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The Faith of the Millions (2nd series) by George Tyrrell

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symptom of that instability, without exception, will be of a
degenerative kind. The nerve-storm, with its unwonted agitations, may
possibly lay bare some deep-lying capacity in us which could scarcely
otherwise have come to light. Recent experiments on both sensation and
memory in certain abnormal states have added plausibility to this view,
and justify us in holding that in spite of its frequent association with
hysteria, ecstasy is not necessarily in itself a morbid symptom."
(F.W.H. Myers, _Tennyson as a Prophet_.)]

[Footnote 2: _The Retreat_. By Henry Vaughan.]



Much as we may think of the abstract and objective value of the treatise
_De vera religione_, which forms the usual introduction to those _cursus
theologici_ whose multiplication of late has been so remarkable, it can
hardly be denied that its cogency is much diminished for the large
number of those thinkers who repudiate the philosophical presuppositions
upon which that treatise rests. As long as negation halted before that
minimum of religious truth which is in some way accessible to
reason,--before belief in God and in immortality; as long as the
principles and methods of proof by which "natural theology" reached its
conclusion were admitted even by those who denied those conclusions, an
apologetic such as we are speaking of had an undoubted practical
value--not indeed as sufficing to bring conviction to the unwilling or
ill-disposed, not as a cause of faith, but as removing an obstacle which
existed in the supposed incompatibility of revealed truth with these
same rational principles and processes.

Apart from this preparation of the intellect, to which perhaps the name
"apologetic" should be more strictly reserved, a prior and more
important need was the disposing of the will and affections to the
acceptance of the truth. For, in a very real sense, love is the root of
faith; and the wish that a thing should be true, not only stimulates the
mind to inquire and investigate, but also creates a fear of
self-deception and a spirit of incredulity which is the fruitful parent
of intellectual difficulties.

Such an appeal to the affections is really outside the province of
theological science and belongs rather to the rhetorician, the poet, or
the prophet. Yet it was a work at all times needful for the extension
and maintenance of the faith, in even a greater degree than the more
dispensable preparation of the intellect. For the great multitude of men
who are innocent of any really independent thought, who professedly or
unconsciously take all their beliefs from some individual or society,
there is really no need of scientific apologetic--the sole need being to
win or maintain their confidence, their loyalty, their reverence, in
regard to some teacher or leader, to Christ or the Church.

It was only towards the close of last century when scepticism was
beginning to reach the very root from which the Christian apologetic
sprang, and the former philosophic methods had themselves fallen in
disrepute, that the necessity of accommodating the remedy to the disease
began to be recognized here and there, and of framing an argument that
would appeal to the perverse and erratic mind of the day, rather than to
an abstract and perfectly normal mind, which, if it existed, would "need
no repentance." That a given medicine is the best, avails nothing if it
be not also one which the patient is willing to take. If a man has
closed his teeth against everything that savours of scholasticism, we
must either abandon him or else see if there be any among the methods he
will submit to, which may in any wise serve our purpose. And, indeed,
among the jangle of philosophies there is surely in all something that
is a common heritage of the human mind, a unity which a little skill can
detect lurking under that diversity of form which unfortunately it is
the delight of most men to emphasize. To suppose that Christianity is
pledged to more than this common substratum which none deny, except
through verbal confusion, that there is no road to faith but through
what is peculiar to scholasticism, or that my first step in converting a
man to Christ must be to convert him to Aristotle, is about as
intelligent as to suppose that because the Church has adopted Latin as
her official language she means to discredit every other.

It was then with a view of meeting the exigencies of the world as it is,
not as it might or ought to have been, that such a work as the _Genie du
Christianisme_ strove to find an apologetic in what previously had been
regarded as outside the domain of theology and more properly the concern
of the preacher. The beauty, the solace, the adaptation to our higher
needs of Christian teaching had been one thing; its truth, quite
another. By dilating eloquently on the first, men might be won to the
love of such an ideal, to wish that it might be true; and then disposed
to profit by the distinct and independent labours of the apologist whose
theme was, not the utility or beauty of the Catholic religion, but
solely its truth.

But now that the "scholastic" [1] apologetic was in disgrace with all
but those who stood least in need of it, some more acceptable method had
to be sought out, and amongst many others there was that of
Chateaubriand, which strove to find an argument for the intellect in the
very appeal which Christianity made to the will and affections. Because
a religion is fair and much to be desired, because, if true, it would
give unity and meaning to man's higher cravings, and turn human life
from a senseless chaos into an intelligible whole, therefore, and for
this reason, it _is_ true.

It is hardly wonderful that such a method should incur the charge of
sentimentalism. "It would be so nice to believe it, therefore it must be
true," sounds like a shameless abandonment of reasonableness. The fact
that a belief is "consoling," quite independently of its truth or
falsehood, creates a bias towards its acceptance. That it is pleasant to
believe oneself very clever and competent will incline one to that
belief until something important depends, not on our thinking ourselves
so, but on our being so. Before an examination, the wish to succeed will
make me sceptical about my prospects, much as I should like to think
them the brightest; afterwards, when self-deception can only console and
can do no harm, I shall be credulous of any flattery that is offered me.
In one case, my interest depends upon the facts, and therefore the wish
to believe makes me critical and even sceptical; in the other, on my
belief concerning the facts, and the wish to believe, makes me
uncritical and credulous.

It was seemingly a bold and hazardous venture to justify this same
credulity, and to affirm that an argument could be drawn from the wish
to believe in just those cases where its influence would seem most
suspicious; yet this was practically what the new apologetic amounted
to. It was an argument from the utility of beliefs to their truth; from
the fact that certain subjective convictions produced good results, to
the correspondence of such convictions with objective reality. The
advantages to the individual and to society of a firm belief in God the
righteous Judge, in the sanction of eternal reward and penalty, in the
eventual adjustment of all inequalities, in the reversible character of
sin through repentance, in the divine authority of conscience, of
Christianity, of the Catholic Church, are to a great extent independent
of the truth of those beliefs. No amount of hypnotic suggestion will
enable a man to subsist upon cinders, under the belief that they are a
very nutritious diet; for the effect depends upon their actual nature,
and not wholly upon his belief concerning their nature; but the salutary
fear of Hell or hope of Heaven, depends not on the existence of either
state, but on our belief in its existence. The fact that the denial of
these and many similar beliefs would bring chaos into our spiritual and
moral life, that it would extinguish hopes which often alone make life
bearable, that it would issue for society at large in such a grey,
meaningless, uninspired existence as Mr. F. W. Myers prognosticates in
his admirable essay on "The Disillusionment of France," [2] all this and
much more makes it our interest, if not our duty, to cling to such
convictions at all costs. "If these things are not true, it might be
said, then life is chaos; and if life be chaos, what does truth matter?
Why may not such useful illusions and self-deceptions be fostered? If we
are dreaming, let our dreams be the pleasantest possible!"

Nor can it be urged that though some part of our interest thus depends
on the beliefs, rather than on their being true, yet the consequences of
self-deception are so momentous, as to create a spirit of criticism to
balance or over-balance the said bias of credulity. For though the
consequences of denial are disastrous if the beliefs are true, yet if
they are false, the ill-consequences of belief are almost insignificant.
It is sometimes said too hastily that if religion be an illusion, then
religious people lose both this life and the next; and it is assumed
that an unrestrained devotion to pleasure would secure a happiness which
faith requires us to forego. But unless we take a gross, and really
unthinkable view of the homogeneity of all happiness, and reduce its
differences to degree and quantity, the shallowness of the preceding
objection will be apparent. It is only through restraint that the higher
kinds of temporal happiness are reached, and as confusions are cleared
away in process of discussion, it becomes patent that such restraint
finds its motive directly or indirectly in religion. When the religious
influence with which irreligious society is saturated, has exhausted
itself, and idealism is no more, the unrestrained egoistic pursuit of
enjoyment must tend to its steady diminution in quantity, and its
depreciation in kind. The sorrow and pain entailed by fidelity to the
Christian ideal is, on the whole, immeasurably less in the vast majority
of cases than that attendant on the struggles of unqualified
selfishness, while the capacities for the higher happiness are steadily
raised and largely satisfied by hope and even by some degree of present
fruition. Even vice would be in many ways sauceless and insipid in the
absence of faith. Who does not remember the old cynic's testimony (in
the "New Republic") to the piquancy lent by Christianity to many a sin,
otherwise pointless. If the moralist distinguishes between actions that
are evil because they are forbidden, and those that are forbidden
because they are evil, the libertine has a counter-distinction between
those that are forbidden because they are pleasant, and those that are
pleasant because they are forbidden. St. Paul himself is explicit enough
as to this effect of the law.

Look at it how we will, even were religion unfounded our life would on
the whole gain in fulness far more than it would lose, by our believing
in religion. Hence some of our more thoughtful agnostics, however unable
themselves to find support in what they deem an illusion, are quite
willing to acknowledge the part religion has played in the past in the
evolution of rational life, and to look upon it as a necessary factor in
the earlier stages of that process whose place is to be taken hereafter
by some as yet undefined substitute. If indeed Nature thus works by
illusions and justifies the lying means by the benevolent end, it is
hard to believe in a moral government of the universe, or to hope that
an "absolute morality"--righteousness for its own sake--will be the
outcome of such disreputable methods. But till the illusion of "absolute
morality" is strong enough to take care of itself, and has passed from
the professors to the populace, it is plainly for the interest and
happiness of individuals and of society to hold fast to religion.

Undoubtedly then the advantages resulting from a belief in religion,
whether valid or illusory, are such as to incline not only the higher
and more unselfish minds, but even those which are more prudential and
self-regarding, to wish to hold that belief--to be unwilling to hear
arguments against it. But among the former class will be found many
intellectually conscientious and even scrupulous persons, whom the
recognition of this inevitable bias will drive to an extreme of caution.
Not so much because the facts believed-in are of such intense moment,
but rather because the belief itself, whether true or false, is so
consoling and helpful, that there seems to them a danger of
self-deception just proportioned to their wish to believe.

It were then no small rest and relief to such, could it be shown that
what they deem a reason for doubt, is really a reason for belief; that
the welcome which all that is best in them gives to a belief, affords
some sort of philosophical justification thereof.

This particular argument had undoubtedly a more favourable hearing in
the age of Chateaubriand, when unbelief stopped short at the threshold
of what was called "Natural Religion," and the apologist's task was
confined to the establishment of revelation. "It is now pretty generally
admitted," says the author of _Contemporary Evolution_, "with regard to
Christianity and theism that the arguments really telling against the
first, are in their logical consequences fatal also to the second, and
that a _Deus Unus, Remunerator_ once admitted, an antecedent probability
for a revelation must be conceded."

Given an intelligent and benevolent author of the universe, it is not
perhaps very difficult to show that any further religious belief
approximates to the truth in the measure that it satisfies the more
highly developed rational needs of mankind. It is not seriously denied
any longer that religion is an instinct with man, however it may be
lacking in some individuals or dormant in others. We have savages at
both ends of the scale of civilization, but man is none the less a
political creature; nor does the existence of idiots and deaf mutes and
criminals at all affect the fact that he is a reasoning and speaking and
ethical animal. As soon as he wakes to consciousness, he feels that he
is part of a whole, one of a multitude; and that as he is related to his
fellow-parts--equals or inferiors--so also is he related to the Whole
which is above him and greater than all put together. Religion, taken
subjectively, in its loosest sense, is a man's mental and moral attitude
in regard to real or imaginary superhuman beings--a definition which
includes pantheism, polytheism, monotheism; moral, non-moral, and
immoral religions; which prescinds from materialist or spiritualist
conceptions of the universe. And by a religion in the objective sense,
so far as true or false can be predicated of it, we mean a body of
beliefs intended to regulate and correct man's subjective religion. It
is to such systems and their parts that we think the above test of
"adaptability" maybe applied as we have stated it.

