April 11, 2011
Tarzan Meets Einstein Somewhere In Time
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan At the Earth’s Core, 1929
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan The Invincible, 1930
Gott, J. Richard: Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, 2001
Wells, H.G., The Time Machine, 1895
Time travel seems strange because we are unaccustomed
to seeing time travelers. But if we saw them
everyday we might not be surprised to meet a man
who was his own mother and father.
– J. Richard Gott, Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe
When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains,
no matter how improbable,
must be the truth.
All possible universes exist.
Unfortunately you are
in the wrong one.
– J. Richard Gott
Upon time and space is written, thoughts,
the deeds, the activities of an entity
in relationship to its environs,
its hereditary influence and its judgments
drawn according to the entity’s ideal.
Hence, it has often been called
The reward of God’s book of remembrance.
– Edgar Cayce, 1 February 1946
Somewhere in time, let’s say 1905, a man named Levi Dowling says, in all seriousness, that he traveled out to the belt of stars girdling Earth known as the Zodiac. There at the cusp of the departing Age of Pisces and the arriving Age of Aquarius he was met by celestial beings who allowed him to examine the Akashic Records to learn the shape of things to come in the Age of Aquarius.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had taken Madame Blavatsky and Albert Einstein with him? They might have taken folding chairs and a card table along and read the Tarot cards or cast the I Ching. Madame B who had already examined the Akashic Records in the mystical land of Tibet could have guided Mr. Dowling through the Records while Albert Einstein offered a useful comment from time to time on how better to order all the possible universes. By the way Mr. Gott should know that it is not necessary for all the possible universes to exist simultaneously. Some might be in the garage for repairs, so to speak. Tweaked a little.
Perhaps J. Richard could have traveled back through Time and Space to 1905 to be present out
on the cusp and serve as the trio’s Ganymede to roll their Tea behind a cloud where we can’t see as they played celestial Rummy or read each other’s Tarot using the Akashic deck.
Levi Dowling returned with gleanings he had picked up from the fabled Akashic Records which he placed in his book The Aquarian Gospel Of Jesus The Christ. Madame B had already given us the results of her study, so she would have little to add, perhaps a few corrections. Albert Einstein undoubtedly learned what he needed to know from the Records to write his own Special Theory Of Relativity which upon mature reflection he expanded to the General Theory Of Relativity. There is a certain similarity in style in the writing of all three time travelers as they rolled around heaven if only for one day.
While I have found no evidence that Edgar Rice Burroughs ever read Dowling, or indeed the Akashic Records, who, I might add has made more of an historical impression than you might thnk, even than Blavatsky, there is proof that he wrestled with the ideas of the Special and General Theories of Relativity of Einstein.
In Chapter 9 of Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs says: …but though time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end…
You can’t refer to curved space without being aware of Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity. What Burroughs read of Einstein’s is not clear but that he was familiar with the notion of relativity is clear.
What a time it must have been in those fifty years from 1870 to 1920 when literary greats literally strode the Earth like giants: Haggard, Doyle, Wells, Freud, Kipling, Einstein, Burroughs. The most earth shaking fiction writers the world has ever seen. None were so marvelous as Freud, Einstein and Burroughs, super charged, they flashed across the skies like bolts from the mighty arm of Zeus.
Einstein is one part of a triumvirate of the ‘three greatest geniuses’ of the twentieth century by some people’s reckoning: that is Marx, Freud and Einstein. Marx was dead by the time Einstein and Freud flourished. Both of the latter men claim to have been scientists but one should note that they were both deeply inolved in religious matters of one group of the Semitic peoples. Both were promoting their religious beliefs through their ‘sciences.’ They were even so close they collaborated on a book, Why War?
Marx, Freud and Einstein are colossal frauds. These three men based their life’s work on false
premisses no less egregious than that Tarzan existed and was guardian of Africa. ERB in a mind boggling way sports with the notions of all three men in his oeuvre. One has to admire his audacity as no one has ever accused him of being a genius on the order of the three ‘greats.’
Central to Einstein’s relativity thesis is that Time is a Fourth Dimension. Just as the discussion of the Unconscious was appropriated by Freud from the literary atmosphere dating back to Edgar Allan Poe and the German Romantics, so as Richard Gott points out in his 2001 book Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, subtitled ‘The Physical Possiblilites Of Travel Through Time,’ old Herbert George introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension in his 1895 novel, The Time Machine.
Are these things coincidences? Well, I don’t know.
