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THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE 



THE 

ADVENTURE OF LIFE 



BY 

ROBERT W. MACKENNA, M.A., M.D. 

AUTHOR OF "THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH" 



" Grow old along with me 

The hest is yet to be, 

The last of life, for which the first was made ; 
Our times are in His hand. 
Who saith, ' A whole I planned, 
Youth shows but half; trust God : see all, nor be afraid ! ' " 

BROWNING: RabliBen Ezra. 



LONDON 

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 
1919 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



TO 



MY WIFE 

" What I do 

And what I dream include thee, as the wine 
Must taste of its own grapes." 

E. B. BROWNING. 



2021368 



PREFACE 

THE life of every one who will read these words has 
been influenced in some way by the war. It has 
rudely broken many old and sacred ties ; it has 
touched with calamitous finger innumerable homes ; 
it has altered life-long habits, and shattered many 
a fondly cherished belief. It has introduced a 
ferment into human thought, and men who had 
accepted without questioning and with little under- 
standing the mysteries of existence are finding their 
beliefs challenged and their faith shaken by the 
iron discipline of events. They are asking, as they 
watch civilisation ablaze in the furnace, if there 
is any answer to the riddle of the Universe ; if 
there is any righteousness in the scheme of things ; 
if there is any purpose in life, or if it is all nothing 
but an ugly delusion or a hideous dream. 

There is a danger that some will find in a crude 
doctrine of materialism the sole resting-place for 
their feet ; but the materialistic creed is a creed of 
pessimism a foundation from which no useful and 
enduring edifice of belief can ever arise. That 
humanity may spring from the ashes of civilisation 
with vigour renewed and vision purified, we must 
cultivate an invincible spirit of optimism. For 
such an attitude of mind we have good grounds ; we 
have none for the sterilising dogmas of materialism. 



viii PREFACE 

It is given to the physician to see much of human 
life. He has many opportunities of beholding its 
sordidness. He is the daily witness of its high 
heroism. He is constantly faced by its problems ; 
he can never get away from its mysteries ; his 
knowledge of its adaptations is intimate, and though 
there is still much about it that is hidden from his 
inquiring eyes, he is aware of some of its potenti- 
alities. 

Personally, I cannot bring myself to believe that 
life can ever be explained in the terms of sheer 
materialism, and reduced to mere chemical equa- 
tions, or expressed entirely in the language of the 
physical or physiological laboratory. The indomit- 
able logic of facts has driven me to the conclusion 
that behind all and above all there is an intelligent 
and beneficent Mind, immanent in nature and in 
the life of man. If this is true we have good reason 
to hail the future with a glad confidence. 

The chapters which follow have been written in 
the hope that they may help to illumine with a 
ray of light, however feeble, the clouds of perplexity 
with which many an earnest seeker after the truth 
finds himself surrounded. 

The book is neither a scientific monograph nor 
a philosophical treatise, and will be easily compre- 
hended by all. As far as possible I have endea- 
voured to avoid the use of technical terms. My 
aim has been to impress upon all who care to read 
the wonder and the harmony of life, and the com- 
plete interdependence that subsists between all 
forms of life. I believe that the goal of Nature is 
Life ; the aim of Life is the development of In- 



PREFACE ix 

telligence, and the object of Intelligence is a know- 
ledge of God. 

It is not my desire to disarm criticism, but some 
of the defects in the chapters which follow of 
whose existence I am fully conscious are due to 
the conditions under which the book has been 
composed. It was begun on a winter night in a 
little bell-tent in the North of France, within 
sight of a horizon lit by the flash of heavy guns. 
More than once the hurricane-lamp had to be ex- 
tinguished lest its faint light, illuminating the 
canvas walls, should attract the eye of some quest- 
ing enemy aviator and tempt him to hurl his bombs 
upon the sleeping hospital. It was completed in 
a tent still within the zone of war, but somewhat 
more remote from actual hostilities. Libraries are 
no part of the equipment of a war hospital, and I 
have had no books of reference to fall back upon 
except a few smuggled over in my kit-bag. Napoleon 
is said to have carried a library through all his 
campaigns. An officer of the R.A."M.C. who would 
dare to attempt to emulate that great example 
would have his plans rudely frustrated by the 
Embarkation Officer. But the circumstances which 
made the task difficult in one direction made it 
easier in another, for the facts of war have supplied 
me with an unfailing source of illustration. 

ROBERT W. MACKENNA. 

B.E.F. FRANCE, 
March 1918. 



CONTENTS 
CHAPTER I 

MM 
THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE ... 3 

CHAPTER II 

THE ORIGIN OF LIFE ..... 15 

CHAPTER III 

THE ORIGIN OF MAN . . . 35 

CHAPTER IV 

THE DOMINANT R$LE OF INTELLIGENCE IN THE 

EVOLUTION OF MAN . . . -51 

CHAPTER V 

THE PROTECTION OF LIFE . . . 71 

xi 



xii CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VI 

PAGE 

HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 97 

CHAPTER VII 

MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL . . . 125 



CHAPTER 

WHAT IS LIFE ? ..... 143 

CHAPTER IX 

THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN . . . .167 

CHAPTER X 

THE MECHANISM OF PAIN .... 187 

CHAPTER XI 

THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING . 197 

CHAPTER XII 

THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS . . . 223 



CONTENTS xiii 

CHAPTER XIII 

PAOB 

LQVE AND MARRIAGE . .239 

CHAPTER XIV 

WORK 255 

CHAPTER XV 

THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN . . 275 

CHAPTER XVI 

THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH . . . 2Q3 

CHAPTER XVII 

THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE . . . 2QQ 



THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 



O mickle is the powerful grace that lies 
In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities : 
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live, 
But to the earth some special good doth give. 

Shakespeare, " Romeo and Juliet. 

Nothing walks with aimless feet ; 

That not one life shall be destroyed 

Or cast as rubbish to the void 
When God hath made the pile complete. 

Tennyson, " In Memoriam." 



CHAPTER I 

THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 

LIFE is the most wonderful thing in the world. We 
find it everywhere, abundant, prodigal, and luxuriant. 
Earth, sea, and sky teem with it. The grass in the 
fields, the flowers on the hillside, the trees in the 
forest, the birds in the air, the fish in the water, 
and all things that creep or walk are quick with 
life. We turn over a stone with our stick and sack 
a city, for underneath it is a seething colony of ants, 
which scurry hither and thither in no purposeless 
panic, but intent on saving themselves, their young, 
and their hoarded food from destruction by the 
invader. 

We look abroad and discover that wherever life 
could find a foothold it has established itself. There 
is living lichen on the rocks, and even on some 
bluff crag thrust up from the earth like the shoulder 
of a sleeping giant we find that life has seized on 
every little shelf and slope where a handful of 
earth has lodged. Not far from where I write 
there is a great range of limestone hills. Their 
summits are crowned by vegetation of many kinds, 
and pine-trees stand defiant in the blast ; but all 
along the precipitous sides, wherever niche or 
cranny has afforded a lodgment, some tree has 



4 THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 

grown, and, hanging between the earth and the sky, 
where no cragsman would ever venture to tread, it 
proclaims the triumph of life over death, and the 
urgency of Nature's demand for life, and yet more 
life. 

Life is such an urgent thing that it hastens to 
repair the devastation and havoc wrought by man. 
In the fields of Flanders and the fertile land of 
France the grass and the flowers are constantly 
seeking to hide the desolation which man has pro- 
duced with his devilish engines of war. It is as 
though Nature shuddered at the defilement of 
mother Earth and sought to cover her bruised body 
with pitying and flower-laden hands. 

Much of the beauty of the earth is due to the life 
upon it. Take away all the vegetation, roll up the 
green carpet of the grass, throw down the awe- 
inspiring aisles of forest trees, and earth would 
become a desolate and unlovely place. 

We live in a world of life. Much of it we can 
see with the unaided eye, but beyond the range of 
our natural vision there is a realm of nature in 
which life still fulfils itself. In a drop of river-water 
or a speck of road-dust the microscope reveals to 
us life in a myriad forms, each distinct, but sharing 
in the one great principle which animates all living 
things. Every one of these infinitesimal creatures 
fills a niche of its own in the Universe. One may 
sit for hours at a time with an eye riveted to the 
tube of an ultramicroscope in a maze of wonder, 
watching the dapce of life performed by the teem- 
ing bacteria present in a minute drop of water 
from a stagnant pool. The field of vision is thronged 



MICROSCOPIC LIFE 5 

by an innumerable multitude of actively moving, 
infinitely little living things. Some are engaged in 
a rhythmic dance, scarcely moving from their posi- 
tion. Others dart like some torpedo-craft across 
the field of vision, and pass out of sight. Others 
move with more leisurely progression like some 
sight-seer in an historic town ; others again, with 
sinuous movement, ominous of evil purpose, bore 
their slow way across the visual field ; and now 
and then, lit up by the reflected light, and all aglow 
like some barbaric princess loaded with precious 
stones, there swims into our ken a veritable queen 
of bacterial life. Royally she moves ; and, as one 
wonders, she is gone. 

All life is bound together in a community of 
mutual service. The master-chemist, the sun, at 
work in his laboratory in every blade of grass, is 
elaborating nourishment for all the cattle of the 
fields. The whole of the animal kingdom depends 
for its sustenance upon the green things of the 
earth. But the green things owe a debt to the 
animal kingdom in turn. The flower that pours 
its perfumed chalice into the ocean of the air de- 
pends upon the questing bee or other insect for 
that little speck of magic pollen-dust that will 
enable it to continue its life in another generation. 
The bird that tears a berry from a tree bears the 
seed off, and drops it perhaps many miles away, 
where Jiaply it may find a resting-place and con- 
tinue its kind. 

All life in Nature is directed to high service, and 
even death helps Nature to win fresh fields for life. 
Much of the surface of the earth, as we now know 



6 THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 

it, once lay at the bottom of the sea. Of itself sand 
offers but a poor and precarious sustenance for 
vegetable life ; but the first lowly plant that estab- 
lished itself upon the sand made the conquest of 
the desert an easier thing for the plants that fol- 
lowed it. It lived a difficult existence, then it 
died, and its leaves and stern drooped and fell upon 
,its inhospitable bed. But in making its sacrifice 
it won an empire. It imparted to the sand all the 
riches it had won from its life in the atmosphere, 
and the sterile shore was gradually converted into 
-hospitable earth. The fertility of the earth is a 
perpetual witness to the rejuvenating power of death. 
''Life feeds on death ; and out of death new life for 
j fever rises. Nothing in Nature lives for its own 
' (ends alone ; nothing in Nature dies without be- 
queathing a heritage of some sort to other things 
that live. Even the bacillus, man's constant and 
deadly foe, when vanquished by him, renders up to 
him spoils of war that may help him to win in 
another fight. For every micro-organism that is 
destroyed by his mechanism of defence in the body 
of a human being, confers upon him some fresh 
power, some increase of immunity that will help to 
protect him against a similar attack. The man 
who walks scatheless through an epidemic of in- 
fectious disease does so, in some instances, because 
there has come to him by heredity a healthy con- 
stitution ; but part of his immunity is a legacy 
left to him by those germs of Disease which, in the 
course of his life, have died within his body. No- 
thing that lives is valueless, and if only we could 
see the whole world of Nature spread before us 



LIFE DIFFERS IN DEGREE 7 

like a picture and could understand all that there 
is to decipher, we should discover that it constitutes 
a great and beautiful whole in which, in spite of 
apparent universal struggle, there is a deep under- 
lying concord whose aim and purpose is life life 
more adaptable and more capable of progress. 

All forms of life have the same physical basis, a 
highly complex substance compounded from simple 
elements, known as protoplasm. This identity of 
the physical basis of life necessarily implies that 
life differs more in degree than in kind. We and 
the higher animals have more activities, more 
potentialities than the lower forms of life, but, being 
built up from protoplasm, we are cousins-germane 
to every roadside weed, or every flower in the field. 
And for this, if for no other reason, we should 
walk humbly. 

In one of his essays Huxley pointed out a fact 
which must have struck any one who has ever sat 
on a hillside and contemplated the life around him. 
All the essential processes of life are carried on in 
silence. The cataract of the sap rising in some 
giant tree sends no ripple of sound into the atmo- 
sphere to call our attention to it. The branches 
orientate themselves so that the leaves may catch 
the sunlight, and the leaves carry on their won- 
derful work of chemical disintegration and chemical 
synthesis in absolute silence. The boom of the 
bursting bud is a poetic fancy, divorced from reality. 
The fruit ripens, and falls mellow to the earth, but 
no murmur is wrung from the parent tree. The 
bleat of a straying sheep, the hum of a bee, the 
rasping crescendo of the grasshopper, the bark of a 



8 THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 

distant dog, all come to us vibrant and keen in the 
stillness of nature. But they are not essential 
processes of the life of the creatures that produce 
them. They are the witnesses to the joy of life, 
or its perplexity. 

Our muscles contract noiselessly ; in the river of 
our blood millions of little cargo-boats collide and 
move on again without a sound. Organs like the 
liver perform marvellous functions of chemical 
conversion in absolute silence A stethoscope ap- 
plied to the chest enables us to hear the rhythmic 
thud of the .closure of the valves in the heart, and 
we may hear also the rustle of the air as it is sucked 
into the ramifying passages through the lurgs. 
But we can detect no sound from the processes of 
assimilation which are occurring so constantly in 
the heart muscle, to keep it in repair ; nor do we 
hear any noise and clamour that would tell us that 
the cells of the lungs are the busiest wharves in the 
world, where countless millions of cargo-boats are 
unloading carbonic-acid gas, and taking in a freight 
of oxygen every moment of the day and night. 

Even thought, the highest function of which any 
living thing is capable, is a silent process. 

The question as to whether life exists on any 
other planet than our own is one of constant 
allurement, and as yet science has no definite and 
authoritative declaration to make. It has been 
pointed out that certain very special conditions are 
necessary for the maintenance of life, such as an 
atmosphere of a certain density, containing at least 
oxygen and carbonic-acid gas, nitrogen and mois- 
ture ; regularity, within certain limits, of tempera- 



LIFE IN OTHER WORLDS? 9 

ture ; an adequate amount of solar energy in the 
form of light and heat ; and an abundance of water. 
These things are necessary for life as we know it. 
But there may be other forms of life of which we 
have neither knowledge nor the power to conceive. 
To man, to all animals, and to all vegetable life 
oxygen is essential. But there is a class of micro- 
organisms, of which the tetanus bacillus is one, to 
which oxygen is a deadly poison. They cannot live 
in its presence. They flourish in its absence. So 
it is obvious that the conditions which we know to 
be essential for the maintenance of human life 
upon the earth may not be necessary for other 
forms of life on other planets. It would indeed be 
strange if the infinite immensity of space, sprinkled 
over as it is by an incalculable number of worlds 
greater than our own, should offer no habitation 
to life but the surface of our minor planet, the earth. 

Flammarion, the distinguished French astronomer, 
was convinced that life exists on other planets 
than our own, and many think with him. But 
when we remember the remarkable way in which 
life is affected by environment, we must be pre- 
pared to admit that any form of life met with 
among the stars, being subject to other influences, 
will probably differ in a marked degree from life 
as we know it. 

The simplest form of life is the unicellular organ- 
ism the protozoon. Man is built up from a 
multitude of such cells, many millions going to 
make up his body. But he does not consist of a 
coherent mass of protozoa welded together. His 
cells are specialised. Some are set aside in one 



io THE UNIVERSALITY OF LIFE 

organ to discharge certain functions ; others, in 
other organs, are devoted to still different ends. 
Complexity of organisation has led to specialisation 
of function, and the complex organism and the 
specialised function are integrated and controlled 
by the marvellously developed nervous system of 
which he is possessed. He is no mere collection of 
cells. He is a self-determined individual, sharing 
in common with the lowlier forms of life the power 
of growth, the functions of assimilation and nutri- 
tion, the power of reproduction, and participating 
with them in the inevitable experience of death. 
/But he has an experience which is his and his alone. 
I Endowed with the golden gift of reason, he is, to 
I some extent, the master of his own destiny. For 
ihim life need not be a meaningless repetition of 
Jelementary and almost automatic functions. He 
/ may scale the dizzy heights of joy, or plumb the 
/ depths of sorrow. Made for action, eager for life, 
/ capable of self-sacrifice and of worship, ever hun- 
\ gering insatiably for new knowledge, man may 
\ make of life no meaningless adventure, but a glorious 
Vopportunity. 

Though a great chasm divides the inanimate 
things in nature from the things that have life, 
life is perpetually making use of the inanimate, 
quickening it to new activities. The iron of the 
earth, and the limestone rock broken up by atmo- 
spheric influences, are absorbed and modified by the 
plant life of the fields, and become incorporate in 
the bodies of animals, and may ascend through bird 
or sheep or oxen to a place in the body of man. 
Life spins fresh matter into her ever-growing web, 



THE WEB OF LIFE n 

and when the web crumbles into dust, Life picks 
up the separated atoms once again and weaves 
other and possibly still more beautiful webs. Matter, 
which some hold to be the only reality, is little 
more than a delusion : it becomes real only when 
it subserves the purposes of life. 

All the forces of Nature are leagued in a great 
conspiracy. The sunbeam which trips daintily over 
a field of ripening corn, sprinkling the last flecks 
of gold on the tumid ears, is completing with its 
living touch the work made possible by myriads of 
dead and lowly things. Many generations of plant 
life perished to prepare the soil ; worms and insects 
and bacteria have laboured and died to enrich it. 
Winter has crumbled it in her ice-cold fingers ; 
Spring has warmed it with her breath ; Summer 
has sounded her reveille and marshalled the serried 
ranks of standing corn, teaching them to forage in 
the limitless acres of the atmosphere ; the rain 
has poured out its libation, and the wind is come 
with a promise that the time of harvest shall not 
fail, and that there will be food for man and beast. 
For the whole Universe works together in the ser- 
vice of life, which is the goal of Nature and her 
crown. 



THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 



" I call the effects of Nature the works of God, whose hand 
and instrument she only is ; and therefore to ascribe His actions 
unto her is to devolve the honour of the principal agent upon 
the instrument, which if with reason we may do, then let our 
hammers rise up and boast that they have built our houses, 
and our pen receive the honour of our writings." Sir Thomas 
Browne, " Religio Medici." 



CHAPTER II 

THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

IN all ages the question of the origin of life has 
allured and perplexed the thinking man. Unable 
to fathom the mystery, he has either folded his hands 
and abandoned his search for a solution, or he has 
fallen back upon his imagination, and some of the 
most beautiful legends of mythology were the 
offerings made by fancy to the clamant appeal of 
the hungering mind for a knowledge of the truth. 

From the days of Aristotle down to our own time 
the idea of the possibility of spontaneous genera- 
tion has had its supporters. They hold that the 
line between the non-living and the living, which 
is passed in the reverse direction by everything 
that breathes at death, is largely an artificial 
barrier, and they believe that animate things may 
rise spontaneously from the inanimate. The care- 
ful experiments of Pasteur did much to disprove the 
doctrine, but of recent years it has received a fresh 
impetus from the researches of Leduc, and from 
the observations of Burke of Cambridge, who 
studied the effects produced by radium emanations 
upon solutions of gelatine. A great body of scien- 
tific opinion is, however, opposed to the possi- 
bility of spontaneous generation occurring. It is 



16 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

worthy of note that whenever living things are 
said to have appeared spontaneously they have 
been found to belong to animal or vegetable species 
which are already known. This is in itself a power- 
ful argument against their authenticity. If spon- 
taneous generation ever occurs, either in nature or 
under laboratory conditions, it would probably 
present us with entirely new forms of life. This 
would mean the constant appearance of new species, 
and we know that the number of species increases 
only by age-long variations. 

Aristotle, no mean scientific observer, who 
studied the manifestations of life carefully k and 
recognised the unbroken chain which links the 
lowest plant with the higher animals, believed that 
certain fishes were produced spontaneously, and 
Virgil, naturalist and poet, tells in his Georgics how 
a goddess taught the shepherd to cause living bees 
to rise from the flanks of a dead bullock. In the 
De rerum Natura Lucretius expressed the opinion 
that animals might develop from the action of the 
sun upon the vapours and moisture of the earth. 

At a much later date Van Helmont, who lived 
in the sixteenth century, stated that living mice 
and scorpions could be produced at will, like the 
live rabbit from the conjurer's hat, by mixing 
together certain ingredients. His recipe for the 
spontaneous generation of mice consisted of a mix- 
ture of dirty linen with wheat, or a piece of cheese, 
while scorpions could be produced by exposing 
sweet basil to the heat of the sun in the hollow of 
a scooped-out brick. These interesting conclusions 
were the outcome either of inaccurate observation, 



SPONTANEOUS GENERATION 17 

or of faulty method which left a loop-hole for error 
to creep in in one case a vagrant mother-mouse, 
in the other a scorpion. Holinshed, in whose his- 
torical works Shakespeare dug deep for the ground- 
work of some of his plays, said in his Description of 
England, " A horse-hair laid in a pailful of turbid 
water will in a short time stir and become a living 
creature." This erroneous idea still persists in 
some country districts. 

In approaching the study of the origin of life 
we must not forget that the earth existed as a glow- 
ing ball of fire for many aeons before it cooled down 
sufficiently to give to life a fit nidus in which to 
develop. Though some forms of life are marvel- 
lously tolerant of extremes either of heat or cold, 
life as a rule requires for its maintenance and pro- 
pagation certain somewhat specialised conditions, 
and until such conditions were attainable upon our 
globe there was no life upon it. The late Lord 
Kelvin calculated that some time between twenty 
and forty million years ago the conditions upon the 
earth began to be compatible with the development 
of life. The margin of twenty million years be- 
tween the two dates seems a generous and ample 
concession, though it is only a moment relatively 
to the immense and incalculable period since the 
gaseous particles or atoms of meteoric dust that 
were the prototype of our planet rushed to each 
other in the cosmic dance, and, blazing through 
space, Earth started on her pilgrimage along the 
unbeaten track of her orbit. 

Before we proceed to consider how life may have 
come to earth we must recognise two facts. First, 



18 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

that life on this planet probably began in the sea, 
and, second, that vegetable life was, almost cer- 
tainly, the precursor of animal life. The former of 
these postulates is founded on the knowledge that 
moisture is necessary for the continuance of life 
in its full activity, and that the sea would offer a 
medium whose temperature was less variable than 
that of the adjacent land. Further, it should not 
be forgotten that in the water of the sea are found 
dissolved most of those inorganic or mineral sub- 
stances that are requisite for the support of plant 
life, and the constant motion of the sea would 
bring the necessary pabulum to the growing plant. 
Vegetable life must have preceded animal life, for 
not even yet, after these millions of years during 
which it has succeeded in accommodating itself to 
many changes of environment, has the animal 
economy found a way of supporting itself directly 
from inorganic materials. Plant life is the jackal, 
it is the lion's provider: it caters for animal life, 
and without vegetable life, unless it suddenly 
acquired new powers, animal life would speedily 
and inevitably die out. 

Probably life appeared in the sea in a form even 
more elementary than those simple unicellular 
formations such as the protozoa and the various 
forms o-f bacterial life which we know to-day. Some 
biologists believe that by the time the protozoon 
was reached, evolution had already many years 
behind it. 

There are several theories as to the origin of life, 
each of which has its advocates. There is the 
theory that life is the result of a definite creative 



WHENCE CAME LIFE? 19 

act of the great First Cause that lies behind the 
Universe. Another opinion is that life did not 
originate on our planet, but came to it as a rich 
bequest from some other world that perished years 
ago. In the collision or cataclysm which shattered 
that planet some particle of living matter, it is 
suggested, found refuge in a cleft in a piece of rock, 
and the fragment of rock, rushing through space 
as a meteorite, fell upon the earth and surrendered 
its precious burden to the waves of the sea. Both 
Lord Kelvin and von Helmholtz accepted this 
hypothesis as a feasible explanation of the manner 
in which life may have come to earth ; but it has 
been opposed by other authorities on the ground 
that in its passage through our atmosphere a 
meteorite glows with intense heat, and consequently 
its temperature is raised to a degree that is in- 
compatible with life. On the other hand it has 
been urged that, if the cleft in the meteorite were 
sufficiently deep, its little germinal burden might 
find adequate protection even though the surface 
of the meteorite were hotter than Nebuchadnezzar's 
furnace. It has also been suggested that life may 
have come to earth from some other planet with- 
out the intervention of a meteorite to carry it. 
Cohn put forward the suggestion that, in the cosmic 
dust which floats through space and falls gently as 
the dew upon the expectant bosom of the earth, 
there might be mingled living cells that had wan- 
dered or been hurled into space from some other 
planet. Falling gradually through our atmosphere, 
these living cells would not attain such a velocity 
that their temperature would be raised to a degree 



20 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

incompatible with their continued vitality. Svante 
Arrhenius has suggested that living matter may 
travel from star to star, impelled by the pressure of 
the waves of light. But both theories have had 
their opponents, who believe that the actinic rays 
of the sun would destroy these elementary living 
cells in their long passage through the vastnesses 
of interplanetary space. 

In 1872 \V. Preyer made a novel suggestion con- 
cerning the origin of life upon the earth. He was 
of opinion that life was present in the midst oi the 
glowing mass of incandescent matter of which the 
earth consisted before it began to cool. According 
to his view the molten ball teemed with low forms 
of life which he called pyrozoa. These life-forms 
differed radically from any type of living thing 
that we know to-day in their extraordinary capacity 
for resisting heat. As the earth cooled the pyrozoa 
adapted themselves to the new conditions, and 
became the remote predecessors of those forms of 
life with which we are acquainted. Preyer's theory 
did not receive much support, and to-day it is 
almost forgotten. 

Of recent years an attempt has been made to 
prove that life arose spontaneously when the surface 
of the cooling earth was covered by chemical sub- 
stances in a condition of nascent activity. Accord- 
ing to this theory creation has not yet ceased. It 
is still in operation, and life continues to be engen- 
dered afresh from non-living materials. 

The chemist has divided matter into two great 
classes organic substances and inorganic sub- 
stances. An organic substance is one which contains 



ORGANIC INORGANIC COLLOIDS 21 

carbon, while an inorganic substance, such for 
example as sulphate of iron, oxide of lead, or bi- 
chloride of mercury, is carbon-free. For a long 
period it was believed that the line separating the 
organic from the inorganic was sharp and well- 
defined, and that at no point did the substances in 
the two classes approximate to each other in com- 
position or character. But about the middle of 
last century Thomas Graham began to investigate 
the properties of a series of bodies which he called 
colloids (from colla glue) an example of which is 
gelatine, and he enunciated the opinion that in 
the colloids we have a large group of substances that 
come near to bridging the chasm between the 
organic and the inorganic. As sometimes happens 
with an epoch-making discovery, his work was 
neglected and almost forgotten, until about the 
beginning of the present century, when its impor- 
tance dawned upon the chemist and physiologist, 
and the chemistry of the colloids has become one 
of the most fertile territories for research that the 
scientific mind has yet discovered. With singular 
clarity of vision Graham recognised the close rela- 
tionship subsisting between the character of the 
colloids and the phenomena of life, and later ob- 
servers have not hesitated to suggest that through 
the colloids one may pick one's way from the in- 
organic to the organic, and from the inanimate to 
the living. 

If, in imagination, equipped with all the resources 
of modern chemical knowledge, we could throw 
ourselves back through the ages to that primeval 
time when the earth had cooled just to that degree 



22 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

of temperature compatible with life, we should find 
ourselves contemplating a sphere bubbling with 
energy and instinct with chemical change. Earth 
would still be warm to the touch. It would be 
enveloped in a thick cloud of vapour, an atmosphere 
saturated with moisture. As the land cooled the 
saturated atmosphere above it would give up some 
of its vapour, in huge quantities of dew or rain, as 
though some giant hand were squeezing the mois- 
ture from a colossal sponge. The falling water 
would plough channels for itself over the surface of 
the cooling globe, and, flowing down to the valleys, 
would make the lakes and the oceans, dividing peak 
from peak, island from island, and continent from 
continent. Besides carrying an excess of moisture, 
the atmosphere would almost certainly contain a 
higher percentage of carbonic acid gas than it does 
to-day, and be more highly charged with electrical 
energy. Huge volcanoes would be in active erup- 
tion, filling the atmosphere with fine dust brought 
from the bowels of the earth dust charged with 
strange radio-active properties. The surface of 
the globe would be a vast chemical laboratory, 
where atoms were groping after atoms, finding 
each day new affinities stable or unstable, breaking 
away from old combinations at the lure of new 
and more efficient ones ; where every gas and 
every element was in a nascent state, that condition 
in which its energy is most potent. It was an hour 
pregnant with tremendous possibilities. We have 
called it an hour ; it may have been an aeon, for 
we have no means of measuring the duration of the 
epoch during which earth was approaching that 



PROTOPLASM 23 

degree of temperature compatible with the recep- 
tion or development of the first living cell. 

Protoplasm, the physical basis of all life, whether 
vegetable or animal, consists of carbon, oxygen, 
hydrogen, nitrogen, with traces of phosphorus and 
possibly sulphur. Science knows no living thing 
which does not consist of protoplasm. 

It has been suggested that life originated on the 
earth in the following manner. In the primeval 
dawn when, as we have seen, earth was a great 
chemical laboratory, certain molecules of those 
elements we have stated to be the constituents of 
protoplasm united in the waters of some quiet 
lagoon or peaceful bay of the sea. The union 
would be more or less stable, and the protoplasmic 
jelly would tend to increase in size. Occasionally 
fragments of the jelly would be broken off by 
mechanical means, and they in turn would con- 
tinue to combine with other elements and increase 
in size by accretion. As molecule united with 
molecule, it has been suggested that various un- 
stable compounds uniting with this primitive but 
still lifeless protoplasm would supply it with stores 
of energy, the liberation of which would produce 
automatic movement and possibly bring about the 
subdivision of the formless mass. That this is 
no fantastic dream has been demonstrated by 
the fascinating experiments of Professor Stephane 
Leduc, who, under suitable conditions, has suc- 
ceeded in producing in solutions of inorganic salts 
figures of growth which closely resemble plant life, 
and processes of cellular division that reproduce 
exactly the nuclear and cellular division of a living 



24 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

cell with all the complicated figures of mitosis. 
But Leduc's beautiful figments are, after all, only 
phantasms of life ; they are not living entities. 

Similarly the carbon-containing protoplasmic jelly 
which we have imagined growing in some silent 
mist-shadowed lagoon was not a living thing. It 
lacked the subtle touch of the vitalising wand of 
life. Whence could that come ? To this the 
science of chemistry makes a ready answer. There 
are substances known as catalysers, which have the 
power of producing chemical changes and chemical 
combinations between other substances while they 
themselves remain unaffected. The class-room ex- 
periment with spongy platinum is well known. If 
hydrogen and oxygen are mixed in the proper pro- 
portion in a closed vessel they may be kept indefin- 
itely at ordinary temperatures without any com- 
bination taking place between them. But if a 
fragment of spongy platinum be dropped into the 
mixture the two gases combine instantaneously 
with a loud explosion, and water is produced. The 
spongy platinum remains unaltered, and may be 
used over and over again for a similar experi- 
ment. It has acted simply as a catalyser. It has 
been the finger that has pulled the trigger of the 
gun. 

Chemists have discovered several catalysing 
agents, and it is possible that when the world was 
young many substances existed with this property. 
So it has been suggested that one of these agents 
came into contact with a mass of lifeless proto- 
plasmic jelly, containing the elements we have 
mentioned, and caused them to combine, linking 



THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 25 

up the molecules in such a way that they became 
possessed of that new, extraordinary, and unfathom- 
able property that we know as life. 

To explain the continuance of life upon the earth 
and its further development from the primordial 
mass of vitalised protoplasm we must postulate 
that it did not appear till the nidus or nest was 
ready for it. If this first union of the 'elements into 
living protoplasm had occurred, as it might have 
done, at a time when the surrounding conditions 
were incompatible with its continuance and deve- 
lopment the living mass would have relapsed again 
into an inert and lifeless condition. The fact that 
a specific point in time and a special concatenation 
of antecedent conditions was a necessary precursor 
of the appearance of life upon the earth should be 
emphasised. Its importance will become apparent 
later. 

We have seen that the origin of life upon the 
earth has been explained in four ways : 

(1) As the result of a definite creative act. 

(2) By the transference of living cells from some 

other planet. 

(3) By the existence of life in a low and peculiar 

form (pyrozoa) in the substance of the earth 
while it was still a blazing cloud of gas. 

(4) By the union of certain elements, under 

suitable conditions, by natural processes, 
without the intervention of any outside 
intelligent guidance. 

The first theory is the only one which insists 
upon the necessity of a causative and intelligent 
agent operating from without. It is the theory 



26 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

held by the Christian Church, and it has withstood 
a multitude of attacks from many quarters. The 
second theory does no more than push the difficulty 
a little further back. It does not pretend to ex- 
plain the origin of life, but simply suggests a means 
whereby life came to the planet. It is not, there- 
fore, an adequate solution of the problem with 
which we are confronted. If life, as we know it, 
came to earth from some other planet, we have a 
natural desire to know how it originated there. 
What causes operated to bring it into being ? Was 
it created, or did it arise spontaneously there ? 
We find ourselves in the orbit of a vicious circle, 
and we have not ' succeeded in doing more than 
transferring our difficulty to another sphere, where 
its solution is beyond our reach. 

All that need be said of the third theory is that 
if the pyrozoa, as Preyer suggested, were coeval 
with the matter out of which the earth is formed, 
whence did they come, and why were they endowed 
with life ? Were they simply fragments of matter 
raised to the nth degree ? 

The last theory really amounts to the statement 
that, given the conditions presupposed, life had 
inevitably to follow. It is, in some sort, a modern 
elaboration of a conception already formulated by 
Lucretius : 

" Multaque mine etiam exsistunt animalia terris, 
Imbribus et calido soils concreta vapore." l 

It has received a great impetus from the discoveries 

* " And now there arise from the earth many living creatures 
produced by the rain and the warm vapour of the sun." 



SPONTANEOUS GENERATION 27 

relating to radio-active substances, and is now held 
in some form or other by many scientists as offer- 
ing a feasible explanation of the origin of life. 
But when we come to examine it critically we find 
that it does not carry us far enough. It deals only 
with secondary causes. It explains a possible 
method. It takes no cognisance of what lies 
behind the method. To reach a satisfactory con- 
clusion we must come to closer grips % with the 
problem. We must look deeper. 

The ancient conception of matter was that it 
consisted of an aggregation of atoms, an atom 
being a particle so small that it could not be divided 
or cut. Two atoms unite to form a molecule ; 
molecules unite and form an appreciable mass. For 
many long years this theory of the atom held the 
field. It fitted the known facts regarding matter. 
It " worked " and was therefore regarded as valid. 
But science is never content with her conquests, and 
however severely she may have handled the specula- 
tions of the philosophers or the conceptions of the 
theologians, she has never hesitated to scrutinise 
with equal impartiality the theories which have 
been stepping-stones in her own progress. So she 
has cast the theory of the atom into her crucibles 
and remoulded it anew. Led by Svante Arrhenius, 
a distinguished chemist and physicist, she has begun 
to wonder if matter is really the " solid " thing she 
imagined it to be, and is not, rather, simply a con- 
dition of motion. Bishop Berkeley long ago sug- 
gested that, apart from the percipient mind, matter 
had no existence. Modern science stretches out a 
hand to him across the centuries and agrees that 



28 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

matter may be nothing more than a condition of 
motion affecting our senses. Arrhenius' concep- 
tion of the atom is that, tiny and invisible though 
it be, it is really akin to a planetary system. In 
the centre is a positively charged electron ; round 
it spin an innumerable multitude of negatively 
charged electrons, and the relative distance between 
the centrally placed electron and its negatively 
charged satellites, and their relative distance from 
each other, is as great as the gulf that separates 
the sun from the planets and the planets from one 
another. It is a bold conception, with a tinge of 
poetic inspiration, and it has served to explain cer- 
tain physical phenomena that were difficult to 
understand on the older theory, such as radio- 
activity and the emission of the cathode rays from 
an X-ray tube. Whether or not it will stand the 
acid test of time, or the scrutinising eye which 
science has already turned upon it, is as yet im- 
possible to say. But some, who are willing to 
take the theory as it stands and apply it fully, have 
not hesitated to suggest that the whole mystery of 
the existence of the Universe, and the coming of 
life itself, may be explained by the application of 
this conception. 

They imagine that, in the beginning, infinite 
space was filled by the infinite ether, still, silent, 
immovable. A little stress or strain appeared in 
the ether ; it was thrown into motion ; the first 
" atom " was formed ; it became as " the little 
leaven which leaveneth the whole lump." And 
from this atomic dance in the ether " matter " as 
we know it was formed, and the sun, the moon, the 



THE STRESS IN THE ETHER 29 

myriad stars, and our own earth, which is, after all, 
only a third-rate orb in the Milky Way, came pro- 
gressively into being. 

The conception is a bold one, bold to the verge 
of unreason, but it does not explain all. It is an 
axiom accepted alike by the scientist and the philo- 
sopher that every change in anything previously 
existing must have had an adequate and pre-exist- 
ing cause. Or, to express it baldly, cause must 
precede effect. If we are honest with ourselves 
we are brought face to face with the question 
What started this stress in the ether ? and we 
stand mute and perplexed till we are thrown back 
upon a First Cause. Both science and philosophy 
have an evil and inveterate tendency to rest con- 
tent, when driven to the extremes of thought, with 
attaching a label to a difficulty and imagining that 
such a ritual explains it. To attribute the stress 
to a First Cause is to fall short of satisfying the 
human heart that hungers after knowledge. What 
is this First Cause ? Is it a blind force ; or some 
cold, aloof, impersonal abstraction like the Abso- 
lute of the Philosopher ; or a living, vivid, omni- 
scient intelligence eternal, omnipotent God ? Blind 
forces, acting at hazard, do not usually produce 
results which are orderly and well-regulated, and 
which can be expressed in mathematical formulae. 
The Universe is a highly complex fabric, but that 
part of it which comes within our ken is controlled 
by the operation of certain laws, some of which 
Kepler and Newton have discovered for us. And 
when our knowledge is sufficiently advanced we 
shall probably find that other phenomena besides 



30 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

those of the inter-attraction of bodies in space, and 
the procession of the planets, are subject to law. 
The Universe presents a daily and nightly demon- 
stration of beauty, of harmony, and of law, and to 
imagine a blind force to be capable of acting as a 
cause and producing such effects is to tax the 
credulity of the most ignorant. No blind force 
agitating in a tray the fragments of a jig-saw puzzle 
will ever succeed in putting it together. No little 
child, given a box of colours and the necessary 
brushes, could blindly splash them on canvas till 
a Corot stood revealed ; no cascade of water, drawn 
by the " natural force " of gravity over a precipice, 
and falling through ages on a block of marble 
would wear it down till out of its stony hardness 
" The Winged Victory of Samothrace " or two 
tender, palpitating figures, aglow with love, like 
Sinding's " Two Human Beings," burst on the 
ravished eye. We do not expect such things to 
happen. From experience we know that they are 
unattainable by such means. But still, in the face 
of all reason, there are some who cannot find a 
more satisfactory explanation for the wonders re- 
vealed to us in the Universe, and the culminating 
wonder of human life than the operation of a 
blind force. 

There are many who are prepared to go so far 
as to admit that, to use a figure of speech, God 
started the machine, but they are unwilling to 
accept the idea that He is immanent in the Uni- 
verse, and still guides and controls its every opera- 
tion. According to their belief the original stress 
in the ether was produced by God ; the after con- 



BLIND FORCE OR CREATIVE MIND? 31 

sequences came as an unavoidable sequence. 
Speaking anthropomorphically, the finger of God 
disturbed the ether : the rest followed without any 
further guidance or control. To suggest this is 
to reduce the Creator to the level of a meddlesome 
boy who relaxes the brake on a chain of railway 
wagons at the top of a colliery bank, and, startled, 
sees them race down the incline, beyond control,- 
with consequences that he can neither foresee nor 
direct. 

If we are prepared to admit the idea of an intel- 
ligent Creator we ought to be prepared to go 
further, and allow that He foreknew all that would 
follow His first energising touch. He saw the 
end from the beginning : He planned it should 
be so. 

All this is, apparently, an unwarrantable digres- 
sion from the matter in question viz. the origin 
of life. But the practical application of the digres- 
sion will emerge shortly. There are some who are 
willing to accept the idea of God as a Creator of 
the material non-living Universe, but who hesitate 
to attribute to Him, except very indirectly, the 
origin of life. They hold that life would come as a 
consequence of the inter-actions of matter. 

A distinguished scientific investigator of reverent 
mind and profound knowledge Professor Benjamin 
Moore has said : " Given the presence of matter 
and energy forms under the proper conditions, life 
must come, inevitably; " and he is of opinion that 
" If all intelligent creatures were by some holocaust 
destroyed, up out of the depths in process of millions 
of years intelligent beings would once more emerge." 



32 THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 

He bases his conclusions on his vast knowledge of 
chemistry and the properties of matter. But we 
must not forget that the Creative Mind which con- 
structed the Universe endowed the atoms with 
whatever qualities they possess ; gave to the light 
of the sun those marvellous powers upon which all 
living things depend ; ruled that atom should com- 
bine with atom in certain ways ; and that, if cer- 
tain conditions were fulfilled, certain results would 
follow. If we look at things in this way and it 
seems rational to do so we are forced to the con- 
clusion that wherever or in whatever fashion life 
originated, it did so with the foreknowledge, and 
at the behest of the Mind that moulded the firma- 
ment, and at the point in time when the surrounding 
conditions were compatible with its continuance. 
If we accept this we are admitting that the origin 
of life was a definite creative act. 

Philosophy and science may spin their webs 
of theory 

" Fine as ice-ferns on January panes 
Made by a breath," 

but the theories may serve only to obscure the 
truth they seek to make plain. Even knowledge may 
darken counsel with words ; but when all the 
mighty tomes which men have written to explain 
the mystery of the Universe and the fact of human 
life have crumbled into dust there will still remain, 
embroidered on the garment of Nature and picked 
out in starry points across the vastness of the sky, 
the message which all may read whose vision is un- 
clouded : "In the beginning, God." 



THE ORIGIN OF MAN 



33 



A fire-mist and a planet, 

A crystal and a cell, 

A jellyfish and a saurian, 

And caves where the cavemen dwell ; 

Then a sense of law and beauty, 

And a face turned from the clod 

Some call it Evolution, 

And others calls it God." 

Carruth. 



34 



CHAPTER III 

THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

WE have already pointed out that a characteristic 
of life is its urgency, its tendency to increase, and 
once it appeared on earth, or rather in the water 
of the earth, and found the conditions there favour- 
able for its continuance, it began to expand. In 
all likelihood the first cell that vibrated with being 
was a lowlier form than any we know to-day, but 
it must have had some, if not all, of the properties 
which we find in the modern unicellular organisms. 
For instance, it must have had the power of growth. 
Now growth, if we distinguish it from simple accre- 
tion, necessarily presupposes the power of assimila- 
tion, which is the property possessed by a living 
cell of taking into its interior substances that differ 
from it in chemical composition, and, after modifying 
them, incorporating them in its structure. It must 
also have had a capacity for renewing itself and 
repairing any damage which it might sustain, and, 
from what we know of the progress of life, we may 
conclude that it had the power of responding in 
some measure to changes in its environment. Eaily 
in the life of the cell it must have acquired. the 
power of multiplication, probably by simple divi- 

4 35 



3 6 THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

sion. The reason is fairly clear. A small cell 
absorbs nutriment from without. Unless the amount 
of material excreted is in equilibrium with and 
exactly balances the amount taken in, the original 
cell must increase in size. The larger the cell the 
more nutriment will be required for its support. It 
absorbs through its surface. A point is at last 
reached when the single surface of the cell begins 
to be insufficient to absorb enough nourishment 
to support the organism. Either of two things 
may then happen : the cell may die, or it may 
divide into two. If the first living cell on earth 
had died instead of dividing, earth would, once 
again, have been untenanted. But we believe 
and here we are not speculating, since such division 
has been observed over and over again that the 
primordial cell divided. In this way the size of 
the individual was lessened, since what was one 
became two. When we divide an apple with a 
knife we increase its superficies by adding to it 
twice the total area of the cut surface. The result 
of the division of a unicellular protozoon does 
not give so large an increase in superficial area, but 
it does add considerably to the extent of the surface 
through which nourishment can be obtained. Life 
therefore becomes a simpler problem in economics 
for the two daughter cells than it had been for the 
single mother-cell. Division was to the advantage 
of the economy, so multiplication by simple fission 
became the rule for all simple forms of cell-life. In 
this way life increased. 