We must of course assume that our distinction of higher from lower
states of rational development is valid; that we can really attach some
absolute meaning to the terms "progress" and "decline;" that there is
some vaguely conceived standard of human excellence which such terms
refer to. Else we are flung into the very whirlpool of scepticism.
Measured back from infinity it may be infinitesimal, but measured
forward from zero, the difference of mental and, partly, of moral
culture between ourselves and the aborigines of Australia is
considerable, and is really to our advantage. Now if a given religion or
religious belief suggests itself more readily, or when suggested
commends itself more cordially in the measure that men's spiritual needs
are more highly developed; if, furthermore, it tends to make men still
better and to raise their desires still higher so as to prepare the way
for a yet fuller conception of religious truth, it may be said to be
adapted to human needs; and it is from such adaptability that we argue
its approach to the truth. We say "its approach," for all our ideas of
the Whole, of the superhuman, of those beings with which religion deals,
are necessarily analogous and imperfect. What is admitted by all with
regard to the strict mysteries of the Christian faith is in a great
measure to be extended to the central or fundamental ideas of all
religion. They are at best woefully inadequate, and if the unity between
the parts of an idea be organic and not merely mechanical, they must be
regarded as containing false mingled with true.[3] Still some analogies
are less imperfect, less mingled with fallacy than others, and there is
room for indefinite approximation towards an unattainable exactitude.
For example, assuming theism, as we do in the argument under
consideration, it is evident that man conceives the superhuman object of
his fear and worship more truly as personal than as impersonal; as
spiritual than as embodied; as one or few than as many; as infinite than
as finite; as creator than as maker; as moral than as non-moral or
immoral; as both transcendent and immanent than as either alone. If then
it appears that as man's intelligence and morality develop in due
proportion, he advances from a material polytheistic immoral conception
of the All, to a spiritual and moral monotheism, it may be claimed that
the latter is a less inadequate conception. And similarly with regard to
other dependent religious beliefs which usually radiate from the central
notion. It will be seen that we do not argue from the self-determined
wishes or desires of any individual or class of individuals to their
possible fulfilment,--to the existence in Nature of some supply
answering to that demand; we do not argue that because many men or all
men desire to fly, flying must for that reason alone be possible. We
speak of the needs of man's nature, not of this individual's nature; of
needs consequent on what man is made, and not on what he has made
himself; of those wants and exigencies which if unsatisfied or
insatiable must leave his nature not merely negatively imperfect and
finite, but positively defective and as inexplicable as a lock without a
key--not necessarily, of needs felt at all times by every man, but of
those which manifest themselves naturally and regularly at certain
stages of moral and social development; just as the bodily appetites
assert themselves under certain conditions not always given.

Now there is one form in which this argument from adaptability is
somewhat too hastily applied and which it is well to guard against. Were
we to find a key accommodated to the wards of a most complicated lock,
we should be justified in concluding, with a certainty proportioned to
the complexity of the lock, that both originated with one and the same
mind; and so, it is urged, if a religion, say Christianity, answers to
the needs of human nature, we may conclude that it is from the Author of
human nature with a certainty increasing as it is seen to answer to the
higher and more complex developments of the soul.

Now if, like the key in our illustration, the religion in question were
something given _in rerum natura_ independent of human origination in
any form, this argument would be practically irresistible. That besides
those beliefs which lead man on to an ever fuller understanding of his
better self, and stimulate and direct his moral progress, Christianity
imposes others more principal, of which man as yet has no exigency, and
which hint at some future order of existence that new faculties will
disclose--all this, in no wise makes the argument inapplicable. The
whole system of beliefs is accepted for the sake, and on the credit, of
that part which so admirably unlocks the soul to her own gaze. "Now are
we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be;" if
besides satisfying our present ideal of religion, Christianity hints at
and prepares us for such a transition as that from merely organic to
sensitive life, or from this, to rational life, it rather adds to than
detracts from the force of the argument.

Yet all this supposes that Christianity is something found by man
outside himself, with whose origination he had nothing to do; but, if
this be established, its supernatural origin, and therefore, supposing
theism, its truth, is already proved, and can only receive confirmation
from the argument of adaptability. If the Book of Mormon really came
down from Heaven, my conviction that polygamy is not for the best, would
seem a feeble objection against its claims. That the Judaeo-Christian
religion is supernatural and is from without, not only with respect to
the individual but to the race; that it is an external, God-given rule,
awakening, explaining, developing man's natural religious instinct,
correcting his own clumsy interpretations thereof, is just what gives it
its claim to pre-eminence over all, even the most highly conceived,
man-made interpretations of the same instinct.

Yet though claiming to be a God-made interpretation, it is confessedly
through human agency, through the human mind and lips of the prophets
and of Christ that this revelation has come to us. Moreover, it
involves, though it transcends, all those religious beliefs of which
human nature seems exigent and which are, absolutely speaking,
attainable by what might be called the "natural inspiration" of
religious genius. Viewing the whole revelation in itself, its
adaptability is evident only in respect to that part which might have
originated with those minds through which it was delivered to us. If the
beliefs proposed seem to have anticipated moral and intellectual needs
not felt in the prophet's own age or society, this might be paralleled
from the inspiration of genius in other departments, and could not of
itself be regarded as establishing the _ab extra_ character of the

Plainly, then, so far as a religion claims to be from outside, its
adaptability to our religious and moral instincts may confirm but cannot
establish its Divine origin, which, given theism, is equivalent to its
truth. For to show that it is from outside, is to show that it is from

It is only therefore with regard to man-made interpretations of our
spiritual instincts, to the natural inspirations of religious genius, to
the intuitions and even the reasoned inferences of the conscientious and
clean-hearted, that the argument from adaptability can have any
independent value. It is now no longer as one who argues from a
comparison of lock and key to their common authorship; but rather we
have a self-conscious lock, pining to be opened, and from a more or less
imperfect self-knowledge dreaming of some sort of key and arguing that
in the measure that its dream is based on true self-knowledge there must
be a reality corresponding to it--a valid argument enough, supposing the
locksmith to act on the usual lines and not to be indulging in a freak.

Such, in substance, is the argument from adaptability founded on the
assumption of theism and applied to the criticism or establishment of
further religious beliefs. It is indeed somewhat stronger when we
remember that the self-consciousness, with which we fictitiously endowed
the lock, plays chief part in the very design and structure of man; that
his self-knowledge, his moral and religious instincts, his desire and
power of interpreting them, are all from the Author of his nature.

Of this difference Tennyson takes note in applying the argument from
adaptability to the immortality of the soul:

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou madest man, he knows not why;
He thinks he was not made to die,
And Thou hast made him, Thou art just.

But so far as the argument presupposes theism it cannot be made to
support or even confirm theism. If, then, we want to make the argument
absolutely universal with regard to religious beliefs--theism included
and not presupposed--and so to make it available for apologetic purposes
in regard to those whose doubt is more deep-seated, we must inquire
whether any basis can be found for it in non-theistic philosophy;
whether, prescinding from Divine governance and from an intelligent
purpose running through nature, the adaptability of a belief to the
higher needs of mankind can be considered in any way to prove its truth.
So far we have only shown that such a conclusion results from a clearer
insight into the theistic conception. Can we show that it springs,
co-ordinately with theism, from some conception prior to both?


If what is usually understood by "theism" be once granted as a
foundation, it is easy to raise thereon a superstructure of further
religious beliefs by means of the argument drawn from their adaptability
to the higher needs of mankind. However individuals may fail, yet it
must be allowed that on the whole the human mind progresses, or tends to
progress, from a less to a more perfect self-knowledge, to a fuller
understanding of its own origin, its end and destiny, and of the kind of
life by which that end is to be reached,--that is, if once we admit that
man is a self-interpreting creature, and the work of an intelligent
Creator. So far however as the Christian creed exceeds man's natural
exigencies and aspirations, it plainly cannot be subjected to this
criterion; and so far as it includes (while it transcends) the highest
form of "natural religion," the argument from adaptability holds of it
only if we suppose Christianity to be a natural product of the human
mind, thus destroying its claim to be from without and from above. But
if from other reasons we know Christianity to be a God-made and not a
man-made religion, then, though its divinity and truth is already
proved, yet it is in some sort confirmed and verified by its
adaptability to the demands of our higher nature. In a word, this
particular argument holds strictly only for man's own guesses at
religious truth,--for "natural" religions; but for Christianity, only so
far as we deny it to be supernatural as to its content and mode of

But so far as this argument presupposes theism, it cannot be made to
support or even confirm theism; if then we wish to make it available for
apologetic purposes in regard to those whose doubt is more deep-seated,
we must now inquire whether, prescinding from divine governance and from
finality in nature, the adaptability of a belief (say, in God, or in
future retribution) to the needs of mankind, can be considered in any
way as a proof of its truth; whether that argument can find any deeper
mental basis than theism; whether it can be rested on anything which in
the order of our thought is prior to theism so as to support or at least
to confirm theism itself.

Our present endeavour is to show that though this argument rests more
easily and securely on theism, yet it need not rest upon it; but
springs, co-ordinately with theism, from _any_ conception of the world
that saves us from mental and moral chaos. Hence it confirms theism and
is confirmed by theism; but each is strictly independent of the other
and rests on a conception prior to both; they diverge from one and the
same root and then intertwine and support one another.

By prescinding from theism I do not mean to exclude or deny it; for it
is, as I have just said, bound up with the same conception from which
the "argument from adaptability" is drawn. I only mean that I do not
need to build upon it as on a prior conception; that I can put it aside.
Indeed, of these two off-shoots, theism is less near to the common root,
as will appear later.

Our limited mind cannot take in at once all the consequences or
presuppositions of a thought; for this would be to know everything; but
as with our outward eye we take in the circle of the horizon bit by bit,
so with our mind when we turn to one aspect of an idea we lose sight of
another. Hence in studying some complex organism or mechanism I may be
clear about the bearing of any part on its immediately neighbouring
parts, and yet may have no present notion of the whole; or may prescind
entirely from the question of its origin or its purpose. Thus our
thoughts are always unfinished and frayed round the edges, and we do not
know how much they involve and drag along with them. We can think of the
mechanism, and the organism, and the design, without thinking of the
mechanist, or the organizer, or the designer; and so in all cases where
two ideas are connected without being actually correlative. What is
commonly called a philosophical proof consists simply in showing us the
implications of some part of the general conception of things that we
already hold. It is to force us either to loosen our hold on that part
or else to admit all that it entails by way of consequences or
presuppositions; and so to bring our thoughts into consistency one way
or the other. But until something sets our mind in motion it can rest
very comfortably in partial conceptions, without following them out to
their results.

Now as we can understand a mechanism to the extent of seeing the bearing
of part upon part, and even of all the parts upon the work it does,
without going on to think about the designer or his design; and without
explicitly considering it as designed; so we can and do think of the
world and recognize order in it, and see the bearing of part upon part
without going back to God or forward to God's purposes. Indeed, so far
as we use the argument from design to prove the existence of God, it
means that we first apprehend this order and regular sequence of events,
and then, as a second and distinct step, put it down to design. For
although God is the prior cause of design and of all creation, yet
design and creation is the prior cause of our knowing God, The
conception of a rational and moral world leads us to the conception of a
rational and moral origin, i.e., to theism. Further, it is plain that
this same order and regularity is recognized by many who refuse to see
design in it, and who invent other hypotheses to account for it; and of
one of these hypotheses we shall presently speak at length.

