Professor Huxley's Creed

Anonymous (Richard Hutton)
Quarterly Review (January 1895)

[160] Art. VII.–1. Collected Essays. By T. H. Huxley, F.R.S. London, 1894.
2. Essays on Controverted Questions. By the Same. London, 1892.
3. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. By Francis Darwin. London, 1887.
4. Reden. Von Du Bois Reymond. Leipzig, 1887.
5. Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy of Herbert Spencer. By F. Howard Collins. London, 1894.

To the average citizen who reads as he runs, and who is unacquainted with any tongue save his native British, it may well appear that the Gospel of Unbelief, preached among us during the last half-century, has had its four Evangelists–the Quadrilateral, as they have been called, whose works and outworks, demilunes and frowning bastions, take the public eye, while above them floats the agnostic banner with its strange device, 'Ignoramus et Ignorabimus.'

These pillars of the faith unorthodox which sums itself up as Nescience, rest on one foundation, but are each characteristic and unlike their fellows. Mr. Herbert Spencer may be termed the 'Great Philosopher,' who, by cohesions and correspondences, binds worlds and eons together in sesquipedalian chains, with a fulness of language so overpowering that he almost persuades us to look upon all things in heaven and earth as 'necessary results of the persistence of force, under its forms of matter and motion.' Such is the triplicity which, manifesting the Unknowable, finds in the 'Apostle of the Understanding' a fervent though critical worshipper. Again, Mr. Darwin, though, as he was fain to admit, 'bewildered' in questions metaphysical, nor given to dwelling on the mechanism of the universe, tells us with gentle iteration that if we grant, by way of commencement, simply 'a mud-fish with some vestiges of mind,' he will thence deduce all vertebrate animals, including man, and build up science, civilization, and morality, yet not upon sand. Over this astonishing creed, Mr. Tyndall, who by temperament had in him much of the poet, has flung a veil of religious melancholy, adorning with his utmost skill of eloquence, and celebrating with unction, the pithecoid origin of our race which he did not desire to conceal. Mr. Tyndall was a mystic who touched with dreamy colour the harsh and staring outlines of Darwin's biology, and the vast and vague of Spencer's all-embracing world-nebula. The finest qualities, whether of prophet, philanthropist, or man of science, he was [161] willing to trace back through the ranges of zoology, and farther still, to the fires which are blazing in the sun.

Last of all, but the most effective, as he is undoubtedly the most popular, of the Four, comes Professor Huxley,–'all the while sonorous metal breathing martial sounds,' as Milton has it,–to do battle, like a champion armed in complete steel, with creeds and clericals, in 'untiring opposition' to the enemies of science, be they bishops or biologists, cardinals or followers of Hegel, Prime Ministers in office or out, and orthodox Christians wheresoever found. Always incisive and dogmatic, and, as Darwin observed, writing with a pen dipped in aqua-fortis, he has been a man of war from his youth up. And now, when he might take his ease in honourable retirement, having 'warmed both hands at the fire of life,' he seems not unwilling to fight his battles over again, by collecting in a general view the records of his many encounters, and republishing his Essays with scarcely the change of a syllable.

They are lively but delusive reading. Of the Gospel which is thus in pungent style commended to our attention, we remark at the outset that it is calculated in spite of its obvious frankness, or because of it, to entrap the unwary. If we may borrow an expression from the author, this latest message of science–misleadingly so called–is woven of 'ideal cobwebs' stretched above the abyss of Mr. Spencer's Unknowable, and shining prettily enough in the sun. Who first hung them out before mankind? We do not pretend to know; but David Hume, 'the prince of agnostics,' certainly did so a hundred and fifty years ago, smiling at his own cleverness, and with such an innocent air that he seemed rather to be taking for granted what everyone thought, than transforming into hopeless enigmas the beliefs men had cherished concerning God, the Soul, and Immortality. Now, since the animated discussions in which Kant led the way, those who are skilled in metaphysics have learnt that Hume's polite and flowing rhetoric needs to be sharply scanned, its terms sifted to the bottom, and its assumptions pointed out. The majority of readers, however, cannot do this for themselves. They are not, nor ever will be, metaphysicians; they listen in good faith to the specious language of demonstration, and their–we had almost said incurable–naiveté in the presence of celebrated teachers makes them ready victims whenever ambiguities which really hold the key of the position are inflicted upon them.

Professor Huxley's doctrine is by its nature and essence double-seeming; it takes the sovereign words, and plays upon them, and makes them of two colours. Outwardly it is Science, [162] inwardly Nescience. It has given a mighty impetus to Materialism. Yet Professor Huxley affirms with scornful vehemence that he is no Materialist. It has marshalled squadrons against free-will, and all that is called 'spirit and spontaneity.' But the author protests that free-will has not been ousted by science, and that a drawn battle in this region is all one with giving the victory to the old and orthodox banner. It is couched in terms that make of man the merest automaton, that deny any possible effect in the physical world to his volition. Yet, marvellous to relate, when a timid Bishop proposes that Christians shall confine their petitions to things spiritual, Professor Huxley steps forward, and in language clear as day, and with felicitous illustration, supplies to embarrassed spirits an argument which restores all that the prelate had too speedily surrendered. Darwinism appeals to scientific observers especially on the ground that it puts an end to final causes, silences Paley, and throws back theologians upon an uncertain à priori demonstration. At once the Professor replies that 'evolution has no more bearing upon Theism than has the First Book of Euclid.' To crown all, Hume being confessedly as much of a Pyrrhonist, or absolute sceptic, as any man can be whose reason is not totally in abeyance, and Professor Huxley delighting to stand by him, we yet find with equal pleasure and amazement that the latter values truth so highly, and is so convinced of its objective worth, that sooner than give it up at the bidding of an evil fiend, though omnipotent, he is prepared to undergo the worst such fiend can do upon him, be the torture as intolerable as it may, and its duration everlasting. If this be not to confess the 'transcendental,' to know what is at the heart of the universe and to worship it as known, we do not understand the meaning of words. Yet, in the very height and ecstasy of his passion for the truth, irrespective of utilitarian reckonings whether in regard to himself or the race (for what he would dare on behalf of virtue, the Professor would surely recommend to every living mortal), this most heroic of self-contradictors tells us in an aside, that his worship is chiefly of the silent sort, and at the altar of the Unknown, which, when he first made its acquaintance, was the Unknowable.

Such flashes from a higher light, and revelations, as unexpected as they are welcome, of what German philosophy has called the Absolute, lend a charm to the Professor's eloquence that no want of logic, however manifest, can wholly dissolve. They betoken the change that is passing over science no less than literature,–the new spirit and the wider views towards which men are moving as they realize how inadequate, how [163] much resembling a mere 'verbal mystification,' is the Materialism of the Comtes and the Häckels, in whose eyes 'the Unknown and the Unknowable are but more or less advanced stages of a mathematical problem.' True it is, in the words of the thoughtful student whom we have just been quoting, Mr. Henry Coke, that 'perhaps hardly any living writer has contributed so much to the common scepticism,–the crass unbelief of the day,–as Professor Huxley.' Nevertheless, we may, with the same critic, allow or insist that 'this is rather the misfortune of the ignorant pupils, than the fault of the brilliant teacher.' Must we lay on him the blame if words, which for the wise man are but counters, become in the hands of the less wise current coin, stamped at the royal mint, and possessing the value which is inscribed on their surface? Well, that a question for casuists, and involves many delicate issues. 0ne thing is sure. When we challenge Professor Huxley to declare the worth of his seeming gold pieces, he answers that they are bare tokens and 'useful symbols,' devices and tricks of the intellect to facilitate its operations; that science is nothing but a relative aspect of things which in themselves we do not apprehend,–an algebra, a calculus, employed by the mind because it has been found to work,–but as human as the oldest or newest of religions, and no whit, so far as we can judge, more akin to the Absolute. It is a fable convenue, but with this advantage that the learned and not the ignorant have agreed to take it as genuine history.