The first living cell was a vegetable or plant cell, 
and probably it appeared in the sea. Plant life 



LIFE DEPENDENT ON SUN 37 

can support itself on almost any form of nourish- 
ment. Animal life is more specialised ; it requires 
the intervention of plant life to make much of the 
material upon which it feeds assimilable. Plant 
life performs this function for animal life because 
it is a great chemist, or rather, it is a great chemical 
laboratory in which the presiding chemist is the 
sun. It cannot be sufficiently emphasised that life 
as we know it is dependent upon the sun. The 
hand that with a stroke could blot out the sun, 
would with the same stroke extinguish all life on 
the earth. How much life may owe to the other 
planets we cannot as yet tell ; but we are aware 
that it owes not a little to the moon, for it was that 
beacon which lured life out of the sea. Some 
moon-drawn wave, straying high upon the beach, 
left behind it upon the tawny sand a nucleus of 
plant life, and the miracle spread from the waters 
to the dry land. Ancient mythology tells us that 
Venus in all her beauty rose from the sea-foam. 
But the whole pageant of nature, constantly chang- 
ing and constantly renewed in fresh loveliness, was 
also a gift from the ocean to the earth. If life had 
remained always and solely in the sea it would not 
have made the progress of which we are at once 
the goal and the witnesses. The simpler forms of 
life have remained in the sea, and most of the cold- 
blooded animals are found there to-day. But on 
the larfd, after the first struggle for adaptation, 
new conditions and new stimulants of growth were 
accessible in ample measure. Oxygen was procur- 
able in sufficient quantity, and it was more easily 
obtainable than in the water. But life has never 



38 THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

forgotten that the sea was its first habitat, for it 
cannot continue to exist without water, and all 
mankind, as well as all plants and animals, are still 
living in an ocean the saline fluid which permeates 
all our tissues, and without which we should all die. 

Out of the protoplasm contained in the first living 
cell that was stranded on the shore the sun elabor- 
ated a remarkable chemical compound known as 
chlorophyll. A plant grown in the dark is pale, 
anaemic-looking, and delicate. Its leaves are white. 
But if such a plant be brought from its unwholesome 
surroundings into the gracious presence of diffused 
sunlight, in a few days a remarkable change will 
take place. Gradually the leaves become green, 
and the plant loses its wilted appearance. The 
green colouring matter is chlorophyll. It is the 
handmaiden of the sun, and it is able, under the 
influence of sunlight, to break up the carbonic acid 
of the atmosphere into its constituents of carbon 
and oxygen, rendering the carbon easily assimilable 
by the plant. It is upon the carbon thus absorbed 
that plant life largely depends for its sustenance. 
It derives moisture and certain salts from the 
earth in which it is rooted, but the chief source of 
its food is the carbon of the air. 

The first form of plant life that appeared on the 
land was probably one of the mushroom-like fungi. 
We speak of a " mushroom family " when we desire 
to indicate that the family is of recent origin and 
rapid social advancement. But we should not 
forget that the mushroom is of very ancient and 
honourable lineage, as one of its congeners is the 
oldest stock on the earth. 






THE UBIQUITOUS MICROBE 39 

Long after the fungi appeared upon land there 
came the flowering plants'. They represent a step 
much higher up the evolutionary ladder. They 
are vegetable life specialised for reproduction. They 
are more adaptable to various environments, and 
are endowed with properties which permit of their 
spreading everywhere. 

But before the flowering plants came it is pro- 
bable that animal life had begun to appear. The 
ubiquitous microbe represents a stage somewhere 
between vegetable and animal life. It has not yet 
been decided whether microbes should be regarded 
as belonging to the animal or vegetable kingdom, 
though the weight of opinion tends to consign them 
to the latter. They contain no chlorophyll, and 
therefore are unable to derive the nourishment 
they require from the air. If the conditions under 
which they are placed are satisfactory they have 
a capacity for extremely rapid multiplication. It 
has been calculated that if a cholera bacillus is 
supplied with a suitable pabulum and kept at a suit- 
able temperature it will, in the course of twenty- four 
hours, have over fifteen hundred trillion descend- 
ants. The figure is a staggering one, and helps to 
show that, if man had not the means of destroying 
such a menace, the micro-organism, and not the 
human being, would be master in the world. 

Long after the earliest forms of bacterial life 
appeared the first protozoon came into being. It 
was a gelatinous mass of protoplasm, probably 
without any enveloping membrane. It was some- 
thing more than a plant : it was ^something less 
than an animal. Slowly, by gradual changes, the 



4 o THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

line of demarcation between plant and animal 
forms was determined, and the sea began to have 
two varieties of inhabitants resembling each other, 
but far from identical. As the years rolled on there 
appeared creatures of the jelly-fish type, sponges, 
sea-anemones, sea-bears, star-fish, Nature early show- 
ing ( her love for opulent and progressive variety. 
Later still came the molluscs, creatures that could 
accommodate themselves to conditions either within 
the water, their natural habitat, or upon the grey 
and gnarled surface of the rocks when the waves 
temporarily receded. Then came the sea-creatures 
with jointed limbs, the crabs, the lobsters, and the 
sea-insects. It has been calculated that, about the 
time when the marine animals had reached this 
stage, vegetable life had established its first footing 
upon the land. After the lobster class came the 
fishes, at first with incomplete skeletons, and later, 
after the lapse of many centuries, more perfect 
fishes with a complete osseous framework. Then 
came the amphibians, creatures at home alike in 
the water and out of it, and animal life stepped 
ashore. About this time, it is estimated, the 
flowering plants had been differentiated a graceful 
coincidence which enabled Nature to deck herself 
with flowers to welcome the new-coming guest. 
These primitive amphibians were the advance-guard 
of animal life upon the earth. Ungainly creatures 
with four limbs adapted cither for swimming or 
for walking, they spent their early life in the water 
breathing through their gills, and lived in their 
adult stage upon the land, making use of specially 
developed lungs for the purposes of respiration. 



THE ADVENTUROUS AMPHIBIAN 41 

Once established upon the earth, the amphibia rapidly 
increased in variety, diverging in various directions. 
At one time they constituted a very large class : 
now, their position in the animal kingdom is a 
subordinate one. One may well imagine that the 
raucous clamour of frogs in the night is their age- 
long protest against the forgetfulness of man, who 
rarely remembers that it was one of their ancestors 
who boldly set his life upon a hazard and ventured 
to come ashore. 

After the amphibians came the reptiles, and it 
is singular that the birds, which every one loves, 
are descended from the reptiles towards which 
every one feels a constitutional repulsion. The 
mammalia, the great class to which all human beings 
belong, probably appeared about the same time 
as the birds from some reptilian stem. The mam- 
mals multiplied rapidly, became differentiated into 
many groups, and at last the summit of the long 
ascent was reached in the development of man. 

Such is, in brief, a cursory account of the genesis 
of man according to the evolutionary doctrine. 
Long ago Aristotle pointed out how very closely all 
forms of plant and animal life were related to each 
other. In the eighteenth century Bonnet added 
to . our knowledge of the relationship of animals 
one to another and tried to trace an unbroken 
sequence of development from the lower animals to 
man. Lamarck, perplexed by the difficulty in 
differentiating species, called attention to the pos- 
sibility of variation impressed upon the individual 
being the determining factor in producing new 
species from a common stem ; but it was left to the 



42 THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

genius of Charles Darwin to point out that in natural 
selection lay the key to variation, and the solution 
of the problem of the origin of species. With 
infinite patience, touched with the spirit of genius, 
and with that reverence which is almost invariably 
a characteristic of the truly great mind, Darwin 
worked out his theory carefully, showing that be- 
hind the principle of selection lay another principle, 
the survival of the fittest. Capacity for adapta- 
tion to the requirements of new environment, and 
the relentless extermination of individuals and 
species that lacked this faculty, had led to the con- 
tinued existence of certain varieties of animal and 
plant life, and the extinction of others. If Darwin 
had been left to champion his theory alone it is 
unlikely that it would have provoked as much 
hostility as it *did ; but he was badly served by 
some of those who seized upon his hypothesis and 
flung it rudely in the teeth of many a fondly 
cherished belief. 

Haeckel, with prodigious energy ajid Teutonic 
thoroughness, has traced with care all the evolu- 
tionary steps from the lowest form of life up to man, 

, illustrating his narrative by constant reference to 
members of the various groups that still survive 
as inhabitants of the earth, the air, and the sea. 

He has laid special emphasis upon the fact that 
ontogeny, which is the science of the development 
of the individual, is a condensed epitome of phyto- 
geny, or the history of the development of the 
species, and he has applied this doctrine to the 
life-history of man. It cannot be denied that 
much evidence may be adduced in support of this 



ONTOGENY AND PHYLOGENY 43 

opinion. Starting from the embryonic primordial 
cell, which resembles a protozoon, the human off- 
spring, in the course of its antenatal growth, passes 
through many stages which closely approximate 
to various lowly forms of animal life. At one time 
it is more like a multicellular protozoon a mere 
ball of cells than a human being ; at another it 
suggests a worm-like creature ; later it has many 
points in common with the fish ; and later still it 
is more like an anthropoid ape than a child of man. 
So that, apparently, every child climbs its own 
evolutionary ladder in the space of a few months, 
covering the ground in its brief antenatal existence 
which it took its ancestor, the first man, many 
million years to traverse. But it must be clearly 
understood that at no point, were the development 
of the human embryo arrested, could it be deflected 
into a worm, a fish, or an ape. Humanity is im- 
pressed upon it from the beginning. 

It must not be forgotten that the doctrine of 
evolution is still a hypothesis, but it is a hypo- 
thesis so well supported by accumulated evidence 
as to have become to all intents an established fact, 
and only a very few now question its validity. One 
of its most characteristic features is its fairness. 
It offers a logical explanation, not only of progress 
and survival, but also of failure and extermination 
among the various species of living things. One 
may attempt to draw a picture to illustrate the 
evolutionary principle in action ; but no scheme 
mapped out with ordinary lines can give a correct 
idea of how progress has been achieved, not con- 
stantly and rapidly, but little by little, by a hard- 



44 THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

won step forward here, a retrogression there, the 
possible blotting out of a promising line at one 
place, and the coming into prominence of another 
elsewhere. The spectacle is a dramatic one, and 
only a genius could have recognised ft. 

Emphasis is too often laid upon a wrong view of 
the struggle for existence. The battle has not 
always been to the strong. Species of animals 
that, in virtue of their weapons of offence and de- 
fence, and their gigantic muscular development, 
ought to have survived if the struggle had been 
one of brute force and brute force alone, are alto- 
gether extinct. When one studies the matter 
closely, one is led to the conclusion that it is not 
brute strength which is the aim of life, but the 
development of mind. Most, if not all, of the crea- 
tures that have survived to our day have won 
through because of some little advantage in instinct 
or intelligence. If we give due weight to this aspect 
of the matter we shall, I think, be able to overcome 
one of the chief practical objections that has been 
advanced against the doctrine of evolution, namely, 
the almost incalculable length of time which 1 the 
process of evolution requires. Morphological and 
structural changes brought about by environment 
are very slow to appear and to become established 
in the stem of the species. But instinctive or in- 
telligent adaptations would beget new functions ; 
and function can rapidly alter pre-existing struc- 
tures for its own ends. 

A widespread misconception regarding evolution 
is that it claims to prove that man is descended 
directly from some living form of ape. This idea 



THE STREAM OF LIFE 45 

has produced a sense of revulsion in many minds ; 
but it is quite erroneous. Certainly man is derived 
from a common stem with some of the apes, but in 
the remote antiquity of prehistoric ages ; and since 
he left the stem he has developed steadily along 
his own specialised line, while his ape relations 
have lagged behind. If one may be allowed to make 
a comparison, one might say that the common fount 
of life is like an immense lake high up between 
two guardian hills. From one end of the lake two 
streams escape, which represent the plant stem 
and the animal stem. If we follow the animal 
stream we discover ere long that it is giving off 
little branches. There are branches to represent 
the jelly-fish, the vertebrate fishes, the amphibia, 
and so on. After travelling for a short distance a 
very large daughter stream breaks away, and when 
it has flowed for a little space it is divided into 
two rivers by some intervening rock upon the hill- 
side. One of these rivers represents the ape stem ; 
the other is the stream of the human race. Though 
now separated from each other, they travel on side 
by side through many an unmeasured aeon, parallel 
but divided, taking up from their environment this 
and that quality, deflected here, steadily progress- 
ing there, and always moving onward. As they 
flow on they begin to diverge, and the human 
stream gradually acquires a greater velocity than 
the ape stream and passes on far ahead of it into 
the limitless valley of opportunity, while the ape 
stream lags behind, held in the tangle of a morass. 
This is a truer and a less repulsive picture of the 
evolution of man than that disordered dream which 



46 THE ORIGIN OF MAN 

imagines that he has sprung straight from the loins 
of an ape, and, taking to the trees to ensure his safety 
against some rapacious beast, has sat in the atti- 
tude of Rodin's " Thinker " until his caudal appen- 
dage atrophied from disuse, and the hair fell from 
his body through much cogitation. 

Modern opinion has modified somewhat the views 
held as to the factors which produce evolutionary 
changes. At one time it was believed that the 
chief variations were due to external causes such 
as environment. Now, many hold that besides the 
influence of environment we must take account of 
influences working from within the organism out- 
wards. In his Last Words on Great Issues, Dr. 
Beattie Crozier says : " Whatever subsidiary in- 
fluence the environment may have had on the 
evolution of the forms of plant and animal life, an 
inner organising principle which keeps possible 
variations within strict and definite limits, not to 
be overborne, must be assumed as primary and 
fundamental." 

It is altogether wrong to imagine that the in- 
fluence of the directing Mind behind the Universe 
is ruled out by the evolutionary theory. To dis- 
cover the plan on which a great cathedral has been 
constructed is not to dispense with the architect 
and the builder. The Mind responsible for those 
chemical affinities and molecular combinations which 
resulted in the appearance of the first living proto- 
plasmic cell was also responsible for endowing the 
protoplasm with the power of adapting itself to its 
environment. So far as we can judge of any of 
His operations in nature, the Creator invariably^. 



THE MIND BEHIND THE METHOD 47 

makes use of what we call secondary causes. He 
is throughout self-consistent, and Darwin's demon- 
stration of man's evolutionary ascension should not 
shake the belief of any one in the overruling and 
controlling influence of the Mind which fore-ordained 
and foreknew that out of the speck of protoplasm 
in the lagoon at the foot of the hill creature after 
creature should evolve, and, moulded by environ- 
ment, struggle on, until at last man should stand 
erect upon the summit. 



THE DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLI- 
GENCE IN THE EVOLUTION OF MAN 



49 



Mind is not matter nor from matter, but 
Above, leave matter then, proceed with mind I 
Man's^e the mind recognised at the height ; 
Leave the inferior minds and look at man." 

Robert Browning, " The Ring and the Book. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE IN THE 
EVOLUTION OF MAN 

WHEN one surveys the geological records of the 
history of life upon the earth one discovers that 
many animals and many complete species are now 
extinct. Some of these animals were gigantic crea- 
tures, like the iguanodon. Others, like the sabre- 
toothed tiger, possessed weapons that should have 
served them well in the struggle for life. But the 
ichthyosaurus, the diplodocus, the dinotherium, 
and the mastodon have all vanished, leaving no 
record except a heap of bones, or the impress of 
their skeleton in a rock that was once clay, from 
which the scientist has been able to reconstruct 
models bearing some resemblance to their ancient 
prototypes. Those species which have survived 
owe their survival to peculiar faculties of adapta- 
tion to changing circumstances, to the possibility 
of acquiring adequate food, and to the possession 
of one or other characteristic that enabled them to 
defend themselves. The tortoise has survived 
probably because it was provided with a carapace, 
a shell-like osseous roof under which it could hide 
itself ; the elephant owes its survival to its strength, 



52 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

its swiftness, its intelligence, and the fact that, 
unlike the mammoth, its body was not out of 
proportion to the amount of food it could acquire ; 
the lion and the tiger owe their survival to their 
strength, agility, claws and teeth, and to their 
courage and cunning, which are mental qualities ; 
while the venomous reptiles survived because of 
their poison-glands. 

In the whole history of mankind there is no 
moment more dramatic than that in which man 
first found himself alone in a world of monsters. 
Naked and unarmed, physically inferior to many 
of the animals around him, with neither rending 
tooth nor tearing claw, he was to all outward appear- 
ance at a tremendous disadvantage. But he was, 
even in those primeval days, a creature of immense 
potentialities. He did not skulk and hide like 
some craven afraid to face his destiny ; but he 
raised himself on his feet, stood splendid in his 
manhood, and dared to look with undaunted eye 
on the world before him, with some faint glimmer- 
ing in his mind of the consciousness that to him it 
was given to be a king. 

Structurally he was intimately connected with the 
whole vertebrate kingdom around him. He had 
not a bone or a muscle, an organ or a sense which 
was not already typified and existing in some of 
the animals amongst which he found himself. In 
the mammalian kingdom the resemblance between 
himself and the other members became closer and 
closer. Bone for bone, organ for organ, sense for 
sense, he resembled them so closely that among the 
higher apes creatures were to be found that anato- 



THE INSUPERABLE GAP 53 

mically and morphologically could hardly be dis- 
tinguished from him. As has already been pointed 
out, when one reviews the whole panorama of 
living things one finds that through it all runs a 
great and almost uninterrupted principle of con- 
tinuity. It is a far cry from the unicellular proto- 
zoa to man ; but right up, through the long ladder, 
there is a series of intermediate steps which proves 
his intimate relationship with the whole world of 
living things. Then near the top of the ladder there 
comes a long and impassable gap. Anatomically the 
gap is negligible ; but mentally it is insuperable. 

The central nervous system of man resembles 
closely that found in the higher animals. They 
have the same senses, often better developed than 
his own. He has not the vision of the eagle or the 
hawk, nor are his senses of smell and hearing deve- 
loped so highly as they are in the dog. But the 
functions of his brain are of an infinitely higher 
order than those possessed by any other animal, 
and it is in the domain of function rather than in 
that of morphology that the chief differences be- 
tween man and the animals are to be found. Haeckel, 
in reviewing the results of anthropogeny, said : 
" Within the limits of this small group of animals 
[the apes of the old world] we found the structural 
differences between the lower and higher catarrhine 
apes for instance, the baboon and the gorilla to 
be much greater than the difference between the 
anthropoid apes and man." 1 But we must be 
careful to note that this statement only holds good 
if it is limited to anatomical details. It has nothing 

1 The Evolution of Man, chap. xxx. 



54 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

to do with the matter of intelligence. There is a 
huge gulf between the intelligence of the highest 
anthropoid ape and the lowest type of the human 
species. At its worst, provided the underlying brain 
is sound, the latter is progressively improvable ; 
the former remains stagnant. In man something 
has been superadded. He is become a living soul, 
quickened to a larger mental and spiritual life by 
the breath of God. 

Some physiologists are prepared to go the length 
of saying that there is an unbroken continuity of 
nervous function which links the lowest living 
creature with man, the highest. They suggest that 
the chain begins in simple reflex actions, such as 
the protrusion or withdrawal of a protoplasmic 
offshoot from the amoeba under the influence of a 
stimulus, and proceeds gradually up to the higher 
psychic operations of the human mind ; and in 
recent years an attempt has been made to discover 
in the tropisms of plants and animals the roots of 
the instincts, habits, and conduct of all living crea- 
tures, including man. A tropism may be denned 
as a simple response to an external stimulus. Most 
flowers turn to the light : they are helio- or photo- 
tropic. Moths and flies are phototropic ; a worm, 
on the other hand, shrinks from the light : it is 
negatively phototropic. Lowly organised animals 
are led by a chemical impulse to their food. They 
are chemo tropic. The branches of a banyan-tree 
turn to the earth : they are geotropic. The ex- 
planation of these phenomena has been found in 
chemical activity. When light falls on a moth it is 
said that certain changes occur in its body. These 



BRAIN NOT MIND 55 

chemical changes stimulate muscular movement. 
Without any will of its own, the moth is driven by 
the reflex beating of its wings straight to the source 
of light, and perishes in the flames. 

These are interesting and seductive theories, and 
from them has been built an elaborate superstruc- 
ture of hypothesis that would gladly claim as its 
coping-stone the complex manifestations of the 
intelligence of man. But, in man, thought and 
conduct cannot be reduced to purely physico-chemi- 
cal changes in nerve-cells. As the physiologist 
advances his claims the psychologist seems some- 
times to abandon his positions with undue haste. 
Even when the physiologist has been able to see 
and determine the precise chemical changes which 
occur in the cells of the brain during an act ot 
thought, he will not be any nearer the solution of 
the matter. Brain changes probably do accom- 
pany every act of thought, for the brain is the 
physical organ of the mind. But the mind is not 
the brain, and no physico-chemical account of the 
metabolism or katabolism of nerve tissue will ever 
explain the genesis of an abstract idea, or account 
for a conception of moral right or moral wrong. 
One must ever guard against confusing a psychic 
act with its physiological concomitants. 

It has long been the custom to deny intelligence 
to the lower animals, and to confine any mental 
life of which they are capable to the domain of 
instinct. I do not feel we are justified in thus 
restricting their mental activities. Any one who 
has read Fabre's marvellous records of his studies 
of insects must for ever feel a difficulty in drawing 



56 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

a hard and fast line between the manifestations of 
instinct and the operations of intelligence. And 
we cannot fairly deny to some of the higher animals 
a few of those qualities of mind that are often re- 
garded as the prerogative of man. For instance, 
who will deny that a fox-terrier or a collie is capable 
of showing affection, fear, and memory, or that a 
sheep cannot express in its agonised bleatirg some 
shadow of the emotion of love for its offspring. I 
remember, as a little child, hearing all day long 
the plaintive bleating of the lambs that had been 
separated from their mothers and driven up to the 
high pastures in the late .days of July, and the 
responsive, deeper-toned calling of the ewes in the 
lowlands, as they wandered nervously and per- 
turbed about the field in a vain endeavour to get 
back to their young. There was some other note 
in the crying of the lambs than a mere desire for 
food, and there was more in the mothers' tremulous 
response than the pain of an overfilled udder. It 
was the oldest and biggest emotion in the world ; 
and, with the clear intuition of a little child, I heard 
and understood. 

We cannot by an arbitrary and hard and fast 
decision deny intelligence to all the lower animals. 
The greater part of their lives is, certainly, con- 
trolled by instinct, or unreflecting impulse to 
action. But man also lives much of his life instinc- 
tively : he, too, acts upon impulses which he does 
not weigh or analyse, so that, at certain points, the 
mental life of animals and the mental life of man 
come into close touch. But there is a great differ- 
ence. A fundamental distinction between instinct 



INSTINCT AND INTELLIGENCE 57 

and intelligence is that the former does not enable 
those creatures whose sole guiding light it is to 
adjust their conduct in such a way as to deal with 
unexpected and unwonted experiences, while the 
latter helps those that possess it to do so. 

Not long ago I had the opportunity of observing 
this difference in operation. I saw a long line of 
caterpillars, which had just emerged from the nest 
in which they had been hatched, crawling down the 
trunk of a tall pine-tree. There were 156 cater- 
pillars in the procession, and they were progressing 
in single file, each head in contact with the posterior 
extremity of the one immediately in front. The 
long row of caterpillars suggested a line of railway 
carriages coupled together. By way of experiment 
I removed two caterpillars from the chain, and 
watched to see what would happen. Obviously 
this was an experience which must have been met 
with by many generations of their ancestors, for 
their instinct, which is automatic habit ingrained 
in the species through custom, taught them how 
to deal with this emergency. The last caterpillar 
at the upper end of the lower half of the broken 
line ceased moving. Apparently it knew that the 
caterpillar which had been clinging to its tail had 
lost its hold. Rapidly a message passed along the 
line, and soon the lower half was stationary through- 
out its whole length. The leader of the upper half, 
robbed of his guide, instinctively moved his head 
from side to side, making the arc of a small circle 
as, he continued to crawl down the tree-trunk. In 
this way he made sure of not missing the tail of 
t|ie rearguard in the lower half of the procession 



58 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

if it should come anywhere within the arc of the 
circle. In a moment or two, during which time the 
lower column remained at a halt, the upper and 
the lower line succeeded in getting into touch, and 
the whole procession at once began to move again. 
Instinct had enabled the creatures to overcome 
this difficulty, which must many a time have called 
for a solution from their ancestors. When the 
leader of the reformed train reached the ground 
he set off boldly, with his followers in single file 
behind him. Near the tree there was a small slope, 
about four inches high. Down this he moved, and 
then, making a detoui, proceeded to describe the arc 
of a circle in his progress. Unfortunately the rate 
at which he was leading the van brought him back 
close to the tree just as the last caterpillar was 
crawling from it, and the head of the leader came 
into contact with the body of the last of the line. 
Originally, as the ribbon of creatures came down 
the tree, these two were some twelve feet apart. 
Now they were touching each other, and by that 
instinct which apparently drives a migrating cater- 
pillar to attach itself to the terminal extremity of 
any other caterpillar it comes across, the first laid 
hold of the hinder end of the last, and a rough 
circle, was completed. This is probably a rare and 
unusual experience in the life-history of a nest of 
caterpillars, and ancestral tradition had not supplied 
them with any means of recognising that something 
was wrong, nor endowed them with the instinct 
necessary to deal with such a contingency. Intelli- 
gence would have supplied a solution : for instinct, 
there was none ; and tHe tortuous circle continued 



THE LIMITATIONS OF INSTINCT 59 

to move round aryi round, making no progress, for 
nearly two hours. At the end of that time exhaus- 
tion, and possibly the cold wind which had sprung 
up, brought the circling ribbon to a halt. Then one 
caterpillar rolled over. This was an accident, and 
not an instinctive act, as it happened to have 
halted on the slope already mentioned. As it 
rolled over, the pull of its separation caused several 
more to lose their balance, and they tumbled 
over as well. It is said that the occasion frequently 
makes the man, but this time it did not make the 
caterpillar, for, though the circle was now broken, 
the caterpillar at the head of the line did not rise 
to the height of his opportunity and assume the 
role of leader. Instead, he remained still. After 
a time other breaks occurred in the line, but not 
one of the creatures assumed any directive powers. 
Instead of being a communal society with a definite 
end in view this collection of caterpillars became an 
impotent crowd. As they crawled about, apparently 
without any determined aim, singly or in couples, 
they met other members of their family; but 
no attempt was made to reform the line, and 
when they came in contact they remained huddled 
together in a confused heap, perplexed, baffled, and 
beaten by the first problem in their adventure of 
life. They presented a singular and instructive 
example of the limitations and insufficiency of un- 
aided instinct. Next morning many lay dead. A 
few robust survivors had succeeded in taking to 
earth under some loose sand. The dead lay there 
as a witness to that provision of nature by which 
those creatures endowed only with instinct are 



60 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

produced in enormous numbers so that the inevit- 
able casualties which must come to them through 
their lack of intelligence may not lead to their 
total extirpation. 

Intellectually the lowest member of the human 
species is infinitely superior to the highest animal, 
' and it is to his intelligence that man owes his sur- 
vival. Though he was not provided by nature 
with weapons of defence other than his hands, he 
had the intellect which enabled him to fabricate 
weapons and tools. He was sufficiently intelligent 
to plan and carry into effect a combined offensive 
with bow and arrow, club and spear and catapult, 
against those animals that lay in wait to destroy 
him. There is no exact parallel to this in animal 
life. A tiger may lie in wait for its victim, or a 
pack of hungry wolves may band themselves to- 
gether to pursue a fleeing horseman ; but no 
animals have ever taken counsel together to plan a 
campaign against the human species, to arm 
themselves with special weapons, to devise strategy, 
and so to arrange their tactics as to meet possible 
contingencies. It was man's intelligence, and not his 
brute strength, which made him a doughty opponent. 
It taught him not only how to slay those wild 
beasts that would have slain him, but also how to 
establish a growing ascendancy over the less 
ferocious creatures. Those that could be of use to 
him he captured and trained. He made beasts of 
burden of the horse, the mule, the ass, the darnel, 
the elephant, and the ox. Then he learned what 
vegetable foods were necessary to sustain life, and 
he found, that it was easier to transplant and culti- 



MAN'S RESTLESS INTELLIGENCE 61 

vate them than go to seek them far afield when he 
required them. No animal has ever shown exactly 
this kind of provision, even though the ants keep 
dairy farms of aphides to supply their young with 
" milk," and some wasps keep a larder filled with 
insects which they paralyse, but do not kill, with 
their stings. But no animal has ever cultivated a 
garden to give itself sustenance. 

Over all animals man has a great advantage. 
He is able to make use of the accumulated experi- 
ence of his predecessors. The comb of the bee and 
the social life of the ant are, so far as we can tell, 
the same now as they were a million years ago. 
Certainly they have not altered within the memory 
of man. It may be that the hexagonal formation 
of each cell in the comb, and the communal laws 
that regulate the life of the ant are, for their pur- 
pose, perfect and require no alteration. But such 
permanence and unchangeability would not suit 
the restless intelligence of man, who is ever seeking 
to alter, adapt, and improve. Generations of 
animals come and go, and, except in so far as it 
becomes ingrained in the stem of the species, leave 
no record of experience from which their successors 
may win profit. But no generation of men vanishes 
from the earth without leaving some tradition, 
either oral or written, which may be of service to 
those who come after. Thus it is that man's pro- 
*gress has been rapid. Each successive generation 
has laid up for it a well-stored depository of experi- 
ences which enables it to begin where its predecessor 
left off, and it is man's intellectual capacity for 
making use. ol these hoarded experiences which has, 



62 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

helped to lift him to the position in the animal 
kingdom which he occupies to-day. All this would 
have been impossible if man had not had the gift 
of speech. " To this gift of speech Max Miiller attri- 
buted the highest importance. According to him, 
" The one great barrier between the brute and man 
is language. Man speaks ; and no brute has ever 
uttered a word. Language is our Rubicon, and 
no brute has ever crossed it." This is, perhaps, a 
somewhat strong declaration . We may not be able 
to write down and classify the calls of the birds, 
and the different tones in the bark of a dog. But 
any attentive student of nature will at once admit 
that there is a difference, appreciable by their kind, 
in the quality of the love-call of a bird, and the 
plaintive note of one whose nest has been robbed ; 
and there is a lively distinction between the bark 
of a dog which is angry and that of one which is 
barking from the sheer joy of life. But, be that 
as it may, speech, which is a gift of the intellect, 
has been of incalculable value to man. It has 
enabled him to express himself, to communicate 
his experiences, to cultivate social intercourse, to 
guide and instruct those who follow him. And 
though, undoubtedly, example is better than pre- 
cept, a little precept is sometimes needed to call 
attention to the example. The power of speech 
was, probably, in some sort, man's from the begin- 
ning. At first it would be little more than a medley 
of imitative sounds ; but from that point the 
human vocabulary would rapidly grow by diurnal 
accretions, by the addition of names applicable to 
articles of food, and the thousand and one things 



THE DISCOVERY OF FIRE 63 

with which man came into contact in his daily life. 
Later, it would be enriched by terms applicable to 
abstract qualities, until the mouthful of onoma- 
topoeic words with which he began to express him- 
self had grown into an opulent medium through 
which a Shakespeare could express all human 
laughter, all human aspiration, and all human tears. 
In virtue of his intelligence man's conquests con- 
tinued to extend. Some of the forces of nature he 
made his vassals. He captured the wind in the 
sails of his boats, and he made it turn his millstone. 
He also made use of the power of running water, 
harnessing it to his own ends ; and he discovered 
how to light a fire and keep it burning. An ancient 
fable of mythology tells how Prometheus stole fire 
from the gods, and as a punishment was condemned 
to a cruel and enduring torture. The fable had its 
roots in the wonder of primitive man at the miracle 
of fire. A power so strange must originally have 
come from the gods ; it could not have been born 
on earth ! It would be interesting to know how 
man first discovered fire ; whether it came from the 
lightning and set some primeval forest ablaze, 
whether it poured in burning lava from some vol- 
cano, or whether, like so many other revolutionary 
discoveries, it came by what we call accident. But, 
however it came, the man who first recognised even 
in a remote way its value and its infinite possi- 
bilities was a genius the lineal ancestor of Galileo, 
Newton, Kepler, Kelvin, Madame Curie, and Mar- 
coni. The first man who rubbed two sticks together 
till one of them glowed made possible the railway 
train and the Atlantic liner. It was a great feat of 



64 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

intelligence to recognise the potentialities of fire. 
No animal, below the level of man, has ever done 
that. Many animals will warm themselves before 
a fire, and appreciate the benefits that flow from 
it ; but no animal, less than man, has ever succeeded, 
by taking thought, in producing a fire, or even in 
keeping a fire burning once it has been lit. The 
early date at which the value of fire was recognised 
by man proves that, even in primeval times, there 
were men of genius. Man's intellectual capacity 
has changed but little in the ages. The quality of 
mind was there from the beginning. Much of our 
recent progress in the field of intellectual accom- 
plishment is due, not to any modern superiority in 
mental equipment, but to the fact that nowadays 
the mind has more to work upon. It has more 
accumulated observations from which to start ; 
more accessories to help towards fresh conquests. 
In these days we can call to our service invisible 
forces such as electricity, or the emanations of 
radium, and we flatter ourselves that our intellects 
have enabled us to secure great triumphs over the 
secret forces of nature. And we are right to do so ; 
but, in taking credit for our age as a golden era 
of discovery, We owe a grateful and appreciative 
thought to the genius of the cave-dweller who first 
taught his fellows the secret of fire. 

Mind has always been true to itself. As far back 
as we have any record we find that man was direct- 
ing his intellectual powers to the study of the Uni- 
verse. He was groping through the mysteries 
toward the light. Much of the work of the Chaldean 
astronomers, and the science of the Chinese, Indians, 



QUESTIONING THE INFINITE 65 

and Egyptians is lost in the mist of unchronicled 
antiquity. But enough has come down to us to 
show that, even in those remote ages, man was 
using his intelligence to question the ir finite. He 
was seeking to understand ; and though many of 
the ideas formulated by those early scientists seem 
to us, in a more enlightened age, absurd and fan- 
tastic, they were, in some sort, the foundations of 
that edifice of knowledge in whose shadow we live 
to-day. 

His intellectual superiority is the great factor 
which differentiates man from other animals, and 
it is the chief cause of his evolutionary progress. 
We cannot deny a measure of intelligence to some 
animals, but there is a profound difference in 
degree, and an immense and almost incalculable 
difference in quality. Whatever mental life the 
brutes possess tends to remain stereotyped. Their 
intellectual development soon touches its zenith, 
and remains fixed. In man the intellectual powers, 
great though they were in the beginning, are im- 
provable as well as progressive. There is no 
standing still. The individual mind improves, the 
intellectual life of the race progresses. The intelli- 
gence of the brute and the intellect of man are both 
stable, but in a different sense. The former is 
stable like a rock set in the mountain side ; the 
latter is stable like a swiftly moving aeroplane. One 
is stagnant and uniform ; the other is in a condition 
of progressive movement. This gives to the mental 
life of man an indefinite potentiality. All his 
abiding triumphs are due to his intelligence. It 
has taught him to cultivate the earth ; to win 



66 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

from its heart metals with which to fashion weapons 
and tools ; to make implements ; to invent 
machines ; to employ the forces of nature for 
his own purposes ; to defend himself against the 
attacks of animals larger and stronger than himself. 
It is strange that the only beasts of prey against 
which civilised man now requires to guard himself 
are the infinitely little ones the microbes of disease. 
But by the application of his intelligence he is daily 
making further conquests over their domain, and 
in the fulness of time he will doubtless succeed in 
protecting himself against their attacks, however 
subtle. 

To the intelligence of man we owe all we know 
of science, and all the arts we practise. It has 
helped him to read some of the laws by which our 
little corner of the Universe is governed ; and it 
has enabled him to conceive of infinity in time 
and space, that colossal mystery of unbeginning and 
unending duration and immensity that he can 
guess at but cannot understand. And because he 
is gifted with intelligence he has been able to 
speculate on the past and the future of his kind. 
He can appreciate the ideal, and has elaborated 
social and moral schemes whereby to increase his 
own happiness, establish his security, and help 
himself and those who follow him along the path 
of progress. It is not alone through the treasures 
of inventive genius which one generation bequeaths 
to another that man progresses. His most rapid 
progress is attributable to the fact that the mind- 
culture of one era passes on to the next. Anatomical 
and morphological changes may require a million 



A GERMAN ERROR 67 

years for their development ; social and cultural 
changes may be impressed upon the individual and 
established in the race within a life- time. And it 
is this adaptability, this acquisitiveness of new 
culture and new ideals which confers on the human 
mind one of its most infinite potentialities. 

His mental faculties have enabled man to evolve 
a philosophy to explain existence ; to recognise 
moral duties and to appreciate moral values. In- 
telligence has been the chief factor in hastening his 
development, and it is only when he is false to the 
light of intelligence that man sinks to the level of 
the brutes. Long ago, if he had followed the guid- 
ance of intelligence, he would have learned that war 
is a hideous wrong, morally as well as from the 
point of view of evolution. In these civilised days 
it is an offence to God, and its continued existence 
depends on a crude misinterpretation of one of the 
doctrines of developmental progress. There is 
little doubt that when Germany, for more than 
forty years, was steeling herself and preparing for 
the great conflict in which we are now engaged, she 
was basing her policy upon a wrong idea of the 
" survival of the fittest." Although one of the 
most intellectual nations in the world, she failed 
to recognise that the doctrine of the survival of 
the fittest does not mean that in days past one 
species set itself against another to conquer or to 
exterminate. Such are the bald terms of her 
interpretation. Rightly understood, and as Darwin 
understood it, the principle means, simply, that 
those species survived which were most capable of 
adapting themselves to their circumstances. It 

6 



68 DOMINANT ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE 

never meant internecine and bloody warfare between 
species and species. War is retrogressive and 
anti-evolutionary because it brings premature death 
to many of the finest of a race, and tends to leave 
to the weaklings tfie continuation of their kind. As 
waged now, with long-distance artillery, machine- 
guns and rifles, it is more opposed than ever to the 
principles of evolution. Evolution has worked by 
and towards intelligence. But a shell fired by a 
stupid soldier whose only knowledge is the art of 
war, or a bullet from the rifle of a simple village lad 
may kill a potential Shakespeare, a Newton, or a 
Darwin. In so far as it makes brute force rather 
than intelligence the chief weapon in its offensive, 
it is false to all ideals of national progress. In days 
past, one race of men established its ascendancy 
over another by virtue of its higher brain power. It 
was brain power, and not brute force, that was 
intended to be the discriminating factor between 
the different races of mankind. And there is little 
doubt that if Germany had relied solely upon the 
intellectual activities of her people, devoted to the 
study of science, the application of scientific methods 
to manufacture, and the intelligent fostering of 
commerce, she would in a generation have estab- 
lished for herself that ascendancy among the nations 
that has been her ambition. Instead of this peace- 
ful conquest, which was within her grasp, she has 
put back possibly for centuries the hope of realising 
her dream. 



THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 



There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy." 

Shakespeare, " Hamlet. 



CHAPTER V 

THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

Iv a poetic hyperbole Tennyson spoke of Nature as 
" red in tooth and claw with ravine." She is, how- 
ever, the universal mother, and within her domain 
the balance between life and death is held firmly, 
with a bias toward the side of life. 

To ensure the continuation and increase of their 
kind, many animals are endowed with the most 
extraordinary fertility. This is more particularly 
true of the fishes. Every female herring is poten- 
tially the mother of an incalculable number of off- 
spring, and it has been estimated that a couple of 
cod-fish allowed to breed perfectly freely would, if 
all their progeny came to maturity and multiplied 
at the same rate, fill the sea in less than ten years 
with a solid mass of fish. The more highly specialised 
an animal becomes the less is its fertility. The 
horse is much less prolific than the rat, and the cow 
than the rabbit ; and the fecundity of human beings, 
which is potentially very considerable, is compara- 
tively limited. Two principles seem to underlie 
the law that controls fertility. Animals whose off- 
spring are subjected to great risks are very fertile, 
so that, in spite of all accidents, a sufficient number 

71 



72 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

of young may survive to ensure the continuance of 
the species. 

When the dependence of the offspring upon the 
parents is prolonged, as is the case in the human 
species, fertility is sharply controlled. Once life 
has been achieved it is protected, and the devices 
whereby this protection is ensured are among the 
most beautiful and remarkable features of nature. 
Frequently the protection begins while life is still in 
the potential stage. We find an example of this 
in the protective colouring of the plovers' eggs, 
which are hardly distinguishable from the shallow 
bed of soil and debris on which they are deposited. 
A casual wanderer through an April field may pass 
many a clutch of plovers' eggs without detecting 
them. 

The young of many sea-birds resemble their sur- 
roundings so closely in colour as easily to escape the 
eye of the fowler or the marauding bird of prey. 
Many insects, too, have the advantage of protective 
colouring, so that they seem to be a part of the 
plant upon which they rest or feed. Some butter- 
flies have wings so perfectly tinged and so exquisitely 
veined that they are distinguished with the utmost 
difficulty from leaves. Certain insects, perfectly 
innocuous and not provided with any weapons either 
of offence or defence, escape destruction because 
they resemble closely insects armed with powerful 
and painful stings. The principle of protective 
colouring is also met with among the higher animals. 
The mice of the Sinai peninsula are fawn-coloured ; 
the fur of the hares on the granite hills of Galloway 
turns to a silver grey in winter time ; and the 



NATURE'S CAMOUFLAGE 73 

striped markings of the zebra enable it to escape 
detection among the long grasses of its natural 
haunts. Protective colouring is only one of the 
many artifices employed in nature for the preserva- 
tion of life. The offensive odours of the skunk and 
the musk-rat are protective devices. The exigencies 
of modern warfare have compelled our Navy to 
take a lesson in protection from the well-known 
artifice of the cuttle-fish. This creature, when 
pursued by some carnivorous monster of the sea, 
endeavours to elude its enemy by discharging an 
inky fluid which acts much in the same way as 
the smoke-screen with which a merchant-vessel or 
even a torpedo-boat envelops itself in the endeavour 
to ward off the attack of a submarine or other 
hostile craft. The whole science of " camouflage " 
is a war-time elaboration of observations derived 
from the study of protection in nature. 

But, interesting as are the protective devices met 
with in the lower realms of nature, it is when we 
approach the study of defence in the human economy 
that we discover phenomena of singular complexity 
and extraordinary efficiency. 

The whole mechanism of the human body seems 
to have been elaborated with a special view to the 
protection of the life which animates it. 

The chief organs necessary for the maintenance 
of life are protected by walls of bone. The brain, 
the most important organ, is walled in by the 
skull ; but, in addition, it is covered by three mem- 
branes of varying thickness, the outer of which is 
distinctly protective in function, and it is, further, 
surrounded by a thin layer of fluid, which, in addi- 



74 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

tion to other functions, acts as a cushion that not 
only absorbs the violence of any blow applied to 
the skull, but also distributes it so that the force 
of the impact is not localised. 

The spinal cord, the great distributing tract for 
nerve energy and the channel by which nerve 
messages from without reach the central nervous 
system, is also protected by bone, as it runs down 
from the posterior part of the brain through a 
tunnel formed by the bodies and arches of the 
vertebrae. In front it is guarded by thick and 
strong masses of bone the vertebral bodies ; 
laterally and posteriorly it is protected by the 
neural arches, reinforced by tough ligaments and 
massive muscles. Between each vertebral body is 
a cartilaginous buffer, the inter-vertebral disc, which 
absorbs shock, and prevents the base of the skull 
from being shattered by the impact of the verte- 
bral column when a man falls from a height upon 
his feet. 

The heart and lungs, which are organs essential 
for life, are also protected by bony and muscular 
walls ; and most of the great blood-vessels are well 
concealed. 

Highly developed organs of special sense like the 
eye and the internal ear are also well protected by 
bone. In addition, the eye is guarded by moving 
curtains of skin, the eyelids, which are quick to close 
automatically when any foreign body approaches 
them ; and the secretions of the lachrymal, or tear 
glands, make a valiant endeavour to wash from the 
eyeball any deleterious foreign agent that may 
have lodged there. 



THE PROTECTING SKIN 75 

The nasal cavities are supplied with fleshy cushions, 
richly perfused with blood which warms the inhaled 
air before it passes on into the lungs, and in addi- 
tion the vibrissse or hairs in the nostrils act as a 
kind of coarse filter and remove from the air some 
of the dust and germs which it contains. 

