A Review: Urania by Camille Flammarion

February 13, 2011

A Contribution To The Erbzine

ERB Library Project

A Review



Camille Flammarion


Review by R.E. Prindle

Looking For Reality

The sources of ERB’s work are always so rich that one is at a loss as to where to begin.  This is certainly the case with Camille Flammarion.  While little known today he had great influence in ERB’s early years.  He incarnated in 1842 and disincarnated  in 1925.  That may be a fancy way to say born and died but appropiate to Flammarion’s way of thinking.  He had very nearly established a superior reputation in his early twenties when his writings first began to appear.  Indeed, the narrator of Urania seems to have been Flammarion himself as he is named Camille while the narrator is already very famous in his mid- twenties.  Flammarion was a fabulous combination of the scientist and neo-Romantic.  A perfect balance to my mind and a balance that I believe Burroughs sought to emulate.

ERB acknowledged that he based his vision of Mars on that of Flammarion.  The question of when he read his available translated works probably can’t be answered but one would have to believe that Flammarion was fresh on his mind when he began writing in 1911.  He had also been pondering Mars for some time as the trilogy of Under The Moons Of Mars is especially well thought out.  Apart from his desperate situation one searches for the nudge that got him started.

The nudge may possible be found in a Chicago Tribune article of August 9, 1908 republished here on ERBzine by Bill Hillman.  The article is entitled Are All The Planets Inhabited?  The unnamed writer is essentially reviewing the thought of Camille Flammarion which he or she acknowledges.  Flammarion wrote a number of sci-fi volumes about Mars many of which were apparently translated but which are unavailable now.  There are a great many titles available from Print On Demand publishers in French but few in English.  I have only three titles although they seem to contain the information in the Tribune article.  It’s not impossible that ERB read only the books I have but it seems from the description I have of it he might also have read an 1864 title, supposedly translated, called Real And Imaginary Worlds.

Worlds In Profusion

Over all Flammarion wrote over fifty titles including what the English called Scientific Romances or proto-Sci-fi as well as popular astronomy titles and volumes based on psychic research.  While he was not a member of the Society For Psychic Research he was aware of it and was in frequent contact with Arthur Conan Doyle who was a member.  Doyle for a period of time visited him at his private observatory at his home at Juvisy near Paris.  Flammarion considered psychic research a science.  Spiritualism pervades the romances I have of him so once again it is unquestionable that ERB was conversant in spiritualism although he apparently rejected it.

Apart from Astronomy For Amateurs the volumes I have are titled Lumen and Urania: A Romance.  I’ve already mentioned Lumen in my Edgar Rice Burroughs, Camille Flammarion and Theodore Flournoy essay here on ERBzine so I’ll concentrate on a review of Urania.  She, Urania, as one of the nine muses of Greek Mythology, was the muse of astronomy and the head of the Muses.  I have a POD facsimile reprint.   Based on that I would have to say the original was a beautiful volume.  The book was published in France in 1889, translated into English and published in 1891.  ERB would have had plenty of time to have read it.  The translation is by Augusta Rice Stetson.  Between the original and the translation it is a stunningly well written book in the Romantic tradition.  It reads as well as Charles Nodier’s Trilby, De La Motte Fouque or E.T.A. Hoffman, all great writers from the first Romantic period.

Urania seems to have been a major influence, perhaps a catalyst on the terrific neo-Romantic novels of George Du Maurier which I have also reviewed on ERBzine.  Du Maurier was, of course, an ERB influence also.  The tone of Urania is also similar to William Morris’ novels who, Lin Carter believes, as do I, was an influence on Burroughs.  So a very strong romantic psychical infuence is operating in Burroughs’ imagination.

In addition to the wonderful translation of Urania by Miss Stetson the work was illustrated by no less than three artists with beautifully distinct styles.  I think it’s worth picking up a copy just for the illustrations, or download the book at the link above.  Really, reading the book was an ethereal experience.  The first chapter is even entitled:  A Dream Of Youth.

The book is divided into three parts.  The first is an imaginary voyage through the universe, the second the love story that sets up the third part which is a wonderful discussion of Mars and its view of Earth.  ERB toys with the this while it is very clear where he got his ideas.

