Science and Morals and Other Essays
by Bertram Coghill Alan Windle
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LISTARKIN September 1919

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These Essays have all in one form or another appeared elsewhere; and I have to thank the Editors of the Dublin Review, Catholic World, America, and Studies respectively for kind permission to reproduce them. Some of them appear as they were published, others have been almost rewritten.

B. C. A. W.

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I. Science and Morals 1 Sec. 1. The Gospel of Science 1 Sec. 2. Science as a Rule of Life 14

II. Theophobia and Nemesis 26 Sec. 1. Theophobia: its Cause 26 Sec. 2. Theophobia: its Nemesis 44

III. Within and Without the System 56

IV. Science in "Bondage" 74

V. Science and the War 106

VI. Heredity and "Arrangement" 125

VII. "Special Creation" 142

VIII. Catholic Writers and Spontaneous Generation 152

IX. A Theory of Life 160

Index of Names 175

General Index 177

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In the days before the war the Annual Address delivered by the President of the British Association was wont to excite at least a mild interest in the breasts of the reading public. It was a kind of Encyclical from the reigning pontiff of science, and since that potentate changed every year there was some uncertainty as to his subject and its treatment, and there was this further piquant attraction, wanting in other and better-known Encyclicals, that the address of one year might not merely contradict but might even exhibit a lofty contempt for that or for those which had immediately preceded it.

During the three years immediately preceding the war we had excellent examples of all these things. In the first of them we were treated to a somewhat belated utterance in opposition to Vitalism. Its arguments were mostly based upon what even to the tyro in chemistry seemed to be rather shaky foundations. Such indeed they proved to be, since the deductions drawn from the behaviour of colloids and from Leduc's pretty toys were promptly disclaimed by leading chemists in the course of the few days after the delivery of the address.

Further, the President for the year 1914 in his address (Melbourne, p. 18)[1] told us that the problem of the origin of life, which, let us remind ourselves, in the 1912 address was on the point of solution, "still stands outside the range of scientific investigation," and that when the spontaneous formation of formaldehyde is talked of as a first step in that direction he is reminded of nothing so much as of Harry Lauder, in the character of a schoolboy, "pulling his treasures from his pocket—'That's a wassher—for makkin motor-cars!'" Nineteen hundred and twelve pinned its faith on matter and nothing else; Nineteen hundred and thirteen assured us that "occurrences now regarded as occult can be examined and reduced to order by the methods of science carefully and persistently applied."[2] Further, the examination of those facts had convinced the deliverer of the address "that memory and affection are not limited to that association with matter by which alone they can manifest themselves here and now, and that personality persists beyond bodily death." Nineteen hundred and fourteen proclaimed telepathy a "harmless toy," which, with necromancy, has taken the place of "eschatology and the inculcation of a ferocious moral code." And yet it is on telepathy, if we are to believe the daily papers, that Sir Oliver Lodge largely relies for his proofs. Here, at any rate, is a pleasing diversity of opinion which fully bears out what was said at the beginning of this paper. It is, however, with the third address, or rather pair of addresses, that we are concerned; for the meeting of 1914, not only was the first to be held at the Antipodes, but also the first to be honoured with two addresses—one in Melbourne, the other in Sydney.

Their deliverer is a very distinguished and a very independent man of Science. It was he who insisted, at a time when the domination of a very rigid form of Darwinism was much stronger than it is to-day, that the picture of Nature as seen by us is a Discontinuous picture, though Discontinuity does not exist in the environment. And it was he who asked whether the Discontinuity might not be in the living thing itself, and prefixed to the monumental work[3] in which he discussed this question the significant text from the Bible: "All flesh is not the same flesh; but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." Nearer to our own times, he was one of a small body of men of science who almost synchronously disinterred the forgotten works of Abbot Mendel, and proclaimed them to the world, as containing discoveries of the first value. He was thus always something of a "Herald of Revolt," and maintains that character in these addresses. "We go to Darwin for his incomparable collection of facts. We would fain emulate his scholarship, his width and his power of exposition, but to us he speaks no more with philosophical authority. We read his scheme of evolution as we would those of Lucretius or Lamarck, delighting in their simplicity and their courage" (M., p. 9). "Naturally, we turn aside from generalities. It is no time to discuss the origin of the Mollusca or of Dicotyledons, while we are not even sure how it came to pass that Primula obconica has in twenty-five years produced its abundant new forms almost under our eyes" (ib., ib.). And so on. To take one other example: there is nothing which was more insisted upon by Darwinians than the fact that all the various races of domestic fowl known to us came from Gallus bankiva, the jungle-fowl of India; in fact I think I have seen that form enthroned amongst its supposed descendants in more than one museum. "So we are taught; but try to reconstruct the steps in their evolution and you realise your hopeless ignorance" (M., p. 11). If we cannot construct a "tree" for fowls, how absurd to adventure into the deeper recesses of Phylogeny. If all that Professor Bateson says is true, is not Driesch right when he speaks of "the phantasy christened Phylogeny"?[4]

The addresses, however, were not solely concerned with throwing contempt upon views which were yesterday of great respectability, and which even to-day are as gospel to many. They devoted themselves chiefly to the consideration of the question of heredity, viewed, as might be expected, from the Mendelian standpoint.

Now, at this point it may be said that there are at least two things which we should like to know about heredity—the vehicle and the laws. It is clear that we might know something, perhaps even a good deal, about one of these without knowing anything about the other.

Such in fact is the case; for we know, it may fairly be said, nothing about the vehicle. There are two very widely distinct opinions on this point. There is the mnemic theory, recently brought before us by the republication of Butler's most interesting and suggestive work with its translations of Hering's original paper and Von Hartmann's discourse and its very illuminating introduction by Professor Hartog.[5]

And there is the continuity theory which teaches that in some way or another the characteristics of the parents and other ancestors are physical parts of the germ. An attempt to explain this was made by Darwin in his theory of Pangenesis. Others have essayed what Yves Delage calls "micromeristic" interpretations. As to all of these it may be said that when they are reduced to figures the explanation becomes of so complex a character as utterly to break down. We shall see that Professor Bateson adopts a third very nebulous explanation. But as regards the laws of heredity there is something else to be said; for here we really do know something, and that something we owe in large measure to the innumerable experiments which have been made on Mendelian lines since the re-discovery of the methods first adopted by the celebrated Abbot of Bruenn. It is no intention of the writer of this paper to describe the Mendelian theory,[6] which is well known, at least to all biological readers, though one or two points in connection with it may yet have to be touched upon.

The point of cardinal importance in connection with Mendelism is that it does reveal a law capable of being numerically stated, and apparently applicable to a large number of isolated factors in living things. Indeed it was this attention to isolated factors which was the first and essential part of Mendel's method. For example, others had been content to look at the pea as a whole. Mendel applied his analytic method to such things as the colour of the pea, the smooth or wrinkled character of the skin which covered it, its dwarfness or height, and so on.

Now, the behaviour of these isolated factors seems to throw a light even upon the vehicle of heredity. We often talk of "blood" and "mixing of blood," as if blood had anything to do with the question, when really the Biblical expression "the seed of Abraham" is much more to the point. For it is in the seed that these factors must be, whether they be mnemic or physical. Professor Bateson (M., p. 5) thinks it obvious that they are transmitted by the spermatozoon and the ovum; but it seems to him "unlikely that they are in any simple or literal sense material particles." And he goes on to say, and this, I think, is one of his most important statements: "I suspect rather that their properties depend on some phenomenon of arrangement."

Now, if there be a law behind the phenomena made clear to us by Mendelian experiments (as Mendelians are never tired of asserting), then it becomes in no way impertinent to ask how that law came into existence, and who formulated it. Darwinism, according to Driesch,[7] "explained how by throwing stones one could build houses of a typical style." In other words, it "claimed to show how something purposively constructed could arise by absolute chance; at any rate this holds of Darwinism as codified in the seventies and eighties." Of course the Blind Chance doctrine breaks down utterly when it comes to be applied to selected cases, and nothing more definitely disposes of it than the very definite law which emerges as the result of the Mendelian experiments. That is obvious to the prophets of Mendelism; but, whilst they admit this, they will have nothing to say to the lawgiver. That is the "rankest metaphysics," as Dr. Johnstone puts it,[8] or "mysticism," as others prefer to call it. And yet nothing is more clear than the logical sequence that, if you have a law, someone must have made it, and if you look upon something as "a phenomenon of arrangement," someone must have arranged it. But for reasons not obvious nor confessed, there is an objection to make any such admission. Perhaps it is the taint of the monism of the latter half of the last century which still persists.

At any rate, as I have elsewhere pointed out, there is a most curious passage in another paper by the same author in which he says: "With the experimental proof that variation consists largely in the unpacking and repacking of an original complexity, it is not so certain as we might like to think that the order of these events is not pre-determined." The writer hastens to denounce the horrid heresy on the brink of which he finds himself hesitating, by adding that he sees "no ground whatever for holding such a view," though "in the light of modern research it scarcely looks so absurdly improbable as before."[9] It is curious that the writer in question does not seem to have been in any way influenced by the eliminative argument so potent in connection with the discussion on Vitalism. We ask for an explanation of the occurrences—say of regeneration. We find that no physical explanation in the least meets the needs of the case, and we are consequently obliged to look for it in something differing from the operations of chemistry and physics. Of this argument Dr. Johnstone[10] says: "It is almost impossible to overestimate the appeal which it makes to the investigator."

