By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Modern Zoroastrian
Author: Laing, S. (Samuel)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Modern Zoroastrian" ***

images of public domain material from the Google Books



    _1000 copies printed, February, 1888._
    _1000   ”       ”     March, 1889._
    _1000   ”       ”     March, 1890._
    _1000   ”       ”     June, 1890._
    _1000   ”       ”     March, 1891._
    _1000   ”       ”     June, 1892._
    _1000   ”       ”     February, 1893._
    _1000   ”       ”     November, 1893._

                          A MODERN ZOROASTRIAN

                                S. LAING,

                                AUTHOR OF
                            “HUMAN ORIGINS.”

                            Eighth Thousand.

                      LONDON: CHAPMAN AND HALL, LD.

                       CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS,
                          CRYSTAL PALACE PRESS.


From some of the criticisms on the First Edition of this work I fear
that the distinction I endeavoured to draw between the use of the term
“polarity” in the inorganic and in the spiritual worlds has not been
made sufficiently clear. I stated in the Introduction “That while the
principle of polarity pervades both worlds, I am far from assuming that
the laws under which it acts are identical; and that virtue and vice,
pain and pleasure, are products of the same mathematical laws as regulate
the attractions and repulsions of molecules and atoms.” But this warning
has been apparently overlooked by some readers who have assumed that
instead of analogy I meant identity, and that it was a mistake to use the
same word “polarity” for phenomena so essentially distinct as those of
the material and the spiritual worlds.

Thus my “guide, philosopher, and friend,” Professor Huxley, for whose
authority I have the highest respect, observed in a recent article, that
he had long ago acquired a habit, if he came across the word polarity
applied to anything but magnetism and electricity, of throwing down
the book and reading no farther. I must confess that I felt a little
disconcerted when I read this passage; but I was soon consoled, for, in a
month or two afterwards, I came across another passage in the same Review
which said, “However revolting may be the accumulation of misery at the
negative pole of Society, in contrast with that of monstrous wealth at
the positive pole, this state of things must abide and grow continuously
worse, as long as Istar (the dual Goddess of the Babylonians) holds her
way unchecked.”

Surely, I thought, here is a case in which the Professor must have thrown
down the Review when he came to these words: but when I came to the
end, I found that it was not the Review, but the pen, which must have
been thrown down, for the article is signed “T. Huxley.” Can there be
a more conclusive proof that there are a vast variety of facts outside
of magnetism and electricity, connected by an underlying idea, which
inevitably suggests analogy to them, and which can be most conveniently
expressed by the word “polarity”? Words after all are only coins to
facilitate the interchange of ideas, and the best word is that which
serves the purpose most clearly and concisely. Thus instead of using
a waggon load of copper, or the verbiage of a conveyancer’s deed, to
express the ideas comprised in such words as “theism,” “pantheism,” or
“agnosticism,” we coin them for general use, as Huxley did the word
“agnosticism,” in order to convey our meaning.

Polarity is such a word. It sums up what Emerson says in his Essay on
Compensation: “Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of
Nature; in darkness and light; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and
female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the
undulations of fluids and of sound; in the centripetal and centrifugal
gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce
Magnetism at one end of a needle, the opposite Magnetism takes place at
the other end. If the South attracts, the North repels. An inevitable
dualism besets nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another
to make it whole: as spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective,
objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.”

These, by whatever name we like to call them, are facts and not fancies,
and facts which enter largely into all questions, whether of science,
philosophy, religion, or practical policy. Every one who wishes to keep
at all abreast with modern culture, ought to have some general knowledge
of the ideas and principles which underlie them and which are embraced
in the comprehensive word “polarity.” My object in this book has been
to assist the reader, who is not a specialist, in arriving at some
general understanding of the subjects treated of, and I may hope, in
awakening such an interest in them as may induce him to prosecute further
researches. If I succeed in this, my object will have been attained.


The reception given to my former work, on ‘Modern Science and Modern
Thought,’ has induced me to write this further one. I refer not so much
to the reviews of professional critics, though as a rule nothing could be
more courteous and candid, but rather to the letters I have received from
readers of various age, sex, and condition, saying that I had assisted
them in understanding much interesting matter which had previously been a
sealed book to them.

If I am good for anything, it is for a certain faculty of lucid
condensation, and I have thought that I might apply this to some of the
less-known branches of modern science, such as the new chemistry and
physiology, as well as, in my first work, to the more familiar subjects
of astronomy and geology; while at the same time I might extend it to
some of the more obvious problems of religion, morals, metaphysics, and
practical life, which force themselves, more and more every day, on the
attention of intelligent thinkers.

As in the former work the scientific speculations were linked together by
the leading idea of the universality of law, so, in this, unity is given
to them by the all-pervading principle of polarity, which manifests
itself everywhere as the fundamental condition of the material and
spiritual universe.

For the scientific portion of the work I am indebted to the most
approved authorities, such as Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel, and Professor
Cooke’s volume on the New Chemistry in the International Scientific
Series. For the religious and philosophical speculations I am myself
responsible; for, although I have derived the greatest possible pleasure
and profit from Herbert Spencer’s writings, I had arrived at my principal
conclusions independently before I had read any of his works. I can
only hope that I may have succeeded in presenting a good many abstruse
questions in a popular form, intelligible to the average mind of ordinary
readers, and calculated, if it teaches nothing else, to teach them a
practical philosophy which inculcates tolerance and charity, and assists
them in finding

    Sermons in stones and good in everything.



                               CHAPTER I.


    Experiment with magnet—Principle of polarity—Applies
    universally—Analogies in spiritual world—Zoroastrian
    religion—Changes in modern environment—Require corresponding
    changes in religions and philosophies                                1

                               CHAPTER II.


    Matter consists of molecules—Nature of molecules—Laws of
    their action in gases—Law of Avogadro—Molecules composed
    of atoms—Proved by composition of water—Combinations of
    atoms—Elementary substances—Qualities of matter depend on
    atoms—Dimensions and velocities of molecules and atoms—These
    are ascertained _facts_, not theories                                9

                              CHAPTER III.


    Ether proved by light—Light-waves—Elasticity of ether—Its
    universal diffusion—Influences molecules and atoms—Is
    influenced by them—Successive orders of the infinitely
    small—Illustrated by the differential and integral
    calculus—Explanation of this calculus—Theory of vortex rings        21

                               CHAPTER IV.


    Energy of motion and of position—Energy can be
    transformed, not created or destroyed—Not created by
    free-will—Conservation of mechanical power—Convertibility
    of heat and work—Nature of heat—The steam-engine—Different
    forms of energy—Gravity—Molecular energy—Chemical
    energy—Dynamite—Chemical affinities—Electricity—Produced
    by friction—By the voltaic battery—Electric currents—Arc
    light—Induction—Magnetism—The magnetic needle—The electric
    telegraph—The telephone—Dynamo-electric engine—Accumulator          36

                               CHAPTER V.

                           POLARITY IN MATTER.

    Ultimate elements of universe—Built up by polarity—Experiment
    with magnet—Chemical affinity—Atomic poles—Alkalies
    and acids—Quantivalence—Atomicity—Isomerism—Chemical
    stability—Thermochemistry—Definition of atoms—All matter built
    up by polar forces                                                  65

                               CHAPTER VI.

                            POLARITY IN LIFE.

    Contrast of living and dead—Eating and
    being eaten—Trace matter upwards and life
    of protoplasm—Essential qualities of life—Nutrition and
    sensation—Motion—Reproduction—Spontaneous generation—Organic
    compounds—Polar conditions of life                                  76

                              CHAPTER VII.


    Contrast in developed life—Plants producers, animals
    consumers—Differences disappear in simple forms—Zoophytes—
    plants—Geological succession—Primary period, Algæ and
    Ferns—Secondary period, Gymnosperms—Tertiary and recent,
    Angiosperms—Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons—Parallel evolution
    of animal life—Primary, protista, mollusca, and fish—Secondary,
    reptiles—Tertiary and recent, mammals                               92

                              CHAPTER VIII.


    Sexual generation—Base of ancient cosmogonies—Propagation
    non-sexual in simpler forms—Amœba and cells—Germs and
    buds—Anemones—Worms—Spores—Origin of sex—Ovary and male
    organ—Hermaphrodites—Parthenogenesis—Bees and insects—Man and
    woman—Characters of each sex—Woman’s position—Improved by
    civilisation—Christianity the feminine pole—Monogamy the law
    of nature—Tone respecting women test of character—Women in
    literature—In society—Attraction and repulsion of sexes—Like
    attracts unlike—Ideal marriage—Woman’s rights and modern
    legislation                                                        102

                               CHAPTER IX.


    Heredity in simple forms of life—In more complex
    organisms—Pangenesis—Varieties how produced—Fixed by law of
    survival of the fittest—Dr. Temple’s view—Examples: triton,
    axolotl—Variations in individuals and species—Lizards into
    birds—Ringed snakes—Echidna                                        117

                               CHAPTER X.


    Basis of knowledge—Perception—Constitution of
    brain—White and grey matter—Average size and weight
    of brains—European, negro, and ape—Mechanism of
    perception—Sensory and motor nerves—Separate areas of
    brain—Sensory and motor centres—Abnormal states of
    Spiritualism—Reflex action—Ideas how formed—Number
    and space—Creation unknowable—Conceptions based on
    perceptions—Metaphysics—Descartes, Kant,
    Berkeley—Anthropomorphism—Laws of nature                           125

                               CHAPTER XI.

                       RELIGIONS AND PHILOSOPHIES.

    Religions, ‘working hypotheses’—Newman’s illative sense—Origins
    of religions—Ghosts and spirits—Fetishes—Nature-worship—Solar
    myths—Planets—Evolution of nature-worship—Polytheism,
    pantheism, and theism—Evolution of monotheism in the
    Old Testament—Evolution of morality—Natural law and
    miracle—Evidence for miracles—Insufficiency of evidence—Absence
    of intelligent design—Agnosticism—Origin of evil—Can only
    be explained by polarity—Optimism and pessimism—Jesus, the
    Christian Ormuzd—Christianity without miracles                     146

                              CHAPTER XII.

                        CHRISTIANITY AND MORALS.

    Christianity based on morals—Origin of morality—Traced
    in Judaism—Originates in evolution—Instance of
    murder—Freedom of will—Will suspended in certain states of
    brain—Hypnotism—Mechanical theory—Pre-established harmony—Human
    and animal conscience—Analysis of will—Explained by
    polarity—Practical conclusion                                      184

                              CHAPTER XIII.


    Zoroaster an historical person—The Parsees—Iranian branch
    of Aryan family—Zoroaster a religious reformer—Scene at
    Balkh—Conversion of Gushtasp—Doctrines of the ‘excellent
    religion’—Monotheism—Polarity—Dr. Haug’s description—Ormuzd
    and Ahriman—Anquetil du Perron—Approximation
    to modern thought—Absence of miracles—Code of
    morals—Its comprehensiveness—And liberality—Special
    rites—Fire-worship—Disposal of dead—Practical results—The
    Parsees of Bombay—Their probity, enterprise, respect
    for women—Zeal for education—Philanthropy and public
    spirit—Statistics—Death and birth rates                            197

                              CHAPTER XIV.

                            FORMS OF WORSHIP.

    Byron’s lines—Carnegie’s description—Parsee
    nature-worship—English Sunday—The sermon—Appeals to reason
    misplaced—Music better than words—The Mass—Zoroastrianism
    brings religion into daily life—Sanitation—Zoroastrian
    prayer—Religion of the future—Sermons in stones and good in
    everything                                                         219

                               CHAPTER XV.

                          PRACTICAL POLARITIES.

    Fable of the shield—Progress and conservatism—English and
    French colonisation—Law-abidingness—Irish land question—True
    conservative legislation—Ultra-conservatism—Law and
    education—Patriotism—Jingoism and parochialism—True
    statesmanship—Free trade and protection—Capital
    and labour—Egoism and altruism—Socialism and
    _laissez faire_—Contracts—Rights and duties of
    landlords—George’s theory—State interference—Railways—Post
    Office—Telegraphs—National defence—Concluding remarks              227




    Experiment with magnet—Principle of polarity—Applies
    universally—Analogies in spiritual world—Zoroastrian
    religion—Changes in modern environment—Require
    corresponding changes in religions and philosophies.

Scatter a heap of iron filings on a plate of glass; bring near it a
magnet, and tap the glass gently, and you will see the filings arrange
themselves in regular forms.

If one pole only of the magnet is brought near the glass the filings
arrange themselves in lines radiating from that pole.

Next lay the bar-magnet on the glass so that the filings are influenced
by both poles; they will arrange themselves into a series of regular

In other words, the Chaos of a confused heap of inert matter has become a
Cosmos of harmonious arrangement assuming definite form in obedience to

As the old saying has it, that ‘every road leads to Rome,’ so this
simple experiment leads up to a principle which underlies all existence
knowable to human faculty—that of Polarity. Why do the iron filings
arrange themselves in regular curves? Because they are magnetised by
the influence of the larger magnet, and each little particle of iron is
converted into a little magnet with two opposite poles attracting and


What is a magnet? It is a special manifestation of the more general
principle of polarity, by which energy, when it passes from the passive
or neutralised into the active state, does so under the condition of
developing opposite and conflicting energies: no action without reaction,
no positive without a negative, and, as we see it in the simplest form in
our magnets, no North Pole without a South Pole—like ever repelling like
and attracting unlike. The magnet, again, may be considered as a special
form of electricity, for if we send an electric current through a coil of
copper wire encircling a bar of soft iron, the bar is at once converted
into a magnet; so that a magnet may be considered as the summing up,
at two opposite extremities or poles, of the attractive and repulsive
effects of electric currents circulating round it. But this electricity
is itself subject to the law of polarity, whether developed by chemical
action in the form of a current or electricity in motion, or by friction
in the form of statical electricity of small quantity but high tension.
In all cases a positive implies a negative; in all, like repels like and
attracts unlike. Conversely, as polarity produces definite structure, so
definite structure everywhere implies polarity.

The same principle prevails not only throughout the inorganic or world
of matter, but throughout the organic or world of life, and specially
throughout its highest manifestations in human life and character, and
in the highest products of its evolution, in societies, religions, and
philosophies. To show this by some familiar and striking examples is the
main object of this book.

But here let me interpose a word of caution. I must avoid the error
which vitiates Professor Drummond’s interesting work on ‘Natural Law in
the Spiritual World,’ of confounding analogy and identity. Because the
principle of polarity pervades alike the natural and spiritual worlds,
I am far from assuming that the laws under which it acts are identical;
and that virtue and vice, pain and pleasure, ugliness and beauty, are
products of the same mathematical changes of sign and inverse squares
or cubes of distances, as regulate the attractions and repulsions of
molecules and atoms. All I say is, that the same pervading principle may
be traced wherever human thought and human knowledge extend; that it is
apparently, for some reason unknown to us, the essential condition of all
existence within the sphere of that thought and that knowledge; and that
what lies beyond it is the great unknown, behind the impenetrable veil
which it is not given to mortals to uplift. In like manner, if I call
myself ‘a modern Zoroastrian,’ it is not that I wish or expect to teach
a new religion or revive an old one, to see Christian churches dedicated
to Ormuzd, or right reverend bishops exchanging the apron and shovel-hat
for the mitre and flowing robes of the ancient Magi; but simply this.
All religions I take to be ‘working hypotheses,’ by which successive
ages and races of men try to satisfy the aspirations and harmonise the
knowledge which in the course of evolution have come to be, for the
time, their spiritual equipment. The best proof of any religion is, that
it exists—i.e. that it is part of the same evolution, and that on the
whole it works well, i.e. is in tolerable harmony with its environment.
When that environment changes, when loftier views of morality prevail,
when knowledge is increased and the domain of science everywhere extends
its frontier, religions must change with it if they are to remain good
working, and not become unworkable and unbelievable hypotheses.

Now of all the religious hypotheses which remain workable in the present
state of human knowledge, that seems to me the best which frankly
recognises the existence of this dual law, or law of polarity, as the
fundamental condition of the universe, and, personifying the good
principle under the name of Ormuzd, and the evil one under that of
Ahriman, looks with earnest but silent and unspoken reverence on the
great unknown beyond, which may, in some way incomprehensible to mortals,
reconcile the two opposites, and give the final victory to the good.

    Oh! yet we hope that somehow good
    Will be the final goal of ill.

So sings the poet of the nineteenth century: so, if we understand his
doctrine rightly, taught the Bactrian sage, Zoroaster, some forty
centuries earlier.

This, and this alone, seems to me to afford a working hypothesis
which is based on fact, can be brought into harmony with the existing
environment, and embraces, in a wider synthesis, all that is good in
other philosophies and religions.

When I talk of our new environment, it requires one who, like the author,
has lived more than the Scriptural threescore and ten years, and has, so
to speak, one foot on the past and one on the present, to realise how
enormous is the change which a single generation has made in the whole
spiritual surroundings of a civilised man of the nineteenth century.
When I was a student at Cambridge, little more than fifty years ago,
Astronomy was the only branch of natural science which could be said to
be definitely brought within the domain of natural law. And that only
as regards the law of gravity, and the motions of the heavenly bodies,
for little or nothing was known as to their constitution. Geology was
just beginning the series of conquests by which time and the order
and succession of life on the earth have been annexed by science as
completely as space by astronomy; and theories of cataclysms, universal
deluges, and special recent creations of animals and man, still held
their ground, and were quoted as proofs of a universe maintained by
constant supernatural interference.

And when I say that space had been annexed to science by astronomy, it
was really only that half of space which extends from the standpoint of
the human senses in the direction of the infinitely great. The other
equally important half which extends downwards to the infinitely small
was unknown, or the subject only of the vaguest conjectures.

Chemistry was, to a great extent, an empirical science, and molecules and
atoms were at best guesses at truth, or rather convenient mathematical
abstractions with no more actual reality than the symbols of the
differential calculus. The real causes and laws of heat, light, and
electricity, were as little known as those of molecular action and of
chemical affinity. The great laws of the indestructibility of matter, the
correlation of forces, and the conservation of energy, were unknown, or
only just beginning to be foreshadowed. As regards life, protoplasm was
a word unheard of; scientific biology, zoology, and botany were in their
infancy; and the gradual building up of all living matter from a speck of
protoplasm, through a primitive cell, was not even suspected. Above all,
the works of Darwin had not been published, and evolution had not become
the general law of modern thought; nor had the discovery of the antiquity
of man, and of his slow development upwards from the rudest origins,
shattered into fragments established beliefs as to his recent miraculous

Science and miracle have been fighting out their battle during the last
fifty years along the whole line, and science has been at every point
victorious. Miracle, in the sense in which our fathers believed in it,
has been not only repulsed, but annihilated so completely, that really
little remains but to bury the dead.

The result of these discoveries has been to make a greater change in the
spiritual environment of a single generation than would be made in their
physical environment if the glacial period suddenly returned and buried
Northern Europe under polar ice. The change is certainly greater in the
last fifty years than it had been in the previous five hundred, and in
many respects greater than in the previous five thousand.

It may be sufficient to glance shortly at the equally great
corresponding changes which this period has witnessed in the practical
conditions of life and of society. If astronomy and geology have extended
the dominion of the mind over space and time, steamers, railways, and
the electric telegraph have gained the mastery over them for practical
purposes. Commerce and emigration have assumed international proportions,
and India, Australia, and America are nearer to us, and connected with
us by closer ties, than Scotland was to England in my schoolboy days.
Education and a cheap press have even in a greater degree revolutionised
society, and knowledge, reaching the masses, has carried with it power,
so that democracy and free-thought are, whether for good or evil,
everywhere in the ascendant, and old privileges and traditions are
everywhere decaying.

With such a great change of environment it is evident that many of the
old creeds, institutions, and other organisms, adapted to old conditions,
must have become as obsolete as a schoolboy’s jacket would be as the
comfortable habiliment of a grown-up man. But as a lobster which has cast
its shell does not feel at ease until it has grown a new one, so thinking
men of the present day are driven to devise, to a great extent each
for themselves, some larger theory which may serve them as a ‘working
hypothesis’ with which to go through life, and bring the ineradicable
aspirations and emotions of their nature into some tolerable harmony with
existing facts.

To me, as one of those thinking units, this theory, of what for want
of a better name I call ‘Zoroastrianism,’ has approved itself as a
good working theory, which reconciles more intellectual and moral
difficulties, and affords a better guide in conduct and practical life
than any other; and, in a word, enables me to reduce my own individual
Chaos into some sort of an intelligible and ordered Cosmos. I feel moved,
therefore, to preach through the press my little sermon upon it, for the
benefit of those whom it may concern, feeling assured that the process of
evolution, by which

    The old order changes, giving place to new,

can best be assisted by the honest and unbiassed expression of the
results of individual thought and experience on the part of any one of
those units whose aggregates form the complicated organisms of religions
and philosophies, of societies and of humanity.



    Matter consists of molecules—Nature of molecules—Laws of
    their action in gases—Law of Avogadro—Molecules composed
    of atoms—Proved by composition of water—Combinations of
    atoms—Elementary substances—Qualities of matter depend on
    atoms—Dimensions and velocities of molecules and atoms—These
    are ascertained _facts_, not theories.

If in building a house that is to stand when the rains fall and the winds
blow, it is requisite to go down to the solid rock for a foundation, so
much the more is it necessary in building up a theory to begin at the
beginning and give it a solid groundwork. Nine-tenths of the fallacies
current in the world arise from the haste with which people rush to
conclusions on insufficient premises. Take, for instance, any of the
political questions of the day, such as the Irish question: how many
of those who express confident opinions, and get angry and excited on
one side or the other, could answer any of the preliminary questions
which are the indispensable conditions of any rational judgment? How
many marks would they get for an examination paper which asked what
was the population of Ireland; what proportion of that population was
agricultural; what proportion of that agricultural population consisted
of holders of small tenements; what was the scale of rents compared with
that for small holdings in other countries; how much of that rent was
levied on them for their own improvements; and other similar questions
which lie at the root of the matter? In how many cases would it be found
that the whole superstructure of their confident and passionate theories
about the Irish difficulty was based on no more solid foundation than
their like or dislike of a particular statesman or of a particular party?

I propose therefore to begin at the beginning, and, taking the simplest
case, that of dead or inorganic matter, show how the material universe is
built up by the operation of the all-pervading law of polarity. What does
matter consist of? Of molecules, and molecules are made up of atoms, and
these are held together or parted, and built up into the various forms of
the material universe, primarily by polar forces.

Let me endeavour to make this intelligible to the intelligent but
unscientific reader. Suppose the Pyramid of Cheops shown for the first
time to a giant whose eye was on such a scale that he could just
discern it as a separate object. He might make all sorts of ingenious
conjectures as to its nature, but if microscopes had been invented in
Giant-land and he looked through one, he would find that it was built
up, layer by layer, on a regular plan and in determinate lines and
angles, by molecules, or what seemed to him almost infinitely small
masses, of squared stone. For pyramid write crystal, and we may see by
the human sense, aided by human instruments and human reason, a similar
structure built up in the same way by minute particles. Or again, divide
and subdivide our iron filings until we reach the limit of possible
mechanical division discernible by the microscope; each one remains
essentially a bar of iron, as capable of being magnetised, and showing
the same qualities and behaviour under chemical tests as the original
bar of iron from which the filings were taken. This carries us a long
way down towards the infinitely small, for mechanical division and
microscopic visibility can be carried down to magnitudes which are of the
order of 1/100000th of an inch.

But this is only the first step; to understand our molecules we must
ascertain whether they are infinitely divisible, and whether they are
continuous, expanding by being spread out thinner and thinner like
gold-beater’s skin: or are they separate bodies with intervals between
them, like little planets forming one solar system and revolving in
space by fixed laws. Ancient science guessed at the former solution and
embodied it in the maxim ‘that nature abhors a vacuum’: modern science
proves the latter.

In the first place bodies combine only in fixed proportions, which is a
necessary consequence if they consist of definite indivisible particles,
but inconceivable if the substance of each is indefinitely divisible.
Thus water is formed in one way and one only: by uniting one volume or
molecule of oxygen with two of hydrogen, and any excess of one or the
other is left out and remains uncombined. But if the molecules could be
divided into halves, quarters, and so on indefinitely, there can be no
reason why their union should take place always in this one proportion
and this only.

A still more conclusive proof is furnished by the behaviour of substances
which exist in the form of gases. If a jar is filled with one gas, a
second and third gas can be poured into it as readily as into a vacuum,
the result being that the pressure on the sides of the jar is exactly
equal to the sum of the separate pressures of each separate gas. This
evidently means that the first gas does not occupy the whole space, but
that its particles are like a battalion of soldiers in loose skirmishing
order, with such intervals between each unit that a second and third
battalion can be marched in and placed on the same ground, without
disturbing the formation, and with the result only of increasing the
intensity of the fire.

Now gas is matter as much as solids or liquids, and in the familiar
instance of water we see that it is merely a question of more or less
heat whether the same matter exists as ice, water, or steam. The number
and nature of the molecules is not changed, only in the one case they are
close to one another and solidly linked together; in the other, further
removed and free to move about one another, though still held together
as a mass by their mutual attractions; and in the third, still further
apart, so that their mutual attraction is lost and they dart about, each
with its own proper motion, bombarding the surface which contains them,
and by the resultant of their impacts producing pressure.

In this latter and simpler form of gas the following laws are found to
prevail universally for all substances. Under like conditions volumes
vary directly as the temperature and inversely as the pressure. That
is to say, the pressure which contains them remaining the same, equal
volumes of air, steam, or any other substance in the state of gas, expand
into twice the volume if the temperature is doubled, three times if it
is tripled, and so on; contracting in the same way if the temperature
is lowered. If on the other hand the temperature remains constant, the
volume is reduced to one half or one third, if the pressure is doubled
or tripled. From these laws the further grand generalisation has been
arrived at, that all substances existing in the form of gas contain the
same number of molecules in the same volume.

This, which is known as the Law of Avogadro, from the Italian chemist by
whom it was first discovered, is the fundamental law of modern chemistry,
and the key to all certain and scientific knowledge of the constitution
of matter and of the domain of the infinitely small, just as much as the
law of gravity is to action of matter in the mass, and the resulting
conditions and motions of mechanics and astronomy.

This conclusion obviously follows from it, that difference of weight
in different substances arises not from one having more molecules in
the same volume than another, but from the molecules themselves being
heavier. If we weigh a gallon or litre of hydrogen gas, which is the
lightest known substance, and then weighing an equal volume of oxygen
gas find that it is sixteen times heavier, we know for certain that the
molecule or ultimate particle of oxygen is sixteen times heavier than
that of hydrogen.

It is evident that in this way the molecules of all simple substances
which can exist in the form of pure gas can be weighed, and their weight
expressed in terms of the unit which is generally adopted, that of the
molecule of the lightest known substance, hydrogen. But science, not
content with this achievement, wants to know not the relative weight
only, but the absolute dimensions, qualities, and motions of these
little bodies; and whether, although they cannot be divided further by
mechanical means, and while retaining the qualities of the substances
they build up, they are really ultimate and indivisible particles or
themselves composites.

Chemistry and electricity give a ready answer to this latter question.
Molecules are composites of still smaller bodies, and to get back to
the ultimate particle we must go to atoms. All chemical changes resolve
themselves into the breaking up of molecules and rearrangement of their
constituent atoms. If the opposite poles of a voltaic battery are
inserted in a vessel containing water, molecules of water are broken up,
bubbles of gas rise at each pole, and if these are collected, the gas at
the positive pole is found to be oxygen, and that at the negative pole
hydrogen. Nothing has been added or taken away, for the weight of the two
gases evolved exactly equals that of the water which has disappeared. But
the molecules of the water have been broken up, and their constituents
reappear in totally different forms, for nothing can well be more unlike
water than each of the two gases of which it is composed. That it is
composed of them can be verified by the reverse experiment of mixing the
two gases together in the same proportion of two volumes of hydrogen to
one of oxygen as was produced by the decomposition of water, passing an
electric spark through the vessel containing the mixture, when with a
loud explosion the gases reunite, and water is formed in precisely the
same quantity as produced the volumes of gas by its decomposition. Can
the ultimate particles of these gases be further subdivided; can they,
like those of water, be broken up and reappear in new forms? No; there
is no known process by which an atom of oxygen can be made anything but
oxygen, or an atom of hydrogen anything but hydrogen.

The only thing which is compound in the composition of oxygen is that
its molecules consist of two atoms linked together. This appears from
the fact that while the weight of oxygen, and therefore that of its
molecules, is sixteen times greater than that of an equal volume of
hydrogen, and therefore of hydrogen molecules, it combines with it in
the proportion not of sixteen, but of eight to one. If, therefore, the
molecule were identical with the atom of oxygen, we must admit that the
atom could be halved, which is contrary to its definition as the ultimate
indivisible particle of the substance oxygen. But if the oxygen molecule
consists of two linked atoms, O—O, and the hydrogen molecule equally
of two, H—H, as can be proved by other considerations, everything is
explained by assuming that the molecule of water consists of two atoms of
hydrogen linked to one of oxygen, or H₂O, and that when this molecule is
broken up by electricity, its constituents resolve themselves into atoms,
which recombine so as to form twice as many molecules of hydrogen, H—H,
as of oxygen, O,—i.e. into two volumes of hydrogen gas to one of oxygen.

Taking the single hydrogen atom as the unit of weight as being the
lightest known ponderable body, and calling this weight a microcrith,
or standard of the smallest of this order of excessively small weights,
this is equivalent to saying that the weight of an oxygen atom is equal
to 16 microcriths, and as water is composed of one such atom plus two of
hydrogen, the weight of its molecule ought to be 16 + 2 = 18, which is in
fact the exact ratio in which the weight of a volume of steam, or water
in the form of gas, is heavier than an equal volume of hydrogen.

This key unlocks the whole secret of the chemical changes and
combinations by which matter assumes all the various forms known to us in
the universe.

Thus oxygen enters into a great variety of combinations forming different
substances, but always in the proportion which is either 16, or some
multiple of 16, such as 32, 48, 64. That is, either 1, 2, 3, or 4 atoms
of oxygen unite with other atoms to form the molecules from which these
other substances are made.

One atom of oxygen weighing 16 microcriths combines, as we have seen,
with two atoms of hydrogen weighing 2, to form a molecule of water
weighing 18 mc. In like manner one atom of oxygen, 16 mc., combines with
one of carbon, which weighs 12 mc., to form a molecule of carbonic oxide
weighing 28 mc.; and two of oxygen, 32 mc., with one of carbon, 12 mc.,
to form a molecule of carbonic dioxide weighing 44 mc.

The same applies to all elementary substances. Thus hydrogen, two atoms
of which combine with one of oxygen to form water, combines one atom to
one with chlorine to form the molecule of hydrochloric acid, which weighs
36·5 mc., being the united weights of one atom of chlorine, 35·5 mc.,
and one of hydrogen, 1 mc. These, with hundreds of similar instances,
are the results not of theories as to molecules and atoms, but of actual
facts, ascertained by innumerable experiments made independently by
careful observers over long periods of years, many of them dating back
to the labours of the alchemists of the middle ages in pursuit of gold.
The atomic theory is the child and not the parent of the facts, and is
indeed nothing but the summary of the vast variety of experiments which
led up to it, as Newton’s law of gravity is of the facts known to us
with regard to the attractions and motions of matter in the mass. But as
Newton’s law enables us to predict new facts, to calculate eclipses and
the return of comets beforehand, and to compile nautical almanacs; so the
new chemistry, based on the atomic theory, affords the same conclusive
proof of its truth by enabling us in many cases to predict phenomena
which are subsequently verified by experiment, and to infer beforehand
what combinations are possible, and what will be their nature.

The actual existence, therefore, of molecules and atoms is as
well-ascertained a fact, as that of cwts. and lbs., or of planets and
stars, of solar systems and nebulæ.

The researches of chemists have succeeded in discovering about 70
substances, of which the same may be said as of the oxygen and hydrogen
into which water is decomposed, viz. that they cannot be decomposed
by any known process, and must therefore be considered as ultimate
and elementary. Their atoms differ widely in size and weight: that of
mercury, for instance, being 200 times heavier than that of hydrogen, and
the weights varying from 1 mc. for the hydrogen atom, up to 240 for that
of uranium. When we call them elementary substances, we merely mean that
we know no means of decomposing them. It is possible that all of them may
be compounds which we cannot take to pieces of some substratum of uniform
matter, and it is remarkable that the weight of nearly all of these
elementary atoms is some simple multiple of that of hydrogen, pointing to
their being all combinations of one common substratum of matter; but this
is merely conjecture, and in the present state of our knowledge we must
assume these 66 or 71 ultimate particles or atoms to be the indivisible
units out of which all the complicated puzzle of the material universe
is put together. They are not all equally important to us. Of the 71
elementary substances enumerated in chemical treatises, 5 are doubtful,
and 30 to 35 of the remainder are either known only to chemists in minute
quantities, or exist in nature in small quantities, having no very
material bearing upon man’s relation to matter. The most important are
oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. Oxygen diluted by nitrogen gives
us the air we breathe, combined with hydrogen the water we drink, and
with metals and other primitive bases the solid earth on which we tread.
Carbon again is the great basis of organised matter and life, to which it
leads up by a variety of complex combinations with oxygen, hydrogen, and

The qualities and relations of elementary atoms afford a subject of great
interest, but of such vast extent that those who wish to understand it
must be referred to professed works on modern chemistry. For the present
purpose it is sufficient to say that the following conclusions are firmly

All the various forms of matter are composed of combinations of primitive
atoms which form molecules, the molecules being neither more nor less
than very small pieces of ordinary matter.

The qualities of this matter, or, what is the same thing, of its
molecules, depend partly on the qualities of the atoms, which are
something quite distinct from those of the molecules, and partly on their
mode of aggregation into molecules, affecting the form, size, stability,
and other attributes of the molecule.

All matter, down to the smallest atom, has definite weight and is
indestructible. No man by taking thought can add the millionth of a
milligramme to the weight of any substance, or make it either more or
less than the sum of the weights of its component factors, any more than
he can add a cubit to his stature. When Shelley sang of the cloud,

    I change, but I cannot die,

he enunciated a scientific axiom of the first importance. Creation, in
the sense of making something out of nothing, is a thing absolutely
unknown and unknowable to us. If we say we _make_ a ship or a
steam-engine, we simply mean that we transform existing matter and
existing energies into new combinations, which give results convenient
for our purpose. So if we talk of making a world, our idea really is
that if our powers and knowledge were indefinitely increased we might be
able, given the atoms and energies with their laws of existence, to put
them together so as to produce the desired results. But how the atoms and
their inherent laws got there is a question as to which knowledge, or
even conceivability, is impossible, for it altogether transcends human

Before finally taking leave of atoms it may be well to state shortly
that science, not content with having proved their existence and weighed
them in terms of the lightest element, the hydrogen atom, has attempted,
not without success, to solve the more difficult problem of their real
dimensions, intervals, and velocities. This problem has been attacked by
Clausius, Sir W. Thomson, Clerk Maxwell, and others, from various sides:
from a comparison with the wave-lengths of light; with the tenuity of
the thinnest films of soap-bubbles just before they burst, and when
they are presumably reduced to a single layer of molecules; and from the
kinetic theory of gases, involving the dimensions, paths, and velocities
of elastic bodies, constantly colliding, and by their impacts producing
the resulting pressure on the confining surface. All these methods
involve such refined mathematical calculations that it is impossible to
explain them popularly, but they all lead to nearly identical results,
which involve figures so marvellous as to be almost incomprehensible.
For instance, a cubic centimetre of air is calculated to contain 21
trillions of molecules—i.e. 21 times the cube of a million, or 21
followed by 18 ciphers; the average distance between each molecule equals
95 millionths of a millimetre, which is about 25 times smaller than the
smallest magnitude visible under a microscope; the average velocity of
each molecule is 447 metres per second; and the average number of impacts
received by each molecule in a second is 4,700 millions.



    Ether proved by light—Light-waves—Elasticity of ether—Its
    universal diffusion—Influences molecules and atoms—Is influenced
    by them—Successive orders of the infinitely small—Illustrated
    by the differential and integral calculus—Explanation of this
    calculus—Theory of vortex rings.

Perhaps the best way to convey some idea of this order of magnitudes
to the ordinary reader is to quote Sir W. Thomson’s illustration, that
if we could suppose a cubic inch of water magnified to the size of the
earth—i.e. to a sphere 24,000 miles in circumference—the dimensions of
its ultimate particles, magnified on the same scale, or, as he expresses
it, its degree of coarse-grainedness, would be something between the size
of rifle-bullets and cricket-balls.

Extraordinary as these dimensions are, they are not more so than those
at the opposite extremity of the scale, where the distance of stars
and nebulæ has to be measured by the number of thousand years their
light, travelling at the rate of 192,000 miles per second, takes to
reach us. Infinitely small, however, as those dimensions appear to our
original conceptions derived from our natural senses, they are certain
and ascertained facts, if not as to the precise figures, yet beyond all
doubt as to the orders of magnitude. In dealing with them also we are to
a great extent on familiar ground. Molecules are nothing more nor less
than small pieces of ordinary matter; and atoms are also matter, for they
obey the law of gravity, have definite weights, and build up molecules as
surely as molecules build up ordinary matter, and as squared stones build
up pyramids.

But to understand the constitution of the material universe we must
go a step further, part from the familiar world of sense, and deal
with an all-pervading medium, which is at the same time matter and not
matter, which lies outside the laws of gravity, and yet obeys other laws
intelligible and calculable by us; of which it may be said we know it and
we know it not. We call it Ether.

Ether is a medium assumed as a necessary consequence from the phenomena
of light, heat, and electricity—primarily from those of light. Respecting
light two facts are known to us with absolute certainty.

1st. It traverses space at the rate of 192,000 miles per second.

2nd. It is propagated not by particles actually travelling at this rate,
but, like sound through air, by the transmission of waves.

The first fact is known from the difference of time at which eclipses of
Jupiter’s satellites are seen according as the earth is at the point of
its orbit nearest to or farthest from Jupiter—i.e. from the time light
takes to traverse the diameter of the earth’s orbit, which is about 180
millions of miles; and this velocity of light is confirmed by direct
experiments, as by noting the difference of time between seeing the
flash and hearing the sound of a gun, which gives the velocity of light
compared with the known velocity of sound.

The second fact is equally certain from the phenomena of what are called
interferences, when the crest of one wave just overtakes the hollow of
a preceding one, so that, if the two waves are of equal magnitude, the
oscillations exactly neutralise one another, and two lights produce
darkness. This is shown in a thousand different ways, and for all the
different colours depending on different waves into which white light
is analysed when passed through a prism. It is a certain result of
wave-motion, and of wave-motion only, and therefore we know without a
doubt that light is propagated by waves.

But waves imply a medium through which waveforms are transmitted, for
waves are nothing but the rhythmic motion of something which rises and
falls, or oscillates symmetrically about a mean position of rest, slowly
or quickly according to the less or greater elasticity of the medium.
The waves which run along a large and slack wire are large and slow,
those along a small and tightly stretched wire are small and quick; and
from the data we possess as to light, its velocity of transmission,
its refraction when its waves pass from one medium into another of
different density, and from the distance between the waves as shown by
interference, it is easy to calculate the lengths and vibratory periods
of the waves, and the elasticity of the medium through which such waves
are transmitted.

The figures at which we arrive are truly extraordinary. The dimensions
and rates of oscillations of the waves which produce the different
colours of visible light have been measured and calculated with the
greatest accuracy, and they are as follows:


    |   Colours     |No. of waves in|No. of oscillations in |
    |               |    one inch   |     one second        |
    |Red            |    39,000     | 477,000,000,000,000   |
    |Orange         |    42,000     | 506,000,000,000,000   |
    |Yellow         |    44,000     | 535,000,000,000,000   |
    |Green          |    47,000     | 577,000,000,000,000   |
    |Blue           |    51,000     | 622,000,000,000,000   |
    |Indigo         |    54,000     | 658,000,000,000,000   |
    |Violet         |    57,000     | 699,000,000,000,000   |

The elasticity of this wonderful medium is even more extraordinary.

The rapidity with which wave-motion is transmitted depends, other things
being equal, on the elasticity of the medium, which is proportional to
the square of the velocity with which a wave travels through it. As the
velocity of the sound-wave in air is about 1,100 feet in a second, and
that of the light-wave about 192,000 miles in the same time, it follows
that the velocity of the latter is about a million times greater than
that of the former, and if the density of ether were the same as that of
air, its elasticity must be about a million million times greater. But
the elasticity is the same thing as the power of resisting compression,
which in the case of air we know to be about 15 pounds to the square
inch; so that the ether, if equally dense, would balance a pressure of
15 million million pounds to the square inch—that is, it would require
a pressure of about 750 millions of tons to the square inch to condense
ether to the density of air. On the other hand, its density, if any,
must be so infinitesimally small that the earth moving through it in its
orbit with a velocity of 1,100 miles a minute suffers no perceptible

Consider what this means. Air blowing at the rate of 100 miles an hour
is a hurricane uprooting trees and levelling houses. If ether were as
dense as air the resistance to the earth in passing through it would
be 600 times that of going dead to windward in a tropical hurricane.
But in point of fact there is no sensible resistance, for the earth and
heavenly bodies move in their calculated paths according to the law of
gravity exactly as they would do if they were moving in a vacuum. Even
the comets, which consist of such excessively rare matter that when one
of them got entangled among the satellites of Jupiter it did not affect
their movements, are not retarded by the ether, or so slightly, that any
retardation in the case of one or two of them is suspected rather than
proved. But, if the ether has no weight, how can we call it material,
weight being, as we have seen, the invariable test and measure of all
matter down to the minutest atom? And yet how can we deny its existence
when it is demonstrably necessary to account for undoubted facts revealed
to us every day by the prism, the spectroscope, electricity, and chemical
action, and deductions from these facts based on the strict laws of
mathematical calculation? For the existence of the ether is not based
only on the phenomena of light: it is an equally necessary postulate to
explain those of heat, electricity, and chemical action. We must conceive
of our atoms and molecules as forming systems and performing their
movements, not in vacuo, but in an all-pervading medium of this ether, to
which they impart, and from which they receive, impulses.

These impulses are excessively minute, and when they occur in irregular
order they produce no appreciable effect; but when the vibrations of
the ether keep time with those of the atoms, the multitude of small
effects becomes summed up into one considerable enough to produce great
changes. Just so a rhythmic succession of tiny ripples may set a heavy
buoy oscillating, and the footfalls of a regiment of soldiers marching
over a suspension-bridge may make it swing until it breaks down, while
a confused mob could traverse it in safety. The latter affords a good
illustration of the way in which molecular structures may be broken down,
and their atoms set free to enter into other combinations, by the action
of heat, light, or chemical rays beyond the visible end of the spectrum.

Conversely the phenomena of the spectroscope all depend on the fact that
the vibrations of atoms and molecules can propagate waves through the
ether, as well as absorb ether-waves into their own motions, and thus
give spectra distinguished by bright or dark lines peculiar to each
substance, by which it can be identified. Whatever ether may be, this
much is certain about it: it pervades all space. That it extends to the
boundaries of the infinitely great we know from the fact that light
reaches us from the remotest stars and nebulæ, and that in this light
the spectroscope enables us to detect waves propagated and absorbed by
the very same vibrations of the same familiar atoms at these enormous
distances as at the earth’s surface. Glowing hydrogen, for instance, is a
principal ingredient of the sun’s atmosphere and of those distant suns we
call stars, and it affects the ether and is affected by it exactly in the
same manner as the hydrogen burning in an ordinary gas-lamp.

In the direction also of the infinitely small, ether permeates the
apparently solid structure of crystals, whose molecules perform their
limited and rigidly definite movements in an atmosphere of it, as is
shown by the fact that in so many cases light and heat penetrate through
them. A whole series of remarkable phenomena arise from the manner in
which the vibrations of ether which cause light are affected by the
structure of the molecules of crystals through which they pass. In
certain cases they are what is called polarised, or so affected that
while they pass freely if the crystal is held in one direction, they
are stopped if it is turned round through an angle of 90° to its former
position, so that one and the same crystal may be alternately transparent
and non-transparent. It would seem as if its structure were like that
of wood, grained, and more easy to penetrate if cut with the grain
than against it, so that when a ray of light attempted to penetrate,
its vibrations were resolved into two, one with the grain which got
through, the other against it which was suppressed; so that the emerging
ray, which entered with a circular vibration, got out with only one
rectilinear vibration parallel to the diameter which coincided with the

Other crystals of more complicated structure affect transmitted light in
a more complex way, developing a double polarity very similar to that
induced in the iron filings when brought under the influence of the
two poles of the magnet. With this polarised light the most beautiful
coloured rings can be produced from the waves of the different colours
into which the white light has been analysed in passing through the
crystal, which alternately flash out and disappear as the crystal is
turned round its axis, and which present a remarkable analogy to the
curves into which the iron filings form themselves under the single or
double poles of the magnet.

The importance of this will appear afterwards, but for the present it
is sufficient to show that the waves of ether which cause light really
penetrate through the molecules of crystals, but in doing so may be
affected by them.


In dealing with these excessively small magnitudes it may assist the
reader who has some acquaintance with mathematics in forming some
conception of them, to refer to that refinement of calculation, the
differential and integral calculus. And even the non-mathematical reader
may find it worth while to give a little attention in order to gain
some idea of this celebrated calculus which was the key by which Newton
and his successors unlocked the mysteries of the heavens. The first
rough idea of it is gained by considering what would happen if, in a
calculation involving hundreds of miles, we neglected inches. Suppose we
had a block of land to measure, 300 miles long and 200 wide; as there
are, say, 5,000 feet in a mile, and the error from omitting inches could
not exceed a foot, the utmost error in the measurement of length could
not exceed 1/1500000th, and in width 1/1000000th part of the correct
amount. In the area of 300 × 200 = 60,000 square miles, the limit of
error would, by adding or omitting the rectangle formed by multiplying
together these two small errors, not exceed 1/1500000 × 1/1000000 =
1/1500000000000th part. It is evident that the first error is an
excessively small part of the true figure, and the second error a still
more excessively small part of the first error. But, as we are dealing
with abstract numbers, we can just as readily conceive our initial error
to be the 1/100th or 1/1000th of an inch, as one inch; and, in fact,
diminish it until it becomes an infinitesimally small or evanescent
quantity. In doing so, however, it is evident that we shall make the
second error such a still more infinitesimally small fraction of the
first that it may be considered as altogether disappearing.

