Graphic Rule
Graphic Rule



In the catastrophe that had come upon him, man sought to retain some certitude that could give point to life and lift it out of a meaningless round of pain and pleasure. Like the lowliest creature he could strive to feed himself and to postpone death, but with a misery which the other creatures could not share with him, for he is the only one that can himself see the miserable creature that he is. It was Balfour, who held intuition on a parity with verifiable knowledge, who penned the epitome that man is but 'a race with a conscience enough to know that it is vile, and intelligence enough to know that it is insignificant.'

Convinced of this personal insignificance, and having fed himself and momentarily avoided death, he still asked of his universe its meaning, for it was not enough to carry through from Nowhere to Nowhere solely in Thoreau's mood of quiet desperation. He had been told by the philosophers that his search for Meaning was but looking into the Meaningless for a reflection of his own purposes and ends, that 'meaning' in the cosmic sense was meaningless, since the cosmos was not a man. But this was only true of ultimates: time and space might be infinite and incomprehensible, but the finite that lay wedged within infinity could be assumed to be comprehensible, and in part it had been rendered intelligible. It would have to be enough to search in life its finite pattern, to the farthermost discoverable certitudes.

Those certitudes which the Victorians esteemed were usually spelled with capital letters, implying that they stemmed from the Infinite and possessed metaphysical verity and eternal durability. Man has esteemed many certitudes that have come and gone: moralist and intuitionalist, special creationist and evolutionist, he has ever chased these transcendent butterflies only to discover as soon as they were captured and examined that the thing of beauty and a joy forever was in fact a thing of earth and corruptible, as are all things of earth. The Platonic Universals, the Judaic Law, the Incarnation, Resurrection and Atonement, Grace, Sin and Redemption, the medieval Crystal Spheres and Heaven and Hell, the original Perfection of Creation -- all once were certitudes, and all had lost their capital letters. Revelation and Inspiration had suffered this fate when they were shown to be dogmatic errors, and so had Faith when its intuitional foundations were uncovered and seen to be unreliable and treacherous, letting men down into the quicksands of error. Mathematical Truth, once conceived to be so absolute as to be the very substance of the gods, had proved to be a verbal game and its verities had been reduced to formalism and arbitrary rules, and Mind, no matter what beggar it might be, could no longer masquerade under false pretenses.

So, too, was the certitude of Natural Law to be brought to earth. It was possibly Thucydides who first spoke of the 'law of nature' as a divine edict written into the heart of things. The usage became prominent with the Stoics and was passed by the Romans to the church Fathers as one of the multiple associations of the Logos. Augustine regarded natural laws as modes of divine action which were abandoned only under exceptional circumstances to permit the operation of miracles. Descartes had been the first to argue against the miraculous exception and to insist upon the immutability of nature, for which he was damned as a 'mechanist,' or as one who regarded the universe not as the plaything of a Higher Power but as something to be interpreted solely in terms of law and order. As Galileo's law of the pendulum brought motion 'down to earth,' so Kepler's laws of planetary movement restrained the stars to foreordained and everlasting pathways. Newton proposed that all the phenomena of nature should be reduced to mathematical laws -- 'Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night: God said "Let Newton be!" and all was light' -- piously conceiving these laws not so much as the vocalized edicts of the God who was defined by the Thirty Nine Articles of the Established Church but as the very essence of God -- 'By existing always and everywhere God constitutes duration and space .... In him are all things contained and moved' -- and as principles existing wholly apart from the bodies which are being moved, even as Copernicus had conceived weight to be 'a certain natural appetite with which the Divine Architect of the Universe has endowed pieces of matter, so that they unite in the form of a globe.' Spinoza would have done for the soul what Descartes would have done for the body, and Newton for the solar system, make of it a self-operative and self-sufficient entity. Law as representing the regularities of nature, or the presumed necessity linking cause and effect, had become the stable cement of the cosmos, if not its very substance.

Hume's skepticism did not stop with wiping mind out of existence, but went on to annihilate this divine legalism written into the heart of things. He argued that man does not perceive either causes or laws, as such, but only sequences of events from which he infers causation and necessity; the laws which he formulates to describe these apparently necessary sequences are but a form of mental shorthand, abstractions convenient to the description of phenomena which usually or by custom occur in the same sequence. Hume, and after him, Mach, emphasized that the concepts of physical 'forces' and of cause and effect are animalistic, containing an unwarranted implication of muscular power, desire, will, impulse, or the like, operating to achieve a wished-for end. The century that followed Hume and Kant saw natural law resolved into two distinct elements: the observed regularities of nature, on the one hand, and, on the other, the formal, more or less mathematical statements used to describe these regularities. It is a regularity of nature that when released from the tree an apple falls to the ground; it is a formal or arbitrary statement that there exists an 'attraction' between the apple and the earth that varies inversely as the square of the distance between them. The part about an 'attraction' was no 'law' at all, however useful, but a mathematical-literary device which post-Newtonian physics partially, and later physics entirely abandoned as no longer corresponding to the behavior of the apple and the earth. Neither was the falling of the apple a law in the sense of an absolute and utterly dependable sequence, but only an event of high probability, the possible exception to which reason could not certainly deny. Paradoxically, Kant, who thought he saw divine imperatives in mathematical and moral 'laws,' recognized that 'so far as cause and effect have any possible interpretation in terms of experience, they mean regular, constant sequence of events in time, and nothing more,' thus affirming Hume's conclusion that all we can discover is the existence of highly repetitive sequences, and never any 'power' or 'operative necessity' behind them.

In discovering the 'laws' of the cosmos, Galileo, Kepler and Newton were only discovering sequences of high probability: the identification of these sequences as absolute, and the equating of them with the divine will, was the substitution of a logical error for the personal dictum of Yahweh-God. In Nietzsche's words, the 'laws of nature are the remains of mythological dreaming.'

Huxley clearly saw that natural law is but a conceptual shorthand, valuable for its usefulness and not its metaphysical validity. He himself said that 'most truths begin as heresies and end as superstitions.' Yet he could argue that there are elements of beauty in art, in music, in poetry, which approximate to the Kantian absolutes, that 'so long as the aesthetic faculties exist in man, so long will the principles of aesthetics be as 'immutable' as those of morals. And it is as fortunate for mankind in matters of aesthetics, as in those of ethics, that they allow themselves to be governed by the minority.' Before the century was out many found an adequate refutation of this conviction in their relief that the immutable principles of aesthetics of Huxley's time, whether in the realm of poetry, music or art, proved to be more mutable than he averred.

