The Destiny of the Soul - A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life
by William Rounseville Alger
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A Complete Bibliography of the Subject. [Note: bibliography not included here]





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts.

Copyright 1878, W.R. Alger


University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.


THIS work has passed through nine editions, and has been out of print now for nearly a year. During the twenty years which have elapsed since it was written, the question of immortality, the faith and opinions of men and the drift of criticism and doubt concerning it, have been a subject of dominant interest to me, and have occupied a large space in my reading and reflection. Accordingly, now that my publisher, moved by the constant demand for the volume, urges the preparation of a new edition introducing such additional materials as my continued researches have gathered or constructed, I gladly comply with his request.

The present work is not only historic but it is also polemic; polemic, however, not in the spirit or interest of any party or conventicle, but in the spirit and interest of science and humanity. Orthodoxy insists on doctrines whose irrationality in their current forms is such that they can never be a basis for the union of all men. Therefore, to discredit these, in preparation for more reasonable and auspicious views, is a service to the whole human race. This is my justification for the controversial quality which may frequently strike the reader.

Looking back over his pages, after nearly a quarter of a century more of investigation and experience, the author is grateful that he finds nothing to retract or expunge. He has but to add such thoughts and illustrations as have occurred to him in the course of his subsequent studies. He hopes that the supplementary chapters now published will be found more suggestive and mature than the preceding ones, while the same in aim and tone. For he still believes, as he did in his earlier time, that there is much of error and superstition, bigotry and cruelty, to be purged out of the prevailing theological creed and sentiment of Christendom. And he still hopes, as he did then, to contribute something of good influence in this direction. The large circulation of the work, the many letters of thanks for it received by the author from laymen and clergymen of different denominations, the numerous avowed and unavowed quotations from it in recent publications, all show that it has not been produced in vain, but has borne fruit in missionary service for reason, liberty, and charity.

This ventilating and illumining function of fearless and reverential critical thought will need to be fulfilled much longer in many quarters. The doctrine of a future life has been made so frightful by the preponderance in it of the elements of material torture and sectarian narrowness, that a natural revulsion of generous sentiment joins with the impulse of materialistic science to produce a growing disbelief in any life at all beyond the grave. Nothing else will do so much to renew and extend faith in God and immortality as a noble and beautiful doctrine of God and immortality, freed from disfiguring terror, selfishness, and favoritism.

The most popular preacher in England has recently asked his fellow believers, "Can we go to our beds and sleep while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned?" The proprietor of a great foundry in Germany, while he talked one day with a workman who was feeding a furnace, accidentally stepped back, and fell headlong into a vat of molten iron. The thought of what happened then horrifies the imagination. Yet it was all over in two or three seconds. Multiply the individual instance by unnumbered millions, stretch the agony to temporal infinity, and we confront the orthodox idea of hell!

Protesting human nature hurls off such a belief with indignant disdain, except in those instances where the very form and vibration of its nervous pulp have been perverted by the hardening animus of a dogmatic drill transmitted through generations. To trace the origin of such notions, expose their baselessness, obliterate their sway, and replace them with conceptions of a more rational and benignant order, is a task which still needs to be done, and to be done in many forms, over and over, again and again. Though each repetition tell but slightly, it tells.

Every sound argument is instantly crowned with universal victory in the sight of God, and therefore must at last be so in the sight of mankind. However slowly the logic of events limps after the logic of thoughts, it always follows. Let the mind of one man perceive the true meaning of the doctrine of the general resurrection and judgment and eternal life, as a natural evolution of history from within, and it will spread to the minds of all men; and the misinterpretation of that doctrine so long prevalent, as a preternatural irruption of power from without, will be set aside forever. For there is a providential plan of God, not injected by arbitrary miracle, but inhering in the order of the world, centred in the propulsive heart of humanity, which beats throb by throb along the web of events, removing obstacles and clearing the way for the revelation of the completed pattern. When it is done no trumpets may be blown, no rocks rent, no graves opened. But all immortal spirits will be at their goals, and the universe will be full of music.

NEW YORK, February 22, 1878.


WHO follows truth carries his star in his brain. Even so bold a thought is no inappropriate motto for an intellectual workman, if his heart be filled with loyalty to God, the Author of truth and the Maker of stars. In this double spirit of independence and submission it has been my desire to perform the arduous task now finished and offered to the charitable judgment of the reader. One may be courageous to handle both the traditions and the novelties of men, and yet be modest before the solemn mysteries of fate and nature. He may place no veil before his eyes and no finger on his lips in presence of popular dogmas, and yet shrink from the conceit of esteeming his mind a mirror of the universe. Ideas, like coins, bear the stamp of the age and brain they were struck in. Many a phantom which ought to have vanished at the first cock crowing of reason still holds its seat on the oppressed heart of faith before the terror stricken eyes of the multitude. Every thoughtful scholar who loves his fellow men must feel it an obligation to do what he can to remove painful superstitions, and to spread the peace of a cheerful faith and the wholesome light of truth. The theories in theological systems being but philosophy, why should they not be freely subjected to philosophical criticism? I have endeavored, without virulence, arrogance, or irreverence towards any thing sacred, to investigate the various doctrines pertaining to the great subject treated in these pages. Many persons, of course, will find statements from which they dissent, sentiments disagreeable to them. But, where thought and discussion are so free and the press so accessible as with us, no one but a bigot will esteem this a ground of complaint. May all such passages be charitably perused, fairly weighed, and, if unsound, honorably refuted! If the work be not animated with a mean or false spirit, but be catholic and kindly, if it be not superficial and pretentious, but be marked by patience and thoroughness, is it too much to hope that no critic will assail it with wholesale condemnation simply because in some parts of it there are opinions which he dislikes? One dispassionate argument is more valuable than a shower of missile names. The most vehement revulsion from a doctrine is not inconsistent, in a Christian mind, with the sweetest kindness of feeling towards the persons who hold that doctrine. Earnest theological debate may be carried on without the slightest touch of ungenerous personality. Who but must feel the pathos and admire the charity of these eloquent words of Henry Giles?

"Every deep and reflective nature looking intently 'before and after,' looking above, around, beneath, and finding silence and mystery to all his questionings of the Infinite, cannot but conceive of existence as a boundless problem, perhaps an inevitable darkness between the limitations of man and the incomprehensibility of God. A nature that so reflects, that carries into this sublime and boundless obscurity 'the large discourse of Reason,' will not narrow its concern in the solution of the problem to its own petty safety, but will brood over it with an anxiety which throbs for the whole of humanity. Such a nature must needs be serious; but never will it be arrogant: it will regard all men with an embracing pity. Strange it should ever be otherwise in respect to inquiries which belong to infinite relations, that mean enmities, bitter hatreds, should come into play in these fathomless searchings of the soul! Bring what solution we may to this problem of measureless alternatives, whether by Reason, Scripture, or the Church, faith will never stand for fact, nor the firmest confidence for actual consciousness. The man of great and thoughtful nature, therefore, who grapples in real earnest with this problem, however satisfied he may be with his own solution of it, however implicit may be his trust, however assured his convictions, will yet often bow down before the awful veil that shrouds the endless future, put his finger on his lips, and weep in silence."

The present work is in a sense, an epitome of the thought of mankind on the destiny of man. I have striven to add value to it by comprehensiveness of plan, not confining myself, as most of my predecessors have confined themselves, to one province or a few narrow provinces of the subject, but including the entire subject in one volume; by carefulness of arrangement, not piling the material together or presenting it in a chaos of facts and dreams, but grouping it all in its proper relations; by clearness of explanation, not leaving the curious problems presented wholly in the dark with a mere statement of them, but as far as possible tracing the phenomena to their origin and unveiling their purport; by poetic life of treatment, not handling the different topics dryly and coldly, but infusing warmth and color into them; by copiousness of information, not leaving the reader to hunt up every thing for himself, but referring him to the best sources for the facts, reasonings, and hints which he may wish; and by persevering patience of toil, not hastily skimming here and there and hurrying the task off, but searching and researching in every available direction, examining and re examining each mooted point, by the devotion of twelve years of anxious labor. How far my efforts in these particulars have been successful is submitted to the public.

To avoid the appearance of pedantry in the multiplication of foot notes, I have inserted many authorities incidentally in the text itself, and have omitted all except such as I thought would be desired by the reader. Every scholar knows how easy it is to increase the number of references almost indefinitely, and also how deceptive such an ostensible evidence of wide reading may be.

When the printing of this volume was nearly completed, and I had in some instances made more references than may now seem needful, the thought occurred to me that a full list of the books published up to the present time on the subject of a future life, arranged according to their definite topics and in chronological order, would greatly enrich the work and could not fail often to be of vast service. Accordingly, upon solicitation, a valued friend Mr. Ezra Abbot, Jr., a gentleman remarkable for his varied and accurate scholarship undertook that laborious task for me; and he has accomplished it in the most admirable manner. No reader, however learned, but may find much important information in the bibliographical appendix which I am thus enabled to add to this volume. Every student who henceforth wishes to investigate any branch of the historical or philosophical doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or of a future life in general, may thank Mr. Abbot for an invaluable aid.

