Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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IN the preceding chapter we saw that the dual origin of
man, as described by the Bible, not to speak of the
obviously dual aspect from which he must be regarded,
necessitated subdivision when he and his origin came
under consideration. Naturally we began with the lower
or corporeal part and we have now to turn our attention
to the higher or spiritual.

And here a few prefatory remarks may not be out of
place. It is not to be doubted that that often-quoted in-
dividual "the man in the street," when he thinks about
Catholics at all, thinks of them in a general kind of way as
a mind-enslaved body of people, shut up in a close cage of
dogma from which it is dangerous even to look out, and
utterly impossible to protrude so much as a finger. Persons —
better educated and informed than " the man in the street "
generally gets the credit of being — will be found obsessed
with the idea that everything theological is with us a closed
question ; that nothing is left for discussion nor is there
any room for difference of opinion. How absurd and how
ignorant this is need not be pointed out to those who belong
to the Household of Faith and who take the trouble to know
something about the religion which they profess. As a
matter of fact the number of things which a person must
believe or cease to be a Catholic — the things which are
defined as de fide — are far fewer than the " man in the
street " has generally thought.

This is not a treatise on Dogma, nor does it propose in
any way to encroach upon that ground. But of course
there are dogmas which every Catholic must hold or cease
to be a Catholic ; one of these is the existence of God and



His Creation of the world, another is the possession by each
person of an immortal soul created by God Himself.

Now it must be obvious to the most casual reader that
there are, outside our Church, quite a number of persons
who deny one or other of these dogmas and indeed all other
dogmas. If we go down to first principles, we shall probably
find that some of these start from the opinion that nothing
can be known : for such there is no hope, since they commit
intellectual suicide. There are others — the true agnostics —
who, without going so far as this, still think that it is im-
possible to have any real knowledge of the fundamental
and first causes of things as they are ; who are content to
take them as they are and make a study of them as a going
concern, satisfied to watch the machine at work without
enquiring too curiously how it came to be in operation.
Now, as regards the question of the origin of things, we have
tried to show that, apart altogether from revelation, the
creation hypothesis does explain matters otherwise left
unexplained. It is, in fact, the only reasonable and tenable
explanation yet put forward and the sole alternative to
blank scepticism or the more modified form of agnosticism.
Yet we are perfectly satisfied to rest our belief on revela-
tion, in this matter as in others. And so with the doctrine
of the human soul ; whilst the Catholic is content to accept
the fact on the strength of revelation, it can certainly not
weaken his faith and will undoubtedly help him to give
that reason for it which is recommended by the Apostle,
if he learns that the dogma which he has been brought up
to believe, or has come to believe, here as in the case just
quoted, does afford, even in the opinion of writers to whom
the voice of revelation in no way appeals, the most satis-
factory, indeed the only satisfactory explanation of things
as they are.

It is not now suggested that all of these writers, some of
whom will shortly be quoted, perhaps any of them, would
agree with us as to the attributes, still less as to the origin
of the human soul, though they postulate the existence of
such a thing. In a previous discussion we saw (p. 289) that
a decision as to vitalism was reached largely by a process
of exclusion. In a similar way, and also by a process of


exclusion, some of these writers have arrived at a conclu-
sion in favour of the existence of a soul, a theory now
called by them Animism. 1

It has already been mentioned that the late A. R. Wallace,
who was the co-discoverer — perhaps one had better say co-
formulator — with Darwin of Natural Selection, was quite
clear that there were " three stages in the development of
the organic world when some new cause or power must
necessarily have come into action." 2 The first of these
occasions was when the first living cell came into exist-
ence : the second was the moment of the introduction of
sensation or consciousness, when the animal and vegetable
kingdoms became separated from one another : the third was
the differentiation of man from other animals, by his posses-
sion " of a number of his most characteristic and noblest
faculties, those which raise him furthest above the brutes
and open up possibilities of almost indefinite advancement.
These faculties could not possibly have been developed by
means of the same laws which have determined the pro-
gressive development of the organic world in general, and
also of man's physical organism."

