Part I, Chapter III of "Uranie"
INFINITE VARIETY OF BEINGS -- DIFFERENT METAMORPHOSES.
WE had long since left the tricolor system behind us in our flight. We passed near a great number of worlds very different from my earthly home. Some of them seemed to me to be entirely covered with water, and peopled by aquatic beings; others peopled solely by plants. We passed near several of them. What unimaginable variety!
On one among them, all the inhabitants seemed to me especially beautiful. Uranie informed me that their organization is altogether different from that of the children of the Earth, and that on those planets the human being perceives the physico-chemical operations which take place in the sustenance of the body. In our earthly organism, for instance, we do not see how the food which is taken assimilates; how the blood, the tissues and the bones are renewed; all these functions are automatically performed without the senses perceiving them. Thus it is that we suffer a thousand ailments whose origin is hidden, and often undiscoverable. Thus the human being feels the operations of the vital forces as we feel a pleasure or a pain. From each molecule of the body, so to speak, proceeds a nerve which transmits to the brain the various impressions it receives. If the terrestrial man were endowed with a similar nervous system, he could, by turning his glance inward, see, by the medium of his nerves, how food is transformed into chyle, this into blood, and blood into flesh, muscles, nerves, etc.; he would behold himself. But we are far from this; the vital centre of our perceptions being embarrassed by the many nerves of the lobes of the brain and the optic thalamus.
On another sphere which we passed during the night, that is to say, by its nocturnal hemisphere, the inhabitants are so formed that they are luminous, that they glow as if some phosphorescent emanation radiated from this strange source of light. A nocturnal reunion composed of a large number of persons, presents a truly fantastic appearance, because the light, as well as the color of the eyes, changes according to the diverse passions by which they are animated. In addition to this, the power of these glances are such that they exercise an influence both electric and magnetic of varying intensity and, in certain cases, fatal, causing the victim on whom they are fixed with sufficient concentration of purpose, to fall dead.
A little further on my celestial guide pointed out to me a world of which the inhabitants enjoy a valuable faculty; the soul has the power to pass into another body without undergoing death, which is often disagreeble and always sad. A savant who has spent his whole life laboring for the instruction of humanity, and who sees his end approach without being able to complete his noble tasks, may change his body for that of a young man, and begin a new life, still more useful than his former one. To effect this transmigration the consent of the youth and magnetic treatment by a competent physician are all that is necessary. One also sees, at times, two beings united by the bonds of a strong and sweet affection, effect a similar change of body after several years of union; the soul of the husband comes to dwell in the body of the wife and vice versa, for the remainder of their existence. The intimate experience of life becomes incomparably more complete for each of them. We also see savants, historians for instance, desirous of living two centuries instead of one, plunge themselves into the fictitious sleep of an artificial hibernation, which suspends animation in them for the half of each year, or even longer. Some succeed in prolonging life in this way to twice the length of the normal life of a centenarian.
A few seconds later, passing through another system, we encountered another species of beings entirely different from, and incontestably superior, to ours. With the inhabitants of the planet which we now had under our eyes, a world lit by a brilliant hydrogenized sun, it is not necessary for thought to be put into words to make itself understood. How often does it happen to us when some bright or ingenious idea visits our mind, to find it dissipated, vanished, obscured, or altogether changed before we have been able to express it in writing or in speech. The inhabitants of this planet have a sixth sense, which might be called autotelegraphic, by virtue of which, when the thinker is not opposed to it, thought transpires, and may be read upon an organ which very nearly takes the place of our forehead. These silent conversations are often the most profound and the most precious; they are always the most sincere.
We are innocently disposed to believe that the human organization, as it is on the Earth, leaves nothing to be desired. Yet, have we never regretted being obliged to listen against our will, to disagreeable words, to an absurd discourse, an inflated sermon, bad music, slander, or scandal! It is in vain for philosophers to pretend that we can close our ears to such sounds. Unhappily this is not the case. You cannot close your ears as you close your eyes. Here then is a hiatus. I was very much surprised to see a planet where Nature had not forgotten to attend to this detail. As we paused there for an instant Uranie pointed out to me that the ears of these beings closed like eyelids. "Here," she said, "there are fewer angry quarrels than on your planet, but political dissensions are much more bitter, as the contending parties close their ears effectually to the arguments of the opposite side, in spite of the efforts of the most eloquent lawyers to make them hear."
On another world, where phosphorus plays an important part, where the atmosphere is always charged with electricity when the temperature is very high, and of which the inhabitants have scarcely found it necessary to devise clothing, certain passions manifest themselves by the illumination of a part of the body. Here takes place, on a large scale, what passes on a small one on our earth, when, on a mild summer night we see the glow-worms burning silently with an amorous flame. It is curious to watch the appearance of these luminous pairs in the evening in the large cities. The color of the phosphorescence differs according to the sex, and its intensity varies according to age and temperament. The sterner sex burns with a red flame, more or less brilliant, and the gentler with a bluish flame, at times pale and mild. Only our glow-worms could form any idea, rudimentary indeed, of the nature of the feelings of these peculiar beings. I could not believe my eyes when we passed through the atmosphere of this planet; but I was still more surprised on arriving at the satellite of this singular world. It was a moon alone in the skies, on which a perpetual twilight reigned. Before us lay a somber valley. From the trees, growing on either side of this valley, were suspended human beings enveloped in shrouds. They had fastened themselves to the branches by the hair, and slept there in the midst of the most profound silence. What I had taken for shrouds was a tissue formed by the prolongation of their bleached and bristly hair. As I showed surprise at such a situation, Uranie told me that this was their manner of disposing of the dead, and awaiting a resurrection. Yes, on this world the inhabitants enjoy the faculty possessed by those insects which have the power of failing asleep in the chrysalis state, to emerge from it winged butterflies. Here there is, as it were, a second stage of being, and those in the first phase, the lowest and most material, aspire only to die in order that they may come to life again by a glorious metamorphosis. Each year of this world is equal to about two hundred terrestrial years. Its inhabitants pass two-thirds of the year in the lowest condition, the remaining third -- the winter -- in the chrysalis stage, and in the following spring those who are hanging to the trees feel life insensibly returning to their transformed flesh. They move, awaken, leave their locks hanging to the tree, from which they detach themselves, wonderful winged beings, and fly away into the aerial regions, to live there another Phenician year -- that is to say, two hundred of our terrestrial years.
We traversed thus a great number of planetary systems, and it seemed to me that all eternity would not be long enough to enable me fully to enjoy the spectacle of all these creations unknown to the earth; but my guide left me scarcely the time to be conscious of this feeling, and we proceeded to visit new suns and new worlds. We had almost come in contact in our journey with several transparent comets, which passed like a breath from one system to the other, and more than once I felt the desire to pause at wonderful planets, with verdant landscapes, of which the inhabitants would have been new subjects for study. The celestial Muse, however, unwearied, drew me on ever higher, ever farther, until at last we came to what seemed to be the outskirts of the Universe. The suns became more rare, less luminous, paler. The nights grew darker among the stars, and soon we found ourselves in the bosom of a veritable desert, the myriads of stars which constitute the Universe, visible from the earth, having withdrawn from view, reduced to a diminutive milky way, isolated in the infinite void.
"Here we are at last, then," I cried to myself, "at the uttermost verge of Creation."
"Behold!" she responded, pointing to the zenith.