The whole outer surface of the body is covered 
by a highly organised integument, the skin, which 
consists of several layers, and which performs many 
functions necessary for the proper continuance of 
life. One of its chief functions is to act as a first 
line of defence against the invasion of germs from 
without. The skin is to the body what the sea 
is to Britain. The best protection a surgeon or 
pathologist can have against blood-poisoning is a 
sound integument. No germ of disease can find its 
way through an intact skin, but a small and in- 
visible abrasion may throw open the portal to 
death. The war has increased our appreciation of 
this fact. In the first winter of the campaign it 
was found that a number of soldiers who were ad- 
mitted to hospital suffering from " trench foot," 
developed tetanus or "lockjaw," and died. In 
some cases no break in 'the skin was discoverable ; 
or, at most, there may have been a small blister or 
a crack between the toes. Now it is the custom 
to administer anti-tetanus serum to all soldiers 
with " trench foot " in whom there is reason to 
believe that the skin is not intact, and, as a result, 
tetanus as a complication of " trench foot " has 
almost completely disappeared. 

The mechanism by which the temperature of a 
normal healthy adult is kept constant, within cer- 



76 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

tain well-defined limits, is also a provision for pro- 
tection. The normal temperature of an adult is 
98-4 Fahrenheit, and the balance is very finely 
adjusted. Violent muscular exercise tends to raise 
the temperature, and if there were no temperature- 
regulating or compensating system violent exercise 
would produce pyrexia or fever. But the stimulus 
of exercise increases the rapidity of the heart's 
action, and consequently the blood is driven more 
rapidly through the blood-vessels. In this way, in 
a given time, a larger quantity of blood passes 
through the capillary vessels in the skin. The skin 
is a great radiator of heat ; the sweat-glands in 
the skin secrete copiously ; the evaporation of the 
perspiration tends to cool the skin ; and a cooled 
skin helps to keep the temperature of the blood 
which is circulating through it at or near the normal. 
In addition, there is in the brain what is known as 
the temperature-regulating centre, which is to the 
temperature of the body what a " governor " is to 
a steam-engine. Any lesion in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of this centre throws it out of gear, and 
the temperature runs amok. When functioning 
properly it helps to keep the temperature at the 
normal. 

The statement that the blood is the life is suffi- 
ciently ancient to be entitled to respect, even 
though physiologically it is not quite true. The 
blood is of prime importance to the economy, and 
in health it is kept at a standard which is recognised 
as the normal. The blood consists of two elements : 
one fluid the serum the other solid, and consist- 
ing of the blood corpuscles of various kinds. The 



ADAPTIVE BLOOD CHANGES 77 

concentration of the serum and the quantity of 
salt it contains is practically constant, and the 
balance is so delicately held that if, by artificial 
means, any alteration is produced it is speedily 
rectified by the bodily mechanism, provided 
that, in the meantime, the patient does not 
succumb. 

In health the solid constituents of the blood vary 
within strictly narrow limits ; but they have the 
power of adjusting themselves to new conditions. 
For instance, if a person who lives habitually at the 
sea-level is transported to the summit of a lofty 
mountain and lives there for some time, certain 
changes occur in his blood which enable him to 
adapt himself to his new surroundings. 

On a mountain-top the atmosphere is more 
rarefied than at the sea-level, and consequently it 
is necessary to breathe more rapidly to obtain the 
same amount of oxygen in a given time. The oxygen 
is conveyed from the lungs through the central and 
peripheral circulation by the red blood-corpuscles, 
or erythrocytes, each of which acts as a sort of 
cargo-boat, taking up in the lungs a load of oxygen, 
conveying it through the body, unloading it where 
it is required, and bringing back to the lungs a 
freight of carbonic-acid-gas, one of the by-products 
of the activities of life. The whole process is a 
beautiful and fascinating piece of physiological 
adjustment. If we examine with the microscope 
a drop of blood taken from a healthy person living 
at sea-level, we shall find that each cubic millimetre 
of blood contains approximately 5,000,000 red 
corpuscles. If, after he has resided for several days 



78 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

on a mountain-top we again examine his blood, we 
shall find that there has been a striking increase in 
the number of red cells. A moment's thought will 
give a clue to the reason for this adjustment. The 
oxygen of the air has to be conveyed rapidly from 
the lungs to those parts of the body which are 
crying for it. As, at each inspiration, the moun- 
tain-dweller can obtain only a proportion of the 
oxygen accessible to the dweller at sea-level, it is 
necessary that the transport of the precious cargo 
from the lungs to the other organs and the peri- 
phery should be hastened, and the method adopted 
in the human economy to secure this end is to 
increase the number of cargo-boats. When the 
temporary mountain-dweller returns to the plains his 
superfluous cargo-boats v of which he has no longer 
any need, are scrapped in the ship-breaking yards 
of the liver. 

Again, when a person or animal is bled, a very 
large number of blood-corpuscles are, naturally, 
lost. The economy would suffer and suffer seri- 
ously if provision had not been made to deal with 
such a contingency. Special glands in the body 
known as the blood-forming glands and the red 
bone-marrow, are thrown into activity. They ela- 
borate new red cells rapidly, and it is possible, by 
examining the blood from day to day, to estimate 
the rate at which the damage is being repaired, until 
the normal is "once again reached. If the same 
person or animal is bled on repeated occasions, and 
the blood is examined with the microscope at 
regular intervals, it will be found that there is a 
considerable speeding-up^in the rate at which the 



VESTIGIAL REMNANTS 79 

loss of red cells is made good. We find an inter- 
esting parallel in our efforts to combat the submarine 
menace which has produced such havoc among our 
merchant fleet. At first we repaired our losses 
slowly ; now there is a great speeding-up in our 
shipbuilding yards, and loss and replacement 
are rapidly being brought into a condition of 
balance. 

These phenomena, and many others which might 
be instanced, serve to show how carefully the bodily 
economy has been adjusted to cope with conditions 
that might be deleterious to it, and that possibly 
would extinguish the little spark of life that ani- 
mates the whole. 

Confirmed supporters of the evolutionary hypo- 
thesis used to point to certain structures in the 
human body which they regarded as functionless 
remnants of organs that had subserved important 
functions in animals below the human level, but 
which in the human being were nothing more 
than vestiges, useless except in so far as they 
indicated the road by which man had climbed in 
his struggle upward to the top of the evolutionary 
tree. 

Haeckel laid great stress on the presence in the 
human body of these so-called vestigial parts. He 
said : " They are some of the weightiest proofs of 
the truth of the mechanical conception and the 
strongest disproofs of the teleological view. If, as 
the latter demands, man or any other organism had 
been designed and fitted for his life-purposes from 
the start and brought into being by a creative act, 
the existence of these rudimentary organs would 



8o THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

be an insoluble enigma ; it would be impossible to 
understand why the Creator had put this useless 
burden on His creatures to walk a path that is in 
iisslf by no means easy. But the theory of evolu- 
tion gives the simplest possible explanation of them. 
It says : The rudimentary organs are parts of the 
body that have fallen into disuse in the course of 
centuries ; they had definite functions in our animal 
ancestors, but have lost their physiological signifi- 
cance. On account of fresh adaptations they have 
become superfluous, but are transmitted from genera- 
tion to generation by heredity, and gradually 
atrophy." x 

In making such a sweeping generalisation Haeckel 
stumbled into the pit that lies in the way of all 
" scientific " partisans, who are tempted to regard 
the sum-total of knowledge accessible at the time 
they commit themselves as the whole truth. If he 
were alive to-day he would be compelled to modify 
much and retract a great deal of what he wrote 
as to vestigial organs, or be laughed out of court. 
Since he wrote the chapter from which the above 
quotation is taken some of the organs which he 
instances there as beig nothing more than vesti- 
gial encumbrances have been found to discharge 
functions of the highest importance in the human 
economy. He would be a rash man who to-day 
would venture to assert that any organ in the 
human body, however vestigial it may seem, is of 
no use. 

In the abdominal cavity, hung like an apron 

in front of the intestinal coils is a structure known 

1 The Evolution of Man, by Ernst Haeckel, vol. ii. chap. xxx. 



THE PERITONEAL POLICEMAN 81 

as the great omentum. Haeckel did not include it 
in his list oi vestigial remnants ; but others have 
regarded it as a functionless structure. It consists 
of layers of fat, and of several layers of peritoneum 
the delicate serous membrane which is to the 
contents of the abdominal cavity what the pleural 
membrane is to the lungs. 

For very many years the function of the omentum 
was quite unknown to physiologists and to sur- 
geons ; but within the last decade it has been 
discovered that this unimportant-looking structure, 
which is in some people very rudimentary and 
might be regarded solely as a vestige, can and does 
perform services of great importance in the pro- 
tection of the life of the individual. It has been 
taken out of the list of functionless structures, and 
has attained the dignity of a sobriquet all its own 
an American surgeon having honoured it with the 
title of " The policeman of the peritoneal cavity." 
Before the Listerian era major operations on ab- 
dominal organs were attended by grave risk for the 
patient. Since the introduction of antiseptics into 
surgical practice, and to a much greater degree 
since the aseptic technic grew out of the anti- 
septic method, the surgeon has ceased to regard 
the abdominal cavity as a sphere of operation 
beyond his reach. As the frequency and scope 
of abdominal operations have increased the 
functions of the omentum have gradually come 
to light. 

Inflammatory mischief affecting any organ in the 
abdominal cavity may rapidly proceed to a fatal 
issue if it can break through into the general peri- 



82 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

toneal cavity and set up peritonitis or inflammation 
there. 

Whenever this dread complication threatens, the 
omentum endeavours to avert it. If an inflamed 
appendix is threatening to perforate, or an ulcer 
of the stomach is tending to break through the 
stomach-wall, and so flood the peritoneal cavity 
with dangerous micro-organisms, it is found that 
the omentum endeavours, in a fashion that almost 
suggests intelligence, to ward off this catastrophe. 
It orientates itself towards the inflamed part ; it 
may actually succeed in applying itself to it, and 
attaching itself to the weak and inflamed part with 
a kind of natural glue. It thus acts as a buttress, 
and lends support to the weakened part at the 
critical moment ; and if it is not able to prevent 
the mischief breaking through the wall of the 
organ in which it has begun, it spreads itself out, 
and, as far as it can, shuts out the morbific matter 
from areas where it might exert a more baneful 
influence. It acts like a policeman who hears 
burglars in a house. He approaches the house, and 
sets a guard over it lest the burglars should escape ; 
and, if they break out, he tries to surround them 
and hem them in lest they be guilty of further 
mischief, and do robbery with violence on the 
highway. 

Far from being a vestigial remnant with no 
function, the omentum is now regarded as the 
abdominal surgeon's best friend ; an assistant 
upon whose co-operation he can almost invariably 
depend. 

The late Professor Elie Metchnikoff has great 



PHAGOCYTOSIS 83 

claims to the respect and honour of mankind, for 
he enriched our knowledge by many valuable dis- 
coveries. But probably the work by which he will 
be remembered when most of his other discoveries 
have been forgotten, or attributed to other men, 
is his long and illuminating series of observations 
on Phagocytosis. From a study of comparative 
anatomy, he observed that certain cells throughout 
the animal kingdom have the power of ingesting or 
devouring other cells or small foreign bodies, and, 
after ingesting them, in many cases they destroy 
them. He extended his investigations to the con- 
ditions met with in disease, and he discovered that 
the successful resistance of an animal to a bacterial 
infection was in large measure brought about 
through the activity of certain cells which he called 
phagocytes. 

Most of the phagocytic cells are blood-cells ; but 
Metchnikoff discovered that other cells of the body, 
such as the lining cells of blood-vessels or organs, 
and connective tissue-cells, frequently aid in the 
process. 

When a micro-organism finds its way through the 
skin into the subjacent tissues it tends to multiply 
rapidly if the conditions are at all favourable. It 
is like an enemy soldier who has broken into a 
valuable position. If he cannot be dealt with he 
becomes the precursor of a multitude. Let us 
imagine that the micro-organism finds the new 
conditions favourable to its growth. It begins to 
increase in number, and in doing so sets up a local 
disturbance. But before long the protective mechan- 
ism of the body comes into play. The precise chan- 



84 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

nels through which the alarm is passed on to the 
controlling centres of the body have not been accu- 
rately determined ; but probably it is through the 
nervous system that the counter-attack is planned. 
The essential point, however, is that volition on 
the part of the individual has nothing whatever to 
do with the extraordinary series of phenomena 
which follows. The blood-vessels in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the affected part dilate, and the 
blood pours along them rapidly. It is this which 
causes a poisoned ringer to throb. Then the blood- 
stream in the dilated vessels slows down, and from 
among the blood-corpuscles those known as the 
leucocytes, or white cells, begin to separate them- 
selves and flow slowly along the inner wall of the 
blood-vessels at the margin of the blood-stream. 
If the germs break through the vessel-wall and 
find their way into the blood-stream they are im- 
mediately attacked by the leucocytes, which sur- 
round them, endeavour to engorge them, and, 
having engorged them, destroy them by digesting 
them. 

If, however, the germs do not find their way into 
the blood-stream, but remain outside in the adjacent 
tissues, the leucocytes, not to be baulked of their 
prey, will insinuate themselves through the blood- 
vessel wall and attack them where they lie. 

They put into practice the doctrine that attack 
is the surest method of defence. A leucocyte, on 
battle intent, will push out a little prolongation 
from its body, insert this between the cells that 
form the wall of the blood-vessel, and gradually 
work its way through without leaving any dis- 



THE BATTLE WITH THE GERMS 85 

coverable aperture, and proceed to attack the 
germs in the open. Leucocyte after leucocyte will 
perform this feat, which is known as diapedesis, 
and hurry to the fray to wage a mighty battle with 
the enemy. If the leucocytes are overcome by the 
invading organisms a very serious illness, which 
may prove fatal to the patient whose body has 
become a battle-ground for enemy and defenders, 
may ensue. If the battle is localised and the in- 
vading enemy is defeated, an abscess may result. 
If its contents are evacuated by the knife of the 
surgeon, and examined with a microscope, they will 
be found to consist of dead leucocytes containing in 
their substance the organisms they had succeeded 
in killing before they were themselves overpowered : 
micro-organisms living and dead, and broken-down 
tissue cells, the debris of houses and homes, 
shattered as in the brave land of France by the 
intensity of the conflict that has been waged in 
their midst. 

This account is no fairy tale of science, but 
solid fact which has been verified over and over 
again. 

Cast into a more picturesque narrative, which 
will easily be remembered, we may present the 
above facts in this way. Just as every country 
with a large merchant fleet requires to maintain a 
navy for its protection, the body, which has many 
cargo-boats (the red blood-corpuscles), has also a 
battle-fleet the white blood-corpuscles, or leuco- 
cytes. Of these there are no less than 7,500 in 
every cubic millimetre of blood. When war breaks 
out the navy is mobilised, and there is a con centra- 



86 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

tion of vessels of war at the place where they may 
best deal with the enemy. They endeavour to 
blockade him ; and, if he will not come out into 
the open sea the channels of the circulation 
they will attack him, if possible, in his lairs ; just 
as our navy has sought to destroy by bombarding 
or by bombing from naval hydroplanes the haunts 
of the submarine along the Belgian coast. During 
a war there is, of necessity, great activity in all our 
naval yards in order that the fleet may be increased. 
Old cruisers are taken out of the yards and sent 
to sea again, and the building of new ones is speeded 
up. In the same way there is an enormous increase 
in the number of white corpuscles met with in the 
circulating blood. Leucocytes that had been rest- 
ing are poured into the circulation, and new ones 
are produced in the blood-forming glands and 
hurried into the circulation to take part in the 
conflict. The call for help may come from the 
remotest part of the Empire : from the Falkland 
Islands (or from the tip of a poisoned finger) : but 
wherever it comes from, the Navy, or the leucocytes, 
are ever ready to seek the enemy out and give him 
battle wherever he may be found. 

The activity of the leucocytes and their capacity 
for waging war successfully upon the invading enemy 
vary in different individuals, and in the same 
individual at different times. This is one of the 
reasons why a poisoned wound in one person 
may have much more serious consequences than 
in another. 

Not every fleet that sails the seas is ready at 
any moment to give battle to the foe ; but the 



THE BATTLE-FLEET OF THE BLOOD- 87 

country whose navy is always prepared, or the 
individual whose white blood-corpuscles are always 
in fighting trim is little likely to succumb to a 
sudden attack of the enemy. A navy that is kept 
in fighting condition by frequent manoeuvres and 
by constant gun-practice is likely to give a better 
account of itself when the hour comes than one 
which never has the opportunity of testing its own 
capacity. It has been ascertained by experiment 
that the phagocytic properties of the leucocytes 
may be greatly increased by artificial means. Sir 
Almroth Wright has made many valuable deduc- 
tions from this observation, and vaccine therapy, 
of which he is the foster-father, is a practical 
application springing from it. If a quantity of 
dead micro-organisms of any kind be injected under 
the skin of a patient it is found that, in a few days, 
his leucocytes have developed the power of en- 
gorging, on an average, more micro-organisms of 
that particular variety than they had before. 
Their phagocytic power has been increased, not 
toward all organisms, but for germs of that special 
kind. If, therefore, a vaccine be made ^rom the 
bacteria found in a boil and injected into a patient 
suffering from that painful affection it is found 
that not only do the phagocytes seize on and 
devour the dead organisms in the vaccine, but, 
like Oliver Twist, they ask for more, and attack 
with avidity the germs responsible for the patient's 
condition. 

Vaccine therapy is still in its early youth ; but 
it has secured undying laurels in the present war, 
for, largely owing to its application, the incidence 



88 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

of typhoid fever, which in all previous campaigns 
was a pestilence to be dreaded, has been reduced 
almost to the vanishing point. 

But the body has other protective mechanisms 
besides phagocytosis, which are called into play 
when the need arises. It is a well-established fact 
that some animals and individuals are much less 
susceptible to certain disease's than others. It is 
also well known that an attack of a disease such as 
small-pox or scarlet fever will protect a person 
^against another attack for a considerable number 
of years or for a life-time. 

Once it was believed that an infectious disease 
used up some pabulum or food which it found in 
the patient's system ; and, as it was supposed to 
destroy this pabulum, there was none left for a 
second attack of the disease to feed on. But now 
it is recognised that this idea was erroneous, and 
that, whatever substances a disease may destroy 
in our blood, it enriches the blood by causing the 
prophylactic mechanisms of the body to elaborate 
protective agents. 

When a micro-organism invades the human body, 
pari passu with the production of poisons or toxins 
whose effect may be lethal, there are produced sub- 
stances that are inimical to the growth of the germ. 
A well-known parallel to this is met with in the 
case of the yeast fungus. If this organism is grown 
in a solution of sugar it vegetates luxuriantly, and 
converts part of the sugar into alcohol. This is a 
poison for young cell-lite, and when the alcohol 
reaches a certain degree of concentration the yeast 
fungus is destroyed by it. 



PROTECTION IN ACTION 89 

If a person become infected with pneumonia we 
have a striking example of how the protective 
mechanism in the body operates'. Pneumonia is 
an acute inflammation of the lungs, and it is now 
known to be due to a micro-organism. The germ 
invades the lungs, and begins to multiply there. 
The earliest symptom of which the patient is con- 
scious is usually a sensation of chilliness, followed 
by violent shivering. This is the first manifesta- 
tion of the protective mechanism in action The 
sensation of chilliness is due to a contraction of the 
blood-vessels in the skin whereby as much blood as 
possible, and therefore all the available leucocytes, 
may be hurried to the invaded part. The violent 
shivering, which is due to rapid and repeated con- 
tractions of muscle fibres throughout the body, is 
involuntary, but purposeful and protective, for 
active muscular exercise is the speediest means of 
increasing bodily heat. A temperature of 102 F., 
and over, is inimical to the growth of micro-organ- 
isms, and the patient's temperature is rapidly 
elevated above that degree as the first step in the 
protective scheme. As the organisms grow they 
produce poisons or toxins which are thrown into 
the circulation, and which may have a deleterious 
effect on the muscle-fibres of the heart, and the 
nerve-ganglia which control its action. The heart; 
already has a sufficient mechanical strain, thrown 
upon it, as it requires extra power to maintain the 
circulation in a lung which is rapidly undergoing 
consolidation. But the protective functions of the 
body are at work, and are rapidly producing sub- 
stances which are antagonistic to the toxins, and 



90 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

to the micro-organisms which are the cause of the 
disease. These substances are known as anti- 
toxins, and they unite chemically with the poisonous 
products of the organismal growth, and render 
them inert to the living tissues. What part of the 
anti-toxin is not required to neutralise the toxin 
remains over to exert its effect on the germs an 
effect prejudicial to their further development, and 
therefore beneficial for the patient. The occur- 
rence of what is known as the " crisis " in pneumonia, 
when the temperature rapidly falls, the rapidity 
of the heart-beats and the respiratory rate come 
down to something like normal, and the patient in 
the course of a few hours undergoes a marked 
change for the better, indicates the point at 
which the amount of anti-toxin elaborated in the 
body exceeds the amount of toxin, and so can 
neutralise it. 

In pneumonia we are therefore the witnesses of 
a race between the production of toxin and anti- 
toxin ; and if the heart can hold out while the 
contest is at its hottest, a point will be reached 
when the anti-toxin will overpass the toxin, and 
the patient will recover. Observations of this 
kind and practical deductions made from them 
have opened up an immense field for curative 
endeavour. 

It has long been known that the animal economy 
could accustom itself to small repeated doses of 
certain poisons, until a stage of tolerance is reached 
at which an enormous amount of these poisons 
may be administered without much effect. Every 
smoker has more or less poignant memories of his 



TOLERANCE 91 

first pipe. Tobacco is a poison, and for the neo- 
phyte a first small indulgence often produces un- 
comfortable results. But, if he try again, his system 
gradually becomes accustomed to the poison, so 
that a smoker of some years' experience can consume 
in the space (5f a few hours an amount of tobacco 
which might kill a boy were he to indulge in the 
same quantity on the day of his first surreptitious 
pipe. A like truth holds good with regard to 
alcohol, and De Quincey affords a classical exam- 
ple of the tolerance which the human system may 
develop towards opium. Abrin and ricin are two 
highly poisonous vegetable substances ; but Ehrlich 
found that by small successive doses of these sub- 
stances a condition of tolerance towards them could 
be established among animals. Armed with this 
knowledge, he carried his experiments a step further. 
He fed mice on abrin and ricin, and, when they 
had developed a high degree of resistance to the 
poisons so that they were able to consume without 
prejudicial effects a much larger dose than that 
which, originally, would have killed them, he drew 
blood from them and injected the fluid part of the 
blood into other mice. At the same time he ad- 
ministered to this second group of mice large doses 
of the vegetable poisons, and he made the impor- 
tant discovery that a mouse treated with serum 
from an animal highly immunised against abrin or 
ricin by progressive feeding was able to consume 
no less than forty times as much of the original 
poison without disaster as it could do before it was 
treated in this way. 
The practical applications of this experiment 



92 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

have been far-reaching, and the ultimate goal is not 
yet in sight. One of the most fruitful develop- 
ments issuing from this observation was the pre- 
paration of diphtheria anti-toxin. Roux and 
Yersin made a careful study of the toxins of 
diphtheria, and their work, supplemented by that 
of Behring, resulted in the discovery of a new 
and highly successful treatment for that dread 
disease. 

If small and repeated doses of diphtheria toxin, 
procured from the cultivation of the bacillus diph- 
theria in a suitable broth, are injected into a horse 
it is found that the horse is not rendered ill thereby, 
but there is gradually produced in its blood an 
enormous quantity of a substance that can not 
only kill the Diphtheria germ, but also neutralise 
the diphtheria toxin. This is diphtheritic anti- 
toxin ; and the modern treatment of diphtheria 
consists in injecting under the skin of the affected 
person, as soon as the diagnosis is made, a large 
quantity of serum drawn from a horse which has 
been rendered immune, in the manner described, 
towards the bacilli and toxins of diphtheiia. In a 
case of diphtheria which recovers without the 
administration of anti-toxin the patient has had to 
rely on the efforts of his own protective mechanism 
for the elaboration of this substance, and there has 
been a heated race between the production of toxin 
. and anti-toxin. To administer anti- toxin in the 
earliest stages of the disease is to confer upon the 
patient a very great advantage, for he thus enters 
the race with an enormous quantity of ready 
prepared, highly potent anti-serum with which to 



TOXIN AND ANTI-TOXIN 93 

neutralise the poison that the germ will produce as 
it .grows in his throat. Thanks to Behring and 
Roux, the word '' diphtheria/' which at one time 
was pregnant of ill omen and bore a particularly 
sinister meaning for all parents of young children 
and for all physicians who devoted themselves 
specially to work among children, has lost much 
of its dread significance. 

All modern treatment founded on the adminis- 
tration of vaccines, anti-toxins and anti-sera has 
been built up from the recognition of the protective 
mechanism existing latent in the body. There is 
little doubt that all dwellers in cities are daily being 
immunised against various diseases by the con- 
tinual ingestion or inhalation of disease germs. 
Where the initial dose is too large, or the resistance 
of the individual too low, a serious illness with, 
possibly, a fatal issue may result. 

Civilisation and acquired tolerance of the germs 
of disease proceed hand in hand. On a virgin soil, 
such as the New Hebrides, an epidemic of measles 
may rage like a plague and destroy a large portion 
of the population. We and our children are daily 
breathing or swallowing morbid germs in small 
quantities, and these stimulate our protective 
mechanism so that one day when we engorge a 
larger quantity of germs than usual our immunised 
constitutions are able to repel the assault. 

Those who find in physics and chemistry an ex- 
planation of all the phenomena of life are ready to 
explain all these facts in terms of their two pet 
sciences, and they have invented a terminology to 
designate every stags and event in the phenomena 



94 THE PROTECTION OF LIFE 

of protection. They are satisfied with secondary 
causes ; they regard any first cause as unknow- 
able. However that may be, there is surely ground 
for the belief that such beautiful and co-ordinated 
devices as we have indicated, coming into play 
for the protection of life, must have had their origin 
in no haphazard chance, but in a great and intelli 
gent Mind. 



HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 



" La petite cellule initiate d'ou derive chaque 6tre vivant 
et qui, developpee dans un sens determine, deviendra oiseau, 
homme ou chene, contient un long passe et un immense avenir. 
Ce minuscule element charge d'un entassement de siecles revele 
un monde de forces, oriente par un mecanisme dont la compre- 
hension reste tres au-dessus de notre intelligence. Dr. Gustave 
If Bon, " Hier et Demain." 



CHAPTER VI 

HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

WE have seen how the life of the individual is 
protected by delicate and complex mechanisms of 
defence. The power of reproduction, which is given 
to the individual, and the principles which underlie 
heredity, are the chief agents for protecting the 
life of the species. 

That like begets like is a fact of common know- 
ledge, but why it should be so is an unfathomable 
mystery. Among the bacteria and the protozoa, 
where multiplication takes place by a simple pro- 
cess of division, there is nothing strange or puzzling. 
But in the higher realms of nature, where reproduc- 
tion is complicated by the antecedent necessity of 
a union between the male and female primordial 
elements, the problem widens and becomes more 
and more obscure. 

If we take the fertilised eggs of a fly, a frog, and 
a fish we may be able to distinguish between them 
by their shape and size ; but, so far as test-tube 
and microscope can tell us, the protoplasm of which 
they consist is identical. And yet, even if they 
are allowed to develop in the same pond under 
conditions that, as far as possible," are identical, 

97 



98 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

they will ultimately become fly, frog, and fish, 
separated from each other by the whole diameter 
of genus. Nor is this all. Like begets like with 
extraordinary faithfulness. A child resembles closely 
one of its parents, or both. In build and general 
appearance, shape of features and limbs, colour of 
eyes and hair, texture of skin, disposition, and other 
mental qualities every child is a pocket-edition of 
its parents. But it is more than that. It exhibits 
qualities or features that have come to it from 
ancestors more remote, so that Emerson was 
justified in saying : " Every man is a quotation 
from all his ancestors." 

With quaint fancy Robert Louis Stevenson l en- 
larged on this idea when he wrote : " Our con- 
scious years are but a moment in the history of 
the elements that build us. ... And though to-day 
I am only a man of letters, either tradition errs or 
I was present when there landed at St. Andrews a 
French barber-surgeon to tend the health and the 
beard of the great Cardinal Beaton ; I have shaken 
a spear in the Debateable Land and shouted the 
slogan of the Elliots ; I was present when a skipper, 
plying from Dundee, smuggled Jacobites to France 
after the '15. . . . Yes, parts of me have seen life, 
and met adventures, and sometimes met them well. 
And, away in the still cloudier past, the threads 
that make me up can be traced by fancy into the 
bosoms of thousands and millions of ascendants : 
Picts who rallied round Macbeth and the old (and 
highly preferable) system of descent by females, 
fliers from before the legions of Agricola, marchers 

1 Memories and Portraits f The Manse. 



PANGENESIS 99 

in Pannonian morasses, star-gazers on Chaldean 
plateaus." 

It is not my intention to encumber these pages 
with the fascinating details of embryological deve- 
lopment which have been studied so caiefully, and 
mapped out with such minuteness that they are 
now as plain as a mariner's chart. But, though this 
gigantic work has been accomplished with infinite 
labour, we are still entangled in mystery, for we 
cannot discover whence it comes that in the in- 
finitely small speck of protoplasm which is the 
arena of all these changes such potentialities of 
growth and change, such undeviating loyalty to 
the traditions of the species are already inherent. 

Long ago, before anything was known of the 
mechanical changes attending embryological deve- 
lopment for we had to wait for the microscope 
to reveal them various shrewd guesses were made 
to explain the mysteries of heredity. But none of 
them appeared to satisfy the facts so adequately as 
the theory of pangenesis enunciated by Charles 
Darwin. According to Darwin, every part of the 
body and every organ in the body of an individual 
gives off tiny buds, or "pangenes," which are con- 
veyed by the blood to the organs of reproduction. 
Each germinal cell, both of the male and female, in 
this way becomes possessed of a complete set of these 
buds, representing not only every organ, but every 
cell in every organ, every cell in every bone, and 
every cell in the skin, and all its appendages, such 
as the hair and nails. In the process of develop- 
ment, on this theory, there is simply a progressive 
unfolding and growth of all these pangenes enclosed 
8 



ioo HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

in the male and female primordial germs, and, 
consequently, the offspring resembles its parents. 

This theory was a brilliant one, but it lacked pro- 
bability, and the practical difficulties associated with 
it seemed insuperable. For instance, a cod-fish can 
lay some 9,000,000 eggs in a season, and if every 
cell in the fish's body were to be represented by a 
pan gene in each of the 9,000,000 eggs, the whole 
bodily activity of the fish would be occupied in the 
budding off and transport through the blood of 
this incalculable number of pangenes. Darwin him- 
self, one of the clearest thinkers of his own or any 
other age, saw the difficulties that beset his theory, 
to which he had been driven in his endeavour to 
account for the transmission of acquired characters, 
such as modifications in bodily structure produced 
by disease, by mutilations, accidental or due to 
operative interference, or through the use or disuse 
of special organs. In Darwin's time a belief in 
the transmission of such acquired characters was 
generally accepted, but now it is only adhered to 
by a small number of biologists. 

The theory of heredity which receives the greatest 
support to-day is that put forward by Weismann. 
It is a theory that may be said to be pragmatic ; 
it serves, and enables us to understand, in a reason- 
able way, some of the facts of heredity. The 
essential principle of the theory has been expressed 
as " the continuity of the germ-plasm." By this 
is meant that a certain part of the germ-plasm, or 
primordial protoplasmic material contained in the 
parent egg, is not used up in the structural elabora- 
tion of the body of the new embryo, but is set 



CONTINUITY OF GERM-PLASM 101 

aside, and kept for the formation of the germ-cells 
of the new generation. In confirmation of the 
soundness of this theory it may be mentioned that, 
in several cases, the setting apart of the germ- 
plasm has been observed with , the microscope at 
the commencement of the development of a new 
embryo. Thus the germ-cells are said to pass on 
in the direct line from generation to generation, 
while in each generation the cells which go to form 
the body and the organs it contains are simply 
off-shoots from the genn-cells. The body is a kind 
of protecting covering thrown out to ensure pro- 
tection for, and to acquire the nourishment needed 
by, the germ-plasm. On a theory such as this we 
begin to understand how it is that like begets like, 
and why children resemble their parents or im- 
mediate ancestors more than they resemble the 
children of other people. It gives us a groundwork 
of understanding whereby we may comprehend 
why A.'s children resemble A. rather than B. For 
the germ-plasm from which they have originated 
has passed down to A. through many generations, 
and is continued in his children for transmission 
to the next. It is the old poetical idea of the torch 
of life lampada vitai translated into a physio- 
logical fact. This theory of the continuity of the 
germ-plasm enables us, further, to understand why 
it is that acquired characters that is, characters 
that have been assumed during the life-time of the 
individual are not handed on. An " acquired 
character," as that phrase is or ought to be under- 
stood, means a change in the body of the individual 
or organism under consideration, and not, except 



102 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

secondarily, in its germ-plasm. As the germ-plasm 
remains unchanged throughout any modification 
in bodily structure acquired during the life of the 
individual, the modification is not transmitted. 

At various times and from various sources in- 
stances have been derived which would appear to 
suggest that acquired characters are transmitted. 
But we must guard against accepting a principle 
from an isolated handful of instances. There is, 
certainly, ground for the presumption that acquired 
characters may be passed on : but, on the other 
hand, exact experiments carried out with a view 
to ascertain the truth have yielded at most results 
that were inconclusive. There is the fundamental 
difficulty of conceiving any mechanism by which 
such variations could be transmitted ; but that 
difficulty is no greater than others which confront 
us in any attempt to study the mysteries of life, 
and, to be fair, we are not entitled to rule out the 
possibility because our knowledge, as yet very im- 
perfect, has not given us a clue as to how this might 
be possible. There may be a process or mechanism 
that we know nothing of. The biologists are 
divided in their opinions on the matter. At present 
the verdict is, " Not proven." It would be in the 
highest degree unscientific to say dogmatically that 
such hereditary transmission is impossible and 
never occurs. Many of us may live to see the 
results of a great natural experiment which is at 
present in operation. At the present moment a 
large proportion of our young men are suffering 
from " acquired " characters the result of wounds. 
Many of them have lost a limb. These mutilations 



MENDELISM 103 

will not prevent them from marrying and becoming 
the fathers of children. It is, however, in the 
highest degree unlikely that any of their children 
will be born structurally defective lacking an arm, 
or a foot, an eye or an ear, because their father had 
lost one or other of these parts in battle. Life is 
too jealous of her own perfection to suffer that. 

The most recent contribution of value to the 
study of heredity is that made by Mendel. A little 
more than half a century ago, Gregor Mendel, a 
Silesian monk, was quietly carrying out observa- 
tions and experiments on the crossing of common 
peas. He classified his results with care, and 
made certain important deductions from them ; 
but, strange to say, when he published a paper 
detailing his experiments and embodying his con- 
clusions, it received no public scientific welcome, 
but was allowed to lie buried in the archives of the 
society to which he had communicated it, for thirty- 
five years. It was not until the law which Mendel 
had discovered by his patient researches was re- 
discovered in 1900 by three separate botanical 
investigators that the neglected paper of the for- 
gotten monk was dug out of its grave and his title 
to the name of a great scientific investigator 
established. Correns, Tschermak, and De Vries 
were the first to confirm Mendel's law ; and his 
observations and conclusions have been substantiated 
and received further demonstration from the work 
of Punnet, Bateson, and Drinkwater. 

It is outside the scope of this chapter to describe 
in detail the experiments upon which the doctrines 
of Mendelism are founded. Those who are in- 



104 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

terested may pursue the study further in one or 
other of the monographs which are devoted to the 
subject. Mendel's great contribution to the science 
of heredity is that he proved that the transmission 
of certain factors from one generation to another 
is no haphazard occurrence, but is definitely con- 
trolled by laws which may be reduced to mathe- 
matical formulae. He ascertained two great facts, 
and established two great principles. He showed 
that in the first hybrid generation there manifests 
itself, at the first crossing, a complete triumph of 
the characteristics of one parent, the characteristics 
of the second parent being suppressed. This he 
called " dominance." In the second generation he 
pointed out that what he called " segregation " 
occurs. By this he meant the appearance in 
definite proportions in the second generation of 
the characters which were combined in the cross. 

His experiments have been studied, verified, 
imitated, and extended, and the following are some 
of the conclusions which have been gathered from 
the accumulated facts. It is now believed that in 
any living organism there are certain qualities or 
characteristics that are capable of varying inde- 
pendently, and which may depend on some quality 
or factor in the germ-plasm, and are therefore 
transmissible. They can be separated out, identified, 
and followed through a series of breeding experi- 
ments. They are called " unit " characters, and 
the principles which govern their appearance are 
known as " unit " factors. Complete heredity 
from one parent to his offspring would mean the 
handing on of the sum- total of these " unit " factors. 



MENDELISM 105 

No character reveals itself in an individual unless 
the corresponding factor has been handed down 
to it. Factors may be handed on and remain un- 
developed ; but they may suddenly thrust them- 
selves into prominence in a subsequent generation. 
This explains why a characteristic belonging to one 
or other of its grand-parents may appear in a child 
whose parents lack this quality. Mendelism is not 
difficult to understand when it is applied to the 
crossing of pea-plants. But its problems become 
infinitely more complex when the facts of human 
heredity are closely studied. Many disturbing 
factors come into play, so that, except for special 
features, such as the colour of the eyes, the colour 
of the hair, the shape of the hands, and other more 
or less minor details, Mendelism as applied to man 
has so far had only minor successes. Human 
heredity is a much too complex thing to be capable 
of reduction, as yet, to mathematical formulae. 
Heredity, with all that it connotes, still remains a 
profound mystery, and is, I believe, inexplicable 
unless we are prepared to admit some mysterious 
controlling and guiding principle which science has 
so far failed to recognise. 

Important as the heredity which has stamped 
its hall-mark upon an organism or an individual 
may be, there is another factor constantly at work 
in moulding it, namely, its environment. The 
finished article, be it vegetable-marrow or man, is 
the resultant in a parallelogram of forces, the factors 
of which are heredity, or what it brings with it 
into the world, and environment, or the play of 
world forces upon it. So far as it concerns the 



'io6 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

individual, heredity stops at his birth, though the 
burden or the treasure it may have bound upon 
Jiis shoulder* is sometimes not revealed till after 
a long period of years. Its greatest influence is 
ante-natal. The environment of the parents may 
affect the heredity of the child for good or ill ; but 
the major part of the effect of environment is a 
post-natal and personal matter. 

A leek or a lily grown in the open air has green 
leaves, but if the plant is forced to live in a dark 
cellar where the sunlight cannot reach it, its leaves 
are white. It requires the energic touch of the 
sun to enable it to elaborate the green chlorophyll 
which gives it its verdure. Or it may be grown in 
the sunlight, in soil from which all traces of iron 
have been removed, and its leaves will remain 
pale. But if a little iron be added to the soil the 
leaves will quickly assume their natural hue. Here 
we are dealing with only one factor in the environ- 
ment ; but in nature, as a rule, the circumstances 
are more complex. 

The response to the conditions of environment 
are well shown by the behaviour of certain Alpine 
plants. If taken from their natural habitat and 
cultivated in the lowlands, they undergo material 
alterations in character. They grow to a greater 
height and their leaves expand in length, and 
breadth. So long as the plant remains in the low- 
lands it will exhibit in each successive generation 
these altered characters. But if one of the plants 
is transferred once more to its original habitat, 
high up upon the bleak mountains, it will once more 
assume the Alpine characteristics, which continue 



EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT 107 

to persist so long as the plant or its descendants 
live under the same conditions. 

E. S. Goodrich 1 quotes an interesting example 
of the effect of environment. 

A French botanist, Bonnier, divided a common 
dandelion plant and grew one half in the lowlands 
and the other at a considerable altitude among thg 
mountains. The part grown in the lowlands deve- 
loped into a tall and slender plant, while the part 
transferred to the heights underwent very con- 
siderable modifications. It developed longer roots, 
probably in order to derive adequate nourishment 
from the sparser soil; its stems were shorter and 
its leaves smaller, probably because its nourishment 
was deficient ; its leaves were more abundantly 
supplied with hairs, and its flowers were larger and 
brighter. No doubt this latter modification was 
with a view to attract insects, to ensure its propa- 
gation. The seeds of the Alpine plant, transferred 
to the lowlands, reproduced the lowland form. If 
planted in the mountains, the Alpine type was 
reproduced ; and seeds of the lowland form culti- 
vated among the heights developed into the Alpine 
type ; while, if either form were transplanted bodily 
to the habitat of the other, it assumed the type 
common to its new surroundings. Goodrich con- 
cludes : " This change is accomplished by the new- 
growing tissues, for the already formed tissues are 
no longer capable of altering. Once fully differen- 
tiated they are ' fixed/ So we see that organisms 
are moulded by their environment ; it is not the 
developed result which is transmitted, it is not 

1 Evolution, by E S. Goodrich, M.A., F.R.S. 



10 8 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

the modification which is inherited, but the capacity 
for modifications in certain directions, the modifi- 
ability." 

In the nature of things it is perhaps to be ex- 
pected that the influence of environment should 
make itself felt in plant life ; but it plays a great 
part in producing modifications of animal life as 
well. 

It has long been known that if a sea-water proto- 
zoon be transferred suddenly into fresh water it 
will quickly die, a victim to its unwonted environ- 
ment. But if, instead of undergoing this brusque 
and fatal transference, it be placed successively 
in more and more dilute solutions of sea-water in 
which the concentration of salt is progressively 
diminished until pure fresh water is reached it will 
gradually acquire such powers of tolerance towards 
its altered environment that it will continue to 
live. 

Similarly, if we take a protozoon which is nor- 
mally found in fresh water and suddenly place it 
in sea-water it will at once die ; but it may, like 
the salt-water protozoon, develop the power of 
living in an unaccustomed medium if, instead of a 
sudden transference from one extreme to another, 
we allow it time to accustom itself to new condi- 
tions by carrying it through a series of waters 
containing more and more salt until we reach sea- 
water. Physically the two protozoa may resemble 
each other so closely that it is impossible to tell 
from a mere inspection whether they belong to the 
sea-water class or the fresh-water class ; but the 
point may be settled at once by immersing them 



EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT 109 

in sea-water, when the fresh-water protozoon will 
immediately die. 

Fish, insects, and Crustacea which have lived for 
generations in the waters of a dark cave gradually 
lose their eyes, since vision is of no further use to 
them ; but the fins, tails, antennae, and limbs with 
which they are provided grow enormously in 
length, so that they may even exceed the length of 
the creature's body. These limbs, thus adapted 
by environment to meet the special requirements 
of the creatures to which they belong, enable them 
to recognise obstacles, to feel for food, and to 
avoid collisions with each other or with the 
rocks and stones of their habitat. They are to 
those sightless creatures what his stick is to a 
blind man. 

Any one who has ever watched a mountain 
spring bubbling up from between the ribs of Mother 
Earth has before him, if he will allow his imagina- 
tion to play upon it, a picture of the whole story 
of heredity and environment. The water gushes 
up, fresh, sparkling, and cold, and incorporate with 
it are some qualities it has gathered from the earth. 
What history lies behind it we cannot tell, but we 
know that, long before it was cloistered in the 
hidden reservoir from which it is now bursting, it 
fell from the clouds upon the flanks of the surround- 
ing hills and percolated gently through into some 
dark and undiscovered recess between the buried 
rocks. Long b3fore it fell from the clouds it had 
been lifted up from the smiling surface of the sea 
by the energy of the sun. But whether in the sea, 
or in the clouds, or distilling as dew or rain upon 



no HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

the hillside, it was water all the while : for the 
germ-plasm is continuous. 

And now it is coming forth again into the brave 
light of heaven eager to run its appointed race. 
It tumbles down the hillside, water still, but as it 
goes it takes up and carries with it new qualities it 
has niched from its environment. Here it washes 
away some earth from an overhanging bank, and 
is made, for the moment, turbid ; there it dissolves 
some salts from the rocks against which it frets as 
it moves onwards, and yonder, where it sweeps 
into the valley it scoops large debris from a bank 
of clay. In the valley its course is stayed for a 
little while, and it drops into the silent depths of 
its stagnant pools some of the earthy debris with 
which it has become burdened. Then it flows 
gently on, past farm and croft, broadening and 
deepening as it is fed by tributary streams, mirroring 
the overhanging trees, catching the shadows of 
every fleecy cloud, ploughing its way by the easiest 
path, deflected here by a barrier of rock and 
there by a promontory of beaten earth that it 
cannot wash away. Or it enters a defile between 
buttresses of rock which narrow it down so that 
it races in a wild tumult between its precipitous 
banks. 