In expressing the opinion that man possesses amongst
his higher attributes, characteristics which could not pos-
sibly be of service to him for purposes of survival — which
might even be disadvantageous from this point of view
and which could not, therefore, come under the operation
of Natural Selection — Wallace agreed with Huxley, who was
obliged to admit that such things as a love of beautiful
scenery or of music, indeed the whole gamut of artistic
interests, had no survival value and could only be spoken
of as "gratuitous gifts."

Now it is quite clear that the transport of joy into which
the sight of a magnificent prospect will throw the properly
tuned observer cannot possibly be of any assistance to him

To avoid any confusion it should be pointed out that the term
" Animism " is used in two very different senses. Here, and in the writings
of the persons alluded to above, it is employed as a term connoting the
belief in the existence of a soul in man. But it is also used by anthro-
pologists to connote beliefs met with very commonly amongst savage
races as to which nothing need here be said.

2 " Darwinism," London, Macimllan & Co., 1889, pp. 474 seq.


in the struggle for existence. It might even be directly
disadvantageous, since it might divert his attention from
the machinations of his foe at the critical moment and thus
lead to disaster. Hence it — and of course other similar
aesthetic pleasures — cannot come under the operation of
Natural Selection. We have already seen that a large
number of biologists would be unwilling to assign to Natural
Selection an importance so great as Wallace, very naturally,
attached to it. Still it may fairly be said that if Natural
Selection cannot — as admittedly it cannot — account for
these things, much less can any other purely materialistic
theory as yet promulgated. 1

Wallace, then, came to the conclusion, apart altogether
from any recourse to revelation, that man's mental char-
acteristics could only be accounted for by the fact that he
possessed what we agree to call a soul ; nor is he by any
means the only one who has arrived at this conclusion and
by a similar method of reasoning. Without unduly multiply-
ing instances of the evidence from outside the ranks of
Catholicism I may draw particular attention to a very
remarkable work which recently appeared. 2 Dr. McDougall
admits that he approached his subject with no prejudice in
favour of the doctrine of a soul, but rather with that dis-
tinct leaning to the opposite pole of thought which still
lingers as a legacy from the materialistic days of the Vic-
torian era. He even makes a half-humorous apology for

1 Wallace in the Preface to '* The World of Life," London, Chapman &
Hall, 1910, complains that he was accused of dishonesty for his adoption
of anti-materialistic theories and adds: " I also wish to point out that,
however strange and heretical some of my beliefs and suggestions may
appear to be, I claim that they have only been arrived at by a careful
study of the facts and conditions of the problem. I mention this because
numerous critics of my former work — ' Man's Place in the Universe ' (to
which this may be considered supplementary) — treated the conclusions
there arrived at as if they were wholly matters of opinion or imagination
and founded (as were their own) on personal likes or dislikes, without 'any
appeal to evidence or to reasoning. This is not a method I have
adopted in any of my works." It will be remembered that Haeckel tried
to belittle Virchow (a much greater man of science) when he was unable
to confute the arguments of that very distinguished anthropologist.

2 " Body and Mind," by Dr. McDougall, f.r.s., a medical man who is
Reader in Mental Philosophy in Oxford. London, Methuen & Co., 1911.
I very strongly commend this book to readers desirous of following a com-
plete and exhaustive consideration of the whole of this subject from a
standpoint outside that of religion and revelation.


the opinion at which he has arrived when he says, as he
does in his preface, that " to many minds it must appear
nothing short of a scandal that anyone occupying a position
in an academy of learning other than a Roman Catholic
seminary should in this twentieth century defend the old-
world notion of the soul of man." Yet, after a most pro-
longed and careful examination of all the alternative
solutions, he finally gives his verdict in favour of the exist-
ence of the human soul, on the lines familiar to Catholics,
in and out of seminaries.