As I now close this long labor and send forth the result, the oppressive sense of responsibility which fills me is relieved by the consciousness that I have herein written nothing as a bigoted partisan, nothing in a petty spirit of opinionativeness, but have intended every thought for the furtherance of truth, the honor of God, the good of man.

The majestic theme of our immortality allures yet baffles us. No fleshly implement of logic or cunning tact of brain can reach to the solution. That secret lies in a tissueless realm whereof no nerve can report beforehand. We must wait a little. Soon we shall grope and guess no more, but grasp and know. Meanwhile, shall we not be magnanimous to forgive and help, diligent to study and achieve, trustful and content to abide the invisible issue? In some happier age, when the human race shall have forgotten, in philanthropic ministries and spiritual worship, the bigotries and dissensions of sentiment and thought, they may recover, in its all embracing unity, that garment of truth which God made originally "seamless as the firmament," now for so long a time torn in shreds by hating schismatics. Oh, when shall we learn that a loving pity, a filial faith, a patient modesty, best become us and fit our state? The pedantic sciolist, prating of his clear explanations of the mysteries of life, is as far from feeling the truth of the case as an ape, seated on the starry summit of the dome of night, chattering with glee over the awful prospect of infinitude. What ordinary tongue shall dare to vociferate egotistic dogmatisms where an inspired apostle whispers, with reverential reserve, "We see through a glass darkly"? There are three things, said an old monkish chronicler, which often make me sad. First, that I know I must die; second, that I know not when; third, that I am ignorant where I shall then be.

"Est primum durum quod scio me moriturum: Secundum, timeo quia hoc nescio quando: Hine tertium, flebo quod nescio ubi manebo."

Man is the lonely and sublime Columbus of the creation, who, wandering on this cloudy strand of time, sees drifted waifs and strange portents borne far from an unknown somewhere, causing him to believe in another world. Comes not death as a means to bear him thither? Accordingly as hope rests in heaven, fear shudders at hell, or doubt faces the dark transition, the future life is a sweet reliance, a terrible certainty, or a pathetic perhaps. But living in the present in the humble and loving discharge of its duties, our souls harmonized with its conditions though aspiring beyond them, why should we ever despair or be troubled overmuch? Have we not eternity in our thought, infinitude in our view, and God for our guide?


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PAUSING, in a thoughtful hour, on that mount of observation whence the whole prospect of life is visible, what a solemn vision greets us! We see the vast procession of existence flitting across the landscape, from the shrouded ocean of birth, over the illuminated continent of experience, to the shrouded ocean of death. Who can linger there and listen, unmoved, to the sublime lament of things that die? Although the great exhibition below endures, yet it is made up of changes, and the spectators shift as often. Each rank of the host, as it advances from the mists of its commencing career, wears a smile caught from the morning light of hope, but, as it draws near to the fatal bourne, takes on a mournful cast from the shadows of the unknown realm. The places we occupy were not vacant before we came, and will not be deserted when we go, but are forever filling and emptying afresh.

"Still to every draught of vital breath Renew'd throughout the bounds of earth and ocean, The melancholy gates of death Respond with sympathetic motion."

We appear, there is a short flutter of joys and pains, a bright glimmer of smiles and tears, and we are gone. But whence did we come? And whither do we go? Can human thought divine the answer?

It adds no little solemnity and pathos to these reflections to remember that every considerate person in the unnumbered successions that have preceded us, has, in his turn, confronted the same facts, engaged in the same inquiry, and been swept from his attempts at a theoretic solution of the problem into the real solution itself, while the constant refrain in the song of existence sounded behind him, "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever." The evanescent phenomena, the tragic plot and scenery of human birth, action, and death, conceived on the scale of reality, clothed in

"The sober coloring taken from an eye That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality,"

and viewed in a susceptible spirit, are, indeed, overwhelmingly impressive. They invoke the intellect to its most piercing thoughts. They swell the heart to its utmost capacity of emotion. They bring us upon the bended knees of wonder and prayer.

"Between two worlds life hovers, like a star' Twixt night and morn upon the horizon's verge. How little do we know that which we are! How less what we may be! The eternal surge Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar Our bubbles: as the old burst, new emerge, Lash'd from the foam of ages: while the graves Of empires heave but like some passing waves."

Widely regarding the history of human life from the beginning, what a visionary spectacle it is! How miraculously permanent in the whole! how sorrowfully ephemeral in the parts! What pathetic sentiments it awakens! Amidst what awful mysteries it hangs! The subject of the derivation of the soul has been copiously discussed by hundreds of philosophers, physicians, and poets, from Vyasa to Des Cartes, from Galen to Ennemoser, from Orpheus to Henry More, from Aristotle to Frohschammer. German literature during the last hundred years has teemed with works treating of this question from various points of view. The present chapter will present a sketch of these various speculations concerning the commencement and fortunes of man ere his appearance on the stage of this world.

The first theory to account for the origin of souls is that of emanation. This is the analogical theory, constructed from the results of sensible observation. There is, it says, one infinite Being, and all finite spirits are portions of his substance, existing a while as separate individuals, and then reassimilated into the general soul. This form of faith, asserting the efflux of all subordinate existence out of one Supreme Being, seems sometimes to rest on an intuitive idea. It is spontaneously suggested whenever man confronts the phenomena of creation with reflective observation, and ponders the eternal round of birth and death. Accordingly, we find traces of this belief all over the world; from the ancient Hindu metaphysics whose fundamental postulate is that the necessary life of God is one constant process of radiation and resorption, "letting out and drawing in," to that modern English poetry which apostrophizes the glad and winsome child as

"A silver stream Breaking with laughter from the lake Divine Whence all things flow."

The conception that souls are emanations from God is the most obvious way of accounting for the prominent facts that salute our inquiries. It plausibly answers some natural questions, and boldly eludes others. For instance, to the early student demanding the cause of the mysterious distinctions between mind and body, it says, the one belongs to the system of passive matter, the other comes from the living Fashioner of the Universe. Again: this theory relieves us from the burden that perplexes the finite mind when it seeks to understand how the course of nature, the succession of lives, can be absolutely eternal without involving an alternating or circular movement. The doctrine of emanation has, moreover, been supported by the supposed analytic similarity of the soul to God. Its freedom, consciousness, intelligence, love, correspond with what we regard as the attributes and essence of Deity. The inference, however unsound, is immediate, that souls are consubstantial with God, dissevered fragments of Him, sent into bodies. But, in actual effect, the chief recommendation of this view has probably been the variety of analogies and images under which it admits of presentation. The annual developments of vegetable life from the bosom of the earth, drops taken from a fountain and retaining its properties in their removal, the separation of the air into distinct breaths, the soil into individual atoms, the utterance of a tone gradually dying away in reverberated echoes, the radiation of beams from a central light, the exhalation of particles of moisture from the ocean, the evolution of numbers out of an original unity, these are among the illustrations by which an exhaustless ingenuity has supported the notion of the emanation of souls from God. That "something cannot come out of nothing" is an axiom resting on the ground of our rational instincts. And seeing all things within our comprehension held in the chain of causes and effects, one thing always evolving from another, we leap to the conclusion that it is precisely the same with things beyond our comprehension, and that God is the aboriginal reservoir of being from which all the rills of finite existence are emitted.

Against this doctrine the current objections are these two. First, the analogies adduced are not applicable. The things of spirit and those of matter have two distinct sets of predicates and categories. It is, for example, wholly illogical to argue that because the circuit of the waters is from the sea, through the clouds, over the land, back to the sea again, therefore the derivation and course of souls from God, through life, back to God, must be similar. There are mysteries in connection with the soul that baffle the most lynx eyed investigation, and on which no known facts of the physical world can throw light. Secondly, the scheme of emanation depends on a vulgar error, belonging to the infancy of philosophic thought, and inconsistent with some necessary truths. It implies that God is separable into parts, and therefore both corporeal and finite. Divisible substance is incompatible with the first predicates of Deity, namely, immateriality and infinity. Before the conception of the illimitable, spiritual unity of God, the doctrine of the emanation of souls from Him fades away, as the mere figment of a dreaming mind brooding over the suggestions of phenomena and apparent correspondences.