With respect to the practice of the moral certitudes, Huxley's century was surprisingly nave. It had once been in conformity with the highest moral code of Christian Europe that devout citizens should delight in burning witches twenty at a time, that the Inquisition should use the most terrible forms of torture man could invent to extract confessions of allegiance with Satan, and that the church should force the pagans into its fold by threatening to put them to the sword. The Book of Deuteronomy contained a moral code as alien to Christian Europe as the medieval European code was alien to the nineteenth century. Yet that century could look back upon the animosities of the Reformation, the austerities and the cruelties of the Puritans, the persecution of the Puritans by the Anglicans, without seeing that moral certitudes are relative to time and place. In fact, it seemed to be believed by the Victorians that previous patterns of conduct had universally been immoral, that a sound moral code had only come into existence when a man could be sentenced to six years in prison for publishing Thomas Paine's Age of Reason; when the theft of a loaf of bread by a hungry boy could be rated as a crime punishable by long imprisonment, the theft of a thousand men's rights by a prominent member of the Established Church as something of a social grace; when the best method of educating boys was rigorous physical punishment, and when girls did not need, and indeed could not use, any formal education. According to this morality a woman who exposed any part of her body on a bathing beach could be condemned as a social outcast, and until 1857, divorce could not be obtained except by a special act of Parliament and at the cost of hundreds of pounds; after that date when the power was transferred to a lay court, judicial separation could be obtained only when adultery was proved, so that feigned adultery became an established part of the British moral code.

Methods of punishment, being expressions of considered opinion, may be used as indexes of current moral values. Although England banned torture as a means of obtaining confession in suspected witchcraft, methods of punishment long remained deliberately cruel. In the fifteenth century pressing to death with every aggravation of agony was adopted as suitable to criminal cases where the accused refused to plead. Out of a sense of decency, so it was said, women were burned alive instead of hanged. Male traitors were first hanged by the neck and cut down before life was extinct, their entrails cut out and burned before their faces, after which they were beheaded and quartered and the quarters 'set up' in diverse places. Until 1870, forfeiture of property with consequent impoverishment of the innocent wife and children was prescribed for suicides.

At the end of the thirteenth century English law recognized only seven crimes meriting capital punishment: treason, homicide, arson, rape, robbery, burglary and grand larceny. Yet by the nineteenth century the number of capital offenses had grown to nearly two hundred, and included pocket picking, stealing of livestock, forgery, letter stealing, sacrilege and sodomy. It was not until 1836 that the list of capital crimes was reduced again to the original seven of the thirteenth century, and not until seven decades later that it was reduced to four: high treason, murder, piracy with violence, and destruction of dockyards, though in point of fact since 1838 the death penalty has been exacted under the ordinary law only for murder. As this is written, the death penalty has been removed for murder. Admittedly there was a marked discrepancy between law and practice in the early decades of the nineteenth century, yet hangings were an almost daily occurrence for crimes which a little later came to be regarded as venial. The gallows or tree with its corpse as a silent lesson to potential evildoers constituted an ornament of the landscape on the outskirts of almost every good-sized town, and Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century was moved to remark, as his coach traveled through the dusk and he discerned the familiar gallows, "Thank God, we are coming to civilization."

Huxley was being astonishingly nave, even for his century, when he soberly argued that immorality invariably finds its own reward in nature by virtue of the fact that trespass inevitably leads to biological punishment: the evidences were plain that 'the fittest' which survive in the struggle for existence might be, and often were, ethically the worst. It was the theologic taint of his childhood that led him to avow, in a reply to Earl Balfour, 'it is not to be doubted that so long as human nature and conditions of human life remain the same, so long will the rules of conduct remain the same. If mankind are "immutable and eternal" and live under immutable conditions, then assuredly the moral law is "immutable and eternal." ' It is not because of any change in mankind, or because of significant changes in the conditions under which he lives, that the rules of conduct have changed since Huxley's time, but rather in no small measure in consequence of the ideas propounded by Huxley himself.

When Tylor wrote his Primitive Culture (1874) and Lecky his History of European Morals (1869), it had become clear that the first, and perhaps the last, task of the moralist is to discover what man does, and why. To argue otherwise is to assert that beauty can be separated from the beautiful, terror from the terrifying, that 'drunkenness can be distilled from whiskey and bottled in a separate flask.' The metaphysical alchemists had failed utterly to achieve the sublimation of virtue from the dross of life. For Socrates, knowledge alone could be the source of a coherent system of virtue, but since by knowledge he necessarily meant knowledge of the good, and the good is virtue, his definition, and the search for virtue based upon it, got exactly nowhere except to approve those virtues which Socrates already esteemed. Plato's view of virtue was mystically complex and shifting, but by the time he wrote the Republic the body had come, in Epictetus's words, to be a 'corpse which the soul sustains,' and life a 'sojourn in a strange land,' virtue being an approximate harmony between the soul and the absolutes of prudence, courage, temperance and justice. And so, approximately, with Zeno and the Stoics. Aristotle hesitated to attribute moral excellence to the deity; his god, like Spencer's, was so unknowable that all he would say of him was that he was the Great Mover, and in accordance with his teleology of ultimate ends toward which all things are moved he conceived that virtue is the fulfillment of man's nature as directed toward his ultimate end of well-being, but the Aristotelian virtues were but via media between the extremes of opposing vices, and only marked the moral excellencies of his age.

The argument of hedonism, that self-interest is the ultimate appeal in virtue, began with Aristippus, Chrysippus, and more notably with Epicurus, who conceived 'that pleasure is the sole ultimate good, pain the sole ultimate evil: virtue is that which in the ultimate increases pleasure or diminishes pain.'