The first error is called a differential of the first order and denoted
by _d_, the second a differential of the second order denoted by d₂.
Thus if we call the base of our rectangle _x_ and its height _y_, the
area will be _xy_. Let us suppose _x_ to receive the addition of a very
small increment _dx_, and _y_ the corresponding increment _dy_, what
will be the corresponding increment of the area, or _d.xy_? Clearly
the difference between the old area _xy_ and the new area (_x_ + _dx_)
multiplied by (_y_ + _dy_). This multiplication gives

     _x_ + _dx_
     _y_ + _dy_
    _xy_ + _ydx_
           _xdy_ + dx.dy
    _xy_ + _xdy_ + _ydx_ + _dx.dy_

The difference between this and _xy_ is _xdy_ + _ydx_ + _dx.dy_. But
_dx.dy_ is, as we have seen, a differential of the second order and may
be neglected. Therefore _dxy_ = _xdy_ + _ydx_. In like manner _dx_² =
(_x_ + _dx_)²-_x_² = 2_xdx_ + _dx_², which last term may be neglected,
and _dx_² = 2_xdx_. In this way the differentials of all manner of
functions and equations of symbols representing dimensions and motions
may be found. Conversely the wholes may be considered as made up of an
infinite number of these infinitely small parts, and found from them by
summing up or integrating the differentials. Thus if we had the equation

    _xdy_ + _ydx_ = 2_zdz_

we know that the left-hand side is the differential of _xy_, and
therefore that by integrating it we shall get _xy_; while the right side
is the differential of _z_² which we shall get by integrating it. The
relation expressed therefore is that _xy_ = _z_², or, in other words,
that a rectangle whose sides are _x_ and _y_ exactly equals a square
whose side is _z_.

[Illustration: FIG. 1. FIG. 2. FIG. 3.]

The use of this device in assisting calculation will be apparent if we
take the case of an area bounded by a curved line. We cannot directly
calculate this area, but we can easily tell that of a rectangle. Now it
is evident that if we inscribe rectangles in this area ABC, the more
rectangles we inscribe the less will be the error in taking their sum
as equal to the curved area. This is apparent if we compare fig. 2 with
fig. 3. Suppose we take a point P on the curve, call BN = _x_ and PN =
_y_, and suppose N_n_ to be _dx_, the differentially small increment of
_x_, and _pq_ = _dy_ the corresponding small increment of _y_. The area
of the rectangle P_qn_N = PN × N_n_ = _ydx_, and differs from the true
curvilinear area P_pn_N by less than the little rectangle of P_q_ × _pq_
or of _dx_._dy_. But, as we have seen, if we push our division to the
first infinitesimal order, or make N_n_ and _pq_ differentials of _x_ and
_y_, _dx_._dy_ may be neglected—i.e. multiply the number of rectangles
indefinitely, and the sum of their areas will differ from the true area
inclosed by the curve by an error which is evanescent.

If then _x_ and _y_ are connected by some fixed law, as must be the case
if the extremity of _y_ traces out some regular curve, the relation
between them may be expressed by an equation, which will remain one
however often it may be differentiated or again integrated, and whatever
modifications or transformations it may receive by mathematical processes
which do not alter the essential equality of the two sides connected by
the symbol of equality =. Thus by differentiating and casting off as
evanescent all differentials of a lower order than that which we are
working with, we may arrive at forms of which we know the integrals, and
by integrating get back to the results in ordinary numbers, which we were
in search of but could not attain directly.

The same thing will apply if our symbols are more numerous, and if
they express relations of motion as well as of space, or, in fact, any
relations which are governed by fixed laws expressible by equations. If
I have succeeded in conveying to the readers any idea of this celebrated
calculus, they will perceive what an analogy it presents to the idea
of modern physical and chemical science, that of molecules, atoms, and
ether, forming differentials of successive orders of the infinitely
small. It is certainly most remarkable that while the former was a
purely intellectual idea based on mathematical abstractions, and which
was invented and worked as an instrument for solving the most intricate
astronomical problems for nearly two centuries, without a suspicion
that it represented any objective reality: the latter idea, based on
actual experiment, seems to show that differentials and integrals have
their real counterpart in nature and represent fundamental facts in the
constitution of the universe.

Those who are of a mystic or metaphysical turn of mind may discern in
this, arguments for matter and laws of matter being after all only
manifestations of one universal, all-pervading mind; but in following
such speculations we should be deserting the solid earth for cloudland,
and passing the limit of positive knowledge into the region where
reflections of our own hopes, fears, religious feelings, and poetical
sentiments form and dissolve themselves against the background of the
great unknown. For the present, therefore, I confine myself to pointing
out how these undoubted truths of mathematical science, which have
verified themselves in the practical form of enabling us to predict
eclipses and construct nautical almanacs, correspond with and throw light
upon the equally certain facts of this succession of infinitely small
quantities of successive orders in the constitution of matter.

An attempt has recently been made, based on abstruse mathematical
calculations, to carry our knowledge of the constitution of matter one
step further back, and identify atoms with ether. This is attempted by
the vortex theory of Helmholz, Sir W. Thomson, and Professor Tait. It is
singular how some of the ultimate facts discovered by the refinements
of science correspond with some of the most trivial amusements. Thus
the blowing of soap-bubbles gives the best clue to the movement of waves
of light, and through them to the dimensions of molecules and atoms;
and the collision of billiard-balls, knocked about at random, to the
movements of those minute bodies, and the kinetic theory of gases. In the
case of the vortex theory the idea is given by the rings of smoke which
certain adroit smokers amuse themselves by puffing into the air. These
rings float for a considerable time, retaining their circular form, and
showing their elasticity by oscillating about it and returning to it if
their form is altered, and by rebounding and vibrating energetically,
just as two solid elastic bodies would do, if two rings come into
collision. If we try to cut them in two, they recede before the knife, or
bend round it, returning, when the external force is removed, to their
original form without the loss of a single particle, and preserving
their own individuality through every change of form and of velocity.
This persistence of form they owe to the fact that their particles are
revolving in small circles at right angles to the axis or circumference
of the larger circle which forms the ring; motion thus giving them
stability, very much as in the familiar instance of the bicycle. They
burst at last because they are formed and rotate in the air, which is a
resisting medium; but mathematical calculation shows that in a perfect
fluid free from all friction these vortex rings would be indivisible and
indestructible: in other words, they would be atoms.

The vortex theory assumes, therefore, that the universe consists of one
uniform primary substance, a fluid which fills all space, and that what
we call matter consists of portions of this fluid which have become
animated with vortex motion. The innumerable atoms which form molecules,
and through molecules all the diversified forms of matter of the material
universe, are therefore simply so many vortex rings, each perfectly
limited, distinct, and indestructible, both as to its form, mass, and
mode of motion. They cannot change or disappear, nor can they be formed
spontaneously. Those of the same kind are constituted after the same
fashion, and therefore are endowed with the same properties.

The theory is a plausible one, and the reputation of its authors must
command for it respectful consideration; but it is as yet a long way
from being an established theory which can be accepted as a true
representation of facts. In the first place it is based solely on
mathematical theory, and not, as in the case of atoms and light-waves,
upon actual facts of weight and measurement tested by experiment, and to
which mathematical reasoning affords only an aid and supplement. No one
has proved the existence of such a medium or of such vortex rings, much
less weighed or measured them.

Moreover the theory is open to some very obvious objections. How can
aggregations of imponderable matter acquire weight, and become subject
to the law of gravity, which, as we have seen, is one of the essential
and permanent qualities of atoms? If a cubic millionth of a millimetre of
ether formed into a big vortex ring of, say, an atom of mercury, has a
weight equal to 200 times that of an atom of hydrogen, which itself has
a definite weight, why has it no weight in its original form? And if it
had weight, however small, how could the enormous mass of ether filling
all space produce no perceptible effect on bodies, even of attenuated
cometic vapour, revolving through it with immense velocities? Again,
how could these innumerable vortex rings be formed out of the ether
without disturbing the uniformity and continuity of the medium, which
are essential for the propagation of the light-waves through it? And how
could the motions requisite to form the vortex rings be impressed on them
_de novo_ consistently with the principle of the conservation of energy?
Energy can no more be created out of nothing than matter, by any process
known in nature or conceivable by the human intellect; and to assume it
is simply a more refined manner of falling back on the supernatural,
which is itself only a more refined manner of saying that we know nothing.

For the present, therefore, we must be content with atoms and ether as
the ultimate terms of our knowledge of the material or quasi-material
components of the universe.



    Energy of motion and of position—Energy can be
    transformed, not created or destroyed—Not created by free
    will—Conservation of mechanical power—Convertibility of
    heat and work—Nature of heat—The steam-engine—Different
    forms of energy—Gravity—Molecular energy—Chemical
    energy—Dynamite—Chemical affinities—Electricity—Produced
    by friction—By the voltaic battery—Electric currents—Arc
    light—Induction—Magnetism—The magnetic needle—The electric
    telegraph—The telephone—Dynamo-electric engine—Accumulator.

Those ultimate elements, however, atoms and ether, only give us what may
be called the dead half of the universe, which could not exist without
the constant presence of the animating principle of force or energy.
Energy is the term generally adopted in the language of science, for
force is apt to be associated with human effort and with actual motion
produced, while energy is a comprehensive term, embracing whatever
produces or is capable of producing motion. Thus, if we bend a cross-bow,
the force with which it is bent may either reappear at once in the flight
of the arrow, if we let go the string; or it may remain stored up, if we
fix the string in the notch, ready to reappear when we pull the trigger.
In the former case it is called energy of motion, in the latter energy of
position. It is important to realise this distinction clearly, for many
of the ordered and harmonious arrangements of the universe depend on the
polarity, or conflict with alternate victories and defeats, between those
two forms of energy.


Thus if A B is a pendulum suspended at the point A, if we move it from
its position of rest A C to A B and hold it there, its whole energy
is that of position. If we let it go it swings backwards and forwards
between the positions _A B_ and _A D_, and but for the resistance of the
air and the friction at the point of suspension, it would so swing for
ever. But in thus swinging what happens? From A B to A C energy of motion
keeps gaining on energy of position, until when the pendulum reaches C,
it has annihilated it. Energy of position has entirely disappeared, and
the whole original force expended in raising the pendulum to A B exactly
reappears in the force or momentum of the pendulum at its lowest point.
But is this victory final? By no means; energy of position having touched
bottom, gathers, like Antæus, fresh vigour for the contest, and from the
position A C upwards it gains ground on its adversary until when the
pendulum reaches A D it is in its turn completely victorious.

The same alternation between energy of motion and of position takes place
in all rhythmical movements such as waves, which, whether in water, air,
or ether, are propagated, as in the case of the pendulum, by particles
forced out of their position of rest and oscillating between the two


Thus if waves run along an elastic wire A B, the particle P, which has
been forced into the position _p_, oscillates backwards and forwards
between _p_ and _q_, beginning with nothing but energy of position
at _p_, losing it all for energy of motion at P, and regaining it at
_q_. All wave-motions therefore—that is to say, all sound, light, and
heat—depend on this primitive polarity.

If we have got this definition of the two forms of energy clearly
into our heads, we shall be the better prepared for this further
generalisation—the grandest, perhaps, in the whole range of modern
science—that energy, like matter, is indestructible, and can only be
transformed, but never created or annihilated.

This is at first sight a more difficult proposition to establish in
the case of energy than in that of matter. In the latter case we have
nothing in our experience that can lead us to suppose that we have ever
created something out of nothing; but in the former, our first impression
undoubtedly is that we do create force. If I throw a stone at a bird I
have an instinctive impression that the force which projects the stone
is the creation of my own conscious will; that I had the choice either
to throw or not to throw; and that if I had decided not to throw, the
impelling force would never have existed. But, if we look more closely at
the matter, it is not really so. The chain of events is this: the first
impulse proceeds from the visual rays, which, concentrated by the lens of
the eye on the retina, give an image of the bird; this sends vibrations
along the optic nerve to the brain, setting in motion certain molecules
of that organ; these again send vibrations along other nerves to certain
muscles of the arm and hand, which contract, and by doing so give out the
energy of movement which throws the stone. All this process is strictly
mechanical; the eye acts precisely like a camera obscura in forming the
image; the nerve-vibrations, though not identical with those of the wires
of an electric telegraph, are of the same nature, their velocity can be
measured, and their presence detected by the galvanometer; the energy of
the muscle is stored there by the slow combustion of the food we have
eaten, in the oxygen of the air we have breathed. Take any of these
conditions away, and no effort of the will can produce the result. If
the nerve is paralysed, or the muscle, from prolonged starvation, has no
energy left, the stone will not be thrown, however much we may desire to
kill the bird.

Again, precisely the same circle of events takes place in numerous
instances without any intervention of this additional factor of conscious
will. We breathe mechanically, the muscles of the chest causing it
to rise and fall like the waves of the ocean, without any deliberate
intention of taking air into the lungs and exhaling it. Nay more, there
are instances of what was at first accompanied by the sensation of
conscious will, ceasing to be so when the molecular movements had made
channels for themselves, as when a piano-player, who had learned his
notes with difficulty, ends by playing a complicated piece automatically.
The case of animals also raises another difficulty. Suppose a retriever
dog sees his master shoot at and miss a hare: shall he obey the
promptings of his animal instinct and give chase, or those of his higher
moral nature which tell him that it is wrong to do so without the word
of command? It is hard to see how this differs from the case of a man
resisting or yielding to temptation; and how, if we assign conscious will
to the man, we can deny it to the dog.

Reasoning from these premises, some philosophers have come to the
conclusion that man and all animals are but mechanical automata, cleverly
constructed to work in a certain way fitting in with the equally
preordained course of outward phenomena; and that the sensation of will
is merely an illusion arising as a last refinement in the adjustment
of the machinery. But here comes in that principle of duality or
polarity, by which a proposition may be at once true and untrue, and
two contradictory opposites exist together. No amount of philosophical
reasoning can make us believe that we are altogether machines and not
free agents; it runs off us like water from a duck’s back, and leaves us
in presence of the intuitive conviction that to a great extent

    Man is man and master of his fate.

If this be an illusion, why not everything—evidence of the senses,
experiment, natural law, science, as well as morality and religion?

To pursue this farther would lead us far astray into the misty realm of
metaphysics, and I refer to it only as showing that the principle of the
conservation of energy, standing as it does in apparent contradiction to
our natural impressions, requires a fuller demonstration than the kindred
principle of the indestructibility of matter.


In the case of ordinary mechanical power it had been long known that the
intervention of machinery did not create force, but only transformed it.
If a weight of 1 lb., A, just balances a weight of 2 lb., B, by aid of a
pulley, and by the addition of a minute fraction, such as a grain, raises
it 1 foot, it will be invariably found that A has descended 2 feet. In
other words, 1 lb. working through 2 feet does exactly the same work
as 2 lbs. working through 1 foot. And whatever may be the intervening
machinery the same thing holds good, and the work put in at one end comes
out, neither more nor less, at the other, except for a minute loss due
to friction and resistance of air. If a force equal to 1 lb. is made, by
multiplying the intermediate machinery, to raise a ton a foot from the
ground, exactly as much force must have been exerted as if the ton had
been divided into 2,240 parts of 1 lb. each, and each part separately

But although energy cannot be created, at first sight it seems as if it
might be destroyed, as when the ton falls to the ground and seems to have
lost all its energy, whether of motion or of position. But here science
steps in and shows us that it is not destroyed, but simply transformed
into another sort of motion, which we call heat.

Some connection between mechanical work and heat had long been known, as
in the familiar experiment of rubbing our hands together to warm them;
and the practice known to most primitive races of obtaining fire by
twirling a stick rapidly in a hole drilled in a block of wood; a practice
described by the old Sanskrit word ‘pramantha,’ which means an instrument
for obtaining fire by pressure or friction, and which, translated into
Greek, has been immortalised by the legend of Prometheus. But it was
reserved for recent years, and for an English philosopher, Dr. Joule,
to give scientific precision and generality to this idea, by actually
measuring the amount of heat produced by a given amount of work, and
showing that they were in all cases convertible terms, so much heat for
so much work, and so much work for so much heat. He did this by measuring
accurately by a thermometer the heat added to a given amount of water by
the work done by a set of paddles revolving in it, set in rapid motion by
a known weight descending through a known space. The unit of work being
taken as that sufficient to raise 1 kilogramme through 1 metre, and that
of heat as that required to raise the temperature of one kilogramme of
water by 1° Centigrade, the relation between them, as found by a vast
number of careful experiments, is that of 424 to 1. That is, one unit of
heat is equal to 424 units of work.

In this, and all cases requiring scientific precision, it is better to
use the units of the metrical system than our clumsy English standards;
but it may be sufficient for the ordinary reader to take the metre,
which is about 39·37 inches, as practically a yard, and the kilogramme,
which is 15,432 English grains, as practically equal to 2 lbs. This is
sufficient to show the much greater energy of the invisible forces which
act at minute distances, than that of gravity and other forces which do
appreciable mechanical work, the energy of a weight falling from a height
of more than 1,300 feet being only sufficient to heat its own weight by

This proof of the convertibility of work into heat gives much greater
precision to our ideas respecting the real nature of heat and its kindred
molecular and atomic energies. Heat is clearly not a material substance,
for a body does not gain weight by becoming hotter. In the case of all
ponderable matter down to the atoms, which are only of the size of
cricket-balls compared to that of the earth, any combination which adds
matter adds weight, and the weight of the product exactly equals the
sum of the weights of the separate factors which have united to form
it. Thus, if iron is burnt in oxygen gas, the product, oxide of iron or
rust, weighs more than the original iron by just as much as the weight
of the oxygen which has been consumed. But heat, light, and electricity
add nothing to the weight of a body when they are added to it, and take
nothing away when they are subtracted. The inference is unavoidable that
heat, like light, is not ponderable matter, but an energy transmitted
by waves of the imponderable medium known as ether. This is confirmed
by finding that when a ray from the sun is analysed by passing through
a refracting prism, one part of the spectrum shows light of various
colours, while another gives heat. The hottest part of the spectrum lies
in the red and beyond it, showing that the heat-waves are longer, and
their oscillations slower, than those of light. Heat-waves also may be
made to interfere, and to become polarised, in a manner analogous to the
phenomena exhibited by those of light.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that heat, like light, is an energy
or mode of motion, transmitted by waves of an imponderable ether, and
that it acts on the molecules and atoms of matter by the accumulated
successive impulses of those waves on the molecules and atoms which are
floating in it, or rather which are revolving in it, in definite groups
and fixed orbits, like miniature solar systems or starry universes. We
can now see how heat performs work, and why work can be transformed into

Heat performs work in two ways. First, it expands bodies—that is, it
draws their molecules farther apart against the force of cohesion which
binds them together or keeps them moving in definite orbits at definite
distances. It is as if it increased the velocity, and therefore the
centrifugal force of a system of planets, and so caused them to revolve
in wider orbits. The expansion of mercury in a thermometer affords a
familiar instance of this effect of heat and the readiest measure of its
amount. Secondly, it increases the energy of the molecular motions, so
that they dart about, collide, and vibrate with greater force. Thus, as
heat increases, evaporation increases, for molecules on the surface are
projected with so much force as to get beyond the sphere of the cohesive
attraction which binds them to the system, and they dart off like comets
into space. Finally, as heat increases, and more and more work is done,
against the centripetal force of cohesion, most substances, and doubtless
all if we could get heat enough, are converted from solids into fluids,
and ultimately into gases, in which latter state the molecules have got
altogether beyond the sphere of their mutual attraction, and tend to
dart off indefinitely in the direction of their own proper centrifugal
motions, unless confined, in which case they dart about, collide,
rebound, and exercise pressure on the containing surface.

Conversely, if heat expands bodies, it is given out when they contract.
Thus the enormous quantity of heat poured out for millions of years by
the sun, is probably owing mainly to the mechanical force of contraction
of the original cosmic matter condensing about the solar nucleus.

Again, when gases suddenly expand, their temperature falls, which is
the principle by which artificial ice is procured, and frozen beef and
mutton are brought from America and Australia, producing, such are the
complicated relations of modern society, agricultural depression, fall of
rents, and a serious aggravation of the Irish question.

As an example of the converse proposition of the transformation of heat
into mechanical work, the steam-engine affords the aptest illustration.
The original power came from the sun millions of years ago, and did work
by enabling the leaves of plants to overcome the strong mutual affinity
of carbon and oxygen in the carbonic dioxide in the air, and store up the
carbon in the plant, where it remained since the coal era in the form of
energy of position. By lighting the coal, or in other words separating
its molecules more widely by heat, we enable them to exert once more
their natural affinity for oxygen, and burn, that is recombine into
carbonic dioxide. The heat thus produced turns water into steam, which
passes through a cylinder, either into a condenser if the steam is at low
pressure, or into the outer air if it has been superheated and brought
to a higher pressure than that of the atmosphere. The difference of the
pressure or elasticity of the steam in the boiler, and of the same steam
when it is condensed or liberated, is available for doing work, and,
being admitted and released alternately at the two ends of the cylinder,
drives a piston up and down, which, by means of cranks and shafts,
turns a wheel or does whatever work is required of it. In doing this,
heat disappears, being converted into work, and the amount of heat would
exactly equal that into which the work would be converted according to
Joule’s law, if it could all be utilised without the loss necessarily
incurred by friction, radiation, and the still more important absorption
of latent heat required to convert water at boiling-point into vapour
of the same temperature. This latter is not really an annihilation of
the heat, but its conversion into work done in separating the molecules
against the force of cohesion. The whole heat, therefore, is transformed
into work, mainly molecular work in tearing molecules asunder, and the
residue into mechanical work turning spindles and driving locomotives and

The intermediate machinery here, including the water in the boiler, is
merely the means of applying the original energy in the particular way
we desire. The essential thing is the transformation of a certain amount
of heat into work by passing, in accordance with the laws of heat, from
a hotter to a colder body. The last condition is indispensable, for the
nature of heat is to seek an equilibrium by passing from hot to cold, and
no work can be got out of it in the reverse way. On the contrary, work
must be expended and turned into heat to restore the temperature which
has run down. The case is analogous to that of water, which, if raised by
evaporation or stored up in reservoirs at a level above the sea, can be
made to turn a wheel while it is running down; but when it has all run
down to the sea level, can do no more work, and can only be pumped up
again to a higher level by the expenditure of fresh work. Owing to this
tendency of heat we can see that, although matter and energy are to all
appearance indestructible, the present constitution of the universe is
not eternal. The animating energy of heat is always tending to obliterate
differences of temperature, and bring all energy down to one uniform dead
level of a common average, in which no further life, work, or motion are
possible. Fortunately this consummation is far off, and for many tens
or hundreds of millions of years the inhabitants of this tiny planet
may feel fairly secure, and need not, like the late Dr. Cumming, of
millenarian celebrity, introduce breaks in the leases of their houses to
provide against the contingency of the world coming to an end at an early

Dismissing, then, to the remote future any speculations as to the failure
of this essential element of active energy, let us rather consider the
various protean forms in which it shows itself.

1. The energy of visible motion, which, as we have seen, may be
transformed into an equivalent amount of energy of position.

2. Molecular energy, which causes the cohesive attraction, repulsion, and
other proper motions of these minute and invisible particles of matter.

3. Energy of heat and light, which are transmitted by waves of the
assumed imponderable medium called ether.

4. Energy of chemical action, by which the small ultimate particles of
ponderable matter, called atoms, separate and combine into the various
combinations of molecules constituting visible matter, in obedience to
certain affinities, or inherent attractions and repulsions.

5. Electrical energy, which includes magnetism as a special instance.

All these forms of energy may exist, as in the case of visible energy,
either as energies of motion or of position, and the actual constitution
of the universe is due in a great measure to the alternation of these
two energies. Thus all wave-motion, whether it be of the waves of the
sea grinding down a rocky coast, of the air transmitting sound, or of
ether transmitting light and heat, are instances of energies of motion
and of position, conflicting with one another and alternately gaining
the victory. So also a pound of gunpowder or dynamite has an immense
energy of position, which, when its atoms are let loose from their
mutual unstable connection by heat or percussion, manifests itself in an
enormous energy of motion, which is more or less destructive according to
the rapidity with which the atoms rush into new combinations.

Let us consider these different energies a little more in detail. The
energy of visible motion is manifested principally by the law of gravity,
under which all matter attracts other matter directly as the mass and
inversely as the square of the distance. It is a universal and uniform
law of matter, and can be traced without change or variation from the
minutest atom up to the remotest double star. The energy of living force
might, at first sight, be considered as another of the commonest causes
of visible motion; but, when closely analysed, it will be found that what
appears as such is only the result of molecular energy of position stored
up in the living body by chemical changes during the slow combustion of
food, and that nothing has been added by any hypothetical vital force.
The conscious will seems to act in those cases simply as the signalman
who shows a white flag may act on a train which has been standing on the
line waiting for it. The energy which moves the train is due entirely
to the difference of heat, which has been developed by the combustion
of coal, between the steam in the boiler and the steam when allowed to
escape into the air; and this energy came originally from the sun, whose
rays enabled the leaves of growing plants to decompose carbonic dioxide
and store up the carbon in the coal. Of this force of gravity causing
visible motion we may say that it is comparatively a very weak force,
which acts uniformly over all distances great or small.

Molecular energies, on the other hand, act with vastly greater force, but
at very small distances, and appear sometimes as attractive and sometimes
as repulsive forces. Thus solid bodies are held together by a force of
cohesion which is very powerful, but acts only at very small distances,
as we may see if we break a piece of glass and try to mend it by pressing
the broken edges together. We cannot bring them near enough to bring the
molecular attraction again into play and make the broken glass solid.
But the same glass acts with repellent energy if another solid tries
to penetrate it, so that we can walk on a glass floor without sinking
into it. Heat also, by increasing the distance between the molecules,
first weakens the cohesive force so that the solid becomes fluid, and
finally overcomes it altogether, so that it passes into the state of gas
in which the centripetal attraction of the molecules is extinguished,
and they tend to recede further and further from each other under the
centrifugal force of their own proper velocities. The great energy of
molecular forces will be apparent from the fact that a bar of iron, in
cooling 10° Centigrade, contracts with a force equal to a ton for each
square inch of section, as exemplified in the tubular bridge across the
Menai Straits, where space has to be allowed for the free contraction and
expansion of the iron under changes of temperature.

Chemical energy, or the mutual attractions and repulsions of atoms, is
even more powerful than that of molecules. It displays itself in their
elective affinities, or what may be called the likes and dislikes,
or loves and hatreds, of these ultimate particles. Perhaps the best
illustration will be afforded by that ‘latest resource of civilisation,’
dynamite. This substance, or to give it its scientific name,
nitro-glycerine, is composed of molecules each of which is a complex
combination of nine atoms of oxygen, five of hydrogen, three of nitrogen,
and three of carbon. Of these, oxygen and hydrogen have a strong affinity
for one another, as is seen by their rushing together whenever they get
the chance, and by their union forming the very stable compound, water.
Oxygen and carbon have also a very strong affinity, and readily form
the stable product carbonic dioxide gas. Nitrogen, on the other hand,
is a very inert substance; its molecule consists of two atoms of itself
which are bound together by a strong affinity, and can only be coaxed
with difficulty into combinations with other elements, forming compounds
which are, as it were, artificial structures, and very unstable. We
see this in the air, which consists mainly of oxygen and nitrogen, but
not in chemical combination, the oxygen being simply diluted by the
nitrogen, as whisky is with water, with the same object of diluting the
too powerful oxygen or too potent alcohol, and enabling the air-breather
or whisky-drinker to take them into the system without burning up the
tissues too rapidly. If nitrogen had more affinity for oxygen it would
combine chemically with it, and we should live in an atmosphere of
nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

The molecule, therefore, of nitro-glycerine resembles a house of cards,
so nicely balanced that it will just stand, but will fall to pieces at
the slightest touch. When this is supplied by a slight percussion the
molecule falls to pieces and is resolved into its constituent atoms,
which rush together in accordance with their natural affinities, forming
an immense volume of gas, partly of water in the form of steam where
oxygen has combined with hydrogen, and partly of carbonic dioxide where
it has combined with carbon, leaving the nitrogen atoms to pair off, and
revert to their original form of two-atom molecules of nitrogen gas.
It is as if ill-assorted couples, who had been united by matrimonial
bonds tied by the manœuvres of Belgravian mothers, found themselves
suddenly freed by a decree of divorce _a vinculo matrimonii_, and rushed
impetuously into each other’s arms, according to the laws of their
respective affinities. So striking is the similitude that one of Goethe’s
best-known novels, the ‘Wahlverwandschaften,’ takes its title from the
human play of these chemical reactions. The enormous energy developed
when these atomic forces are let loose and a vast volume of gas almost
instantaneously created, is attested by the destructive force by which
the hardest rocks are shattered to pieces and the strongest buildings

These loves and hatreds, or, as they are termed, chemical affinities and
repulsions of the atoms, are the principal means by which the material
structure of the universe is built up from the original elements.
The earth, or solid crust of the planet we inhabit, consists mainly
of oxidised bases, and is due to the affinity of oxygen for silicon,
calcium, aluminium, iron, and other primary elements of what are called
metals. This affinity enables them to make stable compounds, which, under
the existing conditions of temperature and otherwise, hold together and
are not readily decomposed. Water in like manner, in all its forms of
waves, seas, lakes, rivers, clouds, and invisible vapour, is due to the
affinity between oxygen and hydrogen forming a stable compound. Salt
again is owing to the affinity of chlorine for sodium, and so for nearly
all the various products with which we are familiar, oxygen and nitrogen
in the air we breathe being almost the only elements which exist in their
primary and uncombined state in any considerable quantities, and form
an essential part of the conditions which render our planet a habitable
abode for man and other forms of life.

We shall see presently something more of the nature of these affinities,
and the laws by which they act; but before entering on this branch
of the subject we must consider the remaining form in which the one
indestructible energy of the universe manifests itself, viz. that of

Electricity is the most subtle and the least understood of these forms.
In its simplest form it appears as the result of friction between
dissimilar substances. Thus if we rub a glass rod with a piece of silk,
taking care that both are warm and dry, we find that the glass has
acquired the property of attracting light bodies, such as little bits
of paper, or balls of elder-pith. Other substances, such as sealing-wax
and amber, have the same property. Pursuing our research further we find
that this influence is not, like that of gravity, uniform and always
acting in the same direction, but of two kinds, equal and opposite. If we
touch the pith-ball by the excited glass rod, it will after contact be
repelled; but if we bring the ball which has been excited by contact with
the glass within the influence of a stick of sealing-wax which has been
excited by rubbing it with warm dry flannel, the ball instead of being
repelled is attracted.

Conversely, if the pith-ball has been first touched by excited
sealing-wax, it will afterwards be repelled by excited sealing-wax
and attracted by excited glass. It is clear, therefore, that there
are two opposite electricities, and that bodies charged with similar
electricities repel, and with unlike electricities attract, one another.
For convenience, one of these electricities, that developed in glass,
is called positive, and the other negative; and it has been clearly
proved that one cannot exist without the other, and that whenever
one electricity is produced, just as much is produced of an opposite
description. If positive electricity is produced in glass by rubbing it
with silk, just as much negative electricity is produced upon the silk.

Another primary fact is that some substances are able to carry away
and diffuse or neutralise this peculiar influence called electricity,
while others are unable to do so and retain it. The former are called
conductors, the latter non-conductors. Thus, glass is an insulator or
non-conductor, while metal is a conductor of electricity; and the reason
why the substances rubbed together, as glass and silk, must be dry is
that water, in all its forms, is a conductor which carries away the
electricity as fast as it is produced.

These facts have given rise to a theory—which is after all not so
much an explanation as a convenient mode of expressing the facts—of
the existence of two opposite electric fluids, which, in the ordinary
or unexcited body, are combined and neutralise one another, but are
separated by friction, and flow in opposite directions, accumulating at
opposite poles, or, it may be, one being accumulated at one pole, while
the other is diffused through some conducting medium and lost sight of.
The active electricity, be it positive or negative, thus accumulated at
one pole, and retained there by the substance in contact with it being a
non-conductor, disturbs by its influence the electrical equilibrium of
any body brought near to it, separates its two fluids, and attracts the
one opposite to itself. This attraction draws the light body towards it
until contact ensues, when the electric fluid of the excited body flows
into the smaller one, so that its opposite electricity is expelled, and
it is in the same condition as its exciter, and therefore liable to be
repelled by a similar exciter, or attracted by an opposite one which
formerly repelled it.

It is evident, without going further, that there is a great analogy
between electrical energy and those of heat and of chemical affinity.
The same mechanical work—viz. friction—which generates heat, generates
electricity. The chief difference seems to be that friction may be
transformed into heat when the same substances are rubbed together, as
in the case of obtaining fire by the friction of wood; but electricity
can only be obtained by friction between dissimilar substances. Thus
no electricity is obtained by rubbing glass upon glass, or silk upon
silk, or upon glass covered with silk, though a slight difference of
texture is sometimes sufficient to separate the electric fluids. Thus
if two pieces of the same silk ribbon are rubbed together, lengthways,
no electricity is produced, but if crossways, one is positively, and the
other negatively, electrified. In this respect the analogy is evident to
chemical affinity, which, in like manner, only acts between dissimilar

In order, however, to carry the proof of the identity of these forms of
energy beyond the sphere of vague analogy, we must follow up electricity
far beyond the simple manifestations of the glass rod and sealing-wax,
and pursue it to its origin, in the transformations of chemical action
and mechanical work, in the voltaic battery, the electric telegraph, the
telephone, and the dynamo.

The voltaic battery, in its simplest form, is a trough containing an acid
liquid in which pairs of plates of different metals are immersed. It is
evident that if the action of the acid on each metal were precisely the
same, equal quantities of each would be dissolved in the acid, and the
equilibrium of chemical energies would not be affected. But, the action
being different, this equilibrium is disturbed, and if the sum of these
disturbances for a number of separate pairs of plates can be accumulated,
it will become considerable. This is done by connecting the plates of the
same metal in each cell by a metallic wire covered by some non-conducting
substance. There are, therefore, two wires, one to the right hand, the
other to the left, the loose extremities of which are called the poles
of the battery. If we test these poles as we did the glass rod and stick
of sealing-wax, we find that one pole is charged with positive and the
other with negative electricity. In other words, the chemical energy,
whose equilibrium was disturbed by the unequal action of the acid on the
plates of different metals, has been transformed into electrical energy
manifesting itself, as it always does, under the condition of two equal
and opposite polarities. If we connect these two poles with one another
the two electricities rush together and unite, and there is established
what is called an electrical current circulating round the battery.
As the chemical action of the acid on the metals is not momentary but
continuous, the acid taking up molecule after molecule of the metal,
so also the current is continuous. When we call it a current, the term
is used for the sake of convenience, for as the current, as we shall
presently see, will flow along the wire or other conducting substance
for immense distances, as across the Atlantic, with a velocity of many
thousands of miles per second, we can, no more than in the case of light,
figure it to ourselves as an actual transfer of material particles swept
along as by a river running with this enormous velocity, but necessarily
as a transmission of some form of motion travelling by waves or tremors
through the all-pervading ether in which the atoms of the conducting
wire are floating. Be this as it may, the effect of these electric
currents is very varied and very energetic. It can produce intense heat,
for if, instead of uniting the two poles, we connect them by a thin
platinum wire, it will, in a few seconds, become heated to redness. If
the connecting wire is thicker, heat will equally be generated but less
intense, thus maintaining the analogy to the current which rushes with
more impetuosity through a narrow than through a wide channel. If the
poles are tipped with a solid substance like carbon, whose particles
remain solid under great heat, when they are brought nearly together
intense light is produced and the carbon slowly burns away. This produces
what is called the arc light, which gives such a strong illuminating
power and is coming into general use for lighting up large spaces.

Another transformation is back again into chemical energy, which is shown
by the power of the electric current to decompose compound substances.
If, for instance, the poles of a battery are plunged into a vessel
containing water, the molecules of the water will be decomposed and
bubbles of oxygen gas will rise from the positive, and of hydrogen from
the negative, pole.

Another effect of electrical currents is that of attraction and repulsion
on one another. If two parallel wires, free to move, carry currents
flowing in the same direction as from positive to negative, or _vice
versâ_, they will attract one another; if in opposite directions, they
will repel. Electrical currents also work by way of induction, that is,
they disturb the electrical equilibrium of bodies brought within their
influence and induce currents in them. Thus, if we have two circular
coils of insulated wire placed near each other, one on the right hand,
the other on the left, and connect the extremities of the right-hand coil
with the poles of a battery, when the connection is first made and the
current begins to flow, a momentary current in the opposite direction
will pass through the left-hand coil. This will cease, and as long as
the current continues to flow through the right-hand coil there will be
no current through the other; but if we break the contact between the
right-hand coil and the battery, there will be again a momentary current
through the left-hand coil, but this time in the same direction as the
other. The same effect will be produced if, instead of making and
breaking contact in the right-hand coil, we keep the current constantly
flowing through it, and make the right-hand coil alternately approach
and recede from the other coil. In this case, when the right-hand coil
approaches, it induces an opposite current in the left-hand one; and when
it recedes, one in the same direction as that of the primary.

These phenomena of induction prepare us to understand the nature of
magnets, and the magnetic effects produced by electrical currents. If
an insulated wire is wrapped round a cylinder of soft or unmagnetic
iron, and a current passed through the wire, the cylinder is converted
into a magnet and becomes able to sustain weights. If the current
ceases, the cylinder is no longer a magnet, and drops the weight. A
magnet is therefore evidently a substance in which electric currents are
circulating at right angles to its axis, and a permanent magnet is one in
which such currents permanently circulate from the constitution of the
body without being supplied from without. The earth is such a magnet, and
also iron and other substances, under certain conditions.

This being established, it is easy to see why an electrical current
deflects the magnetic needle. If such a needle is suspended freely near
a wire parallel with it, on a current being passed through the wire it
must attract if similar, or repel if dissimilar, the currents which are
circulating at right angles to the axis of the needle, and thus tend to
make the needle swing into a position at right angles with the wire so
that its currents may be parallel to that of the needle. This is the
reason why the needle in its ordinary condition points to the north
and south, or rather to the magnetic poles of the earth, because its
currents are influenced by the earth currents which circulate parallel to
the magnetic equator. The deviation of the needle from this direction,
caused by any other current, like that passed along the wire, will depend
on the strength of the current, which may be measured by the amount of
deflection of the needle. The direction in which the needle deflects,
viz. whether the north pole swings to the right or to the left, will
depend on the direction of the current through the wire. The direction
of the circular currents which form a magnet is such that if you look
towards the north pole of a freely suspended cylindrical magnet—i.e. if
you stand on the north of it and look southwards—the positive current
will ascend on your right hand, or on the west side, and descend on the
east. It follows that unlike poles must necessarily attract, and like
poles repel one another, for in the former case the circular currents
which face each other are going in the same, and in the latter in
opposite directions.

The reader is now in a position to understand the principle of the
electric telegraph, that wonderful invention which has revolutionised
human intercourse and, to a great extent, annihilated space and time. It
originated in the discovery made by Oersted, a Danish _savant_, that the
effect of an electric current was to make a magnet swing round, in the
endeavour to place itself at right angles to it. The conducting power of
insulated copper wire is such that it practically makes no difference
whether one of the wires connected with the pole of a battery is two
feet or 2,000 miles in length, and the earth, being a conducting medium,
supplies an equal extension from the other pole, so that a closed
electric circuit may be established across the Atlantic as easily as
within the walls of a laboratory.

If, therefore, a magnetic needle is suspended at the American end, it
will respond to every electrical current, and to any interruption,
renewal, or reversal of that current established in England. The needle
may thus be made to swing to the right or left, by forming or reversing a
current through the wire; and it will return to its position whenever the
current is interrupted, and repeat its movement whenever the current is
renewed. In fact it may be made to move like the arm of the old-fashioned
telegraph, or of a railway signal. It only remains to have a machine by
which the operator can form and interrupt currents rapidly, and a code by
which certain movements of the needle stand for certain letters of the
alphabet, and you have the electric telegraph.

There are many ingenious applications of the machinery, but in principle
they all resolve themselves into transformations of energy. Chemical
energy is transformed into electric energy, and that again into
mechanical work in moving the needle.

The telephone is another instance of similar transformations. Here spoken
words create vibrations of the air, which cause corresponding vibrations
in a thin plate or disc of metal at one end, which are conveyed by
intermediate machinery to a similar disc at the other end, whose
vibrations cause similar vibrations in the air, reproducing the spoken
words at a distance which may be a great many miles from the speaker.

The great inventions of modern science which have so revolutionised
society are all instances of the laws of the conservation of energy. Man
makes the powers of nature available for his purposes by transforming
them backwards and forwards, now into one, now into another form of
energy, as required for the result he wishes to attain. He wants
mechanical power to pump water or drive a locomotive or steamboat: he
gets it from the steam-engine, by transforming the energy of heat in
coal, which came ages ago from the energy of chemical action produced
by the sun’s rays in the green leaves of growing plants. He wants to
send messages in a few seconds across the Atlantic: he does it by
transforming chemical energy into electricity in a voltaic battery,
sending its vibrations along a conducting wire, and converting it at
the far end into mechanical power, making a magnetic needle turn on its
axis and give signals. If, instead of sending a message, he wants to
hold a conversation at a distance, he invents the telephone, by which
sound-vibrations of air are transformed into vibrations of a disc, then
into electric currents, then into vibrations of a distant disc, and
finally back again to spoken words. Or, if he wants light, he turns
electricity into it by tipping the poles of his battery with carbon and
bringing them close together.

The latest inventions of electrical science—the dynamo and the
accumulator—afford remarkable instances of this convertibility of one
primitive energy into different forms. In the instance just quoted of
obtaining light from electricity by the voltaic battery, the cost has
hitherto proved an obstacle to its adoption. The electrical energy is
all obtained from the transformation of the heat produced in the cells
by the chemical action on the metal used, which is commonly zinc. Now,
the heat of combination of zinc with oxygen is only about one-sixth of
that of coal, while the cost of zinc is about twenty times as great.
Theoretically, therefore, energy got by burning zinc costs 120 times
as much as that got by burning coal. Practically the difference is not
nearly so great, for there is very little loss of energy in the battery
by the process of conversion, while the best steam-engine cannot convert
into work as much as twenty per cent, of the heat energy in the coal
consumed. Still, after making every allowance, the cost of energy from
zinc remains some twenty times as great as from coal, so that unless some
process is found for obtaining back the zinc as a residual product, there
is no prospect of this form of electricity being generally available for
light or for mechanical power.

The dynamo is an instrument invented for the mechanical generation of
electricity by taking advantage of the principle that electrical energy
is produced by moving magnets near coils of wire, or coils of wire near
magnets. A current is thus started by induction, and, once started,
the mechanical power exerted in making the magnet or coils revolve is
continually converted into electricity until the accumulated electrical
energy becomes very powerful. The original energy comes of course from
the coal burned in the steam-engine which makes the magnet or coils

The principle of the conservation of energy is well illustrated by the
fact that as the dynamo generates an electric current if made to revolve,
conversely it may be made to revolve itself if an electric current is
sent through it from an exterior source. It is, therefore, available not
only as a source of light in the former case, but as a direct source of
mechanical power in the latter. It is on this principle that electric
engines are constructed and electric railways are worked. Here also it
is a question of cost and convenience, for you can only get electricity
enough either to light a street or to drive an engine, by an original
steam-engine or other motive power to work the dynamo, and a system of
conducting wires to convey the electricity to the place where the light
or power is wanted. Where the motive power is supplied by nature, as in
the case of tidal or river currents or waterfalls, it is quite possible
that power may be obtained in this way to compete with that obtained
directly from the steam-engine; but there are as yet considerable
practical difficulties to be overcome in the transmission of any large
amount of energy for long distances.

To overcome some of these difficulties the accumulator has been invented,
which affords yet another remarkable instance of the transformation of
energy. It consists of two lead plates immersed in acidulated water. When
a strong electrical current is sent through the water, it decomposes it,
the oxygen going to one lead plate and the hydrogen to the other. The
oxygen attacks the lead plate to which it goes, forming peroxide of lead;
while the hydrogen reduces any oxide in the other plate, producing pure
lead, and leaving a film of surplus hydrogen on the surface. The charging
current is then reversed, so that the latter plate is now attacked and
the former one reduced, when the current is again reversed. By continuing
this process the surfaces of both lead plates become porous, so that they
present a large surface, and can therefore hold a great deal of peroxide
of lead. The charging current being now broken, the oxygen which has been
forcibly separated from the liquid seeks to recombine with hydrogen;
and if the two lead plates are joined by a wire, this effort of the
oxygen generates an electrical current in the opposite direction to the
original one, which is the current utilised. Electricity is thus stored
up in a portable box, where it can be kept till wanted, when it is drawn
out by connecting the plates, and as a large amount of energy has been
accumulated the current which is produced lasts for a considerable time.

Unfortunately accumulators are bulky, heavy, and expensive, and nearly
half the energy of the original charging current is lost in obtaining the
reversed or working current. They are therefore not as yet adapted for
general use, though perfectly capable of supplying either light or motive
power, for both which purposes they have been successfully applied in
special cases. The future both of electric power and electric lighting
is now reduced entirely to a question of cost; and though it is hard to
beat gas and the steam-engine, with cheap coal, and air and water for
nothing, it is possible that by using natural sources of power to move
dynamos, and by obtaining zinc back as a residual product in batteries,
electricity may in certain cases carry the day.



    Ultimate elements of universe—Built up by polarity—Experiment
    with magnet—Chemical affinity—Atomic poles—Alkalies
    and acids—Quantivalence—Atomicity—Isomerism—Chemical
    stability—Thermochemistry—Definition of atoms—All matter built
    up by polar forces.

I almost fear that by this time some of my readers may think that I have
seduced them under false pretences to read long chapters of dry science,
when they had been led from the introduction to anticipate discussions
on the more immediately interesting topics of morals, religions, and
philosophies. My excuse must be that these scientific subjects are really
of extreme interest in themselves and indispensable as a solid basis for
the superstructure to be raised on them. How can I attempt to show that
the law of polarity extends to the more complex problems of human thought
and life, if I fail in establishing its application to the simpler case
of inorganic force and matter? It must be recollected also that among
the primitive polarities is that of author and reader. It is my part to
endeavour to present the leading facts and laws of the material universe
in such plain and popular language that the ordinary reader who has
neither time nor faculty for special studies may apprehend them clearly
without excessive effort, or extraordinary intelligence. But it is the
reader’s part to supply a fair average amount of attention, and above
all to feel an interest in interesting matters. Cleverness and curiosity
are very much convertible terms, and the clearest exposition is thrown
away on the torpid mind which views the marvellous universe in which he
has the privilege to live, with the stupid apathy of the savage, taking
things as they come without caring to know anything about them.

For the reader’s part of the work I am not responsible; but for my own
I am, and I proceed therefore to give in my own way, and with the best
faculty that is in me, a clear summary of such of the fundamental facts
and laws of nature as seem necessary for the work I have undertaken.

From the preceding chapters we are now able to realise what are the
ultimate elements of the material universe, and it remains to show how
they are put together. The elements are ether, energy, and matter.

First, ether: a universal, all-pervading medium, imponderable or
infinitely light, and almost infinitely elastic, in which all matter,
from suns and planets down to molecules and atoms, float as in a
boundless ocean, and whose tremors or vibrations, propagated as waves,
transport the different forms of energy, light, heat, and electricity,
across space.

