Witten had when he realized that the five existing string theories were actually one and the same, only seen from different perspectives. The science of the 20th and 21st century attempt basically to generalize the same unifying approach to the whole of existing scientific knowledge, so as to find "God's equation" and "God's particle." Poe attempted the same in Eureka, to find, as it were, a theory of everything, by using science and aesthetics, mathematics and poetry, astronomy and conscience.
Also, it seems to be a historical irony that one of the consequences of the generalized theory of relativity was precisely the fact that the universe is furrowed by numberless intercommunicating paths or channels: the "Einstein-Rosen bridges," more popularly known as "wormholes"--which finally give us the image of a Universe that resembles a giant piece of Swiss cheese.
From Poe's model we thus derive an image of a nomic state of the universe that resembles precisely the image of the relativistic-Einsteinian physical universe: a hyper-sphere (the master Law) which is full of inter-commnicating bridges (the laws). The living chamber of cosmic creation is the Universe itself (at the micro-level of the human, this is like Lady Rowena's bridal chamber in Ligeia); on its walls lie written from the ancient beginnings of the world all the individual laws which we perceive as mysterious, unintelligible hieroglyphs--if we discover the privileged (arabesque) perspective, then the hieroglyphs become suddenly intelligible, reflecting the image of the one unique Master Law. In short, this is how Poe probably saw the cosmic equation he was working on to decipher in Eureka.
Otherwise stated, the master Law in Poe's acceptation was an organismic entity, a spiritual structuring force which is virtually infinitely ramified (as in David Bohm's infinite hierarchic model), having infinitely rich nomic "irisations"--the life and the material body forming a living unity.
Moreover, for Poe all laws are only consequences of the act whereby the primordial Divine Volition was exerted. This is the principle of the cosmogony proposed by Poe.
By "the first and most sublime of Acts," God--self-being and alone-being (see supra the Egyptian Pau as the primeval god, whose name means "he who is," "he who exists," "the self-existent")--suddenly became all things, by the power of his will, thus all things being made by him as a part of him:
[T]his tendency to return as but the inevitable reaction of the first and most sublime of Acts--that act by which a God, self-existing and alone existing, became all things at once, through dint of his volition, while all things were thus constituted a portion of God. (Poe 1848: 81)
The use, yet again, of the same adverbial locution "at once" goes in the same direction of interpreting Poe's model as unmistakeably a Big Bang model. In this context, Beaver (1976: 414, n. 60) drew attention to the fact that the God of the Jews, called Yah Wah, signifies "the self-existing essence of all things" (cf Yah = "existing"; Wah = "essence"). In Poe's scheme, this self-sustained, unique and infinite essence explodes into ex-essence (existence) to form the Universe. If Poe did not know about the significance of the name of Yah Wah ("existing essence"), he may have instead been aware of the meaning of the name of the ancient Egyptian primeval god Pau ("he who is," "the self-existent").
From nothing to infinity: the parallel universes hypothesis
We may wonder here whether the use of the expression "portion of God" discloses a pantheistic fundament in Poe's cosmogony, or if rather thereby the poet-cosmologist tried to explain how creation from nothingness (ex nihilo) was possible: it becomes possible only if the initial zero of being is filled continuously with the divine infinity, this permanent filling being not the divine totality, but only a phenomenally manifest part--the transcendental part remains for ever mysterious, sunk in its own infinity of "hieroglyphic" essence.
A similar situation is met in William Blake's cosmological system, in which the British poet postulated that God created infinite pillars/ columns on the zero of being (i.e. on the Lake of Udan Adan). That is to say, he implied that it is only the infinite that is capable to "cope" with the zero of being, any other magnitude was "swallowed" without trace.
In this sense, John Henry Hopkins and George Bush (the latter wrote on this theme in his Swedenborgian review, no. 90) suspected in Poe a "dangerous flirtation with pantheism" (cf. Walker 2002: 44). Hopkins, being outraged, stated about Eureka--in a review published in Literary World (29 July 1848, 3, 502)--the following:
[L]ook at the system of Pantheism which is more or less interwoven into the texture of the whole book, but displays itself most broadly at the end. (cf. Walker 2002:284)
Then Hopkins accused Poe of polytheism, because he dared to utter the hypothesis according to which in universal reality it were possible for there to exist an infinity of universes which are similar to our own, each existing separately and independently, in the "bosom" of its own particular God (cf. Walker 2002: 284). Indeed, Poe states in Eureka the possibility of "a limitless succession of Universes," each having no connection with any of the others:
I myself feel impelled to the fancy--without daring to call it more--that there does exist a limitless succession of Universes, more or less similar to that of which we have cognizance--to that of which alone we shall ever have cognizance--at the very least until the return of our own particular Universe into Unity. If such clusters of clusters exist [or "Universes"], however--and they do--it is abundantly clear that, having had no part in our origin, they have no portion in our laws. They neither attract us, nor we them. Their material--their spirit is not ours--is not that which obtains in any part of our Universe. They could not impress our senses or our souls. Among them and us--considering all, for the moment, collectively --there are no influences in common. Each exists, apart and independently, in the bosom of its proper and particular God. (Poe 1848: 102-103)
We are dealing here with the hypothesis of parallel universes, distinctly observed by Alberto Cappi as being present in Poe's hypothetic model, since he so strictly pointed out that these Universes have nothing in common with each other. Because these universes have different origins, they do not attract us, they do not influence us, and we also can never perceive them --they are invisible to us like ghosts. We should also notice that even though Poe presents this idea of parallel universes first as a "fancy" ("I myself feel impelled to the fancy--without daring to call it more [...]"), he then immediately speaks of it as something rather certain ("If such clusters of clusters exist, however--and they do--it is abundantly clear [...]"). The meaning of the "clusters of clusters" as "universes" is clarified just before Poe launched his hypothesis of the parallel universes:
Have we any right to infer--let us say, rather, to imagine--an interminable succession of the "clusters of clusters," or of "Universes" more or less similar? I reply that the "right," in a case such as this, depends absolutely upon the hardihood of that imagination which ventures to claim the right. (Poe 1848: 102)
It has been noted that in stating about the parallel universes that "each exists, apart and independently, in the bosom of its proper and particular God" Poe unconsciously reiterated the cosmography of Anaximander (the Ionian philosopher), who similarly "declared the innumerable worlds to be gods" (cf. Aetius, i, 17.12; cf. Beaver 1976: 410, n. 39).
The golden section and the cosmic explosion-implosion harmonics
On the other hand, from the configuration of the sky Poe (1848: 51) concluded that the stars have a "certain general uniformity, equability, or equidistance, of distribution," which corresponds to Albert Einstein's subsequent ideas regarding the uniformity in distribution of the densities of matter in cosmic space (the isotropic distribution). But Poe (1848: 52) deduced an "inequidistance, within certain limits, among the originally diffused atoms," therefore a degree of chaos, from the "infinite complexity of relation [that got] out of irrelation." The composition of stellar configurations suggested to Poe (1848: 52) that physical reality in fact contains a "generally uniform but particularly ununiform distribution of the atoms," i.e. the cosmos is, as pointed out by Cappi (1994: 181), "locally irregular, but globally uniform." We are dealing here with an isotropic distribution of matter in a homogenous Universe (Cappi 1994: 181). This phenomenon is in concordance with the deep nature of the golden section as a proportion that introduces "equilibrium in inequality" (Ghyka 1981: 258).
In this sense, it is relevant that the golden section (sectio aurea) has been shown to be a proportion that emerges everywhere in the universe in the spiral forms. In his book entitled Fractal time, Gregg Braden (2009) comes to call this proportion "the universal code for how things work," both at quantum, but also at the level of the human body, as well as at that of the solar systems and of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and, finally, at the macro-level of time itself. Susie Vrobel (2011: VIII) called the golden section a fractal: namely the "inherent symmetry" of "an infinite-dimensional fractal spacetime" (Vrobel 2011: 237)--of the kind endorsed also by Nassim Haramein (2011, 2011b, 2012, 2013). With Phi governing such an infinite-dimensional fractal universe, Vrobel (2011: 237) concludes:
[E]-infinity spans the net from quantum and relativistic descriptions to the level of our aesthetic perception.
Be it reminded that "E-infinity theory," as propounded by Mohamed El Naschie, posits that the universe has infinitely many dimensions, grounded in a Cantor continuum. Georg Cantor had proposed a theory of "transfinite" numbers, i.e. numbers that are larger than all finite numbers, yet are not absolutely infinite. For him, absolute infinity could be attributed only to God himself (much as in Poe's system, as we could see). Cantor thus spoke of the existence of an "infinity of infinities," which is conceptually linked with the mathematical continuum, or C, i.e. the set of real numbers R. This set (R), as Cantor demonstrated, is larger than the set of natural numbers, N. Cantor showed that C = 2n, where n (also symbolized as N0) is the cardinality or size of the set of natural numbers, N (the size or cardinality is the number of its members). The power of the set of real numbers R, or the power of the continuum, C, intuitively associated with Cantor's "infinity of infinities" Q"), is thus one of the most problematic mathematical notions ever explored with a scientific rational instrument such as number theory and set theory.