Wells takes credit for having introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension but I rather imagine that the idea had been bruited about for several years before Wells gave it literary expression. Just as Freud developed a scientific notion of the Unconscious from discussions floating about, so Einstein elaborated on the existing notions of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
It is my contention that Burroughs was absorbed in the ideas of these three men exploring their possibilities over the course of the oeuvre. At the Earth’s Core is apparently when the nettle of Time jarred ERB into a full scale examination of the problem. In Earth’s Core ERB was on the right track that Time has no independent existence but he backed off in apparent frustration for he says, once again in Chapter 9 of Invincible:
The beasts of the jungle acknowledge no master, least of all the cruel tyrant that drives civilized man throughout his headlong race from the cradle to the grave- Time, the master of countless millions of slaves. Time, the measurable unit of duration, was measureless to Tarzan and Tantor. Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he could use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there was always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceased, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan, therefore, were wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation; but though Time and Space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end.
I’ve read a little bit here and there and I find the above a remarkably profound passage. At the last Burroughs contradicts himself for on the one hand he says ‘Time and Space go on forever,’ while on the other hand he says that ‘Time is a measure of duration.’
That latter is correct. A measure of duration implies that Time has no independent existence; it is merely a convenient way devised by the mind of man to measure duration from point A to point B. It has been said that the progress of man is the improvement in the ability to measure. A nanosecond is a vast advance in measurement over the crude second just as the ability to measure a billionth of an inch is a refinement of the measurement of the inch. However neither the second or the inch have an independent existence in reality on that account. As an alternate measure of distance there is also the centimeter which in itself can altered ad infinitum.
‘Time, the measurable aspect of duration’ is what At The Earth’s Core is all about. What ERB should have said is that Time is only the measureable aspect of duration. The implication of Earth’s Core is that time cannot exist without periodicity and the question is whether Time is merely a function of periodicity when conceived by sentient beings or does Time exist independently in and of itself. Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity hangs on that question. My own answer and the unresolved answer of ERB is that it does not.
When Burroughs says that Time and Space go on forever, he gives in to Relativity Theory on the one hand and denies it on the other. Einstein thought that both the Universe and Space were bound by limits. In saying that Space goes on forever Burroughs attacks a main thesis of the theory.
Also, if Wells expressed the notion of Time as the Fourth Dimension, as the scientist Gott acknowledges, does that give him priority over Einstein? It should. One sort of fiction has no greater claim to legitimacy than another.
What then is Burroughs’ relation to Wells and Einstein? That Burroughs read and was heavily influenced by Wells’ Time Machine seems self-evident. Not only is there a seeming reference to the Eloi and Morlocks in Jewels of Opar, but Wells also says: ‘Are you so sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough. But how about up and down?’
It seems that Tarzan anweres that question by his use of the lower, middle and upper terraces. Burroughs merely incorporates answers posed to others’ questions but he never refers to the questions. My own opinion is that Wells’ Time Machine posed troubling questions to Burroughs which he tried to resolve over several novels.
At the beginning of Invincible he says quite starkly: ‘…it seems to me not unethical to pirate an idea occasionally…’ Admittedly the quotation is taken out of context but it is consistent with Burroughs’ practice. As it was, one might note Shakespeare, Homer, Chaucer, Milton and a host of others down through time did the same. Complete originality has only been demanded in modern times and never met.
As Time has no independent existence. I believe that ERB undestood the idea of time travel to be impossible, hence, even though he covers many different time periods from the prehistoric to the ‘modern’ post-Atlantean society of Opar, he never uses the method of time travel. Those various ages still exist fossilized in Time and Space. I have to believe that Opar is an early reflection on the notion of time travel as posed by Wells, as the Oparians reflect Eloi and Morlocks so closely. But still puzzled by what he thought about it, ERB merely placed Opar in a place similar to where the Time Machine stopped in 802701 and played with the notion of Eloi and Morlocks.
ERB does have an instance of actual time travel in The Eternal Lover in which the Lovers move back and forth in time.
As The Jewels Of Opar was written before Einstein achieved world wide notoriety, Burroughs could only critique and reflect on the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension from Wells, and also actually Camille Flammarion who was a major influence on him. It would be a little later that the notion put into scientific language by Einstein exercized his thought processes.
Just as when Jason Gridley and the O-220 pass between two time periods when it leaves the crust for the core, the O-220 has really traveled through Time but it has never left the present. The prehistoric Core exists as a parallel world.
Whereas the crust is ruled by Time or periodicity as measured as Time, the Earth’s core exists in a perpetual high noon in which there is no periodicity to measure the passage of Time. Thus, the inhabitants have all the Time in their world for the period of their lives. Periodicity is determined by their existence rather than years, months, days, hours and minutes as Burroughs pointed out in the communion of Tarzan and Tantor quoted from Invincible above.
The life span of a Pellucidarian cannot be measured except as biological unit.