Secondly, energy: a primitive, indestructible something, which causes
motion and manifests itself under its many diversified forms, such
as gravity, mechanical work, molecular and atomic forces, light,
heat, electricity, and magnetism, all of which are merely Protean
transformations of the one fundamental energy, and convertible into each

Thirdly, matter: the ultimate elements of this are atoms, which
combined form molecules, or little pieces of ordinary matter with all
its qualities, which are the bricks used in building all the varied
structures of the organic and inorganic worlds. Of these atoms some
seventy have never yet been divided, and therefore, although we may
suspect that they are merely combinations or transformations of one
original matter, we must be content for the present to consider them
as elementary. In like manner we may suspect that matter is in reality
only another form of energy, and that the impression of solidity is
given by the action of a repellent force which is very energetic at
short distances. If this were established we might look forward to the
generalisation that energy was the one reality of nature; but for the
present it is a mere speculation, and we must be content with over
seventy elementary atoms as ultimate facts. In any case this much is
certain, that matter, like energy, is indestructible. We have absolutely
no experience of either of them being created or annihilated. Nay, more,
we have no faculties to enable us even to conceive how something can
be made out of nothing, and all we know, or can ever know, about these
primitive constituents of the universe is of their laws of existence,
their evolutions and their transformations.

Minute as the atoms and molecules are, we must conceive of them not as
stationary and indissolubly connected, but rather as little solar systems
in which revolving atoms form the molecule, and revolving molecules form
the matter, held together as separate systems by their proper energies
and motions, until some superior force intruding breaks up the system and
sets its components free to form new combinations.

What is the principle which thus forms, un-forms, and re-forms the
various combinations of atomic and molecular systems by which the world
is built up from its constituent elements? It is polarity.

As I began with the illustration of the magnet introducing order and
harmony into the confused mass of iron filings, let me take this other
illustration from the same source. If we place an iron bar in contact
with the pole of a magnet, the bar becomes itself a magnet with opposite
poles to the original one, so that as opposite poles attract, the iron
bar adheres to it. Bring a lump of nickel in contact with the further end
or free pole of the iron bar, and the nickel also will be magnetised and
adhere. Let the lump of nickel be as large as the pole of the iron bar
is able to support, and now bring a lump of soft iron near this pole. It
will drop the nickel and take the iron. This is exactly similar to those
cases of chemical affinity in which a molecule drops one of its factors
and takes on another to which its attraction is stronger. If iron rusts
in water it is because the oxygen atom drops hydrogen to take iron just
as the magnet dropped nickel.

The polarity of chemical elements is attested by the fact that when
compounds are decomposed by the electric current, the different
elementary substances appear at different poles of the battery. Thus,
oxygen, chlorine, and non-metallic substances appear at the positive
pole; while hydrogen, potassium, and metals generally, appear at the
negative one. The inference is irresistible that the atoms had in each
case an opposite polarity to that of the poles to which they were
attracted. This is confirmed by the fact that the radicals, i.e. the
elementary atoms or groups of atoms which have opposite polarities,
combine readily; while those which have the same polarity, as two
metals, have but slight affinity for each other. Like therefore attracts
unlike, as in all cases of polarity, and the greater the degree of
unlikeness the stronger is the attraction. Thus, the radicals of all
alkalies are electro-positive, and appear at the negative pole of a
battery; while those of acids are all electro-negative, and the higher
each stands in its respective scale of polarity the more strongly does it
show the peculiar qualities of acid or alkali and the more eagerly does
it combine with its opposite.

Acids and alkalies are, in fact, all members of the same class of
compounds called _hydrates_, because a single atom of hydrogen is a
common feature in their composition. This atom is coupled with a single
atom of oxygen, which may be conceived of as the central magnet holding
the hydrogen atom at one pole, while at the other it holds either a
single atom of some metallic element, such as potassium or sodium, or a
group consisting of such an element together with atoms of oxygen, so
constituted as to present a single pole to the attraction of the central
oxygen atom. Thus, if K stands for kali or potassium, N for nitrogen, O
for oxygen, and H for hydrogen, we may have the compounds



        {  O}
        { / }
    H—O—{N  }.
        { \ }
        {  O}

The former is the molecule of potassic hydrate, which is the most
caustic or strongest of alkalies; the latter, that of nitric acid, the
most corrosive or powerful of acids. These are the extremes of the
series, of which there are many intermediate members, all being more
or less alkaline, that is caustic and turning litmus-paper blue, when
the third element is a simple metallic atom; and acid, corrosive, and
turning litmus-paper red, when it is a compound radical of a group of
metallic and oxygen atoms. This shows to what an extent whole classes of
substances may have a general resemblance in their constitution, and yet
differ most widely in their qualities by the substitution of one element
for another.

These special qualities may be made to diminish and finally disappear by
mixing the two opposite substances, or, as it is called, neutralising an
acid by an alkali or an alkali by an acid. Thus, if hydrochloric acid,
HCl, be poured into a solution of sodic-hydrate, Na—O—H, the alkaline
qualities of the latter diminish and finally disappear, the result of the
neutral solution being water, H—O—H, and sodic-chloride, or common salt,
Na—Cl. It is evident that this result has been produced by the hydrogen
atom in H—Cl and the sodium atom in Na—O—H changing places, the former
preferring to unite with oxygen to form water, while the displaced sodium
atom finds a refuge with chlorine. The oxygen atom has dropped sodium and
taken hydrogen, just as the magnet dropped nickel and took iron.

This polarity of chemical elements manifests itself in different ways.
In some cases it appears like that of a magnet, in which there are
two opposite poles, and two only, one at each end. Thus oxygen (O) is
bipolar, and its atom holds together two atoms of hydrogen (H) in forming
the molecule of water, which may be represented as H+-O+-H, which is
equivalent to [Illustration]. Others again, like hydrogen and chlorine,
seem to have only a single pole, as in the case of electricity in an
excited glass rod, and have to create for themselves the opposite pole,
which is the indispensable condition of all polarity, by induction in
another body. Thus, muriatic or hydrochloric acid is formed by the union
of a single atom of chlorine, which is strongly negative, with a single
atom of hydrogen, in which it appears to have induced a positive pole:
though the combination is not a very stable one, for if an element with
a stronger positive pole of its own is presented to the chlorine, it
drops the hydrogen, just as the magnet drops the nickel. Other atoms are
multipolar, and seem as if made up of more than one magnet, or rather as
if the atom had regular shape like a triangle, square, or pentagon, and
each angle was a pole, thus enabling it to unite with three, four, five,
or more atoms of other substances. Thus, one atom of nitrogen unites with
three of hydrogen, one of carbon with four of hydrogen, and so on. Every
substance has, therefore, what is called its ‘quantivalence,’ or power of
uniting with it a greater or less quantity of other atoms, and conversely
that of replacing in combinations other atoms, or groups of atoms, the
sum of whose quantivalence equals its own. Thus, one atom of carbon,
which has four poles, combines with four atoms of hydrogen or chlorine,
which is unipolar, but with only two of oxygen, which are bipolar; while
the oxygen atom combines with two of hydrogen, and that of chlorine with
one atom only of hydrogen. The analogy between the single atomic and
electrical poles on the one hand, and the dual and magnetic poles on
the other, will be evident if we consider what occurs if a pith-ball,
electrified positively, is brought near a similar ball electrified
negatively. They attract each other, and the one becomes the pole of
the other; but if separated, each carries with it its own electrical
charge. But the separate balls or poles, though no longer influencing
each other, are not isolated, for each draws by induction an electrical
charge opposite to its own to the extremity of the nearest conductor, and
thus creates for itself a new or second pole. Polarity, in fact, involves
opposition of relations, or two poles, and electrical only differs from
magnetic polarity in the fact that in the latter the two poles are in the
same body, while in the former they are in separate bodies.

For pith-balls read atoms, and we have an explanation of the univalent
atoms like those of chlorine and sodium which act as single poles; and
this is confirmed by the fact that such atoms are never found isolated,
but are always associated in a molecule with at least one other atom
which forms the opposite pole of the molecular system. Bivalent or
magnetic atoms, on the other hand, which have two poles, like those of
mercury and zinc, may constitute a complete polar system and be found
isolated, and form the class of molecules which consist of single atoms.

This conception of the polarity of atoms enables us to understand the way
in which the almost infinite variety of substances existing in the world
is built up from a comparatively few simple elements. Atoms and radicals,
which are multipolar, can attract and form molecules with as many other
atoms or radicals as they have poles. This is called their degree of
atomicity, which is the same as their quantivalence; and each of these
atoms or radicals may be replaced by some other atom or radical, which
presents to any pole a more powerful polarity. Thus, compounds may be
built up of great and varied complexity, for the quality of any compound
may be greatly altered by any one of the substitutions at any one of
the poles. And the molecules, or small specimens of matter, may be thus
built up into very complex aggregations of atoms, some single molecules
containing more than a hundred atoms. Thus, carbon has four poles, or
is quadrivalent, and its atoms possess the power of combining among
themselves to an almost indefinite extent and forming groups of great
stability. Thus, carbon radicals may be formed in very great number, each
affording a nucleus upon which compound radicals may be built up, so
that carbon has been aptly called the skeleton of almost all the varied
compounds of the more complex forms of inorganic matter as well as the
principal foundation of organic life.

Nor is this all, for the qualities of substances depend not only on
the qualities of their constituent elements, but also on the manner in
which these elements are grouped. Two substances may have exactly the
same chemical composition and yet be very different. We may suppose that
the same elements affect us differently according as they are grouped.
Thus, the same bricks may be built up either into a cube or pyramid,
which forms are extremely stable and can only be taken in pieces brick
by brick; or into a Gothic arch, which all tumbles to pieces if a
single brick forming the keystone is displaced. As an instance of this,
butyric acid, which gives the offensive odour to rancid butter, has
exactly the same composition as acetic ether, which gives the flavour
to a ripe apple. They consist of the same number of atoms of the same
elements—carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen—united in the same proportions.
This applies to a number of substances, and is called Isomerism, or
formation of different wholes from the same parts.

The principle of polarity, therefore, aided by the subsidiary conditions
of quantivalence, atomicity, and isomerism, gives the clue to the
construction of the inorganic world out of some seventy elementary
substances. Of the substances thus formed, whether of molecules or
of combinations of molecules, some are stable and some unstable. As
a rule the simpler combinations are the most stable, and instability
increases with complexity. Thus the diamond, which is merely a crystal
of pure carbon, is very hard and indestructible; while dynamite, or
nitro-glycerine, which is a very complex compound, explodes at a touch.

The stability of a substance depends partly on the stable structure of
its component elements, and partly on their mutual affinity being strong
enough to keep them together in presence of the attractions of other
outside elements, which, in the case of most natural substances at the
surface of the earth, consist principally of air and water. Thus, the
rocks, earths, metallic oxides, water, carbonic dioxide, and nitrogen
are extremely stable, and resist decomposition, or chemical union with
other substances, with great energy. With regard to all substances this
law holds good, that the tendency is to fall back from a less stable to
a more stable condition, and that such a falling back is always attended
with an evolution of heat; while, on the other hand, heat is always
absorbed and disappears whenever the elements of a more stable substance
are made to enter into a less stable condition. Thus, when wood burns,
there is a falling back from a substance unstable, on account of its
affinity for the oxygen in the air, into the stable products, carbonic
dioxide and water, and the heat evolved is the effect of this fall.

As the tendency of all changes is towards stability we arrive at the
following law, which is one of the most recent generalisations of modern
chemistry: In all cases of chemical change the tendency is to those
products whose formation will determine the greatest evolution of heat.

This, however, does not imply that the tendency may not be overcome and
unstable products formed, for just as a weight may be lifted against
the force of gravity, so may the chemical tendency be overcome by a
sufficient energy acting against it. Heat is the principal means of
supplying this energy, and by increasing it sufficiently not only
are molecules drawn apart and most solids converted into fluids and
finally into gases, but there is reason to believe that at extremely
high temperatures, such as may prevail in the sun, all matter would be
resolved into isolated or dissociated atoms. Thus, water at a temperature
of 1,200° is resolved into a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen atoms no
longer chemically united into water-molecules; and iodine-vapour, which
below 700° degrees consists of molecules of two atoms, above that
temperature consists of single atoms only.

The subject might be pursued further, but enough has been said for the
present purpose to show that the universe consists of atoms which are
endowed with polarity, and that as diminished temperature allows these
atoms to come closer together and form compounds, matter in all its forms
is built up by the action of polar forces.



    Contrast of living and dead—Eating and
    being eaten—Trace matter upwards and life
    of protoplasm—Essential qualities of life—Nutrition and
    sensation—Motion—Reproduction—Spontaneous generation—Organic
    compounds—Polar conditions of life.

Polarity having been established as the universal law of the inorganic
world, we have now to pass to the organic, or world of life. At first
sight there seems to be a great gulf fixed between the living and the
dead which no bridge can span. But first impressions are very apt to
deceive us, and when things are traced up to their origins we often
find them getting nearer and nearer until it is difficult to say where
one begins and the other ends. Take for instance such an antithesis as
‘eating or being eaten.’ If a hunter meets a grizzly bear in the Rocky
Mountains, one would say that no distinction can be sharper than whether
the bear eats the man, or the man the bear. In the one case there is
a man, and in the other a bear, less in the world. But look through a
microscope at a glass of water, and you may see two specks of jelly-like
substance swimming in it. They are living creatures, for they eat and
grow, and thrust out and retract processes of their formless mass, which
serve as temporary legs and arms for seizing food and for voluntary
motion. In short, they are each what may be called strictly individual
amœbæ, forming separate units of the animated creation as much as the man
and the bear. But if the two happen to come in contact, what happens?
The two slimy masses involve one another and coalesce, and the resulting
amœba swims away merrily as two gentlemen rolled into one.

Now in his case what became of their individualities: did amœba A eat
amœba B, or _vice versâ_, and is the resulting amœba a survival of A or
of B, or of both or neither of them? And what becomes of the antithesis
of ‘eating or being eaten’ which was so clear and distinct in the highly
specialised forms of life, and is so evanescent in the simpler forms?
This illustration may serve to teach us how necessary it is to trace
things up to their origins, before expressing too trenchant and confident
opinions as to their nature and relations.

In the case of the organic and inorganic worlds the proper course
obviously is, not to draw conclusions from extreme and highly specialised
instances, but to follow life downwards to its simplest and most
primitive form, and matter upwards to the form which approaches most
nearly to this form of life. Following matter upwards, we find a regular
progression from the simple to the complex. Take the diamond, which is
one of the simplest of substances, being merely the crystallised form of
a single ultimate element, carbon. It is extremely hard and extremely
stable. Ascending to compounds of two, three, or more elements, we
get substances which are more complex and less stable; and at last we
arrive at combinations which involve many elements and are extremely
complex. Among these latter substances are some, called colloids, which
are neither solid, like crystals, nor fluid, like liquids, but in an
intermediate state, like jelly or the white of an egg, in which the
molecules have great mobility and are at a considerable distance apart,
so that water can penetrate their mass. These colloids are for the most
part very complicated compounds of various elements based on a nucleus
of carbon, which, from its atom having four poles with strong mutual
attractions, is eminently qualified for forming what may be called
the inner skeleton of these complex combinations. Colloids of this
description form the last stage of the ascending line from inorganic
matter to organic life.

Next let us trace life downwards towards matter. There is a constant
succession from the more to the less complex and differentiated: from
man, through mammals, reptiles, fishes, and a long chain of more simple
forms, until at its end we come to the two last links, which are the same
for all animals, all plants, and all forms of animated existence. The
last link but one is the cell, the last of all is protoplasm.

Protoplasm, or, as Huxley calls it, ‘the physical basis of life,’ is a
colourless jelly-like substance, absolutely homogeneous, without parts or
structure, in fact a mere microscopic speck of jelly.

The cell is the first step in the specialisation of protoplasm, the
outer layer of which, in contact with the surrounding environment,
becoming hardened so as to form an enclosing cell-wall, while a portion
of the enclosed protoplasm condenses into a nucleus, in which a further
condensation makes what is called the nucleolus or second smaller
nucleus. This constitutes the nucleated cell, whose repeated subdivision
into other similar cells in geometrical progression furnishes the raw
material out of which all the varied structures of the world of life
are built up. Plants and animals, bones, muscles, and organs of sense,
are all composed of modified cells, hardened, flattened, or otherwise
altered, as the case may require. If we trace life up to its origin in
the individual instead of in the species, we arrive at the same result.
All plants and animals, whether of the lowest or highest forms, fish,
reptile, bird, mammal, man, begin their individual existence as a speck
of protoplasm, passing into a nucleated cell, which contains in it the
whole principle of its subsequent evolution into the mature and completed

Protoplasm is, therefore, evidently the nearest approach of life
to matter; and if life ever originated from atomic and molecular
combinations, it was in this form. To suppose that any more complex form
of life, however humble, could originate from chemical combinations,
would be a violation of the law of evolution, which shows a uniform
development from the simple to the complex, and never a sudden jump
passing at a bound over intermediate grades. To understand life,
therefore, we must understand protoplasm; for protoplasm, closely as it
approximates to colloid matter, is thoroughly alive. A whole family,
the Monera, consist simply of a living globule of jelly, which has not
even begun to be differentiated. Every molecule, as in a crystal, is
of homogeneous chemical composition and an epitome of the whole mass.
There are no special parts, no organs told off for particular functions,
and yet all life-functions—nutrition, reproduction, sensation, and
movement—are performed, but each by the whole body. The jelly-speck
becomes a mouth to swallow, and turning inside out, a stomach to digest.
It shoots out tongues of jelly to move and feel with, and presently
withdraws them.

With these attributes it is impossible to deny to protoplasm the full
attributes of life, or to doubt that, like the atom in the material
world, it is the primary element of organic or living existence. Given
the atom, we can trace up, step by step, the whole evolution of matter;
so given the protoplasm, we can trace up the evolution of life by
progressive stages to its highest development—man. To understand life,
therefore, we must begin by trying to understand protoplasm.

What is protoplasm? In its substance it is a nitrogenous carbon compound,
differing only from other similar compounds of the albuminous family of
colloid by the extremely complex composition of its atoms. It consists
of five elements, and its average composition is said by chemists to be
52·55 per cent. carbon, 21·23 oxygen, 15·17 nitrogen, 6·7 hydrogen, 1·2
sulphur. Its peculiar qualities, therefore, including life, are not the
result of any new and peculiar atom added to the known chemical compounds
of the same family, but of the manner of grouping and motions of these
well-known material elements. It has in a remarkable degree the faculty
of absorbing water, so that its molecules seem to float in it in a
condition of semi-fluid aggregation, which seems to be necessary for the
complex molecular movements which are the cause or accompaniment of life.
Thus, many seeds and animalculæ, if perfectly dry, may remain apparently
as dead and as unchanging as crystals, for years, or even, as in the case
of the mummy wheat, for centuries, to revive into life when moistened.

But in addition to those material qualities in which protoplasm seems
to differ only from a whole group of similar compounds of the type of
glycerine, by the greater complexity and mobility of its molecules, it
has developed the new and peculiar element which is called life. Life
in its essence is manifested by the faculties of nutrition, sensation,
movement, and reproduction.

As regards nutrition there is this essential difference between living
and non-living matter. The latter, if it feeds and grows at all, does
so only by taking on fresh molecules of its own substance on its outer
surface, as in the case of a small nucleus-crystal of ice in freezing
water. If it feeds on foreign matter and throughout its mass, it does
so only in the way of chemical combination, forming a new product.
Living matter, on the other hand, feeds internally, and works up
foreign substances, by the process we call digestion, into molecules
like its own, which it assimilates, rejecting as waste any surplus or
foreign matter which it cannot incorporate. It thus grows and decays
as assimilation or waste preponderates, remaining always itself. The
distinction will be clear if we consider what happens when water rusts
iron. In a certain sense the iron may be said to eat the oxygen, reject
the hydrogen, and grow, or increase in weight by what it feeds on; but
the result is not a bigger piece of iron, but a new substance, rust,
or oxide of iron. That living matter should feed internally is not
so wonderful, for its semi-fluid condition may well enable foreign
molecules to penetrate its mass and come in contact with its own interior
molecules; but it is an experience different from anything known in
the inorganic world that it should be able to manufacture molecules
of protoplasm like its own out of these foreign molecules, and thus
grow by assimilation. For instance, when amœbæ, bacteria, and other
low organisms live and multiply in chemical solutions which contain no
protoplasm, but only inorganic compounds containing the requisite atoms
for making protoplasm, or when a plant not only chemically decomposes
carbonic dioxide, exhaling the oxygen and depositing the carbon in its
stem and leaves, but also from this and other elements drawn from the
soil or air manufactures the living protoplasm which courses through its
channels, the result is that life has manufactured life out of non-living

If we take sensation, this, in its last analysis, is change, or molecular
motion, induced in a body by the action of its environment. Here there
is a certain analogy between living and non-living matter, for the
latter does respond to changes in the surrounding environment, as in
the case of heat, electricity, and otherwise; but living matter is far
more sensitive, the changes are far more frequent and complex, and in
certain cases they are accompanied by a sensation of what is called
consciousness, which in the higher organisms rises into a perception
of voluntary effort or free-will as a factor in the transformation of
energies. Thus it happens that in the case of dead matter the changes
produced by a change of conditions follow fixed laws and can be predicted
and calculated, while those of living matter are apparently uncertain
and capricious. We can tell how much an iron bar will expand with heat;
but we cannot say whether, if a particle of food is brought within reach
of an amœba, it will or will not shoot out a finger to seize it. If the
amœba is hungry it probably will; if it is enjoying a siesta after a full
meal, it probably will not.

The case of sensation includes that of motion, which is after all only
sensation applied in the liberation of energy of position which has by
some chemical process become stored up, either in the living mass, or
in some special organ of it, such as muscle. Iron, for instance, moves
when it expands by heat or is attracted by a magnet; but it moves, like
the planets, by fixed and calculable laws: while living matter moves,
as might be expected from the variable character of its sensation, in
a manner which often cannot be calculated. There are cases, however,
of reflex or involuntary motion, where, even in the highest living
organisms, sensation and motion seem to follow change of environment, in
a fixed and invariable sequence, as in shrinking from pain, touching or
galvanising a nerve; and it may be that the apparent spontaneousness and
variability of living motion is only the result of the almost infinitely
greater complexity and mobility of the elements of living matter.

Reproduction remains, which is the faculty most characteristic of life,
and which distinguishes most sharply the organic from the inorganic
world. In the inorganic there is no known process by which dead matter
reproduces itself, as the cell does when it contracts in the middle
and splits up into two cells, which in their turn propagate an endless
number of similar cells, increasing in geometrical progression until
they supply the raw material from which all the countless varieties of
living organisms are built up, which, in their turn, repeat the process
and reproduce themselves in offspring. This is the real mystery of life;
we can partly see or suspect how its other faculties might arise from an
extension of the known qualities and laws of matter and of energy; but
we can discern no analogy between the non-reproductive nitrogenous carbon
compound, which makes so near an approach to protoplasm in its chemical
composition, and the reproductive protoplasm, which is fertile, increases
and multiplies, and replenishes the earth. Can the gap be bridged over:
can protoplasm be manufactured out of chemical elements? It is done every
day by plants which make protoplasm out of inorganic elements, and by
the lowest forms of life which live and multiply in chemical solutions.
It is done also in the life-history of all individuals whose primitive
cell or ovum makes thousands or millions of other cells, each containing
within its enclosing membrane as much protoplasm as there was in the unit
from which they started. But in all these instances there was the living
principle to start with, existing in the primitive speck of protoplasm,
from which the rest were developed. Can this primitive speck be created;
or, in other words, can protoplasm be artificially manufactured by
chemical processes?

The answer must be, No; not by any process now known. The similarity of
chemical composition, and the increasing conviction of the universality
of natural law and of evolution, have led to a very general belief that
such a spontaneous generation of life must be possible, and numerous
experiments have been made to produce it. For a time the balance
seemed to be very evenly held between the supporters and opponents of
spontaneous generation. In fact, starting from the assumption, which at
first was common to both sides, that heat equal to the boiling point
of water destroyed all life organisms, spontaneous generation had the
best of it: for it was clearly proved that living organisms did appear
in infusions contained in vessels which had been hermetically sealed,
after being subjected to this, or even a higher degree of heat. But
subsequent and more careful experiments have shown that the germs or
spores of bacteria and other animalculæ, which are generally floating
in the air, can, when dry, withstand a greater degree of heat, and that
when the experiments are made in optically pure air no life ever appears
and the infusions never putrefy. On questions of this sort all who are
not themselves expert experimentalists must be guided by authority, and
we may be content to accept the dictum of Huxley that biogenesis, or all
life from previous life, was ‘victorious along the whole line.’ But in
doing so we must accept Huxley’s caution, ‘that with organic chemistry,
molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day
making prodigious strides, it would be the height of presumption for any
man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the qualities
called vital, may not some day be artificially brought together.’

And further, ‘that as a matter not of proof but of probability, if it
were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time, to
the still more remote period when the earth was passing through chemical
and physical conditions which it can never see again, I should expect
to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasms from non-living
matter.’ Such is the cautious candour with which scientific men approach
problems upon which theologians dogmatise with the unerring intrepidity
of ignorance.

In the meantime what may be said as to Huxley’s reservations is this:
A considerable step has been made in the direction indicated, by the
success of recent chemistry in forming artificially what are called
organic compounds, that is, substances which were previously known only
as products of animal or vegetable secretions. Urea, for instance, the
base of uric acid, with which so many are unfortunately familiar in the
form of gout; indigotine, the principle of the blue colouring matter of
the indigo plant; and alizarine, that of madder; are all now produced
artificially, and have even become important articles of commerce. If
chemists can make the indigotine, which the growing plant elaborates at
the same time as it elaborates protoplasm, may we not hope some day to
make the latter as well as the former product? Now organic compounds
of this class are being formed artificially every day, and it is said
that chemists have already succeeded in producing several hundreds.
But even if this expectation is never fulfilled, we may fall back on
Huxley’s second reservation of the enormous difference of chemical and
physical conditions in the early stages of the earth’s life from anything
now known. It has been calculated that the earth’s temperature when
it first started on its career as an independent planet was something
like 3,000,000° Fahrenheit. At this heat probably all atoms would be
dissociated; but as the temperature diminished they would come closer
together, but still with a great deal of motion, and making wide
excursions, which might bring many different atoms together in complex
though unstable combinations. Moreover, carbon, which is the basis of all
such combinations of the class of protoplasm, was far more abundant in
those early days in the form of carbonic dioxide gas, before the enormous
amount of vegetable matter in the form of coal and otherwise, had been
subtracted from it. In any case the first protoplasm must be extremely
ancient, for the remains of sea-weeds are found in the oldest strata,
and vegetation of any sort implies the manufacture of protoplasm from
inorganic matter.

The passage from the organic into the inorganic world is best traced by
following the line of Pasteur’s researches on ferments. How does the
world escape being choked up by the accumulation of dead organic matter
throughout innumerable ages? By what are called ferments, inducing
processes of fermentation and putrefaction, by which the course of life
is reversed, and the organic elements are taken to pieces and restored
to the inorganic world. Pasteur proved, in opposition to the theories
of Liebig and other older chemists, that this was not done directly by
the oxygen of the air, but through the intermediate agency of living
microbes, whose spores, floating in the air, took up their abode and
multiplied wherever they found an appropriate habitation. Given an air
purified from germs, or a temperature low enough to prevent them from
germinating, and putrescible substances would keep sweet for ever. The
practical realisation of this is seen in the enormous commerce in canned
meats and fruits, and in the imports of frozen beef and mutton, causing a
fall of rents and much lamentation among British landlords and farmers.

But then the question was asked, How are your microscopic organisms
disposed of? What are the ferments of your ferments? For even microscopic
bacteria and vibrios would, in time, choke up the world by their residue
if not got rid of. Pasteur answered that the ferments are destroyed by
a new series of organisms—aerobes—living in the air, and these by other
aerobes in succession until the ultimate products are oxidised. ‘Thus,
in the destruction of what has lived, all is reduced to the simultaneous
action of the three great natural phenomena—fermentation, putrefaction,
and slow combustion. A living being, animal or vegetable, or the _débris_
of either, having just died, is exposed to the air. The life that has
abandoned it is succeeded by life under other forms. In the superficial
parts, accessible to the air, the germs of the infinitely little aerobes
flourish and multiply. The carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen of the organic
matter are transformed by the oxygen of the air, and under the vital
activity of the aerobes, into carbonic acid, the vapour of water, and
ammonia. The combustion continues as long as organic matter and air are
present together. At the same time the superficial combustion is going
on, fermentation and putrefaction are performing their work in the midst
of the mass by means of the developed germs of the original microbes,
which, note, do not need oxygen to live, but which oxygen causes to
perish. Gradually the phenomena of destruction are at last accomplished
through the work of latent fermentation and slow combustion.’

This seems a complete demonstration of the passage of the organic into
the inorganic world in the way of analysis, or taking the puzzle to
pieces. In the opposite way of synthesis, or putting it together, the
nearest approach yet made has been in the manufacture of those organic
compounds already referred to, such as urea, alizarine, indigotine and
other products which had hitherto only been known as products of animal
or vegetable life. Of these a vast number have been already formed from
inorganic elements by chemical processes, and almost every day announces
some fresh discovery.

Under these circumstances it is unsafe to affirm either, on the one
hand, that the problem has been solved and that life has ever been made
in a laboratory; or, on the other hand, that there is any such great gulf
fixed between the organic and the inorganic, that we can assume a break
requiring secondary supernatural interference to surmount it, and ignore
the good old maxim that ‘Natura nihil facit per saltum.’ Positive proof
is wanting, but the probabilities point here, as they do everywhere else
throughout the universe, to the truth of the theory of ‘original impress’
as opposed to that of ‘secondary interference.’

It remains to show how the fundamental law of polarity affects the more
complex relations of life and of its various combinations. And here
it is important to bear in mind that as the factors of the problem
become more intricate and complex, so also do the laws which regulate
their existence and action. Polarity is no longer a simple question of
attraction and repulsion at the two ends of a magnet or at the opposite
poles of an atom. It appears rather as a general law under which as the
simple and absolute becomes differentiated by evolution into the complex
and manifold, it does so under the condition of developing contrasts.
For every _plus_ there is a _minus_, for every like an unlike; one
cannot exist without the other; and, although apparently antagonistic,
harmonious order is only possible by their co-existence and mutual

This is so important that it may be well to make the idea clearer by an
illustration. The earth revolves round the sun in its annual orbit under
the influence of two forces: the centripetal, or force of gravity tending
to draw it towards the sun; and the centrifugal, tending to make it dart
away into infinite space. During half the orbit the centripetal seems to
be gaining ground on the centrifugal, and the earth is approaching nearer
to the sun. If this continued it would revolve ever nearer and soon fall
into it; but the centrifugal force is gradually recruiting its strength
from the increased velocity of the earth, until it first equals the
centripetal, and finally outstrips it, and for the remaining half of the
orbit it is constantly gaining ground. If this went on, the earth would
fly off into the chilly regions of outer space; but the centripetal force
in its turn regains the ascendency; and thus by the balance of the two
forces our planet describes the beautiful ellipse, its harmonious orbit
as a habitable globe; while comets in which one or the other force unduly
preponderates for long periods are alternately drawn into fiery proximity
to the sun, and sent careering through regions void of heat.

Compare this passage from Herbert Spencer: ‘As from antagonist physical
forces, as from antagonist emotions in each man, so from the antagonist
social tendencies man’s emotions create, there always results not a
medium state, but a rhythm between opposite states. The one force or
tendency is not continuously counterbalanced by the other force or
tendency; but now the one greatly preponderates, and presently by
reaction there comes a preponderance of the other.’

And again: ‘There is nowhere a balanced judgment and a balanced action,
but always a cancelling of one another by opposite errors. Men pair off
in insane parties, as Emerson puts it.’

The reader will now begin to understand the sense in which polarity
applies to these complex conditions of an advanced evolution.

To return, however, from this digression to the point at which it began,
viz. the origin of life, we have to show how the law of polarity prevails
in the organic as well as in the inorganic world. In the first place the
material to which all life is attached, from the speck of protoplasm to
the brain of man, is strictly a chemical product of atoms and molecules
bound together by the same polar laws as those of inorganic matter.

In like manner all the essential processes by which life lives, moves,
and has its being, are equally mechanical and chemical. If the brain,
receiving a telegram from without through the optic nerve, sends a reply
along another nerve which liberates energy stored up in a muscle and
produces motion, the messages are received and transmitted like those
sent by a voltaic battery along the wires of a telegraph, and the energy
is stored up by the slow combustion of food in oxygen, just as that of
the steam-engine is produced by the combustion of coal. All this is
mechanical, inorganic, and therefore polar.

But when we come to the conditions of life proper, we find the influence
of polarity mainly in this: that as it develops from simpler into more
complex forms, it does so under the law of developing contrasts or
opposite polarities, which are necessary complements of each other’s
existence. Thus, as we ascend in the scale of life, we find two primitive
polarities developed: that of plant and animal, and that of male and



    Contrast in developed life—Plants producers,
    animals consumers—Differences disappear in simple
    plants—Geological succession—Primary period, Algæ and
    Ferns—Secondary period, Gymnosperms—Tertiary and recent,
    Angiosperms—Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons—Parallel evolution
    of animal life—Primary, protista, mollusca, and fish—Secondary,
    reptiles—Tertiary and recent, mammals.

Animals or plants? Judging by first impressions, nothing can be more
distinct. No one, whether scientific or unscientific, could mistake
an oak tree for an ox. To the unscientific observer the tree differs
in having no power of free movement, and apparently no sensation or
consciousness; in fact, hardly any of the attributes of life. The
scientific observer sees still more fundamental differences, in the
fact that the plant feeds on inorganic ingredients, out of which it
manufactures living matter, or protoplasm; while the animal can only
provide itself with protoplasm from that already manufactured by the
plant. The ox, who lives on grass, could not live on what the grass
thrives on, viz. carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. The contrast is
so striking that the vegetable world has been called the producer, and
the animal world the consumer, of nature.

Again, the plant derives the material framework of its structure from
the air, by breathing in through its leaves the carbonic dioxide present
in the atmosphere, decomposing it, fixing the carbon in its roots, stem,
and branches, and exhaling the oxygen. The animal exactly reverses the
process, inhaling the oxygen of the air, combining it with the carbon
of its food, and exhaling carbonic dioxide. Thus, a complete polarity
is established, as we see in the aquarium, where plant and animal
life balance each other, and the opposites live and thrive, where the
existence of either would be impossible without the other.

Sharp, however, as the contrast appears to be in the more specialised and
developed specimens of the two worlds, we have here another instance of
the difficulty of trusting to first impressions, and have to modify our
conceptions greatly, if we trace animal and vegetable life up to their
simplest forms and earliest origins. In the first place, each individual
vegetable or animal begins its existence from a simple piece of pure
protoplasm. This develops in the same way into a nucleated cell, by whose
repeated subdivision the raw material is provided for both structures
alike. The chief difference at this early stage is that the animal cells
remain soft and naked, while those of vegetables secrete a comparatively
solid cell-wall, which makes them less mobile and plastic. This gives
greater rigidity to the frame and tissues of the plant, and prevents the
development of the finer organs of sensation and other vital processes,
which characterise the animal. But this is a difference of development
only, and the origination of the future life from the speck of protoplasm
is the same in both worlds.

If, instead of looking at the origin of individuals, we trace back the
various forms of animal and vegetable life from the more complex to the
simpler forms, we find the distinctions between the two disappearing,
until at last we arrive at a vanishing point where it is impossible to
say whether the organism is an animal or a plant.

A whole family, comprising sponges, corals, and jelly-fish, are called
Zoophytes, or plant-animals, from the difficulty of assigning them to one
kingdom or the other. On the whole they rather more resemble animals,
and are generally classed with them, though they lack many of their
most essential qualities, and in form often bear a close resemblance to
plants. But when we descend a step lower in the scale of existence we
come to a large family—the Protista—of which it is impossible to say
that they are either plants or animals. In fact, scientific observers
have classed them sometimes as belonging to one and sometimes to the
other kingdom; and it was an organism of this class, looking at which
through a microscope Huxley pronounced it to be probably a plant, while
Tyndall exclaimed that he would as soon call a sheep a vegetable. They
are mostly microscopic, and are the first step in organised development
from the Monera, which are mere specks of homogeneous protoplasm. Small
as they are they have played an important part in the formation of the
earth’s crust, for the little slimy mass of aggregated cells has in
many instances the power of secreting a solid skeleton, or a minute and
delicate envelope or shell, the petrified remains of which form entire
mountains. Thus the nummulitic limestone, which forms high ranges on the
Alps and Himalayas, and of which the Pyramids are built, consists of
the petrified skeletons of a species of Radiolaria, or many-chambered
shells, forming the complicated and elegant mansion with many rooms
and passages, of the formless, slimy mass which constitutes the living
organism. Chalk also, and the chalk-like formation which is accumulating
at the bottom of deep oceans, are the results of the long-continued fall
of the microscopic snowdrift of shells of the Globigenera and other
protistic forms swimming in the sea; and in a higher stage of development
the skeletons of corals, one of the family of Zoophytes or plant-animals,
form the coral reefs and islands so numerous in the Pacific and Indian
Oceans, and are the basis of the vast masses of coralline limestone
deposited in the coal era and other past geological periods.

As development proceeds the distinction between plants and animals
becomes more apparent, though even here the simplest and earliest
forms often show signs of a common origin by interchanging some of the
fundamental attributes of the two kingdoms. Thus, the essential condition
of plant existence is to live on inorganic food, which they manufacture
into protoplasm, by working up simple combinations into others more
complicated. Their diet consists of water, carbonic dioxide, and ammonia;
they take in carbonic dioxide and give out oxygen, while animals do
exactly the reverse. But the fungi live, like animals, upon organic food
consisting of complicated combinations of carbon, which they assimilate;
and, like animals, they inhale oxygen and give out carbonic dioxide.

Lichens afford a very curious instance of the association of vegetable
and animal functions in the same plant. They are really formed of two
distinct organisms: a body which is a low form of Alga or sea-weed,
and a parasitic form of fungus, which lives upon it. The former has a
plant life, living on inorganic matter and forming the green cells, or
chlorophyll, which are the essential property of plants, enabling them
under the action of the sun’s rays to decompose carbonic dioxide; while
the parasite lives like an animal on the formed protoplasm of the parent
stem, forming threads of colourless cells which envelop and interlace
with the original lichen of which they constitute the principal mass, as
in a tree overgrown with ivy.

Even in existing and highly developed plants we find some curious
instances of reversion towards animal life. Certain plants, for instance,
like the Dionæa or Venus’ fly-trap, finding it difficult to obtain the
requisite supply of nitrogenous food in a fluid state from the arid or
marshy soil in which they grow, have acquired a habit of supplying the
deficiency by taking to an animal diet and eating flies. Conjoined with
this is a more highly developed sensitiveness, and power of what appears
to be voluntary motion, and a faculty of secreting a sort of gastric
juice in which the flies are digested. The fundamental property also
of decomposing carbonic dioxide and exhaling oxygen depends on light
stimulating a peculiar chemical action of the chlorophyll, and at night
leaves breathe like lungs, exhaling not oxygen, but the carbonic dioxide.

The records of geology, imperfect as they are, show a continued
progression from these simple and neutral organisms to higher and more
differentiated forms, both in the animal and vegetable worlds. These
records are imperfect because the soft bodies of the simpler and for the
most part microscopic forms of protoplasm and cell life are not capable
of being preserved in petrifactions, and it is only when they happen to
have secreted shells or skeletons that we have a chance of identifying
them. Still we have a sufficient number of remains in the different
geological strata to enable us to trace development. Thus, in the
vegetable world, in the earliest strata, the Laurentian, Cambrian, and
Silurian, forming the primordial period, which forms a thickness of some
70,000 feet of the earth’s crust—or more than that of the whole of the
subsequent strata, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary, taken
together—we find only vegetable remains of the lowest group of plants,
that of the Tangles or Algæ, which live in water. Forests of these
sea-weeds, like those of the Aleutian Islands, in some of which single
tangles stream to the length of sixty feet, and floating masses, like
those of the Sargasso Sea, appear to have constituted the sole vegetation
of these primæval periods.

The Primary epoch, which comes next, comprises the Devonian or Old Red
Sandstone, the Carboniferous or Coal system, and the Permian, the average
thickness of the three together amounting to about 42,000 feet. In these
the family of Ferns predominates, the remains of which constitute the
bulk of the large strata of coal, forming in modern times our great
resource for obtaining the energy which, in a transformed shape, does so
much of our work. Pines begin to appear, though sparingly, in this epoch.

The Secondary epoch comprises the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the
Cretaceous or Chalk formation, the average thickness of the three
amounting to about 15,000 feet. In this era a higher species of
vegetation predominates, that of the Gymnosperms, or plants having naked
seeds, of which the pines, or Coniferæ, and the palm-ferns, or Cycadeæ,
are the two principal classes. As in the case of the former epoch, traces
of the approaching higher organisation in the form of leaf-bearing trees
began to appear towards its close.

The Tertiary period extends from the end of the Chalk to the commencement
of the Quaternary or modern period. It is divided into the Eocene or
older, the Miocene or middle, and the Pliocene or newest Tertiary system;
though the division is somewhat arbitrary, depending on the number of
existing species, mostly of shellfish, which have been found in each.
The average thickness of the three together is about 3,000 feet. In this
formation a still higher class of vegetation of the same order as that
now existing, which made its first appearance in the Chalk period, has
become predominant. It is that of Angiosperms, or plants with covered
seeds, forming leafy forests of true trees. This group is divided
into the two classes of monocotyledons or single-seed-lobed plants,
and dicotyledons or plants with double seed-lobes. The monocotyledons
spring from a single germ leaf, and are of simpler organisation than the
other class. They comprise the grasses, rushes, lilies, irids, orchids,
sea-grasses, and a number of aquatic plants, and in their highest form
develop into the tree-like families of the palms and bananas.

The dicotyledons include all forms of leaf-bearing forest trees, almost
all fruits and flowers, in fact by far the greater part of the vegetable
world familiar to man, as coming into immediate relation with it, except
in the case of the cultivated plants, which are developments of the
monocotyledon grasses.

We see, therefore, in the geological record a confirmation of the
evolution over immense periods of time of the more complex and perfect
from the simple and primitive.

If we turn to the same geological record to trace the development of
animal life, we find it running a parallel course with that of plants.
The earliest known fossil, the Eozoon Canadiense, from the Lower
Laurentian, is that of the chambered shell of a protista of the class
of Rhizopods, whose soft body consists of mere protoplasm which has not
yet differentiated into cells. As we ascend the scale of the primordial
era, traces of marine life of the lower organisms begin to appear, until
in the Silurian they become very abundant, consisting however mainly
of mollusca and crustacea, and in the Upper Silurian we find the first
traces of fishes.

In the Primary era the Devonian and Permian formations are characterised
by a great abundance of fishes, of the antique type, which has no true
bony skeleton, but is clothed in an armour of enamelled scales, and whose
tail, instead of being bi-lobed or forked, has one lobe only—a type of
which the sturgeon and garpike are the nearest surviving representatives.
In the Coal formation are found the first remains of land animals in the
form of insects and a scorpion, and a few traces of vertebrate amphibious
animals and reptiles; while higher up in the Permian are found a few more
highly developed reptiles, some of which approximate to the existing
crocodile. Still fishes greatly predominate, so that the whole Primary
period may be called the age of fishes, as truly as, looking at its
flora, it may be called the age of ferns.

In the Secondary period reptiles predominate, and are developed into a
great variety of strange and colossal forms. The first birds appear,
being obviously developed from some of the forms of flying lizards, and
having many reptilian characters. Mammals also put in a first feeble
appearance, in the form of small, marsupial, insectivorous creatures.

In the Tertiary period the class of mammals greatly predominates over
all other vertebrate animals, and we can see the principal types slowly
developing and differentiating into those at present existing. The
human type appears plainly in the middle Miocene, in the form of a
large anthropoid ape, the Dryopithecus, and undoubted human remains are
found in the beginning of the Quaternary, if not, as many distinguished
geologists believe, in the Pliocene and even in the Miocene ages.

So far, therefore, there seems to be a complete parallelism between the
evolution of animal and vegetable life from the earliest to the latest,
and from the simplest to the most complex forms. These facts point
strongly to a process of evolution by which the animal and vegetable
worlds, starting from a common origin in protoplasm, the lowest and
simplest form of living matter, have gradually advanced step by step,
along diverging lines, until we have at last arrived at the sharp
antithesis of the ox and the oak tree. It is clear, however, that this
evolution has gone on under what I have called the generalised law of
polarity, by which contrasts are produced of apparently opposite and
antagonistic qualities, which however are indispensable for each other’s
existence. Thus animals could not exist without plants to work up the
crude inorganic materials into the complex and mobile molecules of
protoplasm, which are alone suited for assimilation by the more delicate
and complex organisation of animal life. Plants, on the other hand,
could not exist without a supply of the carbonic dioxide, which is their
principal food, and which animals are continually pouring into the air
from the combustion of their carbonised food in oxygen, which supplies
them with heat and energy. Thus nature is one huge aquarium, in which
animal and vegetable life balance each other by their contrasted and
supplemental action, and, as in the inorganic world, harmonious existence
becomes possible by this due balance of opposing factors.



    Sexual generation—Base of ancient cosmogonies—Propagation
    non-sexual in simpler forms—Amœba and cells—Germs and
    buds—Anemones—Worms—Spores—Origin of sex—Ovary and male
    organ—Hermaphrodites—Parthenogenesis—Bees and insects—Man and
    woman—Characters of each sex—Woman’s position—Improved by
    civilisation—Christianity the feminine pole—Monogamy the law
    of nature—Tone respecting women test of character—Women in
    literature—In society—Attraction and repulsion of sexes—Like
    attracts unlike—Ideal marriage—Woman’s rights and modern

‘Male and female created He them.’ At first sight this distinction of sex
appears as fundamental as that of plant and animal. Mankind, and all the
higher forms of life with which mankind has relations, can only propagate
their species in one way: by the co-operation of two individuals of the
species, who are essentially like and yet unlike, possessing attributes
which are complementary of one another, and whose union is requisite to
originate a new living unit—in other words, by sexual propagation. So
certain does this appear that all ancient religions and philosophies
begin by assuming a male and female principle for their gods, or first
guesses at the unknown first causes of the phenomena of nature. Thus
Ouranos and Gaia, Heaven and Earth; Phœbus and Artemis, the Sun and
Moon: are all figured by the primitive imagination as male and female;
and the Spirit of God brooding over Chaos and producing the world, is
only a later edition, revised according to monotheistic ideas, of the
far older Chaldean legend which describes the creation of Cosmos out of
Chaos by the co-operation of great gods, male and female. Even in later
and more advanced religions, traces of this ineradicable tendency to
assume difference of sex as the indispensable condition of the creation
of new existence are found to linger and crop up in cases where they
are altogether inapplicable. Thus, in the orthodox Christian creed we
are taught to repeat ‘begotten, not made,’ a phrase which is absolute
nonsense, or _non-sense_—that is, an instance of using words like
counterfeit notes, which have no solid value of an idea behind them. For
‘begotten’ is a very definite term, which implies the conjunction of
two opposite sexes to produce a new individual. Unless two deities are
assumed of different sexes the statement has no possible meaning. It is a
curious instance of atavism, or the way in which the qualities and ideas
of remote ancestors sometimes crop up in their posterity.