Christian asceticism and Neoplatonic mysticism cast the word hedonism and the name of Epicurus into temporary disrepute. For Plotinus and those who followed him matter was the 'first evil,' and body the 'second evil'; the only 'good' was pure soul, cut free from both. While for Plato the real as a universal was knowable, and thought could therefore ascend from the errors of the unreal to the truths of universals, for Plotinus even thought suffered earthly imperfection and the highest mode of human existence, true virtue, was attained only when all thought was obliterated and all consciousness of self lost utterly in ecstasy. Obviously no system of morals that had relation to the world could be based on Neoplatonism, and with this philosophy at its core Christianity was forced to begin again with the proscriptions of Yahweh as revealed to Moses and the prophets, plus the morality of the Graeco-Roman age, Aquinas compounding these with Aristotelian philosophy into an elaborately argued system of supernal moral platitudes.

Even before natural philosophy reawakened under Galileo and Copernicus, jurists were searching their consciences for the meaning of right and wrong. Out of discussions by Gentiles (1552-1608) and Grotius (1583-1645) of the common law, the 'law of nature' in the juridical sense had come to be seen as that part of the divine law which issues from the essential nature of man, who is distinguished from animals by an appetite for tranquil association with his fellows and by his tendency to act on universal principles. But men did break the law -- or else there would be no jurists -- so there remained the problem of why they are naturally lawful or unlawful. It was in part in his attempt to answer this basic question that Hobbes in his Leviathan (1651) framed the future problems for English ethicists. Primarily materialistic in his philosophy, and influenced by the psychological writings of Gassendi, Hobbes returned to the Epicurean position and posited that all human impulses are self-regarding, with this important qualification: that the individual tends to be moral only because of his association with his fellows, and hence individual morality cannot be expected or secured apart from society and government. The presocial state is therefore immoral, a wretched state of war, from which self-love impels a man to seek the peace and order of a moral social structure.

Locke, in his Essay on the Human Understanding (1690) had held with Hobbes to the egoistic basis of rational moral conduct, but returned the vis a tergo to the individual and denied the importance of society as a necessary impulsion to moral conduct. Before he was a philosopher, Locke was a Puritan. Shaftesbury added to human understanding, human emotion as part of the moral dynamic, a formula which might have impelled jurists to become psychologists and ultimately psychiatrists had not the affections been so conventionalized in Shaftesbury's time that all the basic motives appeared to be self-evident. For this reason, too, the formula seemed to the astute Bishop Butler to lead, quite contrary to patent fact, only to unregulated egoism without an authoritative conscience: the Bishop argued that conscience and self-interest must comprise a co-operative and yet antithetic dualism, the components constantly tugging at each other. Self-interest he could find in Epicurean terms, but for conscience he had perforce to turn to metaphysics. It was not until a later day that T. H. Green wrote, 'No man can make a conscience for himself; he needs society to make it for him.'

And yet the unanswered questions, What is right? and Why? remained to be buffeted between transcendental legalism, intuitionalism and theories of social compact. Social compact won a notable victory when Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), sometimes called the father of English law, more generally the father of utilitarianism, set himself the task of revising the principles of legislation free from class prejudice or logical fallacy. Abandoning both metaphysical and historical approach, in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) he sought a foundation in the formulas (adumbrated before him by Priestly, Beccari, Hume and Adam Smith): 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number,' and 'nobody is to count for more than one.' Bentham remained a hedonist: 'the only interests which a man is at all times sure to find adequate motives for consulting are his own.' 'I am a selfish man, as selfish as any man can be. But in me, somehow or other, selfishness has taken the shape of benevolence.' Moral judgments are really the common judgments of any society as to its common interests; whatever agreement there may be is simply a result of the fact that people are mentally and physically similar, and have experienced a common cultural development.

Bentham's formulas would not work for Spencer, who considered it to be 'the business of the moral sciences to deduce from the laws of life and the conditions of existence what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds unhappiness.' Nor was Bentham's hedonistic calculus so simple: the greatest happiness for the greatest number is meaningless since men are not unanimous in their standard of happiness, nor should everybody count for one, nobody for more than one, else the useless, the indolent and the criminal would rate equally with the useful, the industrious and virtuous. Moralists sent Spencer to the foot of the metaphysics class because in his Principles of Ethics he did not produce a 'Natural System of Morals,' but only a monumental work with many internal contradictions: it was, however, inevitable that the integration of matter from incoherent homogeneity to coherent heterogeneity should yield moral homogeneity only in the individual as such.

At the end of the nineteenth century Havelock Ellis could write, 'No man has counted the books that have been written about morals ... yet it can scarcely be that on any subject are the books that have been written more unprofitable, one might even say unnecessary.' But even as Ellis was undertaking the empiric description of human sex behavior, the T. H. Green Moral Philosophy Prize, awarded by the University of Oxford on a competitive basis for an essay dealing with the 'Reciprocal Relations between Ethics and Metaphysics,' and named in honor of Professor Green who had long devoted himself to this area, was granted to A. E. Taylor, Assistant Lecturer in Greek and Philosophy at Owens College, Manchester, for a dissertation entitled 'The Problem of Conduct' (1899, pub. 1901), which in its opening chapters effectively refuted Green's defense of such a relation by showing that the synthesis presented a false problem. In the discussion of morals, Taylor argued, all a priori speculation about the ultimate constitution of the universe must be set aside as utterly futile; the analyst must begin with the empirically observed facts of human behavior, and from these facts proceed inductively to metaphysics ('if such there be'), for the meaning of morality is to be found in the individual and not in the Absolute.

As for hedonism, another false problem was posed by the assumption, at least implicitly contained in the historic argument, that egoism and altruism are inalterable congenital human attributes; rather they represent a polarity in personality developed out of what Taylor called the 'simple fundamental undifferentiated and impersonal effect of approval' (or more simply, the impulse to seek satisfaction): 'It is not pleasure, but satisfaction, by which the "worth" of a thing is measured,' Taylor wrote. We accept one form of life and reject another 'because the one form of life gives us what we want, and the other does not. What we want is a state of permanent content, of progressive and lasting satisfaction for all our cravings, or, if that is impossible, at least for those which are most insistent and least to be stilled.

'Altruism and egoism are divergent developments from [this] common psychological root of primitive external sentiment. Both developments are alike unavoidable, and each is ultimately irreconcilable with the other. Neither egoism nor altruism can be made the sole basis of moral theory without mutilation of the facts, nor can any higher category be discovered by the aid of which their rival claims may be finally adjusted.'

Progress in morals is an illusion, there is no goal to which moral development inevitably tends; indeed, there is 'a hidden root of insincerity and hypocrisy beneath all morality,' for goodness and badness and all other moral states are in fact states of conflict between opposing impulses.