Significantly, such a concept is implied in Poe's model of Universe in the notion that the mission of all cosmic atoms is to form, during the implosive phase of the evolution of the Universe, the largest number of relationships possible, as we could see earlier. That largest number would be (if we consider the number of existing atoms to be transfinite, ~[varies], i.e. extremely large, but not infinite) something like /~[[varies].sup.~[varies]] a cuasi-infinite symetrically raised to itself. Additionally, the idea that there exists not just a single infinity was also postulated by William Blake:
That there is but one Omnipotent, Uncreate & God I agree, but that there is but one Infinite I do not; for if all but God is not Infinite, they shall come to an End, which God forbid. (Annotations to Swedenborg's Wisdom of angels concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, c. 1789; Blake 1979: 91)
[Of course, micro-infinity was believed--by Blake and romantics such as Poe--to exist in man in the form of the human intellect / spirit / divine spark of life; see the Egyptian khu (and the ba inside the ka inside the khat, all under/in the beqet, i.e. the sky; beq = "to shine," "to see," "to be bright"), as well as the Akkadian ilu, and
the Greek eudaimon as opposed to the kakodaimon].
The notion of e-infinity can therefore be defined as structuring a fractal "Cantorian" universe with infinitely many dimensions. Also, why Phi is the one governing such a multidimensional universe is indicated intuitively:
[T]he golden mean [Phi, [PHI]] is seen as the ultimate expression of harmony and beauty by man, who is himself part of this spacetime we are stardust. (Vrobel 2011:237)
Braden (2009) offers a few relevant examples of dynamic structures governed by the golden section or the divine proportion (sectio aurea, cf. the terminology used by Leonardo da Vinci; proportio divina, divina proportione, cf. the terminology used by Leonardo da Vinci, Luca Pacioli and Johannes Kepler; the latter used also the term sectio proportionalis):
1) Quantum level: the spiral trajectories of quantum particles in a bubble chamber.
2) Molecular level: the ratio between the length and width of a single spiral DNA chain.
3) Anatomic human level: the vortex described by the hair on the crown of the head. Nassim Haramein adds to this impressive list also the proportions between: the smallest and the middle phalanx; the middle and the largest phalanx (the phalanges are the bones making up the fingers or toes); the largest phalanx and the corresponding metacarpal; the hand (phalanges, metacarpals and carpals) and the forearm; the forearm (radius and ulna) and the upper arm (humerus), etc.
4) Vegetation/plant level: disposition of seeds in the sun-flower inflorescence.
5) Terrestrial level: the vortex of hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, etc.
6) Planetary level: the orbits of planets such as Mercury and Venus (approximated by the golden section).
7) Galactic level: the galactic spirals like that of the Milky Way. The spirals in clusters of galaxies.
All of these structures are governed by the proportion of the golden section, which thus indeed reveals itself as a "universal code," a kind of universal, micro-, meso--and macrocosmic binding medium, by which Pascal's small infinity and large infinity meet in the field of the golden section--the field of coherence.
On the other hand, Poe proposes that we imagine our planetary system as being in fact an atom, all similar systems being nothing but "colossal atoms" or "Titanic atoms" or "system-atoms" (Poe 1848: 92, 95, 135; 1976: 275; 1996: 1324), endowed with the tendency towards Unity, i.e. towards the "absolute Particle of matter" initially created (i.e. the Titanic Atom of all "Titanic atoms").
[In this context, we should be reminded that Poe nowhere in Eureka called the "absolute Particle of matter" the "Titanic atom," probably because an "atom" proper etymologically means the "indivisible": contrarywise, the "absolute Particle of matter" was precisely infinitely divisible, so a better term for it would have been maybe the "Titanic an-atom," but this terminology again would deny the nature of this particle as fundamentally defined by its Oneness and uniqueness].
In view of the above (the idea of the return to the initial Unity), Poe clearly anticipated the idea of a "Big Crunch," the big return of matter to the initial center, the implosion after the explosion, when matter falls upon itself and so leaves a giant black hole--the implosion becoming another explosion, this time on the other side of the physical reality, as it were, in a different space, created by the colossal power of the implosion at the Big Crunch. This event would be the symmetrical reverse of Creation, but the effect would be the same: the implosion on this side of the Universe would be perceived as an explosion on that side.
The paradox in such a theory is obvious: nobody could ever know whether the Big Bang is an explosion or an implosion, so much so that the two movements are interchangeable: the Big Bang could be a Big Crunch, and vice versa. Just as Poe intuited: from a divine perspective, cause and effect are indistinguishable from each other.
Yet Poe speaks about the annihilation of matter at the end of the cosmic implosion. Still, he does not specify where this cosmic matter is supposed to vanish.
Poe's model, in which matter is annihilated, but then reappears in a new successive cycle of the Universe (as we shall see), thus implies somehow a cosmological model with inter-cosmic communicating vessels: a communication takes place between successive universes linking one cycle to another immediate cycle--just as a cause links to its immediate effect, and then the effect just produced becomes the cause of the next immediateley following effect, in a chain of causation that goes on ad infinitum. This means that one Universe collapsing can finally get out of this physical dimension (the matter disappears from physical space) and enter a different, "interior," transcendent dimension, the Universe in this way behaving like a substance that is transferred and transformed through communicating vessels / dimensions / portals, the great transformation happening at the "end," when the Universe enters again the initial singularity out of which it emerged.
The Big Bang and the Big Crunch therefore presuppose each other--just as order and disorder, simplicity and complexity, light and darkness, cause and effect presuppose each other. In this sense, as we could see, Poe did not deny the possibility for an infinity of universes to exist, but these do not communicate among each other, they never influence one another; only the universes that succeed each other in a single chain can communicate vibrationally with one another, so only the universes that follow one after the other, in a unique cyclicality that is parallel with the other chains of cyclicities of the infinitely numerous parallel universes.
From this hypothesis implicit in Poe's cosmological system (even though it was stated only as rather a hope) is only a small step to the cosmological view of the multiple, parallel universes (the "multiverse"), predicted in M-theory (known as the "the eleven-dimensional theory," Greene 2000: 141), as formulated by Edward Witten by unifying, as mentioned, the five different string theories. Thus, in one of the cosmological hypotheses it is stated that the touching of a cosmic membrane with another one (the latter constituting a parallel universe) signifies a Big Bang. It was suggested that the Big Bang might thus be a common phenomenon, taking place every time two parallel universes (two "branes" / cosmic membranes) touch. The mere existence of black holes (in the visible cosmos it is estimated that there are approximately [10.sup.18] such black holes; Smolin 2001: 200) may lead us to the idea that such parrallel universes exist that are connected to our universe by Einstein-Rosen bridges (wormhole bridges) which open through "white holes" into the neighbouring universe. The implosion of a star might thus lead to its matter getting out of our universe and its entering the neighbouring parallel universe. A consequence would be that the Big Bang in this acceptation might be, in the "multiverse" (see this concept in Rees 2000: 148ff), indeed a common phenomenon, as M theory predicts might happen in a Master Universe of parallel universes.
The cosmic hierarchies
Poe (1848: 97) propounded that cosmic systems are made up of a hierarchy of celestial bodies: a luminous sun is the primary in the center, around which rotate planets (the secondaries), around which satellites gravitate (the tertiaries). If our Sun were to be considered as being part of a larger system like the galaxy of the Milky Way, then the description would have to be reclassified, with the sun becoming one of the secondaries, the planets--the tertiaries, the satellites--the quaternaries. If we were to consider an even larger unit, the cluster of galaxies, then from this perspective our Sun would be "demoted" to the status of one of the tertiaries, our planets--the quaternaries; their satellites--the quintics, etc. This is indeed a fractal structure, endowed with self-similarity: a multi-stratified homothetic system. Significantly, homothetic phenomena are governed by the golden section.
The visible, perceptible Universe is according to Poe (1848: 96) "a cluster of clusters, irregularly disposed," with the Galaxy being "a roughly spherical cluster" (Poe 1848: 99), and the clusters themselves being the "nebulae," among which for us the most important one is the Milky Way Galaxy.
One of the justifications Poe gives for his postulation of a limited Universe with Stars is the following:
Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us an uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy--since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all. (Poe 1848: 100)
Others' paradox and Fournier D'Albe's multiverse: man's destiny is with the stars
Here Poe offered the solution for Olbers' paradox, also known as the "dark night sky" paradox or the "blazing sky" paradox. Johannes Kepler seems to have been the first to have recognized this paradox; he understood that if the stars on the heavenly vault were uniformly disposed, then the sky during nighttime would be black, and the sky during daytime would uniformly have in its entirety the same luminousness as of the solar disk. In 1826 Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (1758-1840) imagined this paradox, his reasoning being grounded in the cosmological principle, which is confirmed by modern astronomical observations. [The cosmological principle is the hypothesis that the universe is isotropic and homogenous; isotropy is the property of the universe according to which for a typical observer the universe looks the same in every direction. See Weinberg 1993: 160-162].
In this context, Jacques Merleau-Ponty observed that C. V. L. Charlier suggested Olbers's paradox could be eliminated if one imagines a hierarchical structure of the Universe, but as yet no observational evidence to that effect has been presented. Merleau-Ponty (1978: 494) is of the opinion that the isotropic expansion of the universe would solve this paradox naturally, the radiation of the remotest strata being absorbed by the red shift.