Now, if I take any single organism and study it carefully, simply as a
biologist or physiologist, I shall recognize in it certain regularities
of structure and function and development, upon which I can found
various arguments and predictions. I can argue from its general
characteristics, to the nature of its environment and habits and modes
of life; or from its earlier stages, to what it will be when more fully
developed; and these arguments will be quite unaffected by any theory I
may hold as to the origin of these changes, and as to the causes of
these adaptations. The order and regularity on which my predictions are
based is an admitted fact. Theism or materialism are only theories by
which that fact is explained. Now, for mind in the abstract, theism is
really as much a presupposition of that fact, as the predicted truth is
a consequence of it. Both are logically connected with it, and yet
neither is derived from it through the other.

If, however, we cannot thus observe and calculate on certain
regularities and tendencies in the world as we know it, then, not only
is the appearance of design and finality an illusion, not only is that
particular argument for theism cut away, but with it goes all scientific
certainty, all that stands between us and the most hopeless mental and
moral scepticism.

It is not our immediate concern to prove the value of the "argument from
adaptability," but simply to show that it is logically (though not
really) unaffected by the question of theism and finality and design. As
long as we admit those same effects and consequences of which design is
one explanation, but of which others are _prima facie_ conceivable; as
long as we hold that the world works on the whole as though it were
designed; that the present anticipates and prepares for the future; that
the future and absent can be predicted from the present, so long do we
hold all upon which the "argument of adaptability" is strictly based.
And indeed, as has been said, if once it be admitted that the general
progressive tendency on the part of living things is towards a greater
harmony and correspondence with surrounding reality, then that argument
is a more immediate inference from the existence of an orderly world,
than is theism.

Though both are strictly independent deductions from the same principle
(i.e., from an orderly world), yet theism and the argument from
adaptability when once deduced, confirm one another. For it is not hard
to show that theism is better adapted to man's higher needs, than
atheism or polytheism or pantheism; while if theism be once granted,
then, as we said in the last section, the argument from adaptability is
much more easily established.

There have been at various times several philosophies or attempted
explanations of the world, which have either denied or prescinded from
theism and finality. These two conceptions may be considered as one; for
by finality we mean the intelligent direction of means towards a
preconceived end; and therefore to admit a pervading finality, is to
imply a theistic origin and government of the universe.

Perhaps, the best and most finished attempt to explain the world
independently of finality is the philosophy of Evolution, so widely
popularized in our own day; and since it is in the region of organic
existence, that finalism looks for its chief basis, it is especially by
Darwinistic Evolution that its force is supposed to be destroyed.

Any form of "monism" gets rid of finality more easily than does any form
of dualism; and again, any form of materialism, more easily than
idealism; and therefore as monistic and materialistic (at least in some
sense of the term), popular Evolutionism is the best plea for
non-finalist philosophy. We propose therefore briefly to examine this
philosophy, so far as it claims to be such, and to see whether it in any
way touches the validity of the argument from adaptability.

Evolution may be considered both as an empirical fact and as an
aetiological theory or philosophy. Considered as a fact, it is the
statement of observed processes, and belongs to positive science like
the observed courses of the planets, or any other observed regularities
and uniformities. Science professes to have found everywhere as far as
its experience has extended--in astronomy, geology, physiology, biology,
psychology, ethics, sociology--a uniform process of change from the
simple to the complex, from the indefinite and unstable to the stable
and definite; and with this statement, so far as it can be verified, the
positivist should rest content, seeking no theory, and drawing no
generalization. But, the mind cannot hold together such collected facts
without some binding theory, nor even observe a single fact without some
preconception to give meaning to its suggested outlines: for what we
really get from our senses bears but a slight ratio to what we fill in
with our mind. Hence, answering to this supposed, but far from proven,
universality of Evolution as a fact,[4] we have a certain philosophy of
Evolution which takes us out of the sphere of facts into that of
hypotheses and generalizations, and tries to give meaning and unity to
the positive information that physical science has collected and
classified; to finish, as it were, the suggested curves; to fill up the
lacunae of observation; to extend to the whole world what is known of
the part; and perhaps to erect into a cause what is only an orderly
statement of facts. Undoubtedly it is this last fallacy that makes it
more easy for evolutionists to dispense with or ignore finality. Law in
its first sense is an expression of effectual human will. Call Evolution
a law and the popular mind will soon vaguely conceive it as a rule or
uniformity resulting from some kind of unconscious will-power at the
back of everything; and this Will-Power stops the gap created in our
thought by the exclusion of theism and finality. This confusion is
furthered still more by not distinguishing between the cause of a fact
and the cause of our knowledge of the fact. If I act in willing
conformity with the civil law, I also act in obedience to it, in some
way coerced by its authority and its sanctions. The law is really a
cause of my action; because it represents the fixed will and effectual
power of the ruler. But when this conception and name is transferred by
analogy to physical uniformities of action, an event which conforms to
the observed law or regularity of sequence, is not really caused by the
law unless we suppose that law to be representative of something
equivalent to a fixed will from which it originates. Yet we say loosely,
such an event happens _in consequence of_ the law of attraction; meaning
only, _in conformity with_ the law, so as to verify the law, to follow
from it logically. Thus again the law comes to be mistaken for an
effectual power of some kind, whereas it is merely a sort of regularity
that might result either from an intelligent will or from something
equivalent. But in thus adroitly slipping-in the conception of a
governing force or tendency, or even in openly asserting it, with
Schopenhauer or Hartmann, and in explaining the graduated resemblances
of species by the origin of one from the other, and in extending this
mode of Evolution in all directions from the known to the unknown so as
to make it pervade the universe, we at once cease to be faithful
positivists and, becoming philosophers, must submit to philosophic
criticism, since these problems cannot be settled merely by an appeal to
facts. Thus when Professor Mivart speaks of Evolution as "the continuous
progress of the material universe by the unfolding of latent
potentialities in harmony with a preordained end," the latent
potentialities, the preordained end, the procession of one species from
another, the extension of this law to every difference of time and
place--all are matters of hypothesis or intuition; but by no means of
exterior observation.

The most that observation gives us is the very imperfect suggestion of
the track that such a movement would have left behind it, not unlike the
scraps that boys litter along the road in a paper-chase. Similarly, if
in the case of organic Evolution we deny all latent potentialities and
preordained ends and throw the whole burden on accidental variations and
natural selection; if we regard the whole process as no more intelligent
or designed than that by which water seeks and finds its own level; yet
as in the case of water we must perforce introduce "a gravitating
tendency," so in the case of living organisms a "persisting" or
"struggling tendency," as an hypothesis to give unity to our facts or to
account for their uniformity. But these tendencies are as little matter
of observation as the aforesaid latent potentialities or preordained
ends. In fine, Evolution, whatever form it take, gets rid of theism and
finality only by slipping into their place some tendency or indefinable
power which it considers adequate to account for the facts to be

Let us now see if there be room in this philosophy for our argument from
adaptability, and whether it will allow us to infer that because belief
in theism and in future retribution are beliefs postulated by our higher
moral aspirations, therefore they answer to reality more or less
approximately; whether, in short, under certain conditions (specified in
our last essay) the wish to believe may be a valid reason for believing.

Now Evolution as a philosophy or explanatory hypothesis owes its
popularity to its apparent simplicity. Wrapped in its wordy envelope,
the notion as formulated by Spencer needs no subtilty of apprehension,
but only a dictionary. Nor is the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection
more difficult.

Other things equal, the simpler hypothesis is to be preferred to the
less simple where no proof can be had of either. But none the less, the
simpler may be false and the other true. Cheapness is no proof of
goodness. We are naturally impatient of troublesome and complex
theories; but what we gain in the simplicity of an hypothesis, we
commonly lose in the difficulty of getting the facts to square with it.
It is a simple theory that circular motion is the most perfect, and that
the planets being the most perfect bodies must move with the most
perfect motion; but so many epicycles must be introduced to explain
apparent exceptions that the modern astronomical hypothesis, however
more complex in statement, is on the whole welcomed as a simplification.
So we are disposed to think it is with regard to the popular form of
Evolutionism. Its simplicity in statement is more than cancelled by its
difficulty in application; and at last we are driven to conceive it in a
form which at once deprives it of its title to popularity. So far as it
is simple it is fallacious and proves incoherent on closer inspection,
when we try to translate its terms into clear and distinct ideas; but
when we get it into intelligible form it is no simpler than the theistic
hypothesis which it wants to displace, except inasmuch as it prescinds
from the question of origin and last end. But in this, its only
intelligible form, it leaves the argument from adaptability intact, and
even requires theism as its rational complement.

This is what we must now endeavour to show. We cannot illustrate our
contention better than from the popular simplification of Ethics
introduced by Bentham. Taking pleasure as a simple and ultimate notion
he affirms that our conduct is always determined by a balance of
pleasure on one side or the other. The problem of practical ethics is to
construct a calculus of pleasures, a sort of ready-reckoner whereby men
may be able to invest in the most profitable course of action. "When we
have a hedonistic calculus with its senior wranglers," says Mr. Bain,
"we shall begin to know whether society admits of being properly
reconstructed." [5] It is assumed that pleasures differ only in quantity,
i.e., in intensity, extent, and duration, just as warmth does, which may
be of high or low temperature; diffused over a greater or less extent of
body; and that, for a shorter or a longer time. On this assumption
pleasure is every bit as mathematically measurable as is warmth, the
whole difficulty being due to its subjective and therefore inaccessible
nature. Simple in statement, this theory proves in application
infinitely complex, and indeed on closer inspection breaks up into a
mere verbal fallacy--as Dr. Martineau, amongst others, has shown in his
_Types of Ethical Theory_. For "pleasure," though one simple word, has
an endless variety of meanings, not indeed wholly disconnected, but
bound together only by a certain kind of analogy. The eye, the ear, the
palate, the mind, the heart, have each their proper pleasure; which is
nothing else than the resultant of their perfect operation in response
to the stimulus of some all-satisfying object--a fact which may be
expressed differently by different philosophies, but with substantial
identity of meaning. But not till we find some common measure for sound
and colour and flavour and thought and affection, will it be possible to
compare in any hedonistic scales the pleasures they produce. Yet colour
is to the eye what music is to the ear; and therefore the one word
pleasure is used not unreasonably of both.

Quite similar seems to us the fallacy to which Evolution owes its
seeming simplicity and its popularity. The word "existence" or "life"
(which is the existence of organic beings, about which we are chiefly
concerned), is taken as having one homogeneous meaning, like "heat" or
"warmth;" the only difference being quantitative--a difference of
intensity, of breadth, of duration; not a difference of kind such as
would destroy all common measure. Life is something which we predicate
of the most diversely organized beings, and therefore would seem to be
something the same in all, which they secure in a diversity of ways.

Thus Darwin defines the general good or welfare which should be the aim
of our conduct as "the rearing of the greatest number of individuals in
full health and vigour with all their faculties perfect;" upon which Mr.
Sidgwick remarks[6] with justice: "Such a reduction of the notion of
'well-being' to 'being' (actual and potential) would be a most important
contribution from the doctrine of Evolution to ethical science. But it
at least conflicts in a very startling manner with those ordinary
notions of progress and development" in which "it is always implied that
certain forms of life are qualitatively superior to others,
independently of the number of individuals, present or future, in which
each form is realized.... And if we confine ourselves to human beings,
to whom alone the practical side of the doctrine applies, is it not too
paradoxical to assert that 'rising in the scale of existence' means no
more than 'developing the capacity to exist'? A greater degree of
fertility would thus become an excellence outweighing the finest moral
and intellectual endowments; and some semi-barbarous races must be held
to have attained the end of human existence more than some of the
pioneers and patterns of civilization." Nor is it only in the region of
ethics but in every region that this false simplification is fertile in
paradoxes; and yet if it be disowned, the charm to which Evolution owes
its popularity is gone.