Infinite Variety

Part One

All Across The Universe

Flammarion tells a charming story of an astronomy student who became fascinated by his professor’s clock which has a figure of Urania on it.  Urania is the muse of astronomy in Greek Mythology.  Pygmalion like this figure comes to life and the beautiful Urania conducts Camille on a tour of the universe.  Thus the Romantic or Faerie World melds into the scientific.  Very satisfying pyschologically.

Urania is apparently capable of traveling a few thousand times the speed of light because she take Camille to the edge of this universe where they behold other universes across immense stretches of empty space.  Flammarion is demonstrating the concept of infinity.

Bearing in mind that he is writing in 1889, the concepts he is demonstrating would have been unthought by his readers, certainly unthought by Edgar Rice Burroughs as so much of this was adapted in his own writing virtually unaltered.  John Carter’s translation to Mars can be compared to Urania’s trip across the universe.  Indeed, on the way out she reaches Mars then gives a wonderful description  of how Earth would look from that planet.  Flammarion’s version is remakably close to how the Earth really does look from space as we now know from actual pictures.

Flammarion is convinced that life exists on all planets divising a concept of infinite variation of life forms.  This is reflected in ERB’s depiction of animal and plant life in his Valley Dor on Mars, or Barsoom in his lexicon.

Flammarion, who studied double stars at his observatory at Juvisy has some spectacular descriptions of stellar phenomena which, once again, are fairly accurately corroborated by the fabulous photography of the Hubble telescope.

Now, having illustrated the concept of infinity, on the way back Urania demonstrates the meaning of eternal.  According to Camille’s ideas light emanating from a source is a continual snapshot of that moment of that source.  Thus at the speed of light one can intercept the wave at specific times in a source’s history, in this case, Earth.  At the proper distance then one can observe, say, the Battle of Thermopolae, Waterloo or whatever one might choose enacted eternally, thus once created these images always exist in that light wave and wherever the wave touches at whatever distance the scene could be perceived, hence each moment is time is eternal.

In fact, no accurate view of the universe is possible because the light arrives from billions of light years distant.  The light we see is so old that the stars may no longer exist.  The configuration of that place in space is now probably entirely different from what we see.  Flammarion is writing pure science fiction.  While he is seldom credited with being one of the originators of science fiction it would appear that rather than there being a, or one father of science fiction there are several and Flammarion is one.  I think the Scientific Romances of Hinton also qualify as well as Abbott’s Flatland.  These years leading up to the twentieth century are very, very rich in absolutely wonderful lore if you approach it in the right frame of mind.

I am no believer in parapsychology and yet if you approach it from the point of view of these late Victorians as possible science then the period begins to glow in irridescent colors, flouresces before your eyes.  Flammarion’s merging of romanticism and science is just stunningly beautiful.

So, having shown his character back to Earth Flammarion in an expert and entrancing way introduces the character of the second section, George Spero.  I’m sure that Du Maurier found the catalyst that began his writing in Urania and Spero.  The feel, the similarities are remarkable.  Du Maurier read French so he could easily have read Urania in 1889 so the time frame is right.  His books even look like Urania.

Another View Of Reality

Part II

George Spero

…to live like idiots if we do not think,

live like fools if we do.

-Camille Flammarion

This chapter sets up the denouement on Mars.  As such it it concerns the love affair and death of Spero and his love, Iclea.  Flammarion sets the scene, time and place in such a charming way I feel constrained to quote it.  Part Second, Chapter One:

