Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Last Men in London is the story of this being's exploration of the consciousness of a present-day Englishman named Paul, from childhood through service with an ambulance crew in the First World War mirroring Stapledon's own personal history to adult life as Many of the books in our collection have been out of print for decades, and therefore have not been accessible to the general public.
The aim of our publishing program is to facilitate rapid access to this vast reservoir of literature, and our view is that this is a significant literary work, which deserves to be brought back into print after many decades. The contents of the vast majority of titles in the Classic Library have been scanned from the original works.
To ensure a high quality product, each title has been meticulously hand curated by our staff. Our philosophy has been guided by a desire to provide the reader with a book that is as close as possible to ownership of the original work. We hope that you will enjoy this wonderful classic work, and that for you it becomes an enriching experience. Product Details. Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Fallen Thrones. In the shadow of the Rim Aeldan lived in relative isolation, far from the whole In the shadow of the Rim Aeldan lived in relative isolation, far from the whole of the Common Realm Empire and, from the ancient gifts of the Bestowal.
For centuries the Empire was governed by these special gifts, wielded together View Product. Four Encounters. Four Encounters is an unfinished work by the writer and philosopher Olaf Stapledon, written in Four Encounters is an unfinished work by the writer and philosopher Olaf Stapledon, written in the late s but only published 26 years after the author's death. Hacedor de Estrellas. El hacedor de estrellas, como otros libros de Stapledon ha sido la fuente de influencia Long afterwards, when we were both in the adult world, I met her again.
She had by now entered upon her career, having been chosen as one of our professional mothers. Later still, she volunteered to submit to a very dangerous maternity experiment, and was so shattered by it, that the eugenists had finally to put her to death. I had not been many centuries in the Land of the Young before my master passion began to assert itself. I set about collecting material for a complete history of that juvenile world. For this end I sampled every kind of life in every corner of the continent.
I also sharpened my perception, or so I persuaded myself, by intimacy with many resplendent young women. But long before I had completed my history, the work began to be interrupted by visits to the adult world. There is a party in the Land of the Young who preach that the juvenile world is happier and nobler than the world of the adults. They send missionaries among those whom they know to be turning from the primitive, and seek to persuade them to join a small and pathetic band called the Old Young, who elect to remain in the Land of the Young for ever.
These poor arrested beings become the guardians of tradition and morality among the nations of the Young. Like the village idiot, they are despised even while at the same time their sayings are supposed to be pregnant with mysterious truth. I myself, with my taste for the past and the primitive, was persuaded to take the vow of this order. But when I was introduced to one of these bright old things, I was so depressed that I recanted.
It came as a revelation to me that my task was not actually to become primitive, but to study the primitive. It was borne in on me that even the past and the primitive can be understood and loved better by the full-grown mind than by the primitive itself. During their last century in the Land of the Young our boys and girls normally develop beyond the larval stage very rapidly, though not without severe mental agony.
For during this period the mind is in bitter conflict with itself. It clings to the primitive, but is at the same time nauseated; it yearns toward the mature, but is at the same time fearful and reluctant. This profound metamorphosis of body and mind continues for some centuries even after the young person has entered the adult world.
The simple male or female sexual characters specialize themselves into one or other of the ninety-six sub-sexes. Intelligence soars into a new order of proficiency. New centres of the brain integrate the nervous system so perfectly that henceforth behaviour will be, without exception, and without serious struggle, rational; or, as you would say, moral. At the same time the faculty of telepathic communication appears; and, through the cumulative effect of constant telepathic intercourse, the mind comes into such exact understanding and vivid sympathy with other minds, that the diversity of all serves but to enhance the mental richness of each.
This radical change of nature, which raises the individual in a few centuries to a new plane of experience, was for me the more torturing because of my innate hunger for the primitive. This same characteristic made it difficult for me to reconcile myself to the highly complex adult sexual life of my species, which is based on the marriage group of the ninety-six sub-sexes. My group formed itself with unusual difficulty; but, once constituted, it was maintained without undue emphasis.
Only once in a century or so are we moved to come together, and live together, and love together; and then only for about a year. During these periods we take delicate joy in one another, and in ourselves. And though we remain self-conscious individuals, a single group-self emerges in us. We spend much of our time rapt in the perceptions and thoughts which are possible only to the minds of the sexual groups; brooding especially on the subtleties of personality and super-personality, and preparing the ground for the recurrent phases of that far more complex mode of consciousness, the Mind of the Race.
Apart from these occasional periods of group-mentality, each of us lives an independent life, and is only obscurely conscious of his group-membership. Nevertheless, much as, after swimming, a freshness may vaguely cheer the body for the rest of the day, or after sunbathing a tingling beatitude, so for each of us participation in the group affords an enhanced vitality which may endure for many decades.
When I had settled into my sexual group, I was about three thousand years old. My body had attained that youthful maturity which with us is perennial, and my mind had shed all the follies of the Land of the Young. I was apprenticed to work which was perfectly suited to my nature. It was exacting work, for the novel powers with which I was endowed were as yet imperfectly understood. But my working hours would have seemed ridiculously short even in your most ardent trade-unionists. Only for a few years in every century was my mind actually absent from the contemporary world.