Now, this matter of "arrangement" or of "pre-determination," when put forward as an explanation, even tentatively, necessitates a step further. That step might possibly be in the direction of pantheism, though, according to Driesch,[11] pantheism is the doctrine "that reality is a something which makes itself ('dieu se fait,' in the words of Bergson), whilst theism would be any theory according to which the manifoldness of material reality is predetermined in an immaterial way." And he concludes "that those who regard the thesis of the theory of order as necessary for everything that is or can be, must accept theism, and are not allowed to speak of 'dieu qui se fait.'" It is difficult to see how anyone who has studied the rigid order exhibited by experiments on Mendelian lines can resist the logic of this argument unless indeed he takes a place on Plate's platform, which admits that a law entails a lawgiver, but declares that of the Lawgiver of Natural Laws we can know nothing.[12]

There is a further point in connection with Mendelian theories which is worth noting in this connection. It would appear that no new factor is ever brought into being, that is, no addition is ever made by variation. According to this theory the things which appear to be added—a new colour or a new scent—were there all the time. They were "stopped down" or inhibited by some other factor, which, when eliminated, allows them to come into play, and thus to become obvious to the observer from whom they had been hidden. Thus, Professor Bateson (M., p. 17) has confidence "that the artistic gifts of mankind will prove to be due, not to something added to the make-up of an ordinary man, but to the absence of factors which in the normal person inhibit the development of these gifts. They are almost beyond doubt to be looked upon as releases of powers normally suppressed. The instrument is there, but it is 'stopped down.'"

That all sorts of things may exist in a very small compass no doubt is true. Professor Bateson reminds us that Shakespeare was once "a speck of protoplasm not so big as a small pin's head." The difficulty—insuperable on ordinary monistic lines—is how all these things got into the germ if no additions ever take place. It was so difficult to account, for example, for artistic appreciation on the part of man or for gifts of an artistic character that Huxley was fain to describe them as gratuitous; but on this showing all characters are gratuitous in the sense that they are not acquired. We may reasonably inquire not merely how all these characters and factors got themselves "arranged" or "packed," but where they came from, and how they came to be in the germ at all, matters on which we receive no information in these addresses. No doubt the author of the addresses would say that it was no part of his business to explain this matter; that he took this system of Nature as a going system and did his best to explain it as such and without attempting, perhaps even without desiring, to explain how it got a-going. If that be the case, and if ignorance on this head must be his confession, it is a little difficult to understand the confidence with which he sets himself to discuss the "extraordinary and far-reaching changes in public opinion [which] are coming to pass." We shall find these, as we pass them in review, to be extraordinary enough, though not very new.

In the first place, "genetic research will make it possible for a nation to elect by what sort of beings it will be represented not very many generations hence, much as a farmer can decide whether his byres shall be full of shorthorns or Herefords. It will be very surprising indeed if some nation does not make trial of this new power. They may make awful mistakes, but I think they will try" (S., p. 8). It is curious how the war, which had just commenced when these addresses were being delivered, has absolutely disposed, or ought to have disposed, of some of the prophecies of the President. Nothing, at any rate, seems more certain than that one result of this most disastrous struggle will be an urgent demand by all the States engaged in it for at least as many male children as the mothers of each country can supply, without special regard to their other characters, breedable or not breedable. We are even told that Germany is resorting to expedients which cannot be justified on Christian principles to fill her depleted homes. Whether this be true or not the fact remains that nothing is now more to be desired by all the combatant nations than what we call in Ireland "long families." But even if there had been no war, there is one other factor which makes it quite certain that no country ever will try, or if it ventures to try, will ever succeed in any such experiment, and that factor, forgotten by philosophers of this kind, is human nature. Mr. Frankfort Moore years ago wrote a pleasant story, called "The Marriage Lease," in which doctrinaire legislation of a somewhat similar kind was described, and its inevitable failure most amusingly depicted. The war disposes of another of the President's maxims (S., p. 10), that the decline in the birth-rate of a country is nothing to be grieved about, and that "the slightest acquaintance with biology" shows that the "inference may be wholly wrong," which asserts that "a nation in which population is not rapidly increasing must be in a decline" (S., p. 10). Human nature was neglected in the first-mentioned case, and here it is the turn of history to pass into the shade, history which, pace the President, has really a good deal more bearing upon a question of this kind than the "school-boy natural history" which he thinks capable of settling it. Thus we advance from breeding to Malthusianism. It is perhaps not wonderful that our next step should be the quiet, and of course painless, extinction of the unfit.

"Thou shalt not kill, but needs't not strive Officiously to keep alive."

Thus wrote Clough; but our author, it appears, would go further than this. "The preservation of an infant so gravely diseased that it can never be happy or come to any good is something very like wanton cruelty. In private life few men defend such interference" (S. 10). And so such unfortunates should be got rid of, and will be "as soon as scientific knowledge becomes common property"—when "views more reasonable, and, I may add, more humane are likely to prevail." Lest we should be depressed by this massacre of the innocents, we are told that "man is just beginning to know himself for what he is—a rather long-lived animal, with great powers of enjoyment if he does not deliberately forgo them" (S., p. 9). In the past, poor fool that he has been, he has not availed himself of his opportunities: "Hitherto superstition and mythical ideas of sin have predominantly controlled these powers." Let us, however, take heart: "Mysticism will not die out; for those strange fancies knowledge is no cure; but their forms may change, and mysticism as a force for the suppression of joy is happily losing its hold on the modern world" (ib., ib.). Let us eat and drink—and, it may be added, sin—for to-morrow we die. Such is the new gospel of science, an old enough gospel, tried and found wanting years before its latest prophet arose to proclaim it to the world. Surely no more ridiculous utterance ever was made; for its author evidently did not pause to consider that the sins which make life pleasant to some (for example, Thuggery) are apt to have quite another aspect to those through whose victimisation the pleasure is obtained. There is also here such a thing as the conscience, which has to be taken into account. Even the biological hedonist must originally possess such a thing and, it may be supposed, must deal with it as he would with the gravely diseased children, and as something which would "predominantly control his powers of enjoyment."

Seriously, it may be doubted if a more pagan code of morals has ever been laid down, and this in the Encyclical of Science for the year, a code bad enough to make poor Mendel turn in his grave could he—good, honest man—be aware of it, and imagine that he was in any way responsible for it, which, by the way, is in no way the case.


Saint or sinner, some rule of life we must have, even if we are wholly unconscious of the fact. A spiritual director will help us to map out a course of action which will assist us to shake off some little of the dust of this dusty world; and a doctor will lay down for us a dietary which will help us to elude, for a time at least, the insidious onsets of the gout. Even if we take no formal steps, spiritual or corporeal, some rule of life we must achieve for ourselves. We must, for example, make up our minds whether we are to open our ears and our purse to tales of misery, or are to join ourselves with those whose rule of life it is to keep that which they have for themselves. What is true of each of us is none the less true of each and every race—even more true; for each race must make up its mind definitely as to which rule it will follow. And at the moment there is still doubt and indecision in this matter.

"The moral problem that confronts Europe to-day is: What sort of righteousness are we, individually and collectively, to pursue? Is the new righteousness to be realised in a return to the old brutality? Shall the last values be as the first? Must ethical process conform to natural process as exemplified by the life of any animal that secures dominancy at the expense of the weaker members of its kind?"[13] Such are the questions raised by a man of science occupying the Presidential Chair of an important society and speaking to that society as its President.

As to the Christian ideals little need be said, since we know very well what they are, and know this most especially, that practically all of them are in direct opposition to what we may call the ideals of Nature, and exercise all their influence in frustrating such laws as that of Natural Selection. "Nature's Insurgent Son," as Sir Ray Lankester calls him,[14] is at constant war with Nature, and when we come to consider the matter carefully, in that respect most fully differentiates himself from all other living things, none of which make any attempt to control the forces of Nature for their own advantage. "Nature's inexorable discipline of death to those who do not rise to her standard—survival and parentage for those alone who do—has been from the earliest times more and more definitely resisted by the will of man. If we may for the purpose of analysis, as it were, extract man from the rest of Nature, of which he is truly a product and a part, then we may say that man is Nature's rebel. Where Nature says 'Die!' man says 'I will live.'"[15]

To this it may be added that, under the influence of Christianity, man goes a step further and says: "I will endeavour that as many others as may be shall live, and live happy, healthy lives, and shall not untimely die." The law of Natural Selection could not be met by more direct opposition. I have said that this is under the influence of Christianity, yet the impulse seems to be older than that, to be part of that moral law which excited Kant's admiration, which he coupled with the sight of the starry heavens, an impulse, we can scarcely doubt, implanted in the heart of man by God Himself. It is a remarkable fact that in many—some would say most—of the less civilised races of mankind we find these social virtues, which some would have us believe are degenerate features foisted on to the race by an enervating superstition.