Science, however, makes sad havoc with this impression of sexual
generation being the original and only mode of reproduction, and the
microscope and dissecting knife of the naturalist introduce us to new
and altogether unsuspected worlds of life. By far the larger proportion
of living forms, in number at any rate, if not in size, have come into
existence without the aid of sexual propagation. When we begin at the
beginning, or with those Monera which are simple specks of homogeneous
protoplasm, we find them multiplying by self-division. Amœba A, when it
outgrows its natural size, contracts in the middle and splits into two
Amœbæ, B and C, which are exactly like one another and like the original
A. In fact B contains one half of its parent A, and C the other half.
They each grow to the size of the original A, and then repeat the process
of splitting and duplicating themselves.

The next earliest stage in the evolution of living matter, the nucleated
cell, does exactly the same thing. The nucleus splits into two, each of
which becomes a new nucleus for the protoplasmic matter of the original
cell, and either multiply within it, or burst the old cell-wall and
become two new cells resembling the first.

The next stage in advance is that of propagation by germs or buds, in
which the organism does not divide into two equal parts, but a small
portion of it swells out at its surface, and finally parts company and
starts on a separate existence which grows to the size of the parent by
its inherent faculty of manufacturing fresh protoplasm from surrounding
inorganic materials. This process may be witnessed any day in an aquarium
containing specimens of the sea-anemone, where the minute new anemones
may be seen in every form, both before and after they have parted from
the parent body. It remains one of the principal modes of propagation of
the vegetable world, where plants are multiplied from buds even after
they have developed the higher mode of sexual propagation by seeds.
In some of the lowest animals, such as worms, the buds are reduced
to a small aggregation of cells, which form themselves into distinct
individuals inside the body of the parent, and separate from it when they
have attained a certain stage of development.

Advancing still further on the road towards sexual reproduction, we find
these germ-buds reduced to spores, or single cells, which are emitted
from the parent, and afterwards multiply by division until they form a
many-celled organism, which has the hereditary qualities of the original
one. This is the general form of propagation of the lower plants, such
as algæ, mosses, and ferns, and also of a number of the lower forms
of animal-like microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, whose spores,
floating in the air in enormous quantities, and multiplying when they
find a fit soil with astonishing rapidity, in a few days devastate
the potato crop of a whole district or bring about an epidemic of
scarlet-fever or cholera. They have their use however in creation, and
their action is beneficent as well as the reverse, for they are the
principal cause of putrefaction, the process by which the dead organic
matter, which, if not removed, would choke up the world, is resolved into
the inorganic elements from which it sprang, and rendered available for
fresh combinations.

We are now at the threshold of that system of sexual propagation which
has become the rule in all the higher families of animals and in many
plants. It may be conceived as originating in the amalgamation of some
germ-cell or spore with the original cell which was about to develop into
a germ-bud within the body of some individual, and by the union of the
two producing a new and more vigorous originating cell which modified the
course of development of the germ-bud and of its resulting organism. This
organism, having advantages in the struggle for life, established itself
permanently with ever new developments in the same direction, which would
be fixed and extended in its descendants by heredity, and special organs
developed to meet the altered conditions. Thus at length the distinction
would be firmly established of a female organ or ovary containing the
egg or primitive cell from which the new being was to be developed, and a
male organ supplying the fertilising spore or cell, which was necessary
to start the egg in the evolutionary process by which it developed into
the germ of an offspring combining qualities of the two parents. This is
confirmed by a study of embryology, which shows that in the human and
higher animal species the distinction of sex is not developed until a
considerable progress has been made in the growth of the embryo. It is
only however in the higher and more specialised families that we find
this mode of propagation by two distinct individuals of different sexes
firmly established. In the great majority of plants, and in some of the
lower families of animals—for instance, snails and earth-worms—the male
and female organs are developed within the same being, and they are what
is called hermaphrodites. Thus, in most of the flowering plants the same
blossom contains both the stamens and anther, which are the male organ,
and the style and germ, which are the female.

Another transition form is Parthenogenesis, or virginal reproduction,
in which germ-cells, apparently similar in all respects to egg-cells,
develop themselves into new individuals without any fructifying element.
This is found to be the case with many species of insects, and with this
curious result, that those same germ-cells are often capable of being
fructified, and in that case produce very different individuals. Thus,
among the common bees, male bees or drones arise from the non-fructified
eggs of the queen bee, while females are produced if the egg has been

In the higher families however of animal life the distinction of sex in
different individuals has become the universal rule, and it produces a
polarity or contrast which becomes ever more conspicuous as we rise in
the scale of creation, until it attains its highest development in the
highest stage hitherto reached, that of civilised man and woman. Both
physical and mental characteristics depend mainly on the fact that the
ovary or egg-producing organ is developed in the female, and thus the
whole work of reproduction is thrown on her. To perform this a large
portion of the vital energy is required, which in the male is available
for larger and more prolonged growth of organs, such as the brain,
stature, and limbs, by which a more powerful grasp is attained of the
outward environment. In other words, the female comes sooner to maturity
and is weaker than the male. She is also animated by a much stronger
love for the offspring, which is part of her own body, during the period
of infancy; and thus, in addition to the physical attributes, such as
lacteal glands and larger breasts, she inherits qualities of softness,
amiability, and devotion, which fit her for the office of nurse. Her
physical weakness, again, has made her, for untold ages, and even now
in all the less advanced communities, and too often even in the most
advanced, the slave of the stronger male. She has thus inherited many of
the mental qualities which are essential to such a state: the desire to
propitiate by pleasing and making herself attractive; the gentleness and
submissiveness which shrink from a contest of brute force in which she
is sure to be defeated; the clinging to a stronger nature for support,
which in extreme cases leads to blind admiration of power and the
spaniel-like attachment to a master whether deserving of it or not. As
civilisation however advances, and as intellectual and moral qualities
gain ascendency over brute strength and animal instincts, the condition
of woman improves, and it comes more and more to be recognised that she
is not made to be man’s slave or plaything, but has her own personality
and character, which, if in some respects inferior, are in others better
than those of the male half of creation. Tennyson, the great poet of
modern thought, who sums up so many of the ideas and tendencies of the
age in concise and vigorous verse, writes:—

    For woman is not undeveloped man,
    Nor yet man’s opposite.

Not opposite, yet different, so that the one supplements what is wanting
to the other, and the harmonious union of the two makes ideal perfection.
It is the glory of European civilisation to have done so much to develop
this idea of the equality of the sexes, and to have gone so far towards
emancipating the weaker half of the human species from the tyranny of the
stronger half.

It would be unfair to omit mention of the great part which Christianity
has had in this good work; not only by direct precept and recognition of
religious equality, but even more by the embodiment, as its ideal, of the
feminine virtues of gentleness, humility, resignation, self-devotion,
and charity. Ideal Christianity is, in fact, what may be called the
feminine pole of conduct and morality, as opposed to the masculine one of
courage, hardihood, energy, and self-reliance. Many of the precepts of
Christianity are unworkable, and have to be silently dropped in practice.
It would not answer either for individuals or nations ‘when smitten
on one cheek to turn the other.’ When an appeal is made to _fact_ to
decide whether it is a right rule to live as the sparrows do, taking no
thought for the morrow, the verdict of _fact_ is in favour of foresight
and frugality. Herbert Spencer has stated this polarity very strongly as
that of the religion of amity and the religion of enmity; but I think he
states the case too adversely for the latter, for the qualities which
make men and nations good fighters and victorious in the struggle for
existence, are in their way just as essential as the gentler virtues, and
both alike become defects when pushed to the ‘falsehood of extremes.’
Christianity, therefore, whatever may become of its dogmas, ought always
to be regarded with affection and respect for the humanising effect it
has produced, especially in improving the condition of the female half of

This improvement in the condition of women has brought about a
corresponding improvement in the male sex, for the polarity between the
two has come to be the most intimate and far-reaching influence of modern
life. Take the literature of the novel and play, which aim at holding up
the mirror to human nature and contemporary manners, and you will find
that they nearly all turn upon love. The word ‘immorality’ has come to
signify the one particular breach of the laws of morality which arises
from the relations of the sexes.

In providing for the birth of nearly equal numbers of each sex, nature
clearly establishes monogamy, or union of single pairs, as the condition
of things most in accordance with natural laws. The family also, the
first germ of civilisation, is impossible, or can only exist in a very
imperfect and half-developed state, without this permanent union of a
single husband and wife. Violations of this law lead to such disastrous
consequences to individuals, and are so deteriorating to nations, that
they are properly considered as the ‘immorality’ _par excellence_, and
condemned by all right-minded opinion. And yet to observe this law is a
constant lesson in self-control for a great part of the life: a lesson of
the utmost value, for it is a virtue which is at the root of all other
virtues. And it is formed and becomes habitual and easy by practice,
for just as the muscles of the ballet-dancer’s leg or blacksmith’s arm
acquire strength and elasticity by use, so do the finer fibres of the
brain improve by exercise and become soft and flabby by disuse, so that
effort in the former case is a pleasure and in the latter a pain. For
this reason chaste nations are generally strong and conquering nations;
dissolute Imperial Rome went down before the Goths and Germans, and
polygamous Turkey perishes of dry rot in the midst of the progress of
the nineteenth century. Indeed, there is no better test of the position
which either an individual, a class, or a nation hold in the scale of
civilisation, than the tone which prevails among the men with regard to
women. Wherever Turkish ideas prevail, we may be sure that whatever may
be the outward varnish of manner there is essential snobbishness.

                        Up and down
    Along the scale of life, through all,
    To him who wears the golden ball,
    By birth a king, at heart a clown

On the other hand, wherever women are regarded with a chivalrous respect
and reverence, the heart of a true gentleman beats, though it be under
the rough exterior of one of Bret Harte’s cow-boys or Californian miners.

Nothing in fact gives one more hope in the progress of human society than
to find that in the freest countries, and those farthest advanced towards
modern ideas and democratic institutions, the tone with regard to women
shows the greatest improvement. There is a regular _crescendo_ scale of
progress from Turkey to America. I do not refer so much to the fact that
in the newer colonies and countries women can travel unprotected without
fear of insult or injury, as to the almost instinctive recognition of
their equal rights as intelligent and moral beings who have a personality
and character of their own, which places them on the same platform as men
though on opposite sides of it.

To understand rightly the real spirit of an age or country, it is not
enough to study dry statistics or history in the form of records of
wars and political changes. We must study the works of the best poets,
novelists, and dramatists, who seek to embody types and to hold up the
mirror to contemporary ideas and manners. A careful perusal of such works
as those of Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, and George Eliot at home, and
of Bret Harte, Howells, James, and Mrs. Burnett in the United States,
will give a truer insight into the inner life of the country and period
than any number of blue-books or consular returns. They show what the
writers of the greatest genius, that is, of the greatest insight, see as
types of the actual ideas and characters surrounding them; and the fact
of their works being popular shows that the types are recognised as true.
Now it is certain that the English literature of fiction and its latest
development, that of the American novelists, show an ever-increasing
recognition of the female individual as an equal unit with the male in
the constitution of modern society. Those dear ‘school marms’ of Bret
Harte’s and Wendell Holmes’, who career so joyously through mining camps,
receiving courtesy and radiating civilising influences among the rough
inhabitants; or touch the hearts and throw a mellow light over the autumn
days of middle-aged professors and philosophers, are far removed from
the slaves of prehistoric savages or the inmates of a Turkish harem. So
also in the more complex relations of a more crowded civilisation, in the
circles of Washington, New York, and Boston, the ideal American woman is
always depicted as bright, intelligent, and independent, with a character
and personality of her own, and the suspicion never seems to enter the
author’s head that she is in any respect inferior to the male characters
with whom she is associated.

The same may be said to a great extent of English literature from the
time of Shakespeare downwards. No better portrait than Portia was ever
drawn of the

    Perfect woman, nobly planned
    To soothe, to comfort, and command;
    And yet a spirit still, and bright
    With something of an angel light.

And in the long gallery of good and loveable women, from Rosalind and
Imogene down to Lucy Roberts and Laura Pendennis, we have not one who is
a mere non-entity or child of passionate impulse. Nor is the recognition
of woman’s equality less marked in the bad characters. Lady Macbeth is
of a stronger nature than Macbeth; Becky Sharp more clever and full of
resources than the men with whom she plays like puppets; Maggie Tulliver,
with all her wild struggles with herself and her surroundings, has far
more in her than her brother Tom. Compare these characters with those
of the school of modern French novels, which turn mainly on adultery
and seduction, committed for the most part not in any whirlwind of
irresistible passion, but to gratify some passing caprice or vanity, and
it is easy to see how wide is the gulf which separates the ideals and
moral atmosphere of the two countries.

It is not therefore from any wish to indulge in what Herbert Spencer
calls the ‘unpatriotic bias,’ and depreciate my own country, that I am
disposed to think that the younger English-speaking communities are
somewhat in advance of ourselves in this matter of the relations of
the sexes, but simply because I think that the feeling is there more
widespread and universal. We have in English society two strata in which
women are still considered as inferior beings to men: a lower one, where
better ideas have not yet permeated the dense mass of ignorance and
brutality; and a higher one, where among a certain portion, let us hope
a small one, of the gilded youth and upper ten, luxury and idleness have
blunted the finer susceptibilities, and created what may be most aptly
called a Turkish tone about women. There are many of this class, and
unfortunately often in high places, where their example does widespread
mischief, whose ideal might be summed up in the words of the Irish

    I am one of the ould sort of Bradies,
      My turn does not lie to hard work;
    But I’m fond of my pipe and the ladies,
      And I’d make a most illigant Turk.

And most ‘illigant Turks’ they make, though far worse than real
Turks who are born and brought up in the ideas and surroundings of a
lower civilisation; while the tone of our English Turks is far more
nauseous and disgusting, as denoting innate selfishness, sensuality,
and vulgarity. Of these two classes there seem to be fewer in the newer
English communities; and if they exist, they are in such a small minority
that they conceal their existence, and pay the homage of vice to virtue
which is called hypocrisy.

To return, however, to the more scientific aspects of the question, the
polarity of sex displays itself as conspicuously as that of the magnet in
the fundamental law of repulsion of like for like, and attraction of like
for unlike. In each case there must be an identity of essence developing
itself in opposite directions. Thus, atoms attract or repel atoms, but
not molecules; for if they seem to do so, it is only in cases in which
the molecule contains some atom whose atomicity or polar power has not
been fully satisfied. So currents of air or water do not affect electric
currents. But given the identity of substance, its differentiation takes
place under an ever-increasing progression of polarity of affinities and

A German naturalist, Brahm, discussing the question why birds sing, says,
‘the male finds in the female those desirable and attractive qualities
which are wanting in himself. He seeks the opposite to himself with
the force of a chemical element.’ This is equally true of the male and
female of the human species. A masculine woman and effeminate man are
equally unattractive, and if the qualities are pushed to an extreme
extent, the individuals become monstrosities, and, instead of attracting,
excite vehement disgust and repulsion. This, which is true physically,
is equally true of moral and intellectual characteristics. Each seeks,
in the happy marriage or perfect ideal union, the qualities which are
most deficient in themselves: the woman, strength, active courage, and
the harder qualities; the man, gentleness, amiability, and the softer
virtues. In each individual, as in each union of individuals, harmony
and perfection depend on the due balance of the opposite qualities, and
the ‘falsehood of extremes’ leads up to chaos and insanity. The man in
whom strength and hardihood are not tempered by gentleness and affection
becomes brutal and tyrannical; while the woman who has no strength of
character becomes silly and frivolous. Marriage, however, involves the
highest ideal, for the well-assorted union of the two in one gives a more
complete harmony and reconciliation of opposites than can be attained
by the single individual, who must always remain more or less within
the sphere of the polarity of his or her respective sex. But here also
the same law of polarity operates, for as happy marriage affords the
highest ideal, so do unhappy and ill-assorted unions involve the greatest
misery and most complete shipwreck of life. Especially to the woman, for
the man has other pursuits and occupations, and can to a great extent
withdraw himself from domestic troubles; while the woman has no defence
against the coarseness, selfishness, and vulgarity of the partner to
whom she is tied, and who may make her life a perpetual purgatory, and
drag all her finer intellectual and moral nature down to a lower level.
Fortunately extreme cases are rare, and, though the ideal of a perfect
union may seldom be attained to, the great majority of married couples
manage to jog on together, and bring up families in comparative comfort
and respectability. Evidently, however, in many cases the weaker party
does not get fair play, and the laws which are the result of centuries of
male legislation are often too oblivious of the maxim that what is ‘sauce
for goose is sauce for gander.’ Improvement, however, is coming from the
growth of the more healthy public opinion which stigmatises any invasion
of woman’s real rights, and any attempt on the part of her natural
protector to bully and tyrannise, as utterly disgraceful; and the waves
of this public opinion are slowly but surely sapping the cliffs of legal
conservatism, and forcing the intrenchments of stolid injustice behind
ermine robes, horsehair wigs, and obsolete Acts of Parliament.



    Heredity in simple forms of life—In more complex
    organisms—Pangenesis—Varieties how produced—Fixed by law of
    survival of the fittest—Dr. Temple’s view—Examples: triton,
    axolotl—Variations in individuals and species—Lizards into
    birds—Ringed snakes—Echidna.

As the earth is kept in an orbit, which makes life possible by the
balance of the antagonist centripetal and centrifugal forces, so is
that life evolved and maintained by the balance of the two conflicting
forces of heredity and variation. Heredity, or the principle which makes
offsprings resemble their parental organisms, may be considered as the
centripetal force which gives stability to species; while variation is
like the centrifugal force which tends to make them develop into new
forms, and prevents organic matter from remaining ever consolidated into
one uniform mass.

As regards heredity, the considerations which have been advanced in the
last chapter, on the origin of sex, will enable the reader to understand
the principles on which it is based. When a moneron, or living piece
of pure protoplasm, or its successor the nucleated cell, propagates
itself by simple division into two equal parts, it is obvious that each
half must, in its atomic constitution and motions, exactly resemble the
original. If amœba A divides into amœbæ B and C, both B and C are exact
facsimiles of A and of one another, and so are the progeny of B and C
through any number of generations. They must remain identical repetitions
of the parent form, unless some of them should happen to be modified by
different actions of their surrounding environment, powerful enough to
affect the original organisation.

In propagation by germs or buds, the same thing must hold true, only, as
the offspring carries with it not the half, but only a small portion of
the parental organism, its impress will be less powerful, and the new
organism will more readily be affected by external influences. When we
come to propagation by spores or single cells, and still more to sexual
propagation by the union of single cells of two progenitors, it becomes
more difficult to see how the type of the two parents, and of a long line
of preceding ancestors, can be maintained so perfectly.

Of the fact that it is maintained there can be no doubt. Not only do
species breed true and remain substantially the same for immense periods,
but the characters of individual parents and their ancestors repeat
themselves, to a great extent, in their offspring. Thus the cross between
the white and black varieties of the human species perpetuates itself
to such an extent, that a single cross of black blood leaves traces for
a number of generations. In the Spanish American States and the West
Indies, where the distinction is closely observed, the term ‘octoroon’
is well known, as applied to Creoles who have seven-eighths of white
to one-eighth of black blood in their composition. In the case of what
is called ‘atavism,’ this recurrence to the characters of ancestors
is carried to a much further extent. In breeding animals, it is not
uncommon to find the peculiar features of generations of ancestors
long since extinct cropping up occasionally in individuals. Thus,
stripes like those of the ass along the back and down the shoulders,
occasionally appear on horses whose immediate ancestors for many
generations back showed nothing of the sort; and even stripes across
the legs like those of the zebra occur quite unexpectedly, and testify
to the common descent of the various species of the horse tribe from a
striped ancestor. How these ancestral peculiarities can be transmitted
through many generations, each individual of which originated from a
single microscopic cell which had been fructified by another cell, is
one of the greatest mysteries of nature. It may assist us in forming
some idea of the possibility of a solution to remember what has been
proved as to the dimensions of atoms. Their order of magnitude is that
of a cricket-ball to the earth. In a single microscopic cell, therefore,
there may be myriads of such atoms circling round one another and forming
infinitesimal solar systems, of infinite complexity and variety. Darwin’s
theory of ‘Pangenesis’ supposes that some of the actual identical atoms
which formed part of ancestral bodies are thus transmitted through their
descendants for generation after generation, so that we are literally
‘flesh of the flesh’ of the primæval creature who was developed into man
in the later tertiary or early glacial period. Haeckel, more plausibly,
suggests that not the identical atoms, but their peculiar motions and
mode of aggregation have been thus transmitted: a mode of transmission
which, with his prevailing tendency to invent long and learned names
for everything, he calls the ‘Perigenesis of plastids.’ In any case,
however, these must be taken not as solutions of the problem, but as
guesses at the truth which show that its solution is not impossible.

The opposite principle to heredity, that of variation, is equally
important and universal. It is apparent in the fact, that although
every individual of every species reproduces qualities of parents and
ancestors, no two individuals do so in precisely the same manner; no two
are exactly alike. This difference, or individuality, becomes more marked
as the organism is higher. Thus, sheep and hounds differ from one another
by slight differences which require the practised eye of the shepherd
or huntsman to detect; while human beings are so unlike, that of the
many millions existing in each generation no two exactly resemble one
another. The reason of this is apparent if we consider that the higher
the organism the more complex does it become, and the less the chance of
the whole complicated relations of parent and ancestral organisms being
transmitted by single cells so solidly and completely as to overpower
and remain uninfluenced by external influences. Variation evidently
depends mainly on the varying influences of environment. If the exterior
layer of molecules of a lump of protoplasm become differentiated from
the interior ones and form a cell-wall, it is because they are in more
immediate contact with the air or other surrounding medium. Internal
changes depend on conditions such as temperature and nutrition. In the
case of cultivated plants and domestic animals we can see most clearly
how varieties are produced by adaptation to changes of environment. These
variations, however, would not proceed very far, were it not for the
interaction of the opposing forces of variation and heredity, by which
latter the variations appearing in individuals are fixed and accumulated
in descendants, until they become wide and permanent divergencies.
This is done in the case of cultivated plants and domestic animals by
man’s artificial selection in pairing individuals who show the same
variations; and in nature by the struggle for existence, giving victory
and survival to those forms, and in the long run to those forms only,
whose variations, slight as they may be in each generation, tend to bring
individuals into better adaptation to their environment.

It is the great glory of Darwin to have established this firmly by an
immense number of interesting and exhaustive instances, and thus placed
evolution, or a scientific explanation of the development and laws of
life, on a solid basis. Every day fresh discoveries and experiments
confirm this great principle, and it has almost passed into the same
phase as Newton’s law of gravity, as a fundamental law accepted as
axiomatic by all men of science, and as the basis of modern thought, to
which all religions and philosophies have to conform, accepted by nearly
all modern thinkers. I may here quote a passage from an eminent Anglican
divine, Dr. Temple, for the double purpose of showing how universal
has become the acceptance of this Darwinian view of evolution among
intelligent men; and how little terrible are its consequences, even to
those who look at the facts of the universe through a theological medium
and retain their belief in accepted creeds.

‘It seems in itself something more majestic, more befitting of Him to
whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years,
thus to impress His will once for all on this creation, and provide for
all its countless varieties by this one original impress, than by special
acts of creation to be perpetually modifying what He had previously

    [1] Dr. Temple, _Religion and Science_.

Scientific men would be content to accept this statement of Dr. Temple’s
almost in his own words, except that they might consider his definition
of the Great First Cause as somewhat too absolute and confident. Having
had to deal so much with actual facts and accurate knowledge, they
are apt to be more modest in assertion than even the most enlightened
theologian, whose studies have lain rather in the direction of phrases
and ideas, which, from their very nature, are more vague and indefinite,
and perhaps rather guesses and aspirations after truth, than proofs of
it. In any case there is the authority of a learned and liberal-minded
bishop for the position that the scientific way of looking at the
universe is not necessarily profane or irreligious.

To return to variation: the instances of the operation of this principle,
alone or in conjunction with that of heredity, in working out the
evolution of species, are exceedingly numerous and interesting. Those who
wish to understand the subject thoroughly must study the works of Darwin,
Haeckel, Huxley, and other modern writers; but for my present purpose it
will be sufficient to refer to a few of the most marked instances which
may assist the reader in comprehending how the gradual evolution of life
and creation of new species may have been brought about.

There is an amphibious animal, called the triton or water-salamander,
akin to the frog, whose normal course is to begin life living in the
water and breathing by gills, and end it on land with gills metamorphosed
into lungs. If they are shut up in water and kept in a tank they
never lose their gills, but continue through life in the lower stage
of development, and reproduce themselves in other tritons with gills.
Conversely the axolotl, a peculiar gilled salamander from the Lake of
Mexico, has its normal course to live, die, and propagate its species in
water, breathing by gills; but if an axolotl happens to stray from the
water and take to living on dry land, the gills are modified into lungs
and the animal gains a place in the class in the school of development.
This fits in remarkably with the fact that the embryo of all vertebrate
mammals, including man, passes through the gilled stage before arriving
at the development of lungs, which assists us in understanding two facts
of primary importance in the history of evolution.

First, how terrestrial life may have arisen from aquatic life by
adaptation to altered conditions.

Secondly, how the evolution of the embryo sums up in the individual, in
the period of a few days or months, the various stages of evolutions
which it has taken millions of years to accomplish in the species.

As a parallel to the transformation of gills into lungs, and of an
aquatic into a land animal, if we turn to the geological records of the
Secondary period we may trace the transformation of a water into an air
population, of sea-lizards into flying-lizards, and of flying-lizards
into birds. The ‘Hesperornis’ is an actual specimen of the transition,
being a feathered lizard, or rather winged and feathered creature which
is half lizard and half bird.

A remarkable instance of the great change of functions which may be
produced by a change of outward conditions is afforded by the common
ringed snake, which in its natural state lays eggs which take three
weeks to hatch; but if confined in a cage in which no sand is strewed
it hatches the eggs within its own body, and from oviparous becomes
viviparous. This may help us to understand how the lowest order of
mammals, which, like the Australian echidna or duck-billed mole, lay
eggs, may have developed, first into marsupial, and finally into
placental mammals.

These examples may assist the reader in understanding how the infinite
diversities of living species may have been developed in the course of
evolution from simple origins, just as the inorganic world was from
atoms, by the action and reaction of primitive polar forces between the
organism and its environment, and between heredity and variation.



    Basis of knowledge—Perception—Constitution of brain—White and
    grey matter—Average size and weight of brains—European, negro,
    and ape—Mechanism of perception—Sensory and motor nerves—Separate
    areas of brain—Sensory and motor centres—Abnormal states of
    action—Ideas how formed—Number and space—Creation
    unknowable—Conceptions based on perceptions—Metaphysics—Descartes,
    Kant, Berkeley—Anthropomorphism—Laws of nature.

Before entering on the higher subjects of religions and philosophies,
it is well to arrive at some precise idea of the limits of human
knowledge, and of the boundary line which separates the knowable from the
unknowable. The ultimate basis of all knowledge is perception. Without
an environment to create impressions, and an organ to receive them,
we should know absolutely nothing. What is the environment and what
the organ of human knowledge? The environment is the whole surrounding
universe, or, in the last analysis, the motions, or changes of motion,
by which the objects in that universe make impressions on the recipient
organ. The organ is the grey matter of that large nervous agglomeration,
the brain. But here I must at the outset make two reservations. In the
first place I do not define how these impressions are made. In all
ordinary cases they are made through the channels of the senses; but it
is possible that in certain exceptional cases vibrations in the brain,
causing perceptions, may be conveyed to it through the nerves in other
ways. In somnambulism, for instance, it seems to be an ascertained fact
that a somnambulist with closed eyes securely bandaged can walk in the
dark and avoid obstacles as well as if guided by the sight in full
daylight. There is a great deal of evidence also that in artificial
somnambulism, otherwise called mesmerism or hypnotism, and also in what
is called thought-reading, perceptions may be conveyed from one brain to
another otherwise than by the usual methods of speech or writing. But
these phenomena, however far they may be extended, do not affect the
position that impressions on the brain are the essential condition of
thought. If the grey matter of the brain is deficient or diseased the
mind is affected, and beyond a certain point becomes extinct.

The second and more important reservation is, that although mind and
all its qualities are thus indissolubly connected with matter, it by
no means follows that they are matter or mere qualities of it. In the
case of the atoms and energies, we know absolutely nothing of their real
essence, and cannot form even a conception of what they are, how they
came there, or what will become of them. It is the same with mind, soul,
or self: we feel an instinctive certainty of their existence, as we do of
that of matter; and we can trace their laws and manifestations under the
conditions in which they are known to us, viz. those of association with
matter and motion in the brain. But of their real essence or existence we
know nothing, and it is as unscientific to affirm as to deny. Directly
we pass beyond the boundary of such knowledge as really can be known
by human faculty, and stand face to face with the mystery of the Great
Unknown, we can only bow our heads with reverence and say with the poet,

    Behold, I know not anything.

I hope thus to steer safely between Scylla and Charybdis—between the
arid rocks of materialism and the whirling eddies of spiritualism.
Materialist and spiritualist seem to me very like two men disputing as to
the existence of life in the sun. ‘No,’ argues the former; ‘for the known
conditions there are totally inconsistent with any life we can conceive.’
‘Yes,’ says the other; ‘for the belief fits in with many things which
I earnestly wish to believe respecting a Supreme Being and a future
existence.’ To the first I say, ignorance is not evidence; to the second,
wishes are not proofs. For myself, while not quarrelling with those more
favoured mortals who have, or fancy they have, superior knowledge, I
can only say that I really know nothing; and this being the case, I see
no use in saying that I know, and think it both more truthful and more
modest to confess the limitation of my faculties.

With this caution I return to the field of positive knowledge. The brain,
spinal marrow, and nerves consist of two substances: one white, which
constitutes the great mass consisting of tubes or fibres; the other grey,
which is an aggregation of minute cells, so minute that it has been
computed that there are several millions of them in a space no larger
than a sixpence. The bulk of this grey nerve-tissue is found in the
higher animals, and especially in man, in the outside rind which covers
the brain, and its amount is greatly increased by the convolutions of
that organ giving a greater extent of covering surface. In fact the
convolutions of the average human brain give as much grey matter in a
head of average size, as would be given by a head of four times the size
if the brain were a plane surface. The extent of the convolutions is,
therefore, a sure sign of the extent of intellect. They are more numerous
and deeper in the European than in the negro; in the negro than in the
chimpanzee; in the anthropoid ape than in the monkey or lemur. This grey
nerve-tissue is the organ by which impressions from without are turned
into perceptions, volitions, and evolutions of nerve force. The white
matter is simply the medium of transmission, or we may say the telegraph
wires by which the impressions are conveyed to the head office and the
answers sent. The cell-tissue of the grey matter is thus emphatically
the organ of the mind. In fact, if it did not sound too materialistic,
we might call thought a secretion of the grey matter, only in saying
so we must bear in mind that it is only a mode of expressing the fact
that the two invariably go together; and that if we say with the German
philosopher ‘Ohne Phosphor kein Gedank,’ it does not mean that thought
and phosphorus are identical, but simply that the condition on which
thought depends is that of the existence of a material organ of which
phosphorus is an ingredient.

That this grey nerve-tissue is really the organ of thought has been
firmly established by numerous experiments both in man and the lower
animals. Injuries to it, or diseases in it, invariably affect what is
called the mind; while considerable portions of the white matter may be
removed without affecting the thinking and perceptive powers. A certain
amount of it is indispensable for the existence of intellect; the more
there is of it as the brain increases in size and the convolutions become
deeper, the greater is the intellect; when these fall below certain
dimensions intellect is extinguished and we have idiocy. The average
brain of the male white European weighs 49½ ounces, of the negro a
little under 47. The maximum brains which have been accurately weighed
and measured, are those of Cuvier and Daniel Webster, the weight of
the former being 64⅓ ounces, and the capacity of the latter being 122
cubic inches; while the average capacity of the Teutonic race, including
English, Germans, and Americans, is 92 inches, of the negro 83, and of
the Australian and Hottentot 75. The brain of the idiot seldom weighs
over 23 ounces, and the minimum weight consistent with a fair degree of
intelligence is about 34 ounces.

The mechanism by which correspondence is kept up between the living
individual and the surrounding universe is very simple—in reality, as
simple as that of any ordinary electric circuit. In the most complex
case, that of man, there are a number of nerve-endings, or small lumps
of protoplasm, embedded in the tissues all over the body, or highly
specialised and grouped together in separate organs such as the eye
and ear, from which a nerve-fibre leads direct to the brain, or to the
spinal cord and so up to the brain. These nerve-endings receive the
different vibrations by which outward energy presents itself, which
propagate a current or succession of vibrations of nerve-energy along the
nerve-fibre. This nerve-fibre is a round thread of protoplasm covered
by a white sheath of fatty matter which insulates it like the wire of
a submarine telegraph coated with gutta-percha. This nerve-wire leads
up to a nerve-centre, consisting of two corpuscles of protoplasm: the
first or sensory, a smaller one, which is connected by branches with the
second, a much larger one, called the motor, from which a much larger
nerve-fibre or wire proceeds, which terminates in a mass of protoplasm
firmly attached to a muscle. Thus, a sensation is propagated along the
sensory nerve to the sensory nerve-centre, whence it is transmitted to
the motor-centre, which acts as an accumulator of stored-up energy,
a large flow of which is sent through the large conductor of the
motor-nerve to the muscle, which it causes to contract and thus produces
motion. It is thus that the simpler involuntary actions are produced
by a process which is purely mechanical. In the more complex cases, in
which consciousness and will are involved, the process is essentially
the same, though more complicated. The message is transmitted to the
brain, where it is received by a cluster of small sensory cells or
nerve-centres, which are connected with another cluster of fewer and
larger motor-centres, often at some distance from them, by a network
of interlacing fibres. But it is always a case of a single circuit of
wires, batteries, and accumulators, adapted for receiving, recording,
and transmitting one sort of vibrations caused by and producing one sort
of energy, and one only. The brain does not act as a whole, receiving
indiscriminately impressions of light, sound, and heat; but by separate
organs for each, located in separate parts of it. It is like a great
central office, in one room of which you have a printing instrument
reading off and recording messages sent through an electric telegraph; in
another a telephone; in a third a self-registering thermometer, and so
on. And the same for the motor-centres and nerves. One set is told off to
move the muscles of the face, another those of the arms, others for the
legs and body, and so forth. This is further complicated by the fact that
the brain like the rest of the body has two sides, a right and left, and
that in some cases the motor-apparatus is doubled, each working only on
one side, while in others the same battery and wires serve for both. As a
rule the right hemisphere of the brain works the muscles of the left side
of the body, and _vice versâ_, so that an injury to one side of the brain
may paralyse the voluntary motion of the limbs on the opposite side,
leaving in a perfect condition those on its own side.

In the case of the higher functions involving thought, the upper part of
the brain, which performs these functions, seems to be a sort of duplex
machine, so that we have two brains capable of thinking, just as we
have two eyes capable of seeing. It is a remarkable fact that the areas
of the brain which are appropriated to the lowest and most instinctive
functions, which appear first, lie lowest, and as the functions rise the
position of their nerve-centres rises with them. Thus, at the very base
of the frontal convolutions at the lowest end of the fissure of Rolando,
we find the motor areas for the lower part of the face, by which the
lowest animals and the new-born infant perform their solitary function
of sucking and swallowing. Higher up are the centres in the right and
left brains for moving the upper limbs, that is, for seizing food and
conveying it to the mouth, which is the next function in the ascending
scale. Next above these are the centres for moving the lower limbs
and for co-ordinating the motions of the arms and legs, marking the
progression of an organism which can pursue and catch as well as eat its
food. And still higher are the centres which regulate the motions of the
trunk and body in correspondence with those of the limbs; while highest
of all, at the front and hind ends of the enveloping cortex of the brain,
come the organs of the intellectual faculties.

It is easy to see that this corresponds with the progression of the
individual, for the infant sucks and cries for food from the first day,
soon learns to extend its hand and grasp objects, but takes some time
to learn to walk, and still longer to perform exercises like dancing or
riding, in which the motions of the whole body have to be co-ordinated
with those of the limbs. And as the development of the individual is an
epitome of the evolution of life from protoplasm, we may well suppose
that the brain was developed in this order from its first origin in
a swelling at the end of the spinal cord as we find it in the lowest

It is a singular fact that the particular motor area which gives the
faculty of articulate speech lies in a small patch of about one and a
half square inches on the left side of the lower portion of the first
brain. If this is injured, the disease called aphasia is produced, in
which the patient loses the power of expressing ideas by connected words.
The corresponding area on the right side cannot talk; but in left-handed
persons this state of things is reversed, and the right side, which is
generally aphasial, can be taught to speak in young people, though not in
the aged.

Higher up in the cortex, or convoluted envelope of the brain, come the
areas for hearing and seeing, the latter being the more extensive. These
areas are filled mainly by a great number of sensory nerve-centres or
cells, connected with one another in a very complicated network. These
seem to be connected with the multitude of ideas which are excited in the
brain by perceptions derived from the higher senses, especially that of
sight. The simple movements are produced by a few large motor-centres,
which have only one idea and do only one thing, whether it be to move the
leg or the arm. But a sensation from sight often calls up a multitude of
ideas. Suppose you see the face of one with whom some fifty years ago you
may have had some youthful love passages, but your lives drifted apart,
and you now meet for the first time after these long years, how many
ideas will crowd on the mind, how many nerve-cells will be set vibrating,
and how many nerve-currents set coursing along intricate paths! No wonder
that the nerve-corpuscles are numerous and minute, and the nerve-channels
many and complicated.

When we come to the seats of the intellectual faculties the question
becomes still more obscure. They are probably situated in the hinder and
front parts of the surface of the brain, and depend on the grey matter
consisting of an immense number of minute sensory cells. It has been
computed that there are millions in the area of a square inch, and they
are all in a state of the most delicate equilibrium, vibrating with the
slightest breath of nervous impression. They depend for their activity
entirely on the sensory perceptive centres, for there is no consciousness
in the absence of sensory stimulation, as in dreamless sleep. Perception,
however caused, whether by outward stimulation of real objects, or by
former perceptions revived by memory, sends a stream of energy through
the sense-area, which expands, like a river divided into numerous
channels, fertilising the intellectual area, where it is stored up by
memory, giving us the idea of continual individual existence, and by some
mysterious and unknown process becoming transformed into consciousness
and deliberate thought. And conversely the process is reversed when what
we call will is excited, and the small currents of the intellectual area
are concentrated by an effort of attention and sent along the proper
nerve-channels to the motor-centres, whose function it is to produce
the desired movement. This mechanical explanation, it will be observed,
leaves entirely untouched the question of the real essence and origin of
these intellectual faculties, as to which we know nothing more than we do
of the real essence and origin of life, of matter, and of energy.

A very curious light however is thrown on them by phenomena which
occur in abnormal states of the brain, as in trance, somnambulism, and
hypnotism. In the latter, by straining the attention on a given object or
idea, such as a coin held in the hand or a black wafer on a white wall,
the normal action of the brain is, in the case of many persons—perhaps
one out of every three or four—thrown out of gear, and a state induced
in which the will seems to be annihilated, and the thoughts and actions
brought into subjection to the will of another person. In this state
also a cataleptic condition of the muscles is often induced, in which
they acquire enormous strength and rigidity. In somnambulism outward
consciousness is in a great measure suspended, and the somnambulist
lives for the time in a walking dream which he acts and mistakes for
reality. In this state old perceptions, scarcely felt at the time, seem
to revive, as in dreams, with such wonderful vividness and accuracy that
the somnambulist in acting the dream does things altogether impossible in
the waking state. Thus an ignorant Scotch servant-maid is said to have
recited half a chapter of the Hebrew version of the Old Testament: the
explanation being that she had been in the service of a Scotch minister,
who was studying Hebrew, and who used to walk about his room reciting
this identical passage. It would seem as if the brain were like a very
delicate photograph plate, which takes accurate impressions of all
perceptions, whether we notice them or not, and stores them up ready to
be reproduced whenever stronger impressions are dormant and memory by
some strange caprice breathes on the plate.

Most wonderful, however, are some of the phenomena of trance. In this
case it really seems as if two distinct individuals might inhabit the
same body. Jones falls into a trance and dreams that he is Smith. While
the trance lasts he acts and talks as Smith, he really is Smith, and
even addresses his former self Jones as a stranger. When he wakes from
the trance he has no recollection of it, and takes up the thread of
his own life, just as if he had dozed for a minute instead of being
in a trance for hours. But if he falls into a second trance, days or
weeks afterwards, he takes up his trance life exactly where he dropped
it, absolutely forgetting his intermediate real life. And so he may go
on alternating between two lives, with two separate personalities and
consciousnesses, being to all intents and purposes now Jones and now
Smith. If he died during a trance, which would he be, Jones or Smith? The
question is more easily asked than answered; but it certainly appears
as if with one mode of motion in the same brain you might have one mind
and personal identity associated with it, and with another mode of motion
different ones.

It would take me too far, and the facts are too doubtful, to investigate
the large class of cases included under the terms thought-reading,
telepathy, psychism, and spiritualism. It may suffice to say that there
is a good deal of evidence for the reality of very curious phenomena,
but none of any real weight for their being caused by any spiritualistic
or supernatural agency. They all seem to resolve themselves into the
assertion that under special conditions the perceptions of one brain can
be reproduced in another otherwise than by the ordinary medium of the
senses, and that in such conditions a special sort of cataleptic energy
or psychic force may be developed. The amount of negative evidence is
of course enormous, for it is certain that in millions upon millions
of cases thought cannot be read, things are not seen beyond the range
of vision, and coincidences do not occur between deaths and dreams or
visions. Neither can tables be turned, nor heavy bodies lifted, without
some known form of energy and a fulcrum at which to apply it.

This borderland of knowledge is, therefore, best left to time, which is
the best test of truth. That which is real will survive, and be gradually
brought within the domain of science and made to fit in with other facts
and laws of nature. That which is unreal will pass away, as ghosts
and goblins have done, and be forgotten as the fickle fashion changes
of superstitious fancy. In the meantime we shall do better to confine
ourselves to ascertained facts and normal conditions.

It is pretty certain that although the brain greatly preponderates as
an organ of mind in man and the higher animals, the grey tissue in the
spinal marrow and nervous ganglia exercises a limited amount of the
same functions proportionate to its smaller quantity. The reflex or
automatic actions, such as breathing, are carried on without reference
to the brain, and the messages are received and transmitted through the
local offices without going to the head office. This is the case with
many complicated motions which originated in the brain, but have become
habitual and automatic, as in walking, where thought and conscious
effort only intervene when something unusual occurs which requires a
reference to the head office; and in the still more complex case of the
piano-player, who fingers difficult passages correctly while thinking of
something else or even talking to a bystander.

Indeed, in extreme cases, where experiments on the brain have been
tried on lower animals, it is found that it can be entirely removed
without destroying life, or affecting many of the actions which require
perception and volition. Thus, when the brain has been entirely removed
from a pigeon, it smoothes its feathers with its bill when they have been
ruffled, and places its head under its wing when it sleeps; and a frog
under the same conditions, if held by one foot endeavours to draw it
away, and if unsuccessful, places the other foot against an obstacle in
order to get more purchase in the effort to liberate itself.

So much for the organ of mind; the other factor, that of outward
stimulus, is still more obvious. If thought cannot exist without grey
nerve-tissue, neither can it without impressions to stimulate that
tissue. A perfect brain, if cut off from all communication with the
external universe, could no more think and have perceptions, than
impressions from without could generate them without the appropriate
nerve-tissue. Once generated, the mind can store them up by memory,
control them by reason, and gradually evolve from them ever higher and
higher ideas and trains of reasoning, both in the individual and the
species:—in the individual passing from infancy to manhood, partly by
heredity from ancestors, and partly by education—using the word in the
large sense of influences of all sorts from the surrounding environment;
in the species, by a similar but much slower development from savagery to

Thus the whole fabric of arithmetic, algebra, and the higher calculi
are built up from the primitive perception of number. The earliest
palæolithic savage must have been conscious of a difference between
encountering one or two cave-bears or mammoths; and some existing races
of savages have hardly got beyond this primitive perception. Some
Australian tribes, it is said, have not got beyond three numerals, one,
two, and a great number. But by degrees the perceptions of number have
become more extensive and accurate, and the number of fingers on each
hand has been used as a standard of comparison. Thus ten, or two-hand,
the number of fingers on the two hands has gradually become the basis
of arithmetical numeration, and from this up to Sir W. Hamilton’s
‘Quaternions’ the progression is regular and intelligible. But Newton
could never have invented the differential calculus and solved the
problem of the heavens, if thousands of centuries before some primitive
human mind had not received the perception that two apples or two bears
were different from one.

In like manner geometry, as its name indicates, arises from primitive
perceptions of space, applied to the practical necessity of
land-measuring in alluvial valleys like those of the Nile and Euphrates,
where annual inundations obliterated to a great extent the dividing
lines between adjoining properties. The first perceptions of space would
take the form of the rectangle, or so many feet or paces, or cubits or
arm-lengths, forwards, and so many sideways, to give the proper area;
but as areas were irregular, it would be discovered that the triangle
was necessary for more accurate measurement. Hence the science of the
triangle, circle, and other regular forms, as we see it developed in
Euclid and later treatises on geometry, until we see it in its latest
development in speculations as to space of four dimensions.

But in all these cases we see the same fundamental principle as prevails
throughout the universe under the name of the ‘conservation of energy’;
always something out of something, never something out of nothing.

This, therefore, defines the limit of human knowledge, or boundary line
between the knowable and the unknowable. Whatever is _transformation_
according to existing laws is, whether known or unknown, at any rate,
knowable—whatever is _creation_ is unknowable. We have absolutely no
faculties to enable us to form the remotest conception of what the
essence of these primary atoms and energies really is, how they came
there, and how the laws, or invariable sequences, under which they act,
came to be impressed on them. We have no faculties, because we have
never had any perceptions upon which the mind can work. Reason and
imagination can no more work without antecedent perceptions than a bird
can fly in a vacuum.

Thus, for instance, the imagination can invent dragons, centaurs, and any
number of fabulous monsters, by piecing together fragments of perceptions
in new combinations; but ask it to invent a monster whose head shall
be that of an inhabitant of Saturn and its body that of a denizen of
Jupiter, and where is it? Of necessity all attempts to define or describe
things of which we have never had perceptions, must be made in terms of
things of which we have had perceptions, or, in other words, must be

So far as science gives any positive knowledge as to the relations of
mind to matter, it amounts to this: That all we call mind is indissolubly
connected with matter through the grey cells of the brain and other
nervous ganglia. This is positive. If the skull could be removed without
injury to the living organism, a skilful physiologist could play with his
finger on the human brain, as on that of a dog, pigeon, or other animal,
and by pressure on different notes, as on the keys of a piano, annihilate
successively voluntary motion, speech, hearing, sight, and finally will,
consciousness, reasoning power, and memory. But beyond this physical
science cannot go. It cannot explain how molecular motions of cells of
nerve-centres can be transformed into, or can create, the phenomena of
mind, any more than it can explain how the atoms and energies to which it
has traced up the material universe were themselves created or what they
really are.

