Was Man Created? - Part 7

Part 7

The belief in a future life amongst the civilized race of mankind is almost universally prevalent. The proofs of immortality are various. The desire that man has to live forever and his horror of annihilation is one; the good suffer in this world and the wicked triumph--this would indicate the necessity of future retribution. The infinite perfectibility of the human mind never reaches its full capacity in this life; the faculty of insight which sees in an individual all its past history at a glance is the immortal attribute and is continually on the increase; and it is possible that Aristotle was right so far as he stated that the lower faculties of the soul, such as sensation, imagination, feeling, memory, etc., are perishable. No matter if this be so or not, it is certain that in the next life, where all is perfection, only the fittest attributes will exist, the others would have perished.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul has been defended by Marhemeke, Blasche, Weisse, Hinnichs, Fecham, J. H. Fichte, and others.

Let us look for a moment at the visible universe and see if it is not reasonable, on a scientific basis, to admit of the existence of another universe, although it remains unseen to us. One can not help but be struck with the fact that energy is being dissipated in this visible universe, that the visible universe is apparently very wasteful. Look at the sun which pours her vast store of high-cla.s.s energy into s.p.a.ce, at the rate of 185,000 miles per second. What will be the result of this?

The answer is simple: The inevitable destruction of the visible universe. Yes, just as the visible universe had its beginning it will have its end. But there existed a power before the visible universe came into existence, and which is acting in the visible universe as the ultimate cause of all phenomena. "For we are obliged," says Herbert Spencer in his First Principles, "to regard every phenomenon as a manifestation of some power by which we are acted upon; though omnipresence is unthinkable, yet, as experience discloses no bounds to the diffusion of phenomena, we are unable to think of limits to the presence of this power, while the criticisms of science teaches us that this power is incomprehensible." And so we should expect, for a finite cannot comprehend an infinite. It is for this and other reasons one is led to believe that the visible universe is only an infinitesimal part of "that stupendous whole which is alone ent.i.tled to be called THE UNIVERSE."[77] As there existed an invisible universe before the visible one came into existence, we can conclude that there still exists an invisible universe now, and that this invisible universe will still exist when the present visible one has pa.s.sed away. Let us see what light our finite senses can throw on this. It is well known that all our senses have only a certain narrow gauge within which they are able to bring us into sensible contact with the world about us. All outside this range we are unable to reach. For example, we do not see all forms and colors; we do not hear all sounds; we do not smell all odors; we cannot conscientiously touch all substances; we cannot taste all flavors. Vision depends on the wave motion of light. The length of a wave of mean red light is about 1/39000th of an inch, that of violet 1/57500th of an inch.

But the number of oscillations of ether in a second, necessary to produce the sensation of red, are 477,000,000,000,000, all of which enter the eye in one second. For the sensation of violet, the eye must receive 699,000,000,000,000 oscillations in one second, as light travels 185,000 miles in one second. But when waves of light having all possible lengths act on the eye simultaneously, the sensation of white is produced. So, as has been previously stated, without eyes the world would be wrapped in darkness, there being no light and color outside of one's eye. So we see our sense of sight has its limits, and we know how finite these are. That there are vibrations of the ether on each side of our limits of vision cannot be doubted; and if our eyes were acute enough to receive them, we could have the sensation of some color, which must under present conditions remain forever blank. The owl and bat can see when we cannot; their eyes can receive oscillations of ether, which pa.s.s by without affecting us. So with sound, which "is a sensation produced when vibrations of a certain character are excited in the auditory apparatus of the ear."[78] The longest wave which can give an impression has a length of about 66 ft., which is equal to 16-1/2 vibrations per second; when the wave is reduced to three or four tenths of an inch, equal to from 38,000 to 40,000 vibrations per second, sound becomes again inaudible. The piano, for instance, only runs between 27-1/2 vibrations in a second up to 3,520.

Sound travels about 1,093 feet per second, and the human voice can be heard 460 feet away, whilst a rifle can be heard 16,000 feet (3.02 miles), and very strong cannonading 575,840 feet, or 90 miles. That there are vibrations above and below 16-1/2 and 40,000, there is no room to doubt, as there exist ears which can hear them, such as the hare; but to us they are as though they did not exist.

Of all our senses, the sense of smell far surpa.s.ses that of the other sense. Valentine has calculated that we are able to perceive about the three one-hundred-millionth of a grain of musk. The minute particle which we perceive by smell, no chemical reaction can detect, and even spectrum a.n.a.lysis, which can recognize fifteen-millionths of a grain, is far surpa.s.sed. But this sense in man is far surpa.s.sed by the hound.

Our sense of taste is also limited, and as has been already stated, cannot distinguish all flavors. We can recognize by taste one part of sulphuric acid in 1000 parts of water; one drop of this on the tongue would contain 1/2000 of a grain (3/400 of a grain) of sulphuric acid.