It would be indeed a short cut to knowledge if we might believe life to
be, as this theory imagines it, a simple, self-diffusing force with an
irrepressible tendency to spread itself in all directions, like fire in
a prairie. True we should not have altogether got rid of innate
tendencies, but we should have reduced them to one, namely, to the
struggling, or persisting, or self-asserting tendency; a simplification
like that offered by the matter-and-force theory of Buchner.

This flame of life once kindled (we are told) endeavours to subdue all
things to itself, and all that we find in the way of variety of organic
structure and function has been shaped and determined by its
struggle--much as a river channels a way for its waters in virtue of its
own onward force, checked and determined by the nature of the obstacles
it has to encounter. Every organism is related to life as the
candlestick to the candle; it is simply a device for supporting and
spreading as much life as is possible with the surrounding conditions.
Often, when conditions are favourable, the simplest contrivance will be
more effectual, more life-producing than the most complex in less
favourable conditions. Where food is not present the animal that can
move about in search of it will survive, and the stationary animal
perish; and likewise those that can escape their foes will live down
those rooted in one spot. And if to motion we add perception and
intelligence, and associative instincts and the rest, we increase the
appliances for dealing with difficulties; and therewith the means of
survival when such difficulties exist. Still, in the hypothesis we are
dealing with, all these contrivances--movement, consciousness,
intelligence, will, society--are distinct from life and ministerial to
it; they are instruments by which it is preserved, increased, and
multiplied--like those contrivances by which heat or electricity is
generated, sustained, and transmitted; with this difference, that no one
has designed these life-machines, but they are simply the result of
life's innate tendency to struggle and spread. A great deal of the form
and movement of the inorganic world is due simply to the stress of
gravitation and not to design, and so we are asked to believe that the
human and every other organism has been shaped and quickened by the
action of as blind a power; that it is in some sense a casual result.

Now if seeing and hearing and thinking do not constitute life, but are
only chance discoveries helpful to life; if we do not live in order to
eat and to see and to think, but only think, see, and eat in order to
live, we ask ourselves, what then is this life which is none of these
things and to which they are all subordinate? And when once we begin
subtracting those functions which minister to life and which life has
selected for its own service, we find there is absolutely nothing left
to serve. Taking the very earliest forms, if we subtract movement,
nutrition, growth, generation, we find there is nothing over called
"life" distinct from these. This is the first and fundamental
incoherence of the theory; life has simply no meaning apart from those
functions which we speak of as ministering to life; unless we mean by
life the mere cohering together of the bodily organism--an end more
effectually secured without any such complex apparatus, by a stone or by
an elementary atom.

If existence in that sense, be the force or principle whose persistence
and self-assertion is the cause of all evolution, it is impossible to
conceive how primordial atoms, which are assumed to be indestructible
and constant in quantity, should trouble themselves to struggle at all;
since the amount of that kind of existence can neither be lessened nor
increased. And as motion is also assumed to be a constant quantity, it
is plain that what struggles to be and to multiply, must be some special
collocation and grouping of atoms with some correspondingly particular
determination of motion, called "life;" but what "life" is, apart from
the means it is supposed to have selected for itself, does not appear.

Another difficulty attendant on this false simplification is the
complete subversion of that scale of dignity or excellence upon which we
range the various kinds of living creatures, putting ourselves at the
top--not merely in obedience to a pardonable vanity, but, as has
hitherto been supposed, in obedience to a trustworthy intuition which,
without attempting to apply a common measure to things incommensurable,
judges life to be higher than death; consciousness than unconsciousness;
mind than mere sensation; and in general, what includes and surpasses,
than what is included and surpassed. We see that the organic world
presupposes the ministry of the inorganic; and the animal world, that of
the plant world; and that the human world depends on the ministry of all
three; and our whole conception of this world as "cosmos" is simply the
filling in of this hierarchic framework. Yet this old structure falls to
pieces under the new simplification. If "life" (as vaguely conceived) be
the first beginning and the last end (or rather result) of the whole
process of evolution, if it be the _summum bonum_, then the "highest"
creature means, the most life-producing.

Now if we put "money" instead of "life," and begin to classify men by
this standard, we see how it inverts the old-world ideas of social
hierarchy. True it is, the man of letters or of high artistic gifts
can produce a certain amount of money, but has little chance against
the inventor of a new soap or a patent pill. Honesty at once becomes
the worst policy, and a thousand other maxims have to be reformed. Yet
this is a trifling _boule-versement_ compared with that which would
have to be introduced into our scientific classification were
"life-productivity" (in the vague) taken as the criterion of excellence.

For we cannot any longer determine the rank of an animal by its organic
complexity, since, _ceteris paribus_, this is a defect rather than

To secure life more simply is better than to secure the same amount by
means of complex apparatus. Of course when the favouring conditions are
altered, then any apparatus that makes life still possible is an
advantage; but till that crisis arises it is only an encumbrance. When
life can be secured only at the cost of greater labour and exertion and
cunning, it is well to be capable of these things, but surely those
animals are more to be envied that have no need of these things. It is
only on the hypothesis of an unkindly environment that complexity of
organization is an excellence.

Furthermore, although these accidental variations allow certain
creatures to survive in crises of difficulty, yet they also make the
conditions of their survival more complicated and hard to secure. All
that differentiates man from an amoeba has enabled him to get safe
through certain straits where the lower forms of life were left behind
to perish; but it has also made it impossible for him to live in the
simpler conditions he has escaped from; like a parvenu whose luxurious
habits have gradually created a number of new necessities for him, which
make a return to his original poverty and hardships quite impracticable.
If the development of lungs has allowed animals to come out of the water
into the air, it has also prevented their going back again. Furthermore,
a considerable amount of vital energy is consumed in the production,
support, and repair of all this supplementary, life-preserving
apparatus; just as, much of the national wealth for whose protection
they exist is absorbed by a standing army and other military
preparations. And in fact of two countries otherwise equal in wealth,
that is surely the better off which has no need of being thus armed up
to the teeth. Thus man's superior organization may be compared to the
overcoat and umbrella with which one sets out on a threatening morning;
very desirable should it rain, but a great nuisance should it clear up.

It seems, then, that the highest organism is that which produces or
secures the greatest quantity of life in the simplest manner, and at the
cost of the least complexity of structure and function; while the lowest
is that which yields the least quantity at the greatest cost; and
between these two extremes organisms will be ranked by the ratio of
their complexity to their life-productivity--life being measured
mathematically (as something homogeneous) by its vigour, by its
duration, and by the amount of matter animated, whether in the
individual or in its progeny. It is obvious how, at this rate, our
zoological hierarchy is turned topsy-turvy; and how difficult it will be
to show that man is a better life-machine than, say, a mud-turtle with
its centuries of vital existence.

It would be a monstrous allegation to say that any evolutionist would
defend these conclusions in all their crudity; but is only by thus
pushing implied principles to their results, that their incoherence can
be made plain. Once more, if this simple uniform thing called life be
the sole cause, determining organic Evolution and selecting accidental
variations, just in so far as they favour its own maintenance and
multiplication, then every organ, appliance, and faculty by which man
differs from the simplest bioplast, is merely a life-preserving
contrivance. To speak human-wise, Nature in that case has but one
end--animal life; and chooses every means solely with a view to that
end. She does not care about pain or pleasure, or consciousness, or
knowledge, or truth, or morality, or society, or science, or religion,
for their own sakes; she cares for life only, and for these so far
as--like horns and teeth and claws--they are conducive to life.
Evolution therefore is governed by a blind non-moral principle--as blind
and ruthless as gravitation. This being so, the mind is for the sake of
the body, and not conversely. Evolution is not making for truth and
righteousness as for greater or even as for co-ordinate ends; but simply
for life, to which sometimes truth and righteousness, but just as often
illusion and selfishness, are means. There is nothing therefore in this
process of Nature to make us trust that our mind really makes for truth
as such, or that it has any essential tendency to greater correspondence
with reality, beyond what subserves to fuller animal existence. The fact
that a certain belief makes animal life possible is no proof of its
truth, but only of its expediency. The extent to which many pleasures
depend on illusion is proverbial; and pleasure is almost the note of
vital vigour, according to this philosophy.

Plainly, our argument from the adaptability of a belief to man's higher
moral needs, vanishes into thin air as soon as the key to the order of
nature is thus sought in a blind non-moral tendency, and when that which
is lowest is put at the top, and everything above it made to minister to

But then it is not only this particular argument that perishes, but all
possibility of arguing at all, all faith in our mental faculties, except
so far as they minister to the finding of food and the propagation of
life. Thus the very attempt to prove such a system of Evolution is a
contradiction, since it cuts away all basis of proof. On this I need not
dwell longer, since it has been worked out so fully and clearly by
others. We get rid of the argument from adaptability, by a conception of
the order of Nature that reduces us to mental and moral chaos.

In its semblance of simplicity this form of Evolution-philosophy shows
itself kin to those other old-world attempts to dispense with a
governing mind, and to educe the existing cosmos from the blind strife
of primordial atoms. It has indeed a more plausible basis, seeing how
many things, too quickly attributed to design in a theological age, can
really be explained by the struggle for existence. But in trying to make
an occasional and partial cause universal and ultimate, it has
undertaken the impossible task of bringing the greater out of the less;
which really means bringing their difference out of nothing--and this is
creation with the First Cause left out; that is, spontaneous creation.
It is from first to last an "aggregation" theory, and has to face the
insupportable burdens which such a theory brings with it. Haunted by a
false analogy drawn from the political organism whose members are
intelligent and self-directive, and who put themselves under an
intelligent government to be marshalled and directed to one common
end--haunted by this anthropomorphic conception, it tries to explain how
independent and indestructible units, void of all intelligence, come
together into polities with no assignable government; and how these
groups or polities, which are nothing separate from the sum of their
components, are aggregated to one another in like manner; until at last
we come to the highest organism, which again is only the sum of its
ultimate atoms, and its activity the sum of their activities--the whole
distinction between highest and lowest organism being such as exists
between a society of two and a highly complex civilized state. And all
this political life is the spontaneous work of unintelligent units; that
is to say, we have results exceeding the highest ever attained by human
intelligence, long before intelligence or sentience has yet been

Nobody will care to support "Pangenesis" as a theory of generation. To
suppose that there is a mysterious power which breaks a little fraction
off each of the bioplasts of which we are asserted to be the sum; that
having collected these fractions it arranges them all in the right order
within the compass of a single germ, and from that germ reproduces the
parent organism, is an hypothesis compared with which the creation of
the world in its entirety six thousand years ago, including the fossils
and remains of aeonian civilizations, is lucid and intelligible. This is
no hyperbole. For if once we allow creation at all, the creation of the
world at any stage of Evolution is just as conceivable as the creation
of primordial atoms. If any living thing were now created (e.g., a
grain of corn or a full ear) it would bear in itself the apparent
evidence of having _grown_ to its present state _ab ovo_; or the _ovum_
itself would seem to ground a similar false inference of having come
from a parent. Strange as such an idea may be, it is easy and pellucid
compared with the hypothesis of Pangenesis--still more when we remember
that this complex germ, which is a lion or a horse in small--itself the
elaboration of aeons of Evolution--can replicate itself with ease and
rapidity, reproducing in adjacent pabulum a "cosmos" which differs in
degree, not in kind, from that described in the story of the Six Days.
Yet the more we look into it, the more clear is it that Pangenesis (and
not Polarigenesis or Perigenesis) is the inevitable outcome of the
aggregation-theory of life.