A charming epression of the notion is presented in the lyrics of the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds:
I know when day is done,
That a new world’s born at dawn;
But I’ll keep drifting along….
As I understand the lyrics in relation to Einstein and the Fourth Dimension of Time is that the Earth makes one complete rotation between sunups. When the sun ‘rises’ each morning the planet has not only rotated a full turn on its axis but revolved around the sun a notch of the three hundred sixty-five rotations that comprise one revolution around the sun. Thus, a new world’s born at dawn. There is no time involved at all but there is periodicity.
Each rotation is a fact in and of itself. There is no way to recover it or travel back to it. It is done. It had no existence before its occurrence and it has no existence after it. To retrieve the irretrievable is impossible. To occupy space before arriving there is equally impossible. Time is not a continuum, therefore Time travel is impossible.
As the cowboy in Tumbling Tumbleweeds says, the duration of is life is not governed by the periodicity of the earth cycle. One day is done and a new world begins the next dawn but his biological existence drifts along quite independent of another measurement.
This is what Burroughs says in At The Earth’s Core. In the eternal noon of Pellucidar men and women have no way of ageing themselves; they drift along from birth to death unconscious of birthdays. There are only two phases to life: birth and death.
As Bob Dylan put it, ‘If you’re not busy being born you’re busy dying.’ Thus the Pellucidarians go through life conscious only, if that, of the process of life. There is no need for time. Nature has given them all they need and more to live their lives.
Time, then, is an illusion created by the periodicity of the daily rotation of earth on its axis and its yearly revolution around the sun. However the Earthly year would have no meaning on the planet Uranus which takes more than a hundred earth years in its revolution around the sun. The majority of earthlings would never be more than a year old. Neither would the Earth hour have any meaning on Jupiter which consumes less than twenty-four hours in its rotation. Time is certainly no absolute but in a parody of Einstein it is relative. What indeed does Time mean from the perspective of the Sun which controls the different periodic revolutions of nine planets in its course through Space? It’s all relative until you triangulate the center and then it’s absolute.
In a joke as elegant as any that I have read, Burroughs depicts the frustration of Robert Jones, the cook aboard the O-220. ERB expects the reader to get the joke, which he stretches out over the length of the novel,even though he calls no direct attention to the fact that he is making a joke. Jones is the cook of the expedition. On the crust, our active and passive periods are determined for us by the natural periodicity of night and day. We, or most people, are active during the day and sleep at night. Our eating periods are determined by the position of the sun in the sky. At daybreak (in theory) we break our fast and have breakfast, at noon we have lunch and at day’s end we have supper or dinner (which one depends on your social class.)
At the Earth’s core the sun is at perpetual noon. One eats when hungry, one sleeps when tired. As the cook, when Jones looks outside to see what time it is, it is always lunch time. He has a clock, not even a twenty-four hour military clock, but apparently a twelve hour alarm clock, which he checks against the sun. As it is always noon outside, he can’t even tell if its AM or PM which his clock reads simply as 7:00. He can’t tell whether it is night or day, breakfast time or dinner. He doesn’t know which end is up, quite literally, as everything at the core is reversed. At every stop, he writes in his journal: ‘Arrived here at noon.’
His frustration increases because he doesn’t know which meal to serve- except…lunch. Finally in complete exasperation he throws the clock overboard, or he throws time out the window or to the winds. This really funny shaggy dog story took Burroughs the whole book to develop.
So, really, Burroughs is saying that time is dependent on periodicity or its relevance and is only a measure of that periodicity. Time has no independent existence, which is correct. Burroughs thereby disproved Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity which is dependent on a continuum of both Time and Space.
Without a continuum of Time and Space there can be no time travel. There is no time travel which is a staple of science fiction, in Burroughs’ work. There might easily have been but rather than following Herbert George’s example, which seemed impossible to him, he effectively refutes Wells and the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
To retrieve the irretrievable which is that which has ceased to exist or to obtain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence is a mere conundrum created by Einstein and Wells not unlike the ancient Greek story of the Fox that nothing could catch and Laelaps, the dog that nothing could outrun
In that story, in brief, the citizens of the area in which a man called Cephalus had antagonized a god who in anger sent a Fox that could never be caught to ravage the countryside. Earlier Cephalus had acquired Laelaps, the dog which could outrun everything, from a goddess.
Keep your eye on the bouncing ball- god/goddess.
The citizens implored Cephalus to turn Laelops loose on the Fox to rid the country of the menace. Thus we have the scene of the Fox that nothing could catch being chased interminably by the dog that nothing could outrun.