Nine men out of ten, as soon as they hear the name of science, believe that a real knowledge of objective facts and their laws and causes must be thereby meant. Professor Huxley, too, often speaks as though such were the case; but from time to time he throws out a caveat, and writes in the margin that all-multiplying coefficient, the unknowable. The rough garments of Esau the Materialist suit by no means well with the smooth tones of Idealist Jacob. But so incongruous a mixture denotes mystery, 'and,' as the amiable poet warns us, 'things are not what they seem.' Does the simple reader who shrinks from creeds and formularies on the ground of their supposed contradictions, turn to science, dreaming that he shall find therein nothing but clearly ascertained facts, experience always verifiable, and no problems which defy solution? Let him not be deceived. The shadow of the transcendental looms above these lights; beneath is the great abyss; and that rounded whole in which he walks with comfort, as a little world germane to his thoughts and level with his understanding, is surely 'the phenomenal,'–an allegory or parable, the play [164] of unknown forces, agents, powers,–call them by what name we may,–which exist beyond his ken. Such is the moral which Professor Huxley enforces throughout these pages. He describes himself as an agnostic, but, in admitting that there is a region into which science has never penetrated, he leaves scope and room for another method, which may accomplish the task that has fallen from his hands. In one word, scientific Reason, thus confessedly bounded, and impotent to answer the questions of eternal life, seems by its very helplessness to call for Revelation and to demand its aid.

Again and again, in reading these fragments,–the shortcomings of which, had they been moulded into a book, must have struck the most careless,–we are reminded of the famous Professor at Berlin, Du Bois Reymond, whose 'Addresses' we have set at the head of our article. Alike the English and the German writer display such technical knowledge as but few among their contemporaries boast; and it is clothed by them in a vesture of well-chosen, clear, and definite language, in the best sense popular, because not only precise but idiomatic. Both disdain scholastic pedantry, and are indebted for the influence which they wield outside museums and lecture-halls to that literary skill whereby they have added the graces of culture to their learning. In keenness of temper, in unbounded self-confidence, in vivacity of feeling, and in a combative spirit, these eminent persons would probably yield no jot the one to the other. They mingle much autobiography in their discourses; and the prophet countersigns his message with not undisguised satisfaction. Both are avowedly partisans, good haters, and delight in their beak and claws as congenial weapons of offence. Like the war-horse in Job, the neck of each is clothed with thunder, and he saith among the trumpets, 'Ha, ha.' Certainly, none of the Homeric chieftains could have taken more pleasure in a tourney with the Trojans than do these in setting upon their chosen adversaries. They give and receive wounds with the courage of Sioux warriors, and, however they mean to be philosophical and well-balanced, their temperament, as a rule, is too much for their philosophy; the dissertation ends in a war-whoop; scalpels are exchanged for tomahawks, and the reviewer of their doughty deeds is too often compelled to break off with the lively indication, 'Left fighting.'

Professor Huxley's favourite Latin verb is 'Nego,–I say No.' But with such vehemence does he say No, that the negative of this captain-general of unbelievers sounds desperately like an affirmative. Mr Spencer, with an eye to affinities of disposition which depend hardly at all on identity of [165] doctrine, has suggested,–so we learn from the amusing piece of self-portraiture prefixed to these Essays,–that Professor Huxley was intended by nature to be a clergyman. Let us say rather that every sect has its apostles and its propaganda; that the tone of authority, the indicative and imperative moods in which our author indulges, the somewhat peremptory humour, disdain of those who do not agree with him, sarcastic touches, and challenging voice, mark him out as a priest of the new hierarchy which assumes a Creed of Science for its Thirty-nine Articles, and would substitute for religion fresh 'laws of conduct' established upon the 'laws of comfort' and by them authenticated. Somewhere in Professor Huxley lurks the mystic whose ears are open towards the spiritual world, and whose utterances every now and then come across the harmonies of Materialism with bewildering effect. But the emphasis which is laid upon science in opposition to orthodoxy, strikes the keynote in these discussions. And thus we discern a clericalism à l'inverse in the almost episcopal charges which it has pleased him to issue against tradition Hebrew and Christian, to the intended discomfiture of Christians to whatever communion belonging, and as a renewal of the eighteenth-century campaign whose war-cry was 'Écrasez l'infâme.'

Our Professor, then, to his other qualities adds that of a belated Voltairean. With British doggedness he sets himself to fabricate shafts of wit against the many things held sacred by his countrymen; and the method of Zadig is frequently combined with the method of the French Mephistopheles. As a scientific man he welcomes La Mettrie's L'homme-machine, well pleased to be an automaton or skeleton-clock, wound up by the unknown Powers and striking the hours correctly. As a partisan in the guerilla warfare against Christianity, this latest of the unbelieving apostles, born out of due time, rehearses with varying success the jibes and sneers of the Auƒklärung, and treats the recognized creed of Europeans and Americans with less respect than he would bestow upon the waste products of a soap-factory. The finest criticism always implying sympathetic insight, we are now accustomed to hold that Goethe saw more deeply into the Christian Religion–though in the main by virtue of his artistic, and not his ethical faculty–than Voltaire, whose keen sense of the ridiculous never broadened into genial or tolerant humour. Science has no enmities, and the study of those varied elements which enter into religious belief is not only compatible with an even temper, but demands it, unless we are to take our dead analysis for the miraculous life on which nations have thriven, and to lose the spirit,–das geistige Band, [166]–neglecting which we fall into the great but widespread sophism, that the chemical constituents displayed in flasks at the South Kensington Museum make the whole man. On this deluding method, and not seldom with a bluntness of speech that hurts his opponents less than himself, Professor Huxley has brought his engines to bear on the New as well as the Old Testament.

But in this procedure we are not minded to follow him. And as the Christian principle is to return good for evil, it appears to us that a fair and impartial summary of his teaching may be of service, not only to those who refuse it by very instinct, but also to the many in whose judgment so accomplished a writer and so highly-praised a physicist cannot be utterly in the wrong. 'Castigatque auditque dolos' is Rhadamanthine justice, which fallible mortals must not imitate. Let us hear first and pass sentence afterwards. When we have suffered Professor Huxley to speak on his own behalf, and to put his arguments with the utmost force of which he is capable, we may find in his science and his nescience grounds whereon to conclude, as he does, that natural knowledge 'is as little atheistic as it is materialistic'; that it has no quarrel with Religion; and that symbols or ideas which deal with things unseen and spiritual have as real a value as those in virtue of which we manipulate the evidence of things tangible into laws and formulas, and subdue to ourselves the universe of sense.

The drift of our exposition may be stated in the words, as classic as they are significant, which Du Bois Reymond uttered on a well-known occasion. Science is concerned with experience, indeed, but runs up of necessity into abstractions. On the other hand, no Religion has either charm or influence which does not issue in personal communion between the worshipper and the Supreme. 'Cor ad cor loquitur' is the touching sentence which Cardinal Newman wrote upon his shield, and which sums up all the grace of all aspiration towards the Infinite since prayer was first breathed. Now then, says Du Bois Reymond with point and precision, 'The tendency in virtue of which our intellect personifies its ideas is just as normal and inevitable as that whereby it abstracts and 'universalizes.' Does any one call Religion a dream? Then let him call Science a dream too. But is natural knowledge valid, true so far as it goes, not an empty symbol, but an acquisition proving its reality by conforming to experience, and enabling us to move along an ascending scale of facts in which we feel ourselves more and more at home? All this may be said of Religion; it is the proof by power, by life, [167] by the spirit to which, and not to bare syllogisms, mankind have ever appealed, when their paramount beliefs were in question. Or, as Mr. Herbert Spencer proclaims, although with a deeper significance than he has hitherto realized, 'We cannot but conclude that the most abstract' (he means the most real) 'truth contained in Religion, and the most abstract truth contained in Science, must be that in which the two coalesce. It must be the ultimate fact of our intelligence.'