And therefore to return to our former assertion, whatever we seem to
gain in simplicity of statement by this form of the Evolution theory, we
pay for dearly when we come to its application; nay more, as soon as we
attempt to translate the words into clear and distinct ideas, we are
left with nothing coherent that the mind can get hold of; and it is only
at this price that we can cut away the basis of the "argument from
adaptability," and with it the basis of all reason and morality. We must
therefore go on to examine if there be any alternative form of the same
philosophy more bearable.

I have forborne all criticism of the supposed _facts_ on which Evolution
is based; as others have dealt frequently with their various weaknesses.
Nor do I think it necessary to deal with the extravagant subordinate
hypotheses by aid of which facts are forced under the main hypothesis,
e.g., those which explain how the horse grew out of the hipparion. The
crudest finalists have been everywhere out-stripped by Evolutionists in
dextrous application of the argument _a posse ad esse_.


Assuming still that the facts collected and arranged by experimental
science in favour of the hypothesis are such as to demand some kind of
Evolution-philosophy; assuming that the very imperfect serial
classification of living things according to their degree of organic
definiteness, coherence, and heterogeneity not merely represents a
variety which has always coexisted since life was possible on this
earth, but rather traces out or hints at the genetic process by which
this variety has been produced, let us see if there be any other
governing principle directing the process, more intelligible than the
persistence of that mere organic life which cannot even be thought of as
distinct from those appliances and functions which it is supposed to
have evolved for its own service by "natural selection."

Let us admit, what is really evident, that life is nothing distinct from
the sum of those functions which minister to the preservation of life;
and that therefore it is not the same thing in a man and in a
mud-turtle. Man's superior faculties are not merely a more complicated
machinery for producing an identical effect which the mud-turtle
produces more simply and abundantly, but rather by their very play
_constitute_ an entirely different and higher kind of life. When Hume,
in his _Treatise on Human Nature_, says: "Reason is and ought to be the
slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to
serve and obey them," he implies that the exercise of reason is no
constituent factor of human life, but something outside it, subordinate
to it, whereas that life itself consists in passion, or pleasurable
sensation, of which man, in virtue of his reason and other advantages,
secures more than do his fellow-animals. This is just the conception of
life which we have seen to be incoherent on close inspection; and if it
be so, then the evolutionary process is a struggle not for bare life or
existence, but for the prevalence of the _higher kinds_ of life and
existence; and intelligence and morality are not only co-operative as
instruments in maintaining and extending human life, but are themselves
the principal elements of that complex life. True, the mind does
minister to the body and preserve it; but still more does the body
minister to the mind; or rather, each ministers to that whole in which
the play of the mind is the principal function and the play of the body
subordinate. If, then, we hold to the verdict of our common sense, and
regard our mental life not as subordinate to our sensitive and vegetal
life, but as co-ordinate and even superior, we must (so to speak) view
it as no less "for its own sake," as no less an "end in itself" than
they are, but rather much more; we must regard evolution as making for
the life of truth and the life of righteousness even more principally
than for bare existence or animal vitality. It is now no longer mere
life that tries to assert itself, and in the struggle shapes things to
what they are; but it is the very highest kind of life, that is trying
to come to the birth. Nature inherently tends to the higher through the
lower forms of life, and these minister to the higher and receive in
return from them the means of a yet more efficacious ministry.

In this conception, every function of the organism has two aspects,
under one of which it is its own end and exists for its own sake as an
element of the life of the whole; under the other it is ministerial,
serving other functions above and below it, as it in return is served by
them. Correspondence with the environment is, similarly, not merely a
condition of life, but also that wherein vitality principally consists.
"Living" is spontaneous self-adaptation to surrounding reality, taken in
the very widest sense. The more diverse and multiform this adaptability,
the fuller and higher is the life; and thus our ordinary common-sense
classifications are justified. Each new manifestation of life means some
new correspondence with surrounding reality as we piss from mere
vegetation, and then add local movement, and one sense after another,
till we come finally to intelligence and the life of reason and
right-doing, which again, consists in self-conformation to things as
they really are. In all this we are in agreement with common sense and
common language, which identify the fullest life with the fullest
activity; all activity being of the nature of response to stimulus, that
is, correspondence to reality. As soon as consciousness supervenes on
the lower forms of life it is evident that the pleasures of sight,
hearing, taste, mind, and affection all depend on, and consist in, the
consciousness of this successful accommodation of the subject to the
object; and that all pain and disease is simply the felt failure of such
adaptation. What was anciently and very wisely called the "natural
appetite" of living creatures is in this view nothing else but their
response to the modifying attraction exerted upon them by the objective
Reality which presses upon them on every side, and tends to draw them
into conformity with itself so far as they have latent capacity for such
a correspondence. It is the light that makes (or rather elicits) sight;
and it is sound that develops the sense of hearing: and it is the ideas
embodied in Nature that call our intellect into play. Hence it follows
that, desire for truth and justice, for society and for religion, which
assert themselves as invariably in the soul of man at certain stages of
progress, as the desire for mere life asserts itself from the first, is
simply the felt result of the as yet unsuccessful endeavour of Nature to
draw man into a fuller kind of correspondence with herself.

Thus conceived, the course of evolution is comparable, not as before, to
the gradual unveiling of a blank canvas, revealing simply a greater
extent of the same appearance, but to the gradual unveiling of a picture
whose full unity of meaning is held in suspense till the disclosure is
completed. We do not now interpret the higher by the lower, but the
lower by the higher; the beginning by the end. This may seem perilously
near to finalism, yet it is no more necessarily so, than the process of
photography; we only need a self-adaptive tendency in life-matter
responsive to the stimulating-tendency of the environment. Not, of
course, that this bundle of words really explains anything, but that
like other formulae of the kind, it prescinds from the question of ends
and origins, by making a statement of what happens serve as a cause of
what happens, and calling it a Law or a Tendency, or a Latent
Potentiality--thus filling the gap which mere agnosticism creates in our

With this conception of Evolution our ordinary estimates of "higher" and
"lower" are saved; also the value of our mental processes upon which
rests whatever proof the theory may admit of; while the "argument from
adaptability" is provided with a firm basis independent of finality. All
our "natural," as opposed to our personal and self-determined appetites
or cravings,--those which are, so to say, constitutional and inseparable
from our nature in certain conditions, are evidence of the influence of
some reality outside us seeking to draw us into more perfect
correspondence with itself, and whose nature can be more or less dimly
conjectured from the nature of those cravings. What are called "natural
religions" represent man's self-devised attempts to explain the reality
answering to his religious and moral cravings. Revelation is but a
divine interpretation of the same; as though one with dim vision were to
supplement his defect by the testimony of another more clear-sighted.

It may be practically admitted that no philosophy allows of strict
demonstration, since, being a conception of the totality of things, it
modifies our understanding of every principle by which one might attempt
to prove or disprove it. Eventually it is its harmony with the totality
of things as we perceive them that determines us to accept it, and no
two of us perceive just the same totality, however substantial an
agreement there may be in our experience; yet I think it can hardly be
denied that this conception of evolution is far more in agreement with
the world as most of us know it, and commonly think and speak of it,
than the former; that it not merely satisfies our intellect, but offers
some satisfaction to our whole spiritual nature. "Is it certain," asks
Mr. Bradley, in a fairly similar connection, "that the mere intellect
can be self-satisfied if the other elements of our nature remain
uncontented?" And, again: "A result, if it fails to satisfy our whole
nature, comes short of perfection: and I could not rest tranquilly in a
truth if I were compelled to regard it as hateful.... I should insist
that the inquiry was not yet closed and that the result was but partial.
And if metaphysics" [for which we may substitute: any philosophy, such
a& that of Evolution] "is to stand, it must, I think, take account of
all sides of our being. I do not mean that every one of our desires must
be met by a promise of particular satisfaction; for that would be absurd
and utterly impossible. But if the main tendencies of our nature do not
reach consummation in the Absolute, we cannot believe that we have
attained to perfection and truth."[7] From this point of view there can
be no doubt as to which of these conceptions of Evolution is the more
rational and satisfactory; that which would explain it by a simple
tendency in living matter to persist and spread, and would see in all
organic variety only the selected means to that somewhat colourless end;
or that conception which would explain it by a tendency in living matter
to come into ever fuller correspondence with its environment, seeing in
such spontaneous correspondence the very essence of life, and not merely
a condition of life.

We need only add a few criticisms on this second conception.

1. It is true that every creature struggles more intensely and
vigorously for the lower kind of life, or for "mere life," as we might
say, than for any of those things which alone would seem to make life
worth the having. But this only means that to live at all is the most
fundamental condition of living well and fully and enjoyably. The higher
life cannot stand without the lower, which it includes, but the lower is
not therefore the better, nor is it the end for whose sake the higher is
desirable; but conversely. Not until men have got bread enough to eat
will they have leisure or energy to spare for the animal grades of
vitality. When the means of bodily subsistence grow scarce, then the
faculties that were previously set free to seek the bread of a higher
and fuller life are diverted to the struggle for bare animal existence,
and progress is thrown back; but when there is abundance for all,
secured by the labour of a few from whom the remainder can buy, then
fuller life becomes once more possible for that remainder. The struggle
for bodily food gives an advantage to, and "selects" naturally, those
mental and other powers which facilitate its attainment; but just as man
does not only eat and labour in order to live, but also (however it may
shock conventional ethics) lives in order to eat and labour; so the new
energies called forth by competition do not merely secure that grade of
life in whose interests they are evoked and perfected, but extend the
sphere of vitality, in so much as their own play adds a new element to
life and gives it a new form.

The part played by struggle and competition in this process of Evolution
is naturally exaggerated by those who deny any latent tendency other
than that of mere persistence in being; who repudiate an internal
expansiveness towards fuller kinds of existence, drawn out or checked by
the environment.

Competition plays a prominent part when there is question of the lower
grades of life, in so far as these depend on a pabulum that is limited
in quantity. In such cases competition, within certain limits, will
secure the bringing-out of latent powers by which the lower level of
life is maintained and a higher level entered upon; the lower being
secured by the superimposition of the higher.

But how does it do so? Not by creating anything, but by giving the
victory to those individuals who already were ahead of their fellows in
virtue of a fuller development of their nature from within; in clearing
the ground for them and letting them increase and multiply.

2. Again, we should notice that development in one direction may be at
the cost of development in another. The struggle for any lower form of
existence than that already attained, is inevitably at the cost of the
higher. The degrading effects of destitution are proverbial. Craft,
cruelty, selfishness, and all the vices needed for success in a
gladiatorial contest are often the fruits of such competition. Also,
commercial progress seems on the whole to be at the expense of progress
in art and the higher tastes, sacrificing everything to the production
of the greatest possible quantity of material comforts. If it sharpens
the wits and sensibilities in some directions, it blunts them in others.

Now, the first sense suggested to us in these days by the word
"progress," is material progress--all that came in with steam; and this
narrow conception vitiates much of our reasoning. It is in this realm
undoubtedly that competition is such a factor of rapid advance; but we
forget that the food of what the best men have ever considered the best
life, is not limited or divisible; but like the light and air is
undiminished how many soever share it. Whatever advance there has been
in the life of the mind and of the higher tastes and sensibilities,
cannot directly be explained by competition, but simply by the quiet
upward working of Nature's inherent forces. We look with scorn at the
unprogressive East, satisfied that there can be no progress, no life
worth living, where there is no rush for dollars. But I think we have
yet to learn the meaning of _ex Oriente lux_.