The Greeks, too, were fond of conundrums such as what happens when an irresistable force meets an unmoveable object. Thus the problem posed by time travel, whether in Einstein’s universe or any other, is how to retrieve the unretrievable, which is: That which has cesed to exist, or how to otain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence.
As these problems have no resolution, the Greeks solved the problem of Laelaps and the Fox by having them both turned to stone in mid-run. And there they remain today as all conundrums must.
So until you run into a Time Traveler who is both his own mother and father, be content to live in this universe while you await transportation to any of the other ‘possible universes.’ Check the Akashic Records before you book. Unlike Tarzan who could board the O-220 to Pellucidar at the Core of the Earth where the sun was at perpetual high noon, we’ll all have to watch the sun come up in the East and set in West for all the days of our time.
In the meantime, credit ERB as a man of great common sense.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part II of X
Time On His Hands
I pair this novel with Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Burroughs could have titled that novel Tarzan In Pellucidar but he didn’t. Why not? Probably because he was trying to avoid as much confusion between his two imaginary worlds as possible, or possibly he needed the site to illustrate his point but didn’t want to make it a Pellucidar novel. Earth’s Core isn’t merely a story in which Tarzan makes a guest shot in another of Burrough’s worlds. Rather ERB is making a serious exploration of Einstein’s Theory of Time and Space. Alternatively the novel might have been titled, Tarzan, Lost In Time. The novel is written to disprove the objective existence of Time. Burroughs’ own conclusion is that time is merely a human construct for mankind’s own convenience but not substantial. I think he’s right.
The nature of Time was a topic of serious discussion during the late nineteenth century, into the twentieth , still going on today. Indeed the Pellucidar series as a whole is a discussion on the aspects of Time. Of course Burroughs was familiar also with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Perhaps one of the more interesting notions of Time and Space and time travel was one advanced by Mark Twain in 1916 in his interesting novel No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger. In his story Twain imagines that space and time are assembled like a multi-storied building with each diorama of time and space continuing in replay eternally. Thus his hero, #44 scoots around in time and space in what is apparently a system of chutes and ladders.
It is possible in this system to visit ancient Egypt to watch the Pyramids being built, climb through the years to discover the head of the Sphinx sticking out of the sand as Napoleon saw it in 1798, climb once again to watch the first Aswan dam being built, move up a story or two to watch the High Dam being built and off to Troy to stand in the front ranks with poor maligned Ajax.
To The Time Machine, Einstein’s Theory and The Mysterious Stranger, now add Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. There are more similarities than dissimilarities.
ERB apprently didn’t think he made his point in At The Earth’s Core or perhaps he received some criticism from someone so he carries the discussion over into Invincible. While incongruous for this story ERB works it in.
As there are no book s on Einstein in his library one may ask what evidence there is that ERB had ever thought of Relativity. Well, I’ve got the evidence right here, p. 104:
…but though Time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines…
One can’t mention curved space and Time without being familiar with Einstein. And then, Einstein absurdly claimed that a nonexistent mental construct like Time forms a Fourth Dimension which somehow interacts with the other three. We are still waiting for a demonstration of that but we’ll let it pass. I’m sure Einstein picked that up from H.G. Wells Time Machine which was a very fine piece of imaginative literature but reflected no known physics then or now. Someone ought to pin a big red bozo nose on Einstein but, back to the future.
ERB had discussed the notion of Time thoroughly in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Actually that’s a contradiction of terms as a hollow earth obviates the notion of core. The key fact at the Earth’s Core is that it is always high noon. The central sun knows only endless day without a contrasting night to give the appearance of Time. Without the contrast between day and night and the revolution of the Earth around the Sun the concept of Time disappears; there is nothing to measure just pure duration.
In Invincible Burroughs explains it this way, if you didn’t catch it in At The Earth’s Core, p. 104 again, same paragraph:
The beasts of the jungle acknowledge no master, least of all the cruel tyrant that drives civilized man throughout his headlong race from the cradle to the grave- Time, the master of countless millions of slaves. Time, the measurable aspect of duration, was meaningless to Tarzan and Tantor.
Not only is Time meaningless to Tarzan and Tantor but Time is meaningless to the universe itself. Nothing that ocurs in the Universe is dependent on Time nor can Time change any occurrence. The so-called Fourth Dimension is totally ineffective. Everything will happen just as it does now and has always without any reference to Time. The progress of a physcial action will progress in scientifically determined steps from inception to completion without any interference from that clown Einstein’s ‘fabric of time and space.’
That is the import of timelessness at the Earth’s core. The inhabitants live and die without the ability to know they are getting older as there is no night, day or year. The organism merely comes into existence, behaving according to physical laws determined by genes and other micro-organisms progressing through all the changes until the final change which change no longer has any conscious meaning.