However, let not the reader be alarmed. We propose to go up these heights by easy steps, and to pause now and then for the view. All we require at the beginning is granted, nay pressed upon our acceptance, by Professor Huxley. Science, he affirms, agrees with mediæval scholasticism (a great and rare saying!) in postulating the rational order of the universe; it would commit suicide unless it did so; and we must always assume that 'every part of matter is a realm of law and order.' Thus we banish the irrational, the chaotic, as an impossibility and a contradiction; it neither does nor can exist; Goethe, with his simple and profound genius, puts the truth in a nutshell, 'Alles factische ist schon Theorie,'–in other words, 'Give me a fact, and I will show you a thought behind it.' The world is the manifestation, the embodiment of ideas. Professor Huxley says so, too. Not by disposition a naturalist, what is it that has fascinated him all these years? 'I never collected anything,' he tells us, 'and species work was always a burden to me: what I cared for was the architectural and engineering part of the business,–the working out the wonderful unity of plan in the thousands and thousands of diverse living constructions, and the modification of similar apparatus to serve diverse ends.' We seem to be listening to the famous Archdeacon of Carlisle, and a nineteenth-century Pope might be tempted, as he reads, to murmur, 'What a Paley was in Huxley lost!'' Physiology, the Professor repeats, took his imagination, and no wonder, since he defines it as 'the mechanical engineering of living machines.' But a machine without a plan is inconceivable; it exhibits and contains what Plato and all theologians have described as a purpose, an end, a final cause; it is there to do something, and, if it could speak well as work, it would cry out with the king in the tragedy, 'For this was I ordained.' Thus are we already within sight of Darwin, and the sound of battle reaches us where we stand.

Few chapters in the history of science are more interesting, or so little understood by the crowds who style themselves Darwinians, as the relation of Professor Huxley to that patient but strangely limited framer of hypotheses. The 'architectural’ [168] idea, to which reference is made in the foregoing quotation, has never ceased to haunt the Professor's mind. Not at once did he accept Natural Selection; to the last he has held it on his own terms; and while, in reviewing Häckel, he is tenderly cautious not to set down his 'Story of Creation’ as the romance which Du Bois Reymond openly declares it to be, his sense of logic and belief in Reason as the ground of science lead him to assert over and over again that the 'primordial teleology,' or plan in the nature of things, remains unaffected by any process which biologists may discover, so to speak, in the act. As we cannot too often remind ourselves, Darwin was quite aware of 'the extreme difficulty, or rather impossibility, of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity.'

He tells us further that, 'when thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man, and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote "The Origin of Species."' Yet, while recording this suggestive statement, he declares that 'the old argument from design in Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed so conclusive, fails, now that the law of Natural Selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the notion of Natural Selection, than in the course which the wind blows.' A pretty decided antithesis to the conclusion that was strong within him during the period of his greatest vigour!

The reply shall be given by Professor Huxley. First, as regards Paley's argument, we are directed to the chapter in his 'Natural Theology' where this far-sighted, though narrow apologist, has left room for Evolution, and anticipated the reasoning which it demands. 'There may be many second causes, and many courses of second causes, one behind another,' says the Archdeacon, 'between what we observe of nature and the Deity; but there must be intelligence somewhere.' Variations, appendencies, gradual development, the tendency on which Professor Tyndall has remarked, of particles to marshal themselves into definite forms,–all these, and as many more [169] wheels as you please, may be granted in the machinery; they will neither move in order to an effect, nor be capable of producing it, unless design has impressed upon them the direction in which they shall concur. What does Professor Huxley add to this but a notable confirmation, when he writes, 'It is necessary to remember that there is a wider teleology which is not touched by the doctrine of Evolution, but is actually based upon the fundamental proposition of Evolution'? The belief in chance and the disbelief in design' are 'in no sense appurtenances' of this great doctrine, and must be 'got rid of'; for, indeed, 'the more purely a mechanist the speculator, is,' the more firmly 'does he assume a primordial molecular arrangement of which all the phenomena of the universe are consequences.' This corresponds to Paley's 'trains of mechanical dispositions fixed beforehand by intelligent appointment and kept in action by a power at the centre,' and thus it is that the mechanist, as Professor Huxley declares, is 'at the mercy of the teleologist, who can always defy him to disprove that this primordial molecular arrangement was not intended to evolve the phenomena of the universe.' So then, the law of Natural Selection which made Darwin an agnostic, has in itself no such tendency. Moreover, if we give ear to this same ardent disciple, but neither fool nor fanatic of Evolution, 'the theological equivalent of the scientific conception of order is Providence,' and the determinate mechanism, which on both views must be granted, will be as consistent with the attributes of Deity working in the past and at the centre of things, as with the laws, or the ascertained sequences, which science goes upon.

But Darwin still objects: 'There seems to be no more design in variability and selection than in the course of the wind that blows.' The implication is that 'Chaos rules the fray,' and that order, if anywhere visible, comes by accident. Let such a votary of blind fortune, cries Professor Huxley in a passage of rare emotional eloquence, go down to the seashore, and, when a heavy gale is blowing, watch the scene; let him note the infinite variety in the tossing waves, mark the flakes of foam driven hither and thither by the wind, note the play of colours which answers a gleam of sunshine as it falls upon them, and will he not be tempted to say that chance is supreme? Yet 'the man of science knows that here, as everywhere, perfect order is manifested'; that 'there is not a curve of the wave, not a note in the howling chorus, not a rainbow-glint on a bubble, which is other than a necessary consequence of the ascertained laws of nature'; and that, 'with a sufficient knowledge of the conditions, competent physico-mathematical skill could account [170] for, and indeed predict, every one of these "chance" events.' Order is there in the midst of the hurly-burly; and Darwin's appeal to the wind's caprice and seeming unreason has suggested its own refutation. For where prophecy may be, design will furnish a true cause for it.

Over such passages, surprising at first sight to the readers of Professor Huxley, as the blessings uttered by Balaam son of Beor must have sounded in the ears of the Moabites, David Hume would have shaken his head dubiously. These 'primordial arrangements' call for a mind to arrange them; and 'necessary' consequences which may be predicted thousands of years before they come to pass, stop the mouth of Epicurus, with whose fortuitous clashings and cohesions Hume, despite his argument against miracles, felt a constitutional sympathy. 'The existing world,' nevertheless, affirms our 'retrospective prophet,' did lie 'potentially in the cosmic vapour,' and an intelligence well enough versed in the nature of its molecules could have written out in advance 'the state of the fauna in Britain,'–not excluding that of its political parties,–at any given moment from the landing of Julius Cæsar to Mr Gladstone's retirement. Surely we may agree that, whatever becomes of Darwin and his vacillations, nothing but an 'immortal fallacy' could charge Professor Huxley with having consented to 'reinstate the old pagan goddess, Chance.' He believes in what the Germans describe as 'die rein-mechanische Welt-construction,' but only as a process; he never takes it to be the last word that might be spoken, if we could see through the mechanism and explain the allegory of which it is a prose account. Never, did we say? It is merely the 'algebra by which we interpret Nature,' he repeats. But the mechanical symbols do often blind him to the meaning beyond. Although he maintains that they, like all abstract ideas, are, in the language of Du Bois Reymond, 'purely formal notions, and signify no real existence'; although, to the dismay of the Materialists, he laughs at Matter when submitted for his acceptance as an 'entity,' and will not acknowledge Force, except by way of a working or temporary supposition, yet, bring him face to face with the believer in self-conscious spirit, whether finite or infinite, and he gives forth sayings which the crudest of the followers of La Mettrie could not better. At one time he concludes warningly, 'The philosopher who is worthy of the name knows that his personified hypotheses, such as laws and force, and ether, and the like, are merely useful symbols, while the ignorant and the careless take them for adequate expressions of reality.' This offence against logic he denounces [171] in terms of deep reprobation as idolatry and shadow-worship. With dogmatic idols he will have no fellowship. Yet those of us who remember the controversies arising out of the Professor's readings on 'Yeast' and 'The Physical Basis of Life,' or who have taken the trouble to make a list for themselves of his pronouncements regarding matter and motion, will have already been confronted with the dilemma which either robs his utterances of definite meaning, or reduces the Ego to a nullity, destroys moral freedom, and makes the dependence of mind upon material phenomena absolute.

