The Book of the Damned (2)
It is in the records of the French Academy that, upon March 17, 1669, in the town of Châtillon-sur-Seine, fell a reddish substance that was "thick, viscous, and putrid." American Journal of Science, 1-41-404:
Story of a highly unpleasant substance that had fallen from the sky, in Wilson County, Tennessee. We read that Dr. Troost visited the place and investigated. Later we're going to investigate some investigations—but never mind that now. Dr. Troost reported that the substance was clear blood and portions of flesh scattered upon tobacco fields. He argued that a whirlwind might have taken an animal up from one place, mauled it around, and have precipitated its remains somewhere else.
But, in volume 44, page 216, of the Journal, there is an apology. The whole matter is, upon newspaper authority, said to have been a hoax by Negroes, who had pretended to have seen the shower, for the sake of practicing upon the credulity of their masters: that they had scattered the decaying flesh of a dead hog over the tobacco fields.
If we don't accept this datum, at least we see the sociologically necessary determination to have all falls accredited to earthly origins—even when they're falls that don't fall.
Annual Register, 1821-687:
That, upon the 13th of August, 1819, something had fallen from the sky at Amherst, Mass. It had been examined and described by Prof. Graves, formerly lecturer at Dartmouth College. It was an object that had upon it a nap, similar to that of milled cloth. Upon removing this nap, a buff-colored, pulpy substance was found. It had an offensive odor, and, upon exposure to the air, turned to a vivid red. This thing was said to have fallen with a brilliant light.
Also see the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 5-295. In the Annales
de Chimie, 1821-67, M. Arago accepts the datum, and gives four instances of similar objects or substances said to have fallen from the sky, two of which we shall have with our data of gelatinous, or viscous matter, and two of which I omit, because it seems to me that the dates given are too far back.
In the American Journal of Science, 1-2-335, is Professor Graves’ account, communicated by Professor Dewey:
That, upon the evening of August 13, 1819, a light was seen in Amherst—a falling object—sound as if of an explosion.
In the home of Prof. Dewey, this light was reflected upon a wall of a room in which were several members of Prof. Dewey's family.
The next morning, in Prof. Dewey's front yard, in what is said to have been the only position from which the light that had been seen in the room, the night before, could have been reflected, was found a substance "unlike anything before observed by anyone who saw it." It was a bowl-shaped object, about 8 inches in diameter, and one inch thick. Bright buff-colored, and having upon it a "fine nap." Upon removing this covering, a buff-colored, pulpy substance of the consistency of soft-soap, was found—"of an offensive, suffocating smell."
A few minutes of exposure to the air changed the buff color to "a livid color resembling venous blood." It absorbed moisture quickly from the air and liquefied. For some of the chemic reactions, see the Journal.
There's another lost quasi-soul of a datum that seems to me to belong here:
London Times, April 19, 1836:
Fall of fish that had occurred in the neighborhood of Allahabad, India. It is said that the fish were of the chalwa species, about a span in length and a seer in weight—you know.
They were dead and dry.
Or they had been such a long time out of water that we can't accept that they had been scooped out of a pond, by a whirlwind—even though they were so definitely identified as of a known local species
Or they were not fish at all.
I incline, myself, to the acceptance that they were not fish, but
slender, fish-shaped objects of the same substance as that which fell at Amherst—it is said that, whatever they were, they could not be eaten: that "in the pan, they turned to blood."
For details of this story see the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1834-307. May 16 or 17, 1834, is the date given in the Journal.
In the American Journal of Science, 1-25-362, occurs the inevitable damnation of the Amherst object:
Prof. Edward Hitchcock went to live in Amherst. He says that years later, another object, like the one said to have fallen in 1819, had been found at "nearly the same place." Prof. Hitchcock was invited by Prof. Graves to examine it. Exactly like the first one. Corresponded in size and color and consistency. The chemic reactions were the same.
Prof. Hitchcock recognized it in a moment.
It was a gelatinous fungus.
He did not satisfy himself as to just the exact species it belonged to, but he predicted that similar fungi might spring up within twenty-four hours—
But, before evening, two others sprang up.
Or we've arrived at one of the oldest of the exclusionists’ conventions—or nostoc. We shall have many data of gelatinous substance said to have fallen from the sky: almost always the exclusionists argue that it was only nostoc, an Alga, or, in some respects, a fungous growth. The rival convention is "spawn of frogs or of fishes." These two conventions have made a strong combination. In instances where testimony was not convincing that gelatinous matter had been seen to fall, it was said that the gelatinous substance was nostoc, and had been upon the ground in the first place: when the testimony was too good that it had fallen, it was said to be spawn that had been carried from one place to another in a whirlwind.
Now, I can't say that nostoc is always greenish, any more than I can say that blackbirds are always black, having seen a white one: we shall quote a scientist who knew of flesh-colored nostoc, when so to know was convenient. When we come to reported falls of gelatinous substances, I'd like it to be noticed how often they are described as whitish or grayish. In looking up the subject, myself,
[paragraph continues] I have read only of greenish nostoc. Said to be greenish, in Webster's Dictionary—said to be "blue-green" in the New International Encyclopedia—"from bright green to olive-green" (Science Gossip, 10-114); "green" (Science Gossip, 7-260); "greenish" (Notes and Queries, 1-11-219). It would seem acceptable that, if many reports of white birds should occur, the birds are not blackbirds, even though there have been white blackbirds. Or that, if often reported, grayish or whitish gelatinous substance is not nostoc, and is not spawn if occurring in times unseasonable for spawn.
"The Kentucky Phenomenon."
So it was called, in its day, and now we have an occurrence that attracted a great deal of attention in its own time. Usually these things of the accursed have been hushed up or disregarded—suppressed like the seven black rains of Slains—but, upon March 3, 1876, something occurred, in Bath County, Kentucky, that brought many newspaper correspondents to the scene.
The substance that looked like beef that fell from the sky. Upon March 3, 1876, at Olympian Springs, Bath County, Kentucky, flakes of a substance that looked like beef fell from the sky—"from a clear sky." We'd like to emphasize that it was said that nothing but this falling substance was visible in the sky. It fell in flakes of various sizes; some two inches square, one, three or four inches square. The flake-formation is interesting: later we shall think of it as signifying pressure—somewhere. It was a thick shower, on the ground, on trees, on fences, but it was narrowly localized: or upon a strip of land about 100 yards long and about 50 yards wide. For the first account, see the Scientific American, 34-197, and the New York Times, March 10, 1876.
Then the exclusionists.
Something that looked like beef: one flake of it the size of a square envelope.
If we think of how hard the exclusionists have fought to reject the coming of ordinary-looking dust from this earth's externality, we can sympathize with them in this sensational instance, perhaps. Newspaper correspondents wrote broadcast and witnesses were quoted, and this time there is no mention of a hoax, and, except by one scientist, there is no denial that the fall did take place.
It seems to me that the exclusionists are still more emphatically conservators. It is not so much that they are inimical to all data of externally derived substances that fall upon this earth, as that they are inimical to all data discordant with a system that does not include such phenomena—
Or the spirit or hope or ambition of the cosmos, which we call attempted positivism: not to find out the new; not to add to what is called knowledge, but to systematize.
Scientific American Supplement, 2-426:
That the substance reported from Kentucky had been examined by Leopold Brandeis.
"At last we have a proper explanation of this much talked of phenomenon."
"It has been comparatively easy to identify the substance and to fix its status. The Kentucky 'wonder' is no more or less than nostoc."
Or that it had not fallen; that it had been upon the ground in the first place, and had swollen in rain, and, attracting attention by greatly increased volume, had been supposed by unscientific observers to have fallen in rain—
What rain, I don't know.
Also it is spoken of as "dried" several times. That's one of the most important of the details.
But the relief of outraged propriety, expressed in the Supplement, is amusing to some of us, who, I fear, may be a little improper at times. Very spirit of the Salvation Army, when some third-rate scientist comes out with an explanation of the vermiform appendix or the os coccygis that would have been acceptable to Moses. To give completeness to "the proper explanation," it is said that Mr. Brandeis had identified the substance as "flesh-colored" nostoc.
Prof. Lawrence Smith, of Kentucky, one of the most resolute of the exclusionists:
New York Times, March 12, 1876:
That the substance had been examined and analyzed by Prof. Smith, according to whom it gave every indication of being the "dried" spawn of some reptile, "doubtless of the frog"—or up from
one place and down in another. As to "dried," that may refer to condition when Prof. Smith received it.