The same is true of suns and galaxies. It is virtually meaningless to say the Sun is several billions of years old. It is only a mental construct that lets you grasp a concept of duration. It is much more relevant to say, for instance, that the changes in the Sun’s development are, say, 30% completed. You see, it’s all quantative not qualitative. Barring accidents and diseases, at twenty the average life span in the US is 25% consumed. The changes relative to that portion of development in the organism have occurred and will not occur again. On that basis I have used up about 85% of the physical changes alloted my organism. The nature of future changes are predictable. They cannot be avoided. This has no reference to Time no matter what state of development an organism is in.
While in a state of depletion I become ‘old’ only if my psychology is affected by the concept of ‘age.’ While my physical capabilities are not what they were at twenty, that phase of development having been passed through, my mental capabilities have developed accordingly. As my body has decreased in powers my mind has increased. The beginning has compensated the end. If I die today or tomorrow that is as it must be. Everything has its end. There is no tragedy involved.
Life and death are completed, unaffected by Time. If time ‘stopped’ as people imagine it can, everything would continue as now. Organisms merely run their physical course. That is the point Burroughs is trying to make. He is repudiating Einstein.
As a young man I was conditioned to revere Einstein. I did this unquestioningly and, boy, was I sincere. I disgust myself in memory. But then, somewhere along the line the hypnotic spell wore off, contradicted by facts. Einstein began to unravel before my eyes. It wasn’t that I questioned his reputation it was just that a mist began to lift. I began to have doubts; sort of religious doubts. I blinked once and Einstein was no longer the archetype of genius. At the second blink I began to ask questions. I tripped over the notion of the physical reality of Time just as Burroughs did.
When I read the ancient Jewish historian Josephus I began to sense the specious nature of the problem. According to Josephus Abraham was the greatest astronomer cum astrologer of his time just as Einstein is thought to be the greatest of ours. At the time of the transition between the Age of Taurus and the Age of Aries Abraham had an astrological/astronomical dispute with the academy.
You see, at that stage of the evolution of human consciousness astronomy and astrology were united into one discipline. The magical element of astrology wouldn’t be separated from the scientific element of astronomy until the scientific consciousness of humanity had separated itself from the magical or religious which two systems are synonymous. The concept of god functions only in a magical sense as his presence is even less noticeable than that of Time.
However magic and astrology are still part of human consciousness although with a quasi-scientific basis so that systems organized perhaps tens of thousands of years ago continue to function through inertia. I have been accused of being New Age. Quite frankly as New Age in my view rejects the scientific consciousness as much as any other religious system, Fundamentalist Judaism, for instance, hint hint, I cannot be New Age. But, I sure like the way they talk.
What I discuss is scientific history. Facts which religious people reject because they disavow the ideas behind them but accept as real, i.e. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Why bother worrying about it; witches do not exist except in the imagination.
So whether you ‘believe’ in astrology, the Zodiac or whatever is irrelevant. The fact is at one time in history people universally did and they acted on their beliefs.
At any rate the fact is at the time of the transition from the Age of Taurus to the Age of Aries Abraham had an astrological/astronomical dispute with the Chaldean astronomers of Ur. As I understand it they said the religious archetype was changing with the transition from Taurus to Aries. (I think of this as a form of set theory; it is so because everyone agrees it is so. No different than now.) Abraham argued that the archetype of the Ages was Eternal, unchanging, the Rock Of Ages to you religious types. Rock of Ages means unchanging through all the signs of the Zodiac, all twelve Ages. An Age is one sign of the Zodiac. Ages are the twelve zodiacal signs. (Hello, Central? Put me through to God.)
Now, to be Eternal is astrologically impossible. The Earth wobbles on its axis visible at the North Pole so that every twenty-five thousand years or so it creates a Great Year then begins again. The Ancients divided the Great year in the system of twelve periods, called Ages, to correspond with the months of the terrestrial year.
Apparently Abraham denied this and adamantly insisted on the Eternal. For this reason, according to Josephus Abraham and his fellow Terahite cultists were run out of town.
Lousy astronomers, then, Abraham’s descendants had learned little by the time Einstein stepped onto the world stage to give his oration. Just as Abraham had voiced his foolishness four thousand years previously Einstein did the same in our time. There are those who seriously argue that time travel is possible in Einstein’s universe. Well, maybe in his, but not in this one.