An intense evening glow floated in the atmosphere like a wondrous golden radience.   From the heights of Passy the view extended over the whole of the great city, which at that time, more than ever before, was not a city, but a world.  The Universal Exhibition of 1867 had lavished all the attractions and delights of the century on imperial Paris.  The flowers of civilization were blooming in their most brilliant tints, wasting themselves away by the very ardour of their perfume- fading, dying in the full fervor of youth.  The crowned heads of Europe had just heard a deafening trumpet-blast there, which was the last of the monarchy; science, arts, industry had sown their newest creations broadcast, with an inexhaustible prodigality.  It was a general delirium of men and things.  Regiments were marching, with music at their heads; swifty-rolling vehicles crossed each other from all directions, thousands of people were moving about, in the dust of the avenues, quais and boulevards; but as the very dust, gilded by the rays of the setting sun, crowned the splendid city like an aureole.  The tall buildings, towers, and steeples were ablaze with reflection from the fiery orb; tones from a distant orchestra, mingled with a confused murmur of other sounds- the brilliant fit ending of a dazzling summer day- poured into the soul an undefined feeling of contentment, happiness, and satisfaction. There was a kind of symbolical summing up about it of the evidences of the vitality of a great people in the youth of its life and fortune.

Exhilarating what?  The sense of discovery, the feeling of perfection just around the corner, the expectation of fulfillment when science- astronomy and psychology leading Flammarion’s way- reveals the blessed secret.  The progression to perfection which existed in Flammarion’s paeon still cast a shadow in my childhood.  I was raised on it but now I look in vain for evidence of it.

With that sense of the pursuit of the absolute, the squaring of the circle, George and Iclea prepare to step into the brave new world of their dreams.

Actual Martian Landscape

The couple’s meeting is one of the loveliest I’ve read.  Iclea, in Norway was standing on a hillock when she saw her reflection in the sky greatly enlarged and in full detail.  George standing a little away but out of sight was also projected into Iclea’s celestial image.  At that time he chose to lift his hat to the sinking sun which appeared to Iclea that he was greeting her, so she saw his features and gestures but he didn’t see hers or her.

What was a mytery to Iclea George could have explained as a natural phenomenon called an anthelion.  Then the next day as they were boarding a ship to leave Norway, Camille, noticed Iclea staring fixedly at George as she recognized him as the figure in the sky.  Then moving away he out of sight of Iclea but she within sight of him he repeated his previous gesture as a salute to Norway.  Iclea once again mistook his gesture.  Thus when they did meet in Paris it was a dream come true for the girl.

The courtship is charmingly described, as with the anthelion Flammarion faultlessly blends science with the faerie, the romantic as a mind exalting anthem.  Quite astonishing, really.  One of the central problems that Camille dealt with in the clash between the magical and the scientific world views was the question of immortality.   The over riding fear of the scientific view was the elimination of life after death.  Man can’t accept that he is materialistic, living for the moment and completely ceasing to exist upon death, even though that is so, thus Flammarion seeks a plausible reason for immortality.   That quest is the real reason for the ‘science’ of the Society For Psychic Research which is merely a search for the proof of life after death.  Just beautifully written though.

Thus George and Iclea have to die tragically to prove life after death ‘scientifically.’  The couple return to Norway where George is going to attempt to discover the height of the aurora borealis by a balloon ascent.

Sparing the details they rise to the height of fifteen thousand feet when the valve controlling the hydrogen gas bursts and the balloon begins to descend.  They chuck everything overboard to slow the descent to no avail.  Approaching free fall Iclea gives George one last kiss and then sacrificing herself to love she leaps out of the basket at several hundred feet.  George bobs up to three thousand feet then he too throws himself out a la Romeo and Juliette to join his beloved in the great beyond.  Whew!

Another Martian Landscape

We next see George’s friend and narrator, Camille, at a hypnotic seance in the university town of Nancy.  Nancy was one of the two great hypnosis research centers in France.  Jean-Martin Charcot presided at the Salpetriere in Paris while Hippolyte Bernstein and Auguste Liebault held court at Nancy.  The seance  is within the realm of then science but oh so romantic.  There, Camille gains concrete evidence that life does exist after death.  I transcribe the passage, this is good:

I do not recall how, but it happened that my conversation with him turned on the planet Mars.  After describing to me a country situated on the shores of a sea known to astronomers under the name of Kepler’s Ocean, and a solitary island lying in the bosom of this sea; after telling me about the picturesque landscapes and reddish vegetation which adorned the shores, the wave-washed cliffs, and the sandy beaches where the billows break and die away- the subject, who was very sensitive, suddenly grew pale, and raised his hand to his head; his eyes closed, his eyebrows contracted; he seemed desirous of grasping some fugitive idea which obstinatley eluded him.  ‘See!’ said Dr. B (ernstein?), standing before him with irresistable command; ‘see! I wish it.’