We must dwell a little upon this remarkable and perplexing situation. To begin with, the Professor, no less than his compeer at Berlin, holds the final confession of natural science to be 'Nescimus'; with the sword of experiment it never has, and never will, cut through the Gordian knot. As, therefore, Evolution leaves theology intact, so, by parity of reasoning, it should not meddle with the Ego or Self, which, as a lesser deity, abides within the material but living frame. 'Les dés de la Nature sont pipés,' said Galiani; and in the loading of be dice lies hidden the event. Evolution necessitates a previous Involution, which may explain the laws or process of world-building. Now does not all this apply to the Self, the agent or spiritual power that in man's organism binds the elements together, weaves the tissues, assigns or directs the functions, and governs its little human world, its microcosm, with intention? We put aside the vague word Vitalism. We speak of a person, not an abstraction which hides behind the phenomena, but the agent who controls them to whatever extent facts may determine. And we say that he transcends mechanism by the very force of his being able to direct it, his presence or absence making the essential difference between living or dead muscle, bone, and brain, precisely as it is the design put into the world-machine which hinders it from falling asunder and tumbling into chaos. Function implies purpose; without the adaptation of means to ends it becomes simply impossible. And protoplasm is the clay, the marbles or the bronze which the sculptor fashions to his own ideas of use and beauty. Itself it could not fashion; much less may we suppose that, by some absolute contradiction, it could fashion the artist who moulds it into form.

Nor does Professor Huxley fail to allow room for the Ego. 'In the first place,' he observes, 'it seems to me pretty plain that there is a third thing in the universe, to wit, consciousness, which, in the hardness of my heart or head, I cannot see to be matter or force, or any conceivable modification of either.' Furthermore, relying on Descartes and Berkeley, to [172] him it seems that 'our one certainty is the existence of the mental world, and that of Kraft und Stoƒƒ falls into the rank of, at best, a highly probable hypothesis.' So that, between atoms and forces on the one side, and consciousness on the other, there is an impassable gulf fixed. But is not experience the ground of science? And have we any experience so deep and intimate as that of the living self-determined Ego which is the implied subject to every statement that we put forth? Can a man say truly, 'I think, therefore I am,' unless the verb is taken with the pronoun which alone makes it intelligible?

No, replies the Professor, that would be mediæval Realism and pseudo-Science. There is no Self, only states of Self; and 'the assumed substantial entity, spirit,' is not even a necessary fiction. Why? we ask with astonishment. Because, says our teacher, when we abstract 'the phenomena of consciousness,' not so much as a 'geometrical ghost' is left behind. We rub our eyes and read the sentence again. Did any man who upheld the reality of his own existence suppose that, if it could be caught alone, it would exhibit the forms of geometry,–an isosceles triangle, for instance, or a hollow square? And are the 'phenomena of consciousness'–to let an ill-sounding expression pass–anything else than the very mode by which the Ego is made known to itself? Truly, these slips in reasoning lead us to be more suspicious of the Professor's logical acumen than we would wish. At all events, let it be clearly understood as an article in Professor Huxley's creed that no substantial Ego has ever been apprehended by him, or, so far as he can tell, exists within his own 'fleshy tabernacle,' or in that of any of his fellows.

This provision made, in rushes Materialism with energy irresistible. Between the attractions and repulsions of physical forces and the highest degree of consciousness, the Professor now sees no break. Not only will the progress of science banish 'spirit and spontaneity' from the universe, and 'the physiology of the future gradually extend the realm of matter and law (as though these terms were identical!) until it is coextensive with knowledge, with feeling, with action'–not only, again, may we hope to reach the 'mechanical equivalent' of thought, as, thanks to Joule and Clerk Maxwell, we have already attained to that of heat or electricity,–but consciousness and self-consciousness must be regarded as 'products,' direct or collateral, of the physical forces at work in the machine. For 'molecular changes are the cause,'–not a mere condition, or sign, or antecedent in their own distinct order,–but 'the cause of psychical phenomena'; and these, we have been repeatedly told, [173] are all the Ego we can claim. An unbroken series of causes and effects leads up from matter to the philosopher's theorizing, the poet's ideal, the saint's intuitions of righteousness.

Unbroken, in spite of the 'impassable gulf’! There is no conceivable transition from 'molecules' to 'motives' in one section–the water-tight compartment, as we may term it, of Professor Huxley's philosophy. But go below where the foundations of the world are laid, and you shall watch how the Bathybius Häckelii–mere shred of protoplasm–emerges from mechanical combinations of forces into a life that may be everlasting. Darwin's mud-fish required at least 'some vestiges of mind,' wherewith to start upon its adventurous upward journey towards the Raphaels and the Shakespeares into which it was one day to evolve. But 'the primitive, undifferentiated, protoplasmic living things,'–how like a swinging line this reads from one of the choric songs in Aristophanes!–'whence the two great series of plants and animals have taken their departure,' can scarcely have begun with a particle of mind, unless we choose to imagine that the lowliest forms of algæ, or sea-weed not only are alive, but possess some fragment of feeling which they cannot manifest. So that, 'If the properties of water may be said to result from the nature and disposition of its component molecules,'–as they may–'I' exclaims our lecturer, 'can find no intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm,' viz. 'the phenomena of life,' which include all thought, volition, and seemingly spiritual operations, 'result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.'

Now, 'a solution of smelling salts in water, with an infinitesimal proportion of some other saline matters,' would contain all the elementary bodies that enter into protoplasm; and in none of these, single or combined, do we meet with any trace of feeling. Is life, then, the 'direct result' of such, with no fresh principle sui generis brought in to account for psychical phenomena? Professor Huxley resolves 'every form of human action' into 'muscular contraction'; and thought itself, on this showing, is, if an activity, muscular, if among the functions or results of life due, in the last analysis, to the complicated grouping of elements themselves summed up in a chemical formula. Shall we be wronging the essayist if we remind him of Condillac's statue, which began as marble but ended as man? It was a transformation without miracle, so Condillac asserted; no fresh creative act kindled the spirit in those eyes, no life came down into the heart, or thought substantial took the brain for its instrument. All was a mere change in [174] the grouping of elements already there, as by mixing colours we produce a novel tint or shading. But the French Pygmalion who thus accounted for his Galatea did not deny himself. He never, to borrow a phrase from Newmarket, hedged when he had made his book, by quietly defining the substantive 'matter' as 'a name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own consciousness.' Mr Spencer has stopped this earth in which his friend would fain take refuge, by the well-warranted declaration that, 'if Idealism is true, science is a dream.' The dream-figure of ammonia, carbonic acid, and the rest, will doubtless leave spirit uninjured. What we are called upon to deal with, however, is not a phantom of the imagination, but the perfectly definite and necessarily real thing known as a chemical element. Does this, in union with other elements of like properties, and with none of unlike properties, give rise to that which we know as the self conscious? That is the question to which Professor Huxley replies first Yes and then No, as he is thrust with either horn of the dilemma created by his own Agnosticism.