Only for a decade or two would I devote my mornings to formulating the results of my research. Though inevitably the past, and my study of the past, would be nearly always in my thoughts, the great bulk of my time was occupied with other activities.
- Navigation menu?
- Pamphlets of Destiny: Last Men in London;
- A Conventional Matchmaking (short play)?
- Dark Desires (Club Medici Book 1);
- The Geopolitics of East Asia: The Search for Equilibrium?
- Some Descendants of JOHN T. SQUIRE BOYD (1795 SC-1872 AL)!
- Z 2134 (Z 2134 Series Book 1)?
For decade after decade I would merely watch the manifold operations of our great community, wandering into all countries, seeking intimacy with all sorts of persons, peering through microscopes and astronomical instruments, watching the birth of inventions in other minds, studying the eugenists' plans for new generations, or the latest improvements in ethereal navigation. Much of my time was spent in ether-ships, much in the Uranian colonies, much in the interior of the mine-honeycombed Pluto.
Sometimes I would go as a guest into the Land of the Young to spend years in comparing our own young things with the primitive races of the past. Occasionally I have been chiefly concerned for a decade at a time with the appreciation or practice of some creative art, most often with our supreme art, which I must reluctantly call 'telepathic verse'.
Somewhat as auditory verse uses sound, this most subtle of all arts uses our direct sensitivity to ethereal vibrations for the evocation of rhythms and patterns of sensory images and ideas. Sometimes, on the other hand, I have been absorbed in some special problem of natural science, and have done little but follow the experiments of scientific workers.
Much of my time, of course, has been given to cosmology, and much to metaphysics; for in my world these subjects compel the attention of every man and woman. Sometimes for a year or so I would do little but rebuild my house or cultivate my garden; or I would become wholly absorbed in the invention or construction of some toy for a child friend. Sometimes my main preoccupation for several years has been intimacy with some woman, of my own nation or another.
It must be confessed that I am more disposed to this kind of refreshment than most of my fellows. But I do not regret it. In these many brief lyrical matings of body and mind I seem to experience in a very special manner that which unites the developed and the primitive. Now and then, like most of my fellows, I spend a decade or so in lonely wandering, giving myself wholly to the sensuous and instinctive life. It was on one of these occasions that I first met the translucent woman whom I have called Panther.
Many have I loved; but with her, whom I meet only in the wilderness, I have a very special relation. For whereas my spirit turns ever to the past, hers turns to the future; and each without the other is an empty thing. This great freedom and variety of life, and this preponderance of leisure over work, are characteristic of my world.
The engineer, the chemist, even the agriculturist and the ethereal navigator, spend less time at their own special tasks than in watching the lives of others. Indeed it is only by means of this system of mutual observation, augmented by our constant telepathic intercourse, that we can preserve that understanding of one another which is the life-blood of our community. In your world this perfect accord of minds is impossible. Yet your differences of racial temperament and of acquired bias are as nothing beside the vast diversity of innate disposition which is at once our constant danger and our chief strength.
From the time when I had reached full maturity of mind, and had become expert in my special calling, up to my present age of twenty thousand Years, my life has been even, though eventful. I have of course had my difficulties and anxieties, my griefs and my triumphs. I lost my two closest friends in an ether-ship disaster.
Another friend, younger than myself, has developed in such a strange manner that, though I do my best to understand him telepathically, I cannot but feel that he is seriously abnormal, and will sooner or later either come to grief or achieve some novel splendour. This has been my most serious anxiety apart from my work. Work has been by far the most important factor in my life. Peculiarly gifted by inheritance, I have co-operated with the equally gifted fellow-workers of my generation to raise the art of past exploration to a new range of power.
My novitiate was spent in studying one of the earlier Neptunian civilizations. Since then I have acquired considerable first-hand knowledge of every one of the eighteen human species. But the great bulk of my work has been done among the First Men, and upon the particular crisis which you can present.
Apart from the exigencies of my work, two events have produced profound changes in my life; but they were events of public rather than private significance, and have affected the whole race with equal urgency. One was the first occasion on which we awakened into the racial mentality. The other was the discovery of the Mad Star, and of the doom of our world. For all of us these two great happenings have changed a life of serenely victorious enterprise into something more mysterious, more pregnant, and more tragic.
IT was with an overwhelming sense of the mystery and formidable beauty of existence that I hastened, after the racial awakening, toward that Arctic settlement which we call the Portal to the Past. Travelling now by flying-boat, I soon reached the icefields; and by noon the great towers which marked my destination stood like bristles on the horizon.
I'd like to be notified of new arrivals in the following categories.
Already I encountered many other boats and boatless flyers, bound for the same goal. Presently I arrived, docked my little vessel in her appointed garage, and entered the great white gate of the particular tower which concerned me. Greeting some of my colleagues, I passed through the entrance hall and stepped into one of the many lifts. In a few moments I had sunk a thousand feet below the ground.