All attempts to further fathom the depths of the unknown follow a
different line, that of metaphysics, or, in other words, introspection of
mind by mind, and endeavour to explain thought by thinking. On entering
into this region we at once find that the solid earth is giving way
under our feet, and that we are attempting to fly in an extremely rare
atmosphere, if, indeed, we are not idly flapping our wings in an absolute
vacuum. Instead of ascertained facts which all recognise, and experiments
which conducted under the same conditions always give the same results,
we have a dissolving view of theories and intuitions, accepted by some,
denied by others, and changing with the changing conditions of the age,
and with individual varieties of characters, emotions, and wishes. Thus,
mind and soul are with some philosophers identical, with others mind
is a product of soul; with some soul is a subtle essence, with others
absolutely immaterial; with some it has an individual, with others a
universal, existence; by some it is limited to man, by others conceded to
the lower animals; by some located in the brain, by others in the heart,
blood, pineal gland, or dura mater; with some it is pre-existent and
immortal, with others created specially for its own individual organism;
and so on _ad infinitum_. The greatest philosophers come mostly to the
conclusion that we really know nothing about it. Thus Descartes, after
having built up an elaborate metaphysical theory as to a spiritual,
indivisible substance independent of the brain and cognisable by
self-consciousness alone, ends by honestly confessing ‘that by natural
reason we can make many conjectures about the soul, and have flattering
hopes, but no assurance.’ Kant also, greatest of metaphysicians in
demolishing the fallacies of former theories, when he comes to define his
‘noumenon,’ has to use the vaguest of phrases, such as ‘an indescribable
something, safely located out of space and time, as such not subject
to the mutabilities of those phenomenal spheres, ... and of whose
ontological existence we are made aware by its phenomenal projections,
or effects in consciousness.’ The sentence takes our breath away, and
makes us sympathise with Bishop Berkeley when he says, ‘We metaphysicians
have first raised a dust, and then complain we cannot see.’ It prepares
us also for Kant’s final admission that nothing can really be proved by
metaphysics concerning the attributes, or even the existence, of the
soul; though, on the other hand, as it cannot be disproved, its reality
may for moral purposes be assumed.

It appears, therefore, that the efforts of the sublimest
transcendentalists do not carry us one step farther than the conclusions
of the commonest common-sense, viz. that there are certain fundamental
conditions of thought, such as space, time, consciousness, personal
identity, and freedom of will, which we cannot explain, but cannot get
rid of. The sublimest speculations of a Plato and a Kant bring us back
to the homely conclusions of the old woman in the nursery ballad, in
whose mind grave questions as to her personal identity were raised by the
felonious abstraction of the lower portion of her petticoat.

    If I be I, as I think I be,
    I’ve a little dog at home, and he’ll know me.

It is a safe ‘working hypothesis’ that when I go home in the afternoon,
my wife, children, and little dog will recognise me as being ‘I myself
I;’ but why or how I am I, whether I was I before I was born, or shall
be so after I am dead, I really know no more than the little dog who wags
his tail and yelps for joy when he recognises my personal identity as
something distinct from his own, when he sees me coming up the walk.

Our conceptions, therefore, are necessarily based on our perceptions,
and are what is called anthropomorphic. The term has almost come to
be one of reproach, because it has so often been applied to religious
conceptions of a Deity with human, though often not very humane,
attributes; but, if considered rightly, it is an inevitable necessity
of any attempt to define such a being or beings. We can only conceive
of such as of a magnified man, indefinitely magnified no doubt, but
still with a will, intelligence, and faculties corresponding to our own.
The whole supernatural or miraculous theory of the universe rests on
the supposition that its phenomena are, in a great many cases, brought
about, not by uniform law, but by the intervention of some Power, which,
by the exercise of will guided by intelligent design, alters the course
of events and brings about special effects. As long as the theory is
confined to knowable transformations of existing things, like those
which are seen to be affected by human will, it is not necessarily
inconceivable or irrational. Inferring like effects from like causes,
the hypothesis was by no means unreasonable that thunder and lightning,
for instance, were caused by some angry invisible power in the clouds.
On the contrary, the first savage who drew the deduction was a natural
philosopher who reasoned quite justly from his assumed premises. Whether
the premises were true or not was a question which could only be
determined centuries later by the advance of accurate knowledge.

When do we say we know a thing? Not when we know its essence and primary
origin, for of these the wisest philosopher is as ignorant as the rudest
savage; but when we know its place in the universe, its relation to other
things, and can fit it in to that harmonious sequence of events which is
summed up in what are called Laws of Nature. The highest knowledge is
when we can trace it up to its earliest origin from existing matter and
energy, and follow it downwards so as to be able to predict its results.
The force of gravity affords a good illustration of this knowledge, both
where it comes up to, and where it falls short of, perfection.

Newton’s law leaves nothing to be desired as regards its universal
application and power of prediction; but we do not yet fully understand
its mode of action or its relation to other forms of energy. It is
probable that some day we may be able to understand how the force of
gravity appears to act instantaneously at a distance, and how all the
transformable forces, gravity, light, heat, electricity, and molecular or
atomic forces, are but different manifestations of one common energy. But
in the meantime we know this for certain, that the law of gravity is not
a local or special phenomenon, but prevails universally from the fixed
stars to the atoms, from the infinitely great to the infinitely small.
This is a _fact_ to which all other phenomena, which are true facts and
not illusions, must conform.

In like manner, if we find in caves or river-gravels, under circumstances
implying enormous antiquity, and associated with remains of extinct
animals, rude implements so exactly resembling those in use among
existing savages, that if the collection in the Colonial Exhibition
of stone celts and arrow-heads used by the Bushmen of South Africa
were placed side by side with one from the British Museum of similar
objects from Kent’s Cavern or the caves of the Dordogne, no one but an
expert could distinguish between them, the conclusion is inevitable
that Devonshire and Southern France were inhabited at some remote
period by a race of men not more advanced than the Bushmen. Any theory
of man’s origin and evolution which is to hold water must take account
of this fact and square with it. And so of a vast variety of facts
which have been reduced to law and become certainly known during the
last half-century. A great deal of ground remains unexplored or only
partially explored; but sufficient has been discovered to enable us
to say that what we know we know thoroughly, and that certain leading
facts and principles undoubtedly prevail throughout the knowable
universe, including not only that which is known, but that which is as
yet partially or wholly unknown. For instance, the law of gravity, the
conservation of energy, the indestructibility of matter, and the law of
evolution, or development from the simple to the complex.



    Religions, ‘working hypotheses’—Newman’s illative sense—Origins
    of religions—Ghosts and spirits—Fetishes—Nature-worship—Solar
    myths—Planets—Evolution of nature-worship—Polytheism,
    pantheism, and theism—Evolution of monotheism in the Old
    Testament—Evolution of morality—Natural law and miracle—Evidence
    for miracles—Insufficiency of evidence—Absence of intelligent
    design—Agnosticism—Origin of evil—Can only be explained
    by polarity—Optimism and pessimism—Jesus, the Christian
    Ormuzd—Christianity without miracles.

Having thus, I may hope, given the reader some precise ideas of what
are the boundaries and conditions of human knowledge, we may proceed
to consider their application to the highest subjects, religions and

In the introductory chapter of this work I have said that all religions
are in effect ‘working hypotheses,’ by which men seek to reconcile the
highest aspirations of their nature with the facts of the universe, and
bring the whole into some harmonious concordance. I said so for the
following reasons. In a discussion at the Metaphysical Society on the
uniformity of laws of nature, recorded in the ‘Nineteenth Century,’
Huxley is represented as saying that he considered this uniformity, not
as an axiomatic truth like the first postulates of geometry, but as a
‘working hypothesis’; adding, however, that it was an hypothesis which
had never been known to fail. To this some distinguished advocates of
Catholic theology replied, that their conviction was of a higher nature,
for their belief in God was a final truth which was the basis of their
whole intellectual and moral nature, and which it was irrational to
question. This is in effect Cardinal Newman’s celebrated argument of an
‘illative sense,’ based on a complete assent of all the faculties, and
which was therefore a higher authority than any conclusions of science.
The answer is obvious, that complete assent, so far from being a test
of truth, is, on the contrary, almost always a proof that truth has not
been attained, owing either to erroneous assumptions as to the premises,
or to the omission of important factors in the solution of the problem.
To give an instance, I suppose there could not be a stronger case of
complete assent than that of the Inquisitors who condemned the theories
of Galileo. They had in support of the proposition that the sun revolved
round the earth the testimony of the senses, the universal belief of
mankind in all ages, the direct statement of inspired Scripture, the
authority of the infallible Church. Was all this to be set aside because
some ‘sophist vainly mad with dubious lore’ told them, on grounds of
some new-fangled so-called science, that the earth revolved round its
axis and round the sun? ‘No; let us stamp out a heresy so contrary to
our “illative sense,” and so fatal to all the most certain and cherished
beliefs of the Christian world, to the inspiration of the Word of God,
and to the authority of His Church.’ ‘E pur si muove,’ and yet the earth
really did move; and the verdict of _fact_ was that Galileo and science
were right, and the Church and the illative sense wrong.

In truth the distinction between the conclusions of science and those
of religious creeds might be more properly expressed by saying that
the former are ‘working hypotheses’ which never fail, while the latter
are ‘working hypotheses’ which frequently fail. Thus, the fundamental
hypothesis of Cardinal Newman and his school of a one infinite and
eternal personal Deity, who regulates the course of events by frequent
miraculous interpositions, so far from being a necessary and axiomatic
truth, has never appeared so to the immense majority of the human race:
and even at the present day, in civilised and so-called Christian
countries, its principal advocates complain that ninety-nine out of every
hundred practically ignore it. It is not so with the uniformity of the
laws of nature. No palæolithic savage ever hesitated about putting one
foot after another in chase of a mammoth from a fear that his working
hypothesis of uniform law might fail, the support of the solid earth give
way, and with his next step he might find himself toppling over into the
abyss of an infinite vacuum. In like manner Greeks and Romans, Indians
and Chinese, monotheists, polytheists, pantheists, Jews and Buddhists,
Christians and Mahometans, all use standard weights in their daily
transactions without any misgivings that the law of gravity may turn out
not to be uniform. But religions theories vary from time to time and from
place to place, and we can in a great many cases trace their origins and
developments like those of other political and social organisms.

To trace their origins we must, as in the case of social institutions,
look first at the ideas prevailing among those savage and barbarous races
who are the best representatives of our early progenitors; and secondly
at historical records. In the first case we find the earliest rudiments
of religious ideas in the universal belief in ghosts and spirits. Every
man is conceived of as being a double of himself, and as having a sort of
shadowy self, which comes and goes in sleep or trance, and finally takes
leave of the body, at death, to continue its existence as a ghost. The
air is thus peopled with an immense number of ghosts who continue very
much their ordinary existence, haunt their accustomed abodes, and retain
their living powers and attributes, which are exerted generally with a
malevolent desire to injure and annoy. Hence among savage races, and by
survival even among primitive nations of the present day, we find the
most curious devices to cheat or frighten away the ghost, so that he may
not return to the house in which he died. Thus, the corpse is carried
out, not by the door, but by a hole made for the purpose in the wall,
which is afterwards built up, a custom which prevails with a number of
widely separated races—Greenlanders, Hottentots, Algonquins, and Fijians;
and the practice even survives among more civilised nations, such as the
Chinese, Siamese, and Thibetans; nor is it wholly extinct in some of the
primitive parts of Europe.

This idea obviously led to the practice of constructing tents or houses
for the ghosts to live in, and of depositing with them articles of
food and weapons to be used in their ghostly existence. In the case
of great chiefs, not only their arms and ornaments are deposited, but
their horses, slaves, and wives were sacrificed and buried with them,
so that they might enter spirit-land with an appropriate retinue. The
early Egyptian tombs were as nearly as possible facsimiles of the house
in which the deceased had lived, with pictures of his geese, oxen, and
other possessions painted on the walls, evidently under the idea that the
ghosts of these objects would minister to the wants and please the fancy
of the human ghost whose eternal dwelling was in the tomb where his mummy
was deposited.

Another development of the belief in spirits is that of fetish-worship,
in which superstitious reverence is paid to some stock or stone, tree
or animal, in which a mysterious influence is supposed to reside,
probably owing to its being the chosen abode of some powerful spirit.
This is common among the negro races, and it takes a curious development
among many races of American Indians, where the tribe is distinguished
by the totem, or badge of some particular animal, such as the bear,
the tortoise, or the hare, which is in some way supposed to be the
patron spirit of the clan, and often the progenitor from whom they are
descended. This idea is so rooted that intermarriage between men and
women who have the same totem is prohibited as a sort of incest, and
the daughter of a bear-mother must seek for a husband among the sons of
the deer or fox. Possibly a vestige of the survival of this idea may be
traced in the coat-of-arms of the Sutherland family, and the wild cat may
have been the totem of the Clan Chattan, while the oak tree was that of
the Clan Quoich, with whom they fought on the Inch of Perth. Be this as
it may, it is clearly a most ancient and widespread idea, and prevails
from Greenland to Australia; while it evidently formed the oldest element
of the prehistoric religion of Egypt, where each separate province had
its peculiar sacred animal, worshipped by the populace in one nome, and
detested in the neighbouring one.

By far the earliest traces of anything resembling religious ideas are
those found in burying-places of the neolithic period. It is evident that
at this remote period ideas prevailed respecting ghost or spirit life and
a future existence very similar to those of modern savages. They placed
weapons and implements in the graves of the dead, and not infrequently
sacrificed human victims, and held cannibal feasts. Whether this was
done in the far more remote palæolithic era is uncertain, for very few
undoubted burials of this period have been discovered, and those few
have frequently been used again for later interments. We can only draw
a negative inference from the absence of idols which are so abundant
in the prehistoric abodes explored by Professor Schliemann, among the
very numerous carvings and drawings found in the caves of the reindeer
period in France and Germany, that the religion of the palæolithic men,
if they had any, had not reached the stage when spirits or deities were
represented by images.

For the first traces therefore of anything like what is now understood
by the term religion, we must look beyond the vague superstitions of
savages, at the historical records of civilised nations. As civilisation
advanced population multiplied, and rude tribes of hunters were
amalgamated into agricultural communities and powerful empires, in which
a leisured and cultured class arose, to whom the old superstitions were
no longer sufficient. They had to enlarge their ‘working hypothesis’
from the worship of stocks and stones and fear of ghosts, to take in a
multitude of new facts and ideas, and specially those relating to natural
phenomena which had roused their curiosity, or become important to them
as matters of practical utility. The establishment of an hereditary
caste of priests accelerated this evolution of religious ideas, and from
time to time recorded its progress. The oldest of such records are those
of Egypt and Chaldæa, where the fertility of alluvial valleys watered by
great rivers had led to the earliest development of a high civilisation.
The records also of the Chinese, Hindoos, Persians, and other nations
take us a long way back towards the origins of religions.

In all cases we find them identical with the first origins of science,
and taking the form of attempted explanations of natural phenomena, by
the theory of deified objects and powers of nature. In the Vedas we see
this in the simplest form, where the gods are simply personifications of
the heavens, earth, sun, moon, dawn, and so forth; and where we should
say the red glow of morning announces the rising of the sun, they express
it that Aurora blushes at the approach of her lover the mighty Sun-god.
It is very interesting to observe how the old Chaldæan legend of the
creation of the world has been modified in the far later Jewish edition
of it in Genesis, to adapt it to monotheistic ideas. The Chaldæan legend
begins, like that of Genesis, with an ‘earth without form and void,’ and
darkness on the chaotic deep. In each legend the Spirit of God, called
Absu in the Chaldæan, moves on the face of the waters, and they are
gathered together and separated from the land. But here a difference
begins: in the original Chaldæan legend ‘the great gods were then made;
the gods Lakman and Lakmana caused themselves to come forth; the gods
Assur and Kesar were made; the gods Anu, Bel, and Hea were born.’

The appearance of the gods Lakman and Lakmana was the primitive mode of
expressing the same idea as that which is expressed in Genesis by saying
that God created the firmament separating the heaven above from the earth
beneath; Assur and Kesar mean the same thing as the hosts of heaven and
the earth; the god Bel is the sun, and so forth. It is evident that the
first attempts to explain the phenomena of nature originated in the idea
that motion and power implied life, personality, and conscious will; and
therefore that the earth, sky, sun, moon, and other grand and striking
phenomena, must be regarded as separate gods.

As culture advanced astronomy became more and more prominent in these
early religions, and solar myths became a principal part of their
mythologies, while astrology, or the influence of planets and stars on
human affairs, became an important part of practical life. The Chaldæan
legend referred to contains a mass of astronomical knowledge, which in
the Genesis edition is reduced to ‘He made the stars also.’ It describes
how the constellations were assigned their forms and names, the twelve
signs of the zodiac established, the year divided into twelve months,
the equinoxes determined, and the seasons set their bounds. Also how the
moon was made to regulate the months by its disc, ‘horns shining forth to
lighten the heavens, which on the seventh day approaches a circle.’

In the still older Egyptian pyramids we find proof of the long previous
existence of great astronomical knowledge and refined methods of
observation, for these buildings, which are at once the largest and the
oldest in the world, are laid down so exactly in a meridian line, and
with such a close approximation to the true latitude, as would have
otherwise been impossible. In fact there is every reason to believe that
while they were constructed as tombs for kings, they were at the same
time intended for national observatories, for the arrangement of the
internal passages as such is to make the Great Pyramid serve the purpose
of a telescope, equatorially mounted, and showing the transits of stars
and planets over the meridian, by reference to a reflected image of what
was then the polar star, a knowledge of which was essential for accurate
calculation of the calendar and seasons, for fixing the proper date of
religious ceremonies, and very probably for astrological purposes.

The prevalence of these solar and astronomical myths among a number
of different nations separated by wide intervals of space and time is
very remarkable. Egyptians, Indians, Babylonians, Chinese, Mexicans,
and Peruvians had myths which were strangely similar, indeed almost
identical, based on the sun’s annual passage through the constellations
of the zodiac. His apparent decline and death as he approached the
winter solstice, and his return to life when he had passed it, gave
rise to myths of the murder of the Sun-god by some fierce wild boar,
or treacherous enemy, and of his triumphant resurrection in renewed
glory. Hence, also, the passage of the winter solstice was a season of
general rejoicing and festivity, traces of which survive when the sirloin
and turkey smoke upon the hospitable tables of modern Christmas. One
remarkable myth had a very universal acceptance, that of the birth of
the infant Sun-god from a virgin mother. It appears to have originated
from the period, some 6,450 years ago, when the sun, which now rises at
the winter solstice in the constellation of Sagittarius, rose in that
of Pisces, with the constellation of the Virgin, with upraised arms
marked by five stars, setting in the north-west. Anyhow, this myth of
an infant god born of a virgin mother holds a prominent place in the
religions of Egypt, India, China, Chaldæa, Greece, Rome, Siam, Mexico,
Peru, and other nations. The resemblances are often so close that the
first Jesuit missionaries to China found that their account of the
miraculous conception of Christ had been anticipated by that of Fuh-ke,
born 3468 B.C.; and if an ancient priest of Thebes or Heliopolis could
be restored to life and taken to the Gallery of Dresden, he would see
in Raffaelle’s Madonna di San Sisto what he would consider to be an
admirable representation of Horus in the arms of Isis.

The planets also, still more mysterious in their movements than the sun,
and therefore still more endowed with human-like faculties of life,
power, and purpose, were from an early period believed to exercise an
influence on human affairs. Of the universality of this belief we find
traces in the names of the days of the week, which are so generally taken
from the sun, moon, and five visible planets—Mercury, Mars, Jupiter,
Venus, and Saturn—to whom special days were dedicated. If every seventh
day is a day of rest, it was originally so because it was thought unlucky
to undertake any work on the Sabbath, Saturday, or day of the gloomy and
malignant Saturn.

As time rolled on and civilisation advanced, this simple nature-worship
and deification of astronomical phenomena developed into larger and more
complex conceptions. Following different lines of evolution, polytheism,
pantheism and monotheism began to emerge as religious systems with
definite creeds, rituals, and sacred books. These lines seem to have been
determined a good deal by the genius of the race in which the religious
development took place. The impressions made on the human mind by the
surrounding universe are very various. Suppose ourselves looking up at
the heavens on a clear starry night, what will be the impression? To
one, that of awe and reverence, and he will feel crushed, as it were,
into nothingness, in the presence of such a sublime manifestation of
majesty and glory. Another, of more æsthetic nature, will be charmed by
the beauty of the spectacle, and tempted to assign life to it, and to
personify and dramatise its incidents. A third, of a scientific turn,
will above all things wish to understand it.

Thus we find the impression of awe preponderating among the Semitic races
generally; and as in their political relations, so in their religious
conceptions, we find them prone to prostrate themselves before despotic
power. With the Greeks again the æsthetic idea almost swallowed up
the others, and the old astronomical myths blossomed into a perfect
flower-bed of poetical and fanciful legends. The Chinese never got beyond
a simple pantheism, which looked upon the universe as being alive, and
saw nothing behind it; while the more metaphysical and physically feebler
races of Hindoos and Buddhists refined their pantheism into a system of
illusion, in which their own existence and the surrounding universe were

                        such stuff
    As dreams are made on,

and to be ‘rounded with a sleep’ was the final consummation devoutly to
be desired.

Monotheism developed itself later, partly from the feeling of the
unity of nature forcing itself on the more philosophical minds; partly
from that feeling of reverence and awe in presence of the Unknown which
swallowed up other conceptions; and partly, in the earlier stages, from
the feeling which exalted the local god of the tribe or nation, first
into a supremacy over other gods, and finally into sole supremacy,
degrading all other gods into the category of dumb idols made by human
hands. In the Old Testament we can trace the development of this latter
idea in its successive stages. Until the later days of the Jewish
monarchy it is evident that the Jews never doubted the existence of other
gods; and their allegiance oscillated between Jehovah and the heathen
deities symbolised by the golden calf, worshipped in high places, and
contending for the mastership in the rival sacrifices of Elijah and the
priests of Baal. But the prophetic element gradually introduced higher
ideas, and in the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah the worship of Jehovah
as the sole God became the religion of the State; and old legends and
documents were re-edited in this sense in the sacred book, which was
discovered and published for the first time in the reign of the latter
king. The subsequent misfortunes of the nation, their captivity and
contact with other religions in Babylonia, strengthened this monotheism
into an ardent, passionate national faith, as it has continued to be
with this remarkable people up to the present day. Christianity and
Mahometanism, children of Judaism, have spread this form of faith over
a great part of the civilised world; and of the three theories of
polytheism, pantheism, and monotheism, it may be said that only the two
latter survive.

Polytheism was bound to perish first, for slow as the advance of science
was, the uniformity of most of the phenomena, which had been attributed
to so many separate gods, could not fail to make an impression; and as
ideas of morality came slowly and tardily to be evolved as an element
of religion, the cruel rites and scandalous fables which so generally
accompanied polytheistic religions became shocking to an awakening

It is worthy of remark that this element of morality, which has now
gone so far towards swallowing up the others, was the latest to appear.
Even in the Jewish conception Jehovah was for a long time just as often
cruel, jealous, and capricious, as just and merciful; and St. Paul’s
doctrine that because God had the power to do as He liked, He was
warranted in creating a large portion of the human race as ‘vessels of
wrath,’ predestined to eternal punishment, is as revolting to the modern
conscience as any sacrifice to Beelzebub or Moloch. If we wish to see how
little necessary connection there is between morality and monotheism, we
have only to look at Mahometanism, which, in its extremer forms, may be
called monotheism run mad.

The Wahabite reformer, we are told by Palgrave, preached that there were
only two deadly sins: paying divine honours to any creature of Allah’s,
and smoking tobacco; and that murder, adultery, and such like trivial
matters, were minor offences which a merciful Allah would condone. He
held also that of the whole inhabitants of the world all would surely
be damned, except one out of the seventy-two sects of Mahometans, who
held the true faith and dwelt in the district of Riad. This illustrates
the insane extremes into which all human speculations run, if a single
idea—in this case that of awe, reverence, and abject submission in
presence of an almighty power—is allowed to run its course without check
and obtain undue preponderance.

Apart from these extreme instances we may say that the two religious
theories which have survived to the present day in the struggle for
existence, are monotheism and pantheism. Pantheism is, in the main, the
creed of half the human race—of the teeming millions of India, China,
Japan, Ceylon, Thibet, Siam, and Burmah. How deeply it is rooted in
their conceptions was very forcibly impressed on me in a conversation I
had on board one of the P. and O. steamers with an English missionary
returning from China. He told me how he had dined one evening with an
intelligent Chinese merchant, and after dinner they walked in the garden
discussing religious subjects, and he tried to impress on his host the
first principles of the Christian religion. It was a starlight night,
and for sole reply the Chinese gentleman stretched his hand to the
heavens and said, ‘Do you mean to tell me all that is dead—do you take
me for a fool?’ The Chinese ‘illative sense’ was as absolute in its
conclusions for pantheism, as that of Cardinal Newman for theism. In fact
pantheism, though not the whole truth, and almost as inconsistent as
polytheism with the real facts of the universe as disclosed by science,
has a certain poetical truth in it, to which chords of human emotion
vibrate responsively, and is perhaps not so widely in error as some of
the extreme theories which treat matter as something base and brutal.
Wordsworth’s noble lines—

                          A sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion, and a spirit that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
    And rolls through all things—

are pure pantheism, and yet we cannot but feel ourselves to a great
extent in sympathy with them.

So also the well-known lines of a greater than Wordsworth, Shakespeare,
are pure Buddhism:

    The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.

No one can read these lines without feeling that the Buddhist conception
is as far as possible from being a trivial or vulgar one, and that the
triviality and vulgarity are rather with those who cannot, up to a
certain point, understand and sympathise with it.

The religions of the East are very philosophical, and have kept very
clearly in view this fundamental distinction between the knowable and
the unknowable. In the ‘Century Magazine’ of July 1886, there is an
interesting account of a conversation between an American missionary
and the Bozu or chief priest of the great temple of the Shin Sect of
Buddhists at Kioto in Japan. The priest was an intelligent and highly
educated gentleman who spoke English, and was well versed in the
speculations of modern philosophy. The conversation turned on theological
questions, and when pressed by the argument for a Divine Creator, from
design shown in the universe implying intelligence, he replied:—

‘No; God cannot _make_ matter. Only artificial things show design, only
things which can be made. What do you mean by saying a thing shows
design? You only mean that by trying a man could make it.’

And he proceeded to illustrate it thus:—

‘You show me a gold ring; the ring shows design, but not the gold; gold
is an ultimate element, which can neither be made nor destroyed. When men
can make a world, then they can prove that this one shows design, for the
only way they know of design is by what they make.’

He went on to argue for the immortality of the soul, and as a consequence
for its pre-existence and the transmigration of souls, from the
conservation of energy; and concluded his argument against the creation
and government of the world by a comprehensible, anthropomorphic Creator,
by adducing the existence of evil.

‘There is a sickness,’ he said, ‘called fever and ague; what do you call
the medicine to cure that?’


‘Yes; now we have not found that long; a good God would not have let so
many people suffer if He could have given them that. A man found it by
chance. The sickness and suffering in this life are for wrong done in
another life.’

We may not accept this unproved theory of the cause of sickness and
suffering, but it is very interesting to find that candid and intelligent
minds, brought up in a society and religious beliefs so widely different
from our own, have arrived practically at the same conclusions as John
Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and other leaders of advanced thought in
modern Europe, and drawn almost identically the same line between that
which is knowable and that which is unknowable by the human mind.

But, however large-minded we may become in seeing the good in other
forms of creed, we English of the nineteenth century are not going to
turn either pantheists or Buddhists, and practically the contest of the
present day is between the supernatural or miraculous, and the natural or
scientific, hypotheses.

According to the former the operations of the universe are carried on to
a considerable extent by what may be called secondary interferences of a
supernatural being, who with will, intelligence, and design, like human
though vastly superior, frequently interposes to alter the course of
events and bring about something which natural law would not have brought
about. The other hypothesis cannot be stated better than in Bishop
Temple’s words, that the Great First Cause created things so perfect
from the first, that no such secondary interferences have ever been
necessary, and everything has been and is evolved from the primary atoms
and energies in a necessary and invariable succession. The supernatural
and the natural theories of the universe are thus brought into direct

For the supernatural theory it must be conceded that it is quite
conceivable, as is proved by the fact that it has been the almost
universal conception of mankind for ages, and remains so still for the
greater number. It is, as I have said, the inevitable first conception
when men began to reflect on the phenomena of the universe, and to reason
from effects to causes. I have always thought that Hume went too far in
condemning miracles as absolutely incredible _a priori_. It is a question
of evidence. _A priori_, I can conceive that the true explanation of the
universe might have been natural law, as the general rule, supplemented
by miracles; just as readily as that it is law always, and miracle never.
The verdict must be decided by the weight of evidence. The two theories
must be called, face to face, before the tribunal of _fact_, and its
decision must be respected. This is exactly what has been going on for
the last two centuries, and specially for the last half century, and the
record of decisions is now a very ample one. In every single instance law
has carried the day against miracle.

Instance after instance has occurred in which phenomena which in former
ages were attributed without hesitation to supernatural agencies have
been conclusively proved to be due to natural laws. Take the obvious
instance of thunder. When Horace wrote:—

    Jam satis terris nivis, atque diræ
    Grandinis misit Pater, et rubente
    Dextera sacras jaculatus arces
        Terruit urbem,

he wrote to a public to whom it was an undoubted article of faith that
thunder and lightning, hail and snowstorms, came direct from the Father
of the gods in the sky. Even to a late period this was the general
faith, and the prayers in our rubric for rain or fine weather remain
as a survival of the belief that these things, when unusual or in
excess, are supernatural manifestations. But Benjamin Franklin said,
‘No, there is nothing supernatural about lightning. I will bring it
down from the clouds and manufacture it by turning a wheel.’ Appeal
being made to _fact_, the verdict is that Franklin was right, and that
lightning-conductors protect ships and houses better than prayers or
incantations. Again, when Galileo and the Church joined issue as to
whether the earth was round or flat, inspiration and authority were
cited in vain for the received theory; _fact_ said it was round, and
it was proved to be so by men sailing round it. The law of gravity was
considered a very dangerous heresy, and for a long time pious divines
held out against its conclusions, and contended that it was no better
than atheism to doubt that comets were signs of God’s anger sent to warn
a sinful world. But Halley calculated the time of his comet’s return
according to the laws of gravity, and appeal being made to fact, the
comet returned true to time.

This has occurred so often that few are left who doubt the universal
prevalence of law in the material universe, where former generations saw
miracles at every turn. Nor is the defeat of miracle less conspicuous
in the spiritual world. Where former ages and rude races saw, and still
see, possession by evil spirits, modern doctors see fevers, epilepsies,
or insanity. Once more appeal being made to _fact_, the old medicine-men
administered incantations, the new ones quinine—which cure the most

In like manner demonology and witchcraft, with all their train of
cruelties and horrors, once universally believed even by men like Justice
Hale, have passed into oblivion as completely as the Lamiæ, Phorkyads,
and other fantastic figures of the classical Walpurgisnight. Is the
world the better or the worse for this triumph of natural law over

The triumph has been so complete in innumerable instances, without
a single one to the contrary, that belief in the permanence and
universality of natural law has become almost an instinct in all educated
minds, and even those who cling to old beliefs must admit that the most
cogent and irresistible evidence is requisite to establish the fact of a
real supernatural interference. It may be taken as an axiom that wherever
a natural explanation is possible, a miraculous one is impossible.

Now this is just the point on which, as knowledge has increased, the
evidence for miracles has become weaker, almost in the exact ratio in
which the necessity for evidence has become stronger.

Take, for instance, the following case recorded by Dr. Braid of Glasgow.
Miss R. had suffered from ophthalmia and was totally blind. She could
not discern a single letter of the title-page of a book placed close
to her, though some of the letters were a quarter of an inch long. Dr.
Braid placed the patient in a condition of hypnotism or artificial
somnambulism, and directed the nervous force, or sustained attention of
the mind, to the eyes by wafting over them. After a first sitting of
about ten minutes she was able to read a great part of the title-page,
and after four more sittings she was able to read the smallest-sized
print in a newspaper, and was quite cured for the rest of her life. In
another case, that of Mrs. S., blindness of the left eye had occurred
owing to an attack of rheumatic fever, the structure of the eye, both
external and internal, being considerably injured, and more than half the
cornea covered by an opaque film. After a few sittings the cornea became
transparent, and the patient was cured.

In both these cases the blind were made to see by processes which were
purely mechanical, for hypnotism was induced by the simple means of
making the patient strain her attention on some fixed idea or object,
commonly on a black wafer stuck on a white wall, and the stimulation
of the optic nerve to greater activity did the rest. And if the blind
could be made to see, _a fortiori_ the deaf were made to hear, and the
lame and halt to walk, by the same mechanical process. Here there is an
explanation of nine-tenths of all recorded miracles by purely natural

Again, take the well-known case of the Berlin bookseller, Nicolai, who,
having fallen into ill-health, for a whole year saw, when awake, visions
so real and palpable that he may be said to have lived in the company of
disembodied spirits, undistinguishable from actual men and women. This is
a common phenomenon in vivid dreams, but the Berlin case takes us a step
farther, and shows us how subjective impressions may assume the form of
objective realities, even in the case of a man wide awake, of a sceptical
turn of mind, and in full possession of his reasoning faculties. Why
then should we be driven to the alternative of miracle or imposture, to
account for similar dreams or visions being taken for objective realities
by enthusiastic minds, living in an atmosphere of religious excitement,
in an uncritical age, when supernatural occurrences were considered to
be matters of course? And history is full of instances which show how
any supernatural germ, planted in such a medium, propagates itself and
extends to millions, almost as rapidly as the bacillus germ does in an
epidemic of small-pox. St. Vitus’s dance, or the dancing mania, ran the
round of Europe like the potato disease, and even yet survives in the
hysterical affections of the sect of Shakers. The gift of tongues spread
like wildfire through Irving’s congregation, and only died out because it
had fallen on the uncongenial soil of the nineteenth century; even the
story of the tail of the lion over the gateway of the old Northumberland
House being seen by many passers-by to wag because one had asserted it,
illustrates the contagiousness of nervous sympathy, and the tricks which
‘strong imagination’ can play with the senses.

Another great blow has been dealt against the miraculous theory by what
can only be called the singular want of intelligence displayed in the
exercise of miraculous power as commonly recorded. The _raison d’être_,
or effect desired to be produced by miracles, is to convert mankind from
sin, or to attest a divine mission by convincing proofs. Even ordinary
human intelligence—and how much more so that of a superior Being—must see
that to attain this end the means must be to make the proof convincing.
There is no reason in itself why it should not be so. The fact that a man
who was alive and signed a will is now dead, is attested as regards the
latter proposition by a proper medical certificate, and as regards the
former by two credible witnesses, who are prepared to come into court,
give their names and addresses, depose on oath to the signature, and
stand cross-examination. If this testimony is required to establish a
fact so antecedently probable as that one particular man has undergone
the common fate of millions of millions of other men, that is to say,
that he has died after being alive, how much more must it be requisite
to establish the fact so antecedently improbable, as that one man
among those many millions after having died came back to life. And yet
where is the recorded miracle for which even this _minimum_ amount of
testimony is forthcoming? Why are miracles so constantly performed in
holes and corners, in obscure localities, among little knots of ignorant
and enthusiastic adherents, attested by the vaguest hearsay evidence
of unknown or incompetent witnesses, and apparently under circumstances
inevitably calculated to defeat their object and engender doubts in
the minds of reasonable and conscientious men. Take, for instance, the
miracles now said to be wrought at Lourdes. The object must be taken to
be to convert infidel France to the Catholic faith. But obviously this
object would be far better attained by a single undoubted miracle wrought
at Paris before a commission headed by a man like Pasteur, than by any
number of miracles scarcely, if at all, distinguishable from those of Dr.
Braid, alleged to occur at an obscure village in the presence of peasants
and pilgrims. Or, take a higher instance, that of the demand made by the
Pharisees to Jesus for a sign to attest his Messiahship. Consider the
circumstances of the case, and see if it is at all possible that if he
had possessed the power of working miracles he should have replied, ‘Why
doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, there
shall no sign be given unto this generation’ (St. Mark ix. 12). In the
first place the statement throws discredit upon all the miracles said to
have been wrought, by the positive and explicit declaration that none
should be wrought. But beyond this, the very essence of the mission of
Jesus was contained in the words, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand.’ He had a firm conviction that the kingdom of heaven, or a
millennium of peace and goodwill, was close at hand, and its advent only
retarded by the sinfulness and want of faith of his chosen people. He
thought it his bounden duty to do all he could to remove the obstacle and
expedite the coming of the kingdom. With this conviction, though fully
seeing the risk and counting the cost, when he found that he was making
no decided headway by preaching in a remote province, he determined to go
to Jerusalem and make there one great effort to accomplish his object.
Can it be doubted that he would use every means in his power to carry
his mission to a successful conclusion? If, having the power to do so by
working a miracle, he had refused, he would from his point of view have
been guilty of a great sin—that of preventing the coming of the kingdom
of heaven.

Again, who were the Pharisees? No doubt there were formalists and
hypocrites among them, but the position of the sect in the Jewish nation
was almost exactly similar to that of the English Puritans in the reign
of Charles. They were the embodiment of the patriotic and religious
spirit of the race, the sons of the heroic fathers who fought under Judas
Maccabeus against Antiochus, the fathers of the equally heroic sons who
made the last desperate stand against the legions of Titus. It was their
duty, when a claim to Messiahship was advanced, before departing from
the traditions of their ancestors, to require evidence. The universally
expected evidence of a temporal deliverer being wanting, there remained
only the evidence of miracles, which, moreover, were assigned as the test
of a Messiah by all their prophets. To refuse them a sign, if a sign were
possible, was to do injustice to many sincere and conscientious men.
Nay, more, it was an act of cruelty if leaving them in their old faith
entailed eternal punishment. The same thing applies to all records of
miracles. They are never wrought under circumstances where they would be
the most effective means for attaining proposed ends. They are never
wrought under circumstances which leave them clear of the suspicion
of being subjective illusions or misinterpretations of effects due to
natural causes. They never convince any but those who are more than half
convinced already.

It would be easy to multiply instances showing the inadequacy of the
evidence adduced to establish such an exceptional and extraordinary fact
as the occurrence of a real miracle. But it is unnecessary to do so,
as all thinking minds have come, or are fast coming, to the conclusion
of Dr. Temple, that ‘all the countless varieties of the universe were
provided for by one original impress, and not by special acts of creation
modifying what had previously been made.’

It is only when we look behind the phenomena of the universe at this
Great First Cause, that I see anything to object to in the definition
of Dr. Temple, and of Christian philosophers generally. They assume it
to be a personal Deity, who is to a great extent known or knowable, and
therefore must have attributes conformable to human perceptions which
are the basis of all human knowledge. In other words, however much we
may purify and enlarge these attributes, He must be essentially an
anthropomorphic God or magnified man. To this theory there seems to me
to be this fatal objection, that it gives no account of the origin of
evil, or rather that it makes the Divine Creator directly responsible
for it. The existence of evil in the world is as palpable a fact as the
existence of good. There are many things which to our human perceptions
appear to be base, cruel, foul, and ugly, just as clearly as other things
appear to be noble, merciful, pure, and beautiful. Whence come they?
If the existence of good proves a good Creator, how can we escape the
inference that the existence of evil proves an evil one? This is never
so forcibly impressed on me as when I read the arguments of those who
insist most strongly on the conception of a one, anthropomorphic God.
When Carlyle says, ‘All that is good, generous, wise, right—whatever I
deliberately and for ever love in others and myself—who or what could
by any possibility have given it to me but One who first had it to
give? This is not logic, but axiom.’ I cannot but picture to myself the
sledgehammer force with which, if he had approached the question without
prepossessions, he would have come down on the cant, the insincerity, the
treason to the eternal veracities, which refused to look facts in the
face, and apply the same reasoning to the evil. Or if Arnold defines the
Deity as the ‘Something not ourselves which makes for righteousness,’ how
of the Something not ourselves which makes for unrighteousness? The only
escape I can find from this dilemma is to accept existing facts and not
evade them. It is a fact that polarity is the law of existence. Why we
know not, any more than we know the real essence and origin of the atoms
and energies which are our other ultimate facts. But we accept atoms and
energies, and accept the law of gravity and other laws; why not accept
also the law of polarity, and admit that it is part of the ‘original
impress’: one of the fundamental conditions under which the evolution of
Creation from its ultimate elements is necessitated to proceed. This the
human mind can understand; beyond it is the great unknown or unknowable,
in presence of which we can only feel emotions of reverence and of awe,
and ‘faintly trust the larger hope’ that duality may somehow ultimately
be merged in unity, evil in good, and ‘every winter turn to spring.’

As nations advanced in civilisation there has always been a tendency
among the higher and purer minds to relegate the Great First Cause
further and further back into the unknown, and to divest it of
anthropomorphic attributes. When Socrates said, ‘that divinely revealed
wisdom of which you speak, I deny not, inasmuch as I do not know it;
I can only understand human reason,’ he spoke the identical language
of Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, and those leaders of modern thought whom
theologians call agnostics. Even in religions based on the idea of a
single anthropomorphic Deity the same tendency often appears among the
highest thinkers. Thus Emmanuel Deutsch, in his learned work on the
Talmud, tells us, ‘Its first chapter treats of the Deity as conceived
by Jewish philosophy. The existence of God is, of course, presupposed.
But what of His attributes? Has He any? Scripture literally taken seems
to affirm this. Yet taken in a higher sense, as understood by the
Alexandrines, the Talmud, and the Targum, it denies it.’

The great Jewish doctors, Ibn Ezra, Jehuda Hilmi, and Maimonides, take
this view of a divine origin shrouded in ineffable mystery. Maimonides
says, ‘If you give attributes to a thing, you define this thing, and
defining a thing means to bring it under some head, to compare it with
something like it. God is sole of His kind. Determine Him, circumscribe
Him, and you bring Him down to the modes and categories of created
things.’ Even St. Paul says, ‘O the depths of God. How unsearchable are
His judgments, and how inscrutable His ways’; and the Creed of our own
Church, in the midst of a string of definitions all implying that God is
comprehensible, has the words ‘the Father incomprehensible.’

It is evident that the reasons why these anticipations of the prevailing
tendency of modern thought only appeared by glimpses, and among a
very limited number of philosophic minds, arose from the fact that
the miraculous theory of the universe everywhere prevailed. Every
unusual occurrence was supposed to be owing to the direct supernatural
interference of a Being acting in the main with human attributes, and
therefore to be a direct refutation of the theory which denied the
possibility of defining His attributes, and relegated Him to the dim
distance of an incomprehensible Creator. With the utter breakdown of the
miraculous theory, and the certainty that all the countless varieties
of the universe arise, not from special interferences, but from one
original impress, this theory of a reverent and devout agnosticism
becomes impregnable and holds the field against all rivals. It, and it
alone, is consistent with the facts of science, the deductions of reason,
the axioms of morality, while at the same time it denies nothing, and
leaves an ample background on which to paint the visions of faith, and to
reflect back to us spectral images of our hopes and fears, our longings
and aspirations.

Some seek for a solution of the mystery, and try to reconcile the
existence of evil with that of an almighty and beneficent Creator, by
assuming that in the long run everything will come right. Evolution, they
say, has led constantly to higher and better things, and when carried far
enough will lead to a state of society in which wars will cease, evil
passions die out, and universal love and charity prevail—in other words,
to a millennium.

Even if this were true, what of the untold millions of the human race who
have perished in their sins while evolution was slowly working out this
tardy millennium? Are they the _chair à canons_, whom a Napoleon-like
Deity sacrifices with cynical indifference, in the calculated moves of
the game of Creation? Is this their idea of an all-wise and all-merciful
Father who is in heaven?

And again, is it true that evolution works constantly for good and
promises to bring about such a millennium? It is doubtless true that
evolution means progress, and the ever-increasing development of the
more and more complex and differentiated from the simple and uniform.
But is this all for good, or all for happiness; and is not evolution,
like everything else, subject to the primary and all-pervading law of
polarity? We have only to ask the question to answer it. In the case
of the individual, which is the epitome of the history of the species,
is development from the engaging innocence of childhood always in the
direction of goodness and happiness?

So far is this from being the case that, as individuals and societies
advance, and become higher and more complex in the scale of organisation,
the law of polarity asserts itself with ever-increasing force, and
contrasts become sharper. The good become better, the bad worse; and as
we become less

    Like the beasts with lower pleasures,
    Like the beasts with lower pains,

if our happiness becomes more intense, so does our misery become more
intolerable. I refer not merely to physical conditions, though here the
contrast is most apparent. An intelligent traveller who recently circled
the world, surveying mankind with a keen and impartial eye ‘from China to
Peru,’ says, as the result of his experience, ‘The traveller will not see
in all his wanderings so much abject repulsive misery among human beings
in the most heathen lands, as that which startles him in his civilised
Christian home, for nowhere are the extremes of wealth and poverty so
painfully presented.’ This is perfectly true; but it would be a rash
conclusion to infer that civilised and Christian countries are worse than
heathen lands, or that those who march in the van of progress and succeed
in the struggle for life, have a larger dose of original sin than the
laggards and those who fail.

Accumulations of population and accumulations of capital are alike causes
and effects of progress in an industrial age. But you can no more have a
north without a south pole, than you can have this progress without its
counterpart of suffering. When an educated gentleman was, like the good

    Passing rich with forty pounds a year,

how many struggles and how many heart-aches were avoided. When ‘merry
England’ dwelt in rural hamlets and villages, the ‘bitter cry’ of East
London could scarcely have been written. Turn it as you like, increase of
population means increase of poverty. Say that only five per cent. fail
in the battle of life, from their own or inherited faults; from bad luck,
ill-health, weakness of mind, adverse surroundings; five per cent. on
thirty millions is a larger figure than five per cent. on ten millions.
And the lot of those who fail is aggravated by the success of those who
succeed. The scale of living rises, and the cost of living increases,
while competition becomes keener. Increase of population in a limited
area means increased difficulty of finding employment; and the complex
relations of international commerce send panics and crises vibrating
throughout the world, which throw millions out of work, or reduce them
to starvation wages. In simple forms of society every one accepts the
condition in which he finds himself as a matter of course, while in a
more complex civilisation the fiend Envy steps in, and teaches the baser
natures who are failures, to regard every success as an insult and every
successful man as an enemy. Hence Labour rises in mad revolt against
Capital; Socialists attack society with dynamite; and Utopian theorists
preach a millennium to be attained by abolishing private property and
individual liberty.

If we turn to the moral aspects of the question, it is still more
clear that evolution does not tend solely to the side of virtue.
There is doubtless less ferocious savagery, less rude and unconscious
or half-conscious crime, in civilised societies, but there is far
more deliberate and diabolical wickedness. The very temptations and
opportunities which, if resisted, lead to higher virtues, if succumbed
to, lead to greater vice. Even the intellectual advance, if perverted,
becomes the instrument of greater crimes. A chemist discovers
nitro-glycerine, and dynamite becomes a resource of civilisation. There
is a saying that there is ‘no blackguard so bad as a Scotch blackguard,’
which, as a patriotic Scotchman, I take to be a tribute to the generally
high intellectual and moral character of my countrymen. A powerful
polarity is powerful, as the case may be, either for good or evil. Why
then should we believe that evolution, which, carried thus far, has
developed more strongly the contrast between good and evil, will, if
carried a little farther, extinguish it by annihilating the evil?