Dr. Marett has carefully examined into this matter, and his conclusions are of the greatest interest.[16]

"My own theory about the peasant, as I know him, and about people of lowly culture in general so far as I have learnt to know about them, is that the ethics of amity belong to their natural and normal mood, whereas the ethics of enmity, being but 'as the shadow of a passing fear,' are relatively accidental. Thus to the thesis that human charity is a by-product, I retort squarely with the counter-thesis that human hatred is a by-product. The brute that lurks in our common human nature will break bounds sometimes; but I believe that whenever man, be he savage or civilised, is at home to himself, his pleasure and pride is to play the good neighbour. It may be urged by way of objection that I overestimate the amenities, whether economic or ethical, of the primitive state; that a hard life is bound to produce a hard man. I am afraid that the psychological necessity of the alleged correlation is by no means evident to me. Surely the hard-working individual can find plenty of scope for his energies without needing, let us say, to beat his wife. Nor are the hard-working peoples of the earth especially notorious for their inhumanity. Thus the Eskimo, whose life is one long fight against the cold, has the warmest of hearts. Mr. Stefanson says of his newly discovered 'Blonde Eskimo,' a people still living in the stone age: 'They are the equals of the best of our own race in good breeding, kindness, and the substantial virtues.'[17] Or again, heat instead of cold may drive man to the utmost limit of his natural affections. In the deserts of Central Australia, where the native is ever threatened by a scarcity of food, his constant preoccupation is not how to prey on his companions. Rather he unites with them in guilds and brotherhoods, so that they may feast together in the spirit, sustaining themselves with the common hope and mutual suggestion of better luck to come. But there is no need to go so far afield for one's proofs. I appeal to those who have made it their business to be intimate with the folk of our own countryside. Is it not the fact that unselfishness in regard to the sharing of the necessaries of life is characteristic of those who find them most difficult to come by? The poor are by no means the least 'rich towards God.' At any rate, if poverty sometimes hardens, wealth, especially sudden wealth, can harden too, causing arrogance, boastfulness, and the bullying temper. 'A proud look, a lying tongue, and the shedding of innocent blood'—these go together."

On the whole, then, we may perhaps conclude that the natural bias of mankind is towards kindness to his neighbour, however much the brute in him may sometimes impel him to uncharitable words or actions. And certainly this natural bias is intensified and made into a binding law by the teachings of Christ. But there is the other point of view set forward in the philosophy of Nietzsche—if indeed such writings are worthy of the name philosophy. "The world is for the superman. Dominancy within the human kind must be secured at all costs. As for the old values, they are all wrong. Christian humility is a slavish virtue; so is Christian charity. Such values have become 'denaturalised.' They are the by-product of certain primitive activities, which were intended by Nature to subserve strictly biological ends, but have somehow escaped from Nature's control and run riot on their own account."

The prophets of this group of ideals, or some such group of ideals, have no hesitation in telling us how they would direct the affairs of humanity if they were entrusted with their conduct. It will not be without interest to consider their plans and to endeavour to form some sort of an idea of what kind of place the world would be if they had their way. We can then form our own opinion as to whether a world conducted on such lines would be in any way a tolerable place for human existence.

First of all we may dwell briefly on Natural Selection as a rule of life, since it has been put forward as such by quite a number of persons. Never, let it at once be said, by the great and gentle-hearted originator of that theory, who during his life had to protest as to the ignorant and exaggerated ideas which were expressed about it and who, were he now alive, would certainly be shocked at the teachings which are supposed to follow from his theory and the dire results which they have produced.[18]

In the first place such a doctrine leads directly to the conclusion that war, instead of being the curse and disaster which all reasonable people, not to say all Christians, feel it to be, is, as Bernhardi puts it, "a biological necessity, a regulative element in the life of mankind that cannot be dispensed with." It is "the basis of all healthy development." "Struggle is not merely the destructive but the life-giving principle. The law of the strong holds good everywhere. Those forms survive which are able to secure for themselves the most favourable conditions. The weaker succumb." Humanity has had at times evidences of the results of this teaching which are not, one may fairly say, of a kind to commend themselves to any person possessed of a moderately kindly, not to say of a Christian, disposition. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have the opportunity of studying the experiment in actual operation in a race which, of course in entire ignorance of the fact, is actually putting into practice the teachings of Natural Selection, though it must be admitted that the practice has not been successful, nor does it look like being successful, in raising that race above the very lowest rung of the ladder of civilisation. Captain Whiffen[19] has given a very complete and a very interesting account of the peoples whom he met with during his wanderings in the regions indicated by the title of his book. And he tells us that "the survival of the most fit is the very real and the very stern rule of life in the Amazonian forests. From birth to death it rules the Indians' life and philosophy. To help to preserve the unfit would often be to prejudice the chances of the fit. There are no arm-chair sentimentalists to oppose this very practical consideration. The Indian judges it by his standard of common sense: why live a life that has ceased to be worth living when there is no bugbear of a hell to make one cling to the most miserable of existences rather than risk greater misery?" Let us now see the kind of life which the author, freed himself no doubt from "the bugbear of hell," considers eminently sensible—the kind of life of which only an "arm-chair sentimentalist" would disapprove; a kind of life, it may be added, which will appear to most ordinarily minded people as being one of selfishness raised to its highest power.

To begin with the earliest event in life. If a child, on its appearance in the world, appears to be in any way defective, its mother quietly kills it and deposits its body in the forest. If the mother dies in childbirth the child, unless someone takes pity on it and adopts it, is killed by the father, who, it may be presumed, is indisposed to take the trouble, perhaps indeed incapable of doing so, of rearing the motherless babe. That the child, in any case, immediately after birth, is plunged into cold water, is not perhaps a conscious method of eliminating the weak, though it must operate in that direction. At a later period of life should any disease believed to be infectious break out in a tribe, "those attacked by it are immediately left, even by their closest relatives, the house is abandoned, and possibly even burnt. Such derelict houses are no uncommon sight in the forest, grimly desolate mementoes of possible tragedies." When a person becomes insane, he is first of all exorcised by the medicine man, and if that fails is put to death by poison by the same functionary. The sick are dealt with on similar lines, unless there is or seems to be a probability of speedy recovery. "Cases of chronic illness meet with no sympathy from the Indians. A man who cannot hunt or fight is regarded as useless, he is merely a burden on the community." Under these circumstances he is either left at home untended or hunted out into the bush to die, or his end is accelerated by the medicine man. The same fate awaits the aged, unless they seem to be of value to the tribe on account of their wisdom and experience.

All these things placed together give us a perfect picture of life under Natural Selection, and having studied it we may fairly ask whether such a rule of life is one under which any one of us would like to live. In every respect it is the antipodes of the Christian rule of life, and of that rule of life which civilised countries, whether in fact Christian or not, have derived from Christianity and still practise. The non-Christian rule of the Indians is one under which might is right and no real individual liberty exists, all personal rights being sacrificed to the supposed needs and benefit of the community.

So much from the point of view of Natural Selection, but it would appear that those who have given up that factor as of anything but a very minor value, if even that, have also their rule of life founded on their interpretation of Nature. Thus Professor Bateson, the great exponent of Mendel's doctrines, who has told us in his Presidential Address to the British Association that we must think much less highly of Natural Selection than some would have us do, has, as has been set forth in the previous section of this essay, his opinion as to the rule of life which we should follow.

Professor Conklyn, an American enthusiast for extreme eugenistic views, has also set down in print his ideas as to the lines on which our lives are to be run under a scientific domination, and these are to be dealt with in another article.[20] His scheme entails a forcible visit, not, it may be supposed, to the Altar, but to the Registry Office, for all persons held to be fit to perpetuate the race, and forcible restraint, whether by imprisonment or by sterilisation, for all others.

The first thing which all these essays towards a scientific conduct of life reveal is a total want of perspective, for they proceed on the hypothesis—which no doubt their authors would defend—that this world and its concerns are everything, and that the intellectual and physical improvement of the human race by any measures, however harsh, is the "one thing needful." But beyond this the persons who hold such views seem to have entirely overlooked the fact that their proposed State would be one conducted on principles of the bitterest and most galling slavery imaginable by the mind of man, a form of slavery that never could persist if for a moment it be conceded that it could ever come into operation. The fact is that the whole thing is ludicrous when looked at from the point of view of common sense, but how few take the trouble to contemplate these schemes as they would be in operation! Were they thus to contemplate them, they would see that, apart altogether from any religious considerations, they are wholly impossible, even from a purely political point of view. That such ideas are intolerable to Catholic minds, indeed to any Christian mind, goes without saying.

Driesch (Science and Philosophy of the Organism, vol. ii., p. 358) has pointed out very clearly that "the mechanical theory of life is incompatible with morality," and that it is impossible to feel "morally" towards other individuals if one knows that they are machines and nothing more. Again, Professor Henslow (in Present Day Rationalism Critically Examined, p. 253) very pertinently asks those who discard all religious considerations and claim to rely for guidance on the lessons of Nature, "If you have no taste for virtue, why be virtuous at all, so long as you do not violate the laws of the land?"

