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Eight Keys to Eden Part 22

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It was as if some invisible s.h.i.+eld held him back. He could not lower the s.h.i.+p into the atmosphere gently, taking the normal precautions against cras.h.i.+ng. Very well then, not so gently. Full power. And nothing happened. They lowered not another inch.

A thrust. A thrust at tangent to the surface. Once past whatever this barrier was, they could skim the surface and come back to land on the proper site. They backed the s.h.i.+p farther out into s.p.a.ce. They made their thrust with full speed and momentum.

There was no sensation when they hit the barrier, but they did not penetrate it. It was as if a flat stone had been skipped across slick ice, and they shot back out into s.p.a.ce again. The tangent penetration would not do.

Very well, then. A direct thrust, full power, straight down. Be prepared to put braking forces into immediate power, lest they crash the s.h.i.+p at full power against the surface.

And again, no sensation. Against all natural laws of inertia, they came to a full stop at the given level outside the atmosphere without any feeling of jar or opposing pressure at all.



What now, Mr. Gunderson, sir?

Reluctantly, Gunderson ordered the police captain to contact E McGinnis.

E science apparently had some kind of s.h.i.+eld which they'd kept secret from the people--and wouldn't there be a stink over that one, once he released that information! Contact E McGinnis and find out!

"Why sure," E McGinnis cackled with derisive laughter, "sure there's a s.h.i.+eld. I didn't make it. I wouldn't know how. No, I don't know what's causing it. But I'll tell you what I think. I think They've caught the specimen They want. There's an E down there.

"So, naturally, the trap door is closed."

21

Cal didn't know, couldn't have known, that his efforts to signal McGinnis not to land were unnecessary. Didn't know, couldn't have known, that he himself was the specimen They had hoped to catch. That having caught what They wanted They would naturally close the door to the trap to prevent any possibility of escape, as yet, or any interference with their experiment.

From the moment he walked away from the gra.s.sy slope where he had signaled the outer s.h.i.+p, he moved and thought as someone detached from ordinary existence. As he walked away from the slope, ignoring the frantic signals from the s.h.i.+p out in s.p.a.ce, he felt he was also walking out of a sh.e.l.l of superficial cerebration and into a deeper sense of reality. It was as if, in spite of E training, for the first time in his life, he could commit himself wholly, in all areas of his being, to the consideration of a problem.

His conviction was complete that the s.h.i.+p could give him nothing he needed, that all Earth's mechanical science could give him nothing he needed. That it could not provide the key to unlock the door which led into this new area of reality. He must find, must define, some new concept of man's relation to the universe. He must again travel that road, that million-year-long road man had traveled in trying to determine his position in reality.

He wandered down to the river, climbed to the top of a great boulder that overhung a pool, and sat down with his feet hanging over the edge.

He watched some young colonists wade through the pool to drive fish into the shallows where they could pin them, with their legs, catch them with their hands. In their need for protein, the colonists were finding, as many Earth peoples had found, raw fish were excellent in flavor and texture as food.

At the beginning of the road man had traveled first there was awareness, awareness of self as something separate from environment. There was awareness of self-strength, ability to do certain things to and with that environment. There was awareness of self always at the center of things, and therefore awareness of his importance in the scheme of things. But there was awareness of more.

There was awareness of things happening to his environment which he, in all his strength and importance, could not do. Awareness gives rise to reason, reason gives rise to rationalization. If things happened in his environment which he himself could not do, then there must be something stronger and more important than he.

To be ascendant at the center of things, to remain ascendant, meant that all things of lesser importance, outside the center, must be made subservient to him, else that ascendancy was lost. And if they would not a.s.sume positions of subservience, they must be destroyed.

If there were unseen beings, stronger and more important than he, who could do unexplained things to his environment; then it was plain that he must a.s.sume positions of subservience to those beings, lest he himself be destroyed.

So man created his G.o.ds in his own image, with his own attributes magnified.

Was this a wrong turning of the road? No-o.... Awareness carries with it its commands and penalties. A problem must have an answer. Conscious and willful beings beyond his own strength and importance became the only answer open to him at that stage of his mental evolution. And served the important need of bringing order to chaos. Let all things he could not do, and therefore could not understand, be attributed to those higher beings. Without such an answer, awareness without resolution would have driven him into madness. Without such an answer, man could not have survived to remain aware.

But answers also carry in themselves their commands and their penalties.

The penalty being that when one thinks he has the answer he stops looking for it. The command being that he must conduct himself in accord with the answer.