‘You have friends there,’  he said to me.

‘I am surprised at that,’  I said laughing; ‘I have done enough to deserve them.’

‘Two friends,’ he went on, ‘who are talking about you, this very minute.’

‘Ah, ha!  Persons who know me?’


‘How is that?’

‘They have known you here.’


‘Here- on the earth.’

‘How long ago was it?’

‘I do not know.’

‘Have they lived on Mars long?’

‘I do not know.’

‘Are they young?’

‘Yes; they are lovers, who adore each other.’

Then the beloved image of my lamented friends rose distinctly in my mind; but I had no sooner seen them than the subject explained-

‘Yes, it is they!’

‘How do you know?’

‘I see,- they are the same souls, same colors.’

‘What do you mean by the “same colors”?

‘Yes, the souls are suffused with light.’

A few instants afterwards he added, ‘And yet there is a difference.’

Then he was silent, his forehead frowning in his effort to find out.  But his face regained all its calmness and serenity as he added-

‘He has become the woman, she is now the man- and they love each other more than ever.’

The Red Planet

Wow!  There’s a twist.  You really can kiss yourself.  So, you see there were things going on on Mars.  Perhaps the scene is reflected in Dr. Ras Thavas, the Mastermind Of Mars who could switch minds and bodies.  As Burroughs let his mind, his imagination play, flickering across these details that he couldn’t replicate exactly he invented variations to amaze and stun us.  Note the similarities of the balloon disaster to the balloon flight in ERB’s Pirate Blood.

The third part of Flammarion’s story Heaven And Earth deals with life on Mars.  Let Urania seize your mind, lift it and transport it instantaneously through the void to the Red Planet.

Only A World Away

Part III

Heaven And Earth

The magnetic seance at Nancy had left a strong impression on my mind.  I often thought of my departed friend, and his investigations in the unexplored domains of nature and life, of his sincere  and original analytical researches on the mysterious problem of immortality; but I could not think of him now without associating him with the idea of a possible reincarnation in the planet Mars.

-Camille Flammarion, Urania

If one looks at John Carter’s first translation to Mars one will remember that he disincarnated before the Arizona cave and reincarnated on Mars, that is he left his old body behind.  It was sort of like dragging and dropping on your computer.  You somehow magically create a doppelganger of the original.   Carter was born again as a full grown man but naked came he.  This is exactly the same situation as with George Spero and Iclea.  They disincarnated on earth and reincarnated on Mars.

We wonder by what method Carter was transported.  Flammarion has possible explanations:

This idea seemed to me to be bold, rash, purely imaginary if you like, but not absurd.  The distance from here to Mars is zero for the transmission of attraction; [By this he means the gravitation attraction between the two planets.]  it is almost insignificant for that of light, since a few minutes are enough for a luminous undulation to travel millions of leagues.  I thought of the telegraph, [action at a distance] the telephone, and the phonograph; of the influence a hypnotizer’s will has on his subject many kilometers distant; [a mistaken idea of hypnotism] and I wondered if some marvelous advance in science might not throw a celestial bridge between our world and others of its kind in infinity.

Alright.  ‘Transmission of attraction’ and celestial bridges.’  What kind of argument can one make against that.  Transmission of attraction is gravity and as Flammarion explains when Mars and Earth are in alignment the two planets act on each other disturbing their orbits in a measurable degree.  I want to be in on that next session with Dr. B.  Anyway one or more of the above explanations must have worked for Burroughs although we’re sure that Carter didn’t use a celestial bridge.   The distnace was zero by transmission of attraction which required only a short hop so J.C. just stepped from Jasoom to Barsoom shedding his drawers in the process.  Right on!

Camille does admit though:  …the fantastic ideas flitting through my brain prevented me from making a truly scientific observation.  A caveat, no doubt, but then, …It is not this hypothesis which is absurd, it is the simplicity of the pedants.  Ah, ha, the bases are covered.