The length of time needed for reaction in sensation has been determined by Vintschgau and Hougschmied, and in a person whose sense of taste was highly developed, the reaction time was, for common salt, 0.159 second; for sugar, 0.1639 second; for acid, 0.1676 second; and for quinine, 0.2351 second.

Reviewing, then, the above, it is evident there are eyes which can see what we cannot, there are ears which can hear what we cannot, and there are animals who can smell and touch what we cannot. "For anything we know to the contrary, then," says Savage, "a refined and spiritualized order of existences may be the inhabitants of another and unseen world all about us." As Milton has said:

"Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep."

If there is a life very much different from and very much higher than our present one, it is not strange we are ignorant of it. It is impossible to make a person understand anything which is entirely unlike all that has ever been seen or heard, for every idea in the world that man has came to him by nature. Man[79] cannot conceive of anything the hint of which has not been received from his surroundings. He can imagine an animal with the hoof of a bison, with the pouch of a kangaroo, with the wings of an eagle, with the beak of a bird, and with the tail of a lion; and yet every point of this monster he borrowed from nature. Everything he can think of, everything he can dream of, is borrowed from his surroundings--everything. "So, if an angel should come and tell of another life, it would mean nothing to us, unless we could translate it into terms of our own experience. We could not understand a 'light that never was on land or sea.' Our ignorance is not even then a probability against our belief."[80]

As has already been stated, the visible universe must have its doom, must end as it began, by consisting of a single ma.s.s of matter; but is there not a more primitive state of matter than the matter such as we know it? Yes; and the so-called ether is that matter. It is unlike any of the forms of matter which we can weigh and measure. It is in some respects like unto a fluid, and in some respects like unto a solid. It is both hard and elastic to an almost inconceivable degree. "It fills all material bodies like a sea in which the atoms of the material bodies are as islands, and it occupies the whole of what we call empty s.p.a.ce.

It is so sensitive that a disturbance in any part of it causes a 'tremor which is felt on the surface of countless worlds.' It exerts frictions; and although the friction is infinitely small, yet as it has an almost infinite time to work in, it will diminish the momentum of the planets, and diminish their ability to maintain their distance from the sun, the consequence of which will be the planets will fall into the sun, and the solar system will end where it begun."[81]

According to Sir William Thompson, the ultimate atoms of matter are vortex rings, which Professor Clifford describes as being more closely packed together (finer grained) in ether than in matter. And he says, "whatever may turn out to be the ultimate nature of the ether and of molecules, we know that to some extent at least they obey the same dynamic laws, and that they act on one another in accordance with these laws. Until therefore it is absolutely disproved, it must remain the simplest and most probable a.s.sumption that they are finally made of the same stuff, that the material molecule is in some kind of knot or coagulation of ether."[82]

The molecule of matter such as we know, then, may have been, and very probably was, produced by evolution from the atoms or vortex rings of ether, according to the theory advanced by the authors of the work called the "Unseen Universe," which I have referred to. The world of ether is to be regarded in some sort the obverse complement of the world of sensible matter, so that whatever energy is dissipated in the one is by the same act acc.u.mulated in the other; or, as Fiske describes it, "it is like the negative plate in photography, where light answers to shadow and shadow to light." Every act of consciousness is accompanied by molecular displacements in the brain, and these of course are responded to by movements in the ethereal world. Views of this kind were long ago entertained by Babbage, and they have since recommended themselves to other men of science, and amongst others to Jevon, who says: "Mr.

Babbage has pointed out that if we had power to follow and detect the manifest effects of any disturbance, each particle of existing matter must be a register of all that has happened. * * * The air itself is one vast library on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or whispered. There in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with, the earliest as well as the latest sighs of mortality, stand forever recorded vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the united movements of each particle the testimony of man's changeful will."[83]

So thought affects the substance of the present visible universe; it produces a material organ of memory. "But the motions which accompany thought," say the authors,[84] "will also affect the invisible order of things," and thus it follows that "thought conceived to affect the matter of another universe, simultaneously with this, may explain a future state."[85]

Death, then, is for the individual but a transfer from one physical state of existence to another, according to the "authors'"[86] idea; and so, on the largest scale, the death or final loss of energy by the whole visible universe has its counterpart in the acquirement of a maximum of life, the correlative unseen world. According to this theory, therefore, as the psychical or spiritual phenomena of the visible world only begins to be manifested with some complex aggregate of material phenomena, therefore it is necessary for the continuance of mind in a future state to have some sort of material vehicle also, which the ether is supposed to supply. "The essential weakness of such a theory as this," says Fiske, "lies in the fact that it is thoroughly materialistic in character. We have reason for thinking it probable that ether and ordinary matter are alike composed of vortex rings in a quasi-frictionless fluid; but whatever be the fate of this subtle hypothesis, we may be sure that no theory will ever be entertained in which a.n.a.lysis of ether shall require different symbols from that of ordinary matter. In our authors' theory, therefore, the putting on of immortality is in nowise the pa.s.sage from a material to a spiritual state. It is the pa.s.sage of one kind of materially conditioned state to another." This theory, dealing with matter, should receive support by actual experience, as matter is a subject of investigation. To accept it, therefore, as being possible without any positive evidence for its support, it remains but a weak speculation, no matter how ingenious it may seem.

