That never has a fall of tadpoles been reported;
That never has a fall of full-grown frogs been reported—
Always frogs a few months old.
It sounds positive, but if there be such reports they are somewhere out of my range of reading.
But tadpoles would be more likely to fall from the sky than would frogs, little or big, if such falls be attributed to whirlwinds; and more likely to fall from the Super-Sargasso Sea if, though very tentatively and provisionally, we accept the Super-Sargasso Sea.
Before we take up an especial expression upon the fall of immature and larval forms of life to this earth, and the necessity then of conceiving of some factor besides mere stationariness or suspension or stagnation, there are other data that are similar to data of falls of fishes.
Science Gossip, 1886-238:
That small snails, of a land species, had fallen near Redruth, Cornwall, July 8, 1886, "during a heavy thunderstorm": roads and fields strewn with them, so that they were gathered up by the hatful: none seen to fall by the writer of this account: snails said to be "quite different to any previously known in this district."
But, upon page 282, we have better orthodoxy. Another correspondent writes that he had heard of the supposed fall of snails: that he had supposed that all such stories had gone the way of witch stories; that, to his astonishment, he had read an account of this absurd story in a local newspaper of "great and deserved repute."
"I thought I should for once like to trace the origin of one of these fabulous tales."
Our own acceptance is that justice cannot be in an intermediate existence, in which there can be approximation only to justice or to injustice; that to be fair is to have no opinion at all; that to be honest is to be uninterested; that to investigate is to admit prejudice; that nobody has ever really investigated anything, but has always sought positively to prove or to disprove something that was conceived of, or suspected, in advance.
"As I suspected," says this correspondent, "I found that the snails were of a familiar land-species"—that they had been upon the ground "in the first place."
He found that the snails had appeared after the rain: that "astonished rustics had jumped to the conclusion that they had fallen."
He met one person who said that he had seen the snails fall.
"This was his error," says the investigator.
In the Philosophical Magazine, 58-310, there is an account of snails said to have fallen at Bristol in a field of three acres, in such quantities that they were shoveled up. It is said that the snails "may be considered as a local species." Upon page 457, another correspondent says that the numbers had been exaggerated, and that in his opinion they had been upon the ground in the first place. But that there had been some unusual condition aloft comes out in his observation upon "the curious azure-blue appearance of the sun, at the time."
That, according to Das Wetter, December, 1892, upon Aug. 9, 1892, a yellow cloud appeared over Paderborn, Germany. From this cloud, fell a torrential rain, in which were hundreds of mussels. There is no mention of whatever may have been upon the ground in the first place, nor of a whirlwind.
Lizards—said to have fallen on the sidewalks of Montreal, Canada, Dec. 28, 1857. (Notes and Queries, 8-6-104.)
In the Scientific American, 3-112, a correspondent writes, from South Granville, N.Y., that, during a heavy shower, July 3, 1860, he heard a peculiar sound at his feet, and looking down, saw a snake lying as if stunned by a fall. It then came to life. Gray snake, about a foot long.
These data have any meaning or lack of meaning or degree of damnation you please: but, in the matter of the fall that occurred at Memphis, Tennessee, occur some strong significances. Our quasi-reasoning upon this subject applies to all segregations so far considered.
Monthly Weather Review, Jan. 15, 1877:
That, in Memphis, Tenn., Jan. 15, 1877, rather strictly localized, or "in a space of two blocks," and after a violent storm in which the rain "fell in torrents," snakes were found. They were crawling on sidewalks, in yards, and in streets, and in masses—but "none were found on roofs or any other elevation above ground" and "none were seen to fall."
If you prefer to believe that the snakes had always been there, or had been upon the ground in the first place, and that it was only that something occurred to call special attention to them, in the streets of Memphis, Jan. 15, 1877—why, that's sensible: that's the common sense that has been against us from the first.
It is not said whether the snakes were of a known species or not, but that "when first seen, they were of a dark brown, almost black." Blacksnakes, I suppose.
If we accept that these snakes did fall, even though not seen to fall by all the persons who were out sight-seeing in a violent storm, and had not been in the streets crawling loose or in thick tangled masses, in the first place:
If we try to accept that these snakes had been raised from some other part of this earth's surface in a whirlwind:
If we try to accept that a whirlwind could segregate them—
We accept the segregation of other objects raised in that whirlwind.
Then, near the place of origin, there would have been a fall of heavier objects that had been snatched up with the snakes—stones, fence rails, limbs of trees. Say that the snakes occupied the next gradation, and would be the next to fall. Still farther would there have been separate falls of lightest objects: leaves, twigs, tufts of grass.
In the Monthly Weather Review there is no mention of other falls said to have occurred anywhere in January, 1877.
Again ours is the objection against such selectiveness by a whirlwind. Conceivably a whirlwind could scoop out a den of hibernating snakes, with stones and earth and an infinitude of other debris, snatching up dozens of snakes—I don't know how many to a den—hundreds maybe—but, according to the account of this occurrence in the New York Times, there were thousands of them; alive; from one foot to eighteen inches in length. The Scientific American, 36-86, records the fall, and says that there were thousands of them. The usual whirlwind-explanation is given—"but in what locality snakes exist in such abundance is yet a mystery."
This matter of enormousness of numbers suggests to me something of a migratory nature—but that snakes in the United States do not migrate in the month of January, if ever.
As to falls or flutterings of winged insects from the sky, prevailing notions of swarming would seem explanatory enough: nevertheless, in instances of ants, there are some peculiar circumstances.
Fall of fishes, June 13, 1889, in Holland; ants, Aug. 1, 1889, Strasbourg; little toads, Aug. 2, 1889, Savoy.
Fall of ants, Cambridge, England, summer of 1874—"some were wingless." (Scientific American, 30-193.) Enormous fall of ants, Nancy, France, July 21, 1887—"most of them were wingless." (Nature, 36-349.) Fall of enormous, unknown ants—size of wasps—Manitoba, June, 1895. (Sci. Amer., 72-385.)
However, our expression will be:
That wingless, larval forms of life, in numbers so enormous that migration from some place external to this earth is suggested, have fallen from the sky.
That these "migrations"—if such can be our acceptance—have occurred at a time of hibernation and burial far in the ground of larvae in the northern latitudes of this earth; that there is significance in recurrence of these falls in the last of January—or that we have the square of an incredibility in such a notion as that of selection of larvae by whirlwinds, compounded with selection of the last of January.
I accept that there are "snow worms" upon this earth—whatever their origin may have been. In the Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. of Philadelphia, 1899-125, there is a description of yellow worms and black worms that have been found together on glaciers in Alaska. Almost positively were there no other forms of insect-life upon these glaciers, and there was no vegetation to support insect-life, except microscopic organisms. Nevertheless the description of this probably polymorphic species fits a description of larvae said to have fallen in Switzerland, and less definitely fits another description. There is no opposition here, if our data of falls are clear. Frogs of every-day ponds look like frogs said to have fallen from the sky—except the whitish frogs of Birmingham. However, all falls of larvae have not positively occurred in the last of January:
London Times, April 14, 1837:
That, in the parish of Bramford Speke, Devonshire, a large number of black worms, about three-quarters of an inch in length, had fallen in a snowstorm.
In Timb's Year Book, 1877-26, it is said that, in the winter of 1876, at Christiania, Norway, worms were found crawling upon the ground. The occurrence is considered a great mystery, because the worms could not have come up from the ground, inasmuch as the ground was frozen at the time, and because they were reported from other places, also, in Norway.
Immense number of black insects in a snowstorm, in 1827, at Pakroff, Russia. (Scientific American, 30-193.)
Fall, with snow, at Orenburg, Russia, Dec. 14, 1830, of a multitude of small, black insects, said to have been gnats, but also said to have had flea-like motions. (Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-22-375.)
Large number of worms found in a snowstorm, upon the surface of snow about four inches thick, near Sangerfield, N.Y., Nov. 18, 1850 (Scientific American, 6-96). The writer thinks that the worms had been brought to the surface of the ground by rain, which had fallen previously.
Scientific American, Feb. 21, 1891:
"A puzzling phenomenon has been noted frequently in some parts of the Valley Bend District, Randolph County, Va., this winter. The crust of the snow has been covered two or three times with worms resembling the ordinary cut worms. Where they come from, unless they fall with the snow is inexplicable." In the Scientific American, March 7, 1891, the Editor says that similar worms had been seen upon the snow near Utica, N.Y., and in Oneida and Herkimer Counties; that some of the worms had been sent to the Department of Agriculture at Washington. Again two species, or polymorphism. According to Prof. Riley, it was not polymorphism, "but two distinct species"—which, because of our data, we doubt. One kind was larger than the other: color-differences not distinctly stated. One is called the larvae of the common soldier beetle and the other "seems to be a variety of the bronze cut worm." No attempt to explain the occurrence in snow.
Fall of great numbers of larvae of beetles, near Mortagne, France, May, 1858. The larvae were inanimate as if with cold. (Annales Societe Entomologique de France, 1858.)
Trans. Ent. Soc. of London, 1871-183, records "snowing of larvae," in Silesia, 1806; "appearance of many larvae on the snow," in Saxony, 1811; "larvae found alive on the snow," 1828; larvae and snow which "fell together," in the Eifel, Jan. 30, 1847; "fall of insects," Jan. 24, 1849, in Lithuania; occurrence of larvae estimated at 300,000 on the snow in Switzerland, in 1856. The compiler says that most of these larvae live underground, or at the roots of trees; that whirlwinds uproot trees, and carry away the larvae—conceiving of them as not held in masses of frozen earth—all as neatly detachable as currants in something. In the Revue et Magasin de Zoologie, 1849-72, there is an account of the fall in Lithuania, Jan. 24, 1849—that black larvae had fallen in enormous numbers.
