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cases as the repetition of the embryonic processes by successive generations? The embryos of a well-fixed breed, such as the goose, are almost as much alike as water is to water, and by consequence one goose comes to be almost as like another as water to water. Why should it not be supposed to become so upon the same grounds—namely, that it is made of the same stuffs, and put together in like proportions in the same manner?
The one faith on which all normal living beings consciously or unconsciously act, is that like antecedents will be followed by like consequents. This is the one true and catholic faith, undemonstrable, but except a living being believe which, without doubt it shall perish everlastingly. In the assurance of this all action is taken.
But if this fundamental article is admitted, and it cannot be gainsaid, it follows that if ever a complete cycle were formed, so that the whole universe of one instant were to repeat itself absolutely in a subsequent one, no matter after what interval of time, then the course of the events between these two moments would go on repeating itself for ever and ever afterwards in due order, down to the minutest detail, in an endless series of cycles like a circulating decimal. For the universe comprises everything; there could therefore be no disturbance from without. Once a cycle, always a cycle.
Let us suppose the earth, of given weight, moving with given momentum in a given path, and under given conditions in every respect, to find itself at any one time conditioned in all these respects as it was conditioned at some past moment; then it must move exactly in the same path as the one it took when at the beginning of the cycle it has just completed, and must therefore in the course of time fulfil a second cycle, and therefore a third, and so -on for ever and ever, with no more chance of escape than a circulating decimal has, if the circumstances have been reproduced with perfect accuracy.
We see something very like this actually happen in the yearly revolutions of the planets round the sun. But the relations between, we will say, the earth and the sun are not reproduced absolutely. These relations deal only with a small part of the universe, and even in this small part the relation of the parts inter se has never yet been reproduced with the perfection of accuracy necessary for our argument. They are liable, moreover, to disturbance from events which may or may not actually occur, (as, for example, our being struck by a comet, or the sun's coming within a certain distance of another sun), but of which, if they do occur, no one can foresee the effects. Nevertheless the conditions have been so nearly repeated that there is no appreciable difference in the relations between the earth and sun on one New Year's Day and on another, nor is there reason for expecting such change within any reasonable time.
If there is to be an eternal series of cycles involving the whole universe, it is plain that not one single atom must be excluded. Exclude a single molecule of hydrogen from the ring, or vary the relative positions of two molecules only, and the charm is broken; an element of disturbance has been introduced, of which the utmost that can be said is that it may not prevent the ensuing of a long series of very nearly perfect cycles before similarity in recurrence is destroyed, but which must inevitably prevent absolute identity of repetition. The movement of the series becomes no longer a cycle, but spiral, and convergent or divergent at a greater or less rate according to circumstances. We cannot conceive of all the atoms in the universe standing twice over in absolutely the same relation each one of them to every other. There are too many of them and they are too much mixed; but, as has been just said, in the planets and their satellites we do see large groups of atoms whose movements recur with some approach to precision. The same holds good also with certain comets and with the sun himself. The result is that our days and nights and seasons follow one another with nearly perfect regularity from year to year, and have done so for as long time as we know anything for certain. A vast preponderance of all the action that takes place around us is cycular action.
Within the great cycle of the planetary revolution of our own earth, and as a consequence thereof, we have the minor cycle of the phenomena of the seasons; these generate atmospheric cycles. Water is evaporated from the ocean and conveyed to mountain ranges, where it is cooled, and whence it returns again to the sea. This cycle of events is being repeated again and again with little appreciable variation. The tides and winds in certain latitudes go round and round the world with what amounts to continuous regularity. There are storms of wind and rain called cyclones. In the case of these, the cycle is not very complete, the movement, therefore, is spiral, and the tendency to recur is comparatively soon lost. It is a common say