Any adequate discussion of this question is impossible
in this book : all that can here be attempted is to set out
briefly the Catholic view and to indicate equally briefly
the line of argument in opposition to what are commonly
called monistic views. 1

In the first place it will be well to make clear what the
Catholic means — perhaps still more what he does not
mean — by the soul, and what is his idea as to its relation to
the body. The " Catholic Encyclopaedia " 2 defines the soul
of man as " the ultimate internal principle by which we
think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated."
The soul is not to be thought of as detached from the body,
or as located in any special portion of the body. A good
deal of confusion as to the proper ideas concerning it arises
from Descartes' theory that the soul was located in the
pineal body — a small mass of tissue, often containing a
calcareous deposit, near the centre of the brain. 3 Descartes'
idea is absurd — as absurd as the ignorant remark said, but
surely untruly, to have been made by some man of science,
that he refused to believe in the soul because he had never
been able to expose it with his scalpel. 4 The soul is a simple,

1 Those who desire to pursue the matter further may be referred to
Fr. Maher's work on Psychology, published in the Stonyhurst Series, by
Messrs. Longmans.

2 Sub voce Soul. The writers of the article are Frs. Maher and Bolland.

3 Morpholo gists have claimed that it represents the third eye found in
certain lizards, but its physiological significance, if any, is at present unknown.

4 Ex hypothesi the soul leaves the body at the time of death so that,
even if it were material, which it is not, the anatomist could hardly expect
to find anything but its prison, not itself. But though the story is probably
apocryphal, the sort of argument implied in it sometimes has a certain
effect upon shallow and ill-educated minds, and deserves passing mention


unextended substance which in scholastic language acts as
the " Form " of the body. We have already considered
(Chapter IX) what is meant by Matter and Form, and have
seen that it is conceived that Matter can never exist without
Form. Form can exist by itself in the case only of the
higher forms, " formae spirituales," such as angelic spirits
and the human soul, these being spiritual and immortal.
Otherwise Form cannot exist by itself, and Matter and Form
may be looked upon as inseparable. If then the Soul be
the Form of the body and Matter cannot exist without
Form, what happens at death, when the soul escapes from
its life-long prison ? Here the scholastic philosopher has
recourse to the further theory of subsidiary forms. When
the soul leaves the body and this ceases to be a living thing,
the subsidiary and latent chemical " forms " of oxygen,
nitrogen, carbon and the rest pass from potentia to actualitas
in the material constituents of the dead body. We can see
this for ourselves, or rather we can see the effects of it.
What guards the body from corruption and prevents the
chemical constituents thereof asserting themselves and
destroying it, as they promptly proceed to do after death
has taken place ? It is the soul or dominant " form " which
overrides them and forbids them to act until its influence is

These minor and subsidiary forms are, of course, there
all the time but in petto, " stopped down " so to speak like
the hidden characteristics under the Mendelian doctrine —
when the Master-form is gone the " stopping-down " ceases
and the lesser formae come into operation.

Yet, as the Form of the body, the soul, though unex-
tended, pervades the whole body and makes it what it is.
Such is the Catholic view ; when it is rightly understood,
it is also in a true sense a monistic view, since the Soul and
the Body, the Form and the Matter, make up one single
thing. " Though the philosophers of former days were un-
aware of all the departmental details of brain activity, they
understood as well as we do the essential point, that in our
composite nature soul and body form one being, whose
every operation is of mixed character like itself. The soul
alone is the intelligent principle, yet all objects of knowledge


must come to it through sense, and in the senses it can be
reached only by the mechanical media of light or sound or
touch. So firm was their grip of this principle that the
Schoolmen styled the soul the ' substantial form ' of the
body, and in their mouth this term expressed a union more
essential and intimate than modern philosophers can
perhaps imagine." 1

We leave the question of the Catholic idea of the human
soul with the final remark that it is patent that some of
those who write most glibly on the materialistic side have
never taken the trouble to master the Catholic view of the
matter. It is also clear that some of those who from out-
side have unconsciously adopted the Catholic view on this
point are only dimly aware, if aware at all, that the ideas
which they set forth have been known to and adopted by
Catholic philosophers for centuries past.