Much of our immorality and our social evil comes from the fact that
those who have developed the faculties of a higher grade of life, seek
the lower as an end in itself, and not simply so far as it is a
condition of the higher and no further. The Gospel precept, as usual,
enunciates only the law of reason and nature, when it bids us to "Seek
first the Kingdom of God and its justice," that is, to put our best life
in the front, and to make it the measure and limit of any other quest.
The neglect of this principle gives us high living and plain thinking,
instead of "high thinking and plain living;" and takes the bread out of
the mouths of the poor. The competition for pleasures and luxuries and
amusements, may indeed develop certain industries and cause progress in
certain narrow lines, but it is at the cost of the only progress worth
the name.

The conflict between this "struggle-theory" and ethics has been freely
acknowledged by Professor Huxley and others; every attempt to educe
unselfishness from selfishness has failed. The moral man even in our day
has rather a bad time of it; what chance would he have had of surviving
to propagate his species in the supposed pre-moral states of human
society? Who can possibly conceive mere rottenness being cured by
progress in rottenness; or a man drinking himself into temperance? On
the other hand, it is at least conceivable that in the wildest savage
there is some little seed of a moral sense--weak, compared with the
lowest springs of action, just because it is the highest and therefore
only struggling into being; and that in the slow lapse of time events
may here and there prove that honesty is the best policy; and that
honesty once tasted may be found not only useful for other things, but
agreeable for itself, and may be cherished and strengthened by social
and religious sanctions.

There is, however, a reaction on foot which tends to reconcile the
breach between ethics and evolution, by reducing the part played by
competition within reasonable bounds, and making it subservient to the
survival, not of the most selfish, but of the most social individuals.
Definite variations from within, modified between narrow limits by
accidental variation from without, is coming to be acknowledged as the
chief factor of progress. But we should not forget that to allow an
internal principle of orderly development is, not merely to modify the
popular evolution theory by a slight concession to its adversaries; it
is rather to make it no longer the supreme explanation of development,
but at most a slight modification of the more mysterious theory which it
was its boast and merit to have supplanted. According to Geddes and
Foster and others of their school, it is the species-subserving
qualities that Nature selects; and these, in the higher grades of life,
are equivalent to the altruistic, social, and ethical qualities. It is
in virtue of the parental and maternal instincts of self-sacrifice,
self-diffusion, self-forgetfulness in the interests of the offspring,
that species are preserved and prevail. Selfish egoism leads eventually
(as we see in some modern countries where _laizzez-faire_ liberalism
prevails) to social disruption, decadence, and chaos; and this is the
universal law of life in every grade. At first indeed the unit struggles
to live, for life is the condition of propagation; but the root of this
instinct is altruistic; it is the whole asserting itself in the part;
and all "self-regarding" instincts are to be likewise explained as
subordinate to the "other-regarding" instincts. As soon as this
sub-ordination is ignored in practice, regress takes the place of
progress. The transit, we are told, from the unicellular to the
multicellular organism cannot be explained by individualism, but implies
a diminution of the competitive, an increase of the social and
subordinative tendency. The argument from economics to biology and back
again, is said to be nearing exposure; the "progress of the species
through the internecine struggle of its individuals at the margin of
subsistence," is the outgoing idea. Yes, and with it goes out all that
made Evolution a simple and therefore popular explanation of the world;
and there comes in that "organic" conception of the process which
clamours for theism and finalism as its only coherent complement.

3. But though Evolution so conceived makes the "argument from
adaptability," as well as the arguments for theism, stronger rather than
weaker; we must not shut our eyes to the difficulty created by the fact
(too little insisted upon by Evolutionists) that there is no solid
reason for thinking that progress is all-pervading. We have already said
that progress in commerce may be regress in art or in religion or in
morality. Also, progress in benevolence may co-exist with regress in
fortitude and purity; progress in one point of morality with regress in
another; progress in ethical judgment with regress in ethical practice.
And in every realm, growth and decay, life and death, seem so to
intertwine and oscillate that it is very gratuitous to designate the
total process as being one or the other. Spencer confesses that the
entire universe oscillates between extremes of integration and
disintegration. Why we should consider the universe at present to be
rising rather than falling, waxing rather than waning, one cannot say.
The easier presumption is that it is equally one and the other, and
always has been. Even were we rash enough to pronounce progress to be on
the whole prevalent within the narrow field of our own experience,
surely it were nothing but the inevitable "provincialism" of the human
mind to pass _per saltum_ from that, to a generalization for all
possible experience. Our optimism, our faith that right, truth, and
order will eventually prevail, can find only a delusive basis in actual
experience, and must draw its life from some deeper source.

Why then should we so presume that our moral and religious ideas are
really progressive and not regressive, as to regard their interpretation
as approximating to the truth? The answer is simply that our argument
from adaptability does not require the assumption in question, but only
that we should be able to distinguish higher from lower tendencies,
progressive from regressive movements, without holding the optimistic
view that on the whole the forward tendency is at present prevailing. It
is not because we live in the nineteenth century that we consider our
moral perceptions truer than those of the ancient Hebrews, but because
we at once comprehend and transcend their ideas (in some respects), as
the greater does the less. In many points surely the relation is
inverted and we feel ourselves transcended (or may at least suspect it),
by those who lived or live in ruder conditions than our own. David has
perhaps taught us more than we could have taught him; and there are
other vices than those proper to semi-barbarism. It is not by reference
to date or country, or grade of material progress, that we assess the
value of moral judgments, but by that subjective standard with which our
own moral attainments supply us in regard to all that is equal or less,
similar or dissimilar. To deny this discernment is to throw the doors
open to unqualified scepticism; to admit it, is all that we need for the
validity of our inference.

4. If Evolution is really of this oscillatory character; if at all times
much the same processes have been going on in different parts of this
universe as now--one system decaying as another is coming into being; is
it not more reasonable to imagine (for it is only a question of
imagining) that the primordial datum was not uniform nebula, but matter
in all stages of elaboration from the highest to the lowest--the same
sort of result as we should get from a cross-section at any subsequent
moment in the process? What reason is there for assuming primordial
homogeneity, since every backward step would show us, together with the
unravelling of what is now in process of weaving, a counter-balancing
weaving of what is now in process of disintegration? Were this earth
all, we might dream of universal advance by shutting our eyes to a great
many incompatible facts; but when our telescopes show us the
co-existence of integration and disintegration everywhere, what can we
conclude but that in the past as in the future, no alteration is to be
looked for beyond the shifting of the waves' crest from side to side of
the sea of matter--the total ratio of depressions to elevations
remaining exactly constant.

Were the other view of an original universal homogeneity correct, how
conies it that we have still co-existent every stage of advance from the
lowest to the highest, and that there is not a greater equality?--a
difficulty which does not exist if we suppose things to have been _on
the whole,_ as they are now, from the very first. But whichever view we
take; whether we suppose all things collectively to oscillate between
recurring extremes of "sameness" and "otherness;" or every stage of the
wave of progress from crest to trough, to be simultaneously manifested
in the universe at all times, the old difficulty of "the beginning" will
force itself upon us. A process _ab aeterno_ is at least as unimaginable
as the process of creation _ex nihilo;_ if it be not altogether
inconceivable to boot. And the alternative is, either a primordial state
of homogeneous matter which contains the present cosmos in germ, and
from which it is evolved without the aid of any environment--such a germ
claiming a designer as much as any ready-made perfect world; or else, a
primordial state of things like that which we should get at any
cross-section of the secular process, in which every stage of life and
death, growth and decay, evolution and involution, is represented as
now. This would include fossils and remains of past civilizations
which (in the hypothesis) would never have existed; and would be
in all respects as difficult as the crudest conception of the
creation-hypothesis. And if this absurdity drives us back to
primordial homogeneity, as before, we must remember that here, too,
though not so evidently, we should have all the signs of an antecedent
process that was non-existent. Life and death, corruption and
integration, are parts of one undulatory process. Cut the wave where
you will its curve claims to be finished in both directions and
suggests a before as well as an after. If, in the very nature of
things, the pendulum sways between confusion and order, chaos and
cosmos, each extreme intrinsically demands the other, not only as its
consequent, but as its antecedent; and the first chaos, no less than
any succeeding one, will seem the ruin of a previous cosmos. Therefore
we are driven back upon a process _ab aeterno_ with every stage of
evolution always simultaneously represented in one part or other of
the whole. Whatever mitigation such a conception may offer, surely we
may be excused for still adhering to that simpler explanation which
involves a mystery indeed, but nothing so positively unthinkable as a
process without a beginning.

5. This same conception of a process without beginning, favours the
notion that since life was possible on our globe all species may well
have co-existed in varying proportions. From the sudden spread of
population through almost accidental conditions, we can imagine how
certain species might have been so scarce as to leave no trace in
geological strata, whereas those which enormously preponderated at the
same time would have done so. A change of conditions might easily cause
the former to preponderate, and their sudden appearance in the strata
would look as though they had then first come into being. In a word, we
can have good evidence for the extinction of species, but scarcely any
for their origination.

This supposition is not adverse to the derivation of species from a
common stock, but rather favours the notion that as in the case of the
individual the period of plasticity is short compared with that of
morphological stability, so if there was such an arboreal branching out
of species from a common root, it took place rapidly in conditions as
different from ours as those of uterine from extra-uterine life; and
that the stage of inflexibility may have been reached before any time of
which we have record.

But in truth when we see in the world of chemical substances an
altogether similar sedation of species where there can be no question of
common descent as its cause, we may well suspend our judgment till the
established facts have excluded the many hypotheses other than Evolution
by which they may be explained.

As long as Evolution claims to be no more than a working scientific
hypothesis, like ether or electric fluid--a sort of frame or subjective
category into which observed facts are more conveniently fitted, it
cannot justly be pressed for a solution of ultimate problems; but when
it claims to be a complete philosophy and as such to extrude other
philosophies previously in possession, it must show that it can rest the
mind where they leave it restless; or that it has proved their proffered
solutions spurious. This, so far, it has absolutely failed to do. At
most it may determine more accurately the way in which God works out His
Idea in Creation. It can stand as long as it is content to prescind from
the question of ends and origins; but then it is no longer a complete
philosophy. As soon as it attempts to solve those problems it becomes
incoherent and unthinkable. Its true complement is theism and finality,
which flow from it as naturally, if not quite so immediately as the
"argument from adaptability." _Deus creavit_ is so far the only
moderately intelligible, or at least not demonstrably unintelligible,
answer given to the problem of _In principio_.

We have then in this second and soberer form of the philosophy of
Evolution, an attempt to explain the order of the universe without
explicit recourse to the hypothesis of an intelligent authorship and
government of the world: that is to say, independently of theism and
finality; and so far as this explanation admits all the effects and
consequences of an intelligent government, without ascribing them to
that cause, it admits among their number the value of the "argument from
adaptability," and allows us to infer that the postulates of man's
higher moral needs correspond approximately to reality, of which they
are in some sense the product; and that the "wish to believe" is less
likely to be a source of delusion in proportion as the belief in
question is higher in the moral scale.

But it is also clear how unsuccessful this attempted philosophy is in
many ways; and with what difficulties and mysteries it is burdened. At
best it can prescind from finalism by a confession of incompleteness and
philosophical bankruptcy; by resolutely refusing to face the problem of
the whole--of the ultimate whence and whither. If it would positively
exclude theism or finalism it must ascribe all seeming order and
adaptation to the persistence of some blind force, subduing all things
to itself, to "existence," or to "life" striving to assert and extend
itself. It is this conception that seems best to bring the mystery of
the universe within the comprehension of the popular mind, and is more
in keeping with those "aggregation theories" of our day which regard
dust as the one eternal reality whose combination and disguises delude
us into believing in soul and intelligence and divinity. But on closer
examination the words "life" and "existence" answer to no simple reality
or force which can be regarded as governing nature, and from this
radical fallacy of language a whole brood of further absurdities spring
up which make the popular form of Evolution-philosophy utterly

_June, Aug. Sept._ 1899.


