Fable for the New Year
John A. Royle

Balance, December 15, 1955.
Balance is "For Private Circulation Only." We hope, however, to be forgiven the little "lift".
Theosophical Notes, March, 1956.

"In his official time the Professor had a very remarkable job, and, as befitted his remarkable brain, a very remarkable hobby in his leisure. Professionally, he was engaged on the top priority work of enlarging and improving the giant atomic rocket which was soon to take an army of explorers into outer space. Privately, he was working in the opposite direction.

"The principle of this rocket which he had invented was revolutionary but simple. After clearing the earth's gravitational pull in a few seconds by means of its powerful but conventional jets, it was then to increase speed enormously by the use of a force hitherto undreamed of by scientists - the force of attraction ... The Professor and his colleagues were working now on the deflectors and disintegrators which were to deal with any fragments or body, small enough to be destroyed or large enough to be dodged, which crossed its trajectory.

"The rocket was designed for distances and speeds inconceivable in the twentieth century. The days of the Mach-unit, the unit of the speed of sound, were far behind them; Science now calculated in terms of units of the speed of light. Gone also were the days of planetary-travel, which had cost so many lives and yielded so little information. 'Why,' he used to ask in appealing for finance for his project, 'why waste further time, money and human life on these ridiculous planets which are practically on our doorstep? Why load ourselves with heating and breathing equipment for the unfriendly atmosphere, when we can find very habitable globes just like our own? Let us pick some remote galaxy which, being a universe like ours, is bound to have at least one comfortable planet. At a thousand times the speed of light, there is nothing beyond our reach.' And he managed to work up enough scientific and political greed in his colleagues and in the government to get the expensive O.K.

"The Professor had also succeeded, by considerably greater effort, to raise finance for his private hobby, an 'atomic' microscope. He was rather shy about it because of its comparative uselessness, but he was obstinate, and the Treasury had finally given him a blank cheque. After all, one never knew what might come out of a scientists's idle pottering. Work on this microscope probably appealed to the Professor as an emotional compensation for his official labors. Tired though he always was after each busy day spent supervising the technicians as they swarmed over the gleaming rocket like termites round a queen, he would hurry home to his quiet laboratory. With his bodyguard outside the door, he would work on his microscope in jealous solitude, channeling the huge reservoir of official electronic power into one small machine. It was very near perfection - and then what a relief it would be to turn from the mysteries of outer space, the vulgar mysteries which everyone speculated on merely by looking up at the stars, to the really esoteric mysteries of inner space, literally and figuratively beneath notice!

"Like the rocket, his microscope was simple enough and it too had the novel advantage of unlimited power. In the conventional way, it would enlarge a speck or point to an area. From this area, the viewer would select a point for magnification, the new area would yield new focal points for enlargement, and so on indefinitely. As though he were guiding a rocket, the Professor with his eyes glued to the binocular eye-pieces of his microscope would seem to be traveling into the object he was examining. As a star-cluster looks like one star from a distance, so his object would on approach, become a cluster of objects, and he would have to decide at each stage of the magnification which to concentrate on. Unless he switched the power off, the microscope would go on magnifying so fast that he would find himself looking at nothing. It was exciting and rather frightening, like a pilotless voyage. Whenever he reversed the power to find out predisely what it was that he was looking at, he felt like a space-traveler forced to return to earth to check up on where he was goingto.

"One night as he was returning home from a final trial before calling a scientific conference, the Professor became the prey of uncomfortable musings. How destructive was Science! he thought. In analysing a thing, it destroyed its 'thingness' and gave you instead a group of component 'things' which in turn could be analysed away into their components. Existence seemed to depend on ignorance. The price of knowledge was death. Where would he be, therefore, if he tried to know himself? What if some super-being had him, the Professor, on the slide of a super-microscope. The super-being would look, and there world be nobody at home! Certainly there would be a fascinating conglomeration of molecules and, more important still, a bewildering conglomeration of thoughts and impulses which a psychic microscope could see (if he could invent one!) But where would he be, the Professor? Only in the unknown entirety, not in any known or knowable part! What a gruesome thought, to be a body with 'nobody home' - nobody, that is, he would care to call himself.