I then proceeded along a lofty and well-lit passage, in the walls of which were doors, at intervals of a hundred yards. One of these I opened. Within was a comfortable room, in which were chairs, a table, cupboards, and a bed. At the far side of the room was a window, opening from ceiling to ground, and beyond it a delightful sunny garden. How could this be, you wonder, a thousand feet below ground? Had you walked out into the garden, you would have seen that in the luminous blue ceiling there blazed an artificial sun, and you would have felt a refreshing breeze, which issued from among the bushes.
Behind every one of the doors in the many underground passages you would have found similar rooms and gardens, varying only in detail according to the tastes of their occupiers. Such are the apartments where we explorers of the past undertake our strange adventures. You ask, why in the Arctic, why underground? Our work demands that the mind shall be isolated from the contemporary human world; only in a remote land, and beneath its surface, can we escape the telepathic influence of the world-population.
Our telepathic intercourse is based on the transmission and reception of ethereal vibrations from brain to brain. Normally our powers of reception are kept under strict control, so that we receive messages only when we will. But, in the peculiar trance which is our medium for exploring the past, this control fails; so that, unless the explorer is isolated, his mind is lashed like a pond in which torrential rain is falling.
When I had entered my room and shut my door, I went out into my garden and walked up and down for a while, preparing my mind for its adventure. I then brought out from the room a drawer full of rolls of microscopically figured tape, which in my world take the place of books. In normal circumstances these little rolls work by systematically interrupting the radiation of a special instrument.
This radiation penetrates the brain of the' reader', and is interpreted telepathically by the telepathic organ of his brain. But since in the catacombs no radiation other than the normal solar wave-lengths is permitted, we explorers have to learn actually to read the rolls, with the aid of a microscope. I now spent many hours lying on the turf in the sunshine, reading about the epoch which I was to visit. After a while I re-entered the room and pressed a button in the wall. A tray appeared, bearing an appetizing meal.
When I had finished this, and dismissed the tray, I returned to the garden and my studies. For a period equivalent to about ten days I lived in this manner, studying, meditating, eating occasionally, but sleeping not at all. Sometimes I would break off my studies to tend my garden. Frequently I would swim about in the pond among the bushes. But for the most part I merely browsed on my books or on my own records of the past. Toward the end of this period of preparation, I grew desperately sleepy. To keep myself awake, I had to walk up and down more and more, and my dips in the pond became more frequent.
It was almost time to be gone. I drew my little bed out into the garden and made it ready to receive me. I pressed another button, which would make day slowly become night. I took a final dip and a final walk, then staggered to my bed and lay down in the twilight. But even yet I must not sleep. Instead, I concentrated my attention on the recurrent rise and fall of my own breathing, and on the nature of time. This process I had to maintain for about thirty hours, without food or sleep or any respite.
Toward the end of this period, had you seen me, you would have said that I was at last falling asleep, and finally you would have declared me to be in a very profound slumber. And so in a manner I was, save that a single organ in my brain, usually dormant, was now intensively active, and preparing to take possession of my whole body as soon as my brain should have been refreshed by its deep sleep.
After a couple of days of unconsciousness I did indeed wake, but not to the familiar surroundings. For months, even years or decades, my body might now remain inert upon its bed, save for periodic risings to perform its natural functions of eating, drinking and excretion. Frequently also it would walk for hours at a time in the garden or bathe in the pond. But these activities would be carried out in complete abstraction, and had anyone spoken to me at these times, I should have been unaware. For the higher centres of my brain were wholly possessed by the past.
To anyone watching me during these routine activities, I should have appeared as a sleep-walker. At these times, no less than during the long periods of quiescence on my bed, the observer would have seen that my face, and sometimes my whole body, was constantly influenced by emotion and thought. For during the whole trance, of course, my brain would be experiencing sequences of events in the remote past, and my whole body would respond to these experiences with my normal emotional reactions.
Thus to the observer I should appear to be asleep and dreaming, save that my expressions would be far more definite and systematic than those of a dreamer. Here I will mention one point of philosophical interest. The duration of the trance has no relation to the duration of the past events observed. Thus I might lie in my comfortable prison for a year, and in that time I might observe many years of past events, or many thousands of Years, or even the whole span of man's history.
The length of the trance depends only on the complexity of the matter observed. I might for instance spend a year in observing an immense number of simultaneous events which took only a few minutes to occur. Or I might cover the whole life of one individual in far more detail than was afforded by his own consciousness of his life story.
Or I might sweep through whole epochs, tracing out only some one simple thread of change. In fact the length of the trance depends simply on the brain's capacity to assimilate, not upon the actual duration of the events observed. When as much material has been gathered as can be conveniently grasped, the explorer gradually withdraws his attention from the past. He then sinks into an undisturbed sleep which may last for several weeks. During this phase his body shows none of that ceaseless emotional expression which is characteristic of the main trance.