In the Scientific American Supplement, 2-473, Dr. A. Mead Edwards, President of the Newark Scientific Association, writes that, when he saw Mr. Brandeis' communication, his feeling was of conviction that propriety had been re-established, or that the problem had been solved, as he expresses it: knowing Mr. Brandeis well, he had called upon that upholder of respectability, to see the substance that had been identified as nostoc. But he had also called upon Dr. Hamilton, who had a specimen, and Dr. Hamilton had declared it to be lung-tissue. Dr. Edwards writes of the substance that had so completely, or beautifully—if beauty is completeness—been identified as nostoc—"It turned out to be lung tissue also." He wrote to other persons who had specimens, and identified other specimens as masses of cartilage or muscular fibers. "As to whence it came, I have no theory." Nevertheless he endorses the local explanation—and a bizarre thing it is:
A flock of gorged, heavy-weighted buzzards, but far up and invisible in the clear sky—
They had disgorged.
Prof. Fassig lists the substance, in his "Bibliography," as fish spawn. McAtee (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1918) lists it as a jelly-like material, supposed to have been the "dried" spawn either of fishes or of some batrachian.
Or this is why, against the seemingly insuperable odds against all things new, there can be what is called progress—
That nothing is positive, in the aspects of homogeneity and unity:
If the whole world should seem to combine against you, it is only unreal combination, or intermediateness to unity and disunity. Every resistance is itself divided into parts resisting one another. The simplest strategy seems to be—never bother to fight a thing: set its own parts fighting one another.
We are merging away from carnal to gelatinous substance, and here there is an abundance of instances or reports of instances. These data are so improper they're obscene to the science of today, but we shall see that science, before it became so rigorous, was not so prudish. Chladni was not, and Greg was not.
I shall have to accept, myself, that gelatinous substance has often fallen from the sky—
Or that, far up, or far away, the whole sky is gelatinous?
That meteors tear through and detach fragments?
That fragments are brought down by storms?
That the twinkling of stars is penetration of light through something that quivers?
I think, myself, that it would be absurd to say that the whole sky is gelatinous: it seems more acceptable that only certain areas are.
Humboldt (Cosmos, 1-119) says that all our data in this respect must be "classed amongst the mythical fables of mythology." He is very sure, but just a little redundant.
We shall be opposed by the standard resistances:
There in the first place;
Up from one place, in a whirlwind, and down in another.
We shall not bother to be very convincing one way or another, because of the over-shadowing of the datum with which we shall end up. It will mean that something had been in a stationary position for several days over a small part of a small town in England: this is the revolutionary thing that we have alluded to before; whether the substance were nostoc, or spawn, or some kind of a larval nexus, doesn't matter so much. If it stood in the sky for several days, we rank with Moses as a chronicler of improprieties—or was that story, or datum, we mean, told by Moses? Then we shall have so many records of gelatinous substance said to have fallen with meteorites, that, between the two phenomena, some of us will have to accept connection—or that there are at least vast gelatinous areas aloft, and that meteorites tear through, carrying down some of the substance.
Comptes Rendus, 3-554:
That, in 1836, M. Vallot, member of the French Academy, placed before the Academy some fragments of a gelatinous substance, said to have fallen from the sky, and asked that they be analyzed. There is no further allusion to this subject.
Comptes Rendus, 23-542:
That, in Wilna, Lithuania, April 4, 1846, in a rainstorm, fell nut-sized masses of a substance that is described as both resinous and
gelatinous. It was odorless until burned: then it spread a very pronounced sweetish odor. It is described as like gelatine, but much firmer: but, having been in water 24 hours, it swelled out, and looked altogether gelatinous—
It was grayish.
We are told that, in 1841 and 1846, a similar substance had fallen in Asia Minor.
In Notes and Queries, 8-6-190, it is said that, early in August, 1894, thousands of jellyfish, about the size of a shilling, had fallen at Bath, England. I think it is not acceptable that they were jellyfish: but it does look as if this time frog spawn did fall from the sky, and may have been translated by a whirlwind—because, at the same time, small frogs fell at Wigan, England.
That, June 24, 1911, at Eton, Bucks, England, the ground was found covered with masses of jelly, the size of peas, after a heavy rainfall. We are not told of nostoc, this time: it is said that the object contained numerous eggs of "some species of Chironomus, from which larvae soon emerged."
I incline, then, to think that the objects that fell at Bath were neither jellyfish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a larval kind—
This is what had occurred at Bath, England, 23 years before.
London Times, April 24, 1871:
That, upon the 22nd of April, 1871, a storm of glutinous drops neither jellyfish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a [line missing here in original text. Ed.] railroad station, at Bath. "Many soon developed into a wormlike chrysalis, about an inch in length." The account of this occurrence in the Zoologist, 2-6-2686, is more like the Eton-datum: of minute forms, said to have been infusoria; not forms about an inch in length.
Trans. Ent. Soc. of London, 1871-proc. xxii:
That the phenomenon has been investigated by the Rev. L. Jenyns, of Bath. His description is of minute worms in filmy envelopes. He tries to account for their segregation. The mystery of it is: What could have brought so many of them together? Many other
falls we shall have record of, and in most of them segregation is the great mystery. A whirlwind seems anything but a segregative force. Segregation of things that have fallen from the sky has been avoided as most deep-dyed of the damned. Mr. Jenyns conceives of a large pool, in which were many of these spherical masses: of the pool drying up and concentrating all in a small area; of a whirlwind then scooping all up together—
But several days later, more of these objects fell in the same place.
That such marksmanship is not attributable to whirlwinds seems to me to be what we think we mean by common sense:
It may not look like common sense to say that these things had been stationary over the town of Bath, several days—
The seven black rains of Slains;
The four red rains of Siena.
An interesting sidelight on the mechanics of orthodoxy is that Mr. Jenyns dutifully records the second fall, but ignores it in his explanation.
R. P. Greg, one of the most notable of cataloguers of meteoritic phenomena, records (Phil. Mag.: 4-8-463) falls of viscid substance in the years 1652, 1686, 1718, 1796, 1811, 1819, 1844. He gives earlier dates, but I practice exclusions, myself. In the Report of the British Association, 1860-63, Greg records a meteor that seemed to pass near the ground, between Barsdorf and Freiburg, Germany: the next day a jelly-like mass was found in the snow—
Unseasonableness for either spawn or nostoc.
Greg's comment in this instance is: "Curious if true." But he records without modification the fall of a meteorite at Gotha, Germany, Sept. 6, 1835, "leaving a jelly-like mass on the ground." We are told that this substance fell only three feet away from an observer. In the Report of the British Association, 1855-94, according to a letter from Greg to Prof. Baden-Powell, at night, Oct. 8, 1844, near Coblenz, a German, who was known to Greg, and another person saw a luminous body fall close to them. They returned next morning and found a gelatinous mass of grayish color.
According to Chladni's account (Annals of Philosophy, n.s., 12-94) a viscous mass fell with a luminous meteorite between Siena and
[paragraph continues] Rome, May, 1652; viscous matter found after the fall of a fire ball, in Lusatia, March, 1796; fall of a gelatinous substance, after the explosion of a meteorite, near Heidelberg, July, 1811. In the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 1-234, the substance that fell at Lusatia is said to have been of the "color and odor of dried, brown varnish." In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-26-133, it is said that gelatinous matter fell with a globe of fire, upon the island of Lethy, India, 1718.
In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-26-396, in many observations upon the meteors of November, 1833, are reports of falls of gelatinous substance:
That, according to newspaper reports, "lumps of jelly" were found on the ground at Rahway, N. J. The substance was whitish, or resembled the coagulated white of an egg;
That Mr. H. H. Garland, of Nelson County, Virginia, had found a jelly-like substance of about the circumference of a twenty-five-cent piece;.
That, according to a communication from A. C. Twining to Prof. Olmstead, a woman at West Point, N. Y., had seen a mass the size of a teacup. It looked like boiled starch;
That, according to a newspaper, of Newark, N. J., a mass of gelatinous substance, like soft soap, had been found. "It possessed little elasticity, and, on the application of heat, it evaporated as readily as water."
It seems incredible that a scientist would have such hardihood, or infidelity, as to accept that these things had fallen from the sky: nevertheless, Prof. Olmstead, who collected these lost souls, says:
"The fact that the supposed deposits were so uniformly described as gelatinous substance forms a presumption in favor of the supposition that they had the origin ascribed to them."
In contemporaneous scientific publications considerable attention was given to Prof. Olmstead's series of papers upon this subject of the November meteors. You will not find one mention of the part that treats of gelatinous matter.
