Interested in Language
What I am not sure I understand correctly is as follows:
"The material," he said with conviction, "is inevitably the medium of expression of the life-force — the fulcrum, as it were; lacking which it is unable to exert itself, or, indeed, to express itself in any form or fashion that would be intelligible or evident to us. So potent is the share of the material in the production of that thing which we name life, and so eager the life-force to express itself, that I am convinced it would, if given the right conditions, make itself manifest even through so hopeless seeming a medium as a simple block of sawn wood; for I tell you, gentlemen, the life-force is both as fiercely urgent and as indiscriminate as fire — the destructor; yet which some are now growing to consider the very essence of life rampant. There is a quaint seeming paradox there," he concluded, nodding his old grey head."
W.H.Hodgson, The Derelict, 1912
What I am not certain about is the bold text; does the writer want to say something like, some scientists have begun to consider fire to be the very essence of fierce life?
Thank you for potential help.
I think you're interpreting it correctly. Fire is "the destructor" of life (today we would say destroyer), yet some people think it's the essence of life - that it creates life.
I'm looking forward to seeing how others answer your query.
I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.