The second explanation of the origin of souls is that which says they come from a previous existence. This is the theory of imagination, framed in the free and seductive realm of poetic thought. It is evident that this idea does not propose any solution of the absolute origination of the soul, but only offers to account for its appearance on earth. The pre existence of souls has been most widely affirmed. Nearly the whole world of Oriental thinkers have always taught it. Many of the Greek philosophers held it. No small proportion of the early Church Fathers believed it.1 And it is not without able advocates among the scholars and thinkers

1 Keil, Opuscula; Be Pre existentia Animarum. Beausobre, Hist. du Manicheisme, lib. vii. cap. iv.

of our own age. There are two principal forms of this doctrine; one asserting an ascent of souls from a previous existence below the rank of man, the other a descent of souls from a higher sphere. Generation is the true Jacob's ladder, on which souls are ever ascending or descending. The former statement is virtually that of the modern theory of development, which argues that the souls known to us, obtaining their first organic being out of the ground life of nature, have climbed up through a graduated series of births, from the merest elementary existence, to the plane of human nature. A gifted author, Dr. Hedge, has said concerning pre existence in these two methods of conceiving it, writing in a half humorous, half serious, vein, "It is to be considered as expressing rather an exceptional than a universal fact. If here and there some pure liver, or noble doer, or prophet voice, suggests the idea of a revenant who, moved with pity for human kind, and charged with celestial ministries, has condescended to

'Soil his pure ambrosial weeds With the rank vapors of this sin worn mould,'

or if, on the other hand, the 'superfluity of naughtiness' displayed by some abnormal felon seems to warrant the supposition of a visit from the Pit, the greater portion of mankind, we submit, are much too green for any plausible assumption of a foregone training in good or evil. This planet is not their missionary station, nor their Botany Bay, but their native soil. Or, if we suppose they pre existed at all, we must rather believe they pre existed as brutes, and have travelled into humanity by the fish fowl quadruped road with a good deal of the habitudes and dust of that tramp still sticking to them." The theory of development, deriving human souls by an ascension from the lower stages of rudimentary being, considered as a fanciful hypothesis or speculative toy, is interesting, and not destitute of plausible aspects. But, when investigated as a severe thesis, it is found devoid of proof. It is enough here to say that the most authoritative voices in science reject it, declaring that, though there is a development of progress in the plan of nature, from the more general to the more specific, yet there is no advance from one type or race to another, no hint that the same individual ever crosses the guarded boundaries of genus from one rank and kingdom to another. Whatever progress there may be in the upward process of natural creation or the stages of life, yet to suppose that the life powers of insects and brutes survive the dissolution of their bodies, and, in successive crossings of the death gulf, ascend to humanity, is a bare assumption. It befits the delirious lips of Beddoes, who says,

"Had I been born a four legg'd child, methinks I might have found the steps from dog to man And crept into his nature. Are there not Those that fall down out of humanity Into the story where the four legg'd dwell?"

The doctrine that souls have descended from an anterior life on high may be exhibited in three forms, each animated by a different motive. The first is the view of some of the Manichean teachers, that spirits were embodied by a hostile violence and cunning, the force and fraud of the apostatized Devil. Adam and Eve were angels sent to observe the doings of Lucifer, the rebel king of matter. He seized these heavenly spies and encased them in fleshly prisons. And then, in order to preserve a permanent union of these celestial natures with matter, he contrived that their race should be propagated by the sexes. Whenever by the procreative act the germ body is prepared, a fiend hies from bale, or an angel stoops from bliss, or a demon darts from his hovering in the air, to inhabit and rule his growing clay house for a term of earthly life. The spasm of impregnation thrills in fatal summons to hell or heaven, and resistlessly drags a spirit into the appointed receptacle. Shakspeare, whose genius seems to have touched every shape of thought with adorning phrase, makes Juliet, distracted with the momentary fancy that Romeo is a murderous villain, cry,

"O Nature! what hadst thou to do in hell When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend In mortal paradise of such sweet flesh?"

The second method of explaining the descent of souls into this life is by the supposition that the stable bliss, the uncontrasted peace and sameness, of the heavenly experience, at last wearies the people of Paradise, until they seek relief in a fall. The perfect sweetness of heaven cloys, the utter routine and safety tire, the salient spirits, till they long for the edge and hazard of earthly exposure, and wander down to dwell in fleshly bodies and breast the tempest of sin, strife, and sorrow, so as to give a fresh charm once more to the repose and exempted joys of the celestial realm. In this way, by a series of recurring lives below and above, novelty and change with larger experience and more vivid contentment are secured, the tedium and satiety of fixed happiness and protection are modified by the relishing opposition of varied trials of hardship and pain, the insufferable monotony of immortality broken up and interpolated by epochs of surprise and tingling dangers of probation.

"Mortals, behold! the very angels quit Their mansions unsusceptible of change, Amid your dangerous bowers to sit And through your sharp vicissitudes to range!"

Thus round and round we run through an eternity of lives and deaths. Surfeited with the unqualified pleasures of heaven, we "straggle down to this terrene nativity:" When, amid the sour exposures and cruel storms of the world, we have renewed our appetite for the divine ambrosia of peace and sweetness, we forsake the body and ascend to heaven; this constant recurrence illustrating the great truths, that alternation is the law of destiny, and that variety is the spice of life.

But the most common derivation of the present from a previous life is that which explains the descent as a punishment for sin. In that earlier and loftier state, souls abused their freedom, and were doomed to expiate their offences by a banished, imprisoned, and burdensome life on the earth. "The soul," Plutarch writes, "has removed, not from Athens to Sardis, or from Corinth to Lemnos, but from heaven to earth; and here, ill at ease, and troubled in this new and strange place, she hangs her head like a decaying plant."

Hundreds of passages to the same purport might easily be cited from as many ancient writers. Sometimes this fall of souls from their original estate was represented as a simultaneous event: a part of the heavenly army, under an apostate leader, having rebelled, were defeated, and sentenced to a chained bodily life. Our whole race were transported at once from their native shores in the sky to the convict land of this world. Sometimes the descent was attributed to the fresh fault of each individual, and was thought to be constantly happening. A soul tainted with impure desire, drawn downwards by corrupt material gravitation, hovering over the fumes of matter, inhaling the effluvia of vice, grew infected with carnal longings and contagions, became fouled and clogged with gross vapors and steams, and finally fell into a body and pursued the life fitted to it below. A clear human child is a shining seraph from heaven sunk thus low. Men are degraded cherubim.

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The soul that rises with us, our life's star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar."

The theory of the pre existence of the soul merely removes the mystery one stage further back, and there leaves the problem of our origin as hopelessly obscure as before. It is sufficiently refuted by the open fact that it is absolutely destitute of scientific basis. The explanation of its wide prevalence as a belief is furnished by two considerations. First, there were old authoritative sages and poets who loved to speculate and dream, and who published their speculations and dreams to reign over the subject fancies of credulous mankind. Secondly, the conception was intrinsically harmonious, and bore a charm to fascinate the imagination and the heart. The fragmentary visions, broken snatches, mystic strains, incongruous thoughts, fading gleams, with which imperfectrecollection comes laden from our childish years and our nightly dreams, are referred by self pleasing fancy to some earlier and nobler existence. We solve the mysteries of experience by calling them the veiled vestiges of a bright life departed, pathetic waifs drifted to these intellectual shores over the surge of feeling from the wrecked orb of an anterior existence. It gratifies our pride to think the soul "a star travelled stranger," a disguised prince, who has passingly alighted on this globe in his eternal wanderings. The gorgeous glimpses of truth and beauty here vouchsafed to genius, the wondrous strains of feeling that haunt the soul in tender hours, are feeble reminiscences of the prerogatives we enjoyed in those eons when we trod the planets that sail around the upper world of the gods. That ennui or plaintive sadness which in all life's deep and lonesome hours seems native to our hearts, what is it but the nostalgia of the soul remembering and pining after its distant home? Vague and forlorn airs come floating into our consciousness, as from an infinitely remote clime, freighted with a luxury of depressing melancholy.

"Ah! not the nectarous poppy lovers use, Not daily labor's dull Lethean spring, Oblivion in lost angels can infuse Of the soil'd glory and the trailing wing."

How attractive all this must be to the thoughts of men, how fascinating to their retrospective and aspiring reveries, it should be needless to repeat. How baseless it is as a philosophical theory demanding sober belief, it should be equally superfluous to illustrate further.

The third answer to the question concerning the origin of the soul is that it is directly created by the voluntary power of God. This is the theory of faith, instinctively shrinking from the difficulty of the problem on its scientific ground, and evading it by a wholesale reference to Deity. Some writers have held that all souls were created by the Divine fiat at the beginning of the world, and laid up in a secret repository, whence they are drawn as occasion calls. The Talmudists say, "All souls were made during the six days of creation; and therefore generation is not by traduction, but by infusion of a soul into body." Others maintain that this production of souls was not confined to any past period, but is continued still, a new soul being freshly created for every birth. Whenever certain conditions meet,

"Then God smites his hands together, And strikes out a soul as a spark, Into the organized glory of things, From the deeps of the dark."