I shall attempt not much of correlation of dates. A mathematic-minded positivist, with his delusion that in an intermediate state twice two are four, whereas, if we accept Continuity, we cannot accept that there are anywhere two things to start with, would search our data for periodicities. It is so obvious to me that the mathematic, or the regular, is the attribute of the Universal, that I have not much inclination to look for it in the local. Still, in this solar system, "as a whole," there is considerable approximation to regularity; or the mathematic is so nearly localized that eclipses, for instance, can, with rather high approximation, be foretold, though I have notes that would deflate a little the astronomers’ vainglory in this respect—or would if that were possible. An astronomer is poorly paid, uncheered by crowds, considerably isolated: he lives upon his own inflations: deflate a bear and it couldn't hibernate. This solar system is like every other phenomenon that can be regarded "as a whole"—or the affairs of a ward are interfered with by the affairs of the city of which it is a part; city by county; county by state; state by nation; nation by other nations; all nations by climatic conditions; climatic conditions by solar circumstances; sun by general planetary circumstances; solar system "as a whole" by other solar systems—so the hopelessness of finding the phenomena of entirety in the ward of a city. But positivists are those who try to find the unrelated in the ward of a city. In our acceptance this is the spirit of cosmic religion. Objectively the state is not realizable in the ward of a city. But, if a positivist could bring himself to absolute belief that he had found it, that would be a subjective realization of that which is unrealizable objectively. Of course we do not draw a positive line between the objective and the subjective—or that all phenomena called things or persons are subjective within one all-inclusive nexus, and that thoughts within those that are commonly called "persons" are sub-subjective. It is rather as if Intermediateness
strove for Regularity in this solar system and failed: then generated the mentality of astronomers, and, in that secondary expression, strove for conviction that failure had been success.
I have tabulated all the data of this book, and a great deal besides—card system—and several proximities, thus emphasized, have been revelations to me: nevertheless, it is only the method of theologians and scientists—worst of all, of statisticians.
For instance, by the statistic method, I could "prove" that a black rain has fallen "regularly" every seven months, somewhere upon this earth. To do this, I'd have to include red rains and yellow rains, but, conventionally, I'd pick out the black particles in red substances and in yellow substances, and disregard the rest. Then, too, if here and there a black rain should be a week early or a month late—that would be "acceleration" or "retardation." This is supposed to be legitimate in working out the periodicities of comets. If black rains, or red or yellow rains with black particles in them, should not appear at all near some dates—we have not read Darwin in vain—"the records are not complete." As to other, interfering black rains, they'd be either gray or brown, or for them we'd find other periodicities.
Still, I have had to notice the year 1819, for instance. I shall not note them all in this book, but I have records of 31 extraordinary events in 1883. Someone should write a book upon the phenomena of this one year—that is, if books should be written. 1849 is notable for extraordinary falls, so far apart that a local explanation seems inadequate—not only the black rain of Ireland, May, 1849, but a red rain in Sicily and a red rain in Wales. Also, it is said (Timb's Year Book, 1850-241) that, upon April 18 or 20, 1849, shepherds near Mt. Ararat, found a substance that was not indigenous, upon areas measuring 8 to 10 miles in circumference. Presumably it had fallen there.
We have already gone into the subject of Science and its attempted positiveness, and its resistances in that it must have relations of service. It is very easy to see that most of the theoretic science of the 19th century was only a relation of reaction against theologic dogma, and has no more to do with Truth than has a wave that bounds back from a shore. Or, if a shop girl, or you or I, should
pull out a piece of chewing gum about a yard long, that would be quite as scientific a performance as was the stretching of this earth's age several hundred millions of years.
All "things" are not things, but only relations, or expressions of relations: but all relations are striving to be the unrelated, or have surrendered to, and subordinated to, higher attempts. So there is a positivist aspect to this reaction that is itself only a relation, and that is the attempt to assimilate all phenomena under the materialist explanation, or to formulate a final, all-inclusive system, upon the materialist basis. If this attempt could be realized, that would be the attaining of realness; but this attempt can be made only by disregarding psychic phenomena, for instance—or, if science shall eventually give in to the psychic, it would be no more legitimate to explain the immaterial in terms of the material than to explain the material in terms of the immaterial. Our own acceptance is that material and immaterial are of a oneness, merging, for instance, in a thought that is continuous with a physical action: that oneness cannot be explained, because the process of explaining is the interpreting of something in terms of something else. All explanation is assimilation of something in terms of something else that has been taken as a basis: but, in Continuity, there is nothing that is any more basic than anything else—unless we think that delusion built upon delusion is less real than its pseudo-foundation.
In 1829 (Timb's Year Book, 1848-235) in Persia fell a substance that the people said they had never seen before. As to what it was, they had not a notion, but they saw that the sheep ate it. They ground it into flour and made bread, said to have been passable enough, though insipid.
That was a chance that science did not neglect. Manna was placed upon a reasonable basis, or was assimilated and reconciled with the system that had ousted the older—and less nearly real—system. It was said that, likely enough, manna had fallen in ancient times—because it was still falling—but that there was no tutelary influence behind it—that it was a lichen from the steppes of Asia Minor—"up from one place in a whirlwind and down in another place." In the American Almanac, 1833-71, it is said that this substance—"unknown to the inhabitants of the region"—was "immediately recognized"
by scientists who examined it: and that "the chemical analysis also identified it as a lichen."
This was back in the days when Chemical Analysis was a god. Since then his devotees have been shocked and disillusioned. Just how a chemical analysis could so botanize, I don't know—but it was Chemical Analysis who spoke, and spoke dogmatically. It seems to me that the ignorance of inhabitants, contrasting with the local knowledge of foreign scientists, is overdone: if there's anything good to eat, within any distance conveniently covered by a whirlwind—inhabitants know it. I have data of other falls, in Persia and Asiatic Turkey, of edible substances. They are all dogmatically said to be "manna"; and "manna" is dogmatically said to be a species of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor. The position that I take is that this explanation was evolved in ignorance of the fall of vegetable substances, or edible substances, in other parts of the world: that it is the familiar attempt to explain the general in terms of the local; that, if we shall have data of falls of vegetable substance, in, say, Canada or India, they were not of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor; that, though all falls in Asiatic Turkey and Persia are sweepingly and conveniently called showers of "manna," they have not been even all of the same substance. In one instance the particles are said to have been "seeds." Though, in Comptes Rendus, the substance that fell in 1841 and 1846 is said to have been gelatinous, in the Bull. Sci. Nat. de Neuchatel, it is said to have been of something, in lumps the size of a filbert, that had been ground into flour; that of this flour had been made bread, very attractive-looking, but flavorless.
The great difficulty is to explain segregation in these showers—
But deep-sea fishes and occasional falls, down to them, of edible substances; bags of grain, barrels of sugar; things that had not Been whirled up from one part of the ocean-bottom, in storms or submarine disturbances, and dropped somewhere else—
I suppose one thinks—but grain in bags never has fallen—
Object of Amherst—its covering like "milled cloth"—
Or barrels of corn lost from a vessel would not sink—but a host of them clashing together, after a wreck—they burst open; the corn sinks, or does when saturated; the barrel staves float longer—
If there be not an overhead traffic in commodities similar to our own commodities carried over this earth's oceans—I'm not the deep-sea fish I think I am.
I have no data other than the mere suggestion of the Amherst object of bags or barrels, but my notion is that bags and barrels from a wreck on one of this earth's oceans, would, by the time they reached the bottom, no longer be recognizable as bags or barrels; that, if we can have data of the fall of fibrous material that may have been cloth or paper or wood, we shall be satisfactory and grotesque enough.
Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 1-379:
"In the year 1686, some workmen, who had been fetching water from a pond, seven German miles from Memel, on returning to their work after dinner (during which there had been a snowstorm) found the flat ground around the pond covered with a coal-black, leafy mass; and a person who lived near said he had seen it fall like flakes with the snow."
Some of these flake-like formations were as large as a table-top.
"The mass was damp and smelt disagreeably, like rotten seaweed, but, when dried, the smell went off."
"It tore fibrously, like paper."
"Up from one place, and down in another."
But what went up, from one place, in a whirlwind? Of course, our Intermediatist acceptance is that had this been the strangest substance conceivable, from the strangest other world that could be thought of; somewhere upon this earth there must be a substance similar to it, or from which it would, at least subjectively, or according to description, not be easily distinguishable. Or that everything in New York City is only another degree or aspect of something, or combination of things, in a village of Central Africa. The novel is a challenge to vulgarization: write something that looks new to you: someone will point out that the thrice-accursed Greeks said it long ago. Existence is Appetite: the gnaw of being; the one attempt of all things to assimilate all other things, if they have not surrendered and submitted to some higher attempt. It was cosmic that these scientists, who had surrendered to and submitted to the
[paragraph continues] Scientific System, should, consistently with the principles of that system, attempt to assimilate the substance that fell at Memel with some known terrestrial product. At the meeting of the Royal Irish Academy it was brought out that there is a substance, of rather rare occurrence, that has been known to form in thin sheets upon marsh land.
It looks like greenish felt.
The substance of Memel:
Damp, coal-black, leafy mass.
But, if broken up, the marsh-substance is flake-like, and it tears fibrously.
An elephant can be identified as a sunflower—both have long stems. A camel is indistinguishable from a peanut—if only their humps be considered.