[Footnote 1: This will perhaps be the most convenient term. In the
_Summa of Aquinas_, the elaborate treatise _De vera religione_, called
into existence by more recent exigencies, had no place. Still, in so far
as it is constructed roughly on the same scheme and presupposes the same
philosophy, and (were it not a deepening of the roots rather than an
extension of the branches) might almost be regarded as a development of
scholasticism, it may rightly be called "scholastic" to distinguish it,
say, from such a work as the _Grammar of Assent_.]

[Footnote 2: _Science and a Future Life_, By F. W. Myers.]

[Footnote 3: i.e., If an object be adequately and exhaustively
conceived under the predicates A.B.C.D., it is inadequately conceived as
A.B.x.x. But if each of these properties be permeated and modified by
the rest, then A in this object is not as A in any other combination,
but is A as related to and modified by B.C.D.; and similarly, the other
properties are each unique. Hence any part is somewhat falsely
apprehended till the whole be apprehended, when we are dealing with
organic as opposed to mechanical totalities.]

[Footnote 4: Not that the transmutation of one species into another has
yet been detected in any instance, or perhaps, even were it a fact,
could be detected; but that such a serial graduation has been observed
as might be commodiously explained by that supposition,--and also by
fifty others.]

[Footnote 5: _Mind_, 1876, p. 185.]

[Footnote 6: _Mind_, 1876, p. 9.]

[Footnote 7: _Appearance and Reality_.]



"Can any good come out of Trinity?" is a question that has been asked
and answered in various senses during the recent Catholic University
controversies in Ireland; but for whatever other good Catholics might
look to that staunchly Elizabethan institution, they would scarcely turn
thither for theological guidance. Yet all definition is negative as well
as positive; exclusive as well as inclusive; and we always know our
position more deeply and accurately in the measure that we comprehend
those other positions to which it is opposed. The educative value of
comparing notes, quite apart from all prospect of coming to an
agreement, or even of flaying our adversaries alive, is simply
inestimable; we do not rightly know where we stand, except in so far as
we know where others stand--for place is relative.

The Donnellan Lecturer for 1897-8 [1] took for his subject the doctrine
of the Blessed Trinity in relation to contemporary idealistic
philosophy. The scope of these lectures is, not to prove the doctrine of
the Trinity philosophically, but to show that the difficulty besetting
the conception of a multiplicity of persons united by a superpersonal
bond, is just the same difficulty that brings idealistic philosophy to a
dead-lock when it endeavours (1) to escape from solipsism, (2) to
vindicate free-will,(3) to solve the problem of evil. He naturally
speaks of Idealism as "the only philosophy which can now be truly called
living," in the sense in which a language is said to live; that is,
which is growing and changing, and endeavouring to bring new tracts of
experience under its synthesis; which is current in universities of the
day. Of the Realism which survives in the seminaries of the
ecclesiastical world he naturally knows nothing; addressing himself to a
wholly different public, he speaks to it on its own assumptions, in its
own mental language; and indeed he knows no other. But having weighed
idealism in the balance of criticism, he finds it far short of its
pretensions to be an adequate accounting for the data of experience; he
finds that it leads the mind in all directions to impassable chasms
which only faith can overleap. It does not demand or suggest the mystery
of the Trinity, but reveals a void which, as a fact that doctrine alone
does fill. The convinced Realist will not be very interested about the
problem of solipsism which for him is non-existent, but the proposed
relief from the difficulties of free-will and of the existence of evil
may be grateful to all indifferently; or at least may suggest principles
adaptable to other systems. In his Trinitarian theology Mr. D'Arcy is in
many points at variance with the later conclusions of the schools; and
in some instances his argument depends vitally on this variance; but not
in the main. For his main point is that as our own personality--the
highest unity of which we have experience--takes under itself unities of
a lower grade; so the doctrine of the Trinity implies what the hiatuses
of philosophy require, namely, that personal unity is not the highest;
that, beyond any power of our present conception, the personally many
can be really (not only morally or socially) _one thing_. "A wonderfully
unspeakable thing it is," says Augustine, "and unspeakably wonderful
that whereas this image of the Trinity" _(sc.,_ the human soul), "is one
person, and the sovereign Trinity itself, three persons, yet that
Trinity of three persons is more inseparable than this trinity" (memory,
understanding, and will) "of one person." This "superpersonal" unity is
of course a matter of faith and not of philosophy, yet it is a faith
without which subjective philosophy must come to a stand-still; it is as
much a postulate of the speculative reason as God and immortality are of
the practical reason.

"If man is to retain the full endowment of his moral nature, we must
make up our minds to accept for ourselves an incomplete theory of
things." A philosophy which should unify the sum-total of human
experience, including the supernatural facts of Christianity, is
impossible; but even excluding these facts there is always need of some
kind of non-rational assent, which, however reasonable and prudent in
the very interests of thought, is not necessitated by the laws of
thought--is not, in the strictest sense philosophical. Idealism, like
other philosophies, "is not satisfied with an imperfect knowledge of the
greatest things. It must rise to the Divine standpoint and comprehend
the concrete universal," and so, of course, it breaks down. "But it
would surely be a hasty inference," says Mr. D'Arcy, "that philosophy
must needs be exhausted because idealism has done its work and delivered
its message to mankind," that is, has explored another blind alley, and
has arrived at the _cul de sac_. In fact, if idealism is a living
philosophy, it is nevertheless showing signs of age and decay. Ptolemaic
astronomy, as an explanation of planetary movements, proved its
exhaustion by a liberal recourse to epicycles as the answer to all
awkward objections; and philosophies show themselves moribund in an
analogous way, by a monotonous pressing of some one hackneyed principle
to a degree that makes common-sense revolt and fling the whole theory to
the winds--chaff and grain indiscriminately. But philosophy must be
distinguished from philosophies, as religion from religions. The
imperfection of the various concrete attempts to satisfy either
spiritual need, may make the desperate-minded wish to cut themselves
free from all connection with any particular system; but the desire and
effort to have a knowledge of the whole (_i.e._, a philosophy) is as
natural and ineradicable as the desire to live and breathe. In this
general sense, philosophy "takes human experience, sets it out in all
its main elements, and then endeavours to form a plan of systematic
thought which will account for the whole. It has one fundamental
postulate, that there is a meaning, or, in other words, that there is an
all-pervading unity." This "faith" in the ultimate coherence and unity
of everything is the presupposition and motive of the very attempt to
philosophize or to determine the nature of that unity. It is not,
therefore, itself a product of philosophy; it is an innate conviction
that can be denied only from the teeth outwards, but can neither be
proved nor disproved by the finite mind.

To "explain" is in one way or another to liken the less known to what is
better known; and thus every philosophy is an attempt to express--by
means of sundry extensions and limitations--the universe of our
experience in the terms of some totality with which we are more
familiar; plainly, it is also an endeavour to express the greater in
terms of the less, and must therefore be almost infinitely inadequate
even at the best. At one time the Whole has been conceived as the unity
of a mere aggregate--of a heap of stones; at another, as a mere
sand-storm of fortuitous atoms; there has been the egg-theory, and the
tortoise-theory, and many others, no less grotesque to our seeming. But,
leaving fanciful and poetical philosophies aside, and considering only
those which pretend to be strictly rational, we find the objective
philosophy and the subjective confronting one another; the former
likening the universe to the works of men's hands; the latter likening
it to man himself; the former taking its metaphors from the artificer
shaping his material according to a preconceived plan for a definite
purpose; the latter, from the thinking and willing self considered as
the creator of its own personal experience.

There is enough uniformity of plan throughout the animal body to make
any one part of the organism a likeness of the whole--the eye, the
heart, or the hand. And so, presumably, there is hardly any unity we can
think of in our own little corner of experience that does not offer some
similitude of the universal unity. But to take this as an adequate
explanation; to force the metaphor to its logical consequences, to the
exclusion of every other reasonable though non-rational assent, is the
commonest but most fatal form of intellectual provincialism and
narrowness. Our mind is essentially limited not merely in that it cannot
know everything, but in that its mode of knowledge is imperfect and
analogical in regard to all that is greater than itself. It is broad
only when conscious of its narrowness.

The first difficulty into which idealism gets itself is that of
solipsism. According to its rigidly argued principles, "mind is
separated from mind by a barrier which is, not figuratively, but
literally impassable. It is impossible for any _ego_ to leap this
barrier and enter into the experience of any other _ego_." It is not an
abstract self-in-general, but my one solitary concrete self for which
all experience exists. There is no room for any other person. But this
philosophy does not account for our common-sense belief in Nature as
existing independently of self and of other selfs; or in those other
selfs with their several and distinct spheres of experience.

The unification it effects when treated rigorously as a complete
philosophy leaves out of account the best part of what it was bound to
account for. In spite of idealism, the idealist goes on _believing_ in
other persons or spheres of experience, and in Nature as the experience
of a Divine Person. But since, on his principles, persons are mutually
exclusive, and none can enter the sphere of another's experience, to see
with his eyes, or to feel with his nerves, since,

Each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe
Our hermit spirits dwell and range apart,

we are thrown back on a disconnected plurality of beings, and God
Himself, viewed as personal (in this sense) is but one among many.
Albeit immeasurably the greatest, He cannot be regarded as the ground of
the possibility and existence of all the rest--the home and bond of
union of all other spirits which in Him live and move and have their

The belief in the personality of God is all-essential for the
satisfaction of our religious cravings, as a presupposition of trust,
love, prayer, obedience, and such relationships; as bringing out the
transcendence in contrast with the all-pervading immanence of the deity;
as checking the pantheistic perversion of this latter truth by which, in
turn, its own deistic perversion is checked. God is not only in and
through all things; but also outside and above all things; just as
Christ is not only the soul of the Church, but also its Head and Ruler.
Between these two compensating statements the exact truth is hidden from
our eyes.

But it is not to the conception of the Divine personality and
separateness that we are to look for the missing bond by which the head
and members are to be knit together, and the essential disconnection of
these "spheres of experience" overcome. The ultimate unity is a mystery;
in a word, philosophy, as a quest of that unity, breaks down. The
solution is suggested only by the revelation of a superpersonal unity in
some sense prior to the multiplicity of Divine Persons, a unity in which
they being many are one, and in which we too are, not merged, but
unified without prejudice to our personal distinctness.

