"'Attraction' and 'repulsion' seem to be the sources of will—that momentous element of the soul which determines the character of the individual" (p. 45).
"The positive ponderable matter, the element with the feeling of like or desire, is continually striving to complete the process of condensation, and thus collecting an enormous amount of potential energy; the negative imponderable matter, on the other hand, offers a perpetual and equal resistance to the further increase of its strain and of the feeling of dislike connected therewith, and thus gathers the utmost amount of actual energy.
"I think that this pyknotic theory of substance will prove more acceptable to every biologist who is convinced of the unity of nature than the kinetic theory which prevails in physics to-day" (p. 78).
In other words, he appeals to a presumed sentiment of biologists against the knowledge of the physicist in his own sphere—a strange attitude for a man of science. After this it is less surprising to find him ignoring the elementary axiom that "action and reaction are equal and opposite," i.e. that internal forces can have no motive power on a body as a whole, and making the grotesque assertion that matter is moved, not by external forces, but by internal likes and desires:—
"I must lay down the following theses, which are involved in Vogt's pyknotic theory, as indispensable for a truly monistic view of substance, and one that covers the whole field of organic and inorganic nature:—
"1. The two fundamental forms of substance, ponderable matter and ether, are not dead and only moved by extrinsic force, but they are endowed with sensation and will (though, naturally, of the lowest grade); they experience an inclination for condensation, a dislike of strain; they strive after the one and struggle against the other" (p. 78).
My desire is to criticise politely, and hence I refrain from characterising this sentence as a physicist should.
"Every shade of inclination, from complete indifference to the fiercest passion, is exemplified in the chemical relation of the various elements towards each other" (p. 79).
"On those phenomena we base our conviction that even the atom is not without a rudimentary form of sensation and will, or, as it is better expressed, of feeling (aesthesis) and inclination (tropesis)—that is, a universal 'soul' of the simplest character" (p. 80).
"I gave the outlines of cellular psychology in 1866 in my paper on 'Cell-souls and Soul-cells'" (p. 63).
Thus, then, in order to explain life and mind and consciousness by means of matter, all that is done is to assume that matter possesses these unexplained attributes.
What the full meaning of that may be, and whether there be any philosophic justification for any such idea, is a matter on which I will not now express an opinion; but, at any rate, as it stands, it is not science, and its formulation gives no sort of conception of what life and will and consciousness really are.
Even if it were true, it contains nothing whatever in the nature of explanation: it recognises the inexplicable, and relegates it to the atoms, where it seems to hope that further quest may cease. Instead of tackling the difficulty where it actually occurs; instead of associating life, will, and consciousness with the organisms in which they are actually in experience found, these ideas are foisted into the atoms of matter; and then the properties which have been conferred on the atoms are denied in all essential reality to the fully developed organisms which those atoms help to compose!
I show later on (Chapters V. and X.) that there is no necessary justification for assuming that a phenomenon exhibited by an aggregate of particles must be possessed by the ingredients of which it is composed; on the contrary, wholly new properties may make their appearance simply by aggregation; though I admit that such a proposition is by no means obvious, and that it may be a legitimate subject for controversy. But into that question our author does not enter; and even when he has conferred on the atoms these astounding properties, he abstains from what would seem a natural development: for his doctrine is that our power is actually less than that of the atoms,—that instead of utilising the attractions and repulsions, or "likes and dislikes," of our constituent particles, and directing them by the aggregate of conscious will-power to some preconceived end, we ourselves, on the contrary, are dominated and controlled by them; so that freedom of the will is an illusion.
Freedom being thus disposed of, Immortality presents no difficulty; a soul is the operation of a group of cells, and so the existence of man clearly begins and ends with that of his terrestrial body:—
"The most important moment in the life of every man, as in that of all other complex animals, is the moment in which he begins his individual existence [coalescence of sperm cell and ovum] ... the existence of the personality, the independent individual, commences. This ontogenetic fact is supremely important, for the most far-reaching conclusions may be drawn from it. In the first place, we have a clear perception that man, like all the other complex animals, inherits all his personal characteristics, bodily and mental, from his parents; and further, we come to the momentous conclusion that the new personality which arises thus can lay no claim to 'immortality'" (p. 22).
Others beside Haeckel have held this kind of view at one time or another; but, unlike him, most of them have recanted and seen the error of their ways. He is, indeed, aware that several of his great German contemporaries have been through this phase of thought and come out on the other side, notably the physiologist-philosopher Wundt, and he refers to them fairly and instructively thus:—
"What seems to me of special importance and value in Wundt's work is that he 'extends the law of the persistence of force for the first time to the psychic world.'
"Thirty years afterwards, in a second edition, Wundt emancipated himself from the fundamental errors of the first, and says that he 'learned many years ago to consider the work a sin of his youth'; it 'weighed on him as a kind of crime, from which he longed to free himself as soon as possible.' In the first, psychology is treated as a physical science, on the same laws as the whole of physiology, of which it is only a part; thirty years afterwards he finds psychology to be a spiritual science, with principles and objects entirely different from those of physical science.
"I myself," says Haeckel, "naturally consider the 'youthful sin' of the young physiologist Wundt to be a correct knowledge of nature, and energetically defend it against the antagonistic view of the old philosopher Wundt. This entire change of philosophical principles, which we find in Wundt, as we found it in Kant, Virchow, du Bois-Reymond, Carl Ernst Baer, and others, is very interesting" (p. 36).
So it is: very interesting!
Professor Haeckel is so imbued with biological science that he loses his sense of proportion; and his enthusiasm for the work of Darwin leads him to attribute to it an exaggerated scope, and enables him to eliminate the third of the Kantian trilogy:—
"Darwin's theory of the natural origin of species at once gave us the solution of the mystic 'problem of creation,' the great 'question of all questions'—the problem of the true character and origin of man himself" (p. 28) [cf. p. 19 above].
It is a great deal more than that patient observer and deep thinker Charles Darwin ever claimed, nor have his wiser disciples claimed it for him. It is familiar that he explained how variations once arisen would be clinched, if favourable in the struggle, by the action of heredity and survival; but the source or origin of the variations themselves he did not explain.
Do they arise by guidance or by chance? Is natural selection akin to the verified and practical processes of artificial selection? or is it wholly alien to them and influenced by chance alone? The latter view can hardly be considered a complete explanation, though it is verbally the one adopted by Professor Haeckel, and it is of interest to see what he means by chance:—
"Since impartial study of the evolution of the world teaches us that there is no definite aim and no special purpose to be traced in it, there seems to be no alternative but to leave everything to 'blind chance.'
"One group of philosophers affirms, in accordance with its teleological conception, that the whole cosmos is an orderly system, in which every phenomenon has its aim and purpose; there is no such thing as chance. The other group, holding a mechanical theory, expresses itself thus: The development of the universe is a monistic mechanical process, in which we discover no aim or purpose whatever; what we call design in the organic world is a special result of biological agencies; neither in the evolution of the heavenly bodies nor in that of the crust of our earth do we find any trace of a controlling purpose—all is the result of chance. Each party is right—according to its definition of chance. The general law of causality, taken in conjunction with the law of substance, teaches us that every phenomenon has a mechanical cause; in this sense there is no such thing as chance. Yet it is not only lawful, but necessary, to retain the term for the purpose of expressing the simultaneous occurrence of two phenomena, which are not causally related to each other, but of which each has its own mechanical cause, independent of that of the other.
"Everybody knows that chance, in this monistic sense, plays an important part in the life of man and in the universe at large. That, however, does not prevent us from recognising in each 'chance' event, as we do in the evolution of the entire cosmos, the universal sovereignty of nature's supreme law, the law of substance" (p. 97).
With regard to the possibility of Revelation, or information derived from super-human sources, naturally he ridicules the idea; but in connection with the mode of origin and development of life on this planet he makes the following sensible and noteworthy admission:—
"It is very probable that these processes have gone on likewise on other planets, and that other planets have produced other types of the higher plants and animals, which are unknown on our earth; perhaps from some higher animal stem, which is superior to the vertebrate in formation, higher beings have arisen who far transcend us earthly men in intelligence."