The solution that Poe glimpsed in the fragment from Eureka mentioned above is known as the "stars's-finite-age solution" (cf. Harrison 1987). Still, Poe's solution does not refer to the case of a finite Universe of Stars inside infinite space (this is Poe's model proper), but to a model in which the "succession of stars [would be] endless"--so the Universe in this case would be infinite, with infinite matter, and static, as correctly observed by Alberto Cappi. Poe (1848: 100) explains clearly: "under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids" on the heavenly dome only if "the distance of the invisible background sis] so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all." Consequently, Poe does not believe that the voids in the sky could be explained in the model of infinite Universe (with infinite matter) through the absorbtion of light by the interstellar medium (that was the solution advanced by Johann Heinrich Madler on the basis of Struve's observations); rather he thought that these voids were accounted for by the fact that the Universe is so deep, that the light from the extremely distant cosmic sectors has not yet reached us. [See Johann Heinrich Madler, Populare astronomie, 1841 (first edition), 1846 (second edition), 1849 (fourth edition), 1852 (fourth edition) (the 1849 and 1852 editions are called the "fourth edition"); apud Tipler 1988: 45-46].
Of course, there is here a common element that appears also in Poe's own model (over which Cappi does not insist), namely the fact that space in this model of infinite Universe is also infinite (see Poe's expression: "the distance [...] sis] so immense"). In this context, we believe that Edward Harrison is right to credit Poe as being the first to find a correct solution for this paradox (in 1848), since in the first four editions of his Populare astronomie [Popular astronomy] (1841, 1846, 1849, 1852) Johann Heinrich Madler proposed the solution of the absorbtion of light, and only in the fifth edition (1861), retitled Der wunderbau des weltalls, oder Populare astronomie [The wonderful structure of the Universe, or Popular astronomy], he advanced the modern solution, thus contradicting Struve's and Olbers' solution (the absorbtion of light) (Olbers was mentioned only in this fifth edition in connection with the question of the paradox).
By the modern fractal models proposed by Benoit Mandelbrot (1998: 98ff) (the founder of fractal geometry) a solution for this paradox is found which is similar to that proposed by Poe. One possibility is a model of Universe such as proposed by Fournier D'Albe:
This is an image of the "multi-universe," built on a systemic fractal cruciform/octahedric principle. The large circle A represents a star as we perceive it--this is in fact a cluster of stars, a nebula/galaxy; the small circle a represents an atom--which is in fact a cluster of quantum, subquantum, etc., particles, i.e. an intra-atomic nebula, or what we might call a quantum galaxy.
Fournier D'Albe attached a legend to the figure of the Multi-Universe reproduced here. It reads as follows:
In the accompanying diagram a multi-universe is shown, constructed upon a cruciform or octahedral principle. Though this is not the plan of the infra-world or the supra-world, the diagram is useful in showing that an infinite series of similar successive universes may exist without producing a "blazing sky." If the smallest visible crosses represent atoms of the infra-world, the figure enclosed by the circle a represents a star of the infra-world or an atom of our world. A would then correspond to a star of our world, and the whole diagram would represent a "supra-star." The "world-ratio" in this case is 7, instead of 1022 , as in reality. Successive world-spheres, like a, A, &c., enclose 7 times as much matter as the sphere next below. The matter in each world-sphere is proportional to its radius, and its density is inversely proportional to its surface. This is the condition required for fulfilling the laws of gravitation and radiation. In the direction CD the sky will appear quite black, although there is an infinite succession of universes. (Fournier D'Albe 1907:159)
Mandelbrot (1998: 114) paraphrased Fournier D'Albe's original legend just quoted into fractal language as follows:
This image describes a multi-universe constructed upon a cruciform or octahedral principle. Though this would not be the plan either of the infra-world or the supra-world, the diagram is very useful, because it shows that an infinite hierarchy of homothetic universes may exist without producing a "blazing sky." If the points represent the atoms of the infra-world, the figure enclosed by the circle a represents a star of the infra-world, i.e. an atom of our world. Circle A will then correspond to a star of our world, and the whole will represent a "supra-star."
In this rendition what is essential is the term "homothetical," meaning "self-similar": the whole of fractal geometry is based on homothetical structures, and this kind of structures are introduced by the golden section. Otherwise, the ideas proposed by Fournier D'Albe (1907: 147ff) in discussing his hypothesis about the "chain of universes" uncannily seems to be an answer meant to be addressed to Poe's Eureka (which is nowhere mentioned in the Two new worlds), and especially meant to challenge Poe's belief that the parallel universes would never meet, would never be connected in any way. Although Fournier D'Albe agrees that higher parallel worlds (located in the supra-world) would be invisible to us at present, this situation would continue thus only as long as we do not evolve enough mentally, spiritually, intellectually to such a degree that might enable us to actually gain access to these other universes. Fournier D'Albe's view is that man is engaged in an evolutionary trek that has virtually no end; in this respect, his vision comes quite close to a version of the 19th-century romantic Titanism according to which humanity is headed to a perpetual, potentially infinite, accumulation of knowledge. Fournier D'Albe believes that man is bound to form alliances with other forms of life with a view to conquering cosmic space:
The human race has evolved on a small planet in the solar system in the course of several million years of organic life. Its destiny is to combine with other sentient beings to govern the solar system, the solar cluster, and finally the new galaxy now being evolved. (Chap. VI, The conquest of the Supra-World; Fournier D'Albe 1907: 141)
This conquest takes place by successive expansions, during which man organizes in increasingly more complex structures, creating more and more intricate collective forms of social manifestation, and evolving psychologically in accordance with these exterior needs. This simultaneously individual and collective evolution resembles a process by which a tree continuously adds ring after ring of wood to consolidate its body, with its roots going deeper and deeper to conquer the Earth, and its crown going higher and higher to conquer the Heavens:
In the course of his triumphant career, man has succeeded in extending his personality far beyond the limits of his body. If by "personality" in the wider sense we understand all material things controlled by the individual, then we must include his clothes, his property, and his whole sphere of influence under that term. [...] [E]very community has its "personality" also. / It controls the "personalities" of its individuals to the same extent as it controls their minds--at least on the average, and in the long run. The community is an individual of a higher order, with a consciousness distributed over the aggregate consciousness, and a "personality" of power and possession gathered from the aggregate of its members. / A nation is an individual of a still higher order, controlling not only the mental and physical life of a vast number of human beings, but a correspondingly large portion of land. Nations, like crowds, have their psychology. They are born, and live, and die. (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 141-142)
This is not accidental; man is seen as being meant to become such a conqueror of the horizontal and the vertical, because he has the spark of the divine in him ("the almighty power within him"--reminding us of the Egyptian "souls" that evolve in awesome evolutions or "rollings"--kheperu), the Universe being his permanent challenge and/or partner in battle or cooperation:
The human personality is coextensive with the visible universe in one sense already. It is destined to become so in a much more practical sense. Man governs the earth. [...] Soon he will govern the more powerful elements, the sea and the wind, and the heat of the sun. / [...] [P]erhaps, he will discover that Jupiter offers superior inducements to colonists, or he will come to some understanding with the inhabitants of Jupiter, if such there be, with regard to future cooperation. It is pretty certain that nothing will bar the conquering march of human intelligence, except a similar intelligence. Either man will come upon a civilisation resembling his own or he will not. In the former case he will, after a trial of strength, perhaps, ally himself with that other race. In the latter alternative he will mould all matter to his will. He will control the sun with a switch like an electric lamp. His physical acts will require a minimum expenditure of energy; but they will let loose or guide all the huge forces of the universe. In proceeding to greater conquests, man simply draws upon the almighty power within him. (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 142-143)
Man is well equipped for this double task, which implies two master dimensions, the physical and the mental/spiritual; his physical and intellectual/spiritual evolution will always be modulated in such a way that his potentially "infinite reserves" of power (see the Egyptian sekhemu and hekau) will best serve him by either becoming active or dormant (but never really being irretrievably lost):
He is not alone in either world, material or mental. He has infinite reserves in both. His physical organism is specially adapted to the conquest of the earth. When he proceeds to greater spheres it may change; [...]. In proceeding to control the solar system, man may develop, or rather resume, powers now found only in a rudimentary form. In taking control of nature, man has lost many spiritual gifts once possessed by his ancestors. Clairvoyance and telepathy were once almost universal. They have been deliberately atrophied in order to fit man for the conquest of nature. The human mind not only requires delicate senses and perceptions; it also requires certain blindnesses and insensibilities. Some sensibilities have been crusted over. Man has become a crustacean as regards some of his faculties. These have become "occult." When they are once more required they will again come forth. They are beginning to come forth now. (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 143-144)
Man's evolutionary march is towards more and more consciousness (in this sense, as we will see, Fournier D'Albe's ideas come close to Poe's), his coextensiveness with the visible universe becoming manifest in the formation of a collective planetary consciousness or even a consciousness of the entire Solar System or the entire Milky Way Galaxy (the Egyptian hesau; cf. Budge 1978i: 510), which thus will be endowed with a Solar-System soul and, respectively, a Milky-Way soul:
The result will be, in any case, that the solar system will become conscious. It will control its own destiny, and choose among the energies in the universe those best adapted to preserve its continuity of evolution. / [...] When the planets move "like one man," when the solar system is instinct with life, it will develop new powers. Born into the solar cluster, it will endeavour to adapt itself to its surroundings, and then to adapt its surroundings to itself. An outside spectator might look as fruitlessly for the seat of the solar "soul" as he does for the human soul in the cells of the brain. [...] He might notice a growth of the single system into a cluster of systems, or the break-up of several systems to form another system on a higher scale. Our imagination almost forsakes us at this point, until we arrive at the borders of the galaxy, and behold! we have again a living thing, like the amoeba under the cover-glass, which is as wonderful as a living galaxy, and fraught with infinitely greater possibilities than a dead galaxy. (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 144-145)
The purpose of evolution thus seems to be the gradual giant birth of a living collective eternal being, the "supra-man," that encompasses the whole of cosmic space-time:
But in this vast process just sketched, which has taken a thousand million years to accomplish itself, a living being has been born into the supra-world, there to live a life akin to that of our earthly organisms, but extending over practically infinite time, and counting its seconds by the parade of galaxies. Its long evolution, the "Conquest of the Supra-world," will count as an insignificant fraction of a second--a mere nothing. [...] It will enter upon its vivid life in the supra-world, conscious of the all-absorbing Present, and oblivious of the ages during which it was slowly and laboriously evolved into a higher life out of the strenuous life of the human race. / And the supra-man, studying the little captured galaxy in his microscope, will wonder if the little thing has any intelligence or consciousness, or if it is only "matter and motion," with hard round atoms knocking up against each other and occasionally phosphorescing into "thought." (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 145-146)
This Supra-Man resembles the Hebrew Adam Kadmon or the Hindu Purusha or the Scandinavian Ymir, out of whom the whole Universe is said to have been created (the Egyptians had the notion of a giant entity in Nekht or Nekht-ti, i.e. the giant Orion; cf. Budge 1978i: 389). Therefore, according to Fournier D'Albe this giant cosmic being is born gradually through evolution, the evolutionary process being thus decrypted as a colossal process of gestation and ascent. What is created is thus a kind of collective mind ruling the entire body of the Universe.