1 Gerard, " The Old Riddle and the Newest Answer," London, Long-
mans, 3rd ed., 1907, p. 132. There is a sixpenny edition of this admirable
answer to the Haeckelian " philosophy."




HAVING studied the Catholic view of the soul, we may
briefly turn our attention to some opposition theories,
commonly called monistic, in opposition to our view, which
some of our opponents describe as dualistic. Of the false-
ness of this description we have spoken in the last chapter.
The views we are now to consider are called Monistic
because they reduce everything in man to a single explana-
tion or fact, instead of postulating a Soul and a Body, how-
ever closely united.

Of Monism there are two great forms with numerous sub-
forms, for an account of which readers must be referred to
more voluminous and specialised works than this. There
is Idealistic Monism and Materialistic Monism, as to both
of which a few words must be said.

Idealistic Monism has been already touched upon in the
earlier pages of this book (p. 8). It gets over the difficulty
as to the relation between the body and the mind by boldly
denying that there is any such thing as matter outside the
mind : thus the seemingly independent material world is
to be looked upon as an illusory creation or emanation of
mind. Further, this doctrine teaches that all minds are
really one, all being drops in the great ocean of universal
consciousness. On hearing things thus stated and learning
that, according to this school, there is no such thing as matter,
the " man in the street " will probably be tempted to answer
as contemptuously, and, it may be added, as ignorantly, as
Dr. Johnson did when Boswell propounded to him Bishop
Berkeley's idealistic solution. " After we came out of the
church we stood talking for some time together of Bishop
Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence



of matter, and that everything in the universe is merely
ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine
is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget
the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot
with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded
from it, ' I refute it thus ! ' " l Nevertheless the fact is that
our own personal experience teaches us that I am I, and that
my personality is mine and no one else's. Further, if I am
to admit that there are other men, I must accept the fact
from them that their experience is identical. These things
place the idealistic theory in direct conflict with our experi-
ence — the one thing in the world which we know best.
Looked at from this point of view the impulse of Johnson
and of the " man in the street " is justifiable. But it does
not dispose of the question, for the theory has its reply to
many of the objections brought against it.

We may say, for example, that a dose of strychnine
secretly and without his knowledge administered to a man
and, therefore, never mentalised by him, will nevertheless
kill him ; and we may ask whether, in face of this fact, it
is possible to argue that the strychnine has not extension
and a real existence. The reply would seem to be that the
strychnine — and all other things — are present to the mind
of the Universal Consciousness and so far have such exist-
ence as things can have. From the idealistic standpoint
this no doubt is an answer ; but it involves a further
question, which cannot so easily or indeed satisfactorily be
solved. For if all consciousness is part of the Universal
Consciousness, which is a pantheistic solution : then either
there is no such thing as Sin, or the Universal Consciousness
is sinful or at least partakes of the nature of Sin.

Since the latter horn of the dilemma is unthinkable, the
former must be accepted. According to this there is no
such thing as sin ; there is only imperfection. The seducer
of innocent children, " the smilere with the knife," the traitor
— these are not sinners ; they are only low down the ladder
of perfection. Since in the last analysis, under its teaching

1 Boswell's " Johnson," ed. Birrell, Vol. II, pp. 133-4. Of course
neither Berkeley nor any other philosopher of his school ever denied that
man has the sensation of solidity.


the blackest crime is at least situated upon the pathway of
good, this system would seem to exclude any idea of morality
from its scheme, and thus to pronounce, from the ethical
point of view, its own condemnation.