It lies inert, as though stunned. Finally the explorer's attention begins to concentrate itself again, and to revert once more to his own body and its surroundings. He wakes, and lies for a while passively accepting the new visual impressions. He then lives in his apartments for months or years recording his experiences in rough notes, to be organized at a later date.
Sometimes, when this process is finished, he chooses to return at once, without respite, to the past for further data. Sometimes he leaves his room to confer with other workers. Sometimes he decides to drop his work and return to the contemporary world for refreshment. How it comes that at the moment of the onset of the trance the explorer is freed from the limitations of his own date and place I cannot tell you.
Suffice it that the process involves both a special organ in the brain and a special technique, which has to be learned through a long apprenticeship. In that moment of awakening the worker has seemingly a confused experience of all the great successive epochal phases of the human spirit, up to his own date. But as the content of that supreme moment almost wholly escapes his memory as soon as it is past, it is impossible to say anything definite about it. He seems, indeed, to see in a flash, as though from another dimension of time, the whole historical order of events.
Of course, he sees them only schematically. Their vast complexity of detail cannot be grasped in an instantaneous view. What he experiences can only be described unintelligibly I fear as a summation of all happening, of all physical, mental and spiritual flux. One is tempted to say also that he is aware of the human aspect of this flux as a vast slumber of the spirit, punctuated with moments of watchfulness, a vast stagnation troubled here and there with tremors of tense activity.
Though all this is seen in an instant, it does not appear static, but alive with real passage and change. This sublime moment must not be permitted to endure, for it is lethal. Immediately the explorer must begin to select that part of the historical order which he desires to study.
To do this he must adopt the fundamental attitude of mind, or temperamental flavour, which he knows to be distinctive of the desired period. This process demands very great skill, and involves a host of uncouth and nerve-racking experiences. As soon as he begins to succeed in assuming the appropriate mental attitude, all the periods save that which he has chosen fade out of his consciousness, and the chosen period becomes increasingly detailed. He has then to specialize his mental attitude still further, so as to select a particular phase or group-culture within his period.
And this specialization he may carry further again, till he has brought himself into the mind of some particular individual at a particular moment. Having once gained a footing in the individual mind, he can henceforth follow all its experiences from within; or, if he prefers, he can remain in one moment of that mind, and study its microscopic detail. Such is the essence of our method. First we have to attain the momentary glimpse of eternity, or, more precisely, to take up for one instant the point of view of eternity.
Last Men in London | W. Olaf Stapledon
Then by imagination and sympathy we have to re-enter the stream of time by assuming the fundamental form of the minds or the mind that we wish to observe. In this process we have to work by means of a very delicate 'selectivity', not wholly unlike that physical selectivity which you exercise when you pick up ethereal messages on a particular wavelength. But this process of picking up past minds is far more delicate, since the system of basic mental patterns is very much more complex than the one-dimensional series of wave-frequencies.
When our ancestors first acquired the power of 'entering into the point of view of eternity' they suffered many disasters through ignorance of its principles. Very many of the earliest explorers succumbed simply by failing to keep their bodies alive during the trance.
Their sleep turned into death. Others fell into such violent convulsions that they damaged themselves irreparably, and were mercifully killed by the superintendents. In other cases the normal trance lasted indefinitely, the body remaining alive but unresponsive for millions of years. A section of the catacombs was until recently filled with these persons, who were looked after by the attendants in the hope that some day they might wake. But a few thousand years ago it was decided to do away with some, and use others for experimental purposes.
Of the early explorers who successfully emerged from 'the point of view of eternity' into some past epoch, many returned insane. Others, though sane when they woke, kept falling into the trance again and again. Others were so embittered by their experiences that they became plague-spots in the community, and had to be requested to stop their hearts. Of these, some few refused, and remained at large, doing so much damage that finally they were put to death. One or two of the pioneers, and one or two of my contemporaries also, have returned from the trance with a peculiar kind of insanity, which suggested that they had actually found their way into the future, and that they still regarded our contemporary world as an episode in the remote past.
Unfortunately they could give no account of their experiences; but in one of the earliest cases the recorded ravings seem to refer to the Mad Star, which did not earn its name until long afterwards.
In the early stages of the work few persons were engaged on it, and all that they could do was to collect random incidents from the very recent past. Gradually, however, the technique was greatly improved. It became possible to inspect almost any sequence of events in the history of our own species. This could only be done because the basic mental patterns of all the races of our own species had already been fairly well worked out by our psychologists and historians. Later, however, the psychologists began to formulate a vast theoretical system of possible basic mental patterns; and after some barren experimenting the explorers finally learned to assume certain of these patterns in the trance.
The result was startling. Not only did they, as was expected, gain access to many primitive cultures upon Neptune, but also they began to find themselves sometimes in alien worlds, apparently much smaller than their familiar planet. The proportions of common things were all altered. The seas rose into great waves; the lands were often buckled into huge mountain ranges. The native organisms, though unfortified by artificial atoms, were able to attain great size and yet remain slender and agile. And these facts were observed through the medium of human types the existence of which had never been guessed.