'Nothing is ever perfect except the universe as it is ... except our lives, with all their mistakes and failures ... as functions of the perfect universe already perfect.' Perfection is the here and now ... our lives to do with what we will.

'The first law of moral action is, Know what you really want, and the second, like unto it, See that you are not mislead into accepting a spurious substitute .... Only before you embark on the profession of a harlot, it is your duty to find out all you can about the life to which you are committing yourself, and to make sure that a career of prostitution ending in a Lock Hospital will really give you what you want. If you decide that it will ... you are morally on the same level as the missionary who chooses to end a career of self-devotion by dying alone and untended in a leper-settlement; that the world in general does not recognise the resemblance is only another proof of the world's ample stupidity.'

When Law and Morality were gone, there still was Love. This familiar virtue was thundered or purred from every pulpit on every Sunday. It was the theme of poetry, music, drama, fiction and philosophy; history presented it in heroic measures, youth looked up to it with awe, adolescence anticipated it as the fulfillment of being, while maturity and old age, who had experienced it, even if slightly disillusioned, looked back upon it as the ambiguous but indubitable justification for life.

The Old Testament was strangely silent on this subject. Except for the Song of Solomon, a sensual love lyric modeled on ancient Egyptian poetry, romantic love was passed over either because it was unknown to the priestly scribes or because it was not deemed worthy of comment in dignified historic and religious documents. Only Jeremiah had the audacity to impute love to Yahweh: 'The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.' Desensualized by an asceticism that condemned all things pertaining to the flesh, ever expecting Judgment Day, and discovering in the crucifixion of the Christ the final and all-real value, the early Christians saw in sexual love only an antithesis of virtue, and Augustine turned this fear and disapproval, however tentative it may have been for the church generally, into dogmatic and irrevocable condemnation. At the same time he accepted the early Christian sublimation by which Paul and the authors of the gospels conceived the Passion to memorialize the love of God for Jesus, and of Jesus for those for whom he came to prepare the way. Throughout the gospels and epistles there runs the theme that the godhead is somehow embued with a personal and yet wholly depersonalized affection, until the author of the mystic Gospel of John avows concisely and finally: 'God is love,' an equation which was accepted by all Christian theologists.

It was Dante who, in something more than rhetorical phrase, applied love as astronomical energy: men were to find their Paradiso by letting their desire and will be turned, he said, 'Even as a wheel that equally is moved, By the Love that moves the sun and other stars.'

Every poet of the nineteenth century sang of love in terms scarcely less inclusive than those of Scott: 'Love rules the court, the camp, the grove, and men below, and saints above; For love is heaven, and heaven is love.' It was conceived not so much that love is a virtue as that virtue is love, the ultimate goal of the spiritual life that aims at a universal good. The fourth gospel's phrase was interpreted as meaning not only that God creates, sustains and orders all things in love, but that love is his very essence. Here was the basic postulate on the acceptance or rejection of which must turn all Christian ethics and all hope.

In view of the preponderance of evil in the world many Christians had encountered difficulty, after abandoning belief in the devil, in accepting the identification of love with the godhead, but the identification escaped serious challenge so long as the affair of Adam and the apple, and the Augustinian apology of original sin, sufficed to protect God from the charge of malicious cruelty. Now the growing suspicion that the writers of the gospels might be charged with something less than perfect knowledge as to the nature of God, as in respect to demonology, miracles and other matters no longer endowed with dogmatic irrefragability, was indeed an indication for pessimism. For it could readily be demonstrated that love was not so pure and absolute as Christian idealism had posited.

Anthropologists were perceiving that among primitive peoples even the human impulse is weak; jealousy is frequently absent, sentiment is frequently looked upon as shameful weakness, and more often than not marriage is based on economic or other impersonal considerations. Many primitive languages do not even contain a word for the affection. The phlegmatic Chinese look upon sexual passion in a relatively unemotional manner and esteem as their supreme value, filial respect. In senses other than the instinctive care of children and an exalted consciousness of property rights in respect to wife and children, love might be said to be a relatively recent and an Occidental invention. Only the Egyptians among ancient peoples extolled love in their literature. Egyptian women appear to have been legally and socially on a parity with men; in sexual relations they were as independent as their brothers, and they were free to woo and to marry the men of their choice. Egyptian manuscripts sing of love in a manner that would have roused envy in a modern poet. Along the Nile love was a value subordinate perhaps only to maat or justice, but the Goddess Maat had no amorous competitor in the pantheon, and the love literature of the Egyptians does not suggest that the emotion was ever important in those adumbrations concerning the afterlife with which Nilotic dwellers were typically absorbed.

Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite and Venus were primarily goddesses of fecundity and gratification, and only in a secondary aspect did they function as a nexus of the more complex emotion. In the early days of Greece women had apparently enjoyed great freedom and public esteem, but in the historic period their lot was low and marriage was prompted entirely by motives of convenience. Possibly there was little exaggeration in the statement, ascribed to Demosthenes, that 'while we keep a mistress to gratify our pleasure and a concubine to minister to our daily needs, we marry a wife to raise legitimate issue and to have our property carefully preserved.' Zeus did not know love in the romantic, but only in the vulgar sense, and the most notable form of love in Greece, and the one to which the term 'value' could very appropriately be applied, was pederasty, the love of boys, which so permeated the post-Homeric culture that it has come to be called 'Greek love.' It has been suggested that this mode of love passion arose in a primitive period when continuous military service produced a scarcity of women, but whether this explanation is true or not, it survived to compete strongly with heterosexual affection. It seems to have been the custom for every Spartan youth of good character to have his lover, or 'inspirator,' and for every well-educated man to be the lover of some carefully chosen youth. The older man served as a model for the younger, and in battle they stood near to one another, ostensibly faithful until death. In the historic period the custom was widespread, and Plato condemned the practice because it turned men from marriage and the begetting of children -- if they did marry, Plato said, it was only in obedience to the law.

