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Title: Life and Matter - A Criticism of Professor Haeckel's 'Riddle of the Universe'
Author: Lodge, Oliver, Sir, 1851-1940
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life and Matter - A Criticism of Professor Haeckel's 'Riddle of the Universe'" ***

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    "'Attraction' and 'repulsion' seem to be the sources of
    _will_--that momentous element of the soul which determines the
    character of the individual" (p. 45).

    "The positive ponderable matter, the element with the feeling of
    like or desire, is continually striving to complete the process of
    condensation, and thus collecting an enormous amount of _potential_
    energy; the negative imponderable matter, on the other hand, offers
    a perpetual and equal resistance to the further increase of its
    strain and of the feeling of dislike connected therewith, and thus
    gathers the utmost amount of _actual_ energy.

    "I think that this pyknotic theory of substance will prove more
    acceptable to every biologist who is convinced of the unity of
    nature than the kinetic theory which prevails in physics to-day"
    (p. 78).

In other words, he appeals to a presumed sentiment of biologists
against the knowledge of the physicist in his own sphere--a strange
attitude for a man of science. After this it is less surprising to find
him ignoring the elementary axiom that "action and reaction are equal
and opposite," _i.e._ that internal forces can have no motive power on
a body as a whole, and making the grotesque assertion that matter is
moved, not by external forces, but by internal likes and desires:--

    "I must lay down the following theses, which are involved in Vogt's
    pyknotic theory, as indispensable for a truly monistic view of
    substance, and one that covers the whole field of organic and
    inorganic nature:--

    "1. The two fundamental forms of substance, ponderable matter and
    ether, are not dead and only moved by extrinsic force, but they are
    endowed with sensation and will (though, naturally, of the lowest
    grade); they experience an inclination for condensation, a dislike
    of strain; they strive after the one and struggle against the
    other" (p. 78).

My desire is to criticise politely, and hence I refrain from
characterising this sentence as a physicist should.

    "Every shade of inclination, from complete indifference to the
    fiercest passion, is exemplified in the chemical relation of the
    various elements towards each other" (p. 79).

    "On those phenomena we base our conviction that even the _atom_ is
    not without a rudimentary form of sensation and will, or, as it is
    better expressed, of feeling (_æsthesis_) and inclination
    (_tropesis_)--that is, a universal 'soul' of the simplest
    character" (p. 80).

    "I gave the outlines of _cellular_ psychology in 1866 in my paper
    on 'Cell-souls and Soul-cells'" (p. 63).

Thus, then, in order to explain life and mind and consciousness by
means of matter, all that is done is to assume that matter possesses
these unexplained attributes.

What the full meaning of that may be, and whether there be any
philosophic justification for any such idea, is a matter on which I
will not now express an opinion; but, at any rate, as it stands, it is
not science, and its formulation gives no sort of conception of what
life and will and consciousness really are.

Even if it were true, it contains nothing whatever in the nature of
explanation: it recognises the inexplicable, and relegates it to the
atoms, where it seems to hope that further quest may cease. Instead of
tackling the difficulty where it actually occurs; instead of
associating life, will, and consciousness with the organisms in which
they are actually in experience found, these ideas are foisted into the
atoms of matter; and then the properties which have been conferred on
the atoms are denied in all essential reality to the fully developed
organisms which those atoms help to compose!

I show later on (Chapters V. and X.) that there is no necessary
justification for assuming that a phenomenon exhibited by an aggregate
of particles must be possessed by the ingredients of which it is
composed; on the contrary, wholly new properties may make their
appearance simply by aggregation; though I admit that such a
proposition is by no means obvious, and that it may be a legitimate
subject for controversy. But into that question our author does not
enter; and even when he has conferred on the atoms these astounding
properties, he abstains from what would seem a natural development: for
his doctrine is that our power is actually less than that of the
atoms,--that instead of utilising the attractions and repulsions, or
"likes and dislikes," of our constituent particles, and directing them
by the aggregate of conscious will-power to some preconceived end, we
ourselves, on the contrary, are dominated and controlled by _them_; so
that freedom of the will is an illusion.

Freedom being thus disposed of, Immortality presents no difficulty; a
soul is the operation of a group of cells, and so the existence of man
clearly begins and ends with that of his terrestrial body:--

    "The most important moment in the life of every man, as in that of
    all other complex animals, is the moment in which he begins his
    individual existence [coalescence of sperm cell and ovum] ... the
    existence of the personality, the independent individual,
    commences. This ontogenetic fact is supremely important, for the
    most far-reaching conclusions may be drawn from it. In the first
    place, we have a clear perception that man, like all the other
    complex animals, inherits all his personal characteristics, bodily
    and mental, from his parents; and further, we come to the momentous
    conclusion that the new personality which arises thus can lay no
    claim to 'immortality'" (p. 22).

Others beside Haeckel have held this kind of view at one time or
another; but, unlike him, most of them have recanted and seen the error
of their ways. He is, indeed, aware that several of his great German
contemporaries have been through this phase of thought and come out on
the other side, notably the physiologist-philosopher Wundt, and he
refers to them fairly and instructively thus:--

    "What seems to me of special importance and value in Wundt's work
    is that he 'extends the law of the persistence of force for the
    first time to the psychic world.'

    "Thirty years afterwards, in a second edition, Wundt emancipated
    himself from the fundamental errors of the first, and says that he
    'learned many years ago to consider the work a sin of his youth';
    it 'weighed on him as a kind of crime, from which he longed to free
    himself as soon as possible.' In the first, psychology is treated
    as a _physical_ science, on the same laws as the whole of
    physiology, of which it is only a part; thirty years afterwards he
    finds psychology to be a _spiritual_ science, with principles and
    objects entirely different from those of physical science.

    "I myself," says Haeckel, "naturally consider the 'youthful sin' of
    the young physiologist Wundt to be a correct knowledge of nature,
    and energetically defend it against the antagonistic view of the
    old philosopher Wundt. This entire change of philosophical
    principles, which we find in Wundt, as we found it in Kant,
    Virchow, du Bois-Reymond, Carl Ernst Baer, and others, is very
    interesting" (p. 36).

So it is: very interesting!

Professor Haeckel is so imbued with biological science that he loses
his sense of proportion; and his enthusiasm for the work of Darwin
leads him to attribute to it an exaggerated scope, and enables him to
eliminate the third of the Kantian trilogy:--

    "Darwin's theory of the natural origin of species at once gave us
    the solution of the mystic 'problem of creation,' the great
    'question of all questions'--the problem of the true character and
    origin of man himself" (p. 28) [_cf._ p. 19 above].

It is a great deal more than that patient observer and deep thinker
Charles Darwin ever claimed, nor have his wiser disciples claimed it
for him. It is familiar that he explained how variations once arisen
would be clinched, if favourable in the struggle, by the action of
heredity and survival; but the source or origin of the variations
themselves he did not explain.

Do they arise by guidance or by chance? Is natural selection akin to
the verified and practical processes of artificial selection? or is it
wholly alien to them and influenced by chance alone? The latter view
can hardly be considered a complete explanation, though it is verbally
the one adopted by Professor Haeckel, and it is of interest to see what
he means by chance:--

    "Since impartial study of the evolution of the world teaches us
    that there is no definite aim and no special purpose to be traced
    in it, there seems to be no alternative but to leave everything to
    'blind chance.'

    "One group of philosophers affirms, in accordance with its
    teleological conception, that the whole cosmos is an orderly
    system, in which every phenomenon has its aim and purpose; there is
    no such thing as chance. The other group, holding a mechanical
    theory, expresses itself thus: The development of the universe is a
    monistic mechanical process, in which we discover no aim or purpose
    whatever; what we call design in the organic world is a special
    result of biological agencies; neither in the evolution of the
    heavenly bodies nor in that of the crust of our earth do we find
    any trace of a controlling purpose--all is the result of chance.
    Each party is right--according to its definition of chance. The
    general law of causality, taken in conjunction with the law of
    substance, teaches us that every phenomenon has a mechanical cause;
    in this sense there is no such thing as chance. Yet it is not only
    lawful, but necessary, to retain the term for the purpose of
    expressing the simultaneous occurrence of two phenomena, which are
    not causally related to each other, but of which each has its own
    mechanical cause, independent of that of the other.

    "Everybody knows that chance, in this monistic sense, plays an
    important part in the life of man and in the universe at large.
    That, however, does not prevent us from recognising in each
    'chance' event, as we do in the evolution of the entire cosmos, the
    universal sovereignty of nature's supreme law, _the law of
    substance_" (p. 97).

_Illegitimate Negations._

With regard to the possibility of Revelation, or information derived
from super-human sources, naturally he ridicules the idea; but in
connection with the mode of origin and development of life on this
planet he makes the following sensible and noteworthy admission:--

    "It is very probable that these processes have gone on likewise on
    other planets, and that other planets have produced other types of
    the higher plants and animals, which are unknown on our earth;
    perhaps from some higher animal stem, which is superior to the
    vertebrate in formation, higher beings have arisen who far
    transcend us earthly men in intelligence."

Exactly; it is quite probable. It is, in fact, improbable that man is
the highest type of existence. But if Professor Haeckel is ready to
grant that probability or even possibility, why does he so strenuously
exclude the idea of revelation, _i.e._, the acquiring of imparted
information from higher sources? Savages can certainly have
"revelation" from civilised men. Why, then, should it be inconceivable
that human beings should receive information from beings in the
universe higher than themselves? It may or may not be the case that
they do; but there is no scientific ground for dogmatism on the
subject, nor any reason for asserting the inconceivability of such a

Professor Haeckel would no doubt reply to some of the above criticism
that he is not only a man of science, but also a philosopher, that he
is looking ahead, beyond ascertained fact, and that it is his
philosophic views which are in question rather than his scientific
statements. To some extent it is both, as has been seen; but if even
the above be widely known--if it be generally understood that the most
controversial portions of his work are mainly speculative and
hypothetical, it can be left to its proper purpose of doing good rather
than harm. It can only do harm by misleading, it can do considerable
good by criticising and stimulating and informing; and it is an
interesting fact that a man so well acquainted with biology as
Professor Haeckel is should have been so strongly impressed with the
truth of some aspect of the philosophic system known as Monism. Many
men of science have likewise been impressed with the probability, or
possibility, of some such ultimate unification.

The problem to be solved--and an old-world problem indeed it is--is the
range, and especially the nature, of the connection between mind and
matter; or, let us say, between the material universe on the one hand,
and the vital, the mental, the conscious and spiritual universe or
universes, on the other.

It would be extremely surprising if any attempt yet made had already
been thoroughly successful, though the attack on the idealistic side
appears to many of us physicists to be by far the most hopeful line of
advance. An excessively wide knowledge of existence would seem to be
demanded for the success of any such most ambitious attempt; but,
though none of us may hope to achieve it, many may strive to make some
contribution towards the great end; and those who think they have such
a contribution to make, or such a revelation entrusted to them, are
bound to express it to the best of their ability, and leave it to their
contemporaries and successors to assimilate such portions of it as are
true, and to develop it further. From this point of view Professor
Haeckel is no doubt amply justified in his writings; but,
unfortunately, it appears to me that although he has been borne forward
on the advancing wave of monistic philosophy, he has, in its
specification, attempted such precision of materialistic detail, and
subjected it to so narrow and limited a view of the totality of
experience, that the progress of thought has left him, as well as his
great English exemplar, Herbert Spencer, somewhat high and dry, belated
and stranded by the tide of opinion which has now begun to flow in
another direction. He is, as it were, a surviving voice from the middle
of the nineteenth century; he represents, in clear and eloquent
fashion, opinions which then were prevalent among many leaders of
thought--opinions which they themselves in many cases, and their
successors still more, lived to outgrow; so that by this time Professor
Haeckel's voice is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, not as
the pioneer or vanguard of an advancing army, but as the despairing
shout of a standard-bearer, still bold and unflinching, but abandoned
by the retreating ranks of his comrades as they march to new orders in
a fresh and more idealistic direction.



The objection which it has been found necessary to express concerning
Materialism as a complete system is based not on its assertions, but on
its negations. In so far as it makes positive assertions, embodying the
results of scientific discovery and even of scientific speculation
based thereupon, there is no fault to find with it; but when, on the
strength of that, it sets up to be a philosophy of the universe--all
inclusive, therefore, and shutting out a number of truths otherwise
perceived, or which appeal to other faculties, or which are equally
true and are not really contradictory of legitimately materialistic
statements--then it is that its insufficiency and narrowness have to be

It will be probably instructive, and it may be sufficient, if I show
that two great leaders in scientific thought (one the greatest of all
men of science who have yet lived), though well aware of much that
could be said positively on the materialistic side, and very willing to
admit or even to extend the province of science or exact knowledge to
the uttermost, yet were very far from being philosophic Materialists or
from imagining that other modes of regarding the universe were thereby

Great leaders of thought, in fact, are not accustomed to take a narrow
view of existence, or to suppose that one mode of regarding it, or one
set of formulæ expressing it, can possibly be sufficient and complete.
Even a sheet of paper has two sides: a terrestrial globe presents
different aspects from different points of view; a crystal has a
variety of facets; and the totality of existence is not likely to be
more simple than any of these--is not likely to be readily expressible
in any form of words, or to be thoroughly conceivable by any human

It may be well to remember that Sir Isaac Newton was a Theist of the
most pronounced and thorough conviction, although he had a great deal
to do with the reduction of the major Cosmos to mechanics, _i.e._ with
its explanation by the elaborated machinery of simple forces; and he
conceived it possible that, in the progress of science, this process of
reduction to mechanics would continue till it embraced nearly all
phenomena. (See extract below.) That, indeed, has been the effort of
science ever since, and therein lies the legitimate basis for
materialistic statements, though not for a materialistic philosophy.

The following sound remarks concerning Newton are taken from Huxley's
_Hume_, p. 246:--

    "Newton demonstrated all the host of heaven to be but the elements
    of a vast mechanism, regulated by the same laws as those which
    express the falling of a stone to the ground. There is a passage in
    the preface to the first edition of the _Principia_, which shows
    that Newton was penetrated, as completely as Descartes, with the
    belief that all the phenomena of nature are expressible in terms of
    matter and motion:--


Here is a full-blown anticipation of an intelligible exposition of the
Universe in terms of matter and force: the substantial basis of what
smaller men call materialism and develop into what they consider to be
a materialistic philosophy. But there is no necessity for anything of
the kind; a systematic expression of facts in terms of one of their
aspects does not exclude expression in terms of other and totally
different aspects also. Denial of all sides but one, is a poor kind of
unification. Denial of this sort is the weakness and delusion of the
people who call themselves 'Christian Scientists': they have hold of
one side of truth--and that should be granted them,--but they hold it
in so narrow and insecure a fashion that, in self-defence, they think
it safest strenuously to deny the existence of all other sides. In this
futile enterprise they are imitating the attitude of the philosophic
Materialists, on the other side of the controversy.