Exactly; it is quite probable. It is, in fact, improbable that man is the highest type of existence. But if Professor Haeckel is ready to grant that probability or even possibility, why does he so strenuously exclude the idea of revelation, i.e., the acquiring of imparted information from higher sources? Savages can certainly have "revelation" from civilised men. Why, then, should it be inconceivable that human beings should receive information from beings in the universe higher than themselves? It may or may not be the case that they do; but there is no scientific ground for dogmatism on the subject, nor any reason for asserting the inconceivability of such a thing.
Professor Haeckel would no doubt reply to some of the above criticism that he is not only a man of science, but also a philosopher, that he is looking ahead, beyond ascertained fact, and that it is his philosophic views which are in question rather than his scientific statements. To some extent it is both, as has been seen; but if even the above be widely known—if it be generally understood that the most controversial portions of his work are mainly speculative and hypothetical, it can be left to its proper purpose of doing good rather than harm. It can only do harm by misleading, it can do considerable good by criticising and stimulating and informing; and it is an interesting fact that a man so well acquainted with biology as Professor Haeckel is should have been so strongly impressed with the truth of some aspect of the philosophic system known as Monism. Many men of science have likewise been impressed with the probability, or possibility, of some such ultimate unification.
The problem to be solved—and an old-world problem indeed it is—is the range, and especially the nature, of the connection between mind and matter; or, let us say, between the material universe on the one hand, and the vital, the mental, the conscious and spiritual universe or universes, on the other.
It would be extremely surprising if any attempt yet made had already been thoroughly successful, though the attack on the idealistic side appears to many of us physicists to be by far the most hopeful line of advance. An excessively wide knowledge of existence would seem to be demanded for the success of any such most ambitious attempt; but, though none of us may hope to achieve it, many may strive to make some contribution towards the great end; and those who think they have such a contribution to make, or such a revelation entrusted to them, are bound to express it to the best of their ability, and leave it to their contemporaries and successors to assimilate such portions of it as are true, and to develop it further. From this point of view Professor Haeckel is no doubt amply justified in his writings; but, unfortunately, it appears to me that although he has been borne forward on the advancing wave of monistic philosophy, he has, in its specification, attempted such precision of materialistic detail, and subjected it to so narrow and limited a view of the totality of experience, that the progress of thought has left him, as well as his great English exemplar, Herbert Spencer, somewhat high and dry, belated and stranded by the tide of opinion which has now begun to flow in another direction. He is, as it were, a surviving voice from the middle of the nineteenth century; he represents, in clear and eloquent fashion, opinions which then were prevalent among many leaders of thought—opinions which they themselves in many cases, and their successors still more, lived to outgrow; so that by this time Professor Haeckel's voice is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, not as the pioneer or vanguard of an advancing army, but as the despairing shout of a standard-bearer, still bold and unflinching, but abandoned by the retreating ranks of his comrades as they march to new orders in a fresh and more idealistic direction.
MEMORANDA FOR WOULD-BE MATERIALISTS
The objection which it has been found necessary to express concerning Materialism as a complete system is based not on its assertions, but on its negations. In so far as it makes positive assertions, embodying the results of scientific discovery and even of scientific speculation based thereupon, there is no fault to find with it; but when, on the strength of that, it sets up to be a philosophy of the universe—all inclusive, therefore, and shutting out a number of truths otherwise perceived, or which appeal to other faculties, or which are equally true and are not really contradictory of legitimately materialistic statements—then it is that its insufficiency and narrowness have to be displayed.
It will be probably instructive, and it may be sufficient, if I show that two great leaders in scientific thought (one the greatest of all men of science who have yet lived), though well aware of much that could be said positively on the materialistic side, and very willing to admit or even to extend the province of science or exact knowledge to the uttermost, yet were very far from being philosophic Materialists or from imagining that other modes of regarding the universe were thereby excluded.
Great leaders of thought, in fact, are not accustomed to take a narrow view of existence, or to suppose that one mode of regarding it, or one set of formulae expressing it, can possibly be sufficient and complete. Even a sheet of paper has two sides: a terrestrial globe presents different aspects from different points of view; a crystal has a variety of facets; and the totality of existence is not likely to be more simple than any of these—is not likely to be readily expressible in any form of words, or to be thoroughly conceivable by any human mind.
It may be well to remember that Sir Isaac Newton was a Theist of the most pronounced and thorough conviction, although he had a great deal to do with the reduction of the major Cosmos to mechanics, i.e. with its explanation by the elaborated machinery of simple forces; and he conceived it possible that, in the progress of science, this process of reduction to mechanics would continue till it embraced nearly all phenomena. (See extract below.) That, indeed, has been the effort of science ever since, and therein lies the legitimate basis for materialistic statements, though not for a materialistic philosophy.
The following sound remarks concerning Newton are taken from Huxley's Hume, p. 246:—
"Newton demonstrated all the host of heaven to be but the elements of a vast mechanism, regulated by the same laws as those which express the falling of a stone to the ground. There is a passage in the preface to the first edition of the Principia, which shows that Newton was penetrated, as completely as Descartes, with the belief that all the phenomena of nature are expressible in terms of matter and motion:—
"'WOULD THAT THE REST OF THE PHENOMENA OF NATURE COULD BE DEDUCED BY A LIKE KIND OF REASONING FROM MECHANICAL PRINCIPLES. FOR MANY CIRCUMSTANCES LEAD ME TO SUSPECT THAT ALL THESE PHENOMENA MAY DEPEND UPON CERTAIN FORCES, IN VIRTUE OF WHICH THE PARTICLES OF BODIES, BY CAUSES NOT YET KNOWN, ARE EITHER MUTUALLY IMPELLED AGAINST ONE ANOTHER, AND COHERE INTO REGULAR FIGURES, OR REPEL AND RECEDE FROM ONE ANOTHER; WHICH FORCES BEING UNKNOWN, PHILOSOPHERS HAVE AS YET EXPLORED NATURE IN VAIN. BUT I HOPE THAT, EITHER BY THIS METHOD OF PHILOSOPHISING, OR BY SOME OTHER AND BETTER, THE PRINCIPLES HERE LAID DOWN MAY THROW SOME LIGHT UPON THE MATTER.'"
Here is a full-blown anticipation of an intelligible exposition of the Universe in terms of matter and force: the substantial basis of what smaller men call materialism and develop into what they consider to be a materialistic philosophy. But there is no necessity for anything of the kind; a systematic expression of facts in terms of one of their aspects does not exclude expression in terms of other and totally different aspects also. Denial of all sides but one, is a poor kind of unification. Denial of this sort is the weakness and delusion of the people who call themselves 'Christian Scientists': they have hold of one side of truth—and that should be granted them,—but they hold it in so narrow and insecure a fashion that, in self-defence, they think it safest strenuously to deny the existence of all other sides. In this futile enterprise they are imitating the attitude of the philosophic Materialists, on the other side of the controversy.
And then, again, Professor Huxley himself, who is commonly spoken of by half-informed people as if he were a philosophic materialist, was really nothing of the kind; for although, like Newton, fully imbued with the mechanical doctrine, and, of course, far better informed concerning the biological departments of Nature and the discoveries which have in the last century been made, and though he rightly regarded it as his mission to make the scientific point of view clear to his benighted contemporaries, and was full of enthusiasm for the facts on which materialists take their stand, he saw clearly that these alone were insufficient for a philosophy. The following extracts from the 'Hume' volume will show, first, that he entirely repudiated materialism as a satisfactory or complete scheme of things; and, secondly, that he profoundly disagreed with the position which now appears to be occupied by Professor Haeckel. Especially is he severe on gratuitous denials applied to provinces beyond our scope, saying:—
"that while it is the summit of human wisdom to learn the limit of our faculties, it may be wise to recollect that we have no more right to make denials, than to put forth affirmatives, about what lies beyond that limit. Whether either mind or matter has a 'substance' or not is a problem which we are incompetent to discuss; and it is just as likely that the common notions upon the subject should be correct as any others.... 'The same principles which, at first view, lead to scepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to common sense'" (p. 282).
And on p. 286 he speaks concerning "substance"—that substance which constitutes the foundation of Haeckel's philosophy—almost as if he were purposely confuting that rather fly-blown production:—
"Thus, if any man think he has reason to believe that the 'substance' of matter, to the existence of which no limit can be set either in time or space, is the infinite and eternal substratum of all actual and possible existences, which is the doctrine of philosophical materialism, as I understand it, I have no objection to his holding that doctrine; and I fail to comprehend how it can have the slightest influence upon any ethical or religious views he may please to hold....
