New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





WE try to have independent expressions. Accept that it is not distance that has held the stars in unchanging position, if occasional, abrupt change of position has been seen at the distance of the stars, and it is implied that the not enormously distant stars are all about equally far away from this earth, or some would be greatly particularized, and that this earth does not move in an orbit, or stars would be seasonally particularized, but would not be, if the stars, in one composition revolve; also if this earth be relatively close to all stars, if many changes of magnitude and of appearance and disappearance have been seen at the distance of the stars, and, if, in the revolutions of the stars, they do not swirl in displacements as bewildering as a blizzard of luminous snowflakes, and if no state of inter-repulsion can be thought of, especially as many stars merge into others, this composition is a substantial, concave formation, or shell-like enclosure in which stars are points. So many of the expressions in the preceding chapter imply others, or all others. However, we have tried to have independent expressions. Of course we realize that the supposed difference between inductive and deductive reasoning is a false demarcation; nevertheless we feel that deductions piled upon other deductions are only architecture, and a great deal in this book expresses the notion that architecture should be kept in its own place. Our general expression is not that there should be no architecture and no mathematics in astronomy, or neo-astronomy; not that there should be no poetry in biology; no chemistry in physiology — but that "pure" architecture or "pure" mathematics, biology, chemistry, has its own field, even though each in inextricably bound up with all the other aspects of being. So of course the very thing that we object to in its extreme manifestations is essential to us in some degree, and the deductive is findable somewhere in every one of [85/86] our inductions, and we are not insensible to what we think is the gracefulness of some of the converging lines of our own constructions. We are not revolting against aspects, but against emphases and intrusions.

The first part of our work is what we consider neo-astronomic; and now to show that we have no rabidity against the mathematical except when over-emphasized, or misapplied, our language is that all expressions so far developed are to us about 50% acceptability. A far greater attempted independence is coming, a second part of this work, considering phenomena so different that, if we term the first part of our explorations "neo-astronomic," even some other term, by which to designate the field of the second part will have to be thought of, and the word "extra-geographic" seems best for it. If in these two fields, our at least temporary conclusions be the same, we shall be impressed, in spite of all our cynicisms as to "agreements."


This supposed solar system — an egg-like organism that is shelled away from external light and life — this central and stationary earth its nucleus — around it a revolving shell, in which the stars are pores, or functioning channels, through some of which spray irradiating fountains said to be "meteoric," but perhaps electric — in which the nebulae are translucent patches, and in which the many dark parts are areas of opaque, structural substance — and that the stars are not trillions nor even millions of miles away — with proportional reductions of all internal distances, so that the planets are not millions, nor even hundreds of thousands of miles away.

We conceive of the variability of the stars and the nebulae in terms of the incidence of external light upon a revolving shell and fluctuating passage through light-admitting points and parts. We conceive of all things being rhythmic, so, if stars be pores in a substance, that matrix must be subject to some changes, which may be of different periodicities in different regions. There may be local vortices in the most rigid substance, and so stars, or pores, might revolve around one another, but our tendency is to think that if light companions there be to some stars, they are reflections of light, passing through channels, upon sur- [86/87] rounding substance, flickering from one position to another in the small undulations of this environment. So there may be other displacements, differences of magnitude, new openings and closings in a substance that is not absolutely rigid. So "proper motion" might be accounted for, but my own preference is to think, as to such stars as 1830 Groombridge and Barnard's "run-away" star," that they are planets — also that some of the comets, especially the tailless comets, some of which have been seen to obscure stars, so that evidently they are not wisps of highly attenuated matter, are planets, all of them not conventionally recognized as planets, because of eccentricity and remoteness from the ecliptic, two departures, however, that many of the minor planets make to great degree.(1) If some of these bodies be planets, the irregularities of some of them are consistent with the irregularities of Jupiter's satellites.

I suggest that a combination of the Ptolemaic and the Tychonic doctrines is in good accord with all the phenomena that we have considered, and with all planetary motions that we have had no occasion to pay much attention to — that the sun, carrying Mercury and Venus with him, revolves at a distance of a few thousand miles, or a few tens of thousands of miles, in a rising and falling spiral around this virtually, but not absolutely, stationary earth, which, according to modern investigations is more top-shaped than spherical; moon, a few thousand miles away, revolving around this nucleus; and the exterior planets not only revolving around this whole central arrangement, but approaching and receding, in loops, also, quite as they seem to the remotest of them preposterously near, according to conventional "determinations."(2)