And then, again, Professor Huxley himself, who is commonly spoken of by
half-informed people as if he were a philosophic materialist, was
really nothing of the kind; for although, like Newton, fully imbued
with the mechanical doctrine, and, of course, far better informed
concerning the biological departments of Nature and the discoveries
which have in the last century been made, and though he rightly
regarded it as his mission to make the scientific point of view clear
to his benighted contemporaries, and was full of enthusiasm for the
facts on which materialists take their stand, he saw clearly that these
alone were insufficient for a philosophy. The following extracts from
the 'Hume' volume will show, first, that he entirely repudiated
materialism as a satisfactory or complete scheme of things; and,
secondly, that he profoundly disagreed with the position which now
appears to be occupied by Professor Haeckel. Especially is he severe on
gratuitous denials applied to provinces beyond our scope, saying:--

    "that while it is the summit of human wisdom to learn the limit of
    our faculties, it may be wise to recollect that we have no more
    right to make denials, than to put forth affirmatives, about what
    lies beyond that limit. Whether either mind or matter has a
    'substance' or not is a problem which we are incompetent to
    discuss; and it is just as likely that the common notions upon the
    subject should be correct as any others.... 'The same principles
    which, at first view, lead to scepticism, pursued to a certain
    point, bring men back to common sense'" (p. 282).

And on p. 286 he speaks concerning "substance"--that substance which
constitutes the foundation of Haeckel's philosophy--almost as if he
were purposely confuting that rather fly-blown production:--

    "Thus, if any man think he has reason to believe that the
    '_substance_' of matter, to the existence of which no limit can be
    set either in time or space, is the infinite and eternal substratum
    of all actual and possible existences, which is the doctrine of
    philosophical materialism, as I understand it, I have no objection
    to his holding that doctrine; and I fail to comprehend how it can
    have the slightest influence upon any ethical or religious views he
    may please to hold....

    "Moreover, the ultimate forms of existence which we distinguish in
    our little speck of the universe are, possibly, only two out of
    infinite varieties of existence, not only analogous to matter and
    analogous to mind, but of kinds which we are not competent so much
    as to conceive--in the midst of which, indeed, we might be set
    down, with no more notion of what was about us, than the worm in a
    flower-pot, on a London balcony, has of the life of the great city.

    "That which I do very strongly object to is the habit, which a
    great many non-philosophical materialists unfortunately fall into,
    of forgetting all these very obvious considerations. They talk as
    if the proof that the 'substance of matter' was the 'substance' of
    all things cleared up all the mysteries of existence. In point of
    fact, it leaves them exactly where they were.... Your religious and
    ethical difficulties are just as great as mine. The speculative
    game is drawn--let us get to practical work" (p. 286).

And again on pp. 251 and 279:--

    "It is worth any amount of trouble to ... know by one's own
    knowledge the great truth ... that the honest and rigorous
    following up of the argument which leads us to 'materialism'
    inevitably carries us beyond it" (p. 251).

    "To sum up. If the materialist affirms that the universe and all
    its phenomena are resolvable into matter and motion, Berkeley
    replies, True; but what you call matter and motion are known to us
    only as forms of consciousness; their being is to be conceived or
    known; and the existence of a state of consciousness, apart from a
    thinking mind, is a contradiction in terms.

    "I conceive that this reasoning is irrefragable. And, therefore, if
    I were obliged to choose between absolute materialism and absolute
    idealism, I should feel compelled to accept the latter alternative"
    (p. 279).

Let the jubilant but uninstructed and comparatively ignorant amateur
materialist therefore beware, and bethink himself twice or even thrice
before he conceives that he understands the universe and is competent
to pour scorn upon the intuitions and perceptions of great men in what
may be to him alien regions of thought and experience.

Let him explain, if he can, what he means by his own identity, or the
identity of any thinking or living being, which at different times
consists of a totally different set of material particles. Something
there clearly is which confers personal identity and constitutes an
individual: it is a property characteristic of every form of life,
even the humblest; but it is not yet explained or understood, and it
is no answer to assert gratuitously that there is some fundamental
"substance" or material basis on which that identity depends, any more
than it is an explanation to say that it depends upon a "soul." These
are all forms of words. As Hume says, quoted by Huxley with approval in
the work already cited, p. 194:--

    "It is impossible to attach any definite meaning to the word
    'substance,' when employed for the hypothetical substratum of soul
    and matter.... If it be said that our personal identity requires
    the assumption of a substance which remains the same while the
    accidents of perception shift and change, the question arises what
    is meant by personal identity?... A plant or an animal, in the
    course of its existence, from the condition of an egg or seed to
    the end of life, remains the same neither in form, nor in
    structure, nor in the matter of which it is composed: every
    attribute it possesses is constantly changing, and yet we say that
    it is always one and the same individual" (p. 194).

And in his own preface to the 'Hume' volume Huxley expresses himself
forcibly thus,--equally antagonistic as was his wont to both ostensible
friend and ostensible foe, as soon as they got off what he considered
the straight path:--

    "That which it may be well for us not to forget is, that the
    first-recorded judicial murder of a scientific thinker [Socrates]
    was compassed and effected, not by a despot, nor by priests, but
    was brought about by eloquent demagogues.... Clear knowledge of
    what one does not know just as important as knowing what one does

    "The development of exact natural knowledge in all its vast range,
    from physics to history and criticism, is the consequence of the
    working out, in this province, of the resolution to 'take nothing
    for truth without clear knowledge that it is such'; to consider all
    beliefs open to criticism; to regard the value of authority as
    neither greater nor less, than as much as it can prove itself to be
    worth. The modern spirit is not the spirit 'which always denies,'
    delighting only in destruction; still less is it that which builds
    castles in the air rather than not construct; it is that spirit
    which works and will work 'without haste and without rest,'
    gathering harvest after harvest of truth into its barns, and
    devouring error with unquenchable fire" (p. viii.).

The harvesting of truth is a safe enough enterprise, but the devouring
of error is a more dangerous pastime, since flames are liable to spread
beyond our control; and though, in a world overgrown with weeds and
refuse, the cleansing influence of fire is a necessity, it would be
cruel to apply the same agency again at a later stage, when a fresh
young crop is springing up in the cleared ground.



The aphorism sometimes encountered, that "whatever properties appertain
to a whole must essentially belong to the parts of which it is
composed," is a fallacy. A property can be possessed by an aggregation
of atoms which no atom possesses in the slightest degree. Those who
think otherwise are unacquainted with mathematical laws other than
simple proportion or some continuous or additive functions; they are
not aware of discontinuities; they are not experienced in critical
values, above which certain conditions obtain, while below them there
is suddenly nothing. To refute them an instance must suffice:--

A meteoric stone may seem to differ from a planet only in size, but the
difference in size involves also many other differences, notably the
fact that the larger body can attract and hold to itself an
atmosphere--a circumstance of the utmost importance to the existence of
life on its surface. In order, however, that a planet may by
gravitative attraction control the roving atoms of gas, and confine
their excursions to within a certain range of itself, it must have a
very considerable mass.

The earth is big enough to do it; the moon is not. By simply piling
atoms or stones together into a mighty mass there comes a critical
point at which an atmosphere becomes possible; and directly an
atmosphere exists, all manner of phenomena may spring into existence,
which without it were quite impossible.

So, also, it may be said that a sun differs from a dark planet only in
size; for it is just the fact of great size which enables its
gravitative-shrinkage and earthquake-subsidence to generate an immense
quantity of heat and to maintain the mass for æons at an excessively
high temperature, thereby fitting it to become the centre of light and
life to a number of worlds. The blaze of the sun is a property which is
the outcome of its great mass. A small permanent sun is an

Wherefore, properties can be possessed by an aggregate or assemblage of
particles which in the particles themselves did not in the slightest
degree exist.

If, however, we reverse the aphorism and say that whatever is in a part
must be in the whole, we are on much safer ground. I do not say that it
cannot be pressed into illegitimate extremes, but in one and that the
simplest sense it is little better than a platitude. The fact that an
apple has pips legitimises the assertion that an apple-tree has pips,
and that the peculiar property of pips represents a faculty enjoyed by
the vegetable kingdom as a whole; but it would be a childish
misunderstanding to expect to find actual pips in the trunk of a tree
or in all vegetables.

There is a tendency to call the argument or statement that whatever
faculty man possesses the Deity must have also; by the name
Anthropomorphism; but it seems to me a misnomer, and to convey quite
wrong ideas. The argument represented by "He that formed the eye, shall
he not see? he that planted the ear, shall he not hear?" need not
assume for a moment that God has sense organs akin to those of man, or
that He appreciates ethereal and aerial vibrations in the same sort of
way. It is not an assertion of similarity between God and man, but
merely a realisation that what belongs to a part _must_ be contained in
the whole. It is not even necessarily pantheistic: it would hold
equally well on a Theistic interpretation. Regarded pantheistically it
is obvious and requires no stating: regarded Theistically, it is a
perception that faculties and powers which have come into existence,
and are actually at work in the universe, cannot have arisen without
the knowledge and sympathy and full understanding of the Sustainer and
Comprehender of it all. Nor can functions be expected in the creature
which transcend the power of the Creator.

All our faculties, sensations, and emotions must therefore be
understood, and in a sense possessed, in some transcendental and to us
unimaginable form, by the Deity.

I know that it is possible to deny His existence, just as it is
possible to deny the existence of an external world or to maintain that
reality is limited to our sensations. If the Deity has a sense of
humour, as undoubtedly He has, He must be amused at the remarkable
philosophising faculty recently developed by the creature which on this
planet has become most vigorously selfconscious and is in the early
stages of progress towards higher things--a philosophising faculty so
acute as to lead him to mistrust and throw away information conveyed to
him by the very instruments which have enabled him to become what he
is; so that having become keenly alive to the truth that all we are
directly aware of is the fruit of our own sensations and consciousness,
he proceeds to the grotesque supposition that these sensations and
consciousness may be all that really exists, and that the information
which for ages our senses have conveyed to us concerning external
things may be illusory, not only in form and detail and appearance, but
in substantial fact.

He must be pleased, also, with the enterprise of those eager
philosophers who are so strenuously impressed with the truth of some
ultimate monistic unification, as to be unwilling to concede the
multifariousness of existence--who decline to speak of mind and matter,
or of body and spirit, or of God and the world, as in any sense
separate entities--who stigmatise as dualistic anything which does not
manifestly and consciously strain after an ultimate monistic view--and
who then, as a climax, on the strength of a few years' superficial
experience on a planet, by the aid of the sense organs which they
themselves perceive to be illusory whenever the actual reality of
things is in contemplation, proceed to develop the theory that the
whole has come into being without direct intelligence and apart from
spiritual guidance, that it is managed so well (or so ill) that it is
really not managed at all, that no Deity exists, and that it is absurd
to postulate the existence of a comprehensive and all-inclusive guiding

To be able to perceive comprehensively and state fully not only what
is, but also what is not, is a wonderful achievement. I do not think
that such a power has yet been acquired by any of the sons of men; nor
will the semi-educated readers of this country be wise if they pin
their faith and build their hopes on the utterances of any man, however
eminent, who makes this superhuman claim.

Now, in all charity, it must be admitted that in some passages
Professor Haeckel puts himself under the ban implied by the above
paragraph, inasmuch as he conducts a sort of free and easy attack on
religion, especially on what he conceives to be the fundamental
doctrines of Christianity. But, after all, it can be perceived that his
attack, so far as it is really an attack on religion, is evidently
inspired by his mistrust and dislike, and to some extent fear, of
Ecclesiasticism, especially of the Ultramontane movement in Germany,
against which he says Prince Bismarck began a struggle in 1872. It is
this kind of semi-political religion that he is really attacking, more
than the pure essence of Christianity itself. He regards it as a
bigoted system hostile to knowledge--which, if true, would amply
justify an attack--and he says on page 118:--

    "The great struggle between modern science and orthodox
    Christianity has become more threatening; it has grown more
    dangerous for science in proportion as Christianity has found
    support in an increasing mental and political reaction."

This may seem an exaggerated fear; but the following extract from a
Pastoral address by the Bishop of Newport, which accidentally I saw
reported in _The Tablet_, shows that the danger is not wholly
imaginary, if unwise opinions are pressed to their logical practical

    "If the formulas of modern science contradict the science of
    Catholic dogma, it is the former that must be altered, not the

      [2] In case it is unfair to wrench a sentence like this from its
      context, I quote the larger portion of that instructive report in
      this note:--

          _Extract from "The Tablet," Aug. 27th, 1904--An Address
          by the Bishop of Newport._

          "If the Abbé Loisy has followers within the Church, as we are
          informed he has, it cannot be doubted that the danger for
          Catholics is by no means imaginary. For Loisy teaches that
          the dogmatic definitions of the Church [on the Incarnation],
          although the best that could be given at the time and under
          the circumstances, are only a most inadequate expression of
          the real truth, which they represent merely relatively and
          imperfectly. These definitions, he says, should now be stated
          afresh, because the traditional formula no longer corresponds
          to the way in which the mystery is regarded by contemporary
          thought. In his view, our present knowledge of the universe
          should suggest to the Church a new examination of the dogma
          of Creation; our knowledge of history should make her revise
          her ideas of revelation; and our progress in psychology and
          moral philosophy should suggest to her to re-state her
          theology of the Incarnation. Every one can see that there is
          a grain of truth in this kind of talk. But it is, on the
          whole, a pestilent and dangerous heresy. If the formulas of
          modern science contradict the science of Catholic dogma, it
          is the former that must be altered, not the latter. If modern
          metaphysics are incompatible with the metaphysical terms and
          expressions adopted by councils and explained by the Catholic
          schools, then modern metaphysics must be rejected as
          erroneous. The Church does not change her Christian
          philosophy to suit the world's speculations; she teaches the
          world, by her theological definitions, what true and sound
          philosophy is. Whilst every effort should be made by Catholic
          apologists to smooth the way for a genuine understanding of
          the Church's dogmatic terminology, two things must never be
          lost sight of, first, that this terminology expresses real
          objective truth (however inadequate the expression may be to
          the full meaning, as God sees it, of any given mystery); and,
          secondly, that such truth is expressed in terms of sound
          philosophy which will not be given up, and which may be
          called the Christian philosophy."

Professor Haeckel continues his criticism of Official Christianity in
the following vein:--

    "The so-called 'Peace between Church and State' is never more than
    a suspension of hostilities. The modern Papacy, true to the
    despotic principles it has followed for the last 1600 years, is
    determined to wield sole dominion over the credulous souls of men;
    it must demand the absolute submission of the cultured State,
    which, as such, defends the rights of reason and science. True and
    enduring peace there cannot be until one of the combatants lies
    powerless on the ground. Either the Church wins, and then farewell
    to all 'free science and free teaching'--then are our universities
    no better than gaols, and our colleges become cloistral schools; or
    else the modern rational State proves victorious--then, in the
    twentieth century, human culture, freedom, and prosperity will
    continue their progressive development until they far surpass even
    the height of the nineteenth century.

    "In order to compass these high aims, it is of the first importance
    that modern science not only shatter the false structures of
    superstition and sweep their ruins from the path, but that it also
    erect a new abode for human emotion on the ground it has cleared--a
    'palace of reason,' in which, under the influence of our new
    monistic views, we do reverence to the real trinity of the
    nineteenth century--the trinity of 'the true, the good, and the
    beautiful'" (p. 119).