Yet, in the face of these surely obvious facts, we find persons making such absurd claims as that made in a recent book by Rignano, an Italian writer (Essays in Scientific Synthesis, 1917). It is not often that one meets a book so full of philosophical fallacies as this. "We are certain of one fact," he says, "that the only organ actually brought into play to fight immorality is the organ of the collective conscience and not the religious organ." I suppose no more ludicrously inaccurate remark ever was set down in print; for, to begin with, the "collective conscience," whatever that may be, does not exist in Nature, teste the farmyard and the fowl-run; and again, whatever force is connoted by those words must have been set agoing—by what? By Nature? Oh, most emphatically No! Nature has no law against immorality; there is no Categorical Imperative in Nature commanding us to be chaste or kindly or considerate or even just. We must go elsewhere if we are to look for teaching in the virtues. That is the fact that we must keep clearly before our minds when endeavouring to estimate at their proper value the nostrums of writers such as those with whose works we have been dealing.

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[Footnote 1: Two addresses were delivered in 1914—one in Melbourne, the other in Sydney. These will be referred to in this article as M. & S.]

[Footnote 2: Sir Oliver Lodge: Continuity, p. 90.]

[Footnote 3: Materials for the Study of Variation, London, 1894.]

[Footnote 4: The History and Theory of Vitalism, p. 140.]

[Footnote 5: Unconscious Memory. Fifield. 1910.]

[Footnote 6: Those who desire further information may be referred to A Century of Scientific Thought, by the present writer. Burns & Oates.]

[Footnote 7: Op. cit., pp. 137-8.]

[Footnote 8: The Philosophy of Biology, p. 64.]

[Footnote 9: In an article in the volume Darwin and Modern Science, p. 100.]

[Footnote 10: Op. cit., p. 319.]

[Footnote 11: Op. cit., pp. 238-9.]

[Footnote 12: See the discussion on this subject in Wasmann's The Problem of Evolution.]

[Footnote 13: R. R. Marett, Presidential Address to Folk-Lore Society, 1915. Folk-Lore, vol. xxvii., pp. 1-14.]

[Footnote 14: The Kingdom of Man. London: Constable & Co. 1907.]

[Footnote 15: Lankester, op. cit., p. 26.]

[Footnote 16: Op. cit., pp. 21-27.]

[Footnote 17: My Life with the Eskimo (1913), p. 188.]

[Footnote 18: For a discussion of this question, see Bernhardi and Creation, by Sir James Crichton-Browne, F.R.S. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. 1916.]

[Footnote 19: The Northwest Amazons. London: Constable & Co. 1915.]

[Footnote 20: Science and the War, p. 120.]



Initium sapientiae timor Domini; no doubt, but such fear is only the beginning, and is not the kind of fear—which also exists—a fear which engenders an actual revulsion against the idea of God.

It is to this kind of fear which the eminent Jesuit writer Wasmann alludes when he says that "in many scientific circles there is an absolute Theophobia, a dread of the Creator. I can only regret this," he continues, "because I believe that it is due chiefly to a defective knowledge of Christian philosophy and theology."

That he is entirely right as to the existence of this feeling there can be no doubt; no one can read at all widely in scientific literature without becoming aware of it. Contrary to all the tenets of science there is even a bias against any such idea as that of a Creator, though science is supposed to confront all problems without bias of any kind. I need not cite instances of this feeling; I have dealt with it elsewhere. We may take it for granted, and proceed to look for an explanation for the phenomenon. Wasmann attributes it to ignorance, and he is, I feel sure, right; but let us examine the matter a little more closely. Why should persons—even if ignorant—have the bias which some obviously present against the idea of a God? Why should they wish to think that there is no such Being, no future existence, nothing higher than Nature? Some persons maintain that precedent to a denial of God there must be a moral failure. That I am sure is quite wrong. I should be far from saying that in some materialists there is not a considerable weakening of moral fibre, or perhaps it would be better put, a distortion of moral vision, as evidenced by many of the statements and proposals of eugenists, for example, and by the political nostrums of some who wrest science to a purpose for which it was not intended. This no doubt is true, but it is not quite the argument with which I am now dealing, and that argument, if it implies moral failure in the persons concerned, has little if any genuine foundation in fact. Mr. Devas, in that very remarkable book, The Key to the World's Progress, gives us the useful phrase "post-Christians." These people are really pagans living in the Christian era, retaining many of the excellent qualities which they owe neither to Nature nor to paganism, but to the inheritance—perhaps involuntary and unrecognised—of the influences of Christianity. Many of these people are kind, benevolent, scrupulously moral. They have not learned to be such from Nature, for Nature teaches no such lessons. Nor have they learnt them from paganism, for these are not pagan virtues. They are an inheritance from Christianity. Those, therefore, who build arguments as to the needlessness of religion on the foundation that persons without any belief in God do exhibit all the moral virtues, build on sand. At any rate the answer to the question which we are discussing is not to be found in this direction.

Others again will perhaps maintain the thesis that fashion has a great deal to do with this. It is not fashionable to believe in God, or at least it was not. It was highly fashionable to call oneself an agnostic; perhaps it is not quite so much the vogue now as it was. No doubt there is something in this, though not very much. It is much easier to go with the tide than against it, and there are scientific tides as truly as there are tides in the fashion of dress. There was a Weismann tide, now nearly at dead water; there was an anti-vitalistic tide, now ebbing fast. When these were in full flow it was a hazardous thing for a young man who had to make his own way in the scientific world to swim against either or both of them. Fashions change, and fashion is not so set against the idea of a God as it was. The materialistic tide is "going out," and we shall see that there is some truth in the view which holds that the incoming tide is largely that of occultism, a thing disliked and despised—and indeed with some reason—by the materialistic school even more than it dislikes and despises theistic opinions.

Fashion, however, is not in any way a complete answer to the question we are proposing to ourselves, nor is the unquestionable fact that scientific men have a strong objection to putting their trust in anything which cannot be subjected either to scientific examination or to experiment. In this attitude there is more than a germ of truth. "Occam's razor" is as valuable an implement to-day as it ever was, and everyone will admit that we must exhaust all known causes before we proceed to postulate a new one.

We have gone beyond the day of the absurd statement that thought (which is of course unextended) is as much a secretion of the brain as bile (which, equally of course, is extended) is of the liver. No one nowadays would commit himself to such a statement, and men in general would be chary of urging that we should not believe anything which we cannot understand. I have myself heard a distinguished man of science of his day—he is dead this quarter of a century—make that statement in public, wholly ignoring the fact that any branch of science which we may pursue will supply us with a hundred problems we can neither understand nor explain, yet the factors of which we are bound to admit. But there is undoubtedly a dislike to accepting anything which cannot be proved by scientific means, and a tendency to describe as "mysticism"—a terrible and damning term to apply to anything, so its employers think!—any explanation which postulates something more in the universe than operations of a physical and chemical character.

My own opinion is that the state of things which we are considering finds its explanation in history, and I propose to devote a short space to developing this view. Of course we might, and in some ways should, go back to the Reformation and to the destruction of religion which then took place. Let us, however, pass from that period to a time some hundred and fifty years ago and commence our investigations there, and in carrying them out I propose to make considerable use of the novels of different periods.

It is a truism that very little but the dry bones of history can be learnt from histories.

Nowadays people are sick of reading about more or less immoral monarchs, and more or less corrupt politicians, and it may be suspected that most of us have had our bellyful of wars now that the recent contest has come to an end. What one really wants to learn from history is how the ordinary folk, like ourselves, were getting on; what their ideas were; how the world wagged for them. Such information we are much more likely to get from memoirs and, since such works have been published, from novels. The novelist is not to be supposed to be committed to acceptance of all the remarks put into the mouths of his characters, but, if he is of the second, not to say the first flight (and, if he is not, he is not worth quoting), his characters and the general tone of his book will not be out of touch with the times to which they belong. Since the novel came into existence as something more than an occasional rarity, it is the novelists and not the players who are "the abstract and brief chronicles of the times," and it is to them that we shall apply for some of the information we desire.

To commence with the Georgian period, it is not too much to say that anything like real religion was scarcely ever at a lower ebb in England. This is not to say that there was an absolute dearth of religion. Law wrote his Serious Call during that period, and there are few books of its kind which have had a greater and more lasting effect. There were others of like but lesser character than Law, but, on the whole, no one will deny that the clergy of the Established Church (Catholics were, of course, in the catacombs) and the religion which they represented were almost beneath contempt. Look, for example, at Esmond, the typical novel of its period. Is there a single clergyman in it who is not an object of contempt, with the sole exception of the Jesuit, who, though a good deal of the stage variety, at least gains a measure of the reader's sympathy and respect? Thackeray was not himself a Georgian, it may be urged. That of course is true, but no one that knows Thackeray and knows also Georgian literature will deny that he was saturated with it and understood the period with which his book dealt better perhaps than those who lived in it themselves. But examine the novelists of the period; what about Fielding? Parson Adams is respectable and lovable, but the general average of parson and religion is certainly about as low as it can be. Fielding was not a religious man. Possibly, but what then of Richardson? We do not find religion at a very high level there; can anything well be more degraded than the figure cut by Mr. Williams in Pamela, for example—the miserable curate upon whom the heroine calls for help in her distress? But apart from that, look at the whole atmosphere of the book. Why, the moral is that if you resist the immoral onslaughts of your master long enough he will give in and marry you, and you will be applauded for your successful strategy by all the countryside. Such is the book which all agreed to praise as an example of all that a book ought to be from the point of view of virtue.