So all the phenomena of the skies may be explained. But all were explained in another way by Copernicus, in another way by Ptolemy, and in still another way by Tycho Brahé. One supposes that there are other ways. If there be a distant object, and, if one school of wise men can by their reasoning processes excellently demonstrate that it is a tree, another school positively determine that it is a house, and other investigators of the highest authoritativeness variously find and prove that it is a cloud or a buffalo or a geranium, why then, their reason- [87/88] ing processes may be admired but not trusted. Right at the heart of our opposition, and right at the heart of our own expressions, is the fatality that there is no reasoning, no logic, no explanation resembling the illusions in the vainglories of common suppositions. There is only the process of correlating to, or organizing or systematizing around, something that is arbitrarily taken for a base, or a dominant doctrine, or a major premise -- the process of assimilating with something else, making agreement with something else, or interpreting in terms of something else, which supposed base is never itself final, but was originally an assimilation with still something else.

I typify the result of all examination of all principles or laws or dominant thoughts, scientific, philosophic, or theologic, in what we find in examining the pronouncement that motion follows the least resistance:

That motion follows least resistance.

How do we identify least resistance?

If motion follows it.

Then motion goes where motion goes.

If nothing can be positively distinguished from anything else there can be no positive logic, which is attempted positive distinguishment. Consider the popular "base" that Capital is tyranny, and almost utmost wickedness, and that Labor is pure and idealistic. But one's labor is one's capital, and capital that is not working is in no sense implicated in this conflict.

Nevertheless we now give up our early suspicion that our whole existence is a leper of the skies, quaking and cringing through space, having the isolation that astronomers suppose, because other celestial forms of being fly from infection —

That, if shelled away from external light and life, it is so surrounded and so protected in the same cause and functioning as that of similarly encompassed forms subsidiary to it — that our existence is super-embryonic.

Darkness of night and of lives and of thoughts — super-uterine entombment. Blackness of the unborn, quasi-illumined periodically by the little sun, which is not light, but less dark.

Then we think of an organism that needs no base, and needs nothing of finality, nor of special guidance to any local part to [88/89] it, because all parts partake of the pre-determined development of the whole. Consequently our spleens subside, and our frequently unmannerly derisions are hushed by recognitions — that all organizations of thought must be baseless in themselves, and of course be not final, or they could not change, and must bear within themselves those elements that will, in time, destroy them — that seeming solidities that pass away, in phantom successions, are functionaries relatively to their periods, and express the passage from phase to phase of all things embryonic.

So it is one who searches for fundamentals comes to bifurcations; never to a base; only to a quandary. In our own field, let there be any acceptable finding. It indicates that the earth moves around the sun. Just as truly it indicates that the sun moves around the earth. What is it the determines which will be accepted, hypnotically blinding the faithful to the other aspect? Our own expression is upon Development as serial reactions to successive Dominants. Let the dominant spirit of an era require that this earth be remote and isolated; Keplerism will support it: let the dominant change to a spirit of expansion, which would be impossible under such remoteness and isolation; Keplerism will support, or will not especially oppose, the new dominant. This is the essential process of embryonic growth, by which the same protoplasmic substance responds differently in different phases.

But I do not think that all data are so plastic. There are some that will not assimilate with a prevailing doctrine. They can have no effect upon an arbitrary system of thought, or a system sub-consciously induced, in its time of dominance: they will simply be disregarded.

We have reached our catalogue of the sights and the sounds to which all that we have so far considered is merely introductory. For them there are either no conventional explanations or poor insufficiencies half-heartedly offered. Our data are glimpses of an epoch that is approaching with far-away explosions. It is vibrating on its edges with the tread of distant space-armies. Already it has pictured in the sky visions that signify new excitements, even now lapping over into the affairs of a self-disgusted, played-out hermitage.


We assemble the data, Unhappily, we shall be unable to resist the temptation to reason and theorize. May Super-embryology have mercy upon our own syllogisms. We consider that we are entitled to at least 13 pages of gross and stupid errors. After that we shall have to explain.(3)


1. "Runaway stars" are defined, by Moulton, as stars with a speed of 72 miles per second, which would thus exceed he escape velocity required to pass out of the galaxy. Forest Ray Moulton. An Introduction to Astronomy. Rev. ed. New York: Macmillan Co., 1920, 498-500. Barnard's runaway star was estimated to measure 93,000 miles in diameter, which is similar in size to Jupiter, though it is said to have a mass which is 11 per cent of the Sun's. Duncan. Astronomy. 311, 316.

2. The system, which Fort describes as his own, closely resembles that of St. Robert Francis Bellarmine.

3. See part 1, chapter 5.

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