|As Newton is not of this century or the last, let us turn to a
recent edition (1926) of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The following discussion is
given under the heading of "ether."
"Whether space is a mere geometrical abstraction, or whether it has definite
physical properties which can be investigated, is a question which in one form or another
has often been debated. As to the parts which are occupied by matter, that is by a
substance which appeals to the senses, there has never been any doubt; and the whole of
science may be said to be an investigation of the properties of matter. But from time to
time attention has been directed to the intervening portions of space from which sensible
matter is absent; and this also has physical properties, of which the complete
investigation has hardly begun.
"These physical properties do not appeal directly to the senses, and are therefore
comparatively obscure; but there is now no doubt of their existence; even among those who
still prefer to use the term space. But a space endowed with physical properties is more
than a geometrical abstraction, and is most conveniently thought of as a substantial
reality, to which therefore some other name is appropriate. The term used is unimportant,
but long ago the term ETHER was invented; it was adopted by Isaac Newton, and is good
enough for us. The term ether therefore  connotes a genuine entity filling all space,
without any break or cavity anywhere, the one omnipresent physical reality, of which there
is a growing tendency to perceive that everything in the material universe consists;
matter itself being in all probability one of its modifications...
"Thus an ether is necessary for the purpose of transmitting what is called
gravitational force between one piece of matter and another, and for the still more
important and universal purpose of transmitting waves of radiation between one piece of
matter and another however small and distant they be...
"The properties of the ether are not likely to be expressible in terms of matter;
but, as we have no better clue, we must proceed by analogy, and we may apologetically
speak of the elasticity and density of the ether as representing things which, if it were
matter, would be called by those names. What these terms really express we have not yet
fathomed; but if, as is now regarded as very probable, atomic matter is a structure in
ether, there is every reason for saying that the ether must in some sense be far denser
than any known material substance...
"Matter therefore is comparatively a gossamer structure, subsisting in a very
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 13th Edition: Article: Ether.
These views are amplified by other scientists of note. Writing in the 17th century,
Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist as quoted by Dr. Burtt said:
"Whence, I ask if it be unworthy of a philosopher to inquire of a philosopher if
there be not in nature an incorporeal substance, which, while it can impress on any body
all the qualities of body, or at least most  of them, such as motion, figure, position
of parts, etc... would be further able, since it is almost certain that this substance
removes and stops bodies, to add whatever is involved in such motion, that is, it can
unite, divide, scatter, bind, form the small parts, order the forms, set in circular
motion those which are disposed for it, or move them in any way whatever, arrest their
circular motion, and do such similar further things with them as are necessary to produce
according to your principles light, colors, and the other objects of the senses...
Finally, incorporeal substance having the marvelous power of cohering and dissipating
matter, of combining it, dividing it, thrusting it forth and at the same time retaining
control of it, by mere application of itself without bonds, without hooks, without
projections or other instruments; does it not appear probable that it can enter once more
in itself, since there is no impenetrability to frustrate it, and expand itself again, and
In discussing Henry More, Dr. Burtt goes on to say: "In this passage More extends
his reasoning from the conclusion of an incorporeal substance in human beings to the
assumption of a similar and greater incorporeal substance in nature as a whole, for he was
convinced that the facts of science showed nature to be no more a simple machine than is a
- Burtt. Edwin Arthur, Ph.D., Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science,
Also writing in the 17th century, Robert Boyle brought forward the same hypothesis and
ascribed two functions to ether, to propagate motion by successive impacts and to be a
medium through which  curious phenomena manifested, such as magnetism, Boyle said:
there may be such a substance in the universe, the asserters of it will probably bring for
proofs several of the phenomena I am about to relate; but whether there be or be not in
the world any matter that exactly answers to the descriptions they make of their first and
second elements I shall not here discuss, though divers experiments seem to argue that
there is an ethereal substance, very subtle and not a little diffused."