It will be admitted by all conversant with the facts that religion could hardly have been at a lower ebb than it was when what is known as the Evangelical Movement came to trouble the placid, if stagnant and turbid, pool of the Established Church. Of course it did not transform the Church entirely. Read Miss Austen's novels: the most perfect pictures of life ever written. There are, I suppose, some half-dozen clergymen, pleasant and unpleasant, depicted in them, and we may be sure that they fairly well represent the typical average country parson of the period. Whatever they may otherwise be, they all agree in one point, namely in the complete absence of any such thing as a trace of spirituality. But in the early nineteenth-century Evangelicanism—specially that terrible variety Calvinism—was the dominant factor where religion really prevailed as a living influence; and it is to its influence, I firmly believe, that we may attribute the genuine detestation of religion which was so marked a feature of a part of the Victorian and most of the succeeding time. I am not, of course, forgetting the Oxford Movement, but, important as that was and is, in its earlier years it was almost entirely confined to clerical circles, exercising comparatively little influence on the laity and practically none at all on that great middle class which had been so much affected by the Wesleys, Whitefield, Scott, Newton, and the other pundits of Evangelicanism. Take the characteristic novel of the movement, if novel it should be called, Newman's Loss and Gain: I do not remember a single male character in it who is not in Holy Orders or on the way thereto. Hence, so far as religious influences are concerned, it is to the Evangelical Movement that we have to look. Now, though in my opinion it was the parent of many evils, there is no doubt that there was in it real fervour; intense devotion; a genuine desire to know and do God's will; a burning love for our Lord; coupled with all which were the most distorted and distorting ideas of what was and what was not sin ever conceived by any brain. Of this creed I can speak from personal knowledge, for I was brought up in it and know it from bitter experience.

The exponents of these views were never tired of instilling into their pupils the need for conversion, which was supposed to be a sudden operation. I have heard persons name the exact moment by the clock and the day on which theirs took place, and it was often effected by a single text. I have seen the Bible of an eminent leader in this line which contains a number of texts painted round with colours, each of which was associated with the conversion of some particular individual. The process was supposed to be effected by the "acceptance of Christ," and though it was said to be free to all, it was clear to some at least of those who quite earnestly and really desired it, that, however ardent their desires, they could not secure their realisation. One was supposed to know in some mysterious manner that one was converted; the operation was permanent in its character; it could not be repeated; once thoroughly effected the converted person neither wished to sin nor really did sin. If anyone supposed to have been converted did relapse into evil ways, then he never had really been converted, but only seemed to have been. I have heard this circular form of argument urged most strongly by those who were (by constitution apparently) absolutely unable to see the illogical position which they were taking up. A further, and the most awful, part of the teaching was that however much one desired to be converted, and however earnestly one prayed for it, if one died without it damnation was certain. Lastly there was the encouraging thought that everything done prior to conversion was equally without merit; in fact, one might almost say, equally evil. These things were dinned into the heads of the young, in season and out of season; is it any wonder that so many of them grew up to hate religion? I remember myself the positive terror with which I went out even to minor entertainments, because I knew that in all probability close interrogation would be made as to my spiritual condition.

Let me be reminiscent and recall one case. I was a boy at school and spending my Easter vacation away from home and with friends. It was my lot to have to dine one night with an old friend of my father's, a person of some distinction, who having, I believe, been a viveur in his youth, had in later years embraced the most ferocious type of Evangelicanism. When the ladies had retired I was left alone with this formidable person, whom I eyed much as a rabbit eyes a snake into whose cage he has been introduced. Nor were my fears groundless, for no sooner was the room empty than he peremptorily demanded of me whether I was saved. On hearing my trembling but perfectly truthful reply that I really did not know, he struck the table with his fist (I can see the whole thing quite plainly to-day, though it is five-and-forty years ago), exclaiming, "Then you are a fool, and if you were to die to-night you most certainly would be damned." I ask those who were brought up in a more kindly and more rational scheme of Christianity whether it is any wonder that those whose youth was spent in these gloomy shades should welcome the thought that there was no such being as a God?

Associated with this gloomy creed a new series of sins was invented, as if there were not enough already in the world. It was sinful to dance, even under the most domestic and proper circumstances. It was a sin to play cards, even when there was no money on the game. It was a sin to go to the theatre, even to behold the most inspiring and instructive plays. It was even held by some, as we shall see, that the writing of stories or works of imagination was sinful. I once heard a professor of this creed express the doubt whether Shakespeare had not, on the whole, done much more harm than good, and state that he himself would not allow the works of Dickens to occupy a place in a hospital library, from which, as a matter of fact—for on this point the discussion had arisen—they had been excluded by the then chaplain of the institution, a man of like views. In fact, the idea of God which was presented to the youth of that period and brought up under such influences was—I do not say wilfully—that of a kind of super-policeman: a hard-hearted policeman, with an exaggerated code of misdoings, forever waiting round a corner to pounce on evil-doers, and, one was obliged to think, apparently almost pleased at the opportunity of catching them. It need not be said that no disrespect is intended in this. It is a simple and truthful statement of the kind of impression made upon one person by the teachings of that age and school. Is it any wonder that persons brought up in such a creed should experience a feeling of relief on learning that there was no God, no sin, no punishment? Add to this the terrors of the exaggerated Sabbatarianism of the period. What was the Sunday programme? Two lengthy sessions of Family Prayers; two attendances—each lasting at least an hour and a quarter—on services in church; one, sometimes two, hours of Sunday School; no books but those of a religious character; no amusements of any kind even for the very young, unless the putting together of a dissected map of Palestine could be called an amusement; what a method of rendering Sunday attractive to the young!

Is it any wonder that those brought up on such a plan abandoned, with a sigh of relief, all religious exercises when at last they were able to do so? I notice that Mr. Belfort Bax, in his Reminiscences of a Mid and Late Victorian, alludes to this matter, saying that, "The most cruel of all the results of mid-Victorian religion was, perhaps, the rigid enforcement of the most drastic Sabbatarianism. The horror of the tedium of Sunday infected more or less the whole of the latter portion of the week." Experto crede! He says further, dealing with the 'fifties, that "the intellectual possibilities of the English people were then stunted and cramped by the influence of the dogmatic Calvinistic theology which was the basis of its traditional sentiment;"—it is exactly the point which I am trying to make.

We may now examine two instances of the kind of teaching with which I am dealing and its results. The first is that of the poet Cowper, and anyone who takes the trouble to read his life as written by Southey will find the whole piteous tale fully drawn out. Southey hated the Catholic Church, of which, by the way, he knew absolutely nothing, but he had sufficient sense to reject the teachings of Calvinism. Cowper was at times insane and at other times of anything but a well-balanced mind, and he was just the kind of man who never ought to have been brought under the influences to which he was subjected. His principal adviser was the Rev. John Newton, a well-known Calvinistic clergyman of the Church of England. He must have been a man of compelling character, for he it was who brought the Rev. Thomas Scott, Rector of Aston Sandford, out of Socinianism, which, though a minister of the Church of England, he professed, into the Calvinistic view of things, as Scott himself tells us in his book The Force of Truth; and it must not be forgotten that it was to the writings of this same Scott that Newman tells us (in his Apologia) that he owed his very soul. Newton, like many of his fellows, had no sort of doubt as to his right to act as a director of souls, nor of his profound knowledge of how they should be dealt with. Yet it is to be remembered that, whilst the Catholic priest is obliged to undergo a long and careful training before he is permitted to take up this perilous task, Newton and those of his kind undertook it without any training whatever. Cowper, as everybody knows, was carefully and kindly tended by Mrs. Unwin, a woman a good deal older than himself, against whose character no word of reproach was ever uttered, the widow of an old friend of the poet. Newton wanted to drive Mrs. Unwin out of his house, but here at least Cowper rebelled and showed his very just annoyance, Newton actually urged Cowper to abandon the task of translating Homer, a labour undertaken to distract his poor sick mind from thinking of itself, because such work, not being of a religious character, partook of the nature of sin. It is no wonder that such a rule of life had not infrequently the most distressing consequences. Newton himself admits that his preaching had the reputation of driving people into lunacy. In a letter asking that steps may be taken to remove one poor victim to an asylum he says: "I hope the poor girl is not without some concern for her soul; and, indeed, I believe a concern of this kind was the beginning of her disorder. I believe," he continues, "my name is up about the county for preaching people mad ... whatever may be the immediate cause, I suppose we have near a dozen, in different degrees, disordered in their heads, and most of them I believe truly gracious people."

