Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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also for a higher purpose. But more, if these crea-
tions of the imagination, the pure ideals, are never
attained, we are the sport of pure delusions, and
we are enriched only by false promises. It had
been better for us if the range had been more
limited. The peasant would have lived contented
and happy in his mountain hut, but having seen
the splendor of a great metropolis becomes dissatis-
fied. It would have been better for him never to
have w^andered beyond the mountain gorge. If
there is no other life, it w^ould have been better if
imagination had been granted power only to touch
with her weird fingers the rougher things of the
world, but not to give any visions of an existence
better than the present.

Memory is one of the most useful of our facul-
ties. Without it the action of the others would
be either impossible or almost worthless. Even
the brute has memory. But the memory of man
is much greater than is necessary for the purposes
of the present life of the individual or the interest


of the race. It is not improbable that nothing is
forgotten.* A great many instances are recorded
where the past that seemed wholly effaced was re-
called. It has occurred in the life of all of us that
things of which we had not thought for years sud-
denly recurred to us. We have often tried, at the
suggestion of friends, to recollect circumstances
and were unable to find the slightest trace in mem-
ory, but afterwards they flashed with great vividness
upon us. The remarkable case of the German
servant girl as related by Coleridge is frequently
cited, and is beyond doubt authentic. During the
delirium of disease this girl, who was illiterate, re-
peated I^atin, Greek and Hebrew sentences. Of
the Hebrew, only a small part could be traced to
the Bible; the remainder seemed to be Rabbinical.
A young physician became deeply interested and
looked up her past life, and learned that she had
been for a time a servant to a Protestant minister,
whose habit it was to walk up and down a hall
opening into the kitchen, reading aloud his favor-
ite books. He was a fine Latin and Greek scholar,
and especially fond of Hebrew. Among his books

. * Sully says, "We never can be sure that reproduction is im-
possible, even in cases that seemed beyond recollection." Out-
lines of Psychology, p. 281.


were found a collection of Rabbinical writings and
several Latin and Greek Church fathers. The girl
had heard repeatedly, perhaps, the same passages,
not a word of which she ever understood, and then
in the delirium of fever reproduced them by the
memory alone of unmeaning sounds.

The case of Comtesse Laval is given by Lord
Monboddo, and quoted by Sir William Hamilton.
The Comtesse during sleep had been observed by
the servants to speak in a language which none of
them understood. Once she was attended by a
nurse from Brittany, who recognized her own dia-
lect. The Comtesse could not understand the lan-
guage when awake. She had been born in that
province, and had been nursed during infancy in a
family where it was used. She had never been
able consciously to speak it, yet in her dreams she
employed it.

It has been often observed that persons in their
last illness return to the language of childhood, the
use of which had been long discontinued.

It is generally reported that the whole of the past
life flashes upon the drowning.

We are warranted in saying, though it is not
fully proved, that nothing is ever forgotten; the
memory has powers much beyond the needs of the


present life, and therefore reqnires a future life as
a sufficient explanation of their purpose.

The mind in none of its faculties attains in any
case its highest possible development. The great-
est mind has felt when compelled to lay down its
work that that work was really only begun. In
everything else in the world possibilities, so far as
we can know them, are in some instances realized.
Many a tree is blasted in the bud, but some come
to perfection. Many an animal remains a dwarf,
but some reach their highest type. The mind
alone must always stop on the threshhold of what
opens before it as its true destiny. The doctrine
of final causes, upon which nature carries on all her
works, requires for us another life.

The argument in this chapter has been teleologi-
cal — the destiny of the mind as revealed by ends
manifested in its powers. But these powers give
intimations of a future life through their own nature
without regard to ends. If we can see clearly that
the mind is a distinct essence from the body, we
have no difficulty in believing that it lives after the
body dies. Whatever indicates a difference of
essence, indicates a future life.

The effort to reduce all our knowledge to sensa-
tion has failed. If it had succeeded, or shall in the


future become successful, it will not necessarily
follow that the soul is merely physical. Locke, the
father of modern empiricism, and Condillac, his
eminent but radical disciple, as well as many other
sensualistic philosophers, have believed in the im-
mortality of the soul. But until all thought is
reduced to sensation, we must hold the mind as
something other than the body.

There is a close relation between the mind and
the brain. For every brain-movement there is
thought- movement, and whatever affects the brain
aflfects also the mind. This would be true if the
mind were the product of the brain; and it would
be equally true if the brain were only the organ of
the mind. The brain-movement is not thought.
The impossibility of reducing them to the same
terms has been admitted by materialists, and this
impossibility shows that whatever may be the rela-
tion between them, that which thinks is not the
molecules of the brain which move.