Trouble with this book is that we'll end up a lot of intellectual roués: we'll be incapable of being astonished with anything. We knew, to start with, that science and imbecility are continuous; nevertheless so many expressions of the merging-point are at first startling. We did think that Prof. Hitchcock's performance in identifying the Amherst phenomenon as a fungus was rather notable as scientific vaudeville, if we acquit him of the charge of seriousness—or that, in a place where fungi were so common that, before a given evening two of them sprang up, only he, a stranger in this very fungiferous place, knew a fungus when he saw something like a fungus—if we disregard its quick liquefaction, for instance. It was only a monologue, however: now we have an all-star cast: and they're not only Irish; they're royal Irish.
The royal Irishmen excluded "coal-blackness" and included fibrousness: so then that this substance was "marsh paper," which "had been raised into the air by storms of wind, and had again fallen."
It was said that, according to M. Ehrenberg, "the meteor-paper was found to consist partly of vegetable matter, chiefly of conifervæ."
Meeting of the royal Irishmen: chairs, tables, Irishmen:
Some flakes of marsh-paper were exhibited.
Their composition was chiefly of conifervæ.
This was a double inclusion: or it's the method of agreement that logicians make so much of. So no logician would be satisfied with identifying a peanut as a camel, because both have humps: he demands accessory agreement—that both can live a long time without water, for instance.
Now, it's not so very unreasonable, at least to the free and easy vaudeville standards that, throughout this book, we are considering, to think that a green substance could be snatched up from one place in a whirlwind, and fall as a black substance somewhere else: but the royal Irishmen excluded something else, and it is a datum that was as accessible to them as it is to me:
That, according to Chladni, this was no little, local deposition that was seen to occur by some indefinite person living near a pond somewhere.
It was a tremendous fall from a vast sky-area.
Likely enough all the marsh paper in the world could not have supplied it.
At the same time, this substance was falling "in great quantities," in Norway and Pomerania. Or see Kirkwood, Meteoric Astronomy, p. 66:
"Substance like charred paper fell in Norway and other parts of northern Europe, Jan. 31, 1686."
Or a whirlwind, with a distribution as wide as that, would not acceptably, I should say, have so specialized in the rare substance called "marsh paper." There'd have been falls of fence rails, roofs of houses, parts of trees. Nothing is said of the occurrence of a tornado in northern Europe, in January, 1686. There is record only of this one substance having fallen in various places.
Time went on, but the conventional determination to exclude data of all falls to this earth, except of substances of this earth, and of ordinary meteoric matter, strengthened.
Annals of Philosophy, 16-68:
The substance that fell in January, 1686, is described as "a mass of black leaves, having the appearance of burnt paper, but harder, and cohering, and brittle."
"Marsh paper" is not mentioned, and there is nothing said of the
[paragraph continues] "conifervæ," which seemed so convincing to the royal Irishmen. Vegetable composition is disregarded, quite as it might be by someone who might find it convenient to identify a crook-necked squash as a big fishhook.
Meteorites are usually covered with a black crust, more or less scale-like. The substance of 1686 is black and scale-like. If so be convenience, "leaf-likeness" is "scale-likeness." In this attempt to assimilate with the conventional, we are told that the substance is a mineral mass: that it is like the black scales that cover meteorites.
The scientist who made this "identification" was Von Grotthus. He had appealed to the god Chemical Analysis. Or the power and glory of mankind—with which we're not always so impressed—but the gods must tell us what we want them to tell us. We see again that, though nothing has identity of its own, anything can be "identified" as anything. Or there's nothing that's not reasonable, if one snoopeth not into its exclusions. But here the conflict did not end. Berzelius examined the substance. He could not find nickel in it. At that time, the presence of nickel was the "positive" test of meteoritic matter. Whereupon, with a supposititious "positive" standard of judgment against him, Von Grotthus revoked his "identification." (Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist., 1-3-185.)
This equalization of eminences permits us to project with our own expression, which, otherwise, would be subdued into invisibility:
That it's too bad that no one ever looked to see—hieroglyphics?—something written upon these sheets of paper?
If we have no very great variety of substances that have fallen to this earth; if, upon this earth's surface there is infinite variety of substances detachable by whirlwinds, two falls of such a rare substance as marsh paper would be remarkable.
A writer in the Edinburgh Review, 87-194, says that, at the time of writing, he had before him a portion of a sheet of 200 square feet, of a substance that had fallen at Carolath, Silesia, in 1839—exactly similar to cotton-felt, of which clothing might have been made. The god Microscopic Examination had spoken. The substance consisted chiefly of conifervæ.
Jour. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, 1847-pt. 1-193:
That March 16, 1846—about the time of a fall of edible substance in Asia Minor—an olive-gray powder fell at Shanghai. Under the microscope, it was seen to be an aggregation of hairs of two kinds, black ones and rather thick white ones. They were supposed to be mineral fibers, but, when burned, they gave out "the common ammoniacal smell and smoke of burnt hair or feathers." The writer described the phenomenon as "a cloud of 3800 square miles of fibers, alkali, and sand." In a postscript, he says that other investigators, with more powerful microscopes, gave opinion that the fibers were not hairs; that the substance consisted chiefly of conifervæ.
Or the pathos of it, perhaps; or the dull and uninspired, but courageous persistence of the scientific: everything seemingly found out is doomed to be subverted—by more powerful microscopes and telescopes; by more refined, precise, searching means and methods—the new pronouncements irrepressibly bobbing up; their reception always as Truth at last; always the illusion of the final; very little of the Intermediatist spirit
That the new that has displaced the old will itself some day be displaced; that it, too, will be recognized as myth-stuffBut that if phantoms climb, spooks of ladders are good enough for them.
Annual Register, 1821-681:
That, according to a report by M. Lainé, French Consul at Pernambuco, early in October, 1821, there was a shower of a substance resembling silk. The quantity was as tremendous as might be a whole cargo, lost somewhere between Jupiter and Mars, having drifted around perhaps for centuries, the original fabrics slowly disintegrating. In Annales de Chimie, 2-15-427, it is said that samples of this substance were sent to France by M. Lainé, and that they proved to have some resemblances to silky filaments which, at certain times of the year, are carried by the wind near Paris.
In the Annals of Philosophy, n.s, 12-93, there is mention of a fibrous substance like blue silk that fell near Naumberg, March 23, 1665. According to Chladni (Annales de Chimie, 2-31-264), the quantity was great. He places a question mark before the date.
One of the advantages of Intermediatism is that, in the oneness of quasiness, there can be no mixed metaphors. Whatever is acceptable
of anything, is, in some degree or aspect, acceptable of everything. So it is quite proper to speak, for instance, of something that is as firm as a rock and that sails in a majestic march. The Irish are good monists: they have of course been laughed at for their keener perceptions. So it's a book we're writing, or it's a procession, or it's a museum, with the Chamber of Horrors rather over-emphasized. A rather horrible correlation occurs in the Scientific American, 1859-178. What interests us is that a correspondent saw a silky substance fall from the sky—there was an aurora borealis at the time—he attributes the substance to the aurora.
Since the time of Darwin, the classic explanation has been that all silky substances that fall from the sky are spider webs. In 1832, aboard the Beagle, at the mouth of La Plata River, 60 miles from land, Darwin saw an enormous number of spiders, of the kind usually known as "gossamer" spiders, little aeronauts that cast out filaments by which the wind carries them.
It's difficult to express that silky substances that have fallen to this earth were not spider webs. My own acceptance is that spider webs are the merger; that there have been falls of an externally derived silky substance, and also of the webs, or strands, rather, of aeronautic spiders indigenous to this earth; that in some instances it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. Of course, our expression upon silky substances will merge away into expressions upon other seeming textile substances, and I don't know how much better off we'll be
Except that, if fabricable materials have fallen from the sky—
Simply to establish acceptance of that may be doing well enough in this book of first and tentative explorations.
In All the Year Round, 8-254, is described a fall that took place in England, Sept. 21, 1741, in the towns of Bradly, Selborne, and Alresford, and in a triangular space included by these three towns. The substance is described as "cobwebs"—but it fell in flake-formation, or in "flakes or rags about one inch broad and five or six inches long." Also these flakes were of a relatively heavy substance—"they fell with some velocity." The quantity was great—the shortest side of the triangular space is eight miles long. In the Wernerian Nat, Hist. Soc. Trans., 5-386, it is said that there were two falls—that they
were some hours apart—a datum that is becoming familiar to us—a datum that cannot be taken into the fold, unless we find it repeated over and over and over again. It is said that the second fall lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until night.
Now the hypnosis of the classic—that what we call intelligence is only an expression of inequilibrium; that when mental adjustments are made, intelligence ceases—or, of course, that intelligence is the confession of ignorance. If you have intelligence upon any subject, that is something you're still learning—if we agree that that which is learned is always mechanically done—in quasi-terms, of course, because nothing is ever finally learned.