Indeed, the fragments quoted above read like a combination of science and fiction in the vein of Poe and H. G. Wells combined.
Fournier D'Albe proposes basically a kind of mental/spiritual monism (akin to that espoused by George Berkeley), in which an Emersonian oversoul is an essential principle, just as in Poe the God hypothesis is fundamental for the cosmological "hieroglyphic" equation. Fournier D'Albe believes to have figured out for the first time the consequences of accepting the worldview according to which space and time are relative; the "infra-world" (the world of the infinitesimal) and the "supra-world" (the world of the infinite) are thus similar in nature, but ruled by different dimensions, which in themselves are only "relative":
The relativity of space and time itself, always accepted as an axiom, is here for the first time carried to its logical conclusion, and given a physical interpretation. [...] When Newton first extended the earth's attraction as far as the moon his hypothesis appeared far-fetched and presumptuous. But we have gone much further since, and have learned more and more that the strange and the wonderful must not be looked for beyond the stars. The abysses of space are no more strange and formidable than a river-bed or a snowdrift. There is no problem on an infinite scale which is not equally presented to us on an infinitesimal scale. If we can unravel the secrets of matter down to the molecule and up to the starcluster, we shall know the secrets of all matter to the uttermost ends of space and time. Our faculties will have grasped the material universe. [...] The laws of the material universe as disclosed to us by our faculties will rule for ever. [...] This eternity of the material universe gives a new dignity to it and to our work in solving its riddles. [...] The realisation of the infra-world and the supra-world amounts to a vast extension of the scope of the laws of nature. But, on the other hand, it opposes a decided barrier to their indefinite simplification. [...] It is sheer waste of time to look for an ultimate particle, or for a continuous fluid of certain density or elasticity. We can never arrive at anything ultimate by making our unit small. There will always be something a million times smaller, infinitely smaller. Why not, then, take the bull by the horns and recognise that dimensions are only relative, that our faculties have a limited range, and that, however far we extend that range on a larger or smaller scale, the same problems are presented to us? Let us not bury these problems out of sight in the Infinitesimal. (Chap. VII, The chain of universes; Fournier D'Albe 1907: 147-150)
Since physical dimensions are relative, the solution to the enigma of the Universe is not to be found in matter; instead, we have to look in the direction of psychology:
No material interpretation of the universe will ever explain anything. The elementary particle, the elementary position or motion, will be the greatest of all puzzles. Real progress must be sought for in quite another direction. / Let us by all means reduce the number of laws to the minimum. Let us, if we can, explain gravitation by ether motion; but if we fail, if we have to admit universal gravitation as an ultimate and irreducible reality, where is the loss? We must have some fundamental assumptions, incapable of further explanation, and none are likely to be much simpler than Newton's law. [...] But when it comes to the explanation, or, rather, the interpretation, of these fundamental principles, material conceptions are no longer useful. The fundamental principles are necessarily functions of the five senses with which we happen to be endowed. They are the symbols which connect our physical organism with the realities outside us. Any further reduction must be accompanied by an analysis of our own senses and faculties. Not microscopy, but psychology, will solve the "Riddle of the Universe." (Fournier D'Albe 1907: 150-151)
Yet, also in psychology we do encounter many obstacles (error, noise, hallucination, illusion, etc.), which can be surpassed only slowly, gradually, patiently, by man's engaging in a kind of mental ascent from the lowest physical perception (or sentience) and up a potentially infinitely high ladder of conscience (this concept resembles what Koestler called the "gradient of conscience"):
Even in dealing with ordinary sensation we are constantly coming upon sources of error, such as malobservation, illusion, and hallucination. The senses require constant correction and supervision [...] by the combined intellect of those supposed to be best qualified to judge. [...] In searching for ultimate truth, we have to bring our higher intellectual faculties into play. We have to investigate those "laws of cognition" which govern the acquisition of knowledge in general. We have to concentrate ourselves in our own higher selves, and watch our ordinary faculties at work, just as those faculties watch our sensations, and our senses in their turn watch the world. And in doing so, we are gradually and inevitably drawn to the conclusion that mind is everything, and matter but an expression of the universal mind. A table, a house, a machine is the embodiment of some human mind. A stone is the embodiment of some mind at present inaccessible to us, of some will at present inscrutable. Matter signifies existence--life independent of ourselves, but subject to our will under certain conditions, just as men are to some extent. Motion means change or experience. Inertia means habit. The ether means, perhaps, the all-embracing, all-connecting over-soul of the universe. Radiation means, perchance, the intercommunication of smaller minds. [...] Many of the sons of men, in all ages, have caught glimpses of such a higher existence. It is open to all of us and, I believe, destined for all. (Fournier DAlbe 1907: 151-153)
What strikes one in Fournier D'Albe's model, however, is that the parallel universes are conceived of as being totally interconnected and occupying the same space and time, and yet they are imperceptible to each other, each constituting a "cross-section" that is visited by man just for a time, after which the cosmic journey continues ad infinitum, man changing sequentially one universe after another in order to learn and have the plenary experience of eternal life, while evolving mentally towards the perfection of the worldsoul that exists already inside each and every man ("the infinite power within us")--this journey through the chain of universes being a journey of continuous disclosure of what is in fact the infinite potential within:
We are for a time placed at some point in the chain of material universes, an infinite series of which, strange to say, can [...] occupy the same space at the same time. We are planted on the crust of a planet. It is a curious form of existence; but we know of no other. Our faculties can dimly perceive a corresponding existence on the next lower order of planetary or stellar units, on electrons or atoms. But no corresponding possibility is reached on a larger scale until we reach the supra-star, the stellar unit of the supra-world. Our faculties can, with the utmost effort, just perceive three links of the chain, and only one with fair completeness. But that is enough. It gives a complete "cross-section" of the material universe. Having exhausted the lessons of this cross-section, we can proceed to other types of universes, at present (to us) non-material, and more or less immaterial. / Of one thing, however, we may be certain: No universe exists which is entirely unconnected with this of ours. We know that the fruit of our slightest act goes thundering down the ages, that nothing is ever effaced, that everything is of infinite and eternal consequence. And if it leaves a permanent mark on the material universe, it will affect, also, all invisible universes. [...] To pierce into the innermost recesses of nature, to mould natural forces to our will, to make life happy and glorious for ourselves and our kind, to assert our supremacy over disease and death, to conquer and rule the universe in virtue of the infinite power within us--such is our task here and now. (Fournier DAlbe 1907: 153-154)
It is indeed remarkable that also in Fournier D'Albe's view, like in Poe's, man's "slightest act goes thundering down the ages," nothing being "ever effaced," "everything [being] of infinite and eternal consequence" (this is the "butterfly effect" --the infinitesimal having infinite effect). The only difference is that Fournier D'Albe believes that the "permanent mark[s] on the material universe" will affect also "all invisible universes," whereas in Poe's view this action is restricted to the Universe in which the action was generated.
On the other hand, Tipler observed that at present modern cosmology accepted as a solution for Olbers's paradox the idea that the Universe undergoes a process of evolution (which corresponds to Poe's model) and has a finite age (which--according to Tipler--would not correspond to Poe's model: as we mentioned above, Tipler invokes as an argument the fact that Poe speaks of a Universe which is cyclical ad infinitum), and the speed of light being, too, finite we will be able to see through the depths of space only up to a certain finite distance: the consequence is that all the stars beyond this finite distance will not contribute to the luminousness of the background of the heavenly vault during nighttime (Tipler 1988: 45).
In keeping with Fournier D'Albe's ideas presented above, the American poet admits in Eureka that the "human brain" has a predilection for the Infinite, nurturing "the phantom of the idea" of infinity (Poe 1848: 102)--which, properly speaking in human terms, is an "impossible conception" (Poe 1848: 27). Then he describes the Solar System as being made up of a Sun and 16 planets with 17 satellites (their real number possibly being larger), whose orbits are not perfect circles, but ellipses (Poe 1848: 104). He refers to the giant stellar distances, proposing a system of comparison of the distances by a reduction to dimensions that we can understand. For instance, presupposing that the distance between the Earth and the Sun is one meter, we can better understand the distance from the Earth to Neptune, of 40 such proportional meters (40 Earth-Sun distances).
