Immanuel Kant

Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven

Part Two

Supplement to Section Seven

There is still a major question the answer to which is essential in the natural theory of heaven and in a complete cosmogony, namely, why will the middle point of a such a system consist of a burning body? Our planetary system has the sun as the central body, and the fixed stars visible to us are, all things considered, mid-points of similar systems.

In order to grasp why in the development of a planetary structure the body serving as the mid-point of the power of attraction must have a fiery body, while the other structures in the sphere of its power of attraction remain dark and cold worlds, we need only remember back to the way in which a planetary system is produced, something we have outlined in detail in the previous part. In the greatly expanded space in which the spread out elementary basic material initiates developments and systematic movements, the planets and comets are built up only out of that portion of the elementary basic matter moving downward towards the central point of the force of attraction which, through their fall and the reciprocal interaction of the particles collectively, was precisely adjusted for the velocity and direction required for orbital motion. This portion is, as established above, the smallest part of the total amount of matter moving downward, indeed is only the remaining dense varieties which have been able to attain the degree of precision from the resistance of the other parts. In this mixture there are particularly light types of matter floating around, which, hindered by the resistance in space, do not in their descent push on through to the velocity appropriate to periodic orbits. Consequently, given their insufficient orbital momentum they will all collectively fall down to the central body. Now, these lightest and most volatile parts are also the most effective at maintaining a fire. We see that with the addition of them the central point has a preponderant tendency to become a flaming sphere, in a word, a sun. By contrast, the heavier and inert materials and those particles which are poor fuel for a fire create in planets only cold and dead clusters.

This addition of such light materials is also the reason why the sun ends up with a smaller density, so that it is even four times less dense than our Earth, the third planet away from the sun, even though it is natural to think that in this central point of the planetary structure, as its lowest point, the heaviest and densest sorts of material should be found and that without the addition of such a large amount of the lightest matter its density would exceed that of all planets.

The intermixing of the denser and heavier types of elements with the lightest and most volatile serves also to make the central body suitable for the most intense blaze which is to burn and maintain itself on its outer surface. For we know that the fire in whose nourishing fuel dense materials are found mixed in with volatile matter has a greater potential intensity than those flames which are sustained only by the lighter types of matter. However, this mixture of some heavier sorts among the lighter varieties is a necessary consequence of our theory about the development of planetary systems. It even benefits from the fact that the force of the heat does not immediately scatter the burning material on the outer surface and the fire is gradually and constantly fed from the inside by the fuel supply.

Now that we have resolved the question why the central body of a large system of stars is a flaming sphere, that is, a sun, it appears not irrelevant to concern ourselves with this subject some more and to investigate the state of such a celestial body in a careful examination, especially since the assumptions about this matter may be introduced based on more effective principles than are commonly used where investigations into the composition of celestial bodies are concerned.

To begin with, I firmly maintain that we can have no doubt that the sun is truly a flaming body and not a smouldering and glowing material heated to the highest degree, as a few people have wished to infer from certain difficulties they claim to find in connection with the former view. For a flaming fire has this essential factor over and above any other form of heat, that it, so to speak, works on its own, instead of being diminished or exhausted by its interaction. Through this it rather acquires more strength and intensity. Thus, it requires only material and fuel to maintain itself so as to keep up its strength continuously. By contrast, the glow of a mass heated to the highest degree is in a merely passive condition, which by the common interaction with the material in contact with it constantly diminishes and has no forces of its own to expand from a small beginning or to revive itself again should it diminish. When we consider this, I say, (and I say nothing of the other reasons) then we will already be sufficiently capable of seeing that this property must, in all probability, be attributed to the sun, the fountain of light and heat in every planetary system.