Materialistic Monism in its simplest expression teaches
just the opposite — namely, that there is no mind, but that
matter, looked at from the other side, so to speak, is
possessed of consciousness. As has already been stated
(Chapter XII) this point of view was admirably put by two
great physicists when declaring it to be an utterly untenable
theory. 1 These two authorities are dead, but the doctrine
which they derided is not, for it is precisely that which has
been put forward by Haeckel. As summarised by Wallace,
this theory teaches that " matter," i.e. the material
universe, is infinite, that so is the " ether " ; that they fill
infinite space, and that both are " eternal " and both are
"alive." 2

It is further argued by the materialistic school that the
brain, without a soul, is capable of explaining all the psy-
chological problems of life. We have seen that some have
even spoken of thought as secreted by the brain in the same
way that bile is secreted by the liver — the absurdity of this
remark clearly appears when it is remembered that bile,
like all other secretions, is extended or material, which
thought being spiritual most assuredly is not ; this absurdity
has led to the position now being regarded as untenable.
Yet the idea which underlies this statement is necessarily
that of the materialistic monist. It is the brain, the actual
grey and white matter of the brain, which thinks : it must
needs be, since there is nothing else to think. Yet men of

1 Stewart and Tait asserted, as quoted in Chapter XII, that " the only
reasonable and defensible alternative " to their hypothesis of the soul
was " the stupendous pair of assumptions that visible matter is eternal
and that it is alive " — a pair of assumptions which they laughed to scorn.
(Italics and capitals as in original.)

2 " The World of Life," p. 7. Wallace adds that " none of these things
can possibly be known, yet he (Haeckel) states them as positive facts."
And, he adds, this is " surely not science and very bad philosophy."
Haeckel's exact statement is that " the two fundamental forms of sub-
stance, ponderable matter and ether " (which, by the way, is a distinction
without a difference according to physicists of to-day), " are not dead and
only moved by extrinsic force, but they are endowed with sensation and
will." See Gerard, " The Old Riddle," for a full discussion of Haeckel and
his views.



science, with and without any leaning towards revelation,
have proclaimed their belief that so great a gulf exists
between the mechanical processes of sensation and rational
perception — not to say thought and more especially abstract
thought — as to be utterly impassable. Thus Tyndall in
1874 in his address at the British Association, said that " the
passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding
facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite
thought and a definite molecular action in the brain 1 occur
simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ,
nor apparently any rudiments of an organ, which would
enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from one to the
other. They appear together, but we do not know why.
Were our minds and sense so expanded as to enable us to
see and feel the very molecules of the brain, were we capable
of following all their motions, all their groupings and
electrical discharges, if such there be ; and were we intim-
ately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought
and feeling, we should be as far as ever from the solution
of the problem — ' How are these physical processes con-
nected with the facts of consciousness ? ' The chasm be-
tween the two classes remains still intellectually impass-
able." It is now nearly fifty years since these words were
uttered, fifty years of more strenuous scientific research
than the world has ever previously known : yet the state-
ment embodied in them remains as absolutely true as it
was on the day on which the Address was delivered.

The crowning difficulty alluded to therein may be supple-
mented by yet another difficulty which has been discussed in
another connection in a previous chapter. This is the want
of agreement between the theory in question, that the brain
alone is responsible for thought, and the actual and un-
disputed anatomical facts. Let us look more closely at this
point. Human beings and the higher mammals, indeed all
mammals, are, anatomically speaking, constructed upon
similar, indeed one might say identical, lines ; from this
point of view their differences are of degree not of kind.
Thus, all have a vertebral column, a central nervous system,
highly similar arrangements of muscles, nerves, blood-

1 Which, by the way, still remains unproved.


vessels and so on. Further, and in this connection far more
significant, the brains of man and of all mammals conform
to a similar plan, possessing a two-lobed cerebrum, a
cerebellum, a medulla and so on, even agreeing in far more
minute details. On these points all anatomists are agreed.

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 36 of 38)