Larvae thought to have been of beetles, but described as "caterpillars," not seen to fall, but found crawling on the snow, after a snowstorm, at Warsaw, Jan. 20, 1850. (All the Year Round, 8-253.)
Flammarion (The Atmosphere, p. 414) tells of a fall of larvae that occurred Jan. 30, 1869, in a snowstorm, in Upper Savoy: "They could not have been hatched in the neighborhood, for, during the days preceding, the temperature had been very low"; said to have been of a species common in the south of France. In La Science Pour Tous, 14-183, it is said that with these larvae there were developed insects.
That, upon the last of January, 1890, there fell, in a great tempest, in Switzerland, incalculable numbers of larvae: some black and some yellow; numbers so great that hosts of birds were attracted.
Altogether we regard this as one of our neatest expressions for external origins and against the whirlwind explanation. If an exclusionist says that, in January, larvae were precisely and painstakingly picked out of frozen ground, in incalculable numbers, he thinks of a tremendous force—disregarding its refinements: then if origin and precipitation be not far apart, what becomes of an infinitude of other debris, conceiving of no time for segregation?
If he thinks of a long translation—all the way from the south of France to Upper Savoy, he may think then of a very fine sorting over by differences of specific gravity—but in such a fine selection, larvae would be separated from developed insects.
As to differences in specific gravity—the yellow larvae that fell in Switzerland January, 1890, were three times the size of the black larvae that fell with them. In accounts of this occurrence, there is no denial of the fall.
Or that a whirlwind never brought them together and held them together and precipitated them and only them together—
That they came from Genesistrine.
There's no escape from it. We'll be persecuted for it. Take it or leave it—
The notion is that there is somewhere aloft a place of origin of life relatively to this earth. Whether it's the planet Genesistrine, or the moon, or a vast amorphous region super-jacent to this earth, or an island in the Super-Sargasso Sea, should perhaps be left to the researches of other super—or extra—geographers. That the first unicellular organisms may have come here from Genesistrine—or that men or anthropomorphic beings may have come here before amoebae: that, upon Genesistrine, there may have been an evolution expressible in conventional biologic terms, but that evolution upon this earth has been—like evolution in modern Japan—induced by external influences; that evolution, as a whole, upon this earth, has been a process of population by immigration or by bombardment. Some notes I have upon remains of men and animals encysted, or covered with clay or stone, as if fired here as projectiles, I omit now, because it seems best to regard the whole phenomenon as a tropism—as a geotropism—probably atavistic, or vestigial, as it were, or something still continuing long after expiration of necessity; that, once upon a time, all kinds of things came here from Genesistrine, but that now only a few kinds of bugs and things, at long intervals, feel the inspiration.
Not one instance have we of tadpoles that have fallen to this earth. It seems reasonable that a whirlwind could scoop up a pond, frogs and all, and cast down the frogs somewhere else: but, then, more reasonable that a whirlwind could scoop up a pond, tadpoles and all—because tadpoles are more numerous in their season than are the frogs in theirs: but the tadpole-season is earlier in the spring, or in a time that is more tempestuous. Thinking in terms of causation—as if there were real causes—our notion is that, if X is likely to cause Y, but is more likely to cause Z, but does not cause Z, X is not the cause of Y. Upon this quasi-sorites, we base our acceptance that the little frogs that have fallen to this earth are not products of whirlwinds: that they came from externality, or from Genesistrine.
I think of Genesistrine in terms of biologic mechanics: not that somewhere there are persons who collect bugs in or about the last of January and frogs in July and August, and bombard this earth, any more than do persons go through northern regions, catching and collecting birds, every autumn, then casting them southward.
But atavistic, or vestigial, geotropism in Genesistrine—or a million larvae start crawling, and a million little frogs start hopping—knowing no more what it's all about than we do when we crawl to work in the morning and hop away at night.
I should say, myself, that Genesistrine is a region in the Super-Sargasso Sea, and that parts of the Super-Sargasso Sea have rhythms of susceptibility to this earth's attraction.
I accept that, when there are storms, the damnedest of excluded, excommunicated things—things that are leprous to the faithful—are brought down—from the Super-Sargasso Sea—or from what for convenience we call the Super-Sargasso Sea—which by no means has been taken into full acceptance yet.
That things are brought down by storms, just as, from the depths of the sea things are brought up by storms. To be sure it is orthodoxy that storms have little, if any, effect below the waves of the ocean—but—of course—only to have an opinion is to be ignorant of, or to disregard a contradiction, or something else that modifies an opinion out of distinguishability.
Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 47-180:
That, along the coast of New Zealand, in regions not subject to submarine volcanic action, deep-sea fishes are often brought up by storms.
Iron and stones that fall from the sky; and atmospheric disturbances:
"There is absolutely no connection between the two phenomena." (Symons.)
The orthodox belief is that objects moving at planetary velocity would, upon entering this earth's atmosphere, be virtually unaffected by hurricanes; might as well think of a bullet swerved by someone fanning himself. The only trouble with the orthodox reasoning is the usual trouble—its phantom-dominant—its basing upon a myth—data we've had, and more we'll have, of things in the sky having no independent velocity.
There are so many storms and so many meteors and meteorites that it would be extraordinary if there were no concurrences. Nevertheless so many of these concurrences are listed by Prof. Baden-Powell (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1850-54) that one—notices.
See Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1860—other instances.
The famous fall of stones at Siena, Italy, 1794—"in a violent storm."
See Greg's Catalogues—many instances. One that stands out is—"bright ball of fire and light in a hurricane in England, Sept. 2, 1786." The remarkable datum here is that this phenomenon was visible forty minutes. That's about 800 times the duration that the orthodox give to meteors and meteorites.
See the Annual Register—many instances.
In Nature, Oct. 25, 1877, and the London Times, Oct. 15, 1877, something that fell in a gale of Oct. 14, 1877, is described as a "huge ball of green fire." This phenomenon is described by another correspondent, in Nature, 17-10, and an account of it by another correspondent was forwarded to Nature by W.F. Denning.
There are so many instances that some of us will revolt against the insistence of the faithful that it is only coincidence, and accept that there is connection of the kind called causal. If it is too difficult to think of stones and metallic masses swerved from their courses by storms, if they move at high velocity, we think of low velocity, or of things having no velocity at all, hovering a few miles above this earth, dislodged by storms, and falling luminously.
But the resistance is so great here, and "coincidence" so insisted upon that we'd better have some more instances:
Aerolite in a storm at St. Leonards-on-sea, England, Sept. 17, 1885—no trace of it found (Annual Register, 1885); meteorite in a gale, March 1, 1886, described in the Monthly Weather Review, March, 1886; meteorite in a thunderstorm, off coast of Greece, Nov. 19, 1899 (Nature, 61-111); fall of a meteorite in a storm, July 7, 1883, near Lachine, Quebec (Monthly Weather Review, July, 1883); same phenomenon noted in Nature, 28-319; meteorite in a whirlwind, Sweden, Sept. 24, 1883 (Nature, 29-15).
London Roy. Soc. Proc., 6-276:
A triangular cloud that appeared in a storm, Dec. 17, 1852; a red nucleus, about half the apparent diameter of the moon, and a long tail; visible 13 minutes; explosion of the nucleus.
Nevertheless, in Science Gossip, n.s., 6-65, it is said that, though meteorites have fallen in storms, no connection is supposed to exist between the two phenomena, except by the ignorant peasantry.
But some of us peasants have gone through the Report of the British Association, 1852. Upon page 239, Dr. Buist, who had never heard of the Super-Sargasso Sea, says that, though it is difficult to trace connection between the phenomena, three aerolites had fallen in five months, in India, during thunderstorms, in 1851 (may have been 1852). For accounts by witnesses, see page 229 of the Report.
Or—we are on our way to account for "thunderstones."
It seems to me that, very strikingly here, is borne out the general acceptance that ours is only an intermediate existence, in which there is nothing fundamental, or nothing final to take as a positive standard to judge by.
Peasants believed in meteorites.
Scientists excluded meteorites.
Peasants believe in "thunderstones."
Scientists exclude "thunderstones."
It is useless to argue that peasants are out in the fields, and that scientists are shut up in laboratories and lecture rooms. We cannot take for a real base that, as to phenomena with which they are more familiar, peasants are more likely to be right than are scientists: a host of biologic and meteorologic fallacies of peasants rises against us.
I should say that our "existence" is like a bridge—except that that comparison is in static terms—but like the Brooklyn Bridge, upon which multitudes of bugs are seeking a fundamental—coming to a girder that seems firm and final—but the girder is built upon supports. A support then seems final. But it is built upon underlying structures. Nothing final can be found in all the bridge, because the bridge itself is not a final thing in itself, but is a relationship between Manhattan and Brooklyn. If our "existence" is a relationship between the Positive Absolute and the Negative Absolute, the quest for finality in it is hopeless: everything in it must be relative, if the "whole" is not a whole, but is, itself, a relation.
In the attitude of Acceptance, our pseudo-base is:
Cells of an embryo are in the reptilian era of the embryo;
Some cells feel stimuli to take on new appearances.