Let us turn to the other example which I propose to select, that given by Mr. Gosse in his truly remarkable work Father and Son, one of the most faithful pictures of life ever written. The first instance shall be an extract from the diary of the mother, obviously a woman of great power and gifts if she had been given an opportunity of displaying them. "When I was a very little child," she writes, "I used to amuse myself and my brothers with inventing stories such as I had read. Having, as I suppose, naturally a restless mind and busy imagination, this soon became the chief pleasure of my life. Unfortunately my brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore" (a Calvinistic governess), "finding it out, lectured me severely, and told me it was wicked. From that time forth I considered that to invent a story of any kind was a sin. But the desire to do so was too deeply rooted in my affections to be resisted in my own strength," (she was at this time nine years of age), "and unfortunately I knew neither my corruption nor my weakness, nor did I know where to gain strength. The longing to invent stories grew with a violence; everything I heard or read became food for my distemper. The simplicity of truth was not sufficient for me; I must needs embroider imagination upon it, and the folly, vanity and wickedness which disgraced my heart, are more than I am able to express. Even now (at the age of twenty-nine), though watched, prayed and striven against, this is still the sin which most easily besets me. It has hindered my prayers and prevented my improvement, and therefore has humbled me very much." It is narrated of the well-known Father Healy that a young lady having consulted him as to the sin of vanity, she feeling convinced, when she looked in her glass, that she was a very pretty girl, was answered by him, "My child, that is not a sin; it is a mistake!" It wanted some wise adviser to make the same remark to this poor tortured and deluded woman.

Illness under this code was always a punishment sent from heaven, as, indeed, it may be; but, "if anyone was ill it showed that 'the Lord's hand was extended in chastisement,' and much prayer was poured forth in order that it might be explained to the sufferer, or to his relations, in what he or they had sinned. People would, for instance, go on living over a cesspool, working themselves up into an agony to discover how they had incurred the displeasure of the Lord, but never moving away." One last instance, the most remarkable of all, and we may leave this book. It need hardly be said that a father of the kind depicted in this book would have a holy horror of the Catholic Church, and he had. He "welcomed any social disorder in any part of Italy, as likely to be annoying to the Papacy." He "celebrated the announcement in the newspapers of a considerable emigration from the Papal dominions, by rejoicing at this outcrowding of many, throughout the harlot's domain, from her sin and her plagues," and he even carried his hatred so far as to denounce the keeping of Christmas, which to him was nothing less than an act of idolatry.

On a certain Christmas Day, the servants, greatly daring, disobeyed the order of their master and actually had the audacity to make a small plum-pudding for themselves. Actuated by pity, no doubt, and by a feeling of kindness towards a small boy deprived of all the joys of the season, they pressed a slice of this pudding upon the son, who succumbed—very naturally—to the temptation. Shortly after, however, being afflicted by a stomach-ache, remorse came upon him and he rushed to his father, exclaiming: "Oh! papa, papa, I have eaten of flesh offered to idols!" When the father learned what had happened, he sternly said, "Where is the accursed thing?" Having heard that it was on the kitchen table, "he took me by the hand, and ran with me into the midst of the startled servants, seized what remained of the pudding, and with the plate in one hand and me still tight in the other, ran till we reached the dust-heap, where he flung the idolatrous confectionery on to the middle of the ashes, and then raked it deep down into the mass. The suddenness, the velocity of this extraordinary act, made an impression on my memory which nothing will ever efface." Such is a plain unvarnished account of the kind of way in which numbers of people were brought up in the 'fifties and 'sixties of the last century. Can it be wondered that those who had such a childhood should grow up with an absolute horror of the Person in Whose name such things—absurdities when not positive crimes—were perpetrated? I firmly believe that these wholly false ideas of God and of sin have had more to do with the spread of materialism than many will perhaps be disposed to admit. Educated people, especially those trained in scientific methods, demand a certain common sense and sobriety in their beliefs. If they are brought up to believe that a grievous sin is committed when they invent an innocent story; when they go to a theatre or to a dance, or play a game of cards; if they have never known the demands of real Christianity as put forward by the Catholic Church, is it likely that they will cleave to a faith which apparently engenders such absurdities as the Christmas pudding episode? It is, indeed, as Father Wasmann says, a thousand pities that the reasonableness, the logic, the dignity of the Catholic religion should remain for ever hidden from the eyes and minds of many who so often are as they are, because they were brought up as they were. In all these things we find the key to another problem. In another essay in this volume I have called attention to the glad intelligence, as it seems to a certain school of writers, that we are freed from the "bugbear of sin," as one of them puts it; able to enjoy ourselves without any thoughts of that kind.

Now I cannot but believe that such writers are thinking of the bugbear of artificial sins invented by the professors of a gloomy creed of religion. It is not to be supposed that any serious writer—and those to whom I allude are eminently such—would speak or write with pleasure and satisfaction of escaping from the bugbear of sins against morality or against one's neighbour; from the bugbear of dishonesty or theft; of taking away a person's character; of running away with his wife. I am convinced that it is the invented crimes of card-playing, theatre-going, and the like to which they are alluding: it could not surely be otherwise; and that makes it all the more unfortunate that before misusing a technical term like the word "sin," and thus perhaps misleading some young and ardent mind, such writers could not follow Father Wasmann's advice and study some simple manual of Catholic ethics, from which they would learn the real doctrine of Christianity and would discover how very different a thing it is and how very much more reasonable than the distorted caricature which we have been studying.


Whether my view as to the cause, or one of the causes, is right or not, the fact remains that by the mid-Victorian period England had fallen to a very large extent a prey to materialism. Many people attribute the sudden onslaught of this to the publication of The Origin of Species and the controversies of the foolish which followed thereon. Samuel Butler, that brilliant writer who has not even yet come into his own, sums up in his novel The Way of All Flesh (and it may incidentally be remarked, in himself) most of the characteristics of the day. Many a parsonage home like that of the Rev. Theobald Pontifex existed in those days, and more than one Ernest Pontifex emerged from them. Now in this book Butler states that "the year 1858 was the last of a term during which the peace of the Church of England was singularly unbroken," and there no doubt he is right; "The Evangelical Movement ... had become almost a matter of ancient history. Tractarianism had subsided into a tenth-day's wonder; it was at work, but it was not noisy." Then he says the calm was broken by the publication of three books: Essays and Reviews, The Origin of Species, Criticisms on the Pentateuch by Colenso. Few persons probably now remember the first and the last of these books; the fame of the second is likely to last long.

Whether again Butler is right in his idea as to the causes or not, as to the fact there can be no doubt. We have arrived at a period when the prevalent opinion amongst the intellectual classes was that religion—belief in anything which could not be fully understood—was impossible once one began to think seriously about it. Those who did not really look into such questions might go on considering themselves to believe in revelation, but the moment that a man seriously tackled the subject, his religion was bound to go, just as that of Ernest Pontifex did at the end of five minutes' conversation with an atheistic shoemaker.[21] Agnosticism and materialism were in the air, and remained the dominant features for quite a number of years. There were those who deplored the loss of their faith such as it had been. Huxley obviously did; and Romanes, who afterwards returned to the Church of England, confessedly did. Such persons, and there were many of them, honestly were unable to believe, and said so. A great deal of this was due to the attitude of popular science at that time. It was in a hot fit, and was going to explain everything, if not to-day, at least to-morrow. Now, as Sir Oliver Lodge told us before the war, in his book Continuity, we are in a cold fit and we seem only to know that nothing can be known. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, tells us in a recent book from which I shall have further to quote (The New Revelation, Hodder and Stoughton, 1918): "When I had finished my medical education in 1882, I found myself, like many young medical men, a convinced materialist as regards our personal destiny." With the facts contained in this statement I fully agree. The date in question is almost exactly that at which I also became a qualified medical man, and I, and I fancy most of my generation, believed ourselves to be agnostics if not atheists. It was the atmosphere of the time, and so strong as with difficulty to be resisted by those who resorted to the Universities. The point which I want to make is that during the latter part of the Victorian period we had come to a generation of intellectuals practically devoid of religion and followed in that respect by that always larger portion of any generation which, not having brains to think for itself, yet desiring to follow the intellectual motif of the day, adopts whatever is the fashionable attitude for the moment towards unseen things. Yesterday it was blank negation; to-day it tends, as we shall see, to be spiritualism; to-morrow it might be earnest faith: let us hope so. And as to Calvinism, all this was post hoc of course; propter hoc also as I think.

What followed? That is what we now have to consider. The first thing which happened was the very natural discovery that science cannot explain everything; has in fact a strictly limited range of country to deal with. This discovery began to sap the foundations of materialism. Then there came the further discovery that all was not well, as so many supposed that it would be, under a scheme of life divorced from all connection with religion. Mr. Lucas, who has given the world many pleasant books, none of them with any obvious bias in favour of religion, in Over Bemertons (one of the most pleasant) makes one of his characters, Mr. Dabney, deplore the loss of the seriousness of the Victorian era: "We believe only in pleasure and success; our one ideal is getting wealth." Parenthetically, is not that just what might be expected? If there is really nothing but this world, what better can we seek than as much pleasure as we can get out of it? Over Bemertons was first published in 1908, and the remedy which Mr. Dabney then suggested, with a really curious prophetical insight, has just been vigorously applied. That remedy was "War, nothing more or less. A bloody war—not a punitive expedition or 'a sort of a war'" (he quoted these words with white fury) "'that might get us right again.' 'At great cost,' I said. 'A surgical operation,' he replied, 'if the only means of saving life, cannot be called expensive.'"

