Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Talmage's "Earth and Man" 75th Anniversary

[ This month is the 75th anniversary of "The Earth and Man" by James E. Talmage. The speech was delivered on Sunday, Aug. 9, 1931. It appeared in the Deseret News, Nov. 21, 1931, and was later published in pamphlet form by the Church. What follows are the last few paragraphs, transcribed from the pamphlet. All headings and italics are in the original.]

Man's Relative Littleness

The insignificance of man in comparison with the earth on which he dwells, and even with limited topographical features of his world, has ofttimes been dwelt upon.   Draw to scale a towering mountain and a man standing at its base or on its summit—what does the man amount to?   But then the earth as a planet is small compared with some others of its own system, to say nothing of the relative sizes of earth and sun.  In turn, our entire solar system, in the measurement of which miles cease to have meaning—so vast it is—ranks low in dimensions as we gage it with other families of worlds in the great galaxy of stars to which it belongs, and that immeasurable galaxy is but one among many, and not the greatest of them all.

Dream Vision of the Infinite

This hour is not well suited to the presentation of mathematical data relating to the extent of the universe; though it may permit us to indulge the contemplation of thought-pictures, bewildering though that indulgence may be.   John Paul Richter's Dream Vision of the Infinite has been brought to English readers through several renditions; and I ask you to follow or accompany me through one of these, generally worded along the lines of the version given us by Thomas De Quincey:

"God called up from dreams a man into the vestibule of heaven, saying 'Come thou hither and I will show thee the glories of my house.'   And to the servants that stood around the throne He said 'Take the man and strip from him his robes of flesh; cleanse his vision and put a new breath into his nostrils; only touch not with any change his human heart—the heart that fears and trembles.'

"It was done; and, with a mighty angel for his guide, the man stood ready for his infinite voyage.   Then, from the terraces of heaven, without sound or farewell, they wheeled away into endless space.   Sometimes, with solemn flight of angel wing, they fled through Zaarrahs of darkness, through widernesses of death that divided the worlds of life.   Sometimes they swept over frontiers that were quickening under prophetic motions from God.

"Then, from a distance that is counted only in heaven, light dawned for a time through a sleepy film.   By unutterable pace the light swept to them, they by unutterable pace to the light.   In a moment the rushing of planets was upon them; in a moment the blazing of suns was around them.

"Then came eternities of twilight, that revealed, but were not revealed.   To the right hand and the left towered mighty constellations, that by self-repetitions and answers from afar, that by counterpositions, built up triumphal gates, whose architraves, whose archways—horizontal, upright—rested, rose—at altitudes, by spans—that seemed ghostly from infinitude.   Without measure were the architraves, past number were the archways, beyond memory the gates!

"Within were stairs that scaled the eternities above, that descended to the eternities below; above was below, below was above, to the man stripped of gravitating body.   Depth was swallowed up in height insurmountable; height was swallowed up in depth unfathomable.   Suddenly, as thus they rode from infinite to infinite, suddenly as thus they tilted over abysmal worlds, a mighty cry arose—that systems more mysterious, that worlds more billowy, other heights and other depths were coming, were nearing, were at hand!

"Then the man sighed and stopped, shuddered and wept.   His overladen heart uttered itself in tears; and he said 'Angel, I will go no farther; for the spirit of man aches with this infinity.   Insufferable is the glory of God.   Let me lie down in the grave and hide myself from the persecutions of the infinite; for end, I see, there is none!'

"And from all the listening stars that shone around issued a choral chant, 'The man speaks truly; end is there none that ever yet we heard of.'   'End is there none?' the angel solemnly demanded.   'Is there, indeed, no end?   And is this the sorrow that kills you?'   Then the angel threw up his glorious hands to the heaven of heavens, saying 'End is there none to the universe of God!   Lo, also, there is no beginning!' "

The Spiritual Grandeur of Man

What is man in this boundless setting of sublime splendor?   I answer you: Potentially now, actually to be, he is greater and grander, more precious according to the arithmetic of God, than all the planets and suns of space.   For him were they created; they are the handiwork of God; man is His son!   In this world man is given dominion over a few things; it is his privilege to achieve supremacy over many things.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork."   (Psa. 19:1.)   Incomprehensibly grand as are the physical creations of the earth and space, they have been brought into existence as means to an end, necessary to the realization of the supreme purpose, which in the words of the Creator is thus declared:

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."   (Pearl of Great Price, page 4.)

It is decreed that this earth shall become a celestialized, glorified sphere; such is the revealed word.   Science has nothing to say on the matter; it can neither refute nor prove.   But the Lord, even God, hath spoken it—and so shall it be!   Amen.

[ This month is the 75th anniversary of "The Earth and Man" by James E. Talmage. The speech was delivered on Sunday, Aug. 9, 1931. It appeared in the Deseret News, Nov. 21, 1931, and was later published in pamphlet form by the Church. Above are the last few paragraphs, transcribed from the pamphlet. All headings and italics are in the original.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think these paragraphs contain literary beauty and power that is rarely seen. Plus, they are full of truth. Jared's article at LDS Science Review, and especially the beautiful image that it contains, reminded me of these magnificent paragraphs from "The Earth and Man."

It is appropriate that we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this great speech. Thank you, Jared, for your unintentional reminder about this.

8/22/2006 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

I have had trouble finding the complete text of "Earth and Man". Maybe it will get more exposure for the 75th anniversary.

8/23/2006 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Isn't this it?

(There is no multiple personality disorder here--just two different Jareds.)

8/23/2006 07:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared and Jared,

Just be aware that this version


is full of little typographical errors.

8/23/2006 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a PDF image of the 1931 pamphlet, "The Earth and Man."

8/25/2006 08:36:00 AM  

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