This is the view asserted by Vincentius Victor in opposition to the dogmatism of Tertullian on the one hand and to the doubts of Augustine on the other.2 It is called the theory of Insufflation, because it affirms that God immediately breathes a soul into each new being: even as in the case of Adam, of whom we read that "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." The doctrine drawn from this Mosaic text, that the soul is a divine substance, a breath of God, miraculously breathed by Him into every creature at the commencement of its existence, often reappears, and plays a prominent part in the history of psychological opinions. It corresponds with the beautiful Greek myth of Prometheus, who is fabled to have made a human image from the dust of the ground, and then, by fire stolen from heaven, to have animated it with a living soul. So man, as to his body, is made of earthly clay; but the Promethean spark that forms his soul is the fresh breath of God. There is no objection to the real ground and essence of this theory, only to its form and accompaniments. It is purely anthropomorphitic; it conceives God as working, after the manner of a man, intermittently, arbitrarily. It insulates the origination of souls from the fixed course of nature, severs it from all connection with that common process of organic life which weaves its inscrutable web through the universe, that system of laws which expresses the unchanging will of God, and which constitutes the order by whose solemn logic alone He acts. The objection to this view is, in a word, that it limits the creative action of God to human souls. We suppose that He creates our bodies as well; that He is the immediate Author of all life in the same sense in which He is the immediate Author of our souls. The opponents of the creation theory, who strenuously fought it in the seventeenth century, were accustomed to urge against it the fanciful objection that "it puts God to an invenust

2 Augustine, De Anima et ejus Origine, lib. iv.

employment scarce consistent with his verecundious holiness; for, if it be true, whenever the lascivious consent to uncleanness and are pleased to join in unlawful mixture, God is forced to stand a spectator of their vile impurities, stooping from his throne to attend their bestial practices, and raining down showers of souls to animate the emissions of their concupiscence"3

A fourth reply to the inquiry before us is furnished in Tertullian's famous doctrine of Traduction, the essential import of which is that all human souls have been transmitted, or brought over, from the soul of Adam. This is the theological theory: for it arose from an exigency in the dogmatic system generally held by the patristic Church. The universal depravity of human nature, the inherited corruption of the whole race, was a fundamental point of belief. But how reconcile this proposition with the conception, entertained by many, that each new born soul is a fresh creation from the "substance," "spirit," or "breath" of God? Augustine writes to Jerome, asking him to solve this question.4 Tertullian, whose fervid mind was thoroughly imbued with materialistic notions, unhesitatingly cut this Gordian knot by asserting that our first parent bore within him the undeveloped germ of all mankind, so that sinfulness and souls were propagated together. 5 Thus the perplexing query, "how souls are held in the chain of original sin," was answered. As Neander says, illustrating Tertullian's view, "The soul of the first man was the fountain head of all human souls: all the varieties of individual human nature are but modifications of that one spiritual substance." In the light of such a thought, we can see how Nature might, when solitary Adam lived, fulfil Lear's wild conjuration, and

"All the germens spill At once that make ingrateful man."

In the seventh chapter of the Koran it is written, "The Lord drew forth their posterity from the loins of the sons of Adam." The commentators say that God passed his hand down Adam's back, and extracted all the generations which should come into the world until the resurrection. Assembled in the presence of the angels, and endued with understanding, they confessed their dependence on God, and were then caused to return into the loins of their great ancestor. This is one of the most curious doctrines within the whole range of philosophical history. It implies the strict corporeality of the soul; and yet how infinitely fine must be its attenuation when it has been diffused into countless thousands of millions! Der Urkeim theilt sich ins Unendliche.

"What! will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?"

The whole thought is absurd. It was not reached by an induction of facts, a study of phenomena, or any fair process of reasoning, but was arbitrarily created to rescue a dogma from otherwise inevitable rejection. It was the desperate clutch of a heady theologian reeling in a vortex of hostile argument, and ready to seize any fancy, however artificial, to save

3 Edward Warren, No Pre Existence, p. 74.

4 Epistola CLXVI.

5 De Anima, cap. x. et xix.

himself from falling under the ruins of his system. Henry Woolner published in London, in 1655, a book called "Extraction of Soul: a sober and judicious inquiry to prove that souls are propagated; because, if they are created, original sin is impossible."

The theological dogma of traduction has been presented in two forms. First, it is declared that all souls are developed out of the one substance of Adam's soul; a view that logically implies an ultimate attenuating diffusion, ridiculously absurd. Secondly, it is held that "the eating of the forbidden fruit corrupted all the vital fluids of Eve; and this corruption carried vicious and chaotic consequences into her ova, in which lay the souls of all her posterity, with infinitely little bodies, already existing."6 This form is as incredible as the other; for it equally implies a limitless distribution of souls from a limited deposit. As Whewell says, "This successive inclusion of germs (Einschachtelungs Theorie) implies that each soul contains an infinite number of germs."7 It necessarily excludes the formation of new spiritual substance: else original transmitted sin is excluded. The doctrine finds no parallelism anywhere else in nature. Who, no matter how wedded to the theology of original sin and transmitted death, would venture to stretch the same thesis over the animal races, and affirm that the dynamic principles, or animating souls, of all serpents, eagles, and lions, were once compressed in the first patriarchal serpent, eagle, or lion?

That the whole formative power of all the simultaneous members of our race was concentrated in the first cell germ of our original progenitor, is a scientific impossibility and incredibleness. The fatal sophistry in the traducian account of the transmission of souls may be illustrated in the following manner. The germs of all the apple trees now in existence did not lie in the first apple seed. All the apple trees now existing were not derived by literal development out of the actual contents of the first apple seed. No: but the truth is this. There was a power in the first apple seed to secure certain conditions; that is, to organize a certain status in which the plastic vegetative life of nature would posit new and similar powers and materials. So not all souls were latent in Adam's, but only an organizing power to secure the conditions on which the Divine Will that first began, would, in accordance with His creative plan, forever continue, His spirit creation. The distinction of this statement from that of traduction is the difference between evolution from one original germ or stock and actual production of new beings. Its distinction from the third theory the theory of immediate creation is the difference between an intermittent interposition of arbitrary acts and the continuous working of a plan according to laws scientifically traceable.

There is another solution to the question of the soul's origin, which has been propounded by some philosophers and may be called the speculative theory. Its statement is that the germs of souls were created simultaneously with the formation of the material universe, and were copiously sown abroad through all nature, waiting there to be successively taken up and furnished with the conditions of development.8 These latent seeds of souls, swarming in all places, are drawn in with the first breath or imbibed with the earliest nourishment of the

6 Hennings, Geschichte von den Seelen der Menschen, s. 500.

7 Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, vol. I. b. ix. ch. iv. sect. 4.

8 Ploucquet, De Origin atque Generatione Anima Humana ex Principiis Monadologicis stabilita.

new born child into the already constructed body which before has only a vegetative life. The Germans call this representation panspermismus, or the dissemination theory. Leibnitz, in his celebrated monadology, carries the same view a great deal further. He conceives the whole created universe, visible and invisible, to consist of monads, which are not particles of matter, but metaphysical points of power. These monads are all souls. They are produced by what he calls fulgurations of God. The distinction between fulguration and emanation is this: in the latter case the procession is historically defined and complete; in the former case it is momentaneous. The monads are radiated from the Divine Will, forth through the creation, by the constant flashes of His volition. All nature is composed of them, and nothing is depopulated and dead. Their naked being is force, and their indestructible predicates are perception, desire, tendency to develop. While they lie dormant, their potential capacities all inwrapped, they constitute what we entitle matter. When, by the rising stir of their inherent longing, they leave their passive state and reach a condition of obscure consciousness, they become animals. Finally, they so far unwind their bonds and evolve their facultative potencies as to attain the rank of rational minds in the grade of humanity. Generation is merely the method by which the aspiring monad lays the organic basis for the grouped building of its body. Man is a living union of monads, one regent monad presiding over the whole organization. That king monad which has attained to full apperception, the free exercise of perfect consciousness, is the immortal human soul. 9 Any labored attempt to refute this ingenious doctrine is needless, since the doctrine itself is but the developed structure of a speculative conception with no valid basis of observed fact. It is a sheer hypothesis, spun out of the self fed bowels of a priori assumption and metaphysic fancy. It solves the problems only by changes of their form, leaving the mysteries as numerous and deep as before. It is a beautiful and sublime piece of latent poetry, the evolution and architecture of which well display the wonderful genius of Leibnitz. It is a more subtle and powerful process of thought than Aristotle's Organon, a more pure and daring work of imagination than Milton's Paradise Lost. But it spurns the tests of experimental science, and is entitled to rank only among the splendid curiosities of philosophy; a brilliant and plausible theorem, not a sober and solid induction.

