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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 2


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Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

_P._ Is not God immaterial?

_V._ There is no immateriality - it is a mere word. That which is not matter, is not at all - unless qualities are things.

_P._ Is God, then, material?

_V._ No. [_This reply startled me very much._]

_P._ What then is he?

_V._ [_After a long pause, and mutteringly._] I see - but it is a thing difficult to tell. [_Another long pause._] He is not spirit, for he exists. Nor is he matter, as _you understand it_. But there are _gradations_ of matter of which man knows nothing; the grosser impelling the finer, the finer pervading the grosser. The atmosphere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the electric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter _unparticled_ - without particles - indivisible - _one_ and here the law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all things - and thus _is_ all things within itself. This matter is God. What men attempt to embody in the word "thought," is this matter in motion.

_P._ The metaphysicians maintain that all action is reducible to motion and thinking, and that the latter is the origin of the former.

_V._ Yes; and I now see the confusion of idea. Motion is the action of _mind_ - not of _thinking_. The unparticled matter, or God, in quiescence, is (as nearly as we can conceive it) what men call mind. And the power of self-movement (equivalent in effect to human volition) is, in the unparticled matter, the result of its unity and omniprevalence; _how_ I know not, and now clearly see that I shall never know. But the unparticled matter, set in motion by a law, or quality, existing within itself, is thinking.

_P._ Can you give me no more precise idea of what you term the unparticled matter?

_V._ The matters of which man is cognizant, escape the senses in gradation. We have, for example, a metal, a piece of wood, a drop of water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the luminiferous ether. Now we call all these things matter, and embrace all matter in one general definition; but in spite of this, there can be no two ideas more essentially distinct than that which we attach to a metal, and that which we attach to the luminiferous ether. When we reach the latter, we feel an almost irresistible inclination to class it with spirit, or with nihility. The only consideration which restrains us is our conception of its atomic constitution; and here, even, we have to seek aid from our notion of an atom, as something possessing in infinite minuteness, solidity, palpability, weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic constitution and we should no longer be able to regard the ether as an entity, or at least as matter. For want of a better word we might term it spirit. Take, now, a step beyond the luminiferous ether - conceive a matter as much more rare than the ether, as this ether is more rare than the metal, and we arrive at once (in spite of all the school dogmas) at a unique mass - an unparticled matter. For although we may admit infinite littleness in the atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. There will be a point - there will be a degree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are sufficiently numerous, the interspaces must vanish, and the mass absolutely coalesce. But the consideration of the atomic constitution being now taken away, the nature of the mass inevitably glides into what we conceive of spirit. It is clear, however, that it is as fully matter as before. The truth is, it is impossible to conceive spirit, since it is impossible to imagine what is not. When we flatter ourselves that we have formed its conception, we have merely deceived our understanding by the consideration of infinitely rarified matter.