"Moreover, the ultimate forms of existence which we distinguish in our little speck of the universe are, possibly, only two out of infinite varieties of existence, not only analogous to matter and analogous to mind, but of kinds which we are not competent so much as to conceive—in the midst of which, indeed, we might be set down, with no more notion of what was about us, than the worm in a flower-pot, on a London balcony, has of the life of the great city.
"That which I do very strongly object to is the habit, which a great many non-philosophical materialists unfortunately fall into, of forgetting all these very obvious considerations. They talk as if the proof that the 'substance of matter' was the 'substance' of all things cleared up all the mysteries of existence. In point of fact, it leaves them exactly where they were.... Your religious and ethical difficulties are just as great as mine. The speculative game is drawn—let us get to practical work" (p. 286).
And again on pp. 251 and 279:—
"It is worth any amount of trouble to ... know by one's own knowledge the great truth ... that the honest and rigorous following up of the argument which leads us to 'materialism' inevitably carries us beyond it" (p. 251).
"To sum up. If the materialist affirms that the universe and all its phenomena are resolvable into matter and motion, Berkeley replies, True; but what you call matter and motion are known to us only as forms of consciousness; their being is to be conceived or known; and the existence of a state of consciousness, apart from a thinking mind, is a contradiction in terms.
"I conceive that this reasoning is irrefragable. And, therefore, if I were obliged to choose between absolute materialism and absolute idealism, I should feel compelled to accept the latter alternative" (p. 279).
Let the jubilant but uninstructed and comparatively ignorant amateur materialist therefore beware, and bethink himself twice or even thrice before he conceives that he understands the universe and is competent to pour scorn upon the intuitions and perceptions of great men in what may be to him alien regions of thought and experience.
Let him explain, if he can, what he means by his own identity, or the identity of any thinking or living being, which at different times consists of a totally different set of material particles. Something there clearly is which confers personal identity and constitutes an individual: it is a property characteristic of every form of life, even the humblest; but it is not yet explained or understood, and it is no answer to assert gratuitously that there is some fundamental "substance" or material basis on which that identity depends, any more than it is an explanation to say that it depends upon a "soul." These are all forms of words. As Hume says, quoted by Huxley with approval in the work already cited, p. 194:—
"It is impossible to attach any definite meaning to the word 'substance,' when employed for the hypothetical substratum of soul and matter.... If it be said that our personal identity requires the assumption of a substance which remains the same while the accidents of perception shift and change, the question arises what is meant by personal identity?... A plant or an animal, in the course of its existence, from the condition of an egg or seed to the end of life, remains the same neither in form, nor in structure, nor in the matter of which it is composed: every attribute it possesses is constantly changing, and yet we say that it is always one and the same individual" (p. 194).
And in his own preface to the 'Hume' volume Huxley expresses himself forcibly thus,—equally antagonistic as was his wont to both ostensible friend and ostensible foe, as soon as they got off what he considered the straight path:—
"That which it may be well for us not to forget is, that the first-recorded judicial murder of a scientific thinker [Socrates] was compassed and effected, not by a despot, nor by priests, but was brought about by eloquent demagogues.... Clear knowledge of what one does not know just as important as knowing what one does know....
"The development of exact natural knowledge in all its vast range, from physics to history and criticism, is the consequence of the working out, in this province, of the resolution to 'take nothing for truth without clear knowledge that it is such'; to consider all beliefs open to criticism; to regard the value of authority as neither greater nor less, than as much as it can prove itself to be worth. The modern spirit is not the spirit 'which always denies,' delighting only in destruction; still less is it that which builds castles in the air rather than not construct; it is that spirit which works and will work 'without haste and without rest,' gathering harvest after harvest of truth into its barns, and devouring error with unquenchable fire" (p. viii.).
The harvesting of truth is a safe enough enterprise, but the devouring of error is a more dangerous pastime, since flames are liable to spread beyond our control; and though, in a world overgrown with weeds and refuse, the cleansing influence of fire is a necessity, it would be cruel to apply the same agency again at a later stage, when a fresh young crop is springing up in the cleared ground.
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
The aphorism sometimes encountered, that "whatever properties appertain to a whole must essentially belong to the parts of which it is composed," is a fallacy. A property can be possessed by an aggregation of atoms which no atom possesses in the slightest degree. Those who think otherwise are unacquainted with mathematical laws other than simple proportion or some continuous or additive functions; they are not aware of discontinuities; they are not experienced in critical values, above which certain conditions obtain, while below them there is suddenly nothing. To refute them an instance must suffice:—
A meteoric stone may seem to differ from a planet only in size, but the difference in size involves also many other differences, notably the fact that the larger body can attract and hold to itself an atmosphere—a circumstance of the utmost importance to the existence of life on its surface. In order, however, that a planet may by gravitative attraction control the roving atoms of gas, and confine their excursions to within a certain range of itself, it must have a very considerable mass.
The earth is big enough to do it; the moon is not. By simply piling atoms or stones together into a mighty mass there comes a critical point at which an atmosphere becomes possible; and directly an atmosphere exists, all manner of phenomena may spring into existence, which without it were quite impossible.
So, also, it may be said that a sun differs from a dark planet only in size; for it is just the fact of great size which enables its gravitative-shrinkage and earthquake-subsidence to generate an immense quantity of heat and to maintain the mass for aeons at an excessively high temperature, thereby fitting it to become the centre of light and life to a number of worlds. The blaze of the sun is a property which is the outcome of its great mass. A small permanent sun is an impossibility.
Wherefore, properties can be possessed by an aggregate or assemblage of particles which in the particles themselves did not in the slightest degree exist.
If, however, we reverse the aphorism and say that whatever is in a part must be in the whole, we are on much safer ground. I do not say that it cannot be pressed into illegitimate extremes, but in one and that the simplest sense it is little better than a platitude. The fact that an apple has pips legitimises the assertion that an apple-tree has pips, and that the peculiar property of pips represents a faculty enjoyed by the vegetable kingdom as a whole; but it would be a childish misunderstanding to expect to find actual pips in the trunk of a tree or in all vegetables.
There is a tendency to call the argument or statement that whatever faculty man possesses the Deity must have also; by the name Anthropomorphism; but it seems to me a misnomer, and to convey quite wrong ideas. The argument represented by "He that formed the eye, shall he not see? he that planted the ear, shall he not hear?" need not assume for a moment that God has sense organs akin to those of man, or that He appreciates ethereal and aerial vibrations in the same sort of way. It is not an assertion of similarity between God and man, but merely a realisation that what belongs to a part must be contained in the whole. It is not even necessarily pantheistic: it would hold equally well on a Theistic interpretation. Regarded pantheistically it is obvious and requires no stating: regarded Theistically, it is a perception that faculties and powers which have come into existence, and are actually at work in the universe, cannot have arisen without the knowledge and sympathy and full understanding of the Sustainer and Comprehender of it all. Nor can functions be expected in the creature which transcend the power of the Creator.
All our faculties, sensations, and emotions must therefore be understood, and in a sense possessed, in some transcendental and to us unimaginable form, by the Deity.
I know that it is possible to deny His existence, just as it is possible to deny the existence of an external world or to maintain that reality is limited to our sensations. If the Deity has a sense of humour, as undoubtedly He has, He must be amused at the remarkable philosophising faculty recently developed by the creature which on this planet has become most vigorously selfconscious and is in the early stages of progress towards higher things—a philosophising faculty so acute as to lead him to mistrust and throw away information conveyed to him by the very instruments which have enabled him to become what he is; so that having become keenly alive to the truth that all we are directly aware of is the fruit of our own sensations and consciousness, he proceeds to the grotesque supposition that these sensations and consciousness may be all that really exists, and that the information which for ages our senses have conveyed to us concerning external things may be illusory, not only in form and detail and appearance, but in substantial fact.
He must be pleased, also, with the enterprise of those eager philosophers who are so strenuously impressed with the truth of some ultimate monistic unification, as to be unwilling to concede the multifariousness of existence—who decline to speak of mind and matter, or of body and spirit, or of God and the world, as in any sense separate entities—who stigmatise as dualistic anything which does not manifestly and consciously strain after an ultimate monistic view—and who then, as a climax, on the strength of a few years' superficial experience on a planet, by the aid of the sense organs which they themselves perceive to be illusory whenever the actual reality of things is in contemplation, proceed to develop the theory that the whole has come into being without direct intelligence and apart from spiritual guidance, that it is managed so well (or so ill) that it is really not managed at all, that no Deity exists, and that it is absurd to postulate the existence of a comprehensive and all-inclusive guiding Mind.