Thus these innocent algebraic symbols turn out to have a formidable meaning. Interpret them we must and we do. 'The errors of systematic Materialism may paralyze the energies and destroy the beauty of a life,' concludes the preacher as he descends from his pulpit in Edinburgh. Will the errors of hypothetical Materialism work less disaster? Suppose we reduce a question of metaphysics to a question of mechanics, talk about expressing consciousness in foot-pounds, and land ourselves in the conclusion that this and all other deductions of science are made by machinery, shall we escape the charge of transforming thought into matter by suggesting that machinery may be a form of thought? It has been said, as tersely as admirably, that 'matter is annihilated if it be identified with mind.' Yet, unless it be thus identified, Professor Huxley stands committed to the amazing doctrine–less easy of credence than all the fables in Alcoran, as Bacon has said of atheism–that a little smelling-salts in water, with infinitesimal quantities of phosphorus and so forth added, will produce the godlike being of man, complete psychically and ethically, as we view him in the history of the world. As the electric force and lightwaves are expressions of molecular changes, 'so consciousness is, in the same sense,' an expression of the same changes, taking place in nervous matter. To cap the climax, while we are told on one page that 'man is not the centre of the living world, but one amid endless modes of lifes' on another we read that he is 'the centre and standard of [175] comparison,' that all these various 'modes' are merely forms of his consciousness; and yet again, that, so far as each individual is concerned, 'those manifestations of intellect, of feeling, and of will which we rightly name the higher faculties,' are known 'to everyone but the subject of them' 'only as transitory changes in the relative position of parts of the body.' Confusion of thought can no farther go; the whole is a bewildering kaleidoscope where, the moment we attempt to fix our gaze upon an object, it turns into its opposite.

Criticism, says the Professor gaily, is a commodity for lack of which he has never suffered. Can we marvel, seeing how deep his language cuts, how strong are its asseverations, with what loud anathemas furnished, and the slight extent to which they differ in oracular obscurity from the dogmas they undertake to overthrow? Those who glory, like himself and Du Bois Reymond, in making a humble acknowledgment and confession of intellectual impotence, whose Credo is Nescio, and who lift their devoutly sealed eyes to the unknown God, should be willing to allow that theirs is an Orphic song responding in its unintelligibility to the nature of the Object celebrated. But no; so convinced is Professor Huxley that he writes a clear style, not only when dealing with coal and chalk, but as he passes with lightning quickness from neurosis to psychosis and back again, that he disdains to alter at the critic's suggestion so much as a paragraph. 'What I have written, I have written,' he says with Pilate. An amusing chapter might be composed on 'the silence of Professor Huxley' when hard-pressed by difficulties. Do you hold out to him the bottle of smelling-salts, or vinaigrette, and, having ascertained that no vital principle hides within, beg him to show you how the Homunculus of the alchemist can arise in it. Presto, he strikes it with an idealizing wand, darkness falls, and by muttering the magic words, 'modes of consciousness,' lo, he has evoked the miracle! You are neither enlightened nor satisfied, but the game is at an end, the fee demanded. Homunculus steps down as an automaton, molecular and mechanical, with consciousness thrown in by way of result, but, mark it well–'as completely without any power of modifying that working' which we call action, and whereby we judge a man's moral character, 'as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine.'

It is little to observe with the late Mr Herbert, that by such affirmations 'states of consciousness' are made the 'regular effects of physical antecedents, but do not become causes in their turn.' The bad logic of Professor Huxley's automaton is [176] a vanishing quantity in comparison with its ethical outcome. If the lower series can produce the higher, certainly there should be no insufferable hindrance to the higher reacting on the lower; and it might seem that the law of the conservation of energy required as much. But, leaving this point, we remark how the disciple who takes Professor Huxley at his word, may under pretext of 'Law' behave as though an Antinomian; for the steam-whistle, to which man's spirit has been likened, would surely, could it understand its relation to the steam-engine, be painfully aware of its helplessness. And in morals, he that thinks himself to be impotent is lost. In molecules, whether as causes or effects; righteousness has neither place nor meaning. The fall of a stone towards the centre, and of a character into what would be crime, were the agent responsible, must, if both are but complex motions of atoms, be esteemed equally devoid of moral interest; for what are they at last except facts reducible to a system of pushings and pullings? Neither let us imagine, with the Professor, that an automaton, however conscious, will recognize as a duty the performance of acts which it cannot help doing:–the Imperative on which Kant has established his belief in God demands as its correlative freedom. When conscience speaks, it does not say, 'Thou must,' but 'Thou oughtest.' And therefore, it is a fresh and very significant paralogism on the author's part when he makes 'the safety of morality' to depend, not on a conviction that we are subjects of the Living Righteousness, but on 'a real belief in the order of Nature which sends social disorganization upon the track of immorality as surely as it sends physical disease after physical trespasses.' If the automaton cannot help its immorality, why should it be punished? If it can, it is no automaton. Moreover, has physical science such insight, denied to ordinary mortals, as to perceive this exquisite adaptation of penalties to offences, and is Providence thus triumphantly vindicated in the world below? Disease may reward virtue as well as vice; and the social catastrophe smites good and bad together, as bullets on a battlefield show no respect of persons. Did 'consequences' here and now avenge the violation of the Commandments, that trial of faith which Professor Huxley's adjectives in this sentence covertly acknowledge, when he urges that it should be 'real and living,' would be altogether spared us.

Great, indeed, is the difference between him who, with Mohammed or Calvin, looks up to a Righteous Deity disposing all things according to His will, and the modern who exclaims that 'the doctrine of free-will is now demolished, and men [177] must reconcile themselves to the fact that they are automata.' If they must, they will, and advice so to do is superfluous. The determinist, however, who believed in God, knew that he moved about in a world spiritual and supernatural,–if, in some mysterious way, he was necessitated, yet he denied that he was coerced, and his sin was his own, not the act of the Supreme. Much simpler, and far more terrible, is the case of one who finds himself urged by blind mechanical forces, masquerading as motives, to actions that something within him reprobates and condemns. Professor Huxley is content if wound up to virtue and benevolent without choice: would he be quite as cheerful were the winding up of another sort, and the outcome, apparently, a criminal? Once more, there is a well-known, and alas too familiar state, which we call temptation against the moral law. Who is more likely to issue victorious from that contest,–the man in whose mind it is deeply fixed that he must go with the stronger force, or one to whom his freedom has been revealed by the very fact of the struggle? These are not otiose questions. As an observant traveller and citizen of the world, Professor Huxley must have remarked on the growing tendency, perceptible in all classes, to surrender at the call of inclinations which a less agnostic generation would have stamped out. The increase of suicide, no less marked in London than in Paris and Berlin, denotes a lessened confidence in the power of men and women to resist impulse. Trained upon such reading as the Essays before us, but in a dialect and with a colouring adapted to the million, unhappy creatures will talk of 'destiny' where the Professor writes of 'molecular arrangements'; and, though he declares with 'proud independence, 'Fact I know, and Law I know, but what is this Necessity?' those whom he has thrown back upon mechanism for their code of conduct and key to the universe, may interpret the helplessness of the will which he admits as its defeat by circumstances, and a justification, in their anguish, for self-murder.