The very planets which these races inhabited could not be identified. No wonder, since all traces of Earth and Venus had long ago been wiped out by the solar collision that had driven man to Neptune. This discovery of Past worlds Was even more exciting to us than the discovery of America to your own ancestors; for it entailed incidentally the overthrow of a well-grounded theory, which traced the evolution of the human race to a primitive Neptunian organism. Interest in the exploration of the past now greatly increased. The technique was developed far beyond the dreams of the early explorers.
Little by little the outline of man's whole history on Earth and Venus Was plotted, and tract after tract of it was elaborated in some detail. In observing these extinct species, the explorers found traces of experience very different from their own. Although, of course, the basic mental pattern or temperamental ground-plan was in every case one which the explorer himself had been able to conceive, and even in a manner assume, in order to make contact with these primitive beings at all, yet when the contact had been made, he seemed to enter into a new mental world.
For instance, he had to deal with minds whose sensory powers were much more limited than his own. Looking through those Primitive eyes, he saw things in much less detail than through his own eyes, so that, though he observed everything with all the precision that his host's crude vision could afford, yet everything seemed to him blurred, and out of focus.
The colours of objects, too, were diluted and simplified; for several colours familiar to us are hidden from more primitive eyes. Consequently the world as seen through those eyes appears to us at first strangely drab, almost monochromatic, as though the observer himself had become partially colour-blind. The other senses also are impoverished. For instance, all touched shapes and textures seem curiously vague and muffled. The sensations of sexual intercourse, too, which with us are richly variegated and expressive, are reduced in the primitive to a nauseating sameness and formlessness.
It is impossible for you to realize the jarring, maddening effects of this coarseness and emptiness of all the sensory fields, especially to the inexperienced explorer, who has not yet learned to submit his spirit generously to the primitive.
Last Men In London
In the sphere of thought, we find all the primitive species of man, however different from one another, equally remote from ourselves. Even the most advanced members of the most advanced primitive species inhabit worlds of thought which to us seem naive and grotesque. The explorer finds himself condemned to cramp the wings of his mind within the caging of some gimcrack theory or myth, which, if he willed, he could easily shatter. Even in those rare cases in which the ground-plan of some edifice of primitive thought happens to be true to the simplest basic facts of the cosmos, as in your own theory of relativity, the superstructure which it ought to support is wholly absent.
The explorer thus has the impression that the cosmos, with himself in it, has been flattened into a two-dimensional map. In the sphere of desire the explorer has to deal with very unfamiliar and very jarring kinds of experience. In all human species, of course, the most fundamental animal desires are much the same, the desires for safety, food, a mate, and companionship; but the kind of food, the kind of companionship, and so on, which the primitive human mind seeks, are often very foreign and distasteful to us.
Take the case of food. Of course the explorer's body, lying in the catacombs on Neptune, does not, if perchance he is inhabiting some primitive glutton of the past, suffer dyspepsia; save occasionally, through the influence of suggestion. But none the less he may experience acute distress, for his brain is forced to accept sensory complexes of overeating which in normal life would disgust him. And they disgust him now. Even when overeating does not occur, the food percepts are often repulsive to our centres of taste and odour.
In the matter of personal beauty, too, the explorer is at first repelled by the grotesque caricature of humanity which among primitive species passes for perfection, much as you yourselves may be repelled by the too-human animality of apes. Often, when he is following the growth of some primitive love-sentiment in your epoch, he is nauseated by the adored object, and by the intimacy in which he is reluctantly entangled. It is much as though a part of the mind were to watch the other part entrapped into romantic adoration of a female ape; as if with infinite disgust one were to find himself pressing against those hairy thighs.
But indeed in this matter, as in others, since it is not mere animality that disgusts, but the failure to be human, the explorer is far more outraged than if he were compelled to cohabit with an ape. With familiarity, however, these repulsions can be surmounted. Just as your disgust of the ape's approximation to the human is a weakness in you, due to lack of vision and sympathy, so our tendency to a disgust of your own crude approximation to the human is a weakness in us, which we have to learn to transform into a reverent, though often ironical, sympathy.
Just as the surgeon may become accustomed to delving among viscera, and may even find beauty in them, so the explorer may and must accustom himself to all these primitive forms, and find beauty in them too. Of course the beauty which he discovers in the adored yet repulsive ape-woman is never simply identical with the beauty which delights the adoring ape-man; for it is a beauty which includes within itself both that which delights the primitive and that which disgusts the developed mind.
To all the preoccupations then, and to all the ways of life, and all the ideals, of the early races, the explorer must react with that delight which triumphs over contempt and disgust. Of course there is very much in this sphere which he can whole-heartedly enjoy, since much in primitive life is the unspoiled behaviour of the animal, and much also improves upon the animal.
But at a very early stage primitive man begins to torture his own nature into grotesque forms, inadvertently or by intent; much as, inadvertently, he tortures his domestic animals, and by intent he turns his pets into freaks and caricatures. This violation of his own nature increases as he gains power, and reaches its height in primitive industrial communities such as your own. In such phases the individual body and spirit become more and more distorted, impoverished, noisome.