To be able to perceive comprehensively and state fully not only what is, but also what is not, is a wonderful achievement. I do not think that such a power has yet been acquired by any of the sons of men; nor will the semi-educated readers of this country be wise if they pin their faith and build their hopes on the utterances of any man, however eminent, who makes this superhuman claim.
Now, in all charity, it must be admitted that in some passages Professor Haeckel puts himself under the ban implied by the above paragraph, inasmuch as he conducts a sort of free and easy attack on religion, especially on what he conceives to be the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But, after all, it can be perceived that his attack, so far as it is really an attack on religion, is evidently inspired by his mistrust and dislike, and to some extent fear, of Ecclesiasticism, especially of the Ultramontane movement in Germany, against which he says Prince Bismarck began a struggle in 1872. It is this kind of semi-political religion that he is really attacking, more than the pure essence of Christianity itself. He regards it as a bigoted system hostile to knowledge—which, if true, would amply justify an attack—and he says on page 118:—
"The great struggle between modern science and orthodox Christianity has become more threatening; it has grown more dangerous for science in proportion as Christianity has found support in an increasing mental and political reaction."
This may seem an exaggerated fear; but the following extract from a Pastoral address by the Bishop of Newport, which accidentally I saw reported in The Tablet, shows that the danger is not wholly imaginary, if unwise opinions are pressed to their logical practical issue:—
"If the formulas of modern science contradict the science of Catholic dogma, it is the former that must be altered, not the latter."
 In case it is unfair to wrench a sentence like this from its context, I quote the larger portion of that instructive report in this note:—
Extract from "The Tablet," Aug. 27th, 1904—An Address by the Bishop of Newport.
"If the Abbe Loisy has followers within the Church, as we are informed he has, it cannot be doubted that the danger for Catholics is by no means imaginary. For Loisy teaches that the dogmatic definitions of the Church [on the Incarnation], although the best that could be given at the time and under the circumstances, are only a most inadequate expression of the real truth, which they represent merely relatively and imperfectly. These definitions, he says, should now be stated afresh, because the traditional formula no longer corresponds to the way in which the mystery is regarded by contemporary thought. In his view, our present knowledge of the universe should suggest to the Church a new examination of the dogma of Creation; our knowledge of history should make her revise her ideas of revelation; and our progress in psychology and moral philosophy should suggest to her to re-state her theology of the Incarnation. Every one can see that there is a grain of truth in this kind of talk. But it is, on the whole, a pestilent and dangerous heresy. If the formulas of modern science contradict the science of Catholic dogma, it is the former that must be altered, not the latter. If modern metaphysics are incompatible with the metaphysical terms and expressions adopted by councils and explained by the Catholic schools, then modern metaphysics must be rejected as erroneous. The Church does not change her Christian philosophy to suit the world's speculations; she teaches the world, by her theological definitions, what true and sound philosophy is. Whilst every effort should be made by Catholic apologists to smooth the way for a genuine understanding of the Church's dogmatic terminology, two things must never be lost sight of, first, that this terminology expresses real objective truth (however inadequate the expression may be to the full meaning, as God sees it, of any given mystery); and, secondly, that such truth is expressed in terms of sound philosophy which will not be given up, and which may be called the Christian philosophy."
Professor Haeckel continues his criticism of Official Christianity in the following vein:—
"The so-called 'Peace between Church and State' is never more than a suspension of hostilities. The modern Papacy, true to the despotic principles it has followed for the last 1600 years, is determined to wield sole dominion over the credulous souls of men; it must demand the absolute submission of the cultured State, which, as such, defends the rights of reason and science. True and enduring peace there cannot be until one of the combatants lies powerless on the ground. Either the Church wins, and then farewell to all 'free science and free teaching'—then are our universities no better than gaols, and our colleges become cloistral schools; or else the modern rational State proves victorious—then, in the twentieth century, human culture, freedom, and prosperity will continue their progressive development until they far surpass even the height of the nineteenth century.
"In order to compass these high aims, it is of the first importance that modern science not only shatter the false structures of superstition and sweep their ruins from the path, but that it also erect a new abode for human emotion on the ground it has cleared—a 'palace of reason,' in which, under the influence of our new monistic views, we do reverence to the real trinity of the nineteenth century—the trinity of 'the true, the good, and the beautiful'" (p. 119).
These are the bases of religion, adopted from Goethe, which in Haeckel's view should entirely replace what he calls the Trinity of Kant, viz., God, Freedom, and Immortality—three ideas which he regards as mere superstition or as so enveloped in superstition as to be worthless.
Occasionally, however, he attacks not solely ecclesiastical Christianity—in which enterprise he is entirely within his rights,—but he goes further and abuses some of its more primitive forms, and to some extent its practical fruits also. For instance:—
"Primitive Christianity preached the worthlessness of earthly life, regarding it merely as a preparation for an eternal life beyond. Hence it immediately followed that all we find in the life of a man here below, all that is beautiful in art and science, in public and in private life, is of no real value. The true Christian must avert his eyes from them; he must think only of a worthy preparation for the life beyond. Contempt of nature, aversion from all its inexhaustible charms, rejection of every kind of fine art, are Christian duties; and they are carried out to perfection when a man separates himself from his fellows, chastises his body, and spends all his time in prayers in the cloister or the hermit's cell.... A Christian art is a contradiction in terms" (p. 120).
I think it may without offence be said that if he means by "Primitive Christianity" the teachings of Christ, he is mistaken, and has something to learn as to what those teachings really were. If he means the times of persecution under the Roman empire, he could hardly expect much concentration on artistic pursuits or much enjoyment of terrestrial existence when it was liable to be violently extinguished at any moment: sufficient that the early Church survived its struggle for existence. But if he is referring to mediaeval Christianity, of any other than a debased kind,—common knowledge concerning mediaeval art and architecture sufficiently rebuts the indictment. So much so, that one may almost wonder if by chance he happened to be thinking of "Mohammedanism" rather than of Christianity.
But he continues, in a more practical and observant vein:—
"Christianity has no place for that well-known love of animals, that sympathy with the nearly-related and friendly mammals (dogs, horses, cattle, etc.) which is urged in the ethical teaching of many of the older religions, especially Buddhism. (Unfortunately, Descartes gave some support to the error in teaching that man only has a sensitive soul, not the animal.) Whoever has spent much time in the south of Europe must have often witnessed those frightful sufferings of animals which fill us friends of animals with the deepest sympathy and indignation. And when one expostulates with these brutal 'Christians' on their cruelty, the only answer is, with a laugh: 'But the beasts are not Christians'" (p. 126).
This, if true, and I have heard it from other sources, does constitute rather a serious indictment against the form of practical Christianity understood by the ignorant classes among the Latin races.
To return, however, to the concluding paragraph of the extract quoted above (on page 81) from his page 119:—
No one can have any objection to raise against the dignity and worthiness of the three great attributes which excite Professor Haeckel's, as they excited Goethe's, worship and admiration, viz., the three "goddesses," as he calls them: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty; but there is no necessary competition or antagonism between these and the other three great conceptions which aroused the veneration of Kant: God, Freedom, and Immortality; nor does the upholding of the one triad mean the overthrow of the other: they may be all co-eternal together and co-equal. Nor are either of these triplets inconsistent with some reasonable view of what may be meant by the Christian Trinity. The total possibility of existence is so vast that no simple formula, nor indeed any form of words, however complex, is likely to be able to sum it up and express its essence to the exclusion of all other modes of expression. It is a pity, therefore, that Professor Haeckel should think it necessary to decry one set of ideas in order to support another set. There is room for all in this large universe—room for everything, except downright lies and falseness.
Concerning Truth there is no need to speak: it cannot but be the breath of the nostrils of every genuine scientific man; but his ideas of truth should be large enough to take into account possibilities far beyond anything of which he is at present sure, and he should be careful to be undogmatic and docile in regions of which at present he has not the key.