At any rate, the multitude will believe it to be an excuse for self-indulgence. What need have they to ascribe Righteousness to the Unknown? By supposition, it has no qualities which we can define or even guess at. The world which we see is all we are ever likely to experience; for Professor Huxley does not shrink from telling us that, 'like jesting Pilate' when he has asked the question, 'Is man immortal?' he shall not think it worth his while to await an answer. We may, therefore, take such comfort as this fresh enigma supplies; the question of immortality belongs to 'lunar politics,' and a wise man will [178] act without reference to what passes on the other side of the moon. Is Professor Huxley, then, a Positivist? Mindful of a most trenchant dissertation upon Auguste Comte, we dare not say so. And yet, all the morality which he recognizes in his sum of belief–the Prologue to his 'Controverted Questions,'–is a social product, it is bounded by the limits of human society, without acknowledgment of a Divine Conscience, or any relation to the transcendental even as Unknown. 'The desire to do what is best for the whole' is its highest conceivable form; and its sanction is tribal, for to break the law will ruin the social organism. This–if we may venture to whisper it–is precisely Comte's teaching, which George Eliot in her stories has so gloriously exalted.

But the social sanction is absurdly unequal to the burden which Professor Huxley, or Comte, or Mr Herbert Spencer, would lay upon it. And signs are by no means wanting of a serious attempt, in widely-separated parts of the Old World and the New, to relax the bonds of morality by lowering the sanction,–a plain proof that, stripped of the transcendental qualities which have hitherto clothed it in majesty, the public conscience is liable to be perverted or even led captive by growing licence. Society does not show its former quickness to reprobate suicide, because the notion that it is an offence against the Everlasting has, in various circles, become palpably weaker. The traditional Christian feeling which fenced domestic purity round about has been satirized and flouted, or, in the very name of Science, denounced as superstition. Forms of vicious indulgence hitherto severely kept down, but in Pagan epochs rampant and unashamed, have found their advocates. The automaton surrenders to impulse, and 'states of consciousness,' not centred in the Spiritual Ego, tend to disintegration, with emergence into disastrous activity of the lower faculties. In brief, thanks to Professor Huxley's accommodating 'molecules,' and the substitution of darkness impenetrable for the light from Heaven, Morality, which was in its nature Divine, and in its sanction infinite, has become finite, temporal, fluctuating,–a thing of fashion, race, and opinion; a department of police, and a function to be regulated by its foreseen utility. In practice, it should tend more and more to resolve itself into the strength of the strong and the cunning of the weak; for those who can govern consequences may despise them, and those who know how to escape penalties will laugh at them. Must we, then, go back to Hobbes and Lucretius, to the world in which 'Homo homini lupus,' and the Beast Epic usurped the place [179] of the Human Tragedy? Our Professor, with an eye towards the primeval forest, talks firmly enough of the 'rights of tigers,' which are synonymous and co-extensive with their 'mights.' Not only does he scorn Rousseau, but, if we may judge from his various pronouncements in re politica, the startling dictum that 'all tigers have an equal natural right to eat all men,' is not so much a paradox facetiously stated, as a parable intended to sanctify the strong hand. In fact, the 'Law of Nature' thus exemplified is the struggle for existence; and whether force or fraud prevails, the victory of either is its justification.

'Nay,' it may be said, 'you are too hasty; the ethical agnostic goes on to distinguish between "natural right" and "moral right," which, in his view, may even be opposed to each other.' Doubtless, and what, pray, are these 'moral rights,' after all? Simply the interest of the larger organism–of society–overpowering the interest of the smaller, and the individual made subject, by a contract express or implied, to the 'tiger' a thousand times magnified–the 'Leviathan' of our afore-named Hobbes–which, armed with teeth and claws, can rend him in pieces the moment he declines to obey. It is all a matter of expediency founded upon the association of man with his fellows; and an incidental remark of Professor Huxley's will prove that, in his idea, there can be no moral transgression where Society happens not to be injured by the individual's procedure, though it were as monstrous as fancy may suggest. 'The solitary, individual man,' he says, 'living under the law of nature, cannot sin.' Sin is, therefore, a social offence; it is treason, not to God, but to humanity; and its bounds are assigned by tribal considerations. Suppose the tribe does not know, or has no power to punish, does morality cease and is the individual lawless? It would seem so. Then our ethics become a trial of strength between the leonine and the vulpine types among mankind; and whereas prophets have eloquently descanted upon the 'infinite nature of Duty,' they must now yield to mathematicians who shall calculate the probabilities of a judicious investment in murder, lust, or cheating, whensoever these hold out a sufficient premium to run the blockade of social sanctions.

But the attentive reader who has come thus far along with us, will here spy out a contradiction. Has not Professor Huxley, in words to which we made reference at the beginning, defied, like the man-loving Titan upon Caucasus, all the thunderbolts of an Evil Deity, rather than prove disloyal to the truth? How, then, limit his ethics to social sanctions? For [180] such a Deity would be more than a match for any tiger or Leviathan, and an omnipotent disorganizer of our little systems. Most true; but, as the Professor does not revise, we are compelled to take him with all his contradictions on his head, admiring the sturdy heroism, a remnant of discarded but not wholly forgotten Christian teaching (Stoical too, if he pleases), which flings foul scorn at mere brutal strength and invokes a law wherewith molecular combinations have no thrill in common. Like Tertullian upon a similar occasion, we can but exclaim, 'O testimonium animæ naturaliter Christianæ!' The agnostic's theory is naught; his personal nobleness revolts against it, and, amid the imagined shock of worlds, he defies Satan, though seated upon the throne of the universe, and wielding all the might of 'consequences.' Our automaton has suddenly proved that he can 'choose' to some purpose; were he willing to be a craven, how easy to worship falsehood and cringe before the Everlasting No! But the same delightful inconsistency which led Stuart Mill to prefer honesty in hell to the greatest happiness of the greatest number in a hypocritical heaven, drives his utilitarian brother to as brave, though as self-contradictory, an act of martyrdom. He will not 'shore up tottering dogmas' at the expense of truth; and in saying so with transcendent energy, not only has the Professor immolated his agnosticism upon the altar of the Absolute, but in the same moment he has ruined the morality of expediency from summit to base.

Unhappily, these splendid interludes pass unheeded by the many. As they take Darwin for a Heaven-storming giant who pulls down the Zeus of sovereign Law to set up Chance in his stead, and as, when Mr. Spencer bids them adore the Unknowable, they translate his mystic meaning into a mechanism without God, so, despite Professor Huxley's absolute morality in such passages we have quoted, they are prone to rely upon the 'laws of comfort' as determining for them the 'laws of conduct,' and to 'still their spiritual cravings' by such 'natural knowledge' as will, e.g., enable them to enjoy alcohol in the hope of escaping its sad consequences by the use of chloral, or, if that turn out a mistake in therapeutics, they can endow research until the requisite antidote has been discovered. The 'new morality' looks to medicine rather than repentance as ministering to a mind diseased; the doctor, and not the divine, attends upon Lady Macbeth, a detergent for the crimson spot in his waistcoat pocket; and if good digestion wait on appetite, there is no reason why Vitellius should not prolong the banquet, or Nero sleep less soundly when his [181] entertainments in the Vatican gardens have ended and his living torches burnt down to a snuff.

Pernicious logic, but, granting the premisses to which Professor Huxley clings in his materialistic mood, not unwarrantable! Why should a steam-engine feel remorse, though mangled limbs lie upon its pathway? Can it arrest its own movement or leave the track along which it is driven? Consciousness may prompt a groan, as conscience may tell us that we are free,–delusions both, and the groan mere sentiment, a variation in the music of the steam-whistle! We are not free, 'and there's an end on't.'