The early explorer, studying these phases, was hard put to it to prevent his overwhelming indignation and nausea from spoiling his study. He had, of course, to observe it all as though it were happening to himself, since he observed it through the suffering minds of its victims. And so he was almost in the position of a sick doctor, whose spirit must triumph by delighting in the study of his own disease.
Grotesque sentiments such as the lust of business success or economic power of any kind, and indeed every purely self-regarding passion, from that of the social climber to that of the salvation-seeking ascetic, are experienced by the explorer with something of that shame which the child, emerging into adolescence, may feel toward the still-clinging fascination of his outgrown toys, or with such disgust as the youth may feel when he wakes from some unworthy sexual infatuation. But this shame and disgust the explorer must learn to transcend as the surgeon the disgust of blood. Even the passions of hate and gratuitous cruelty, so widespread in your own and all other primitive species, he must learn to accept with sympathy, in spite of his spontaneous revulsion from them and his well-justified moral condemnation of them.
One great difference between ourselves and most primitive minds is that, while in us all motives are fully conscious, fully open to introspection, in them scarcely any of their more complex motives are ever brought fully to light. Thus when the explorer is following some train of action in a primitive mind, he very often observes an immense discrepancy between the mind's own view of its motives and the real motives which he himself sees to be in fact the source of the activity. To experience all the daily and hourly perversities of a life-long complex, to experience them not merely through clinical observation but in the most intimate manner, puts him to an extremely severe strain.
At every turn his own mind is wrenched by the conflict in the mind that he is observing. And in him the conflict is wholly conscious and shattering. Not a few of our early observers became infected by the disorder which they had been studying, so that when they returned to their native world they could no longer behave with perfect sanity, and had to be destroyed. To sum up, then, the earlier explorers were often desperately fatigued by the monotony of primitive existence and the sameness of primitive minds; and also they fell into disgust, an agony of disgust, with the crudity, insensitivity and folly of the primitive.
From the one point of view it might be said that the Neptunian found himself condemned to sift the almost identical sand-grains of a desert, and even to record the minute distinctive features of each grain. From the other point of view, it was as though he had been banished from the adult world to the nursery or the jungle, and was actually imprisoned in the mind of babe or beast. For, once settled in the mind which he has chosen to study, the explorer is indeed a captive until study calls him elsewhere. Though he thinks his own thoughts, he perceives only what the other perceives, and is forced to endure every least sensation, thought, desire and emotion of the other, be it never so banal.
Like one who feels within his own mind the beginnings of some mania or obsession which, though he recognizes that it is irrational or base, he cannot control, so the explorer is doomed to experience sympathetically all his subject's thinking and desiring, even while he is nauseated by it. No wonder, then, that many early explorers were tortured by disgust or ennui.
Long before my time, most of these dangers and irks of exploration had been greatly reduced. One serious trouble, however, remains, and has even increased. A great army of workers was of course bred with special aptitudes for supra-temporal experience, and with special insight into the primitive types of mind.
These new workers were given also a special enthusiasm and sympathy in respect of the past; and herein lay their danger. In my day every member of the race has something of this enthusiasm and sympathy; and we explorers have them in an extreme degree. So enthralling do we find the past, even in all its monotony and squalor, that many have succumbed to its spell, and lost all footing in the present world. Rapt in some great movement of history, or in some individual life-story, the explorer may lose, little by little, all memory of the future world of which he is a native, may in fact cease to be a future mind inspecting a past mind, and become instead a mere undertone or freakish propensity in the past mind itself, or in many Past minds.
In time even this may vanish, so that the explorer becomes identical with the explored. If this occurs, his own body, situated in the future and in Neptune, gradually disintegrates and dies. Certain other troubles hamper even the most modern explorers, in spite of improved technique. The method by which we enter a past epoch is, as I have said, this process of shaping our minds to the basic pattern or ground tone of the epoch to be studied.
But when the explorer desires to enter a particular individual, he must try to assume the complex form or temperament which is distinctive of that individual; or else he must seize on one unique desire or thought, which he supposes to be peculiar to that individual at a certain date of his life. Now this process of mental infection or association does not necessarily work in his favour. Often, when he is trying to establish himself in some mind, or even when he has long been established, some chance association in his own thought-process may suddenly snatch him away from the object of his study and fling him into some other mind.
Sometimes this other is a contemporary of the recent object of study; but often it is a mind in some different epoch or world. When this happens, not only is the study broken short, but also the explorer may be very seriously damaged. His brain, on Neptune, suffers such a fundamental and rapid readjustment that it is grievously jarred and strained, and may never recover. Even if he does not actually succumb, he may have to take a long holiday for recuperation. Fortunately, however, it is only the more extravagant dislocations that are really dangerous. Occasional jolts into minds of the same basic pattern as the original object of study are more exasperating than harmful.
