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REESE LIBRARY

OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. ;




GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE
OF EXISTENCE



GUESSES AT

THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE



AND



OTHER ESSAYS ON KINDRED SUBJECTS



BY



GOLDWIN SMITH, D.C.L.

AUTHOR OF "CANADA AND THE CANADIAN QUESTION," "THE

UNITED STATES," "ESSAYS ON QUESTIONS

OF THE DAT," ETC., ETC.



NEW EDITION WITH ADDITIONS




gork
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON : MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
1898

All rights reserved



COPYRIGHT, 1896,
BY MACMILLAN AND CO.



Set up and electrotyped December, 1896. Reprinted March,
May, 1897; July, 1898.

7 $-& 3 6"



tforfaoob

J. 8. Gushing & Co. - Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.




PREFACE



OF the papers in this volume three have
appeared before ; two in the North American
Review, one in the Forum, to the editors of
which, respectively, the writer's thanks are
due for their courtesy in permitting the repub-
lication. The writer has also once or twice
drawn on previous papers of his own.

For such of the essays as have appeared in
print some inquiries have been made. Those
who desire to read them again are probably
of the same mind as the writer, and with him
believe that there is no longer any use in
clinging to the untenable or in shutting our
eyes to that which cannot be honestly denied.
The educated world, and to a great extent the
uneducated world also, has got beyond the
point at which frank dealing with a tradi-
tional creed can be regarded as a wanton dis-
turbance of faith.

v



Mi PREFACE

Liberal theologians have at least half re-
signed the belief in miracles, rationalizing
wherever they can and minimizing where that
process fails. Liberal theologians, and even
theologians by no means ranked as liberal, if
they are learned and open-minded, have given
up the authenticity and authority of Genesis.
With these they must apparently give up the
Fall, the Redemption, and the Incarnation.
After this, little is left of the ecclesiastical
creeds for criticism to destroy.

If there is anything which, amidst all these
doubts and perplexities, our nature tells us, it
is that our salvation must lie in our uncom-
promising allegiance to the truth. It is hoped
that nothing in these pages will be found fairly
open to the charge of irreverence or of want of
tenderness in dealing with the creed which is
still that of men who are the salt of the earth.

If much is, for the present, lost, let us re-
member that there is also much from which by
the abandonment of dogmatic tradition we are
relieved. If, on the one hand, the old argu-
ments for theism and immortality have failed
us, and the face of the Father in heaven is for



PREFACE vii

the moment veiled, on the other hand we are
set free from the belief that all who go not in
by the strait gate, that is, the greater part of
mankind, are lost for ever ; from belief in the
God of Dante, with his everlasting torture-
house ; from belief in the God of Predestina-
tion, who arbitrarily rejects half his creatures
and dooms them to eternal fire. That which
in a good sermon has most practical effect will
probably survive its ecclesiastical or theological
form.

The spirit in which these pages are penned is
not that of Agnosticism, if Agnosticism imports
despair of spiritual truth, but that of free and
hopeful inquiry, the way for which it is neces-
sary to clear by removing the wreck of that
upon which we can found our faith no more.

To resign untenable arguments for a belief
is not to resign the belief, while a belief bound
up with untenable arguments will share their
fate.

Where the conclusions are, or seem to be,
negative, no one will rejoice more than the
writer to see the more welcome view reasserted
and fresh evidence of its truth supplied.



Vlll PREFACE

If, as our hearts tell us, there is a Supreme
Being, he cares for us ; he knows our perplex-
ities ; he has his plan. If we seek truth, he
will enable us in due time to find it. Whether
we find it cannot matter to him; it may con-
ceivably matter to him whether we seek it.

The reader will look for no attempt to dis-
cuss recondite questions, documentary or his-
torical. Nothing is attempted here beyond the
presentation of a plain case for a practical pur-
pose to the ordinary reader.

It may be thought presumptuous in a layman
to write on these subjects, though his interest
in them is as great as that of the clergy.
Would that the clergy could write with per-
fect freedom.

TORONTO, January, 1897.