To support an after life, which is not materially conditioned, I agree with Mr. Fiske, that although it will be unsupported by any item of experience whatever, it may nevertheless be an impregnable a.s.sertion.

If all were to agree, what we call matter is really force, as it certainly is, for if matter were not force it would be unthinkable, being force it becomes thinkable; this point I have touched on before, but it may be well to elaborate on it a little just here. The great lesson that Berkeley taught mankind was that what we call material phenomena are really the products of consciousness co-operating with some unknown power (not material) existing beyond consciousness. "We do very well to speak of matter," says Fiske, "in common parlance, but all that the word really means is a group of qualities which have no existence apart from our minds." The ablest modern thinkers, then, believe that the only real things that exist are the mind and G.o.d, and that the universe is only the infinitely varied manifestation of G.o.d in the human conscience. It is evident, then, that _matter_, the only thing the materialist concedes real existence, is simply an orderly phantasmagoria; and G.o.d and soul, which materialists regard as mere fictions of the imagination, are the only conceptions that answer to real existence.[87]

For instance, let us see what it is we know about a table. You say you can see it; I can respond that all you are conscious of is that the nerves of your eye have undergone a change. You say, I can check my sight of it by touching it; to this I reply, all that you are really conscious of is a sensation, and that something outside of you has produced it. But that all that is outside of me is anything more than the manifestation to me of a power or of G.o.d, is an inference and cannot be proven. To constant manifestations of this power, always a.s.suming the same form and characters which can be studied, different names have been given; but that the dust of the street or beat of our heart is anything else but that peculiar manifestation of the infinite G.o.d, cannot be contradicted.

Mr. Savage says, "The movement of electricity along a telegraph-line is accompanied by certain molecular changes in the wire itself; but the wire is not electricity, neither does it produce it. Thus modern science has found it utterly impossible to explain mind either as a part or a product of matter. It is perfectly reasonable, then, for any man to believe in a purely intellectual and spiritual existence, apart from any material form or substance."

To comprehend the immortal life is an impossibility; it transcends any earthly experience of man. The caterpillar probably knows nothing about any life higher than that of his toilsome crawling on the ground; but that is no proof against the fact that we know he is to become a b.u.t.terfly. The boy knows nothing about manhood, and cannot know. Though he sees men and their labors all about him, he has and can have no conception whatever of what it means to be a man; it transcends all experience.[88] "The existence," says Fiske, "of a single soul, or congeries of psychical phenomena, unaccompanied by a material body, would be evidence sufficient to demonstrate this hypothesis. But in the nature of things, even were there a million such souls round about us, we could not become aware of the existence of one of them; for we have no organ or faculty for the perception of soul apart from the material structure and activities in which it has been manifested throughout the whole course of our experience. Even our own self-consciousness involves the consciousness of ourselves as partly material bodies. These considerations show that our hypothesis is very different from the ordinary hypothesis with which science deals. _The entire absence of testimony does not raise a negative presumption, except in cases where testimony is accessible._"

My object has not been to prove the purely spiritual theory of a future life, but to show that it is a theory that intelligent people can entertain as a foundation for their belief "in the hope of immortality."

But that the spiritual life instead of the material life is the state in which we can hope for immortality, I think there can be no question; and such was the opinion of Paul[89] when he wrote: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of G.o.d, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.... So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pa.s.s the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'

O death, where is thy sting?

O grave, where is thy victory?"


[1] The Law of Disease, in College Courant, Vol. XIV.

[2] Winch.e.l.l. Evolution, p. 113.

[3] Comparative Zoology, p. 43. 1876.

[4] Huxley. Physical Basis of Life.

[5] Johnson, Ency.

[6] Comparative Anatomy--Orton, p. 32.

[7] a.n.a.lytical Anatomy and Phys.--Cutter, p. 16.

[8] Biography of a Plant.

[9] See Huxley--Invertebrate Animals, Anatomy of.

[10] Phys. Basis of Life.

[11] Beginnings of Life, p. 104, Vol. I.

[12] Monthly Micros. Jour., May 1, '69, p. 294.

[13] Chem. and Phys. Balance of Organic Nature, 1848, p. 48 (trans.).

[14] Inaugural Address, Aug. 19, 1874.

[15] Haeckel--Hist. of Creation.

[16] See Haeckel--Evol. of Man.

[17] Evolution of Man, Vol. II, p. 445.

[18] Johnson's Cyclopedia, Article "Evolution."

[19] Sumner, in Johnson's Cyc.

[20] Christian Union, Vol. XIII, No. 17, p. 322.

[21] Gen. i. 1.

[22] St. John i. 1.

[23] St. John i. 3.

[24] Hist. of Creation, p. 8.