These are the bases of religion, adopted from Goethe, which in
Haeckel's view should entirely replace what he calls the Trinity of
Kant, viz., God, Freedom, and Immortality--three ideas which he regards
as mere superstition or as so enveloped in superstition as to be

Occasionally, however, he attacks not solely ecclesiastical
Christianity--in which enterprise he is entirely within his
rights,--but he goes further and abuses some of its more primitive
forms, and to some extent its practical fruits also. For instance:--

    "Primitive Christianity preached the worthlessness of earthly life,
    regarding it merely as a preparation for an eternal life beyond.
    Hence it immediately followed that all we find in the life of a man
    here below, all that is beautiful in art and science, in public and
    in private life, is of no real value. The true Christian must avert
    his eyes from them; he must think only of a worthy preparation for
    the life beyond. Contempt of nature, aversion from all its
    inexhaustible charms, rejection of every kind of fine art, are
    Christian duties; and they are carried out to perfection when a man
    separates himself from his fellows, chastises his body, and spends
    all his time in prayers in the cloister or the hermit's cell.... A
    Christian art is a contradiction in terms" (p. 120).

I think it may without offence be said that if he means by "Primitive
Christianity" the teachings of Christ, he is mistaken, and has
something to learn as to what those teachings really were. If he means
the times of persecution under the Roman empire, he could hardly expect
much concentration on artistic pursuits or much enjoyment of
terrestrial existence when it was liable to be violently extinguished
at any moment: sufficient that the early Church survived its struggle
for existence. But if he is referring to mediæval Christianity, of any
other than a debased kind,--common knowledge concerning mediæval art
and architecture sufficiently rebuts the indictment. So much so, that
one may almost wonder if by chance he happened to be thinking of
"Mohammedanism" rather than of Christianity.

But he continues, in a more practical and observant vein:--

    "Christianity has no place for that well-known love of animals,
    that sympathy with the nearly-related and friendly mammals (dogs,
    horses, cattle, etc.) which is urged in the ethical teaching of
    many of the older religions, especially Buddhism. (Unfortunately,
    Descartes gave some support to the error in teaching that man only
    has a sensitive soul, not the animal.) Whoever has spent much time
    in the south of Europe must have often witnessed those frightful
    sufferings of animals which fill us friends of animals with the
    deepest sympathy and indignation. And when one expostulates with
    these brutal 'Christians' on their cruelty, the only answer is,
    with a laugh: 'But the beasts are not Christians'" (p. 126).

This, if true, and I have heard it from other sources, does constitute
rather a serious indictment against the form of practical Christianity
understood by the ignorant classes among the Latin races.

To return, however, to the concluding paragraph of the extract quoted
above (on page 81) from his page 119:--

No one can have any objection to raise against the dignity and
worthiness of the three great attributes which excite Professor
Haeckel's, as they excited Goethe's, worship and admiration, viz., the
three "goddesses," as he calls them: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty; but
there is no necessary competition or antagonism between these and the
other three great conceptions which aroused the veneration of Kant:
God, Freedom, and Immortality; nor does the upholding of the one triad
mean the overthrow of the other: they may be all co-eternal together
and co-equal. Nor are either of these triplets inconsistent with some
reasonable view of what may be meant by the Christian Trinity. The
total possibility of existence is so vast that no simple formula, nor
indeed any form of words, however complex, is likely to be able to sum
it up and express its essence to the exclusion of all other modes of
expression. It is a pity, therefore, that Professor Haeckel should
think it necessary to decry one set of ideas in order to support
another set. There is room for all in this large universe--room for
everything, except downright lies and falseness.

Concerning Truth there is no need to speak: it cannot but be the breath
of the nostrils of every genuine scientific man; but his ideas of truth
should be large enough to take into account possibilities far beyond
anything of which he is at present sure, and he should be careful to be
undogmatic and docile in regions of which at present he has not the

The meaning of Goodness, the whole domain of ethics, and the higher
possibilities of sainthood of which the human spirit has shown itself
capable, are at present outside his domain; and if a man of science
seeks to dogmatise concerning the emotions and the will, and asserts
that he can reduce them to atomic forces and motions, because he has
learnt to recognise the undoubted truth that atomic forces and motions
must accompany them and constitute the machinery of their manifestation
here and now,--he is exhibiting the smallness of his conceptions and
gibbeting himself as a laughing-stock to future generations.

The atmosphere and full meaning of Beauty also he can only dimly grasp.
If he seeks to explain it in terms of sexual selection, or any other
small conception which he has recently been able to form in connection
with vital procedure on this planet, he is explaining nothing: he is
merely showing how the perception of beauty may operate in certain
cases; but the inner nature of beauty and the faculty by which it is
perceived are utterly beyond him. He cannot but feel that the
unconscious and unobtrusive beauty of field and hedgerow must have
originated in obedience to some primal instinct or in fulfilment of
some immanent desire, some lofty need quite other than anything he
recognises as human.

And if a poet witnessing the colours of a sunset, for instance, or the
profusion of beauty with which snow mountains seem to fling themselves
to the heavens in districts unpeopled and in epochs long before human
consciousness awoke upon the earth: if such a seer feels the revelation
weigh upon his spirit with an almost sickening pressure, and is
constrained to ascribe this wealth and prodigality of beauty to the joy
of the Eternal Being in His own existence, to an anticipation as it
were of the developments which lie before the universe in which He is
at work, and which He is slowly tending towards an unimaginable
perfection--it behooves the man of science to put his hand upon his
mouth, lest in his efforts to be true, in the absence of knowledge, he
find himself uttering, in his ignorance, words of lamentable folly or

_Man and Nature._

Consider our own position--it is surely worth considering. We are
a part of this planet; on one side certainly and distinctly a part
 of this material world, a part which has become self-conscious. At
first we were a part which had become alive; a tremendous step
that--introducing a number of powers and privileges which previously
had been impossible, but that step introduced no responsibility; we
were no longer, indeed, urged by mere pressure from behind, we were
guided by our instincts and appetites, but we still obeyed the
strongest external motive, almost like electro-magnetic automata. Now,
however, we have become conscious, able to look before and after, to
learn consciously from the past, to strive strenuously towards the
future; we have acquired a knowledge of good and evil, we can choose
the one and reject the other, and are thus burdened with a sense of
responsibility for our acts. We still obey the strongest motive
doubtless, but there is something in ourselves which makes it a motive
and regulates its strength. We _can_ drift like other animals, and
often do; but we can also obey our own volition.

I would not deny the rudiments of self-consciousness, and some of what
it implies, to certain domestic animals, notably the dog; but
domestication itself is a result of humanity, and undoubtedly the
attributes we are discussing are chiefly and almost solely human, they
can hardly be detected in wild nature. No other animal can have a full
perception of its own individuality and personality as separate from
the rest of existence. Such ideas do not occur in the early periods of
even human infancy: they are a later growth. Self-consciousness must
have become prominent at a certain stage in the evolutionary process.

How it all arose is a legitimate problem for genetic psychology, but to
the plain man it is a puzzle; our ancestors invented legends to account
for it--legends of apples and serpents and the like; but the fact is
there, however it be accounted for. The truth embedded in that old
Genesis legend is deep; it is the legend of man's awakening from a
merely animal life to consciousness of good and evil, no longer obeying
his primal instincts in a state of thoughtlessness and innocency--a
state in which deliberate vice was impossible and therefore higher and
purposed goodness also impossible,--it was the introduction of a new
sense into the world, the sense of conscience, the power of deliberate
choice; the power also of conscious guidance, the management of things
and people external to himself, for preconceived ends. Man was
beginning to cease to be merely a passenger on the planet, controlled
by outside forces; it is as if the reins were then for the first time
being placed in his hands, as if he was allowed to begin to steer, to
govern his own fate and destiny, and to take over some considerable
part of the management of the world.

The process of handing over the reins to us is still going on. The
education of the human race is a long process, and we are not yet fit
to be fully trusted with the steering gear; but the words of the old
serpent were true enough: once open our eyes to the perception and
discrimination of good and evil, once become conscious of freedom of
choice, and sooner or later we must inevitably acquire some of the
power and responsibility of gods. A fall it might seem, just as a
vicious man sometimes seems degraded below the beasts, but in promise
and potency a rise it really was.

The oneness between ourselves and Nature is not a thing to be deplored;
it is a thing to rejoice at, when properly conceived. It awakens a kind
of religious enthusiasm even in Haeckel, who clearly perceives but a
limited aspect of it; yet the perception is vivid enough to cause him,
this so-called Atheist, to close his _Confession of Faith_ with words
such as these:--

    "Now, at last, it is given to the mightily advancing human mind to
    have its eyes opened; it is given to it to show that a true
    knowledge of nature affords full satisfaction and inexhaustible
    nourishment not only for its searching understanding, but also for
    its yearning spirit.

    "Knowledge of the true, training for the good, pursuit of the
    beautiful: these are the three great departments of our monism; by
    the harmonious and consistent cultivation of these we effect at
    last the truly beatific union of religion and science, so painfully
    longed after by so many to-day. The True, the Beautiful, and the
    Good, these are the three august Divine Ones before which we bow
    the knee in adoration....

    "In the hope that free research and free teaching may always
    continue, I conclude my monistic _Confession of Faith_ with the
    words: 'May God, the Spirit of the Good, the Beautiful, and the
    True, be with us.'"

This is clearly the utterance of a man to whose type I unconsciously
referred in an article written two years ago (_Hibbert Journal_,
January 1903), from which I now make the following appropriate

Looking at the loom of nature, the feeling not of despair, but of what
has been called atheism, one ingredient of atheism, has arisen: atheism
never fully realised, and wrongly so called--recently it has been
called severe Theism, indeed; for it is joyful sometimes, interested
and placid always, exultant at the strange splendour of the spectacle
which its intellect has laid bare to contemplation, satisfied with the
perfection of the mechanism, content to be a part of the self-generated
organism, and endeavouring to think that the feelings of duty, of
earnest effort, and of faithful service, which conspicuously persist in
spite of all discouragement, are on this view intelligible as well as
instinctive, and sure that nothing less than unrepining unfaltering
unswerving acquiescence is worthy of our dignity as man.

The above 'Confession of Faith,' then, is very well; for the man
himself very well indeed, but it is not enough for the race. Other
parts of Haeckel's writings show that it is not enough, and that his
conception of what he means by Godhead is narrow and limited to an
extent at which instinct, reason, and experience alike rebel. No one
can be satisfied with conceptions below the highest which to him are
possible: I doubt if it is given to man to think out a clear and
consistent system higher and nobler than the real truth. Our highest
thoughts are likely to be nearest to reality: they must be stages in
the direction of truth, else they could not have come to us and been
recognised as highest. So, also, with our longings and aspirations
towards ultimate perfection, those desires which we recognise as our
noblest and best: surely they must have some correspondence with the
facts of existence, else had they been unattainable by us. Reality is
not to be surpassed, except locally and temporarily, by the ideals of
knowledge and goodness invented by a fraction of itself; and if we
could grasp the entire scheme of things, so far from wishing to

            "shatter it to bits and then
    Remould it nearer to the heart's desire,"

we should hail it as better and more satisfying than any of our random
imaginings. The universe is in no way limited to our conceptions: it
has a reality apart from them; nevertheless, they themselves constitute
a part of it, and can only take a clear and consistent character in so
far as they correspond with something true and real. Whatever we can
clearly and consistently conceive, that is _ipso facto_ in a sense
already existent in the universe as a whole; and that, or something
better, we shall find to be a dim foreshadowing of a higher reality.

                     *      *      *      *      *


(_Partly reprinted from "Mind."_)

It may be worth while to explain how it is that, to a physicist
unsmitten with any taint of solipsism, a well-elaborated scheme which
is consistent with already known facts necessarily seems to correspond,
or have close affinity, with the truth. It is the result of experience
of a mathematical theorem concerning unique distributions. For
instance, it can be shown that in an electric field, however
complicated, any distribution of potential which satisfies boundary
conditions, and one or two other essential criteria, must be the actual
distribution; for it has been rigorously proved that there cannot be
two or more distributions which satisfy those conditions, hence if one
is arrived at theoretically, or intuitively, or by any means, it must
be the correct one; and no further proof is required.

So, also, in connection with analogies and working models: although
they must necessarily be imperfect, so long as they are only analogies,
yet the making or imagining of models (not necessarily or usually a
material model, but a conceptual model) is a recognised way of arriving
at an understanding of recondite and ultra-sensual processes, occurring
say in the ether or elsewhere. As an addition to evidence derived from
such experiments as have been found possible, and as a supplement to
the experience out of which, as out of a nucleus, every conception must
grow, the mind is set to design and invent a self-coherent scheme which
shall imitate as far as possible the results exhibited by nature. By
then using this as a working hypothesis, and pressing it into extremes,
it can be gradually amended until it shows no sign of discordance or
failure anywhere, and even serves as a guide to new and previously
unsuspected phenomena. When that stage is reached, it is provisionally
accepted and tentatively held as a step in the direction of the truth;
though the mind is always kept ready to improve and modify and enlarge
it, in accordance with the needs of more thorough investigation and
fresh discovery. It was so, for instance, with Maxwell's
electromagnetic theory of light; and there are a multitude of other

In the transcendental or ultra-mundane or supersensual region there is
the further difficulty to be encountered, that we are not acquainted
with anything like all the 'boundary conditions,' so to speak; we only
know our little bit of the boundary, and we may err egregiously in
inferring or attempting to infer the remainder. We may even make a
mistake as to the form of function adapted to the case. Nevertheless
there is no better clue, and the human mind is impelled to do the best
it can with the confessedly imperfect data which it finds at its
disposal. The result, therefore, in this region, is no system of
definite and certain truth, as in Physics, but is either suspense of
judgment altogether, or else a tentative scheme or working hypothesis,
to be held undogmatically, in an attitude of constant receptiveness for
further light, and in full readiness for modification in the direction
of the truth.

So far concerning the ascertainment of truth alone, in intangible
regions of inquiry. The further hypothesis that such truth when found
will be most satisfactory, or in other words higher and better than any
alternative plan,--the conviction that faith in the exceeding grandeur
of reality shall not be confounded,--requires further justification;
and its grounds are not so easy to formulate. Perhaps the feeling is
merely human and instinctive; but it is existent and customary I
believe among physicists, possibly among men of Science in general,
though I cannot speak for all; and it must be based upon familiarity
with a mass of experience in which, after long groping and guess-work,
the truth has ultimately been discovered, and been recognised as 'very
good.' It is illustrated, for instance, by the words in which Tyndall
closes the first edition of his book on Sound, wherein, after
explaining Helmholtz's brilliant theory of Corti's organ and the
musical mechanism of the ear,--a theory which, amid the difficulties of
actual observation, was necessarily at first saturated with hypothesis,
and is not even yet fully verified,--he says:--

    "Within the ears of men, and without their knowledge or
    contrivance, this lute of 3000 strings has existed for ages,
    accepting the music of the outer world, and rendering it fit for
    reception by the brain.... I do not ask you to consider these views
    as established, but only as probable. They present the phenomena in
    a connected and intelligible form; and should they be doomed to
    displacement by a more correct or comprehensive theory, it will
    assuredly be found that the wonder is not diminished by the
    substitution of the truth."



What, then, is the probable essence of truth in Professor Haeckel's
philosophy? for it is not to be supposed that the speculations of an
eminent man are baseless, or that he has been led to his view of what
he conceives to be the truth by some wholly erroneous path; his
intuitive convictions are to be respected, for they are based on a far
wider experience and knowledge of fact than is given to the average
man; and for the average man to consider it likely that there is no
foundation whatever for the life convictions of a great specialist is
as foolish as to suppose it probable that they are certain and
infallible, or that they are uncritically to be accepted even in
regions beyond those over which his jurisdiction extends.