CONTENTS

PAGE
GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE . . 1

THE CHURCH AND THE OLD TESTAMENT . . 47

IS THERE ANOTHER LIFE? 97

THE MIRACULOUS ELEMENT IN CHRISTIANITY . 135

MORALITY AND THEISM 189

ONE WORD MORE 245

ix



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF
EXISTENCE




GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF
EXISTENCE

NEVEK before has the intellect of man been
brought so directly face to face with the mys-
tery of existence as it is now. Some veil of
religious tradition has always been interposed.
At the beginning of this century most minds
still rested in the Mosaic cosmogony and the
Noachic deluge. Greek speculation was free,
and its freedom makes it an object of extreme
interest to us at the present time. But it was
not intensely serious ; it was rather the intel-
lectual amusement of a summer day in Academe
beneath the whispering plane.

No one who reads and thinks freely can
doubt that the cosmogonical and historical
foundations of traditional belief have been
sapped by science and criticism. When the
crust shall fall in appears to be a question of
time, and the moment can hardly fail to be one
3



4 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

of peril ; not least in the United States, where
education is general and opinion spreads rapidly
over a level field, with no barriers to arrest its
sweep.

Ominous symptoms already appear. Almost
all the churches are troubled with heterodoxy
and are trying clergymen for heresy. Quite as
significant seems the growing tendency of the
pulpit to concern itself less with religious
dogma and more with the estate of man in
his present world. It is needless to say what
voices of unbelief outside the churches are heard
and how high are the intellectual quarters
from which they come. Christian ethics still
in part retain their hold. So does the Church
as a social centre and a reputed safeguard of
social order. But faith in .the dogmatic creed
and the history is waxing faint. Ritualism
itself seems to betray the need of a new stimu-
lus and to be in some measure an aesthetic sub-
stitute for spiritual religion.

Dogmatic religion may be said to have re-
ceived a fatal wound three centuries ago, when
the Ptolemaic system was succeeded by the
Copernican, and the real relation of the earth



GUESSES AT THE MIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 5

to the universe was disclosed. Dogmatic reli-
gion is geocentric. It assumes that our earth is
the centre of the universe, the primary object
of divine care, and the grand theatre of divine
administration. The tendency was carried to
the height of travesty when an insanely ultra-
montane party at Rome meditated, as, if we
may believe Dr. Pusey, it did, the declaration
of a hypostatic union of the Pope and the Holy
Ghost.

The effect of the blow dealt by Copernicus
was long suspended, but it is fully felt now
that the kingdom of science is come, and the
bearings of scientific discovery are generally
known. When daylight gives place to star-
light we are transported from the earth to the
universe, and to the thoughts which the con-
templation of the universe begets. " What is
man, that Thou art mindful of him ? " is the
question that then arises in our minds. Is it
possible that so much importance as the creeds
imply can attach to this tiny planet and to the
little drama of humanity ? We might be half
inclined to think that man has taken himself
too seriously and that in the humorous part of



6 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

our nature, overlooked by philosophy, is to be
found the key to his mystery. The feeling is
enhanced when we consider that we have no
reason for believing that the evidence of our
senses is exhaustive, however much Science,
with her telescopes, microscopes, and spectro-
scopes, may extend their range. We cannot
tell that we are not like the sightless denizens of
the Mammoth Cave, unconsciously living in the
midst of wonders and glories beyond our ken.

Nor has the natural theology of the old
school suffered from free criticism much less
than revelation. Optimism of the orthodox
kind seems no longer possible. Christianity
itself, indeed, is not optimistic. It represents
the earth as cursed for man's sake, ascribing
the curse to primeval sin, and the prevalence
of evil in the moral world as not only great but
permanent, since those who enter the gate of
eternal death are many, while those who enter
the gate of eternal life are few. Natural theol-
ogy of the optimistic school and popular reli-
gion have thus been at variance with each
other. The old argument from design is now
met with the answer that we have nothing