It was decided that this substance was spiders’ web. That was adjustment. But it's not adjustment to me; so I'm afraid I shall have some intelligence in this matter. If I ever arrive at adjustment upon this subject, then, upon this subject, I shall be able to have no thoughts, except routine-thoughts. I haven't yet quite decided absolutely everything, so I am able to point out:
That this substance was of quantity so enormous that it attracted wide attention when it came down—
That it would have been equally noteworthy when it went up—
That there is no record of anyone, in England or elsewhere, having seen tons of "spider webs" going up, September, 1741.
Further confession of intelligence upon my part:
That, if it be contested, then, that the place of origin may have been far away, but still terrestrial—
Then it's that other familiar matter of incredible "marksmanship" again—hitting a small, triangular space for hours—interval of hours—then from nine in the morning until night: same small triangular space.
These are the disregards of the classic explanation. There is no mention of spiders having been seen to fall, but a good inclusion is that, though this substance fell in good-sized flakes of considerable weight, it was viscous. In this respect it was like cobwebs: dogs nosing it on grass, were blindfolded with it. This circumstance does strongly suggest cobwebs—
Unless we can accept that, in regions aloft, there are vast viscous or gelatinous areas, and that things passing through become daubed.
[paragraph continues] Or perhaps we clear up the confusion in the descriptions of the substance that fell in 1841 and 1846, in Asia Minor, described in one publication as gelatinous, and in another as a cereal—that it was a cereal that had passed through a gelatinous region. That the paper-like substance of Memel may have had such an experience may be indicated in that Ehrenberg found in it gelatinous matter, which he called "nostoc." (Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist., I-3-185.)
Scientific American, 45-337:
Fall of a substance described as "cobwebs," latter part of October, 1881, in Milwaukee, Wis., and other towns: other towns mentioned are Green Bay, Vesburge, Fort Howard, Sheboygan, and Ozaukee. The aeronautic spiders are known as "gossamer" spiders, because of the extreme lightness of the filaments that they cast out to the wind. Of the substance that fell in Wisconsin, it is said:
"In all instances the webs were strong in texture and very white."
The Editor says:
"Curiously enough, there is no mention in any of the reports that we have seen, of the presence of spiders."
So our attempt to divorce a possible external product from its terrestrial merger: then our joy of the prospector who thinks he's found something:
The Monthly Weather Review, 26-566, quotes the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser:
That, upon Nov. 21, 1898, numerous batches of spider-web-like substance fell in Montgomery, in strands and in occasional masses several inches long and several inches broad. According to the writer, it was not spiders’ web, but something like asbestos; also that it was phosphorescent.
The Editor of the Review says that he sees no reason for doubting that these masses were cobwebs.
La Nature, 1883-342:
A correspondent writes that he sends a sample of a substance said to have fallen at Montussan (Gironde), Oct. 16, 1883. According to a witness, quoted by the correspondent, a thick cloud, accompanied by rain and a violent wind, had appeared. This cloud was composed of a woolly substance in lumps the size of a fist, which fell to the ground. The Editor (Tissandier) says of this substance
that it was white, but was something that had been burned. It was fibrous. M. Tissandier astonishes us by saying that he cannot identify this substance. We thought that anything could be "identified" as anything. He can say only that the cloud in question must have been an extraordinary conglomeration.
Annual Register, 1832-447:
That, March, 1832, there fell, in the fields of Kourianof, Russia, a combustible yellowish substance, covering, at least two inches thick, an area of 600 or 700 square feet. It was resinous and yellowish: so one inclines to the conventional explanation that it was pollen from pine trees—but, when torn, it had the tenacity of cotton. When placed in water, it had the consistency of resin. "This resin had the color of amber, was elastic, like India rubber, and smelled like prepared oil mixed with wax."
So in general our notion of cargoes—and our notion of cargoes of food supplies:
In Philosophical Transactions, 19-224, is an extract from a letter by Mr. Robert Vans, of Kilkenny, Ireland, dated Nov. 15, 1695: that there had been "of late," in the counties of Limerick and Tipperary, showers of a sort of matter like butter or grease … having "a very stinking smell."
There follows an extract from a letter by the Bishop of Cloyne, upon "a very odd phenomenon," which was observed in Munster and Leinster: that for a good part of the spring of 1695 there fell a substance which the country people called "butter"—"soft, clammy, and of a dark yellow"—that cattle fed "indifferently" in fields where this substance lay.
"It fell in lumps as big as the end of one's finger." It had a "strong ill scent." His Grace calls it a "stinking dew."
In Mr. Vans' letter, it is said that the "butter" was supposed to have medicinal properties, and "was gathered in pots and other vessels by some of the inhabitants of this place."
In all the following volumes of Philosophical Transactions there is no speculation upon this extraordinary subject. Ostracism. The fate of this datum is a good instance of damnation, not by denial, and not by explaining away, but by simple disregard. The fall is
listed by Chladni, and is mentioned in other catalogues, but, from the absence of all inquiry, and of all but formal mention, we see that it has been under excommunication as much as was ever anything by the preceding system. The datum has been buried alive. It is as irreconcilable with the modern system of dogmas as ever were geologic strata and vermiform appendix with the preceding system
If, intermittently, or "for a good part of the spring," this substance fell in two Irish provinces, and nowhere else, we have, stronger than before, a sense of a stationary region overhead, or a region that receives products like this earth's products, but from external sources, a region in which this earth's gravitational and meteorological forces are relatively inert—if for many weeks a good part of this substance did hover before finally falling. We suppose that, in 1685, Mr. Vans and the Bishop of Cloyne could describe what they saw as well as could witnesses in 1885: nevertheless, it is going far back; we shall have to have many modern instances before we can accept.
As to other falls, or another fall, it is said in the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-28-361, that, April u, 1832—about a month after the fall of the substance of Kourianof—fell a substance that was wine-yellow, transparent, soft, and smelling like rancid oil. M. Herman, a chemist who examined it, named it "sky oil." For analysis and chemic reactions, see the Journal. The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 13-368, mentions an "unctuous" substance that fell near Rotterdam, in 1832. In Comptes Rendus, 13-215, there is an account of an oily, reddish matter that fell at Genoa, February, 1841.
Whatever it may have been—
Altogether, most of our difficulties are problems that we should leave to later developers of super-geography, I think. A discoverer of America should leave Long Island to someone else. If there he, plying back and forth from Jupiter and Mars and Venus, super-constructions that are sometimes wrecked, we think of fuel as well as cargoes. Of course the most convincing data would be of coal falling from the sky: nevertheless, one does suspect that oil-burning engines were discovered ages ago in more advanced worlds—but, as I say, we should leave something to our disciples—so we'll not especially wonder whether these butter-like or oily substances were food or fuel. So we merely note that in the Scientific American, 24-323,
is an account of hail that fell, in the middle of April, 1871, in Mississippi, in which was a substance described as turpentine.
Something that tasted like orange water, in hailstones, about the first of June, 1842, near Nimes, France; identified as nitric acid (Jour. de Pharmacie, 1845-273).
Hail and ashes, in Ireland, 1755 (Sci. Amer., 5-168).
That, at Elizabeth, N. J., June 9, 1874, fell hail in which was a substance, said, by Prof. Leeds, of Stevens Institute, to be carbonate of soda (Sci. Amer., 30-262).
We are getting a little away from the lines of our composition, but it will be an important point later that so many extraordinary falls have occurred with hail. Or—if they were of substances that had had origin upon some other part of this earth's surface—had the hail, too, that origin? Our acceptance here will depend upon the number of instances. Reasonably enough, some of the things that fall to this earth should coincide with falls of hail.
As to vegetable substances in quantities so great as to suggest lost cargoes, we have a note in the Intellectual Observer, 3-468: that, upon the first of May, 1863, a rain fell at Perpignan, "bringing down with it a red substance, which proved on examination to be a red meal mixed with fine sand." At various points along the Mediterranean, this substance fell.
There is, in Philosophical Transactions, 16-281, an account of a seeming cereal, said to have fallen in Wiltshire, in 1686—said that some of the "wheat" fell "enclosed in hailstones"—but the writer in Transactions, says that he had examined the grains, and that they were nothing but seeds of ivy berries dislodged from holes and chinks where birds had hidden them. If birds still hide ivy seeds, and if winds still blow, I don't see why the phenomenon has not repeated in more than two hundred years since.
Or the red matter in rain, at Siena, Italy, May, 1830; said, by Arago, to have been vegetable matter (Arago, Œuvres, 12-468).
Somebody should collect data of falls at Siena alone.
In the Monthly Weather Review, 29-465, a correspondent writes that, upon Feb. 16, 1901, at Pawpaw, Michigan, upon a day that was so calm that his windmill did not run, fell a brown dust that looked like vegetable matter. The Editor of the Review concludes that this
was no widespread fall from a tornado, because it had been reported from nowhere else.