Hence, the writer concludes: "Materialism, when its defect is discovered
and understood, points on to idealism. Idealism, when its defect is
disclosed, points to Christian theism." For those who have not come to
Christian theism by this thorny and circuitous path, the mode in which
the idealist extricates himself from his self-wrought entanglement may
seem of little interest; but inasmuch as they take for granted the
existence of that same multitude of mutually impenetrable personalities
which he, by a revolt of his common-sense against his philosophy is
forced to confess, the problem of the ultimate unity exists for them

If in its endeavour to vindicate the spirituality of man against the
materialist, idealism tumbles into the slough of solipsism and needs to
be fetched out by the doctrine of the Trinity, it fares much the same
way in its attempted defence of free-will against necessity. That
freedom from determination by the "not-self" which idealism vindicates,
can belong only to the all-inclusive Spirit, outside whose self nothing
exists; it belongs to me only on the supposition that I am the
all-inclusive; and this, as before, is the point at which common-sense
revolts. "Free-will is based on man's consciousness of his moral nature.
It represents not any speculative theory, but one of the great facts
which every theory of things must explain or perish." If we ascribe
freedom to the Absolute and to other spirits (whose existence is forced
on us in spite of Idealism), it is because we first find it in ourselves
as the very essence of our spiritual nature. But if we accept our
freedom as a fact which it is the business of philosophy to explain and
not to deny; on just the same testimony we must accept the fact of the
manifold limitations of our liberty of which we are continually
conscious. Now here it is that the Idealist defence of liberty against
materialism fails by a deplorable _nimis probat_. It can only save our
liberty by denying our limitations; or at least it leaves us facing a
problem which can be solved only by an assumption for which Idealism
offers no philosophical warrant. Hence we are brought back to the
world-old dilemma "between a freedom of God which annihilates man, and a
freedom of man which annihilates God." Idealism has really contributed
nothing to the solution of the difficulty which is persistent as long as
God is known only as a Sovereign and Infinite Personality among a
multitude of finite personalities, and until revelation hints at the
possibility of a higher "unity which transcends personality, by which He
is to be the reconciling principle and home of the multitude of
self-determining agents." "Final reconciliation of the Divine and human
personality is in fact beyond us."

Similarly, in dealing with problems of moral evil, Idealism leads to an
_impasse_. As long as we keep to the notion of one all-inclusive Spirit,
the Subject of universal experience, it is easy to show that sin is but
relatively evil, that it is, when viewed absolutely, as much a factor of
the universal life as is righteousness; yet surely this is not to
account for so large and obstinate a part of our experience, but to deny
it. Nor can the ethical corollaries of such a view be tolerated for a
moment. That sin is an absolute, eternal, in some sense, irreparable
evil is a conception altogether fundamental to that morality with which
Christianity and modern civilization have identified themselves. It is
but another aspect of the doctrine of freedom and responsibility. Of
physical and necessary evil it is possible to assert the merely negative
or relative character; we can view it as the good in process of making;
or as the good imperfectly comprehended; but if this optimism be
extended to sin it can only be because sin is regarded as necessitated,
_i.e._, as no longer sin. Hence the view in question does not account
for, but implicitly denies the existence of sin.

Furthermore, the whole tendency of more recent idealism is to explain
moral evil as an offence against man's social nature by which he is a
member of an organism or community. It is the undue self-assertion of
the part against the interests of the whole. Of course the idealist
explains this organic conception with a respect for personality which is
absent from socialistic and evolutionary doctrines of society. But the
notion of sin as a rebellion of one member against all, is common to
both. The latter consider the external life and activity of the unit as
an element in the collective external life of the community--as part of
a common work; the former considers the unity as a free spiritual
agency, an end for itself--whose liberty is curtailed only by the claims
of other like agencies, equal or greater. But by what process, apart
from faith and practical postulates and regulative ideas, can
subjectivism pass to belief in other free agencies outside the thinking
and all-creating self? The result of Mr, D'Arcy's criticism of the
matter is that "it is because the man exists as a member of a spiritual
universe, and must therefore so exert his power of self-determination as
to be in harmony or discord with God above him, and with other men
around him, that the distinction between the good self and the bad self
arises. But in this very conception of a universe of spirits we have
passed beyond the bounds of a purely rational philosophy. Such a
universe is not explicable by reference to the vivifying principle of
the self;" and accordingly we are driven back as before upon the
alternative of philosophical chaos, or else of faith in such a
superpersonal unity as is suggested by the doctrine of the Trinity.

We have but hinted at the barest outlines of Mr. D'Arcy's argument
which, as against Idealism, is close-reasoned and subtle; and now we
have left but little space to deal with the more really interesting
chapter on the "Ultimate Unity." It is not pretended that we can form
any conception of the precise nature of that unity, but merely that some
such unknown kind of unity is needed to deliver us from the antinomies
of thought. As we could never rise to the intrinsic conception of
personal unity from the consideration of some lower unity, material or
mechanical; so neither can we pass from the notion of personal to that
of superpersonal unity or being.

This is only a modern and Hegelian setting of the truth that "being" and
"unity" are said analogously and not univocally of God and creatures.
That there are grades of reality; that "substance is more real than
quality and subject is more real than substance," that "the most real of
all is the concrete totality, the all-inclusive universal"--the _Ens
determinatissimum_, is not a modern discovery, but a re-discovery. That
our own personality is the highest unity of which we have any proper
non-analogous notion; that it is the measure by which we spontaneously
try to explain to ourselves other unities, higher or lower, by means of
extensions or limitations; that our first impulse, prior to correction,
is to conceive everything self-wise, be it super-human or infra-human,
is of course profoundly true; but for this reason to make "self" the
all-explaining and only category, to deny any higher order of reality
because we can have no definite conception of its precise nature, is the
narrowness which has brought Idealism into such difficulties. It is
probably in his notion of Divine personality that Mr. D'Arcy comes most
in conflict with the technicalities of later schools. If, as he says,
modern theology oscillates between the poles of Sabellianism and
Tritheism, he himself inclines to the latter pole. Father de Regnon,
S.J., in his work on the Trinity, shows that the Greek Fathers and the
Latin viewed the problem from opposite ends. "How three can be one," was
the problem with the former; "How one can be three," with the latter.
These inclined to an emptier, those to a fuller notion of personality.
Mr. D'Arcy's Trinitarianism is decidedly more Greek than Latin. The more
"content" he gives to Divine personality, the more he is in-danger of
denying identity of nature and operation; as appears later.

Plainly, the word "person," however analogously applied to God, must
contain something of what we mean when we call ourselves "persons," else
"we are landed in the unmeaning." When Christ spoke of Himself as "I,"
the selfness implied by the pronoun must have had some kind of
resemblance to our own; just as when He called God His Father He
intended to convey something of what fatherhood meant for His then
hearers. That He intended to convey what it might come to mean in other
conditions and ages seems very doubtful; and so if the word "person" has
acquired a fuller and different meaning in modern philosophy, we are not
at once justified in applying this fuller conception to the Divine
persons, unless we can show that it is a legitimate development of the
older sense.

He argues that if the Trinity be the ultimate truth, the Unitarian
suppositions and conclusions of the "natural theologian" are bound to
lead to antinomies and confusions; and he sees in those harmonious
interferences and variations of universal import (which are no less an
essential factor in the evolution of the world than the groundwork of
uniformity and law), evidence of a multi-personal Divine government, of
a division of labour between co-operant agencies. This, of course, goes
beyond the doctrine of "appropriation;" and amounts to a denial of the
singleness of the Divine operation _ad extra_. It seems, in short, to
imply a diversity of nature in each of the persons, over and above the
principle of personal distinctness. Indeed, while it offers a plausible
solution of some minor perplexities, it rather weakens the value of the
general argument. For the notion of a superpersonal unity is needed
chiefly as suggesting a mode in which many mutually exclusive
personalities or "spheres of experience" or lives, may be welded
together into a coherent whole. Even could I reproduce most exactly in
myself the thoughts and feelings of another, it were but a reproduction
or similarity. I can know and feel the like; but I cannot know his
knowing and feel his feeling; for this were to be that other and not

That God's knowledge of our thoughts and feelings should be of this
external, inferential kind is as intolerable to our mental needs of
unification as it is to our religious sense, our hope, our confidence,
our love. In Him we live and move and think and feel; and He in us. That
we can say this of no other personality is what constitutes the burden
of our separateness and loneliness. Our experience exists for no other;
but at least it is in some mysterious way shared by That which lies
behind all otherness, not destroying, but fulfilling. "We know not why
it is," says St. Catherine of Genoa, "we feel an internal necessity of
using the plural pronoun instead of the singular." Perhaps it was that
she saw in a purer and clearer light what we only half feel in the
obscurity of our grosser hearts.

But if God knows our knowing, and feels our feeling, not merely by a
similitude but in itself, it is not because He is transcendent and
"personal," as we understand the word, because He is immanent and
"superpersonal," whatever that may mean. But it is just because
revelation tells us that in God there are three selves or Egos, for each
of whom the experience (i.e., the thought, love, and action) of the
other two exists, not merely similar, but one and the same--the same
thinking, loving, and doing, no less than the same thought, love, and
deed--that we can believe in the possibility of our personal
separateness being at once preserved and overcome in that mysterious

That God is love; and that love, which as an affection, produces an
affective unity between separate persons, can as the subsistent and
primal unity produce a substantial and ineffable union of which the
other is a shadow, is a view towards which revelation points. That the
mere affection of love, the moral union of wills, is an insufficient
unification of personalities is implied by the fact that love always
tends to some sort of real union and communication; and still more, that
it springs from a sense of inexplicable identity.

It is almost a crime in criticism to deal with such a multitude of deep
problems in so brief and hasty an essay. But if we have roughly
indicated the main outlines of the author's position, we shall have done
as much as can be reasonably expected of us; though it is with great
reluctance that we pass over many points, and even whole chapters,
bristling with interest.

Perhaps the most important feature of the book is the prominence it
gives to the difficulties and insufficiencies of idealism. With those of
realism we are all familiar enough, but so far, idealism has been looked
at one-sidedly as evading, if not solving, some of the antinomies of the
earlier philosophy, while its own embarrassments have been condoned in
hopes of future solution. The solution has not come, and now the hopes
are dead or dying. What we need is a higher synthesis, if such be
possible for the human mind, or else a frank admission that faith, in
some sense or other, is a necessary complement of every philosophy. One
thing is clear, that reconciliation can be effected, if at all, only by
a fair-minded admission of difficulties inseparable from either system,
and by a conscientious criticism of presuppositions. No one can deal
effectually with the idealist position to whom it is simply "absurd" or
"ridiculous;" who has not been to some degree intellectually entangled
in it; whose realism is not more or less of an effort. Else he is
dealing with some man of straw of his own fancy, and will be found, as
so often happens, assuming the truth of realism in every argument he
brings forward. Plainly the best minds of modern times have not been
victimized by a fallacy within the competence of a school-boy. And a
like intellectual self-denial is needed on the part of the idealist, who
is apt to dismiss all realism as crude, uncritical, or barbaric. We have
all our antinomies, our blind alleys, our crudities; and we have all to
fill up awkward interstices with assumptions and postulates.

However much we may dissent from Mr. D'Arcy's theology in certain
details; however little we personally may labour under the difficulties
of idealism, we cannot too strongly commend the endeavour to meet the
modern mind on its own platform; to speak to the cultivated in their own
language. Belief is caused by the wish to believe; but it is conditioned
by the removal of intellectual obstacles, different for different grades
of intelligence and education. To create the "wish to believe" is
largely a matter of example, of letting Christianity appear attractive
and desirable, and correspondent to the deeper needs of the soul. It is
also to some extent a work of exposition. But when this all-important
wish has been created, the intellect can hinder its effect. It is much
to know and feel that Christianity is good and useful and beautiful;
"But some time or other the question must be asked: _Is it true_?" And
to liberate the will by satisfying the intellect is work of what alone
is properly called apologetic. Unless we fall back into quietism which
would tell us to read a Kempis and say our prayers and wait, we must
address ourselves first of all to making Christianity attractive; and
then to making it intelligible. And if we do not find it against Gospel
simplicity to address ourselves, as we continually do, to the
intelligence of the semi-educated, we cannot allege that scruple as a
reason why we should not address ourselves to the fully educated,--to
those who eventually form and guide the opinions of the many.

_Feb. 1901_.


[Footnote 1: _Idealism and Theology_. By Charles D'Arcy, B.D. Hodder and
Stoughton, 1900.]

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