Neither did we come to our present state of religious convictions, so we learn, under the guiding hand, the all-seeing eye, of a Providence which has shaped the world's course. And, therefore, in the same spirit of criticism, satirical, dissolvent, and negative, whereby man has been split asunder into heaps of chipwood, misnamed by his foolish vanity the immortal soul, Professor Huxley undertakes, but with redoubled enthusiasm, to dislocate, to unhinge, and to lay level with the ground, that temple of the ages known as the Christian Religion. Were it a freshly tabulated form of fetish worship from Eastern Africa, his curiosity as a man of science would temper his disdain, and we should be warned that we must deal with its peculiarities, however strange, as at least interesting survivals, or perhaps as important aids towards the insight we so greatly need into our common nature. But mention the 'cosmogony' of the 'semi-barbarous Hebrew,' and you will be told with heightened voice that it is the 'incubus of the philosopher and the opprobrium of the orthodox.' Why should the Professor's soul be so deeply vexed? Would it not be more worthy of him to explain than to render railing for railing? What though we grant, for instance, that the Hebrew conception of God and religion has resemblances or affinities in numerous points with the Babylonian or the Phœnician, how comes it that from Hebrews and not from other Semitic tribes, though mentally as well as racially akin to them, has risen over mankind the ideal of character and conduct in which the Bible-story culminates? It is an ideal, we are elsewhere told in these pages, with which men may, possibly, never be able to dispense,–as near an imitation, therefore, of the moral Absolute, though clad in human garments, as the sum of our knowledge is ever likely to attain. How account for this 'variety' among religious beliefs, so weighed down and fettered as the argument declares by 'monstrous survivals from savage superstitions,' having subdued to itself the most unruly elements, exalted one God, the Living [182] and True, above idols, amulets, and base ignoble teraphim, lighted upon the law of righteousness hidden away beneath mountains of prehistoric drift and dross, baptized millions into a life of virtue, consecrated the lowliest things to divine uses, and, notwithstanding the stubborn blindness of many among its adherents, lived on until it might challenge criticism, as it does, to show in the moral world a principle of redemption or progress which is not already written on the Christian heart?

To furnish, not an apology but an explanation of this, by far the greatest and most momentous fact in history, would have been an achievement shedding lustre on the closing days of a philosopher and a searcher-out of Evolution. For is it not the crown and high prophetic scope to which development attains? And are we dealing with it philosophically when we break up the living whole, overlook the spirit whence all its portions derive their raison d'être, and shut our eyes to the fact which Butler has in so masterly a fashion exhibited, that here is, not a chaos of isolated fragments, but a dispensation the stages of which lead onward and upward, until the entire pattern is wrought upon the loom of time, the rudimentary lines filled out, the prophecy accomplished, and the earlier scaffolding, so to speak, taken away as the building grows to perfection? Of this, surely not unscientific, method, the only one adapted to an immense and complicated historical drama, what instance does Professor Huxley afford? His manner of approaching the Christian system is, we had almost said, to represent it as a clerical intrigue, or, at least, as in the main an exhibition of tyranny, ignorance, and self-seeking on the part of Churchmen. Would he approve, did one of his students decline to acknowledge the relation between the imperfect being of man at early stages of his existence, and the full-grown adult, on the ground that such beginnings were so very undeveloped? Everywhere, from the problems with which Natural Selection busies itself to the scheme of Church and Bible, it is the same question,–Can we understand if we leave out design and turn away our thoughts from the final cause, the determining purpose, that, as Professor Huxley is compelled to admit, may have been present all through?

The multiplied coincidences all entering into a worldwide plan, whose outcome is perfection, whether physical as in man's frame, mental in his genius, or moral in the pattern of life which he conceives and according to which his Master in the New Testament has acted, will be the result of chance only when the universe itself is Lucretian dice-play. Now, apply this method to Christianity and Judaism as they grow before [183] the eyes of the historian. Look from the tendency to the event which limits and explains it; watch how the type leads on to its fulfilment; how the higher spiritual principle breaks out of its sheath, and the mystery is a germ of light; how the personal becomes an incarnation of ethics according to its measure, the history a disclosure of heavenly laws, and sense itself a handmaiden to spirit. By the bare teaching of morals no great human change has ever been brought to pass; but the Christian martyrs have founded an everlasting kingdom, a public polity, and have revolutionized the only progressive races of mankind. If these things lay hid in the cosmic vapour, who was it that gave to it such power and potency? Shall we talk of 'molecular combinations' any more? It would be the height of unreason. But if we recognize a foreseeing Mind, is the whole of this wonderful story to be degraded into nonsense, because Professor Huxley, fastening on a record, neither announced as complete nor a modern précis of evidence, and still less (in the intention of the writers) to be detached from that encompassing tradition which they called the Christian Faith, is not satisfied with the witnesses? Paley himself here becomes inadequate by reason of the very qualities which gave to his 'Natural Theology' its keenest edge. The method of argument in physical science is not that whereby great historians, dramatists, and moral teachers have sounded the human heart, or given us a picture of human events. It fails in subtlety, in the insight of emotion, in the sympathy which alone can interpret the music of these tones.

For the argument on behalf of Christianity is cumulative and practical, and is a matter, in the first place, of true historical induction, addressed to those who are willing to taste of its benefits, and to enter into its spirit. Though we could not prove it directly, in what more evil case would it be than the theory of development, the strength of which, as Darwin maintained, lay in its supplying a key to phenomena otherwise disconnected and insoluble? Of such a system the life is at once in the whole and in every part. Ridicule and satire, which are so eminently anthropomorphic, have little purchase on Nature and her productions; the acute angles of our wit lose themselves in her great circle, where the grotesque itself has a serious meaning, as the imperfect is prized not for its achievement but in the light of a step to something higher. When we regard the Christian history with such an experienced eye as Aristotle recommends the wise man to acquire if he would judge, most of the criticism that Professor Huxley spends on its documents will appear to be no less beside the point [184] than needlessly envenomed. For it is the work of a man who seems to blot out the centuries with a sponge, and according to whose tactics the details are never to be interpreted by the organism they subserve. Isolated facts, miracles divorced from their purpose, and a sort of physical calculus applied to things of the spirit, make an ill preparation for understanding the Gospels. Though Professor Huxley should multiply his rationalist queries a hundredfold, and cover the pages of the New Testament with objections, that divine palimpsest would not lose its charm. As a keen judge, the late Mark Pattison, observes, men have never given up their beliefs on account of the difficulties raised against them; they will not plunge into a vacuum. And until that new creed is forthcoming, objections may perplex, sarcasm irritate, special pleading cast a cloud of dust, but the ancient doctrine will hold its own. For what, after all, is gained by negative criticism? When we close the book, its sharp sayings will not enable us to do our duty; they have answered no questions; they have propounded more riddles than they can solve; and the wilderness into which they drive mankind lies all before us while the Paradise, which was an inspiring vision of the world's childhood, melts into a mirage. Will 'cohesions and correspondences' atone for the disenchantment? And must we close with them?

Certainly not so long as Professor Huxley shows himself to be a Nisi Prius lawyer, who asks for legal evidence, but does not insist upon the impossibility of the Gospel narratives. The entire spiritual view of things, as he often grants, involves no contradiction. If we keep to the analogy of what is known, we can easily 'people the universe with entities in an ascending scale, until we reach something practically indistinguishable from omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.' Would not, by the way, an omniscient 'something' be, of necessity, a Person? Nay, 'analogy might justify the construction of a naturalistic (that is to say, of a strictly scientific) theology and demonology not less wonderful than the current Supernatural.' And, by way of clinching these admissions, the Professor, when assailing with every engine of irony and ridicule certain narratives selected by him for animadversion from the Gospels, begins his attack by conceding that phenomena, like those of hypnotism as exercised on the brute creation, forbid his taking up a position–which Voltaire and his disciples most certainly would have occupied–in the region of the à priori, or questioning, not only the alleged facts, but their possibility.