- Ibid., pp. 182, 183.
again to modern times Sir William Barrett said: "The universe presents us with an
assemblage of phenomena - physical, vital, and intellectual - the connecting link between
the worlds of intellect and matter being that of organized vitality, occupying the whole
domain of animal and vegetable life, throughout which, in some way inscrutable to us,
movements among the molecules of matter are originated of such a character as apparently
to bring them under the control of an agency other than physical, superseding the ordinary
laws which regulate the movements of inanimate matter, or in other words, giving rise to
movements which would not result from the action of those laws uninterfered with; and
therefore implying, on the very same principle, the origination of force."
- Barrett, Sir William, On the Threshold of the Unseen, p. 274.
teaching regards the vital body as the intermediary between the physical and the
intellectual: it acts as the agency of the mind in a human being and of the Universal Mind
in a solar  system, and it is interesting to note in this connection Sir William
Barrett's threefold enumeration of "physical, vital and intellectual."
Lodge, though often criticized for his views as to communication between the living and
the dead, is, in matters of pure science, in the front rank of this age. He says:
"What about the Ether which holds the atoms together, the welding ether which is
essential to the characteristic configuration of a body - which is as essential as the
"We do not usually attend to the ether aspect of a body; we have no sense organ
for its appreciation, we only directly apprehend matter. Matter we apprehend clearly when
young children, but as we grow up we infer the Ether, too, or some of us do. We know that
a body of characteristic shape, or indeed of any definite shape, cannot exist without the
forces of cohesion - cannot exist therefore without the Ether; - meaning by the Ether now,
not the whole, but the unmaterialized part of it, the part which is the region of strain,
the receptacle of potential energy, the substance in which the atoms of matter are
embedded. Not only is there a matter body, there is also an ether body: the two are
- Lodge, Sir Oliver, Ether and Reality, pp. 161, 162.
He takes up the same subject again in an article which appeared in The Hibbert
Journal and presents some most interesting and suggestive conclusions, as follows:
"Light is an affection of the ether. Light is to ether as sound is to matter...
Subject to all the laws of  time and space, fully amenable to the laws of energy,
largely the source of terrestrial energy, governing all the manifestations of physical
forces, at the root of elasticity and tenacity and every other static property of matter,
the ether is just beginning to take its rightful place in the scheme of physics:...
"Electric charges, composed of modified ether, are likely to prove to be the
cosmic building material... There is the great bulk of undifferentiated ether, the entity
which fills all space and in which everything material occurs. A duality runs through the
scheme of physics - matter and ether - .
"All kinetic energy belongs to what we call matter, whether in the atomic or the
corpuscular form; movement or locomotion is its characteristic. All static energy belongs
to the ether, the unmodified and universal ether; its characteristics are strain and
stress. Energy is always passing to and fro from one to the other - from ether to matter
or vice versa - and in this passage is all work done.
"Now, the probability is that every sensible object has both a material and an
etheric counterpart. One side only are we sensibly aware of, the other we have to infer.
But the difficulty of perceiving this other side - the necessity for indirect inference -
depends essentially and entirely on the nature of our sense organs, which tell us of
matter and do not tell us of ether. Yet one is as real and substantial as the other, and
their fundamental joint quality is coexistence and interaction. Not interaction everywhere
and always, for there are plenty of regions without matter - though there is no region
without ether; but the potentiality of interaction, and often the conspicuous reality of
it, everywhere prevails and constitutes the whole of our purely mundane experience."
In a supplementary note to the article, he says: "Ether belongs to the physical
frame of things, no one supposes it be a psychic entity; but it probably subserves
psychical purposes, just as matter does. Professors Tait and Balfour Stewart surmised a
psychic significance for the ether of space so long ago as 1875, and treated it from a
religious point of view in that much criticized book The Unseen Universe. And that
great mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, concluded his article "Ether"
in the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica with an expression of faith,
not indeed in this speculation, about which he evinced great caution, but in the real
existence of a supersensuous universal connecting medium, and in the probability of its
having many unsuspected functions."
- Lodge, Sir Oliver, Ether, Matter and the Soul, Hibbert Journal, January, 1919.