The meaning of Goodness, the whole domain of ethics, and the higher possibilities of sainthood of which the human spirit has shown itself capable, are at present outside his domain; and if a man of science seeks to dogmatise concerning the emotions and the will, and asserts that he can reduce them to atomic forces and motions, because he has learnt to recognise the undoubted truth that atomic forces and motions must accompany them and constitute the machinery of their manifestation here and now,—he is exhibiting the smallness of his conceptions and gibbeting himself as a laughing-stock to future generations.
The atmosphere and full meaning of Beauty also he can only dimly grasp. If he seeks to explain it in terms of sexual selection, or any other small conception which he has recently been able to form in connection with vital procedure on this planet, he is explaining nothing: he is merely showing how the perception of beauty may operate in certain cases; but the inner nature of beauty and the faculty by which it is perceived are utterly beyond him. He cannot but feel that the unconscious and unobtrusive beauty of field and hedgerow must have originated in obedience to some primal instinct or in fulfilment of some immanent desire, some lofty need quite other than anything he recognises as human.
And if a poet witnessing the colours of a sunset, for instance, or the profusion of beauty with which snow mountains seem to fling themselves to the heavens in districts unpeopled and in epochs long before human consciousness awoke upon the earth: if such a seer feels the revelation weigh upon his spirit with an almost sickening pressure, and is constrained to ascribe this wealth and prodigality of beauty to the joy of the Eternal Being in His own existence, to an anticipation as it were of the developments which lie before the universe in which He is at work, and which He is slowly tending towards an unimaginable perfection—it behooves the man of science to put his hand upon his mouth, lest in his efforts to be true, in the absence of knowledge, he find himself uttering, in his ignorance, words of lamentable folly or blasphemy.
Man and Nature.
Consider our own position—it is surely worth considering. We are a part of this planet; on one side certainly and distinctly a part of this material world, a part which has become self-conscious. At first we were a part which had become alive; a tremendous step that—introducing a number of powers and privileges which previously had been impossible, but that step introduced no responsibility; we were no longer, indeed, urged by mere pressure from behind, we were guided by our instincts and appetites, but we still obeyed the strongest external motive, almost like electro-magnetic automata. Now, however, we have become conscious, able to look before and after, to learn consciously from the past, to strive strenuously towards the future; we have acquired a knowledge of good and evil, we can choose the one and reject the other, and are thus burdened with a sense of responsibility for our acts. We still obey the strongest motive doubtless, but there is something in ourselves which makes it a motive and regulates its strength. We can drift like other animals, and often do; but we can also obey our own volition.
I would not deny the rudiments of self-consciousness, and some of what it implies, to certain domestic animals, notably the dog; but domestication itself is a result of humanity, and undoubtedly the attributes we are discussing are chiefly and almost solely human, they can hardly be detected in wild nature. No other animal can have a full perception of its own individuality and personality as separate from the rest of existence. Such ideas do not occur in the early periods of even human infancy: they are a later growth. Self-consciousness must have become prominent at a certain stage in the evolutionary process.
How it all arose is a legitimate problem for genetic psychology, but to the plain man it is a puzzle; our ancestors invented legends to account for it—legends of apples and serpents and the like; but the fact is there, however it be accounted for. The truth embedded in that old Genesis legend is deep; it is the legend of man's awakening from a merely animal life to consciousness of good and evil, no longer obeying his primal instincts in a state of thoughtlessness and innocency—a state in which deliberate vice was impossible and therefore higher and purposed goodness also impossible,—it was the introduction of a new sense into the world, the sense of conscience, the power of deliberate choice; the power also of conscious guidance, the management of things and people external to himself, for preconceived ends. Man was beginning to cease to be merely a passenger on the planet, controlled by outside forces; it is as if the reins were then for the first time being placed in his hands, as if he was allowed to begin to steer, to govern his own fate and destiny, and to take over some considerable part of the management of the world.
The process of handing over the reins to us is still going on. The education of the human race is a long process, and we are not yet fit to be fully trusted with the steering gear; but the words of the old serpent were true enough: once open our eyes to the perception and discrimination of good and evil, once become conscious of freedom of choice, and sooner or later we must inevitably acquire some of the power and responsibility of gods. A fall it might seem, just as a vicious man sometimes seems degraded below the beasts, but in promise and potency a rise it really was.
The oneness between ourselves and Nature is not a thing to be deplored; it is a thing to rejoice at, when properly conceived. It awakens a kind of religious enthusiasm even in Haeckel, who clearly perceives but a limited aspect of it; yet the perception is vivid enough to cause him, this so-called Atheist, to close his Confession of Faith with words such as these:—
"Now, at last, it is given to the mightily advancing human mind to have its eyes opened; it is given to it to show that a true knowledge of nature affords full satisfaction and inexhaustible nourishment not only for its searching understanding, but also for its yearning spirit.
"Knowledge of the true, training for the good, pursuit of the beautiful: these are the three great departments of our monism; by the harmonious and consistent cultivation of these we effect at last the truly beatific union of religion and science, so painfully longed after by so many to-day. The True, the Beautiful, and the Good, these are the three august Divine Ones before which we bow the knee in adoration....
"In the hope that free research and free teaching may always continue, I conclude my monistic Confession of Faith with the words: 'May God, the Spirit of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True, be with us.'"
This is clearly the utterance of a man to whose type I unconsciously referred in an article written two years ago (Hibbert Journal, January 1903), from which I now make the following appropriate extract:—
Looking at the loom of nature, the feeling not of despair, but of what has been called atheism, one ingredient of atheism, has arisen: atheism never fully realised, and wrongly so called—recently it has been called severe Theism, indeed; for it is joyful sometimes, interested and placid always, exultant at the strange splendour of the spectacle which its intellect has laid bare to contemplation, satisfied with the perfection of the mechanism, content to be a part of the self-generated organism, and endeavouring to think that the feelings of duty, of earnest effort, and of faithful service, which conspicuously persist in spite of all discouragement, are on this view intelligible as well as instinctive, and sure that nothing less than unrepining unfaltering unswerving acquiescence is worthy of our dignity as man.
The above 'Confession of Faith,' then, is very well; for the man himself very well indeed, but it is not enough for the race. Other parts of Haeckel's writings show that it is not enough, and that his conception of what he means by Godhead is narrow and limited to an extent at which instinct, reason, and experience alike rebel. No one can be satisfied with conceptions below the highest which to him are possible: I doubt if it is given to man to think out a clear and consistent system higher and nobler than the real truth. Our highest thoughts are likely to be nearest to reality: they must be stages in the direction of truth, else they could not have come to us and been recognised as highest. So, also, with our longings and aspirations towards ultimate perfection, those desires which we recognise as our noblest and best: surely they must have some correspondence with the facts of existence, else had they been unattainable by us. Reality is not to be surpassed, except locally and temporarily, by the ideals of knowledge and goodness invented by a fraction of itself; and if we could grasp the entire scheme of things, so far from wishing to
"shatter it to bits and then Remould it nearer to the heart's desire,"
we should hail it as better and more satisfying than any of our random imaginings. The universe is in no way limited to our conceptions: it has a reality apart from them; nevertheless, they themselves constitute a part of it, and can only take a clear and consistent character in so far as they correspond with something true and real. Whatever we can clearly and consistently conceive, that is ipso facto in a sense already existent in the universe as a whole; and that, or something better, we shall find to be a dim foreshadowing of a higher reality.
* * * * *
EXPLANATORY NOTE ON CONSTRUCTIVE THOUGHT AND OPTIMISM.
(Partly reprinted from "Mind.")
It may be worth while to explain how it is that, to a physicist unsmitten with any taint of solipsism, a well-elaborated scheme which is consistent with already known facts necessarily seems to correspond, or have close affinity, with the truth. It is the result of experience of a mathematical theorem concerning unique distributions. For instance, it can be shown that in an electric field, however complicated, any distribution of potential which satisfies boundary conditions, and one or two other essential criteria, must be the actual distribution; for it has been rigorously proved that there cannot be two or more distributions which satisfy those conditions, hence if one is arrived at theoretically, or intuitively, or by any means, it must be the correct one; and no further proof is required.