In fact, the good and evil resulting from the higher evolution of society
are so equally balanced that it depends very much on place, time, and
temperament whether we are optimists or pessimists. If my liver acts
properly I am an optimist; if it is out of order, a pessimist. Personally
I incline to optimism—that is, I think that this world, if not exactly
‘the best of all possible worlds,’ is yet on the whole a very tolerable
world, and that life to the majority, and on the average, is worth
living. I think also that progress is certainly towards higher, and very
probably towards happier, conditions. It seems to me that in the most
advanced English-speaking communities, the condition of at least one
half—viz. the female half—of the population is distinctly better, and
that the working class, who form the majority of the male half, though
many are worse off than formerly, are, on the whole, better fed, better
clothed, better educated, and better behaved.

This, however, is perhaps very much a matter of temperament. Greater
minds than mine have seen things differently and inclined to pessimism.
Buddhism, and almost all Oriental religions and philosophies, are based
upon it, and look to Nirvana or annihilation of personal identity as the
supreme bliss. Pauline Christianity assumes that all mankind, except a
few chosen vessels, are so hopelessly bad as to be predestined to eternal
damnation. And even more remarkable, Shakespeare, the universal genius,
who one would say had as happy a temperament and led as successful a
life as any man, had his moods of despondency in which he could say:—

    When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
      I all alone bemoan my outcast state;
    Wearying deaf heaven with my fruitless cries,
      And look upon myself, and _curse my fate_.

Or declare with Hamlet that no one would bear the ills of life if

    He himself could his quietus make
    With a bare bodkin.

With instances like these, and the disgust of life manifested in so
many modern societies by the increase of suicides, and the spread of
pessimistic theories like those of Schopenhauer and Hartmann, who can
deny that the great magnet of modern civilisation has a south as well as
a north pole, and that progress is not all towards perfection?

The attempts of theologians to reconcile the existence of evil with the
goodness of an almighty Creator, by relegating the adjustment to a future
life, only make the fact of this fundamental polarity more apparent, for
their conceptions of a heaven and a hell obviously do not reconcile, but
only intensify, the opposite polarities. The good are better, the bad
worse, the happy happier, and the wretched more miserable, in all these
attempts to define the undefinable and to reconcile divine justice with
divine mercy. All that remains really clear to each individual is that
by his efforts in this life he can do something to keep the balance of
polarities somewhat more on the side of good, both in his own individual
existence, and in that of the aggregate of units, of which he is one,
which is called society or humanity.

The great advantage of this form of religious hypothesis, which for want
of a better name I call Zoroastrianism, is that, in the first place, it
gets rid of the antagonism between religion and science, for there is no
possible discovery of science which is irreconcilable with the fact that
there is a necessary and inevitable polarity of good and evil, and in the
background a great unknown, which may be regarded with those feelings
and aspirations which are inseparable from human nature. And secondly,
there is the still greater advantage that we can devote ourselves with
a whole heart and sincere mind to the worship of the good principle,
without paltering with our moral nature by professing to love and adore a
Being who is the author of all the evil and misery in the world as well
as of the good. If it were really true that there were such a Being as
theologians describe, who created the immense majority of the human race
vessels of wrath doomed to eternal punishment, either from pure caprice
or to avenge the slight offered to Him by the disobedience of a remote
ancestor, what would be the attitude of every healthy human soul towards
such a Being? Rather that of Prometheus or Satan, than of Gabriel or
Michael; of heroic defiance than of abject submission. We may gloss this
over in words, but the fact remains, and it is difficult to overestimate
the amount of evil which has resulted in the world from this confusion of
moral sentiments which has made good men do devil’s work in the belief
that it had divine sanction.

The horrors of demonology and witchcraft had their origin in texts of
the Old Testament; religious wars and persecutions arose out of the
fundamental error that intellectual acceptance of doubtful dogmas was the
one thing necessary for salvation; and ruthless cruelty was justified
by an appeal to God’s anger with Saul for refusing to hew in pieces the
captive Amalekites. A follower of Zoroaster would see at once that these
were works of Ahriman and not of Ormuzd, and that in taking part in them
he was deserting the standard under which he had enlisted, and doing
deeds of darkness while pretending to serve the Prince of Light. This
idea of being a soldier enlisted in the army of light seems to me to
afford one of the strongest practical inducements to hate what is evil
and cleave to what is good. A bad deed or foul thought is felt to be not
only wrong but dishonourable: a disloyal going over to the enemy and
abandonment of the chief under whom we had enlisted, and of the comrades
with whom we had served. This is a very strong motive, and even in the
humble ranks of the Salvation Army we can see how powerfully it operates
to make men true to their banner.

Indeed a great deal of what is best in genuine Christianity seems to me
to resolve itself very much into the worship of Jesus as the Ormuzd or
personification of the good principle, and determination to try to follow
his example and do his work. It happens to me to receive a good many
circulars from the devoted men and women who are doing so much charitable
work to assist the poor and fallen, and I observe that the appeals are
almost constantly made in the name of Jesus. When the Salvation Army
made an appeal the other day to its members for funds to prosecute
their campaign, it was touching to read the replies and see men parting
with an overcoat or giving up their beer, and women going without a new
bonnet or cup of tea, to contribute their mite. But always for the
‘love of Jesus,’ for the ‘Saviour’s sake,’ as an offering to the ‘dear
Redeemer.’ Theological Christianity says that the one thing needful is
to believe in the Catholic Faith as defined by the Athanasian Creed,
without which we shall ‘without doubt perish everlastingly.’ Practical
Christianity has completely dropped the Holy Ghost as a sort of fifth
wheel to the coach, and relegated the Father into ever vaguer and greater
distance; while it has fastened more and more on the figure of Jesus of
Nazareth as the practical living embodiment of the good principle of the
universe. In a word, Christianity, as it has become more reasonable, more
charitable, more pure, and more elevated, has approximated more and more
to Zoroastrianism, and for practical purposes modern Christians are, to a
great extent, without knowing it, worshippers of Ormuzd, with Christ for
their Ormuzd.

To this I see no sort of objection. The tendency to personify abstract
principles in something which is warmer, dearer, nearer to ourselves,
is ineradicable in human nature; and especially among the great masses
of mankind who cannot rise to the height of philosophical speculations.
It is impossible in the present age to invent new personifications,
or to revive old ones. Jesus has the immense advantage of being in
possession of the field, with all the accumulated love and reverence
of nineteen centuries of followers. It would be difficult to invent a
better ideal or a more perfect example. No doubt the ideal, like all
human conceptions, is not absolutely perfect; it is subject to the law of
polarity, and its excellences, if pushed to the ‘falsehood of extremes,’
in many cases become faults. It would not do in practice if smitten
on one cheek to turn the other, or to take no thought for the morrow
and live like the sparrows. The opposition between the flesh and the
spirit is also stated so absolutely, that it is apt to lead to a barren
and ignoble asceticism. But those are elements which, practically, are
not likely to be pushed to excess, and which serve rather to mitigate
the tendencies of modern civilisation to an undue preponderance of the
opposite polarities of selfishness, worldliness, and sensuality. Courage,
hardihood, self-reliance, foresight, a love of progress, and a desire to
attain independence, will always remain prominent virtues, especially
of the stronger races, and the gentler teachings of Christianity will
long be wanted as an influence to soften, to elevate, and to purify.
By all means, therefore, let Christians remain Christians, and see in
Christ their Ormuzd, or personification of the good principle. Only let
them remember that there are two sides to every question, and cease to
entertain hard and bitter thoughts towards those who follow the truth
after a different fashion. Let them delight rather to discover unity in
the spirit than differences in the letter, and instead of anathematising
with Athanasius those who dissent by one hair’s breadth from the Catholic
faith, strive with St. Paul after that charity which ‘suffereth long and
is kind: beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things.’

This will be easier if they recollect that love and reverence for Jesus,
as the personification of the good principle, is in no way connected
with the supernatural dogmas and legends which have come down from
superstitious ages, and which are seen every day, more and more clearly,
to stand in direct contradiction to the real facts and real laws of the
universe. He is the bright example of the highest ideal of human virtue,
not on account of miracles, but in spite of them; not because he was a
transcendental abstraction with attributes altogether outside of human
experience or conception; but because he was a man whom other men can
love and other men can strive to imitate. The dogmas and miracles may
quietly fade out of sight, as so many articles of the Athanasian Creed
have already done, like mists before the rising rays of larger knowledge
and purer morality, and yet the essence of Christianity will remain, as a
worship of the good and beautiful, personified in the brightest example
which has been afforded—that of Jesus, the son of the carpenter of



    Christianity based on morals—Origin of morality—Traced
    in Judaism—Originates in evolution—Instance of
    murder—Freedom of will—Will suspended in certain states of
    brain—Hypnotism—Mechanical theory—Pre-established harmony—Human
    and animal conscience—Analysis of will—Explained by
    polarity—Practical conclusion.

The great advantage which Christianity possesses over most other
religions is that it is based to a much greater extent on the solid
foundation of an elevated morality. The creeds of ancient Egypt, of
Buddhism, and of Confucianism contain many excellent moral precepts;
and the injunctions to ‘do unto others as you would be done by,’ and
to ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ are to be found long before the
Sermon on the Mount. But these religions in the main followed other lines
of development, and branched off either into metaphysical conceptions
or into formal rites and ceremonies. With the exception of Judaism, of
which Christianity is the lineal descendant, no religion has ever to the
same extent become to the great mass of its adherents a rule of conduct
and an incentive, strengthened by divine sanction, to lead pure and
upright lives. This is the sense in which Christianity has always been
understood by the vast majority of Christians, and its corruptions have
come much more from above than from below; from theologians, priests,
and politicians, than from the instincts of the millions; and this it
is which enables it to retain such a wonderful vitality even in modern
times, when faith in dogmas and miracles has been so greatly weakened.
In order to appreciate the solidity of this basis it is necessary to
understand the origin of morals, and to see that the fundamental precepts
of moral law are not mere chance inventions of a few exceptional minds,
or the teachings of doubtful revelations, but are the necessary growth
and products of human nature, in the course of the evolution of society
from rude beginnings to a high civilisation. This gives them a certainty
and sanction which could be derived from no other source, and makes them
what in fact they have become—almost primary instincts of the natural and
normal mind in civilised communities. I proceed, therefore, to endeavour
to trace shortly the process by which moral laws have originated and
grown up to their present certainty and cogency in the course of

As I have already said, the element of morality is one of the latest to
be developed in religious conceptions. The first impressions of savage
races reflect the feelings of vague superstitious terror with which
they regard unknown phenomena and powers. They are afraid of ghosts and
afraid of thunder, long before they rise to a belief in a future state
of rewards and punishments, or to the notion of an almighty Being acting
by natural laws. In a higher state of development they personify natural
powers in gods, who have no more idea of morality than if they were so
many parallels of latitude or degrees of longitude; and they invent
tribal gods, who are simply great chiefs, bound by no laws, but granting
favours when appeased and inflicting injuries when angry. By slow
degrees, as civilisation advances, moral ideas are evolved, and the more
enlightened minds begin to attribute moral attributes to their deities.
Earnest men, prophets, and reformers take up these ideas and preach them
to the world, and, if circumstances are favourable and the soil prepared,
they take root and become popular convictions, surviving in the struggle
for life, and becoming stronger from generation to generation.

This evolution of moral ideas is most clearly traced in the religious
history of the Jews. In their earlier conceptions Jehovah is represented
with all the traits of a jealous and capricious Oriental sultan. The one
virtue in his eyes is implicit obedience; the one unpardonable crime,
anything that looks like disrespect. David is the man after God’s own
heart, though he commits crimes of the foulest description, and treats
as nullities the moral commandments against adultery and murder. But
when he takes a census of his people Jehovah is offended, and, with
a total disregard of justice, visits his anger, not on the offender,
but on the innocent people whom he decimates by a pestilence. In like
manner, Abraham is favoured because he is ready to obey the inhuman
command to sacrifice his son; while Saul loses Jehovah’s favour because
he hesitates to massacre his captives in cold blood. The first ideas
of a higher moral sense appear with the prophets in the troubled times
of the later kings—when poor little Palestine was being ground between
the upper millstone of Assyria and the nether one of Egypt. Sufferings
and persecutions, anxieties and tribulations, wrought a ferment in the
Jewish mind from which new ideas were generated. Sacrifices had been duly
offered, and yet the enemies of Jehovah waxed and his chosen people
waned. It must be that He was offended with them because He required
something better than the blood of bulls—justice and mercy. So taught
the popular preachers of the day—men like Isaiah and Amos—and by degrees
their words found acceptance. It was not, however, until the Captivity
that these ideas of morality were wrought into the Jewish nation so as
to become, so to speak, flesh of their flesh and blood of their blood,
as they have remained ever since. Whether it was contact with the more
advanced moral ideas of religions like those of Buddha and Zoroaster, or,
more probably, their sufferings from the cruelty and injustice of their
conquerors, the Captivity certainly made them a new nation, attached
ardently to morality and monotheism—thus effecting in a few years, and
by purely human agencies, what, according to received beliefs, centuries
of miraculous dispensation had failed to accomplish. How speedily and
how effectually the work was done appears from that most interesting
narrative of the domestic life of a middle-class Jew of Nineveh, the
Book of Tobit. The simple piety and homely household virtues are almost
identically the same as those of many a Jewish family living to-day in
London or Frankfort. From that time forward Jewish morality maintains
a high level, and in the age immediately preceding Christianity it had
attained great purity and spirituality in the school of the early doctors
of the Talmud, and of the Jewish colony of Alexandria. The Sermon on
the Mount, beautiful as it is, is but an admirable _résumé_ of maxims
which are to be found in the works of Philo and other Jewish teachers,
and which were current in the synagogues of the day. Hillel, who was
president of the Sanhedrin when Christ was born, when asked what was the
law, replied, ‘Do not unto another what thou wouldst not have another
do unto thee. This is the whole Law, the rest is mere commentary.’ And
again, ‘Do not judge thy neighbour until thou hast stood in his place.’

The Talmud anticipates in a wonderful degree not only the moral precepts
of the Gospel, but to a great extent its phraseology and technical
terms. ‘Redemption,’ ‘grace,’ ‘faith,’ ‘salvation,’ ‘Son of man,’ ‘Son
of God,’ ‘kingdom of heaven,’ were all, as Deutsch shows, not invented
by Christianity, but were household words of contemporary Judaism. In
one respect only Christianity shows a higher evolution of morality than
Judaism—viz. its universality. Pure Judaism hardly rises above the idea
of ‘neighbour,’ or those who were of the same race or common faith; while
Christianity, as enlarged by St. Paul, embraces all mankind, and may
truly say: ‘Humani nihil a me alienum puto.’

The idea that morality and religion are products of a slowly developing
evolution is denounced by many as degrading and materialistic. In many
the instinct of the ‘good’ is so strong that it seems to them sacrilege
to attempt to explain it. They insist that it is either a universal
instinct implanted from the first in all mankind, or else that it has
been so implanted by a divine revelation. They forget that, to use the
vigorous phraseology of Carlyle, ‘It matters not whether you call a thing
pan-theism or pot-theism; what really concerns us is to know whether it
is _true_.’ Now it admits of no question that, whether we like it or not,
the evolutionist theory of morality is the true one. Take an extreme
instance, that of murder. We feel an instinctive horror at the idea,
and even a brutal ruffian like Bill Sikes becomes an accursed thing to
himself and his companions when he has transgressed the commandment ‘Thou
shalt do no murder.’ But is it so everywhere, and was it so always? By
no means; the Fiji islander kills and eats a stranger or enemy without
scruple; the Red Indian and the Dyak are not accounted men until they
have murdered some one and brought home his scalp or his head as a
trophy. Even at a late period among ourselves murder was considered to be
rather as a civil injury, to be met by compensation, than as a crime; and
a regular tariff was established of the amount to be paid according as
the victim was a slave or a freeman.

The origin and progress of the idea that murder is a crime can almost
be traced step by step. The wife of a rude savage does something which
offends him; a violent perception of anger flashes from the visual organ
to the perceptive area of the brain, and a reflex action flashes from it
along the motor nerve to the muscles of the arm. He strikes and kills
her, almost as unconsciously and instinctively as he walks or breathes.
But other perceptions follow on the act. He finds next day that he has
no one to cook his food; the image of her dying face photographed on his
brain is an unpleasant one; and thus by degrees a series of secondary
perceptions get attached to the primary one of striking when he feels
angry. If he gets another wife who again provokes him, the primary
perception calls up the secondary ones, and the nerve-centres of his
brain, instead of being solicited only in one direction, are acted on
in opposite ways by conflicting impressions. He hesitates, and, as
the primary impulse of passion is probably the more evanescent, the
restraining impulses prevail, and every time they prevail they acquire
more strength. Gradually they extend to a conviction that it is both
inconvenient and disagreeable to kill any one with whom he is closely
related either by family or tribal ties, and that, in a word, murder
does not pay, and is wrong, unless practised on an enemy. This idea
accumulates by heredity, and evidently those tribes or races in whom it
is strongest will have an advantage in the struggle for life and be most
likely to survive.

From this point the idea may be traced historically, deepening and
widening from generation to generation as civilisation advances, until
in the higher races it assumes the form of an instinctive abhorrence of
murder in the abstract, as we find it at the present day.

It is a mistake to suppose that the foundations of morality are in any
way weakened by thus tracing them up to their first origins. On the
contrary, if we consider the matter rightly, they are placed on a much
more solid and unassailable basis. If we say that moral laws depend on
a universal instinct implanted in all mankind, faith in them is shaken
whenever we read in history, or hear from the report of travellers, of
whole nations, constituting from first to last the immense majority
of the human race, who had none of those ideas which we now consider
fundamental. If, again, we base them on divine precepts miraculously
conveyed, every discovery of science and development of thought which
weakens faith in miracles impairs the basis of morals. And on this
theory, hopeless contradictions arise within the sphere of those very
moral laws which we seek to establish; as in reconciling the justice and
mercy of the Creator in revealing this inspired code only to limited
portions of the human race, and under conditions which leave large scope
for legitimate doubt, and which, in point of fact, failed to ensure
recognition for its moral precepts among His own chosen people for a long
period after its promulgation.

But on the scientific theory of the evolution of morality by natural laws
it stands on an impregnable footing. No one can deny that, as a matter
of fact, such instincts do prevail, and have become part of the nature
of all the best men and best races, and that each successive generation
tends to fix them more firmly. Mathematical laws are not the less certain
because they can be traced back to counting on the fingers, and moral
laws will continue to have a certainty and cogency, scarcely inferior to
the axioms of mathematics, although we can trace them back to origins as
rude as the attempts of the Australian savage to extend his perceptions
of number beyond ‘one, two, and a great many.’

The real difficulty is not in tracing the origin of these instincts
of morality, but in that fundamental difficulty which underlies all
theories of reconciling the consciousness of free-will with the material
attributes with which it is indissolubly associated. Without freedom
of will there can be no conscience, no right or wrong in acting in
accordance or otherwise with the instincts of moral law, however those
instincts may have been derived. Now it is certain that the will, like
life, memory, consciousness, and other mental functions, is, so far as
human knowledge extends, indissolubly connected with matter and natural
laws, in the form of certain motions of the cells which form the grey
substance of the nerves and of the nervous ganglia of which the cortex
of the brain is the most considerable. This is conclusively proved by
experiment. We know that, by removing certain portions of the brain of a
dog or of a pigeon, we can destroy the power of motion while preserving
the will, and by removing certain other portions we can destroy the will
while preserving the powers of motion. Take away a certain portion of the
brain of a pigeon, and although it retains the power of taking food, it
has so totally lost the will to exercise this power that it will starve
in the midst of abundance, though it can be kept alive by placing the
food in its mouth. In like manner, in the human brain there are certain
portions which, if destroyed by injury or disease, will paralyse the
power of giving effect to the will by muscular movements, while the
destruction of other portions will paralyse the will which originates
such movements. Numerous cases are recorded in medical treatises in
which the will is completely paralysed for the performance of certain
functions, and in such cases the anatomist can lay his finger on the spot
where the brain is affected, and when the brain is dissected after the
death of the patient, it will be found that his prediction is verified,
and that this region of the brain really was diseased. In sleep also,
and in abnormal states of the brain such as somnambulism, and mesmerism
or hypnotism, the action of the will is suspended. Hypnotism affords the
most remarkable instances, for here the will seems to be transferred from
the Ego or individuality of the patient to that of the operator, and the
currents of nervous energy which induce motion in A are set going by
impulses in the mind of A, not caused by his own will, but by that of B,
conveyed by words, gestures, or other subtle indications. A ludicrous
instance of this is recorded by Dr. Braid, in which an old lady, who had
a true puritanical abhorrence of dancing as sinful, being hypnotised,
began capering about the room when a waltz tune was struck up, on being
told to do so by the operators.

There are some other curious effects produced by hypnotism, in the way of
inducing a sort of double consciousness and memory, which makes people in
this condition totally forget things which they remember when awake, and
remember things which were totally forgotten in the waking state.

These and a variety of other instances point to the conclusion that
man is only a conscious machine. In other words, that the original
impress, to use Dr. Temple’s words, was so perfect that it provided a
pre-established harmony not only for the innumerable phenomena of the
material universe as unfolded by evolution, but for the still more
innumerable phenomena of life in all its manifestations and all its
complex relations to outward environment. I say of _life_, for we clearly
cannot confine the theory to human life. A dog, who with the two courses
before him of doing wrong and chasing a rabbit, or doing right and
remaining at his master’s heel, chooses one of them, is in exactly the
same position as Hercules between the rival attractions of virtue and
pleasure. If Hercules acted as a machine, yielding to the pre-established
preponderance of the stronger attraction, so did the dog; but if Hercules
exerted free-will and felt the approval or blame of conscience, so did
the retriever. There is no fundamental distinction, but merely a question
of degree, between human conscience and the shame which a dog feels when
it knows that it has done wrong, and the pleasure which it manifests
when conscious that it has behaved properly.

Shall we thus conclude, as Leibnitz and other great philosophers have
done, in favour of the mechanical theory? But if we do, how are we to
account for the instinctive ineradicable feeling, which comes home to
every one with a conviction even stronger than the evidence of the
senses, that we really have a choice between opposite courses, and can
decide on our own actions—a conviction which is obviously the foundation
of all conscience and of all morality?

Let us try to analyse more closely what Will really means, and under what
conditions it is manifested. The circuit which connects any one single
perception with action, through sensory nerve, sensory centre, motor
centre, motor nerve and muscle, is as purely mechanical as that of an
electric circuit. Reflex motions such as breathing, and even more complex
motions which by repetition have become reflex or instinctive, are also
mechanical and involve no exercise of will. But when perceptions become
complex, and one primary evokes a number of secondary perceptions—in
other words, when the cells of the corresponding portions of grey matter
in the cortex of the brain are set vibrating by a variety of complex
and conflicting molecular motions, the feeling of free-will inevitably
arises. We feel the conviction that there is a something which we call
soul, mind, or in the last analysis, ‘I myself I,’ which sits, as Von
Moltke might do, in a cabinet receiving conflicting telegraphic messages
from different generals, and deciding then and there what order to flash
out in reply.

What can we say to this? That it is like space and time, one of the
categories of thought, or primary moulds in which thought is cast. We do
not know what space and time really are in their essence, or why they are
the necessary conditions of thought, any more than we do in the case of
will. They may be illusions, but we accept them, and of necessity accept
them, as facts. For all practical purposes it is the same to us, as if
we understood their essence and knew them to be realities. A man can no
more doubt that he is an individual being, with a will which, in a great
many cases, enables him to decide which of a variety of impulses shall
prevail, than he can hesitate, if he is furnishing a room, to regulate
his purchase of carpeting and paper by space of three dimensions, without
regard to possible speculations as to quaternions.

Perhaps the principle of polarity may assist us in understanding that
both theories may be true; or rather that matter and spirit, necessity
and free-will, may be opposite poles of one fundamental truth which is
beyond our comprehension. We cannot shake off this principle of polarity,
and arrive at any knowledge, or even conception, of the absolute truth
in regard to the atoms, energies, and natural laws, which make up the
universe of matter and of all the ordinary and material functions of
life; why should we expect to do so in the higher manifestations of the
same life, which have been arrived at in the later stages of one unbroken
course of evolution from monad to man?

This, at any rate, is the theory which best satisfies my own mind and
enables me to reduce my own individual chaos into some sort of a cosmos.
I draw from it the following conclusions:—

For all practical purposes assume that ‘right is right,’ and that the
moral instincts, however they have been formed, are imperative laws.
Assume also that

    Man is man and master of his fate,

and that we have, to a great extent, the power of deciding what to do and
what not to do. But in doing so, keep the mind open to all conclusions
of science, and admit freely that these assumptions are indissolubly
connected with natural laws and with material organs, and that man
is to a very great extent dependent on his environment and his place
in evolution, both for his moral code and for the force of will and
conscience which enable him to conform to it. Learn therefore the lesson
of a large toleration and of charity in thought and deed, towards those
who, from inherited constitution or unfortunate conditions of education
and outward circumstances, fall under the sway of the principle of evil,
and lead bad, useless, and unlovely lives. Had you and I, reader, been in
their place, should we have done better?



    Zoroaster an historical person—The Parsees—Iranian branch
    of Aryan family—Zoroaster a religious reformer—Scene at
    Balkh—Conversion of Gushtasp—Doctrines of the ‘excellent
    religion’—Monotheism—Polarity—Dr. Haug’s description—Ormuzd and
    Ahriman—Anquetil du Perron—Approximation to modern thought—Absence
    of miracles—Code of morals—Its comprehensiveness—And
    liberality—Special rites—Fire-worship—Disposal of dead—Practical
    results—The Parsees of Bombay—Their probity, enterprise,
    respect for women—Zeal for education—Philanthropy and public
    spirit—Statistics—Death and birth rates.

Zoroastrianism is commonly supposed to derive its name from its founder
Zoroaster, a Bactrian sage or prophet, who lived in the reign of King
Gushtasp the First. Zoroaster’s name has come down to us from antiquity
in much the same relation to this form of religion as that of Moses
to Judaism, or of Sakya-Mouni to Buddhism. As in those cases, certain
learned commentators have endeavoured to show that the alleged founder
was purely mythical and had no real historical existence, basing their
argument mainly on the fact that a number of supernatural attributes,
and embodiments of metaphysical and theological ideas, became attached
to the name, just as a whole cycle of solar myths became associated
with the name of Hercules. But this seems to be carrying scepticism too
far. Experience shows that religions have generally originated in the
crystallisation of ideas floating in solution at certain periods of the
evolution of societies, about the nucleus of some powerful personality.
Nearly all the great religions of the world, such as Buddhism,
Confucianism, Christianity, and Mahometanism, clearly had historical
founders, and it would be hypercritical to deny that such a man as Jesus
of Nazareth really lived because many of his sayings and doings may be
traced to applications, more or less erroneous, of ancient prophecies,
or because his human nature became transfigured into the Logos and other
metaphysical conceptions of the Alexandrian philosophy.

In the case of Zoroaster, the argument for his historical existence
seems even stronger, for his name is connected with historical reigns
and places, and his genuine early history contains nothing supernatural
or improbable. He is represented as simply a deep thinker and powerful
preacher, like Luther, who gave new form and expression to the vague
religious and philosophical ideas of his age and nation, reformed
its superstitions and abuses, and converted the leading minds of his
day, including the monarch, by the earnestness and eloquence of his
discourses. At any rate, for my purpose I shall assume his personality,
for my object is not to write a critical essay on the origin and
development of the Zoroastrian religion, but to show that in its
fundamental ideas and essential spirit it approximates wonderfully to
those of the most advanced modern thought, and gives the outline of a
creed which goes further than any other to meet the practical wants
of the present day, and to reconcile the conflict between faith and
science. This will be most clearly and vividly shown by assuming the
commonly accepted historical existence of Zoroaster to be true, and
by confining myself to the broad, leading principles of his religion,
without dwelling on its varying phases, or on the mythical legends and
ritualistic observances which, as in the case of all other old religions,
have crystallised about the primitive idea and the primitive founder.

Zara-thustra, or, as he is commonly called, Zoroaster, and the religion
which goes by his name, are known to us mainly from the sacred books
which have been preserved by the modern Parsees. The Parsees, a small
remnant of the Persians who under Cyrus founded one of the mightiest
empires of the ancient world, flying from their native country to escape
from persecution after the Mahometan conquest, formed a colony in India,
and are now settled at Bombay. They form a small but highly intelligent
community, who have preserved their ancient religion, and, fortunately,
some considerable fragments of their sacred scriptures. The oldest of
these are written in the Gata dialect of the Avesta or Zend language,
which is contemporary with Sanskrit, and bears much the same relation to
it as Latin does to Greek. The primitive Aryan family at some very remote
period became divided into two branches, and radiated from their Central
Asian home in two directions. The Hindoo branch migrated to the south
into the Punjaub and Hindostan; the Iranian westwards, into Bactria and
Persia; while other successive waves of Aryan migration in prehistoric
times rolled still further westwards over Europe, obliterating all but a
few traces of the aboriginal population.

The period of this separation of the Iranian and Hindoo races must be
very remote, for the Rig-Veda is probably at least 4,000 years old, and
the divergence between its form of Sanskrit and the Gata dialect of the
Zend is already as great as that between two kindred European languages
such as Greek and Latin. The divergence of religious ideas is also
evidently of very early date. In the Hindoo, and all other races of the
primitive Aryan stock, the word used for gods and good spirits is taken
from the root ‘div,’ to shine. Thus, Daeva in Sanskrit, Zeus and Theos in
Greek, Deus in Latin, Tius in German, Diews in Lutheranism, Dia in Irish,
Dew in Kymric, all mean the bright or shining one represented by the
vault of heaven. But in Iranian the word has an opposite sense, and the
‘deevs’ correspond to our ‘devils.’

The primitive Aryan religions were evidently all derived from a
contemplation of the powers and phenomena of nature. The sky, with its
flood of light and vault of ethereal blue, was considered to be the
highest manifestation of a Supreme Power; while the sun and moon, the
stars and planets, the winds and clouds, the earth and waters, were
personified, either as symbols of the Deity or as subordinate gods.
The original simple faith was thus apt to degenerate into a system of
polytheism, and, as the gods came to be represented by visible forms,
into idolatry.

Zoroaster appears to us, like Mahomet at a later age and among a ruder
people, as a prophet or reformer who abolished these abuses and restored
the ancient faith in a loftier and more intellectual form, adapted to the
use of an advanced and civilised society. The records of his life and
teaching have fortunately been preserved in so authentic a form, that
distant as he is from us we can form a singularly accurate idea of who he
was and what he taught.

Some 3,200 years ago a sight might have been seen in the ancient city of
Balkh—the famous capital of Bactria, the ‘Mother of Cities’—very like
that witnessed some fourteen centuries later at our own Canterbury.
The king and his chief nobles and courtiers were assembled to hear the
discourse of a preacher who proposed to teach them a better religion.
Gushtasp listened to Zoroaster, as Ethelbert listened to Augustine, and
in each case reason and eloquence carried conviction, and the nation
became converts to the new doctrine.

This conversion was effected without miracles, for it is expressly stated
in the celebrated speech of the prophet, preserved in the 30th chapter of
the Yasna, that he relied solely on persuasion and argument. Ferdousi,
the Persian Homer, thus describes the first interview between Zoroaster
and Gushtasp: ‘Learn,’ he said, ‘the rites and doctrines of the religion
of excellence. For without religion there cannot be any worth in a king.
When the mighty monarch heard him speak of the excellent religion, he
accepted from him the excellent rites and doctrines.’

The doctrines of this ‘excellent religion’ are extremely simple. The
leading idea is that of monotheism, but the one God has far fewer
anthropomorphic attributes, and is relegated much farther back into the
vague and infinite, than the god of any other monotheistic religion.
Ahura-Mazda, of which the more familiar appellation Ormuzd is an
abbreviation, means the ‘All-knowing Lord;’ he is said sometimes to
dwell in the infinite luminous space, and sometimes to be identical with
it. He is, in fact, not unlike the inscrutable First Cause, whom we may
regard with awe and reverence, with love and hope, but whom we cannot
pretend to define or to understand. But the radical difference between
Zoroastrianism and other religions is that it does not conceive of this
one God as an omnipotent Creator, who might make the universe as he
chose, and therefore was directly responsible for all the evil in it; but
as a Being acting by certain fixed laws, one of which was, for reasons
totally inscrutable to us, that existence implied polarity, and therefore
that there could be no good without corresponding evil.

Dr. Haug, who is the greatest authority on all questions connected with
the Zend scriptures, says: ‘Having arrived at the grand idea of the unity
and indivisibility of the Supreme Being, Zoroaster undertook to solve
the great problem which has engaged the attention of so many wise men
of antiquity and even in modern times, viz. how are the imperfections
discernible in the world, the various kind of evils, wickedness, and
baseness, compatible with the goodness, holiness, and justness of God?
This great thinker of remote antiquity solved this difficult question
philosophically, by the supposition of two primæval causes, which, though
different, were united, and produced the world of material things as
well as that of spirit. These two primæval principles are the two moving
causes in the universe, united from the beginning, and therefore called
twins. They are present everywhere—in the Ahura Mazda, or Supreme Deity,
as well as in man.’

They are called in the Vendidad Spento Mainyush, or the ‘beneficent
spirit,’ and Angro Mainyush, or the ‘hurtful spirit.’ The latter is
generally known as Ahriman, the Prince of Darkness; and the former as
Ormuzd, is identified with Ahura Mazda, the good God, though, strictly
speaking, Ahura Mazda is the great unknown First Cause, who comprehends
within himself both principles as a necessary law of existence, and in
whom believers may hope that evil and good will ultimately be reconciled.

Anquetil du Perron, the first translator of the Zendavesta, in his
‘Critical View of the Theological and Ceremonial System of Zar-thurst,’
thus sums up the Parsee creed: ‘The first point in the theological
system of Zoroaster is to recognise and adore the Master of all that is
good, the Principle of all righteousness, Ormuzd, according to the form
of worship prescribed by him, and with purity of thought, of word, and
of action, a purity which is marked and preserved by purity of body.
Next, to have a respect, accompanied by gratitude, for the intelligence
to which Ormuzd has committed the care of nature (i.e. to the laws of
nature), to take in our actions their attributes for models, to copy
in our conduct the harmony which reigns in the different parts of the
universe, and generally to honour Ormuzd in all that he has produced.
The second part of their religion consists in detesting the author of
all evil, moral and physical, Ahriman—his productions, and his works;
and to contribute, as far as in us lies, to exalt the glory of Ormuzd by
enfeebling the tyranny which the Evil Principle exercises over the world.’

It is evident that this simple and sublime religion is one to which,
by whatever name we may call it, the best modern thought is fast
approximating. Men of science like Huxley, philosophers like Herbert
Spencer, poets like Tennyson, might all subscribe to it; and even
enlightened Christian divines, like Dr. Temple, are not very far from
it when they admit the idea of a Creator behind the atoms and energies,
whose original impress, given in the form of laws of nature, was so
perfect as to require no secondary interference. Admit that Christ is the
best personification of the Spenta Mainyush, or good principle in the
inscrutable Divine polarity of existence, and a man may be at the same
time a Christian and a Zoroastrian.

The religion of Zoroaster has, however, this great advantage in the
existing conditions of modern thought, that it is not dragged down by
such a dead weight of traditional dogmas and miracles as still hangs upon
the skirts of Christianity. Its dogmas are comprised in the statement
that there is one supreme, unknown, First Cause, who manifests himself in
the universe under fixed laws which involve the principle of polarity.
This is hardly so much a dogma as a statement of fact, or of the ultimate
and absolute truth at which it is possible for human faculty to arrive.
No progress of science or philosophy conflicts with it, but rather they
confirm it, by showing more and more clearly with every discovery that
this is in very fact and deed the literal truth. Religion, or the feeling
of reverence and love for the Great Unknown which lies beyond the sphere
of human sense and reason, shines more brightly through this pure medium
than through the fogs of misty metaphysics; and we can worship God in
spirit and in truth without puzzling our brains as to the precise nature
of the Logos, or exercising them on the insoluble problem how one can be
equal to three, and at the same time three equal to one.

As regards miracles, which are another millstone about the neck of
Catholic Christianity, the religion of Zoroaster is entirely free from
them. There are, it is true, a few miraculous myths about him in some
of the later writings in the Pehlvi language, as of his conception
by his mother drinking a cup of the sacred Homa, but these are of no
authority and form no part of the religion. On the contrary, the original
scriptures which profess to record his exact words and precepts disclaim
all pretension to divine nature or miraculous power, and base the
claims of the ‘excellent religion’ purely on reason. This is an immense
advantage in the ‘struggle for life,’ when every day is making it more
impossible for educated men to believe that real miracles ever actually
occurred, and when the evidence on which they were accepted is crumbling
to pieces under the light of critical enquiry. The Parsee has no reason
to tremble for his faith if a Galileo invents the telescope or a Newton
discovers the law of gravity. He has no occasion to argue for Noah’s
deluge, or for the order of Creation described in Genesis. Nay even, he
may remain undisturbed by that latest and most fatal discovery that man
has existed on the earth for untold ages, and, instead of falling from a
high estate, has risen continuously by slow and painful progress from the
rudest origins. How many orthodox Christians can say the same, or deny
that their faith in their sacred books and venerable traditions has been
rudely shaken?

The code of morality enjoined by the Zoroastrian religion is as pure as
its theory is perfect. Dr. Haug enumerates the following sins denounced
by its code, and considered as such by the present Parsees: Murder,
infanticide, poisoning, adultery on the part of men as well as women,
sorcery, sodomy, cheating in weight and measure, breach of promise
whether made to a Zoroastrian or non-Zoroastrian, telling lies and
deceiving, false covenants, slander and calumny, perjury, dishonest
appropriation of wealth, taking bribes, keeping back the wages of
labourers, misappropriation of religious property, removal of a boundary
stone, turning people out of their property, maladministration and
defrauding, apostasy, heresy, rebellion. These are positive injunctions.
The following are condemnable from a religious point of view: Abandoning
the husband; not acknowledging one’s children on the part of the father;
cruelty towards subjects on the part of a ruler; avarice, laziness,
illiberality and egotism, envy. In addition there are a number of special
precepts adapted to the peculiar rites of the Zoroastrian religion
which aim principally at the enforcement of sanitary rules, kindness to
animals, hospitality to strangers and travellers, respect to superiors,
and help to the poor and needy.

It is evident that this is the most complete and comprehensive code of
morals to be found in any system of religion. It comprises all that
is best in the codes of Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity, with a
much more ample definition of many vices and virtues which, even in
the Christian religion, are left to be drawn as inferences rather than
inculcated as precepts. Thus, laziness, cheating, selfishness, and envy
are distinctly defined as crimes, and their opposites as virtues, and
not merely left to be inferred from the general maxims of ‘loving your
neighbour as yourself,’ and ‘doing unto others as you would be done by.’
The comprehensiveness and liberal spirit of the code is also remarkable,
for we are repeatedly told that these rules of morality apply to
non-Zoroastrians as well as to Zoroastrians. The application of religious
precepts to practical life is another distinguishing feature. Thus
kindness to animals is specially enjoined, and it is considered a sin to
ill-treat animals of the good creation, such as cattle, sheep, horses,
or dogs, by starving, beating, or unnecessarily killing them. With true
practical wisdom, however, the ‘falsehood of extremes’ is avoided, and
this precept is not, as in the case of Brahminism and Buddhism, carried
so far as to prohibit altogether the taking of animal life, which is
expressly sanctioned when necessary. This sober practical wisdom, or what
Matthew Arnold calls ‘sweet reasonableness,’ is a very characteristic
feature of Zoroaster’s religion, and very remarkable as having been
taught at so early a period in the history of civilisation.

Another precept, which might well have been made by an English board of
health in the nineteenth century, is not to pollute water by throwing
impure matter into it.

The only special Parsee rites which would be unsuited for modern European
society, are the worship of the sacred fire and the disposal of the
dead. It is true that the former is distinctly understood to be merely
a symbol of the Deity, and used exactly as water is in baptism, or as
the ascending flame of candles and smoke from swinging incense are in
the Catholic ritual, to bring more vividly before the minds of the
worshippers the idea of the spirit soaring upwards towards heaven. Still,
in modern society fire is too well understood as merely a particular form
of chemical combination, and is too familiar as the strong slave and
household drudge of man, to acquire a leading place in a religious ritual
where it has not been hallowed by the usage of a long line of ancestors
and the traditions of a venerable antiquity. All that can be said is,
that if religious rites and ceremonies are to be maintained in an age
when science has become the prevailing mode of thought, appropriate
symbolism, especially that of music, must more and more take the place of
appeals to the intellect on metaphysical questions, and of repetitions of
traditional formulæ which have lost all living significance.

Another Parsee rite, which is even less adapted for general usage, is
that of disposing of the dead on towers of silence, where the body
moulders away or is devoured by birds of prey. It originates in a
poetical motive of not defiling the pure elements, fire, earth, or
water, by corruption; but it is obviously unsuited for the conditions of
civilisation and climate which prevail in crowded cities under a humid

There is little prospect therefore of any general conversion to the sect
of Zoroastrians; but what seems probable is the gradual transformation of
existing modes both of religious and secular thought into something which
is, in principle, very closely akin to the ‘excellent religion’ taught by
the Bactrian prophet.

The miraculous theory of the universe being virtually dead, the only
theory that can reconcile facts with feelings, and the ineradicable
emotions and aspirations of the human mind with the incontrovertible
conclusions of science, is that of a remote and more or less unknown
and incomprehensible First Cause, which has given the original atoms
and energies so perfect an impress from the first, that all phenomena
are evolved from them by fixed laws, one of the principal of such laws
being that of polarity, which develops the ever-increasing complexities
and contrasts of the inorganic and organic worlds, of moralities,
philosophies, religions, and human societies. True religion consists in
a recognition of this truth, a feeling of reverence in presence of the
unknown, and, above all, a feeling of love and admiration for the good
principle in whatever form it is manifested, in the beauties of nature
and of art, in moral and physical purity and perfection, and all else
that falls within the domain of the Prince of Light, in whose service,
whether we conceive of him as an abstract principle, or accept some
personification of him as a living figure, we enlist as loyal soldiers,
doing our best to fight in his ranks against the powers of evil.

The application of the all-pervading principle of polarity is exemplified
in the realm of art. The glorious Greek drama turned mainly on the
conflict between resistless fate and heroic free-will, and is typified
in its highest form by Æschylus, when he depicts Prometheus chained to
the rock hurling defiance at the tyrant of heaven. Our own Milton, in
like manner, gives us the spectacle of the fallen archangel opposing
his indomitable will and fertile resources to the extremity of adverse
circumstance and to Almighty power.

The greatest of modern dramas, Goethe’s ‘Faust,’ turns so entirely on
the opposition between the human soul striving after the infinite, and
the spirit _der verneint_, who combats ideal aspirations with a cynical
sneer, that it might well be called a Zoroastrian drama. It is a picture
of the conflict between the two opposite principles of good and evil, of
affirmation and negation, of the beautiful and the ugly, personified in
Faust and Mephistopheles, and it is painted on a background of the great
mysterious unknown. ‘Wer darf ihn nennen?’

    Who dares to name Him,
    Who to say of Him, ‘I believe’?
    Who is there ever with a heart to dare
    To utter, ‘I believe Him not’?

So in poetry, Tennyson, the poet of modern thought, touches the deepest
chords when he asks—

    Are God and Nature, then, at strife?

and paints in the sharpest contrast on the background of the unknown, the
conflict between the faith that

                God is love indeed,
    And love creation’s final law,

and the harsh realities of nature, which

                      Red in tooth and claw
    With ravine shrieks against the creed;

or again in his later work, ‘The Ancient Sage,’ he says—

    Thou canst not prove the Nameless, O my son!
    For nothing worthy proving can be proven,
    Nor yet disproven.

In like manner in the works of art which embrace a wider range, and hold
up the mirror to human nature, as in Shakespeare’s plays, and the novels
of Walter Scott and other great authors, the interest arises mainly from
the polarity of the various characters. We care little for the goody-good
heroes or vulgar villains, but we recognise a touch of that nature which
makes all the world akin in a Macbeth drawn by metaphysical suggestion
to wade through a sea of blood; in Othello’s noble nature caught like a
lion in the toils by the net of circumstances woven by a wily hunter; in
Falstaff, a rogue, a liar, and a glutton, yet made almost likeable by his
ready wit, imperturbable good-humour, and fertile resources. Shakespeare
is, in fact, the greatest of artists, because he is the most multipolar.
He has poles of sympathy in him which, as the poles of carbon attract
so many elements and form so many combinations, enable him to take into
his own nature, assimilate, and reproduce every varied shade of character
from a Miranda to a Caliban, from an Imogen to a Lady Macbeth, from a
Falstaff to an Othello. Sir Walter Scott and all our great novelists
have the same faculty, though in a less degree, and are great in exact
proportion as they have many poles in their nature, and as those are
poles of powerful polarity. The characters and incidents which affect
us strongly and dwell in the memory are those in which the clash and
conflict of opposites are most vividly represented. We feel infinite pity
for a Maggie Tulliver dashing her young life, like a prisoned wild bird,
against the bars of trivial and prosaic environment which hem her in; or
for a Colonel Newcome opposing the patience of a gentle nature to the
buffets of such a fate as meets us in the everyday world of modern life,
the failure of his bank and the naggings of the Old Campaigner. On a
higher level of art we sympathise with a Lancelot and a Guinevere because
they are types of what we may meet in many a London drawing-room, noble
natures drawn by some fatal fairy fascination into ignoble acts, but
still retaining something of their original nobility, and while

    Their honour rooted in dishonour stands,

appearing to ordinary mortals little less than ‘archangels ruined.’ Or
even if we descend to the lowest level of the penny dreadful or suburban
drama, we find that the polarity between vice and virtue, however
coarsely delineated, is that which mostly fascinates the uncultured mind.

