New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





THAT the Geo-system is an incubating organism, of which this earth is the nucleus — but an organism that is so strongly characterized by conditions and features of its own that likening it to any object internal to it is the interpreting of a thing in terms of a constituent — so that we think of an organism that is incompletely, or absurdly inadequately, expressible in terms of the egg-like and the larval and other forms of the immature — a geo-nucleated system that is dependent upon its externality as, in one way or another, is every similar, but lesser and included, thing — stimulated by flows of force that are now said to be meteoric, though many so-called "meteoric" streams seem more likely to be electric, that radiate from the umbilical channels of its constellations — vitalized by its sun, which is itself replenished by the comets, which, coming from external reservoirs of force, impart to the sun their freightages, and, unaffected by gravitation, return to an external existence, some of them even touching the sun, but showing no indication of supposed solar attraction.

In a technical sense we give up the doctrine of Evolution. Ours is an expression upon Super-embryonic Development, in one enclosed system. Ours is an expression upon Design underlying and manifesting in all things within this one system, with a Final Designer left out, because we know of no designing force that is not itself the product of remoter design. In terms of our own experience we cannot think of an ultimate designer, any more than we can think of ultimacy in any other respect. But we are discussing a system that, in our conception, is not a final entity; so then no metaphysical expression upon it is required.

I point out that this expression of ours is not meant for aid and comfort to the reactionaries of the type of Col. W.J. Bryan, for instance; it is not altogether anti-Darwinism: the concept of Development replaces the concept of Evolution, but we accept the process of Selection, not to anything loosely known as Environ- [239/240] ment, but relatively to underlying Schedule and Design, predetermined and supervised, as it were, but by nothing that we conceive of in anthropomorphic terms.(1)

I define what I mean by dynamic design, in the development of any embryonic thing: a pre-determined, or not accidental, or not irresponsible, passage along a schedule of phases to a climax of unification of many parts. Some of the aspects of this process are the simultaneous varying of parts, with destiny, and not with independence, for their rule, or with future co-ordinations and functions for their goal; and their survival while still incipient, not because they are the fittest relatively to contemporaneous environment, so not because of usefulness or advantage in the present, inasmuch as at first they are not only functionless but also discordant with established relations, but surviving because they are in harmony with the dynamic plan of a whole being: and the presence of forces of suppression, or repression, as well as forces of stimulation and protection, so that parts are held back, or are not permitted to develop before their time.

If we accept that these circumstances of embryonic development are the circumstances of all wider development, within one enclosed system, the doctrine of Darwinian Evolution, as applied generally, will, in our minds, have to be replaced by an expression upon Super-embryonic Development, and Darwinism, unmodified, will become to us one more of the insufficiencies of the past. Darwinism concerns itself with the adaptations of the present, and does heed the part that the past has played, but, in Darwinism, there is no place for the influence of the future upon the present.

Consider any part of an embryonic thing — the heart of an embryo — and at first it is only a loop. It will survive, and it will be nourished in its functionless incipiency; also it will not be permitted to become a fully developed heart before its scheduled time arrives; its circumstances are dominated by what it will be in the future. The eye of an embryo is a better instance.

Consider anything of a sociologic nature that has ever grown: that there never has been an art, science, religion, invention that was not at first out of accord with established environment, visionary, preposterous in the light of later standards, useless in its incipiency, and resisted by established forces so that, seem- [240/241] ingly animating it and protectively underlying it, there may have been something that in spite of its unfitness made it survive for future usefulness. Also there are data for the acceptance of all things, in wider being, are held back as well as protected and prepared for, and not permitted to develop before comes scheduled time. Langley's flying machine makes me think of something of the kind — that this machine was premature; that it appeared a little before the era of aviation upon this earth, and that therefore Langley could not fly. But this machine was capable of flying, because, some years later, Curtis did fly in it.(2) Then one thinks that the Wright Brothers were successful, because they did synchronize with a scheduled time. I have heard that it is questionable that Curtis made no alterations in Langley's machine.(3) There is no lack of instances. One of the greatest of secrets that have eventually been found out was for ages blabbed by all the pots and kettles in the world — but that the secret of the steam engine could not, to the lowliest of intellects, or to suppositiously highest of intellects, more than adumbratively reveal itself until came the time for its co-ordination with the other phenomena and the requirements of the Industrial Age. And coal that was stored in abundance near the surface of the ground — and the needs of dwellers over coal mines, veins of which were often exposed upon the surface of the ground, for fuel — but that this secret, too, was obvious, too, could not be revealed until the coming of the Industrial Age. Then the building of factories, the inventing of machines, the digging of coal, and the use of steam, all appearing by simultaneous variation, and co-ordinating. Shores of North America — nowadays, with less hero-worship than formerly, historians tell us that, to English and French fishermen, the coast of Newfoundland was well-known, long before the year 1492; nevertheless, to the world in general, it was not, or, according to our acceptances, could not be, known. About the year 1500, a Portuguese fleet was driven by storms to the coast of Brazil, and returned to Europe. Then one thinks that likely enough, before the year 1492, other vessels had been so swept to the coasts of the western hemisphere, and had returned — but that data of westward lands could not emerge from the suppressions of the era — but that the data did survive, or were preserved for future usefulness — that there are [241/242] "Thou shalt nots" engraved upon something underlying all things, and then effacing, when phases pass away.