It has been emphasized that one factor promoting pederasty in Greece was the wide cultural gulf between men and women; the wife lived in retirement and ignorance, almost in seclusion, deprived of all the educating influence of male society and excluded from those public spectacles which were the chief means of culture. Hence the intellectual Greeks regarded love of women as the offspring of the vulgar Aphrodite; inspired by the heavenly Aphrodite and craving intellectual companionship, they 'loved neither women nor boys but intelligent beings whose reason was beginning to blossom much about the time at which their beards began to grow.' The rule seems to have been that when decorum was observed no inquiries were made into the relationship. The attachment was regarded not only as permissible but was praised as the highest and purest form of love, as a path leading to virtue, as a weapon against tyranny, as a safeguard of civic liberty, and as a source of national greatness and glory.

Horror of homosexual practices was passed from Judaism to Christianity, the Fathers considering such persons not as sinful but as monstrous. Pagan legislators had been more or less indifferent to the custom, but under Christianity a succession of laws was passed in Rome which culminated in punishment by burning alive. 'A sentence of death and infamy,' said Gibbon, 'was often founded on the slight and suspicious evidence of a child or servant ... and pederasty became the crime of those to whom no crime could be imputed.' Throughout the Middle Ages Christian lawmakers thought that nothing but a painful death in the flames could atone for the act. The English law, which treated the crime as one not fit to be named, called for capital punishment until 1861, although in practice the extreme penalty was not inflicted. Persons were, however, burned in France for the crime in the latter part of the eighteenth century. These extreme laws were ultimately repealed, on the grounds that when unconnected with violence, when there is no outrage of public decency and when both parties are above the age of consent, its influence on society is merely indirect like that of drunkenness and free love, and though it is a disgusting vice, its proper punishment is contempt. Such is the fate of Greek love, the highest virtue as virtues were valued by this ancient and intelligent people.

The romantic love story, charged with pathos and sentiment, appears to have emanated from the East by way of Alexandria; although developed in the later Grecian period, it reached its flower in Latin poetry where it acquired the standard accoutrements of the personal beauty of the lovers, the timely interposition of the love god, the misfortunes that obstruct fulfillment of their wishes, the pangs of thwarted love, and the importance attached to the heroine's preservation of her virgin purity through all her trials. Rome had no goddess of love, despite the fact that the Romans conceived a deity for every practical occasion, until the Greek Aphrodite came to her as Venus, about 300 B.C. It is to be inferred that here, too, marriage was a matter of convenience and that sexual relations remained unadorned by romance.

Christianity put its seal upon monogamy, first because monogamy was the only recognized form of marriage in the societies in which it arose, and second, because it was the only form of marriage tolerable to a philosophy which regarded every gratification of sensual impulse with suspicion, and incontinence as the gravest sin. Chrysostom pronounced woman to be 'a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill.' Augustine's base opinion of her has already been noted. Ecclesiastic literature from the third century onward is filled with the enormities of the sex, and men who seriously held this estimate could only look upon the 'phenomena of love' as Satanic machinations.

Paul had avowed that 'it is better to marry than to burn,' but Tertullian, commenting on the words of the apostle, noted that what is better is not necessarily good; it is better to lose one eye than two, but neither is good; so also, though it is better to marry than to burn, it is far better neither to marry nor to burn. It was on this principle that the early church approved chaste unions between virgins and young men, and that there developed in the Middle Ages the chivalric system of romantic love. For a medieval knight the chief object of life was love, but the passion was ostensibly hopeless and free of any physical gratification; it was expected that the knight should be abstinent and chaste, he should love only the virtues, talents and graces of his lady, happy in 'a chaste union of two hearts by virtue wrought.' He who did not understand how to win a lady was but half a man -- such was the ideal, exceeding as an ethical value even the ascetic misery of the self-tortured monks. But most historians agree that chivalry was a reign of almost universal license, and that the difference between a lover and a seducer was difficult to demonstrate.

With the resurgence of romanticism in the Renaissance, and in the wake of socio-political revolutions that in some measure relieved 'purity,' 'chivalric honor,' 'noble birth,' 'righteousness,' 'asceticism,' 'self-sacrifice,' and other once estimable values from their high estate, natural impulse began to reassert itself; passionate love budded and flowered, and poets and philosophers found in it, with Dante, the vis a tergo of the universe. In the nineteenth century the common view held that it was by virtue of love that man transcended his animal estate. In the last decade a romantically inclined rhapsode could claim that 'Love is not a late arrival, an after-thought, with Creation. It is not a pious word of religion. Its roots began to grow with the first cell of life that budded on this earth.' It is 'the supreme factor in the evolution of the world.'

'Round the physical feeling forming the nucleus of the whole, are gathered the feelings produced by personal beauty, that constituting simple attachment, those of reverence, of love of approbation, of self-esteem, of property, of love of freedom, of sympathy. These, all greatly exalted, and severally tending to reflect their excitements on one another unite to form the mental state we call love.' This Spencerian definition, with its 'excitements' and 'mental state' for transcendentalism to stumble over, was not wholly necessary to the skeptic who abruptly challenged the Johannine definition: 'That God is love is a very lofty, poetical and gratifying conception, but it is open to one fatal objection -- it is not true.' Havelock Ellis's Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1901) (the second edition of which was printed in Philadelphia because the first edition had been legally condemned in London) came as a gruesome and shocking revelation to those who, under ancient Christian prejudices and the more recent Puritanical horrification, had learned to look upon sex as an embarrassing and rather base necessity for the reproduction of the species. The Platonic scission which had divided Aphrodite into two parts and had relegated sex as subordinate to, if not wholly independent of, the true passion, was now healed; Aphrodite was one entity -- sex -- and romantic love was but one of her conditional mental states. The universe was as indifferent to the turbulent emotion as to the union of its meanest pair of creatures, and men who had been accustomed to a sense of guilt if they failed to kneel in prayer before getting into bed were now confused in their efforts not to behave like sanctimonious bores after they got there. Even as love ceased to be a sin, it ceased also to be a supreme experience and end.

Revelation, Inspiration, Faith, Truth, Law, Morality, Love -- these metaphysical certitudes had all proved to be creatures of earth and subject to earthly corruption. But perhaps if there were no immediately apprehended certitudes it was not because they were nonexistent, but rather because they remained to be discovered. It was implicit in evolution that man could not start his career fully comprehending those ultimate truths and values of existence which he sought so persistently, almost instinctively; but moving from barbarism through his present state of half-barbaric crudity he might be progressing toward his goal by trial and error, by repeated partial approximations. Progress and evolution, said Spencer, are synonymous.