Rancidness—putridity—decomposition—a note that has been struck many times. In a positive sense, of course, nothing means anything, or every meaning is continuous with all other meanings: or that all evidences of guilt, for instance, are just as good evidences of innocence—but this condition seems to mean—things lying around among the stars a long time. Horrible disaster in the time of Julius Cæsar; remains from it not reaching this earth till the time of the Bishop of Cloyne: we leave to later research the discussion of bacterial action and decomposition, and whether bacteria could survive in what we call space, of which we know nothing
Chemical News, 35-183:
Dr. A. T. Machattie, F.C.S., writes that, at London, Ontario, Feb. 24, 1868, in a violent storm, fell, with snow, a dark-colored substance, estimated at 500 tons, over a belt 50 miles by 10 miles. It was examined under a microscope, by Dr. Machattie, who found it to consist mainly of vegetable matter "far advanced in decomposition." The substance was examined by Dr. James Adams, of Glasgow, who gave his opinion that it was the remains of cereals. Dr. Machattie points out that for months before this fall the ground of Canada had been frozen, so that in this case a more than ordinarily remote origin has to be thought of. Dr. Machattie thinks of origin to the south. "However," he says, "this is mere conjecture."
Amer. Jour. Sci., 1841-40:
That, March 24, 1840—during a thunderstorm—at Rajkit, India, occurred a fall of grain. It was reported by Col. Sykes, of the British Association.
The natives were greatly excited—because it was grain of a kind unknown to them.
Usually comes forward a scientist who knows more of the things that natives know best than the natives know—but it so happens that the usual thing was not done definitely in this instance:
"The grain was shown to some botanists, who did not immediately recognize it, but thought it to be either a spartium or a vicia.'
Lead, silver, diamonds, glass.
They sound like the accursed, but they're not: they're now of the chosen—that is, when they occur in metallic or stony masses that Science has recognized as meteorites. We find that resistance is to substances not so mixed in or incorporated.
Of accursed data, it seems to me that punk is pretty damnable. In the Report of the British Association, 1878-376, there is mention of a light chocolate-brown substance that has fallen with meteorites. No particulars given; not another mention anywhere else that I can find. In this English publication, the word "punk" is not used; the substance is called "amadou." I suppose, if the datum has anywhere been admitted to French publications, the word "amadou" has been avoided, and "punk" used.
Or oneness of allness: scientific works and social registers: a Goldstein who can't get in as Goldstein, gets in as Jackson.
The fall of sulphur from the sky has been especially repulsive to the modern orthodoxy—largely because of its associations with the superstitions or principles of the preceding orthodoxy—stories of devils: sulphurous exhalations. Several writers have said that they have had this feeling. So the scientific reactionists, who have rabidly fought the preceding, because it was the preceding: and the scientific prudes, who, in sheer exclusionism, have held lean hands over pale eyes, denying falls of sulphur. I have many notes upon the sulphurous odor of meteorites, and many notes upon phosphorescence of things that come from externality. Some day I shall look over old stories of demons that have appeared sulphurously upon this earth, with the idea of expressing that we have often had undesirable visitors from other worlds; or that an indication of external derivation is sulphurousness. I expect some day to rationalize demonology, but just at present we are scarcely far enough advanced to go so far back.
For a circumstantial account of a mass of burning sulphur, about the size of a man's fist, that fell at Pultusk, Poland, Jan. 30, 1868, upon a road, where it was stamped out by a crowd of villagers, see Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1874-272.
The power of the exclusionists lies in that in their stand are combined both modern and archaic systematists. Falls of sandstone and limestone are repulsive to both theologians and scientists. Sandstone and limestone suggest other worlds upon which occur processes like geological processes; but limestone, as a fossiliferous substance, is of course especially of the unchosen.
In Science, March 9, 1888, we read of a block of limestone, said to have fallen near Middleburg, Florida. It was exhibited at the Sub-tropical Exposition, at Jacksonville. The writer, in Science, denies that it fell from the sky. His reasoning is:
There is no limestone in the sky;
Therefore this limestone did not fall from the sky.
Better reasoning I cannot conceive of—because we see that a final major premise—universal—true—would include all things: that, then, would leave nothing to reason about—so then that all reasoning must be based upon "something" not universal, or only a phantom intermediate to the two finalities of nothingness and allness, or negativeness and positiveness.
La Nature, 1890-2-127:
Fall, at Pel-et-Der (L’Aube), France, June 6, 1890, of limestone pebbles. Identified with limestone at Château-Landon—or up and down in a whirlwind. But they fell with hail—which, in June, could not very well be identified with ice from Château-Landon. Coincidence, perhaps.
Upon page 70, Science Gossip, 1887, the Editor says, of a stone that was reported to have fallen at Little Lever, England, that a sample had been sent to him. It was sandstone. Therefore it had not fallen, but had been on the ground in the first place. But, upon page 140, Science Gossip, 1887, is an account of "a large, smooth, waterworn, gritty sandstone pebble" that had been found in the wood of a full-grown beech tree. Looks to me as if it had fallen red-hot, and had penetrated the tree with high velocity.
[paragraph continues] But I have never heard of anything falling red-hot from a whirl-wind—
The wood around this sandstone pebble was black, as if charred.
Dr. Farrington, for instance, in his books, does not even mention sandstone. However, the British Association, though reluctant, is less exclusive: Report of 1860, p. 197: substance about the size of a duck's egg, that fell at Raphoe, Ireland, June 9, 1860—date questioned. It is not definitely said that this substance was sandstone, but that it "resembled" friable sandstone.
Falls of salt have occurred often. They have been avoided by scientific writers, because of the dictum that only water and not substances held in solution, can be raised by evaporation. However, falls of salty water have received attention from Dalton and others, and have been attributed to whirlwinds from the sea. This is so reasonably contested—quasi-reasonably—as to places not far from the sea—
But the fall of salt that occurred high in the mountains of Switzerland—
We could have predicted that that datum could be found somewhere. Let anything be explained in local terms of the coast of England-but also has it occurred high in the mountains of Switzerland.
Large crystals of salt fell—in a hailstorm—Aug. 20, 1870, in Switzerland. The orthodox explanation is a crime: whoever made it, should have had his finger-prints taken. We are told (An. Rec. Sci., 1872) that these objects of salt "came over the Mediterranean from some part of Africa."
Or the hypnosis of the conventional—provided it be glib. One reads such an assertion, and provided it be suave and brief and conventional, one seldom questions—or thinks "very strange" and then forgets. One has an impression from geography lessons: Mediterranean not more than three inches wide, on the map; Switzerland only a few more inches away. These sizable masses of salt are described in the Amer. Jour. Sci., 3-3-239, as "essentially imperfect cubic crystals of common salt." As to occurrence with hail—that can in one, or ten, or twenty, instances be called a coincidence.
Another datum: extraordinary year 1883:
London Times, Dec. 25, 1883:
Translation from a Turkish newspaper; a substance that fell at Scutari, Dec. 2, 1883; described as an unknown substance, in particles—or flakes?—like snow. "It was found to be saltish to the taste, and to dissolve readily in water."
"Black, capillary matter" that fell, Nov. 16, 1857, at Charleston, S. C. (Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-31-459).
Fall of small, friable, vesicular masses, from size of a pea to size of a walnut, at Lobau, Jan. 18, 1835 (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1860-85).
Objects that fell at Peshawur, India, June, 1893, during a storm: substance that looked like crystallized niter, and that tasted like sugar (Nature, July 13, 1893).
I suppose sometimes deep-sea fishes have their noses bumped by cinders. If their regions be subjacent to Cunard or White Star routes, they're especially likely to be bumped. I conceive of no inquiry: they're deep-sea fishes.
Or the slag of Slains. That it was a furnace-product. The Rev. James Rust seemed to feel bumped. He tried in vain to arouse inquiry.
As to a report, from Chicago, April 9, 1879, that slag had fallen from the sky, Prof. E. S. Bastian (Amer. Jour. Sci., 3-18-78) says that the slag "had been on the ground in the first place." It was furnace-slag. "A chemical examination of the specimens has shown that they possess none of the characteristics of true meteorites."
Over and over and over again, the universal delusion; hope and despair of attempted positivism; that there can be real criteria, or distinct characteristics of anything. If anybody can define—not merely suppose, like Prof. Bastian, that he can define—the true characteristics of anything, or so localize trueness anywhere, he makes the discovery for which the cosmos is laboring. He will be instantly translated, like Elijah, into the Positive Absolute. My own notion is that, in a moment of super-concentration, Elijah became so nearly a real prophet that he was translated to heaven, or to the Positive Absolute, with such velocity that he left an incandescent
train behind him. As we go along, we shall find the "true test of meteoritic material," which in the past has been taken as an absolute, dissolving into almost utmost nebulosity. Prof. Bastian explains mechanically, or in terms of the usual reflexes to all reports of unwelcome substances: that near where the slag had been found, telegraph wires had been struck by lightning; that particles of melted wire had been seen to fall near the slag—which had been on the ground in the first place. But, according to the New York Times, April 14, 1879, about two bushels of this substance had fallen.