So, also, in connection with analogies and working models: although they must necessarily be imperfect, so long as they are only analogies, yet the making or imagining of models (not necessarily or usually a material model, but a conceptual model) is a recognised way of arriving at an understanding of recondite and ultra-sensual processes, occurring say in the ether or elsewhere. As an addition to evidence derived from such experiments as have been found possible, and as a supplement to the experience out of which, as out of a nucleus, every conception must grow, the mind is set to design and invent a self-coherent scheme which shall imitate as far as possible the results exhibited by nature. By then using this as a working hypothesis, and pressing it into extremes, it can be gradually amended until it shows no sign of discordance or failure anywhere, and even serves as a guide to new and previously unsuspected phenomena. When that stage is reached, it is provisionally accepted and tentatively held as a step in the direction of the truth; though the mind is always kept ready to improve and modify and enlarge it, in accordance with the needs of more thorough investigation and fresh discovery. It was so, for instance, with Maxwell's electromagnetic theory of light; and there are a multitude of other instances.
In the transcendental or ultra-mundane or supersensual region there is the further difficulty to be encountered, that we are not acquainted with anything like all the 'boundary conditions,' so to speak; we only know our little bit of the boundary, and we may err egregiously in inferring or attempting to infer the remainder. We may even make a mistake as to the form of function adapted to the case. Nevertheless there is no better clue, and the human mind is impelled to do the best it can with the confessedly imperfect data which it finds at its disposal. The result, therefore, in this region, is no system of definite and certain truth, as in Physics, but is either suspense of judgment altogether, or else a tentative scheme or working hypothesis, to be held undogmatically, in an attitude of constant receptiveness for further light, and in full readiness for modification in the direction of the truth.
So far concerning the ascertainment of truth alone, in intangible regions of inquiry. The further hypothesis that such truth when found will be most satisfactory, or in other words higher and better than any alternative plan,—the conviction that faith in the exceeding grandeur of reality shall not be confounded,—requires further justification; and its grounds are not so easy to formulate. Perhaps the feeling is merely human and instinctive; but it is existent and customary I believe among physicists, possibly among men of Science in general, though I cannot speak for all; and it must be based upon familiarity with a mass of experience in which, after long groping and guess-work, the truth has ultimately been discovered, and been recognised as 'very good.' It is illustrated, for instance, by the words in which Tyndall closes the first edition of his book on Sound, wherein, after explaining Helmholtz's brilliant theory of Corti's organ and the musical mechanism of the ear,—a theory which, amid the difficulties of actual observation, was necessarily at first saturated with hypothesis, and is not even yet fully verified,—he says:—
"Within the ears of men, and without their knowledge or contrivance, this lute of 3000 strings has existed for ages, accepting the music of the outer world, and rendering it fit for reception by the brain.... I do not ask you to consider these views as established, but only as probable. They present the phenomena in a connected and intelligible form; and should they be doomed to displacement by a more correct or comprehensive theory, it will assuredly be found that the wonder is not diminished by the substitution of the truth."
MIND AND MATTER
What, then, is the probable essence of truth in Professor Haeckel's philosophy? for it is not to be supposed that the speculations of an eminent man are baseless, or that he has been led to his view of what he conceives to be the truth by some wholly erroneous path; his intuitive convictions are to be respected, for they are based on a far wider experience and knowledge of fact than is given to the average man; and for the average man to consider it likely that there is no foundation whatever for the life convictions of a great specialist is as foolish as to suppose it probable that they are certain and infallible, or that they are uncritically to be accepted even in regions beyond those over which his jurisdiction extends.
First as to the "law of substance," by which he sets so much store; the fact which he is really, though indistinctly, trying to emphasise, is what I have preferred to formulate as "the persistence of the really existent," see page 34; and, with that modification, we can agree with Haeckel, or with what I take to be his inner meaning, to some extent. We may all fairly agree, I think, that whatever really and fundamentally exists must, so far as bare existence is concerned, be independent of time. It may go through many changes, and thus have a history; that is to say, must have definite time-relations, so far as its changes are concerned; but it can hardly be thought of as either going out of existence, or as coming into existence, at any given period, though it may completely change its form and accidents; everything basal must have a past and a future of some kind or other, though any special concatenation or arrangement may have a date of origin and of destruction.
A crowd, for instance, is of this fugitive character: it assembles and it disperses, its existence as a crowd is over, but its constituent elements persist; and the same can be said of a planet or a sun. Yet for some "soul" or underlying reality even in these temporary accretions there is permanence of a sort:—Tyndall's "streak of morning cloud," though it may have "melted into infinite azure," has not thereby become non-existent, although as a visible object it has disappeared from our ken and become a memory only. It is true that it was a mere aggregate or accidental agglomeration—it had developed no self-consciousness, nothing that could be called personality or identity characterised it,—and so no individual persistence is to be expected for it; yet even it—low down in the scale of being as it is—even it has rejoined the general body of aqueous vapour whence, through the incarnating influence of night, it arose. The thing that is, both was and shall be, and whatever does not satisfy this condition must be an accidental or fugitive or essentially temporary conglomeration or assemblage, and not one of the fundamental entities of the universe. It is interesting to remember that this was one of the opinions strongly held by the late Professor Tait, who considered that persistence or conservation was the test or criterion of real existence.
The question, How many fundamental entities in this sense there are, and what they are, is a difficult one. Many people, including such opposite thinkers as Tait and Haeckel, would say "matter" and "energy"; though Haeckel chooses, on his own account, to add that these two are one. (Perhaps Professor Ostwald would agree with him there; though to me the meaning is vague.) Physical science, pushed to the last resort, would probably reply that, within its sphere of knowledge at the present stage, the fundamental entities are ether and motion; and that of other things at present it knows next to nothing. If physical science is interrogated as to the probable persistence, i.e., the fundamental existence, of "life" or of "mind," it ought to reply that it does not know; if asked about "personality," or "souls," or "God,"—about all of which Professor Haeckel has fully-fledged opinions—it would have to ask for a definition of the terms, and would speak either not at all or with bated breath concerning them.
The possibility that "life" may be a real and basal form of existence, and therefore persistent, is a possibility to be borne in mind. It may at least serve as a clue to investigation, and some day may bear fruit; at present it is no better than a working hypothesis. It is one that on the whole commends itself to me; for I conceive that though we only know of it as a function of terrestrial matter, yet that it has another aspect too, and I say this because I see it arriving and leaving—animating matter for a time and then quitting it, just as I see dew appearing and disappearing on a plate. Apart from a solid surface, dew cannot exist as such; and to a savage it might seem to spring into and to go out of existence—to be an exudation from the solid, and dependent wholly upon it; but we happen to know more about it: we know that it has a permanent and continuous existence in an imperceptible, intangible, supersensual form, though its visible manifestation in the form of mist or dew is temporary and evanescent. Perhaps it is permissible to trace in that elementary phenomenon some superficial analogy to an incarnation.
The fact concerning life which lies at the root of Professor Haeckel's doctrine about its origin, is that living beings have undoubtedly made their appearance on this planet, where at one time they cannot be suspected of having existed. Consequently that whatever life may be, it is something which can begin to interact with the atoms of terrestrial matter, at some period, or state of aggregation, or other condition of elaboration,—a condition which may perhaps be rather definite, if only we were aware of what it was. But that undoubted fact is quite consistent with any view as to the nature of "life," and even with any view as to the mode of its terrestrial commencement; there is nothing in that to say that it is a function of matter alone, any more than the wind is a function of the leaves which dance under its influence; there is nothing even to contradict the notion that it sprang into existence suddenly at a literal word of command. The improbability or absurdity of such a conception as this last, except in the symbolism of poetry, is extreme, and it is unthinkable by any educated person; but its improbability depends upon other considerations than biologic ones, and it is as repugnant to an enlightened Theology as to any other science.
The mode in which biological speculation as to the probable development of living out of dead matter, and the general relation of protoplasm to physics and chemistry, can be surmised or provisionally granted, without thereby concurring in any destructive criticism of other facts and experiences, is explained in Chapter X. on "Life," further on: and there I emphasise my agreement with parts of the speculative contentions of Professor Haeckel on the positive side.
Soul and Body.
Let us consider what are the facts scientifically known concerning the interaction between mind and matter. Fundamentally they amount to this: that a complex piece of matter, called the brain, is the organ or instrument of mind and consciousness; that if it be stimulated mental activity results; that if it be injured or destroyed no manifestation of mental activity is possible. Moreover, it is assumed, and need not be doubted, that a portion of brain substance is consumed, oxidised let us say, in every act of mentation: using that term in the vaguest and most general sense, and including in it unconscious as well as conscious operations.