It is perpetually yet never the same ; and one 
may stand beside it in one's childhood, and after 
the long lapse of years again in one's old age and 
say, " This is Avon, or Nith, or Thames." For a 
stream of running water is indeed a true picture of 
personality of continuity amid and in spite of 
perpetual change. 



CONTINUITY AMID CHANGE ~ in 

The sun kisses it at noon-day, and lifts up from 
it an armful of vapour to repair some exhausted 
cloud ; the frosts of winter touch it with iron hand, 
and it is fettered with ice ; but, cloud or ice, it is 
the same water still, the impotent creature of 
environment. It flows on, past hamlet and through 
town, and its fair beauty is sullied by contact with 
human kind. It has lost its pristine beauty, but 
it is the same water still. And so, on it goes, 
through the sunlight and under the star-encrusted 
sky, till it pours into the cleansing bosom of ocean, 
where all the adventitious qualities it has gathered 
up from its environment are lost in the immensity 
of the sea. It was water when it burst from the 
hillside ; it is water when it reaches the ocean ; it 
has preserved its identity, though its identity has 
been influenced over and over again by its environ- 
ment. Like the germ-plasm, it has held on in an 
unbroken and continuous line : and environment 
has been able to do no more than mould its character 
for a little while. 

Applied to human life the influences of heredity 
and environment have large and broad results. 
Primarily it is heredity which has -most to do with 
the physical side of a child's life ; but, in so far 
as mind is rooted in brain, heredity plays a part 
in endowing the psychical side of life with certain 
tendencies or aptitudes, by giving the child a brain 
of a certain texture, with nerve-cells sluggish or 
active, slow to respond to stimuli, or alert and 
alive. The child of healthy, vigorous parents is 
much more likely to start life with a good physique 
than the child of delicate parents. If a child comes 



112 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

of a long line of healthy ancestors it is much more 
likely to be born a splendid specimen of infant life 
than if it had behind it nothing better than a family 
tree with withered and delicate branches and an 
unsound stem. 

With very few exceptions, diseases are not trans- 
mitted directly, at birth, from parents to children. 
For instance, tubercular parents, who are prover- 
bially fertile, very frequently have fine children ; but 
these children start life handicapped in so far as 
they inherit, through the continuity of tiie germ- 
plasm, a textural quality of the bodily organs 
which is frequently unable successfully to resist 
infection by the organisms of tuberculosis which 
we breathe daily. Tuberculosis may be actually 
transmitted from parent to child, but this is ex- 
tremely rare. Bring the child of tubercular parents 
up in an unsuitable environment, expose it to the 
infection of tuberculosis by allowirg it constantly to 
associate, at close quarters, in all the little intimacies 
of affectionate home-life, with its tubercular parent, 
and it is almost certain to contract the disease. 
Here we have an example of the effect of environ- 
ment upon a child predisposed by heredity to a 
specific malady. But if, at a very early period of 
its life, that child were taken to the country, 
brought up in healthy surroundings, in a house 
where no tubercular person has previously lived, 
allowed to bathe in the glories of the sunshine, and 
to take largesse from the clean ocean of the country 
air, well fed, well clad, and well cared for, it is 
more than likely, indeed it is practically certain, 
that it would through its favourable environment 



EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT 113 

be able to overcome the inborn tendency with which 
it came into the world, and grow up to be a healthy 
man or woman, whose children would start the 
race of life without the initial handicap which 
weighed upon their parents. 

Any one who has studied with an observant and 
sympathetic eye the child-life in the slums of a 
great city must have been touched often to sorrow, 
and not infrequently to anger. Many children 
born in the slums are magnificent samples of human 
babyhood. This is particularly the case in a city 
like Liverpool, where many of the unskilled labourers 
are young Irishmen who have been brought up in 
the country, but who, through the allurement of 
more work and better wages, have been attracted 
to the town. Some of them marry girls of their 
own class with a country heredity behind them, 
and the children born of such a union are infants 
of which any mother might be proud. But watch 
these children grow up in the body-warping, soul- 
destroying environment of the slums. Instead of 
the green fields where their father and mother 
scampered barefooted as children, they have the 
gutter for a playground ; for the pure air of heaven 
which blew round the little thatched cottages where 
their parents were born, they have the exhausted, 
fetid, disease-laden atmosphere of a great city ; for 
the blue expanse of the open sky, they have a few 
adventurous but anaemic rays of the sun, which 
filter with difficulty into the narrow courts where 
they dwell ; for the wholesome potatoes, porridge, 
and buttermilk of their parents' country, they have 
, food of a dubious nutritive value packed in a tin 



U4 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

in some trans-Atlantic slaughter-house ; for the 
song of the birds, they have the unmelodious clatter 
of an Italian piano-organ ; and, for the benediction 
of the stars, the uncertain light of the street lamps. 
It is therefore little wonder that the splendid start 
with which they began life is rapidly stolen from 
them by their environment, and that, from the 
time they are weaned, they begin to deteriorate. 
They betome stunted, rickety, emaciated, and 
prematurely old. They are the victims of diseases 
of the eyes, the ears, the throat, the skin, the bones. 
They are adults before they have had any child- 
hood, and old men and women when they ought 
to be in their prime. The tragedy of all great cities 
is the tragedy of the child-life of the slums, and I 
have often wondered if at an early age a large ex- 
periment in the transference of child-life were 
performed, and the children of the rich were trans- 
ported to the slums and brought up in that environ- 
ment, whether they would do half as well as the 
children they have displaced. Few things, if any, 
can be more soul-destroying and body-killing than 
life in the rookeries of slumdom, and I have some- 
times wondered whether, if it had been my fate to 
be born and brought up in a slum, my soul would 
ever have risen above the level of a pot of beer. 
The marvel is that the children of the slums do so 
well as they succeed in doing. Not once, but many 
times, in the crucible of the war, where the souls 
of men have been tested, the boy from the slum 
has stood in the same line face to face with the 
same danger, and confronted with the same oppor- 
tunity of sacrifice as the lad from the home of 



EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT 115 

broad acres with the traditions of his class and 
school behind him. And the lad from the slums 
has shown himself as brave a man, and as generous 
a man, with instincts of altruism as fine as his more 
favoured brother. He has had no advantages of 
birth ; his environment has been of the worst ; 
but he has learned how to die like " a very gallant 
gentleman." For a man's soul is a big thing, and 
no circumstances can triumph over it. 

And when the drum-fire of the heavy guns is 
silenced and we return to the longed-for, happy 
days of peace, I imagine that the understanding 
come to in the face of death between the favoured 
of fortune and their humble brothers will not readily 
be broken. To face danger together, to bleed 
together, and, if need be, to die together, breaks 
down the artificial barrier of class ; and the lad 
from the slums, companying with him in the inferno, 
has learned to trust and honour the lad from the 
broad acres ; and the boy from the mansion has 
learned to understand and respect the boy from 
the city court. In so far as they were artificial, 
the war has smashed up class distinctions, and 
what Burns long ago tried to teach has to-day a 
wider acceptation : 

" The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The man's the gowd, for a' that." 

Environment, though it may neutralise much of 
the good with which a child is endowed by heredity, 
may act in the other direction, and exert a bene- 
ficial effect upon a child which has started life 
handicapped by a bad ancestral taint. Good food 

9 



H6 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

and warm clothing, which are physical conditions 
of life, and wise education and careful discipline, 
which are mental conditions of life, may convert 
a poor, wretched child of the gutter into a respect- 
able man or woman. Barnardo's Homes in Eng- 
land, Quarrier's Homes in Scotland, and every 
industrial school and training-ship in the country, 
are standing witnesses to the saving grace of pro- 
pitious environment. 

Environment in nature, with all that it connotes, 
is one of the regulating factors which helps to 
ensure the survival of the fittest. But in human 
life so much of our environment is artificial that it 
kills many who, by heredity, were well fitted to 
survive, and protects and shields others who, in 
virtue of their physical handicap at birth, would 
have little chance of surviving were they not 
specially nurtured and surrounded with all the 
comforts that wealth and devotion can procure. 
Nature is ever seeking to improve life, but some- 
times man steps in and interferes to protect the 
weakling which would otherwise succumb. But 
in the long run Nature wins the day, for ultimately 
a weakly family dies out : or the weakness, if it 
be due to a transmissible disease such as syphilis, 
ceases to be operative after a generation or two. 
Though people of unsound mind may beget children, 
they are often sterile ; and if they do become 
parents the family either tends to become extinct 
or the mental weakness to be eradicated. 

Fortunately, also, the chronic alcoholic is often 
childless, for Nature is jealous of the purity of her 
stock. 



NATURE'S EQUILIBRIUM 117 

Where the laws of nature are allowed to operate 
freely the results tend to maintain a satisfactory 
equilibrium. But man can and does upset the 
balance occasionally. 

Science, with groping finger and inquiring eye, 
has discovered for us some of the secrets that lie 
behind heredity and the influence of environment ; 
but we have been very slow to apply them. Most 
often the application of a principle precedes the 
discovery of the scientific facts upon which it 
depends. The richness of Tyrian purple was 
admired and used before the science of chemistry 
had cracked its shell, and men made melody before 
there was any science of acoustics or laws of har- 
mony ; but in this great sphere where the applica- 
tion of principles, established by science, might 
have done so much, practically nothing has been 
attempted except in so far as animals are con- 
cerned. The breed of horses, of dogs, of cows, 
and of sheep has been improved for the sake of 
paltry prizes on the race-course or at the cattle- 
show, or for the enrichment of a few enlightened 
agriculturists; but, so far as the human race is 
concerned, practically nothing has been done on 
any large scale either to improve the breed or to 
protect it from the deleterious effects of a bad 
environment. To think of the matter seriously is 
to be staggered by our own ineptitude. Man, who 
has discovered whatever is known about heredity and 
environment, is the last to profit by his knowledge. 

If we are to recover in a reasonable time from 
the desolating havoc which the carnage of war has 
wrought amoitg the flower of our manhood we must 



H8 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

set about applying our knowledge at once. Any 
effective scheme will entail a vast expenditure, but 
a country that can pour out close on 7,000,000 a 
day for the protection of its frontiers, and, inci- 
dentally, for the destruction of the lives of its 
enemies, should be'able and willing to spend lavishly 
of its substance in protecting and saving the lives 
of its own people. The expenditure of a sum 
equal to our share of the cost of the war for one 
month would be sufficient, I imagine, to tear down 
and rebuild, as wholesome dwelling-places, prac- 
tically all the slums in the country. And if this 
estimate is too low for I am only a physician and 
no financial expert surely the result could be 
obtained by devoting to this end a sum equal to 
one week's war expenditure every year for ten or 
twenty years. Hitherto we have reared an Im- 
perial race in slums ; but it is our bounden duty 
to see that we make the Britain our men have bled 
and died for a country worthy of their great sacri- 
fice, where life can be lived under wholesome and 
healthy conditions. To abolish the slums would 
be to lessen enormously the incidence of disease. 
Many infectious diseases find hot-beds for their 
propagation in the slums, and the mischief spreads 
from the rookeries where it has developed to the 
better- class dwelling-houses : for thus are we 
punished for the neglect of our poorer brethren 
within our gates. Better housing conditions, more 
space, more light, more air, would speedily reduce 
infantile mortality. And if, side by side with a 
sane policy of housing reform, we had temperance 
reform as well, and such economic reforms as would 



IMPERATIVE REFORMS 119 

abolish sweating that inhuman system whereby 
the vampire middleman grows fat on the blood and 
tears of women and little children we should have 
done much to improve the environment of the 
young life of our country, and given it a chance to 
grow and develop as God meant it to do. And, side 
by side with these reforms, we require educational 
reform. More attention should be paid in schools 
to instruction in the elements of hygiene, and all 
senior girls should receive lessons in mother-craft. 
No scientist would hand over to an uninstructed 
girl a delicate piece of scientific apparatus, and 
expect her, by some natural gift of intuition, to 
know how to handle it, control it, and use it. But, 
by habit, that is what we are daily allowing to 
occur. Girls of all classes marry without the 
haziest ideas as to child-nurture and child- welfare. 
It is therefore little to be wondered at that the 
proportion of babies which die in the first year of 
life is enormously high, especially in our great cities. 
A considerable number of these unfortunate infants 
are first babies. They die that through their un- 
availing tears their inexperienced mothers may 
acquire some slight knowledge of how to rear 
children. They are vicarious sufferers, sacrificed that 
the conditions of life may be more tolerable and less 
lethal for the brothers and sisters who may follow 
them. But what a wastage ! In these late days, and 
in spite of our civilisation, we out-Herod Herod. 

Surely there is a better way of teaching mother- 
craft than in such a stern and spendthrift school, 
and, in an age when such stress is laid upon the 
rights of the community, let us not forget that the 



120 HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT 

individual has rights, even though it is only a slum- 
baby who has " no language but a cry." Every 
child born into the world, legitimate or illegitimate, 
has the right to live. The law recognises this by* 
laying punitive hands upon any one who by violence 
robs the youngest infant of life. But a thousand 
times more children are done to death through 
ignorance than by homicidal violence, and the law, 
or the law-makers, stand by and do nothing. 

In paying due deference to the rights of the 
individual we are sometimes in danger of forgetting 
the rights of the race, which are infinitely greater. 
Hitherto human mating has been too much a hap- 
hazard matter. Love is not always wise. But a 
time is coming when no man or woman will be per- 
mitted to marry unless they can produce a certificate 
of health. The requirements need not be pitched 
too high ; but they should consist of at least 
moderately good physique, soundness of mind, and 
freedomfrom any disease capable of being transmitted 
to the children, or, as in the case of tuberculosis, 
likely to hand on a specially susceptible constitution. 
It will be a good day for England when "every 
father asks the suitor for his daughter's hand not 
what his bank balance is, but whether his blood 
is clean : for more women have been ruined in 
health and more children doomed to a heritage of 
suffering through the neglect of this pertinent but 
not impertinent question than Nero ever butchered 
or Herod's soldiers slew. Of old it was said, " The 
fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of 
the children are set on edge," and the proverb still 
holds true, 



HEALTH BETTER THAN RICHES 121 

With the advance of education and the dis- 
semination of some knowledge of the laws of here- 
dity public opinion is gradually becoming leavened 
by more sensible views about marriage ; and in due 
time the possession of a certificate of health by 
both parties to the contract will be as necessary a 
preliminary as the proclamation of banns. 

Though we have learned much about heredity 
there are still many things about it that are ob- 
scured by impenetrable darkness, and its mysteries 
are so great that, were there no God, we should 
almost require to postulate one to explain them. 



MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 



" Man's Free-will is but a bird in a cage ; he can stop at the 
lower perch, or he can mount to a higher. Then that which is 
and knows will enlarge his cage, give him a higher and a higher 
perch, and at last break off the top of his cage, and let him out 
to be one with the Free-will of the Universe." Tennyson, "Lift 
of Lord Tennyson," vol. i. p. 318 

" The thrall in person may be free in soul." 

Tennyson, " Gareih and Lynette." 



CHAPTER VII 

MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

THE one fact of which we are certain is our own 
existence. We believe that other things exist 
besides ourselves. We see the sun, the moon, the 
stars ; we are stirred to delight by the beautiful 
panorama of nature ; we are jostled in the streets 
by other creatures like ourselves ; but we can 
never feel perfectly assured that these things have 
a real existence of their own, independent of our 
consciousness of them. We know them only 
through the impressions they make upon our 
senses. But we are conscious of our own identity ; 
we recognise that this identity is independent of 
time and change ; we can control the movements 
of our limbs ; we are free to choose one course and 
reject another; we can think in abstract terms, 
reason within ourselves, regulate our conduct 
according to the experience of the past, and formu- 
late decisions upon moral issues. 

There is an almost insuperable temptation to re- 
gard the body as nothing more than a great and 
delicately adjusted machine in which is at work a 
vast and complicated system of wheels and springs, 
pumps and levers, pipes and valves, and wherein 
123 



126 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

as in a chemist's test-tube, marvellous chemical 
unions and dissolutions are perpetually taking 
place. Many of the processes of life may be ex- 
pressed in mechanical and chemical terms ; but, 
much as we may marvel at the wonders and poten- 
tialities of modern chemistry, we must pause before 
we can accept the idea that thought, volition, 
consciousness, are nothing more than the product 
of chemical changes. We cannot reduce to atomic 
equations and express in chemical formulae the will 
to be ready to lay our lives down for a just cause ; 
or all the mysterious beauty of maternal love. 
Nor can we reasonably imagine that the choice 
between moral right and moral wrong is to be 
determined by the combination of chemical mole- 
cules, or that hope is a nascent chemical product, 
and despair a chemical experiment gone wrong. 
Test-tubes and reagents do not supply us with an 
adequate explanation of the mental life of the 
individual : and, although one dare not affirm, 
since the opposite has been proved, that thought, 
emotion, and action are not attended by chemical 
changes in the brain-cells, we must guard against 
the danger of failing to discriminate between a 
phenomenon and its concomitants. The noise of a 
peal of thunder is a concomitant and consequence 
of the electric discharge that gives us the lightning ; 
but the noise does not give birth to the thunder- 
bolt, nor has it any of its lethal powers. 

Primitive man, pondering on the mystery of his 
shadow, startled to see his reflection look back at 
him with frightened eyes_when he stooped to drink 
from some quiet pool, and amazed when an echoing 



THE SOUL 127 

rock flung his voice back out of the distance, early 
concluded that he had a double. This double was 
his spirit or his soul. It was immaterial. It left 
his body at death, casting it aside like some worn- 
out garment. Without this soul he was a corpse ; 
with it he was a sentient being. 

The earliest philosophers believed that the soul 
was responsible for our mental life ; that it gave 
us our thoughts, and, as thought was the loftiest 
activity of which the human being was capable, they 
imagined that the soul must be something of divine 
origin, some form of celestial fire sent down from 
heaven and incorporate in man some breath or 
essence of the gods. Among the pagan philosophers 
Plato conceived of the soul as a charioteer, free, and 
capable of free movement, what time he directed 
and controlled the chariot of the body. 

Some believe that the soul that is in man, or 
rather that is man, is a part of God Himself, a frag- 
ment of the Godhead, imprisoned in our earthly 
clay, limited by its separation from the Divine 
Being, and shackled to earth by its material habita- 
tion. Others, who have only a hazy idea of God 
as a Person, regard the soul as a part of " the all," 
substituting a mere name of indefinite connotation 
for a principle that they are unable further to 
envisage. 

Man shares many qualities in common with 
inanimate matter. He shares other qualities with 
the whole animal creation, but he alone, among 
the things of the earth, has the power of exercising 
free-will. He can choose between two lines of 
action ; he can decide abstract problems ; he can 



128 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

" eschew evil and do good." If he were matter, 
and matter only, such things would be an impossi- 
bility. Some physiologists deny that man has any 
free-will. They try to convince themselves that 
all his actions are automatic ; that the central 
nervous system, the organ through which the mind 
expresses itself, is little more than a power-house 
in which afferent impulses, or impulses coming from 
without through the gateways of the senses and 
along the conducting paths of the sensory nerves, 
are converted into efferent impulses which are 
transmitted through the outgoing nerves of motion 
and result in action. They do not allow that the 
individual will comes into operation at all. The 
efferent impulse which follows the sensory stimulus 
is conditioned by heredity, by education, by religious 
bias, by a thousand and one circumstances that 
may previously have acted upon a man or his 
ancestors, and made certain nerve-paths or certain 
nexuses between afferent and efferent impulses 
more easily bridged. So that, if I decide that I 
shall have tea for breakfast instead of coffee, I am 
not exerting any free-will, but my olfactory or 
gustatory end-organs, for some reason known only 
to the physiologist, are sending memory-pictures of 
the flavour of tea up to my central nervous system, 
and through the nerves that control the muscles of 
speech, without the exercise of any choice on my 
part, tea is being ordered. The brain becomes, 
therefore, little more than a telephone exchange, 
where the operator is asked through an incoming 
wire (an afferent nerve) to connect the speaker up 
with another number (an efferent nerve) and does 



A WAR-TIME ANALOGY 129 

so without exercising any discrimination on her 
own part. To express the problem in such simple 
terms is to reduce it to an absurdity. 

What actually happens in the human mind when 
free-will comes into play is fairly well represented 
by the following illustration. 

When a great battle is raging the general in 
command is at his headquarters behind the lines 
anxiously awaiting reports of how the fight is going. 
With his staff he has probably devoted days and 
weeks, possibly months, of anxious and particular 
thought to the planning of his operations. At such 
and such an hour it has been decided that the 
artillery bombardment shall begin ; at such a 
moment it shall enter upon a wild but ordered 
crescendo ; and at a predetermined hour it shall 
reach its zenith, and then cease suddenly, and, at 
that moment, the officers in the trenches have been 
ordered to launch themselves and their men over 
the top Instructions have been given down to the 
minutest detail. The goal aimed at has been de- 
fined. Certain regiments have been held in reserve, 
ready to lend help wherever needed. By runner, 
by despatch-rider, by carrier-pigeon, by telephone 
and telegram the general and his staff are kept 
fully informed as to how the day is faring, and as 
each report comes in a little coloured flag is moved 
upon the map of the battle-field, so that, moment 
by moment, the commanding officer has before him 
a bird's-eye view of the situation. Suddenly a 
message comes that at a certain part of the line 
there has been an unusual resistance, the nature of 
which is tersely described Such contingencies 



130 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

have not been unforeseen, and have already been 
provided for in the detailed plans which the general 
and his staff had prepared. It had, let us sa^, been 
already determined in consultation that if the 
advance were held up at this particular point, the 
artillery should be commanded to concentrate 
upon it. If the general were an automaton, hide- 
bound to principles that he had formulated, he 
would issue orders for the artillery to open heavy 
fire upon that place. But he considers for a moment, 
and then sends out instructions that the situation 
is to be relieved by bombing from aeroplanes or 
by whatever other method his experience as a 
strategist leads him to believe will give the greatest 
surprise, and have the most telling effect. He is 
not a mere automatic centre for the conversion of 
afferent impulses (despatch-riders' messages, etc.), 
into efferent messages along the path of least re- 
sistance, viz. according to predetermined plan. 
He uses his intelligence ; he interprets messages, 
passes them quickly through the weighing-room 
of his reason, and decides by a definite act of free- 
will that he will depart from the plan already 
formulated. 

The existence or non-existence of free-will in man 
is a matter of such importance, in the light of what 
is to follow, that it is entitled to further considera- 
tion. The problem is age-long, and has been the 
source of much perplexity, and it is worth noting 
that the greatest opponents of the idea have be- 
longed to two opposite camps. The materialist, 
who explains everything in terms of matter and 
energy, reduces all human action to nerve reflexes, 



PREDESTINATION 131 

and holds that man can have no free-will because 
such an idea would contradict the doctrine of the 
conservation of energy. He trips into the pitfall 
of confusing psychological and physical activity, 
which belong to different planes. The other body 
of opponents belong to that school of theological 
belief which is chained to a crude and barbaric 
doctrine of predestination. They believe that 
whatever happens was and is predestined ; they 
rob man of all freedom and make him the impotent 
slave of the will of God. For them man's free-will 
becomes a perilous delusion. But, as Dr. Denney 
has said : " Absolute predestination is not the 
explanation of anything in the moral world. The 
man who asserts predestination thus, without 
mitigation or remorse, has cancelled the world of 
history and experience." 1 

Neither the materialist nor the narrow theologian is 
right. Man has free-will. And, having free-will, he is 
ipso facto something more than matter ; for mere 
matter cannot have the power of self-determinism. 

In animals all acts are the direct, immediate, and 
automatic outcome of stimuli. Where two stimuli 
act coincidently the animal responds to the stronger. 
There is no analysis, no reasoning, no delayed 
judgment. 

The lizard basking on a sunny wall darts off 
when the shadow of a passer-by falls upon it. Here 
the impulse of fear has been strong enough to over- 
come the impulse to enjoyment produced by the 
warmth of the sun, and fear causes flight. Between 

1 Thi Christian Doctvin* of Rtconciliation, by the late 
Principal James Denney, D.D 

10 



132 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

the lowest forms of animal life and man there is a 
growing complexity in the response to stimuli, and 
among the higher animals one might almost imagine 
that some acts were not automatic and instinctive ; 
just as, on the other hand, one must admit that 
human beings tend to become more or less of auto- 
mata. Habit tends to make us surrender our 
free-will and to react in precisely the same way to 
the same or similar stimuli, so that, given certain 
conditions, our intimate friends can often predict 
what our conduct will be when faced by an emer- 
gency. Through the frequent repetition of certain 
acts, beaten paths of low resistance are driven 
through the tangled thicket of nerve-cells and 
nerve-processes in our brain and the connection 
between afferent and efferent centres is made easy. 
The impulse flows in, and finds an easy access to 
the efferent nerve, and passes out in action, without 
any intervention of the somnolent will. So that 
by failing to exercise our free-will, we reduce our 
actions to the level of mere animal automatism. 
But still we are definitely free, and even the most 
shackled slave of habit can and does break loose 
from his traditions, and, to the surprise of his friends, 
may assert his personality in a new way by the 
exercise of his free-will. But we are only free when 
we exercise our freedom. It is a form of wealth 
which we only possess in the spending of it. We 
are conscious of it especially when we make a choice 
which entails a sense of responsibility. In our 
own minds we distinguish between a free-will act 
and one in which the obvious exercise of our freedom 
does not play a part. 



FREEDOM OF THE WILL 133 

It must be clearly understood that when we 
speak of the freedom of the will we are not blotting 
out all antecedent causes. Schopenhauer fell into 
this error. Our freedom consists not hv the empty 
power of exercising a motiveless will, but in the 
liberty we have of choosing between different or 
conflicting motives, balancing them one against 
the other, analysing them, inspecting them from 
every side, and then acting. Human conduct is 
the outcome of motives, just as animal action is 
the product of impulses. The animal acts on the 
strongest impulse ; we act in response to the 
strongest motive, but (and this makes the tre- 
mendous difference), the motive upon which we 
act does not become the strongest until we have 
chosen it by the exercise of our will. Free-will 
enables us to choose the motive upon which we 
shall act ; and when we will to act we do not do 
so, as it were, through the empty air. Once having 
willed, which is a purely psychological process, we 
must conform to biological and physico-chemical 
laws to translate our will into effect. We are con- 
ditioned by matter ; we act through brain and 
nerve tissue. 

There is a further great difference between the 
actions of animals, and the free-will activities of 
man. In the animal kingdom the response to the 
stimulus is immediate, but in man an impulse may 
be supplied, or a motive furnished, and action need 
not follow for days or weeks. Judgment, reason, 
anti-impulsive effort have come into play. The 
matter is being considered. There is no parallel 
phenomenon met with in creatures lower than man. 



134 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

It is a phenomenon which is only possible among 
free agents. However many opponents the doctrine 
of free-will may have we must recognise that the 
whole fabric of society has been built up on the tacit 
assumption that man is a free agent. They reap 
the benefits which flow from a doctrine, translated 
into practice, in which they do not believe. Their 
position is somewhat untenable. If man has no 
free-will all punitive or repressive legislation directed 
against the wrongdoer is an insult and an in- 
justice. 

Though it is often difficult to tell where automatic 
action ends and free-will comes into play, it is 
more difficult to determine where man's freedom of 
will ends and the will of God comes into operation. 
We are face to face with a hard problem. If God 
is omnipotent and omniscient, and rules and con- 
trols everything, seeing the end from the beginning 
and antecedently determining all events, how can 
man have any scope for the exercise of his freedom ? 
The difficulty seems insoluble, but there is a way 
out. It is to be found in the recognition of the 
fact, which experience and history both confirm, 
that God has delegated to man some part of His 
work in the world. He has made His creature in 
some sense a co-creator. He has not kept him as 
a puppet on a string, but has given him the golden 
gift of reason, with which to use his freedom and 
work out his destiny ; and in working it out he 
influences his fellow-men, he fashions history. But 
the omnipotence of God is not ruled out in this, nor 
is His foreknowledge. Like a careful teacher who 
runs a rapid eye over the long calculation which has 



CORRECTION BY CATASTROPHE 135 

puzzled and distressed a child, He sees where the 
error has crept in which might interfere with the 
correct result, and with a touch of the finger it 
is put right. Man's free-will used wrongly has 
sometimes introduced chaos into order, and 
almost ruined the world. And when this has 
happened God has frequently restored order by 
catastrophe. 

We are so accustomed to admire the harmonious 
working of natural laws that we have become blind 
to the possibility of catastrophe being an instru- 
ment of God. Those who live on the edge of 
catastrophe, who witness it in operation, are too 
close to see it in correct perspective. It is only 
when such an upheaval is regarded down the long 
vista of the years that the control of the directing 
Mind behind it becomes apparent. All the witness 
of history testifies to the cleansing, revivifying, and 
correcting power of events which their immediate 
spectators considered to be world disasters. When 
God gave man free-will He embarked upon a great 
experiment; but He knew all the factors in the 
experiment, and saw how the misuse of the gift 
might lead to human pain and human suffering, 
and seeing, knew that now and then man's error 
would need to be corrected by upheaval and 
explosion. 

Free-will is a function of the soul, for it is inde- 
pendent of those laws which govern matter, animate 
or inanimate. And what is the soul ? It is that 
directive factor and controlling principle which is 
responsible for our personal identity, our expres- 
sion of ourselves, our personality. Linked to tfce 



I 3 6 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

body through the mind and brain, it is the energic 
factor responsible for the weaving or development 
of the body along the lines set by species and 
heredity. That is on its lower side. It reaches 
down to the body, but it also reaches up with ex- 
pectant hands into the vastness of the Infinite, if 
haply it may touch the feet of God. It embraces 
the intelligence, the will and the emotions, and it 
is the great reservoir in which we keep stored our 
mental experiences. And with and through it we 
worship. 

The body, and, especially, the brain, are the 
physical organs through which it gets into touch 
with the material world. Through them it is 
brought into practical relations with the great 
physical realms of matter and energy. It can, 
though it is an immaterial and non-spatial entity, 
through using the body, itself a material thing, 
subordinate matter and energy to its own ends. 
But conversely it may be acted upon by material 
things as every one must admit who has felt his 
emotions stirred by a beautiful sunset, by such a 
piece of art as the Gothic facade of the Church of 
St. Ouen, or by the appeal of an exquisite harmony. 
The beauty of a sunset is a material thing in so far 
as it consists of waves of light, refracted, reflected, 
interfered with and commingled, and an exquisite 
harmony reaches our ears as rhythmic vibrations in 
the material fabric of the atmosphere. These 
sensory impressions conveyed through material 
channels, and consisting of energy expressing itself 
through matter, enter our .brains as stimuli of sen- 
sation ; but it is the soul, and not the brain, that 



SOUL AND BODY 137 

interprets them and responds to their message in 
the up-welling of emotion. So it is apparent that 
the nexus and interaction between the soul and the 
body is an intimate one. 

A soul of a kind may be incorporate in animals 
lower than man. Possibly a bird may praise God 
in its song, and may even worship Him, and a 
flower may pour its perfumed chalice at His feet ; 
but creatures lower than man cannot distinguish 
between moral evil and moral good. They can 
have no moral life, and it is in the moral realm that 
the soul becomes spiritually directed and can lay 
hold on God. 

Sir Oliver Lodge has said : " Soul appears to be 
the link between ' spirit ' and ' matter/ and ac- 
cording to its grade it may be chiefly associated with 
one or with the other of these two great aspects of 
the universe." 

That the soul is a real entity, and not a mere 
imagination of the philosophers and theologians has 
been proved a thousand times for those who have 
eyes to see it in the trenches of Flanders and France. 
Over and over again the conditions there have been 
so appalling that if man were only flesh and blood 
he would long since have given up the fight. But 
his " spirit " the soul in him has steadied his 
body when the temptation was strong in him to 
turn and flee, and because he is a spiritual being 
and not a mere machine of flesh, his soul has tri- 
umphed and he has " stuck it " to the end. His 
whole physical being may have revolted, but the 
little spark of divine fire in him has won the day. 
When the Germans in a whirlwind rush were en- 



138 MAN'S FREEDOM, AND MAN'S SOUL 

deavouring to break through to Amiens, and by 
sheer weight of numbers were pushing back that 
gallant line which may bend, but never breaks, the 
great consolation offered by the war correspondents 
was that, though we were giving ground and losing 
men and guns, the " morale "of our soldiers was 
unbroken. Unwittingly they were paying a high 
tribute to the indomitableness of the soul, of wiiich 
" morale " may be called an exhalation. 

Among primitive peoples the belief in the soul 
is surrounded by all manner of superstitions. Any 
mystery tends to become weed-encumbered with 
such accretions. But the nucleus of the idea is 
there, and its distribution is universal. And the 
idea is not confined to primitive people, but has 
received in all ages the intellectual assent of the 
noblest minds the world has ever known. If it 
were nothing more than a vain imagination it 
would long since have vanished out of human life. 
But it persists and has an influence as potent among 
thinking men to-day as it ever had. It commands 
their intellectual assent, and, what is more impor- 
tant, it shapes their lives, which it would never have 
done had it been a myth invented by some primi- 
tive thaumaturgist in order to secure ascendancy 
over his dupes. 

In all ages it has had its critics who, like Voltaire 
have sought with reason and ridicule to pour con- 
tempt upon the idea, and shake men's faith in the 
existence of the soul. But, though the poison of 
their sophisms may have blighted some lives, they 
have never been able to kill the universal belief. 
They have been like a band of blood-thirsty school- 



AN ELUSIVE BIRD 139 

boys pursuing with murderous but ineffective pebbles 
a beautiful and elusive bird. 

We do not discover the soul under the micro- 
scope, nor in the test-tube - in the physiological 
laboratory, nor can we with scalpel and forceps lay 
it bare in the dissecting room ; but we can see it, 
even though our eyes are veiled, in the illumined 
lives of men and women, and we are conscious of 
its presence in our own being. 



WHAT IS LIFE? 



" Aliving dog is better than a dead lion." Ecclesiastes iv. 12 

" Avec une force quelconque de la nature on peut obtenir 
toutes les autres, sauf celles qui animent les fitres." Dr. Gus- 
tave U Bon. " Hier et Demain." 



CHAPTER VIII 

WHAT IS LIFE ? 

WHAT is life ? This is a question which has puzzled 
the physiologist, the psychologist, and the theologian. 
Each in his own way, using the terms of his own 
craft, has attempted to define it, but as yet no 
perfect and universally accepted definition has 
been reached. Aristotle spoke of it as " The 
assemblage of the operations of nutrition, growth, 
and destruction." Bichat called it " The sum total 
of those functions that resist death," and this 
definition, through its terseness, attained to a wide 
celebrity. But it is faulty, in so far as it fails to 
recognise that death is as much a phenomenon pf 
life as is birth, Herbert Spencer defined it as : 
" The continuous adjustment of internal and ex- 
ternal relations." But this is neither sufficiently 
distinctive nor precise. It has been said of all 
definitions of life hitherto suggested that they 
would apply to crystals as accurately as to living 
things. 

Let it be at once admitted that neither science 
nor philosophy can tell what life really is. We 
know life only through its activities. Has it any 
real existence, or is it a thing vainly imagined ? 

M3 



144 WHAT IS LIFE? 

Matter we know only through the sensations it pro- 
duces in us, and our interpretation of them. It 
may have no objective reality apart from mind. 
The mind, which we cannot see, may possibly be the 
only real thing in the Universe ; and our little 
lives, which to us seem charged with reality, may 
have no existence outside the mind of God. We, 
and the whole Universe as we see it, may be no- 
thing more than thoughts passing through the mind 
of the Eternal. But can a thought be conscious of 
its own self ? It seems impossible. 

Life is something whose definition cannot be ex- 
pressed in words. Words are dead symbols. But 
though it cannot adequately be defined, very 
serious endeavours have been made in all ages to 
explain it. 

One of the earliest doctrines put forward to ex- 
plain the mystery of life was the doctrine of Animism. 
Primitive man, as we have already seen, pursued 
in the sunlight by his shadow, early concluded that 
he had a double. This double was his soul or spirit, 
and he regarded life as the expression of the activity 
of his soul working through and making use of his 
body. This idea, no unworthy contribution to 
knowledge, ultimately became extended to all 
living things, animals as well as plants ; and by a 
further extension there grew out of it the doctrine 
of the transmigration of souls, which is still held by 
many people. Early in the eighteenth century a 
German physician, philosopher, and chemist, Stahl, 
enunciated a modernised theory of animism. He 
restricted the anima, or soul, to the human being, 
and made of it the governor of all bodily activities, 



ANIMISM J45 

from digestion to thought. It was the direct cause, 
without any intermediary, of all organic functions. 
Through it, according to Stahl, the muscles contract, 
the lungs expand, the heart beats. It is at once 
the captain, the engineers, the crew, the stokers 
of the ship, as well as being the ship-builder and 
ship-repairer. The theory exposed itself to much 
hostile criticism, some of which was little more than 
ribald mockery; but the most serious criticisms 
came from the philosophers. They pointed out 
the extreme difficulty of establishing any direct 
action of the soul upon the organs of the body, 
because they belong to different spheres of being. 
The soul is a spiritual entity ; the body is a material 
organisation. Being such they cannot, the philo- 
sophers hold, directly interact upon each other. 
In their day Descartes and Leibnitz, perplexed by 
the same problem, had completely separated the 
soul from the physical body, and denied all direct 
linking and all interaction between one and the 
other, reducing their relation entirely to meta- 
physical conditions. They did much to establish 
a purely mechanical and materialistic conception of 
the nature of life. 

Some forty years ago a serious attempt was made 
by a French physician, Chauffard, to work out a 
new, logical, and acceptable theory of animism. 
He regarded the soul as having dual functions. He 
attributed to it a mental, and a somatic or bodily 
side. Its mental side is involved in the conscious- 
ness of man, in his acts of thought, in the exercise 
of his will. Its somatic or bodily side influences 
the bodily processes not, as in the case of the animism 



146 WHAT IS LIFE? 

of Stahl, by direct interference, but by unconscious 
impressions or influences exerted along the line of 
primordial laws: The distinction between Stahl's 
animism and that of Chauffard is perhaps a little 
difficult to comprehend. By Stahl's theory, the 
soul was the ship's captain ; but he was the whole 
crew as well, doing everything himself. If he 
wished the ship to go faster he with his own hands 
stoked the furnace. According to Chauffard, the 
ship's captain, engaged in none of these menial but 
necessary activities in person. He lived on the 
bridge. He stoked the fire only indirectly by 
sending messages through the ship's telephone for 
" full steam ahead." The distinction is rather fine, 
regarded even in this material way. But this two- 
fold aspect or modality of the soul is capable of 
explaining the manifestations of all forms of lif, 
in so far as it enables us to imagine vital activities 
carried on without consciousness, as, for example, 
in the lower forms of animal and plant life. It 
establishes between the soul and all life a possible 
continuity. 

Opposed to animism was the doctrine of vitalism 
Vitalism made of the fact of life a phenomenon 
apart. It separated it from the soul and from all 
non-living matter. It made of life something which 
could not be explained in terms either of the laws 
of physics or the laws of thought. The modern 
conception of vitalism still erects a strong barrier 
between itself and the psychical side, but the 
barrier between life and inanimate matter is lowered 
if not broken, and the vitalists of to-day see that 
physics and chemistry operate within the living 



VITALISM 147 

body just as they do in the world outside. Accord- 
ing to the modern advocates of vitalism, the vital 
principle watches over and directs the physico- 
chemical phenomena incidental to and necessary 
for life, but does not produce them. The early 
supporters of vitalism were apparently uncertain of 
what they intended their doctrine to mean. At 
first their " vital principle " bore a striking resem- 
blance to the anima of the animists. When time 
and criticism had gnawed at the theory, the prin- 
ciple became something less easily comprehensible, 
and ultimately, instead of being a principle, it was 
reduced to a direction or plan according to which 
life conformed itself. Though reduced to these 
emaciated proportions, vitalism has never com- 
pletely lost hold, and to-day it has many adherents 
The third theory for the explanation of life is a 
purely materialistic one. Materialism holds that 
matter is the one and only ultimate reality. Let it 
be said, once again, that even a materialist would 
have no knowledge of this only ultimate reality 
without mind, which reveals it to him. According 
to the materialistic doctrine life is the sum total ot 
all the physical and chemical operations taking 
place in a living body, be it a blade of grass or an 
intelligent, reasoning human being. From the re- 
markable phenomena of disintegration and inte- 
gration constantly in progress in the leaves of a 
tree, right up to the highest mental functions of the 
philosopher, speculating on lofty moral problems, 
judging between right and wrong, passing his con- 
duct through the crucible of conscience, all can be 
reduced to purely material terms, and explained as 

II 



148 WHAT IS LIFE? 

the outcome of the interaction of material atoms. 
Crude and repulsive as such a conception must seem 
to any one who has lived even for a moment in the 
vibrant atmosphere of an altruistic emotion, it 
cannot be denied that there is much about life 
which lends buttresses to the doctrine. But let us 
examine carefully what it means, and realise clearly 
what our adherence entails before we subscribe to 
it. If we accept the materialistic doctrine of life 
we automatically bind ourselves to the belief that 
the human body is nothing more than a machine, 
and that all its activities, from the lowest to the 
highest, can be written down in terms ef physics 
and chemistry. Let it at once be admitted that 
many of the functions of life are purely mechanical, 
and that the laws of physics and the laws of chemistry 
are constantly in operation in a living being. But 
a living being is not a machine. For what machine, 
in process of operation, not only performs the work 
set it to accomplish, but at the same time keeps 
itself in repair, controls its own activities, adjusts 
itself to new conditions, and, instead of dissipating 
energy as it functions, can actually accumulate 
energy ? And what machine can build and assemble 
itself ? The primitive cell from which a human 
being originates grows and divides, grows and 
divides again, and after a long series of operations 
ultimately appears as a beautiful child, perfect in 
limb and body. The materialist would have us 
believe that all this complicated series of wonderful 
and purposive phenomena was brought about by 
the action of the ambient media, or, in other words, 
the appropriate environment upon the inherent 



IS THE BODY A MACHINE? 149 

physico-chemical properties of specialised proto 
plasm. Even in the world-famous works of Mr 
Ford no motor-car has yet built itself up from a 
single nut, without the intervention of an intelligent 
mind working from without. But, it may be said, 
such a comparison is unfair. A nut or bolt from 
a motor-car is a lifeless thing ; a speck of proto- 
plasm has life, and it is that which makes the 
difference. That is sufficiently obvious to every 
one. What one should like the materialist to ex- 
plain is by what interaction of matter, by what 
physico-chemical changes within its substance, by 
what influence of its ambient medium did the proto- 
plasmic cell become thus endowed ? If he cannot 
carry his theory back and explain things from the 
beginning, his idea falls to pieces like a house of 
cards. 

There is another serious objection which may be 
urged against this mechanistic idea of life. If the 
body is a machine, it is the only machine which 
consists entirely of the agents from which it de- 
rives its motive power. No motor-car was ever made 
of petrol ; no steam-engine consists of coal and water 
Plausible though it be, the theory cannot stand 
as it is at present held by the majority of material- 
ists. There is still something lacking. 

As has already been said, many of the phenomena 
of life, if not all, are accompanied by physico-chemi- 
cal changes. Some of the physico-chemical changes 
are well recognised, and may be carried out^in a 
test-tube. But, though physics and chemistry cer- 
tainly play a great part in the economy of the 
body, they do not explain life, and a living being 



150 WHAT IS LIFE? 

in virtue of the life that is in him, can do things 
in direct opposition to the recognised laws of both 
these sciences. Kill a man, and unless his body is 
supported, it will fall to the ground. Gravity, a 
physical principle, has pulled his body down. But 
a living man is able to some extent to oppose him- 
self to the force of gravity. He can raise himself, 
and stand erect. Or fill a test-tube with boiling 
water and keep it in a room where the temperature 
of the atmosphere is only 40 Fahrenheit. In pro- 
cess of time, if one immerse a thermometer in the 
water, it will give a reading which corresponds 
exactly with the temperature of the surrounding 
atmosphere. But place a healthy man anywhere 
on the face of the globe in the Arctic circle, or on 
the equator and with a carefully tested ther- 
mometer take his temperature under the tongue. 
The reading will be constant, viz. 98-4 Fahrenheit, 
or, if it vary at all, it will only be by a fraction of 
a degree, for the chemistry of living things enables 
the qualities of the living thing to remain identical 
even in conditions of change. So that chemical and 
physical processes, conditioned by the activities o* 
life, differ from similar processes met with in things 
inanimate. An undiluted mechanistic, physico- 
chemical, or materialistic conception of life, call it 
what you will, seems to present us with ever fresh 
difficulties. 

