Loren Eiseley on the Miraculous

Linda Gordon Skystones

I know that the world “miraculous” is regarded dubiously in scientific circles because of past quarrels with theologians. The word has been defined, however, as an event transcending the known laws of nature. Since, as we have seen, the laws of nature have a way of being altered from one generation of scientists to the next, a little taste of the miraculous in this broad sense will do us no harm. We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each one of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.

Whatever may be the power behind those dancing motes to which the physicist has penetrated, it makes the light of the muskrat’s world as it makes the world of the great poet. It makes, in fact, all of the innumerable and private worlds which exist in the heads of men. There is a sense in which we can say that the planet, with its strange freight of life, is always just passing from the unnatural to the natural, from that Unseen which man has always reverenced to the small reality of the day. If all life were to be swept from the world, leaving only its chemical constituents, no visitor from another star would be able to establish the reality of such a phantom. The dust would lie without visible protest, as it does now in the moon’s airless craters, or in the road before our door.

Yet this is the same dust which, dead, quiescent, and unmoving, when taken up in the process known as life, hears music and responds to it, weeps bitterly over time and loss, or is oppressed by the looming future that is, on any materialist terms, the veriest shadow of nothing. How natural was man, we may ask, until he came? What forces dictated that a walking ape should watch the red shift of light beyond the island universes or listen by carefully devised antennae to the pulse of unseen stars? Who, whimsically, conceived that the plot of the world should begin in a mud puddle and end – where, and with whom? Men argue learnedly over whether life is chemical chance or antichance, but they seem to forget that the life in chemicals may be the greatest chance of all, the most mysterious and unexplainable property of matter.

Excerpted from Loren Eiseley, How Natural is “Natural”?
Image, Linda Gordon, Skystones
Lapis ex coelis – The Stone from the Stars

2 responses to “Loren Eiseley on the Miraculous

  1. Two lovely posts about life, spirituality and stones. Thanks for introducing me to Loren Eiseley. Such deeply inspiring words, that one can return to, again and again. Thanks also for putting my image up.

  2. I love the following line:

    There is a sense in which we can say that the planet, with its strange freight of life, is always just passing from the unnatural to the natural, from that Unseen which man has always reverenced to the small reality of the day.

    Last week I tripped across Loren Eiseley while searching for something totally unrelated. Fascinated by both the man and his writings. I soon used one of his quotes in a post. Today, I thought I’d check out who else was writing about him on WordPress and… clicked on the link to this post. I was very surprised to be greeted by one of Linda’s beautiful images. Yet this should really be no surprise at all, considering recent discussions with Linda about how we are all connected.

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