In Chapter 70 (The Sphynx) of Moby-Dick, Ahab states:
"O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind."
From prior research conducted I have gleaned the meaning of the first half of the quote to be: Ahab presupposing there being correspondences between physical and transcendental realms, between matter and spirit/soul, and articulating the impossibility to construct a theory/ analogy which faithfully describes their relationship between these domains in of themselves. However the latter half, I fail to grasp conceptually and semantically. Here are some of my qualms:
Does Ahab use "mind" interchangeably with "spirit/soul" in this instance?
Is "cunning" in this instance defined as: "attractive or quaint" or as "ingenious (Both Lexico/Oxford)
Does "atom" in this instance denote (as Oxford defines it): an extremely small amount of something; or does Ahab instead refer to a proto-atomic theory reminscent of Democritus' conceptions being: one of the minute indivisible particles of which according to ancient materialism the universe is composed (Merriam Webster). Though I may be wrong I don't think he would be referring to Dalton's conception of atoms at this point of time.
If using the first definition of "atom" proposed, would Ahab then be expressing that qualitative descriptions of the world don't exist physically but in the same vain as numbers, I suppose; possibly even suggesting that they exist on a transcendental level.
However if Ahab uses the 2nd definition of "atom", is he then supposing that atoms don't constitute matter? Or exist "on" matter, whatever that means.
Some editions of the text portray the quote as "lives (in) matter" rather than "(on) matter", so I was wondering whether those are the result of typos or decisions on the account of the author or publishers, and also whether it has any bearing on interpretations of the quote.