The speed of light, Eminescu, and the floating phantom worlds
Poe invokes in this context the speed of light calculated at that time by Struve: 167,000 miles/second-thus, one would need 10 years in order for a light signal from the star 61 Cygni to reach the Earth, the consequence being that, if the star were pulverized at this very instant, its light would "continue to sparkle on, undimmed in its paradoxical glory," being still visible on Earth for yet another ten years since its physical disappearance:
Light, however, according to the latest calculations of Struve, proceeds at the rate of 167,000 miles in a second. Thought itself cannot pass through this interval more speedily--if, indeed, thought can traverse it at all. Yet, in coming from 61 Cygni to us, even at this inconceivable rate, light occupies more than ten years; and, consequently, were the star this moment blotted out from the Universe, still, for ten years, would it continue to sparkle on, undimmed in its paradoxical glory. (Poe 1848: 115-116)
I have already said that light proceeds at the rate of 167,000 miles in a second--that is, about 10 millions of miles in a minute, or about 600 millions of miles in an hour:--yet so far removed from us are some of the "nebulae" that even light, speeding with this velocity, could not and does not reach us, from those mysterious regions, in less than 3 millions of years. This calculation, moreover, is made by the elder Herschel, and in reference merely to those comparatively proximate clusters within the scope of his own telescope. There are "nebulae," however, which, through the magical tube of Lord Rosse, are this instant whispering in our ears the secrets of a million of ages by-gone. In a word, the events which we behold now--at this moment--in those worlds--are the identical events which interested their inhabitants ten hundred thousand centuries ago. (Poe 1848: 116-117)
We are dealing here precisely with what Mihai Eminescu was speaking of in the poem La steaua ... (To the star ...) (1883):
La steaua care-a rasarit / E-o cale-atit de lunga, / Ca mii de ani i-au trebuit / Luminii sa ne-ajunga. // Poate de mult s-au stins in drum / In departari albastre, / Iar raza ei abia acum / Luci vederii noastre. // Icoana stelei ce-a murit / Incet pe cer se suie: / Era pe cind nu s-a zarit, / Azi o vedem si nu e. // Tot astfel cind al nostru dor / Pieri in noapte-adinca, / Lumina stinsului amor / Ne urmare[te inca.
An approximate English translation would sound as follows (in our own rendition):
To the star that rose / The path is so remote, / That many thousand years / The light to reach us needed. // Perhaps quite long ago / It went out on its way / In blue and distant skies, / Its ray has only now / Glimpsed faintly to our eyes. // The icon of the star that died / Slowly the heavens climbs: / It was when see it we could not, / Now we can see it, yet it isn't. // Likewise when our longing / Died out in deepest night, / The light of the departed love / Haunts us forevermore.
Eminescu was drawing here an organic parallel between man and the cosmos: these correspond to each other by a secret harmony--the physical light has a correspondent in the human psyche, namely the energy of emotion, which propagates in the psychic cosmos like the physical light in the vast physical cosmos. The Enlightenment thinkers probably would have contradicted Eminescu, arguing that it is not emotion, but reason that possesses such a ray of light. However, "the light of the departed love" can be an affirmation of the fact that physical images of love between people, leaving the Earth as light vibrations, continue to travel through the vast cosmic spaces for thousands of years, in fact eternally as Poe believed, being thus living "phantoms" of the human past.
Poe in Eureka, however, adopts the attitude of the physicist, stating coldly, in a scientific spirit:
Through what we know of the propagation of light, we have direct proof that the more remote of the stars have existed, under the forms in which we now see them, for an inconceivable number of years. (Poe 1848:90)
He continues his reasoning thus:
Of course, it will be immediately objected that since the light by which we recognize the nebula now, must be merely that which left their surfaces a vast number of years ago, the processes at present observed, or supposed to be observed, are, in fact, not processes now actually going on, but the phantoms of processes completed long in the Past--just as I maintain all these mass-constitutive processes must have been. (Poe 1848: 91)
Regarded from this perspective, astronomy studies not the present Universe, but the "phantom" of a Universe long gone-by, the remote history of the Universe, whose image travelled through space a very long way and is inter-dynamic, systemically inter-connected, interdependent, as in a system of communicating vessels of light: thus, not only the past of the Universe will be visible to us, but also our past will be visible to other solar/stellar systems in the entire Universe only in the future, our energetic image of the past being a pattern of waves travelling through space in all directions, spherically, and does never totally die out. Even if from our perspective the past died out, it remains for ever alive by the mere fact that it is propagated through space as a wave of energy and at a given moment it is possible for it to be observed by other beings. By observing it, these also transform it, according to Heisenberg's principle of indeterminacy. For this case, one might object that the effects triggered by the act of observation cannot really be felt, because the distance is too great for any effects to be perceptible; still, in quantum mechanics it is already an accepted fact that distance has no relevance in quantum non-local phenomena, i.e. in processes transmitted instantaneously, with infinite speed, regardless of distance [Zohar--1982 --studied also the possibiliy for there to exist also a non-temporal phenomenon, in the sense of a temporal correlative of the spatial non-local processes: temporal events taking place at a certain moment might thus be interconnected instantaneously with events occurring at infinite temporal distance; non-temporal connections are still only hypothetical and associated with retro-causality, while non-local connections have been demonstrated to exist, see Alan Aspect and the EPR experiment, proving the phenomenon known as "quantum entanglement"].
Of course, the troubling question that in this case follows is: what is time? And does it really exist? Einstein answered clearly that time is an illusion, everything being in fact an eternal present. Moreover, if our present can be influenced by the future (by observations that will be made on our past which "now" is our present), then what is the true relation between the past and the future?
All of these paradoxes deriving from the model presented above seem to lead to a romantic cosmology, of the type announced by Blake and implicit in Poe's model of Universe in which past, present and future exist in the present eternal moment, in an abyssally germinal form (in the "absolute particle"). The consequence is that past, present and future communicate with each other as in a hyper-communicating vessel, in which the past speaks to the present not only through memory, but also energetically, at a subtle level, in an abyssally germinal manner; and in which the future "shows itself" in prophetic visions, in deja-vus, whereby the future phenomena "touch" the present at a non-local, non-temporal quantum level--so at the level of conscience--being observed by beings in the future (past, present, and future are simultaneous at the level of Spirit) (see the intense debate on the quantum nature of conscience, Hameroff & Kaszniak & Scott 1996).
In fact, Poe did believe, as we could already see, in the power of written and spoken words as vibrations in the spiritual ether (the material ether did not exist according to him), which would propagate forever, infinitely, there being no possibility for these vibrations to ever be extinguished (cf. The power of words).
In strict accordance with Poe's view that the slightest event changes the entire texture/ tapestry of the Universe, it follows that also the smallest word, as vibration, changes entirely the whole structure of the cosmos forever enhancing its "hieroglyphic" dimension. In this sense, there seems to be here a point of convergence with John Keats's system of thought: the British poet believed that the human soul is the result of imprinting the divine initial spark (or divine intelligence--equivalent with the Egyptian khu) with the vibrations of all unique events happening to each human being individually: the divine spark/intelligence (khu), which for Keats was "an atom of perception" ("Intelligences are atoms of perception"), becomes a Soul (the Egyptian ba inside the ka) only when, through experience/ sufferance, it has achieved identity (approx. the Egyptian sah or sahu, or spiritual body): "till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself." In short, for Keats, man was forged by circumstances, which were nothing but "touchstones of his heart," that is the "proovings of his heart," the "alterers of his nature," its perfectionings (see the famous fragment on the Vale of soul-making in the Letter to George and Georgiana Keats, which Keats finished writing on 30 April 1819; cf. Stroe 2011: 365ff; cf. Bate 1963). Souls, therefore, for Keats emerged as unique equations, as "atoms of perception" vibrating eternally, and uniquely influencing the texture or tapestry of reality.
From this perspective opened by Poe and Keats, the past is extinguished, but it remains eternally alive on the screen of the cosmic tapestry by being propagated through space as energetic wave in the spiritual ether.
So for Poe an essential thing about the "Universe of Stars" was its "Titanic scale" so devised by God in order to offer the Universe sufficient time for history to unfold in it (the anthropic principle)--all this being based on the space-time equivalence (giant cosmic spaces are decoded by Poe as giant cosmic durations needed for evolution to reach advanced civilizational levels).
The cosmic adventure of maximum magnitude in Poe's model is that the light in the present preserves (also as vibration in the ether) the present (history as a whole) in an eternal state, travelling as vibration through the galaxies for thousands and millions and billions of years, and eternally progressing through the spiritual ether, thereby the universe carrying in itself "ruins" of worlds that once really existed--phantoms of light and energy carrying the energetic/ vibrational imprints of the past, irisations of real events infinitely diffused through space and time. Through these imprints/iridescences the past--history --continues to live on through the vast cosmic titanic spaces, the mythical death of the Titans being capable of being decoded as the process by which the present enters hibernation: in other words, in this model history never really dies (as Blake pointed out in his concept of "Los's Halls")--it is kept intact in the radiation/vibration that spherically unfolds and so is diffused throughout the Universe, ad infinitum, in space and time.