The idea of progress came into existence a little too late to be generally capitalized on by the Victorians, but it only missed hypostasis by a narrow margin in Spencer's philosophy, as in Tennyson's poetry, both of which foresaw '... one far-off divine event, To which the whole creation moves.' If not a Value, it was at least a certitude that possessed the inestimably valuable advantage of keeping man integral with the New God.

Progress, as a metaphysical inevitability, was essentially a modern discovery. The Greeks' sense of the continuity of history and of the possibility of changes for the better, as exemplified in their appreciation of their own cultural debt to Egypt and in the transitions that had marked the growth of philosophy from the time of the Ionians on, failed to engender the concept of mankind improving even deviously by the elucidation of new or the application of old truths. The Greeks held rather to a theory of decadence, mankind being descended from the gods: the Golden Age had belonged to the past, and had given way to the Silver Age, and that to the Age of Brass. However, the Greek tragedians could celebrate the triumphs of man over nature, and over his baser self, and the Roman Lucretius first used the word in its modern sense: 'Ships and agriculture, fortifications and laws, arms, roads, clothing and all else of this kind, life's prizes, also its luxuries from first to last, poetry and pictures, the shaping of statues by the artist, all these were taught by practice and the experiments of the active mind as men progressed gradually step by step.'

Plato's philosophy might have fostered a metaphysical concept of progress, at least in the sense of the gradual apprehension, partial or complete, of universals that would be an aid to right living and happiness, but with many other ancients he conceived the world to be subject to cycles of generation and degeneration, each cycle extending over a period of 36,000 solar years, and requiring continually the rediscovery of the arts and sciences. Platonism at least conceived a limited temporal advance, but on this Neoplatonism firmly shut the door: where to abandon the self to intuitive rapture is to perceive the Absolute and exist as a part of, or within, perfection itself, the way to perfection is open here and now merely by contemplation of the Infinite, and any search for truth among mundane and material relations, past, present or future, is not only futile but retrograde. Neoplatonism was not only wholly antipathetic to the idea of progress, but its doctrine of supersensual reality contributed substantially to the decline of Hellenism in the later Roman Empire, and to the replacement of intellectuality by the crudest superstition. In Harnack's words, '... the ancient world must necessarily have degenerated into barbarism of its own accord, because of its renunciation of this world. There was no longer any desire either to enjoy it, to master it, or to know it as it really is. A new world had been disclosed for which everything in this world was to be given up, and men were ready to sacrifice insight and understanding, in order to possess that other world with certainty. In the light which radiated from the world to come, that which in this world appeared absurd became wisdom, and wisdom became folly.' Neoplatonism became the philosophy of Christianity, and Christianity became Scholasticism with little change in Harnack's terms: reason and inquiry remained in contempt and the highest goal of living was one of spiritual rapture, or at second best a pattern of conduct copied from the apostolic age.

Nor was the Reformation productive of any change: Luther condemned reason as a pretty harlot who only blinds to those truths, final and perfect, which God has revealed in the sacred books; while under the doctrine of original sin, Calvin conceived man as so innately evil and corrupt that he was incapable of significantly bettering himself. In widespread practice, Protestantism as much as Catholicism condemned man to the status quo.

It was Francis Bacon who first put, not so much into clear words as into a startlingly clear example, the concept of progress as it was to dominate the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In his unfinished last work, The New Atlantis (1627), the crew of a ship lost at sea came upon a previously unknown and unbelievably fair land where there lived a people in supreme happiness. Their secret proved to be that in their government there were no politicians, but only architects, astronomers, geologists, biologists, physicians, chemists, economists, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers. Indeed there was little government at all, for these savants were wholly engaged in controlling nature, rather than in ruling man: 'The End of Our Foundation is the Knowledge of Causes and secret motions of things; and the enlargement of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.' Even if only in a fictional Utopia, here was progress clearly conceptualized: 'the enlargement of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.'

In the Renaissance, discussions on progress were largely confined to a debate as to the merits of the ancient as compared with contemporary civilization, the notion in its first venture having to disprove the beliefs that the culture, art and poetry of the past had been perfect, and that history had been largely retrograde. Then Vico in his Principles of a New Science (1725) presented history as a varied spectacle in which knowledge, through speech and writing, is conveyed to successive generations so that mankind as a whole can be conceived to exhibit infancy and growth. It was the popularization of such ideas by Voltaire and others that lit the democratic powder of the French Revolution, when men dreamed of a millennium wherein liberty, equality and fraternity would be achieved under the auspices of a secular Goddess of Reason. In the delirium of the Terror the Goddess was herself almost beheaded, but belief in progress to be attained by the self-determination of mankind survived. Indeed, the most enthusiastic statement yet to appear came from Condorcet, in his Outline of and Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795), written shortly before his death and while this distinguished mathematician and friend of the Republic was hiding in an effort to save his own neck from the guillotine. Here he set forth the conviction that 'nature has assigned no limit to the perfecting of the human faculties, that the perfectibility of man is truly indefinite; that the progress of this perfectibility, henceforth independent of any power that might wish to arrest it, has no other limit than the duration of the globe on which nature has placed us.' Progress as a natural possibility was axiomatic in Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population (1803), which proposed: '1. To investigate the causes that have hitherto impeded the progress of mankind toward happiness; and 2. To examine the probability of the total or partial removal of these causes in the future.'

When Spencer, in his Progress, Its Law and Cause (1857), applied the idea of change and development to stars and nebulae and earth, he gave it, seemingly, metaphysical significance: evolution was progress, and since evolution operated through Natural Law, itself equivalent to the Will of God, it followed that progress was God's irresistible intention in the universe. 'Progress is not an accident but a necessity. What we call evil and immorality must disappear. It is certain that man must become perfect.' 'The ultimate development of the ideal man is certain -- as certain as any conclusion in which we place the most implicit faith; for instance, that all men will die.'

The glowing optimism of Spencer's philosophy, which momentarily obscured the bald facts of evolution, may be attributed to the fact that, in the last analysis, his philosophy was that of the armchair and fireplace. Spencer and Tennyson had much in common, including the self-confidence of the expanding Empire. Darwin's position, however, can only be attributed to a complete inability, in the storm engendered by his vision of evolution, to let go the spar of teleology. In controversion of the fact, duly recorded by him in 1844, that there is 'no power tending constantly to exalt species,' and of his vision as revealed to Hooker three years before the Origin was published: 'What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature,' in the end he presented his work to the world under a pious apology of progress: '... the inhabitants of the world at each successive period in its history have beaten their predecessors in the race for life, and are, in so far, higher in the scale.' 'And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection .... Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.' 'There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.'