Memory has a brain organ, and when it is dis-
eased memory is affected. But memory is psychi-
cal, and materialists have found no physical basis
for it. It is the power of reproducing the past by
its own innate energies, without the help of any
picture on the brain. There is no trace of any


physical modification whatever which memory
employs. The imagination has also its brain
organ, and it draws its material from sensible ob-
jects, but it is so removed from mechanical laws
that its productions are called creations. It creates
ideals that matter never realizes, and if it is mater-
ial matter transcends itself. Both memory and
imagination are under the control of the will. The
origin of activity is in the mind — the determination
to recall or depict is before the recollection or cre-
ation. The materialistic theory must start with the
acts of recollection and of imagination as sponta-
neous molecular movements, or postulate some self-
conscious molecule which rules over all the others.
But nobody knows anything of this great autocrat.
There are ideas that have stubbornly refused to
be reduced to sensation. They are the conditions
of experience. Without them sensation would be
unmeaning. They gather up the diversity into
unity. One is substance, another is cause, and a
third is personal identity. The idea of substance
does not come through sensation, because the senses
give only phenomena. The idea of cause cannot
originate in the sense, for sense gives only succes-
sion. Personal identity does not, for in every sensa-
tion there is the fact that it is my sensation, and the
subject is pre-supposed. How can a sensation beget


the idea of me? — for until felt it is not a sensation.

and, if felt, who feels it? The ideas of infinity,
of space and of time, are also supersensible. In-
finity cannot come into finite experience. Beauty
is seen through the sensible form, but it is some-
thing different from that which falls under the eye
and ear. The right is connected with action, but
the senses do not grasp it.

If the body has these intellectual powers, two
wholly distinct and opposite classes of properties
belong to the same substance. If we reject the
distinction between mind and matter, we must, on
the ground of all analogy, end with a substance
behind both mental and physical phenomena of
which they are the manifestations. The efforts to
reduce materialistic phenomena to mind or ideal-
ism, and mental phenomena to matter or material-
ism, have thus far accomplished so little that we
feel sure they will always fail. If mind is a distinct
substance, or even a modification distinct from the
body, there is no evidence that it ceases to exist
when the body dies. This much it seems necessary
to say here in regard to the nature of the mind, but
the subject will come up for a fuller discussion in
subsequent chapters. We feel authorized to draw
the conclusion that the mental powers, both by
their purpose and nature, promise us another life.


THE Sensibility is dependent upon the Intellect.
It is the reaction of the mind upon the objects
apprehended. It is purely psychical. It is the
capacity of pleasurable or painful response to
everything brought within consciousness. As the
body is drawn towards that which is in harmony
with it and repelled by that which is injurious, so
the mind is drawn towards that which is in har-
mony with its nature and repelled by that which is
not congenial. The feelings are of different de-
grees of intensity. If the idea is stronger in con-
sciousness, our attention is directed to it and we
speak of the intellectual act; but if the feeling is
stronger, we almost overlook the intellectual factor,
and speak of the emotion. Both are essential
parts of the mind, and the one may reveal our
nature and destiny as well as the other. They are
guides in our present life, and they are pledges of
a life to come.

There is evidence of a future life in the innate,
desire for it.



Desires may be classified as natural and ac-
quired. A natural desire is a promise from Nature.
A natural impulse may be perverted, and appear
under a new form. The desire for food may be
changed into gluttony. By persistent effort that
which was at first repulsive may be converted into
an object of intense craving; as, for example, to-
bacco and whisky. But for every desire there is.
a corresponding object. We may not be able to-
secure the gratification, but that which, if within,
reach, would satisfy, is somewhere in existence..
To this law there is not a single known exception.

The universal desire for a future life implies the
fact of that life. If there are any exceptions
whatever to the universality of this desire, the
number is too small to be taken into account.
Men may not believe it, but still they desire it.
They may fear the punishment which that life
may bring, but yet they desire the life. The be-
lief found everywhere is nurtured in some degree
by the desire.

The desire is original. It is not tfie outgrowth
of an instinctive love of a life which cannot be
maintained in this world, and therefore turns to
the future. The love of life and the consequent
shrinking from death are Nature's means for self-


preservation. Without it we would be reckless,
and a majority of individuals would be carried off
prematurely. The race itself would probably be-
come extinct. We understand God's purpose in
endowing us with this clinging to our physical ex-
istence. The desire for another life may seem to
be only a necessary consequence of this instinct.
But this is not the true origin of it. We share the
instinctive love of life* with the brutes. We, not
they, desire another life. The brute does not
know what death is, and does not shrink from it
because he is afraid of extinction but by a mere
law that works through him. The highest ani-
mal intelligence does not reach a fact as high as
the nature of death. That law is sufficient to
guard individuals from unnecessary exposure and
to preserve the animal species. Within historic
periods only two or three species have disappeared.
That law would have been sufficient to accomplish
our self-preservation, and there was no need of
supplementing it with the desire of another life.
Just so far as the belief in a future life is opera-
tive, it counteracts the instinctive desire for the
present life. When men look with perfect confi-
dence to existence beyond the grave, they are less
concerned about holdino; on to a life so full of ills