Now after several pages of rumination on the possiblility of telepathy Camille is translated to Mars as in a dream.  As a prelude he says, somewhat sagely:

…astronomy and psychology are most closely united to each other since, the psychic universe has the material world for its habitat, while astronomy has for its subject the study of regions of eternal life, and we could form no idea of these regions if we did not know them astronomically.  In fact, whether we know it or not, we are living now, at this moment in heavenly regions, and all beings, whatever they may be, are eternally citizens of heaven.  It was not without a secret divination of things that antiquity made Urania the muse of all sciences.

While I imagine not many have read the Book Of Urantia, a contemporary astronomical religious text, written during Burroughs time, that text seems directly inspired by Flammarion’s text also.  Then in a hot summer ramble Flammarion rests beneath a tree and seems to fall asleep:

I was strangely surprised on waking up after a few minutes’ nap at no longer recognizing the landscape or the trees, nor the river flowing at the foot of the hill, nor the undulating meadows  which stretched far away to the distant horizon.  The setting sun was smaller than we are accustomed to see it, the air thrilled with harmonious sounds unknown to Earth, and insects as large as birds were fluttering about the leafless trees, which were covered with gigantic red flowers.  Astonishment made me spring up with so energetic a bound that I found myhself on my feet feeling singularly light and bouyant.  I had taken but a few steps before it seemed to me that more than half the weight of my body had evaporated during my sleep.

Earth From Mars

Compare that to Carter’s arrival in the Valley Dor of his second translation to Mars.  As we know from Burroughs, citizens of Mars are able to communicate telepathically.  No one on Earth does it but is there a possibility future evolvement might enable us to do so.  On Mars Camille has a character say ‘our body is impregnated with the solar electricity that puts all Nature in vibration.’

Electricity is indeed the stuff of life.  Let us see how life and evolution began on Earth.  Life on Earth is essentially H2O, hydrogen and oxygen.  Therefor it is evident that life began in a primordial ocean of water and certain dissolved chemicals whose elements are known.  Over millennium it is evident these eventually combined in permutations and floated inert in the ocean until in some way Earth’s magnetic field, electricity, activated the chemicals making life on Earth and beginning the evolution resulting in life as we know it.

There is little doubt that man’s brain while being only superficially different to other mammals is superior to all beasts including apes.  It is obviously superior and more highly evolved than any hominid predecessor although they had a certain something that separated them from the anthropoids.  So if telepathy is possible then it must travel on electrical currents, radio waves.  That means that one mind must act as a transmitter and another as a receiver.  Presently our current is too low to allow transmission even if a mind was tuned to our frequency as a receiver.  That’s the key problem for telepathy although technically it seems possible.

Camille having been translated to Mars and returned the next occurrence is even more startling.  George Spero returns to Earth not as a woman but as a man.   This stuff comes from an unusual mind.  Remember that on Mars George and Iclea had switiched sexes so on Mars George left a female body behind but he appears here on Earth in his male form.  so you can sort that out as you will with the following:

Shortly after the accident on Lake Tyrinfiorden he had felt like a man who awakes from a long and heavy sleep….He was alone in midnight darkness on the border of a lake; he knew that he was living, but could neither see nor feel himself.  The air did not affect him; he was not only light but imponderable.  Apparently what remained of him was solely a thinking faculty.  His first idea on trying to remember was that he had awakened from the fall by the Norwegian lake; but when day broke he saw he was in another world.   The two moons revolving rapidly in the sky in opposite directions made him surmise that he was upon our neighbor,  Mars.  He lived there for a while in the spirit state, and recognized there the presence of a very beautiful humanity, in which the feminine sex reigns supreme, from an acknowledged superiority over the masculine sex.  These organisms are light and delicate, their density of body very slight, their weight slighter still.  On the surface of this world natural force plays a secondary part in nature; delicacy of sensation checks everything.  There is a large number of animal species, and several human races.  In these species and races the feminine sex is stronger and handsomer (the strength consisting in the superiority of sensation; than the masculine sex, and it is she who rules the world.

Sunset On Mars

Flammarion was obviously a feminist.