Something that was said to have fallen at Darmstadt, June 7, 1846; listed by Greg (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1867-416) as "only slag."
Philosophical Magazine, 4-10-381:
That, in 1855, a large stone was found far in the interior of a tree, in Battersea Fields.
Sometimes cannon balls are found embedded in trees. Doesn't seem to be anything to discuss; doesn't seem discussable that any one would cut a hole in a tree and hide a cannon ball, which one could take to bed, and hide under one's pillow, just as easily. So with the stone of Battersea Fields. What is there to say, except that it fell with high velocity and embedded in the tree? Nevertheless, there was a great deal of discussion—
Because, at the foot of the tree, as if broken off the stone, fragments of slag were found.
I have nine other instances.
Slag and cinders and ashes, and you won't believe, and neither will I, that they came from the furnaces of vast aerial superconstructions. We'll see what looks acceptable.
As to ashes, the difficulties are great, because we'd expect many falls of terrestrially derived ashes—volcanoes and forest fires.
In some of our acceptances, I have felt a little radical—
I suppose that one of our main motives is to show that there is, in quasi-existence, nothing but the preposterous—or something intermediate to absolute preposterousness and final reasonableness—that the new is the obviously preposterous; that it becomes the established and disguisedly preposterous; that it is displaced, after a while, and is again seen to be the preposterous. Or that all progress
is from the outrageous to the academic or sanctified, and back to the outrageous—modified, however, by a trend of higher and higher approximation to the impreposterous. Sometimes I feel a little more uninspired than at other times, but I think we're pretty well accustomed now to the oneness of allness; or that the methods of science in maintaining its system are as outrageous as the attempts of the damned to break in. In the Annual Record of Science, 1875-241, Prof. Daubrée is quoted: that ashes that had fallen in the Azores had come from the Chicago fire—
Or the damned and the saved, and there's little to choose between them; and angels are beings that have not obviously barbed tails to them—or never have such bad manners as to stroke an angel below the waist-line.
However this especial outrage was challenged: the Editor of the Record returns to it, in the issue of 1876: considers it "in the highest degree improper to say that the ashes of Chicago were landed in the Azores."
Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 22-245:
Account of a white substance, like ashes, that fell at Annoy, France, March 27, 1908: simply called a curious phenomenon; no attempt to trace to a terrestrial source.
Flake formations, which may signify passage through a region of pressure, are common; but spherical formations—as if of things that have rolled and rolled along planar regions somewhere—are commoner:
Nature, Jan. 10, 1884, quotes a Kimberley newspaper:
That, toward the close of November, 1883, a thick shower of ashy matter fell at Queenstown, South Africa. The matter was in marble-sized balls, which were soft and pulpy, but which, upon drying, crumbled at touch. The shower was confined to one narrow streak of land. It would be only ordinarily preposterous to attribute this substance to Krakatoa—
But, with the fall, loud noises were heard—
But I'll omit many notes upon ashes: if ashes should sift down upon deep-sea fishes, that is not to say that they came from steamships.
Data of falls of cinders have been especially damned by Mr.
[paragraph continues] Symons, the meteorologist, some of whose investigations we'll investigate later—nevertheless—
Notice of a fall, in Victoria, Australia, April 14, 1875 (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1875-242)—at least we are told, in the reluctant way, that someone "thought" he saw matter fall near him at night, and the next day found something that looked like cinders.
In the Proc. of the London Roy. Soc., 19-122, there is an account of cinders that fell on the deck of a lightship, Jan. 9, 1873. In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-24-449, there is a notice that the Editor had received a specimen of cinders said to have fallen—in showery weather—upon a farm, near Ottowa, Ill., Jan. 17, 1857.
But after all, ambiguous things they are, cinders or ashes or slag or clinkers, the high priest of the accursed that must speak aloud for us is—coal that has fallen from the sky.
The person who thought he saw something like cinders, also thought he saw something like coke, we are told.
Something that "looked exactly like coke" that fell—during a thunderstorm—in the Orne, France, April 24, 1887.
Dr. Angus Smith, in the Lit. and Phil. Soc. of Manchester Memoirs, 2-9-146, says that, about 1827—like a great deal in Lyell's Principles and Darwin's Origin, this account is from hearsay—something fell from the sky, near Allport, England. It fell luminously, with a loud report, and scattered in a field. A fragment that was seen by Dr. Smith, is described by him as having "the appearance of a piece of common wood charcoal." Nevertheless, the reassured feeling of the faithful, upon reading this, is burdened with data of differences: the substance was so uncommonly heavy that it seemed as if it had iron in it; also there was "a sprinkling of sulphur." This material is said, by Prof. Baden-Powell, to be "totally unlike that of any other meteorite." Greg, in his catalogue (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1860-73), calls it "a more than doubtful substance"—but again, against reassurance, that is not doubt of authenticity. Greg says that it is like compact charcoal. With particles of sulphur and iron pyrites embedded.
Reassurance rises again:
Prof. Baden-Powell says: "It contains also charcoal, which might perhaps be acquired from matter among which it fell."
This is a common reflex with the exclusionists: that substances not "truly meteoritic" did not fall from the sky, but were picked up by "truly meteoritic" things, of course only on their surfaces, by impact with this earth.
Rhythm of reassurances and their declines:
According to Dr. Smith, this substance was not merely coated with charcoal; his analysis gives 43.59 per cent carbon.
Our acceptance that coal has fallen from the sky will be via data of resinous substances and bituminous substances, which merge so that they cannot be told apart.
Resinous substance said to have fallen at Kaba, Hungary, April 15, 1887 (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1860-94).
A resinous substance that fell after a fireball? at Neuhaus, Bohemia, Dec. 17, 1824 (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1860-70).
Fall, July 28, 1885, at Luchon, during a storm, of a brownish substance; very friable, carbonaceous matter; when burned it gave out a resinous odor (Comptes Rendus, 103-837).
Substance that fell, Feb. 17, 18, 19, 1841, at Genoa, Italy, said to have been resinous; said by Arago (Œuvres, 12-469) to have been bituminous matter and sand.
Fall—during a thunderstorm—July, 1681, near Cape Cod, upon the deck of an English vessel, the Albemarle, of "burning, bituminous matter" (Edin. New Phil. Jour., 26-86); a fall, at Christiania, Norway, June 13, 1822, of bituminous matter, listed by Greg as doubtful; fall of bituminous matter, in Germany, March 8, 1798, listed by Greg. Lockyer (The Meteoric Hypothesis, p. 24) says that the substance that fell at the Cape of Good Hope, Oct. 13, 1838—about five cubic feet of it: substance so soft that it was cuttable with a knife—"after being experimented upon, it left a residue, which gave out a very bituminous smell."
And this inclusion of Lockyer's—so far as findable in all books that I have read—is, in books, about as close as we can get to our desideratum—that coal has fallen from the sky. Dr. Farrington, except with a brief mention, ignores the whole subject of the fall
of carbonaceous matter from the sky. Proctor, in all of his books that I have read—is, in books, about as close as we can get to the admission that carbonaceous matter has been found in meteorites "in very minute quantities"—or my own suspicion is that it is possible to damn something else only by losing one's own soul—quasi-soul, of course.
Sci. Amer., 35-120:
That the substance that fell at the Cape of Good Hope "resembled a piece of anthracite coal more than anything else."
It's a mistake, I think: the resemblance is to bituminous coal—but it is from the periodicals that we must get our data. To the writers of books upon meteorites, it would be as wicked—by which we mean departure from the characters of an established species—quasi-established, of course—to say that coal has fallen from the sky, as would be, to something in a barnyard, a temptation that it climb a tree and catch a bird. Domestic things in a barnyard: and how wild things from forests outside seem to them. Or the homeopathist—but we shall shovel data of coal.
And, if over and over, we shall learn of masses of soft coal that have fallen upon this earth, if in no instance has it been asserted that the masses did not fall, but were upon the ground in the first place; if we have many instances, this time we turn down good and hard the mechanical reflex that these masses were carried from one place to another in whirlwinds, because we find it too difficult to accept that whirlwinds could so select, or so specialize in a peculiar substance. Among writers of books, the only one I know of who makes more than brief mention is Sir Robert Ball. He represents a still more antique orthodoxy, or is an exclusionist of the old type, still holding out against even meteorites. He cites several falls of carbonaceous matter, but with disregards that make for reasonableness that earthy matter may have been caught up by whirlwinds and flung down somewhere else. If he had given a full list, he would be called upon to explain the special affinity of whirlwinds for a special kind of coal. He does not give a full list. We shall have all that's findable, and we shall see that against this disease we're writing, the homeopathist's prescription availeth not. Another exclusionist was Prof. Lawrence Smith. His psycho-tropism
was to respond to all reports of carbonaceous matter falling from the sky, by saying that this damned matter had been deposited upon things of the chosen by impact with this earth. Most of our data antedate him, or were contemporaneous with him, or were as accessible to him as to us. In his attempted positivism it is simply—and beautifully—disregarded that, according to Berthelot, Berzelius, Cloez, Wohler and others these masses are not merely coated with carbonaceous matter, but are carbonaceous throughout, or are permeated throughout. How anyone could so resolutely and dogmatically and beautifully and blindly hold out would puzzle us were it not for our acceptance that only to think is to exclude and include; and to exclude some things that have as much right to come in as have the included—that to have an opinion upon any subject is to be a Lawrence Smith—because there is no definite subject.