If it be of the design of the whole that the next era be mammalian, those cells that turn mammalian will be sustained against resistance, by inertia, of all the rest, and will be relatively right, though not finally right, because they, too, in time will have to give way to characters of other eras of higher development.
If we are upon the verge of a new era, in which Exclusionism must be overthrown, it will avail thee not to call us base-born and frowsy peasants.
In our crude, bucolic way, we now offer an outrage upon common sense that we think will some day be an unquestioned commonplace:
That manufactured objects of stone and iron have fallen from the sky:
That they have been brought down from a state of suspension, in a region of inertness to this earth's attraction, by atmospheric disturbances.
The "thunderstone" is usually "a beautifully polished, wedge-shaped piece of greenstone," says a writer in the Cornhill Magazine, 50-517. It isn't: it's likely to be of almost any kind of stone, but we call attention to the skill with which some of them have been made. Of course this writer says it's all superstition. Otherwise he'd be one of us crude and simple sons of the soil.
Conventional damnation is that stone implements, already on the ground—"on the ground in the first place"—are found near where lightning was seen to strike: that are supposed by astonished rustics, or by intelligence of a low order, to have fallen in or with lightning.
Throughout this book, we class a great deal of science with bad fiction. When is fiction bad, cheap, low? If coincidence is overworked. That's one way of deciding. But with single writers coincidence seldom is overworked: we find the excess in the subject at large. Such a writer as the one of the Cornhill Magazine tells us vaguely of beliefs of peasants: there is no massing of instance after instance after instance. Here ours will be the method of mass-formation.
Conceivably lightning may strike the ground near where there was a wedge-shaped object in the first place: again and again and again: lightning striking ground near wedge-shaped object in China; lightning striking ground near wedge-shaped object in Scotland; lightning striking ground near wedge-shaped object in Central Africa: coincidence in France; coincidence in Java; coincidence in South America—
We grant a great deal but note a tendency to restlessness. Nevertheless this is the psycho-tropism of science to all "thunderstones" said to have fallen luminously.
As to greenstone, it is in the island of Jamaica, where the notion is general that axes of a hard greenstone fall from the sky—"during the rains." (Jour. Inst. Jamaica, 2-4.) Some other time we shall inquire into this localization of objects of a specific material. "They are of a stone nowhere else to be found in Jamaica." (Notes and Queries, 2-8-24.)
In my own tendency to exclude, or in the attitude of one peasant or savage who thinks he is not to be classed with other peasants or savages, I am not very much impressed with what natives think. It would be hard to tell why. If the word of a Lord Kelvin carries no more weight, upon scientific subjects, than the word of a Sitting Bull, unless it be in agreement with conventional opinion—I think it must be because savages have bad table manners. However, my snobbishness, in this respect, loosens up somewhat before very widespread belief by savages and peasants. And the notion of "thunderstones" is as wide as geography itself.
The natives of Burma, China, Japan, according to Blinkenberg (Thunder Weapons, p. 100)—not, of course, that Blinkenberg accepts one word of it—think that carved stone objects have fallen from the sky, because they think they have seen such objects fall from the sky. Such objects are called "thunderbolts" in these countries. They are called "thunderstones" in Moravia, Holland, Belgium, France, Cambodia, Sumatra, and Siberia. They're called "storm stones" in Lausitz; "sky arrows" in Slavonia; "thunder axes" in England and Scotland; "lightning stones" in Spain and Portugal; "sky axes" in Greece; "lightning flashes" in Brazil; "thunder teeth" in Amboina.
The belief is as widespread as is belief in ghosts and witches, which only the superstitious deny today.
As to beliefs by North American Indians, Tyler gives a list of references (Primitive Culture, 2-237). As to South American Indians—"Certain stone hatchets are said to have fallen from the heavens." (Jour. Amer. Folk Lore, 17-203.)
If you, too, revolt against coincidence after coincidence after coincidence, but find our interpretation of "thunderstones" just a little too strong or rich for digestion, we recommend the explanation of one, Tallius, written in 1649:
"The naturalists say they are generated in the sky by fulgurous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circumfused humor."
Of course the paper in the Cornhill Magazine was written with no intention of trying really to investigate this subject, but to deride the notion that worked-stone objects have ever fallen from the sky. A writer in the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-21-325, read this paper and thinks it remarkable "that any man of ordinary reasoning powers should write a paper to prove that thunderbolts do not exist."
I confess that we're a little flattered by that.
Over and over:
"It is scarcely necessary to suggest to the intelligent reader that thunderstones are a myth."
We contend that there is a misuse of a word here: we admit that only we are intelligent upon this subject, if by intelligence is meant the inquiry of inequilibrium, and that all other intellection is only mechanical reflex—of course that intelligence, too, is mechanical, but less orderly and confined: less obviously mechanical—that as an acceptance of ours becomes firmer and firmer-established, we pass from the state of intelligence to reflexes in ruts. An odd thing is that intelligence is usually supposed to be creditable. It may be in the sense that it is mental activity trying to find out, but it is confession of ignorance. The bees, the theologians, the dogmatic scientists are the intellectual aristocrats. The rest of us are plebeians, not yet graduated to Nirvana, or to the instinctive and suave as differentiated from the intelligent and crude.
Blinkenberg gives many instances of the superstition of "thunderstones" which flourishes only where mentality is in a lamentable state—or universally. In Malacca, Sumatra, and Java, natives say that stone axes have often been found under trees that have been struck by lightning. Blinkenberg does not dispute this, but says it is coincidence: that the axes were of course upon the ground in the first place: that the natives jumped to the conclusion that these carved stones had fallen in or with lightning. In Central Africa, it is said that often have wedge-shaped, highly polished objects of stone, described as "axes," been found sticking in trees that have been struck by lightning—or by what seemed to be lightning. The natives, rather like the unscientific persons of Memphis, Tenn., when they saw snakes after a storm, jumped to the conclusion that the "axes" had not always been sticking in the trees. Livingstone (Last Journal, pages 83, 89, 442, 448) says that he had never heard of stone implements used by natives of Africa. A writer in the Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1877-308, says that there are a few.
That they are said, by the natives, to have fallen in thunderstorms.
As to luminosity, it is my lamentable acceptance that bodies falling through this earth's atmosphere, if not warmed even, often fall with a brilliant light, looking like flashes of lightning. This matter seems important: we'll take it up later, with data. In Prussia, two stone axes were found in the trunks of trees, one under the bark. (Blinkenberg, Thunder Weapons, p. 100.)
The finders jumped to the conclusion that the axes had fallen there.
Another stone ax—or wedge-shaped object of worked stone—said to have been found in a tree that had been struck by something that looked like lightning. (Thunder Weapons, p. 71.)
The finder jumped to the conclusion.
Story told by Blinkenberg, of a woman, who lived near Kulsbjaergene, Sweden, who found a flint near an old willow—"near her house." I emphasize "near her house" because that means familiar ground. The willow had been split by something.
Cow killed by lightning, or by what looked like lightning (Isle of Sark, near Guernsey). The peasant who owned the cow dug up the ground at the spot and found a small greenstone "ax." Blinkenberg says that he jumped to the conclusion that it was this object that had fallen luminously, killing the cow.
A flint ax found by a farmer, after a severe storm—described as a "fearful storm"—by a signal staff, which had been split by something. I should say that nearness to a signal staff may be considered familiar ground.
Whether he jumped, or arrived at the conclusion by a more leisurely process, the farmer thought that the flint object had fallen in the storm.
In this instance we have a lamentable scientist with us. It's impossible to have positive difference between orthodoxy and heresy: somewhere there must be a merging into each other, or an overlapping. Nevertheless, upon such a subject as this, it does seem a little shocking. In most works upon meteorites, the peculiar, sulphurous odor of things that fall from the sky is mentioned. Sir John Evans (Stone Implements, p. 57) says—with extraordinary reasoning powers, if he could never have thought such a thing with ordinary reasoning powers—that this flint object "proved to have been the bolt, by its peculiar smell when broken."
If it did so prove to be, that settles the whole subject. If we prove that only one object of worked stone has fallen from the sky, all piling up of further reports is unnecessary. However, we have already taken the stand that nothing settles anything; that the disputes of ancient Greece are no nearer solution now than they were several thousand years ago—all because, in a positive sense, there is nothing to prove or solve or settle. Our object is to be more nearly real than our opponents. Wideness is an aspect of the Universal. We go on widely. According to us the fat man is nearer godliness than is the thin man. Eat, drink, and approximate to the Positive Absolute. Beware of negativeness, by which we mean indigestion.
The vast majority of "thunderstones" are described as "axes," but Meunier (La Nature, 1892-2-381) tells of one that was in his possession; said to have fallen at Ghardia, Algeria, contrasting "profoundment" (pear-shaped) with the angular outlines of ordinary meteorites. The conventional explanation that it had been formed as a drop of molten matter from a larger body seems reasonable to me; but with less agreeableness I note its fall in a thunderstorm, the datum that turns the orthodox meteorologist pale with rage, or induces a slight elevation of his eyebrows, if you mention it to him.
Meunier tells of another "thunderstone" said to have fallen in North Africa. Meunier, too, is a little lamentable here: he quotes a soldier of experience that such objects fall most frequently in the deserts of Africa.
Rather miscellaneous now:
"Thunderstone" said to have fallen in London, April, 1876: weight about 8 pounds: no particulars as to shape (Timb's Year Book, 1877-246).