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 7

with which to compare this world, and there-
fore cannot tell whether it was possible for
it to be other than it is. Mingled with the
signs of order, science discloses apparent signs
of disorder, miscarriage, failure, wreck, and
waste. Our satellite, so far as we can see,
is either a miscarriage or a wreck. Natural
selection by a struggle for existence, protracted
through countless ages, with the painful ex-
tinction of the weaker members of the race,
and even of whole races, is hardly the course
which benevolence, such as we conceive it,
combined with omnipotence, would be ex-
pected to take. If in the case of men suffer-
ing is discipline, though this can hardly be
said when infants die or myriads are indis-
criminately swept off by plague, in the case
of animals, which are incapable of discipline
and have no future life, it can be nothing
but suffering ; and it often amounts to tor-
ture. The evil passions of men, with all the
miseries and horrors which they have pro-
duced, are a part of human nature, which
itself is a part of creation. Through the
better parts of human nature and what there



8 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

is of order, beneficence, majesty, tenderness,
and beauty in the universe, a spirit is felt
appealing to ours, and a promise seems to be
conveyed. But if omnipotence and benevo-
lence are to meet, it must apparently be at a
point at present beyond our ken. These are
the perplexities which obtrude themselves on
a scientific age.

What is man ? Whence comes he ? Whither
goes he? In the hands of what power is
he? What are the character and designs of
that power? These are questions which, now
directly presented to us, are of such over-
whelming magnitude that we almost wonder
at the zeal and heat which other questions,
such as party politics, continue to excite.
The interest felt in them, however, is daily
deepening, and an attentive audience is assured
to any one who comes forward with a solution,
however crude, of the mystery of existence.
Attentive audiences have gathered round Mr.
Kidd, Mr. Drummond, and Mr. Balfour, each
of whom has a theory to propound. Mr.
Kidd's work has had special vogue, and the
compliments which its author pays to Pro-



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 9

fessor Weismann have been reciprocated by
that luminary of science.

Mr. Drummond undertakes to reconcile, and
more than reconcile, our natural theology and
our moral instincts to the law of evolution.
His title, The Ascent of Man, is not new ;
probably it has been used by more than one
writer before ; nor is he the first to point
out that the humble origin of the human
species, instead of dejecting, ought to encour-
age us, since the being who has risen from
an ape to Socrates and Newton may hope to
rise still higher in the future, if not by
further physical development, which physi-
ology seems to bar by pronouncing the brain
unsusceptible of further organic improvement,
yet by intellectual and moral effort. Mr.
Drummond treats his subject with great brill-
iancy of style and adorns it with very in-
teresting illustrations. Not less firmly than
Voltaire's optimist persuaded himself that
this was the best of all possible worlds, he
has persuaded himself that evolution was the
only right method of creation. He ulti-
mately identifies it with love. The cruelties



10 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

incidental to it he palliates with a compla-
cency which sometimes provokes a smile. All
of them seem to him comparatively of little
account, inasmuch as the struggle for exist-
ence was to lead up to the struggle for the
existence of others, in other words, to the
production of maternity and paternity, with
the altruism, as he terms it, or, as we have
hitherto termed it, the affection, attendant
on those relations. To reconcile us to the
sufferings of the vanquished in the struggle
he dilates on "the keenness of its energies,
the splendour of its stimulus, its bracing effect
on character, its wholesome lessons through-
out the whole range of character." "With-
out the vigorous weeding of the imperfect,"
he says, "the progress of the world would
not have been possible." Pleasant reading
this for " the imperfect " !

" If fit and unfit indiscriminately had been allowed to
live and reproduce their kind, every improvement which
any individual might acquire would be degraded to the
common level in the course of a few generations. Prog-
ress can only start by one or two individuals shooting
ahead of their species; and their life-gain can only be
conserved by their being shut off from their species



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 11

or by their species being shut off from them. Unless
shut off from their species their acquisition will either
be neutralized in the course of time by the swamping
effect of inter-breeding with the common herd, or so
diluted as to involve no real advance. The only chance
for evolution, then, is either to carry off these improved
editions into 'physiological isolation,' or to remove the
unimproved editions by wholesale death. The first of
these two alternatives is only occasionally possible ; the
second always. Hence the death of the unevolved, or
of the un adapted in reference to some new and higher
relation with environment, is essential to the perpetua-
tion of a useful variation."