As a consequence, in this model the Universe might be fully populated with phantom-images of deep history floating indefinitely on the cosmic tapestry, the Titanic ruins of worlds gone-by hovering indefinitely in the indefinite chain of explosions (Big Bangs) and implosions (Big Crunches) of the Universe, of ascents and decays of civilizations, and awaiting to be decoded (vibrationally) by life forms ingenious enough to do that, this way the latter being engaged in a cognitive adventure without end. The idea of a Universe which carries in itself phantom images of the past was incorporated by Carl Sagan in his novel Contact, as well as in the movie adaptation bearing the same title: TV images with Hitler are here decoded by earthlings as sent from deep space back to Earth by an advanced civilization (from the Vega System, which is only 26 light-years away from Earth) which captured the images as if they had been sent from a radio station (in this case the radio station being planet Earth itself).
Through his combined ideas--according to which: 1) all the past is preserved in the ether as vibration (cf. The power of words); and 2) the present Universe will be followed by another similar one, in an infinite succession of births and deaths;--Poe may have come close to a Nietzschean notion of the eternal return: since all information is preserved and can never disappear, then that information is bound to become manifest in material form again and again, in an eternal cycle of appearance and occultation. There is, however, a major difference in Poe's model when compared to that of Nietzsche: Poe never speaks of a repetition without the slightest difference (which would correspond to a Nietzschean eternal-return Universe).
In this equation, as we could see, the remarkable and crucial conclusion drawn by Poe (1848: 117) is that "Space and Duration are One," thus anticipating Hermann Minkowski's and Albert Einstein's idea of space-time continuum, brilliantly intuited also by a romantic like William Blake in his concept of the Sea of Time and Space.
As the Universe advances, pursuing the divine purpose, one can observe according to Poe (1848: 118) an acceleration towards the terminal point ("an acceleration of the End"):
The Divine designs in constituting the stars, advance mathematically to their fulfilment.
Moreover, this progress will be decoded as unfolding in accordance with a fixed mathematical expression:
[I]t [the philosophical mind] will readily give the advance a mathematical expression; it will decide that this advance is inversely proportional with the squares of the distances of all created things from the starting-point and goal of their creation. (Poe 1848: 118-119)
This is what Poe calls the "Divine adaptation," which has mathematical precision.
On the other hand, the American poet (1848: 120) shows that "[t]he plots of God are perfect," and "[t]he Universe is a plot of God." So here we return to a model of reality which is partially Shakespearean: the history of the Universe is a play, God being the Dramatist, and humans--the actors on the cosmic stage. Also, as we could see already, for Poe (1848: 120) the poetic instinct of mankind is the "instinct of the symmetrical," springing from the beginning from "the geometrical basis of the Universal irradiation."
The clinamen of light, the curvilinear cosmic paths
In this context, Poe discusses hesitatingly and skeptically the phenomenon by which light, travelling eternally in a straight line (on its geodesic), nevertheless goes along a straight line which is infinitesimally curved, as if this line were drawn on the circumference of a universal sphere (from this phenomenon is derived the idea of hyperspherical universe in Einstein's general theory of relativity):
The mathematical circle is a curve composed of an infinity of straight lines. But this idea of the circle--an idea which, in view of all ordinary geometry, is merely the mathematical, as contradistinguished from the practical, idea--is, in sober fact, the practical conception which alone we have any right to entertain in regard to the majestic circle with which we have to deal, at least in fancy, when we suppose our system revolving about a point in the centre of the Galaxy. Let the most vigorous of human imaginations attempt but to take a single step towards the comprehension of a sweep so ineffable! It would scarcely be paradoxical to say that a flash of lightning itself, travelling forever upon the circumference of this unutterable circle, would still, forever, be travelling in a straight line. That the path of our Sun in such an orbit would, to any human perception, deviate in the slightest degree from a straight line, even in a million of years, is a proposition not to be entertained:--yet we are required to believe that a curvature has become apparent during the brief period of our astronomical history--during a mere point--during the utter nothingness of two or three thousand years. / It may be said that Madler has really ascertained a curvature in the direction of our system's now well-established progress through Space. Admitting, if necessary, this fact to be in reality such, I maintain that nothing is thereby shown except the reality of this fact--the fact of a curvature. For its thorough determination, ages will be required; and, when determined, it will be found indicative of some binary or other multiple relation between our Sun and some one or more of the proximate stars. I hazard nothing however, in predicting, that, after the lapse of many centuries, all efforts at determining the path of our Sun through Space, will be abandoned as fruitless. (Poe 1848: 123-124)
Regarding the hypothesis that our Solar System rotates around a point in the center of the Galaxy, at present it is ascertained that all the systems in the Milky Way gravitate around a large galactic center--located at a distance of circa 26,000 light-years from the Earth. This galactic center is believed to be a super-massive black hole, situated exactly in the place of a powerful variable light source known as Sagittarius A* (in the constellation of Sagittarius); this black hole is a genuine devouring monster, which has a mass circa four million times the mass of the Sun (cf. Mitton 2007: 300; and Naeye 2008).
In the hypothesis of Einstein's cylindrical universe light is supposed to travel in the conditions mentioned above by Poe (namely "forever upon the circumference of [an] unutterable circle, [and yet] forever [...] travelling in a straight line). Interestingly, however, in Einstein's hypothesis the order of the elements is reversed: although it would seem to travel in a straight line, a ray of light might go along a trajectory which in fact is curvilinear, at the extreme limit it being susceptible of getting back to the starting point, thus describing a revolution/ full circle on the hyperspherical suprface of the universe: the Universe would thus be infinite, because we can never reach an end, but finite, because it has the form of a hyperdimensional sphere (the three-dimensional space being the surface of the hypersphere).
Furthermore, in order to describe how matter was diffused in space through radiation with a generally equal distribution, Poe (1848: 54) suggests that we imagine "a hollow sphere of glass" through which "the universal matter" is spread equally through radiation, from "the absolute, irrelative, unconditional particle, placed in the centre of the sphere." The image of the empty sphere of glass surely reminds us of the surface of the hypersphere invoked by Einstein in order to understand the nature of three-dimensional space which is curved by the effect of gravity: at the horizon we see a spherical universe in whose depth we probably can advance ad infinitum, but it probably enfolds the surface of a hypersphere: the three-dimensional space is enfolded on the surface of this hypersphere, just as the bidimensional space is enfolded on the surface of a sphere. Poe (1848: 55) imagines here an associated phenomenon: the diffusive force (i.e., it is presupposed, Divine Volition), which is equal with the quantity of gravitational force of the whole amount of matter in the universe (of all emitted atoms), emits through radiation these atoms, forcing them out in all directions from the center, the distance between them getting larger until "they are distributed, loosely, over the interior surface of the sphere."
He shows that, owing to the general equal distribution, on the concentric strata of the sphere (on the interior spheres of the large sphere) the number of atoms will be the larger as the surface of the interior sphere is the larger, the maximum number being reached on the maximum surface:
The atoms being equably distributed, the greater the superficial extent of any of these concentric strata, or spheres, the more atoms will lie upon it. (Poe 1848: 56)
Poe then reformulates: the number of atoms on the surface of one of the concentric spheres is directly proportional with the size of the respective surface. From the perspective of Arthur Koestler's holonic theory, it is suggested that, given the fact that the larger number of atoms gives the possibility to create a larger number of complex structures, the larger the surface of the interior sphere, the larger the possibility to increase the systemic complexity: more atoms offer the possibility for higher, more complex structures to be constituted, by virtue of a holonic law, namely the more simplicity (or the more numerous simple entities) in a system, the ampler the system will be (the more extended, the larger); the more complexity in a system, the less ample the system, but also the "higher." In other words, according to Poe, since at the periphery of the Universe there are more atoms, in that space the possibility will also be greater to create complex structures from simple structures. The expansion, therefore, opens up increasingly more the access to complexity which might explain the interest of the romantics in excesses that push the frontiers of human knowledge and experience to inconceivable extremes. Contraction, on the contrary, diminishes the access to complexity, implicitly opening the access to simplicity. As the surfaces of the interior concentric spheres are directly proportional with the square roots of their distances from the center (their rays), Poe concludes the following:
[T]he number of atoms in any stratum is directly proportional with the square of that stratum's distance from the centre. (Poe 1848: 56)
Additionally, Poe stresses here the idea that at present the entire matter in the universe is moving in a trajectory back to the primordial Unity. This is what Alberto Cappi observed: Poe's Universe is undergoing a process of collapse back to itself, in this period being formed all celestial forms such as galaxies, stars, planets, satellites, etc. Of course, this model is in contradiction with the astronomical findings in the 20th century: the red shift of the spectral lines of the remotest galaxies indicates their "recession," i.e. the fact that they continue to move away from us. Still, the image of these marginal red-shifted galaxies reaching us now is not the cosmic reality at this present moment; rather, it indicates the state of expansion the Universe was undergoing billions of years ago, that is why we cannot in fact know if Poe is right or not when he states that the expansion stopped at a certain moment, and at present we find ourselves in the implosive state of the Universe, when everything returns to the primordial Unity, and when all heavenly aggregated forms are constituted.
Poe (1848: 127) specifies that the "general direction" of the atoms, satellites, planets, stars and clusters is "absolutely rectilinear"; however, the "general path" of all celestial bodies is a "right line" that leads to the center of all. Still, the "general rectilinearity" is constructed from "an infinity of particular curves," "an infinity of local deviations from rectilinearity," with each having "its own proper journey to the End," all together making up the curvilinear master trajectory towards the center. In this assumption, Poe may have had in mind Lucretius's model in which the most essential role in the creation of the cosmos was played by the mysterious process of clinamen, namely the idea that at a certain moment in their journeys through cosmic space the falling atoms experience a deviation from their perfectly rectilinear trajectories: without this deviation there would be no creativity whatsoever, because without it collisions between atoms would never exist, atoms would simply freely "fall" through the vast spaces of the universe, in eternal, perfectly parallel trajectories.