First as to the "law of substance," by which he sets so much store; the
fact which he is really, though indistinctly, trying to emphasise, is
what I have preferred to formulate as "the persistence of the really
existent," see page 34; and, with that modification, we can agree with
Haeckel, or with what I take to be his inner meaning, to some extent.
We may all fairly agree, I think, that whatever really and fundamentally
_exists_ must, so far as bare existence is concerned, be independent of
time. It may go through many changes, and thus have a history; that is
to say, must have definite time-relations, so far as its changes are
concerned; but it can hardly be thought of as either going out of
existence, or as coming into existence, at any given period, though it
may completely change its form and accidents; everything basal must
have a past and a future of some kind or other, though any special
concatenation or arrangement may have a date of origin and of

A crowd, for instance, is of this fugitive character: it assembles and
it disperses, its existence as a crowd is over, but its constituent
elements persist; and the same can be said of a planet or a sun. Yet
for some "soul" or underlying reality even in these temporary
accretions there is permanence of a sort:--Tyndall's "streak of morning
cloud," though it may have "melted into infinite azure," has not
thereby become non-existent, although as a visible object it has
disappeared from our ken and become a memory only. It is true that it
was a mere aggregate or accidental agglomeration--it had developed no
self-consciousness, nothing that could be called personality or
identity characterised it,--and so no individual persistence is to be
expected for it; yet even it--low down in the scale of being as it
is--even it has rejoined the general body of aqueous vapour whence,
through the incarnating influence of night, it arose. The thing that
_is_, both _was_ and _shall be_, and whatever does not satisfy this
condition must be an accidental or fugitive or essentially temporary
conglomeration or assemblage, and not one of the fundamental entities
of the universe. It is interesting to remember that this was one of the
opinions strongly held by the late Professor Tait, who considered that
persistence or conservation was the test or criterion of real

The question, How many fundamental entities in this sense there are,
and what they are, is a difficult one. Many people, including such
opposite thinkers as Tait and Haeckel, would say "matter" and "energy";
though Haeckel chooses, on his own account, to add that these two are
one. (Perhaps Professor Ostwald would agree with him there; though to
me the meaning is vague.) Physical science, pushed to the last resort,
would probably reply that, within its sphere of knowledge at the
present stage, the fundamental entities are _ether_ and _motion_; and
that of other things at present it knows next to nothing. If physical
science is interrogated as to the probable persistence, _i.e._, the
fundamental existence, of "life" or of "mind," it ought to reply that
it does not know; if asked about "personality," or "souls," or
"God,"--about all of which Professor Haeckel has fully-fledged
opinions--it would have to ask for a definition of the terms, and would
speak either not at all or with bated breath concerning them.

The possibility that "life" may be a real and basal form of existence,
and therefore persistent, is a possibility to be borne in mind. It may
at least serve as a clue to investigation, and some day may bear fruit;
at present it is no better than a working hypothesis. It is one that on
the whole commends itself to me; for I conceive that though we only
know of it as a function of terrestrial matter, yet that it has another
aspect too, and I say this because I see it arriving and
leaving--animating matter for a time and then quitting it, just as I
see dew appearing and disappearing on a plate. Apart from a solid
surface, dew cannot exist as such; and to a savage it might seem to
spring into and to go out of existence--to be an exudation from the
solid, and dependent wholly upon it; but we happen to know more about
it: we know that it has a permanent and continuous existence in an
imperceptible, intangible, supersensual form, though its visible
manifestation in the form of mist or dew is temporary and evanescent.
Perhaps it is permissible to trace in that elementary phenomenon some
superficial analogy to an incarnation.

The fact concerning life which lies at the root of Professor Haeckel's
doctrine about its origin, is that living beings have undoubtedly made
their appearance on this planet, where at one time they cannot be
suspected of having existed. Consequently that whatever life may be, it
is something which can begin to interact with the atoms of terrestrial
matter, at some period, or state of aggregation, or other condition of
elaboration,--a condition which may perhaps be rather definite, if only
we were aware of what it was. But that undoubted fact is quite
consistent with any view as to the nature of "life," and even with any
view as to the mode of its terrestrial commencement; there is nothing
in that to say that it is a function of matter alone, any more than the
wind is a function of the leaves which dance under its influence; there
is nothing even to contradict the notion that it sprang into existence
suddenly at a literal word of command. The improbability or absurdity
of such a conception as this last, except in the symbolism of poetry,
is extreme, and it is unthinkable by any educated person; but its
improbability depends upon other considerations than biologic ones, and
it is as repugnant to an enlightened Theology as to any other science.

The mode in which biological speculation as to the probable development
of living out of dead matter, and the general relation of protoplasm to
physics and chemistry, can be surmised or provisionally granted,
without thereby concurring in any destructive criticism of other facts
and experiences, is explained in Chapter X. on "Life," further on: and
there I emphasise my agreement with parts of the speculative
contentions of Professor Haeckel on the positive side.

_Soul and Body._

Let us consider what are the facts scientifically known concerning the
interaction between mind and matter. Fundamentally they amount to this:
that a complex piece of matter, called the brain, is the organ or
instrument of mind and consciousness; that if it be stimulated mental
activity results; that if it be injured or destroyed no manifestation
of mental activity is possible. Moreover, it is assumed, and need not
be doubted, that a portion of brain substance is consumed, oxidised let
us say, in every act of mentation: using that term in the vaguest and
most general sense, and including in it unconscious as well as
conscious operations.

Suppose we grant all this, what then? We have granted that brain is the
means whereby mind is made manifest on this material plane, it is the
instrument through which alone we know it, but we have not granted that
mind is _limited_ to its material manifestation; nor can we maintain
that without matter the things we call mind, intelligence, consciousness,
have no sort of existence. Mind may be incorporate or incarnate in
matter, but it may also transcend it; it is through the region of ideas
and the intervention of mind that we have become aware of the existence
of matter. It is injudicious to discard our primary and fundamental
_awareness_ for what is after all an instinctive inference or
interpretation of certain sensations.

The realities underlying those sensations are only known to us by
inference, but they have an independent existence: in their inmost
nature they may be quite other than what they seem, and are in no way
dependent upon our perception of them. So, also, our actual personality
may be something considerably unlike that conception of it which is
based on our present terrestrial consciousness--a form of consciousness
suited to, and developed by, our temporary existence here, but not
necessarily more than a fraction of our total self.

Take an analogy: the eye is the organ of vision; by it we perceive
light. Stimulate the retina in any way, and we are conscious of the
sensation of light; injure or destroy the eye, and vision becomes
imperfect or impossible. If eyes did not exist we should probably know
nothing about light, and we might be tempted to say that light did not
exist. In a sense, to a blind race, light would not exist--that is to
say, there would be no sensation of light, there would be no sight; but
the underlying physical cause of that sensation--the ripples in the
ether--would be there all the time. And it is these ethereal ripples
which a physicist understands by the term "light." It is quite
conceivable that a race of blind physicists would be able to devise
experimental means whereby they could make experiments on what to us is
luminous radiation, just as we now make experiments on electric waves,
for which we have no sense organ. It would be absurd for a psychologist
to inform them that light did not exist because sight did not. The
_term_ might have to be reconsidered and redefined; indeed, most
likely a polysyllabic term would be employed, as is unfortunately usual
when a thing of which the race in general has no intimate knowledge
requires nomenclature. But the thing would be there, though its mode of
manifestation would be different; a term like "vision" might still be
employed, to signify our mode of perceiving and experiencing the agency
which now manifests itself to us through our eyes; and plants might
grow by the aid of that agency just as they do now.

So, also, brain is truly the organ of mind and consciousness, and to a
brainless race these terms, and all other terms, would be meaningless;
but no one is at liberty to assert, on the strength of that fact, that
the realities underlying our use of those terms have no existence apart
from terrestrial brains. Nor can we say with any security that the
stuff called "brain" is the only conceivable machinery which they are
able to utilise: though it is true that we know of no other. Yet it
would seem that such a proposition must be held by a materialist, or by
what can be implied by the term "monist," used in its narrowest and
most unphilosophic sense--a sense which would be better expressed by
the term materialistic-monist, with a limitation of the term matter to
the terrestrial chemical elements and their combinations, _i.e._, to
that form of substance to which the human race has grown accustomed--a
sense which tends to exclude ethereal and other generalisations and
unknown possibilities such as would occur to a philosophic monist of
the widest kind.

For that it may ultimately be discovered that there is some intimate
and necessary connection between a generalised form of matter and some
lofty variety of mind is not to be denied; though also it cannot be
asserted. It has been surmised, for instance, that just as the
corpuscles and atoms of matter, in their intricate movements and
relations, combine to form the brain cell of a human being; so the
cosmic bodies, the planets and suns and other groupings of the ether,
may perhaps combine to form something corresponding as it were to the
brain cell of some transcendent Mind. The idea is to be found in
Newton. The thing is a mere guess, it is not an impossibility, and it
cannot be excluded from a philosophic system by any negative statement
based on scientific fact. In some such sense as that, matter and mind
may be, for all we know, eternally and necessarily connected; they
can be different aspects of some fundamental unity; and a lofty kind
of monism can be true, just as a lofty kind of pantheism can be true.
But the miserable degraded monism and lower pantheism, which limits
the term "god" to that part of existence of which we are now
aware--sometimes, indeed, to a fraction only of that--which limits the
term "mind" to that of which we are ourselves conscious, and the term
"matter" to the dust of the earth and the other visible bodies, is a
system of thought appropriate, perhaps, to a fertile and energetic
portion of the nineteenth century, but not likely to survive as a
system of perennial truth.

The term "organ" itself should have given pause to anyone desirous of
promulgating a scheme such as that.

"Organ" is a name popularly given to an instrument of music. Without
it, or some other instrument, no material manifestation or display of
music is possible; it is an instrument for the incarnation of
music--the means whereby it interacts with the material world and
throws the air and so our ears into vibration, it is the means whereby
we apprehend it. Injure the organ and the music is imperfect; destroy
it and it ceases to be possible. But is it to be asserted on the
strength of that fact that the term "music" has no significance apart
from its material manifestation? Have the ideas of Sir Edward Elgar no
reality apart from their record on paper and reproduction by an
orchestra? It is true that without suitable instruments and a suitable
sense-organ we should know nothing of music, but it cannot be supposed
that its underlying essence would be therefore extinct or non-existent
and meaningless. Can there not be in the universe a multitude of things
which matter as we know it is incompetent to express? Is it not the
complaint of every genius that his material is intractable, that it is
difficult to coerce matter as he knows it into the service of mind as
he is conscious of it, and that his conceptions transcend his powers of

The connection between soul and body, or more generally between
spiritual and material, has been illustrated by the connection between
the meaning of a sentence and the written or spoken word conveying that
meaning. The writing or the speaking may be regarded as an incarnation
of the meaning, a mode of stating or exhibiting its essence. As
delivered, the sentence must have time relations; it has a beginning,
middle, and end; it may be repeated, and the same general meaning may
be expressed in other words; but the intrinsic meaning of the sentence
itself need have no time relations, it may be true _always_, it may
exist as an eternal "now," though it may be perceived and expressed by
humanity with varying clearness from time to time.

The soul of a thing is its underlying permanent reality--that which
gives it its meaning and confers upon it its attributes. The body is an
instrument or mechanism for the manifestation or sensible presentation
of what else would be imperceptible. It is useless to ask whether a
soul is immortal--a soul is always immortal "where a soul can be
discerned": the question to ask concerning any given object is whether
it has a soul or meaning or personal underlying reality at all.

Those who think that reality is limited to its terrestrial
manifestation doubtless have a philosophy of their own, to which they
are entitled and to which at any rate they are welcome; but if they set
up to teach others that monism signifies a limitation of mind to the
potentialities of matter as at present known; if they teach a pantheism
which identifies God with nature in this narrow sense; if they hold
that mind and what they call matter are so intimately connected that no
_transcendence_ is possible; that, without the cerebral hemispheres,
consciousness and intelligence and emotion and love, and all the higher
attributes towards which humanity is slowly advancing, would cease to
be; that the term "soul" signifies "a sum of plasma-movements in the
ganglion cells"; and that the term "God" is limited to the operation of
a known evolutionary process, and can be represented as "the infinite
sum of all natural forces, the sum of all atomic forces and all ether
vibrations," to quote Professor Haeckel (_Confession of Faith_, p. 78);
then such philosophers must be content with an audience of uneducated
persons, or, if writing as men of science, must hold themselves liable
to be opposed by other men of science, who are able, at any rate in
their own judgment, to take a wider survey of existence, and to
perceive possibilities to which the said narrow and over-definite
philosophers were blind.

_Life and Guidance._

Matter possesses energy, in the form of persistent motion, and it is
propelled by force; but neither matter nor energy possesses the power
of automatic guidance and control. Energy has no directing power (this
has been elaborated by Croll and others: see, for instance, p. 24, and
a letter in _Nature_, vol. 43, p. 434, thirteen years ago, under the
heading "Force and Determinism"). Inorganic matter is impelled solely
by pressure from behind, it is not influenced by the future, nor does
it follow a preconceived course nor seek a predetermined end.

An organism animated by mind is in a totally different case. The
intangible influences of hunger, of a call, of perception of something
ahead, are then the dominant feature. An intelligent animal which is
being pushed is in an ignominious position and resents it; when led, or
when voluntarily obeying a call, it is in its rightful attitude.

The essence of mind is design and purpose. There are some who deny that
there is any design or purpose in the universe at all: but how can that
be maintained when humanity itself possesses these attributes? (_cf._
pp. 54, 74). Is it not more reasonable to say that just as we are
conscious of the power of guidance in ourselves, so guidance and
intelligent control may be an element running through the universe, and
may be incorporated even in material things?

A traveller who has lost his way in a mountain district, coming across
a path, may rejoice, saying, "This will guide me home." A materialist,
if he were consistent, should laugh such a traveller to scorn, saying,
"What guidance or purpose can there be in a material object? there is
no guidance or purpose in the universe; things _are_ because they
cannot be otherwise, not because of any intention underlying them. How
can a path, which is little better than the absence of grass or the
wearing down of stones, know where you live or guide you to any desired
destination? Moreover, whatever knowledge or purpose the path exhibits
must be _in the path_, must be a property of the atoms of which it is
composed. To them some fraction of will, of power, of knowledge, and
of feeling _may_ perhaps be attributed, and from their aggregation
something of the same kind may perhaps be deduced. If the traveller can
decipher that, he may utilise the material object to his advantage; but
if he conceives the path to have been made with any teleological object
or intelligent purpose, he is abandoning himself to superstition, and
is as likely to be led by it to the edge of a precipice as to anywhere
else. Let him follow his superstition at his peril!"

This is not a quotation, of course: but it is a parable.

Matter is the instrument and vehicle of mind; incarnation is the mode
by which mind interacts with the present scheme of things, and thereby
the element of guidance is supplied; it can, in fact, be embodied in an
intelligent arrangement of inert inorganic matter. Even a mountain path
exhibits the property of guidance, and has direction: it is an
incorporation of intelligence, though itself inert.