When the microscope was first developed to that 
height of excellence with which we are familiar 
to-day, there were some who thought that the 
secret of life would be deciphered in the minute 
structure of the cell. But, marvellous though the 



WHERE THE MICROSCOPE FAILS 151 

results of microscopical investigation have been, 
arid interesting as are the facts concerning the minute 
structure of the cell-nucleus, the spongioplasm and 
the hyaloplasm which patient, disciplined, and 
keen-eyed scientists have discovered, the secret of 
life has proved to be out of the range of the most 
powerful lens. From the point of view of the 
functional activity of the cell, microscopical research 
has been almost sterile. The microscopist has suc- 
ceeded in examining the bricks and moitar, the 
rooms of the house, the furniture with which they 
are plenished, but he has not discovered the hidden 
inhabitant. So, in despair, he has been thrown 
back on the conception of ultra-microscopic cor- 
puscles, such as plastids,- idioblasts, plasomes, 
biophores satisfying himself by coining Greek 
names to give a special dignity to hypothetical 
entities he cannot see, but must imagine, if the 
mechanical theory of life is to hold. It is not alone 
in the realm of metaphysics that the imagination is 
sometimes allowed to run riot. 

It is interesting to remember that all the func- 
tions of the body which are absolutely essential for 
the maintenance of our life are, so to speak, auto- 
matic and outside our control. We cannot at will 
suspend or cause to cease the beating of our heart 
We are unable, except for a brief period, to stop 
the function of respiration. We can exercise no 
voluntary control over the activities of organs like 
the liver or the kidneys which are essential to rid 
the body of the poisons which it evolves by every 
act of life. Life is something elusive ; it is meant 
to be outside our control ; and though a man may, 



152 WHAT IS LIFE? 

by laying violent hands upon himself, work such 
destruction upon his vital organs that the delicate 
mechanism is thrown out of action, and life can no 
longer go on, he requires to make use of some 
adventitious weapon 1 -; he cannot, by merely willing 
it, extinguish the vital spark within him. 

From very early times it has been held that the 
controlling principle was situated in some particular 
organ or structure of the body. The Jews believed 
that it resided in the blood a not unreasonable 
idea when we remember to what an extent animal 
sacrifice was an essential part of their religion. The 
animal whose throat was cut by the priest's knife 
rendered up its life as its blood flowed over the 
floor of the outer court of the tabernacle ; and the 
worshippers came to identify the blood with the life. 

At the end of the sixteenth century Van Helmont 
suggested that life resided in one of the orifices of 
the stomach. About a century and a half later, 
Dr. Lorry discovered that a very small wound in- 
flicted at a certain point in the brain of an animal 
caused immediate death. This discovery provoked 
considerable interest, and the point in question 
became recognised as " the vital knot." The pre- 
cise situation of this important spot was accurately 
described by Flourens in 1827. It is a small area 
in the floor of the fourth ventricle of the brain, 
close. to the place where the eighth or auditory pair 
of nerves enters it. The point is very small, but its 
destruction brings about the speedy death of the 
animal. As, however, physiological research ad- 
vanced it was discovered that this point was not 
in reality the seat of life, but was only the area of 



LIFE DECENTRALISED 153 

brain-substance responsible for the automatic per- 
formance of the act of respiration ; and it was 
found that this point might be destroyed, but the 
animal would continue to live so long as respiration 
was carried on by artificial means. One of the chief 
discoveries about life, which the research of the 
nineteenth century gave us, was the recognition of 
the fact that the vital principle is not located at 
any special point, but is distributed all through 
the body. Each organ lives its own life, and each 
cell in every part of the body lives its own life too. 
All these separate lives are individual but yet 
communal, and in a normal individual work together 
in perfect harmony. Life has been decentralised ; 
it sits in no special throne, and though three organs, 
the brain, the lungs, and the heart, are of para- 
mount importance to the bodily economy, not one 
of them can be said to be the home of life. Recent 
research has presented us with extraordinary 
results, and it has been found that, when the neces- 
sary conditions are fulfilled, body-cells and even 
whole organs will continue; to live and perform 
their functions for prolonged periods after their 
detachment from the body proper. We are there- 
fore forced to conclude that every organ and every 
cell in the body has an individual life of its own. 
The sum total of these individual lives, blended into 
harmony, makes the harmonious physical life of 
the individual. Life is not the unique possession 
of any one organ ; it belongs to the whole. 

This enables us to understand why life is so 
difficult to destroy. One may pound a clump of 
yeast-cells with a Nasmyth hammer, and yet they 



154 WHAT IS LIFE? 

will remain capable of producing fermentati<5D7 
which is one way in which their vital activity ex- 
presses itself. And one may subject a human 
body to almost inconceivable mutilations, and yet 
life will continue. A very little thing may pro- 
duce death : a crumb of bread in the larynx, a drop 
or two of blood oozing from a fragile vessel in the 
brain, a little clot from an inflamed vein, trapped 
in the meshwork of the lungs ; but, on the other 
hand, very formidable wounds and very extensive 
injuries may be sustained, and still life may go on. 
Long before the world- war there was on record the 
case of a man through whose brain a crow-bar 
passed, and yet he continued to live ; and to-day 
there are men moving about among us, apparently 
in perfect health, with bullets or fragments of shell 
in their brains, in their lungs, and in their hearts, 
and in every situation in the body where a wound 
was at one time regarded as necessarily fatal. For 
life can withstand many assaults, and accommodate 
itself to many strange conditions. 

Can we get any nearer to understanding what 
life may be ? The key is somewhere in the Uni- 
verse. Let us look abroad. 

The forms of energy met with in nature are 
many, and at first man was very slow to learn 
anything about them. Even now, though science 
has deciphered much, there are many of the pages 
in the book still unread. From the moment when 
the first man opened his eyes he became aware of 
the existence of light. But to discover what light 
really consists of was left to the scientists of the 
seventeenth century. Euclid, the mathematician, 



WHAT IS LIGHT? 155 

as was perhaps natural, was the first to point out 
that light travels in straight lines. Newton, be- 
tween the years of 1666 and 1671, while his ideas 
on gravitation were maturing, turned his attention 
seriously to the study of light, and greatly increased 
our knowledge of it. Descartes had broken up a 
ray of light by passing it through a prism into the 
primary colours of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, 
indigo and violet, and had pointed out that these 
were the colours of the rainbow. But it was left 
to Newton to explain the cause of the appearance 
of these different tints. He succeeded in demon- 
strating that so-called white light really consists of 
differently coloured rays, which are refracted at 
different angles when they pass through a prism. 
At the same time Roemer, a Danish astronomer, 
was measuring the velocity of light, and succeeded 
in determining that it travels at the rate of 190,000 
miles per second. More modern investigation has 
established the rate as being 186,000 miles per 
second ; but, considering the quality of his instru- 
ments, Roemer 's calculation was wonderfully accur- 
ate. These discoveries were made before the 
nature of light was known. Newton suggested that 
light was composed of innumerable infinitesimal 
and invisible particles, emitted by luminous bodies ; 
a hypothesis that satisfied some of the facts. But 
Huyghens enunciated his undulatory theory, which 
teaches that light consists of vibrations or waves 
in the ether, started by all luminous bodies. This 
theory, now well established and elaborated by the 
work of Young, is still the accepted one. 

Heat was another phenomenon of energy, and 



156 WHAT IS LIFE? 

although men were making daily use of it, their 
ideas of what it was were for long confused and 
perplexing. Bacon had suggested that it was a 
movement of some kind, but until 1798 it was 
generally regarded as an invisible fluid, which 
overflowed from hot substances, and could mix it- 
self with the mercury in a thermometer, causing it 
to swell and therefore rise in the tube. That heat 
is really motion was proved by Count Rumford, 
largely in consequence of an accidental observation 
which he was quick-witted enough to pursue. In 
a cannon factory in Munich he noticed that the 
metal-borer as well as the cannon became very hot 
as the grinding proceeded. Many men must have 
noticed this before. It was left to the genius of 
Rumford to explain it. He made a detailed and 
careful series of experiments, as the result of 
which he determined once and for all time that 
motion can be converted into heat. It was left 
for Sir Humphrey Davy to make the deduction, 
verified by experiment, that heat is motion. He 
described it as " a peculiar motion, probably of the 
corpuscles of bodies, tending to separate them." 

To some inquiring Greek, whose name is lost to 
us, we owe the first discovery of electricity. He 
found that if he rubbed a piece of amber (electron) 
it would attract little pieces of straw and odds 
and ends of dry and light debris. It was apparently 
a very little discovery, something that any child 
might have noticed and laughed at ; but it laid the 
foundation of all that has come or is yet to come 
for the benefit of humanity out of that strange form 
of energy we call electricity. In the first year of 






ELECTRICITY 157 

the seventeenth century Dr. Gilbert, an English 
physician, published his book on Magnetism. He 
had carried the work of the early Greek observer a 
little further, and his work was extended, widened 
and applied by Guericke, Du Faye, Franklin, Gal- 
vani, Volta, and many others, until in our own day 
there is hardly a field of human enterprise in which 
electricity is not impressed into service. We propel 
our trains and tramcars by it, we light and heat 
our houses with its aid, we may cook our food and 
drive our machinery by it, we can communicate 
with others in our own voice through miles of wire 
with its help, and we can transmit messages with 
the tap of a key from one end of the earth to 
another. It is one of the most potent and useful 
forms of energy known, the applications of which 
we do not fully appreciate, and the possibilities of 
which we have hardly begun to guess at. And 
yet, until the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
we knew practically nothing about it. 

The last quarter of a century has enriched us 
with three particularly valuable discoveries : viz. 
the X-rays, the Hertzian waves by which the mes- 
sages of wireless telegraphy are transmitted, and 
the radio-active properties of radium and kindred 
substances. What benefits to humanity may yet 
come from these sources no one can tell. 

This long digression, with its recapitulation of 
sc>me of the elementary facts of physical science 
relating to energy in various forms, has been in- 
dulged in to show how very slow we have been to 
find out anything about the wonderful and mys- 
terious forces with which we are surrounded. Much 



158 WHAT IS LIFE? 

has been learned, but there is still much more to 
learn, and science may yet discover that there are 
powers and forces in the Universe which act upon 
this world and everything in it that are yet un- 
dreamed of. Since the days of Newton the study 
of the solar spectrum has had perpetual interest for 
the physicist and the chemist, and their studies 
have given to the world much rich information. 
But beyond the violet rays in the spectrum there is 
a long series of rays about which, as yet, science 
has little to tell us. They may be rays with in- 
finite potentialities. Some of them, we know, have 
powers of heating. The others, though this is un- 
likely, may be inert and valueless. But it is known 
they are there, although their function is as yet 
unguessed. And there is presumptive reason for 
believing that there come to our little corner of 
the Universe, out of the vastnesses of space, other 
rays than those of the solar spectrum, to which as 
yet we are completely blind. 

I believe that, sooner or later, life will be found 
to depend on one or other of these unrecognised 
rays ; some form of energy, unique in character, 
which expresses itself through protoplasm and 
through protoplasm alone. As Huxley pointed 
out, protoplasm is the physical basis of all life, 
whether it be vegetable or animal. Protoplasm 
without this energising ray is not life ; nor is this 
ray, until it acts upon and through protoplasm, 
life as we know it. Within certain restricted limits, 
the chemical nature of protoplasm varies. All dead 
protoplasm, which is the only variety that we are 
able to subject to chemical tests, seems to be, so 



THE LIFE RAY 15$ 

far as our knowledge will take us, identical in com- 
position ; but there are refinements which our 
crude methods do not allow us to determine. It 
is, however, generally believed that there must be 
as yet undiscovered distinctions between the proto- 
plasm of, let us say, a fish, a snake, a bird, a horse, 
and a human being, and, further, there are possibly 
minute differences between the protoplasm found 
in the bodies of any two men. Only on such an 
assumption can the facts of heredity and the main- 
tenance of characteristic differences between species 
and species be explained. But the differences are 
beyond the ken of present-day chemical methods. 
Now, I suggest that protoplasm, wherever found, 
becomes the receiver of the energising activity of 
this special ray, and the manifestations of life 
appear. It will at once be urged that, if this be so, 
death either of plant or animal becomes an impossi- 
bility. Protoplasm is an essential part of the 
structure of both, and if this special ray auto- 
matically seizes upon protoplasm wherever found 
and charges it with life, how can anything die ? 
The objection is a perfectly fair one, and it is well 
it should be advanced ; but it is far from present- 
ing an insoluble difficulty, and in its solution we 
may discover why it is that disease can destroy life. 
Probably this life-ray only incorporates itself with 
and manifests itself through protoplasm with a 
certain very definite molecular composition. If 
this molecular composition is disturbed, if the 
chemical linking of any of the atoms is interfered 
with, it ceases to be protoplasm such as the life- 
wave can act through, and becomes the protoplasm 



160 * WHAT IS LIFE? 

of the chemical laboratory, which is dead. This 
opens up for us a new conception of how a lethal 
disease may act. All diseases due to micro- 
organisms, as has already been pointed out, are 
accompanied by the formation in the body of 
toxins or poisons. If these poisons can produce 
combinations with the protoplasm either of the 
whole body or of any organ that is essential to 
life, they may so alter the chemical composition of 
the protoplasm that the life-ray can no longer 
combine with and energise it. That the poisons of 
disease may link themselves in a very intimate and 
special way with protoplasm, we know from the 
study of diphtheria. 

But, it may be asked, how is death from a me- 
chanical condition such as is met with in a broken- 
down heart, or a ruptured blood-vessel in the brain, 
to be accounted for on this theory ? The hypothesis 
still holds good. When the heart breaks down, 
what is known as back-pressure occurs, and the 
tissues become water-logged and dropsical. All 
the protoplasm in the body is then under abnormal 
conditions ; it is bathed by abnormal fluids, which 
may interfere with that fine molecular adjustment 
of the protoplasm which is a necessary condition 
before the life-force will act through it, and so 
death supervenes. 

The rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain will 
act, though more locally, in much the same way. 
The whole condition of the intracranial circulation 
is upset by such an occurrence. Fine chemical 
changes may take place in some of the centres 
necessary for the maintenance of life ; the proto- 



THE LIFE RAY 161 

plasm then degenerates and the life-ray can make 
no further use of it. Every case of death depends 
upon the involvement, primarily or secondarily, of 
one or other of the organs which are essential to 
life ; and, on this hypothesis, all cases of death may 
be explained. 

The theory also enables us to understand the 
decentralisation of life, which has already been 
dealt with. 

Further, it gives us a possible clue to some of the 
phenomena of consciousness. When an electric 
current is passed through a thick bar of copper the 
resistance offered to its passage is very low, and 
only a small amount of heat is generated in the 
process. But pass the same current through a 
very fine wire of copper or of platinum. Great heat 
is generated as the current endeavours to force 
itself through the resisting channel, and the copper 
wire may fuse, while the platinum glows with light. 
Consciousness has been described as " nerve glow." 
The limitations of language are such, and we are so 
bound, owing to our physical nature, to the material 
side of things, that we are driven to use the terms 
of the known for the unknown. We have no con- 
ception of what " nerve glow " is except by the use 
of a crude material analogy as above. But let us 
try to imagine, without pressing the analogy too 
closely, what differences might result from passing 
the life current through highly organised, possibly 
resistant protoplasm in the brain-cells, as compared 
with passing the same current through vegetable 
protoplasm. The conception opens up a vista of 
tremendous possibilities. Mind is rooted in brain. 



162 WHAT IS LIFE? 

No one will deny that. A tree is rooted in the 
earth ; but its leaves, its blossom, and its fruit owe 
but a little to their connection with the soil. They 
derive far more from the limitless field of the atmo- 
sphere, and from the sun. Here, again, the necessity 
of using material analogies cribs and hampers the 
idea. If only we could divest ourselves of the neces- 
sity of speaking of things in terms of matter, it 
would be much more easy to make the meaning clear. 
It is not hard to imagine that to many this theory 
of life may prove startling, and appear to be no- 
thing more than sheer, stark, and naked material- 
ism, flaunting itself unashamed. They have been 
brought up to believe, and they feel, with that un- 
conscious discernment that knows more than science 
can ever teach, that life comes from the Creator, 
and that He holds in His hand the life of every one 
of His creatures. Let us at once agree upon the 
issue. The theory of a life-ray, or a life-giving 
wave or force, is far from being inconsistent with 
any ideas of the immanence of God in nature and 
in human life. Indeed, it is nothing more than an 
elaboration of that doctrine, and a further evidence 
of the fact that, in His dealings with the Universe, 
the Omnipotent works by secondary causes, and 
conditions His activities according to principles 
and laws. For the materialist, there are only two 
real things in the Universe matter and energy. 
But, so far as he has been able to examine them, 
these two realities are under the influence of cer- 
tain laws. Where the materialist fails is in an 
inherent or assumed incompetence to see beyond 
the law to the law-giver. Matter, energy, and laws 



THE LIFE RAY 163 

relating to both are the only alphabet in his book 
of nature. Rays from the sun, rays from the 
fathomless depths of the infinite, forces of attrac- 
tion between planet and planet, star and star, as 
they roll on in the immensity of space, waves in 
the ether, rhythmic vibrations in the atmosphere, 
atom leaping to atom, leaves turning to the light, 
all prove that God is immanent in nature, and for 
this immanence He employs what we call natural 
forces. Is it an impious assumption to imagine 
that when we come to consider life we shall find 
that the Creator is true to His own methods and 
uses a form of energy which we may call the life- 
force or life- wave to quicken protoplasm to activity ? 
And this life-force or life-ray, call it what you will, 
remains in His own hands. As yet, science has 
not been able to detect it, or find means of measur- 
ing it, or reducing its operations to a written law 
It is a special form of energy, and when man has 
combed the beach of that sea of infinite space which 
encircles the earth, and has found many more rich 
and amazing treasures than his intelligence has yet 
led him to discover, I imagine that the life-ray 
will still elude him. For it is a spiritual force, and 
with material instruments and material vision we 
cannot envisage the immaterial. Encumbered as 
we are by a physical body, our faculties of perception 
are limited by the crude agents which we must 
make use of to know anything ; and there are many 
honest and anxious people who, try as they will, 
cannot comprehend the spiritual. They associate 
it with chicanery, with seances in mephitic rooms, 
with ghostly apparitions in haunted houses, and 

12 



164 WHAT IS LIFE? 

their reason rebels. But we must admit the possi- 
bility of there being in the Universe other things 
than matter as we know it, and energy as we con- 
ceive of it. Remember that light is said to consist 
of undulatory vibrations in the ether. Huyghens 
and the scientists of his day, and those scientists 
who have since investigated the marvellous pro- 
perties of light, could not imagine undulation or 
wave motion occurring except in a medium of some 
sort, so they were compelled to postulate the ether. 
The only proof we have that light consists of 
undulations in the ether is that it behaves as 
though it were. Take away the ether from the 
conception, and we are left with light an undula- 
tion in nothing. The idea is inconceivable, because 
here again the limitations of language and the need 
of material concepts make it impossible for us either 
to comprehend or explain such a phenomenon. 
But light may be a form of spiritual energy which 
we, being linked to matter, cannot comprehend 
until we have linked it to matter as well. 

We see the life-ray or the life-force in operation 
when we study living protoplasm. It is only when 
it has joined itself to the protoplasmic sponge-work 
of matter that our material vision can give us any 
knowledge of it ; and the physico-chemical changes 
which we can observe all through living nature, 
from the unicellular monad up to man, are not life, 
but the functional concomitants of the life-ray as 
it expresses itself through its physical substratum. 
This shuttle of God darts through the weft and 
woof of protoplasm, weaving the fabric of life in 
ever-fresh beauty and variety 



THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 



165 



' Pain 

Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth 
On the deer's tender haunches." 

Keats, " Endymion. 



1 66 



CHAPTER IX 

THE PHENOMENON OF' PAIN 

LIFE, itself a mystery, is lived in a thicket of 
mysteries, one of the greatest of which is the problem 
of pain. This mystery is of universal and perennial 
interest. It has been the subject of much thought, 
more writing, and endless philosophical discussion, 
but we are still very far from an adequate compre- 
hension of its purpose. Some men have devoted 
years of patient inquiry and experimental research 
to the end that they might discover means of 
alleviating pain, while others, too often under the 
cloak of religion, have prostituted their intelligence 
to the invention of fresh and diabolical methods of 
inflicting suffering. Let the records of the Holy 
Inquisition and the Star Chamber, or the hoary 
dungeons of the Max Tower at Nuremberg, bear 
witness. 

We shall see later that much of the pain and 
suffering that afflicts humanity is avoidable, for it 
comes as a natural consequence of the non-observ- 
ance of certain well-defined and elementary laws 
of life. 

Between the cradle and the grave most of us 
pass along some avenue of pain. For many, much 
167 



168 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

of the way is darkened by mental or physical suffer- 
ing ; but for most of us the greater part of the 
way is travelled in comparative comfort, so that 
if, at the end of our journey, we could cast up a 
balance between the pleasure and pain we had 
experienced the former would be found to prepon- 
derate. Between pleasure and pain there is a 
neutral state, namely, that of indifference. Pleasure 
and mere freedom from pain are by no means co- 
extensive. The neutral state intervenes, and in 
most lives bulks largely, shot through here and 
there by pain or illumined with the glow of pleasure. 

At what precise level in the animal kingdom the 
capacity for pain-sensation first appears is uncertain 
We have, however, good grounds for the belief that 
pain-sensation is a quality of feeling reserved for 
the animal kingdom, and does not appertain to 
any member of the plant kingdom. The strange 
and fascinating phenomenon exhibited by the 
leaves of the sensitive plant, which shrink from the 
touch, is not an evidence of pain, but is simply a 
reflex contraction due to a gross stimulation. For 
the registering and interpretation of a painful 
sensation a complex nerve mechanism which is not 
found among the members of the vegetable king- 
dom is necessary. 

In the lower reaches of the animal kingdom this 
nerve mechanism is not highly elaborated, and 
there is evidence to show that the capacity for feel- 
ing pain is much lower among the invertebrates, or 
backboneless creatures, like the leech, the lobster, 
and the star-fish, than among the vertebrates. The 
capacity for feeling pain probably reaches its 



INVERTEBRATES AND PAIN 169 

highest expression in the animal kingdom among 
the mammals, and touches its zenith in the case of a 
gently nurtured, intelligent, and delicate woman. 
Most women bear pain with considerable fortitude, 
and it has been suggested that their stoicism is due 
to a lessened perceptive power. This explanation 
of their courage is based upon an unchivalrous and 
unproved assumption, made by man. 

Any one who has ever handled a spade has at 
some time or other divided an earth-worm in two. 
The worm cannot, unfortunately, express in articu- 
late speech its opinion of this experience, but the 
two halves of the sundered creature do not behave 
in a way that suggests acute pain. They wriggle 
off, usually in different directions, apparently little 
disturbed by this cataclysmic interference with 
their anatomy. Probably, since nerves and nerve 
ganglia have been discovered in the worm, this 
severance provoked an unpleasant sensation that 
may have amounted to pain ; but we cannot 
imagine that the reluctant worm tugged from the 
wet earth in mid-April by some questing bird 
suffers, even in a minor degree, the physical agony 
experienced by some mediaeval martyr on the rack, 
or that the snail, whose house of shell is dashed to 
pieces against a stone by a hungry thrush, suffers as 
much as some victim hurled down the Tarpeian Rock. 
Nor is it at all likely that Izaak Walton's frog, for 
whose welfare he showed such tender solicitude, 
enjoining all his disciples to " use him as though you 
loved him," suffered as much, when baited alive 
upon the hook, as does a man whose finger is caught 
in a suddenly closed carriage-door, 



l;o THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

Warm-blooded animals suffer more acutely than 
cold-blooded ones, and the higher the development 
of the nervous system and the more cultivated the 
intellect the greater is the capacity for feeling pain. 

The perception and interpretation of painful 
stimuli may be interfered with by certain mental 
or physical conditions. It is wrong to suppose 
that the stoicism of the early Christian martyrs was 
in any way due to their lack of a capacity for feel- 
ing pain. They were probably as capable t>f feeling 
pain, under ordinary circumstances, as are the men 
and women of to-day ; but the intensity of their 
faith and their condition of religious exaltation were 
such that, by what is called a "blocking" process, 
the painful stimuli were shut out of their conscious- 
ness, which was wholly occupied with the rapture 
of devotion by which they were consumed. By a 
curious perversion of sensation, some of them are 
said to have declared that their torture gave them 
pleasure rather than pain. We read of men and 
women falling asleep while on the rack. This has 
been regarded as a singular proof of the triumph 
of human faith over suffering ; but I am inclined 
to believe that the so-called sleep was in reality 
an attack of syncope, which mercifully descended 
upon the victim to protect him from his torturers 
for a little while. But, be that as it may, there is 
no doubt that religious exaltation may become a 
very powerful anodyne. In his picture of the 
martyrdom of St. Sebastian, Guido Rerri gave per- 
manent and beautiful expression to this fact. The 
somewhat girlish figure of the youthful martyr is 
pierced by arrows, but there is no look of anguish 



PREOCCUPATION AND PAIN 171 

in the eyes, no graven line of suffering on the face, 
no tight-drawn stoical lips, no clenched and knotted 
hands. Instead, we see a smile of seraphic con- 
fidence, the light of an unconquerable faith in the 
upturned eyes, and benediction flowing from the 
bound but open hands. 

Most of us know from our own experience that 
concentration of the mind upon some engrossing 
occupation may render us temporarily insensitive 
to pain. Many a man has found relief from an 
attack of toothache or neuralgia in the pages of 
a good novel, and Dr. Robert Hall is said to have 
preached some of his most eloquent sermons while 
in the throes of renal colic a particularly exquisite 
form of suffering. 

We have it on the authority of John Ballantyne, 
who acted as his amanuensis, that Sir Walter Scott 
on many occasions was suffering acutely, probably 
from biliary colic, while he dictated the enthralling 
romances of Ivanhoe, The Bride of Lammermoor, 
and The Legend of Montrose. But, when carried 
away by his subject, he would rise from his couch, 
and, utterly oblivious of pain, walk up and down 
the room pouring forth his flowing sentences and 
living in person the parts of his creatures. 

These facts help us to understand why it is that 
in the heat of battle a soldier may receive a for- 
midable wound, and, at the moment, feel no pain. 
I have asked many of the wounded, both officers 
and men, to tell me as accurately as they can recall 
them, what their sensations were when they were 
hit. Almost invariably the answer has been the 
same, expressed, curiously enough, in practically 



i;2 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

identical language. Whatever the missile has been 
shrapnel, shell-case fragments, rifle or machine- 
gun bullets it did not at the moment of impact 
.produce any sensation of pain. When the wound 
was felt at all it seems usually to have been as a 
dull, heavy sensation of weight or pressure, and 
many times I have been told that the feeling sug- 
gested a violent blow with the flat of a shovel. 
The sensation of pain did not arise till later, the 
length of the interval depending upon several con- 
ditions such as the nature and situation of the 
wound, and whether or not it permitted its victim 
to " carry on " or rendered him at once hors de 
combat. If he were able to carry on, and the 
fighting was stern, the development of the pain- 
sensation might be delayed for a prolonged period. 
If he were knocked out by the wound and com- 
pelled to lie still waiting for succour, the sensation 
of pain appeared fairly rapidly. In two classes of 
wounds, however, the sensation of pain was prac- 
tically coincident with the reception of the injury. 
Men who have been wounded by a bayonet-thrust, 
or by the explosion of a hand-grenade thrown 
directly at them, felt pain immediately they were 
struck. This fact may be explained as follows. 
In almost every case in which a man is wounded 
by a bayonet or a hand-grenade he sees what is 
about to happen, and his mind is already on the 
alert for the sensation of pain, which travels un- 
hindered along the nerve track to the sensorium 
in the brain, and is at once perceived. Vision and 
anticipation have cleared the nerve paths so that 
the message of pain gets free access to the brain 



WOUNDS AND PAIN 173 

at once. In a battle a man does not see the machine- 
gun bullet or fragment of shrapnel that is whizzing 
towards him, so that his brain, engrossed with 
other things, is not watching for the sensation of 
pain. So when the blow comes it is a sensation of 
heaviness, and not of pain, that first reaches his 
consciousness. 

In the course of my inquiries into this matter I 
received from a young officer a testimony so re- 
markable as to be almost unbelievable. In fairness 
it should be stated that when he volunteered a 
description of his experiences he had not the slightest 
idea that I was specially interested in the question 
of pain, and therefore his statement was not coloured 
by any desire to give me the answer I expected. 

He was hurrying back from the fighting-line to 
bring up reinforcements to a hardly pressed post, 
when he was hit by fragments of one of our own 
high-explosive shells which had exploded prema- 
turely. He sustained very formidable injuries to 
the lower jaw and also to the chest, his jaw being 
shattered and his chest and right lung penetrated 
by a " through-and-through " wound. He says : 
" I felt no pain. I felt that I had received a dull, 
heavy blow on the face, and I dropped forward on 
my knees and collapsed like a burst motor-tyre. I 
was quite unaware that I had been wounded in the 
chest, and during the half-hour that elapsed before 
I lost consciousness I felt absolutely no pain. Then 
I forgot everything, and remember nothing more 
till I woke five days later to find myself in a com- 
fortable hospital bed. Until I lost consciousness I 
was quite aware of my surroundings, and remember 



I 7 4 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

distinctly having my gas-mask removed for me, 
and finding my mouth full of blood. I was alert 
enough to have felt any pain if there had been any 
to feel. The truth is, there was none." 

This statement is all the more remarkable be- 
cause of the situation of one of the wounds. The 
wound of the face and jaw was in the area from 
which the fifth cranial nerve collects its stimuli, 
and any one who has had toothache, or has had a 
sensitive tooth in the lower jaw prepared for filling, 
knows in what sharp accents of pain that nerve 
can express itself. On a priori grounds one might 
think that such a wound in the collecting zone of 
this nerve must of necessity be exquisitely painful. 
But it was not so. His loss of consciousness was 
not due to pain, nor was it, I think, altogether due 
to concussion of the brain, or it would have followed 
immediately on the reception of the injury, but 
from loss of blood, and interference with his re- 
spiratory functions through the temporary disable- 
ment of his penetrated lung. It may be that the 
absence of immediate pain in such formidable 
wounds is due to the fact that the blow sustained 
is so severe that the nerve-endings, which are the 
chief collectors of pain-stimuli, are completely 
stunned, and that, if one may so phrase it, a loss 
of local consciousness is produced. But, whatever 
the explanation, it is a remarkable and beneficial 
provision, for, at the moment, the presence of pain 
would have neither a remedial nor a diagnostic 
value. 

Profound fear may modify the perception of 
pain either by heightening it through apprehension, 



EMOTIONAL STATES AND PAIN 175 

or lowering it through the preoccupation with which 
it fills the horizon of the mind. A thoroughly 
frightened child has been known to run with bare 
feet along a road strewn with sharp-edged broken 
stones, till its feet were torn and bleeding without 
feeling pain in the slightest degree ; and which of 
us has not discovered that the speediest cure for 
toothache is to ring the dentist's bell? Intense 
emotion of any kind, such as great joy or wild 
anger, may act as an anodyne to pain, and diseases 
accompanied by profound toxaemia or blood-poison- 
ing may so dull the Consciousness that it remains 
unaware of painful stimuli. 

Hysteria, neurasthenia, and that peculiarly dis- 
tressing variety of nervous disorganisation known 
as " shell- shock " may give rise to anomalies of 
sensation. In some hysterical people large areas 
of their skin become quite insensitive, and may be 
rudely stimulated in various ways without any 
pain resulting, and I have seen a soldier suffering 
from " shell-shock " whose capacity for feeling 
pain was so interfered with that the skin of his legs 
might be pricked in a hundred places with a needle 
and yet he declared that he felt no pain. 

Just as the capacity for pain-sensation may be 
diminished by certain mental states, so also it 
may be raised, so that a stimulus which at ordinary 
times would not provoke any discomfort is regis- 
tered by the perceptive faculties as highly painful 
Hysterical and neurasthenic patients, though they 
may have in some cases a diminished capacity for 
feeling pain, more often, perhaps, react in the 
opposite direction and become extremely sensitive 



176 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

to stimuli of ordinary intensity, which may be inter- 
preted when they reach the higher centres as acute 
agony. Patients falling into this category suffer 
from what is called subjective pains, or pains for 
which no external cause is discoverable. These 
pains are a product of disordered mental action, 
and play a great part in the life of the unfortunate 
victim of hysteria, in whom they are constantly 
changing their situation, their intensity, and their 
kind. Behind them there is some deviation from 
normal mental equilibrium, whereby minor impulses 
are misinterpreted, and what would in a normal 
individual be regarded as nothing more than a 
slight irritation is magnified into excruciating tor- 
ment. These subjective impressions of pain are 
due to faulty associative memory. The stimulus 
reaches the brain, but the associative centre makes 
the wrong response ; just as the operator at a 
lantern may receive the signal from the lecturer 
and throw the wrong picture on the screen. This 
may seem a little obscure, but will be explained 
more fully in what is to follow. 

The apprehension of pain, reinforced by the 
memory of previous experiences tends, as every 
school-boy knows, to heighten pain. A certain 
eminent judge, long since gone to his own Great 
Assize, who was a firm believer in the salutary 
effect of corporal punishment for a certain class of 
crime accompanied by violence, made great use 
of this psychological fact. He was accustomed to 
sentence criminals to be flogged, but, with a refine- 
ment of cruelty which one hopes, for the honour 
of the English Bench, was not intentional, he used 



PHYSICAL CONDITIONS AND PAIN 177 

to divide the administration of the lash into two 
or more doses, to be given at intervals during the 
culprit's incarceration. So that, to the physical 
pain of the flogging, was added the mental torture 
of the apprehension which preceded the second or 
third administration, such apprehension being heigh- 
tened by the poignant memory of the previous 
experience. 

Physical conditions, almost as much as mental 
conditions, may increase the capacity for feeling 
pain, and a person reduced in health by a wasting 
disease, by anaemia or debility is much more in- 
tolerant of pain than one in the enjoyment of robust 
health. 

Painful impressions linger for a time in the mind, 
but a merciful forgetfulness tends to sponge them 
off the tablets of the memory, and recollection is 
unable to recreate them again. This is peculiarly 
true of the pains of child-birth. Usually severe and 
sometimes intensified to the limit of human endur- 
ance, the memory of them is, in most cases, short- 
lived, and the evangelist exhibited a shrewd know- 
ledge of life and psychology when he wrote : " She 
remembereth no more the anguish, for joy. . . ." 

As the mediaeval torturers well knew, repeated 
stimuli, not one of which in itself is sufficiently 
powerful to provoke pain, may by their constant 
repercussion give rise to acute suffering. This 
physiological fact lay behind that cruel device 
whereby a drop of water was made to fall from a 
height at short but regular intervals either upon the 
same spot on the victim's forehead, or between his 
shoulders. One drop had no effect ; a hundred 



178 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

successive drops could be borne without the least 
discomfort ; but when the tale ran into tens of 
thousands, each limpid bead struck the shrinking 
skin like a lash of wire, and the torture, if continued 
long enough could break the spirit of the strongest. 
Here practice, as so often happens, was preceding 
scientific knowledge, for it was not till long after- 
wards that the physiologists enunciated and were 
able to explain the principle of what they call 
" summation of stimuli." The explanation of the 
phenomenon is that the receptive centres in the 
cerebral cortex, or outer layer of the brain, have 
not recovered from the previous stimulation before 
the next arrives. There is a residual stimulation 
still in action when the next sensation arrives, and 
the effect on the brain-cells is cumulative. Conse- 
quently severe and progressively increasing pain is 
felt. 

One may explain this by a simple illustration. 
Let us imagine that the cell or group of cells in the 
brain which is receiving the repeated stimuli is a 
cistern fed by a pipe which delivers a somewhat 
larger quantity of water than is able to escape in 
the same time through an outflow pipe. If we 
imagine that the cistern holds forty gallons, and 
that the inflow per minute exceeds the outflow by 
half a pint, a time will come when the cistern is 
filled to overflowing. It contains as much as it can 
hold. It has been filled gradually by the accumu- 
lation of the differences between intake and outflow. 
Similarly, a point is reached in the case of the group 
of sensory cells in the brain when they become 
" filled " with the accumulated residues of repeated 



REFERRED PAIN 179 

stimuli, and react violently by overflowing in a 
sensation of severe pain. 

The interpretation put upon painful stimuli by 
the brain differs in kind, and, consequently, several 
varieties of pain are described. Thus, we speak of 
a burning pain, and a pressure or tension pain. 
These qualifying adjectives give us a clue to the 
origin of the sense of pain, which is largely a matter 
of the interpretation put upon a stimulus by the 
centres of association and memory. 

The locality in which a pain is felt is usually the 
seat of the mischief which is giving rise to it, and 
a person in normal health, whose nervous system 
is sound, has no difficulty, even when blind- folded, 
in locating the spot at which the pain arises. But 
this is not the invariable rule, and sometimes the 
situation at which pain is felt is a long way from the 
site of the disease responsible for its production. 
For example, many a child whose gastric organs are 
in a condition of sound health complains of a 
frequent and severe stomach-ache. In reality he 
is suffering from disease of the bones of his spine, 
and the sensory nerves which are entering the spinal 
canal from both sides of his body are being irritated, 
either jointly or singly by pressure or by inflam- 
matory products. Sensory nerves tend to refer 
all sensation to their extreme periphery, and the 
pain which in such a case really originates in the 
back, is referred to the nerve- endings over the 
anterior abdominal wall. In like manner, a child 
who complains of a chronic pain in the knee may 
really be suffering from disease in the hip- joint. 
It is a matter of common knowledge that men who 

13 



i8o THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

have lost a limb will sometimes complain of pain 
in the foot or toes that have long been separated 
from the body. I have recently come across several 
instances of the kind among wounded soldiers, 
one, who had suffered amputation above the knee, 
assuring me with many protestations that he had 
been unable to sleep because of acute rheumatic 
pains in the ankle-joint and foot of the absent 
limb. He suggested, with that humour charac- 
teristic of the British soldier, that the leg which he 
had lost on the Gallipoli peninsula must have been 
laid to rest in a damp grave, and was lodging its 
complaint in this practical but unpleasant fashion 
with its former owner. Cases of this kind are 
capable of a simple explanation. Some slender fila- 
ment of the nerve that once acted as the conductor 
of sensory impressions from the foot to the spinal 
cord, and so onward to the brain, has become 
imbedded in or adherent to the scar-tissue in the 
amputation-stump. Slight variations in the con- 
dition of the scar-tissue may stimulate the adherent 
nerve-filament, and cause it to send a protest of 
pain to the terminal sense-organ in the brain. But 
this organ has all through the person's life been 
accustomed to docket every message coming along 
that nerve as a message from the foot, and a life- 
long habit is not easily broken. So, though the 
foot is no longer there, the brain cells which receive 
the message report to the consciousness that a 
pain signal has come in from the foot, and unless 
the mind bestirs itself to verify the message and 
its source, the point of origin and the seat of the 
pain are not accurately identified. 



OVERFLOW OF STIMULI 181 

Another anomaly of sensation is explained by the 
overflow of excessive stimulation from one cell to 
another. Toothache sometimes affords us an ex- 
ample of this phenomenon. If a tooth is decayed, 
and the sensitive pulp is exposed, any irritation 
applied to it is conveyed to the brain, and recognised 
as dentalgia. If the irritation is very severe or 
prolonged the pain which at fjrst was localised to 
the offending molar may spread to adjacent teeth, 
or even to the whole of one side of the face. This 
condition has been brought about by the overflow 
of excessive stimuli from one group of cells in the 
brain to another group of adjacent cells which are 
the terminal receptors of sensory stimuli from other 
branches of the nerve. These freshly involved 
receptors refer the commotion which is disturbing 
them to the terminal ends of the nerves which 
usually supply them with sensory impressions, and 
consequently all the teeth on one side may appear 
to ache. 

For purposes of diagnosis and description it is 
the custom to regard the spinal cord, that great 
main route of communication along which motor 
impulses descend from the brain to the muscles of 
the trunk and limbs, and up which pass all the 
sensory messages sent from the periphery to the 
brain, as consisting of a series of super- imposed 
segments which are numbered according to the 
particular bone in the vertebral column behind which 
they lie. This segmental division is artificial, be- 
cause no segment is self-contained ; but it serves 
a useful purpose for the localisation of the processes 
of disease in the cord. It has been observed that 



i82 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

if a sensory nerve which enters the cord at a certain 
level is inflamed, or under the influence of a disease 
which produces pain, those areas of the skin which 
derive their nerve supply from the same segment 
of the cord are liable to become sensitive to the 
touch. Of this fact we have a striking proof in 
the condition known as angina pectoris. The sym- 
pathetic nerves which supply the heart arise from 
the segment of the spinal cord which innervates 
the upper part of the chest wall and the inner side 
of the arm with nerves of sensation. An attack 
of angina gives rise to stimuli which pass from the 
heart through the sympathetic nerves to the spinal 
cord, and the sensory nerves associated with the 
same segment of the cord react to the stimulation 
and the patient is conscious of acute pain in the 
chest-wall over and above the heart, and along the 
inner side of the left arm. It is a little difficult to 
present these facts in such a way that they can at 
once be' apprehended by those who have noV an 
elementary knowledge of physiology, but an illus- 
tration may serve to illuminate the matter. When 
a large stone is dropped into the still water of a 
well its impact produces a splash, and from the 
point at which it breaks the surface an eddying series 
of concentric waves ripple to the margin. These 
are visible to the eye, but in its downward passage 
through the column of water to the bottom of the 
well the stone produces an invisible but none the less 
real disturbance in the hidden depths. This troubling 
of the waters is analogous to the effect produced by 
the sudden impact of a violent sensory stimulus 
impinging upon a segment of the spinal cord. The 



THE DEFINITION OF PAIN 183 

water of the well down in its depths is driven into 
the crevices between the stones, and the nerve 
impulse in a somewhat similar way produces a dis- 
turbance some of which flows out through the 
channel of other nerves attached to the same spinal 
segment. 

So far we have not attempted to define what 
pain is. Like life itself, like death, like matter and 
mind, and time, and many other of the commonest 
attributes of existence, it is extremely difficult to 
enclose within the terms of a definition. 

Cicero described it as an unpleasant movement 
within the body, confusing the resultant motion 
which often follows pain with the sensation itself. 
Schopenhauer believed it to be a " negative experi- 
ence " that is, negative in contrast to an ante- 
cedent " positive experience " of pleasure ; and 
Spinoza regarded it as " an emotion whereby the 
body's power of activity is diminished or checked." 
None of these definitions, however, is satisfactory. 
We must recognise that in pain there are two con- 
ditions ; one physical, the impact of the stimulus 
upon the sensory cells in the brain, and the other 
metaphysical, the perception of the stimulus and 
the interpretation and classification of the sensation 
with the aid of memory and the association centres 
which communicate it to the mind. It is not in 
itself a definite entity. It may be called " feeling- 
tone." It is the mental interpretation of a sensa- 
tion provoked by a peculiar quality or intensity of 
stimulation. There can, therefore, be no pain with- 
out consciousness. 

But, difficult though it be to define pain, no 



184 THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN 

definition is necessary, since its distribution is 
universal, and we have all experienced it. We 
may not know how to imprison it in a phrase, but 
we all know what it feels like, and it is infinitely 
easier to philosophise about than to bear. 



THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 



185 



" What a piece of work is man ! " 

Shakespeare, " Hamlet. 



186 



CHAPTER X 

THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 

PRIMITIVE man regarded pain as the work of evil 
spirits, and prehistoric skulls have been found 
bearing the marks of trepanning, an operation that 
probably had been performed to allow the spirit 
of headache to escape from the skull of its victim. 
At the present day the Andamanese attribute all 
their pains to the activity of spirits, and in Malaysia 
there is a special spirit of stomach-ache. 

Physiology, however, has taught us that pain 
depends on something else than demonic interfer- 
ence, and has worked out the mechanism through 
which we feel pain. 

When we prick ourselves with a needle or acci- 
dentally burn a finger with a match we experience 
a highly disagreeable sensation, but underneath 
that sensation there lies a whole series of physio- 
logical processes which must be explained one by 
one before we can understand the mechanism by 
which we are made conscious of pain. 