One more method of treating the inquiry before us will complete the list. It is what we may properly call the scientific theory, though in truth it is hardly a theory at all, but rather a careful statement of the observed facts, and a modest confession of inability to explain the cause of them. Those occupying this position, when asked what is the origin of souls, do not pretend to unveil the final secret, but simply say, everywhere in the world of life, from bottom to top, there is an organic growth in accordance with conditions. This is what is styled the theory of epigenesis, and is adopted by the chief physiologists of the present day. Swammerdam, Malebranche, even Cuvier, had defended the doctrine of successive inclusion; but Wolf, Blumenbach, and Von Baer established in its place the doctrine of epigenesis. 10

9 Leibnitz, Monadologie.

10 Ennemoser, Historisch psychologische Untersuchungen tiber den Ursprung der menschlichen Seelen, zweite Auflage.

Scrupulously confining themselves to the mass of collected facts and the course of scrutinized phenomena, they say there is a natural production of new living beings in conformity to certain laws, and give an exposition of the fixed conditions and sequences of this production. Here they humbly stop, acknowledging that the causal root of power, which produces all these consequences, is an inexplicable mystery. Their attitude is well represented by Swedenborg when he says, in reference to this very subject, "Any one may form guesses; but let no son of earth pretend to penetrate the mysteries of creation." 11

Let us notice now the facts submitted to us. First, at the base of the various departments of nature, we see a mass of apparently lifeless matter. Out of this crude substratum of the outward world we observe a vast variety of organized forms produced by a variously named but unknown Power. They spring in regular methods, in determinate shapes, exist on successive stages of rank, with more or less striking demarcations of endowment, and finally fall back again, as to their physical constituents, into the inorganic stuff from which they grew. This mysterious organizing Power, pushing its animate and builded receptacles up to the level of vegetation, creates the world of plants.

"Every clod feels a stir of might, An instinct within it that reaches and towers, And, grasping blindly above it for light, Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers."

On the level of sensation, where the obscure rudiments of will, understanding, and sentiment commence, this life giving Power creates the world of animals. And so, on the still higher level of reason and its concomitants, it creates the world of men. In a word, the great general fact is that an unknown Power call it what we may, Nature, Vital Force, or God creates, on the various planes of its exercise, different families of organized beings. Secondly, a more special fact is, that when we have overleaped the mystery of a commencement, every being yields seed according to its kind, wherefrom, when properly conditioned, its species is perpetuated. How much, now, does this second fact imply? It is by adding to the observed phenomena an indefensible hypothesis that the error of traduction is obtained. We observe that human beings are begotten by a deposit of germs through the generative process. To affirm that these germs are transmitted down the generations from the original progenitor of each race, in whom they all existed at first, is an unwarranted assertion and involves absurdities. It is refuted both by Geoffrey St. Hilaire's famous experiments on eggs, and by the crossing of species.12 In opposition to this theological figment, observation and science require the belief that each being is endowed independently with a germ forming power.

Organic life requires three things: a fruitful germ; a quickening impulse; a nourishing medium. Science plainly shows us that this primal nucleus is given, in the human species, by the union of the contents of a sperm cell with those of a germ cell; that this dynamic start is imparted from the life force of the parents; and that this feeding environment is

11 Tract on the Origin and Propagation of the Soul, chap. i.

12 Flourens, Amount of Life on the Globe, part ii. ch. iii. sect. ii.

furnished by the circle of co ordinated relations. That the formative power of the new organism comes from, or at least is wholly conditioned by, the parent organism, should be believed, because it is the obvious conclusion, against which there is nothing to militate. That the soul of the child comes in some way from the soul of the parent, or is stamped by it, is also implied by the normal resemblance of children to parents, not more in bodily form than in spiritual idiosyncrasies. This fact alone furnishes the proper qualification to the acute and significant lines of the Platonizing poet:

"Wherefore who thinks from souls new souls to bring, The same let presse the sunne beames in his fist And squeeze out drops of light, or strongly wring The rainbow till it die his hands, well prest."

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh: that which is born of the spirit is spirit." As the body of the child is the derivative of a germ elaborated in the body of the parent, so the soul of the child is the derivative of a developing impulse of power imparted from the soul of the parent. And as the body is sustained by absorbing nutrition from matter, so the soul is sustained by assimilating the spiritual substances of the invisible kingdom. The most ethereal elements must combine to nourish that consummate plant whose blossom is man's mind. This representation is not materialism; for spirit belongs to a different sphere and is the subject of different predicates from matter, though equally under a constitution of laws. Nor does this view pretend to explain what is inherently transcendent: it leaves the creation of the soul within as wide a depth and margin of mystery as ever. Neither is this mode of exposing the problem atheistic. It refers the forms of life, all growths, all souls, to the indefinable Power that works everywhere, creates each thing, vivifies, governs, and contains the universe. And, however that Power be named, is it not God? And thus we still reverently hold that it is God's own hands "That reach through nature, moulding men." The ancient heroes of Greece and India were fond of tracing their genealogy up directly to their deities, and were proud to deem that in guarding them the gods stooped to watch over a race of kings, a puissant and immortal stock,

"Whose glories stream'd from the same clond girt founts Whence their own dawn'd upon the infant world."

After all the researches that have been made, we yet find the secret of the beginning of the soul shrouded among the fathomless mysteries of the Almighty Creator, and must ascribe our birth to the Will of God as piously as it was done in the eldest mythical epochs of the world. Notwithstanding the careless frivolity of skepticism and the garish light of science abroad in this modern time, there are still stricken and yearning depths of wonder and sorrow enough, profound and awful shadows of night and fear enough, to make us recognise, in the golden joys that visit us rarely, in the illimitable visions that emancipate us often, in the unearthly thoughts and dreams that ravish our minds, enigmatical intimations of our kinship with God, prophecies of a super earthly destiny whose splendors already break through the clouds of ignorance, the folds of flesh, and the curtains of time in which our spirits here sit pavilioned.

Augustine pointedly observes, "It is no evil that the origin of the soul remains obscure, if only its redemption be made certain."13 Non est periculum si origo animoe lateat, dum redemptio clareat. No matter how humanity originates, if its object be to produce fruit, and that fruit be immortal souls. When our organism has perfected its intended product, willingly will we let the decaying body return into the ground, if so be we are assured that the ripened spirit is borne into the heavenly garner. Let us, in close, reduce the problem of the soul's origin to its last terms. The amount of force in the universe is uniform.14 Action and reaction being equal, no new creation of force is possible: only its directions, deposits, and receptacles may be altered. No combination of physical processes can produce a previously non existent subject: it can only initiate the modification, development, assimilation, of realities already in being. Something cannot come out of nothing. The quickening formation of a man, therefore, implies the existence, first, of a material germ, the basis of the body; secondly, of a power to impart to that germ a dynamic impulse, in other words, to deposit in it a spirit atom, or monad of life force. Now, the fresh body is originally a detached product of the parent body, as an apple is the detached product of a tree. So the fresh soul is a transmitted force imparted by the parent soul, either directly from itself, or else conditioned by it and drawn from the ground life of nature, the creative power of God. If filial soul be begotten by procession and severance of conscious force from parental soul, the spiritual resemblance of offspring and progenitors is clearly explained. This phenomenon is also equally well explained if the parent soul, so called, be a die striking the creative substance of the universe into individual form. The latter supposition seems, upon the whole, the more plausible and scientific. Generation is a reflex condition moving the life basis of the world to produce a soul, as a physical impression moves the soul to produce a perception.15

But, however deep the mystery of the soul's origin, whatever our conclusion in regard to it, let us not forget that the inmost essence and verity of the soul is conscious power; and that all power defies annihilation. It is an old declaration that what begins in time must end in time; and with the metaphysical shears of that notion more than once the burning faith in eternal life has been snuffed out. Yet how obvious is its sophistry! A being beginning in time need not cease in time, if the Power which originated it intends and provides for its perpetuity. And that such is the Creative intention for man appears from the fact that the grand forms of belief in all ages issuing from his mental organization have borne the stamp of an expected immortality. Our ideas may disappear, but they are always recoverable. If the souls of men are ideas of God, must they not be as enduring as his mind?

13 Epist. CLVI.

14 Faraday, Conservation of Force, Phil. Mag., April, 1857.

15 Dr. Frohschammer, Ursprang der menechlichen Seelen, sect. 115.

The naturalist who so immerses his thoughts in the physical phases of nature as to lose hold on indestructible centres of personality, should beware lest he lose the motive which propels man to begin here, by virtue and culture, to climb that ladder of life whose endless sides are affections, but whose discrete rounds are thoughts.



DEATH is not an entity, but an event; not a force, but a state. Life is the positive experience, death the negation. Yet in nearly every literature death has been personified, while no kindred prosopopoeia of life is anywhere to be found. With the Greeks, Thanatos was a god; with the Romans, Mors was a goddess: but no statue was ever moulded, no altar ever raised, to Zoe or Vita. At first thought, we should anticipate the reverse of this; but, in truth, the fact is quite naturally as it is. Life is a continuous process; and any one who makes the effort will find how difficult it is to conceive of it as an individual being, with distinctive attributes, functions, and will. It is an inward possession which we familiarly experience, and in the quiet routine of custom we feel no shock of surprise at it, no impulse to give it imaginative shape and ornament. On the contrary, death is an impending occurrence, something which we anticipate and shudder at, something advancing toward us in time to strike or seize us. Its externality to our living experience, its threatening approach, the mystery and alarm enwrapping it, are provocative conditions for fanciful treatment, making personifications inevitable.