His great desire to know the life before him induced him not to remain long as an unlooker in the spirit state, but to come to life again under a corporeal form, and knowing the organic condition of the planet, in a feminine form.

Right.  Be on the dominant side.  Iclea apparently wishing to remain dependent to George chose the male sex.  The two then unite into one being.  It’s not clear what the status of a unisex was on Mars.  Naturally Martians are much more advanced than Earthlings as are all extra-terrestrials in our imaginations.  Of course they have to know more than we to get from where they were to where we are as the reverse is impossible for us.  Like all extraterrestrials Martians know a lot.

They have invented , among other things, a kind of telegraphic apparatus, in which a roll of stuff [film?] constantly receives a picture of our world, and it is impressed by it, unalterably, as it unrolls.  An immense museum devoted expressly to the planets of the solar system, preserves all these phtographic pictures, fixed forever in chronolgical order.

George Du Maurier calls these little bags of memory which he is fearful of losing on death.  There’s a collecting mania that beats Andy Warhol all to pieces.  George reveals that it was he on Mars who spoke to Camille in the form of a beautiful maiden extending his arms to George.  Wow!  There’s some implications there.  As sci-fi this is very advanced.

‘But then,’ I cried, ‘if you are that Martial maiden, how can you appear to me in Spero’s form, when he no longer exists?’

‘I do not act upon your retina or your optic nerve,’ he replied, ‘but on your mental being and your brain.  I am in communication with you now; I influence directly the cerebral seat of your sensations.’

I think I bought that bridge once, but excellent sales job here, certainly the reverse of what you see is what you get.

It is the same, too in conditions of hypnotic somnambulism.  You see me and hear me, you feel me, too, by your brain, which is under influence; but I am no more in the form, which you see than the rainbow exists in the presence of the eyes that look at it.’

Isn’t that good?  Flammarion is a genius even though he is a little off track, not his fault not that much was known then, especially the nature of hypnotism and its actions on the mind.  Then here’s the clincher that proves ERB read and was influenced by this book:

‘I must confess,’ I answered, ‘that I cannot understand your Martial beings as having six limbs.’

And then when Flammarion looked away and looked back the apparition had disappeared.  The watchman returned and the Martian story ends.

Thus begins the final chapter of the story The Fixed Point In The Universe in which Flammarion tries to tie up the Faerie and Science aspects of his story- the entwining of the Romantic and the Scientific.  While it  isn’t quite as noticeable in Burroughs, at least in the first burst of stories from 1911 to 1914, that is exactly what Burroughs tries to do, enclose the Faerie within the scientific.  Ray Bradbury would try the same thing in his The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.

Martian Horizon

Flammarion establishes the scientific aspect in a magnificent summation of man’s progress toward understanding the place of the Earth in the universe.  I quote it because it is a superb understanding that I don’t believe is universally understood:

The Earth is not what it seems to be.  Nature is not what we think….

The natural and direct impression given by the observation of Nature is that we inhabit a solid, stable Earth, fixed in the centre of the universe.  It took long centuries of study and a great deal of boldness to free ourselves from that natural conviction, and to realize that the world we are on is isolated in space, without any support whatever, in rapid motion on itself and around the Sun.  But to the ages before scientific analysis, to primitive peoples, and even today to three quarters of the human race, our feet are resting on a solid Earth which is fixed at the base of the universe, and whose foundations are supposed to extend into the depths of the infinite.

And yet from the time when it was first realized that it is the Sun which rises and sets every day; that it is the same Moon, the same stars, the same constellations which revolve about us, those very facts forced one to admit with absolute certainty that there must be empty space underneath the Earth, to let the stars of the firmament pass from their setting to their rising.  This first recognition was a turning-point.  The admission of the Earth’s isolation in space was astronomy’s first triumph.  It was the first step, and indeed the most difficult one.  Think of it!  To give up the foundations of the Earth!  Such an idea would never have sprung from any brain without the study of the stars, or indeed without the transparency of the atmosphere.  Under a perpetually cloudy sky, human thoughts would have remained fixed on terrestrial ground like the oyster to the rock.