Dr. Walter Flight (Eclectic Magazine, 89-71) says, of the substance that fell near Alais, France, March 15, 1806, that it "emits a faint bituminous substance" when heated, according to the observations of Bergelius and a commission appointed by the French Academy. This time we have not the reluctances expressed in such words as "like" and "resembling." We are told that this substance is "an earthy kind of coal."
As to "minute quantities" we are told that the substance that fell at the Cape of Good Hope has in it a little more than a quarter of organic matter, which, in alcohol, gives the familiar reaction of yellow, resinous matter. Other instances given by Dr. Flight are:
Carbonaceous matter that fell in 1840, in Tennessee; Cranbourne, Australia, 1861; Montauban, France, May 14, 1864 (twenty masses, some of them as large as a human head, of a substance that "resembled a dull-colored earthy lignite"); Goalpara, India, about 1867 (about 8 per cent of a hydrocarbon); at Ornans, France, July 11, 1868; substance with "an organic, combustible ingredient," at Hessle, Sweden, Jan. 1, 1860.
That, according to M. Daubrée, the substance that had fallen in the Argentine Republic, "resembled certain kinds of lignite and boghead coal." In Comptes Rendus, 96-1764, it is said that this
mass fell, June 30, 1880, in the province Entre Rios, Argentina: that it is "like" brown coal; that it resembles all the other carbonaceous masses that have fallen from the sky.
Something that fell at Grazac, France, Aug. 10, 1885: when burned, it gave out a bituminous odor (Comptes Rendus, 104-1771).
Carbonaceous substance that fell at Rajpunta, India, Jan. 22, 1911: very friable: 50 per cent of its soluble in water (Records Geol. Survey of India, 44-pt. 1-41).
A combustible carbonaceous substance that fell with sand at Naples, March 14, 1818 (Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-1-309).
Sci. Amer. Sup., 29-11798:
That, June 9, 1889, a very friable substance, of a deep, greenish black, fell at Mighei, Russia. It contained 5 per cent organic matter, which, when powdered and digested in alcohol, yielded, after evaporation, a bright yellow resin. In this mass was 2 per cent of an unknown mineral.
Cinders and ashes and slag and coke and charcoal and coal.
And the things that sometimes deep-sea fishes are bumped by.
Reluctances and the disguises or covered retreats of such words as "like" and "resemble"—or that conditions of Intermediateness forbid abrupt transitions—but that the spirit animating all Intermediateness is to achieve abrupt transitions—because, if anything could finally break away from its origin and environment, that would be a real thing—something not merging away indistinguishably with the surrounding. So all attempt to be original; all attempt to invent something that is more than mere extension or modification of the preceding, is positivism—or that if one could conceive of a device to catch flies, positively different from, or unrelated to, all other devices—up he'd shoot to heaven, or the Positive Absolute—leaving behind such an incandescent train that in one age it would be said that he had gone aloft in a fiery chariot, and in another age that he had been struck by lightning—
I'm collecting notes upon persons supposed to have been struck by lightning. I think that high approximation to positivism has often been achieved—instantaneous translation—residue of negativeness left behind, looking much like effects of a stroke of lightning. Some day I shall tell the story of the Marie Celeste—"properly,"
as the Scientific American Supplement would say—mysterious disappearance of a sea captain, his family, and the crew—
Of positivists, by the route of Abrupt Transition, I think that Manet was notable—but that his approximation was held down by his intense relativity to the public—or that it is quite as impositive to flout and insult and defy as it is to crawl and placate. Of course, Manet began with continuity with Courbet and others, and then, between him and Manet there were mutual influences—but the spirit of abrupt difference is the spirit of positivism, and Manet's stand was against the dictum that all lights and shades must merge away suavely into one another and prepare for one another. So a biologist like De Vries represents positivism, or the breaking of Continuity, by trying to conceive of evolution by mutation—against the dogma of indistinguishable gradations by "minute variations." A Copernicus conceives of helio-centricity. Continuity is against him. He is not permitted to break abruptly with the past. He is permitted to publish his work, but only as "an interesting hypothesis."
Continuity—and that all that we call evolution or progress is attempt to break away from it—
That our whole solar system was at one time attempt by planets to break away from a parental nexus and set up as individualities, and, failing, move in quasi-regular orbits that are expressions of relations with the sun and with one another, all having surrendered, being now quasi-incorporated in a higher approximation to system;
Intermediateness in its mineralogic aspect of positivism—or Iron that strove to break away from Sulphur and Oxygen, and be real, homogeneous Iron—failing, inasmuch as elemental iron exists only in text-book chemistry;
Intermediateness in its biologic aspect of positivism—or the wild, fantastic, grotesque, monstrous things it conceived of, sometimes in a frenzy of effort to break away abruptly from all preceding types—but failing, in the giraffe-effort, for instance, or only caricaturing an antelope—
All things break one relation only by the establishing of some other relation—
All things cut an umbilical cord only to clutch a breast.
So the fight of the exclusionists to maintain the traditional—or to prevent abrupt transition from the quasi-established—fighting so that here, more than a century after meteorites were included, no other notable inclusion has been made, except that of cosmic dust, data of which Nordenskiold made more nearly real than data in opposition.
So Proctor, for instance, fought and expressed his feeling of the preposterous, against Sir W. H. Thomson's notions of arrival upon this earth of organisms on meteorites—
"I can only regard it as a jest" (Knowledge, 1-302).
Or that there is nothing but jest—or something intermediate to jest and tragedy;
That ours is not an existence but an utterance;
That Momus is imagining us for the amusement of the gods, often with such success that some of us seem almost alive—like characters in something a novelist is writing; which often to considerable degree take their affairs away from the novelist—
That Momus is imagining us and our arts and sciences and religions, and is narrating or picturing us as a satire upon the gods’ real existence.
Because—with many of our data of coal that has fallen from the sky as accessible then as they are now, and with the scientific pronouncement that coal is fossil, how, in a real existence, by which we mean a consistent existence, or a state in which there is real intelligence, or a form of thinking that does not indistinguishably merge away with imbecility, could there have been such a row as that which was raised about forty years ago over Dr. Hahn's announcement that he had found fossils in meteorites?
Accessible to anybody at that time:
Philosophical Magazine, 4-17-425:
That the substance that fell at Kaba, Hungary, April 15, 1857, contained organic matter "analagous to fossil waxes."
Of the block of limestone which was reported to have fallen at Middleburg, Florida, it is said (Science, 11-118) that, though something had been seen to fall in "an old cultivated field," the witnesses
who ran to it picked up something that "had been upon the ground in the first place." The writer who tells us this, with the usual exclusion-imagination known as stupidity, but unjustly, because there is no real stupidity, thinks he can think of a good-sized stone that had for many years been in a cultivated field, but that had never been seen before—had never interfered with plowing, for instance. He is earnest and unjarred when he writes that this stone weighs 200 pounds. My own notion, founded upon my own experience in seeing, is that a block of stone weighing 500 pounds might be in one's parlor twenty years, virtually unseen—but not in an old cultivated field, where it interfered with plowing—not anywhere—if it interfered.
Dr. Hahn said that he had found fossils in meteorites. There is a description of the corals, sponges, shells, and crinoids, all of them microscopic, which he photographed, in Popular Science, 20-83.
Dr. Hahn was a well-known scientist. He was better known after that.
Anybody may theorize upon other worlds and conditions upon them that are similar to our own conditions: if his notions be presented undisguisedly as fiction, or only as an "interesting hypothesis," he'll stir up no prude rages.
But Dr. Hahn said definitely that he had found fossils in specified meteorites: also he published photographs of them. His book is in the New York Public Library. In the reproductions every feature of some of the little shells is plainly marked. If they're not shells, neither are things under an oyster-counter. The striations are very plain: one sees even the hinges where bivalves are joined.
Prof. Lawrence Smith (Knowledge, 1-258):
"Dr. Hahn is a kind of half-insane man, whose imagination has run away with him."
Conservation of Continuity.
Then Dr. Weinland examined Dr. Hahn's specimens. He gave his opinion that they are fossils and that they are not crystals of enstatite, as asserted by Prof. Smith, who had never seen them. The damnation of denial and the damnation of disregard: After the publication of Dr. Weinland's findings—silence.