With the Old Aryan race of India, death is Yama, the soul of the first man, departed to be the king of the subterranean realm of the subsequent dead, and returning to call after him each of his descendants in turn. To the good he is mild and lovely, but to the impious he is clad in terror and acts with severity. The purely fanciful character of this thought is obvious; for, according to it, death was before death, since Yama himself died. Yama does not really represent death, but its arbiter and messenger. He is the ruler over the dead, who himself carries the summons to each mortal to become his subject.

In the Hebrew conception, death was a majestic angel, named Sammael, standing in the court of heaven, and flying thence over the earth, armed with a sword, to obey the behests of God. The Talmudists developed and dressed up the thought with many details, half sublime, half fantastic. He strides through the world at a step. From the soles of his feet to his shoulders he is full of eyes. Every person in the moment of dying sees him; and at the sight the soul retreats, running through all the limbs, as if asking permission to depart from them. From his naked sword fall three drops: one pales the countenance, one destroys the vitality, one causes the body to decay. Some Rabbins say he bears a cup from which the dying one drinks, or that he lets fall from the point of his sword a single acrid drop upon the sufferer's tongue: this is what is called "tasting the bitterness of death." Here again, we see, it is not strictly death that is personified. The embodiment is not of the mortal act, but of the decree determining that act. The Jewish angel of death is not a picture of death in itself, but of God's decree coming to the fated individual who is to die.

The Greeks sometimes depicted death and sleep as twin boys, one black, one white, borne slumbering in the arms of their mother, night. In this instance the phenomenon of dissolving unconsciousness which falls on mortals, abstractly generalized in the mind, is then concretely symbolized. It is a bold and happy stroke of artistic genius; but it in no way expresses or suggests the scientific facts of actual death. There is also a classic representation of death as a winged boy with a pensive brow and an inverted torch, a butterfly at his feet. This beautiful image, with its affecting accompaniments, conveys to the beholder not the verity, nor an interpretation, of death, but the sentiments of the survivors in view of their bereavement. The sad brow denotes the grief of the mourner, the winged insect the disembodied psyche, the reversed torch the descent of the soul to the under world; but the reality of death itself is nowhere hinted.

The Romans give descriptions of death as a female figure in dark robes, with black wings, with ravenous teeth, hovering everywhere, darting here and there, eager for prey. Such a view is a personification of the mysteriousness, suddenness, inevitableness, and fearfulness, connected with the subject of death in men's minds, rather than of death itself. These thoughts are grouped into an imaginary being, whose sum of attributes are then ignorantly both associated with the idea of the unknown cause and confounded with the visible effect. It is, in a word, mere poetry, inspired by fear and unguided by philosophy.

Death has been shown in the guise of a fowler spreading his net, setting his snares for men. But this image concerns itself with the accidents of the subject, the unexpectedness of the fatal blow, the treacherous springing of the trap, leaving the root of the matter untouched. The circumstances of the mortal hour are infinitely varied, the heart of the experience is unchangeably the same: there are a thousand modes of dying, but there is only one death. Ever so complete an exhibition of the occasions and accompaniments of an event is no explanation of what the inmost reality of the event is.

The Norse conception of death as a vast, cloudy presence, darkly sweeping on its victims, and bearing them away wrapped in its sable folds, is evidently a free product of imagination brooding not so much on the distinct phenomena of an individual case as on the melancholy mystery of the disappearance of men from the familiar places that knew them once but miss them now. In a somewhat kindred manner, the startling magnificence of the sketch in the Apocalypse, of death on the pale horse, is a product of pure imagination meditating on the wholesale slaughter which was to deluge the earth when God's avenging judgments fell upon the enemies of the Christians. But to consider this murderous warrior on his white charger as literally death, would be as erroneous as to imagine the bare armed executioner and the guillotine to be themselves the death which they inflict. No more appalling picture of death has been drawn than that by Milton, whose dire image has this stroke of truth in it, that its adumbrate formlessness typifies the disorganizing force which reduces all cunningly built bodies of life to the elemental wastes of being. The incestuous and mistreated progeny of Sin is thus delineated:

"The shape, If shape it might be call'd that shape had none Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb, Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd, For each seem'd either, black it stood as night, Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell, And shook a dreadful dart: what seem'd his head The likeness of a kingly crown had on."

But the most common personification of death is as a skeleton brandishing a dart; and then he is called the grisly king of terrors; and people tremble at the thought of him, as children do at the name of a bugbear in the dark. What sophistry this is! It is as if we should identify the trophy with the conqueror, the vestiges left in the track of a traveller with the traveller himself. Death literally makes a skeleton of man; so man metaphorically makes a skeleton of Death! All these representations of death, however beautiful, or pathetic, or horrible, are based on superficial appearances, misleading analogies, arbitrary fancies, perturbed sensibilities, not on a firm hold of realities, insight of truth, and philosophical analysis. They are all to be brushed aside as phantoms of nightmare or artificial creations of fiction. Poetry has mostly rested, hitherto, on no veritable foundation of science, but on a visionary foundation of emotion. It has wrought upon flitting, sensible phenomena rather than upon abiding substrata of facts. For example, a tender Greek bard personified the life of a tree as a Hamadryad, the moving trunk and limbs her undulating form and beckoning arms, the drooping boughs her hair, the rustling foliage her voice. A modern poet, endowed with the same strength of sympathy, but acquainted with vegetable chemistry, might personify sap as a pale, liquid maiden, ascending through the roots and veins to meet air, a blue boy robed in golden warmth, descending through the leaves, with a whisper, to her embrace. So the personifications of death in literature, thus far, give us no penetrative glance into what it really is, help us to no acute definition of it, but poetically fasten on some feature, or accident, or emotion, associated with it.

There are in popular usage various metaphors to express what is meant by death. The principal ones are, extinction of the vital spark, departing, expiring, cutting the thread of life, giving up the ghost, falling asleep. These figurative modes of speech spring from extremely imperfect correspondences. Indeed, the unlikenesses are more important and more numerous than the likenesses. They are simply artifices to indicate what is so deeply obscure and intangible. They do not lay the secret bare, nor furnish us any aid in reaching to the true essence of the question. Moreover, several of them, when sharply examined, involve a fatal error. For example, upon the admitted supposition that in every case of dying the soul departs from the body, still, this separation of the soul from the body is not what constitutes death. Death is the state of the body when the soul has left it. An act is distinct from its effects. We must, therefore, turn from the literary inquiry to the metaphysical and scientific method, to gain any satisfactory idea and definition of death.

A German writer of extraordinary acumen and audacity has said, "Only before death, but not in death, is death death. Death is so unreal a being that he only is when he is not, and is not when he is."1 This paradoxical and puzzling as it may appear is susceptible of quite lucid interpretation and defence. For death is, in its naked significance, the state of not being. Of course, then, it has no existence save in the conceptions of the living. We compare a dead

1 Feuerbach, Gedanken uber Tod and Unsterblichkeit, sect. 84.

person with what he was when living, and instinctively personify the difference as death. Death, strictly analyzed, is only this abstract conceit or metaphysical nonentity. Death, therefore, being but a conception in the mind of a living person, when that person dies death ceases to be at all. And thus the realization of death is the death of death. He annihilates himself, dying with the dart he drives. Having in this manner disposed of the personality or entity of death, it remains as an effect, an event, a state. Accordingly, the question next arises, What is death when considered in this its true aspect?

A positive must be understood before its related negative can be intelligible. Bichat defined life as the sum of functions by which death is resisted. It is an identical proposition in verbal disguise, with the fault that it makes negation affirmation, passiveness action. Death is not a dynamic agency warring against life, but simply an occurrence. Life is the operation of an organizing force producing an organic form according to an ideal type, and persistently preserving that form amidst the incessant molecular activity and change of its constituent substance. That operation of the organic force which thus constitutes life is a continuous process of waste, casting off the old exhausted matter, and of replacement by assimilation of new material. The close of this process of organific metamorphosis and desquamation is death, whose finality is utter decomposition, restoring all the bodily elements to the original inorganic conditions from which they were taken. The organic force with which life begins constrains chemical affinity to work in special modes for the formation of special products: when it is spent or disappears, chemical affinity is at liberty to work in its general modes; and that is death. "Life is the co ordination of actions; the imperfection of the co ordination is disease, its arrest is death." In other words, "life is the continuous adjustment of relations in an organism with relations in its environment." Disturb that adjustment, and you have malady; destroy it, and you have death. Life is the performance of functions by an organism; death is the abandonment of an organism to the forces of the universe. No function can be performed without a waste of the tissue through which it is performed: that waste is repaired by the assimilation of fresh nutriment. In the balancing of these two actions life consists. The loss of their equipoise soon terminates them both; and that is death. Upon the whole, then, scientifically speaking, to cause death is to stop "that continuous differentiation and integration of tissues and of states of consciousness" constituting life. 2 Death, therefore, is no monster, no force, but the act of completion, the state of cessation; and all the bugbears named death are but poor phantoms of the frightened and childish mind.