The affinity between Zoroastrianism and art is easily explained when
we consider that in one respect it has a manifest advantage over most
Christian forms of religion. Christianity in its early origins received
a taint of Oriental asceticism which it never shook off, and which in
the declining centuries of the Roman empire, and in the barbarism and
superstition of the Middle Ages, developed into what may be almost called
a devil-worship of the ugly and repulsive. The antithesis between the
flesh and the spirit was carried to such an extreme and false extent,
that everything that was pleasant and beautiful came to be regarded as
sinful, and the odour of sanctity was an odour which the passer-by would
do well to keep on the windward side of. This leaven of asceticism is
the rock upon which Puritanism, monasticism, and many of the highest
forms of Christian life have invariably split. It is contrary to human
nature, and directly opposed to the spirit of the life and doctrines of
the Founder of the religion. Jesus, who was ‘a Jew living among Jews
and speaking to Jews,’ adopted the true Jewish point of view of making
religion amiable and attractive, and denouncing, as all the best Jewish
doctors of the Talmud did, the pharisaical strictness which insisted on
ritualistic observances and arbitrary restrictions. In no passages of
his life does the ‘sweet reasonableness’ of his character appear more
conspicuous than where we find him strolling through the fields with his
disciples and plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath, and replying to the
formalists who were scandalised, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man
for the Sabbath.’ The ascetic bias subsequently introduced may have been
a necessary element in counteracting the corruption of Rome; but the
pendulum in its reaction swung much too far, and when organised in the
celibacy of the clergy and monastic institutions asceticism became the
source of great evils. Even at a late period we can see in the reaction
of the reign of Charles II. how antagonistic the puritanical creed,
even of men like Cromwell and Milton, proved to the healthy natural
instinct of the great mass of the English nation. And at the present day
it remains one of the main causes of the indifference or hostility to
religion which is so widely spreading among the mass of the population.
Children are brought up to consider Sunday as a day of penance, and
church-going as a disagreeable necessity; while grown-up men, especially
those of the working classes, resent being told that a walk in the
country, a cricket-match, or a visit to a library or museum on their only
holiday, is sinful.

In view of the approximation between the Zoroastrian religion and
the forms of modern thought it is interesting to note how the former
works among its adherents in actual practice. For, after all, the
practical side of a religion is more important than its speculative
or philosophical theories. Thus, for instance, the Quakers have a
faith which is about the most reasonable of any of the numerous sects
of Christianity and nearest to the spirit of its Founder, and yet
Quakerism remains a narrow sect which is far from being victorious in the
‘struggle for life,’ Mahometanism, again, while dying out among civilised
nations, shows itself superior to Christianity in the work of raising
the barbarous, fetish-worshipping negroes of Africa to a higher level.
And Mormonism, based on the most obvious imposture and absurdity, is
the only new religion which, in recent times, has taken root and to a
certain extent flourished.

Tried by this test, Zoroastrianism has made good its claim to be called
the ‘excellent religion.’ Its followers, the limited community of Parsees
in India, are honourably distinguished for probity, intelligence,
enterprise, public spirit, benevolence, tolerance, and other good
qualities. By virtue of these qualities they have raised themselves
to a prominent position in our Indian empire, and take a leading part
in its commerce and industrial enterprise. The chief shipbuilder at
Bombay, the first great native railway contractor, the founder of cotton
factories, are all Parsees, and they are found as merchants, traders, and
shopkeepers in all the chief towns of British India, and distant places
such as Aden and Zanzibar. Their commercial probity is proverbial, and,
as in England, they have few written agreements, the word of a Parsee,
like that of an Englishman, being considered as good as his bond. Their
high character and practical aptitude for business are attested by the
fact that the first mayor, or chairman of the Corporation of Bombay, was
a Parsee who was elected by the unanimous vote both of Europeans and

The position of women affords perhaps the best test of the real
civilisation and intrinsic worth of any community. Where men consider
women as inferior creatures it is a sure proof that they themselves are
so. They are totally wanting in that delicacy and refinement of nature
which distinguishes the true gentleman from the snob or the savage, and
are coarse, vulgar brutes, however disguised under a veneer of outward
polish. On the other hand, respect for women implies self-respect,
nobility of nature, capability of rising to high ideals above the sordid
level of animal appetite and the selfish supremacy of brute force.

The Parsees in this respect stand high, far higher than any other
Oriental people, and on a level with the best European civilisation.
The equality of the sexes is distinctly laid down in the Zoroastrian
scriptures. Women are always mentioned as a necessary part of the
religious community. They have the same religious rites as the men. The
spirits of deceased women are invoked as well as those of men. Long
contact with the other races of India, and the necessity for some outward
conformity to the practices of Hindoo and Mahometan rulers, did something
to impair the position of females as regards public appearances, though
the Parsee wife and mother always remained a principal figure in the
Parsee household; and latterly, under the security of English rule,
Parsee ladies may be seen everywhere in public, enjoying just as much
liberty as the ladies of Europe or America. Nor are they at all behind
their Western sisters in education, accomplishments, and, it may be
added, in daintiness of fashionable attire. In fact, an eager desire for
education has become a prominent feature among all classes of the Parsee
community, and they are quite on a par with the Scotch, German, and other
European races in their efforts to establish schools, and in the numbers
who attend, and especially of those who obtain distinguished places in
the higher schools and colleges, such as the Elphinstone Institute and
the Bombay University. Female education is also actively promoted, and no
prejudices stand in the way of attendance at the numerous girls’ schools
which have been established, or even of studying in medical colleges,
where Parsee women attend lectures on all branches of medical science
along with male students. Those who know the position of inferiority and
seclusion in which women are kept among all other Oriental nations can
best appreciate the largeness and liberality of spirit of a religion
which, in spite of all surrounding influences, has rendered such a thing
possible in such a country as India.

Another prominent trait of the Parsee character is that of philanthropy
and public spirit. In proportion to their numbers and means they raise
more money for charitable objects than any other religious sect. And they
raise it in a way which does the greatest credit to their tolerance and
liberality. For instance, the Parsees were the principal subscribers to
a fund raised in Bombay in aid of the ‘Scottish Corporation,’ and quite
recently a Parsee gentleman gave 16,000_l._ towards the establishment of
a female hospital under the care of lady doctors, although the benefit of
such an institution would be confined principally to Mahometan and Hindoo
women, Parsee women having no prejudice against employing male doctors.

The public spirit shown by acts like this is the trait by which the
Parsee community is most honourably distinguished, and in respect of
which it must be candidly confessed it far surpasses not only other
Oriental races, but most European nations, including our own. Whatever
the reason may be, the fact is certain that in England, while a great
deal of money is spent in charity, lamentably little is spent from the
enormous surplus wealth of the country on what may be called public
objects. There is neither religious influence nor social opinion brought
to bear on the numerous class who have incomes far beyond any possible
want, to teach them that it should be both a pleasure and a pride to
associate their names with some act of noble liberality. A better spirit
we may hope is springing up, and there have been occasional instances
of large sums applied to public purposes, such as parks and colleges,
by private individuals, principally of the trading and manufacturing
classes, such as the Salts, Crossleys, Baxters, and Holloways; but on the
whole the amount contributed is miserably small. It is probably part of
the price we pay for aristocratic institutions that those who inherit or
accumulate great fortunes consider it their primary object to perpetuate
or to found great families. Be this as it may, a totally different spirit
prevails among the Parsees of Bombay, where it has been truly stated
that hardly a year passes without some wealthy Parsee coming forward
to perform a work of public generosity. The instance of Sir Jamsedjee
Jijibhoy, who attained a European reputation for his noble benevolence,
is only one conspicuous instance out of a thousand of this ‘public
spirit’ which has become almost an instinctive element in Parsee society.

How far the large and liberal religion may be the cause of the large
and liberal practice, it is impossible to say. Other influences have
doubtless been at work. The Parsees are a commercial people, and commerce
is always more liberal with its money than land. They are the descendants
of a persecuted race, and as a rule it is better to be persecuted than to
persecute. Still, after making all allowances, it remains that the tree
cannot be bad which bears such fruits; the religion must be a good one
which produces good men and women and good deeds.

Statistical facts testify quite as strongly to the high standard of the
Parsee race, and the practical results which follow from the observance
of the Zoroastrian ritual. A small death-rate and a large proportion
of children prove the vigorous vitality of a race. The Parsees have
the lowest death-rate of any of the many races who inhabit Bombay. The
average for the two years 1881 and 1882 per thousand was for Hindoos
26·11; for Mussulmans 30·46; for Europeans 20·18; for Parsees 19·26.
The percentage of children under two years old to women between fifteen
and forty-five was 30·27 for Parsees, as against Hindoos 22·24, and
Mussulmans 24·9, showing incontestably greater vitality and greater care
for human life.

Of 6,618 male and 2,966 female mendicants in the city of Bombay, only
five male and one female were Parsees.

These figures speak for themselves. It is evident that a religion in
which such results are possible cannot be unfavourable to the development
of the ‘mens sana in corpore sano;’ and that, although we may not turn
Zoroastrians, we may envy some of the results of a creed which inculcates
worship of the good, the pure, and the beautiful in the concerns of daily
life, as well as in the abstract regions of theological and philosophical



    Byron’s lines—Carnegie’s description—Parsee nature-worship—English
    Sunday—The sermon—Appeals to reason misplaced—Music better
    than words—The Mass—Zoroastrianism brings religion into daily
    life—Sanitation—Zoroastrian prayer—Religion of the future—Sermons
    in stones and good in everything.

      Not vainly did the early Persian make
      His altar the high places and the peak
      Of earth-o’ergazing mountains, and thus take
      A fit and unwall’d temple, where to seek
      The spirit, in whose honour shrines are weak,
      Uprear’d of human hands. Come, and compare
      Columns and idol-dwellings, Goth or Greek,
      With nature’s realms of worship, earth and air,
    Nor fix on fond abodes to circumscribe thy prayer!

                                                _Childe Harold_, iii. 91.

A shrewd Scotch-American ironmaster—Andrew Carnegie—in an interesting
and instructive record of experiences during a voyage round the world,
gives the following description of the worship of the modern Parsees, as
actually witnessed by him at Bombay:—

‘This evening we were surprised to see, as we strolled along the beach,
more Parsees than ever before, and more Parsee ladies richly dressed, all
wending their way towards the sea. It was the first of the new moon, a
period sacred to these worshippers of the elements; and here on the shore
of the ocean, as the sun was sinking in the sea, and the slender silver
thread of the crescent moon was faintly shining on the horizon, they
congregated to perform their religious rites.

‘Fire was there in its grandest form, the setting sun, and water in the
vast expanse of the Indian Ocean outstretched before them. The earth was
under their feet, and wafted across the sea the air came laden with the
perfumes of “Araby the blest.” Surely no time or place could be more
fitly chosen than this for lifting up the soul to the realms beyond
sense. I could not but participate with these worshippers in what was so
grandly beautiful. There was no music save the solemn moan of the waves
as they broke into foam on the beach. But where shall we find so mighty
an organ, or so grand an anthem?

‘How inexpressibly sublime the scene appeared to me, and how
insignificant and unworthy of the unknown seemed even our cathedrals
“made with human hands,” when compared with this looking up through
nature unto nature’s God! I stood and drank in the serene happiness which
seemed to fill the air. I have seen many modes and forms of worship—some
disgusting, others saddening, a few elevating when the organ pealed forth
its tones, but all poor in comparison with this. Nor do I ever expect
in all my life to witness a religious ceremony which will so powerfully
affect me as that of the Parsees on the beach at Bombay.’

I say Amen with all my heart to Mr. Carnegie. Here is an ideal religious
ceremony combining all that is most true, most touching, and most
sublime, in the attitude of man towards the Great Unknown. Compare it
with the routine of an ordinary English Sunday, and how poor and prosaic
does the latter appear! There is nothing which seems to me to have fallen
more completely out of harmony with its existing environment than our
traditional form of church service. The sermon has been killed by the
press and has become an anachronism. There was a time when sermons like
those of Latimer and John Knox were living realities; they dealt with all
the burning political and personal questions of the day, and to a great
extent did the work now done by platform speeches and leading articles.
If there are national dangers to be denounced, national shortcomings to
be pointed out, iniquity in high places to be rebuked, we look to our
daily newspaper, and not to our weekly sermon. The sermon has in a great
majority of cases become a sort of schoolboy theme, in which traditional
assumptions and conventional phrases are ground out, with as little soul
or idea behind them as in the Thibetan praying-mill. In the course of a
long life I have gained innumerable ideas and experienced innumerable
influences, from contact with the world, with fellow-men, and with books;
but although I have heard a good many sermons, I cannot honestly say that
I ever got an idea or an influence from one of them which made me wiser
or better, or different in any respect from what I should have been if I
had slept through them. And this from no fault of the preachers. I have
heard many who gave me the impression that they were good men, and a
few who impressed me as being able and liberal-minded men—nor do I know
that, under the conditions in which they are placed, I could have done
any better myself. But they were dancing in fetters, and so tied down by
conventionalities that it was simply impossible for them to depart from
the paths of a decorous routine.

The fact is that the whole point of view of our religious services,
especially in Protestant countries, has become a mistaken one. It is
far too much an appeal to the intellect and to abstract dogmas, and too
little, one to the realities of actual life and to the vague emotions and
aspirations which constitute the proper field of religion. In the great
reaction of the Reformation it was perhaps inevitable that an appeal
should be made to reason against the abuses of an infallible Church; and
as long as the literal inspiration of the Bible and other theological
premises were held to be undoubted axioms by the whole Christian world,
there might be a certain interest in hearing them repeated over and over
again in becoming language, and in listening to sermons which explained
shortly conclusions which might be drawn from these admitted axioms. But
this is no longer the case. It is impossible to touch the merest fringe
of the questions now raised by the intellectual side of religion in
discourses of half an hour’s length; even if the preacher were perfectly
free, and not hampered by the fear of scandalising simple, pious souls
by plain language. Spoken words have to a great extent ceased to be
the appropriate vehicle for appealing either to religious reason or
to religious emotion—books for the former, music for the latter, are
infinitely more effective. Music especially seems made to be the language
of religion. Not only its beauty and harmony, but its vagueness, and its
power of exciting the imagination and stirring the feelings, without
anything definite which has to be proved and can be contradicted, fit
it to be the interpreter of those emotions and aspirations which fill
the human soul in presence of the universe and of the Great Unknown.
Demonstrate, with St. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus, how many angels can
stand on the point of a needle, and I remain unaffected; but let me hear
Rossini’s ‘Cujus Animam,’ or Mozart’s ‘Agnus Dei,’ and I say, ‘Thus the
angels sing.’

In this respect the Roman Catholic Church has retained a great advantage
over reformed churches. Whatever we may think of its tenets and
principles, its forms of worship are more impressive and more attractive.
The Mass, apart from all dogma and miracle, is a mysterious and beautiful
religious drama, in which appropriate symbolism, vocal and instrumental
music, all the highest efforts of human art, are united to produce
feelings of joy and of devoutness. The vestment of the priest, his
gestures and genuflexions, the Latin words chanted in stately recitative,
the flame of the candles pointing heavenwards, the burning incense
slowly soaring upwards, the music of great masters, not like our dreary
and monotonous psalmody, but in fullest harmony and richest melody—all
combine to attune the mind to that state of feeling which is the soul of

In this respect, however, what I have called the Zoroastrian theory
of religion affords great advantages. It connects religion directly
with all that is good and beautiful, not only in the higher realms of
speculation and of emotion, but in the ordinary affairs of daily life.
To feel the truth of what is true, the beauty of what is beautiful, is
of itself a silent prayer or act of worship to the Spirit of Light; to
make an honest, earnest, effort to attain this feeling, is an offering
or act of homage. Cleanliness of mind and body, order and propriety in
conduct, civility in intercourse, and all the homely virtues of everyday
life, thus acquire a higher significance, and any wilful and persistent
disregard of them becomes an act of mutiny against the Power whom we have
elected to serve. Such moral perversion becomes impossible as that which
in the Middle Ages associated filth with holiness, and adduced as a title
to canonisation that the saint had worn the same woollen shirt until it
fell to pieces under the attacks of vermin. We laugh at this in more
enlightened days, but we often imitate it by setting up false religious
standards, and thinking we can make men better by penning them up on
Sundays in the foul air and corrupting influences of densely peopled

The identification of moral and physical evil, which is one of the most
essential and peculiar tenets of the Zoroastrian creed, is fast becoming
a leading idea in modern civilisation. Our most earnest philanthropists
and zealous workers in the fields of sin and misery in crowded cities are
coming, more and more every day, to the conviction that an improvement
in the physical conditions of life is the first indispensable condition
of moral and religious progress. More air, more light, better lodging,
better food, more innocent and healthy recreation, are what are wanted
to make any real impression on the masses who have either been born and
bred in an evil environment, or have fallen out of the ranks and are
the waifs and stragglers left behind in the rapid progress and intense
competition of modern society. Hence we see that the devoted individuals
and charitable institutions who take the lead in works of practical
benevolence direct their attention more and more to the rescue of
children from bad surroundings; to sending them to new and happier homes
in the colonies, to country retreats for the sickly, and excursions for
the healthy; and to providing clubs and reading-rooms as substitutes for
the gin-palace and public-house. The latest development of this idea,
that of the ‘People’s Palace’ in the East End of London, is a noble
offering to the ‘Spirit of Light,’ by whatever name we choose to call
him, in opposition to the ‘Spirit of Darkness.’

To the Zoroastrian, prayer assumes the form of a recognition of all that
is pure, sublime, and beautiful in the surrounding universe. He can never
want opportunities of paying homage to the Good Spirit and of looking
into the abysses of the unknown with reverence and wonder. The light of
setting suns, the dome of loving blue, the clouds in the might of the
tempest or resting still as brooding doves, the mountains, the

    And solitary places where we taste
    The pleasure of believing what we see,
    Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be;

the ocean lashed by storm, or where it

    All down the sand
    Lies breathing in its sleep,
    Heard by the land—

these are a Zoroastrian’s prayers.

And even if, ‘in populous cities pent,’ he is cut off from close
communion with nature, opportunities are not wanting to him of letting
his soul soar aloft with purifying aspirations. A glimpse of the starry
sky, even if seen from a London street, may bear in on him the awful yet
lovely mystery of the Infinite. Good books, good music, true works of
art, may all strengthen his love of the good and beautiful. A dense fog,
or drizzling rain may obscure the outward view, but with the inner eye
he may stand listening to the lark or under the vernal sky, and while his

    Heart looks down and up,
      Serene, secure;
    Warm as the crocus-cup,
      As snowdrops pure,

thank the Good Spirit that it has been given to man to write, and to
him to read, verses of such exquisite perfection as Shelley’s ‘Ode to a
Skylark’ and Tennyson’s ‘Early Spring.’ Above all, where men congregate
in masses, in the great centres of politics, of commerce, of literature,
science, and art, he can hear best

    The still sad music of humanity,
    Not harsh nor grating, but of ample power
    To chasten and subdue,

and associate himself with movements in which his little individual
effort is exerted towards making the world a little better rather than a
little worse than he found it.

This, rather than wrangling with his fellow-mortals about creeds and
attempts to name the unnameable, believe the unbelievable, and define the
undefineable, seems to me to be the religion of the future. Call it by
what name you like, I quarrel with no one as long as he can find

    Sermons in stones and good in everything.



    Fable of the shield—Progress and conservatism—English and
    French colonisation—Law-abidingness—Irish land question—True
    conservative legislation—Ultra-conservatism—Law and
    education—Patriotism—Jingoism and parochialism—True
    statesmanship—Free trade and protection—Capital
    and labour—Egoism and altruism—Socialism and
    _laissez faire_—Contracts—Rights and duties of
    landlords—George’s theory—State interference—Railways—Post
    Office—Telegraphs—National defence—Concluding remarks.

A well-known fable tells how in the olden time two knights were riding
in opposite directions along a green road overarched by the trees of
an ancient forest. It was a bright morning in early summer, with the
green leaves freshly bursting in contrasted foliage; the sun had just
risen over the tops of the trees in clouds of golden and crimson glory;
dewdrops were glittering like diamonds on every twig and blade of grass;
and the joyous birds carolling their loudest song to greet the opening

Everything was fresh and cheerful as of a new-born earth, and so were the
spirits of the two youthful knights, who were pricking forth in search of
adventures. He whose face was turned towards the West, where the rising
sun had last set, wore a primrose scarf over his cuirass, and had on his
shield a quaint device, which, on closer inspection, might be seen to be
a tombstone with the inscription,

    ‘I was well, would be better, and here I am.’

He rode along musing on the heroic legends of the past, and wishing
that he had been a knight of Arthur’s round table to ride out with the
blameless king against invading heathen.

The second knight, whose face was turned towards the rising sun, bore an
azure shield with a different device. On it was depicted the good Sir
James Douglass charging the serried Paynim army, and, as he charged,
flinging before him into the hostile ranks the casket containing the
heart of Robert Bruce, and shouting for battle-cry—

    Go thou aye forward, as was thy wont.

As he rode his fancy wrought the fairy web of a day-dream, in which he
saw himself delivering the fair princess Liberty from the fiery dragon
Prejudice and the stolid giant Obstruction.

The knights met just where an ancient oak of mighty bulk stretched
overhead a huge branch across the path, as some aged athlete might
stretch out an arm rigid with gnarled and knotted muscles, to show
younger generations how Olympian laurels were won when Pollux or Hercules
plied the cestus. From this branch a shield hung suspended.

‘Good morrow, fair knight,’ said he of the primrose scarf; ‘prithee tell
me if thou knowest what means this golden shield suspended here.’

‘I marvel at it myself, good Sir Knight,’ responded the other; ‘but you
mistake in calling the shield golden; it is of silver.’

‘Your eyes must be of the dullest,’ said the first knight, ‘if you
mistake gold for silver.’

‘Not so dull as yours,’ retorted the other, ‘if you mistake silver for

The argument waxed hot, and, as usual in such cases, as tempers grew weak
adjectives grew strong. Soon, like the old Homeric heroes when Greek met

    Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy,

winged words of fire and fury darted from each mouth, and epithets were
exchanged, of which ‘stupid old Tory’ and ‘low, vulgar Radical’ were
among the least unparliamentary. At length the fatal words ‘You lie’
escaped simultaneously from both, and on the instant spears were couched,
steeds spurred, and, red with rage, they encountered each other in full
career. Such was the momentum that both men and horses rolled over, even
as the Templar went down before the spear of Ivanhoe within the lists of
Ashby-de-la-Zouch. But, like the redoubted knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert,
each sprang to his feet and drew his sword, eager to redeem the fortune
of war in deadly combat. Like two surly boars with bristling backs and
foaming tusks quarrelling for the right of way in Indian jungle, or tawny
lions in Numidian desert tearing one another to pieces for the smiles
of a leonine Helen, the heroes clashed together, cutting, slashing,
parrying, foyning, and traversing, until at length, bleeding and
breathless, they paused for a moment, leaning on their swords to recover
second wind.

Just then an aged hermit appeared on the scene, drawn thither by the
sound of the combat.

‘Pause, my sons,’ he said, ‘and tell me what is the cause of this furious

‘Yonder false villain protests,’ said the one, ‘that the shield which
hangs there is of gold.’

‘And that lying varlet persists that it is of silver,’ said the other.

The hermit smiled, and said, ‘Hold your hands, good sirs, for a single
moment, and use your remaining strength to exchange places and look at
the opposite side of the shield.’

They obeyed his words, and found to their confusion that they had been
fighting in a quarrel in which each was right and each wrong.

‘Father,’ they said, ‘we are fools. Grant us thy pardon for our folly and
absolution for our sin.’

‘Absolution,’ said the hermit, ‘is soon granted for faults which arise
from the innate tendency of poor human nature. Wiser and older men than
you are prone to see only their own side of a question. Come, then, with
me to my humble hermitage; there will I dress your wounds and offer you
my frugal fare; happy if from this lesson you may learn for the rest of
your lives, before indulging in vehement assertions and proceeding to
violent extremities, to “look at the other side of the shield.”’

The application of this fable to the polarity of politics will be obvious
to every intelligent reader. As the earth is kept in its orbit by the
due balance of centripetal and centrifugal forces, so is every civilised
society held together by the opposite influences of conservative and
progressive tendencies. The conservative tendency may be likened to the
centripetal force which binds the mass together, while the progressive
one resembles that centrifugal force which prevents it from being
concentrated in a rigid and inert central body without life or motion.
As Herbert Spencer truly says, ‘from antagonistic social tendencies
there always results not a medium state, but a rhythm between opposite
states. Now the one greatly preponderates, and presently, by reaction,
there comes a preponderance of the other.’ So it is with the antagonism
of conservative and liberal tendencies. In the societies of the ancient
world, and to the present day in the East, the conservative tendency
unduly preponderates, and they crystallise into inert masses in the
form of despotisms, and of sacerdotal or administrative hierarchies. At
times the pent-up forces which make for change accumulate, and, as in
the French Revolution, explode with destructive violence, shattering the
old and bringing in new eras. But unless the balance between liberty and
order is tolerably preserved in the individual citizens whose aggregate
forms the society, after a period more or less prolonged of violent
oscillations they crystallise anew into fresh forms, in which another
military dynasty, or it may be administrative centralisation under the
name of a republic, again asserts the preponderance of the centripetal

The happiest nations are those in which the individual character of
individual citizens supplies the requisite balance. An ideal society is
one in which every citizen is at the same time liberal and conservative;
law-abiding, and yet with a strong instinct for liberty of thought and
action, for progress and for individual independence. It is among the
Teutonic races, especially when they are placed in favourable conditions
as in new countries, or in old countries where for ages

    Freedom has widened slowly down,
      From precedent to precedent,

that this happy ideal is most nearly realised. Hence it is that these
races are more and more coming to the front and surviving in the struggle
for existence.

The contrast of English and French colonisation affords a striking
instance of this difference of races. A century and a half ago France
stood as well as England in the race for colonial supremacy. She had
the start of us in Canada, and her pioneers had explored the Great
Lakes, the Mississippi, and a large part of the continent of North
America west of the Rocky Mountains. To-day there are sixty millions
of an English-speaking population in that continent, while French is
scarcely spoken beyond the single province of Quebec. Political events
had doubtless something to do with this result; but it has been mainly
owing to the innate qualities of the two races, for even the genius of
Chatham might have failed to establish our supremacy if it had not been
backed by the superior intelligence, energy, and staying power of the
English colonists. The ultimate cause of the triumph of the English over
the French element in America and India is doubtless to be found in
the stronger individualism of the former. The character of the French
is eminently social, they like to live in societies, and shrink from
encountering the hardships and still more the isolation of the life
of early settlers. They like to be administered, and shrink from the
responsibility of hewing out, each for themselves, their own path in the
relations of civil life or in the depths of primæval forests.

It is so to the present day, and they fail conspicuously in creating a
large French population even at their own doors in Algeria; while in
their more distant colonies they conquer and annex, but to see their
commerce fall into the hands of English, Germans, and Chinese, as in
Cochin China, or to stagnate as in New Caledonia. As a witty French
writer puts it, the trade of a remote French colony may be summed up
as—imports, absinthe and cigars; exports, stamped paper and red-tape.
Individualism in this case has been fairly pitted against Socialism, and
has beaten it out of the field by the verdict of Fact, which is more
conclusive than any amount of abstract argument.

To return, however, to the field of politics. Where the essential quality
of being law-abiding is wanting in individuals, it is hopeless to look
for real liberty. The centripetal force in societies, as in planets,
must be supplied somehow, or they would fly into dissolution; and if not
by the integration of the tendencies of the individual units, then by
external restrictions. Socialists may be allowed to make inflammatory
harangues in a non-explosive atmosphere, but hardly to let off their
fireworks in a powder-magazine. In order, however, that a nation shall be
law-abiding, it is essential that the great majority should feel that,
on the whole, the law is their friend. It is not in human nature to love
that which injures, or to respect that which is felt to be unjust. The
volcanic explosion of the French Revolution was due to the feeling of
the French nation, with the exception of a few courtiers, nobles, and
priests, that the existing order of things was their enemy, and law a
tool in the hands of their oppressors. Even among English-speaking races
we find, in the unfortunate instance of Ireland, that under specially
unfavourable circumstances the same effects may be produced by the same
causes. What has English law practically meant for centuries to an
average peasant of Kerry or Connemara? It has meant an irresistible
malevolent power, which comes down on him with writs of eviction to
compel him to pay a high rent on his own improvements. More than half the
population of Ireland consists of tenants and their families occupying
small holdings, paying less than 10_l._ a year of rent. Of an immense
majority of these small holdings two things may be safely asserted:
first, that the total gross value of the produce is insufficient, after
paying the rent, to leave a decent subsistence for the cultivator.
Secondly, that this rent is levied to a great extent on the improvements
of the tenant or his predecessors. Throughout the poorer parts of Ireland
the greater part of the soil, in its natural state of bog or mountain,
is not worth a rent of a shilling an acre; but some poor peasant, urged
by the earth-hunger which results from the absence of other sources of
employment, squats upon it, builds a wretched cottage, delves, drains,
fences, and reclaims a few acres of land so as to bear a scanty crop of
oats and potatoes. When he has done so the landlord or landlord’s agent
comes to him and says, ‘This land is worth ten or fifteen shillings an
acre, according to the standard of rents in the district, and you must
pay it or turn out;’ and the law backs him in saying so by writs of
eviction and police. Put yourself in poor Pat’s place, and say if you
would love the law and be law-abiding.

It would take me too far from the scope of this volume into the field of
contemporary politics if I attempted to point out who is to blame for
this state of things, or what are the remedies. It is enough to say that
this is the real Irish problem, and to point to it as an instance of the
calamitous effects which inevitably follow when the instincts of a whole
population are brought by an unfavourable combination of circumstances
into necessary and natural antagonism with the laws which they are bound
to obey.

Conservative legislation, by whatever party it is introduced, really
means making the law correspond with the common sense and common
morality of all except the criminal and crotchety classes, so that the
majority may feel it to be their friend. For instance, the most truly
conservative measure of recent times was probably that which legalised
trades’ unions and gave working-men full liberty to combine for an
increase of wages. The old legal maxim, that such combinations were
illegal as being in restraint of trade, was so obviously an invention of
the members of the upper caste who wore horsehair wigs, to give their
fellows of the same caste who employed labour an unfair advantage, that
it could not fail to cause feelings of discontent and exasperation
among the masses of working-men. By its repeal the sting has been taken
out of Socialism, and the British working-man has come to be, in the
main, a reasonable citizen, on whom incitements to violence in order to
inaugurate Utopias, fall as lightly as the howlings of the barren east
wind on the chimney-tops. It has led also to reasonable and peaceful
adjustment of disputes between employers and labourers by arbitration
and sliding-scales instead of by strikes and lock-outs. In the United
States of America the law-abiding instinct is even stronger. We find that
strikes attended with violence are almost always confined mainly to the
foreign element of recently imported immigrants, and that the native-born
American citizen considers the laws as his own laws, and is determined
to have them respected.

The balance between the conservative and progressive tendencies is,
however, at the best, always imperfect, and inclines too much sometimes
in one and sometimes in the other direction. In England the conservative
tendency has had on the whole too much preponderance. I do not speak
of political institutions, for in these of late years the balance has
been pretty equally preserved; but in practical matters there is still a
good deal of old-fashioned stolid obstruction. This is most apparent in
law and in education. The common or judge-made law, though on the whole
well-intentioned and upright, is fettered by so many technicalities and
musty precedents, that it fails in a great many instances to be, what
civil law ought to be, a cheap, speedy, and intelligible instrument
for enforcing honest dealings between man and man. One of our greatest
railway contractors once said to me, ‘If I want to make an agreement
which shall be absolutely binding, I make it myself on a sheet of
note-paper; if I want to have a loophole, I send it to my lawyer to have
it drawn up in legal language and engrossed on sheets of parchment.’
Another man of large experience in commercial and financial matters laid
down this axiom: ‘If you want to know what is the law in a doubtful case,
reason out what is the common-sense view of it, and assume that the
direct opposite is probably the law.’ These may be extreme instances,
as all such epigrammatic sentences generally are, but it is undeniable
that they have a considerable basis of substantial truth; and that law,
with its dilatory processes, its enormous expense, and its uncertain
conclusions, may be, and often is, not an instrument of justice, but a
weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous adventurer or of a dishonest rich
man, to extort blackmail or to defeat just claims.

Again, what nation but England would tolerate so long a system of land
law, so bristling with antiquated technicalities, so tedious, and so
expensive, as almost to amount to a prohibition of the transfer of land
in small quantities; or could let the private interests of a mere handful
of professional lawyers stand in the way of a codification of laws and a
registration of titles?

Education is another subject which shows how difficult it is to move
the sluggish ultra-conservative instincts of the English mind in the
direction of progress, when not stimulated by political conflict. What
is education? The word tells its own story; it is to _draw out_, not to
_cram in_; to unfold the capacities of the growing mind, strengthen the
reasoning faculty, create an interest in the surrounding universe; in a
word, to excite a love of knowledge and impart the means of acquiring it.
For the mass of the population, education is necessarily confined in a
great measure to the latter object. The three R’s—reading, writing, and
arithmetic—are indispensable requisites, and the acquirement of these,
with perhaps a few elements of history and geography, absorbs nearly all
the time and opportunity that can be afforded for attendance at school.
For any culture beyond this the great majority must depend on themselves
in after life. But there are a large number of parents of the upper and
middle classes who can and do keep their children at school for eight or
ten years, and spend a large sum of money in giving them what is called
a higher education. What is there to show for this time and money, even
in the case of the highest schools, which ought to give the highest
education? On the credit side, a little Latin and less Greek, plenty of
cricket and athletics, good physical training, and, best of all, on the
whole a manly, honourable, and gentlemanlike spirit. But on the debit
side, absolute ignorance, except in the case of a few unusually clever
and ambitious boys, of all that a cultivated man of the nineteenth
century ought to know. No French, no German, and, what is worse, no
English. The average boy can neither write his own language legibly nor
grammatically, and, if he goes straight from a public school into a
competitive examination, stands an excellent chance of being plucked for
spelling. And, what is worst of all, he not only knows nothing, but cares
to know nothing; his reasoning faculty has never been cultivated, and his
interest in interesting things has never been awakened. What is the first
lesson he has had to learn? ‘Propria quæ maribus dicantur mascula dicas,’
that is, words appropriated to males are called masculine—a lesson which
elicits as much reasoning faculty, and creates as much interest, as
if he had been made to commit to memory that things made of gold are
called golden. Suppose instead of this that the lesson had been that two
volumes of hydrogen combine with one volume of oxygen to form water.
The exercise to the memory is the same, but how different is the amount
of thought and interest evoked, especially if the experiment is made
before the class and each boy has to repeat it for himself! How many new
subjects of interest would this open up in the mind of any lad of average
intelligence! How strange that there should be airs other than the air
we breathe, which can be weighed and measured, and that two of them by
combining shall produce their exact weight of a substance so unlike them
as water! Or if the exercise of a class were to look through a microscope
at the leaf of a plant or wing of an insect, and try who could best draw
what they had seen and write a description of it in a legible hand and in
good English, how many faculties would this call into play compared with
the dull routine of parsing a Latin sentence or writing a halting copy of
Greek iambics! Even grammar, the one thing which is supposed to be taught
thoroughly, is taught so unintelligently that it awakens no interest
beyond that of a parrot learning by rote. From ‘propria quæ maribus’
the scholar passes to ‘as in præsenti perfectum format in avi,’ without
an attempt to explain what language really means, how it originates
from root-words, and how these inflections of ‘as’ and ‘avi’ are part
of the devices which certain families of mankind, including our own,
have invented as a mechanism for attaching shades of meaning, such as
present and past, to the primitive root. Even the alphabet intelligently
taught opens up wide fields of interesting matter as to the history of
ancient nations, and their successive attempts to analyse the component
sounds of their spoken words, and to pass from primitive picture-writing
to phonetic symbols. But the instructors of the budding manhood of the
_élite_ of the nation, like Gallio, ‘care for none of these things,’
and the organisation of our higher schools seems to be stereotyped on
the principle that they are made for teachers rather than for scholars,
and that their chief _raison d’être_ is to enable a limited number of
highly respectable gentlemen from the Universities to realise comfortable
incomes with a maximum of holidays and a minimum of trouble. And the
parents support the system because so many of them really reverence rank
more than knowledge, and are willing to compound for their sons growing
up ignorant, idle, and extravagant, if by any chance they can count a
lord or two among their acquaintance.

Mr. Francis Galton, in the course of his interesting inquiries as to the
effect of heredity and education on character and attainments, took the
very practical course of addressing a set of questions to some hundred
and eighty of our most distinguished men as to the hereditary qualities
of their ancestors, and the various influences which they considered had
done most to promote or to retard their success in life. Of course he
received a variety of answers, ‘quot homines tot sententiæ,’ but upon one
point there was a striking unanimity. ‘They almost all expressed a hatred
of grammar and the classics, and an utter distaste for the old-fashioned
system of education. There were none who had passed through this old high
and dry education who were satisfied with it. Those who came from the
greater schools usually did nothing there, and have abused the system

And yet the system goes on, and the Eton Latin grammar will probably be
taught, and hexameters written, for another generation. Surely the needle
swings here too strongly towards the negative or obstructive pole.

The instances are so numerous in social and practical life in which it is
necessary to look at both sides of the shield that the difficulty is in
selection. Take the case of patriotism. Patriotism is beyond all doubt
a great virtue—in fact, the fertile mother of many of the higher and
heroic virtues. Who does not sympathise with the legends of Wallace and
William Tell, and scorn with Walter Scott

          the man with soul so dead
    Who never to himself has said,
    This is my own, my native land?

And yet how thin a line of partition separates it from narrow-minded
arrogance and insolent ignorance! Reflected in the latter form from
Paris, in hysterical shouts now of ‘À Berlin, À Berlin!’ and now ‘À
bas perfide Albion!’ we call it ‘Chauvinism,’ and recognise it as an
unlovely exhibition. But call it ‘Jingoism,’ and let it take the form
of the bellowings of some stupid bull, as the red flag, now of a French
and now of a Russian scare, crosses his line of vision, and we are
blind to its deformity. Still there is another side to the shield, for
even ‘Jingoism,’ which is only another word for patriotism run mad,
is more respectable than the opposite extreme of a sordid and narrow
minded parochialism, which shrinks behind the ‘silver streak,’ measures
everything by the standard of pounds, shillings, and pence, and, with
what Tennyson calls

    The craven fear of being great,

groans over the responsibilities of extended empire. The growth of such
a spirit among prominent politicians of the advanced Liberal school
seems to me one of the most alarming symptoms of the day; but I take
comfort when I reflect that the most democratic community in the world,
that of the United States, is precisely the one which has shown most
determination to maintain its national greatness, if necessary by the
sword, and has made the greatest sacrifices for that object. If the
‘copperheads’ were a miserable minority in America, why should we be
afraid of our ‘English copperheads’ ever becoming a majority in Old

In this, as in all similar cases, it is evident that true statesmanship
consists in hitting the happy mean, and doing the right thing at the
right time; and that true strength stands firm in the middle between
the two opposite poles, while weakness is drawn by one or other of the
conflicting attractions into

    The falsehood of extremes.

When Sir Robert Peel some forty years ago announced his conversion by the
unadorned eloquence of Richard Cobden, and free trade was inaugurated,
with results which were attended with the most brilliant success, every
one expected that the conversion of the rest of the civilised world was
only a question of time, and that a short time. Few would have been found
bold enough to predict that forty years later England would stand almost
alone in the world in adherence to free-trade principles, and that the
protectionist heresy would not only be strengthened and confirmed among
Continental nations such as France and Germany, but actually adopted by
large and increasing majorities in the United States, Canada, Australia,
and other English-speaking communities. Yet such is the actual fact at
the present day. In spite of the Cobden Club and of arguments which
to the average English mind appear irresistible, free trade has been
steadily losing ground for the last twenty years, and nation after
nation, colony after colony, sees its protectionist majority increasing
and its free-trade minority dwindling.

It is evident there must be some real cause for such a universal
phenomenon. In countries like France and Russia we may attribute it to
economical ignorance and the influence of cliques of manufacturers and
selfish interests; but the people of Germany, and still more of the
United States, Canada, and Australia, are as intelligent as ourselves,
and quite as shrewd in seeing where those interests really lie. They are
fettered by no traditional prejudices, and their political instincts
rather lie towards freedom and against the creation of anything like
an aristocracy of wealthy manufacturers. And yet, after years of
free discussion, they have become more and more hardened in their
protectionist heresies.

What does this prove? That there are two sides to the shield, and not, as
we fancied in our English insularity, only one.

Free trade is undoubtedly the best, or rather the only possible, policy
for a country like England, with thirty millions of inhabitants,
producing food for less than half the number, and depending on foreign
trade for the supplies necessary to keep the other half alive. It is the
best policy also for a country which, owing to its mineral resources,
its accessibility by sea to markets, its accumulated capital, and the
inherited qualities, physical and moral, of its working population, has
unrivalled advantages for cheap production. Nor can any dispassionate
observer dispute that in England, which is such a country, free trade
has worked well. It has not worked miracles, it has not introduced an
industrial millennium, the poor are still with us, and it has not saved
us from our share of commercial depressions. But, on the whole, national
wealth has greatly increased, and, what is more important, national
well-being has increased with it, the mass of the population, and
especially the working classes, get better wages, work shorter hours, and
are better fed, better clothed, and better educated than they were forty
years ago.

This is one side of the shield, and it is really a golden and not an
illusory one. But look at the other side. Take the case of a country
where totally opposite conditions prevail: where there is no surplus
population, unlimited land, limited capital, labour scarce and dear, and
no possibility of competing in the foreign or even in the home market
with the manufactures which, with free trade, would be poured in by
countries like England, in prior possession of all the elements of cheap
production. It is by no means so clear that protection, to enable native
industries to take root and grow, may not in such cases be the wisest

Take as a simple illustration the case of an Australian colony imposing
an import duty on foreign boots and shoes. There is not a doubt that
this is practically taxing the immense majority of colonists who wear
and do not make these articles. But, on the other hand, it makes the
colony a possible field for emigration for all the shoemakers of Europe,
and shoemaking a trade to which any Australian with a large family can
bring up one of his sons. Looking at it from the strict point of view of
the most rigid political economist, the maximum production of wealth,
which is the better policy? The production of wealth, we must recollect,
depends on labour, and productive labour depends on the labourer finding
his tools—that is, employment at which he can work. A labourer who cannot
find work at living wages is worse than a zero: he is a negative quantity
as far as the accumulation of wealth is concerned. On the other hand,
every workman who finds work, even if it may not be of the ideally best
description, is a wealth-producing machine. What he spends on himself and
his family gives employment to other workmen, and the work must be poor
indeed if the produce of a year’s labour is not more than the cost of a
year’s subsistence. The surplus adds to the national capital, and thus
capital and population go on increasing in geometrical progression. The
first problem, therefore, for a new or a backward country is to find ‘a
fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work,’ for as many hands as possible.
The problem of making that employment the most productive possible is
a secondary one, which will solve itself in each case rather by actual
practice than by abstract theory.

This much, however, is pretty clear, that in order to secure the maximum
of employment it must be varied. All are not fit for agricultural work,
and, even if they were, if the conditions of soil and climate favour
large estates and sheep or cattle runs rather than small farms, a large
amount of capital may provide work for only a small number of labourers.
On social and moral grounds, also, apart from dry considerations of
political economy, progress intelligence and a higher standard of
life are more likely to be found with large cities, manufactures, and
a variety of industrial occupations than with a dead level of a few
millionaires and a few shepherds, or of a few landlords and a dense
population of poor peasants. If protection is the price which must be
paid to render such a larger life possible, it may be sound policy to
pay it, and the result seems to show that neither it nor free trade is
inconsistent with rapid progress, while, on the other hand, neither of
them affords an absolute immunity from the evils that dog the footsteps
of progress, and from the periods of reaction and depression which
accompany vicissitudes of trade.

Here, as in other cases, there are two sides of the shield, and true
statesmanship consists in seeing both, and doing the right thing, at the
right place, and at the right time. If free trade is, as we believe,
ultimately to prevail, it will be an affair of time. The real trial of
protection comes when it has stimulated production to a point which gluts
the home market and leaves a surplus which must be exported. Exports of
articles the cost of which has been artificially raised by protection,
cannot compete in the world’s market with the cheaper products of
free-trade countries. Vicissitudes therefore of prosperity and depression
must tend to become more frequent and more severe, and, if production
goes on, a point must be reached where, at whatever cost, it must either
be arrested or made capable of competing in the wider market. The United
States are probably not far from such a point, and it would have been
already reached but for the immense and unexhausted resources of that
vast continent. In France the point has apparently been reached, and we
find that, with a lower scale of wages than in England, it is becoming
more and more difficult every day to maintain that lower scale, and the
export trade of its manufactured goods to foreign markets.

Protection, leading to higher wages and profits than can be permanently
maintained, and artificially enhancing the cost of living to the working
classes, threatens, more and more every day, to introduce strained
relations between capital and labour in most countries of Europe.

The relation between capital and labour affords a good instance of the
inevitable error of applying hard and fast logical conclusions to the
complex and ever-varying problems of actual life. Ricardo and other
distinguished writers on political economy have assumed that the two
constitute a fundamental antagonistic polarity. Wealth, they say, is the
joint product of capital and labour, and, as in the case of a cake which
has to be divided between C and L, the more C gets the less is left for
L, and _vice versâ_. The theory sounds plausible: but what says fact? In
the most unmistakable manner it pronounces, as the outcome of practical
experience, that the profits of capital and the wages of labour rise
and fall together. High profits mean high wages, rising profits rising
wages, falling profits falling wages. It has been proved so in a thousand
instances, and not one can be quoted where the one factor has varied in
an inverse, and not in a direct, ratio with the other. It is obvious that
there must be some fallacy in Ricardo’s argument. The fallacy is this: he
assumes the cake to be of fixed dimensions, whereas in point of fact it
varies, sometimes diminishing to zero, or even to a negative quantity,
at others expanding to many times its original size. A new gold-field is
discovered in a remote country, and forthwith profits rise to cent. per
cent., and wages to a pound a day; a bad season and depression of trade
overtake an old country, and the gross value of the produce of many a
farm is insufficient to cover expenses and depreciation, even if the
labourers worked for nothing. The polarity is therefore confined to the
limited and temporary case of the division of the profit, where there
is a profit, in particular trades and in individual instances. And this
is regulated mainly by the accustomed scale of wages and standard of
living of the workmen, and their opportunities of finding employment
elsewhere if dissatisfied with the terms offered to them. On the whole,
it may be said that capital has the best of it on a rising, and wages on
a falling, market. A manufacturer or mine-owner’s profit may rise from
five to twenty per cent. without quadrupling the rate of wages; but, on
the other hand, it may fall from twenty per cent. to five, or even for a
time below zero, without a proportionate diminution in the price paid for
labour. Capital is, in fact, the great insurer of labour, the flywheel
which regulates the motion of the industrial machine. This will be best
illustrated by a practical instance. The Brighton Railway Company for
several consecutive years paid no dividend, or only a trifling amount,
on the shareholders’ capital, but during the whole of this time it gave
steady employment at good wages to upwards of ten thousand workmen.
The Blaenavon Coal and Iron Company in South Wales was for many years
a losing concern, and successive capitalists lost the best part of a
million pounds in it, until at length it was reorganised with a small
capital and became a fairly prosperous concern. During the whole of this
time it gave employment at fair wages to several thousand workmen. Which
had the best of it in these two cases, capital or labour, and where
would the workmen have been on any communistic or co-operative system?
In fact it will be apparent to any one who will study dispassionately
the statistics of any line of inquiry, such as the scale of wages, the
price of provisions, the accumulations of savings banks and provident
societies, &c., for the last twenty years, that the working classes have
had the lion’s share of the vast increase which has taken place in the
wealth and income of the nation. I am glad that it is so, for it is
better, both morally and politically, that the condition of the masses
should be improved, and their standard of living raised, than that
capital should accumulate too exclusively in large masses.