The skin is our chief organ for collecting sensory 

stimuli, and in this connection it is interesting to 

remember that the brain and the spinal cord are 

developed from the same layer of the embryo as 

i8 7 



188 THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 

is the integument. This ante-natal embryological 
connection explains much. Immediately under- 
neath the superficial layer of the skin lie the ter- 
minal branchings of the sensory nerves. These 
end-organs of sensation are widely distributed, for 
all parts of the skin are more or less sensitive ; but, 
as every school- boy knows from practical experi- 
ence, there are variations in their distribution, and 
underneath a square inch of skin from the tips 
of the fingers or the back of the hands more of 
them are to be found than under a similar area of 
skin taken from between the shoulders. 

When one of these end-organs is violently stimu- 
lated by any noxious agent a message is sent along 
the afferent or sensory nerve to which it is attached. 
This nerve, gathering tributaries as it goes, passes 
along the limb, and ultimately merges either 
directly or indirectly with one of the posterior 
spinal nerve-roots. The stimulus is thus conveyed 
to the spinal cord, up which it travels until it reaches 
the cerebral cortex or surface of the brain. Here 
it sets up a disturbance of a mechanical or chemical 
nature, but we are not aware of pain until the 
higher or mental centres direct their attention to 
the disturbance in the cortical cells and interpret 
it. It has now been definitely proved that mole- 
cular changes of a well- recognised kind are produced 
in the brain-cells of the cortex by the stimulus of 
pain. But these molecular changes are not pain, 
just as the tracing on the wax-cylinder of a phono- 
graph is not music until it has been converted into 
vibration once again by the travelling style or 
needle and the sensitive tambour. The impression 



THE TRANSLATION OF IMPULSES 189 

made upon the cortical cell is only a register : the 
registered impulse must be interpreted. It is 
translated by the higher centres of association and 
memory, and, after it has been examined, identified, 
and classified it is revealed to the consciousness of the 
individual. Let us personify the centres involved. 
The association centre is suddenly awakened by 
a call from the brain-cell which the nerve impulse 
has disturbed. It says to itself : " There is a nasty 
commotion going on in the sensory cells that re- 
ceive their messages from the right hand. I wonder 
what it is : I seem to remember a commotion of 
this kind before. What was it then ? Let me ask 
my sister Memory." Memory responds : "I know. 
That particular kind of commotion is only produced 
by burning. Don't you remember ? " At once 
the association centre and memory working together 
shout to the consciousness : " The fingers of the 
right hand are being burned," and consciousness 
commands the will to make the muscles of the arm 
contract, so that the hand is instantly drawn away 
from the flame. This series of operations, the 
examination of the effects of the stimulus, the 
calling in of memory, the joint arrival at a conclu- 
sion, the reporting to consciousness, and all the 
minute and undetected phenomena that go to make 
up a complex mental act takes place within the 
confines of the infinitesimal space of time that 
elapses between the application of the flame and 
the withdrawal of the finger. It is almost incon- 
ceivable that this should be so, and in dividing up 
and separating for purposes of greater clearness the 
various cerebral and psychic phenomena that occur, 



190 THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 

one artificially increases the difficulty of compre- 
hending how so much can happen in such a little 
time. In actual practice the various stages in the 
process seem to run into each other instantaneously. 

Sometimes, and possibly most often, the with- 
drawal of the finger is a pure sensori-motor reflex, 
which occurs while the message of pain is still on 
its way to the brain. Here the action is even more 
speedy than in the previous case. The sensory 
impulse from the nerve-ending in the finger runs 
up the nerve and enters the spinal cord ; there, 
part of it runs round a nerve-arc to the mo tor- cells 
in the cord, and without the intervention of con- 
sciousness a motor impulse is sent from the cord 
which causes the fingers to be withdrawn. But 
part of the sensory impulse continues its passage 
up to the brain, where it is recognised for what 
it is, viz. a sensation of burning, and revealed to 
the consciousness as such. In actual operation 
the spinal reflex discharges itself, and the sensory 
impulse is interpreted by the intellect almost 
coincidentally. 

A wonderfully exact parallel exists between the 
mechanism of pain-sensation and the operation of 
a telephone. 

When we speak into the transmitter of a tele- 
phone the column of air vibrating from our throat 
and lips communicates its movements, with all their 
nuances of accent, to a delicately poised membrane. 
The vibrations collected by this disc or membrane 
are conducted in the form of an electrical current 
along the intervening telephone wire to their des- 
tination. At the end of the journey the electrical 



AN ANALOGY 191 

s 

current communicates to a disc in the receiver the 
impulses it has carried along the wire. The disc 
vibrates, and communicates its movements to a 
column of air which, striking on the drum of a 
healthy ear, delivers to the listener the message 
which may have been transmitted from a distance 
of many miles. 

As is the case with the pain- stimulus impinging 
upon the brain-cells, the electrical stimulus striking 
upon the disc in the receiver and causing it to 
vibrate requires an intelligent and conscious mind 
to interpret it. 

We all know at how many points the telephone 
may break down. The transmitter may be out of 
order, and cannot take the message ; the wire may 
be down and the impulse cannot pass ; the receiver 
may be damaged and fail to respond to the stimulus 
of the electrical current ; or the listener may have 
a defect of his hearing apparatus, and be unable to 
catch and interpret the message we are eager to 
give. The possible interferences with the propa- 
gation of the sensation of pain are analogous and 
equally numerous. The capacity of the end-organ 
in the skin for receiving stimuli may be reduced, 
e.g. by cold, by chemical agents such as cocaine, or 
by the processes of disease. The conveying sen- 
sory nerve our telephone wire may be cut in 
two, or its function may be interfered with by pres- 
sure either from a growth or from a tight ligature 
intercepting its course, or there may be gross 
changes wrought by disease in the spinal cord which 
interfere with its further progress. Or, finally, the 
receptive cells in the brain may be diseased or 



192 THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 

drugged and fail to respond by registering the im- 
pression, while at the same time the link between 
the cells of the cerebral cortex and the higher 
mental centres may be interfered with by disease, 
or by drugs such as alcohol, chloroform, or ether. 
The point to recognise and remember is that pain 
is not pain until it is perceived by the consciousness. 
All the physical phenomena by which it is brought 
about are purely mechanical interferences. At no 
stage are they pain until the consciousness has them 
revealed to it as such. If we could isolate the ter- 
minal end-organ of a sensory nerve and detach it 
from its connection with the sensory filament that 
conveys impulses from it we might subject it to all 
manner of noxious stimuli and no pain would be 
felt. Or if we could sever a sensory nerve from all 
communication with the brain we might pinch it 
with forceps, irritate it with chemicals, and sear it 
with the cautery, and no sensation of pain would 
follow. Similar assaults made upon an isolated 
segment of the spinal cord would also fail to elicit 
the response of pain, for the sensation of pain re- 
quires for its manifestation an intact nerve-arc 
with no break or interruption between the terminal 
sensory organ, or the nerve of sensation, and the 
higher centres in the brain. 

On the occasion of a recent visit to my dental 
surgeon I was able to study in my own person the 
artificial interference with the mechanism of pain- 
perception produced by partial anaesthesia. He 
wished to drill a very sensitive tooth, and adminis- 
tered to me by the continuous method a mixture of 
nitrous-oxide-gas and oxygen. He had no desire 



THE BROKEN NEXUS 193 

to produce a condition of complete anaesthesia or 
unconsciousness ; he wished to establish analgesia 
or a loss of the power of perceiving pain. During 
the whole operation I was conscious of my surround- 
ings. I could see, I could think and talk, I could 
hear the grating whirr of the burr and feel the 
touch of the operator's fingers. I could also feel a 
continuous sensation of commotion at the point 
where the burr was applied. I was conscious enough 
to be capable of analysing my sensations, and the 
conclusion I came to while the operation was still 
in progress was that painful stimuli were reaching 
my brain, but owing to a breakdown, produced by 
the gas, of the nexus between the receptive cells in 
my cerebral cortex and my higher centres of asso- 
ciation I was unable to recognise the nature of the 
stimuli, and consequently felt no pain. The higher 
centres are always the first to be put out of action, 
whether the narcotic be alcohol, ether, chloroform 
or gas. The same is true in hysterical conditions 
attended by abnormalities of pain sensation. 

Every nerve speaks to the sensorium in its own 
language. Ordinary nerves of sensation speak in 
the language of touch, of temperature-sense, or of 
pain. The nerves of special sense are monoglot. 
If one stimulate mechanically the second cranial 
nerve, the nerve of sight, it responds in the only 
language known to it, the language of light. That 
is why a sudden blow upon the eyeball causes one 
to see stars. There may be pain as well from such 
a blow, but that is due to the coincident stimula- 
tion of some of the ordinary sensory nerves which 
supply the cutaneous structures adjacent to the 



194 THE MECHANISM OF PAIN 

eyeball. In the same way a violent stimulation of 
the eighth cranial nerve, the nerve of hearing, 
results in the production of a loud and unbearable 
noise. 

One might reasonably expect that, as the brain 
is the central and necessary organ of sensation, any 
stimulus applied to it directly will provoke acute 
pain. But it is a fact well known to surgeons that 
the cerebral cortex may be touched, or cut, or 
seared in a conscious patient and practically no pain 
result. I have seen a surgeon pass a probe for two 
and a half inches into the brain of a semi-conscious 
soldier, without producing the slightest pain, while 
a stimulus of moderate degree applied immediately 
afterwards to the patient's skin provoked an imme- 
diate response of pain. 

The explanation of this remarkable phenomenon 
is that those parts of the body most exposed to 
injury are the most abundantly supplied with those 
end-organs of sensation which Sherrington has called 
noci-ceptors. These noci-ceptors are scattered plen- 
tifully all over the skin. They are most numer- 
ous where the body is most vulnerable, for life 
and function must be protected. They are par 
ticularly abundant on the surface of such a deli- 
cate organ as the eye. A speck of dust blown 
by a March wind on to the conjunctiva the deli- 
cate membrane which covers the organ of vision 
brings this physiological truth forcibly home. As 
the brain is well guarded by the bones of the skull, 
and by the membranes that enclose it, it does not 
require so much protection from noci-ceptors. 
Consequently it is not so well supplied with them. 



THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND 
SUFFERING 



14 



" Then, welcome each rebuff 

That turns earth's smoothness rough, 
Each sting that bids not sit nor stand, but go ! 
Be our joys three parts pain ! 
Strive, and hold cheap the strain ; 

Learn, nor account the pang ; dare, never grudge the throe ! ; 
Robert Browning, " Rabbi Ben Ezra." 



196 



CHAPTER XI 

THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

EVERY ONE who has devoted a moment's thought 
to the problems of life must have reflected on the 
purposes of pain. To the superficial it must seem 
a needless phenomenon, an experience calculated 
to increase the sum total of human misery, but 
altogether devoid of any beneficial qualities. To 
them it appears maleficent ; an evil thing to be 
avoided at any cost ; an invention of the devil. 
Such a view is directly opposed to the truth, for, as 
a matter of fact, the good qualities of pain more 
than outweigh the evil ones. 

Pain is a sentinel which guards the outposts of 
life for us, and without it the citadel would be more 
easily overthrown. It is one of the greatest helps 
to the physician or surgeon in his work. The 
presence of pain, indicated by the sufferer, gives 
an immediate clue to the site of his trouble. The 
veterinary surgeon whose patients cannot describe 
in articulate speech the locality or the nature of 
the distress they suffer works at a disadvantage as 
compared with the physician whose patients are 
human beings. The former must rely on the 
secondary phenomena of pain to guide him to the 
i 97 



198 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

site of the mischief ; the latter, by a few direct 
questions, can elicit from his patient not only the 
precise situation of his pain, but also some know- 
ledge of its character and intensity. One of the 
most insidious methods of attack used in the pre- 
sent war' is the gas-attack. Many of the gases 
employed are invisible, and their presence can only 
be detected by their smell, or by the effects they 
produce. Whenever a gas attack is detected an 
alarm is sounded, and a rapid message passes along 
the lines and the soldiers put on their ever-ready 
gas-masks. Some forms of disease are as insidious 
in their onset as a gas-attack, and pain is the alarm 
which calls attention to them. 

Let us take as an example appendicitis, a disease 
that of recent years has become very well known. 
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the vermiform 
appendix, a small blind tube attached to the large 
bowel. Its function is as yet undetermined, though 
it has been described by a medical student as "A 
trap for cherry-stones, and a source of income for 
the aspiring junior surgeon." Most probably it 
serves in the human economy as a point d'appni 
from which the contractions of the large bowel 
may start. In some animals, e.g. the rabbit, the 
vermiform appendix is of considerable size. In man 
its average length is 4-5 inches. But insignificant 
in length though it be, and obscure as its function 
is, it has a pernicious liability to become the seat 
of an acute inflammation which, if not dealt with 
promptly and efficiently, may bring about death. 

The disease is attended by a number of symp- 
toms, such as elevation of the temperature, quick- 



THE FINGER-POST OF PAIN 199 

ening of the pulse, nausea, and possibly vomiting. 
These symptoms belong also to other diseases, and 
are not absolutely characteristic of appendicitis. 
One or more of them may be absent from an 
attack; but pain of an acute character, concen- 
trated at a special point, is one of the earliest and 
most indicative features of a seizure. The pain may 
radiate all over the abdomen, but there is one spot 
immediately over the appendix known as Mc- 
Burney's point, where the pressure of a finger 
produces an acute and intolerable exacerbation of 
suffering. The character of the pain, and the 
definite localisation of its point of maximum in- 
tensity, act as finger-posts which direct the surgeon 
to the appendix, and he knows that that vestigial 
organ is the seat of inflammation. But, in addition 
to its diagnostic value in appendicitis, pain has a 
protective purpose. Once the inflammation is 
established we find that there is a marked rigidity 
of the muscles of the abdominal wall overlying the 
appendix. Nature knows that the processes of 
repair are best carried on under conditions of rest, 
and the pain in the inflamed organ stirs up a reflex 
action in the spinal cord which throws the muscles 
overlying the appendix into a condition of board- 
like rigidity. ^This rigidity protects the appendix 
against sudden affronts from without, and also 
serves to prevent the weight of the bedclothes in- 
creasing the pain. The pain of appendicitis, so 
distressing for the patient, is therefore of great 
diagnostic value, and its presence may be the 
means of saving his life by calling immediate Atten- 
tion to the condition. 



200 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

Occasionally the surgeon meets with fulminating 
cases of gangrenous appendicitis which are accom- 
panied by little or no paiix These are the most 
formidable cases, and frequently terminate fatally ; 
and a case of ordinary appendicitis in which there 
is a sudden and unaccountable subsidence of pain 
without a retrogression of the other symptoms of 
the disease is not welcomed by the doctor, though 
the patient and his friends may rejoice at the dis- 
appearance of the suffering, and imagine, falsely, 
that it is of happy augury. Too often it means 
that, in the local conflict between life and death, 
death has been the victor, and may yet lay claim 
to the whole organism. Processes of disease which 
are normally attended by pain are, in the absence 
of that symptom, often very serious. 

In diseases like the ordinary fevers, where the 
whole system is invaded almost at once by the 
infective agent, pain is reduced to a minimum. 
The infection, except in the early stages, is not a 
local one, so it is not necessary for pain to sound 
a clarion note of alarm, as the mischief has spread 
beyond the stage at which local treatment would 
be of much avail before the disease has declared 
itself. A moment's thought will explain why this 
should be. If systemic fevers were attended by 
severe generalised pain, the vital powers of the 
body would be lowered by suffering, and, conse- 
quently, the protective mechanisms which were 
described in a preceding chapter would not have 
a free and unhindered opportunity of playing their 
part. To take another illustration from the war : 
if England should, by an unhappy chance, be 



PAIN THE TEACHER 201 

invaded, our defenders would not be helped but 
most seriously interfered with if any panic arose 
among the civil population. The invasion would 
best be dealt with if the whole nation kept calm, 
and directed all its energies to devising means of 
routing the enemy. Clamour and rioting in the 
streets, and craven fear in our homes, would be a 
poor backing for the soldiers who were rushing to 
the breach. 

The records of the first case of a broken limb 
are lost for ever, but it was pain which first taught 
primitive man the elements of a crude surgical 
practice. When some daring huntsman, in the 
childhood of the world, fell from a rock and frac- 
tured his thigh-bone, he very soon discovered that 
any movement of the affected limb caused him to 
suffer acutely. At rest, the limb was fairly com- 
fortable, a fact that he no doubt communicated 
to his solicitous friends who crowded round him 
awestruck by the disaster that had befallen him. 
It was but a short step from this discovery to the 
deduction that for him at least the best policy was 
one of masterly inactivity ; and we can imagine 
that the women of his tribe, then, as now, instant 
to relieve suffering, would gather brushwood, or 
ferns or leaves and make a comfortable bed for 
the injured limb. As the days passed by the 
healing powers of nature would assert themselves, 
and a time would come when the limb could be 
moved gently without pain, and ultimately the 
sufferer would discover that he could use his limb 
once more. Like Jacob, he would probably halt 
upon his thigh for all the days of his life ; but in 



202 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

his wrestling with God his combat with pain 
he had discovered that the best treatment for a 
broken bone is to immobilise it. The elaboration 
of a general principle from an isolated experience 
was probably beyond the wit of primitive man, but 
he had won from pain the nucleus of a great idea, 
which in the evolution of the centuries has fructified 
into that huge armamentarium of splints and 
cradles and pulleys that is the stand-by of the 
modern orthopaedic surgeon. 

The existence of pain has been a goad to urge 
men in all ages to seek for anodynes with which 
to alleviate it, and now, thanks to ether and chloro- 
form, the most formidable operations may be per- 
formed while the patient is completely unconscious. 
The search for anodynes has been a very fruitful 
one, and the number of such remedies is year by 
year increasing. Some of the by-products derived 
from the distillation of coal-tar have been found 
to possess pain-subduing properties in a high degree. 
This increases still further our debt to the sun. 

The present war has confronted the surgeon with 
much more formidable wounds than any of which 
he had previous experience, and the change of the 
dressings required by these wounds has frequently 
been a very distressing experience for the unfor- 
tunate patient. But methods of dressing have been 
devised whereby the sensitive nerve-endings in the 
granulating flesh have been covered over with thin 
sheets of celluloid before the main dressings are 
applied ; and, as a consequence, the patient is saved 
much suffering when the dressing is renewed. In 
this fact we see an example of the pain of the indi- 



PAIN NOT MALEVOLENT 203 

vidual bearing fruit for the benefit of others. The 
first surgeon whose heart was large enough and 
whose mind was sufficiently alert to see in the 
anguish of his patient a call for him to turn his 
intelligence towards devising some means of sparing 
pain to others in like case was instrumental in 
converting vicarious suffering into a blessing. The 
history of the healing art supplies us with many 
instances of the suffering of individuals leading to 
discoveries rich in beneficence for trie race. When 
Morton discovered the anaesthetic properties of ether 
he conferred an inestimable boon upon humanity, 
and it was his recognition of the importance of this 
discovery, and his large-hearted compassion for 
the individual sufferer under the so-called " primal 
curse " which led Simpson to embark upon that 
course of perilous and self-sacrificing research which 
culminated in the discovery of the anaesthetic 
properties of chloroform. 

Pain, it is therefore seen, is something finer than 
a form of malevolent torture. It is diagnostic, it 
is remedial, and it is frequently life-saving. It 
confers benefits upon the individual, and his suffer- 
ings, rightly read, may confer benefit upon a multi- 
tude. It is stimulative, disciplinary, and educational. 
The first child that scorched its finger in the fire 
has passed into a proverb, and so achieved immor- 
tality. In the history of man pain has been a 
touchstone which has enabled him to tell those 
things that are inimical to his well-being, and that 
might destroy his life ; and through pain he has 
learned to avoid them. 

To many, the reconciliation of the idea of an 



204 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

omniscient, omnipotent, and just Providence with 
the existence of pain seems an impossibility. They 
believe ; with the old Greek philosopher, that, if there 
is a God who knows of human suffering and who 
cannot remove it, He is impotent. Or, if He knows, 
and can, but will not remove it, He is malevolent, 
or, what is almost as bad, does not care. It is an 
old, heart-torturing problem, but its solution cannot 
be reduced to such simple terms. 

I am firmly convinced that, except in so far as 
it is beneficent, pain, either physical or mental, 
has no place in the scheme of things. 

We must enlarge our horizon, and look at life 
as a whole ; not the little life of the individual, 
which is a transient thing, but the life of humanity, 
which is continuous and of indefinite duration. 
That crude system of hedonistic philosophy which 
holds that pleasure is what gives value to life has 
failed because it is out of touch with reality. It 
is moral worth, moral progress, and, in the indi- 
vidual, moral character that give to life all that is 
best, and it is from the furnace of pain that some 
of those qualities have been won for mankind. 

That the Creator has not willed, out of sheer 
malevolence, that man or any of His creatures should 
suffer hardly requires demonstration. For if this 
had been His purpose He would have put out of 
human reach those many agents through which 
pain may be alleviated, and would not have per- 
mitted the curtain of a merciful oblivion to descend 
between a man and his most cruel pain. When 
pain passes the limits of human endurance the 
sufferer becomes unconscious : he faints. Man, 



IS NATURE CRUEL? 205 

looking at nature with a compassionate heart, but 
with somewhat distorted vision, is sometimes 
tempted to regard it as a huge arena that is the 
scene of unmitigated and constant suffering. And 
he cannot reconcile what he regards as the cruelty 
of nature with the thought of God. But is nature 
cruel ? The belief awaits proof. The bird or 
beast of prey kills quickly, inflicting a minimum 
of suffering on its victim. The hawk and the lion 
usually strike but once. It is only when beasts of 
prey degenerate in character from their contact 
with man that they absorb some of his cruelty. 
The cat playing with the mouse is an abnormal 
example of how beasts of prey treat their victims. 
The domestic cat is well fed ; its hunting has 
degenerated from a noble necessity of its life into 
a pastime, and it plays with the mouse because it 
is satiated and indolent. And we are not justified 
in imagining that the mouse really suffers during 
the time that its feline captor makes sport with it. 
The testimony of Livingstone and others who have 
been mauled by a lion is to the opposite effect. 
Always, in trying to estimate the sufferings of the 
lower creatures, we must guard against reading 
into their experience those mental or physical pains 
which we imagine we should feel in like case. Few 
animals have any apprehension of pain, while man 
increases his sufferings by dreading them. 

The memory of the fear that has lent speed to a 
hare or a fawn pursued by dogs does not seem to be 
of long duration. A hare or a deer will stop to 
feed, and a rabbit resume its gambols on the sand 
in front of its warren very soon after the danger 



206 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

has passed away. So, neither by anticipation or 
through retrospection do the lower animals in- 
crease the volume or intensity of their sufferings. 

Much of human suffering is the direct result of 
the neglect to obey certain well-recognised or easily 
discovered natural laws. So far as one is able to 
observe it, the Universe is a great system controlled 
by law, which begets order and harmony. Even 
when the order is apparently broken by some 
chaotic upheaval we may find, if we look closely 
enough, that the upheaval is itself only a further 
demonstration of law in operation. If we will 
only bear this fact in mind we shall hold a clue to 
the explanation of much human suffering brought 
upon mankind by cataclysms or disasters. 

After the great and historic earthquake at Lisbon, 
and the similar disturbances in Jamaica, at San 
Francisco, and in Sicily, within the memory of the 
present generation, men bitterly questioned the 
beneficence of Providence for permitting such loss 
of human life, and such distress and pain. They 
could not reconcile the idea of a God who cared, 
with such happenings. But they failed to realise 
the world-order. 

The ultimate shape and form of the earth is not 
yet reached. Other mountain-peaks may yet arise 
from lowly valleys, and high hills may yet become 
the bed of unborn oceans. These cataclysmic con- 
vulsions of nature are as much part of the plan of 
the Universe in the making as is the life of man. 
But man has been endowed with reason, the gift 
of intelligence, the capacity for making observations 
and deducing from them some knowledge of the 



THE LAWS OF NATURE 207 

laws of nature. The knowledge of the laws of 
nature which man already possesses has enabled 
him many times, both in an individual and com- 
munal capacity, to avoid exposing himself unpro- 
tectedly to the full violence of certain natural laws 
in operation. For instance, no modern city in 
England would consent to draw its water-supply 
from a sewage-tainted source, for the connection 
between impure water, ill-health, suffering, and 
possibly death is well established. Nor would any 
man wittingly build himself a hut on an Alpine 
slope where avalanches are of frequent occurrence. 
If he did so he would have no just cause for upbraid- 
ing Providence for any disaster that might engulf 
him. So far as he is aware of them, civilised man 
does try to avoid coming into conflict with the 
larger laws of nature ; but to expect that natural 
laws in operation, or upheavals that occur in conse- 
quence of natural laws, are to be suspended because 
man's knowledge has not yet advanced far enough 
to enable him to foretell where, when, arid how 
every natural law will operate, is tantamount to 
asking that the Universe should stand still till man 
has learned the whole of its mystery. 

In days before the war, which has to some extent 
given us new values and new visions^whenever the 
world was shocked by some great shipwreck, or 
by some stupendous conflagration attended with 
much loss of life, the sorrow of bereavement, and 
mental and physical pain, there was always, after 
the first stupor had passed, some raising of querulous 
voices, which asked, " Is there a God : and does 
He care ? " As in most popular outcries, the 



208 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

feeling that prompted these outpourings was better 
than the logic behind them. To transfer to Pro- 
vidence the blame for human errors in judgment 
and in action, is to use a very weak argument 
against His immanence and beneficence. A ship- 
wreck may occur because a ship was not built 
strongly enough to weather the storm a purely 
human miscalculation or because it ran aground, 
or upon an uncharted reef where, again, the human 
factor is in error or because it was caught in such 
a storm that the officer in charge could not navigate 
it. If we are going to throw back on God the 
responsibility for these disasters we must, at the 
same time, be prepared to surrender all freedom of 
action, and consent to be reduced to the level of 
marionettes on a string. As we are reasonable 
beings, endowed with free-will, we are at liberty to 
place ourselves in positions where we may become 
the victims of natural forces, or of human errors 
in judgment. But it would be absurd to expect 
to be cf eatures with free-will so long as our freedom 
of choice operates only along the lines of safety, 
and at the same time look to have our freedom of 
choice forcibly suspended, or natural laws abro- 
gated, whenever, in its exercise, we should unwit- 
tingly stray into the danger of incurring death or 
experiencing pain. 

In small doses, that potent poison hydrocyanic 
acid will relieve an irritable cough ; but if a patient, 
ignorant of the toxic nature of the remedy, should 
proceed on the assumption that, as a teaspoonful 
of a mixture containing this drug gives him a 
certain degree of relief, sixty teaspoonsful, taken 



HUMAN FOLLY 209. 

at a draught, will give him sixty times as much 
relief, we should not be justified in expecting that, 
by a miraculous intervention, the drug will sud- 
denly be robbed of its poisonous properties to 
protect the venturesome but unwise person from 
the consequences-of his own misguided free-will. 
To look for anything of the kind would be to pre- 
suppose that God has nothing else to do than 
stand between man and the results that flow from 
his folly. But, it may be suggested, if the patient 
was unaware of the poisonous nature of the mix- 
ture, surely his ignorance, blossoming into rashness, 
should not lead to his undoing if God really cared. 
The answer is not far to seek. The knowledge 
that hydrocyanic acid is a poison had already been 
acquired ; that knowledge was accessible to the 
individual in question ; that he erred through 
failure to inquire was his own fault, and not the 
fault of God. 

The same line of argument may be applied to 
many of the events which have perplexed man- 
kind. Larger, deeper, and better-used knowledge 
of natural laws, discovered or yet to be discovered, 
would in many a case have turned the sword of 
suffering from the bent neck of humanity. It is 
a poor appeal to make, that, until all the laws 
that govern human life have been reduced to 
writing plain enough for the blind to read, the pains 
and penalties that follow any breach of these laws 
should be suspended. Indeed, the existence of 
these penalties, the invariable linking of pain or 
suffering with a breach of these as yet undeciphered 
laws, is a goad to stimulate us to seek for the 



210 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

principle behind the process. In England great 
stress is laid upon the value of a public school 
education. The public schools of our country may 
not turn out many scholars, though it is 'possible 
for a bright and intelligent boy to pass through 
one of them and emerge with a heavy and partially 
assimilated load of educational lore. But in spite 
of their scholastic defects the education inculcated 
within their boundaries is the finest in the world, 
for it produces a splendid type of young manhood. 
To a very large degree this type of young manhood 
is the product of the unwritten code of laws made 
by the boys and handed on as a tradition from one 
generation to another. The laws of the Medes 
and Persians were unalterable. Neither these laws, 
nor the irrefragable laws that rule the Universe, are 
so adamantine as the boy laws of a public school. 
A newcomer may have some knowledge of these 
unwritten laws inculcated into him by parents, by 
elder brothers, or by friends ; but he best acquires 
a knowledge of them by breaking them unwittingly, 
and, though he may and probably does suffer in 
the process, it is all part of the discipline which, 
acting on his plastic character, moulds it into the 
accepted type. 

In the larger school of life the same process is 
at work if we would only recognise it. 

Much of the pain in the world is Attributable to 
man's misdirected ingenuity. He has always been 
prone to devise instruments of torture and methods 
of punishment that involve suffering. The rack, 
the wheel on which criminals were broken, the 
scourge, the martyr's pyre, the tread-mill, to say 



THE CRUELTY OF MAN 211 

nothing of the thousand and one devilish devices of 
the Chinese torturers, were all man-made ; and 
there is little doubt that the suffering inflicted by 
man upon man far exceeds in amount as well as in 
severity all the pain that has come to mankind from 
the operation of natural laws. As a nation we are 
accustomed to take pride in our civilisation, but 
the student of our social history knows that our 
civilisation was very slow to rid itself of studied 
cruelty. No one can read of the appallingly brutal 
punishments inflicted upon our sailors a century 
ago, or upon the soldiers who fought for us at 
Waterloo or in the Crimea, without his blood being 
chilled with horror. Man, who is sometimes tempted 
to think that God is malevolent, can be, and often 
has shown himself to be, more cruel than the arch- 
fiend. 

We are slow pupils, and learn the lessons that 
are prepared for us haltingly and incompletely. 
This is true of the laws of health as well as of the 
larger laws of nature. But when we have learned, 
and care to follow with scrupulous observance, the 
proper conduct of life, and regulate our hours of 
work, our hours of recreation, the nature and 
frequency of our meals, and those many activities 
that are part and parcel of our daily lives, our pain 
or suffering will be reduced to a minimum. 

A difficulty that invariably confronts any one who 
directs his attention to the problem of pain is the 
suffering of little children. They are so helpless, 
so irresponsible for the ordering of their lives, and 
so very sensitive, that the pain they may be called 
upon to bear seems inexplicable on any basis of the 

15 



212 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

right government of the world. It is little conso- 
lation to a child to suggest that it is suffering in 
order that the sympathies of older people may 
be quickened. I do not put it forward as the 
supreme reason for the sufferings of the young, 
but we must realise that through the pain of some 
children the sufferings of others have been assuaged. 
Any parent who has watched his own child tossing 
with fever- lit eyes in the throes of 'lome painful and 
serious illness will for ever after feel the claim of 
hospitals for poor children. If there had been no 
suffering among the children of the rich there 
would have been many fewer institutions for the 
relief of the pain of the poor. 

We must not forget that much of the pain of 
children is brought about by wrong methods of 
nurture, or through carelessness, stupidity, and 
unnecessary exposure to infection by their elders. 
It is the old sequence once more : the broken law 
the inevitable consequence. And, though it may 
be urged that the law is broken by the child's 
guardians, and the child suffers, while the guardian 
escapes, we must not forget ihat the mental pain, 
and the anxiety, amounting almost to torture, which 
any one feels when a child they love is seriously ill 
redeems the suffering from being altogether vicarious. 
With our present limited knowledge the problem is 
insoluble, but we may rest assured that the pain 
of little children is no empty demonstration of 
vindictive power, but is something with a purpose 
behind it. 

Most of the natural processes of life are unaccom- 
panied by pain. A healthy individual should be 






NATURAL FUNCTIONS AND PAIN 213 

quite unaware of the activities of his digestive 
organs, the expansion and contraction of his lungs, 
and the many other physiological activities of his 
economy. Pain, appearing as a feature of what are 
normal functional processes, is a sign that all is not 
well. But there is one great exception, so striking 
that, in the dawn of civilisation, it was explained 
as an evidence of divine displeasure. Why should 
a mother suffer so intensely in the performance of 
what, after all, is a natural function, the bearing 
of children ? This is a mystery as old as the human 
race, and its answer is not an easy one. Maternal 
love is a thing deep-rooted in primitive instincts ; 
but there is little doubt that we hold dearest those 
things we have suffered to win, and if child-bearing 
were as simple a thing as growing flowers in a 
garden it is possible that maternal love, which is 
the prototype on earth of the high love of God, would 
not be an emotion so rich and beautiful. It receives 
a sacramental grace from suffering. 

In some women the experience of motherhood 
awakens a compassion that embraces all suffering 
humanity. Let us hear a woman speak. I quote 
from Robert Elsmere. Catherine is slowly groping 
her way back to health after the birth of her little 
daughter. Her husband is sitting by her in the 
September twilight. She says : " Robert, I cannot 
put it out of my head. I cannot forget it, the pain 
of the world ! " 

" It seems," she went on, with that difficulty 
which a strong nature always feels in self-revela- 
tion, " to take the joy even out of our love and 
the child. I feel ashamed that mere physical pain 



214 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

should have laid such hold on me and yet I can't 
get away from it. It's not for myself ; " and she 
smiled faintly at him. " Comparatively I had so 
little to bear ! But I know now for the first time what 
physical pain may mean and I never knew before ! 
I lie thinking, Robert, about all creatures in pain 
workmen crushed by machinery, or soldiers' or 
poor things in hospital above all, of women ! Oh, 
when I get well, how I will take care of the women 
here ! . . . Oh, to give all one is, or ever can be, 
to comforting ! And yet the great seat of it one 
can never touch. It is a nightmare I am weak 
still, I suppose ; I don't know myself ; but I can 
see nothing but jarred, tortured creatures every- 
where. All my own joys and comforts seem to lift 
me selfishly above the common lot." 

As with so many, her personal share in common 
suffering had taught her to see the universal need. 
She was bound more closely to her fellows in affec- 
tion and sympathy by this common bond. She 
was beginning to interpret the eternal lesson of pain. 

But some part of the suffering of motherhood is 
not an inseparable concomitant of that natural 
function. The more artificial the life a woman leads, 
and the further she departs from nature in her 
manner of living, the more painful and perilous 
becomes the pilgrimage to the goal of her desire. 
It is rare for a primitive woman to suffer in any- 
thing like the same degree as a woman brought up 
in the hot-house atmosphere of an artificial civilisa- 
tion. For the primitive woman, too, motherhood 
has its pangs, but they are rarely intolerable ; and 
when woman discovers and practises the proper 



MENTAL ANGUISH 215 

rules of life, the sufferings of maternity will be 
materially reduced. Pain is a consequence of the 
endeavour of life to adapt itself to its surroundings. 
When the adaptation is perfect there is no pain. 
This general principle is well exemplified in the 
sufferings of maternity. The child of highly civilised 
parents is likely to be born with a head somewhat 
out of proportion to the diameters of those bony 
channels through which it must pass ; and this 
disproportion entails longer and more intense suffer- 
ing for the mother. So long as women are content 
to develop their brains, and leave the physical 
development of their bodies to chance, their suffer- 
ings are likely to continue. But, let it be set down 
in all gratitude to those who have shown us the 
way, the more intolerable pains of motherhood 
may be assuaged and indeed lulled into absolute 
quietness by such a drug as chloroform. It is not 
the only anodyne that may be used for this pur- 
pose, but probably it is the safest and best alike 
for mother and child, and it has been an inestimable 
boon to suffering womankind. 

So far I have said nothing of that other kind of 
suffering, as widely distributed and as poignant as 
physical pain, namely, mental anguish. Recent 
research has proved that mental pain is as real a 
thing as physical pain, for both are associated with 
precisely the same structural alterations in the 
cells of the cerebral cortex. But mental pain is a 
subtler thing than physical pain, and it may have 
disastrous consequences from which, as a rule, 
physical pain is free. Few cases, even of acute and 
prolonged physical pain, result in serious deteriora- 



216 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

tion of health, or end by unseating the reason. 
Indeed, it has frequently been remarked that severe 
neuralgia may continue for a long period without 
any marked loss of physical condition on the part 
of the patient. But mental pain the agony of 
torn and tortured affections, the acid-bite of re- 
morse of conscience, the day-long, night-long 
hunger of love unrequited, the hideous uncertainty 
as to the fate of some loved one, the shattering of 
hopes, the blind despair of unfulfilled desire, the 
darkening of the horizon through the loss of one's 
faith may have profound effects, and produce 
such changes in the brain that for a time the higher 
functions of the mind are seriously interfered with, 
and the reason reels. 

Except in such cases as its function is essentially 
diagnostic or remedial, physical pain is more bene- 
ficial to the community than to the sufferer ; while 
mental pain is beneficial unless it is so severe as 
to upset the balance of the mind primarily to the 
individual, and secondarily through the effect it 
has upon his character, to those with whom he is 
brought into contact. Physical pain in another 
stimulates the sympathy of those around him, and 
quickens their intelligence to devise means of 
alleviating his suffering or discovering means 
whereby others may be saved from a like experience. 
It acts upon the sufferer in the way of making him 
more sympathetic to others in like circumstances 
with himself. He does not forget his own hour of 
trial, and, as George Eliot has said : " Pain must 
enter into its glorified life of memory before it can 
turn into compassion." 



THE FRUITS OF PAIN 217 

Mental pain is often a secret thing."" It' does not 
make the same clamant appeal to those around 
the sufferer, who hides " the pageant of a bleeding 
heart " within his breast. But out of it he may 
win two things. He may either emerge from the 
fire warped and embittered in character ; or, as 
more often happens, he comes out as pure gold. 
Everything in life that is worth possession has 
come to us through pain. Life itself was won for 
us through pain, and for all the things that hallow 
life men have suffered and died. Liberty, freedom 
of thought, all that is best in literature, art, and song 
is stained with the blood and tears of souls that knew 
suffering, and filched from it those treasures they 
have given us to enjoy. Man's pain has meant his 
progress. Through it he has learned more than 
pleasure could ever teach him. The existence of 
suffering is a mystery, but without it earth would 
be a joyless place, and man would be without one 
of the greatest aids he has towards the perfecting 
of his character. 

In moments of depression we are apt to imagine 
that we are like the starling in The Sentimental 
Journey, whose cry " I can't get out ! " may be 
regarded as the wail of a soul that has bidden fare- 
well to hope. But this is the creed of pessimism. 
As human beings, we must be prepared to shoulder 
our share of pain until perfect knowledge shall 
entitle us to lay it down. At this hour of the 
world's trial human pain and human suffering are 
more widespread and more urgent than they have 
ever been since the world began. All Europe is 
gripped by the hook of agony. Rachel is weeping 



2i8 THE MYSTERY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING 

for her children, and fathers who remember the 
glad and confident smile with which their boy set 
out to war are repeating in the silent chambers of 
their heart the psalmist's lament, " Would God I 
had died for thee : My son ! My son ! " What 
can it all mean ? How can all this human suffering 
be transmuted into terms of moral value ? How 
can it be justified ? How can it be explained ? Is 
there any light hi the dark heart of the mystery ? 
There is : and the light comes from those 
little white crosses which stand sentinel in 
Flanders' Fields above the dauntless dead. A 
wooden cross ! To each, that symbol makes its 
own appeal and carries its own message. For some 
it is nothing more than a suitable and uniform 
symbol for marking a soldier's grave. To others 
it means infinitely more. It commemorates a vic- 
tory won through suffering and pain. It stands 
as the eternal witness to a tragedy, but it was no 
hopeless tragedy, since it bore within it the seeds 
of a Resurrection and of the grandest human hope. 
It is and was a symbol of triumph, and a per- 
petual memorial of the unity in suffering that binds 
God and His creatures together. The mystery of 
pain loses its perplexity when we remember that, 
though man suffers, God has Himself come within 
the orbit of a like experience. 

" The cry of man's anguish went up unto God ; 

' Lord, take away pain 
The shadow that darkens the world Thou hast made, 

The close coiling chain 
That strangles the heart, the burden that weighs 

On the wings that would soar. 
Lord, take away pain from the world Thou hast made. 

That it love Thee the more.' 



CHRIST AND THE CROSS 219 

" Then answered the Lord to the cry of the world : 

' Shall I take away pain, 
And with it the power of the soul to endure, 

Made strong by the strain ? 
Shall I take away pity, that knits heart to heart, 

And sacrifice high ? v 

Will ye lose all your heroes that lift from the fire 

White brows to the sky ? 
Shall I take away love, that redeems with a price 

And smiles r.t its loss ? 
Can ye spare from your lives, that would climb into Mine, 

The Christ on His Cross ? '" 



THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 



321 



They also serve who only stand and wait." 

Milton, " Sonnet on his Blindness." 

And not by eastern windows only, 

When daylight comes, comes in the light ; 

In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly I 
But westward, look, the land is bright." 

Arthur Hugh Clough. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

GOOD health is a blessing ; ill-health may be a 
discipline. Few men or women succeed in living 
their lives from the cradle to the grave without 
some interlude spent upon a sick-bed. Our infini- 
tesimal foes, the disease-producing germs, lying 
await for us everywhere, may succeed in invading 
the citadel of our bodies at a moment when our 
natural defences are weakened. Or accident may 
plunge us from the rose-flushed mountain-top of 
vigorous health into the abyss and darkness of 
many a month of weary, couch-chained suffering. 
When the fight with disease is at its hottest there is 
little opportunity for cultivating those graces of 
character and mind that often flourish so beauti- 
fully in the atmosphere of sickness and personal 
suffering. But when the battle has begun to turn, 
when the convalescent awakes each day with a 
renewed feeling of well-being ; when every sense 
reawakens tempered to a new keenness ; when 
every little commonplace and familiar thing in the 
room is touched with a fresh light ; when the per- 
fume of flowers is like a eucharistic benediction, 
and even a drink of cold water reveals a new, 
unknown, and hitherto unappreciated savour of 
223* 



224 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

pure delight, then the discipline of sickness has 
begun to blossom into beauty. 

In these days we live at such high pressure 
that nothing but the seclusion of a sick-room affords 
us the opportunity of indulging in the almost 
extinct habit of reflection. It is there that a man 
can turn his thoughts from the outside world of 
material things, which, after all, are the lesser 
things, and, looking into his own soul, see what 
manner of man he really is. Many a compass has 
been adjusted in the silent hours of the night in 
a darkened sick-room, and many a course has been 
charted that has made for the happiness not only 
of the individual TDut of humanity. It may be 
the weakness that so frequently follows an illness, 
or it may be what the mystics called the purgative 
effect of suffering, but there is something in convales- 
cence which makes an individual more susceptible 
to finer impressions. The spiritual fire flares up 
when it is least choked by -the dross of the body. 
We see the beacon-fire more clearly in the darkness 
than in the full noon. The stars are in the sky 
all day, but they are invisible to our limited vision, 
unless we gaze upwards from some dark chasm, 
deep as a pitshaft. 

- More men than Newman have risen from a sick- 
bed to follow the gleam. That sweet and gracious 
personality, perplexed, distraught, entangled in a 
mesh of doubt, found on a sick-bed the fire of a 
new zeal. On his way home, after his journey to 
the Eastern Mediterranean with his friend Hurrell 
Froude, he was struck down by a violent fever at 
Leonforte in Sicily. He succeeded in reaching 



THE INFLUENCE OF SICKNESS 225 

Castra Giovanni, where he was ill for nearly three 
weeks. On his recovery he set off for Palermo, and 
he tells how, " Before starting from my inn on the 
morning of May 26th or 27th I sat down on my 
bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who 
had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I 
could only answer, ' I have a work to do for Eng- 
land ! ' ' His sick- chamber had been a temple of 
revelation. It had been what the road to Damascus 
was to St. Paul a meeting-place with God. 

An interesting book might be written to show 
how sickness, which has left behind it a permanent 
physical disability of some sort, has influenced the 
whole subsequent life of some of the world's greatest 
men. Homer, we are told, was blind. But it is 
unlikely that this blindness dated from his birth 
for the exquisite appositeness of the descriptive 
terms which he applied to the beautiful things of 
nature cannot have been acquired at second-hand. 
The "rosy-fingered dawn," the "hoary sea," the 
" milk-white arms " of Helen, the " ox-eyes " of 
Athene, and all the natural beauties of the Isle 
of Calypso, so perfectly depicted, must have been 
visual memories, stored up, loved : and recalled with 
a kind of holy joy from the hidden recesses of the 
mind of one whom sickness or accident had made 
blind. Such things were not imagined ; they 
must have been seen, and seen by him who first 
wove them into the fabric of his spoken verse 
and seen again in the atmosphere of imagination 
with the clarified vision of one for whom physical 
sight was only a memory. 

