The Pralaya of Modern Science
Theosophist, October, 1880
If Science is right then the future of our Solar System—hence of what we call the Universe—offers but little of hope or consolation for our descendants. Two of her votaries, Messrs. Thompson and Klansius, have simultaneously reached the conclusive opinion that the Universe is doomed, at some future and not so very remote period, to utter destruction. Such is also the theory of several other astronomers, one and all describing the gradual cooling off and the final dissolution of our planet in terms nearly identical with those used by the greatest Hindu, and even some of the Greek sages. One might almost think he were reading over again Manu, Kanada, Kapila and others. The following are some of the newest theories of our Western pandits.
“All the ponderable masses which must have separated themselves at the evolution or first appearance upon the earth from the primeval mass of matter, will reunite themselves again into one gigantic and boundless heavenly body, every visible movement in this mass will be arrested, and alone the molecular motion will remain which will equally spread throughout this ponderous body under the form of heat . . .” say our scientists. Kanada, the atomist, the old Hindu sage, said as much. . . . “In creation,” he remarks, “two atoms begin to be agitated, till at length they become separated from their former union, and then unite, by which a new substance is formed, which possesses the qualities of the things from which it arose.”
Lohschmidt, the Austrian professor of mathematics and astronomy, and the English astronomer, Proctor, treating of the same subject, have both arrived at another and different view of the cause from which will come the future dissolution of the world. They attribute it to the gradual and slow cooling off of the sun, which must result in the final extinction of this planet some day. All the planets will then, following the law of gravitation, tumble in upon the inanimate, cold luminary, and coalesce with it into one huge body. If this thing should happen, says the German savant, and such a period begins, then it is impossible that it should last forever, for such a state would not be one of absolute equilibrium. During a wonderful period of time, the sun, gradually hardening, will go on absorbing the radiant heat from the universal space, and concentrating it around itself.
But let us listen to Professor Tay upon this question. According to his opinion, the total cooling off of our planet will bring with it unavoidable death. Animal and vegetable life, which will have, previous to that event, shifted its quarters from the northern and already frozen regions to the equator, will then finally and for ever disappear from the surface of the globe, without leaving behind any trace of its existence. The earth will be wrapped in dense cold and darkness; the now ceaseless atmospheric motion will have changed into complete rest and silence; the last clouds will have poured upon the earth their last rain; the course of the streams and rivers, bereaved of their vivifier and motor—the sun—will be arrested; and the seas frozen into a mass. Our globe will have no other light than the occasional glimmering of the shooting stars, which will not yet have ceased to penetrate into and become inflamed in our-atmosphere. Perhaps, too, the sun, under the influence of the cataclysm of the solar mass, will yet exhibit for a time some signs of vitality; and thus heat and light will re-enter it for a short space of time, but the reaction will not fail to re-assert itself: the sun, powerless and dying, will again become extinct and this time for ever. Such a change was remarked and actually took place in the now extinct constellations of the Swan, the Crown, and the Ophiuchus in the period of their cooling. And the same fate will reach all the other planets, which, meanwhile, obeying the law of inertia, will go on revolving around the extinct sun. . . . Further on, the learned astronomer depicts the last year of the expiring globe in the very words of a Hindu philosopher depicting the Pralaya:—“Cold and death blow from the northern pole, and spread along the entire face of the earth, nine-tenths of which have already expired. Life, hardly perceptible, is all concentrated at her heart—the equator, in the few remaining regions which are yet inhabited, and where reigns a complete confusion of tongues and nationalities. The surviving representatives of the human race are soon joined by the largest specimens of animals which are also driven there by the intense cold. One object, one aspiration huddles together all this varied mass of beings—the struggle for life. Groups of animals, without distinction of kinds, crowd together into one herd in the hope of finding some heat in the rapidly freezing bodies; snakes threaten no more with their poisonous fangs, nor lions and tigers with their sharp claws; all that each of them begs for is—life, nothing but life, life to the last minute! At Last comes that last day, and the pale and expiring rays of the sun illuminate the following gloomy scene; the frozen bodies of the last of the human family, dead from cold and lack of air, on the shores of a likewise rapidly freezing, motionless sea!” . . .
The words may not be precisely those of the learned professor for they are utilized from notes taken in a foreign language; but the ideas are literally his. The picture is indeed gloomy. But the ideas, based upon scientific, mathematical deductions are not new, and we have read in a Hindu author of the pre-christian era a description of the same catastrophe as given by Manu in a language far superior to this one. The general reader is invited to compare, and the Hindu reader to see in this, one more corroboration of the great wisdom and knowledge of his forefathers, who anticipated the modern researches in almost everything.
“Strange noises are heard, proceeding from every point. . . . These are the precursors of the Night of Brahma. Dusk rises at the horizon and the sun passes away. . . . Gradually light pales, heat diminishes, uninhabitable spots multiply on the earth, the air becomes more and more rarified; the springs of waters dry up, the great rivers see their waves exhausted, the ocean shows its sandy bottom, and plants die. . . . Life and motion lose their force, planets can hardly gravitate in space; they are extinguished one by one. . . . Surya (the Sun) flickers and goes out; matter falls into dissolution; and Brahma (the creative force) merges back into Dyaus, the unrevealed, and his task being accomplished, he falls asleep. . . . Night for the Universe has come!”. . . (By Vamadeva.)