The Earth once isolated in space, the first step was taken.  Before this revelation, whose philosophical bearing equals its scientific value, all manner of shapes had been imagined for our sublunary dwelling place.  In the first place, the Earth was thought to be an island emerging from a boundless ocean, the island having infinite roots.  Then the Earth, with its seas, was supposed to be a flat, circular disc, all around on which rested the vault of the firmament.  Later, cubic, cylindrical, polyhedric forms, etc., were imagine.  But still the progress of navigation tended to reveal its spherical nature, and when its isolation, with its incontestable proofs, was recognized, this sphericity was admitted as a natural corollary of that isolation and of the circular motion of the celestial spheres around the supposed central globe.

The terrestrial globe being from that time recognized as isolated, to move it was no longer difficult.  Formerly, when the sky was looked upon as a dome crowning the massive and unlimited Earth, the very idea of supposing it to be in motion would have been not only absurd but untenable.  But from the time we could see it in our minds, placed like a globe in the centre of celestial motion, the idea of imagining that perhaps this globe could revolve on itself, so as to avoid obliging the whole sky and the immense universe to perform this daily task, might come naturally into  a thinker’s mind; and indeed we see the hypothesis of the daily rotation of the terrestrial sphere coming to light in ancient civilizations, among the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Indians, etc.  It is sufficient to read a few chapters of Ptolemy, Plutarch, or Surya-Siddhanta for an account of these conjectures.  But this new hypothesis, although it had been prepared for by the first one, was none the less bold, and contrary to the feelings inspired by the direct contemplation of Nature.  Thoughtful mankind was obliged to wait until the sixteenth century, or, to speak more correctly, until the seventeenth century, to learn our planet’s true position in the universe, and to know by supported proofs that it has a double movement- daily about itself, and yearly about the Sun.  From that time only, from the time of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, has real astronomy existed.

One Of The Moons Of Mars

A brilliant and remarkable synthesis of astronomical knowledge.  Burroughs frequently mentions his debt to Flammarion while I have yet to see where he refers to Percival Lowell.  Lowell, himself visited Flammarion at Juvisy where he, it would seem, learned from the master.

We have seen that in 1908 The Chicago Tribune recapitulated Flammarion’s vision of Mars and not Lowell’s on its pages with illustrations.  Burroughs said that he based his vision of Mars on Flammarion and adapted to more correct knowledge when it appeared.

It seems clear that Burroughs was fully exposed to the paranormal/Theosophical viewpoints borrowing only what he found useful while rejecting the rest while very like believing none of it.  Like Flammarion he accords telepathic powers to Martians but they are not effective with the Earthman, John Carter.

As the magical world of the fairies of the first Romantic period had metamorphosed into the pseudo-scientific paranormal Flammarion too has metamorphosed his magical longings into a scientific framework while accepting modern scientific astronomy.  However he still confuses the two because of the longing for personality immortality.  He accords full scientific values to the Society For Psychic Research because they seem to follow rigorous scientific methods yet the unconfirmed anecdotes they rely on he accepts as attested facts while they aren’t.  It’s odd that with his trained mind he couldn’t see the fallacy.

And then while being a very able astronomer he merely decides that all the planets in the universe are inhabitable and then populates them.  Thus he believes that Mars as a fact is fully peopled with flora and fauna like Earth’s but more exotic and spiritual.

He imagines a nearly infinite variety of life, that is human like intelligent life when in fact to this date all planets but Earth are barren of life.  Venus isn’t even watery.  What a blow that truth was.

Burroughs combined this wonderful fantastic fairyland displaced from Earth with evolution to imagine a fantastic array of life forms both on Earth and other planets, even beyond the farthest star.’

Both men were neo-Romantics although Flammarion having been born earlier was more heavily influenced by the first Romantic period while the much younger Burroughs was more acclimated to the scientific.  By the time he began to write autos, planes, telephones and electricity had already transformed the world while radio and television were just round the corner.   Talk about action at a distance and telepathy. God, Skype.

It was a wonderful time when all things were possible if improbable.  Truly, astronomy and psychology would be he cornerstones of the Brave New World that awaits.  Will it be Utopian or Dystopian?

All Across The Universe

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