Suppose we grant all this, what then? We have granted that brain is the means whereby mind is made manifest on this material plane, it is the instrument through which alone we know it, but we have not granted that mind is limited to its material manifestation; nor can we maintain that without matter the things we call mind, intelligence, consciousness, have no sort of existence. Mind may be incorporate or incarnate in matter, but it may also transcend it; it is through the region of ideas and the intervention of mind that we have become aware of the existence of matter. It is injudicious to discard our primary and fundamental awareness for what is after all an instinctive inference or interpretation of certain sensations.
The realities underlying those sensations are only known to us by inference, but they have an independent existence: in their inmost nature they may be quite other than what they seem, and are in no way dependent upon our perception of them. So, also, our actual personality may be something considerably unlike that conception of it which is based on our present terrestrial consciousness—a form of consciousness suited to, and developed by, our temporary existence here, but not necessarily more than a fraction of our total self.
Take an analogy: the eye is the organ of vision; by it we perceive light. Stimulate the retina in any way, and we are conscious of the sensation of light; injure or destroy the eye, and vision becomes imperfect or impossible. If eyes did not exist we should probably know nothing about light, and we might be tempted to say that light did not exist. In a sense, to a blind race, light would not exist—that is to say, there would be no sensation of light, there would be no sight; but the underlying physical cause of that sensation—the ripples in the ether—would be there all the time. And it is these ethereal ripples which a physicist understands by the term "light." It is quite conceivable that a race of blind physicists would be able to devise experimental means whereby they could make experiments on what to us is luminous radiation, just as we now make experiments on electric waves, for which we have no sense organ. It would be absurd for a psychologist to inform them that light did not exist because sight did not. The term might have to be reconsidered and redefined; indeed, most likely a polysyllabic term would be employed, as is unfortunately usual when a thing of which the race in general has no intimate knowledge requires nomenclature. But the thing would be there, though its mode of manifestation would be different; a term like "vision" might still be employed, to signify our mode of perceiving and experiencing the agency which now manifests itself to us through our eyes; and plants might grow by the aid of that agency just as they do now.
So, also, brain is truly the organ of mind and consciousness, and to a brainless race these terms, and all other terms, would be meaningless; but no one is at liberty to assert, on the strength of that fact, that the realities underlying our use of those terms have no existence apart from terrestrial brains. Nor can we say with any security that the stuff called "brain" is the only conceivable machinery which they are able to utilise: though it is true that we know of no other. Yet it would seem that such a proposition must be held by a materialist, or by what can be implied by the term "monist," used in its narrowest and most unphilosophic sense—a sense which would be better expressed by the term materialistic-monist, with a limitation of the term matter to the terrestrial chemical elements and their combinations, i.e., to that form of substance to which the human race has grown accustomed—a sense which tends to exclude ethereal and other generalisations and unknown possibilities such as would occur to a philosophic monist of the widest kind.
For that it may ultimately be discovered that there is some intimate and necessary connection between a generalised form of matter and some lofty variety of mind is not to be denied; though also it cannot be asserted. It has been surmised, for instance, that just as the corpuscles and atoms of matter, in their intricate movements and relations, combine to form the brain cell of a human being; so the cosmic bodies, the planets and suns and other groupings of the ether, may perhaps combine to form something corresponding as it were to the brain cell of some transcendent Mind. The idea is to be found in Newton. The thing is a mere guess, it is not an impossibility, and it cannot be excluded from a philosophic system by any negative statement based on scientific fact. In some such sense as that, matter and mind may be, for all we know, eternally and necessarily connected; they can be different aspects of some fundamental unity; and a lofty kind of monism can be true, just as a lofty kind of pantheism can be true. But the miserable degraded monism and lower pantheism, which limits the term "god" to that part of existence of which we are now aware—sometimes, indeed, to a fraction only of that—which limits the term "mind" to that of which we are ourselves conscious, and the term "matter" to the dust of the earth and the other visible bodies, is a system of thought appropriate, perhaps, to a fertile and energetic portion of the nineteenth century, but not likely to survive as a system of perennial truth.
The term "organ" itself should have given pause to anyone desirous of promulgating a scheme such as that.
"Organ" is a name popularly given to an instrument of music. Without it, or some other instrument, no material manifestation or display of music is possible; it is an instrument for the incarnation of music—the means whereby it interacts with the material world and throws the air and so our ears into vibration, it is the means whereby we apprehend it. Injure the organ and the music is imperfect; destroy it and it ceases to be possible. But is it to be asserted on the strength of that fact that the term "music" has no significance apart from its material manifestation? Have the ideas of Sir Edward Elgar no reality apart from their record on paper and reproduction by an orchestra? It is true that without suitable instruments and a suitable sense-organ we should know nothing of music, but it cannot be supposed that its underlying essence would be therefore extinct or non-existent and meaningless. Can there not be in the universe a multitude of things which matter as we know it is incompetent to express? Is it not the complaint of every genius that his material is intractable, that it is difficult to coerce matter as he knows it into the service of mind as he is conscious of it, and that his conceptions transcend his powers of expression?
The connection between soul and body, or more generally between spiritual and material, has been illustrated by the connection between the meaning of a sentence and the written or spoken word conveying that meaning. The writing or the speaking may be regarded as an incarnation of the meaning, a mode of stating or exhibiting its essence. As delivered, the sentence must have time relations; it has a beginning, middle, and end; it may be repeated, and the same general meaning may be expressed in other words; but the intrinsic meaning of the sentence itself need have no time relations, it may be true always, it may exist as an eternal "now," though it may be perceived and expressed by humanity with varying clearness from time to time.
The soul of a thing is its underlying permanent reality—that which gives it its meaning and confers upon it its attributes. The body is an instrument or mechanism for the manifestation or sensible presentation of what else would be imperceptible. It is useless to ask whether a soul is immortal—a soul is always immortal "where a soul can be discerned": the question to ask concerning any given object is whether it has a soul or meaning or personal underlying reality at all.
Those who think that reality is limited to its terrestrial manifestation doubtless have a philosophy of their own, to which they are entitled and to which at any rate they are welcome; but if they set up to teach others that monism signifies a limitation of mind to the potentialities of matter as at present known; if they teach a pantheism which identifies God with nature in this narrow sense; if they hold that mind and what they call matter are so intimately connected that no transcendence is possible; that, without the cerebral hemispheres, consciousness and intelligence and emotion and love, and all the higher attributes towards which humanity is slowly advancing, would cease to be; that the term "soul" signifies "a sum of plasma-movements in the ganglion cells"; and that the term "God" is limited to the operation of a known evolutionary process, and can be represented as "the infinite sum of all natural forces, the sum of all atomic forces and all ether vibrations," to quote Professor Haeckel (Confession of Faith, p. 78); then such philosophers must be content with an audience of uneducated persons, or, if writing as men of science, must hold themselves liable to be opposed by other men of science, who are able, at any rate in their own judgment, to take a wider survey of existence, and to perceive possibilities to which the said narrow and over-definite philosophers were blind.
Life and Guidance.
Matter possesses energy, in the form of persistent motion, and it is propelled by force; but neither matter nor energy possesses the power of automatic guidance and control. Energy has no directing power (this has been elaborated by Croll and others: see, for instance, p. 24, and a letter in Nature, vol. 43, p. 434, thirteen years ago, under the heading "Force and Determinism"). Inorganic matter is impelled solely by pressure from behind, it is not influenced by the future, nor does it follow a preconceived course nor seek a predetermined end.
An organism animated by mind is in a totally different case. The intangible influences of hunger, of a call, of perception of something ahead, are then the dominant feature. An intelligent animal which is being pushed is in an ignominious position and resents it; when led, or when voluntarily obeying a call, it is in its rightful attitude.
The essence of mind is design and purpose. There are some who deny that there is any design or purpose in the universe at all: but how can that be maintained when humanity itself possesses these attributes? (cf. pp. 54, 74). Is it not more reasonable to say that just as we are conscious of the power of guidance in ourselves, so guidance and intelligent control may be an element running through the universe, and may be incorporated even in material things?
