15 SEPTEMBER 1883, Page 20


THE pith of this volume will be found in the introduction and in the concluding chapter. The author's reading in physics, chemistry, physiology, and electricity has led him to the belief that there are but two forces in Nature,—an attractive, or, as he prefers to term it, a " compulsive " force, and a dispersing or " repulsive " force. The former, maintaining the cohesion of matter and sustaining growth, is the fundamental element of life,—is, in a word, the Ormuzd of the Kosmos, as the latter is the Ahriman, disintegrating, destructive, and obstructive. The effect of the compulsive force upon the retina is light ; that * Light the Dominant Force of the Universe. showing what Light is, da..; stn, How to Recourile Religion and ,Science. By Major W. Sedgwick, R.B. London : Eatop3on Low and Co. of the repulsive force upon the sensory nerves scattered over the body is heat. The ether with which the advanced school of physicists suppose space to be solidly filled, so as to leave no interstices, he rejects as unnecessary, and reconciles without difficulty the undulatory and emissive theories by positing light as produced by an emission, not of particles, but of " force- impulses," moving in an undulatory manner, because of the opposition met with from the counteracting force-impulses of heat. According to this explanation, however, light would not be the dominant force, but merely an effect of the dominant force, modified in its action by the " repulsive " element. Having got rid of the ether, the author immediately replaces it by an "active force-medium," but whether the force is distinct from the' medium, or whether the medium has an activity, innate or adventitious, of its own, or how in any case the force acts in or through the medium, we are not told. In- deed nothing whatever is predicated of this force-medium, or tertium quid, save its existence, and it is just as hard to imagine the transference of any force through it to bodies in it, but not substantially continuous with it, as to imagine the direct action of force upon matter without the presence of any intervening medium at all,—a difficulty which seems to destroy the legiti- macy of the hypothesis which postulates an unnecessary and useless antecedent. Major Sedgwick next proceeds to explain the various conditions of matter, solid, fluid, and gaseous, by attributing to their ultimate particles different amounts of "holding-on" and " holding-off" force, the degree of cohesion or its lack being due to the respective amounts of these opposing forces resident in each particle. The doctrine of a " force- medium " seems here to be lost sight of, and reduced to plain words, the theory is simply that solid and fluid bodies consist of particles that do cohere, and gaseous bodies of particles that do not cohere. Throughout the book, in fact, the writer shows himself the victim of the common fallacy that a statement of ordinary phenomena in language somewhat different from what they are usually stated in, involves an explanation of them, although in point of reality the new statement is nothing but a more or less expanded repetition oE the old one, with no new matter infused into it.

In the last chapter, the compulsive force is recognised as the manifestation of the will of God, omnipotent, omnipresent ; and the repulsive force as the manifestation of the will of the powers of evil, constantly opposing God. " There can be no mistaking this," exclaims the author with conviction ; "here we are face to

face with the old Bible story" of the ceaseless con. flict between good and evil, "which is at the base of all religions." How the frustrating power of evil can overcome even for a moment the compelling power of the omnipotent, the reader is left to discover. The repulsive force lastly is acknow- ledged to be "almost as necessary" in the world's economy as the compulsive force, hence the strangely inconsistent conclusion is arrived at that the evil force is good in moderation, and evil only when carried to excess. An attempt is made to grope out of this impasse by advancing the theory that "one day the earth will become a solid mass, without any liquids," and devoid of life, so that the victory of the omnipotent force will end in complete death. Ormnzd will vanquish, but only to reign over a dark, inanimate, and changeless world. Yet the book seems to have been written mainly for the purpose of proving that light and life are the highest manifestations of the compulsive force. We are also reminded in this connection—the relevance is not apparent—that St. Jade declares that the powers of evil were once angels of God, who " kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation." Arguments of this kind are not likely to be helpful towards the reconciliation of science with religion, which were, indeed, once the respective provinces of science and religion sufficiently understood, as unnecessary a task to under- take as that of the reconciliation of music or painting with divinity. Major Sedgwick carries his theory into chemistry, electricity, and physiology, and applies it to the explanation of the phenomena of those sciences with as much success as he has attained in the -domain of physics. The book is an example of the sterility of imperfectly assimilated knowledge. Had the author appreciated the doctrine of the conservation of force—to which he never refers—he would have understood that his repelling and com- pelling forces are mutually convertible into each other, and that the tendency of modern physical discovery is in the direction not of a duality of forces, but of a unity of force manifesting itself under various aspects in an unintersticed, solid space, dif- ferentiated into chemical atoms and physical molecules and

their accumulations. What that force is, in its last analysis, whether different from or identical with the differentiating in- fluences, the how, why, and whence of matter and its phenomena under any possible theory of its existence, are questions that, in their very statement, transcend the power of the human mind.

The author's meaning is not always easy to grasp. He delights in sentences of a length that even a German would stare at, not seldom occupying more than a whole page. Con- sciously or unconsciously, he indulges in plays upon words (or writes as if he did) which rather obscure than illumine the argu- ment. Thus, after tracing an analogy—with considerable verbal ingenuity, it must be allowed—between the life-history of the living cell and the Biblical story of Creation, he tells us that .‘ suffering is the order of this life nothing is done without suffering—not always painful suffering, but still suffer- ing." To illustrate this remark, it is added, " thus the cell suffers expansion " when hungry ; " again suffers contraction when growing and reproducing "; or the cell " tells of vicarious suffering—of plant-cells suffering willingly to supply kindred plant-cells, of plant-cells suffering unwillingly (poor things Ito supply animal•cells in which they have no interest." We can thus imagine the sufferings of peas and pqtatoes as they suffer conversion into the tissues of ruthless man, in whom they have no interest. Such a singular confusion between two common meanings of a common word we do not remember to have hitherto encountered "in print."