as is the present. With intelligence the thought
of the possibility of another life was unavoidable,
and with the belief in the possibility the desire
was inevitable. But the desire has no corrective.
We are left to cherish it, and Nature therefore is
the responsible author. Even if it were not orig-
inal, it is natural, growing necessarily out of nat-
ural powers, and is therefore Nature's gift and
Nature's pledge. But the case is stronger. The
desire grows out of an intuition. The belief is in-
stinctive, and the desire is primitive. They were
implanted by the Creator, and if there is no future
life He disappoints us.

For every natural desire there is a corresponding
object. Though all men who desire wealth do not
obtain it, there is wealth, and the gratification of
the desire is not an absolute impossibility. It is so
with every other natural desire. But if there is no
future life, here is one desire which is universal but
cannot possibly be met. This is the only excep-
tion. It may be thought that the desire, though
disappointed, may accomplish good. The desire
for wealth is a benefit to tho6e who never obtain it,
because it makes them prudent and active, and the
benefit justifies the universal principle. So the
desire for immortality makes us more careful as to


character, and the good realized from it more than
compensates for the disappointment. This is true,
but nowhere else does Nature allure us by an abso-
lutely impossible end. In regard to wealth the
promise is conditional, and the object under proper
conditions is secured. In regard to a future life, if
there is none, Nature promises unconditionally the
impossible. We are prompted to seek a better
character by a false promise. A holy God cannot
use deceit and falsehoods as means to His ends. He
never promises, by word or act, what cannot, under
any circumstances whatever, be granted. No
matter whether original or secondary, the desire
belongs to our constitution, and in it we have God's
promise of another life — at least as a possibility to
some. There is, therefore, a future life. There is
no escape from this conclusion except in atheism.

The desire for wealth is a reflection of the desire
for immortality. Though the desire for riches is
general, it is not in the strictest sense original. It
is the perversion of another desire. Wealth is the
accumulation of the means of gratification. It is
intended to meet future wants. Its end is pros-
pective. It is the fruit of labor saved for subse-
quent enjoyment. It brings with it power, and
thus it is related to the innate love of power. Upon


these two principles — the provision for the future
and love of power — the love of wealth is based.

Much greater wealth is desired than is needed to
meet the wants of our physical nature, or to provide
for the capacity for enjoyment. Human pleasures
are limited. Beyond the gratification of these
wants, wealth has no other purpose than to give us
a sense of power. Men are not satisfied with it as a
means of physical enjoyment. They pile up riches
beyond any possible personal use. No man, except
as a means of other accumulations, is able to em-
ploy a million dollars, but they seek hundreds of
millions. They want it for the power it brings.
But except so far as is necessary for the protection
of self and rights, why is power wanted? The
answer is found in the love of personal being.
What we own is in some sense a part of ourselves.
We set our mark on it, and in some way it reflects
ourselves. It is a product of our labor, and em-
bodies so much of our strength. It is ours over
against others. Thus our wealth becomes a re-
flection of self and seems to be an expansion of our
personal being. Increasing our power, it also in-
tensifies our self-consciousness. It gives us a feel-
ing of superiority over the world and of our indi-
viduality. That this is related to the desire and


faith in a future life is seen in this fact, that with
material prosperity there is, unless counteracted by
a quickened religious life, a weakened sense of
immortality. The extension of self here abates for
the time the desire for the life hereafter. The de-
sire for unnecessary wealth seems to be, then, a
perversion of the desire of a future life.

The principles upon which this conclusion is
based have many facts to illustrate and confirm
them. Men generally with the accumulation of
wealth manifest an increased self-consciousness.
They show by their bearing a feeling of superiority,
and the world acknowledges it by paying them
deference. That feeling may not be offensively dis-
played, but whenever circumstances favor it the dis-
covery is made. We use this feeling of self-respect
from possessions as a means of elevating the lower
classes. We encourage them to make accumula-
tions, and in order to assist them we establish sav-
ings banks. The spirit of the slave denied all
possessions is always mean ; but even the slave w^ho
has been permitted to lay up a little sum, as was
often seen among the negro slaves, rises above that
meanness. But at the same time, with this grow-
ing self-respect from unneeded wealth, there is a
diminishing interest in the reality of a life after