Often when the explorer is resident in a particular individual he encounters through that individual's perception another individual, who, he thinks, would repay immediate study. He has then to observe this other carefully through the perceptions of the first, so as to discover, if possible, some entry into his mind.
This may be very difficult, since one primitive mind's awareness of another is often so erroneous and biased that the perceptions which would make for true understanding of the other fail to occur. Moreover there is always the danger that, when the explorer attempts this 'change of mounts' he may fall between them, and be flung violently once more into his native location in time and space. Or again, he may at the critical moment be snatched by some chance association into some other epoch or world. Such accidents are of course very damaging, and may prove fatal.
Here I may mention that some minds, scattered up and down the ages, defeat all attempts to enter them. They are very rare, only one in millions of millions; but they are such as we should most desire to enter. Each one of these rare beings has caused the ruin of a great company of our most able explorers. They must be in some vital respect alien to us, so that we cannot assume their nature accurately enough to enter them. Possibly they are themselves subject to an influence future even to us. Possibly they are possessed and subtly transformed by minds native to some world in a remote stellar system.
Possibly, even, they are under the direct influence of the cosmical mind, which, we hope, will awaken in the most remote of all futures. Explorers of the past incur one other danger which I may mention. Sometimes the past individual under observation dies suddenly, before the explorer can foresee the death, and free himself. In many cases, of course, he knows the date at which the other's death will occur, and can therefore, having prepared himself for a normal departure, observe the course of events right up to the moment of death, and yet escape before it is too late.
But sometimes, especially in pioneering in some unexplored region of history, the explorer is as ignorant of the immediate future as the observed mind itself.. In such cases a dagger, a bullet, a flash of lightning, even an unforeseen heart-failure, may fling him back to his own world with a shattering jerk, which may irreparably damage his brain, or even kill him outright. Many of the early observers of your recent European War were caught in this manner. Resident in the mind of some soldier in action, the observer himself was annihilated by the shell that destroyed the observed.
If burial were one of our practices, we, like you, might have our war graves of to , though they would not have been dug till two thousand million years later. Nor would they be decorated by national emblems. Nor would they bear the cross. Our power of taking effect on past minds is much more restricted than our power of passively observing their processes. It is also a much more recent acquisition. To you it seems impossible; for future events, you suppose, have no being whatever until their predecessors have already ceased to exist.
I can only repeat that, though future events have indeed no temporal being until their predecessors have ceased to exist with temporal being, all events have also eternal being. This does not mean that time is unreal, but that evanescence is not the whole truth about the passing of events. Now some minds, such as ours, which are to some extent capable of taking up the point of view of eternity, and of experiencing the eternal aspects of past events in other minds, can also to some extent contribute to the experience of those minds in the past.
Thus when I am observing your mental processes, my activity of observing is, in one sense, located in the past. Although it is carried out from the point of view of my own experience in the future, it enters the past through the eternal side of past events in your minds. When I act upon your minds, as for instance in inculcating thoughts and images in the writer of this book, that activity of mine is located in your age.
Yet it is done, so to speak, from my purchase in the future, and with all my Neptunian experience in view. From this rare but important action of the future on the past it follows that past events, which themselves cause future events, are in part the product of future events.
This may seem unintelligible. But in fact there is no more mystery in it than in the reciprocal interaction of two minds that know one another. The one, which owes its form partly to the other, is itself one factor determining the other's form. As I said before, the only way in which we can influence a past mind is by suggesting in that mind some idea or desire, or other mental event, which is intelligible to a mind of that particular order, and is capable of being formulated in terms of its own experience. Some minds are much more receptive than others. The great majority are wholly impervious to our influence; and, even among those who are not insensitive, very many are so strictly dominated by their own desires and prejudices that any thought or valuation which we consider worth suggesting to them is at once violently rejected.
There are many complications and difficulties in this strange work. In the first place we may chance to do serious damage to the past mind by unwise influence, for instance by presenting it with ideas which are too disturbing to its nature. For though some ideas are so foreign to a mind that they are simply rejected, others, though alien to the superficial part of its nature, may be incendiary to the submerged part, as sparks falling upon tinder. Thus an idea which to the explorer seems straightforward and harmless may produce in the past mind a self-discrepant experience both of revelation and of horror; and the resulting conflict throughout the mind may lead to catastrophe.
Or the idea may so captivate and exalt the unfortunate person that he loses all sense of proportion, is instigated to some fantastic course of action, and finally comes into serious collision with his society. Another difficulty lies in the fact that our influence is not always voluntary. Thoughts and desires of our own, which we have no intention of transmitting, may sometimes find their way into the mind under observation; and their effect may be disastrous.
For instance, a sudden surge of contempt or indignation on the part of an inexperienced explorer, when he observes his 'host' commit some egregious folly or meanness, may flood a hitherto complacent mind with bewildering self-contempt. And this novel experience, coming thus without preparation, may shatter the whole flimsy structure of the mind by destroying its carapace of self-pride. Or again, the explorer's own clear-eyed and ecstatic view of the cosmos, as both tragic and worshipful, may sear the optimistic faith of a primitive religious mind, without being able to raise it to the loftier worship.