Direction is not a function of energy. The energy of sound from an
organ is supplied by the blower of the bellows, which may be worked by
a mechanical engine; but the melody and harmony, the sequence and
co-existence of notes, are determined by the dominating mind of the
musician: not necessarily of the executant alone, for the composer's
mind may be evoked to some extent even by a pianola. The music may be
said to be incarnate in the roll of paper which is ready to be passed
through the instrument. So also can the conception of any artist
receive material embodiment in his work, and if a picture or a
beautiful building is destroyed it can be made to rise again from its
ashes provided the painter or the architect still lives: in other
words, his thought can receive a fresh incarnation; and a perception of
the beautiful form shall hereafter, in a kindred spirit, arouse similar

There is thus a truth in materialism, but it is not a truth readily to
be apprehended and formulated. Matter may become imbued with life, and
full of vital association; something of the personality of a departed
owner seems to cling sometimes about an old garment, its curves and
folds can suggest him vividly to our recollection. I would not too
blatantly assert that even a doll on which much affection had been
lavished was wholly inert and material in the inorganic sense. The
tattered colours of a regiment are sometimes thought worthy to be hung
in a church. They are a symbol truly, but they may be something more. I
have reason to believe that a trace of individuality can cling about
terrestrial objects in a vague and almost imperceptible fashion, but to
a degree sufficient to enable those traces to be detected by persons
with suitable faculties.

There is a deep truth in materialism; and it is the foundation of the
material parts of worship--sacraments and the like. It is possible to
exaggerate their efficacy, but it is also possible to ignore it too
completely. The whole universe is metrical, everything is a question of
degree. A property like radio-activity or magnetism, discovered
conspicuously in one form of matter, turns out to be possessed by
matter of every kind, though to very varying extent.

So it would appear to be with the power possessed by matter to
incarnate and display mind.

There are grades of incarnation: the most thorough kind is that
illustrated by our bodies; in them we are incarnate, but probably not
even in that case is the incarnation complete. It is quite credible
that our whole and entire personality is never terrestrially manifest.

There are grades of incarnation. Some of the personality of an Old
Master is locked up in a painting: and whoever wilfully destroys a
great picture is guilty of something akin to murder, namely, the
premature and violent separation of soul and body. Some of the soul of
a musician can be occluded in a piece of manuscript, to be deciphered
thereafter by a perceptive mind.

Matter is the vehicle of mind, but it is dominated and transcended by
it. A painting is held together by cohesive forces among the atoms of
its pigments, and if those forces rebelled or turned repulsive the
picture would be disintegrated and destroyed; yet those forces did not
make the picture. A cathedral is held together by inorganic forces, and
it was built in obedience to them, but they do not explain it. It may
owe its existence and design to the thought of someone who never
touched a stone, or even of someone who was dead before it was begun.
In its symbolism it represents One who was executed many centuries ago.
Death and Time are far from dominant.

Are we so sure that when we truly attribute a sunset, or the moonlight
rippling on a lake, to the chemical and physical action of material
forces--to the vibrations of matter and ether as we know them, that we
have exhausted the whole truth of things? Many a thinker, brooding over
the phenomena of Nature, has felt that they represent the thoughts of a
dominating unknown Mind partially incarnate in it all.



_A reply to Mr M'Cabe._

    Part of the preceding, so far as it is a criticism of Haeckel, was
    given by me in the first instance as a Presidential Address to the
    Members of the Birmingham and Midland Institute; and the greater
    portion of this Address was printed in the _Hibbert Journal_ for
    January 1905. Mr M'Cabe, the translator of Haeckel, thereupon took
    up the cudgels on behalf of his Chief, and wrote an article in the
    following July issue; to the pages of which references will be
    given when quoting. A few observations of mine in reply to this
    article emphasise one or two points which perhaps previously were
    not quite clear; and so this reply, from the October number of the
    _Hibbert Journal_, may be conveniently here reproduced.

I have no fault to find with the tone of Mr M'Cabe's criticism of my
criticism of Haeckel, and it is satisfactory that one who has proved
himself an enthusiastic disciple, as well as a most industrious and
competent translator, should stand up for the honour and credit of a
foreign Master when he is attacked.

But in admitting the appropriateness and the conciliatory tone of his
article, I must not be supposed to agree with its contentions; for
although he seeks to show that after all there is but little difference
between myself and Haeckel--and although in a sense that is true as
regards the fundamental facts of science, distinguishing the facts
themselves from any hypothetical and interpretative gloss--yet with
Haeckel's interpretations and speculative deductions from the facts,
especially with the mode of presentation, and the crude and unbalanced
attacks on other fields of human activity, my feeling of divergence
occasionally becomes intense.

And it is just these superficial, and as Mr M'Cabe now admits
hypothetical, and as they seem to me rather rash, excursions into side
issues, which have attracted the attention of the average man, and have
succeeded in misleading the ignorant.

If it could be universally recognised that

    "it is expressly as a hypothesis that Haeckel formulates his
    conjecture as to manner of the origin of life" (p. 744),

and if it could be further generally admitted that his authority
outside biology is so weak that

    "it is mere pettiness to carp at incidental statements on matters
    on which Haeckel is known to have or to exercise no peculiar
    authority, or to labour in determining the precise degree of
    evidence for the monism of the inorganic or the organic world" (p.

I should be quite content, and hope that I may never find it necessary
to carp at these things again. Also I entirely agree with Mr M'Cabe,
though I have some doubt whether Professor Haeckel would equally agree
with him, that

    "there remain the great questions whether this mechanical evolution
    of the universe needed intelligent control, and whether the mind of
    man stands out as imperishable amidst the wreck of worlds. These
    constitute the serious controversy of our time in the region of
    cosmic philosophy or science. These are the rocks that will divide
    the stream of higher scientific thought for long years to come. To
    many of us it seems that a concentration on these issues is as much
    to be desired as sympathy and mutual appreciation" (p. 748).

This is excellent; but then it is surely true that Professor Haeckel
has taken great pains to state forcibly and clearly that these great
questions cannot by him be regarded as open; in fact Mr M'Cabe himself

    "Haeckel's position, if expressed at times with some harshness, and
    not always with perfect consistency, is well enough known. He
    rejects the idea of intelligent and benevolent guidance, chiefly on
    the ground of the facts of dysteleology, and he fails to see any
    evidence for exempting the human mind from the general law of
    dissolution" (p. 748).

Ultimately, however, he appears to have been driven to a singularly
unphilosophic view, of which Mr M'Cabe says--

    "It is interesting to note that in his latest work Haeckel regards
    sensation (or unconscious sentience) as an ultimate and irreducible
    attribute of substance, like matter (or extension) and force (or
    spirit)" (p. 752).

I call this unphilosophical because--omitting any reference here to the
singular parenthetical explanations or paraphrases, for which I suppose
Haeckel is not to be held responsible--this is simply abandoning all
attempt at explanation; it even closes the door to inquiry, and is
equivalent to an attitude proper to any man in the street, for it
virtually says: "Here the thing is anyhow, I cannot explain it."
However legitimate and necessary such an attitude may be as an
expression of our ignorance, we ought not to use the phrase "ultimate
and irreducible," as if no one could ever explain it.

Moreover, if it be true that--

    "Haeckel does not teach--never did teach--that the spiritual
    universe is an aspect of the material universe, as his critic makes
    him say, it is his fundamental and most distinctive idea that both
    are attributes or aspects of a deeper reality" (p. 745)--

in that case there is, indeed, but little difference between us. But
no reader of Haeckel's _Riddle_ would have anticipated that such a
contention could be made by any devout disciple; and I wonder whether
Mr M'Cabe can adduce any passage adequate to support so estimable a
position. Surely it is difficult to sustain in face of quotations such
as these:--

    "The peculiar phenomenon of consciousness is ... a physiological
    problem, and as such must be reduced to the phenomena of physics
    and chemistry" (p. 65).

    "I therefore consider Psychology a branch of natural science--a
    section of physiology.... We shall give to the material basis of
    all psychic activity, without which it is inconceivable, the
    provisional name of psychoplasm" (p. 32).

_Life and Energy._

The one and only point on which I think it worth while to express
decided dissidence is to be found in the paragraph where Mr M'Cabe
makes a statement concerning what he calls "vital force,"--a term I do
not remember to have ever used in my life. He claims for Haeckel what
is represented by the following extracts from his article (pp. 745, 6,

    "He does not say that life is 'knocked out of existence' when the
    material organism decays. He says that the vital energy no longer
    exists _as such_, but is resolved into the inorganic energies
    associated with the gases and relics of the decaying body. Thus the
    matter looks a little different when Sir Oliver comes to 'challenge
    him to say by what right he gives that answer.' He gives it on this
    plain right, that _science always finds these inorganic energies to
    reappear on the dissolution of life_, and has never in a single
    instance found the slightest reason to suspect (if we make an
    exception for the moment of psychical research) that the vital
    force as such has continued to exist."

The italics are mine. A little further on he continues:--

    "There is no serious scientific demur to Haeckel's assumption of a
    monism of the physical world, and his identification of vital force
    with ordinary physical and chemical forces.

    "Sir Oliver seems to admit, indeed, that the vital force is not in
    its nature distinct from physical force, but holds that it needs

    "On all sides we hear the echo of Professor Le Conte's words:
    'Vital force may now be regarded as so much force withdrawn from
    the general fund of chemical and physical forces.'"

Very well then, here is no conflict on a matter of opinion or
philosophic speculation, but divergence on a downright question of
scientific fact (let it be noted that I do not wish to hold Professor
Haeckel responsible for these utterances of his disciple: he must
surely know better), and I wish to oppose the fallacy in the strongest

If it were true that vital energy turned into or was anyhow convertible
into inorganic energy, if it were true that a dead body had more
inorganic energy than a live one, if it were true that "these inorganic
energies" always or ever "reappear on the dissolution of life," then
undoubtedly _cadit quæstio_; life would immediately be proved to be a
form of energy, and would enter into the scheme of physics. But
inasmuch as all this is untrue--the direct contrary of the truth--I
maintain that life is _not_ a form of energy, that it is _not_ included
in our present physical categories, that its explanation is still to
seek. And I have further stated--though there I do not dogmatise--that
it appears to me to belong to a separate order of existence, which
interacts with this material frame of things, and, while there, exerts
guidance and control on the energy which already here exists (_cf._ p.
24); for, though they alter the quantity of energy no whit, and though
they merely utilise available energy like any other machine, live
things are able to direct inorganic terrestrial energy along new and
special paths, so as to achieve results which without such living
agency could not have occurred--_e.g._ forests, ant-hills, birds'
nests, Forth bridge, sonatas, cathedrals.

I have never taught, nor for a moment thought, that "vital force is
akin to physical force, but that it needs guidance" (p. 747); the
phrase sounds to me nonsense. I perceive, not as a theory, but as a
fact, that life is _itself_ a guiding principle, a controlling agency,
_i.e._ that a live animal or plant can and does guide or influence the
elements of inorganic nature. The fact of an organism possessing life
enables it to build up material particles into many notable forms--oak,
eagle, man,--which material aggregates last until they are abandoned by
the guiding principle, when they more or less speedily fall into decay,
or become resolved into their elements, until utilised by a fresh
incarnation; and hence I say that whatever life is or is not, it is
certainly this: it is a guiding and controlling entity which interacts
with our world according to laws so partially known that we have to say
they are practically unknown, and therefore appear in some respects
mysterious. If it be thought that I mean by this something
superstitious, and for ever inexplicable or unintelligible, I have no
such meaning. I believe in the ultimate intelligibility of the
universe, though our present brains may require considerable
improvement before we can grasp the deepest things by their aid; but
this matter of "vitality" is probably not hopelessly beyond us; and it
does not follow, because we have no theory of life or death now, that
we shall be equally ignorant a century hence.

My chief objection to Professor Haeckel's literary work is that he is
dogmatic on such points as these, and would have people believe, what
doubtless he believes himself, that he already knows the answer to a
number of questions in the realms of physical nature and of philosophy.
He writes in so forcible and positive and determined a fashion, from
the vantage ground of scientific knowledge, that he exerts an undue
influence on the uncultured among his readers, and causes them to fancy
that only benighted fools or credulous dupes can really disagree with
the historical criticisms, the speculative opinions, and philosophical,
or perhaps unphilosophical, conjectures, thus powerfully set forth.



The view concerning Life which I have endeavoured to express is that it
is neither matter nor energy, nor even a function of matter or of
energy, but is something belonging to a different category; that by
some means at present unknown it is able to interact with the material
world for a time, but that it can also exist in some sense
independently; although in that condition of existence it is by no
means apprehensible by our senses. It is dependent on matter for its
phenomenal appearance--for its manifestation to us here and now, and
for all its terrestrial activities; but otherwise, I conceive that it
is independent, that its essential existence is continuous and
permanent, though its interactions with matter are discontinuous and
temporary; and I conjecture that it is subject to a law of
evolution--that a linear advance is open to it--whether it be in its
phenomenal or in its occult state.

It may be well to indicate what I mean by conceiving of the possibility
that life has an existence apart from its material manifestations as we
know them at present. (Remember note on p. 40.) It is easy to imagine
that such a view is a mere surmise, having no intelligible meaning, and
that it is merely an attempt to clutch at human immortality in an
emotional and unscientific spirit. To this, however, I in no way plead
guilty. My ideas about life may be quite wrong, but they are as
cold-blooded and free from bias as possible; moreover, they apply not
to human life alone, but to all life--to that of all animals, and even
of plants; and they are held by me as a working hypothesis, the only
one which enables me to fit the known facts of ordinary vitality into a
thinkable scheme. Without it, I should be met by all the usual
puzzles:--(1) as to the stage at which existence begins, if it can be
thought of as "beginning" at all;[3] (2) as to the nature of
individuality, in the midst of diversity of particles, and the
determination of form irrespective of variety of food; (3) the
extraordinary rapidity of development, which results in the production
of a fully endowed individual in the course of some fraction of a

      [3] I doubt whether _existence_ can be "begun" at all, save as
      the result of a juxtaposition of elements, or of a conveyance of
      motion. We can put things together, and we can set things in
      motion,--statics and kinetics,--can we do more? Ether can be
      strained, matter can be moved: I doubt whether we see more than
      this happening in the whole material universe. This dictum is
      elaborated elsewhere.

With it, I cannot pretend that all these things are thoroughly
intelligible, but the lines on which an explanation may be forthcoming
seem to be laid down:--the notion being that what we see is a temporary
apparition or incarnation of a permanent entity or idea.

It is easiest to explain my meaning by aid of analogues,--by the
construction, as it were, of "models," just as is the custom in Physics
whenever a recondite idea has to be grasped before it can be properly
formulated and before a theory is complete.

I will take two analogies: one from Magnetism and one from Politics.

"Parliament," or "the Army," is a body which consists of individual
members constantly changing, and its existence is not dependent on
their existence: it pre-existed any particular set of them, and it can
survive a dissolution. Even after a complete slaughter, the idea of the
Army would survive, and another would come into being, to carry on the
permanent traditions and life.

Except as an idea in some sentient mind, it could not be said to exist
at all. The mere individuals composing it do not make it: without the
idea they would be only a disorganised mob. Abstractions like the
British Constitution, and other such things, can hardly be said to have
any incarnate existence. These exist _only_ as ideas.

Parliament exists fundamentally as an idea, and it can be called into
existence or re-incarnated again. Whether it is the same Parliament or
not after a general election is a question that may be differently
answered. It is not identical, it may have different characteristics,
but there is certainly a sort of continuity; it is still a British
Parliament, for instance, it has not changed its character to that of
the French Assembly or the American Congress. It is a permanent entity
even when disembodied; it has a past and it has a future; it has a
fundamentally continuous existence though there are breaks or
dislocations in its conspicuous activity, and though each incarnation
has a separate identity or personality of its own. It is larger and
more comprehensive than any individual representation of it; it may be
said to have a "subliminal self," of which any septennial period sees
but a meagre epitome.