Nothing is relative but one’s point of view. The physical universe is one of absolutes; that is the nature of science. Science cannot be relative; in order for an experiment to be true it must replicate itself the same way under the same conditions. As unpleasant as that may be to some intellects there is in fact only one way in a given set of circumstances. A+B will always equal A+B. If one switches to A+C then the result will always be A+C. There is nothing relative about it. You may religiously expect other results but you will be eternally disappointed. So Einstein said that the further out in Space his mind penetrated the closer he got to god. Who can say, but he never got close enough to touch God. Einstein was not a scientist. He was a Rabbi. There is no g-d to get closer to. I’m sure that a good Rabbi would find arguments in the Talmud almost identical to those of Einstein.
Burroughs saw through Einstein hence his arguments disproving the physical existence of Time and the futility of any supposed Fourth Dimension. These are religious matters requiring a belief in a supernatural being.
Having said that Time was measureless to Tarzan and Tantor which was not entirely true since the rotation of the Earth divides ‘Time’ into night and day unlike at the Earth’s core. Burroughs then goes on to say, p. 104, same paragraph:
Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he could use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there is always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceases, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan therefore were wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation…
A beautiful piece of sophistry. Regardless of the Time involved, immutable physical changes continued to take place. What opportunities appropriate to that physical state were lost forever.
Apropos of which carrying his argument further, on p. 120 he says:
Time is of the essence of many things to civilized man. He fumes and frets, and reduces his mental and physical efficiency if he is not accomplishing something concrete during the passage of every minute of that medium which seems to him like a flowing river, the waters of which are utterly wasted if they are not utilized as they pass by.
Imbued by some such insane conception of time, Wayne Colt sweated and stumbled through the jungle, seeking his companions as though the fate of the universe hung upon the slender chance that he could reach them without the loss of a second.
I understand what ERB is saying, of course, I’m virtually a disciple. Tarzan lolling on the back of Tantor achieved his goal more easily than the frantic Colt. Still, one should remember: Work, for the hour grows late. Those irreversible physical changes are drawing one closer to the grave. Get it done now.
ERB displays a seeming peevishness over the issue which has little or no bearing on this story. It is an interesting aside but it does not illuminate the tale. Maybe somebody criticized the ideas expressed in At The Earth’s Core and Burroughs is carrying on the argument. Nobody paid any attention, still I am charmed by the vision of Tantor and Tarzan suspended in Space and Time wandering blissfully through the jungle unaware of any impending doom.
Proceed to Part III of X
August 2, 2009
Two, Three And Four Dimensional Burroughs
George McWhorter, the headmaster of our school, published a couple of very interesting letters in the Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #79, Summer 2009 issue.
In the first letter a Leo Baker from Nova Scotia proposed an idea to ERB. Burroughs gave a very interesting reply:
On March 16, 1920, I started a story along similar lines based on a supposed theory of angles rather than planes. If we viewed our surrundings from our own “angle of experience,” the aspect of the vibrations which are supposed to consitute both matter and thought were practically identical with those pervceived by all the creatures of the world that we know, whereas, should our existence have been cast in another angle, everything would be different, including the flora and fauna and the physical topography of the world.
The thought underlying the story was that wherefrom, viewed thus from a different angle, the vibrations that are matter took on an entirely different semblance, so that where before we had seen oceans, we might now see mountains, plains and rivers inhabited by creatures that might be identical with those which we had hithertoo been familiar, or might vary diametrically.
You see that it was a crazy story….
Now, Burroughs was a child of his times. Part of those times were some very remarkable speculative works by a remarkable thinker, Camille Flammarion. In his work Lumen for instance he demonstrates the non-existence of time. We know that ERB read Flammarion. We know that Burroughs went to lengths to demonstrate the non-existence of time. He may have drawn his own conclusions but as he read Flammarion say, by 1900, the notion at least was deposited in his mind where subconsciously it came to fruition prompted by Einstein no doubt. There were a couple other imaginative scientific writers of the late nineteenth century that my Burroughs studies led to me read. As has been said of old: When the student is ready the teacher will appear. I suppose I was ready and I read. Having read them they resonated quite strongly of ERB’s work but without anything other than ‘resonances’ to go on I didn’t dare suggest the ERB might have read them.
Other than Flammarion the two works I have in mind are Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance Of Many Dimensions and Charles Howard Hinton’s Scientific Romances. Flatland was published in 1884, Scientific Romances undoubtedly inspired by Flatland appeared in 1886. Flatland is still a famous if recondite book while Hinton is less well known.
Both works deal with lines and angles in a manner that as ERB suggests is ‘crazy.’ One has an unreal feeling in reading the books. Either ERB felt the same of his story or he was so close to Abbott and Hinton that he desisted. One notes, however, that his description of his 1920 story is very close to his Pellucidar stories and it was Pellucidar that was brought to my mind while reading Hinton and Abbott. ERB notices a theory of angles rather than planes combined with ‘vibrations.’ This suggests a continuing interest intitally excited by Abbott and Hinton combined with the originator of the theory of vibrations. The last is unkown to me at present.