John Calvin, one of the profoundest thinkers and 



226 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

most voluminous writers that ever lived, had his 
outlook on life much influenced by all that he 
suffered in his body. He was a martyr to gout, he 
suffered also from stone and from biliary colic, he 
had frequent attacks of asthma and eczema, and 
there is little doubt that his whole theological out- 
look was tinctured by the influence of his ill-health. 
It tended to make him despondent. For many 
generations Calvin's theology completely dominated 
Protestantism. Until recently it held almost un- 
disputed sway in the religious life of Scotland, Wales, 
the evangelical section of the Church of England, 
the north of Ireland, Holland, and North America. 
It was founded largely upon the Pauline Epistles, 
but in his interpretations of the teachings of St. 
Paul he went farther than his master. It is hardly 
to be wondered at that a man who was called 
upon to suffer such constant and intolerable anguish 
in his frail body should have come to throw more 
emphasis on the juridical aspect of the divine 
character than on the divine love. 

There is little doubt that if Calvin's health had 
been better his outlook on life and his interpreta- 
tions of the decrees of God would have been brighter. 
One is shocked to think of the age-long mental 
suffering that Calvin's doctrines of Predestination 
and Election riveted upon the minds of the religious 
who were brought up in the atmosphere of his 
theology. 

Sir Walter Scott was lame, an attack of illness 
when he was a child, barely two years old, leaving 
him with a permanently weak ankle. The litera- 
ture of high romance owes more than is generally 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 227 

known to that attack of infantile paralysis. When 
all the vaunted surgical and medical skill of Edin- 
burgh could do no more for the child he was sent 
to Sandyknowe, his grandfather's farm, in the hope 
that the purer air of the country might accomplish 
what science knew not how to do. 

Nature failed to restore the withered limb. The 
child, however, improved greatly in health. But 
for that stricken limb it is almost certain that Scott 
would have become a soldier, and have fought 
under Wellington in the Napoleonic wars, when a 
bullet or a sabre-stroke might have put an end 
to his career before he had written a line. But his 
infantile illness did more for literature than merely 
to save Scott from the hazards of war. 

His grandfather's shepherd, Sandy Ormiston, 
developed a strong affection for the delicate child, 
and used to carry him out on to the hills and lay 
him on his plaid on a sunny slope, where he would 
lie by the hour with the sheep and the lambs crop- 
ping the scanty grass round his resting-place. As 
he lay there this gentle shepherd would croon to 
him snatches of old Scotch songs, and tell him 
fragments of oft-told Border tales. 

And in his poetry, his novels, and his Tales of 
a Grandfather, Scott in after-years was simply giving 
back to the world the ripened fruit that had sprung 
from the seeds sown in his receptive and fertile 
mind by the discerning love of this worthy old 
shepherd. Scott himself never forgot this indebted- 
ness, and pays a tribute to it in Marmion : 



Thus while I ape the measures wild 
Of tales that charmed me as a child, 



16 



228 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

Rude though they be, still with the chime 
Return the thoughts of early time : 
And feelings, roused in life's first day, 
Glow in the line, and prompt the lay ; 
Then rise those crags, that mountain tower 
Which charm'd my fancy's wakening hour." 

The subject is one that might with advantage be 
pursued further ; but not in this place. 

There are certain characters which are not im- 
proved by the discipline of sickness, but under it 
become querulous, self-centred, and morose. Always 
some porcelain cracks in the furnace. But such 
people are in a minority, and very few come out of 
the sick-room with their outlook on life completely 
unaltered. A man who has never been ill before 
and who is suddenly caught in the toils tends at 
first to resent this forcible interruption of his 
activities ; but gradually he learns to be patient, 
and his heart is touched with a new sympathy for 
others less fortunate than himself to whose lot 
more sickness falls. The understanding begotten 
of personal experience quickens his mind to pity. 
The appeal of weakness and helplessness is to him 
ever afterwards clamant and insistent. He can no 
longer shut his ears and harden his heart. He, too, 
has tasted of the waters of Marah, and found them 
bitter. 

But, however much may be gained by the sufferer 
from the discipline of a single illness, it is in the grey 
ranks of that large fraternity who are the victims 
of chronic or incurable ailments that we best see 
how good may come of evil. There can be few 
things harder to bear than the dawning knowledge 
coming to a man or woman in the mid- time of their 



THE HEROISM OF THE SICK-ROOM 229 

activities that, for them, participation in the 
battle of life is over, and that henceforth they can 
be nothing more than spectators. When the first 
storm of rebellion has died down in their hearts they 
discover that, though they are withdrawn from the 
general fray, they have a battle all their own to 
fight. And it is a battle that requires patience as 
well as fortitude' high spirit and self-sacrifice. 

The world heaps its honours and rewards, and 
rightly, upon some of those who, amid the clang of 
arms and the roar of guns, do deeds of superb 
heroism. But there are no rewards, except the 
love and admiration of their friends, for those who 
fight a stern battle with themselves in the arena of 
their sick-room ; and the heroism needed to brace 
a man for this silent conflict is often greater than 
that demanded on the battle-field. At first there 
may be a tendency to self-pity, but by and by this 
pity dissolves into a wider compassion that encom- 
passes all suffering folk. At first the spirit chafes 
against the enforced inaction of the body and its 
separation from so many of the things in which 
it took delight. But soon new avenues of enjoy- 
ment open before the wondering eyes, and the 
impotent man discovers that the world in which he 
had lived was only a small corner of the Universe 
all of which is ready to minister to his solace. 
Through his window, in the dark and sleepless 
nights, he can catch glimpses of the stars those 
eternal, silent witnesses of man's battle upon the 
earth. He can watch the diamonded belt of 
Orion ; see fresh beauties in every wreath of cloud- 
wrack driven across the sky ; watch, night by 



230 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

night, expectantly, the moon grow from a silver 
sickle to a great and brilliant orb, and find, as many 
a skin-clad shepherd in Palestine found in the 
childhood of the world, " The heavens declare the 
glory of God." 

Then little simple things come to him with a fresh 
appeal. He watches the birds ; they may become 
to him, as to St. Francis, his little brothers. He 
looks eagerly to see the first wave of cherry-blossom 
break in spray upon the branches, and, having 
found it, he will point it out delightedly to his next 
visitor. And when nature fails him he can turn 
to the world of books. He reads old favourites over 
again with a new zest, and finds in them subtle 
beauties hitherto undiscovered. That old ode of 
Horace, that poem of Browning, that novel 01 Scott, 
that essay of Ruskin, that letter of Stevenson, all 
glow with a fresh allurement ; he never found such 
treasure in them before. And then there are the 
visits of his friends, each bringing his little trophy 
of news from the market-place his little shred of 
kindly gossip his good story, his helpful handgrip. 
Somehow all has changed. There are delights in 
life he had never dreamed ot joys, whose full savour 
he had never before tasted. And yet nothing has 
changed but the man himself : for, as Thackeray 
said, ' ' The world is a looking-glass, and gives back 
to every man the reflection of his own face." 

So, out of the turmoil and fret of his soul, there 
springs a great contentment, and the courage to 
look with brave and undaunted eyes forward along 
the road of life. 

One sometimes hears it said of this or that doctor 



HOLY GROUND 231 

that he carries into a sick-room a message of good 
cheer and hope, and it is given to some men to 
radiate from their personality an influence which 
sometimes does more good to the patient than the 
prescription' of doubtful Latinity that they leave 
behind them. But we rarely hear of the influence 
of the patient upon the physician. Yet there are 
few who will deny that they have sometimes brought 
more out of a sick-room than they ever took into it. 
It is a sanctuary wherein they have communed 
with a great soul, they have been illumined by some 
of its radiance, they have caught a glimpse of 
" the light that never was on sea or land." 

There are some sick-rooms that should always be 
entered with feet unshod. 

That suffering can teach lessons in high altruism 
is obvious from the records of many a casualty 
clearing station at no great distance behind the 
front line. It is there that the terribly wounded 
first have the opportunity of receiving adequate 
surgical aid ; and it is there that many a man has 
had the opportunity, and leaped to meet it, of 
putting into practice one lesson his own sickness 
had taught him the lesson of divine compassion. 
Sometimes when a patient reaches one of these 
stations he has lost so much blood that there is barely 
enough in his body to keep the vital spark aflame. 
In such a case it is the custom to perform an opera- 
tion called transfusion, and to introduce into his 
almost empty vessels a quantity of fresh blood 
from another individual. Sometimes a nurse or a 
doctor is the giver of blood ; but more often, when 
the call for a volunteer is made, another soldier, 



232 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

now convalescent from his injuries, willingly makes 
the sacrifice. It is not a specially dangerous thing 
to do, nor is it, as the Army reckons things, a great 
thing to do ; but it has in it the elements of nobility, 
and it is part of the nobility stamped upon the 
common clay of humanity by the discipline of 
sickness, and the lesson of compassion for all in like 
case learned by one who himself has known weak- 
ness almost unto death. The spirit of Sir Philip 
Sidney is not yet dead. You may find it in a lad 
from the slums. 

In the aftermath of war we shall have to reckon 
with a harvest gathered by the sick and wounded 
from the discipline of their pain. That the discipline 
has wrought and is working its effects is sufficiently 
apparent to any one with the eyes to see who has 
been privileged, in however small a way, to minister 
to these stricken men. 

It is unfortunate that none of those statesmen 
whose policy sometimes precipitates war, and who 
hold in their hands the destinies of nations and the 
lives of men, ever visit the wards of a war hospital 
at night. When they do come, they make their 
visits by day, and, as a rule, see things under ex- 
ceptional and to some extent artificial circumstances. 
They see the wounded and sick smiling, cheerful, and 
happy. Their one desire, according to the press 
correspondent who expands upon the visit and, 
incidentally, upon the glories of war and the heroism 
of the men, is to get well, in order to have another 
shot at the enemy. Other things besides gun- 
positions may be camouflaged. But let them 
come at night, unexpectedly and unannounced, 



THE HIDEOUSNESS OF WAR 233 

and by the light of a hurricane lamp carried by the 
sister for, thank God, the lady with the lamp is 
still walking through the aisles of pain pass quietly 
from bed to bed. Some of the men are asleep. 
Others are awake, staring with open eyes at the 
bellying roof of the tent above them. Sometimes 
they cannot sleep for pain. That can be alleviated. 
Sometimes, if you ask them, they will say that they 
are all right, and are only thinking. These eager, 
wakeful, watching eyes haunt one. What are they 
thinking of ? I fancy I know. Are they thinking 
of death ? Not once in a thousand cases. They 
have looked that grim monarch in the face without 
flinching ; they have companied with him in the 
trenches, and have ceased to fear him. Are they 
thinking of their loved ones ? Yes : very often, 
and very tenderly. But most frequently, I believe, 
the burden of their thoughts is the appalling 
hideousness of war. Through their wounds or their 
sickness they have escaped for a time from the 
hell in which they had been living ; but the memory 
of it its sordidness, its grossness, its brutality is 
still quivering in their minds. They rarely speak 
of things, but they often recall them ; they cannot 
blot them out of their memory, and the thoughts 
persist in coming back in the still watches. 

While they were living through their experiences 
they had not the time to reflect. But now they 
have time and opportunity, and thought will 
have its way. 

And who are these men? Not uneducated and 
uncultured denizens of the slums, but the pick and 
flower of British manhood, representatives of every 



234 THE DISCIPLINE OF SICKNESS 

creed and of all classes. The son of the landed 
proprietor may be in the next bed to the clerk 
from the city bank ; the university graduate is side 
by side with the porter from the warehouse ; the 
poet and visionary is a near neighbour to the 
casual labourer ; and all, each according to the 
measure of his capacity, is thinking, thinking, think- 
ing, and storing up his conclusions to be the fount 
of action some day in the future. They have seen, 
they know, they remember the utter hideousness 
of war, and they recognise its criminal stupidity, 
its insensate blindness. They recall how, before 
the cataclysm, the demagogue from his cheap plat- 
form, the brilliant journalist in his leading articles, 
aye, even the preacher in his pulpit, could dilate upon 
the glories of war ; how war was a test of endur- 
ance, a toughener of moral fibre, a school for heroes, 
a nursery of self-sacrifice as though these graces 
of character could not be engendered, could not 
flourish in some more gentle atmosphere ! 

They are weighing the good against the evil. 
They are seeing the shattered homes in Flanders 
and on the plains of Northern Italy ; the pathetic, 
hopeless retreat of old men and women whose 
little cottages are in ruins ; they are hearing the 
cries of ravished women and the forlorn wail of lost 
and terrified little children. They are remembering 
the blood and filth, the death, the mutilation, the 
irreparable destruction of useful human lives ; men 
blinded, men driven mad, men blown to pieces, men 
maimed for all the rest of their days. And when, 
in the dead of night, the stretcher-bearers quietly 
enter the ward, and from a bed, hidden by the 



WEIGHED IN THE BALANCES 235 

kindly shelter of two screens, lift a lifeless burden 
somebody's boy, some woman's loved one and, 
covering it reverently with the flag, bear it silently 
down the alley-way and through the canvas door, 
they turn their sleepless heads upon their pillows, 
and in their hearts salute the undying dead. The 
balance moves, and the scale on the side of evil 
touches the ground. 

These silent, sleepless, thinking men are the blood- 
less revolutionaries of to-morrow. It is they who 
will, when the war is over, establish permanent 
peace upon the earth. They will see to it that 
never again in their time or the time of their chil- 
dren's children shall international quarrels be put 
to the harsh arbitrament of the sword. It is good 
to defend a righteous cause, and to die for the 
right, if need be ; but it ought to be made an im- 
possibility for any autocrat, or any blood-intoxi- 
cated nation, sedulously to plot such evil that 
innocent men must die to re-establish right. 
Tyrannies and despotisms must cease ; and in days 
to come these wakeful, silent thinkers will be the 
chief agents in bringing about those larger concep- 
tions of humanity and international brotherhood 
that will make war an impossibility. They will be 
coadjutors with God in winning out of catastrophe 
the fruits of moral order and moral progress. 



LOVE AND MARRIAGE 



237 



'"Guess now who holds thee ? ' ' Death,' I said; but there 
The silver answer rang ' Not Death, but Love.' " 

E. B. Browning, " Sonnets from the Portuguese." 

" The soul's armour is never well set to the heart unless a 
woman's hand has braced it ; and it is only when she braces it 
loosely that the honour of manhood fails." Ruskin, " Sesame 
and Lilies." 



238 



CHAPTER XIII 



LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

LET it be said at once, and frankly the basis of all 
love between a man and a woman is, unless it be filial 
or parental love, sex-instinct. Fortunately, however, 
though it is imbedded in this elementary instinct, 
the passion may be so sublimed by imagination, and 
by the atmosphere of romance and idealism which it 
engenders, that its sexual origin is lost sight of. It 
may be, and often is, the motive power which lifts a 
man or a woman from baseness to nobility. It is one 
of the mightiest forces in moulding character, arid 
without it, and all that it connotes, society would 
tend to crash headlong into anarchy. Under heaven 
there is nothing holier or higher than true human 
love. It illumines the darkest corners of life, and 
transmutes the commonplace into the divine. 

There is a fundamental difference between the 
love of a man and the love of a woman. In nature 
the male is the aggressor, ready to fight and vanquish 
all rivals. Among primitive men, before civilisation 
had fashioned their conduct, the same principle 
held good, and a man fought for or stole his bride. 

The mollifying influence of time and culture has 
made it unnecessary, except among savage peoples, 
to have recourse to such brutal expedients ; but, in 

239 



*4<> LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

the way of love, a man still shows evidences of 
traits derived from a long-forgotten and vanished 
ancestry. Under the influence of the subtle passion 
his personality becomes more dominant. He lives 
on the tip-toe of being. His finer qualities surge 
up from hidden depths. His mind is quickened. 
Consciously or unconsciously he seeks to make a 
good impression on the object of his love. He is 
seized by an intense desire so to impress his per- 
sonality upon her mind that she may think of no 
one but himself. He can brook no rival. This is 
the feverish stage of love in which his remote 
ancestor, primitive man, would have sharpened 
his arrows. His modern successor instead takes 
to writing verses. Later, when he finds that his 
overtures are not altogether unacceptable, he 
develops other traits. He begins to deny himself 
to think out little artifices of kindness that may 
give pleasure to the woman he loves. He foresees 
and forestalls her wishes. He tries to alter his 
habits of life in accordance with her desires, ex- 
pressed or only guessed at. And all the while he is 
tortured by a longing to possess her ; to merge his 
life with hers, to have a common existence. 

By tradition and upbringing the love that first 
dawns in a young woman's heart is a thing to be 
kept secret. She must not be so unmaidenly as to 
seek her loved one. She must wait until he declares 
himself ; whereon hangs one of the great tragedies 
of the life of womankind. But there are ways 
and means, and love is a clever preceptor. At first 
she tends to become reserved and somewhat self- 
centred. She is, through atavism, the bride to be, 



A WOMAN'S LOVE 241 

waiting for the result of the conflict of which she is 
at once the prize and the spectator. She nurses 
her secret thought in her heart, until gradually it 
asserts itself and vibrates through all her being. 
Her eyes gleam with a new light. There is a fresh 
spring in her step, and if she finds as lovers can 
that she is loved by the man she adores, she enters 
upon a new cycle of life. Her whole world assumes 
a new value. She lives in an atmosphere of dreams. 
She is uplifted with a great pride, shot through 
with a tender humility, that this miracle of love 
should have come to her. She is possessed by the 
image of her beloved. The tones of his voice, his 
every gesture the visual memory of his features, 
his personality fills her mind and there is no room 
for another. She clothes her lover with lofty attri- 
butes, and it is perhaps well for man that every 
woman in love is an idealist, for she sees him not 
as he really is, a very ordinary human creature, at 
the best made of common clay, but as something 
a " little lower than the angels/' made beautiful in 
body and soul by her imagination. 

Now that woman has received her emancipation, 
and has been made a participator in many of those 
activities of life that were too long regarded as the 
prerogative by divine right of man, there is less of 
the old atavistic relation in the matter of love, of 
aggressive, combative, and conquering male, and 
shrinking, captive woman. A woman now meets 
her lover on more equal terms. He is no longer the 
potential houselord, and she the subservient kneader 
of dough. Only a weak man, uncertain of his own 
authority, wishes to dominate woman. Only a 



242 LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

soul-less woman places herself under the heel of a 
man. Men and women of character respect each 
other, and respect is no hinderer of love. Nowadays 
a man and woman meet as two human beings, com- 
plementary to each other, neither of whom can 
without the other fulfil their destiny. But romance 
is not yet dead, and love still rules and guides their 
hearts to seek each other. And, having found each 
other, a man and woman in love are seized with a 
great desire ; a longing for the permanent con- 
tinuance of the wonderful passion that has already 
drawn them together. They hunger for the blending 
of therr individual lives into a common whole ; 
they long for the opportunity of sharing together 
whatever of good or ill life may have to offer ; they 
are consumed by a desire to be mutually helpful 
to each other -he to shelter her, she to succour 
and solace him when the storms of life buffet him. 
For, though it is rooted in sex-instinct, love is a thing 
of high moral value, and teaches lessons of loyalty, 
of self-sacrifice, and of spiritual fellowship. Where 
it does not kindle such aspirations it is not the 
divine flame, but some rushlight imitation which 
soon dies down. But where it is the fire from 
heaven it burns through all obstacles, and cannot 
be beaten back until love consummates itself in 
union. 

The happiest marriages are those in which there 
is a slight temperamental difference between the 
contracting parties, but a strong community of 
interest. The difference in temperament should 
not be great enough to be capable of growing into 
an antagonism, and the community of interest 



A HAPPY MARRIAGE 243 

should be one in which there is no identity of 
achievement, or overlapping of talent, but rather 
a complementary contribution from the one to the 
other to make a perfect whole. For an ideal mar- 
riage a spiritual affinity is a primary necessity ; 
and that wedded life may be a success a large 
understanding and an immeasurable sympathy are 
indispensable. The absence of these qualities in 
a man or woman who have pledged their troth to 
each other may lead to disaster. The first year of 
married life is probably the most difficult. It is 
like a mine- strewn sea that requires skilful naviga- 
tion. 

The first shock of wonder at an unexpected 
revelation of character may lead to a pitiful estrange- 
ment, unless love is ever ready to forgive. 

At first, in a happy marriage, the lovers are all 
in all to each other. Their happiness is complete 
in itself. Their joy is a golden chalice filled with 
rich wine which they drink together. They live in 
two worlds : one in which other people are per- 
mitted to exist, and the other, a little hallowed 
sanctuary of their own, where none but they can 
enter. 

But gradually, when the fiercer glow of passion 
has died down into a steady fire, they begin to 
recognise that love has large responsibilities. They 
discover that their common life, which they have 
looked upon as such a perfect thing, is capable of 
even loftier perfection. A little dream hand knocks 
at the door of the woman's heart. It is the hour 
of her annunciation it is the moment for which 
the great Giver of Life has prepared her, fashioned 

17 



244 LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

her as a woman, and dowered her with those 
qualities of mind and body that attract love, and 
which have won her a mate. The sex-instinct 
becomes the mother-instinct, and she is consumed 
with a great desire to bear a child. This is to be 
the pledge and token of her love for her husband ; 
something very precious, the possession of neither, 
yet belonging to them both. 

The mother-instinct is one of the most beautiful 
attributes of a woman's character. It is the pos- 
session of all normally constituted women, though 
in many cases, except in so far as it exhibits itself 
in solicitude for her husband, it may lie dormant 
for a long period after marriage. Behind every- 
thing, even though a woman may be perfectly un- 
conscious of it, it is the spiritually directed motive 
force that has caused her to love. Though it is 
latent in all women, it is in some keenly alive from 
the time they grow to maturity. Such women 
often choose a mate not because they are carried 
off their feet by love for him, but because they 
recognise that a husband is an unfortunate necessity 
to enable them to realise their desires. They are, 
all the while, looking beyond him to their unborn 
children. The marriage of a man and woman 
where this ambition has been the alluring force 
upon her side is quite capable of being, and fre- 
quently continues to be, a very happy one. For 
many a man and woman have been drawn closely 
together, even when they were beginning to drift 
apart, by the all- compelling strength of a little 
child infinitely weak, but invincibly strong. 

Purely from the biological point of view, the goal 



PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES 245 

of love and the aim of marriage is the production 
of children. But, rightly interpreted, the purpose 
cannot be narrowed into such straitened limits 
The begetting of children entails other obligations, 
both to the children and to society. It is the duty 
of parents to feed, clothe, protect, educate, guide, 
and instruct their children alike by example and 
precept in such a way that they may be able to 
rise to the full heritage of their humanity, and 
take their part as thinking, capable and reasonable 
beings in the material and mental life of the world 
A recognition of these facts is the basis of that 
social and religious institution, the family. Certain 
people, who desire to put into practice the principles 
of a selfish individualism, hold that marriage should 
be nothing more than a matter of mutual consent 
between the contracting parties, in which every- 
thing is to be subordinated to the pleasure or con- 
venience of themselves ; the union to be broken at 
will, when the fires of the passion they wrongly call 
love have burned down. Such a system is anti- 
social, and is based upon a narrow egoism. To 
put it into practice would be to degrade human love 
from a high sacrament to the relations of the 
beasts in a stable. 

Wholesome family life is a buttress of social 
morality, and it is well that the appealing helpless- 
ness of a child at birth, which, unlike so many other 
young animals, can take no care of itself for many 
months, makes an irresistible claim on the affec- 
tion of both its parents. 

The love they had for each other assumes a deeper 
quality, and is enriched by this new possession in 



246 LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

which their affections meet and blend. If there 
were no love of parents for their children, and they 
neither trained them in the kindly atmosphere of 
the family, or, through the aid of other people better 
versed in the education of the young, but cast them 
out at the earliest possible moment to fend for 
themselves, each child would be compelled to fight 
its own battle with nature to live through, once 
more, the conflicts of primitive man, denied all 
access to the accumulated experience of the cen- 
turies driven to climb, with bleeding feet, a few 
steps up the hill of progress, and, baffled, fall back 
again. As we have already seen, man is distin- 
guished from the lower animals by the power of 
making use of the knowledge gathered by his an- 
cestors. That is one of the secrets of his progress, 
and parental. love and the institution of family life 
ensure that every child born with intelligence shall 
have the opportunity of benefiting by this great 
heritage. 

As life moves on, and other children come, the 
parents find in each succeeding child a fresh stimulus 
to their mutual affection. They may be unable to 
catch again the glorious rapture that came to them 
with their first-born, but the memory of it stirs 
within them. Love has lost its passion ; that fine 
flame dies down ultimately, when nature has no 
longer need of it, but its place is taken by a sense 
of loyal and dependent companionship, coloured by 
affection, which lasts till death breaks the union, 
"and which may, indeed, overstep the grave. As 
they grow older the love of a man and woman takes 
on a new quality, and in the case of a woman, if she 



THE GOAL OF LOVE 247 

is a mother, partly changes its direction. Her 
affection for her husband tends to sink a little into 
the background, though it is ready to leap forward 
again in the hour of his need. A great share of her 
love is now concentrated upon her children. They 
are his as well as hers, and in turning the full blaze 
of her affection upon them she is unaware that he 
is now relegated to a subordinate place. She sees 
him through them. If the matter were submitted 
to her she would probably deny it with passion 
and surprise, but the fact is obvious to any careful 
observer of human nature. 

The goal of love is the continuation of the race. 
That is the end toward which all human passion 
was intended to move. It is only when man blinds 
himself to this elementary fact that the consumma- 
tion of love is divorced from its legitimate purposes, 
and made to minister to selfish enjoyment. It is a 
wonderful provision that the strongest passion 
that humanity possesses, through which and by 
which men and women are called upon to fulfil 
their destiny and hand on the torch of life which 
has been passed down to them through countless 
generations, should be associated with all the 
loftiest attributes of mind and all the finer qualities 
of emotion. It is thus hedged about in order 
that its appeal may be universal ; that it may not 
fail of fulfilment alike among those in whom the 
carnal appetities are strong, and those of finer 
fibre in whom the psychic qualities of love burn with 
a white flame which blinds them to that other side 
that otherwise might repel them. 

So far we have dealt only with love that has 



248 LOVE AND MARRTAGE 

found its fulfilment in union. We must, however, 
recognise that there are lovers of both sexes to 
whom, for one reason or another, that consumma- 
tion is denied. Death may have intervened, or 
some other insuperable obstacle may have made 
marriage an impossibility. It is remarkable that, 
though more male than female children are born, 
by the tune adolescence is reached the disparity" 
is on the other side and there are more women than 
men. It is within the bounds of possibility for 
every man to find a mate ; but this happiness is 
denied to many million women, unless they are 
prepared to share the affection of the same man 
with some other woman. Polygamy may offer a 
solution among the semi-civilised, but it will never 
appeal to an educated and refined woman. 

The disparity in the relative proportion of the 
sexes, which has always existed, will be sharply 
accentuated by the war, which has destroyed so 
many of our finest young men. And it is a pathetic 
fact, though only a small part of the harvest of 
suffering which the war has brought to women, 
that a large number of the girls of this generation, 
well qualified by health, by character, and by in- 
stinct to be the mothers of men, will for ever be 
denied that ineffable joy. I never see a little 
wooden cross, with its simple inscription, and 
its heart-piercing " aged 22," without wondering 
whether beneath it lies a face that to some soli- 
tary, heart-broken girl was the face of an anger: 

Love unfulfilled, or love incapable of fulfilment, 
becomes love repressed ; and love repressed may 
have strange consequences. In the case of a man 



LOVE REPRESSED 249 

love repressed may endure for a long time until 
the obstacles that hindered its fulfilment can be 
overcome, and love can have its way. But more 
often it fails to stand the corroding test of time, 
and declines until it becomes nothing more to him 
than a pleasant memory to be turned over in his 
mind now and then, and dismissed with a shrug 
of the shoulders. It does not usually produce any 
change in his character except, perhaps, to make 
him cynical. But, in a woman, love repressed or 
denied the opportunity of fulfilling itself may have 
a profound effect upon her character. 

It may cause her to throw her energies into a 
crusade ; to become the champion of the rights of 
her sex, and to direct her physical and mental 
energies into well-intentioned channels, sometimes 
with misguided zeal. It must be a matter of satis- 
faction to all right-thinking men that woman has 
now got the vote. She has earned that privilege 
nobly. But every physician knows that, to some 
extent, the rabble of riotous women, clamouring 
for their rights, which a few years ago made our 
city streets the by-word and laughing-stock of 
Europe was recruited from women suffering under 
the disparity in the relative proportion of the sexes, 
and the consequent repression of that sex-instinct 
which underlies human love. And I have some- 
times thought that the wild displays of unwomanly 
violence, which stalwart policemen could not 
control, would have died down at the touch of 
the clinging arms of a little child, or the pressure of 
an infant's warm lips upon the breast. 

Be that as it may, the problem of the woman 



250 LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

doomed to an obligatory spinsterhood is likely to 
occupy considerable attention after the war. Many 
of these women, as they have done in times past, 
will spend themselves nobly in the service of others, 
and will find in the care and love they can lavish 
upon sick and crippled children in hospitals, homes, 
and institutions an outlet for the divine mother- 
feeling that, under happier circumstances, they 
would pour out upon their own little ones. Others 
will find occupation in the arena of business life. 
The war has opened up many avenues filled with 
new activities for women, and in these channels 
they will expend the energies that otherwise might 
have been employed in the rearing of a family. 
Some anaemic shadow of the love they could hav 
bestowed upon a husband they will devote to their- 
work ; but even the most prosaic among them 
will sometimes think of what might have been, 
and occasionally turn over the fragrant rose-leaves 
of old memories with a sigh that woman's crown 
of glory has been denied them. 

The opinion has been advanced not boldly and 
openly as yet, though that may come that it 
should be regarded as the inalienable right of every 
woman, married or unmarried, to have one child 
of her own. This is a plausible but most dangerous 
doctrine. It is dangerous because it fails to recog- 
nise the rights of the unborn child. The law might 
be persuaded to remove its " birth's invidious bar," 
but the child would be denied what it has the 
moral right to have, the sacred influence of family 
life and the possession of two recognised parents 
equally responsible for its upbringing and guidance. 



WOMAN AND THE HOME 351 

If such a proposal is ever made seriously, and 
is regarded as coming within the sphere of practical 
politics, it will be met with fierce opposition. The 
strongest opposition will come, not from men, but 
from women, married and unmarried. By instinct 
and heredity women are idealists. They are ruled 
by the " emotion of the ideal." Their social in- 
stinct is a surer and a higher thing than man's. 
The mother-heart in them teaches them to look 
rather to* the welfare of the race than to their own 
individual happiness. 

With vision alert and clear they would see the 
worm in the fruit, and would scornfully reject this 
proffered boon if it meant that their child was to 
be denied the privileges and amenities of a home 
such as children born in wedlock would enjoy. 
The home is the nursery of moral worth, and a 
perfect home implies the co-operation of two 
parents. Woman would see, with her marvellous 
intuitive gift, that this social experiment would, 
in its ultimate issue, be anti-social, and, as always, 
she would decide to sacrifice herself, and her innate 
desire for motherhood, rather than let the race 
suffer. It is to woman that we owe the institu- 
tion of the family. On foundations laid by her the 
whole superstructure of social life has been estab- 
lished. She saw the vision, and toiled to make 
her vision a reality. Not lightly will she raise an 
impious and destructive hand to tear down the 
fabric she has striven to build, and has consecrated 
with her suffering and tears. 

Love is of God. It softens the asperities of life ; 
it makes life possible, and ensures its continuance 



252 LOVE AND MARRIAGE 

and protection. And though it is, at bottom, 
intimately though unrecognised ly bound up with a 
selfish desire for the physical continuance of one's 
own being, it is the attribute of life which makes 
the greatest demand upon the spirit of self-sacrifice 
and self-abnegation. It is like a lily in the marsh. 
Its roots are in the mire, its pure face is turned up 
to heaven. The great Architect of the Universe 
might have chosen some other means than the 
fruition of love to ensure the continuance of human 
life upon the earth. But so it has been decreed ; 
and we frail creatures of the dust have reason to 
be thankful that the mystery of life is so bound up 
with the high sacrament of love. 






WORK 



Man hath his daily work of body or mind 
Appointed, which declares his dignity, 
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways ; 
While other animals inactive range." 

Milton, " Paradise Lost. 



3J4 



CHAPTER XIV 

WORK 

MAN is by nature a creature of inertia, but of 
necessity an energetic animal he works. There 
are advocates of the mechanical theory of life who 
regard the human body as nothing more than a 
great and complex power-station for the conversion 
of one form of energy into another, and for its 
direction into new channels. Just as a fire cannot 
burn without fuel, which it reduces to smoke, ashes 
and heat, so no muscle can contract, no limb 
move, no organ of the body discharge its function 
without the coincident destruction of some portion 
of organic material. 

In its destruction this organic material is reduced 
from complex to simpler forms, and in its descent 
liberates the energy which was potential within it. 
In order that the equilibrium of the organism may 
be preserved, the material reserve of this potential 
energy must be restored. It is made up by food, 
by water, and from the oxygen of the air. Before 
these constituents can be built up into the reserve- 
stuff of energy they must undergo modifications in 
the digestive and circulatory systems. When pro- 
perly modified they are incorporated in the reserve- 

233 



256 WORK 

stuff of the organ which needs them, be it liver, 
or heart, or muscle. They become an integral part 
of the living tissue through which ultimately their 
energy will express itself. The potential chemical 
energy in the reserve-stuff of the tissues may differ 
remarkably from that contained in the original 
food-stuff. This building up and storing of reserves 
of energy was called by Claude Bernard " Synthetic 
Organisation." 

" The organising synthesis," he says, " remains 
internal, silent, hidden in its phenomenal expres- 
sion, gathering noiselessly together the materials 
which will be expended." 

The wonderful cycle of phenomena in the genesis 
of clouds and the fall of rain is a matter of common 
knowledge. The sequence has already been de- 
scribed in these pages : from sea to cloud ; from 
cloud through dew or rain back to the sea once 
more. But there is another succession of phe- 
nomena equally wonderful, but much less known, 
in which the sun also plays the master part. The 
plant kingdom is the great builder up of energy, 
which is liberated in the form of work by the 
members of the animal kingdom. Through the 
magic influence of the sun the chlorophyll of plants 
can break up the carbonic-acid present in the 
atmosphere, and store up the carbon in their 
tissues. They can convert the inorganic into the 
organic. No animal is able to do this, and in this 
respect a man is less highly endowed than a blade 
of grass. Without the vegetable kingdom animal 
life would be impossible. All animals, man in- 
cluded, feed directly or indirectly upon the carbon- 



fc SOLAR ENERGY 257 

containing compounds elaborated by the plant 
kingdom under the influence of the sun. And it is 
through the animal kingdom that the energy 
derived from the sun, and stored up by the vege- 
table kingdom, is returned again to the cosmos. 
Part of the energy is given back in the heat generated 
by bodily activity ; part is consumed in work 
done. All work done can be expressed in terms of 
motion ; heat is nothing more than a mode of 
motion ; and we must not forget that solar energy 
comes to us as an undulatory motion in the ether 
These facts, which have been determined scientifi- 
cally, demonstrate the-* intimate harmony and 
inter-dependence that exist between the different 
parts of the Universe. When we remember that 
only an infinitesimal fraction of the total energy 
of the sun reaches our earth the actual figure is 

jnmrrnn>TO th P art f its Ife^t and neat We mav 

well wonder what undiscovered potentialities lie 
hidden in the remainder ; and we can understand 
that it is no mere empty superstition which has 
made some men, in all ages, worship tfte sun as the 
giver of life. 

The elementary needs of man were probably 
the first motives that drove him to work. These 
elementary needs are still clamant, and with some 
men are the sole impulses that drive them to exert 
themselves. Man early discovered that food for 
himself and his dependents, clothing to protect 
them from the changes of the weather, and a roof 
of some sort to cover them, could only be secured 
by work. When man first appeared upon the earth 
it is probable that he found ample food within easy 



238 WORK 

reach. But later, as the number of men upon the 
earth increased, the available supplies of food 
would become less easy of access, and man would 
become a hunter. Hunting, which is now a sport, 
was in those days a form of labour, but withal a 
form of labour rendered attractive by the element 
of hazard it contained From the beginning man 
has been a tiller of the ground. He would soon 
discover that, by cultivation, he could increase the 
available quantity of the fruits of the earth. Prob- 
ably, at quite an early stage in his existence, he 
took steps to grow in a little allotment which he 
staked out round his dwelling those plants and 
herbs which he had discovered would sustain him. 
So by labouring he lessened his labours. He no 
longer needed to forage far afield for vegetable 
food. With a little prescient work he could make 
it spring up at his own door. In exhibiting this 
quality of careful prevision man distinguishes him- 
self from other animals. We have already seen that 
certain members of the animal kingdom lay up 
stores of food, but no animal other than man by 
labour prepares the ground, transfers to that ground 
plants or seeds which he may have found at a dis- 
tance, and tends, by watering and dressing, his 
young crops, and waits for the fruits of his labour 
to supply him with nourishment. Such work dis- 
plays intelligence. Bees and squirrels are food- 
hoarders by instinct, which is just a habit repeated 
through a long series of generations until it becomes 
transmitted by heredity. Man is a cultivator of 
the ground, a labourer on the earth, and a hoarder 
of food, because his intelligence gives him prevision. 



THE WONDERFUL NEEDLE 259 

The second demand that drove man to labour 
was the need of a covering to protect himself. Less 
well furnished with a hairy covering than his nearest 
animal relatives, he would be more likely to suffer 
inconvenience from changes of weather. Leaves 
and skins fastened loosely round him were probably 
his earliest protection, and then on a wonderful 
da either he or the woman who was his mate 
invented a needle. Probably it was nothing more 
than a sharpened piece of bone, such as the Esqui- 
maux use to-day, with which he could pierce the 
skins and lace them together with strands of vege- 
table or animal fibre. No animal lower in the scale 
than man has ever invented a tool so simple. Yet 
what simple instrument is so pregnant with possi- 
bilities as the needle ? The first sharpened piece 
of bone driven through a hide by a primitive cave- 
dweller made possible the evolution of the whole 
world of dress, and laid the foundations of the 
Rue de la Paix. 

The first men probably sheltered in caves of the 
earth, either found naturally, or excavated arti- 
ficially "by the labour of their hands. The next 
stage in the evolution of a dwelling-place was 
probably the tent, extemporised by stretching be- 
tween the branches of a tree skins from animals 
killed in the day's chase by some hunter who, in the 
pursuit of his quarry, had wandered far afield from 
his cave and been overtaken by a storm. In pro- 
cess of time the tent, an easily transportable form 
of dwelling, would give place to a more elaborate 
structure of earth and wood and stone, gathered 
together with much effort, and erected with much 

18 



260 WORK 

thought and toil This was the prototype of the 
modern dwelling. 

At every stage man has made use of the accumu- 
lated experience derived from his own earlier en- 
deavours and failures, or from those of others, to 
improve the work of his hands. In this he shows 
how the possession of intelligence, memory, and 
the power to design a plan and to work up to it 
place him head and shoulders in the field of labour 
above all other animals. 

The birds, the bees, the mole, the beaver, are all 
older creatures than man. Yet, so far as is known, 
every bird builds precisety the same kind of nest 
as its ancestors did at the beginning or, if there 
are any changes, they are infinitesimal ; the bee 
still constructs the same shape of cell; the mole 
is content with the gallery that satisfied his fore- 
fathers a million years ago, and the beaver has 
invented no tool to make his wood-cutting easier, 
and still builds the same kind of dam as his primeval 
forebears. But man is never content with the re- 
sult of his work. He is ever eager to improve 
upon it ; to discover new methods of performing 
it ; to invent instruments and tools which will 
facilitate it. These things he does because his 
labour is guided by intelligence, and not by instinct. 
He has this great advantage over the lower crea- 
tures : his predecessors have put on record, at first 
by oral tradition, and later in writing, the means 
they employed to achieve certain ends, and these 
records are available for his study and instruction. 

Were it not so, every man would, so far as labour 
is concerned, be compelled to begin his struggle 



INVENTION HINDERS EVOLUTION 261 

with the forces of nature at a point somewhat 
antecedent to the stone age, and start discovering 
everything for himself again. 

It is a paradox that man, through his labour and 
inventiveness, has retarded in some measure the 
progress of his own evolution. The human hand is 
a very wonderful instrument, capable of remarkable 
adaptations, and of the finest co-ordinated move- 
ments, as is demonstrated by any skilful violinist 
or pianist. But man has hindered the further 
evolution of the powers of his hands by inventing 
tools and machinery. In the same way he has 
hindered or interfered with the higher evolution of 
the eye by the invention of magnifying glasses and 
the microscope. He has also limited, except in the 
case of a few trained athletes who have specially 
developed their powers of locomotion, his speed of 
movement by making use of animals such as the 
horse, or machines such as the bicycle, the train, 
and the motor-car to convey him from place to 
place ; and by the building of boats he has limited 
his capacity as a swimmer. Thus, by the use of 
his intelligence, and the products of his inventive- 
ness and toil he has unwittingly put a brake upon 
his own physical evolution ; but in doing so he has 
achieved what would have been impossible for 
him, however highly his structural and functional 
evolution might have progressed. 

Once man had succeeded in supplying his primi- 
tive needs for food, shelter, and clothing he advanced 
a stage, and became more or less of a specialist. 
As communities grew, certain duties would be 
delegated to certain individuals. The hewers of 



26a WORK 

wood and drawers of water, the cultivators of the 
soil, and the house-builders would be recruited from 
among those of the tribe to whom the hazardous 
adventures of the chase made no appeal. And from 
these small beginnings there gradually grew up our 
present system whereby a workman chooses his 
occupation or his trade and devotes his activity to 
that, and to that alone. 

When we analyse the work which engages so much 
of human activities, and push our inquiries down 
to root-principles, we discover that an enormous 
proportion of it consists of little more than the 
removal of matter from one part of the earth's 
surface, and its transference to another. In the 
process it may be subjected to the operations of 
intelligence, as when cotton grown in South America 
is brought to Lancashire, and woven into fabrics. 
But in all work, in which our physical rather than 
our mental functions play the chief part, we are 
little more than hod-carriers. But when we con- 
sider the arts we find that in his work man may 
become a creator. He hews a piece of marble into 
a beautiful statue, and thereby expresses an idea ; 
or with brush and colours he paints a vision of his 
dreams. Or he erects a beautiful building, so 
exquisitely designed, so well-proportioned, and so 
perfect in every detail that it is a palace of art. 
This is creative work ; and we find the same germ 
of creative activity in every newly- invented machine. 
So that though man's work begins on the level of 
the beasts of burden, it ends somewhere in the 
skies. 

Man and society are so constituted that work is 



WORK A DUTY 263 

a duty. It is a duty which man owes to himself 
and to humanity. To himself because happiness 
lies in the line of congenial work, and to humanity 
because it is incumbent upon every one to contri- 
bute something to the common welfare, and not to 
be a parasite. 

This is an ugly word, and may have a sinister 
meaning. It has been applied by red-hot would-be 
demagogues to all who do not work with their 
hands. Such orators usually harangue their audi- 
ences with their own hands concealed behind their 
backs. 

But the designation of work cannot legitimately 
be restricted to manual labour alone. The man 
who works with his brain is not a parasite, nor is 
the capitalist who imagines, and plans and sinks 
his wealth in some great enterprise in which the 
actual labour is performed by other hands than his 
own. Parasites on human society are not many ; 
and they are to be pitied, for they never know the 
joy of work. 

A congenial occupation, in which a man has scope 
for the exhibition and development of his own 
character is, however hard the actual work may 
be, capable of affording him the highest pleasure. 
But the work must be suited to his capacity and 
such as he can take a pride in. The tilling of the 
ground is among the humblest, as it is the most 
ancient, of occupations. But what joy can be ex- 
tracted from it by all who love a garden ! It is a 
lesson in the infinite and soulful possibilities of the 
lowly task, to be shown round his garden by a 
gardener who loves every inch o| soil in it ; who 



264 WORK 

knows the potentialities of that corner for the 
growth of roses ; of that patch of light and sandy 
soil for his geraniums ; and of that furrow for his 
potatoes. Such a man takes a pride in his task ; 
he extracts joy from it ; he ceases to be a labourer 
and becomes an artist, for love sanctifies and 
ennobles lowly things. 