In this context, Poe (1848: 129) presupposes the following:
[T]he gravitating principle appertains to Matter temporarily--only while diffused--only while existing as Many instead of as One.
This phenomenon occurs by virtue of "[Matter's] state of irradiation." When the radiation shall have returned to its source, the reaction having thus fully taken place, then the gravitational principle will vanish.
The author observes that this process is a paradox that astronomers have noticed: if in the entire Universe there should be a single body and nothing else, then gravity would be impossible. Poe reproaches, however, that no specialist pursued this line of thought in astronomy in order to figure out the consequences of this extremely fertile idea. That this did not happen is explained by the instinct for symmetry, called by Poe (1848: 130) "the poetical essence of the Universe," a Universe which--in the "supremeness of its symmetry"--is nothing but "the most sublime of poems."
The notion of the supremacy of symmetry reminds us of a similar and obsessive thought embraced by William Blake, who saw in symmetry a numinous phenomenon which was perceived as "fearful" through its perfection and its practically universal existence, including in animals of prey (see the poem The tyger).
Furthermore, because symmetry and consistence are equivalent terms, for Poe (1848: 130) "Poetry and Truth are one." Thus, "[a] perfect consistency sis] an absolute truth." That is why Man cannnot remain for a long time in error, he cannot go wrong much, if he allows himself to be guided by the "poetical, symmetrical instinct." He must, however, be careful not to busy himself only with the "superficial symmetry" of forms and movements; he must tackle the "essential symmetry" of the principles that determine and control these forms and motions. As we could see already, Beaver (1976: 402) rightly underlined that in Poe's Universe there is perfect coherence, an "absolute symmetry" between matter and thought / conscience / spirit, that is why the master key to the truth, to the essence of the Universe, is man's poetic instinct.
It is precisely through this poetic instinct (or "poetical fancy") that Poe intuited that eventully the stellar bodies will fuse together in the substance of a single magnificent central planet which already exists:
That the stellar bodies would finally be merged in one--that, at last, all would be drawn into the substance of one stupendous central orb already existing--is an idea which, for some time past, seems, vaguely and indeterminately, to have held possession of the fancy of mankind. (Poe 1848: 130)
The Big Crunch
Thus, Poe (1848: 131) talks about the "final, universal agglomeration"--which today astronomers call the hypothesis of the "Big Crunch," the Great Collapse of the Universe, the Great Implosion, the reverse movement of the initial Big Bang, the latter being the Great Explosion / Expansion.
The comets, on the other hand, are defined by Poe (1848: 132) as "the lightning-flashes of the cosmical Heaven."
As far as the astronomers' hypothesis regarding the material ether (whose existence was first postulated by Michael Faraday), Poe believes, as mentioned, that it does not exist; he rather is of the opinion that a spiritual ether exists, which is connected with phenomena such as vitality, conscience and thought. According to Poe, in this spiritual ether all vibrations / waves propagate eternally--we believe this is another version of the Platonic doctrine asserting the immortality of spirit, regarded as a spiritual disincarnate presence floating for ever in infinite spiritual spaces (much like the Egyptian "being of light," the akh).
According to astronomers and physicists, the cycles of the Universe are permanent, not having a conceivable ending proper. But if one could demonstrate by means of the hypothesis of the material ether that the Universe will have an ending, then this would prove to be unsatisfactory for "Man's instinct of the Divine capacity to adapt" (Poe 1848: 134): the material ether is a merely collateral cause, that is why to consider it as being at the origin of the ending of the Universe would be equivalent to saying that the whole of Creation is imperfect, and similar to a man-made artefact uselessly intricate in its artificial nature:
Had an end been demonstrated, however, from so purely collateral a cause as an ether, Man's instinct of the Divine capacity to adapt, would have rebelled against the demonstration. We should have been forced to regard the Universe with some such sense of dissatisfaction as we experience in contemplating an unnecessarily complex work of human art. Creation would have affected us as an imperfect plot in a romance, where the denoument is awkwardly brought about by interposed incidents external and foreign to the main subject; instead of springing out of the bosom of the thesis--out of the heart of the ruling idea--instead of arising as a result of the primary proposition--as inseparable and inevitable part and parcel of the fundamental conception of the book. (Poe 1848:134)
At this point, indeed, Poe has explicitly the voice of the detective Auguste Dupin, who this time tries to solve, by agency of a mathematical-poetic logic, the mystery of all mysteries: Creation.
Poe resumes here the idea that stellar systems (a star together with its planets) are each a "Titanic atom" per se (see Poe 1848: 95, 135), which has the same tendency to move towards Unity as the normal atoms had that got out in the beginning through radiation into the "Universal sphere," thus constituting "the great Now," "the awful Present," "the Existing Condition of the Universe" (Poe 1848: 135).
As regards what is to come, Poe (1848: 135) speaks about "the still more awful Future," when satellites shall collapse into planets, planets into stars, stars into the nucleus of the cluster, forming infinitely superior spheres, which eventually will "embrace" each other in the final embrace, the Universe becoming a supreme "globe of globes," a majestic "sphere of spheres":
Of the still more awful Future a not irrational analogy may guide us in framing an hypothesis. The equilibrium between the centripetal and centrifugal forces of each system, being necessarily destroyed upon attainment of a certain proximity to the nucleus of the cluster to which it belongs, there must occur, at once, a chaotic or seemingly chaotic precipitation, of the moons upon the planets, of the planets upon the suns, and of the suns upon the nuclei; and the general result of this precipitation must be the gathering of the myriad now-existing stars of the firmament into an almost infinitely less number of almost infinitely superior spheres. In being immeasurably fewer, the worlds of that day will be immeasurably greater than our own. Then, indeed, amid unfathomable abysses, will be glaring unimaginable suns. But all this will be merely a climactic magnificence foreboding the great End. Of this End the new genesis described can be but a very partial postponement. While undergoing consolidation, the clusters themselves, with a speed prodigiously accumulative, have been rushing towards their own general centre--and now, with a thousand-fold electric velocity, commensurate only with their material grandeur and with the spiritual passion of their appetite for oneness, the majestic remnants of the tribe of Stars flash, at length, into a common embrace. The inevitable catastrophe is at hand. / But this catastrophe--what is it? We have seen accomplished the ingathering of the orbs. Henceforward, are we not to understand one material globe of globes as constituting and comprehending the Universe? (Poe 1848: 135-136)
That the "Stars flash [...] into a common embrace" again shows that Poe saw the end of the Universe as violently sudden, and bathed in a "blaze of light," as Harrison put it:
Consider the first alternative in which the universe ends in a blaze of light. After forty or so billion years expansion ceases and collapse commences. The galaxies begin to approach one another, and after a further forty or so billion years they arrive back where they are at present. Roughly ten billion years remain till the end of time. The great dissolution begins. First, the clusters merge together, then the galaxies themselves overlap and dissolve. The universe now consists mainly of old stars (dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes) immersed in a commotion of gas. The big squeeze starts in earnest, and the ensuing tumult defies description. The poet Edgar Allan Poe more than a hundred years ago portrayed in Eureka the end of a collapsing universe. [...] [see the quotation above, Poe 1848: 135-136] All astronomical systems are dismantled and all remnants of organic life obliterated. The stars accelerate and career about helter-skelter at higher and higher speeds, approaching the speed of light; a few collide headlong and erupt, but most wear away to nothing, leaving brilliant trails as they tear through the tumult. After a total lifespan of about hundred billion years the former brilliance returns and the universe reverts to primordial chaos. What happens then we do not know; perhaps a similar or an entirely different universe rises from the ashes of the old. (Harrison 2003: 228)
Poe thus postulates that Matter was created in order to serve the purposes of the spiritual Ether--to help it become manifest physically and then to gradually unfold through the processes of the spiritual Ether more and more complex forms of sentience, such as human thinking / intelligence / conscience, clothed in material dynamic bodies:
[W]e are now permitted to look at Matter, as created solely for the sake of this influence--solely to serve the objects of this spiritual Ether. Through the aid--by the means--through the agency of Matter, and by dint of its heterogeneity--is this Ether manifested--is Spirit individualized. It is merely in the development of this Ether, through heterogeneity, that particular masses of Matter become animate--sensitive --[...]--some reaching a degree of sensitiveness involving what we call Thought and thus attaining Conscious Intelligence. (Poe 1848: 137)
Matter is therefore for Poe a "Means," not an "End." When Matter shall have reached the initial condition of Unity, the "separative ether" will disappear, since it is the agent that keeps the atoms separate until the time of final unification when "collective Attraction" shall reign supreme, the latter being the exclusionary factor whereby the Ether will be eliminated--thus everything will turn back to "absolute Unity" (Poe 1848: 138139). Then Matter will be "Matter without Attraction and without Repulsion," "Matter without Matter"--that is "Matter no more"--a concept reminding us of John Wheeler's notion of "law without law." The reason for this annihilation of matter at the end is explained by Poe (1848: 139) thus:
In sinking into Unity, it [Matter] will sink at once into that Nothingness which, to all finite perception, Unity must be--into that Material Nihility from which alone we can conceive it to have been evoked--to have been created by the Volition of God.