This reasoning, with much more to the
same effect, is plainly a limitation of omnip-
otence. It supposes that the ruling power
of the universe could attain the end only at
the expense of wholesale carnage and suffer-
ing, facts which cannot be glozed over, and
which, as the weakness was not the fault
of the weak, but of their Maker, are in
apparently irreconcilable conflict with our
human notions of benevolence and justice.

This, however, is not all. We might, com-
paratively speaking, be reconciled to Mr. Drum-
mond's plan of creation if all the carnage and
suffering could be shown to be necessary or



12 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

even conducive to the great end of giving birth
to humanity and love. But Mr. Drummond
himself has to admit that natural selection by
no means invariably works in the direction of
progress ; that in the case of parasites its result
has been almost utter degradation. The phe-
nomena of parasites and entozoa, with the need-
less torments which they inflict, appear irrecon-
cilable with any optimistic theory of the direc-
tion of suffering and destruction to a paramount
and compensating end. Not only so, but all the
extinct races except those which are in the line
leading up to man and may be numbered among
his progenitors, must apparently, upon Mr.
Drummond's hypothesis, have suffered and
perished in vain. That "a price, a price in
pain, and assuredly sometimes a very terrible
price," has been paid for the evolution of the
world, after all is said, Mr. Drummond admits
to be certain. But he holds it indisputable
that even at the highest estimate the thing
bought with that price was none too dear, inas-
much as it was nothing less than the present
progress of the world. So he thinks we " may
safely leave Nature to look after her own ethic."



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 13

Probably we might if all the pain was part of
the price. But we are distinctly told that it
was not ; so that there is much of it in which,
with our present lights or any that Mr. Drum-
mond is able to afford us, men can hardly help
thinking that they see the ruthless operation of
blind chance. Nature, being a mere abstraction,
has no ethic to look after ; nor has Evolution,
which is not a power, but a method, though it
is personified, we might almost say deified, by
its exponent. But if there is not some higher
authority which looks after ethic, what becomes
of the ethic of man? The most inhuman of
vivisectors, if he could show that his practice
really led, or was at all likely to lead, to know-
ledge, would have a better plea than, in the
case of suffering and destruction which have
led to nothing, the philosophy of evolution can
by itself put in for the Author of our being.

Mr. Drummond's treatise, like those of other
evolutionists, at least of the optimistic school,
assumes the paramount value of the type, and
the rightfulness of sacrificing individuals with-
out limit to its perfection and preservation.
But this assumption surely requires to be made



14 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

good, both to our intellects and to our hearts.
The ultimate perfection and preservation of
the type cannot, so far as we see, indemnify
the individuals who have perished miserably in
the preliminary stages. Far from having an
individual interest in the evolution of the type,
the sufferers of the ages before Darwin had not
even the clear idea of a type for their consola-
tion. Besides, what is the probable destiny of the
type itself ? Science appears to tell us pretty
confidently that the days of our planet, how-
ever many they may be, are numbered, and that
it is doomed at last to fall back into primeval
chaos, with all the types which it may contain.
Evolutionists, in their enthusiasm for the
species, are apt to bestow little thought on the
sentient members of which it consists. "Man "
is a mere generalization. This they forget,
and speak as if all men personally shared the
crown of the final heirs of human civilization.
The following passage is an instance :

"Science is charged, be it once more recalled, with
numbering Man among the beasts, and levelling his body
with the dust. But he who reads for himself the history
of creation as it is written by the hand of Evolution will



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 15

be overwhelmed by the glory and honour heaped upon this
creature. To be a Man, and to have no conceivable suc-
cessor ; to be the fruit and crown of the long-past eter-
nity, and the highest possible fruit and crown ; to be the
last victor among the decimated phalanxes of earlier ex-
istences, and to be nevermore defeated ; to be the best
that Nature in her strength and opulence can produce ;
to be the first of the new order of beings who, by their
dominion over the lower world and their equipment for
a higher, reveal that they are made in the Image of God
to be this is to be elevated to a rank in Nature more
exalted than any philosophy or any poetry or any theol-
ogy has ever given to man. Man was always told that
his place was high ; the reason for it he never knew till
now ; he never knew that his title deeds were the very
laws of Nature, that he alone was the Alpha and Omega
of Creation, the beginning and the end of Matter, the
final goal of Life."