"Thunderstone" said to have fallen at Cardiff, Sept. 26, 1916 (London Times, Sept. 28, 1916). According to Nature, 98-95, it was coincidence; only a lightning flash had been seen.
Stone that fell in a storm, near St. Albans, England: accepted by the Museum of St. Albans; said, at the British Museum, not to be of "true meteoritic material." (Nature, 80-34.)
London Times, April 26, 1876:
That, April 20, 1876, near Wolverhampton, fell a mass of meteoritic iron during a heavy fall of rain. An account of this phenomenon in Nature, 14-272, by H.S. Maskelyne, who accepts it as authentic. Also, see Nature, 13-531.
For three other instances, see the Scientific American, 47-194; 52-83; 68-325.
As to wedge-shape larger than could very well be called an "ax":
That, May 27, 1884, at Tysnas, Norway, a meteorite had fallen: that the turf was torn up at the spot where the object had been supposed to have fallen; that two days later "a very peculiar stone" was found near by. The description is—"in shape and size very like the fourth part of a large Stilton cheese."
It is our acceptance that many objects and different substances have been brought down by atmospheric disturbance from what—only as a matter of convenience now, and until we have more data—we call the Super-Sargasso Sea; however, our chief interest is in objects that have been shaped by means similar to human handicraft.
Description of the "thunderstones" of Burma (Proc. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, 1869-183): said to be of a kind of stone unlike any other found in Burma; called "thunderbolts" by the natives. I think there's a good deal of meaning in such expressions as "unlike any other found in Burma"—but that if they had said anything more definite, there would have been unpleasant consequences to writers in the 19th century.
More about the "thunderstones" of Burma, in the Proc. Soc. Antiq. of London, 2-3-97. One of them, described as an "adze," was exhibited by Captain Duff, who wrote that there was no stone like it in its neighborhood.
Of course it may not be very convincing to say that because a stone is unlike neighboring stones it had foreign origin—also we fear it is a kind of plagiarism: we got it from the geologists, who demonstrate by this reasoning the foreign origin of erratics. We fear we're a little gross and scientific at times.
But it's my acceptance that a great deal of scientific literature must be read between the lines. It's not everyone who has the lamentableness of a Sir John Evans. Just as a great deal of Voltaire's meaning was inter-linear, we suspect that a Captain Duff merely hints rather than to risk having a Prof. Lawrence Smith fly at him and call him "a half-insane man." Whatever Captain Duff's meaning may have been, and whether he smiled like a Voltaire when he wrote it, Captain Duff writes of "the extremely soft nature of the stone, rendering it equally useless as an offensive or defensive weapon."
Story, by a correspondent, in Nature, 34-53, of a Malay, of "considerable social standing"—and one thing about our data is that, damned though they be, they do so often bring us into awful good company—who knew of a tree that had been struck, about a month before, by something in a thunderstorm. He searched among the roots of this tree and found a "thunderstone." Not said whether he jumped or leaped to the conclusion that it had fallen: process likely to be more leisurely in tropical countries. Also I'm afraid his way of reasoning was not very original: just so were fragments of the Bath-furnace meteorite, accepted by orthodoxy, discovered.
We shall now have an unusual experience. We shall read of some reports of extraordinary circumstances that were investigated by a man of science—not of course that they were really investigated by him, but that his phenomena occupied a position approximating higher to real investigation than to utter neglect. Over and over we read of extraordinary occurrences—no discussion; not even a comment afterward findable; mere mention occasionally—burial and damnation.
The extraordinary and how quickly it is hidden away.
Burial and damnation, or the obscurity of the conspicuous.
We did read of a man who, in the matter of snails, did travel some distance to assure himself of something that he had suspected in advance; and we remember Prof. Hitchcock, who had only to smite Amherst with the wand of his botanical knowledge, and lo! two fungi sprang up before night; and we did read of Dr. Gray and his thousands of fishes from one pailful of water—but these instances stand out; more frequently there was no "investigation." We now have a good many reported occurrences that were "investigated." Of things said to have fallen from the sky, we make, in the usual scientific way, two divisions: miscellaneous objects and substances, and symmetric objects attributable to beings like human beings, sub-dividing into—wedges, spheres, and disks.
Jour. Roy. Met. Soc., 14-207:
That, July 2, 1866, a correspondent to a London newspaper wrote that something had fallen from the sky, during a thunderstorm of June 30, 1866, at Netting Hill. Mr. G.T. Symons, of Symons' Meteorological Magazine, investigated, about as fairly, and with about as unprejudiced a mind, as anything ever has been investigated.
He says that the object was nothing but a lump of coal: that next door to the home of the correspondent coal had been unloaded the day before. With the uncanny wisdom of the stranger upon unfamiliar ground that we have noted before, Mr. Symons saw that the coal reported to have fallen from the sky, and the coal unloaded more prosaically the day before, were identical. Persons in the neighborhood, unable to make this simple identification, had bought from the correspondent pieces of the object reported to have fallen from the sky. As to credulity, I know of no limits for it—but when it comes to paying out money for credulity—oh, no standards to judge by, of course—just the same—
The trouble with efficiency is that it will merge away into excess. With what seems to me to be super-abundance of convincingness, Mr. Symons then lugs another character into his little comedy:
That it was all a hoax by a chemist's pupil, who had filled a capsule with an explosive, and "during the storm had thrown the burning mass into the gutter, so making an artificial thunderbolt."
Or even Shakespeare, with all his inartistry, did not lug in King Lear to make Hamlet complete.
Whether I'm lugging in something that has no special meaning, myself, or not, I find that this storm of June 30, 1866, was peculiar. It is described in the London Times, July 2, 1866: that "during the storm, the sky in many places remained partially clear while hail and rain were falling." That may have more meaning when we take up the possible extra-mundane origin of some hailstones, especially if they fall from a cloudless sky. Mere suggestion, not worth much, that there may have been falls of extra-mundane substances, in London, June 30, 1866.
Clinkers, said to have fallen, during a storm, at Kilburn, July 5, 1877:
According to the Kilburn Times, July 7, 1877, quoted by Mr. Symons, a street had been "literally strewn," during the storm, with a mass of clinkers, estimated at about two bushels: sizes from that of a walnut to that of a man's hand—"pieces of the clinkers can be seen at the Kilburn Times office."
If these clinkers, or cinders, were refuse from one of the super-mercantile constructions from which coke and coal and ashes occasionally fall to this earth, or, rather, to the Super-Sargasso Sea, from which dislodgment by tempests occurs, it is intermediatistic to accept that they must merge away somewhere with local phenomena of the scene of precipitation. If a red-hot stove should drop from a cloud into Broadway, someone would find that at about the time of the occurrence, a moving van had passed, and that the moving men had tired of the stove, or something—that it had not been really red-hot, but had been rouged instead of blacked, by some absent-minded housekeeper. Compared with some of the scientific explanations that we have encountered, there's considerable restraint, I think, in that one.
Mr. Symons learned that in the same street—he emphasizes that it was a short street—there was a fire-engine station. I had such an impression of him hustling and bustling around at Notting Hill, searching cellars until he found one with newly arrived coal in it; ringing door bells, exciting a whole neighborhood, calling up to second-story windows, stopping people in the streets, hotter and hotter on the trail of a wretched imposter of a chemist's pupil. After his efficiency at Notting Hill, we'd expect to hear that he went to the station, and—something like this:
"It is said that clinkers fell, in your street, at about ten minutes past four o'clock, afternoon of July fifth. Will you look over your records and tell me where your engine was at about ten minutes past four, July fifth?"
Mr. Symons says:
"I think that most probably they had been raked out of the steam fire-engine."
June 20, 1880, it was reported that a "thunderstone" had struck the house at 180 Oakley Street, Chelsea, falling down the chimney, into the kitchen grate.
Mr. Symons investigated.
He describes the "thunderstone" as an "agglomeration of brick, soot, unburned coal, and cinder."
He says that, in his opinion, lightning had flashed down the chimney, and had fused some of the brick of it.
He does think it remarkable that the lightning did not then scatter the contents of the grate, which were disturbed only as if a heavy body had fallen. If we admit that climbing up the chimney to find out is too rigorous a requirement for a man who may have been large, dignified and subject to expansions, the only unreasonableness we find in what he says—as judged by our more modern outlook, is:
"I suppose that no one would suggest that bricks are manufactured in the atmosphere."
Sounds a little unreasonable to us, because it is so of the positivistic spirit of former times, when it was not so obvious that the highest incredibility and laughability must merge away with the "proper"—as the Sci. Am. Sup. would say. The preposterous is always interpretable in terms of the "proper," with which it must be continuous—or—clay-like masses such as have fallen from the sky—tremendous heat generated by their velocity—they bake—bricks.
We begin to suspect that Mr. Symons exhausted himself at Notting Hill. It's a warning to efficiency-fanatics.
Then the instance of three lumps of earthy matter, found upon a well-frequented path, after a thunderstorm, at Reading, July 3, 1883. There are so many records of the fall of earthy matter from the sky that it would seem almost uncanny to find resistance here, were we not so accustomed to the uncompromising stands of orthodoxy—which, in our metaphysics, represent good, as attempts, but evil in their insufficiency. If I thought it necessary, I'd list one hundred and fifty instances of earthy matter said to have fallen from the sky. It is his antagonism to atmospheric disturbance associated with the fall of things from the sky that blinds and hypnotizes a Mr. Symons here. This especial Mr. Symons rejects the Reading substance because it was not "of true meteoritic material." It's uncanny—or it's not uncanny at all, but universal—if you don't take something for a standard of opinion, you can't have any opinion at all: but, if you do take a standard, in some of its applications it must be preposterous. The carbonaceous meteorites, which are unquestioned—though avoided, as we have seen—by orthodoxy, are more glaringly of untrue meteoritic material than was this substance of Reading. Mr. Symons says that these three lumps were upon the ground "in the first place."