This vision of the cosmos on the part of the man whose genius it was to comprehend and assemble the definitive proofs of evolution, comprises a series of confused metaphors. Spencer, holding to inviolable natural law and an unknowable deity, could with pardonable inconsistency speak of geology as 'that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth,' because his evolution was rooted as much in romanticism as in facts, and he lacked almost entirely the inductive discipline which was the foundation and strongest warrant for Darwin's hypothesis. And a few years later when, by his own logic, he had been firmly driven into the position that God is absolutely Unknowable, he vehemently satirized theists who talked of 'The Great Artificer,' 'The Master Builder,' and 'the hand of the Almighty.' Darwin was no philosopher, but he was in a better position than any other men to see that his panegyric was an unwarranted figure of speech.

Huxley attempted to establish the more realistic view that 'so far from gradual progress forming any necessary part of the Darwinian creed, it appears to us that [this creed] is perfectly consistent with indefinite persistence in one state, or with a gradual retrogression.' As time went on Huxley came to see the completely amoral character of the cosmic process, and to view it as something akin to evil, at least in its complete indifference to hope and charity, to happiness and pain. Nature 'red in tooth and claw' had no morals and no interest in morals, which existed in man's manmade world. Man was a glorious rebel endeavoring to oppose the cosmic process by superimposing upon it artificial ethical restraints. For Huxley, progress was this conflict between the ethical nature of man and the unethical nature of the cosmos: 'social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who happen to be the fittest, in respect of the whole of the conditions which obtain, but of those who are ethically the best.'

Huxley exposed himself to criticism by the use of the word 'another,' which implies that his ethical process is other than and outside the cosmic process, whereas every process, ethical or otherwise, can be only a local mode of the cosmic process, even though in consequence of Spencer's 'heterogeneity' of things it can be set in opposition to the whole, as overproduction of eggs opposes the wholesale destruction of the young, as mother love opposes infant helplessness, as individual reproduction opposes aging and death, as vital integration and repair oppose the continuous and inevitable disintegration. But this is a far cry from Spencerian cosmic progress, and even from the inevitable perfectibility of man. Ethics is merely a facet of the 'species problem' and of interest only to Homo sapiens. The theologians were never more right than when they asserted that under the principle of evolution there would be no justification for ethics, meaning their nineteenth century middle-class English ethics as opposed to other possible codes: so far as the cosmic process was concerned the Khond or Aztec code was as justified in nature as the English code, the only standard of reference for any code being its practical utility for those who use it. Even nature, Mill pointed out, murders every man once.

To the cosmic process, the term progress was not applicable at all. Creation's purposive design, in Darwin's terms, was 'natural selection,' in Wallace's, 'the continual adjustment of the organic to the inorganic world,' in Spencer's, the 'survival of the fittest,' -- no one of these definitions permitted the slightest teleology in evolution, or justified the poet laureate's far-off divine event. Natural theology, had it survived, might have multiplied its examples of how the evidences of nature prove the beneficence of God a thousandfold: in muscle, blood, bones, teeth, glands, nerves, brain, until the beneficence of God as exemplified in the anatomy of the hand would have appeared an ill-considered crudity. By its dynamic of struggle to avoid death and its evolution along a multiplicity of roads life had diversified itself in countless ways, until exquisite adaptation -- 'purposive design' in theology's terms -- was evident in a million species of surviving animals and plants -- the number of species that had become extinct in bygone ages ran to untold millions -- and so ingenious was this adaptation that one half of these creatures were parasites feeding upon the other half.

'There is grandeur in this view' -- that living organisms warred perpetually to satisfy an appetite, and died only to make way for others to war a little differently, and perhaps a little more successfully. That the sun of heaven shone to sustain a continuing holocaust where love was primarily an impulse to copulation and a fuel to unselfishness only through an impermanent cultural pattern, where the most elaborate instinct was blind egocentric mechanism, where mercy, tolerance and charity but variants of behavior bearing an egotistically pleasing hue. That at every moment unnumbered living creatures subsisted by devouring other living creatures, the whole of animate creation a pyramid of murderers feeding upon the murdered -- 'teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers moulded for torment -- everywhere a reign of terror, hunger and sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in deaths of brutal torture' -- until the most clever creature of all, 'who fats all other creatures to fat himself,' could sit down three times a day to his foul repast and pride himself upon being the highest animal, the Lord of Creation, the Very Ultimate Goal of a cosmic process that had required untold billions of years and the whole of the astronomical universe to achieve this magnificent result. Darwin can be forgiven his phrase because it expressed, not an assessment of the universe, but the inexpressible joy which the explorers of that universe feel when they penetrate one of its mysteries and discover one of its truths. The evolution that Darwin discovered was process, not progress.

If man, who shaded by degrees back into ape, into mute and insentient beast, wanted to call himself a 'higher' animal, rather than just a more clever one, there was no other species vocal enough to gainsay his choice of adjective or his conceit. Endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been evolved, but beauty and wonder are too much in the eye of the beholder to afford reliable standards of cosmic progress, and, taken in such vein, man might better consider his existence modestly, or else report it as a tale told by an idiot.

Man might read as progress his remarkable capacity for controlling the rest of nature and for setting all manner of things into whirling, confusing motions, but he had failed as yet to invent a mechanical device that would manufacture happiness, or that would instill meaning into life. To live longer by the planned avoidance of death, more easily and comfortably by the aid of labor-saving devices, more confusedly by the multiplication of distractions, afforded no answer to the question, Why live at all? Without that answer, to harness the forces of the sun and stars might prove to be an empty victory. Drer painted the Spirit of the human race as Melancholia sitting mournfully among her inventions. Progress, the last of the transcendental values upon which man had leaned, had turned out to be an arrow pointed at both ends.

