Across the Zodiac eBook

Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 587 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.

“Yes,” answered my host, “in so far, at least, that they have no wish to change them, no idea that any great social or political reforms could improve our condition.  Our lesson in Communism has rendered all agitation on such matters, all tendency to democratic institutions, all appeals to popular passions, utterly odious and alarming to us.  But that we are happy I will venture neither to affirm nor to deny.  Physically, no doubt, we have great advantages over you, if I rightly understand your description of life on Earth.  We have got rid of old age, and, to a great extent, of disease.  Many of our scientists persist in the hope to get rid of death; but, since all that has been accomplished in this direction was accomplished some two thousand years back, and yet we continue to die, general opinion hardly concurs in this hope.”

“How do you mean,” I inquired, “that you have got rid of old age and of disease?”

“We have,” he replied, “learned pretty fully the chemistry of life.  We have found remedies for that hardening of the bones and weakening of the muscles which used to be the physical characteristics of declining years.  Our hair no longer whitens; our teeth, if they decay, are now removed and naturally replaced by new ones; our eyes retain to the last the clearness of their sight.  A famous physician of five thousand years back said in controversy on this subject, that ’the clock was not made to go for ever;’ by which he meant that human bodies, like the materials of machines, wore out by lapse of time.  In his day this was true, since it was impossible fully to repair the waste and physical wear and tear of the human frame.  This is no longer so.  The clock does not wear out, but it goes more and more slowly and irregularly, and stops at last for some reason that the most skilful inspection cannot discover.  The body of him who dies, as we say, ’by efflux of time’ at the age of fifty is as perfect as it was at five-and twenty. [8] Yet few men live to be fifty-five, [9] and most have ceased to take much interest in practical life, or even in science, by forty-five.” [10]

“That seems strange,” I said.  “If no foreign body gets into the machinery, and the machinery itself does not wear out, it is difficult to understand why the clock should cease to go.”

“Would not some of your race,” he asked, “explain the mystery by suggesting that the human frame is not a clock, but contains, and owes its life to, an essence beyond the reach of the scalpel, the microscope, and the laboratory?”

“They hold that it is so.  But then it is not the soul but the body that is worn out in seventy or eighty of the Earth’s revolutions.”

“Ay,” he said; “but if man were such a duplex being, it might be that the wearing out of the body was necessary, and had been adapted to release the soul when it had completed its appropriate term of service in the flesh.”

I could not answer this question, and he did not pursue the theme.  Presently I inquired, “If you allow no appeal to popular feeling or passion, to what was I so nearly the victim?  And what is the terrorism that makes it dangerous to avow a credulity or incredulity opposed to received opinion?”

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Across the Zodiac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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