Whether these data are worth preserving or not, I think that the appeal that this especial Mr. Symons makes is worthy of a place in the museum we're writing. He argues against belief in all external origins "for our credit as Englishmen." He is a patriot, but I think that these foreigners had a small chance "in the first place" for hospitality from him.
Then comes a "small lump of iron (two inches in diameter)" said to have fallen, during a thunderstorm, at Brixton, Aug. 17, 1887. Mr. Symons says: "At present I cannot trace it."
He was at his best at Notting Hill: there's been a marked falling off in his later manner:
In the London Times, Feb. 1, 1888, it is said that a roundish object of iron had been found, "after a violent thunderstorm," in a garden at Brixton, Aug. 17, 1887. It was analyzed by a chemist, who could not identify it as true meteoritic material. Whether a product of workmanship like human workmanship or not, this object is described as an oblate spheroid, about two inches across its major diameter. The chemist's name and address are given: Mr. J. James Morgan: Ebbw Vale.
Garden—familiar ground—I suppose that in Mr. Symons' opinion this symmetric object had been upon the ground "in the first place," though he neglects to say this. But we do note that he described this object as a "lump," which does not suggest the spheroidal or symmetric. It is our notion that the word "lump" was, because of its meaning of amorphousness, used purposely to have the next datum stand alone, remote, without similars. If Mr. Symons had said that there had been a report of another round object that had fallen from the sky, his readers would be attracted by an agreement. He distracts his readers by describing in terms of the unprecedented—
"Iron cannon ball."
It was found in a manure heap, in Sussex, after a thunderstorm.
However, Mr. Symons argues pretty reasonably, it seems to me, that, given a cannon ball in a manure heap, in the first place, lightning might be attracted by it, and, if seen to strike there, the untutored mind, or mentality below the average, would leap or jump, or proceed with less celerity, to the conclusion that the iron object had fallen.
Except that—if every farmer isn't upon very familiar ground—or if every farmer doesn't know his own manure heap as well as Mr. Symons knew his writing desk—
Then comes the instance of a man, his wife, and his three daughters, at Casterton, Westmoreland, who were looking out at their lawn, during a thunderstorm, when they "considered," as Mr. Symons expresses it, that they saw a stone fall from the sky, kill a sheep, and bury itself in the ground.
They found a stone ball.
Coincidence. It had been there in the first place.
This object was exhibited at a meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society by Mr. C. Carus-Wilson. It is described in the Journal's list of exhibits as a "sandstone" ball. It is described as "sandstone" by Mr. Symons.
Now a round piece of sandstone may be almost anywhere in the ground—in the first place—but, by our more or less discreditable habit of prying and snooping, we find that this object was rather more complex and of material less commonplace. In snooping through Knowledge, Oct. 9, 1885, we read that this "thunderstone" was in the possession of Mr. C. Carus-Wilson, who tells the story of the witness and his family—the sheep killed, the burial of something in the earth, the digging, and the finding. Mr. C. Carus-Wilson describes the object as a ball of hard, ferruginous quartzite, about the size of a cocoanut, weight about twelve pounds. Whether we're feeling around for significance or not, there is a suggestion not only of symmetry but of structure in this object: it had an external shell, separated from a loose nucleus. Mr. Carus-Wilson attributes this cleavage to unequal cooling of the mass.
My own notion is that there is very little deliberate misrepresentation in the writings of scientific men: that they are quite as guiltless in intent as are other hypnotic subjects. Such a victim of induced belief reads of a stone ball said to have fallen from the sky. Mechanically in his mind arise impressions of globular lumps, or nodules, of sandstone, which are common almost everywhere. He assimilates the reported fall with his impressions of objects in the ground, in the first place. To an intermediatist, the phenomena of intellection are only phenomena of universal process localized in human minds. The process called "explanation" is only a local aspect of universal assimilation. It looks like materialism: but the intermediatist holds that interpretation of the immaterial, as it is called, in terms of the material, as it is called, is no more rational than interpretation of the "material" in terms of the "immaterial": that there is in quasi-existence neither the material nor the immaterial, but approximations one way or the other. But so hypnotic quasi-reasons: that globular lumps of sandstone are common. Whether he jumps or leaps, or whether only the frowsy and base-born are so athletic, his is the impression, by assimilation, that this especial object is a ball of sandstone. Or human mentality: its inhabitants are conveniences. It may be that Mr. Symons' paper was written before this object was exhibited to the members of the Society, and with the charity with which, for the sake of diversity, we intersperse our malices, we are willing to accept that he "investigated" something that he had never seen. But whoever listed this object was uncareful: it is listed as "sandstone."
We're making excuses for them.
Really—as it were—you know, we're not quite so damned as we were.
One does not apologize for the gods and at the same time feel quite utterly prostrate before them.
If this were a real existence, and all of us real persons, with real standards to judge by, I'm afraid we'd have to be a little severe with some of these Mr. Symonses. As it is, of course, seriousness seems out of place.
We note an amusing little touch in the indefinite allusion to "a man," who with his un-named family, had "considered" that he had seen a stone fall. The "man" was the Rev. W. Carus-Wilson, who was well-known in his day.
The next instance was reported by W.B. Tripp, F.R.M.S.—that, during a thunderstorm, a farmer had seen the ground in front of him plowed up by something that was luminous.
My own notion is that an expedition to the North Pole could not be so urgent as that representative scientists should have gone to that farmer and there spent a summer studying this one reported occurrence. As it is—un-named farmer—somewhere—no date. The thing must stay damned.
Another specimen for our museum is a comment in Nature upon these objects: that they are "of an amusing character, thus clearly showing that they were of terrestrial, and not a celestial, character." Just why celestiality, or that of it which, too, is only of Intermediateness should not be quite as amusing as terrestriality is beyond our reasoning powers, which we have agreed are not ordinary. Of course there is nothing amusing about wedges and spheres at all—or Archimedes and Euclid are humorists. It is that they were described derisively. If you'd like a little specimen of the standardization of orthodox opinion—
Amer. Met. Jour., 4-589:
"They are of an amusing character, thus clearly showing that they were of a terrestrial and not a celestial character."
I'm sure—not positively, of course—that we've tried to be as easygoing and lenient with Mr. Symons as his obviously scientific performance would permit. Of course it may be that sub-consciously we were prejudiced against him, instinctively classing him with St. Augustine, Darwin, St. Jerome, and Lyell. As to the "thunderstones," I think that he investigated them mostly "for the credit of Englishmen," or in the spirit of the Royal Krakatoa Committee, or about as the commission from the French Academy investigated meteorites. According to a writer in Knowledge, 5-418, the Krakatoa Committee attempted not in the least to prove what had caused the atmospheric effects of 1883, but to prove—that Krakatoa did it.
Altogether I should think that the following quotation should be enlightening to anyone who still thinks that these occurrences were investigated not to support an opinion formed in advance:
In opening his paper, Mr. Symons says that he undertook his investigation as to the existence of "thunderstones," or "thunderbolts" as he calls them—"feeling certain that there was a weak point somewhere, inasmuch as 'thunderbolts' have no existence."
We have another instance of the reported fall of a "cannon ball." It occurred prior to Mr. Symons' investigations, but is not mentioned by him. It was investigated, however. In the Proc. Roy. Soc. Edin., 3-147, is the report of a "thunderstone," "supposed to have fallen in Hampshire, Sept., 1852." It was an iron cannon ball, or it was a "large nodule of iron pyrites or bisulphuret of iron." No one had seen it fall. It had been noticed, upon a garden path, for the first time, after a thunderstorm. It was only a "supposed" thing, because—"It had not the character of any known meteorite."
In the London Times, Sept. 16, 1852, appears a letter from Mr. George E. Bailey, a chemist of Andover, Hants. He says that, in a very heavy thunderstorm, of the first week of September, 1852, this iron object, had fallen in the garden of Mr. Robert Dowling, of Andover; that it had fallen upon a path "within six yards of the house." It had been picked up "immediately" after the storm by Mrs. Dowling. It was about the size of a cricket ball: weight four pounds. No one had seen it fall. In the Times, Sept. 15, 1852, there is an account of this thunderstorm, which was of unusual violence.
There are some other data relative to the ball of quartz of Westmoreland. They're poor things. There's so little to them that they look like ghosts of the damned. However, ghosts, when multiplied, take on what is called substantiality—if the solidest thing conceivable, in quasi-existence, is only concentrated phantomosity. It is not only that there have been other reports of quartz that has fallen from the sky; there is another agreement. The round quartz object of Westmoreland, if broken open and separated from its loose nucleus, would be a round, hollow, quartz object. My pseudo-position is that two reports of similar extraordinary occurrences, one from England and one from Canada—are interesting.
Proc. Canadian Institute, 3-7-8:
That, at the meeting of the Institute, of Dec. 1, 1888, one of the members, Mr. J.A. Livingstone, exhibited a globular quartz body which he asserted had fallen from the sky. It had been split open. It was hollow.