Finally the discovery was made that mankind will not for long be content to do altogether without religion; a need for something more than bread alone being ingrained in his nature. Thus even the professedly materialistic societies try to afford something in the way of religious exercises. I have recently seen a notice of one of the so-called Ethical Societies in which the members (at their meetings, I take it) are "requested to silently meditate for five minutes on the good life."[22] It would seem to be quite as beneficial and more practical to meditate on split infinitives. A substitute for religion has to be found; what is it to be? In the years before the war Mr. Masefield published a very interesting book called Multitude and Solitude, which narrates the trials and troubles of two young Englishmen who make a perilous journey to Africa in search of the secret of the sleeping-sickness. In all their trials they never seem to have thought of prayer, in which it may be assumed they did not believe, but when they returned to England it occurred to one of them that there was something wanting in their life, and he propounded to his friend the view that "the world is just coming to see that science is not a substitute for religion," which is one of the things urged in this paper. He then proceeded to the rather startling conclusion that science is "religion of a very deep and austere kind." One is reminded of a well-known passage in the Bible: "Inveni et aram in qua scriptum erat IGNOTO DEO." To set up science as an "unknown God" seems a curious choice, even more curious than the choice of humanity, which—pitiable object as it is—was at least made in the image of God. Not to pile up instance upon instance, let us content ourselves with remembering that Mr. Wells, who in his earlier novels had certainly not displayed any marked affection for religion, in the last published before the war (Marriage) brings his hero face to face with the great realities, and makes him exclaim to his wife that he may "die a Christian yet," and urge upon her the need for prayer, if only out into the darkness. Of course, as all the reading world knows, since the war commenced, Mr. Wells has set up his own altar "IGNOTO DEO," not with much more satisfactory results than those attained by Mr. Masefield. It is an historical fact that times of war have also been times of religious awakening, and it is natural that they should be so, for even the most careless must be brought to contemplate something more than the day's enjoyment. It is not then wonderful that the terrible war which has raged with Europe as the cockpit, and practically all the nations of the world as participants, should turn the minds of those who are in the righting line towards thoughts which in times of peace may never have found entrance there. From all sides one hears that this is so, yet here again it is too often the case that an "unknown God" is sought, and from want of proper direction not always found. In a recently published memoir of one of the many splendid young fellows by whose death the world has been made poorer during this calamitous war, there is this moving passage: "I know that many hearts are turning towards something, but cannot find satisfaction in what the Christian sects offer. And many, failing to find what they need, fall back sadly into vague uncertainties and disbelief, as I often do myself." We badly need a St. Paul who will say to these and other anxious hearts, "Quod ergo ignorantes colitis, hoc ego annuntio vobis."

However, it is much more with those who only "stand and wait" than with those who were actually in the trenches that we are concerned; what about the lamentable army of wives and mothers, widows and orphans, people bereft of those they loved or rising every morning in dread of the news which the day might bring forth; what about these and their attitude towards the things unseen? That many such have turned to some genuine form of religion is happily beyond dispute, but it is also unquestionably true that thousands have turned aside to the attractions of spiritualism. A recent article in the Literary Supplement of the Times commenced with the statement that "Among the strange, dismaying things cast up by the tide of war are those traces of primitive fatalism, primitive magic, and equivocal divination which are within general knowledge." The writer of the article in question thinks that as we have taken a huge and lamentable step backwards in civilisation, we need not be surprised that we should also have receded in the direction of those primitive instincts to which he calls attention. This process had, however, begun long before the war.

The late Dr. Ryder, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, was a very shrewd observer of public affairs and a very close and dear friend of the present writer. It must be more than twenty years ago since he remarked to me that he thought that materialism had shot its bolt and that the coming danger to religion was spiritualism, a subject on which, if I remember right, he had written more than one paper. I asked him what led him to that conclusion, and his reply was to ask me whether I had not noticed the great increase in number of the items in second-hand book catalogues—a form of literature to which we were both much addicted—under the heading "OCCULT." Since the war, however, there can be no doubt about the fact that spiritualism has made great strides. A thousand pieces of evidence prove it. Look, for example, at the enormous vogue of Raymond, a book of which I say nothing, out of personal regard for its author and genuine respect for his honesty and fearlessness. But I return to Sir Arthur Doyle's book, and we find him assuring us that he is personally "in touch with thirteen mothers who are in correspondence with their dead sons," and adds that in only one of these cases was the individual concerned with psychic matters before the war. Further, he explains that it was the war which induced him to take an active interest in a subject which had been before no more than one of passing curiosity. "In the presence of an agonised world," he writes, "hearing every day of the deaths of the flower of our race in the first promise of their unfulfilled youth, seeing around one the wives and mothers who had no clear conception whither their loved one had gone to, I seemed suddenly to see that this subject with which I had so long dallied was not merely a study of a force outside the rules of science, but that it really was something tremendous, a breaking down of the walls between the two worlds, a direct undeniable message from beyond, a call of hope and of guidance to the human race at the time of its deepest affliction." Perhaps it is not wonderful that spiritualism should have won the success which it has, for it offers a good deal to those who can believe in it. It offers definite intercourse with the departed; positive knowledge as to the existence of a future state, and even as to its nature—the last-named intelligence not always very attractive. Further, it requires no particular creed and, it would appear, no special code of morals; for one of its teachings, I gather, is that it does not greatly matter what a man thinks or even does, so far as his future welfare is concerned.

Sir A. Doyle's book is the least convincing exposition of spiritualism I have yet read—and I have studied many of them—but it may be taken to include the latest views on the subject. Amongst the revelations which he gives, there is one purporting to come from a spirit who "had been a Catholic and was still a Catholic, but had not fared better than the Protestants; there were Buddhists and Mahommedans in her sphere, but all fared alike." Another spirit informed Sir A. Doyle that he had been a freethinker, but "had not suffered in the next life for that reason." This is not the occasion, and in no way am I the man, to tackle the subject of spiritualism, but this at least I think may be said, that the person who argues that the whole thing is a fraud and deception does not know what he is talking about. Look at the history of the world—Quod semper, quod ubique, almost quod ab omnibus. The records of early missionaries—Jesuits especially—teem with accounts of the same kind of phenomena as we read of in connection with seances to-day, occurring in all sorts of places and amongst widely separated races of mankind. We have it in the Odyssey; we have it in Cicero and in Pliny; we have it in the Bible. All this is not a mere matter of imposition.

In a very curious book recently published (Some Revelations as to "Raymond," by a Plain Citizen; London, Kegan Paul), to which some attention may now be devoted, the writer, himself a firm believer in spiritualism and one obviously in a position to write about it, points out that the old term "magic" has been relegated to the performances of conjurers, and the terminology so altered as to make spiritualism appear to be a new gospel, whereas the contrary is the case. "The impression prevailed that civilised people were in presence of a new order of phenomena, and were acquiring a new outlook into the regions of the Unknown; whereas the truth was that they were merely repeating, under new social conditions and in a new environment, the same experiences that had happened to their ancestors during some thousands of years." Here I may interject the remark that as far as my reading and knowledge go, no spirit has ever had a good word to say for the Catholic religion. What that Church thinks about spiritualism has been made quite clear, and that is enough for Catholics. Before leaving the Plain Citizen, we must not omit to notice one strange hypothesis of his, all the stranger as coming from a professed spiritualist. He maintains—perhaps it would be fairer to say that he lays down as a working hypothesis—the following thesis: Spiritualism involves the existence of mediums, and mediums for the most part have to make their living by their operations. They will not be averse to making their incomes as large as possible. For the purpose of acquiring information as to the affairs of possible clients, they have, so he asserts, an almost Freemasonic Association by which all sorts of pieces of intelligence concerning persons of importance are collected and disseminated amongst the brotherhood. It did not require much imagination to suppose that the war would add to the number of their clients, whether their claims had real foundation or not; what they wanted above all things was some one of undoubted position who would "boom the movement," in the slang of the day. They laid all their plans to get their man in the author of Raymond, and they got him. Such is his thesis for what it is worth.

However, it is time to conclude. What I wanted to show was that Theophobia was the Nemesis of a dreadful type of Protestantism, and that spiritualism was the Nemesis of the materialism associated with that Theophobia. There is no need to point out to Catholic readers where the remedy lies, and where the real Communion of the saints is to be found. They are not likely to be drawn aside by the "Lo here!" of the "false Christs" whom we were promised and whom we are getting. It is for those who have themselves experienced the consolations of the Catholic religion to do their best, each in his own way, to make known to others outside our body what things may be found within.


[Footnote 21: An excellent example may be found in Butler's own career. Destined for the ministry of the Church of England (with his own full consent), he was set to teach a class in a Sunday school. Finding that some of his pupils were unbaptized, yet no worse-behaved than the others, and obviously quite ignorant of what baptism meant, he abandoned all belief. His biographer, equally ignorant, in narrating, with approval, this change of opinion, says, "Paley had produced evidence of Christianity, but none so unmistakable as this to the contrary."]

[Footnote 22: Dr. Johnson once remarked that "to find a substitution for violated morality was the leading feature in all perversions of religion."]