Now, if the sun, or rather suns in general, are flaming spheres, then the first requirement of their outer surfaces, which we can deduce from this point, is that air must be found there, because without air no fire burns. This condition gives rise to remarkable consequences. For if we first establish the atmosphere of the sun and its weight in relationship to the sun's cluster, how compressed will this air be and how capable will it become on account of this compression to maintain the intensest level of fire through its resilience? According to all assumptions, in this atmosphere, the clouds of smoke of the material broken up by the flames (which, we cannot doubt, have a mixture of crude and lighter particles in them) after they have risen up to an altitude which keeps the air cooler for them, fall down with heavy rains of pitch and sulphur, which provide new fuel for the flames. This very atmosphere is also, for the same reasons as on our Earth, not free from the motions of the winds which, according to this view, must far exceed in intensity everything that the power of the imagination can picture. When some region or other on the surface of the sun, either through the suffocating force of the vapours pouring out or because of the limited supply of combustible material sees the eruption of flames diminish, then the air above cools to some extent, and since it is contracting, it makes room for the air in the immediate vicinity to rush into its space with a force proportional to its expansion and to reignite the extinguished flames.

However, all flames always consume a great deal of air, and there is no doubt that the resilience of the volatile elements of the air which encircle the sun must, in this way, over time suffer significant damage. If we apply here on a large scale what Hales has, through careful research, proven in this matter with respect to flames in our atmosphere, then we can see the ceaseless striving of the particles of smoke coming out of the flames to destroy the elasticity of the sun's atmosphere as a serious problem, the solution to which is associated with difficulties. Because the flames which burn over the entire surface of the sun themselves consume the air essential for their combustion, the sun is in danger of going out entirely when the largest portion of its atmosphere has been consumed. True, from the dissolution of certain materials fire also produces air. But the experiments demonstrate that more is always consumed than produced. Indeed, when a part of the sun's fire under the suffocating vapours is deprived of the air which serves to maintain it, then, as we have already noted, strong storms destroy the vapours and work to carry them away. But on a large scale we will be able to understand the replacement of this necessary element in the following manner, when we keep in mind that in the case of a flaming fire the heat acts almost exclusively above it and only a little underneath it. When it has suffocated for reasons we have cited, its intensity turns to the inside of the sun's body, forces the deep hollow places to let the air enclosed in their depths break out and to renew the fire once more. If, using that freedom permitted in dealing with such unknown circumstances, we assume there are in these depths special materials which, like saltpetre, are inexhaustibly rich with elastic air, then the sun's fire will not be able to suffer easily from a deficiency for an extremely long period because the supply of air is constantly renewed.

However, we do see the clear mark of mortality also in this inestimably valuable fire which nature sets up as the world's torch. There comes a time when it will be extinguished. The dispersion of the most volatile and finest material which are scattered by the intensity of the heat, which never turns back again, and which increases the zodiacal light, the accumulation of incombustible and burned out materials, for example the ashes on the surface, and finally the lack of air will establish a date when its flames at some point in the future go out and eternal darkness will take over in its place, now the central point of light and life of the entire planetary structure. The alternating impulse of its fires by which it opens new caverns to become vital again and through which it renews itself perhaps several times could provide an explanation of the disappearance and renewed illumination of a few fixed stars. There would be suns which are close to being extinguished and which still work again repeatedly from their debris. This explanation may win approval or not, but we will certainly let this consideration serve for us to see that since, in one way or another, an unavoidable decay threatens the perfection of all planetary systems, we will find no difficulty with the laws referred to previously concerning their collapse through the tendency of mechanistic arrangements. This, however, will be particularly worthy of consideration, since it brings with it the seeds of a repeated renewal in the interaction with chaos.

Finally, let us use the power of our imaginations to picture such a wonderfully strange object as a burning sun, as it were, at close hand. We see at a glance wide seas of fire, raising their flames towards heaven, frantic storms, whose fury doubles the intensity of the burning seas. The storms make the fiery seas overflow their banks, sometimes covering the higher regions of this world, sometimes allowing them to sink back down within their borders. Burned out rocks extend their frightening peaks up above the flaming chasms, whose inundation or exposure by the boiling fiery elements causes the alternating appearance and disappearance of the sun spots. Thick vapours which suffocate the fire, lifted up by the power of the winds, make dark clouds, which in fiery downpours crash back down and as burning streams flow from the heights of firm land onto the sun into the flaming valleys, the cracking of the elements, the debris of burned up material and nature wrestling with destruction which bring about, along with the most dreadful condition of disorder, the beauty of the world and the benefits for its creatures (18)

If, then, the mid-point of all large planetary systems are burning bodies, we can assume that this is most particularly the case with the central body of that immeasurable system which comprises the fixed stars. Now then, if this body, whose mass must be proportional to the magnitude of its system, were a self-illuminating body or a sun, will it not be visible with a particularly bright illumination? However, we do not see anything like such a predominantly different fixed star shining out among the host in heaven. In fact, we should not think it strange if such a thing does not occur. If the mass of such a sun was equivalent to a mass 1000 times greater than our sun, nevertheless, if its distance away was 100 times greater than the distance of Sirius, it could appear no larger or brighter than Sirius.