But the other members of the Institute decided that the object was spurious, because it was not of "true meteoritic material."
No date; no place mentioned; we note the suggestion that it was only a geode, which had been upon the ground in the first place. Its crystalline lining was geode-like.
Quartz is upon the "index prohibitory" of Science. A monk who would read Darwin would sin no more than would a scientist who would admit that, except by the "up and down" process, quartz has ever fallen from the sky—but Continuity: it is not excommunicated if part of or incorporated in a baptized meteorite—St. Catherine's of Mexico, I think. It's as epicurean a distinction as any ever made by theologians. Fassig lists a quartz pebble, found in a hailstone (Bibliography, part 2-355). "Up and down," of course. Another object of quartzite was reported to have fallen, in the autumn of 1880, at Schroon Lake, N.Y.—said in the Scientific American, 43-272 to be a fraud—it was not—the usual. About the first of May, 1899, the newspapers published a story of a "snow-white" meteorite that had fallen, at Vincennes, Indiana. The Editor of the Monthly Weather Review (issue of April, 1899) requested the local observer, at Vincennes, to investigate. The Editor says that the thing was only a fragment of a quartz boulder. He says that anyone with at least a public school education should know better than to write that quartz has ever fallen from the sky.
Notes and Queries, 2-8-92:
That, in the Leyden Museum of Antiquities, there is a disk of quartz: 6 centimeters by 5 millimeters by about 5 centimeters; said to have fallen upon a plantation in the Dutch West Indies, after a meteoric explosion.
I think this is a vice we're writing. I recommend it to those who have hankered for a new sin. At first some of our data were of so frightful or ridiculous mien as to be hated, or eyebrowed, was only to be seen. Then some pity crept in? I think that we can now embrace bricks.
The baked-clay-idea was all right in its place, but it rather lacks distinction, I think. With our minds upon the concrete boats that have been building terrestrially lately, and thinking of wrecks that may occur to some of them, and of a new material for the deep-sea fishes to disregard—
Object that fell at Richland, South Carolina—yellow to gray—said to look like a piece of brick. (Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-34-298.)
Pieces of "furnace-made brick" said to have fallen—in a hailstorm—at Padua, August, 1834. (Edin. New Phil. Jour., 19-87.) The writer offered an explanation that started another convention: that the fragments of brick had been knocked from buildings by the hailstones. But there is here a concomitant that will be disagreeable to anyone who may have been inclined to smile at the now digestible—enough notion that furnace-made bricks have fallen from the sky. It is that in some of the hailstones—two per cent of them—that were found with the pieces of brick, was a light grayish powder.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 337-365:
Padre Sechi explains that a stone said to have fallen, in a thunderstorm, at Supino, Italy, September, 1875, had been knocked from a roof.
That it had been reported that a good-sized stone, of form clearly artificial, had fallen at Naples, November, 1885. The stone was described by two professors of Naples, who had accepted it as inexplicable but veritable. They were visited by Dr. H. Johnstone-Lavis, the correspondent to Nature, whose investigations had convinced him that the object was a "shoemaker's lapstone."
Now to us of the initiated, or to us of the wider outlook, there is nothing incredible in the thought of shoemakers in other worlds—but I suspect that this characterization is tactical.
This object of worked stone, or this shoemaker's lapstone, was made of Vesuvian lava, Dr. Johnstone-Lavis thinks: most probably of lava of the flow of 1631, from the La Scala quarries. We condemn "most probably" as bad positivism. As to the "men of position," who had accepted that this thing had fallen from the sky—"I have now obliged them to admit their mistake," says Dr. Johnstone-Lavis—or it's always the stranger in Naples who knows La Scala lava better than the natives know it.
That the thing had been knocked from, or thrown from, a roof.
As to attempt to trace the occurrence to any special roof—nothing said upon that subject. Or that Dr. Johnstone-Lavis called a carved stone a "lapstone," quite as Mr. Symons called a spherical object a "cannon ball": bent upon a discrediting incongruity:
Shoemaking and celestiality.
It is so easy to say that axes, or wedge-shaped stones found on the ground, were there in the first place, and that it is only coincidence that lightning should strike near one—but the credibility of coincidences decreases as the square root of their volume, I think. Our massed instances speak too much of coincidences of coincidences. But the axes, or wedge-shaped objects that have been found in trees, are more difficult for orthodoxy. For instance, Arago accepts that such finds have occurred, but he argues that, if wedge-shaped stones have been found in tree trunks, so have toads been found in tree trunks—did the toads fall there?
Not at all bad for a hypnotic.
Of course, in our acceptance, the Irish are the Chosen People. It's because they are characteristically best in accord with the underlying essence of quasi-existence. M. Arago answers a question by asking another question. That's the only way a question can be answered in our Hibernian kind of an existence.
Dr. Bodding argued with the natives of the Santal Parganas, India, who said that cut and shaped stones had fallen from the sky, some of them lodging in tree trunks. Dr. Bodding, with orthodox notions of velocity of falling bodies, having missed, I suppose, some of the notes I have upon large hailstones, which, for size, have fallen with astonishingly low velocity, argued that anything falling from the sky would be "smashed to atoms." He accepts that objects of worked stone have been found in tree trunks, but he explains:
That the Santals often steal trees, but do not chop them down in the usual way, because that would be to make too much noise: they insert stone wedges, and hammer them instead: then, if they should be caught, wedges would not be the evidence against them that axes would be.
Or that a scientific man can't be desperate and reasonable too.
Or that a pickpocket, for instance, is safe, though caught with his hand in one's pocket, if he's gloved, say: because no court in the land would regard a gloved hand in the same way in which a bare hand would be regarded.
That there's nothing but intermediateness to the rational and the preposterous: that this status of our own ratiocinations is perceptible wherein they are upon the unfamiliar.
Dr. Bodding collected 50 of these shaped stones, said to have fallen from the sky, in the course of many years. He says that the Santals are a highly developed race, and for ages have not used stone implements—except in this one nefarious convenience to him.
All explanations are localizations. They fade away before the universal. It is difficult to express that black rains in England do not originate in the smoke of factories—less difficult to express that black rains of South Africa do not. We utter little stress upon the absurdity of Dr. Bedding's explanation, because, if anything's absurd everything's absurd, or, rather, has in it some degree or aspect of absurdity, and we've never had experience with any state except something somewhere between ultimate absurdity and final reasonableness. Our acceptance is that Dr. Bedding's elaborate explanation does not apply to cut-stone objects found in tree trunks in other lands: we accept that for the general, a local explanation is inadequate.
As to "thunderstones" not said to have fallen luminously, and not said to have been found sticking in trees, we are told by faithful hypnotics that astonished rustics come upon prehistoric axes that have been washed into sight by rains, and jump to the conclusion that the things have fallen from the sky. But simple rustics come upon many prehistoric things: scrapers, pottery, knives, hammers. We have no record of rusticity coming upon old pottery after a rain, reporting the fall of a bowl from the sky.
Just now, my own acceptance is that wedge-shaped stone objects, formed by means similar to human workmanship, have often fallen from the sky. Maybe there are messages upon them. My acceptance is that they have been called "axes" to discredit them: or the more familiar a term, the higher the incongruity with vague concepts of the vast, remote, tremendous, unknown.
In Notes and Queries, 2-8-92, a writer says that he had a "thunderstone," which he had brought from Jamaica. The description is of a wedge-shaped object; not of an ax:
"It shows no mark of having been attached to a handle."
Of ten "thunderstones," figured upon different pages in Blinkenberg's book, nine show no sign of ever having been attached to a handle: one is perforated.
But in a report by Dr. C. Leemans, Director of the Leyden Museum of Antiquities, objects, said by the Japanese to have fallen from the sky, are alluded to throughout as "wedges." In the Archaeologic Journal, 11-118, in a paper upon the "thunderstones" of Java, the objects are called "wedges" and not "axes."
Our notion is that rustics and savages call wedge-shaped objects that fall from the sky, "axes": that scientific men, when it suits their purposes, can resist temptations to prolixity and pedantry, and adopt the simple: that they can be intelligible when derisive.
All of which lands us in a confusion, worse, I think, than we were in before we so satisfactorily emerged from the distresses of—butter and blood and ink and paper and punk and silk. Now it's cannon balls and axes and disks—if a "lapstone" be a disk—it's a flat stone, at any rate.
A great many scientists are good impressionists: they snub the impertinences of details. Had he been of a coarse, grubbing nature, I think Dr. Bodding could never have so simply and beautifully explained the occurrence of stone wedges in tree trunks. But to a realist, the story would be something like this:
A man who needed a tree, in a land of jungles, where, for some unknown reason, everyone's very selfish with his trees, conceives that hammering stone wedges makes less noise than does the chopping of wood: he and his descendants, in a course of many years, cut down trees with wedges, and escape penalty, because it never occurs to a prosecutor that the head of an ax is a wedge.
The story is like every other attempted positivism—beautiful and complete, until we see what it excludes or disregards; whereupon it becomes the ugly and incomplete—but not absolutely, because there is probably something of what is called foundation for it. Perhaps a mentally incomplete Santal did once do something of the kind. Story told to Dr. Bodding: in the usual scientific way, he makes a dogma of an aberration.
