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The Power of Words

OINOS. Pardon, Agathos, the weakness of a spirit new-fledged with
immortality!

AGATHOS. You have spoken nothing, my Oinos, for which pardon is to be
demanded. Not even here is knowledge thing of intuition. For wisdom,
ask of the angels freely, that it may be given!

OINOS. But in this existence, I dreamed that I should be at once
cognizant of all things, and thus at once be happy in being cognizant
of all.

AGATHOS. Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of
knowledge! In for ever knowing, we are for ever blessed; but to know
all were the curse of a fiend.

OINOS. But does not The Most High know all?

AGATHOS. That (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the one
thing unknown even to Him.

OINOS. But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must not at last all
things be known?

AGATHOS. Look down into the abysmal distances! -- attempt to force
the gaze down the multitudinous vistas of the stars, as we sweep
slowly through them thus -- and thus -- and thus! Even the spiritual
vision, is it not at all points arrested by the continuous golden
walls of the universe? -- the walls of the myriads of the shining
bodies that mere number has appeared to blend into unity?

OINOS. I clearly perceive that the infinity of matter is no dream.

AGATHOS. There are no dreams in Aidenn -- but it is here whispered
that, of this infinity of matter, the sole purpose is to afford
infinite springs, at which the soul may allay the thirst to know,
which is for ever unquenchable within it -- since to quench it, would
be to extinguish the soul's self. Question me then, my Oinos, freely
and without fear. Come! we will leave to the left the loud harmony of
the Pleiades, and swoop outward from the throne into the starry
meadows beyond Orion, where, for pansies and violets, and heart's --
ease, are the beds of the triplicate and triple -- tinted suns.

OINOS. And now, Agathos, as we proceed, instruct me! -- speak to me
in the earth's familiar tones. I understand not what you hinted to
me, just now, of the modes or of the method of what, during
mortality, we were accustomed to call Creation. Do you mean to say
that the Creator is not God?

AGATHOS. I mean to say that the Deity does not create.

OINOS. Explain.

AGATHOS. In the beginning only, he created. The seeming creatures
which are now, throughout the universe, so perpetually springing into
being, can only be considered as the mediate or indirect, not as the
direct or immediate results of the Divine creative power.

OINOS. Among men, my Agathos, this idea would be considered heretical
in the extreme.

AGATHOS. Among angels, my Oinos, it is seen to be simply true.

OINOS. I can comprehend you thus far -- that certain operations of
what we term Nature, or the natural laws, will, under certain
conditions, give rise to that which has all the appearance of
creation. Shortly before the final overthrow of the earth, there
were, I well remember, many very successful experiments in what some
philosophers were weak enough to denominate the creation of
animalculae.

AGATHOS. The cases of which you speak were, in fact, instances of the
secondary creation -- and of the only species of creation which has
ever been, since the first word spoke into existence the first law.

OINOS. Are not the starry worlds that, from the abyss of nonentity,
burst hourly forth into the heavens -- are not these stars, Agathos,
the immediate handiwork of the King?

AGATHOS. Let me endeavor, my Oinos, to lead you, step by step, to the
conception I intend. You are well aware that, as no thought can
perish, so no act is without infinite result. We moved our hands, for
example, when we were dwellers on the earth, and, in so doing, gave
vibration to the atmosphere which engirdled it. This vibration was
indefinitely extended, till it gave impulse to every particle of the
earth's air, which thenceforward, and for ever, was actuated by the
one movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our globe
well knew. They made the special effects, indeed, wrought in the
fluid by special impulses, the subject of exact calculation -- so
that it became easy to determine in what precise period an impulse of
given extent would engirdle the orb, and impress (for ever) every
atom of the atmosphere circumambient. Retrograding, they found no
difficulty, from a given effect, under given conditions, in
determining the value of the original impulse. Now the mathematicians
who saw that the results of any given impulse were absolutely endless
-- and who saw that a portion of these results were accurately
traceable through the agency of algebraic analysis -- who saw, too,
the facility of the retrogradation -- these men saw, at the same
time, that this species of analysis itself, had within itself a
capacity for indefinite progress -- that there were no bounds
conceivable to its advancement and applicability, except within the
intellect of him who advanced or applied it. But at this point our
mathematicians paused.

OINOS. And why, Agathos, should they have proceeded?

AGATHOS. Because there were some considerations of deep interest
beyond. It was deducible from what they knew, that to a being of
infinite understanding -- one to whom the perfection of the algebraic
analysis lay unfolded -- there could be no difficulty in tracing
every impulse given the air -- and the ether through the air -- to
the remotest consequences at any even infinitely remote epoch of
time. It is indeed demonstrable that every such impulse given the
air, must, in the end, impress every individual thing that exists
within the universe; -- and the being of infinite understanding --
the being whom we have imagined -- might trace the remote undulations
of the impulse -- trace them upward and onward in their influences
upon all particles of an matter -- upward and onward for ever in
their modifications of old forms -- or, in other words, in their
creation of new -- until he found them reflected -- unimpressive at
last -- back from the throne of the Godhead. And not only could such
a thing do this, but at any epoch, should a given result be afforded
him -- should one of these numberless comets, for example, be
presented to his inspection -- he could have no difficulty in
determining, by the analytic retrogradation, to what original impulse
it was due. This power of retrogradation in its absolute fulness and
perfection -- this faculty of referring at all epochs, all effects to
all causes -- is of course the prerogative of the Deity alone -- but
in every variety of degree, short of the absolute perfection, is the
power itself exercised by the whole host of the Angelic
intelligences.

OINOS. But you speak merely of impulses upon the air.

AGATHOS. In speaking of the air, I referred only to the earth; but
the general proposition has reference to impulses upon the ether --
which, since it pervades, and alone pervades all space, is thus the
great medium of creation.

OINOS. Then all motion, of whatever nature, creates?

AGATHOS. It must: but a true philosophy has long taught that the
source of all motion is thought -- and the source of all thought is-

OINOS. God.

AGATHOS. I have spoken to you, Oinos, as to a child of the fair Earth
which lately perished -- of impulses upon the atmosphere of the
Earth.

OINOS. You did.

AGATHOS. And while I thus spoke, did there not cross your mind some
thought of the physical power of words? Is not every word an impulse
on the air?

OINOS. But why, Agathos, do you weep -- and why, oh why do your wings
droop as we hover above this fair star -- which is the greenest and
yet most terrible of all we have encountered in our flight? Its
brilliant flowers look like a fairy dream -- but its fierce volcanoes
like the passions of a turbulent heart.

AGATHOS. They are! -- they are! This wild star -- it is now three
centuries since, with clasped hands, and with streaming eyes, at the
feet of my beloved -- I spoke it -- with a few passionate sentences
-- into birth. Its brilliant flowers are the dearest of all
unfulfilled dreams, and its raging volcanoes are the passions of the
most turbulent and unhallowed of hearts.


Edgar Allan Poe