Some of those epitomes are more, some less, worthy; sometimes there
appears only a poor deformity or a feeble-minded attempt, sometimes a
strong and vigorous embodiment of the root idea.

As to its technical continuity of existence and actual mode of
reproduction, I suppose it would be merely fanciful to liken the
"Crown" to those germ-cells or nuclei, whose existence continues
without break, which serve the purpose of collecting and composing the
somatic cells in due season.

Other illustrations of the temporary incarnation of a permanent idea
are readily furnished from the domain of Art; but, after all, the best
analogy to life that I can at present think of is to be found in the
subject of Magnetism.

At one time it was possible to say that magnetism could not be produced
except by antecedent magnetism; that there was no known way of
generating it spontaneously; yet that, since it undoubtedly occurs in
certain rocks of the earth, it must have come into existence somehow,
at date unknown. It could also be said, and it can be said still, that,
given an initial magnet, any number of others can be made, without loss
to the generating magnet. By influence or induction exerted by
proximity on other pieces of steel, the properties of one magnet can be
excited in any number of such pieces,--the amount of magnetism thus
producible being infinite; that is, being strictly without limit, and
not dependent at all on the very finite strength of the original
magnet, which indeed continues unabated. It is just as if magnetism
were not really manufactured at all, but were a thing called out of
some infinite reservoir: as if something were brought into active and
prominent existence from a previously dormant state.

And that indeed is the fact. The process of magnetisation, as conducted
with a steel magnet on other pieces of previously inert steel, in no
case really generates new lines of magnetic force, though it appears to
generate them. We now know that the lines which thus spring into
corporeal existence, as it were, are essentially closed curves or
loops, which cannot be generated; they can be expanded or enlarged to
cover a wide field, and they can be contracted or shrunk up into
insignificance, but they cannot be created, they must be pre-existent;
they were in the non-magnetised steel all the time, though they were so
small and ill-arranged that they had no perceptible effect whatever;
they constituted a potentiality for magnetism; they existed as
molecular closed curves or loops, which, by the operation called
magnetisation, could, some of them, be opened out into loops of finite
area and spread out into space, where they are called "lines of force."
They then constitute the region called a magnetic field, which remains
a seat of so-called "permanent" magnetic activity, until by lapse of
time, excessive heat, or other circumstance, they close up again; and
so the magnet, as a magnet, dies. The magnetism itself, however, has
not really died, it has a perpetual existence; and a fresh act of
magnetisation can recall it, or something indistinguishable from it,
into manifest activity again; so that it, or its equivalent, can once
more interact with the rest of material energies, and be dealt with by
physicists, or subserve the uses of humanity. Until that time of
re-appearance its existence can only be inferred by the thought of the
mathematician: it is indeed a matter of theory, not necessarily
recognised as true by the practical man.

Our present view is that the act of magnetisation consists in a
re-arrangement and co-ordination of previously existing magnetic
elements, lying dormant, so to speak, in iron and other magnetic
materials; only a very small fraction of the whole number being usually
brought into activity at any one time, and not necessarily always the
same actual set. Only a small and indiscriminate selection is made from
all the molecular loops; and it can be a different group each time, or
some elements may be different and some the same, whenever a fresh
individual or magnet is brought into being.

All this can be said concerning the old process of magnetisation--the
process as it was doubtless familiar to the unknown discoverer of the
lodestone, to the ancient users of the mariner's compass, and to Dr
Gilbert of Colchester, the discoverer of the magnetised condition of
the Earth.

But within the nineteenth century a fresh process of magnetisation has
been discovered, and this new or electrical process is no longer
obviously dependent on the existence of antecedent magnetism, but seems
at first sight to be a property freshly or spontaneously generated, as
it were. The process was discovered as the result of setting
electricity into motion. So long as electricity was studied in its
condition at rest on charged conductors, as in the old science of
electrostatics or frictional electricity, it possessed no magnetic
properties whatever, nor did it encroach on the magnetic domain: only
vague similarities in the phenomena of attraction and repulsion aroused
attention. But directly electricity was set in motion, constituting
what is called an electric current, magnetic lines of force instantly
sprang into being, without the presence of any steel or iron; and in
twenty years they were recognised. These electrically generated lines
of force are similar to those previously known, but they need no matter
to sustain them. They need matter to display them, but they themselves
exist equally well in perfect vacuum.

How did they manage to spring into being? Can it be said that they too
had existed previously in some dormant condition in the ether of space?
That they too were closed loops opened out, and their existence thus
displayed, by the electric current?

That is an assertion which might reasonably be made: it is not the only
way of regarding the matter, however, and the mode in which a magnetic
field originates round the path of a moving charge--being generated
during the acceleration-period by a pulse of radiation which travels
with the speed of light, being maintained during the steady-motion
period by a sort of inertia as if in accordance with the first law of
motion, and being destroyed only by a return pulse of re-radiation
during a retardation-period when the moving charge is stopped or
diverted or reversed--all this can hardly be fully explained until the
intimate nature of an electric charge has been more fully worked out;
and the subject now trenches too nearly on the more advanced parts of
Physics to be useful any longer as an analogue for general readers.

Indeed it must be recollected that no analogy will bear pressing too
far. All that we are concerned to show is that known magnetic behaviour
exhibits a very fair analogy to some aspects of that still more
mysterious entity which we call "life"; and if anyone should assert
that all magnetism was pre-existent in some ethereal condition, that it
would never go out of essential existence, but that it could be brought
into relation with the world of matter by certain acts,--that while
there it could operate in a certain way, controlling the motion of
bodies, interacting with forms of energy, producing sundry effects for
a time, and then disappearing from our ken to the immaterial region
whence it came,--he would be saying what no physicist would think it
worth while to object to, what many indeed might agree with.

Well, that is the kind of assertion which I want to make, as a working
hypothesis, concerning life.

An acorn has in itself the potentiality not of one oak-tree alone, but
of a forest of oak-trees, to the thousandth generation, and indeed of
oak-trees without end. There is no sort of law of "conservation" here.
It is not as if something were passed on from one thing to another. It
is not analogous to energy at all, it is analogous to the magnetism
which can be excited by any given magnet: the required energy, in both
cases, being extraneously supplied, and only transmuted into the
appropriate form by the guiding principle which controls the operation.

We do not know how to generate life without the action of antecedent
life at present, though that may be a discovery lying ready for us in
the future; but even if we did, it would still be true (as I think)
that the life was in some sense pre-existent, that it was not really
created _de novo_, that it was brought into actual practical every-day
existence doubtless, but that it had pre-existed in some sense too:
being called out, as it were, from some great reservoir or storehouse
of vitality, to which, when its earthly career is ended, it will

Indeed, it cannot in any proper sense be said ever to have left that
storehouse, though it has been made to interact with the world for a
time; and, if we might so express it, it may be thought of as carrying
back with it, into the general reservoir, any individuality, and any
experience and training or development, which it can be thought of as
having acquired here. Such a statement as this last cannot be made of
magnetism, to which no known law of evolution and progress can be
supposed to apply; but of life, of anything subject to continuous
evolution or linear progress embodied in the race, of any condition not
cyclically determinate and returning into itself, but progressing and
advancing--acquiring fresh potentialities, fresh powers, fresh
beauties, new characteristics such as perhaps may never in the whole
universe have been displayed before--of everything which possesses such
powers as these, a statement akin to the above may certainly be made.
To all such things, when they reach a high enough stage, the ideas of
continued personality, of memory, of persistent individual existence,
not only may, but I think must, apply; notwithstanding the admitted
return of the individual after each incarnation to the central store
from which it was differentiated and individualised.

Even so a villager, picked out as a recruit and sent to the seat of
war, may serve his country, may gain experience, acquire a soul and a
width of horizon such as he had not dreamt of; and when he returns,
after the war is over, may be merged as before in his native village.
But the village is the richer for his presence, and his individuality
or personality is not really lost; though to the eye of the world,
which has no further need for it, it has practically ceased to be.



(_Partially read to the Synthetic Society in February 1903._)

The influence of the divine on the human, and on the material world,
has been variously conceived in different ages, and various forms of
difficulty have been at different times felt and suggested; but always
some sort of analogy between human action and divine action has had
perforce to be drawn, in order to make the latter in the least
intelligible to our conception. The latest form of difficulty is
peculiarly deep-seated, and is a natural outcome of an age of physical
science. It consists in denying the possibility of any guidance or
control,--not only on the part of a Deity, but on the part of every one
of his creatures. It consists in pressing the laws of physics to what
may seem their logical and ultimate conclusion, in applying the
conservation of energy without ruth or hesitation, and so excluding, as
some have fancied, the possibility of free-will action, of guidance, of
the self-determined action of mind or living things upon matter,
altogether. The appearance of control has accordingly been considered
illusory, and has been replaced by a doctrine of pure mechanism,
enveloping living things as well as inorganic nature.

And those who for any reason have felt disinclined or unable to
acquiesce in this exclusion of non-mechanical agencies, whether it be
by reason of faith and instinct or by reason of direct experience and
sensation to the contrary, have thought it necessary of late years to
seek to undermine the foundation of Physics, and to show that its
much-vaunted laws rest upon a hollow basis, that their exactitude is
illusory,--that the conservation of energy, for instance, has been too
rapid an induction, that there may be ways of eluding many physical
laws and of avoiding submission to their sovereign sway.

By this sacrifice it has been thought that the eliminated guidance and
control can philosophically be reintroduced.

This, I gather, may have been the chief motive of a critical examination
of the foundations of Physics by an American author, J. B. Stallo, in a
little book called the _Concepts of Physics_. But the worst of that
book was that Judge Stallo was not fully familiar with the teachings of
the great physicists; he appears to have collected his information from
popular writings, where the doctrines were very imperfectly laid down; so
that some of his book is occupied in demolishing constructions of straw,
unrecognisable by professed physicists except as caricatures at which
they also might be willing to heave an occasional missile.

The armoury pressed into the service of Professor James Ward's not
wholly dissimilar attack on Physics is of heavy calibre, and his
criticism cannot in general be ignored as based upon inadequate
acquaintance with the principles under discussion; but still his
Gifford lectures raise an antithesis or antagonism between the
fundamental laws of mechanics and the possibility of any intervention
whether human or divine.

If this antagonism is substantial it is serious; for Natural
Philosophers will not be willing to concede fundamental inaccuracy or
uncertainty about their recognised and long-established laws of motion,
when applied to ordinary matter; nor will they be prepared to tolerate
any the least departure from the law of the conservation of energy,
when all forms of energy are taken into account. Hence, if guidance
and control can be admitted into the scheme by no means short of
undermining and refuting those laws, there may be every expectation
that the attitude of scientific men will be perennially hostile to the
idea of guidance or control, and so to the efficacy of prayer, and to
many another practical outcome of religious belief. It becomes
therefore an important question to consider whether it is true that
life or mind is incompetent to disarrange or interfere with matter at
all, except as itself an automatic part of the machine,--whether in
fact it is merely an ornamental appendage or phantasmal accessory of
the working parts.

Now experience--the same kind of experience as gave us our scheme of
mechanics--shows us that to all appearance live animals certainly can
direct and control mechanical energies to bring about desired and
preconceived results; and that man can definitely will that those
results shall occur. The way the energy is provided is understood, and
its mode of application is fairly understood; what is not understood is
the way its activity is _determined_. Undoubtedly our body is material
and can act on other matter; and the energy of its operations is
derived from food, like any other self-propelled and fuel-fed
mechanism; but mechanism is usually controlled by an attendant. The
question is whether our will or mind or life can direct our body's
energy along certain channels to attain desired ends, or whether--as in
a motor-car with an automaton driver--the end and aim of all activity
is wholly determined by mechanical causes. And a further question
concerns the mode whereby vital control, if any, is achieved.

Answers that might be hazarded are:

    (_a_) That life is itself a latent store of energy, and achieves
    its results by imparting to matter energy that would not otherwise
    be in evidence: in which case life would be a part of the machine,
    and as truly mechanical as all the rest.

Experiment lends no support to this view of the relation between life
and energy, and I hold that it is false; because the essential property
of energy is that it can transform itself into other forms, remaining
constant in quantity, whereas life does not add to the stock of any
known form of energy, nor does death affect the sum of energy in any
known way.

    (_b_) That life is something outside the scheme of mechanics--outside
    the categories of matter and energy; though it can nevertheless
    control or direct material forces--timing them and determining
    their place of application,--subject always to the laws of energy
    and all other mechanical laws; supplementing or accompanying these
    laws, therefore, but contradicting or traversing them no whit.

This second answer I hold to be true; but in order to admit its truth
we must recognise that force can be exerted and energy directed, by
suitable adjustment of existing energy, without any introduction of
energy from without; in other words, that the energy of operations
automatically going on in any active region of the universe--any region
where transformation and transference of energy are continuously
occurring whether life be present or not--can be guided along paths
that it would not automatically have taken, and can be directed so as
to produce effects that would not otherwise have occurred; and this
without any breakage or suspension of the laws of dynamics, and in full
correspondence with both the conservation of energy and the
conservation of momentum.

That is where I part company with Professor James Ward in the second
volume of _Naturalism and Agnosticism_; with whom nevertheless on many
broad issues I find myself in fair agreement. Those who find a real
antinomy between "mechanism and morals" must either throw overboard the
possibility of interference or guidance or willed action altogether,
which is one alternative, or must assume that the laws of Physics are
only approximate and untrustworthy, which is the other alternative--the
alternative apparently favoured by Professor James Ward. I wish to
argue that neither of these alternatives is necessary, and that there
is a third or middle course of proverbial safety: all that is necessary
is to realise and admit that the laws of Physical Science are
_incomplete_, when regarded as a formulation and philosophical summary
of the universe in general. No Laplacian calculator can be supplied
with all the data.

On a stagnant and inactive world life would admittedly be powerless: it
could only make dry bones stir in such a world if itself were a form of
energy; I do not suppose for a moment that it could be incarnated on
such a world; it is only potent where inorganic energy is mechanically
"available"--to use Lord Kelvin's term,--that is to say, is either
potentially or actually in process of transfer and transformation. In
other words, life can generate no trace of energy, it can only guide
its transmutations.

It has gradually dawned upon me that the reason why Philosophers who
are well acquainted with Physical or Dynamical Science are apt to fall
into the error of supposing that mental and vital interference with the
material world is impossible, in spite of their clamorous experience to
the contrary (or else, on the strength of that experience, to conceive
that there is something the matter with the formulation of physical and
dynamical laws), is because all such interference is naturally and
necessarily excluded from scientific methods and treatises.

In pure Mechanics, "force" is treated as a function of configuration
and momentum: the positions, the velocities, and the accelerations of a
conservative system depend solely on each other, on initial conditions,
and on mass; or, if we choose so to express it, the co-ordinates, the
momenta, and the kinetic energies, of the parts of any dynamical system
whatever, are all functions of time and of each other, and of nothing
else. In other words, we have to deal, in this mode of regarding
things, with a definite and completely determinate world, to which
prediction may confidently be applied.

