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An essay by Goldwin Smith

The Ascent Of Man

Title:     The Ascent Of Man
Author: Goldwin Smith [More Titles by Smith]

Science and criticism have raised the veil of the Mosaic cosmogony and revealed to us the physical origin of man. We see that, instead of being created out of the dust of the earth by Divine fiat, he has in all probability been evolved out of it by a process of development through a series of intermediate forms.

The discovery is, of course, unspeakably momentous. Among other things it seems to open to us a new view of morality, and one which, if it is verified by further investigation, can hardly fail to produce a great change in philosophy. Supposing that man has ascended from a lower animal form, there appears to be ground at least for surmising that vice, instead of being a diabolical inspiration or a mysterious element of human nature, is the remnant of the lower animal not yet eliminated; while virtue is the effort, individual and collective, by which that remnant is being gradually worked off. The acknowledged connection of virtue with the ascendency of the social over the selfish desires and tendencies seems to correspond with this view; the nature of the lower animals being, so far as we can see, almost entirely selfish, and admitting no regard even for the present interests of their kind, much less for its interests in the future. The doubtful qualities, and "last infirmities of noble minds," such as ambition and the love of fame, in which the selfish element is mingled with one not wholly selfish, and which commend themselves at least by their refinement, as contrasted with the coarseness of the merely animal vices, may perhaps be regarded as belonging to the class of phenomena quaintly designated by some writers as "pointer facts," and as marking the process of transition. In what morality consists, no one has yet succeeded in making clear. Mr. Sidgwick's recent criticism of the various theories leads to the conviction that not one of them affords a satisfactory basis for a practical system of ethics. If our lower nature can be traced to an animal origin, and can be shown to be in course of elimination, however slow and interrupted, this at all events will be a solid fact, and one which must be the starting-point of any future system of ethics. Light would be at once thrown by such a discovery on some parts of the subject which have hitherto been involved in impenetrable darkness. Of the vice of cruelty for example no rational account, we believe, has yet been given; it is connected with no human appetite, and seems to gratify no human object of desire; but if we can be shown to have inherited it from animal progenitors, the mystery of its existence is at least in part explained. In the event of this surmise being substantiated, moral phantasms, with their mediaeval trappings, would for ever disappear; individual responsibility would be reduced within reasonable limits; the difficulty of the question respecting free will would shrink to comparatively narrow proportions; but it does not seem likely that the love of virtue and the hatred of vice would be diminished; on the contrary, it seems likely that they would be practically intensified, while a more practical direction would certainly be given to the science of ethics as a system of moral training and a method of curing moral disease.

It is needless to say how great has been the influence of the doctrine of Evolution, or rather perhaps of the method of investigation to which it has given birth, upon the study of history, especially the history of institutions. Our general histories will apparently have to be almost rewritten from that point of view. It is only to be noted, with regard to the treatment of history, that the mere introduction of a physical nomenclature, however elaborate and apparently scientific, does not make anything physical which before was not so, or exclude from human actions, of which history is the aggregate, any element not of a physical kind. We are impressed, perhaps, at first with a sense of new knowledge when we are told that human history is "an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion; during which the matter passes from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity, and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation." But a little reflection suggests to us that such a philosophy is vitiated by the assumption involved in the word "matter," and that the philosophy of history is in fact left exactly where it was before. The superior complexity of high civilization is a familiar social fact which gains nothing in clearness by the importation of mechanical or physiological terms.

We must also be permitted to bear in mind that evolution, though it may explain everything else, cannot explain itself. What is the origin of the movement, and by what power the order of development is prescribed, are questions yet unsolved by physical science. That the solution, if it could be supplied, would involve anything arbitrary, miraculous, or at variance with the observed order of things, need not be assumed; but it might open a new view of the universe, and dissipate for ever the merely mechanical accounts of it. In the meantime we may fairly enter a caveat against the tacit insinuation of an unproved solution. Science can apparently give no reason for assuming that the first cause, and that which gives the law to development, is a blind force rather than an archetypal idea. The only origination within our experience is that of human action, where the cause is an idea. Science herself, in fact, constantly assumes an analogous cause for the movements of the universe in her use of the word "law," which necessarily conveys the notion, not merely of observed co-existence and sequence, but of the intelligent and consistent action of a higher power, on which we rely in reasoning from the past to the future, as we do upon consistency in the settled conduct of a man.

Unspeakably momentous, however, we once more admit, the discovery is, and great is the debt of gratitude due to its illustrious authors. Yet it seems not unreasonable to ask whether in some respects we are not too much under its immediate influence, and whether the revolution of thought, though destined ultimately to be vast, may not at present have somewhat overpassed its bounds. Is it not possible that the physical origin of man may be just now occupying too large a space in our minds compared with his ulterior development and his final destiny? With our eyes fixed on the "Descent," newly disclosed to us, may we not be losing sight of the _Ascent_ of man?

There seems in the first place, to be a tendency to treat the origin of a being as finally decisive of its nature and destiny. From the language sometimes used, we should almost suppose that rudiments alone were real, and that all the rest was mere illusion. An eminent writer on the antiquities of jurisprudence intimates his belief that the idea of human brotherhood is not coeval with the race, and that primitive communities were governed by sentiments of a very different kind. His words are at once pounced upon as a warrant for dismissing the idea of human brotherhood from our minds, and substituting for it some other social principles, the character of which has not yet been definitely explained, though it is beginning in some quarters pretty distinctly to appear. But surely this is not reasonable. There can be no reason why the first estate of man, which all allow to have been his lowest estate, should claim the prerogative of furnishing his only real and indefeasible principles of action. Granting that the idea of human brotherhood was not aboriginal--granting that it came into the world at a comparatively late period, still it has come, and having come, it is as real and seems as much entitled to consideration as inter-tribal hostility and domestic despotism were in their own day. That its advent has not been unattended by illusions and aberrations is a fact which does not cancel its title to real existence under the present conditions, and with the present lights of society, any more than in annuls the great effects upon the actions of men and the course of history which the idea has undeniably produced. Human brotherhood was not a part of a primaeval revelation; it may not have been an original institution; but it seems to be a real part of a development, and it may be a part of a plan. That the social principles of certain anti- philanthropic works are identical with those which governed the actions of mankind in a primaeval and rudimentary state, when man had only just emerged from the animal, and have been since worked off by the foremost races in the course of development, is surely rather an argument against the paramount and indefeasible authority of those principles than in favour of it. It tends rather to show that their real character is that of a relapse, or, as the physiologists call it, a reversion. When there is a vast increase of wealth, of sensual enjoyment, and of the selfishness which is apt to attend them, it is not marvellous that such reversions should occur.

Another eminent writer appears to think that he has put an end to metaphysical theology, and perhaps to metaphysics and theology altogether, by showing that "being," and the cognate words, originally denoted merely physical perceptions. But so, probably, did all language. So did "spirit," so did "geist," so did "power," so did even "sweet reasonableness," and "the not us which makes for righteousness." Other perceptions or ideas have gradually come, and are now denoted by the words which at first denoted physical perceptions only. Why have not these last comers as good a claim to existence as the first? Suppose the intellectual nature of man has unfolded, and been brought, as it conceivably may, into relations with something in the universe beyond the mere indications of the five bodily senses--why are we bound to mistrust the results of this unfolding? We might go still further back, and still lower, than to language denoting merely physical perceptions. We might go back to inarticulate sounds and signs; but this does not invalidate the reality of the perceptions afterwards expressed in articulate language. It seems not very easy to distinguish, in point of trustworthiness of source, between the principles of metaphysics and the first principles of mathematics, or to say, if we accept the deductions in one case, why we should not accept them in the other. It is conceivable at least, we venture to repeat, that the development of man's intellectual nature may have enabled him to perceive other things than those which he perceives by means of his five bodily senses; and metaphysics, once non-existent, may thus have come into legitimate existence. Man, if the doctrine of evolution is true, was once a creature with only bodily senses; nay, at a still earlier stage, he was matter devoid even of bodily sense; now he has arrived--through the exercise of his bodily senses it may be--at something beyond bodily sense, at such notions as _being, essence, existence_: he reasons upon these notions, and extends the scope of his once merely physical vocabulary so as to comprehend them. Why should he not? If we are to be anchored hard and fast to the signification of primaeval language, how are we to obtain an intellectual basis for "the not us which makes for righteousness?" Do not the anti-metaphysicists themselves unconsciously metaphysicize? Does not their fundamental assumption--that the knowledge received through our bodily senses alone is trustworthy--involve an appeal to a mental necessity as much as anything in metaphysics, whether the mental necessity in this case be real or not?

Again, the great author of the Evolution theory himself, in his _Descent of Man_, has given us an account of morality which suggests a remark of the same kind. He seems to have come to the conclusion that what is called our moral sense is merely an indication of the superior permanency of social compared with personal impressions. Morality, if we take his explanation as complete and final, is reduced to tribal self-preservation subtilized into etiquette; an etiquette which, perhaps, a sceptical voluptuary, wishing to remove the obstacles to a life of enjoyment, might think himself not unreasonable in treating as an illusion. This, so far as appears, is the explanation offered of moral life, with all its beauty, its tenderness, its heroism, its self- sacrifice; to say nothing of spiritual life with its hopes and aspirations, its prayers and fanes. Such an account even of the origin of morality seems rather difficult to receive. Surely, even in their most rudimentary condition, virtue and vice must have been distinguished by some other characteristic than the relative permanency of two different sets of impressions. There is a tendency, we may venture to observe, on the part of eminent physicists, when they have carefully investigated and explained what seems to them the most important and substantial subjects of inquiry, to proffer less careful explanations of matters which to them seem secondary and less substantial, though possibly to an intelligence surveying the drama of the world from without the distinctly human portion of it might appear more important than the rest. Eminent physicists have been known, we believe, to account summarily for religion as a surviving reminiscence of the serpent which attacked the ancestral ape and the tree which sheltered him from the attack, so that Newton's religious belief would be a concomitant of his remaining trace of a tail. It was assumed that primaeval religion was universally the worship of the serpent and of the tree. This assumption was far from being correct; but, even if it had been correct, the theory based on it would surely have been a very summary account of the phenomena of religious life.

However, supposing the account of the origin of the moral sense and of moral life, given in _The Descent of Man_, to be true, it is an account of the origin only. Though profoundly significant, as well as profoundly interesting, it is not more significant, compared with the subsequent development, than is the origin of physical life compared with the subsequent history of living beings. Suppose a mineralogist or a chemist were to succeed in discovering the exact point at which inorganic matter gave birth to the organic; his discovery would be momentous and would convey to us a most distinct assurance of the method by which the governing power of the universe works: but would it qualify the mineralogist or the chemist to give a full account of all the diversities of animal life, and of the history of man? Heroism, self- sacrifice, the sense of moral beauty, the refined affections of civilized men, philanthropy, the desire of realizing a high moral ideal, whatever else they may be, are not tribal self-preservation subtilized into etiquette; nor are they adequately explained by reference to the permanent character of one set of impressions and the occasional character of another set. Between the origin of moral life and its present manifestation has intervened something so considerable as to baffle any anticipation of the destiny of humanity which could have been formed for a mere inspection of the rudiments. We may call this intervening force circumstance, if we please, provided we remember that calling it circumstance does not settle its nature, or exclude the existence of a power acting through circumstance as the method of fulfilling a design.

Whatever things may have been in their origin, they are what they are, both in themselves and in regard to their indications respecting other beings or influences the existence of which may be implied in theirs. The connection between the embryo and the adult man, with his moral sense and intelligence, and all that these imply, is manifest, as well as the gradual evolution of the one out of the other, and a conclusive argument is hence derived against certain superstitions or fantastic beliefs; but the embryo is not a man, neither is the man an embryo. A physiologist sets before us a set of plates showing the similarity between the embryo of Newton and that of his dog Diamond. The inference which he probably expects us to draw is that there is no essential difference between the philosopher and the dog. But surely it is at least as logical to infer, that the importance of the embryo and the significance of embryological similarities may not be so great as the physiologist is disposed to believe.

So with regard to human institutions. The writer on legal antiquities before mentioned finds two sets of institutions which are now directly opposed to each other, and between the respective advocates of which a controversy has been waged. He proposes to terminate that controversy by showing that though the two rival systems in their development are so different, in their origin they were the same. This seems very clearly to bring home to us the fact that, important as the results of an investigation of origins are, there is still a limit to their importance.

Again, while we allow no prejudice to stand in the way of our acceptance of Evolution, we may fairly call upon Evolution to be true to itself. We may call upon it to recognise the possibility of development in the future as well as the fact of development in the past, and not to shut up the hopes and aspirations of our race in a mundane egg because the mundane egg happens to be the special province of the physiologist. The series of developments has proceeded from the inorganic to the organic, from the organic upwards to moral and intellectual life. Why should it be arrested there? Why should it not continue its upward course and arrive at a development which might be designated as spiritual life? Surely the presumption is in favour of a continued operation of the law. Nothing can be more arbitrary than the proceeding of Comte, who, after tracing humanity, as he thinks, through the Theological and Metaphysical stages into the Positive, there closes the series and assumes that the Positive stage is absolutely final. How can he be sure that it will not be followed, for example, by one in which man will apprehend and commune with the Ruler of the Universe, not through mythology or dogma, but through Science? He may have had no experience of such a phase of human existence, nor may he be able at present distinctly to conceive it. But had he lived in the Theological or the Metaphysical era he would have been equally without experience of the Positive, and have had the same difficulty in conceiving its existence. His finality is an assumption apparently without foundation.

By Spiritual Life we do not mean the life of a disembodied spirit, or anything supernatural and anti-scientific, but a life the motives of which are beyond the world of sense, and the aim of which is an ideal, individual and collective, which may be approached but cannot be attained under our present conditions, and the conception of which involves the hope of an ulterior and better state. The Positivists themselves often use the word "spiritual," and it may be assumed that they mean by it something higher in the way of aspiration than what is denoted by the mere term moral, though they may not look forward to any other state of being than this.

We do not presume, of course, in these few pages to broach any great question, our only purpose being to point out a possible aberration or exaggeration of the prevailing school of thought. But it must surely be apparent to the moral philosopher, no less than to the student of history, that at the time of the appearance of Christianity, a crisis took place in the development of humanity which may be not unfitly described as the commencement of Spiritual Life. The change was not abrupt. It had been preceded and heralded by the increasing spirituality of the Hebrew religion, especially in the teachings of the prophets, by the spiritualization of Greek philosophy, and perhaps by the sublimation of Roman duty; but it was critical and decided. So much is admitted even by those who deplore the advent of Christianity as a fatal historical catastrophe, which turned away men's minds from the improvement of their material condition to the pursuit of a chimerical ideal. Faith, Hope, and Charity, by which the Gospel designates the triple manifestation of spiritual life, are new names for new things; for it is needless to say that in classical Greek the words have nothing like their Gospel signification. It would be difficult, we believe, to find in any Greek or Roman writer an expression of hope for the future of humanity. The nearest approach to such a sentiment, perhaps, is in the political Utopianism of Plato. The social ideal is placed in a golden age which has irretrievably passed away. Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, even if it were a more serious production than it is, seems to refer to nothing more than the pacification of the Roman Empire and the restoration of its material prosperity by Augustus. But Christianity, in the Apocalypse, at once breaks forth into a confident prediction of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and of the realization of the ideal.

The moral aspiration--the striving after an ideal of character, personal and social, the former in and through the latter--seems to be the special note of the life, institutions, literature, and art of Christendom. Christian Fiction, for example, is pervaded by an interest in the development and elevation of character for which we look in vain in the _Arabian Nights_, where there is no development of character, nothing but incident and adventure. Christian sculpture, inferior perhaps in workmanship to that of Phidias, derives its superior interest from its constant suggestion of a spiritual ideal. The Christian lives, in a manner, two lives, an outward one of necessary conformity to the fashions and ordinances of the present world; an inner one of protest against the present world and anticipation of an ideal state of things; and this duality is reproduced in the separate existence of the spiritual society or Church, submitting to existing social arrangements, yet struggling to transcend them, and to transmute society by the realization of the Christian's social ideal. With this is necessarily connected a readiness to sacrifice present to future good, and the interests of the present to future good, and the interests of the present world to those of the world of hope. Apart from this, the death of Christ (and that of Socrates also), instead of being an instance of "sweet reasonableness," would be out of the pale of reason altogether.

It is perhaps the absence of an ideal that prevents our feeling satisfied with Utilitarianism. The Utilitarian definition of morality has been so much enlarged, and made to coincide so completely with ordinary definitions in point of mere extent, that the difference between Utilitarianism and ordinary Moral Philosophy seems to have become almost verbal. Yet we feel that there is something wanting. There is no ideal of character. And where there is no ideal of character there can hardly be such a thing as a sense of moral beauty. A Utilitarian perhaps would say that perfect utility is beauty. But whatever may be the case with material beauty, moral beauty at all events seems to contain an element not identical with the satisfaction produced by the appearance of perfect utility, but suggestive of an unfulfilled ideal.

Suppose spiritual life necessarily implies the expectation of a Future State, has physical science anything to say against that expectation? Physical Science is nothing more than the perceptions of our five bodily senses registered and methodized. But what are these five senses? According to physical science itself, nerves in a certain stage of evolution. Why then should it be assumed that their account of the universe, or of our relations to it, is exhaustive and final? Why should it be assumed that these are the only possible organs of perception, and that no other faculties or means of communication with the universe can ever in the course of evolution be developed in man? Around us are animals absolutely unconscious, so far as we can discern, of that universe which Science has revealed to us. A sea anemone, if it can reflect, probably feels as confident that it perceives everything capable of being perceived as the man of science. The reasonable supposition, surely, is that though Science, so far as it goes, is real, and the guide of our present life, its relation to the sum of things is not much more considerable than that of the perceptions of the lower orders of animals. That our notions of the universe have been so vastly enlarged by the mere invention of astronomical instruments is enough in itself to suggest the possibility of further and infinitely greater enlargement. To our bodily senses, no doubt, and to physical science, which is limited by them, human existence seems to end with death; but if there is anything in our nature which tells us, with a distinctness and persistency equal to those of our sensible perceptions, that hope and responsibility extend beyond death, why is this assurance not as much to be trusted as that of the bodily sense itself? There is apparently no ultimate criterion of truth, whether physical or moral, except our inability, constituted as we are to believe otherwise; and this criterion seems to be satisfied by a universal and ineradicable moral conviction as well as by a universal and irresistible impression of sense.

We are enjoined, some times with a vehemence approaching that of ecclesiastical anathema, to refuse to consider anything which lies beyond the range of experience. By experience is meant the perceptions of our bodily senses, the absolute completeness and finality of which, we must repeat, is an assumption, the warrant for which must at all events be produced from other authority than that of the senses themselves. On this ground we are called upon to discard, as worthy of nothing but derision, the ideas of eternity and infinity. But to dislodge these ideas from our minds is impossible; just as impossible as it is to dislodge any idea that has entered through the channels of the senses; and this being so, it is surely conceivable that they may not be mere illusions, but real extensions of our intelligence beyond the domain of mere bodily sense, indicating an upward progress of our nature. Of course if these ideas correspond to reality, physical science, though true as far as it goes, cannot be the whole truth, or even bear any considerable relation to the whole truth, since it necessarily presents Being as limited by space and time.

Whither obedience to the dictates of the higher part of our nature will ultimately carry us, we may not be able, apart from Revelation, to say; but there seems no substantial reason for refusing to believe that it carries us towards a better state. Mere ignorance, arising from the imperfection of our perceptive powers, of the mode in which we shall pass into that better state, or of its precise relation to our present existence, cannot cancel an assurance, otherwise valid, of our general destiny. A transmutation of humanity, such as we can conceive to be brought about by the gradual prevalence of higher motives of action, and the gradual elimination thereby of what is base and brutish, is surely no more incredible than the actual development of humanity, as it is now, out of a lower animal form or out of inorganic matter.

What the bearing of the automatic theory of human nature would be upon the hopes and aspirations of man, or on moral philosophy generally, it might be difficult, no doubt, to say. But has any one of the distinguished advocates of the automatic theory ever acted on it, or allowed his thoughts to be really ruled by it for a moment? What can be imagined more strange than an automaton suddenly becoming conscious of its own automatic character, reasoning and debating about it automatically, and coming automatically to the conclusion that the automatic theory of itself is true? Nor is there any occasion here to entangle ourselves in the controversy about Necessarianism. If the race can act progressively on higher and more unselfish motives, as history proves to be the fact, there can be nothing in the connection between our actions and their antecedents inconsistent with the ascent of man. Jonathan Edwards is undoubtedly right in maintaining that there is a connection between every human action and its antecedents. But the nature of the connection remains a mystery. We learn its existence not from inspection, but from consciousness, and this same consciousness tells us that the connection is not such as to preclude the existence of liberty of choice, moral aspiration, moral effort, moral responsibility, which are the contradictories of Necessarianism. The terms _cause and effect_, and others of that kind, which the imperfection of psychological language compels us to use in speaking of the mental connection between action and its antecedents, are steeped from their employment in connection with physical science, in physical association, and the import with them into the moral sphere the notion of physical enchainment, for which the representations of consciousness, the sole authority, afford no warrant whatever.

Another possible source of serious aberration, we venture to think, will be found in the misapplication of the doctrine of _survivals_. Some lingering remains of its rudimentary state in the shape of primaeval superstitions or fancies continue to adhere to a developed, and matured belief; and hence it is inferred, or at least the inference is suggested, that the belief itself is nothing but a "survival," and destined in the final triumph of reason to pass away. The belief in the immortality of the soul, for example, is found still connected in the lower and less advanced minds with primaeval superstitions and fancies about ghosts and other physical manifestations of the spirit world, as well as with funeral rites and modes of burial indicating irrational notions as to the relations of the body to the spirit. But neither these nor any special ideas as to the nature of future rewards and punishments or the mode of transition from the present to the future state, are really essential parts of the belief. They are the rudimentary imaginations and illusions of which the rational belief is gradually working itself clear. The basis of the rational belief in the immortality of the soul, or, to speak more correctly, in the continuance of our spiritual existence after death is the conviction, common, so far as we know, to all the higher portions of humanity, and apparently ineradicable, that our moral responsibility extends beyond the grave; that we do not by death terminate the consequences of our actions, or our relations to those to whom we have done good or evil; and that to die the death of the righteous is better than to have lived a life of pleasure even with the approbation of an undiscerning world. So far from growing weaker, this conviction appears to grow practically stronger among the most highly educated and intelligent of mankind, though they may have cast off the last remnant of primitive or medieval superstition, and though they may have ceased to profess belief in any special form of the doctrine. The Comtists certainly have not got rid of it, since they have devised a subjective immortality with a retributive distinction between the virtuous and the wicked; to say nothing of their singular proposal that the dead should be formally judged by the survivors, and buried, according to the judgment passed upon them, in graves of honour or disgrace.

With regard to religion generally there is the same tendency to exaggerate the significance of "survivals," and to neglect, on the other hand, the phenomena of disengagement. Because the primitive fables and illusions which long adhere to religion are undeniably dying out, it is asserted, or suggested, that religion itself is dying. Religion is identified with mythology. But mythology is merely the primaeval matrix of religion. Mythology is the embodiment of man's childlike notions as to the universe in which he finds himself, and the powers which for good or evil influence his lot; and, when analysed, it is found beneath all its national variations to be merely based upon a worship of the sun, the moon, and the forces of Nature. Religion is the worship and service of a moral God and a God who is worshipped and served by virtue. We can distinctly see, in Greek literature for instance, religion disengaging itself from mythology. In Homer the general element is mythology, capable of being rendered more or less directly into simple nature- worship, childish, non-moral, and often immoral. But when Hector says that he holds omens of no account, and that the best omen of all is to fight for one's country, he shows an incipient reliance on a Moral Power. The disengagement of religion from mythology is of course much further advanced and more manifest when we come to Plato; while the religious faith, instead of being weaker, has become infinitely stronger, and is capable of supporting the life and the martyrdom of Socrates. When Socrates and Plato reject the Homeric mythology, it is not because they are sceptics but because Homer is a child.

But it is in the Old Testament that the process of disengagement and the growth of a moral out of a ceremonial religion are most distinctly seen:--

"'Wherewith shall I come before Jahveh,
And bow myself down before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
With the sacrifice of calves of a year old?
--Will Jahveh be pleased with thousands of rams,
With ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?'
'--He hath showed thee, O man, what is good,
And what Jahveh doth require of thee;
What but to do justly to love mercy,
And to walk humbly with thy God?'"

Here no doubt is a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice, even of human sacrifice, even of the sacrifice of the first-born. But it is a receding and dying belief; while the belief in the power of justice, mercy, humility, moral religion in short, is prevailing over it and taking its place.

So it is again in the New Testament with regard to spiritual life and the miraculous. Spiritual life commenced in a world full of belief in the miraculous, and it did not at once break with that belief. But it threw the miraculous into the background and anticipated its decline, presaging that it would lose its importance and give place finally to the spiritual. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.... Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Clearly the writer of this believes in prophecies, in tongues, in mysteries. But clearly, also, he regards them as both secondary and transient, while he regards charity as primary and eternal.

It may be added that the advent of spiritual life did at once produce a change in the character of the miraculous itself, divested it of its fantastic extravagance, and infused into it a moral element. The Gospel miracles, almost without exception, have a moral significance, and can without incongruity be made the text of moral discourses to this day. An attempt to make Hindoo or Greek miracles the text of moral discourses would produce strange results.

Compared with the tract of geological, and still more with that of astronomical time, spiritual life has not been long in our world; and we need not wonder if the process of disengagement from the environments of the previous state of humanity is as yet far from complete Political religions and persecution, for instance, did not come into the world with Christ; they are survivals of an earlier stage of human progress. The Papacy, the great political Church of mediaeval Europe, is the historical continuation of the State religion of Rome and the Pontificate of the Roman emperors. The Greek Church is the historical continuation of the Eastern offset of the same system. The national State Churches are the historical continuations of the tribal religions and priesthoods of the Northern tribes. We talk of the conversion of the Barbarians, but in point of fact it was the chief of the tribe that was converted, or rather that changed his religious allegiance, sometimes by treaty (as in the case of Guthrum), and carried his tribe with him into the allegiance of the new God. Hence the new religion, like the old, was placed upon the footing of a tribal, and afterwards of a state, religion; heresy was treason; and the state still lent the aid of the secular arm to the national priesthood for the repression of rebellion against the established faith. But since the Reformation the process of disengagement has been rapidly going on; and in the North American communities, which are the latest developments of humanity, the connection between Church and State has ceased to exist, without any diminution of the strength of the religious sentiment

Whether there is anything deserving of attention in these brief remarks or not, one thing may safely be affirmed: it is time that the question as to the existence of a rational basis for religion and the reality of spiritual life should be studied, not merely with a view of overthrowing the superstitions of the past, but of providing, if possible, a faith for the present and the future. The battle of criticism and science against superstition has been won, as every open-minded observer of the contest must be aware, though the remnants of the broken host still linger on the field. It is now time to consider whether religion must perish with superstition, or whether the death of superstition may not be the new birth of religion. Religion survived the fall of Polytheism; it is surely conceivable that it may survive the fall of Anthropomorphism, and that the desperate struggle which is being waged about the formal belief in "Personality," may be merely the sloughing off of something that when it is gone, will be seen to have not been vital to religion.

There are some who would deter us from inquiring into anything beyond the range of sensible experience, and especially from any inquiry into the future existence of the soul, which they denounce as utterly unpractical, and compare with obsolete and fruitless inquiries into the state of the soul before birth. We have already challenged the exclusive claim of the five bodily senses to be the final sources of knowledge; and we may surely add that it is at least as practical to inquire into the destiny as it is to inquire into the origin of man.

If the belief in God and in a Future State is true, it will prevail. The cloud will pass away and the sun will shine out again. But in the meantime society may have "a bad quarter of an hour." Without exaggerating the influence of the belief in Future Reward and Punishment, or of any form of it, on the actions of ordinary men, we may safely say that the sense of responsibility to a higher power, and of the constant presence of an all-seeing Judge, has exercised an influence, the removal of which would be greatly felt. Materialism has in fact already begun to show its effects on human conduct and on society. They may perhaps be more visible in communities where social conduct depends greatly on individual conviction and motive, than in communities which are more ruled by tradition and bound together by strong class organizations; though the decay of morality will perhaps be ultimately more complete and disastrous in the latter than in the former. God and future retribution being out of the question, it is difficult to see what can restrain the selfishness of an ordinary man, and induce him, in the absence of actual coercion, to sacrifice his personal desires to the public good. The service of Humanity is the sentiment of a refined mind conversant with history; within no calculable time is it likely to overrule the passions and direct the conduct of the mass. And after all, without God or spirit, what is "Humanity"? One school of science reckons a hundred and fifty different species of man. What is the bond of unity between all these species and wherein consists the obligation to mutual love and help? A zealous servant of science told Agassiz that the age of real civilization would have begun when you could go out and shoot a man for scientific purposes. _Apparent dirae facies_. We begin to perceive, looming through the mist, the lineaments of an epoch of selfishness compressed by a government of force.

[The end]
Goldwin Smith's essay: The Ascent Of Man