While there are many who believe there is no intellectual depth to Burroughs I find a great deal of mounting evidence to suggest he was very interested in the intellectual and scientific ideas of his time and, indeed, built his entire corpus around them.
Both Hinton and Abbott are readily available, as well as Flammarion, if anyone want to join in a discussion.
September 23, 2008
Edgar Rice Burroughs Wrestles With Time
When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
There are two major themes in Burroughs that present significant difficulties. One is his preoccupation with slavery. Slavery pervades the corpus. I haven’t begun to guess at Burroughs’ notions on slavery. The second is the wrestle Burroughs has with the concept of Time. Time is a major preoccupation of scientific thinkers.
My ideas on Burroughs ideas on Time were jelled by the following quote from ‘Understanding Media’ by Marshall McLuhan that I came across while rereading the book recently:
As a piece of technology, the clock is a machine that produces uniform seconds, minutes, and hours on an assembly-line pattern. Processed in this uniform way, time is separated from the rhythms of human experience. The mechanical clock, in short, helps to create the image of a numerically quantified and mechanical universe. It was in the world of the medieval monasteries, with their need for a rule and for synchronized order to guide communal life, that the clock started on its modern developments. Time measured not by the uniqueness of private experience but by abstract uniform units gradually pervades all sense life, much as does the technology of writing and printing. Not only work, but also eating and sleeping, came to accommodate themselves to the clock rather than to organic needs. As the pattern of arbitrary and uniform measurement of time extended itself across society, even clothing began to undergo annual alteration in a way convenient for industry. At that point, of course, mechanical measurement of time as a principle of applied knowledge joined forces with printing and asembly line as means of uniform fragmentation of processes.
While Burroughs never states his position succinctly McLuhan might have abstracted the above quote from Burroughs’ novels.
The Pellucidar series is centered on the problem of Time while Burroughs persistently dwells on the problem throughout the corpus. Mars itself is a contrast between the orbits of Earth and Mars with its two different durations of time. The lost cities of Africa are a contrast in time periods as they all exist within the present while products of a distant past, most notably the lost city of Opar that dates back to Atlantis nearly unchanged.
Tied to the concept of Time are Burroughs’ notions on evolution. The most notable novel in that line being The Land That Time Forgot. Time forgot. Time didn’t so much forget it as encapsulate a series of time periods that exist side by side.
Usually Burroughs’ ruminations are thoroughly disguised as ‘entertainment.’ If you are merely entertaining yourself by reading Burroughs you probably won’t consciously recognize the underlying examinations but you probably will be affected subconsciously. A hypnotic suggestion so to speak. After all, the stories themselves are fairly slight and yet the attention of readers from teenagers to college professors over a century now are riveted by the author.
I don’t intend to be exhaustive in this essay but I would like to concentrate on two novelistic examinations by Burroughs. The largest examination and most obvious is that of ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ and its successor ‘Tarzan The Invincible.’ The other hidden example is ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ also known by its published title: ‘The Oakdale Affair.’ I will begin with the latter.
I’ve written on ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ a couple times, one major essay being on the ezine, ERBzine, Only The Strong Survive. http://erbzine.com/mag14/1483.html . There is a great deal going on in this wonderful story that isn’t so obvious. I didn’t have that good a handle on the story although Lord knows I tried hard enough.
I was mystified by the course taken by Bridge, the Kid, the Bear, the Gypsy Girl and Hetty Penning from the Squibb Farm to the destination warehouse. There is probably a great deal of symbolism I’m still not getting but as it appears to me now Burroughs is contrasting two different kinds of time.
The journey takes a day and a night to complete by which I do not mean to say twenty-four hours of mechanical time but a physical day and night of experiential time. In other words according to McLuhan Time measured by the uniqueness of personal experience on one hand and time measured by abstract uniform units on the other.
Both the origin of the journey and its end are based on experiential time where the sun not the clock governs the actions. As darkness falls the journey through time is bisected by the passage through a town. Here experiential time is contrasted to mechanical time. That mechanical time is precisely measured according to the precepts of the efficiency expert Frederick Taylor. Indeed, within a year or so Burroughs would pen a book on the same theme entitled ‘The Efficiency Expert.’
In this book, Willie Case, a little farm boy who Gail Prim posing as a hobo had bummed from him came to town. The story involves several criminal acts and a major detective so Willie is hot to solve the case. Willie comes to town which is run by the clock. Willie has a dollar to spend. ERB accounts for each and every penny as it is spent. In a very humorous scene Willie goes into a restaurent at dinner time by the clock. In a Frederick Taylor efficient manner Willie arranges his dinner plates so that he makes the minimum moves in a most timely manner shoveling the food into his mouth in minimum time. Very efficient if ridiculous dining.
