[To the few who love me and whom I love--to those who feel rather than
to those who think--to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams
as in the only realities--I offer this book of Truths, not in its
character of Truth-Teller, but for the Beauty that abounds in its
Truth, constituting it true. To these I present the composition as an
Art-Product alone,--let us say as a Romance; or, if I be not urging
too lofty a claim, as a Poem.
What I here propound is true.--therefore it cannot die; or if by any
means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will "rise again to
the Life Everlasting."
Nevertheless, it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged
after I am dead.]
It is with humility really unassumed--it is with a sentiment even of
awe--that I pen the opening sentence of this work: for of all
conceivable subjects, I approach the reader with the most solemn--the
most comprehensive--the most difficult--the most august.
What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their sublimity--
sufficiently sublime in their simplicity--for the mere enunciation of
I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical--of
the Material and Spiritual Universe--of its Essence, its Origin, its
Creation, its Present Condition, and its Destiny. I shall be so rash,
moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to
question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly
reverenced of men.
In the beginning, let me as distinctly as possible announce--not the
theorem which I hope to demonstrate--for, whatever the mathematicians
may assert, there is, in this world at least, no such thing as
demonstration--but the ruling idea which, throughout this volume, I
shall be continually endeavoring to suggest.
My general proposition, then, is this:--In the Original Unity of the
First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of
their Inevitable Annihilation.
In illustration of this idea, I propose to take such a survey of the
Universe that the mind may be able really to receive and to perceive
an individual impression.
He who from the top of Aetna casts his eyes leisurely around, is
affected chiefly by the extent and diversity of the scene. Only by a
rapid whirling on his heel could he hope to comprehend the panorama in
the sublimity of its oneness. But as, on the summit of Aetna, no man
has thought of whirling on his heel, so no man has ever taken into his
brain the full uniqueness of the prospect; and so, again, whatever
considerations lie involved in this uniqueness have as yet no
practical existence for mankind.
I do not know a treatise in which a survey of the Universe--using the
word in its most comprehensive and only legitimate acceptation--is
taken at all; and it may be as well here to mention that by the term
"Universe," wherever employed without qualification in this essay, I
mean, in most cases, to designate the utmost conceivable expanse of
space, with all things, spiritual and material, that can he imagined
to exist within the compass of that expanse. In speaking of what is
ordinarily implied by the expression "Universe," I shall take a phrase
of limitation--"the Universe of Stars." Why this distinction is
considered necessary will be seen in the sequel.
But even of treatises on the really limited, although always assumed
as the unlimited, Universe of stars, I know none in which a survey,
even of this limited Universe, is so taken as to warrant deductions
from its individuality. The nearest approach to such a work is made in
the "Cosmos" of Alexander Von Humboldt. He presents the subject,
however, not in its individuality but in its generality. His theme, in
its last result, is the law of each portion of the merely physical
Universe, as this law is related to the laws of every other portion of
this merely physical Universe. His design is simply synaeretical. In a
word, he discusses the universality of material relation, and
discloses to the eye of Philosophy whatever inferences have hitherto
lain hidden behind this universality. But however admirable be the
succinctness with which he has treated each particular point of his
topic, the mere multiplicity of these points occasions, necessarily,
an amount of detail, and thus an involution of idea, which preclude
all individuality of impression.
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About the Author
Creator of the modern detective story, innovative architect of the horror genre, and a poet of extraordinary musicality, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) remains one of America’s most popular and influential writers. His books of collected tales and poems brim with psychological depth, almost painful intensity, and unexpected — and surprisingly modern — flashes of dark humor and irony.
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