death. Those who love wealth most have least
concern in regard to a future world. Solomon in
Ecclesiastes makes numerous references to this fact.
Christ speaks of it several times. **It is easier for
a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of
heaven." The young man "went away sorrowful,
because he had great possessions." The rich man
who lifted up his eyes in hell seems to have had no
vice except callousness. Paul also speaks of it
frequently, warning men lest riches "drown them
in perdition." Men who have other means of
deepening and enlarging the sense of individuality
are rarely covetous. Men of learning or eminence
are not often avaricious. Spiritually minded men
to whom heaven is a certainty are not concerned
about great accumulations. Wealth despiritualizes.
"Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "The love
of money is the root of all evil." Periods of ad-
versity are not periods of skepticism. Great relig-
ious awakenings follow general financial depres-
sions. Our skepticism to-day grows out of our
great material prosperity. Because wealth is not
the natural end of the desire which prompts its
accumulation, it never satisfies. The desire for im-
mortality diverted to another object and losing


itself in it goes on intensifying itself, and therefore
the more men get the more they want.

The inordinate desire for fame is also a per-
verted desire for a future life. The love of praise
is natural. It grows out of our desire for personal
worthiness. Praise is an evidence of that worthi-
ness. But the desire for esteem is susceptible of
abuse in two directions. It may be sought be-
cause of its advantage, and thus a noble sentiment
is perverted into a selfish one. It is more gener-
ally sought to gratify the love of personal being.
Distinction gives a sense of importance — makes
one more fully conscious of self. It lifts us up
above the masses, and sets us out more clearly in
our individuality. But present eminence never
satisfies. Men want other portions and other
honors. Daniel Webster would have added noth-
ing to his eminence if he had become President;
but not satisfied with the glory of being the great
American orator, he sought the Presidency with
an avidity that approximated weakness. Life is
too short to satisfy the craving, and men court a
fame that will live after them. They sufifer
obscurity and poverty and a thousand ills to
win a posthumous name.

If death is the annihilation of personality, what


does it matter whether or not there be any remem-
brance of us? Why should there be concern as to
what men think or say of us after we are dead?
What is fame? Is it not, as some one has said, a
breath? What is it worth to those who exist not?
Hannibal's fame has been satirized :

"Go climb the rugged Alps, ambitious fool,
To please the boys and be a theme at school."

If Luther or Washington live only in name, what
benefit is loving remembrance to mere nothingness?
But absurd as is the thought of any possible rela-
tion of praise to an absolute blank, by an instinct-
ive impulse all men want to be remembered.

"So strong the zeal to immortalize himself

Beats in the breast of man, that even a few,
Few transient years, won from the abyss abhorred
Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize,
And even to a clown."

Shakespeare has given expression to the same
fact as a universal characteristic.

" To go down to the pit,
And moulder into dust among vile worms,
And leave no whispering of a name on earth —
Such thought was cold about the heart and
Chilled the blood. Who could endure it ? Who could choose
Without a struggle to be swept away

From all remembrance, and have no part with living men ?"


The desire for fame testifies to the fact of a future
life in the same way that the desire for wealth does.
Both of them grow out of the desire for the con-
sciousness of individuality, both of them are insat-
iable, and both of them are perverted desires for
immortality. The love of post-mortem praise testi-
fies in another and stronger way. No one wants
to be forgotten, because no one wants to be annihi-
lated, or believes that he will be. Addison sums
up the argument thus:

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

The affections, another class of feelings, give still
further pledges of a future life.

Human love in some of its forms is in certain
degrees like affection among brutes. Both men
and brutes have affection for offspring. The end of
this love is the perpetuation of the species. Where
the care of the mother is not needed in infancy, as
in the case of fishes, it does not exist. Where the


young can not provide for themselves there is often
a passionate fondness in the parent. Where the
care of both parents is needed, as in many birds, it
is found in both. But as soon as the young are
able to take care of themselves, the parents become
indifferent and cast them off. The end of Nature
has been accomplished, and the parents forget.
The love of the human parent has in part the same
end. The mother's fondness for her babe secures to
it the tenderest care, the best instruction, and the
surest guarantee of preservation. That love also
makes the care and labor for the child a pleasant
duty. But the preservation of the race is not the
sole end. The love lives on when the attention
and care are no longer needed. The mother does
not cease to love her child after it has left her home
and is able to take care of itself She never ceases
to love it. What end does this continued love sub-
serve ?

We are mutually dependent. Solitary life, if
not impossible, is barren. Love of society brings
men together, and thus they are made to help each
other. Love renders society happy and gives it
efficiency. Where animals need each other, they
are by instinct gregarious. They obey the instinct
witliout knowing the end. This mutual assist-


aiice is one aim of the social instinct in man, but
this is not the sole purpose. Love lives after asso-
ciation has ended. Great oceans separate homes
and the family will no more be brought together,
but love continues. I^ove spans death itself. The
pain of bereavement diminishes; the anguish, that
paralyzed effort at first, passes away; but love itself

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 6 of 19)