But this determinateness is got by refusing to contemplate anything
outside a certain scheme: it is an internal truth within the assigned
boundaries, and is quite consistent with psychical interference
and indeterminateness, as soon as those boundaries are ignored;
determinateness is not part of the _essence_ of dynamical doctrine,
it is arrived at by the tacit assumption that no undynamical or
hyperdynamical agencies exist: in short, by that process of abstraction
which is invariably necessary for simplicity, and indeed for
possibility, of methodical human treatment. Everyone engaged in
scientific research is aware that if exuberant charwomen, or
intelligent but mischievous students (who for the moment may be taken
to represent life and mind respectively) are admitted into a laboratory
and given full scope for their activities, the subsequent scientific
results--though still, no doubt, in some strained sense, concordant
with law and order--are apt to be too complicated for investigation;
wherefore there is usually an endeavour to exclude these incalculable
influences, and to make a tacit assumption that they have not been let

There is a similar tacit assumption in treatises on Physics and
Chemistry; viz., that the laws of automatic nature shall be allowed
unrestricted and unaided play, that nothing shall intervene in any
operation from start to finish save mechanical sequent and
antecedent,--that it is permissible in fact to exercise abstraction, as
usual, to the exclusion of agents not necessarily connected with the
problem, and not contemplated by the equations.

In text-books of Dynamics and in treatises of Natural Philosophy that
is a perfectly legitimate procedure;[4] but when later on we come to
philosophise, and to deal with the universe as a whole, we must forgo
the ingrained habit of abstraction, and must remember that for a
_complete_ treatment _nothing_ must permanently be ignored. So if
life and mind and will, and curiosity and mischief and folly, and greed
and fraud and malice, and a whole catalogue of attributes and things
not contemplated in Natural Philosophy--if these are known to have any
real existence in the larger world of total experience, and if there is
any reason to believe that any one of them may have had some influence
in determining an observed result, then it is foolish to exclude these
things from philosophic consideration, on the ground that they are out
of place in the realm of Natural Philosophy, that they are not allowed
for in its scheme, and therefore cannot possibly be supposed capable of
exerting any effective interference, any real guidance or control.

      [4] It is on a similar basis that there is a science of rigid
      dynamics, with elasticity and fluidity excluded; and thus also
      can there be a hydrodynamics in which the consequences of
      viscosity are ignored.

My contention then is--and in this contention I am practically speaking
for my brother physicists--that whereas life or mind can neither
generate energy nor directly exert force, yet it can cause matter to
exert force on matter, and so can exercise guidance and control: it can
so prepare any scene of activity, by arranging the position of existing
material, and timing the liberation of existing energy, as to produce
results concordant with an idea or scheme or intention: it can, in
short, "aim" and "fire."

Guidance of _matter_ can be affected by a passive exertion of force
without doing work; as a quiescent rail can guide a train to its
destination, provided an active engine propels it. But the analogy of
the rail must not be pressed: the rail "guides" by exerting force
perpendicular to the direction of motion, it does no work but it
sustains an equal opposite reaction.[5] The guidance exercised by life
or mind is managed in an unknown but certainly different fashion:
"determination" can sustain no reaction--if it could it would be a
straightforward mechanical agent--but it can utilise the mechanical
properties both of rail and of engine; it arranged for the rail to be
placed in position so that the lateral force thereby exerted should
guide all future trains to a desired destination, and it further took
steps to design and compose locomotives of sufficient power, and to
start them at a prearranged time. It "employs" mechanical stress, as a
capitalist employs a labourer, not doing anything itself, but directing
the operations. It is impossible to explain all this fully by the laws
of mechanics alone, that is to say, no mechanical analysis can be
complete and all-embracing, though the whole procedure is fully subject
to those laws.

      [5] It is well to bear in mind the distinction between "force"
      and "energy." These terms have been so popularly confused that it
      may be difficult always to discriminate them, but in Physics they
      are absolutely discriminated. We have a direct sense of "force,"
      in our muscles, whether they be moving or at rest. A force in
      motion is a "power," it "does work" and transfers energy from one
      body to another, which is commonly though incorrectly spoken of
      as "generating" energy. But a force at rest--a mere statical
      stress, like that exerted by a pillar or a watershed--does no
      work, and "generates" or transfers no energy; yet the one
      sustains a roof which would otherwise fall, thereby screening a
      portion of ground from vegetation; while the other deflects a
      rain-drop into the Danube or the Rhine. This latter is the kind
      of force which constrains a stone to revolve in a circle instead
      of a straight line; a force like that of a groove or slot or
      channel or "guide."

To every force there is an equal opposite force or reaction, and a
reaction may be against a live body, but it is never suspected of being
against the abstraction life or mind--that would indeed be enlarging
the scope of mechanics!--the reaction is always against some other
body. All stresses as a matter of fact occur in the ether; and they all
have a material terminus at each end (or in exceptional cases a
wave-front or some other recondite etherial equivalent), that is to say
something possessing inertia; but the timed or _opportune_ existence of
a particular stress may be the result of organisation and control.
Mechanical operations can be thus dominated by intelligence and
purpose. When a stone is rolling over a cliff, it is all the same to
"energy" whether it fall on point A or point B of the beach. But at A
it shall merely dent the sand, whereas at B it shall strike a detonator
and explode a mine. Scribbling on a piece of paper results in a certain
distribution of fluid and production of a modicum of heat: so far as
energy is concerned it is the same whether we sign Andrew Carnegie or
Alexander Coppersmith, yet the one effort may land us in twelve months'
imprisonment or may build a library, according to circumstances, while
the other achieves no result at all. John Stuart Mill used to say that
our sole power over Nature was to _move_ things; but strictly speaking
we cannot do even that: we can only arrange that things shall move each
other, and can determine by suitably preconceived plans the kind and
direction of the motion that shall ensue at a given time and place.
Provided always that we include in this category of "things" our
undoubtedly material bodies, muscles and nerves.

But here is just the puzzle: at what point does will or determination
enter into the scheme? Contemplate a brain cell, whence originates a
certain nerve-process whereby energy is liberated with some resultant
effect; what pulled the detent in that cell which started the impulse?
No \doubt some chemical process: combination or dissociation, something
atomic, occurred; but what made it occur just then and in that way?

I answer, not anything that we as yet understand, but apparently the
same sort of pre-arrangement that determined whether the stone from the
cliff should fall on point A or point B--the same sort of process that
guided the pen to make legible and effective writing instead of
illegible and ineffective scrawls--the same kind of control that
determines when and where a trigger shall be pulled so as to secure the
anticipated slaughter of a bird. So far as energy is concerned, the
explosion and the trigger-pulling are the same identical operations
whether the aim be exact or random. It is intelligence which directs;
it is physical energy which is directed and controlled and produces the
result in time and space.

It will be said _some_ energy is needed to pull a hair-trigger, to open
the throttle-valve of an engine, to press the button which shall
shatter a rock. Granted: but the work-concomitants of that energy are
all familiar, and equally present whether it be arranged so as to
produce any predetermined effect or not. The opening of the
throttle-valve for instance demands just the same exertion, and results
in just the same imperceptible transformation of fully-accounted-for
energy, whether it be used to start a train in accordance with a
time-table and the guard's whistle, or whether it be pushed over, as if
by the wind, at random. The shouting of an order to a troop demands
vocal energy and produces its due equivalent of sound; but the
intelligibility of the order is something superadded, and its result
may be to make not sound or heat alone, but History.

Energy must be _available_ for the performance of any physical
operation, but the energy is independent of the determination or
arrangement. Guidance and control are not forms of energy, nor need
they be themselves phantom modes of force: their superposition upon the
scheme of Physics need perturb physical and mechanical _laws_ no whit,
and yet it may profoundly affect the consequences resulting from those
same laws. The whole effort of civilisation would be futile if we could
not guide the powers of nature. The powers are there, else we should be
helpless; but life and mind are outside those powers, and, by
pre-arranging their field of action, can direct them along an organised

                     *      *      *      *      *

And this same life or mind, as we know it, is accessible to petition,
to affection, to pity, to a multitude of non-physical influences; and
hence, indirectly, the little plot of physical universe which is now
our temporary home has become amenable to truly spiritual control.

I lay stress upon a study of the nature and mode of human action of the
interfering or guiding kind, because by that study we must be led if we
are to form any intelligent conception of divine action. True, it might
be feasible to admit divine agency and yet to deny the possibility of
any human power of the same kind,--though that would be a nebulous and
at least inconclusive procedure; but if once we are constrained to
admit the existence and reality of human guidance and control,
superposed upon the physical scheme, we cannot deny the possibility of
such power and action to any higher being, nor even to any totality of
Mind of which ours is a part.

I do not see how the function claimed can be resented, except by those
who deny "life" to be anything at all. If it exists, if it is not mere
illusion, it appears to me to be something whose full significance lies
in another scheme of things, but which touches and interacts with this
material universe in a certain way, building its particles into notable
configurations for a time--without confounding any physical laws,--and
then evaporating whence it came. This language is vague and figurative
undoubtedly, but, I contend, appropriately so, for we have not yet a
theory of life--we have not even a theory of the essential nature of
gravitation; discoveries are waiting to be made in this region, and it
is absurd to suppose that we are already in possession of all the data.
We can wait; but meanwhile we need not pretend that because we do not
understand them, therefore life and will can accomplish nothing; we
need not imagine that "life"--with its higher developments and still
latent powers--is an impotent nonentity. The philosophic attitude,
surely, is to observe and recognise its effects, both what it can and
what it cannot achieve, and to realise that our present knowledge of it
is extremely partial and incomplete.

                     *      *      *      *      *


In the above chapter I must not be understood as pretending to settle
the thorny question of a reconciliation between freedom of choice and
pre-determination or prevision. All I there contend for is that no
mechanical or scientific determinism, subject to special conditions in
a limited region, can be used to contradict freedom of the will, under
generalised conditions, in the Universe as a whole.

Nevertheless there are things which may perhaps be usefully said, even
on the larger and much-worn topic of the present note. If we still
endeavour to learn as much as possible from human analogies, examples
are easy:--

An architect can draw in detail a building that is to be; the dwellers
in a valley can be warned to evacuate their homesteads because a city
has determined that a lake shall exist where none existed before.
Doubtless the city is free to change its mind, but it is not expected
to; and all predictions are understood to be made subject to the
absence of disturbing, _i.e._ unforeseen, causes. Even the prediction
of an eclipse is not free from a remote uncertainty, and in the case of
the return of meteoric showers and comets the element of contingency is
not even remote.

But it will be said that to higher and superhuman knowledge all
possible contingencies would be known and recognised as part of the
data. That is quite possibly, though not quite certainly, true: and
there comes the real difficulty of reconciling absolute prediction of
events with real freedom of the actors in the drama. I anticipate that
a complete solution of the problem must involve a treatment of the
subject of _time_, and a recognition that "time," as it appears to us,
is really part of our human limitations. We all realise that "the past"
is in some sense not non-existent but only past; we may readily surmise
that "the future" is similarly in some sense existent, only that we
have not yet arrived at it; and our links with the future are less
understood. That a seer in a moment of clairvoyance may catch a glimpse
of futurity--some partial picture of what perhaps exists even now in
the forethought of some higher mind--is not inconceivable. It may be
after all only an unconscious and inspired inference from the present,
on an enlarged and exceptional scale; and it is a matter for
straightforward investigation whether such prevision ever occurs.

The following article, on the general subject of "Free Will and
Determinism," reprinted from the _Contemporary Review_ for March 1904,
may conveniently be here reproduced:--

    The conflict between Free Will and Determinism depends on a
    question of boundaries. We occasionally ignore the fact that there
    must be a subjective partition in the Universe separating the
    region of which we have some inkling of knowledge from the region
    of which we have absolutely none; we are apt to regard the portion
    on our side as if it were the whole, and to debate whether it must
    or must not be regarded as self-determined. As a matter of fact any
    partitioned-off region is in general not completely
    self-determined, since it is liable to be acted upon by influences
    from the other side of the partition. If the far side of the
    boundary is ignored, then an observer on the near side will
    conclude that things really initiate their own motion and act
    without stimulation or motive, in some cases, whereas the fact is
    that no act is performed without stimulus or motive; even
    irrational acts are caused by something, and so also are rational
    acts. Madness and delirium are natural phenomena amenable to law.

    But in actual life we are living on one side of a boundary, and are
    aware of things on one side only; the things on this side appear to
    us to constitute the whole universe, since they are all of which we
    have any knowledge, either through our senses or in other ways.
    Hence we are subject to certain illusions, and feel certain
    difficulties,--the illusion of unstimulated and unmotived freedom
    of action, and the difficulty of reconciling this with the felt
    necessity for general determinism and causation.

    If we speak in terms of the part of the universe that we know and
    have to do with, we find free agencies rampant among organic life;
    so that "freedom of action" is a definite and real experience, and
    for practical convenience is so expressed. But if we could seize
    the entirety of things and perceive what was occurring beyond the
    range of our limited conceptions we should realise that the whole
    was welded together, and that influences were coming through which
    produced the effects that we observe.

    Those philosophers, if there are any, who assert that we are wholly
    chained bound and controlled by the circumstances of that part of
    the Universe of which we are directly aware--that we are the slaves
    of our environment and must act as we are compelled by forces
    emanating from things on our side of the boundary alone,--those
    philosophers err.

    This kind of determinism is false; and the reaction against it has
    led other philosophers to assert that we are _lawlessly_ free, and
    able to initiate any action without motive or cause,--that each
    individual is a capricious and chaotic entity, not part of a Cosmos
    at all!

    It may be doubted whether anyone has clearly and actually
    maintained either of these theses in all its crudity; but there are
    many who vigorously and cheaply deny one or other of them, and in
    so denying the one conceive that they are maintaining the other.
    Both the above theses are false; yet Free Will and Determinism are
    both true, and in a completely known universe would cease to be

    The reconciliation between opposing views lies in realising that
    the Universe of which we have a kind of knowledge is but a portion
    or an aspect of the whole.

    We are free, and we are controlled. We are free, in so far as our
    sensible surroundings and immediate environment are concerned; that
    is, we are free for all practical purposes, and can choose between
    alternatives as they present themselves. We are controlled, as
    being intrinsic parts of an entire cosmos suffused with law and

    No scheme of science based on knowledge of our environment can
    confidently predict our actions, nor the actions of any
    sufficiently intelligent live creature. For "mind" and "will" have
    their roots on the other side of the partition, and that which we
    perceive of them is but a fraction of the whole. Nevertheless, the
    more developed and consistent and harmonious our character becomes,
    the less liable is it to random outbreaks, and the more certainly
    can we be depended on. We thus, even now, can exhibit some
    approximation to the highest state--that conscious unison with the
    entire scheme of existence which is identical with perfect freedom.

    If we could grasp the totality of things we should realise that
    everything was ordered and definite, linked up with everything else
    in a chain of causation, and that nothing was capricious and
    uncertain and uncontrolled. The totality of things is, however, and
    must remain, beyond our grasp; hence the actual working of the
    process, the nature of the links, the causes which create our
    determinations, are frequently unknown. And since it is necessary
    for practical purposes to treat what is utterly beyond our ken as
    if it were non-existent, it becomes easily possible to fall into
    the erroneous habit of conceiving the transcendental region to be
    completely inoperative.



_Preliminary Remarks on Recent Views in Chemistry._

It is a fact extremely familiar to chemists that the groupings possible
to atoms of carbon are exceptionally numerous and complicated, each
carbon atom having the power of linking itself with others to an
extraordinary extent, so that it is no exceptional thing to find a
substance which contains twenty or thirty atoms of carbon as well as
other elements linked together in its molecule in a perfectly definite
way, the molecule being still classifiable as that of a definite
chemical compound. But there are also some non-elementary bodies which,
although they are chemically complete and satisfied, retain a
considerable vestige of power to link their molecules together so as to
make a complex and massive compound molecule; and these are able not
only to link similar molecules into a more or less indefinite chain,
but to unite and include the saturated molecules of many other
substances also into the unwieldy aggregate.