The long, long road that led him nowhere. That today still leads untold millions nowhere. For the penalty of a wrong answer is failure to solve the problem. That non-science had failed to provide any answer beyond the primitive one was self-evident.

To some, then, it became evident that the question must be reopened.

Through the long written history of man, here and there, by accident often, sometimes by cerebration, the use of the brain with which he was endowed, man found on occasion he could do things to his environment that heretofore had been the province of the G.o.ds--and in the doing had not become a G.o.d! To the courageous, the brave, the daring, the foolhardy questions then that demanded new answers.

Perhaps the most daring and courageous question of all time was asked by Copernicus: What if man is not at the center of the universe, the reason for its creation?

He personally escaped the penalties for asking it. The question was too new, too revolutionary for the men of his day to grasp, for the non-science leaders, secure in their ascendancy at the center of things, to see in it the threat to their ascendancy. It was on his followers, those who saw sense in the question, that the wrath of non-science descended. Non-science used the only method it had ever devised to achieve the only result it had ever been able to countenance--torture and force to make dissidents kneel in subservience.

But the question had been asked! And once asked, it could not be erased!

Still, it was almost an accidental question. For the method of science, as something understood and communicable, as a calculated point of view, had not yet been discovered. The key that would unlock its door had not yet been found.

Cal lay back on the rock to bathe in the warm rays of Ceti, almost to doze, yet with thought running clear and unimpeded. The splas.h.i.+ng and the laughter of the colonists below the rock were no more than accompanying music.

The key which opened the door to physical science was not discovered until 1646 by a bunch of loafers, ne'er-do-wells, beatniks, who hung around the coffee shops of London. Later, because non-science always persecutes those who dare ask questions and thereby demonstrate some subversion to subservience, many had to flee to Oxford which, at that time, was sanctuary for those who differed from popular thought.

As he lay there drinking in the sun, the peacefulness, he sent his vision back through the card index of his mind to find the reference, the key that opened the door to physical science, the pregnant point of view that would give birth to a whole new concept of man's relations.h.i.+p to the universe. He found the pa.s.sages in Thomas Sprat's _History of the Royal Society of London (1667)_.

"... to make faithful records of all the works of nature, or art which can come within their reach ... They have stud'd to make it, not only an enterprise of one season, or of some lucky opportunity; but a business of time; a steddy, a lasting, a popular, an uninterrupted work."

He stirred restlessly and changed his position to lay his head on one arm. Not quite, not yet the key. Ah, here it was, perhaps the most significant sentence ever written by man.

"They have attempted to free it from the artifice, and humors, and pa.s.sions of sects; to render it an instrument whereby mankind may obtain a dominion over _Things_, and not only over one another's judgements."

That was it. That was the essence of its difference from non-science, for the only method ever discovered until then was the non-science method of making its judgments prevail over all others.

Once this answer was discovered, it too could not be erased in spite of all the efforts of non-science. With that answer, man had come this far.

And now?

Could it be that science, as with non-science, was only a partial answer? Only another stage? Only a section of the road man must travel?

Something as limited in its way as non-science was limited? Something too narrow to contain the whole of reality? Something also to be left behind? A milestone pa.s.sed, instead of the goal?

What comes after science? What new door must be opened into a still newer point of view? What pregnant new concept of his relations.h.i.+p to reality must man now discover before he could continue his journey down the long road toward total comprehension?

He could ask the question, but it was not the right question; for it contained no hint of an answer. He felt an irritation in himself, almost as if some teacher in the past had shaken his head in disapproval.

For a moment he welcomed the distracting shout from one of the colonists, and sat up. In the shallows of the river one of the men had caught a foot long fish and was holding it up in his hands. Delightedly, the others acknowledged his victory, and renewed their efforts. He lay back down again, and stretched his cramped muscles.

Too fast! He had come down the long, long road too fast. He had missed something, something early. Something man had known in pre-science, and had forgotten in science.

These colonists. Would they grow in awareness? Now they seemed only to be a part of their environment, without curiosity, their fears of even the day before forgotten. Wiped away, as though it had never been, was their memory of a previous existence to this. They were wholly at one with their environment--unaware.

Were they to begin the long road? To telescope its distance? Would they be able to continue living without peopling the trees, the streams, the clouds, the winds, with spirits benign and vengeful--created in their own image? Could they continue to live alone in the universe?

Yes, that was the thing he had missed. Loneliness.

In separating himself from the animals, man had cut off his kins.h.i.+p with them. And so he found companions.h.i.+p with the G.o.ds. And cutting himself off from the G.o.ds ...

Loneliness.

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Eight Keys to Eden Part 22 summary

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