Nor was it possible any longer to turn away from life and seek solace in the Orphic mystery of divine survival. The valiant effort that Thomas Aquinas had made to certify by reason the existence of the immortal soul had added up after six centuries to exactly nought. It was evident even to those who thought superficially, that on this point Darwin's Origin of Species was going to tax the dialectic of the theologians as it has never been taxed before. The most self-confident of these knowers of the unknown saw the implications of evolution better than did Charles Kingsley, who was so confused about the biological process that he could write the reactionary Maurice: 'If you won't believe my great new doctrine (which by the way is as old as the Greeks) that souls secrete their bodies, as snails do shells, you will remain in outer darkness .... I know an ape's brain and throat are almost exactly like a man's -- and what does that prove? That the ape is a fool and a muff, who has tools very nearly as good as a man's, and yet can't use them, while man can do the most wonderful things with tools very little better than an ape's.' What Kingsley overlooked was that Darwin had no need of the hypothesis, more appropriate to Water Babies, that souls secrete their bodies. Certainly the metaphysicians were not disposed to use it, despite its not too remote resemblance to Thomist philosophy, and consequently they were faced with the alternatives of either attributing a soul to the higher apes, or debating at what level between Pithecus and Homo the primate stem had first become inhabited by this superphysical entozoon. The abundant and specific evidences of the mental sciences and the general evidences of biology were scarcely needed as a supplement of animal consanguinity to discredit a postulate so irrational and barbaric that men could no longer cherish it whole-heartedly in their adult years. The embarrassed church, having abandoned, however unofficially, the ancient belief in the literal resurrection of the body, and eschewing the table-tipping chicaneries and telegraphic and telepathic nonsense of spiritualism, could answer queries about man's immortal soul only with ambiguous phrases and evasive shoulder-shrugging. The utility of the ancient and arrogant tenet that personality, spun of flesh and the multiple contingencies of culture and experience, was worthy in whole or in any part of perpetuation throughout an infinity of time was worn so thin as to be disdained by a considerable proportion of people, especially among the intellectually eminent. Except within the church whose vested property rights, professional dignity and historic reason for existence could only be maintained so long as the postulate was seriously defended. Outside the church it is a fair estimate that toward the end of the Victorian era half of all educated persons, and two thirds of the more eminent, had abandoned the belief, and this without any signs of the catastrophe that had been predicted by Emerson when he wrote:

'No sooner do we try to get rid of the idea of Immortality -- than Pessimism raises its head ... Human griefs seem little worth assuaging; human happiness too paltry (at the best) to be worth increasing. The whole moral world is reduced to a point. Good and evil, right and wrong, become infinitesimal, ephemeral dualities. The affections die away -- die of their own conscious feebleness and uselessness. A moral paralysis creeps over us.' This is the cry of a man whose transcendental philosophy of good and evil, of right and wrong, of the objectives of human happiness and its affections, had been mortally wounded, and who had nothing to take its place. Scarcely more cogent was In Memoriam in which the heart of young Tennyson cries out against death on the grounds that love is most godlike in man's nature and has the final authority. Even as the hieroglyphs of Sakkara failed to dispel death by repeatedly denying it, so one cannot predicate the nature of the cosmos on the intensity of pain.

On the affective level there were other voices. George Eliot's lines:


O, may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence: live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man's search
To vaster issues

failed by the poetic conceit that any and every man might join 'the immortal dead who live again in minds made better by their presence.' It is not given with reasonable certainty to any man, and to the vast majority of men not even by hope, to anticipate immortality in this vicarious and impersonal manner, nor, except to poets, is there much appeal in an immortality that consists merely of belonging to the public domain.

Yet another poet saw things another way when Swinburne wrote:


From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be

That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then stars nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light;
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight;

Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.

Only Buddhism among the world's great religio-philosophic systems has abhorred the notion of eternal existence and wooed personal annihilation; and only the fact that the occidental vision of immortality could be tolerated without any honest attempt to look it squarely in the face, with no questions asked about details, preserved the egocentric and immature impulsion that built the pyramids and sarcophagi of Egypt. When, against the strictures of the theologians, men acquired the intellectual freedom to look the doctrine in the face they found it puerile, and in greater or lesser degree they relinquished it, only to discover that neither morality nor values nor happiness nor a worth-while life in the broadest sense was in any way tied to it. The doctrine of immortality needed no world revolution, no marshaling of vast evidences from science and philosophy to undo it; when its utility had been worn thin by the rubbing of everyday life, for most persons the residuum of ill-considered, faintly held faith just went away. There remained only a ghostly essence of the ghost idea within dogmatic cloisters, and in the minds of the wishfully unthinking, or the childishly egocentric, forcing men who stood at the boundary between the old and the new to face resolutely towards the past, to refuse to face the future.

For such men, Emerson's Pessimism was the only answer.

Man did not have forever to harness the forces of the sun and stars. The sun was an elderly light, long past the turbulent heat of youth, and would someday join the senile class of once-luminiferous bodies. In some incredibly remote time a chance collision might blow it up again into incandescent gas and start a new local cosmic cycle, but of man there would be no trace. In Balfour's terms, he 'will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. "Imperishable monuments" and "immortal deeds," death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that labour, genius, devotion and suffering of man have striven through countless generations to effect.'

And so it well might be .... Darwin's century was a tragic one for that proud creature who had thought himself specially beloved by the gods, who had imagined that he enjoyed the whispered confidence of deity. In the saddest moment of his life, after the death of his son, Huxley, replying to a letter of condolence from Kingsley, had put his hope and courage in the words '... follow humbly and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.' Huxley, like Darwin, still saw nature as somehow essentially good, even as God of old had been good, and he did not fully foresee the consequences of his advice .... Revelation and Inspiration were gone. Faith had proved deceptive and even Truth had belied its apotheosis, since Law could be defined only as a statistic of probability. The only truths which man could trust were those of correspondence discoverable by the mind, and these must be held constantly subject to revision. Whilst mind itself was not dissociable from the matter that gave it birth. Morality was a fashion, Love had turned out to be a conditioned impulse, and Progress was an arrow that pointed in whatever direction one might look. The only certitude was that man was an animal struggling to live in a world from which had faded the last faint ray of transcendental light .... Huxley could not see how deep and dark was the abyss to which nature led, but those who followed his advice could see that that abyss was but a slight declevity separating them from a firmer, and possibly a far better land.

Graphic RuleGraphic Rule 75Graphic Rule