To be the last victor among the decimated
phalanxes of earlier existences, and to be
nevermore defeated, is, to say the least, a dif-
ferent sort of satisfaction from the glorious
triumph of love in which the process of Evolu-
tion, according to Mr. Drumrnond, ends, and
in virtue of which he proclaims that Evolu-
tion is nothing but the Involution of love, the
revelation of Infinite Spirit, the Eternal Life
returning to itself. It even reminds us a little



16 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

of the unamiable belief that in the next world
the sight of the wicked in torment will be a
part of the enjoyment of the righteous. Per-
haps there is also a touch of lingering geocen-
tricism in this rapturous exaltation of Man.
Evolution can give us no assurance that there
are not in other planets creatures no less
superior to man than he is to the lower tribes
upon this earth.

The crown of evolution in Mr. Drummond's
system is the evolution of a mother, accom-
panied by that of a father, which, however,
appears to be inferior in degree. The chapters
on this subject are more than philosophy ; they
are poetry, soaring almost into rhapsody.
"The goal," Mr. Drummond says, "of the
whole plant and animal kingdoms seems to
have been the creation of a family which the
very naturalist has to call mammals." The
following passage is the climax :

"But by far the most vital point remains. For we
have next to observe how this bears directly on the theme
we set out to explore the Evolution of Love. The pas-
sage from mere Otherism, in the physiological sense, to
Altruism, in the moral sense, occurs in connection with



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 17

the due performance of her natural task by her to whom
the Struggle for the Life of Others is assigned. That
task, translated into one great word, is Maternity
which is nothing but the Struggle for the Life of Others
transfigured to the moral sphere. Focussed in a single
human being, this function, as we rise in history, slowly
begins to be accompanied by those heaven-born psychical
states which transform the femaleness of the older order
into the Motherhood of the new. When one follows
Maternity out of the depths of lower Nature, and beholds
it ripening in quality as it reaches the human sphere, its
character, and the character of the processes by which it
is evolved, appear in their full divinity. For of what is
maternity the mother? Of children? No; for these are
the mere vehicle of its spiritual manifestation. Of affec-
tion between female and male ? No ; for that, contrary
to accepted beliefs, has little to do in the first instance
with sex-relations. Of what then? Of Love itself, of
Love as Love, of Love as Life, of Love as Humanity, of
Love as the pure and undefiled fountain of all that is
eternal in the world. In the long stillness which follows
the crisis of Maternity, witnessed only by the new and
helpless life which is at once the last expression of the
older function and the unconscious vehicle of the new,
Humanity is born."

The father seems to be here shut out from
the apotheosis ; though why, except from a sort
of philosophic gallantry, it is difficult to dis-
cern. The man who toils from morning till



18 GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE

night to support wife and child surely has not
less to do with it than the woman who feeds
the child from her breast.

Somewhat paradoxical as it may seem, Mr.
Drummond maintains that love did not come
from lovers. It was not they that bestowed
this gift upon the world. It was the first
child, "till whose appearance man's affection
was non-existent, woman's was frozen ; and
man did not love the woman, and woman did
not love the man." Apparently, then, in a
childless couple there can be no love. Here,
according to Mr. Drummond, is the birth of
Altruism, for which all creation has travailed
from the beginning of time. This appears to
him a satisfactory solution of the problem of
existence. Yet the races which have been sac-
rificed to the production of altruism, if they
were critical and could find a voice, might ask
if there was anything totally unselfish in the
indulgence of the sexual passion, which after
all plays its part in the matter, and of which
the birth of a child is the unavoidable, not
perhaps always the welcome, consequence. To
the mother the child is necessary for a time



GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE OF EXISTENCE 19

in order to relieve her of a physical secretion,
while it repays her care by its endearments,
the enjoyment of which is altruistic only on
the irrational hypothesis that affection and
domesticity are not parts of self. To both
parents, in the primitive state at all events,
children are necessary as the support and pro-
tection of old age. Beautiful and touching
parental affection is ; pure altruism it is not.


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