He then goes to the movies. Movies are run on a time schedule by the clock, so various aspects of rigid mechanical time are represented. As Willie leaves the theatre he spots the hobo troupe weaving through town on experiential time. No straight lines. Here the two modes of time intersect. Very cleverly done on ERB’s part. The troupe then weaves on to their destination while Willie calls the cops on a pay phone.
While one is not conscious of the two modes of time that ERB represents yet subconsciously a deepening interest is added to the story. While mystified by the action I would never have guessed the significance of the time comparisons if I hadn’t read the McLuhan passage that put things into perspective.
Also at this time ERB wrote two other investigations of Time: ‘The Efficiency Expert’ and ‘The Land That Time Forgot.’
I think his two most explicit investigations were ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ and its successor ‘Tarzan The Invincible.’
Burroughs through Tarzan seems to reject civilization. He seems to prefer experiential time to mechanical time. In Invincible he says:
Time is the essence of many things to civilized man. He fumes and frets, and reduces his mental and physical efficiency if he is not accomplishing something concrete during the passage of every minute of that medium which seems to him like a flowing river, the waters of which are utterly wasted if they are not utilized as they pass by.
His Pellucidar series creates a model to investigate the nature of Time. Pellucidar is a model of a reversed Time and Space system. The earth is essentially turned outside in replicating the exterior in a closed universe. He posits a sun suspended in the interior that is perpetually shining. While the outer earth rotates on its axis only half the surface is in light facing the sun while the other half is in darkness facing away. Thus the appearance of change which is time is obvious. In Pellucidar as the earth turns no portion of the inner world is in darkness although the perpetual shadow from the interior moon must have described a circular path.
As there is no experiential time, there is no night and day, the beings of Pellucidar have no notion of the passing of Time indeed there is no passing of Time; Time as a reality does not exist. Time is not necessary for existence; a person or thing is merely invested with a certain amount of energy. When that energy is expended the person or thing ceases to exist.
Thus, for example, when one winds a top it is invested with a certain amount of energy. At peak energy it rotates rapidly gradually slowing down into a wobble and when its energy is expended it falls over and attains perpetual rest. No time is involved although using man made mechanical means the duration of the spin can be measured.
So, in the universe at large. It is quite clear that Burroughs has Einstein in mind. In Invincible he says:
…but though Time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines…
One can’t mention curved space without being familiar with Einstein. He is thus offering an alternative to Einstein’s notion of the fabric of Time and Space. There can be no fabric of time and space as time has no objective existence. It is a contruct to serve the needs of man. The sun, for instance, came into existence with a certain amount of potential energy. Barring accidents, that energy will be expended at a certain rate just like the top and when that energy is fully expended the sun will follow whatever course the death of suns follow. There is no time involved, hence no time-space continuum and no fabric of time and space.
McLuhan says essentially the same thing.
So, ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ is a demonstration of the fallacy of Einstein’s notion.
Moving on to ‘Tarzan The Invicible’ Burroughs then has Tarzan dealing with the notion of terrestrial time. As McLuhan notes, the notion of a time to eat arose with clocks; Tarzan dispenses with the notion of a time to eat eating only when he is hungry. There are no clocks in Tarzan’s Africa. As Burroughs says an individual has all the time in the world.
Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he coud use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there is always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceased, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan were therefore wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation.
One has all the time one needs until the day one dies then one no longer has need of time. In other words, the organism’s energy has been expended and the husk falls to earth.
So Tarzan is active when necessary, such as hunting for food or fighting and lazes around when activity is unnecessary. Perfectly balanced and happy according to Burroughs. OK for the jungle, I suppose, but I’ve got things to do such as writing stuff like this but then that is only how I dispose of the energy left in my organism during the time remaining. With other media such as electric lights I am not bound by the diurnial cycle being freed from that experiential limitation. One only has to sleep when one is tired. Time means nothing to me either. With stores open around the clock I can even buy groceries when the mood hits me. Other items can be purchased on the internet at any time of day. So, technology has freed us from many of the restraints of what civilization is pleased to call time.
So, when reading Burroughs one should always bear in mind what time means to him and how various notions of time relate to the story. Obviously in Invincible while Tarzan is attempting to live on experiential time the Revolutionaries are living by the clock and calendar. Thus the story is also the tale of the clock or two time systems.
I knew there are reasons I like Burroughs other than interesting stories; complexities like the nature of time are one of the extras if one can only discover and realize them. Now, I really have to work on the nature of slavery in the Corpus.