Life consisting in the constant differentiation of the tissues by the action of oxygen, and their integration from the blastema furnished by the blood, why is not the harmony of these processes preserved forever? Why should the relation between the integration and disintegration going on in the human organism ever fall out of correspondence with the relation between the oxygen and food supplied from its environment? That is to say, whence originated the sentence of death upon man? Why do we not live immortally as we are? The current reply is, we die because our first parent sinned. Death is a penalty inflicted upon the

2 Spencer, Principles of Psychology, pp. 334-373.

human race because Adam disobeyed his Maker's command. We must consider this theory a little.

The narrative in Genesis, of the creation of man and of the events in the Garden of Eden, cannot be traced further back than to the time of Solomon, three thousand years after the alleged occurrences it describes. This portion of the book of Genesis, as has long been shown, is a distinct document, marked by many peculiarities, which was inserted in its present place by the compiler of the elder Hebrew Scriptures somewhere between seven and ten centuries before Christ.3 Ewald has fully demonstrated that the book of Genesis consists of many separate fragmentary documents of different ages, arranged together by a comparatively late hand. Among the later of these pieces is the account of the primeval pair in paradise. Grotefend argues, with much force and variety of evidence, that this story was derived from a far more ancient legend book, only fragments of which remained when the final collection was made of this portion of the Old Testament.4 Many scholars have thought the account was not of Hebrew origin, but was borrowed from the literary traditions of some earlier Oriental nation. Rosenmuller, Von Bohlen, and others, say it bears unmistakable relationship to the Zendavesta which tells how Ahriman, the old Serpent, beguiled the first pair into sin and misery. These correspondences, and also that between the tree of life and the Zoroastrian plant hom, which gives life and will produce the resurrection, are certainly striking. Buttmann sees in God's declaration to Adam, "Behold, I have given you for food every herb bearing seed, and every tree in which is fruit bearing seed," traces of a prohibition of animal food. This was not the vestige of a Hebrew usage, but the vegetarian tradition of some sect eschewing meat, a tradition drawn from South Asia, whence the fathers of the Hebrew race came.5 Gesenius says, "Many things in this narrative were drawn from older Asiatic tradition." 6 Knobel also affirms that numerous matters in this relation were derived from traditions of East Asian nations.7 Still, it is not necessary to suppose that the writer of the account in Genesis borrowed any thing from abroad. The Hebrew may as well have originated such ideas as anybody else. The Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Etruscans, have kindred narratives held as most ancient and sacred.8 The Chinese, the Sandwich Islanders, the North American Indians, also have their legends of the origin and altered fortunes of the human race. The resemblances between many of these stories are better accounted for by the intrinsic similarities of the subject, of the mind, of nature, and of mental action, than by the supposition of derivation from one another.

Regarding the Hebrew narrative as an indigenous growth, then, how shall we explain its origin, purport, and authority? Of course we cannot receive it as a miraculous revelation conveying infallible truth. The Bible, it is now acknowledged, was not given in the providence

3 Tuch, Kommentar uber Genesis, s. xcviii.

4 Zur altesten Sagenpoesie des Orients. Zeitschrift der deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, band viii. ss. 772-779.

5 Mythologus, (Schopfung and Sundenfall, ) band i. s. 137.

6 Article "Adam," in Encyclopadia by Ersch and Gruber.

7 Die Genesis erklart, s. 28.

8 Palfrey's Academical Lectures, vol. ii. pp. 21-28.

of God to teach astronomy, geology, chronology, and the operation of organic forces, but to help educate men in morality and piety. It is a religious, not a scientific, work. Some unknown Hebrew poet, in the early dawn of remembered time, knowing little metaphysics and less science, musing upon the fortunes of man, his wickedness, sorrow, death, and impressed with an instinctive conviction that things could not always have been so, casting about for some solution of the dim, pathetic problem, at last struck out the beautiful and sublime poem recorded in Genesis, which has now for many a century, by Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, been credited as authentic history. With his own hands God moulds from earth an image in his own likeness, breathes life into it, and new made man moves, lord of the scene, and lifts his face, illuminated with soul, in submissive love to his Creator. Endowed with free will, after a while he violated his Maker's command: the divine displeasure was awakened, punishment ensued, and so rushed in the terrible host of ills under which we suffer. The problem must early arise: the solution is, to a certain stage of thought, at once the most obvious and the most satisfactory conceivable. It is the truth. Only it is cast in imaginative, not scientific, form, arrayed in emblematic, not literal, garb. The Greeks had a lofty poem by some early unknown author, setting forth how Prometheus formed man of clay and animated him with fire from heaven, and how from Pandora's box the horrid crew of human vexations were let into the world. The two narratives, though most unequal in depth and dignity, belong in the same literary and philosophical category. Neither was intended as a plain record of veritable history, each word a naked fact, but as a symbol of its author's thoughts, each phrase the metaphorical dress of a speculative idea.

Eichhorn maintains, with no slight plausibility, that the whole account of the Garden of Eden was derived from a series of allegorical pictures which the author had seen, and which he translated from the language of painting into the language of words. At all events, we must take the account as symbolic, a succession of figurative expressions. Many of the best minds have always so considered it, from Josephus to Origen, from Ambrose to Kant. What, then, are the real thoughts which the author of this Hebrew poem on the primal condition of man meant to convey beneath his legendary forms of imagery? These four are the essential ones. First, that God created man; secondly, that he created him in a state of freedom and happiness surrounded by blessings; third, that the favored subject violated his Sovereign's order; fourth, that in consequence of this offence he was degraded from his blessed condition, beneath a load of retributive ills. The composition shows the characteristics of a philosopheme or a myth, a scheme of conceptions deliberately wrought out to answer an inquiry, a story devised to account for an existing fact or custom. The picture of God performing his creative work in six days and resting on the seventh, may have been drawn after the septenary division of time and the religious separation of the Sabbath, to explain and justify that observance. The creation of Eve out of the side of Adam was either meant by the author as an allegoric illustration that the love of husband and wife is the most powerful of social bonds, or as a pure myth seeking to explain the incomparable cleaving together of husband and wife by the entirely poetic supposition that the first woman was taken out of the first man, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. All early literatures teem with exemplifications of this process, a spontaneous secretion by the imagination to account for some presented phenomenon. Or perhaps this part of the relation "and he called her woman [manness], because she was taken out of man" may be an instance of those etymological myths with which ancient literature abounds. Woman is named Isha because she was taken out of man, whose name is Ish. The barbarous treatment the record under consideration has received, the utter baselessness of it in the light of truth as foundation for literal belief, find perhaps no fitter exposure than in the fact that for many centuries it was the prevalent faith of Christendom that every woman has one rib more than man, a permanent memorial of the Divine theft from his side. Unquestionably, there are many good persons now who, if Richard Owen should tell them that man has the same number of ribs as woman, would think of the second chapter of Genesis and doubt his word!

There is no reason for supposing the serpent in this recital to be intended as a representative of Satan. The earliest trace of such an interpretation is in the Wisdom of Solomon, an anonymous and apocryphal book composed probably a thousand years later. What is said of the snake is the most plainly mythical of all the portions. What caused the snake to crawl on his belly in the dust, while other creatures walk on feet or fly with wings? Why, the sly, winding creature, more subtle, more detestable, than any beast of the field, deceived the first woman; and this is his punishment! Such was probably the mental process in the writer. To seek a profound and true theological dogma in such a statement is as absurd as to seek it in the classic myth that the lapwing with his sharp beak chases the swallow because he is the descendant of the enraged Tereus who pursued poor Progne with a drawn sword. Or, to cite a more apposite case, as well might we seek a reliable historical narrative in the following Greek myth. Zeus once gave man a remedy against old age. He put it on the back of an ass and followed on foot. It being a hot day, the ass grew thirsty, and would drink at a fount which a snake guarded. The cunning snake knew what precious burden the ass bore, and would not, except at the price of it, let him drink. He obtained the prize; but with it, as a punishment for his trick, he incessantly suffers the ass's thirst. Thus the snake, casting his skin, annually renews his youth, while man is borne down by old age.9 In all these cases the mental action is of the same kind in motive, method, and result.

The author of the poem contained in the third chapter of Genesis does not say that man was made immortal. The implication plainly is that he was created mortal, taken from the dust and naturally to return again to the dust. But by the power of God a tree was provided whose fruit would immortalize its partakers. The penalty of Adam's sin was directly, not physical death, but being forced in the sweat of his brow to wring his subsistence from the sterile ground cursed for his sake; it was indirectly literal death, in that he was prevented from eating the fruit of the tree of life. "God sent him out of the garden, lest he eat and live forever." He was therefore, according to the narrative, made originally subject to death; but an immortalizing antidote was prepared for him, which he forfeited by his transgression. That the writer made use of the trees of life and knowledge as embellishing allegories is most

9 Alian, no Nat. Animal., lib. vi. cap. 51.

probable. But, if not, he was not the only devout poet who, in the early times, with sacred reverence believed the wonders the inspiring muse gave him as from God. It is not clear from the Biblical record that Adam was imagined the first man. On the contrary, the statement that Cain was afraid that those who met him would kill him, also that he went to the land of Nod and took a wife and builded a city, implies that there was another and older race. Father Peyrere wrote a book, called "Praadamita," more than two hundred years ago, pointing out this fact and arguing that there really were men before Adam. If science should thoroughly establish the truth of this view, religion need not suffer; but the common theology, inextricably built upon and intertangled with the dogma of "original sin," would be hopelessly ruined. But the leaders in the scientific world will not on that account shut their eyes nor refuse to reason. Christians should follow their example of truth seeking, with a deeper faith in God, fearless of results, but resolved upon reaching reality.