Or we did have to utter a little stress upon this matter, after all. They're so hairy and attractive, these scientists of the 19th century. We feel the zeal of a Sitting Bull when we think of their scalps. We shall have to have an expression of our own upon this confusing subject. We have expressions: we don't call them explanations: we've discarded explanations with beliefs. Though everyone who scalps is, in the oneness of allness, himself likely to be scalped, there is such a discourtesy to an enemy as the wearing of wigs.
Cannon balls and wedges, and what may they mean?
Bombardments of this earth—
Attempts to communicate—
Or visitors to this earth, long ago—explorers from the moon—taking back with them, as curiosities, perhaps, implements of this earth's prehistoric inhabitants—a wreck—a cargo of such things held for ages in suspension in the Super-Sargasso Sea—falling, or shaken, down occasionally by storms—
But, by preponderance of description, we cannot accept that "thunderstones" ever were attached to handles, or are prehistoric axes—
As to attempts to communicate with this earth by means of wedge-shaped objects especially adapted to the penetration of vast, gelatinous areas spread around this earth—
In the Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 9-337, there is an account of a stone wedge that fell from the sky, near Cashel, Tipperary, Aug. 2, 1865. The phenomenon is not questioned, but the orthodox preference is to call it, not ax-like, nor wedge-shaped, but "pyramidal." For data of other pyramidal stones said to have fallen from the sky, see Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1861-34. One fell at Segowolee, India, March 6, 1853. Of the object that fell at Cashel, Dr. Haughton says in the Proceedings: "A singular feature is observable in this stone, that I have never seen in any other:—the rounded edges of the pyramid are sharply marked by lines on the black crust, as perfect as if made by a ruler." Dr. Haughton's idea is that the marks may have been made by "some peculiar tension in the cooling." It must have been very peculiar, if in all aerolites not wedge-shaped, no such phenomenon had ever been observed. It merges away with one or two instances known, after Dr. Haughton's time, of seeming stratification in meteorites. Stratification in meteorites, however, is denied by the faithful.
I begin to suspect something else.
A whopper is coming.
Later it will be as reasonable, by familiarity, as anything else ever said.
If someone should study the stone of Cashel, as Champollion studied the Rosetta stone, he might—or, rather, would inevitably—find meaning in those lines, and translate them into English—
Nevertheless I begin to suspect something else: something more subtle and esoteric than graven characters upon stones that have fallen from the sky, in attempts to communicate. The notion that other worlds are attempting to communicate with this world is widespread: my own notion is that it is not attempt at all—that it was achievement centuries ago.
I should like to send out a report that a "thunderstone" had fallen, say, somewhere in New Hampshire—
And keep track of every person who came to examine that stone—trace down his affiliations—keep track of him—
Then send out a report that a "thunderstone" had fallen at Stockholm, say—
Would one of the persons who had gone to New Hampshire, be met again in Stockholm? But—what if he had no anthropological, lapidarian, or meteorological affiliations—but did belong to a secret society—
It is only a dawning credulity.
Of the three forms of symmetric objects that have, or haven't, fallen from the sky, it seems to me that the disk is the most striking. So far, in this respect, we have been at our worst—possibly that's pretty bad—but "lapstones" are likely to be of considerable variety of form, and something that is said to have fallen at sometime somewhere in the Dutch West Indies is profoundly of the unchosen.
Now we shall have something that is high up in the castes of the accursed:
Comptes Rendus, 1887-182:
That, upon June 20, 1887, in a "violent storm"—two months before the reported fall of the symmetric iron object of Brixton—a small stone had fallen from the sky at Tarbes, France: 13 millimeters in diameter; 5 millimeters thick; weight 2 grammes. Reported to the French Academy by M. Sudre, professor of the Normal School, Tarbes.
This time the old convenience "there in the first place" is too greatly resisted—the stone was covered with ice.
This object had been cut and shaped by means similar to human hands and human mentality. It was a disk of worked stone—"tres regulier." "Il a ete assurement travaille."
There's not a word as to any known whirlwind anywhere: nothing of other objects or debris that fell at or near this date, in France. The thing had fallen alone. But as mechanically as any part of a machine responds to its stimulus, the explanation appears in Comptes Rendus that this stone had been raised by a whirlwind and then flung down.
It may be that in the whole nineteenth century no event more important than this occurred. In La Nature, 1887, and in L'Annee Scientifique, 1887, this occurrence is noted. It is mentioned in one of the summer numbers of Nature, 1887. Fassig lists a paper upon it in the Annuaire de Soc. Met., 1887.
Not a word of discussion.
Not a subsequent mention can I find.
Our own expression:
What matters it how we, the French Academy, or the Salvation Army may explain?
A disk of worked stone fell from the sky, at Tarbes, France, June 20, 1887.
My own pseudo-conclusion:
That we've been damned by giants sound asleep, or by great scientific principles and abstractions that cannot realize themselves: that little harlots have visited their caprices upon us; that clowns, with buckets of water from which they pretend to cast thousands of good-sized fishes have anathematized us for laughing disrespectfully, because, as with all clowns, underlying buffoonery is the desire to be taken seriously; that pale ignorances, presiding over microscopes by which they cannot distinguish flesh from nostoc or fishes' spawn or frogs' spawn, have visited upon us their wan solemnities. We've been damned by corpses and skeletons and mummies, which twitch and totter with pseudo-life derived from conveniences.
Or there is only hypnosis. The accursed are those who admit they're the accursed.
If we be more nearly real we are reasons arraigned before a jury of dream-phantasms.
Of all meteorites in museums, very few were seen to fall. It is considered sufficient grounds for admission if specimens can't be accounted for in any way other than that they fell from the sky—as if in the haze of uncertainty that surrounds all things, or that is the essence of everything, or in the merging away of everything into something else, there could be anything that could be accounted for in only one way. The scientist and the theologian reason that if something can be accounted for in only one way, it is accounted for in that way—or logic would be logical, if the conditions that it imposes, but, of course, does not insist upon, could anywhere be found in quasi-existence. In our acceptance, logic, science, art, religion are, in our "existence," premonitions of a coming awakening, like dawning awarenesses of surroundings in the mind of a dreamer.
Any old chunk of metal that measures up to the standard of "true meteoritic material" is admitted by the museums. It may seem incredible that modern curators still have this delusion, but we suspect that the date on one's morning newspaper hasn't much to do with one's modernity all day long. In reading Fletcher's catalogue, for instance, we learn that some of the best-known meteorites were "found in draining a field"—"found in making a road"—"turned up by the plow" occurs a dozen times. Someone fishing in Lake Okeechobee, brought up an object in his fishing net. No meteorite had ever been seen to fall near it. The U.S. National Museum accepts it.
If we have accepted only one of the data of "untrue meteoritic material"—one instance of "carbonaceous" matter—if it be too difficult to utter the word "coal"—we see that in this inclusion-exclusion, as in every other means of forming an opinion, false inclusion and false exclusion have been practiced by curators of museums.
There is something of ultra-pathos—of cosmic sadness—in this universal search for a standard, and in belief that one has been revealed by either inspiration or analysis, then the dogged clinging to a poor sham of a thing long after its insufficiency has been shown—or renewed hope and search for the special that can be true, or for something local that could also be universal. It's as if "true meteoritic material" were a "rock of ages" to some scientific men. They cling. But clingers cannot hold out welcoming arms.
The only seemingly conclusive utterance, or seemingly substantial thing to cling to, is a product of dishonesty, ignorance, or fatigue. All sciences go back and back, until they're worn out with the process, or until mechanical reaction occurs: then they move forward—as it were. Then they become dogmatic, and take for bases, positions that were only points of exhaustion. So chemistry divided and sub-divided down to atoms; then, in the essential insecurity of all quasi-constructions, it built up a system, which, to anyone so obsessed by his own hypnoses that he is exempt to the chemist's hypnoses, is perceptibly enough an intellectual anaemia built upon infinitesimal debilities.
In Science, n.s., 31-298, E.D. Hovey, of the American Museum of Natural History, asserts or confesses that often have objects of material such as fossiliferous limestone and slag been sent to him He says that these things have been accompanied by assurances that they have been seen to fall on lawns, on roads, in front of houses.
They are all excluded. They are not of true meteoritic material. They were on the ground in the first place. It is only by coincidence that lightning has struck, or that a real meteorite, which was unfindable, has struck near objects of slag and limestone.
Mr. Hovey says that the list might be extended indefinitely. That's a tantalizing suggestion of some very interesting stuff—
"But it is not worth while."
I'd like to know what strange, damned, excommunicated things have been sent to museums by persons who have felt convinced that they had seen what they may have seen, strongly enough to risk ridicule, to make up bundles, go to express offices, and write letters. I accept that over the door of every museum, into which such things enter, is written:
If a Mr. Symons mentions one instance of coal, or of slag or cinders, said to have fallen from the sky, we are not—except by association with the "carbonaceous" meteorites—strong in our impression that coal sometimes falls to this earth from coal-burning super-constructions up somewhere—
In Comptes Rendus, 91-197, M. Daubree tells the same story. Our acceptance, then, is that other curators could tell this same story. Then the phantomosity of our impression substantiates proportionately to its multiplicity. M. Daubree says that often have strange damned things been sent to the French museums, accompanied by assurances that they had been seen to fall from the sky. Especially to our interest, he mentions coal and slag.
Buried un-named and undated in Science's potter's field.
I do not say that the data of the damned should have the same rights as the data of the saved. That would be justice. That would be of the Positive Absolute, and, though the ideal of, a violation of, the very essence of quasi-existence, wherein only to have the appearance of being is to express a preponderance of force one way or another—or inequilibrium, or inconsistency, or injustice.