"He lost his appetite, and sat down at the binoculars without munching the usual sandwich. This time, he would 'see it through' to the limit of the microsope's power, if limit there was. And he put a grain of sand on the slide, the most innocuous object he could think of at the moment.

"All the familiar stages went by as he strengthened or weakened the power and changed direction. The grain became a rock, a crystalline pattern, a network of cells, a single cell, a crowd of molecules, a single molecule, a galaxy of atoms, a single atom with its whirling electrons. Slightly giddy with the speed of the journey into the centre of things, he picked up an electron in the range-finder and turned the power full on.

"He found himself looking at a ball rapidly growing to a sphere larger than his field of vision. He felt like a space-traveler plunging to another earth. Instinctively he checked the power as though to avert an imminent collision. Whew! Now a trifle slower! Stop now! Let's have a look before going any further!

"Could this be hallucination induced by overwork? He seemed to be looking at a world. There were certainly masses of land and water, and the color-variations must mean vegetation. Edging cautiously nearer, he saw the moving vegetation called animal life. Hardly daring to breathe, and making the most delicate adjustments lest he should lose his world, he explored a sample patch. It was animal life all right, almost human. What quaint little creatures. Yes, almost human, though they had three of everything we had two of. Busy, too, though it was not at first clear what they were doing. The Professor went on looking until sheer fatigue pulled him up, leaving the microscope carefully set for a resumption, he tottered off to bed, certain of one thing only - that there would be no conference tomorrow.

"So began the most extraordinary month in the Professor's life. Night after night he watched his inhabited electron, and every day he dutifully put time at the workshop, though too weary and absent-minded to be of any use. His colleagues, lacking a clue to the change, advised him to take a holiday, but he, anxious to prove his normality to himself as well as to others, indignantly rejected the advice. He must see this 'thing' through and see through it.

"Life on the electron was disturbingly like his own world, though accelerated to such an extent that he could observe it with immortal eyes. The electronites lived in families, communities and nations. They worked and played with the same harmony, fought and quarreled with the same bitterness, as our own earth exhibits, and everything seemed to be done for the same trivial short-sighted reasons. The main ambition was the accumulation of certain elements highly valued for their rarity rather than usefulness, and the main activity consisted in preventing each other from getting the stuff. Though rare in comparison with the earth beneath their feet, there was enough of it for everyone if shared amicably, but some individuals and groups stored heaps away and many hardly got a sight of it. This gave rise to continual bitterness, but it was endured and even admired as an incentive to effort.

"The fertile parts of their globe could have provided food for all if worked to a plan, but there was continual over or under- production because every commodity was valued only in its relation to the precious substances. When there was too much, they burned it to keep the value up, and when there was too little, they feverishly tried to make their desert lands productive. When this succeeded, they had too much again; when it failed, they got in debt to each other. This led to much bickering over boundaries, from personal squabbles to wars involving the whole globe. The wars caused immense grief and suffering, but they were popular because the suffering was called noble, and those who did not suffer managed to accumulate a lot of precious substance. The Professor squirmed and spluttered with impatience as he watched these wars being prepared, conducted, and then cleaned up with so much pointless heroism and needless cunning that he wondered their electron did not open up and swallow both perpetrators and victims. As a matter of fact, the electron's climatic behavior often seemed like a fit of anger, but the inhabitants could not see any connection between these fits and their own irrational behavior.

"When he was sick of their collective insanity, he focussed on some individual electronite's complex and ingenious body. It was usually moving about in the grip of a passion or a purpose, either working or quarreling or loving, and often all three together. So habitual was this, that in leisure moments it seemed quite lost until it had found or invented a 'gripping' amusement. He singled out one being who was hedged about with bodyguards - a ruler, he thought at first. But no, he was a special worker, devising new and powerful weapons of war and making synthetic foods with the by-products. 'The fool!' thought the Professor. 'Why doesn't he use his wonderful mechanical brain to study his wonderful mechanical body and mind and tune up his and his fellows' mechanism instead of trving to blow both to bits?' Fretfully intrigued, he followed the electronite through years of electronic progress from bad to worse. The climax came when he found that the miserable little specialist had advocated a mass emigration from the electron and was building giant rockets for the purpose. With a disgusted oath, the Professor switched his microscope off, picked the speck of dust up and dropped it into the disintegrator.

"Then he sat down, cold to the marrow with horror, and put his face in his hands."

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