Exclusive and long-continued devotion to any special line of study is liable to lead to forgetfulness of other, even kindred, lines—almost, in extreme cases, to a kind of atrophy of other parts of the mind. There is the example of Darwin and his self-confessed loss of the aesthetic tastes he once possessed. Nor are scientific studies the only ones to produce such an effect. The amusing satire in The New Republic has, perhaps, lost some of its tang now that the prototype of its Professor of History is almost forgotten, but it has not lost its point. Lady Ambrose tells the tale: "He said to me in a very solemn voice, 'What a terrible defeat that was which we had at Bouvines!' I answered timidly—not thinking we were at war with anyone—that I had seen nothing about it in the papers. 'H'm!' he said, giving a sort of grunt that made me feel dreadfully ignorant, 'why, I had an excursus on it myself in the Archaeological Gazette only last week.' And, do you know, it turned out that the Battle of Bouvines was fought in the Thirteenth Century, and had, as far as I could make out, something to do with Magna Charta."

It is, however, among writers on biological subjects that we find the most salient instances of this contraction. With extraordinary self-abnegation they seem, in the contemplation of the problem with which they are concerned, to forget that they themselves are living things, and, more than that, the living things of whom they ought to know and could know most, however little that most may be. When the biologist begins to philosophise as, after the manner of his kind, he often does, he should leave his microscope and look around him; whereas he often forgets even to change the high for the low power. Thus he limits his field of vision and forgets, when attempting his explanation, that it is only within a system that he is working. Professor Ward, in Naturalism and Agnosticism, says:

"From the strict premisses of Positivism we can never prove the existence of other minds or find a place for such conceptions as cause and substance; for into these premisses the existence of our own mind and its self-activity have not entered. And accordingly we have seen Naturalism led on in perfect consistency to resolve man into an automaton that goes of itself as part of a still vaster automaton, Nature as mechanically conceived, which goes of itself. True, this mechanism goes of itself because it is going, and being altogether inert, cannot stop or change. How it ever started is indeed a question which science cannot answer, but which, on the other hand, it has no occasion to ask: time, its one independent variable, extends indefinitely without hint of either beginning or end. Such a system of knowledge, once we are inside it, so to say, is entirely self-contained and complete."

"Once we are inside it!" what so many writers forget or ignore is that they are inside it, and that their explanations do not explain the system or how it came to be there or to be in operation. Everybody is familiar with Paley's example of the watch found on the heath. Let us carry it a little further. Suppose some student, after devoting years of patient examination to the watch, were to come forward and say: "I have discovered the secret of this watch. There is a spring in it which possesses resiliency, and it is that which drives the wheels. I think I have heard people say that there must have been a watchmaker to design and construct this piece of machinery, but, in face of my discoveries, any such explanation is wholly unnecessary and may be altogether abandoned."

Perhaps this analogy may be regarded as exaggerated; but, before thus condemning it, let the following passage be studied. It is from a very important book recently published, which claims (and has had its claim supported by many periodicals) to have done away with any need for an explanation of life beyond that which can be given by chemistry and physics, Jacques Loeb's Organism as a Whole, from a Physico-Chemical Viewpoint.

It would be hard to find a worse example of confused thinking than that of the following passage:

"The idea that the organism as a whole cannot be explained from a physico-chemical viewpoint rests most strongly on the existence of animal instincts and will. Many of the instinctive actions are 'purposeful,' i.e. assisting to preserve the individual and the race. This again suggests 'design' and a designing 'force,' which we do not find in the realm of physics. We must remember, however, that there was a time when the same 'purposefulness' was believed to exist in the cosmos where everything seemed to turn literally and metaphorically around the earth, the abode of man. In the latter case, the anthropo- or geo-centric view came to an end when it was shown that the motions of the planets were regulated by Newton's law, and that there was no room left for the activities of a guiding power. Likewise, in the realm of instincts, when it can be shown that these instincts may be reduced to elementary physico-chemical laws, the assumption of design becomes superfluous." (Italics mine.)

In the first place the "purposefulness" of the movements of the planets is not affected in the very least by the question of heliocentricism. What the author is probably thinking of is an exaggerated and obsolete teleology, but that is not what seems to be the purport of the passage. Let that pass. The main confusion lies in the application of the term "Law." The Ten Commandments, and our familiar friend D.O.R.A., are laws we must obey or take the consequences of our disobedience. The "laws" which the writer is dealing with are not anything of this kind. Newton's Law is not a thing made by Newton, but an orderly system of events which was in existence long before Newton's time, but was first demonstrated by him. It tells us how a certain part of the system works—when we are "inside it." It does not in the least explain the system any more than the discovery of the resiliency of the spring of the watch explains the watch itself. So far from dispensing with "the activities of a guiding power," Newton's law is positively clamant for a final explanation, since it does not tell us, nor does it pretend to tell us, how the "law" came into existence, still less how the planets came to be there, or how they happen to be in a state of motion at all. Writers of this kind never seem to have grasped the significance of such simple matters as the different kinds of causes, or to be aware that a formal cause is not an efficient cause, and that neither of them is a final cause. Coming to the latter part of the paragraph, it is in no way proved that instincts can be reduced to physico-chemical laws, and, suppose it were proved, the assumption of design would be exactly where it is at this moment. It is the old story of St. Thomas Aquinas and Avicenna and their discussion on abiogenesis, and surely biologists might be expected to have heard of that. The same confusion of thought is to be met with elsewhere in this book, and in other similar books, and a few instances may now be examined.

Samuel Butler, in Life and Habit, warns his readers against the dicta of scientific men, and more particularly against his own dicta, though he made no claim to be a scientist. If his reader must believe in something, "let him believe in the music of Handel, the painting of Giovanni Bellini, and in the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians." And he exclaims: "Let us have no more 'Lo, here!' with the professor; he very rarely knows what he says he knows; no sooner has he misled the world for a sufficient time with a great flourish of trumpets than he is toppled over by one more plausible than himself." That is a somewhat unkind way of putting it; but undoubtedly theory after theory is put forward, and often claimed to be final, only to disappear when another explanation takes its place. Thus at the moment we are in the full flood of the chemical theory which is employed to explain inheritance. That heredity exists we all know, but so far we know nothing about its mechanism. Darwin, with "Pangenesis," and others, using other titles, argued in favour of a "particulate" explanation, but the number of particles which would be necessary to account for the phenomena involved, this and other difficulties, have practically put this explanation out of court. Then we had the Mnemic theory of Hering, Butler, and others, by which the unconscious memory of the embryo—even the germ—is the explanation. Quite lately the mnemic theory has been claimed by Rignano in his Scientific Synthesis as a complete explanation, in forgetfulness of the fact that even the all-powerful protozoon can only remember what has passed and could certainly not remember that it was some day going to breed a man. At the moment, things are explained on a chemical basis, though that basis is far from firm; is of a shifting nature, and a little hazy in details. Some time ago, colloids were the cry. A President of the British Association almost led one to imagine that "the homunculus in the retort" might be expected in a few weeks. But the chemists would have none of this, and denied that the colloids, about which they ought to know more than do the biologists, had that promise in them which had been claimed. We had Leduc and his "fairy flowers," as now we have Loeb and others with their metabolites and hormones. As to these last, there seems to be no kind of doubt that the internal secretions of many organs and structures have effects which were, even a few years ago, quite unsuspected. Those of the thyroid and adrenals are excellent examples.

It seems to be the fate, however, of all supporters of new theories to run into extravagances. Darwin had to remind his enthusiastic disciples that Natural Selection could not create variations, and we may feel some confidence that Hering, were he alive, would urge his followers to bear in mind that memory cannot create a state of affairs which never existed. So far we may certainly say that these internal secretions do produce certain physical effects, some of them effects not to be suspected by the uninformed reader. There seems to be very good evidence that the growth of antlers in deer depends upon an internal secretion from the sex-gland and from the interstitial tissue of that gland; for it is apparently upon the secretions of this portion of the gland that the secondary sexual characters depend, and not merely these, but also the normal sexual instincts. And this takes us a stage further. The extreme claim is that all instincts, in fact all thoughts and operations, are in the last analysis chemical or chemico-physical. Let us examine this claim for a moment. The adrenals are two inconspicuous ductless bodies situated immediately above the kidneys. Not many years ago, when the present writer was a medical student, all that was known about these organs was that when stricken with a certain disease, known as Addison's disease from the name of its first describer, the unfortunate possessor of the diseased glands became of a more or less rich chocolate colour. To-day we know that the internal secretion of these organs is a very powerful styptic, and there is good reason to believe that a copious discharge accompanies an unusual exhibition of rage. When we are told things of this kind we must first of all remember that the adrenalin does not cause the rage, though it may produce its concomitant phenomena. If a man flies into a violent passion because someone has trodden upon his corns, and there is a copious flow of adrenalin from the glands, it is not that flow which has caused his rage. It may be the flow from the interstitial tissue of the sex-glands which engenders sexual feelings, but then those are almost wholly physical, and only in a very minor sense—if even if any true sense—psychical. Persons who take the extreme view have never yet suggested that there is a characteristic hormone connected with those psychical attributes alluded to in the chapter of the Corinthians recommended to our notice by Butler. In fact they seem to ignore all but the lower or vegetable characters when dealing with psychology from the chemico-physical point of view.

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