Any one who is unfortunate enough to be chained 
to an uncongenial occupation is to be pitied. If 
he has no love for the work he is engaged upon it 
becomes an intolerable burden, and, having become 
a burden, it tends to react upon his character, and 
make him slack, inattentive and careless. Occa- 
sionally he may extract some satisfaction from his 
unloved task if, by chance, one day he has performed 
it well. For all work, if done well, may produce a 
feeling akin to joy in the doer of it. 

This is a truism which every school-boy can con- 
firm. The biographies of eminent men afford us 
many examples of the torture of the uncongenial 
task. One need only recall Burns, and his work as 
a revenue officer. His soul was sometimes in the 
skies with the singing birds, while his nose and eyes 
were hunting for smuggled brandy and illicit stills. 
He was a great lyric poet ; but, because he hated 
the task, a very indifferent gauger. The psychical 
distaste to an uncongenial task may react physio- 
logically, and it has been proved by experimental 
observation that the same person will perform a 
greater amount of work in a given time when 
occupied on a task which may not necessarily be 
easy, but which is attractive, than upon a task of 
a similar kind for which he has no liking. Work 



REST AND WORK 265 

unloved becomes drudgery, and drudgery is the 
task of slaves. 

On physiological grounds it is necessary that 
periods of work should be interrupted by periods 
of repose. Even machinery, capable as it is of 
being driven at full pressure almost indefinitely until 
it wears out, runs better and lasts longer if it is 
granted occasional seasons of rest. And though the 
human mechanism is capable of carrying on its 
work in an emergency for a time much greater 
than usual, a point comes at which, through exhaus- 
tion, the tired body is unable to continue discharging 
energy any longer. The reserve-stuff of energy is 
almost all used up ; the muscles, and brain and 
circulating blood are engorged with poisonous by- 
products, "produced in the body by the consumption 
of the reserve-stuff, and until rest, and sleep, and 
food can be obtained the body refuses to do any 
more work. During rest and sleep the poisonous 
by-products are collected and eliminated through 
various channels ; and food supplies the organism 
with potential energy which, after digestion and 
assimilation, is stored up as chemical energy ready 
at need to be converted once more into work. 

Long before the extreme stage of exhaustion 
above described is reached, fatigue of a lesser degree 
has existed. Before exhaustion is great enough 
to be actually felt by the worker it is sufficiently 
advanced to interfere with his work. Careful ex- 
periments have been carried out which serve to 
demonstrate this. It has been found, for instance, 
that a worker engaged on a purely mechanical and 
frcqutntly repeated operation can turn out a 



266 WORK 

certain number of complete articles, in, let us say, 
a period of two consecutive hours; but if, at the 
end of forty-five minutes, he is allowed a rest of a 
quarter of an hour, he will turn out a larger number 
of the completed articles in the second forty-five 
minutes than he did in the second hour, and this, 
although at the end of the two consecutive hours 
of work he was unaware of any sensation of fatigue. 

It is therefore evident that fatigue is an insidious 
thing, and begins much earlier than its sensation 
appears. But it may be recovered from rapidly if 
suitable periods of rest are allowed. In many of 
our munition factories careful studies are being 
made regarding work and fatigue, and when the 
observations are duly collated and examined it will 
be possible to make large deductions, of wide prac- 
tical import, which, if applied, will make for a 
revolution in labour conditions, and for the increased 
efficiency and happiness of the workers. There is 
a very fine adjustment between the nervous system 
and the muscular system. It is something more 
than a mere " afferent stimulus efferent impulse " 
sequence. There is a psychic element, as that com- 
manding officer well knew who got the last ounce 
of effort out of his wearied soldiers by means of a 
tin whistle. Men or women who sing at their work 
usually increase rather than diminish their activity, 
for emotion or memory stirred by song brings the 
higher psychic realm into more intimate touch 
with the lower psychic realm, and together they 
hasten the discharge of nervous energy to the ex- 
pectant muscles. 

It is frequently said that change of occupation is 



CHANGE OF OCCUPATION 267 

rest. The aphorism embodies only a half-truth. 
Like all general statements of the kind, it requires 
some qualification. If carried too far it may prove 
to be a dangerous doctrine. It will at once be under- 
stood that to change from one form of activity to 
another, in which the same group of muscles is 
involved, is not rest. A soldier, who is fatigued 
by trench- digging, would not look upon a change 
of occupation, to the somewhat lighter task of a 
route-march, as much relaxation. Ivfor would it 
be, as many of the muscles called into play are the 
same. But a complete change of activity, a change, 
let us say, from the use of the muscles to the work 
of the brain, is a rest of a kind. 

When Mr. Gladstone turned, as was his wont, 
from the political conflicts in which he was em- 
broiled, to writing articles on theological subjects, 
or to the study of Homer, he was indulging in a 
change of occupation. But he was using much the 
same faculties in both pursuits. When, however, 
he abandoned his study for the woods and took 
to felling trees he was giving his intellect a com- 
plete rest. But, whatever his occupation, he was 
using up some of the " reserve- stuff " of energy, 
and in doing so was producing in his system toxic 
by-products, the smoke and ashes of all work, 
which required to be eliminated from the system. 
So that though one set of organs might be given a 
rest by his employment of another set, those organs 
of the body which have to do with elimination 
were kept working at high pressure all the while, 
In the course of their functional activity these 
organs also use up the reserve-stuff of energy, and 



268 WORK 

consume nervous energy as well, so it is obvious 
that there are better ways of resting than to change 
the kind or direction of one's activities. 

Every man should have a hobby, and his hobby 
should be chosen with care. It should, as far as 
possible, be some form of activity separated by a 
wide gap from his ordinary occupation. For in- 
stance, a clergyman should not choose reading as 
his hobby ; he would be better occupied with golf. 
That a hobby may be of greatest value to its devotee 
it should take him into a new atmosphere, mental, 
and, if possible, physical as well. It should never 
exhaust him, nor should it be such as will deflect 
all his love from his ordinary work. Rath^er should 
it send him back to his daily occupation with 
faculties brightened, enthusiasm kindled, and his 
whole being refreshed. If it does none of these 
things a hobby becomes a hindrance instead of a 
help, and should be given up. 

" The dignity of labour " is a catch- word that is 
frequently employed, and the phrase embodies a 
great truth which has not yet adequately been 
appreciated. For what is labour ? It is the ex- 
penditure of energy. We have already seen that 
all the energy incorporated in the living organism 
is derived from the sun. The plant gathers it 
the animal kingdom expends it. To man is given 
the right and the power of spending what portion 
of this wealth comes to him, with intelligence. 
Through him it returns to the cosmos. It is there- 
fore his duty to guard against degrading this energy, 
or dissipating it too prodigally upon unworthy ends. 
Some degradation and some dissipation of energy 



A TRUST FOR THE UNIVERSE 269 

it is impossible to avoid ; but if man will only real- 
ise that in using energy, which he cannot create, 
he is holding a trust for the Universe, his work, 
whatever it may be, will assume a dignity that it 
lacked before. Looked at in this way, which is 
physically and physiologically the right way, the 
humblest task is clothed with new responsibilities. 
It becomes part of the great world-order, and honest 
work is sacrosanct. 

This conception of work entails a readjustment 
of values. We come to recognise that the clergy- 
man, the teacher, the writer, the poet, the man of 
law, and the physician are in a true sense as much 
labourers as the man who earns his living with pick 
and shovel. The clergyman, the teacher, the 
writer, and the poet each in his own way repays the 
world-order for his consumption of energy by his 
loyalty to the ideal. The loftier the ideals pro- 
claimed to the world the more earnest becomes the 
purpose of those who mould their lives by them, 
and no man of serious purpose willingly shirks his 
task. Ideals make for the genuineness of work, 
and genuine work economises the stores of cosmic 
energy. 

The physician, by his work, justifies his consump- 
tion of world-energy by protecting and saving the 
lives of others, by making them efficient, by teach- 
ing them the way of health and the healthiest 
man does the best work. The man of law makes 
conditions of work possible. So it is seen that all 
humanity is bound up in a great confederation of 
energy-users, engaged -in the common task of 
spending to the best advantage the wealth o| solar 



270 WORK 

power they have indirectly acquired from the giver 
of light. Take the labourer, the man at the bottom 
of the pyramid, out of it, and the structure collapses. 
Take out any body of men from the higher levels, 
and the efficiency of the others suffers. All are 
co-partners in a sacred trust. 

If life did not offer the opportunity of work it 
would lose half its charm. Men would soon grow 
tired of sitting with folded hands, and the world 
would become a place of misery. 

For work is a great source of happiness, and the 
bringer of measureless solace to mankind. The 
conditions of it occasionally give rise to sharp 
dissatisfaction, but congenial work done honestly 
and to the best of one's ability makes for content- 
ment. And though a restless ambition is a great 
asset, a contented mind is immeasurable wealth. 
This is one of the rewards of him who works Its 
price is above rubies, and it cannot be purchased 
with gold. All work has the power of bringing 
contentment to man ; some work brings him joy. 
Work through which he can express his spirit is 
creative, and in so far as a man feels that he is, 
in the discharge of his task, a co-worker with the 
Infinite, he tastes of the cup of joy. 

He is a poor creature whose only aim in work is 
his own sustenance and comfort, or the accumulation 
of wealth. He is false to the world-trust in which 
he shares. His work is worthiest who consciously 
or unconsciously does service to humanity, be he 
drain-layer, navvy, or lawgiver. The service of 
humanity should be the goal of all work. The 
civilisation to which we are heirs is the fruit of age- 



HONEST WORK 271 

long effort and much labour consecrated to lofty 
ideals. It is our duty to improve that heritage for 
those who are to follow us ; to leave the world a 
healthier, happier, cleaner, and more wholesome 
place than we found it a place in which life will 
have fewer asperities and ampler opportunities. 
These things may be accomplished by work, if the 
aim of the worker is high. 

Happy is the man who comes to his task each 
morning with a singing heart, and who has learned 
that the humblest worker becomes a mighty crafts- 
man when his soul speaks through his labour. The 
honesty of workmanship is an acid-test of character. 
Alone, amid the eternal flux of things, the honest 
work endures ; and if man had no other immor- 
tality to look to he might find one along the line 
of his daily duties. 



THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 
RELIGION 



273 



" There is nothing on earth that does not show either the 
wretchedness of man, or the mercy of God ; either the weak- 
ness of man without God, or the strength of man with God." 
Blaise Pascal, " Penstes." 

" All tended to mankind, 
And, man produced, all has its end thus far : 
But in completed man begins anew 
A tendency to God." 

Browning, " Paracelsus." 



CHAPTER XV 

THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN : RELIGION 

LIFE without labour and without love would be 
incomplete ; without religion it would be hopeless 
and desolate. Professor Drummond used to say 
that the special charm of Millet's picture "The 
Angelus " consisted in its combination and repre- 
sentation of these three attributes of human life: 
love, the man and the woman ; labour, the hoe, 
the barrow, and the cultivated earth ; and religion, 
the distant village spire, and the attitude of devo- 
tion of the figures, called into the presence of the 
Eternal by the sound of the evening bell. Together 
these things give life beauty, purpose, and solemnity. 
Rob life of one of them, and it suffers ; rob it of 
all, and it becomes a pitiable derelict. 

Religion is that part of a man's mental life 
which tries to envisage God, which stimulates him 
to seek to know the Power that rules the Universe, 
and to recognise therein a Spirit to whom he owes 
fealty and affection, and a Father whom he may 
dare to trust, to worship and to love. But a pro- 
perly balanced religion should have another side : 
it should embrace both God and man. 

A man's faith should teach him to love his fellow- 
ig 275 



276 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

men, and to have confidence in the future of 
humanity. Religion is the atmosphere of the 
soul, and the benevolent mother of character. 

For some people the practice of their religion is 
nothing more than the punctilious observance of a 
code of good manners. To them duty is an obliga- 
tion only in so far as it is socially expedient, and 
ideals mean no more than the society ambitions of 
their set. They have never felt the flame of a 
God-directed aspiration burn within them. A social 
faux pas troubles them more than a breach of the 
moral law, and the dread of social ostracism is 
more to them than the fear of eternal punishment. 

Religion being the tie which binds man to the 
Highest, or the atmosphere of the soul within which 
he seeks to worship God. it is right that we should 
inquire how he first acquired his conception of the 
divine and became a theist. The mystery was 
revealed to him progressively, and at first along 
three natural channels. God is invariably Sjlf- 
consistent, and made use of secondary channels for 
this revelation as for all other manifestations of His 
power. He chose to speak through the voices of 
nature ; to make use of man's affections, operating 
through his love and veneration for his dead ; to 
sanctify conscience, converting it from a rudi- 
mentary tribal instinct into His witness in the 
soul. 

Man had within him a capacity for understand- 
ing, and Nature spoke her message into his aston- 
ished ear. The whisper of the wind in the dark 
and forlorn aisles of the forest, the uncanny earth- 
voices audible in lonely places, the roar and thunder 



THE MESSAGE OF NATURE 277 

of the sea, the cataclysms of Nature, the earth- 
quake, the lightning and the thunder spoke with an 
awe-inspiring message to man. These things must 
be the manifestations of some Power mightier than 
himself ; there must be invisible creatures gods ; 
spirits of evil power, spirits possibly beneficent. 
Some may be inclined to doubt that any revelation 
came through this lowly channel, but who among 
us has not heard the voice of Nature, which is a 
tone of the voice of God, speaking to us in the beauty 
of flowers, the lonely grandeur of mountain peaks, 
or the wizard music of the sea ? We correct our 
impressions by the experience won from the fuller 
revelation in our souls. The primitive savage was 
not ready for that larger revelation, and did not 
fully understand, so the phenomena which should 
have taught him to love and worship taught him 
to fear as well. We cannot lightly dismiss the fact 
that in all ages the message of Nature has won its 
way into the heart of man. The philosophers, the 
theologians, the poets, and the artists consciously 
and unconsciously have interpreted that message 
as the voice of God. From the prophet Job and 
the psalmist David down to the present day men 
have recognised in the voices and beauty of Nature 
a witness to the Highest, and there are few to 
whom its appeal has not come with an insistent 
force, that was something more awe-compelling 
than mere emotion stirred by hearing or sight. 
More than any modern poet Wordsworth had a 
soul attuned to catch the whisper and the message 
of Nature's God-revealing harmonies. Who cannot 
say with him ? 



278 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

" I have flt 

A presence that disturbs me with the joy 
Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime 
Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean and the living air. 
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man : 
A motion and a spirit, that impels 
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still 
A lover of the meadows and the woods, 
And mountains ; and of all that we behold 
From this green earth ; of all the mighty world 
Of eye and ear, both what they half create 
And what perceive ; well pleased to recognise 
In nature, and the language of the sense, 
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul 
Of all my moral being." 

Another line along which revelation came was 
man's veneration for his dead. As early as the 
neolithic age he had begun to conclude that death 
did not mean annihilation, but that man after 
death went on to another existence where he had 
need of some of the things that had served him on 
earth. So there arose the custom of burying with 
the dead food for his journey into the land of the 
Immortals, and weapons and other objects which 
might be of use to him there. This was a long step 
forward, for the belief had in it the nucleus of all 
subsequent faith in the destiny of man ; and under 
the influence of the teaching of Christ there evolved 
from this elementary conception the confident assur- 
ance that the souls of the righteous go home to 
God. 

The third agent in this slowly unfolding revela- 
tion was conscience. Of recent years an attempt 



CONSCIENCE 279 

has been made to reduce conscience from its long- 
recognised position as the voice of the Universal 
Father within the heart of man, to a mere herd 
instinct or clan spirit. Possibly it may have arisen 
in some.such form of loyalty. A man's conscience 
blamed him when he was guilty of any act that 
might work disaster upon or be prejudicial to a 
member of his own tribe, or approved of his action 
when he had done something from which the tribe 
or clan might derive advantage. But any one who 
reads history aright, and observes not only the 
social but moral development of a people, must 
admit that the primitive characteristics or faculties 
of a people are capable of being sublimed into some- 
thing much loftier than the elementary attributes 
from which they originated. Among civilised people 
the narrow clan spirit or tribal instinct has long 
ago died down. In one direction its place is taken 
by patriotism, which is a clan spirit that embraces 
one's own country. In another direction its place 
is taken by conscience which no one would con- 
fuse with patriotism, as it operates in a field into 
which patriotism rarely obtrudes except in time of 
war. 

Nowadays the promptings of conscience are no 
longer an atavistic trait, but the response of all 
that is best in man to the voice of the Eternal. What 
man is there who has not experienced the remorse 
of conscience ? and, knowing it, does not recognise 
in it something infinitely higher and more soul- 
searching than mere regret for disloyalty to his 
herd ? &9 

It is a matter of interest to note how Nature, 



28o THE REVELATION DF GOD TO MAN 

which, as we have seen, is one of the agents of reve- 
lation, co-operates with and reinforces conscience, 
another agent. 

The poets have emphasised this over and over 
again : 

" The thief doth fear each bush an officer " ; 

and : 

" When the deed was done 
I heard among the solitary hills 
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds 
Of undistinguishable motion, steps 
Almost as silent as the turf they trod." 

This is the eternal story : the forces of Nature are 
used to drive home a moral lesson. 

Along these three channels, therefore, there came 
to man some revelation of God. He was unable 
to grasp the whole truth and his feet were prone to 
err, so that he wandered into the by-paths of super- 
stition and superstitious practice. In this he was 
aided by the thaumaturgists, or wonder-workers 
men a little cleverer and a little less scrupulous 
than their fellows, who saw in man's gropings after 
God nothing of nobility, but simply an opportunity 
to establish their own prestige and give them 
ascendancy over their dupes. But, in spite of all 
human distortions and all human accretions fas- 
tened upon it, the stream of revelation held on its 
way. 

The Jewish race has always been famous for its 
intellectual gifts, for its imagination, its intuition, 
and its receptivity. It has a peculiar genius for 
religion, so it is little to be wondered at that it first 



IN TUNE WITH THE INFINITE 281 

intercepted the full stream of the revelation and 
recognised it for what it was. It proclaimed with 
no uncertain voice that there is one God, and one 
God only. It brooked no minor deities. This 
unique people, gifted with extraordinary spiritual 
insight, had among it certain men of richer intellect 
and higher spirituality who were absolutely con- 
vinced that through the voices of Nature and 
in the secret chambers of their hearts they 
heard the voice of God speaking to them. They 
did not hesitate to declare their message, at- 
tributing it definitely to its source with the words, 
" And the Lord said." They were men attuned to 
the Infinite. A piano-wire tuned to the note of 
" C in alt," or to any other note, and stretched 
across a room, will vibrate in harmony when that 
note is struck upon a piano ; and the mind of man 
in tune with the Divine Mind, will catch the whispers 
of God's voice to which other men are deaf. 

Among the Jews, for the first time in human 
history, morality and religion were definitely linked 
together. In this, Judaism presents a most striking 
contrast to the pagan religions of ancient Greece 
and Rome. The Greeks and Romans were poly- 
theists ; their numerous gods and goddesses were 
superhuman creatures with human passions and 
lusts abnormally exaggerated. They were gods 
without morals as we understand the term, and as 
a consequence the religion of their followers, except 
in a few cases, was completely divorced from 
morality. It is strange that a people so highly 
cultured as the ancient Greeks could have taken 
a delight in and worshipped such gods. But with 



282 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

some, like Socrates and Plato, the religion they 
practised was infinitely higher than the gods they 
worshipped ; and once and again a sculptor with 
a vision of the divine would try to capture his dream 
and imprison it in marble or hi bronze, and in 
Greek art, Greek sculpture, Greek poetry, and Greek 
philosophy, rather than in Grecian mythology, we 
catch a glimpse of God. 

Revelation was progressive, but it was infinitely 
slow ; so slow that even a child might follow it. 
But even then, man with his inborn, capacity for 
error was perpetually wandering off, as he still con- 
tinues to do, into bypaths of unbelief. It is a proof 
of the confidence of the Eternal in His revelation 
that He chose to make it through natural channels 
rather than by the super-normal. He knew that 
men would come to the truth in time. He had 
endowed them with intelligence, the weapon which 
had helped them to establish their ascendancy in 
the animal world, and He was prepared to wait 
till, through the proper exercise of that gift in the 
interpretation of the evidence afforded them, they 
should at last grasp the secret. He knew His 
creatures ; knew how they would err and stumble, 
but knew also that only that is immeasurably 
precious to man which he has won by struggle. 

The consummation of the revelation to man 
came in the person of Jesus Christ. In Him we find 
at their loftiest and best all the highest qualities 
of humanity, with none of the degrading elements 
of evil that are a part of the personality of ordinary 
men. He showed to what a height of perfection 
human nature might be raised. He was possessed 



THE CHRIST 283 

of a dauntless courage, which faltered only once, 
and then but for a moment. His soul was aflame 
with a white-hot anger against evil wherever found ; 
but this was tempered by a large charity that pro- 
ceeded from a divine understanding and an infinite 
power of compassion. 

He went about doing good ; lived an absolutely 
blameless life ; was able to resist the most subtle 
temptations ; was betrayed by one of His disciples ; 
was shamefully put to death by the Romans at the 
instigation of the Jews ; was laid in the tomb, and 
rose on the third day from the dead, and ascended, 
as "the beloved physician," St. Luke, has put on 
record, from the summit of the Mount of Olives 
in a cloud into the infinite expanse of the heavens. 
He was born of a simple Syrian maid the wife of 
a village carpenter ; He claimed to be the Son of 
God. 

Such, in briefest outline, is the story of the most 
remarkable Personality the world has ever known. 
The tale is so wonderful, and the mysteries asso- 
ciated with it are so great, that in all ages there 
have been men who have not hesitated to affirm 
that the whole thing is a myth ; or that, if there 
ever was a man called Jesus, he was nothing more 
than a simple village lad suffering from delusions of 
grandeur. 

A myth ! An idle tradition ! A delusion ! No 
myth or delusion ever bore such rare fruit ; no idle 
tradition was ever pregnant with such enduring 
realities. If the story were not true, or the claim 
a lie, it would long ago have been cast into the 
rubbish-heap, and have ceased to influence the 



284 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

lives of men. But to-day, after the lapse of nine- 
teen hundred years, the influence of Christ and 
His teaching is infinitely greater than it was at the 
time of His crucifixion. 

He made no attempt to establish a kingdom by 
might. All He left to the world were a handful 
of simple doctrines ; a little collection of parables ; 
a few beatitudes, praising meekness, compassion, 
purity, and the peaceful spirit, promising comfort 
to the mourner, and offering hope to those ambitious 
for the good and the right ; a simple but sacra- 
mental love-feast, and the priceless example of an 
immaculate life. He was poor ; of lowly circum- 
stances ; no seeker after power ; with no reputation 
in His life-time that extended beyond the confines 
of a little corner of Palestine ; but He has conquered 
the world. 

In their day and generation Alexander the Great, 
Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte were men of 
wide renown conquerors who, by the might of the 
sword, trampled the nations underfoot. To their 
contemporaries they must have seemed individuals 
of tremendous importance. But what influence 
has any one of them had upon the lives of the 
generation now living ? In the 'eternal scale of 
truth it could be counter-balanced by a hair. But 
the life of this obscure and " deluded " Nazarene 
has altered the whole of history. It has done 
infinitely more than that : it has leavened all 
human thought, permeated all literature, all philo- 
sophy, all poetry, and touched with the beauty of 
holiness innumerable human lives which, but for 
their devotion to His person, and their conformity 



THE GOSPEL OF HUMANITY 285 

to His example, would have been sordid and worth- 
less. It has been the fount of all the loftiest ideals, 
and the source of an irrefragable hope. Such things 
do not flow from myths ; they are the offspring of 
inscrutable mysteries. 

One of the most remarkable features of Chris- 
tianity is that it creates an atmosphere which influ- 
ences even those who profess no allegiance to the 
person of Christ. Every hospital in England, and 
every institution for the help of the distressed, is 
a perpetual witness to this fact. 

Many philanthropists who make no profession of 
Christianity imagine that their charity is a product 
of civilised humanitarianism. But unconsciously 
they have been quickened to pity for their fellow- 
men by the spirit of social service which was first 
taught by Christ. Nowadays we hear much of the 
social gospel and the gospel of humanity. These 
are, in their way, excellent things ; but they owe 
all that is in them of nobility and any gospel they 
embody to the life and work of the Crucified. He 
was the first socialist, and the first positivist. He 
taught the equality of man, and showed the heights 
to which human nature could be sublimed. 

There is much in the life of Christ and His Death 
and Resurrection that is enveloped in mystery. 
But these are the mysteries of faith, and as we are 
ready to accept in the ordinary walks of existence 
so much that we can neither understand nor ex- 
plain such, for example, as the miracle of our own 
conscious life it is illogical to reject, or shrink from 
accepting, because of their incomprehensibility, 
mysteries which have produced results so real and 



286 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

tangible. No ardent and practised climber would 
think much of a mountain which did not present 
him with some difficult crags to scale, and some 
deep and abysmal crevasses to bridge before he 
could stand in amazed and ravished wonder on its 
summit. So it would seem that the enigmas of the 
Christian religion are set there to test our courage 
and our faith, and to make of life no colourless and 
uninspiring ramble along a level road, but a high 
and soul- testing adventure. 

To be of service to a man his religion should be 
one to which his intellect can give assent. This 
does not necessarily exclude that mystical quality 
without which no religion can exist, but it keeps it 
from drifting into superstition and superstitious 
practice. Nor does it exclude the miraculous. A 
miracle is something, surpassing reason, which hap- 
pens or is wrought in apparent opposition to the 
recognised laws of nature. We must recognise that 
the so-called laws of nature are the lines along 
which God usually acts. The Maker of the law can 
suspend the operation of the law, and so work a 
miracle. It is sometimes said that the age of 
miracles is past. This may be so if we confine the 
miraculous to phenomena that are purely physical ; 
but miracles are still being wrought daily in the 
secrecy of human hearts. 

None but a bigot will deny that religion is a far 
bigger thing than churches and creeds. Most 
Churches lay claim to a special vested interest in 
God. How the Infinite must laugh at the arrogance 
and effrontery of His children ! Some people 
imagine, indeed they have been taught, that He 



CREEPS AND DOGMAS 287 

can best be worshipped within the confines of some 
building specially consecrated for the purpose. It 
is meet and orderly that there should be such 
places for worship Christ Himself worshipped in 
the Temple but God does not necessarily dwell 
there, and He may be approached and found quite 
as readily under the great vault of the open sky. 
More men have come face to face with God in the 
silent cloisters of their own hearts than ever found 
Him beneath the stone arches of a Gothic cathedral. 
That a beautiful Gothic cathedral may stir the 
emotions must be admitted ; but such stirring of 
the emotions ought not to be interpreted either as 
religion or worship. It may serve as an acolyte for 
both. 

Such buildings, with beautiful music and the rare 
light filtering through stained glass, create an at- 
mosphere ; and for some people a proper atmosphere 
is a necessary concomitant of the act of worship. 

Creeds and dogmas are a necessary part of re- 
ligion ; but we cannot lock the Infinite within the 
chambers of any creed, however comprehensive. 
Still, a creed is a necessity to prevent belief trickling 
away into the morass of loose thinking. Dogmas 
serve the same purpose. Many of them undergo 
modification in process of time. Only those endure 
which embody an element of hope ; the rest tend 
to slip into desuetude and decay. 

The religion practised by a majority of our 
soldiers is one in which dogma has little place. 
They have a simple, rough-hewn creed of their own, 
which has not yet been reduced to the cold phrase- 
ology of written language. There are many excep- 



288 THE REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN 

tions, but for most soldiers religion consists in doing 
the straight thing, in never going back on a pal, 
in being a " white man " ready to deny and sacri- 
fice oneself, even lay down one's life, for another, 
with no special thought of God at all. And yet, 
to limit their religion to these simple but heroic 
practices is to do them an injustice. Though they 
may not recognise it, and may not be prepared to 
acknowledge it, all this self-abnegation and kxfty 
altruism is a ray caught from the cross. 

Religion is not something to be clutched at with 
despairing hands, like a piece of flotsam, when the 
waters of affliction tend to overwhelm one, but an 
attitude of mind, an orientation of soul to be 
cultivated sedulously so that a man may walk with 
unbowed head through all the storms of life stayed 
by a glad confidence in the eternal justice and 
enduring love of God. Rightly practised, religion 
is one of the chief factors in moral development, 
and without morality social progress becomes an 
impossibility. It acts upon moral development 
from without by establishing a standard of conduct 
that makes for good ; but its chief effects flow from 
its leavening influence within the heart of the indi- 
vidual. 

Man's spiritual nature is the highest expression 
of his personality, and his religion is the atmosphere 
in which it flourishes best. That form of faith which 
makes a man the best citizen is the religion for 
him. It should help him to live in the atmosphere 
of the ideal, quickening him to compassion, filling 
him with a cheerful godliness and an unflinching 
faith in the future. 



A MAN'S FAITH 289 

It should broaden his outlook and enlarge his 
horizon. Only when it becomes confused with a 
warping and rigid sectarianism does a man's faith nar- 
row him. There is a type of religion which makes a 
speciality of the morose and impales every simple 
human pleasure on the spear-point of an isolated 
text. This is not Christianity, but the base coin 
of some lesser currency. The religion taught by 
Christ does not offer us position or wealth, but 
opportunities of service, and in loyal service no 
man fails of his reward. It makes a sacrament of 
the lowly task, it lightens the dark corners of the 
road, and turns the wayside pools into rich wine. 
It breathes into the soul the spirit of charity ; and 
of charity the world has sore need, for every man 
carries his own load, every woman her own burden, 
and the road is uphill. 



THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH 



20 291 



My task accomplished and the long day done 
My wages taken, and in my heart 
Some late lark singing, 
Let me be gathered to the quiet west, 
The sundown splendid and serene, 
Death." 

W. E. Henley, " Margarita Sorori. 



29* 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH 

WITH the gift of life there comes to all living crea- 
tures a desire to continue to live. Among human 
beings this desire is only lost when they are plunged 
in the abyss of despair, and can see no gleam of 
light on their horizon. The desire to live is keenest 
in the young, old enough to see the panorama of 
life unfolding before them. Its intensity is the 
measure of their vitality. But, by a singular para- 
dox, it is the young who are most ready to risk and, 
if need be, sacrifice their lives for others. Youth 
is the age of the generous impulse ; lew men are 
miserly in the spring-time of their days. That 
warped trait of character, if it comes at all, develops 
at a period of life when neither wealth nor length 
of days can be enjoyed to the full. But youth lives 
in an atmosphere of high altruism, and is ready 
to put all it possesses to the hazard if opportunity 
arises or need ever calls. 

The desire to live is maintained all through life 
until old age, when in many cases it begins to abate, 
though some old people cling grudgingly to the 
last few grains of sand as they trickle through 
their weakening fingers, and never develop what 
293 



294 THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH 

Metchnikoff called " the instinct for death." It 
is only when death is recognised as inevitable that 
the desire to live is taken from most of us. This 
is a wise provision, for it makes death easier for the 
dying. 

Life is a school of probation in which character 
is moulded by experience and put to the test alike 
by joy and sorrow. But, for each of us, an hour 
comes in which we pass from the schoolroom of 
life through the portal of death into the unfathom- 
able beyond. Death is no untoward accident, but 
as natural a phenomenon in the process of life as is 
the transference of a child at school from a lower 
to a higher class, when it has proved itself ready 
for the change. 

If we could only bring ourselves to recognise this 
we should clarify our vision, and dissipate that 
dolorous fog with which superstition has beclouded 
the final act of life. 

Death is as much a part of living as life is. 

Elsewhere l I have endeavoured to show that the 
fear of death is largely artificial ; that the dying do 
not fear it when their hour comes ; and that the 
act of death is a painless transition. At the same 
time I tried to prove that we have reasonable ground 
for believing that after death we go on. 

It is not my intention to deal at length with these 
matters once again lest I should involve myself in 
vain repetitions. But there are two points which 
may be emphasised. When we have succeeded in 
reducing the act of death to its true proportions we 
shall cease to dread it, and shall shrink from it as 
1 The Adventure of Death, by R. W. Mackenna. 



EVOLUTION AND DEATH 295 

little as we do from the duties that lie before us 
to-morrow. Indeed, we may do more than that. 
Stayed and armed by our philosophy or our faith, 
we may look forward to it with intense but reverent 
expectancy, as the experience which is to usher 
us on to new and more fruitful opportunities. 
Many a man and woman has passed on in that glad 
confidence. 

Many who believe in the doctrine of evolution 
find a difficulty in imagining that death does not 
extinguish us. To me this seems an illogical aban- 
donment of their principles. If the evolutionary 
hypothesis is true, as we have very cogent reason 
to believe, man, as we know him, is the coping-stone 
of creative development in this world, built upon 
and from a foundation of lower forms of life. Man 
as a physical organism is a splendid product from 
such beginnings ; but man as a thinking, conscious, 
reasonable, and moral being is a more splendid crea- 
ture still. Character or personality, as met with 
in man, is a higher evolution even than that degree 
of physical perfection to which he has attained. 
It is the coping-stone in human development. But 
the loftiest human personality falls short of the 
ideal, and must for ever fall short, and evolution as 
applied to the psychical side of life be an empty 
delusion unless personality survives the transition 
through death to continue further evolution towards 
the perfect ideal when it is no longer hindered and 
encumbered by the body. 

However far reason or scientific knowledge may 
take us along the road of proof there comes a gap 
at the end which must be bridged over by an act 



296 THE ADVENTURE OF DEATH 

of faith. For some the gap is so great as to be 
almost unbridgeable. For others it is so narrow 
that they can almost reach a hand across it to their 
beloved. 

In all ages the seers and the poets, whose vision 
is clearer than that of ordinary men, have been the 
apostles of the belief in the immortality of man. It 
is a far cry from Homer and Hesiod to Tennyson 
and Robert Browning, but through all the centuries 
that have intervened the witness of the poets has 
been a clarion-call summoning men to see and 
know that they are not creatures of a moment, but 
immortal souls. 

" Plato, thou reasonest well. 
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire, 
This longing after immortality ? 
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror 
Of falling into naught ? Why shrinks the soul 
Back on herself and startles at destruction ? 
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us ; 
Tis heaven itself that points out an hereafter. 
And intimates eternity to man." 



THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 



297 



" If I stoop 

Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud, 
It is but for a time ; I press God's lamp 
Close to my breast ; its splendour, soon or late, 
Will pierce the gloom : I shall emerge one day." 

Browning, " Paracelsus 



298 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 

THE world is full of enigmas, and one of the greatest 
is life. We know neither what it is nor what its 
purposes may be, and we are perplexed by the 
mysteries which it enfolds. But the mysteries, 
and the difficulties, and the hard problems which 
it presents should impel us to seek earnestly for 
their solution rather than drive us into a backwater 
of indolent apathy. Half of life's allurement lies 
in its mysteries. If all the enigmas were removed 
it would be no more interesting than would be a 
game of chess in which every move is mapped out 
for them before the players sit down at the board. 
The existence of the human intellect demands the 
contemporaneous existence of mysteries the knife 
needs the stone to whet it. Most thinking men 
will agree with Stopford Brooke, who said : " Few 
things produce more intellectual scorn in me than 
the impatience of the human race under enigmas. 
For my part, if life had no puzzle it would have 
no pleasure." 1 These are brave words, bravely 
spoken, but they do not help to elucidate the 
smallest of life's problems. 
-In those moments of arrogant impatience that 

1 Life and Letters of Stopford Brooke, by Lawrence Pearsall 
Jacks, voli. p. 234. 

299 



300 THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 

come to us all we are apt to imagine that, if the 
ruling of the world and the destinies of man were 
committed to our care, we could correct many 
abuses and set many a wrong thing right. We 
would be tempted to abolish pain and suffering, to 
blot out with a stroke all moral evil, to correct 
everything which in our puny way we think re- 
quires amendment, to clear away all the mysteries 
and make life as plain as a simple arithmetical 
calculation. If such an opportunity were given 
us our achievement would fall far short of our 
ambition, and it is likely that our fellow- men would 
be as little satisfied with our world as we should be 
with any world controlled by them. It is a mighty 
task to run a Universe, and something far beyond the 
power of any man. Most of us find the ordering of our 
own little portion of life a task more than sufficient 
for our talents. Let us leave the Universe to God. 

But, dark and obscure though many of the 
problems which beset us on our journey through 
life undoubtedly are, they are not incapable of 
solution. Right at our feet, if we will grope and 
look, we may find a clue. Sometimes the clue is 
fine as gossamer, and now and then we lose it in 
the tangled and intricate maze of circumstances, 
but if we can grasp it and follow it we shall find 
that it grows stronger before our eyes until it 
becomes a cable strong enough to lift us out of the 
quagmire of doubt tenacious as Flanders' clay 
and set us with firm feet upon the high road to 
knowledge. The clue has its origin in Law, it ends 
in Providence. 

We know how all the operations of nature are 



THE CLUE IN THE LAW 301 

conditioned by laws. No dewdrop falls out of the 
dark hand of night, no wave tramples with snow- 
white foot upon the shingle, no day breaks roseate 
upon the eastern horizon, nothing in the whole 
Universe moves, be it speck of dust or giant ava- 
lanche, except in obedience to natural laws. And 
what are natural laws ? If we probe deeply enough 
we are forced to admit that they can be nothing 
else than the rules God has laid down for the regula- 
tion of His own acts. In this we have a demonstra- 
tion of cosmic harmony. Man is a rational and 
intelligent being. A world in which caprice ruled 
instead of order, where season followed season in 
no regular succession but haphazard, where the 
sun and the moon and the tides obeyed no dis- 
coverable laws, but were the shuttlecocks of chance, 
would offer no field for the intelligent activities of 
man. Law in the Universe, reason in man : the 
two things are indissolubly linked together. With- 
out the one, the other could not exist ; without 
the latter, the former would be an unnecessary re- 
finement. Part ef man's life is lived in the physical 
world, and that part is never separable from the 
operations of law. And if we were not purblind 
we ^hould see that all life is under law. The 
physical laws of nature are immutable ; those 
other laws, as yet undeciphered and unknown, out 
of which spring all the enigmas and mysteries that 
perplex us, are equally unchangeable. The laws we 
have discovered and obey work to promote our 
happiness. In making ourselves their slaves we 
become their masters. Our greatest freedom lies 
along the line of obedience. 



302 THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 

We suffer from breaches of the laws we already 
know ; we suffer also for breaches of laws that are 
plainly written somewhere, but which as yet we 
have failed to decipher. This is a hard saying ; 
but we dare not expect that fire should continue to 
possess its genial, heat-giving properties, without 
retaining the power of producing serious injury, 
until every child has learned that a flame will burn 
an inquisitive finger. 

Some day perhaps, in the dim future, when man 
has risen to the full height of his destiny, the laws 
that are at present hidden from us will be found 
written in letters of blazing gold broad upon 
the forehead of everything that is at present a 
mystery. Until that day dawns courage should be 
the duty of man, and faith his watchword, for 
no mystery ever yielded up its secret to cowardice, 
and no obstacle was ever surmounted without 
hope. 

Though life may be full of enigmas, perplexities, 
and puzzles, it is worth having in spite of them all. 
It is one of the tragedies of life, as well as one of 
its glories, that none of us is asked if he will take 
it. It is a gift thrust upon us, which we may not 
bury in a napkin, but which we must use. We 
may use it selfishly and make of it a desolate thing, 
or we may spend it in the service of others and 
cause it to blossom like the rose. But one thing 
we may not do. We dare not play the coward 
with it. If it comes to us laden with heavy burdens 
it is our duty to take it up cheerfully, and with a 
quiet and confident courage turn our face to the 
sun and set bravely out upon our way. The best 



THE CHALLENGE OF THE HEIGHTS 303 

lives are the burdened lives, if the load is not allowed 
to crush the spirit. 

The world offers but few smooth roads to the 
traveller, and the level road is rarely worth while. 
The joy of overcoming the rough place is more than 
reward for the struggle. The Son of Man had 
blood upon His brow, but His feet were bruised as 
well. Few men are worthy to wear the crown of 
thorns, but the bleeding feet are a sign that we 
have not shrunk from the hard path, and along the 
hard path lie the best vantage points for seeing 
the City Beautiful. The roads in the valley are easy, 
and sheltered, and one may travel along them in a 
bath-chair ; only the rugged heights fling a chal- 
lenge to man's soul, and only among their peaks 
floats the atmosphere in which his soul can rise to 
its true height. For life is no base and despicable 
thing, to be crawled through on our hands and 
knees, but a high adventure, to which we must 
answer on our feet, erect and proud. And if the 
way takes us over unfathomable gorges of doubt 
and despair, and leads us along the precipitous 
cliff-edges of mystery, there is no need for faintness 
of heart. Press on ! The law of struggle is a law 
of life, and though struggle may mean pain and 
conflict, it has within it the seeds of victory. 

What the purpose of life may be we cannot tell, 
but that it has a purpose we dare not doubt. It 
is such a little thing, only a span long, a mere 
atom in the immensities of infinite time and space, 
that it is hard to believe it can have anything but 
an infinitesimal significance. Yet without human 
life, and the mind which finds its vehicle in life, 



304 THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 

much in nature and creation would be ineffectual 
pomp. Mind is at once the aim and elevator of 
life, and the goal of mind is God. But the finite 
cannot comprehend the infinite even though it 
looks with the eye of faith. 

In the kingdom of the insects there are creatures 
whose whole life is bounded by the confines of a 
single day. They are known as the ephemera, 
and, born with the dawn, they live their little lives 
in the summer sunlight, hand on the heritage of life 
to others of their kind, and die when the night 
falls. One can imagine such an insect, hoary with 
all the hours of her brief life, gathering her chil- 
dren and her children's children round her dying 
bed, some broad-veined leaf, and seeking to make 
them wise with the fruits of all the philosophy she 
has gathered in the course of her long pilgrimage. 
Doubtless she can tell them how, in the remote 
past, when she was a child, there was a mighty storm 
of wind and flood some May vesper commingled 
with a shower of summer rain ; and how, in the 
days of her youth, she narrowly escaped the voracious 
beak of some questing bird ; and how, in the first 
flush of maturity, love came to her ; and so on, 
through the whole gamut of her life's experiences. 
And, if she is an insect given to philosophise, we can 
imagine her pouring forth, for the benefit and 
guidance of her descendants, the cornucopia of her 
thoughts upon the world in which she has lived, 
and all its problems. The picture provokes a 
smile ; but, in smiling, we are laughing at ourselves. 
Compared with the few brief hours of the life of 
an ephemera, our span of threescore years and ten 



THE END OF THE MATTER 305 

seems an eternity. But the longest human life, and 
the most gifted human intellect, measured by the 
standard of infinite time and the infinite knowledge 
of the eternal Mind, are less in comparison than 
the length of life and the intelligence of the garrulous 
ephemera. So let us walk humbly, holding fast to 
whatever clues we may discover, straining with 
eyes of faith into the darkness, confident that 
some day and somewhere the clouds will be sun- 
dered by the light-bringing sword of dawn. 

Within sight of the little bell-tent in which these 
chapters have been written stands a great city. 
Its streets are thronged by soldiers from all ends 
of the earth, for the curse of war is upon it. On 
the wine-dark sea, which washes its feet, war-craft 
come and go, and the drone of the humming aero- 
planes fills the blue vault of the sky above it. In 
its streets vice walks openly and unashamed, and 
women, in whose eyes the pure light of heaven 
should gleam, leer evilly at men, at once their 
betrayers and their victims. Lust and crime, sin 
and death, lurk in its alleys and by-ways. Nearer 
at hand, in long and serried rows, stands a tented 
hospital, where men, young and middle-aged, rich 
and poor, black and white, are suffering and dying 
to satisfy the blood-lust of the god of War. But, 
above all this vice-ridden and tortured city, over 
all the muddle, the filth, the folly, the baseness 
and inhumanity of man, there towers a symbol of 
the Divine. I know not by whose hand, or by 
what pious inspiration it has 'come to pass, but 
high on an eminence above the city is a church, 
and on its loftiest pinnacle there stands a gigantic, 



306 THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE 

golden figure of the Holy Mother and the Divine 
Child. Far out on the deep the effulgent symbol 
may be seen by the harassed but home-coming 
mariner, and out of the mire of the city streets, if 
one lift one's eyes, it is always visible. This is the 
vision splendid ; a perpetual witness to remind us 
that, though man may make a mess of life .and by 
the misuse of his talents and opportunities bring 
suffering and evil upon the earth, over all and above 
all there still reigns triumphant God. 



Printed by Haiell, Watso Vtnty, Ld., London and Aylesbury, Engand. 



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