Therefore, as distinguished from the vulgar herd, he does not say, 'These are impostures which reason scorns'; while, in [185] opposition to Hume, he is prepared to consider the evidence which may be tendered in proof of them. It shall no longer be thought the shortest way to write outside the Bible, 'Omnis homo mendax'; and then fling the volume aside. For the continuity of what is known as the Supernatural cannot be called in question. Its nature and meaning lie open to various theories; but the events themselves must no longer be dismissed with a sneer. Not that Professor Huxley has any intention to 'march to the spiritual city Sarras.' He will not even practise telepathy, or be present at a dark séance. Nevertheless, Braid and Charcot have strangely perplexed the rules of the game of Rationalism. Old superstitions are reviving; the question of wizardry vexes practical statesmen; Science discovers that its dry light leaves whole provinces unexplored; and no sooner is thought declared to be a function of the brain, than it shows independence by migrating under trance to the solar plexus. Once more, the untutored intuitions of the child and the savage bear a likeness, all the stronger that it is often a caricature, to the moods of genius, as these in their turn show an ever-recurring affinity with religion. Molecules seem likely, therefore, to sink into their former place; and, whereas our Professor would not allow that the conscious or the Ego was anything more than a collateral product of forces, we have now the strongest grounds for asserting that forces are governed, and their results to an amazing degree modified, by 'states of consciousness.' The tables have been turned upon Materialism

Thus it is that the rationalizing critic has lost ground in proportion as experience is cross-questioned. We are rapidly leaving behind the shallow 'enlightenment,' whose rule of thumb was the obviously intelligible. Materialism, ashamed of itself, puts on the agnostic's disguise; it wears the mask of Nescience, and 'with bated breath and whispering humbleness' assures us that the language it cannot but employ is altogether metaphorical. The bold ruffianism of 'matter and motion,' to which man's highest principles were no more sacred than the instincts of swine or the appetites of the carnivora, blanches and is silent as physiology, fumbling about after the soul, stumbles upon the 'threshold of consciousness,' and shuts up its case of instruments on the approach of the medium and the mesmerizer. If Professor Huxley drags in the primeval savage as a witness against religion, the medicine-man with his incantations seems likely to prove an embarrassment to the College of Surgeons. Science is now confronted by phenomena which it can neither explain nor suppress. And Rationalism, already despoiled of its antecedent objections to the creed of the Bible, [186] when it asks for evidence may find to its disgust that more than it demands is forthcoming.

Pascal has said in a famous epigram, 'Nature confounds the Pyrrhonist, and Reason the Dogmatist.' We may believe that in our day he would have written, 'Nature rebukes the agnostic, and Science the materialist.' Which horn of the dilemma will Professor Huxley choose? Escape is for such an one, who declines to revise, impossible. Science postulates the existence of matter, but is already reaching beyond it to that which gives matter its laws and subdues it to design. This alone, is Evolution; take away purpose, and the eternal rain of atoms into a fathomless gulf can produce neither the cosmic cloud nor its ordered molecules. But it is precisely the denial of purpose that constitutes Materialism; and if we may believe Professor Huxley, that system of baseless assumptions is doomed. He has fled for refuge to Agnosticism. Will that mere negative help him to trench round about Evolution, or to put a wall of brass between the new theories of development and Religion? Surely not, while the master-principle which selects and evolves can make its necessity felt in sound logic. Variations upon lines of tendency alone will account for issues so beautiful and in every fibre adapted to each other as the world exhibits. And the higher we ascend in the scale, so much the more evident is that need of a co-ordinating Providence. When at length we perceive that an ethical universe emerges above the mud and slime of formations which gave no promise of it, we are compelled to look round until we discern a present Deity, under whose law the human qualities may be trained to their highest, and time and eternity shall be reconciled in one great scheme of Righteousness.

Here, then, is the demand of science for a reasonable account, of things splendidly fulfilled, the chief lines of an eternal order made manifest, and the conscience established in its sovereign place. What, in exchange for these things, does Professor Huxley hold out? Let him gather into one view the principles he has laid down, exhibit them side by side, and enable us to judge the doctrine which he would substitute for a Christianity put to shame. He will, we make bold to affirm, be no less amazed than his readers, at the tissue of contradictions thus unfolded. For, as he is by turns agnostic and materialist, he weaves such a web of Penelope as, even in an age of confusion, the world has rarely seen. Mind is an effect of matter; but matter is a property of mind. The will counts for something in conduct; yet conduct is the response of an automaton to molecular stimulus. Morality goes by calcula[187]tion, though we ought to defy consequences and let an omnipotent Devil do his worst. Between consciousness and mechanical movement yawns an impassable gulf; nevertheless, an unbroken chain binds the two as cause and effect, provided always we do not imagine that mind can act upon molecule. We ought to explain the known by means of that which we know already; still, if from the effects of mind which our innermost sense perceives, we go on to argue that in the world at large like phenomena must involve like causes, and that there is an Objective Reason, we exceed our warrant and fall into superstition. Science postulates that for the whole of Nature there must be somewhere an explanation which will make of it an intelligible and coherent system; when, however, we speak of Providence as looking before and after, we are told to beware of anthropomorphic delusions. Evidence for the marvels of Christian history is demanded; we point to the Religion as an existing fact, and our critic fastens upon passages in the Gospels which do not satisfy his sense of the trustworthy, nor will budge until we have accepted principles of argumentation that applied in similar circumstances to the events of secular story would yield no result.

In fine, the test of science being verified experience, and causes proving their reality by the effect which they produce, when we ask what Agnosticism can do for mankind, we receive the assurance that its power is wholly destructive, its outcome the practical negation of God and Immortality, its temper so sceptical that the thinking substance which every man knows himself to be is dealt with as an obsolete fiction, and we are left as mere bubbles on the stream of progress to be swallowed up ere long in the Unknown. To quote the poetical but exact language of Jean Paul, 'The immeasurable universe has become but the cold mask of iron which hides an eternity without form and void.'

Such is Professor Huxley's triumphant Nescio, chanted with a sense of exultation which would not be unbefitting were he St. Paul declaring that Death is swallowed up in victory. His scientific knowledge, his grace and dexterity of speech, his wide reading, and even his not unkindly feeling on occasion, all must serve to adorn and beautify this dissolving strain, to set a crown upon this skull into which he has fashioned the universe, and to bid us keep cheerful and work for progress though it end in the great abyss. What can be said of it all which shall not read like satire? But even Mephistopheles in an ordered system has his function; and we will end by consoling ourselves with the thought of Professor Huxley as, in his own way, doing that for metaphysics and religion which Natural Selec[188]tion does for species. He is a critic who would fain eliminate whatsoever can be destroyed in the Christian system. Yet how much, by his own confession, is left standing? Will any less eloquent and well-furnished agnostic do more? If not, we may feel grateful to the man who, with an unbought zeal and the industry of years in many departments, has but succeeded in showing that now, since the growth of Science has made of Materialism a baseless absurdity, the reign of Reason, culminating in the Righteousness that rules the world, can be the only sound issue of age-long controversies. The agnostic perceives that matter and motion have not resolved 'the terrible problems of existence.' Yet a solution there must be; and when Religion gives personality to the mind which Science is continually employing but so often fails to interpret, we may expect that, instead of a haughty and most unfruitful 'Ignoramus,' we shall hear from the lips of those whom it has trained to knowledge, the Te Deum which philosophy justifies and duty demands.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University