      [6] An article reprinted from the _North American Review_ for May

Of the non-elementary bodies possessing this property, _water_ appears
to be one of the chief; for there is evidence to show that the ordinary
H-2-O molecule of water, although it may be properly spoken of as a
saturated or satisfied compound, seldom exists in the simple isolated
shape depicted by this formula, but rather that a great number of such
simple molecules attach themselves to each other by what is called
their residual or outstanding affinity, and build themselves up into a
complex aggregate.

The doctrine of residual affinity has been long advocated by Armstrong;
and the present writer has recently shown that it is a necessary
consequence of the electrical theory of chemical affinity,[7] and that
the structure of the resulting groupings, or compound aggregates, may
be partially studied by means of floating magnets, somewhat after the
manner of Alfred Mayer.[8]

      [7] See _Nature_, vol. 70, p. 176, June 23, 1904.

      [8] See an article on "Modern Views of Chemical Affinity" by the
      present writer in a magazine called _Technics_, for September

It may be well here to explain to students that one of the lines of
argument which lead to the conclusion that the water molecule, as it
ordinarily exists, is really complex and massive, is based upon
measurements of the Faraday dielectric constant for water; for this
constant, or "specific inductive capacity," is found to be very large,
something like 50 times that of air or free ether; whereas for glass it
is only 5 or 6 times that of free space. The dielectric constant of a
substance generally increases with the density or massiveness of its
molecule,--indeed, the value of this constant is one of the methods
whereby matter displays its interaction with and loading of the free
ether of space,--and any such density as the conventional nine times
that of hydrogen for the molecule of water would be wholly unable to
explain its immense dielectric constant.

The influence of the massiveness of a water molecule is also displayed
in its power of tearing asunder or dissociating any salts or other
simple chemical substance introduced into it; common salt, for
instance, is found always to have a certain percentage of its molecules
knocked or torn asunder directly it is dissolved in water, so that, in
addition to a number of salt molecules in solution, there are a few
positively charged sodium atoms and a few negatively charged chlorine
atoms, existing in a state of loose attraction to the water aggregate,
and amenable to the smallest electric force; which, when applied, urges
the chlorine one way and the sodium the other way, so that they can be
removed at an electrode and their place supplied by freshly dissociated
molecules of salt, thus bringing about its permanent electro-chemical
decomposition, and enabling the water to behave as an electrolytic
conductor directly a little salt or acid is dissolved in it.

The power of the water molecule to associate itself with molecules of
other substances is illustrated by the well-known fact that water is an
almost universal solvent. It is its residual affinity which enables it
to enter into weak chemical combination with a large number of other
substances, and thus to dissolve those substances. The dissolving power
usually increases when the temperature is raised, possibly because the
self-contained or self-sufficient groupings of the water molecules are
then to some extent broken up and the fragments enabled to cling on to
the foreign or introduced matter instead of only to each other. The
foreign substance is apt to be extruded again when the liquid cools,
and when the affinity of the water-aggregates for each other resumes
its sway. Very hot water can dissolve not only the substances
familiarly known to be soluble in water, but it can dissolve things
like glass also; so that glass vessels are unable to retain water kept
under high pressure at a very high temperature, approaching a red heat.

Another material which also seems to have the power of combining with a
number of other bodies, under the influence of the loose mode of
chemical combination spoken of as residual affinity, is carbon; so that
a block of charcoal can absorb hundreds of times its own bulk of
certain gases.

Indeed, Sir James Dewar has recently employed this absorbing power of
very cold carbon to produce a perfect kind of vacuum, which may,
perhaps, be the nearest approach to absolute vacuum that has yet been
attained: probably higher than can be attained by any kind of
mechanical or mercury pump.

_Unexpected Influence of Size._

Suppose now a substance contains a great number of carbon molecules and
a great number of water molecules, each of which has this residual
affinity or power of clinging together well developed, what may be
expected to be the result? Surely, the formation of a molecule
consisting of thousands or hundreds of thousands of atoms, constituting
substances more complex even than those already known to or analysable
by organic chemistry; and if these complex molecules likewise possess
the adhesive faculty, a grouping of millions or even billions of atoms
may ultimately be formed. (A billion, that is a million millions, of
atoms is truly an immense number, but the resulting aggregate is still
excessively minute. A portion of substance consisting of a billion
atoms is only barely visible with the highest power of a microscope;
and a speck or granule, in order to be visible to the naked eye, like a
grain of lycopodium-dust, must be a million times bigger still.) Such a
grouping is likely to have properties differing not only in degree but
in kind from the properties of simple substances.

For it must not be thought that aggregation only produces quantitative
change and leaves quality unaltered. Fresh qualities altogether are
liable to be introduced or to make their appearance at certain
stages--certain critical stages--in the building up of a complex mass
(_cf._ p. 71).

The habitability of a house, for instance, depends on its possessing a
cavity of a certain size; there is a critical size of brick-aggregate
which enables it to serve as a dwelling. Nothing much smaller than this
would do at all. The aggregate retains this property, thus conferred
upon it by size, however big it may be made after that; until it
becomes a palace or a cathedral, when it may perhaps reach an upper
limit of size at which it would be crushed by its own weight, or at
which the span of roof is too great to be supported. But the
difference, as regards habitability, between a palace and a hovel is
far less than that between a hovel and one of the air-holes in a brick
or loaf, or any other cavity too small to act as a human habitation.
The difference as regards habitability is then an infinite difference.

To take a less trivial instance; a planet which is large enough to
retain an atmosphere by its gravitative attraction differs utterly, in
potentiality and importance, from the numerous lumps of matter
scattered throughout space, which, though they may be as large as a
haystack or a mountain or as the British Isles, or even Europe, are yet
too small to hold any trace of air to their surface, and therefore
cannot in any intelligible sense of the word be regarded as habitable.
One of the lumps of matter in space can become a habitable planet only
when it has attained a certain size, which conceivably it might do by
falling together with others into a complex aggregate under the
influence of gravitative attraction. The asteroids have not succeeded
in doing this, but the planets have; and, accordingly, one of them, at
any rate, has become a habitable world.

But observe that the great size and the consequent retention of an
atmosphere did not generate the inhabitants; it satisfied one of the
conditions necessary for their existence. How they arose is another
matter. All that we have seen so far is that an aggregate of bodies may
possess properties and powers which the separate bodies themselves
possess in no kind or sort of way. It is not a question of degree, but
of kind.

So also, further, if the aggregate is large enough, very much larger
than any planet, as large as a million earths aggregated together, it
acquires the property of conspicuous radio-activity, it becomes a
self-heating and self-luminous body, able to keep the ether violently
agitated in all space round it, and thus to supply the radiation
necessary for protecting the habitable worlds from the cold of space to
which they are exposed, for maintaining them at a temperature
appropriate to organic existence, and likewise for supplying and
generating the energy for their myriad activities. It has become in
fact a central sun, and source of heat, solely because of its enormous
size combined with the fact of the mutual gravitative attraction of its
own constituent particles. No body of moderate size could perform this
function, nor act as a perennial furnace to the rest.

_Application to Protoplasm._

Very well then, return now to our complex molecular aggregate, and ask
what new property, beyond the province of ordinary chemistry and
physics, is to be expected of a compound which contains millions or
billions of atoms attached to each other in no rigid, stable, frigid
manner, but by loose unstable links, enabling them constantly to
re-arrange themselves and to be the theatre of perpetual change,
aggregating and reaggregating in various ways and manifesting ceaseless
activities. Such unstable aggregates of matter may, like the water of a
pond or a heap of organic refuse, serve as the vehicle for influences
wholly novel and unexpected.

Too much agitation--that is, too high a temperature--will split them up
and destroy the new-found potentiality of such aggregates; too little
agitation--that is, too low a temperature--will permit them to begin to
cohere and settle down into frozen rigid masses insusceptible of
manifold activities. But take them just at the right temperature, when
sufficiently complex and sufficiently mobile; take care of them, so to
speak, for the structure may easily be killed; and what shall we find?
We could not infer or guess what would be the result, but we can
observe the result as it is.

The result is that the complexes group themselves into minute masses
visible in the microscope, each mass being called by us a "cell"; that
these cells possess the power of uniting with or assimilating other
cells, or fragments of cells, as they drift by and come into contact
with them; and that they absorb into their own substance such portions
as may be suitable, while the insufficiently elaborated portions--the
grains of inorganic or over-simple material--are presently extruded.
They thus begin the act of "feeding."

Another remarkable property also can be observed; for a cell which thus
grows by feeding need not remain as one individual, but may split into
two, or into more than two, which may cohere for a time, but will
ultimately separate and continue existence on their own account. Thus
begins the act of "reproduction."

But a still more remarkable property can be observed in some of the
cells, though not in all; they can not only assimilate a fragment of
matter which comes into contact with them, but they can sense it,
apparently, while not yet in contact, and can protrude portions of
their substance or move their whole bodies towards the fragment, thus
beginning the act of "hunting"; and the incipient locomotory power can
be extended till light and air and moisture and many other things can
be sought and moved towards, until locomotion becomes so free that it
sometimes seems apparently objectless--mere restlessness, change for
the sake of change, like that of human beings.

The power of locomotion is liable, however, to introduce the cell to
new dangers, and to conditions hostile to its continued aggregate
existence. So, in addition to the sense of food and other desirable
things ahead, it seems to acquire, at any rate when still further
aggregated and more developed, a sense of shrinking from and avoidance
of the hostile and the dangerous,--a sense as it were of "pain."

And so it enters on its long career of progress, always liable to
disintegration or "death"; it begins to differentiate portions of
itself for the feeding process, other portions for the reproductive
process, other portions again for sensory processes, but retaining the
protective sense of pain almost everywhere; until the spots sensitive
to ethereal and aerial vibrations--which, arriving as they do from a
distance, carry with them so much valuable information, and when duly
appreciated render possible perception and prediction as to what is
ahead--until these sensitive spots have become developed into the
special organs which we now know as the "eye" and the "ear." Then,
presently, the power of communication is slowly elaborated, speech and
education begin, and the knowledge of the individual is no longer
limited to his own experience, but expands till it embraces the past
history and the condensed acquisition of the race. And thus gradually
arises a developed self-consciousness, a discrimination between the
self and the external world, and a realisation of the power of choice
and freedom,--a stage beyond which we have not travelled as yet, but a
stage at which almost all things seem possible.

The first two properties, assimilation and reproduction, overshadowed
by the possibility of _death_, are properties of life of every kind,
plant life as of all other. The power of locomotion and special senses,
over-shadowed by the sense of _pain_, are the sign of a still further
development into what we call "animal life." The further development,
of mind, consciousness, and sense of freedom, overshadowed by the
possibility of wilful error or _sin_, is the conspicuous attribute
of life which is distinctively human.

Thus, our complex molecular aggregate has shown itself capable of
extraordinary and most interesting processes, has proved capable of
constituting the material vehicle of life, the natural basis of living
organisms, and even of mind; very much as a planet of certain size
proved capable of possessing an atmosphere.

But is it to be supposed that the complex aggregate _generated_ the
life and mind, as the planet generated its atmosphere? That is the
so-called materialistic view, but to the writer it seems an erroneous
one, and it is certainly one that is not proven. It is not even certain
that every planet generated all the gases of its own atmosphere: some
of them it may have swept up in its excursion through space. What is
certain is that it possesses the power of retaining an atmosphere; it
is by no means so certain how all the constituents of that atmosphere

_Questions concerning the Origin and Nature of Life._

All that we have actually experienced and verified is that a complex
molecular aggregate is capable of being the vehicle or material basis
of life; but to the question _what life is_ we have as yet no answer.
Many have been the attempts to generate life _de novo_, by packing
together suitable materials and keeping them pleasantly warm for a long
time; but, if all germs of pre-existing life are rigorously excluded,
the attempt hitherto has been a failure: so far, no life has made its
appearance under observation, except from antecedent life.

But, to exclude all trace of antecedent life, it is necessary not only
to shut out floating germs, but to kill all germs previously existing
in the material we are dealing with. This killing of previous life is
usually accomplished by heat; but it has been argued that strong heat
will destroy not only the life but the potentiality for life, will
break up the complex aggregate on which life depends, will deprive the
incubating solution not only of life but of livelihood. There is some
force in the objection, and it is an illustration of the difficulty
surrounding the subject. But Tyndall showed that antecedent life could
be destroyed, without any very high temperature, by gentle heat
periodically applied: heat insufficient to kill the germs, but
sufficient to kill the hatched or developed organisms. Periodic heating
enables the germs of successive ages to hatch, so to speak, and the
product to be slain; and, although some each time may have reproduced
germs before slaughter--eggs capable of standing the warmth--yet a
succession of such warmings would ultimately be fatal to all, and that
without necessarily breaking up the protoplasmic complex aggregates on
the existence of which the whole vital potentiality depends.

So far, however, all effort at spontaneous generation has been a
failure; possibly because some essential ingredient or condition was
omitted, possibly because great lapse of time was necessary. But
suppose it was successful; what then? We should then be reproducing in
the laboratory a process that must at some past age have occurred on
the earth; for at one time the earth was certainly hot and molten and
inorganic, whereas now it swarms with life.

Does that show that the earth generated the life? By no means; no more
than it need necessarily have generated all the gases of its
atmosphere, or the meteoric dust which lies upon its snows.

Life may be something not only ultra-terrestrial, but even immaterial,
something outside our present categories of matter and energy; as real
as they are, but different, and utilising them for its own purpose.
What is certain is that life possesses the power of vitalising the
complex material aggregates which exist on this planet, and of
utilising their energies for a time to display itself amid terrestrial
surroundings; and then it seems to disappear or evaporate whence it
came. It is perpetually arriving and perpetually disappearing. While it
is here, if it is at a sufficiently high level, the animated material
body moves about and strives after many objects, some worthy, some
unworthy; it acquires thereby a certain individuality, a certain
character. It may realise _itself_, moreover, becoming conscious of
its own mental and spiritual existence; and it then begins to explore
the Mind which, like its own, it conceives must underlie the material
fabric--half displayed, half concealed, by the environment, and
intelligible only to a kindred spirit. Thus the scheme of law and
order dimly dawns upon the nascent soul, and it begins to form clear
conceptions of truth, goodness, and beauty; it may achieve something
of permanent value, as a work of art or of literature; it may enter
regions of emotion and may evolve ideas of the loftiest kind; it may
degrade itself below the beasts, or it may soar till it is almost

Is it the material molecular aggregate that has of its own unaided
latent power generated this individuality, acquired this character,
felt these emotions, evolved these ideas? There are some who try to
think that it is. There are others who recognise in this extraordinary
development a contact between this material frame of things and a
universe higher and other than anything known to our senses; a universe
not dominated by Physics and Chemistry, but utilising the interactions
of matter for its own purposes; a universe where the human spirit is
more at home than it is among these temporary collocations of atoms; a
universe capable of infinite development, of noble contemplation, and
of lofty joy, long after this planet--nay, the whole solar system--shall
have fulfilled its present spire of destiny, and retired cold and lifeless
upon its endless way.

                     *      *      *      *      *


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