Our influence, then, upon the past is a very much more precarious and restricted power than our past-exploration. All that we can do is to offer to a very small minority of minds some vague hint of a truth or of a beauty which would otherwise be missed, or some special precept, or seminal idea, relevant to the mind's particular circumstances. This may be done either by a constant 'tilting' of the mind in a certain general direction, or, much more rarely, by occasional impregnation of the mind with some precise idea or valuation. In very exceptional cases, which number no more than one in many thousands of millions, we can subject the individual to a constant stream of detailed suggestion which he himself can embody in a more or less faithful report.
But here we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. To undergo this detailed suggestion, the individual must be extremely receptive; but in the main those that are extremely receptive lack originality, so that, in spite of their detailed receptivity, they either entirely miss the true spirit of the communication, or fail to embody it in a manner capable of stirring their fellows.
On the other hand the highly original minds, even when they are also very receptive, tend deliberately to ignore the detail of the suggestion. Thus they produce works which, though true to the spirit of the suggestion, are embodied in manners expressive of their own genius. I must now give you a more precise idea of the strange experiences which befall the explorer when he is trying to get a footing in some particular moment of some particular past mind.
Each explorer has his own technique, and each adventure its own vicissitudes; but I shall tell simply of my own approach to your world and epoch on that occasion which I have already begun to describe. Emerging presently from that ineffable moment in which I participated in the eternal view, I was at the outset conscious of a vague restlessness, a most poignant yet indefinite yearning, and along with this a violent and confused agitation of all my senses.
Even though this was not my first excursion into these realms, I was overwhelmed with the pathos of man's ever-unsatisfied and blindly fumbling desire, and equally by the tyranny of his rare joys and the torture of his distresses. At the outset this yearning and this sensory tumult were, so to speak, all that there was of me; but with an effort I woke to something more precise. I held the obscure thing away from me, and looked at it calmly. As I did so, it developed under my very eyes, the eyes of my mind, into a surge of specific primitive cravings and passions, which, though I lived them as my own, I also regarded, as it were, from a great height of aloofness.
I was now experiencing the summed and confused experiences of all mankind. They came to me with the vagueness of a composite photograph, but also with that sense of multitude, of innumerable individual uniquenesses, which one may sometimes catch in listening to the murmur of a great crowd. Yet all these multitudinous experiences were in a manner mine, and combined into one experience, like the single deliverance of a man's two eyes.
I was terrified and longed for safety, hungry and lusted for food. I was enraged against some obscure adversary. I tasted the joy of murder, and equally the final despair of the victim. I was solitary, and my flesh burned with sexual potency; outcast, and my mind hungered for companionship. Against this vast enduring background of primitive craving I experienced also momentary gleams of loftier desire, rare and faint as voices heard above the storm. I felt the longing and the delight of spiritual intimacy with another mind, the longing and the delight of truth, the longing and the delight and glory of participation in a great community, the longing and the delight of faith.
I felt also the terror, the despair, the peace and final ecstasy, which is the way of true worship. But all these illuminations of the spirit were no more than stars piercing for a moment the storm-cloud of the primitive. While I was undergoing all these obscure impulses, tumultuous messages were also pouring in through all my senses.
At first indeed I received such a medley of impressions that I was aware only of a nondescript and distressing commotion. But, as I attended to this, the matter of the various senses began to differentiate itself. Thus at first I seemed to be subjected to a general pressure all over my body; but under scrutiny this developed into a profusion of hardnesses and softnesses, roughnesses and smoothnesses, rotundities and angularities. I felt the pressure of earth under my feet. I felt myself lying on hard ground, and then on a kindly bed. With my hands I felt a multitude of textures, as of stone, tree-trunks, fur, and the incomparable touch of human flesh, in all its repellent and its enticing modes.
I felt also a vague warmth and chill, which, by attending to them, I could develop into violent heat and cold, or the bite of fire and frost. Innumerable pains invaded me. At first they seemed to struggle against a sense of physical well-being, a tingling healthiness; but soon pain triumphed; for it had at the outset a compelling poignancy which increased alarmingly under attention. The whole surface of my body, it seemed, was tortured; and my internal organs were all gripped in agony.
My brain throbbed and burned, and was stabbed through and through in all directions. But in truth the brain that was thus tormented was not mine, nor the bowels mine, nor the skin. The source of my torture lay in the innumerable bodies of my predecessors. Wrenching my attention from this horror, I noticed a confusion of tastes, fragrances and stenches. And along with these there came sounds. A muffled roar, as of the sea or a distant bombardment, grew as I listened to it into a crashing and shrieking, which reverberated through my whole body.
By a special act of attention, a straining of the mind's ear, I could penetrate beyond this uproar, and hear an obscure vocal sound, which, as I listened, became inarticulate lamentation, flecked here and there with laughter. In the field of vision I experienced at first nothing but a vague brightness above and obscurity below.
Related Last Men in London
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved