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restore the true doctrine that litera- guarded by superior writers, but the ture is neither a trade to be pursued appeal of the best men to the greatest by inferior writers nor a secret to be number of their fellow-countrymen. The Nineteenth century and After.
J. A. Spender.
THE MODERN ATTITUDE TOWARDS BELIEF IN A FUTURE
One of the most serious consequences to these problems-with what a deof the present unsettlement in religious pressing consensus of doubt or dog. thought is the sad eclipse that has be- matic denial is he confronted! Science fallen the great consolation of human- which undertakes to play the rôle ity, the hope
formerly assumed by theology, that of
being the guide and ruler of civilizaThat those we call the dead
tion, accepts as ultimate points behind Are breathers of an ampler day,
which we cannot go, such things as For ever nobler ends.
matter and motion or mass and energy, Turn in whatever direction we may,
proposes to show how, these being the forces of modern thought and civ
given, the world has come to be, and ilization are engaged, it would seem,
frowns on any attempt to raise the in sapping the foundations of belief in
question of origin and destiny. But this man's immortal destiny. The very
agnostic attitude which science as sci. complexity of the life of to-day, the
ence ought to maintain is often viomultiplicity of its interests, intellectual
lated by scientific men. Prof. Haeckel, and social, so overwhelm the individual for example, brands the three fundamind, so bury it in finite things, that
mental truths of religion, God, Freeit cannot get face to face with that
dom, and Immortality as the "three question of questions: What am I? and
buttresses of superstition” which it is so sees no reason to ask: Whither do
his business as a scientist utterly to I go? And if through some painful
demolish. He assures us that all the experience, some sudden stroke pierc
proofs usually put forward in defence ing to the soul's inmost depths, one
of belief in a future existence have awakes to the need of some answer
been shown to be inconsistent with the
facts established by physiological psy"Science and Immortality." By William chology and the doctrine of descent. Osler, M.D., F.R.S. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1905.)
The theological idea that God made “The Eternal Life." By Hugo Munsterberg. man in His own image and breathed (Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1905.)
into his nostrils the breath of life is “In Quest of Light.” By Goldwin Smith. (The Macmillan Co. 1906.)
“a pure myth.” The “moral proof," “Future Life in the Light of Ancient Wisdom Kant's famous argument that the highand Modern Science." By Louis Elbe, Eng- est good being possible only under the lish translation of “La Vie Future devant la Sagesse Antique et La Science Moderne."
presupposition of the immortality of (Chicago: McClurg & Co. 1906.)
the soul, a future life, as inseparably “Individuality and Immortality." By Will bound up with the moral law, is a iam Ostwald. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) "The Nature of Man. Studies in Optimistic
postulate of the pure practical reason Philosophy." By Elie Metchnikoff. (G, P. Put --this is "nothing more than a pious nam's sons. 1903.)
wish.” The “teleological proof," that “Meditations on Death and Immortality." By the Earl of Manchester. A reprint. (Me
man is equipped with powers and cathnen & Co. 1906.)
pacities for which earth and time at.
ford no adequate scope, “rests," we are in a universe where nothing persists informed, won a false anthropism." All how can man claim immortality, .conthese and similar ideas have been com- sisting as he does of a few pounds of pletely overthrown by the advance of carbon and lime, a few ounces of phosscientific criticism.
Hess. phorus, sodium, potassium and SO And as the arguments of religion and forth, and so many cubic feet of liydrophilosophy have been undermined and gen, oxygen, and nitrogen? And when no longer convince educated men, we turn to philosophy, which at one modern knowledge has brought for time was supposed, in spite of its in ward proofs, physiological, histological, ability to bake bread, to be able to give experimental, and pathological which, us God, Freedom, and Immortality, we it is alleged, demonstrate this treasured find it put to the greatest straits inesfaith to be a mere superstition. An- tablishing the reality of the individual thropology shows how the dream of a against the all-engulfing monism of abfuture life has visited, in very differ- solute idealism on the one hand, and ent forms, the minds of all peoples. the equally voracious monism of nonThe Indian dreamed of his hunting atheistic evolutionism on the other, fields, the Mohammedan of dark-eyed Mr. F. H. Bradley, the acutest metahouris and flower-decked gardens, the physical mind of this generation, is of Norseman of banquets with haunches opinion that “a future life must live of venison and goblets of wine; the im- taken as decidedly improbable," and agination projected into the future the bis ultimate reason for so thinking is desires of sense. What greater war simply that man is an unreal aspect rant has the Christian hope than these of the Absolute without any independearthly wishes of the non-Christian dent worth of his own.” Prof. Paulsen, mind? "The belief in immortality," of Berlin University, holds that ethics says Spencer, "may be traced to the must stand henceforth on a basis quite baseless dream of a rude savage." independent of belief in a future life, Biology since Darwin has been ac- since this belief itself is in a very cumulating the proofs of our kinship parlous state at present, nor is there with the brute creation, and mam ap much hope of strengthening it. pears to be a kind of zoological mon- The effect of this modern way of strosity, compact of myriad dishar thinking is too obvious to be quesmonies, a paradoxical absurdity. Phys- tioned. Within the Church as without iological psychology teaches as a com- it there are many who are conscious monplace that our mental life is a at times of grave and wistful uncerfunction of the "gray matter” of the tainty, and there are some who think brain, and the inference is easy that the that even should the belief that death function vanishes with the dissipation ends all become predominant, religion of its organ. To suppose that thought might still live on and gain fresh concan survive the brain would be tanta- quests. Some there are who resign mount to supposing that the steam in themselves to the inevitable with bitter a tea-kettle could survive the destruc- scorn and savage contempt for the unition of the tea-kettle. Physical chem verse, and all its ways. Their spirit istry discloses the universe as a con- is that of the French writer who sees geries of elements in motion, but the in man only "the hero of a lamentable indestructibility of matter and energy drama, played in an obscure corner of is now in grave question, as it is in the universe, in virtue of blind laws, deed a mere inference from experience.
"Appearance and Reality," p. 505. 1" The Riddlepof the Universe," pp. 203, 204.
3-A System of Ethics," p. 440.,
before an indifferent Nature and with And yet the idea is based on a very annihilation as its dénouement." There superficial conception of human nature. are others who are anxious to believe, Men are dimly conscious that they live yet feel the various religious and meta- in a world full of mysteries, of the physical arguments to be little better strangest contradictions and the most than broken reeds, and can but trust perplexing riddles, such as life and there may be something behind the birth, and love and death; yet in the veil. Few, if any, can rise to the lofty small talk of the drawing-room and the heroism of Auguste Comte, who re. newspaper these great realities occupy joiced in the sacrifice of the individual a small place as compared with bridge to the race, and asserted that death and whist and football, and the latest would seem to him a poor affair if it scandal in the smart set." The trividid not involve his own extinction. alities of the moment may well form Speaking generally, men shrink from the light froth that dances on the surannihilation, and in spite of the substi- face of human intercourse; but to suptutes for personal continuance after pose that this is all, that there are no death offered by Positivism and Abso- depths beneath where the things that lute Idealism, the sting of death, the lie nearest our souls lie hid, is to comfear that in dying man perishes like mit the common fallacy of taking a the brute, remains unextracted.
part for the whole. To see that this Prof. Osler thinks that the modern is so we have but to imagine what man is utterly indifferent to the whole would result if science succeeded in matter. This finite world is enough proving what Prof. Haeckel in his dogfor him and he recks not of any other. matic way says it has proved, namely, "Where," asks the professor, "among that for man death is the end. Does the educated and the refined, much less any one really think that in such an among the masses, do we find any eventuality the majority of the race, ardent desire for a future life? It is and they not the least thoughtful and not a subject of drawing-room conver- spiritual, would not be conscious of an sation; and the man whose habit it is irreparable loss, of a dreadful dislocato buttonhole his acquaintances and tion of the whole inner world, would inquire earnestly after their souls, is not feel a horror as if, when gazing at shunned like the Ancient Mariner. a star-strewn sky, a giant hand were Among the clergy it is not thought seen putting out the ancient lights of polite to refer to so delicate a topic Heaven? except officially from the pulpit. Most But, we are told, it is the part of ominous of all, as indicating the utter wise men not to ask whether this or absence of interest on the part of the that doctrine agrees with one's dearpublic, is the silence of the press, in est wishes, but to accept facts, and the columns of which are manifest with Stoic resignation bow to their daily the works of the flesh." 5 Did sternest implications. And the advice men really entertain such a wonderful is sound; only the interests involved thought as survival after death, would are so momentous-such interests as they not make of it a subject of the significance of life, whether there daily intercourse, and vie with one is any possibility of realizing the Good, another in expression of astonish- if not here, then hereafter, the dignity ment and joy at such a glorious and worth of human effort and aspiraprospect? So indeed it would seem. tion that it is our bounden duty to scan
the alleged facts with the most writical * L. Ackermann: “Ma Vie," p. 111. $"Science and Immortality," pp. 11, 12. care before we resign ourselves to a
doctrine of despair. We have to ask ing Balzac that forced from Hugo this not only: What are the alleged facts? confession of faith. but also: Do they not merely invite Moreover, Dr. Osler forgets to take but compel us to a negative conclu- into account a phenomenon well known sion?
to those who minister to the dying, and To begin with the more obvious: Dr. that is, their curious reserve about Osler, speaking as a medical expert. their deepest feelings, as though the tells us that the majority of the soul, preparatory to her strange, lone dying express no fears or hopes journey, withdrew into herself, ababout the other world; that, as a rule, sorbed in her own affairs. And this man dies as he has lived, practically self-absorption may well be mistaken uninfluenced by the thought of a fu- for blank indifference. The medical ture life. "I have," he says, “careful argument, then, does not appear to be records of about five hundred death- serious. beds studied particularly with refer- Much more important and perplexing ence to the modes of death and the are the facts of physiological psycholsensations of the dying. The great ogy. Those facts may be summed up majority gave no sign one way or the in the familiar formulae: “Yo psychosis other; like their birth, their death was without neurosis." Modern investigaa sleep and a forgetting.". Surely this tion has shown the unspeakably close distinguished writer is wrong in sup- relation that subsists between mind and posing that a true criterion for judg- brain. Both grow and decline toing whether faith in a future life has gether. Stop the flow of arterial blood any place in the thoughts of men, is to the brain, and profound disturbance to be found in the feelings of the soul of consciousness ensues. Arrest the as it approaches the "low, dark verge development of the brain, and an idiot of life." Not to man weakened by dis- is the result. Administer cocaine or ease, his moral and spiritual energies alcohol, and you change the moral and dulled through the collapse of the intellectual character. These commonbody, but to man in the fullness of places have received a new and sinhis powers, amid the activities of his ister significance by the observations daily calling, amid the thoughts that made in our hospitals and psychologisurge through his brain, the hopes that cal laboratories. For it is now estabinspire his heart, the ideals that inform lished that not only is there a general his conscience, should appeal be made. correlation between the activities of Victor Hugo, standing beside the open the cerebral cortex as a whole, but also grave of Balzac, uttered these memo- that various mental functions are lo. rable words: "No, it is not the Un- calized in given cerebral areas. Up to known to him. No, I have said it be the present it has been found by posifore, and I shall never weary of saying tive experiment that the division of it, no, it is not darkness to him, it is functions in different portions of the Light! It is not the end but the begin- cortex is connected with the organs of ning: not nothingness but eternity. sensation and movement. But experiSuch coffins proclaim immortality. Do mental psychologists maintain that we not say to ourselves here, to-day, fuller knowledge will show the various that it is impossible that a great genius regions with which complex mental in this life can be other than a great phenomena are correlated, nay that we spirit after death?" Now it was the may even hope some day to be able vision not of the dying but of the liv- to acquire the exact physical equiva6* Science and Immortality," p. 19.
lents to mental phenomena. One of the
greatest of living psychiatrists asserts tality cannot be raised as a question."** that there is, so to say, a "character There is no doubt that the facts on centre," "a chief organ of character" which this argument rests appeal very in the brain. This organ he locates strongly to the sensuous imagination, in a certain part of the cortex of the as there is also no doubt that the thebrain which he calls the "sphere of ory here asserted or implied-that bodily feeling," because on that part nervous changes are the causes of almost every portion of the body has mental changes-is for experimental an influence. It is this centre which purposes an excellent working hypotheis especially susceptible to narcotics, sis. But if we wish to obtain an insuch as alcohol and morphine, and un- sight into the real, as apart from the der their influence disintegrates and mere empirically observed relation of degrades moral character. On its brain and mind, physiological psycholstate, whether dull or keen, depend ogy is quite helpless. All that those impulses which make a man a this science can give us is two cruel murderer or a tender-hearted parallel series of occurrences, a philanthropist. Thought, then, is a series of molecular changes in the function of the brain, and involves, brain, and a series of psychical states, doubtless, in every one of its conscious but the relation between these two and unconscious operations, the con- series is beyond the utmost scientific sumption of the brain-substance. It is scrutiny. almost impossible to exaggerate the in Between the material and the psyterpenetration of mind and body. chical events there is an unbridgeable Must it not follow, as the night the chasm. To say that thought is a day, that the dissolution of the brain "function" of brain, except for certain carries with it the dissolution of the specific purposes, is to say something mental function? Such is the inference that is not strictly true. If the word implicitly drawn by many investiga- "function” be used in the physiological tors, and it has found explicit expres sense, then thought or consciousness sion in the writings of such men as does not come into view at all; the Duhring and Haeckel. "Not only con- function or specific work of the brain sciousness, but every stirring of life, in that sense is to control the body. depends on functions that go out like If it is insisted that mind is simply a a flame when nourishment is cut off. name for the sum-total of cerebral ac... The phenomena of consciousness tivities, we must ask the meaning of correspond, element for element, to the such a statement. A cerebral activity operations of special parts of the brain. is a form of motion, and we know mo... The destruction of any piece of tion simply as a mental state. In the apparatus involves the loss of some other words mind is first, motion is an one or other of the vital operations; inference from the mind. To say then, and the consequence is that so far as that mind is a function of or is prolife extends, we have before us only an duced by motion is to reverse the ororganic function, not a Ding-an-sich, order of nature and make the effect prean expression of an imaginary entity, cede the cause. The truth is, for the the soul. This fundamental proposi- physical psychologist feeling and coution ... carries with it the denial of sciousness on the one hand, neural the immortality of the soul, since when changes on the other, are ultimate no soul exists, its mortality or immor
* E. Duhring: "Der Werth des Lebens," p. 48. ? Prof. P. Flechsig: “Die Grenzen geistiger Translated and quoted by James: “ Human Gesundheit und Krankheit," pp. 35, 36.
Immortality," p. 50.