We conceive now of all buildings — within one enclosed system — in terms of embryonic building, and of all histories as local aspects of Super-embryonic Development. Cells of an embryo build falsely and futilely, in the sense that what they construct will be only temporary and will be out of adjustment later. If however there are conditions by which successive stages must be traversed before the arrival of maturity, ours is an expression upon the false and the futile, in which case these terms, as derogations, should not be applied. We see that the cells that build have no basis of their own; that for their formations there is nothing of reason and necessity of their own, because they flourish in other formations quite as well. We see that they need nothing of basis, nor of guidance of their own, because basis and guidance are of the essence of the whole. All are responses, or correlates, to a succession of commandments, as it were, or of dominant, directing, supervising spirits of different eras: that they take on appearances that are concordant with the general gastrula era, changing when comes the stimulus to agree with the reptilian era, and again responding harmoniously when comes the time of the mammalian era. It is in accordance with our experience that never has human mind, scientific, religious, philosophic, formulated one basic thought, one finally true law, principle, or major premise from which guidance could be deduced. If any thought were true and final it would include the deduced. We conceive that there has been guidance, just the same, if human beings be conceived of as cellular units in one developing organism; and that human minds no more need foundations of their own than need the super-embryonic cells that build so preposterously, according to standards of later growth, but build as they are guided to build. In this view, human reason is tropism, or response to stimuli, and reasoning is the trial-and-error process of the most primitive unicellular organisms, a susceptibility to underlying mandates, then a groping in perhaps all possible distortions until adjustment with underlying requirements is reached. In this view, then, though there are, for instance, no atoms in the Daltonian sense, if in service of a building science, the [242/243] false doctrine of the atoms be needed, the mind that responds, perhaps not to stimulus, but to requirement, which seems to be a negative stimulus, and so conceives, is in adjustment and reaches the state known as success. I accept, myself, that there may be Final Truth, and that it may be attainable, but never in a service that is local or special in any one science or nation or world.

It is our expression that temporary isolations characterize embryonic growth and super-embryonic growth quite as distinctly as do expansions and co-ordinations. Local centers of development in an egg — and they are isolated before they sketch out attempting relations. Or in wider being — hemisphere isolated from hemisphere, and nation from nation — then the breaking down of barriers — the appearance of Japan out of obscurity — threads of a military plasm are cast across an ocean by the United States.

Shafts of light that have pierced the obscurity surrounding planets — and something like a star shines in Aristarchus of the moon. Embryonic heavens that have dreamed — and that their mirages will be realized some day. Sounds and an interval; sounds and the same interval; sounds again — that there is one integrating organism and that we have heard its pulse.


1. William Jennings Bryan.

2. "Langley's folly takes air in flight." New York Times, May 29, 1914, p. 1 c. 4 ; p. 2 c. 8. "Flies with Langley's aeroplane and vindicates him." New York Times, May 31, 1914, s. 3 p. 1. "Langley's ship flies again." New York Times, June 3, 1914, p. 1 c. 7. The pilot was Glenn Hammond Curtiss, (not Curtis).

3. When Langley was given credit as having invented a man-carrying airplane by the Smithsonian Institution, (based in part of the flight of Langley's aircraft by Glenn Hammond Curtiss in 1914), claims were raised that the machine flown in 1914 was not Langley's original airplane but had been extensively modified. On October 7 and December 8, 1903, Langley's airplane was launched over the Potomac, crashing in both instances; but, the failures were attributed to the launching mechanism rather than the aircraft itself. Langley's experiments, sponsored by the government, were abandoned; and, though successful at Kitty-Hawk on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers did not attract much attention with their initial flights. Curtiss repaired the Langley airplane and equipped it with floats, so that it could take-off and land from the level surface of a lake, (instead of being launched from an elevated rail, as had been tried in 1903). The only change to the original engine was a new carburettor, as no one knew how to operate the original mechanism. Curtiss was testing the aircraft, on a trial run, to see if it was balanced and how it worked with the added air-drag upon the floats and the extra weight from the floats and repaired wings. On this trial, the airplane flew successfully. Curtiss proceeded to make some modifications with subsequent flights; and, these latter changes were cited by critics, including Orville Wright, who denied that the Langley airplane could be flown without extensive modifications to its wings, engine, and construction. To support the claims of the Wright patents, "movable ailerons" were said to be "decisive" and necessary for an airplane to be able to be flown; and, Orville Wright blamed the 1903 crashes upon the trusses, (not on the launching mechanism), of Langley's aircraft. It did not seem to matter that Langley had built and flown self-propelled models, which were extremely stable and could be flown without a pilot. The success of the Wright Brothers was in developing "wing warping," which gave "adequate lateral control even to an unstable aeroplane." The 1914 tests were worse than useless, according to Bentley, who complained that only a duplicate of Langley's original craft would have settled the silly dispute of who first invented a working airplane, though the Wright Brothers were clearly acknowledged as the first to succeed in their efforts. "Attacks 1914 test of Langley plane." New York Times, October 21, 1921, p. 17 c. 1-2. "Hold test proved Langley's claims." New York Times, October 22, 1921, p. 15 c. 6. "Will try to keep Wright plane here." New York Times, May 3, 1925, s. 1 p. 26 c. 2. Howard Mingos. "Who invented airplane? Congress may say." New York Times, May 10, 1925, s. 9 p. 4. Edward M. Bentley. "Changes in Langley plane." New York Times, May 10, 1925, s. 9 p. 16 c. 3. "Who invented the aeroplane?" Literary Digest, 71 (December 17, 1921): 21-2.

Next Chapter

Or, go to:


Part One 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Part Two 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26

Return to Mr. X's Fortean Web-Site Valid CSS!Valid HTML 3.2!

© X, 1998, 1999, 2004