Geisty cosmic pessimism from Blanqui’s Eternity through the Stars. I won’t do extracts often. Considerable overlap, or at the least reminds of a lot this Engleby extract.
Hegel’s metaphysics has little to bequeath to anyone but its poetry. This is just magic. Like Stardust riding a crest of pixels. Or something.
I’m probably missing 90% of all the referents as I wasn’t schooled in such history (what was I schooled in?) – seems to share something with Nietzsche’s eternal reoccurence? At least loosely.
“The universe as a whole is made up of stellar systems. To create them, nature has no more than a hundred simple bodies at its disposal. Despite the prodigious use that it’s able to draw from these resources and the incalculable number of combinations that they lend to its fecundity, the result is a number that is necessarily finite, like that of the elements themselves. And to fill the vast expanses, nature has to repeat infinitely each of its original or typical combinations.
Any and every astral body whatsoever thus exists in an infinite number throughout time and space; and not only under one of its aspects, but in such a way that it can always be found at every second of its duration—from its birth to its death. All beings spread across its surface—big or small, living or inanimate—share the privilege of this perennial existence.
The Earth is one of these astral bodies. Every human being is thus eternal in all seconds of his existence. What I write at this moment in the dungeons of Fort du Taureau (dans un cachot du Fort du Taureau) I will have written for eternity, on a table, with a pen, in my clothes, in circumstances that are completely alike. And so it is, for each (Ainsi de chacun).
All of these Earths sink, one after the other, into the rekindling flames to be reborn and die down again—the monotonous stream of an hourglass eternally emptying and turning itself over; a new that’s always old and an old that’s always new.
And yet those who are inquisitive about extraterrestrial life will nonetheless smile at a mathematical conclusion that grants them, not only immortal- ity, but eternity. The number of our twins is infinite in time and space. In conscience, one can hardly insist on this any longer. These twins are twins in flesh and bone, indeed in pants and cardigan, in crinoline and in chignon. These are not phantoms at all; it’s the present-day made eternal (c’est de l’actuatité éternisée).
Nonetheless, there’s a large flaw: there’s no progress. Alas! No, these are vulgar new editions, needless repetitions. As the copies of past worlds are, so are the copies of future worlds. Only the chapter of bifurcations is still open to hope (l’espérance). Let’s not forget that all that one could have been in this world, one is somewhere else.
The progress in this world is only for our descendants (nos neveux). They are more fortunate than we are. All of the beautiful things that our globe will see, our future descendants have already seen; they are seeing them right now, and they will always see them—though of course, this is in the form of the twins that have preceded them and will likewise follow them. Sons of a better humanity, they have already thoroughly scoffed and jeered at us on dead earths as they pass by after us. They continue to denounce us on the living earths from which we have already disappeared; and they will forever follow us in their contempt on the earths that are yet to be born.
Both they and we (eux et nous)—and all the guests of our planet—we return as prisoners (nous renaissons prisonniers) of the moment and place that our destinies have assigned to us in the series of its avatars. Our perennial existence is an appendix of destiny’s own perenniality. We are only partial phenomena of its resurrections. People of the nineteenth century, the hour of our appearances is forever fixed, and it will always bring us back the same; the most it can bring is the prospect of fortunate variants. Nothing there to really quench one’s thirst for the best. What can you do? I haven’t sought my pleasure at all; I’ve only looked for the truth. Here there’s neither revelation nor prophecy, just a simple conclusion based on spectral analysis and Laplace’s cosmogony. These two discoveries make us eternal. But what if it’s merely a stroke of luck? Then let’s make the most of it. And what if it’s merely a hoax? Then let’s resign ourselves to it.
But is it no consolation at all to be constantly aware that, on billions of Earths, one is in the company of the loved ones who, here today, are no more than a memory for us? And is it not yet another consolation, on the other hand, to think that one has tasted and will forever savor this happiness in the figure of a twin—billions of twins? Who are, nonetheless, indeed us. For plenty of lesser minds, the thrill of these pleasures through substitution are somewhat lacking in their intoxicating quality. In each of the infinite’s duplicates, they would prefer to have three or four years added to today’s edition. One’s grasping has a rather grim aspect in our century of skepticism and disillusions.
At bottom, it’s melancholy—humanity’s eternity according to the stars (astres)—and sadder still is the sequestering of these brother-worlds by the inexorable barrier of space. So many identical populations that pass without one having suspected their mutual existence! Indeed. And it’s finally revealed in the nineteenth century. But who will want to believe it?
And then again, until now, the past was for us little more than barba- rism, and the future meant progress, science, happiness, illusion! On all of our twin-globes, this past has seen the most brilliant civilizations disappear without leaving a trace; and they will disappear yet again without leaving a trace then either. On billions of earths, the future will again see all the acts of ignorance, the foolishness, and the cruelty of our previous ages!
Right now, the entire life of our planet, from birth until death, is day by day being minutely detailed on myriads of brother-stars (astres-frères), with all of its crimes and misfortunes. What we call progress gets slammed shut within each earth and fades away, disappearing with its earth. Always and everywhere, on this earthly camp it’s the same drama, the same setting, on
the same, narrow stage. What a noisy humanity, infatuated with its great- ness, believing itself to be the universe and living in its prison as in the vast immensity, only to soon sink along with the globe that, in the most profound disdain, has carried the burden of its pride. The same monotony and the same apathy (immobilisme) even in the foreign stars (les astres étrangers). The universe is repeated without end; it’s stomping its hoofs in the same place (piaffe sur place). Eternity imperturbably plays the same representations over and over, ad infinitum.