Watching this universal senescence, this inevitable disruption of the communal life of a whole cosmos, I was oppressed with human pity and with human indignation against the author of a creature at once so full of promise and so futile.

Why, why, I cried in my loneliness, did God endow his cosmos with such wealth of physical power and of spiritual potentiality if the issue was to be nothing but desolation?

For it seemed to me in that long drawn out decline that not merely the nebulae but the cosmos itself had entered into senility, and that any subsequent life or movement of the spirit could only be a dying flicker.

I looked back in memory along the vista of the aeons. As one recollects the earliest recoverable incidents of childhood, I remembered that moment when the atom-cosmos had first responded to God's word and lavished itself in light. I saw once more the teeming, the jostling and agitated host of the new-born nebulae. I recalled that less distant age, when, more scattered and more mature, those eager spiritual adventurers were discovering the true direction of their nature, and exploring, not without disaster, the strange universe of their dance life. I saw them at last tricked and led astray by the misuse of knowledge, squandering their wealth of power and their strength of spirit on false goals. Not in memory only but in vivid perception I saw them one and all dying, their true life unrealised.

I had a curious fantasy that the cosmos was now like a deserted room, closed up and stifling. From outside, the sunlight, pouring through shut windows, lit up the lifeless dust motes, hanging in the air. The curtains never moved. A flower in an empty vase drooped.

A strange passion of loneliness seized me. Like a prisoner I could have battered on the walls of the cosmos, had there been any walls. But I was imprisoned in a boundless finitude. Around me the dust of a dead world stagnated in the ether.

"Oh God, oh God, let me out," I cried, "or kill me." I peered beyond the dead hosts of the nebulae. There, there still, outside the boundless finitude of the cosmos, God still watched the processes that he had set in motion.

From the bottom of my being, I loathed him.

The features became clearer. Dread face of power! Brutish, human, celestial! I strained and strained to read God's face. But it was inscrutable.

Cruel? Indeed, no! Compassionate? No! Or in a manner, yes? For surely that calm attentive gaze meant not mere calmness, mere aloofness. Did it perhaps mean passion transmuted? Did it speak of inner participation in all grief and joy? Perhaps. Yet it was ruthless, as though compassion had been absorbed and used in some loftier and relentless exaltation.

Chapter 14

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