It is a very singular and important fact that, from the appearance in Genesis of the account of the creation and sin and punishment of the first pair, not the faintest explicit allusion to it is subsequently found anywhere in literature until about the time of Christ. Had it been all along credited in its literal sense, as a divine revelation, could this be so? Philo Judaus gives it a thoroughly figurative meaning. He says, "Adam was created mortal in body, immortal in mind. Paradise is the soul, piety the tree of life, discriminative wisdom the tree of knowledge; the serpent is pleasure, the flaming sword turning every way is the sun revolving round the world."10 Jesus himself never once alludes to Adam or to any part of the story of Eden. In the whole New Testament there are but two important references to the tradition, both of which are by Paul. He says, in effect, "As through the sin of Adam all are condemned unto death, so by the righteousness of Christ all shall be justified unto life." It is not a guarded doctrinal statement, but an unstudied, rhetorical illustration of the affiliation of the sinful and unhappy generations of the past with their offending progenitor, Adam, of the believing and blessed family of the chosen with their redeeming head, Christ. He does not use the word death in the Epistle to the Romans prevailingly in the narrow sense of physical dissolution, but in a broad, spiritual sense, as appears, for example, in these instances: "To be carnally minded is death;" "The law of the spirit of life in Christ hath made me free from the law of sin and death." For the spiritually minded were not exempt from bodily death. Paul himself died the bodily death. His idea of the relations of Adam and Christ to humanity is more clearly expressed in the other passage already alluded to. It is in the Epistle to the Corinthians, and appears to be this. The first man, Adam, was of the earth, earthy, the head and representative of a corruptible race whose flesh and blood were never meant to inherit the kingdom of God. The second man, Christ the Lord, soon to return from heaven, was a quickening spirit, head and representative of a risen spiritual race for whom is prepared the eternal inheritance of the saints in light. As by the first man came death, whose germ is transmitted with the flesh, so by the second man comes the resurrection of the dead, whose type is seen in his glorified ascension from Hades to heaven. "As in Adam all die, even so in

10 De Mundi Opificio, liv lvi. De Cherub. viii.

Christ shall all be made alive." Upon all the line of Adam sin has entailed, what otherwise would not have been known, moral death and a disembodied descent to the under world. But the gospel of Christ, and his resurrection as the first fruits of them that slept, proclaim to all those that are his, at his speedy coming, a kindred deliverance from the lower gloom, an investiture with spiritual bodies, and an admission into the kingdom of God. According to Paul, then, physical death is not the retributive consequence of Adam's sin, but is the will of the Creator in the law of nature, the sowing of terrestrial bodies for the gathering of celestial bodies, the putting off of the image of the earthy for the putting on of the image of the heavenly. The specialty of the marring and punitive interference of sin in the economy is, in addition to the penalties in moral experience, the interpolation, between the fleshly "unclothing" and the spiritual "clothing upon," of the long, disembodied, subterranean residence, from the descent of Abel into its palpable solitude to the ascent of Christ out of its multitudinous world. From Adam, in the flesh, humanity sinks into the grave realm; from Christ, in the spirit, it shall rise into heaven. Had man remained innocent, death, considered as change of body and transition to heaven, would still have been his portion; but all the suffering and evil now actually associated with death would not have been.

Leaving the Scriptures, the first man appears in literature, in the history of human thought on the beginning of our race, in three forms. There is the Mythical Adam, the embodiment of poetical musings, fanciful conceits, and speculative dreams; there is the Theological Adam, the central postulate of a group of dogmas, the support of a fabric of controversial thought, the lay figure to fill out and wear the hypothetical dresses of a doctrinal system; and there is the Scientific Adam, the first specimen of the genus man, the supposititious personage who, as the earliest product, on this grade, of the Creative organic force or Divine energy, commenced the series of human generations. The first is a hypostatized legend, the second a metaphysical personification, the third a philosophical hypothesis. The first is an attractive heap of imaginations, the next a dialectic mass of dogmatisms, the last a modest set of theories.

Philo says God made Adam not from any chance earth, but from a carefully selected portion of the finest and most sifted clay, and that, as being directly created by God, he was superior to all others generated by men, the generations of whom deteriorate in each remove from him, as the attraction of a magnet weakens from the iron ring it touches along a chain of connected rings. The Rabbins say Adam was so large that when he lay down he reached across the earth, and when standing his head touched the firmament: after his fall he waded through the ocean, Orion like. Even a French Academician, Nicolas Fleurion, held that Adam was one hundred and twenty three feet and nine inches in height. All creatures except the angel Eblis, as the Koran teaches, made obeisance to him. Eblis, full of envy and pride, refused, and was thrust into hell by God, where he began to plot the ruin of the new race. One effect of the forbidden fruit he ate was to cause rotten teeth in his descendants. He remained in Paradise but one day. After he had eaten from the prohibited tree, Eve gave of the fruit to the other creatures in Eden, and they all ate of it, and so became mortal, with the sole exception of the phoenix, who refused to taste it, and consequently remained immortal.

The Talmud teaches that Adam would never have died had he not sinned. The majority of the Christian fathers and doctors, from Tertullian and Augustine to Luther and Calvin, have maintained the same opinion. It has been the orthodox that is, the prevailing doctrine of the Church, affirmed by the Synod at Carthage in the year four hundred and eighteen, and by the Council of Trent in the year fifteen hundred and forty five. All the evils which afflict the world, both moral and material, are direct results of Adam's sin. He contained all the souls of men in himself; and they all sinned in him, their federal head and legal representative. When the fatal fruit was plucked,

"Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat, Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe That all was lost."

Earthquakes, tempests, pestilences, poverty, war, the endless brood of distress, ensued. For then were

"Turn'd askance The poles of earth twice ten degrees and more From the sun's axle, and with labor push'd Oblique the centric globe."

Adam's transcendent faculties and gifts were darkened and diminished in his depraved posterity, and all base propensities let loose to torment, confuse, and degrade them. We can scarcely form a conception of the genius, the beauty, the blessedness, of the first man, say the theologians in chorus.11 Augustine declares, "The most gifted of our time must be considered, when compared with Adam in genius, as tortoises to birds in speed." Adam, writes Dante, "was made from clay, accomplished with every gift that life can teem with." Thomas Aquinas teaches that "he was immortal by grace though not by nature, had universal knowledge, fellowshipped with angels, and saw God." South, in his famous sermon on "Man the Image of God," after an elaborate panegyric of the wondrous majesty, wisdom, peacefulness, and bliss of man before the fall, exclaims, "Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam, and Athens the rudiments of Paradise!" Jean Paul has amusingly burlesqued these conceits. "Adam, in his state of innocence, possessed a knowledge of all the arts and sciences, universal and scholastic history, the several penal and other codes of law, and all the old dead languages, as well as the living. He was, as it were, a living Pegasus and Pindus, a movable lodge of sublime light, a royal literary society, a pocket seat of the Muses, and a short golden age of Louis the Fourteenth!"

Adam has been called the Man without a Navel, because, not being born of woman, there could be no umbilical cord to cut. The thought goes deep. In addition to the mythico theological pictures of the mechanical creation and superlative condition of the first man, two forms of statement have been advanced by thoughtful students of nature. One is the theory of chronological progressive development; the other is the theory of the

11 Strauss gives a multitude of apposite quotations in his Christliche Glaubenslehre, band i. s. 691, sect. 51, ff.

simultaneous creation of organic families of different species or typical forms. The advocate of the former goes back along the interminable vistas of geologic time, tracing his ancestral line through the sinking forms of animal life, until, with the aid of a microscope, he sees a closed vesicle of structureless membrane; and this he recognises as the scientific Adam. This theory has been brought into fresh discussion by Mr. Darwin in his rich and striking work on the Origin of Species12 The other view contrasts widely with this, and is not essentially different from the account in Genesis. It shows God himself creating by regular methods, in natural materials, not by a vicegerent law, not with the anthropomorphitic hands of an external potter. Every organized fabric, however complex, originates in a single physiological cell. Every individual organism from the simple plant known as red snow to the oak, from the zoophyte to man is developed from such a cell. This is unquestionable scientific knowledge. The phenomenal process of organic advancement is through growth of the cell by selective appropriation of material, self multiplication of the cell, chemical transformations of the pabulum of the cell, endowment of the muscular and nervous tissues produced by those transformations with vital and psychical properties.

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