In other words, in the omega moment the following dramatic event will take place:
[T]he final globe of globes will instantaneously disappear, and [...] God will remain all in all. (Poe 1848:139)
The use of the adverb "instantaneously" (i.e. "in a flash") again points in a direction which qualifies Poe's model as consistent with itself: after the initial flash (the Big Bang), the Universe ends in a similar violent and sudden event, hypothesized in modern cosmology as the "Big Crunch."
The master key: eternal periodicity
But this will not be the end:
On the Universal agglomeration and dissolution, we can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally different series of conditions may ensue--another creation and radiation, returning into itself--another action and reaction of the Divine Will. (Poe 1848: 139)
To reinforce this conclusion that the cycles of creation and destruction will be repeated for evermore, Poe (1848: 139) named the "law of periodicity" the "omniprevalent law of laws"--this is what we could call the Pendulum of Nature and of the Cosmos. Given this universal phenomenon of periodicity, Poe (1848: 139) reaches the following intuitive conclusion of maximum importance: there is a justification to believe that the entire process of cosmic genesis and dissolution as described in Eureka "will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever." Each time a new phase of expansion of the Universe will be followed by its retreat back into vacuity:
[A] novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine. (Poe 1848: 139)
This is precisely the modern hypothesis about the Big Bang followed by the Big Crunch, and then the release of a new Big Bang, ad infinitum.
This is no doubt in Poe's system a genuine eternal Pendulum of Cosmos and Vacuity, which Harrison calls "a pulsating universe, expanding and collapsing," adding that this notion appears to keep on haunting man's mind:
The idea of a cyclic universe expanding and collapsing, bouncing from big bang to big bang, each a throb of the heart divine, each a day in the life of Brahma, still persists to this day. (Harrison 2003: 198)
To the question what this Divine Heart is, Poe (1848: 139) answers in prophetic mood: "It is our own."
In this horizon of ideas, the American poet (1848: 141) states that no soul is superior to another, each being partiallly "its own God," "its own Creator." In other words:
[T]he regathering of this diffused Matter and Spirit will be but the re-constitution of the purely Spiritual and Individual God. (Poe 1848: 141)
According to Poe (1848: 141), only from this kind of perspective can become explicable the enigmas of "Divine Injustice," of "Inexorable Fate" --the existence of Evil becomes intelligible and, more than that, man will gain the power to endure it: the soul will no longer become a rebel against a suffering enforced by ourselves on ourselves in order to advance towards our own purposes ("in furtherance of our own purposes"), with a view (even if in vain) to reaching an "extension of our own Joy" (Poe 1848: 142).
Poe, as we mentioned before, does not deny the possibility of the existence of an infinity of universes inside the infinity of space--thus boldly extending Giordano Bruno's hypothesis regarding the existence of an infinite number of worlds like ours in the Universe -, all of which may undergo eternal cycles, in endless successions, but the essential element in this regard is that these do not interact with each other. As we could see, Poe was in this sense accused of polytheism and pantheism, but also of a "sublimated materialism," yet he was also praised because through Eureka he built "the Parthenon of pure reason" (cf. Walker 2002: 284, 288, 374).
The idea that Eureka is a "Parthenon" and a "labyrinth" belongs to John Moncure Daniel (first announced in a review in the Southern Literary Messenger, March 1850, 16, 172-187; cf. Walker 2002: 356-376), who was then of the opinion that the moment experimental science shall be sufficiently advanced, Poe's statements will revolutionize science as done previously by Copernicus and Kepler (cf. Walker 2002: 375). Baudelaire himself extracted a large part of his data on Poe from this review by John Moncure Daniel, who had the following thoughts about Poe:
In spite of his irregular life, he [Poe] managed to master both literature and science to an extent reaching far beyond any American we have known. (cf. Walker: 2002: 368)
As pointed out already, this conception about the infinite succession of universes comes quite close to the idea of parallel universes (the "multiverse"), that emerged as a consequence of M theory, which was synthetically extracted by Edward Witten from the five existing string theories.
In the end of the "poem" Poe (1848: 142) states that the entire Universe with Stars is nothing else but "[God's] present expansive existence." God has thus the power to transpose himself in infinitely varied infinitesimal forms of himself:
[T]his Divine Being, who thus passes his Eternity in perpetual variation of Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion.
This, indeed, is a form of pantheism in Poe, as he continues most explicitly:
He [God] now feels his life through an infinity of imperfect pleasures--the partial and pain-intertangled pleasures of those inconceivably numerous things which you designate as his creatures, but which are really but infinite individualizations of Himself. (Poe 1848:142)
We are dealing here with a cosmotheism of gnostic nuance: the Universe itself is God in expansion, and all beings inside the Universe are forms/morphisms of God now in an infinitely dispersive / dissipative state.
Moreover, Poe (1848: 143) shows that "the general sum of [the] sensations" of these creatures who are "conscious Intelligences" aware both of their "proper identity" and of their "identity with the Divine Being"--is equal with the "amount of Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when concentrated within Himself."
Put differently, the "Intelligences" find themselves in the state of interfinitistic paradox: they perceive themselves both as autonomous individual created by the divine Being, as well as individual who is at one with the creating divine Being. Poe thus postulates the Man-God relationship as a relation which is simultaneously inter-systemic and intra-systemic, man being paradoxically simultaneously outside the divine Being (as created autonomous individual), but also inside the divine Being (as individual at one with the divine Being). The human being is thus conceived of as a system that is simultaneously interior and exterior to another system. The golden section--about which Friedrich Cramer (2001) states, using mathematical demonstrations, that it manifests in structures at the borderline between order and chaos governs this kind of paradox (see details also in Stroe 2004).
Finally, Poe (1848: 143) shows that with the very long passage of ages / eons, beings will become increasingly less aware of their own personal identity and increasingly more aware of their collective identity with God. The "sense of individual identity" will gradually fuse into the "general consciousness," up to the point where man shall no longer feel himself merely a man, but Jehovah, in the context in which "all is Life Life --Life within Life--the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine."
Poe (1996: 1359, n.*) believes that this fusion will mean "the absorbtion, by each individual intelligence, of all other intelligences (that is, of the Universe) into its own."
[Cf. also the following passages: "these myriads of individual Intelligences become blended--into One"; "the sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness"; Poe 1848: 143].
Man's destiny is thus fatally always a "Titanic" one, namely to resume over and over again--like a micro--and macrocosmic Sisyphus, in the universal cycle of explosions and implosions of the Universe--the ascent of man (as Bronowski 1981 would call the process) from a primitive to a spiritual stage: namely the fall from Atom to Universe, and then the ascent back, from the remotest peripheries of the Universe, to the Atom of all atoms--the primordial Particle.
Put otherwise, the destiny of man is the following:
That God may be all in all, each must become God. (Poe 1996: 1359, n.*)
The hypothesis of the pendular cyclicity of the Universe was anticipated by Poe in a story, The island of the Fay (1841), in which he would ask himself, thus synthesizing one of the crucial conclusions in Eureka, the following:
As we find cycle within cycle without end,--yet all revolving around one far-distant centre which is the Godhead, may we not analogically suppose, in the same manner, life within life, the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine? (Poe 1996b: 164)
[See also the interesting considerations in the chapter entitled Laws of the heart divine: Eureka and the poetics of the mind, in Mills 2006: 67-93].
In other words, for Poe the law of laws is periodicity (the Pendulum of the Cosmos, of Nature, of History), nomic interdependence and absolute symmetry, these governing not only inside of matter, but also inside of life itself, of conscience, in which the poetic instinct is the path to the truth. Matter and spirit in this cosmological equation--in which conscience (as spirit) is the master key--form a field of total coherence, of the kind governed by the golden section. By including conscience in a scientific-aesthetic research, Poe seems to initiate a new kind of physics, namely of conscience, which is maybe comparable to that recently advocated by Roger Penrose, and called by the latter the "non-computational physics of the mind" [see Penrose 1999: 324, n. 1; 271; and 277ff: Conscience: a new physics or an "emergent phenomenon?; see also Penrose 1997].
Poe's model of Universe as presented in Eureka is thus indeed, as could be observed in the presentation above, a supreme form of cultural, intellectual, and cosmic diffusionism. By embracing such an approach, Poe somehow anticipated Franz Boas's anthropological version of the phenomenon of diffusionism. For Poe, however, this universal process seems to have been a master key solution to the existential problem: since life's traces in the universe are indelible, then existence has a profound meaning in the principle of eternally renewed communication and dialogue, with a view to the fulfilment of the master key purpose: namely the creation of infinitely many relation(ship)s as a kind of equivalent of divine plenitude.
In this sense, truth may have many dimensions, many iridescent hieroglyphic fields and rays, one more whimsical and stubborn than the other, but the true detective, in Poe's master plan of creation, will be able to reach the master clue of all clues, namely the law of universal periodicity and the principle of cause-effect equivalence. These, in Poe's eyes, show a unique way through the dense fog of the existential mystery: the cosmological detective in the end--if he manages to master the "phantasmagoric effect" of cosmic reality by discovering the true "arabesque" viewpoint in his own personal space-time continuum--will be able to find the common master portal of intercommunication between Matter and Spirit. This done, he will have found --or maybe even (half-)created--the path whereby the divine plenitude with its eternal Joy will for evermore become all in all.
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Mihai A. Stroe
University of Bucharest
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|Title Annotation:||p. 50-81|
|Author:||Stroe, Mihai A.|
|Publication:||Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2014|
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