Still there is a good deal to be said for such large accumulations.
Let us go to the United States of America for an illustration, where
everything is on a large scale, and colossal fortunes have been made in
a few years. The _modus operandi_ by which most of these fortunes have
been made may be described according to the way we look at it, either
as railway jobbing or as pioneering the way in useful enterprise. The
construction of the first railway across the continent to California
is a typical instance. A clique or syndicate of wealthy speculators
make surveys and estimates of a line across deserts and over mountain
ranges, and ascertain pretty accurately what it will cost. They form
a company with a capital of double that cost, and by subventions from
the Government, grants of land, and sale of mortgage bonds, raise the
half really required, and hold the other half in shares as profit in
paper. The line is made, and if the traffic turns out well, and there
is a period of speculation in the money market, the paper is turned
into dollars, and, if the line really costs, say, 10,000,000_l._ or
20,000,000_l._, the promoters realise an equal amount as profit.

This has two sides to it: it is doubtless bad for the public to have
to pay rates which give a return on twice the actual cost, and the
possession of a close monopoly in the hands of a few millionaires may
be abused to the detriment of individual traders. But, on the other
hand, the railway could not have been made in any other way. If it had
been necessary to wait until the slow growth of population insured such
a traffic as would induce the ordinary public to subscribe for shares
at par, you might have waited for twenty years before a single mile of
railway was made west of the Mississippi. Nor is this all: the enormous
profit realised in the first of these enterprises led to a rush of rich
speculators into the lottery of pushing railways ahead of traffic, in
which there were such magnificent prizes. The continent was covered by
new railways built to create new traffic rather than to provide for
that which already existed. And the traffic was created, though, as
the lottery contained blanks as well as prizes, many of the original
promoters were ruined. The second great line spanning the continent—the
Northern Pacific—ruined two successive sets of promoters, and is only now
beginning to be moderately successful.

But the final result has been that while British India, which went on
what may be called the respectable system of getting a pound’s worth of
work for every pound raised, has only 12,000 miles of railway, the United
States, under the speculative system, has got 120,000 miles. I cannot
doubt that the national wealth of America is greater at the present day
than if there had been no Jay Goulds or Vanderbilts, and the construction
of her railways had been delayed on the average for twenty years.

The contrast between labour and capital or free trade and protection is
only a particular case of the larger polarity between what is called in
scientific language egoism and altruism, or, in more popular phraseology,
individualism and socialism. According to one theory, the best result
is obtained by leaving individuals as free as possible to act on
their own suggestions of their duties and interests, and confining the
intervention of the State to enforcing laws for the protection of life
and property, and such measures as are obviously necessary for the safety
of society. According to the other theory, the State ought to interfere
wherever the results of individual liberty lead to abuses, and should
endeavour to create a society as near to ideal perfection as possible,
by administering and regulating the public and private affairs of its
citizens. It is obvious that the question has two sides, that extreme
conclusions in either direction are, as is always the case, invariably
false. Individualism carried too far would disintegrate society. It would
be impossible to leave it to the short-sighted selfishness of every
citizen to say whether an army and navy should be maintained for national
defence, and taxes should be levied for their support.

Individualism also easily passes over into a hard and cruel selfishness,
which recognises no obligation beyond the letter of the law, and acts
practically on the principle of ‘Every one for himself, and the devil
take the hindmost.’ It is this phase of individualism which makes
enthusiasts and men of strong moral and religious sympathies declaim so
vehemently against _laissez faire_, and cry aloud, like Carlyle, for a
hero or benevolent despot who is to scourge humanity into the practice of
all the virtues.

On the other hand, Socialism, if not confined within rigid limits
of experience and common sense, is even more destructive in its
consequences. Civilised society is based on the security of private
property and the observance of contracts. If these are liable, not
merely to be regulated in extreme and exceptional cases, but to be
absolutely condemned in principle, as by Socialists of the Proudhon
school, who declare, ‘La propriété c’est le vol;’ or overruled and set
aside whenever they are thought to conflict with humanitarian scruples or
sentimental aspirations, society would be dissolved into its elements,
to crystallise anew about some military dictator or other strong form
of repressive government, who could restore it to a state of stable
equilibrium in accordance with these fundamental laws.

No society based on the community of goods has ever existed, except on a
very limited scale and for a very short time, under some strong temporary
influence such as religious excitement. In the early Christian Church it
only existed as long as its members were a handful of humble individuals
who were impressed with the idea that the end of the world was close at
hand, and that sacrifices made on earth would be repaid at an early day
with compound interest in heaven. They acted on what was almost as much a
principle of enlightened selfishness as if they had placed their money on
the best possible security at the highest possible interest.

The only existing society, as far as I am aware, which has everything
in common, is a small sect of Shakers in the United States, which owes
its limited success to two conditions—first, that there is no marrying
or giving in marriage; secondly, that a member invented a patent
rat-trap—conditions which are hardly likely to survive in the struggle
for life and become a type for general adoption.

The nearest approach to Communism in practical operation on a large
scale is that of the village communities of Russia and parts of India,
which certainly show no signs of being progressive types destined to
gain ground. On the contrary, they fail to fulfil what is the first
condition of an agricultural community, that of obtaining a fair average
produce from the soil, and the more enterprising and intelligent moujiks
or ryots invariably seek to obtain something which they can call their
own and are not obliged to share with the idle and improvident. A
conclusive objection to all schemes of Socialism or Communism is, that
they not only crush out all individual initiative and enterprise in
material life, but that they also destroy all incentives to individual
charity and benevolence. Why make sacrifices to help others, if they
are already helped at your expense by the State? This is no theoretical
objection, but has been proved practically by the history of the poor
laws. What scope for individual charity was there in a parish like that
in Buckinghamshire, where under the old poor law the rate had risen
to twenty shillings in the pound, and the cultivation of the soil was
abandoned? Or even in less extreme cases, any one who is acquainted with
remote rural parishes inhabited by cotters and small farmers must be
aware that the poor law operates strongly to destroy the feeling of manly
independence and family affection which induced the poor to support their
own aged and infirm relatives.

In many parts of Scotland with which I am personally acquainted men who
a generation ago would have thought it a disgrace to ask for help to
support an aged father or mother, now think it only fair play, after
having contributed for years to the poor rate, to try and get something
out of it in return.

Altruism, as Herbert Spencer well puts it, if carried to excess, defeats
itself, for in annihilating egoistic vices it annihilates egoistic
virtues, and the result is zero—a result which, as ‘nature abhors a
vacuum,’ can happily never be attained, and the precepts of the Sermon on
the Mount must always remain maxims of private morality, rather than of
State regulation.

It is of little use, however, to deal with such generalities; as long as
we confine ourselves to extreme instances on either side, it is as easy
as it is idle to refute them. Profitable discussion only begins when
we enter on the wide intermediate space which lies between the extreme
frontier provinces, and, instead of arguing for absolute conclusions,
endeavour to discover the happy mean in doubtful cases, where there
really are limitations of time and circumstance, and a good deal which
may be reasonably said on each side of the question.

Take for instance the case of contract, which has been so much discussed
with reference to the Irish question. Nothing can be clearer than
that the enforcement of contracts is one of the principal duties of a
government. The principle of _caveat emptor_ may occasionally lead to
results not altogether consistent with strict morality; but there will
always be fools in the world, and it is better they should pay for their
folly than that the State should be perpetually interfering in the vain
attempt to protect them. The bargain may be a bad one, but it is far
better that men should be held to their bargains than that every loser
should have a loophole provided to escape by appealing to some legal
quibble or State-provided tribunal of arbitration.

But there are limits to this salutary principle. The contract must be
a free one, freely entered into by parties who meet on equal terms. If
it is a compulsory one, which the weaker party has practically no option
of refusing, the case is altered. Thus, in the case of children, it is
absurd to say that they are free agents in contracting for the disposal
of their labour, and the State properly interferes by Factory Acts to
limit the number of hours for which they are to work. So in the relations
between landlord and tenant, whenever they meet on equal terms, and
the tenant has an option of either taking or refusing to take a farm
at the rent asked, both sides must be held to their bargain, however
disadvantageous it may turn out for either of them. But if the landlord
is practically omnipotent, and the tenant has no alternative but to
promise to pay an impossible rent or to be turned out on the roadside
and die of starvation, it is by no means so clear that the State should
enforce the bargain unless the landlord submits to equitable terms. Or
again, if the rent is not due to the intrinsic value of the land, but
is a confiscation of the tenant’s improvements, it is far from being
self-evident that the law should look only at landlords’ rights and
forget all about landlords’ duties.

It is a question rather of fact than of argument or assertion, whether
such a state of things does or does not prevail at any particular time
in any particular country. If the contracts were fair bargains entered
into by free agents, they ought to be enforced whether prices have risen
or fallen, leaving it to the humanity and self-interest of landlords to
make reasonable reductions. But if they were no more equal bargains than
those of slaves or factory-children, the State might fairly interfere to
attach equitable conditions to the enforcement of inequitable contracts.

The antithesis between the rights and duties of property, especially in
the case of land, is one which raises many nice and difficult questions.
Some theorists, like Henry George, are for solving it by ignoring the
rights altogether. According to them, private property in land is the
source of all the evils that afflict modern society; poverty, depressions
of trade, low profits, and low wages are caused by the constant drift
towards high rents, due to the possession by a small section of the
community of a monopoly in that which is as much a necessity of existence
as air or water. Abolish private property in land, and straightway you
will have the millennium.

In this extreme form the fallacy of the argument is obvious. You cannot
stop at land, but must have the courage of your opinion, and go the full
length, with Proudhon, of denouncing all property as robbery. For if the
right of individual property is the first condition of civilised society,
you can hardly exclude that form of it which, in all ages and all
countries, has been practically the most powerful incentive to progress
and civilisation.

Compare the United States of America under their homestead laws, with
Russia under a system of village communes; or the California of to-day
with that of fifty years ago under the Jesuit padres; and you will see
that the desire to acquire property in land has been what may be called
the high-pressure steam supplying the motive power to reclaim continents
and multiply population.

Nor in principle is there any argument for the confiscation of land
which would not equally apply to the confiscation of any other sort
of property, when theorists, philanthropic at other people’s expense,
thought that the owner had more than was good for him, or had acquired
it as an unearned increment, without working for it. Suppose two men, A
and B, employed as engine-drivers on an American railway, have each saved
a hundred dollars. The railway has been a failure: intended to reach a
distant terminus, it has stopped halfway in a desert, for want of funds,
and for years has paid no dividend. The hundred-dollar shares are only
worth ten, and the land at the distant terminus is only worth ten dollars
an acre. But A and B are sharp fellows, and see that if speculation
ever revives the line will probably be completed, and both shares and
land will become valuable. A buys ten shares with his hundred dollars,
and B ten acres of land. The boom comes, the capital is found, the line
completed, and the shares rise to par, and the land to a hundred dollars
an acre. A and B have each realised nine hundred dollars by what may be
described, as you like to put it, either as an unearned increment or as
providence and foresight. On what principle can you confiscate B’s nine
hundred dollars because it is in land, and leave A’s untouched because it
is in shares?

On the other hand, there is no doubt that when we come to more complex
cases, in which land is held in large masses, fenced in, not by the
natural right of a man to the produce of his own exertions, but by
artificial legal systems of inheritance and settlement, we are on
neutral ground, where fair discussion is possible as to the limitations
and conditions under which the State may afford its protection. Landed
property is more the creature of law, and runs greater risks in case of
revolution or communistic legislation, than personal property, which is
more easily concealed or transferred. It is not unreasonable, therefore,
that it should pay a higher insurance in the form of taxation, and
especially when it passes by inheritance or settlement, when the new
owner’s title is to a great extent artificial and the creation of the
law. No one can dispute the abstract justice of a succession duty on
all property, landed or personal, in proportion to its amount, passing
by operation of law: the only question can be as to the amount, and
the expediency of confining it within limits that shall not trench on
confiscation or impair the desire to accumulate capital. And in the case
of land, there is no doubt that there are a good many instances in which
the question of the ‘unearned increment’ is raised more forcibly than in
the case of ordinary property. Take a practical instance within my own
knowledge, for an illustration is often better than an argument. There
was a mountain property in Wales which, as a sheep or cattle farm, might
be worth at the outside 800_l._ a year. Coal and iron were discovered
under it, capitalists sank pits and erected works, two or three sets
lost their money; but the works were carried on, a large amount of
labour was employed, and in course of time a town of some eight or nine
thousand inhabitants, sprang up. The proprietor’s 800_l._ a year grew
into 8,000_l._ from fixed rents and royalties, which he has enjoyed for
the last thirty years, through good times and bad, without being called
on to contribute a penny towards schools, churches, roads, sewers, water,
or any of the local objects necessary for the civilised existence of the
population of eight thousand whose labour has added to his wealth. I do
not blame him: the law told him to do what he liked with his own, and
it probably never occurred to him that he was under any moral obligation
to go beyond the law. But I do think that the law would have been more
just, and better for the interests of the community, if it had made
some portion of this unearned increment of 7,000_l._ a year liable for
a contribution towards the sanitary and other objects essential for the
decent existence of the town which had grown up on this property and
given it this increased value. I cannot help thinking that centuries of
landlord legislation, and of a public opinion based mainly on that of the
wealthy and specially of the landed classes, have made our laws in many
respects too favourable to the predominant interests, and that the swing
of the pendulum now is, and properly is, in the direction of recognising
the duties as well as the rights of property.

We must take care, however, not to let it swing too far in this
direction, for of the two evils it is better to put up with occasional
cases of hardship and oppression on the part of bad landlords than to
endanger the security of property by reforms pushed to extremes at the
dictation of impulsive masses, designing demagogues, or sentimental

Herbert Spencer, in his works on Sociology, often dwells with great
force on the evils which arise from State interference. There can be no
doubt that it is very undesirable that the State should become a sort
of Jack-of-all-trades, and undertake branches of business which can be
conducted by private enterprise. It is undesirable for two reasons:
first, because the work is certain to cost more and be worse done;
secondly, for the still more important reason that it tends to extinguish
individual enterprise, strangle progress with red-tape, and teach a
nation to look, like children to outside guidance, rather than, like
men to their own. Still the question has two sides. Whatever individual
enterprise can do should be left to it; but there are, in the complex
conditions of modern society, a number of things which cannot be done by
individuals, and which must either be left undone or done by the State,
or by some local authority, joint-stock company, or other quasi-monopoly
sanctioned by the State. Thus, if it were a question of bringing coals
from Newcastle by sea, no one would suggest that the State should
interfere with the private enterprise of individual shipowners. But to
bring them by land requires railways, and railways can only be built by
capitals beyond the reach of private individuals. If the State had not
delegated a portion of its powers to joint-stock companies, not a ton of
coal would ever have been brought by land to London.

And if the State may thus occasionally delegate its powers with advantage
to the community, there are cases in which it may, with equal advantage,
undertake itself branches of the nation’s business. For instance, the
Postal Service. The advantages of a cheap and uniform system for the
collection and delivery of letters throughout the whole kingdom are
so great that they far outweigh any theoretical objections to State
interference. Possibly some of the larger towns might have been as well
or better served by private enterprise, but no non-paying district would
have had a post-office, and the enormous commercial and educational
benefits of the penny post would have been in a great measure lost to the

The case of telegraphs is not so clear. Probably, on the whole, the
advantages of a uniform State management preponderate, but there are
drawbacks which make it doubtful. Even at a sixpenny rate a great deal
of the telegraphic communication of the large towns and active centres
of business is taxed to make up for the deficiency of the rest of the
kingdom. And invention and improvement in telegraphy are no doubt checked
to a considerable extent by creating a State monopoly whose first duty it
is to try to satisfy its masters at the Treasury by making the system pay.

When we come to railways we are on debateable ground, and it is fairly
arguable that they should be worked by the State for the public good.
But the objections here outweigh the advantages. Every one who has any
practical experience of the working of railways must be aware that
the simplicity and uniformity of the penny postal system are totally
inapplicable, and that the traffic of the country requires, above all
things, great freedom and elasticity in meeting, day by day, the varying
contingencies which arise. Here is an illustration: In a certain town
in France, on a railway worked by the State, it was determined to have
a _fête_ in order to raise funds for a hospital, and, as an attraction,
to bring down from Paris a small troop of actors and have a play in the
evening. The question turned on the railway consenting to give them a
reduced fare for the return journey. The manager of the railway was
quite willing, but said that he had no power to alter the tariff without
permission from the Minister of Public Works. The permission was applied
for, and the result was that it arrived exactly on the day twelve months
after the _fête_ had been held.

Contrast this with the case of the general manager of the London and
North Western Railway sitting in his office at Euston and receiving half
a dozen telegrams asking him to quote special rates, one perhaps for beef
from Chicago to London, another for emigrants from Hamburg to New York
_via_ Liverpool, and all requiring telegraphic answers then and there, if
the business is to be done at all.

Again, if railways had been in the hands of the State, I do not suppose
that we should have had half our present mileage; for the Treasury would
never have sanctioned the outlay of public money on lines which could
not show the prospect of a fair return on the capital, and it would
have vetoed any multiplication of trains or reduction of rates which
threatened loss to the exchequer. I can speak with some authority on this
point, for I have been both Chairman of a railway company and Secretary
of the Treasury, and I am certain that, in the former capacity, I have
introduced important innovations, such as excursion trains and cheap
periodical tickets, by which the public have greatly benefited, which I
should have vetoed in the latter capacity.

Still there may be exceptional cases, as that of Ireland, where an
unreasonable number of poor companies, in a poor country, wrangling among
themselves, and giving a bad service at an excessive cost, intensify
social and political evils, where the arguments in favour of a State
purchase may outweigh the objections; and the extent and nature of
State control over British railways is always a question fairly open to

In other departments, the supply of articles such as water and gas, and
the enforcement of sanitary conditions, are probably best left to local
authorities: in the latter case, under some central supervision to see
that the duty is not evaded. Wherever neglect involves danger to others,
as in the case of small-pox and other contagious epidemics, it is clear
that the decision cannot be left to individuals, and the State is bound
to interfere to enforce rational precautions.

So also the State is bound to undertake trades which are essential for
the protection of the nation against foreign enemies. Our dockyards
and arsenals may, and doubtless do, often make mistakes and turn out
expensive work; but we could not safely leave the building of ironclads
and supply of cannon solely to private enterprise, for there is no such
large and steady demand for such articles as would induce a number of
private firms to erect works and keep up establishments adequate to
supply the wants which might arise in an emergency. In all such matters,
therefore, of national defence we must put up with a certain amount
of drawbacks incidental to State management, and confine ourselves
to endeavouring to reduce them to a minimum. And this is to a great
extent within the power of the nation and its Parliament, by applying
common-sense principles of business to national expenditure, and seeing
that while on the one hand we get as nearly as possible a pound’s
worth of work for every pound spent, on the other hand we do not spend
nineteen shillings uselessly, because some Chancellor of the Exchequer
wants to gain momentary popularity by the ‘penny wise and pound foolish’
economy of docking the extra shilling off the necessary estimates. In
private life a man gets on by knowing when to spend as well as when not
to spend, and true economy has no greater foe than spasmodic parsimony
alternating almost certainly with spasmodic extravagance. It would be
easy to multiply instances, for there are few phases of political and
practical life to which the principle of polarity does not apply, where
extremes are not false, and where there is not a good deal to be said on
both sides of the question. But the very obviousness of the principle
makes it difficult to deal with it generally without degenerating into
commonplace, while to trace its application exhaustively in any one
instance would require a volume. Those who wish to pursue the subject
further will do well to study the works of Herbert Spencer, where they
will find the application of general principles to all the problems of
sociology treated with a depth of philosophic insight and an abundance
and aptness of illustration which I cannot pretend to equal. My ambition
is of a humbler nature. I do not expect to set the Thames on fire,
or to produce a revolution in modern thought; but I do hope that the
views which I have endeavoured to express may do somewhat to make some
readers more tolerant and charitable in their judgments, less bitter and
one-sided in controversy; and that whatever truth there may be in my
ideas will contribute to form a small part, neither more nor less than
it deserves, of the great body of truth which is handed down from the
present to succeeding generations, and which becomes, long after I am
there to witness it, the inheritance of the human race in the course of
its evolution.

And now, before I take my final leave of the reader, let me for a few
moments throw the reins on the neck of fancy, and suppose myself standing
with that group of Parsees by the shore of the Indian Ocean, listening to
its murmured rhythm, inhaling the balmy air, watching the silver crescent
of the new moon, and musing on the wise sayings of the ancient sage;
the sum of the reflections which I have tried to embody in the preceding
pages would take form and crystallise in the following sonnet:—

    Hail! gracious Ormuzd, author of all good,
    Spirit of beauty, purity, and light;
    Teach me like thee to hate dark deeds of night,
    And battle ever with the hellish brood
    Of Ahriman, dread prince of evil mood—
    Father of lies, uncleanness, envious spite,
    Thefts, murders, sensual sins that shun the light,
    Unreason, ugliness, and fancies lewd—
    Grant me, bright Ormuzd, in thy ranks to stand,
    A valiant soldier faithful to the end;
    So when I leave this life’s familiar strand,
    Bound for the great Unknown, shall I commend
    My soul, if soul survive, into thy hand—
    Fearless of fate if thou thine aid will lend.


    Abraham, 186.

    Accumulator, the electric, 63, 64.

    Acetic ether, 73, 74.

    Acids, 69, 70.

    Aerobes, 87, 88.

    Affinities, chemical, 51, 52, 55, 68;
      of Zoroastrianism and art, 212.

    Agriculture, 245.

    Ahriman, 4, 180, 202, 203, 265.

    Air, a cubic centimetre of, 20;
      pressure of, 24, 25.

    Aleutian Islands, 97.

    Alga, 95, 105;
      forests of the, 97.

    Algonquins, funeral custom, 149.

    Alizarine manufactured, 86.

    Alkalies, 69, 70.

    America, woman in, 111, 112;
      respect for law in, 235.

    Amœba, 76, 77, 82;
      propagation of the, 103, 104, 117.

    Amos, 187.

    Anemone, sea, 104.

    Angiosperms, 98.

    Animal life, 92, 93;
      Zoroaster enjoins kindness to, 207.

    Aquarium, 93;
      nature one huge, 101.

    Arnold, Matthew, 207;
      definition of the Deity by, 171.

    Aryan race, divisions of the, 199;
      religion of the, 200;
      language, 200.

    Assur, 153.

    Astronomy, 5;
      in early religions, 153.

    Athanasian Creed, 181-183.

    Atlantic cable, 60, 61.

    Atoms, 5, 10, 14;
      weight of, 15-17;
      theory of, 16;
      elementary, 18;
      and their laws, 19, 22, 25;
      vibrations of, 26;
      and ether, 32;
      and the vortex theory, 33, 34, 36;
      action of heat on, 43;
      and chemical energy, 50;
      affinities and repulsions of, 51;
      the primary element of matter, 66, 67;
      polarity of, 68;
      in hydrates, 69;
      of hydrogen in acids, 69, 70;
      of oxygen, 70;
      multipolar, 71;
      magnetic, 72;
      dimensions of, 119.

    Augustin, 201.

    Australia, free trade in, 242, 245.

    Authorities to whom the author is indebted, x.

    Atavism, 103, 118.

    Avogadro, law of, 13.

    Axolotl, 123.

    Bacteria, 85, 105.

    Balkh, Zoroaster at, 201.

    Bees, reproduction of, 106.

    Bel, 152, 153.

    Berkeley, Bishop, 142.

    Berlin, spirit-seeing in, 166.

    Blindness cured by hypnotism, 165.

    Bombay, death rate in, 1881, 1882, 218.

    Books, the best mirrors of an age, 111, 112;
      modern French novels, 113.

    Bozu, Buddhist priest upon the Divine Creator, 160, 161.

    Brahm, 114.

    Brahminism, 207.

    Braid, Dr., cures by hypnotism, 165, 168, 193.

    Brain, the, 125, 126;
      tissue of the, 127;
      average weight of the human, 129;
      organs of the, 130, 131;
      areas of speech, hearing, and sight in the, 132;
      intellectual faculties in the, 133;
      abnormal state of the, 134, 135;
      action of the grey tissue of the, 137;
      of the higher animals, 137, 138;
      cells of the, 140;
      action in a murder, 189;
      organ of will in the, 191, 192;
      effect of injuries to the, 192;
      effect of will on the, 194.

    Bret Harte, 110, 112.

    Bruce, legend of the heart of, 228.

    Buddha, 187.

    Buddhism, 156;
      in Shakespeare, 160;
      the Divine Creator in, 160, 161;
      morality of, 160, 184;
      based upon pessimism, 177, 197, 198, 206, 207.

    Burial of the dead, 149;
      prehistoric, 151;
      Parsee avoidance of, 208.

    Butyric acid, 73, 74.

    Byron on the Parsees, 219.

    Calculus, the differential, 6, 28-32, 138.

    California, 256.

    Canterbury, Augustin at, 201.

    Capital and labour, 176, 246-248.

    Carbon, 16, 18, 71;
      in dynamite, 50;
      radicals of, 73, 74, 77;
      in the protoplasm, 80;
      early abundance of, 86;
      in a dead body, 88;
      plant life and, 93.

    Carbonic dioxide, 16, 51, 82, 83, 92, 95, 96;
      in plant life, 101.

    Carlyle, 171, 188, 251.

    Carnegie, Andrew, on modern worship, 219.

    Catholic theology, 147.

    Cause, the Great First, 122, 162;
      Dr. Temple’s definition of, 170;
      evolution of the idea of, 172, 201, 203;
      Zoroaster and, 204;
      the only reasonable theory, 208.

    Cell, the first step in organisms, 78, 79;
      the nucleated multiplication of the, 104.

    Centrifugal force, 89, 90, 117.

    Centripetal force, 89, 90, 117;
      in societies, 233.

    Chaldean legends, 152, 153;
      of the Creation, 193.

    Chalk, formation of, 95.

    Chemical energy in electricity, 60.

    Chemistry, 5, 14, 25;
      elementary substances in, 17, 18, 74;
      energy in, 47;
      a modern law of change, 75;
      and the protoplasm, 84.

    Chinese funeral custom, 149;
      religion, origin of the, 152;
      religion, 156, 159;
      myths, 164;
      faith in a virgin mother, 155.

    Chlorine, 16, 70, 71.

    Christianity, 157, 198;
      the position of women influenced by, 108, 109;
      Pauline, 177;
      the creed of, 180, 181;
      impractical, 182;
      morality of, 184, 185, 188;
      influenced by Oriental asceticism, 212.

    Clausius, 19.

    Cleanliness and religion, 223, 224.

    Clerk Maxwell, 19.

    Coal, 45, 49, 97;
      heat in burning, 61, 62;
      land animals found in, 99.

    Cobden, Richard, 242.

    Colloids, 77, 78, 80.

    Comets, 25;
      supernatural dread of, 164.

    Communism, 252, 253.

    Conceptions, our, 143.

    Confucianism, 184, 198.

    Conservative legislation, 230;
      in England, 235.

    Contract, law of, 254, 255.

    Creation, unknown, 19;
      early myths of the, 152, 153.

    Cromwell, 213.

    Crystals, 10, 26-28.

    Cumming, Dr., 47.

    Darwin, 6, 122, 172;
      his theory of Pangenesis, 119;
      his theory of evolution, 121.

    David, 186.

    Descartes, 141.

    Deus, derivation of the word, 200.

    Deutsch, Emmanuel, on the Talmud, 172, 188.

    Diamond, the, 74, 77.

    Dionæa, 96.

    Dog, will in a, 39, 40;
      sense of right and wrong in a, 193.

    Drummond, Professor, 3.

    Dryopithecus, 100.

    Dynamite, 48, 50, 74, 176.

    Dynamo, the, 61-63.

    Earth, structure of the, 51, 52;
      first temperature of the, 86;
      orbit of the, 22, 89, 117.

    Echidna, the, 124.

    Education, 237-240.

    Egypt, ancient tombs in, 149, 150;
      animal worship in, 150;
      priests in, 152;
      astronomy in, 153, 154;
      a virgin mother worshipped in, 155;
      religious morality in, 184.

    Electric energy, 47;
      light currents, effects of, 57-59;
      telegraph, 59, 60;
      accumulator, 61;
      light, 56, 57, 61;
      engines, 62, 63.

    Electricity, 2, 14;
      ether in, 25;
      nature of, 52-55;
      in pith balls, 52, 53, 71, 72;
      velocity of the current in, 56;
      and magnets, 58, 59;
      storage of, 64.

    Embryology, 106.

    Emerson, vii.

    Energy, 2;
      nature of, 35, 36, 38, 66, 67;
      of motion and position, 37, 48;
      transformation of, 41, 42;
      in heat and light, 43, 44, 47;
      variations of, 47, 48;
      molecular, 49;
      chemical, 50;
      in electricity, 54-57;
      cost of, obtained from zinc, 61, 62;
      conservation of, 62, 63, 139.

    England, conservatism in, 236, 237;
      education in, 237-239;
      free trade in, 243.

    English literature, 111;
      woman in, 112, 113;
      colonisation, 232.

    Eozoon Canadiense, 99.

    Ethelbert, 201.

    Ether, 22, 36;
      density of, 24, 25;
      waves, 26, 43;
      vibrations of, 27;
      attempt to identify, with atoms, 32, 35;
      nature of, 66.

    Evil, origin of, 170, 173;
      attempts to reconcile it with good, 178;
      consistent with theory of God, 173, 202;
      modern treatment of, 224.

    Evolution, 6, 8, 121;
      of religion, 4, 155, 156, 185, 186;
      of matter, 80;
      of life, 100;
      important facts in the history of, 123;
      does not tend to virtue, 173, 176;
      of moral ideas, 186, 191;
      of the horror of murder, 189, 190.

    Fable of the shield, 227-230;
      applied to politics, 230;
      to commerce, 243, 244.

    “Faust” a Zoroastrian drama, 209.

    Ferdousi, 201.

    Fermentation, 87, 88.

    Ferns in the primary epoch, 97.

    Fetish worship, 150.

    Fiji, 149, 189.

    Fire, primitive means of obtaining, 41;
      worship, 207, 220.

    Fish shells in the Tertiary epoch, 98;
      in the Silurian epoch, 99.

    Fungi, 95.

    France, protection in, 246;
      state railways in, 261.

    Franklin, Benjamin, 163.

    French Revolution, 231, 233;
      colonisation, 232;
      trade in a colony, 233.

    Frog with the brain removed, 137.

    Galileo, 147, 164, 205.

    Gallio, 239.

    Gas in dynamite, 51.

    Gases, law of, 11-13;
      in water, 14;
      kinetic theory of, 14, 33;
      substances reduced to, 44;
      expansion of, 45.

    Galton, Mr. F., 240.

    Genesis, the Creation in, 152, 153.

    Geology, 5;
      records of, 96;
      earliest strata of, 97;
      vegetable records in, 96-98;
      animal records in, 99, 100.

    Geometry, 139.

    George, Henry, 256.

    Ghosts, universal belief in, 149-151.

    Glass, 49, 53.

    Globigerena, 95.

    God, Buddhist idea of, 161;
      a magnified man, 170, 171;
      Carlyle on, 171;
      Arnold’s definition of, 171;
      Jewish doctors on, 172;
      prevalent idea of miraculous intervention by, 173;
      the author of good and evil, 179;
      primitive Aryan word for, 200.

    Grammar, 239, 240.

    Gravity, the law of, 5, 16, 48, 49, 121, 144;
      atoms subject to the, 34;
      universal confidence in the, 148;
      a dangerous heresy, 164.

    Greeks, religion amongst the, 155, 156.

    Gushtasp, 201.

    Gymnosperms, 97, 98.

    Haeckel, 119, 122.

    Hale, Justice, 164.

    Halley, 164.

    Haug, Dr., 202, 205.

    Heat, produced by work, 41, 42;
      nature of, 43;
      performs work, 44, 47;
      and electricity, 54, 61;
      and the stability of substances, 74;
      in chemistry, 75.

    Helmholz, 32.

    Hercules, 193, 197.

    Heredity, the principle of, 117-121;
      in education, 240.

    Hesperornis, 123.

    Hillel, morality of, 188.

    Hindoo religion, 152, 156;
      migration, 199.

    Horace, 163.

    Horse, 119.

    Human remains in Tertiary period, 100;
      implements, prehistoric, 144, 145.

    Hume, 162.

    Huxley, Professor, v., vi., 78, 86, 122, 172, 203;
      on spontaneous generation, 85;
      on the protista, 94;
      on the uniformity of law in Nature, 146.

    Hydrates, 69.

    Hydrochloric acid, 16, 70, 71.

    Hydrogen, 11, 13, 16-18, 70, 71, 74, 75;
      composition of, 15;
      in the sun, 26;
      in dynamite, 50;
      in water, 52, 68, 238;
      in the accumulator, 63;
      in acids, 69;
      in the protoplasm, 80;
      in a dead body, 88.

    Hypnotism, 134, 192;
      blindness cured by, 165, 166;
      an old lady dancing through, 193.

    Ibn Ezra, 172.

    India, British railways in, 250.

    Indians, North American, totem of the, 150;
      murder amongst the, 189.

    Indigotine, 86.

    Induction, phenomena of, 58.

    Intellectual faculties, the seat of the, 133, 134.

    Iodine vapour, 75.

    Iranian migration, 199;
      language, 200.

    Ireland, popular ignorance of the land question in, 9;
      rents in, 233, 234;
      contracts in, 254;
      railways in, 262.

    Iron, filings and a magnet, 1, 10, 11, 27;
      contraction of, 49, 50;
      bar and a magnet, 68;
      rust, 68, 81;
      motion of, 83.

    Irving, Edward, 166.

    Isaiah, 187.

    Isomerism, 74.

    Istar, vi.

    Jehovah, gradual conception of, 157, 158, 186.

    Jehuda Hilmi, 172.

    Jesus, on miracles, 168, 169;
      the personification of Ormuzd, 180-183, 204;
      an historical personage, 198;
      adopted a Jewish view of religion, 212.

    Jewish doctors on God, 172;
      gradual development of the, religion, 157;
      morality in the, religion, 186, 187.

    Jijibhoy, Jamsedjee, Sir, 217.

    “Jingoism,” 241.

    Joule, Dr., 42, 46.

    Jupiter, the planet, 22, 25.

    Kant, 141, 142.

    Kesar, 152, 153.

    Knowledge, limits of our, 125-127, 136, 139-141.

    Knox, John, 221.

    Lakman and Lakmana, 152.

    Latimer, 221.

    Law in Nature, 6, 144, 145, 164, 171;
      common, 236.

    Lead, 63.

    Leibnitz, 194.

    Lichens, 95, 96.

    Light, waves, 19, 23, 24, 26-28, 43;
      velocity of, 21, 22;
      energy in, 47;
      electric, 56, 57, 61.

    Lightning conductors, 163.

    Lourdes, miracles at, 168.

    Luther, 198

    Magnet, the, 1, 2, 27, 68, 70, 71;
      nature of, 58.

    Magnetism, vii.

    Mahometanism, 157, 158, 198, 213.

    Maimonides on God, 172.

    Manuals in geology, 100.

    Manufacturers, generous, 217.

    Marriage, 115.

    Mass, the, 223.

    Matter, 10;
      nature of, 66, 67.

    Meat, frozen, 45, 87.

    Mechanical action in life, 39, 40, 91;
      power, 41;
      process in nerve action, 129, 130.

    Menai Bridge, 50.

    Mercury, 17, 44.

    Metrical system, the, 42.

    Mexican myths, 154, 155.

    Microcrith, 15.

    Microscope, 11, 239.

    Mill, John Stuart, 161.

    Milton, 209, 213.

    Miracles, 6;
      a question of evidence, 162, 163;
      early belief in, 164;
      uselessness of ordinary, 167, 170;
      not found in Zoroastrianism, 204.

    Molecules, 5, 10, 12, 22, 25;
      weight of, 13;
      in chemistry, 14;
      of oxygen and hydrogen, 15;
      composition of, 18;
      in a cubic centimetre of air, 20;
      vibrations of, 26;
      the vortex theory of, 33, 34;
      action of heat on, 43-46;
      of nitrogen, 50;
      nature of, 67;
      complex, 73;
      of monera, 79;
      of the protoplasm, 80, 81.

    Molecular energies, 47, 49.

    Monera, 79, 94;
      reproduction of the, 103, 117.

    Monogamy, 109.

    Monotheism, 156.

    Moon, worship of the, 102, 153;
      Parsee worship of the, 219.

    Morality, in religions, 108, 184-188;
      in nations, 110;
      origin of, 190, 191.

    Mormonism, 213.

    Motion, of living beings, 83;
      independent of will in the brain, 137, 192.

    Music in religion, 222.

    Murder, 189, 190.

    Nerves, 129, 130;
      divisions of the, 131;
      channels of the, 133.

    Newcome, Colonel, 211.

    Newman, Cardinal, 147, 148, 159.

    Newton, 16, 17, 28, 121, 138, 144, 205.

    Nickel, a magnet, 68.

    Nicolai, visions seen by, 166.

    Nitric acid, 69.

    Nitrogen, 18, 69, 88;
      in dynamite, 50, 51;
      in the protoplasm, 80.

    Nitro-glycerine (dynamite), 50, 51.

    Nitrous oxide, 51.

    Northumberland House, lion on, 167.

    Novelists, English, 111.

    Nummulitic limestone, 94, 95.

    Nursery rhymes, 142.

    Nutrition, 81.

    Octoroon, 118.

    Oersted, 59.

    Optimism, 176.

    Ormuzd, 3, 4;
      Jesus the modern, 180-182;
      a definition of, 201, 202;
      homage due to, 203;
      sonnet to, 265.

    Oxide of iron, 43, 81.

    Oxygen, 11, 13, 14, 18, 57, 238;
      composition of, 15;
      is universal, 16;
      weight of an atom of, 16;
      and iron, 43;
      in dynamite, 50;
      affinities of, 52;
      in the accumulator, 63;
      in water, 68, 75;
      bipolar, 70;
      in the protoplasm, 80;
      in contact with dead bodies, 88;
      and animal life, 93, 96;
      in plant life, 101.

    Palgrave, 158.

    Pangenesis, 119.

    Pantheism, in China, 156;
      prevalence of, 159, 160.

    Paris, 241.

    Parsees, the, 199;
      creed of the, 205;
      rites of the, 207, 208;
      the distinguishing characteristics of the, 214-216;
      women amongst, 215, 216;
      a commercial people, 217;
      death rate amongst the, 218;
      Byron on the, 219;
      modern worship of the, 219, 264.

    Parthenogenesis, 106.

    Pasteur, 87.

    Patriotism, 240, 241.

    Peel, Sir Robert, 242.

    Pendulum, 37.

    Perceptions, the basis of knowledge, 125, 140.

    Permian formation, 97;
      reptiles in the, 99.

    Perron, Anquetil du, 203.

    Peruvian myths, 154, 155.

    Pessimism, 177, 178.

    Pharisees, 168, 169.

    Philo, 187.

    Philosophy, and the unknown, 141;
      in Eastern religion, 160.

    Physical conditions and religious progress, 224.

    Pigeon with the brain removed, 137, 192.

    Pith-balls, electricity in, 52, 53, 71, 72.

    Planet worship, 155.

    Plant life, 82, 92, 93;
      reproduction of, 84, 105;
      food, 95;
      fly-eating, 96;
      gradual appearance in geology of, 97;
      in the chalk, 98.

    Plato, 142.

    Polarity, law of, v., vii., 1-4, 10, 65;
      in crystals, 27, 28;
      in wave motion, 38;
      in will, 40, 195;
      of chemical elements, 68, 70;
      electrical differs from magnetic, 72;
      is the clue to the construction of the world, 74;
      in life, 76, 89, 93;
      in the organic world, 91;
      in evolution, 100;
      in sex, 107, 109, 114, 115;
      a law of existence, 171;
      asserts itself in society, 174;
      in moral life, 178;
      in art and fiction, 209-211;
      in politics, 230, 231;
      in political economy, 247-250.

    Polytheism, 157.

    Poor laws, the, 253.

    Population, effects of the accumulation of, 175, 176.

    Postal service, 260.

    Potassic hydrates, 69.

    Pramantha, 41, 42.

    Prayer, Zoroastrian, 223, 225.

    Prehistoric faith in spirits, 151.

    Priesthood, first records of a, 52.

    Primary period, the, 97;
      fish in the, 99.

    Principles, Zoroaster’s two great, 202.

    Progress, modern, 7.

    Prometheus, 42, 209.

    Propagation of life by germs, 104, 118;
      of the lower plants, 105.

    Property in land, 255, 256.

    Protection, 244-246.

    Protista, 94.

    Protoplasm, the, 78, 79, 81, 84;
      nature of the, 80;
      the first, 87;
      the origin of all life, 93;
      in nerve-endings, 129.

    Proudhon, 256.

    Putrefaction, 87, 88.

    Pyramids, the, 10;
      astronomical value of the, 153, 154.

    Quakers, the, 213.

    Quantivalence of substances, 71, 72.

    Radiolaria, 95.

    Railway, companies, 248;
      profits of companies, 249, 250;
      working of a State, 261, 262.

    Religion, 4;
      nature of, 146;
      origin of, 148, 149, 151;
      early, 152;
      universal faith in a virgin mother, 154, 155;
      planet worship, 155;
      gradual evolution of, 155, 156;
      philosophical in the East, 160;
      nature in, 163;
      wars of, 179;
      amongst savages, 185;
      Jewish, 186;
      and morality, 188;
      Aryan, 200;
      of Zoroaster, 201, 208, 223;
      probable form of modern, 203, 209;
      music the language of, 222, 223.

    Roman Church, the, 223.

    Reproduction of species, 83;
      of worms, 104;
      sexual, 105, 106, 118.

    Reptiles, 99.

    Ricardo, 247.

    Russia, 243;
      communism in, 253.

    Sabbath, the, 212;
      origin of the, 155;
      in England, 212, 220.

    Saint Paul, his doctrine of predestination, 158;
      on God, 172;
      Christianity of, 177, 188;
      on charity, 182.

    —— Vitus’s dance, 166.

    Salt, 52, 70.

    Salvation Army, the, 180.

    Sanskrit, 199, 200.

    Sargasso Sea, 97.

    Saul, 180, 186.

    Savages, and numbers, 138, 191;
      religion amongst, 149-151, 185;
      murder amongst, 189, 190.

    Schliemann, Professor, 151.

    Scotland, virtue in, 176;
      the poor rate in, 253.

    Scott, Sir Walter, 210, 211, 241.

    Secondary epoch, the, 97;
      reptiles and birds in the, 99;
      transformation of a water into an air population, 123.

    Semitic races, religion amongst the, 156.

    Sermons, 220-222;
      on the mount, 184, 187, 254.

    Sex in ancient creeds, 102, 103.

    Shakers, the, 166, 252.

    Shakespeare, on women, 112;
      Buddhism in, 160;
      despondency of, 178;
      polarity of character in, 210, 211.

    Shelley, 19, 226.

    Snakes, changes from oviparous to viviparous, 124.

    Soap bubbles, 19;
      a clue to the dimensions of light, 33.

    Socialism, 251, 252.

    Society, 231.

    Sociology, H. Spencer on, 259.

    Socrates on religion, 172.

    Sodium, 52, 70.

    Solar myths, 152-154;
      system worshipped by the Aryans, 200.

    Somnambulism, 126, 134, 135, 192.

    Sonnet to Ormuzd, 265.

    Soul, the, 194.

    Sound waves, velocity of, 24.

    Species, 118, 119.

    Spectroscope, 25, 26.

    Spectrum of sun-rays, 43.

    Spencer, Herbert, x., 113, 161, 203;
      on antagonistic forces, 90;
      on polarity in religion, 109, 172;
      on politics, 231;
      on altruism, 254;
      on sociology, 259;
      works of, 264.

    Spiritualism, 136.

    Spontaneous generation, 84, 89.

    State interference, 253, 255, 257;
      railways, 261, 262;
      trade for national defence, 263.

    Steam, action of, 45, 49;
      engine, 45, 61.

    Stone-throwing, brain action in, 38, 39.

    Substances, quality and grouping of, 73;
      stability of, 74, 75.

    Succession duty, 258.

    Sun, 26;
      heat of the, 45.

    Sutherland family, crest of the, 150.

    Tait, Professor, 32.

    Talmud, the, 172, 212;
      morality in the, 187, 188.

    Telephone, the, 60.

    Temple, Dr., 162;
      on evolution, 121;
      on a Creator, 170, 203;
      on man, 193.

    Tennyson, 203, 210, 226, 241.

    Tertiary epoch, 98;
      mammals in the, 100.

    Thomson, Sir W., 19, 21, 32.

    Tobit, the Book of, 187.

    Trade, free, 242-245.

    Trance, phenomena of, 135.

    Traveller, a, on misery in Christian lands, 175.

    Triton, the, 122.

    Tulliver, Maggie, 112, 211.

    Turkey, 110, 111;
      woman in, 112.

    Turks, English, 113, 114.

    Tyndall, 94.

    United States, the, 241, 242;
      protection in the, 242, 243, 246;
      homestead laws in the, 256, 257.

    Unknown, the Great, 126, 127.

    Urea, 86.

    Variations of species, principle of, 120.

    Vedas, the Hindoo, 152;
      antiquity of the, 199.

    Vendidad, the, 202.

    Virgin mother, prevalence of faith in a, 154, 155.

    Voltaic battery, the, 14, 55, 61.

    Volume, variations of, 12.

    Vortex theory, 33, 34.

    Wales, coal in, 258.

    Wahabite reformer, 158.

    Water, formation of, 11, 12, 14, 15, 52;
      and electricity, 14, 53;
      a cubic inch of, magnified, 21;
      becomes vapour, 45, 46, 75;
      freezing, 81.

    Waves, motion, 23, 24, 48;
      light, 19-24, 26-28, 43;
      sound, 24.

    Wheat, mummy, 80.

    Will, free, 191;
      nature of the, 194.

    Witchcraft, 164, 179.

    Woman, natural office of the, 107, 108;
      position of, a test of civilisation, 110, 111;
      in modern books, 111, 112;
      rights of, 116;
      amongst the Parsees, 214-216.

    Wood, burning, 75.

    Wordsworth, pantheism in, 159, 160.

    Worms, reproduction of, 104.

    Zend, dialect, 199, 200;
      scriptures, 201, 202;
      Avesta, 203.

    Zinc, in electricity, 61.

    Zodiac, the, 153.

    Zoophytes, 94, 95.

    Zoroaster, 4, 187;
      theory of, 7, 179, 197, 202, 203, 223;
      history of, 197, 198;
      known by his book, 199;
      a reformer, 200;
      at Balkh, 201;
      his creed not weighted by tradition, 204;
      miraculous conception of, 205.

    Zoroastrian, a modern, 3;
      creed of a, 180;
      morality, 205, 206.

    Zoroastrianism and art, 212;
      and modern thought, 213.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Modern Zoroastrian" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.