A traveller who has lost his way in a mountain district, coming across a path, may rejoice, saying, "This will guide me home." A materialist, if he were consistent, should laugh such a traveller to scorn, saying, "What guidance or purpose can there be in a material object? there is no guidance or purpose in the universe; things are because they cannot be otherwise, not because of any intention underlying them. How can a path, which is little better than the absence of grass or the wearing down of stones, know where you live or guide you to any desired destination? Moreover, whatever knowledge or purpose the path exhibits must be in the path, must be a property of the atoms of which it is composed. To them some fraction of will, of power, of knowledge, and of feeling may perhaps be attributed, and from their aggregation something of the same kind may perhaps be deduced. If the traveller can decipher that, he may utilise the material object to his advantage; but if he conceives the path to have been made with any teleological object or intelligent purpose, he is abandoning himself to superstition, and is as likely to be led by it to the edge of a precipice as to anywhere else. Let him follow his superstition at his peril!"
This is not a quotation, of course: but it is a parable.
Matter is the instrument and vehicle of mind; incarnation is the mode by which mind interacts with the present scheme of things, and thereby the element of guidance is supplied; it can, in fact, be embodied in an intelligent arrangement of inert inorganic matter. Even a mountain path exhibits the property of guidance, and has direction: it is an incorporation of intelligence, though itself inert.
Direction is not a function of energy. The energy of sound from an organ is supplied by the blower of the bellows, which may be worked by a mechanical engine; but the melody and harmony, the sequence and co-existence of notes, are determined by the dominating mind of the musician: not necessarily of the executant alone, for the composer's mind may be evoked to some extent even by a pianola. The music may be said to be incarnate in the roll of paper which is ready to be passed through the instrument. So also can the conception of any artist receive material embodiment in his work, and if a picture or a beautiful building is destroyed it can be made to rise again from its ashes provided the painter or the architect still lives: in other words, his thought can receive a fresh incarnation; and a perception of the beautiful form shall hereafter, in a kindred spirit, arouse similar ideas.
There is thus a truth in materialism, but it is not a truth readily to be apprehended and formulated. Matter may become imbued with life, and full of vital association; something of the personality of a departed owner seems to cling sometimes about an old garment, its curves and folds can suggest him vividly to our recollection. I would not too blatantly assert that even a doll on which much affection had been lavished was wholly inert and material in the inorganic sense. The tattered colours of a regiment are sometimes thought worthy to be hung in a church. They are a symbol truly, but they may be something more. I have reason to believe that a trace of individuality can cling about terrestrial objects in a vague and almost imperceptible fashion, but to a degree sufficient to enable those traces to be detected by persons with suitable faculties.
There is a deep truth in materialism; and it is the foundation of the material parts of worship—sacraments and the like. It is possible to exaggerate their efficacy, but it is also possible to ignore it too completely. The whole universe is metrical, everything is a question of degree. A property like radio-activity or magnetism, discovered conspicuously in one form of matter, turns out to be possessed by matter of every kind, though to very varying extent.
So it would appear to be with the power possessed by matter to incarnate and display mind.
There are grades of incarnation: the most thorough kind is that illustrated by our bodies; in them we are incarnate, but probably not even in that case is the incarnation complete. It is quite credible that our whole and entire personality is never terrestrially manifest.
There are grades of incarnation. Some of the personality of an Old Master is locked up in a painting: and whoever wilfully destroys a great picture is guilty of something akin to murder, namely, the premature and violent separation of soul and body. Some of the soul of a musician can be occluded in a piece of manuscript, to be deciphered thereafter by a perceptive mind.
Matter is the vehicle of mind, but it is dominated and transcended by it. A painting is held together by cohesive forces among the atoms of its pigments, and if those forces rebelled or turned repulsive the picture would be disintegrated and destroyed; yet those forces did not make the picture. A cathedral is held together by inorganic forces, and it was built in obedience to them, but they do not explain it. It may owe its existence and design to the thought of someone who never touched a stone, or even of someone who was dead before it was begun. In its symbolism it represents One who was executed many centuries ago. Death and Time are far from dominant.
Are we so sure that when we truly attribute a sunset, or the moonlight rippling on a lake, to the chemical and physical action of material forces—to the vibrations of matter and ether as we know them, that we have exhausted the whole truth of things? Many a thinker, brooding over the phenomena of Nature, has felt that they represent the thoughts of a dominating unknown Mind partially incarnate in it all.
PROFESSOR HAECKEL'S CONJECTURAL PHILOSOPHY
A reply to Mr M'Cabe.
Part of the preceding, so far as it is a criticism of Haeckel, was given by me in the first instance as a Presidential Address to the Members of the Birmingham and Midland Institute; and the greater portion of this Address was printed in the Hibbert Journal for January 1905. Mr M'Cabe, the translator of Haeckel, thereupon took up the cudgels on behalf of his Chief, and wrote an article in the following July issue; to the pages of which references will be given when quoting. A few observations of mine in reply to this article emphasise one or two points which perhaps previously were not quite clear; and so this reply, from the October number of the Hibbert Journal, may be conveniently here reproduced.
I have no fault to find with the tone of Mr M'Cabe's criticism of my criticism of Haeckel, and it is satisfactory that one who has proved himself an enthusiastic disciple, as well as a most industrious and competent translator, should stand up for the honour and credit of a foreign Master when he is attacked.
But in admitting the appropriateness and the conciliatory tone of his article, I must not be supposed to agree with its contentions; for although he seeks to show that after all there is but little difference between myself and Haeckel—and although in a sense that is true as regards the fundamental facts of science, distinguishing the facts themselves from any hypothetical and interpretative gloss—yet with Haeckel's interpretations and speculative deductions from the facts, especially with the mode of presentation, and the crude and unbalanced attacks on other fields of human activity, my feeling of divergence occasionally becomes intense.
And it is just these superficial, and as Mr M'Cabe now admits hypothetical, and as they seem to me rather rash, excursions into side issues, which have attracted the attention of the average man, and have succeeded in misleading the ignorant.
If it could be universally recognised that
"it is expressly as a hypothesis that Haeckel formulates his conjecture as to manner of the origin of life" (p. 744),
and if it could be further generally admitted that his authority outside biology is so weak that
"it is mere pettiness to carp at incidental statements on matters on which Haeckel is known to have or to exercise no peculiar authority, or to labour in determining the precise degree of evidence for the monism of the inorganic or the organic world" (p. 748),
I should be quite content, and hope that I may never find it necessary to carp at these things again. Also I entirely agree with Mr M'Cabe, though I have some doubt whether Professor Haeckel would equally agree with him, that
"there remain the great questions whether this mechanical evolution of the universe needed intelligent control, and whether the mind of man stands out as imperishable amidst the wreck of worlds. These constitute the serious controversy of our time in the region of cosmic philosophy or science. These are the rocks that will divide the stream of higher scientific thought for long years to come. To many of us it seems that a concentration on these issues is as much to be desired as sympathy and mutual appreciation" (p. 748).
This is excellent; but then it is surely true that Professor Haeckel has taken great pains to state forcibly and clearly that these great questions cannot by him be regarded as open; in fact Mr M'Cabe himself says—
"Haeckel's position, if expressed at times with some harshness, and not always with perfect consistency, is well enough known. He rejects the idea of intelligent and benevolent guidance, chiefly on the ground of the facts of dysteleology, and he fails to see any evidence for exempting the human mind from the general law of dissolution" (p. 748).
Ultimately, however, he appears to have been driven to a singularly unphilosophic view, of which Mr M'Cabe says—
"It is interesting to note that in his latest work Haeckel regards sensation (or unconscious sentience) as an ultimate and irreducible attribute of substance, like matter (or extension) and force (or spirit)" (p. 752).
I call this unphilosophical because—omitting any reference here to the singular parenthetical explanations or paraphrases, for which I suppose Haeckel is not to be held responsible—this is simply abandoning all attempt at explanation; it even closes the door to inquiry, and is equivalent to an attitude proper to any man in the street, for it virtually says: "Here the thing is anyhow, I cannot explain it." However legitimate and necessary such an attitude may be as an expression of our ignorance, we ought not to use the phrase "ultimate and irreducible," as if no one could ever explain it.
Moreover, if it be true that—
"Haeckel does not teach—never did teach—that the spiritual universe is an aspect of the material universe, as his critic makes him say, it is his fundamental and most distinctive idea that both are attributes or aspects of a deeper reality" (p. 745)—