However, perhaps it is reserved for future ages to discover at some later date at least the region where the central point of the system of fixed stars to which our sun belongs is located or perhaps really to determine where we must place the central body of the universe towards which all the universe's parts aim with a common downward motion (19). As for what the composition of this fundamental part of the entire creation may be and what may be found on it, we will leave it to Mr. Wright from Durham to determine. With a fantastic enthusiasm he elevates, so to speak, on a throne of nature collectively a powerful essence of the Divine with spiritual forces of attraction and repulsion, effective in an infinite sphere around it, drawing all virtue to it but pushing back all vice. We will not allow the daring of our conjectures, which we have permitted rather too much, to slip the reins into arbitrary poetical creations. Divinity is equally present in the infinity of the entire space everywhere. Wherever there are natures capable of rising above creature dependency into the company of the highest essence, Divinity will be immediately close at hand. The entire creation is permeated by its forces, but only that person who knows how to liberate himself from the living creature, the person who is noble enough to appreciate that only in the enjoyment of this original fountain of perfection is the highest level of blessedness to be sought alone and by himself, only that person is capable of finding himself closer to this true point interconnecting all excellence than to any other place in all nature. Meanwhile, if I, without sharing the Englishman's enthusiastic picture, am to offer my conjectures about the different levels of the spiritual world from the physical relationship of their dwelling places in relation to the mid-point of creation, then I will seek with more probability the most perfect classes of reasoning beings further from this mid-point rather than close to it. The creatures endowed with perfection and reason, in so far as they are dependent on matter in combination with which they are limited, depend a very great deal on the fineness of the material stuff whose influence determines these creatures in their perception of the world and in their response to it. The inertia and resistance in matter excessively restrict the freedom of the spiritual beings in their work and in the clarity of their sensations of external things. It dulls the edge of their capabilities, since they cannot obey their movements with appropriate facility. For when we assume, as is likely, that the densest and heaviest sorts of materials are close to the mid-point of nature and, by contrast, the increasing degrees of fineness and lightness are at the greater distances in the same proportion as in the analogy which governs our planetary structure, then the result is understandable. The reasoning beings whose place for development and stay is located close to the mid-point of creation are sunk in a stiff and immobile matter which keeps their powers enclosed in an invincible inertia and is equally incapable of transmitting and reporting on the impressions of the universe with the necessary clarity and ease. Thus, we will have to count these thinking beings in the low group. By contrast, with the distances away from the common centre, this perfection in the spiritual world, which rests on the reciprocal dependency of it on matter, will grow as if on a constant scale. At the lowest depths toward the sinking point, therefore, we have to place the poorest and least perfect groups of thinking creatures and below this is the place where in all shades of diminution the excellence of beings finally loses itself in the utter lack of thought and reflection. In fact, if we consider that the central point of nature marks simultaneously the start of its development out of raw matter and its frontier with chaos, if we thus establish in addition that the perfection of spiritual beings, which really have an outer border marking their beginning, where their capabilities jostle back and forth with unreason, but have no limit to going forward over which they cannot be raised and on this side find a complete infinity in front of them, then, if indeed there is to be a law according to which for reasoning creatures the dwelling places are distributed in accordance with the ordered relationship to the common mid-point, we will have to put the lowest and least perfect types, which, as it were, make up the beginning of the family of the spiritual world, in that place designated the start of the universe collectively, in order at the same time as this to fill in the same forward movement all the infinity of time and space with infinitely growing levels of perfection of the thinking capacity and, as it were, gradually to come closer to the goal of the highest excellence, namely, to God, but without ever being able to attain that.


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