Our acceptance is that the passing away of exclusionism is a phenomenon of the twentieth century: that gods of the twentieth century will sustain our notions be they ever so unwashed and frowsy. But, in our own expressions, we are limited, by the oneness of quasiness, to the very same methods by which orthodoxy established and maintains its now sleek, suave preposterousnesses. At any rate, though we are inspired by an especial subtle essence—or imponderable, I think—that pervades the twentieth century, we have not the superstition that we are offering anything as a positive fact. Rather often we have not the delusion that we're any less superstitious and credulous than any logician, savage, curator, or rustic.
An orthodox demonstration, in terms of which we shall have some heresies, is that if things found in coal could have got there only by falling there—they fell there.
So, in the Manchester Lit. and Phil. Soc. Mems., 2-9-306, it is argued that certain roundish stones that have been found in coal are "fossil aerolites": that they had fallen from the sky, ages ago, when the coal was soft, because the coal had closed around them, showing no sign of entrance.
Proc. Soc. of Antiq. of Scotland, 1-1-121:
That, in a lump of coal, from a mine in Scotland, an iron instrument had been found—
"The interest attaching to this singular relic arises from the fact of its having been found in the heart of a piece of coal, seven feet under the surface."
If we accept that this object of iron was of workmanship beyond the means and skill of the primitive men who may have lived in Scotland when coal was forming there—
"The instrument was considered to be modern."
That our expression has more of realness, or higher approximation to realness, than has the attempt to explain that is made in the Proceedings:
That in modern times someone may have bored for coal, and that his drill may have broken off in the coal it had penetrated.
Why he should have abandoned such easily accessible coal, I don't know. The important point is that there was no sign of boring: that this instrument was in a lump of coal that had closed around it so that its presence was not suspected, until the lump of coal was broken.
No mention can I find of this damned thing in any other publication. Of course there is an alternative here: the thing may not have fallen from the sky: if in coal-forming times, in Scotland, there were, indigenous to this earth, no men capable of making such an iron instrument, it may have been left behind by visitors from other worlds.
In an extraordinary approximation to fairness and justice, which is permitted to us, because we are quite as desirous to make acceptable that nothing can be proved as we are to sustain our own expressions, we note:
That in Notes and Queries, 11-1-408, there is an account of an ancient copper seal, about the size of a penny, found in chalk, at a depth of from five to six feet, near Bredenstone, England. The design upon it is said to be of a monk kneeling before a virgin and child: a legend upon the margin is said to be: "St. Jordanis Monachi Spaldingie."
I don't know about that. It looks very desirable—undesirable to us.
There's a wretch of an ultra-frowsy thing in the Scientific American, 7-298, which we condemn ourselves, if somewhere, because of the oneness of allness, the damned must also be the damning. It's a newspaper story: that about the first of June, 1851, a powerful blast, near Dorchester, Mass., cast out from a bed of solid rock a bell-shaped vessel of an unknown metal: floral designs inlaid with silver; "art of some cunning workman." The opinion of the Editor of the Scientific American is that the thing had been made by Tubal Cain, who was the first inhabitant of Dorchester. Though I fear that this is a little arbitrary, I am not disposed to fly rabidly at every scientific opinion.
A block of metal found in coal, in Austria, 1885. It is now in the Salsburg museum.
This time we have another expression. Usually our intermediatist attack upon provincial positivism is: Science, in its attempted positivism takes something such as "true meteoritic material" as a standard of judgment; but carbonaceous matter, except for its relative infrequency, is just as veritable a standard of judgment; carbonaceous matter merges away into such a variety of organic substances, that all standards are reduced to indistinguishability: if, then, there is no real standard against us, there is no real resistance to our own acceptances. Now our intermediatism is: Science takes "true meteoritic material" as a standard of admission; but now we have an instance that quite as truly makes "true meteoritic material" a standard of exclusion; or, then, a thing that denies itself is no real resistance to our own acceptances—this depending upon whether we have a datum of something of "true meteoritic material" that orthodoxy can never accept fell from the sky.
We're a little involved here. Our own acceptance is upon a carved, geometric thing that, if found in a very old deposit, antedates human life, except, perhaps, very primitive human life, as an indigenous product of this earth: but we're quite as much interested in the dilemma it made for the faithful.
It is of "true meteoritic material." L'Astronomie, 1887-114, it is said that, though so geometric, its phenomena so characteristic of meteorites exclude the idea that it was the work of man.
As to the deposit—Tertiary coal.
Composition—iron, carbon, and a small quantity of nickel.
It has the pitted surface that is supposed by the faithful to be characteristic of meteorites.
For a full account of this subject, see Comptes Rendus, 103-702. The scientists who examined it could reach no agreement. They bifurcated: then a compromise was suggested; but the compromise is a product of disregard:
That it was of true meteoritic material, and had not been shaped by man;
That it was not of true meteoritic material, but telluric iron that had been shaped by man:
That it was true meteoritic material that had fallen from the sky, but had been shaped by man, after its fall.
The data, one or more of which must be disregarded by each of these three explanations, are: "true meteoritic material" and surface markings of meteorites; geometric form; presence in an ancient deposit; material as hard as steel; absence upon this earth, in Tertiary times, of men who could work in material as hard as steel. It is said that, though of "true meteoritic material," this object is virtually a steel object.
St. Augustine, with his orthodoxy, was never in—well, very much worse—difficulties than are the faithful here. By due disregard of a datum or so, our own acceptance that it was a steel object that had fallen from the sky to this earth, in Tertiary times, is not forced upon one. We offer ours as the only synthetic expression. For instance, in Science Gossip, 1887-58, it is described as a meteorite: in this account there is nothing alarming to the pious, because, though everything else is told, its geometric form is not mentioned.
It's a cube. There is a deep incision all around it. Of its faces, two that are opposite are rounded.
Though I accept that our own expression can only rather approximate to Truth, by the wideness of its inclusions, and because it seems, of four attempts, to represent the only complete synthesis, and can be nullified or greatly modified by data that we, too, have somewhere disregarded, the only means of nullification that I can think of would be demonstration that this object is a mass of iron pyrites, which sometimes forms geometrically. But the analysis mentions not a trace of sulphur. Of course our weakness, or impositiveness, lies in that, by anyone to whom it would be agreeable to find sulphur in this thing, sulphur would be found in it—by our own intermediatism there is some sulphur in everything, or sulphur is only a localization or emphasis of something that, unemphasized, is in all things.
So there have, or haven't, been found upon this earth things that fell from the sky, or that were left behind by extra-mundane visitors to this earth—
A yarn in the London Times, June 22, 1844: that some workmen, quarrying rock, close to the Tweed, about a quarter of a mile below Rutherford Mills, discovered a gold thread embedded in the stone at a depth of 8 feet: that a piece of the gold thread had been sent to the office of the Kelso Chronicle.
Pretty little thing; not at all frowsy; rather damnable.
London Times, Dec. 24, 1851:
That Hiram De Witt, of Springfield, Mass., returning from California, had brought with him a piece of auriferous quartz about the size of a man's fist. It was accidentally dropped—split open—nail in it. There was a cut-iron nail, size of a six-penny nail, slightly corroded. "It was entirely straight and had a perfect head."
Or—California—ages ago, when auriferous quartz was forming—super-carpenter, million of miles or so up in the air—drops a nail.
To one not an intermediatist, it would seem incredible that this datum, not only of the damned, but of the lowest of the damned, or of the journalistic caste of the accursed, could merge away with something else damned only by disregard, and backed by what is called "highest scientific authority"—
Communication by Sir David Brewster (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1845-51):
That a nail had been found in a block of stone from Kingoodie Quarry, North Britain. The block in which the nail was found was nine inches thick, but as to what part of the quarry it had come from, there is no evidence—except that it could not have been from the surface. The quarry had been worked about twenty years. It consisted of alternate layers of hard stone and a substance called "till." The point of the nail, quite eaten with rust, projected into some "till," upon the surface of the block of stone. The rest of the nail lay upon the surface of the stone to within an inch of the head—that inch of it was embedded in the stone.
Although its caste is high, this is a thing profoundly of the damned—sort of a Brahmin as regarded by a Baptist. Its case was stated fairly; Brewster related all circumstances available to him—but there was no discussion at the meeting of the British Association: no explanation was offered—
Nevertheless the thing can be nullified—
But the nullification that we find is as much against orthodoxy in one respect as it is against our own expression that inclusion in quartz or sandstone indicates antiquity—or there would have to be a revision of prevailing dogmas upon quartz and sandstone and age indicated by them, if the opposing data should be accepted. Of course it may be contended by both the orthodox and us heretics that the opposition is only a yarn from a newspaper. By an odd combination, we find our two lost souls that have tried to emerge, chucked back to perdition by one blow:
Pop. Sci. News, 1884-41:
That, according to the Carson Appeal, there had been found in a mine, quartz crystals that could have had only 15 years in which to form: that, where a mill had been built, sandstone had been found, when the mill was torn down, that had hardened in 12 years: that in this sandstone was a piece of wood "with a nail in it."
Annals of Scientific Discovery, 1853-71:
That, at the meeting of the British Association, 1853, Sir David Brewster had announced that he had to bring before the meeting an object "of so incredible a nature that nothing short of the strongest evidence was necessary to render the statement at all probable."