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Do not think that this means anything religious. It means only that the
reputation of a man goes to influence the good or ill fortune of his
descendants. It is something to be proud of, to be the son of a good man;
it helps to success in life. On the other hand, to have had a father of
ill reputation is a very serious obstacle to success of any kind in
countries where the influence of heredity is strongly recognized.

I have nearly exhausted the examples of this Northern wisdom which I
selected for you; but there are two subjects which remain to be
considered. One is the law of conduct in regard to misfortune; and the
other is the rule of conduct in regard to women. A man was expected to
keep up a brave heart under any circumstances. These old Northmen seldom
committed suicide; and I must tell you that all the talk about
Christianity having checked the practice of suicide to some extent, can
not be fairly accepted as truth. In modern England to-day the suicides
average nearly three thousand a year; but making allowance for
extraordinary circumstances, it is certainly true that the Northern races
consider suicide in an entirely different way from what the Latin races
do. There was very little suicide among the men of the North, because
every man considered it his duty to get killed, not to kill himself; and
to kill himself would have seemed cowardly, as implying fear of being
killed by others. In modern ethical training, quite apart from religious
considerations a man is taught that suicide is only excusable in case of
shame, or under such exceptional circumstances as have occurred in the
history of the Indian mutiny. At all events, we have the feeling still
strongly manifested in England that suicide is not quite manly; and this
is certainly due much more to ancestral habits of thinking, which date
back to pagan days, than to Christian doctrine. As I have said, the pagan
English would not commit suicide to escape mere pain. But the Northern
people knew how to die to escape shame. There is an awful story in Roman
history about the wives and daughters of the conquered German tribes,
thousands in number, asking to be promised that their virtue should be
respected, and all killing themselves when the Roman general refused the
request. No Southern people of Europe in that time would have shown such
heroism upon such a matter. Leaving honour aside, however, the old book
tells us that a man should never despair.

Fire, the sight of the sun, good health, and a blameless
life these are the goodliest things in this world.

Yet a man is not utterly wretched, though he have bad health, or
be maimed.

The halt may ride a horse; the handless may drive a herd; the deaf
can fight and do well; better be blind than buried. A corpse is
good for naught.

On the subject of women there is not very much in the book beyond the
usual caution in regard to wicked women; but there is this little

Never blame a woman for what is all man's weakness. Hues charming
and fair may move the wise and not the dullard. Mighty love turns
the son of men from wise to fool.

This is shrewd, and it contains a very remarkable bit of esthetic truth,
that it requires a wise man to see certain kinds of beauty, which a stupid
man could never be made to understand. And, leaving aside the subject of
love, what very good advice it is never to laugh at a person for what can
be considered a common failure. In the same way an intelligent man should
learn to be patient with the unintelligent, as the same poem elsewhere

Now what is the general result of this little study, the general
impression that it leaves upon the mind? Certainly we feel that the life
reflected in these sentences was a life in which caution was above all
things necessary - caution in thought and speech and act, never ceasing, by
night or day, during the whole of a man's life. Caution implies
moderation. Moderation inevitably develops a certain habit of justice - a
justice that might not extend outside of the race, but a justice that
would be exercised between man and man of the same blood. Very much of
English character and of English history is explained by the life that the
"Havamal" portrays. Very much that is good; also very much that is
bad - not bad in one sense, so far as the future of the race is concerned,
but in a social way certainly not good. The judgment of the Englishman by
all other European peoples is that he is the most suspicious, the most
reserved, the most unreceptive, the most unfriendly, the coldest hearted,
and the most domineering of all Western peoples. Ask a Frenchman, an
Italian, a German, a Spaniard, even an American, what he thinks about
Englishmen; and every one of them will tell you the very same thing. This
is precisely what the character of men would become who had lived for
thousands of years in the conditions of Northern society. But you would
find upon the other hand that nearly all nations would speak highly of
certain other English qualities - energy, courage, honour, justice (between
themselves). They would say that although no man is so difficult to make
friends with, the friendship of an Englishman once gained is more strong
and true than any other. And as the battle of life still continues, and
must continue for thousands of years to come, it must be acknowledged that
the English character is especially well fitted for the struggle. Its
reserves, its cautions, its doubts, its suspicions, its brutality - these
have been for it in the past, and are still in the present, the best
social armour and panoply of war. It is not a lovable nor an amiable
character; it is not even kindly. The Englishman of the best type is much
more inclined to be just than he is to be kind, for kindness is an
emotional impulse, and the Englishman is on his guard against every kind
of emotional impulse. But with all this, the character is a grand one, and
its success has been the best proof of its value.

Now you will have observed in the reading of this ancient code of social
morals that, while none of the teaching is religious, some of it is
absolutely immoral from any religious standpoint. No great religion
permits us to speak what is not true, and to smile in the face of an enemy
while pretending to be his friend. No religion teaches that we should "pay
back lesing for lies." Neither does a religion tell us that we should
expect a return for every kindness done; that we should regard friendship
as being actuated by selfish motives; that we should never praise when
praise seems to be deserved. In fact, when Sir Walter Scott long ago made
a partial translation of the "Havamal," he thought himself obliged to
leave out a number of sentences which seemed to him highly immoral, and to
apologize for others. He thought that they would shock English readers too

We are not quite so squeamish to-day; and a thinker of our own time would
scarcely deny that English society is very largely governed at this moment
by the same kind of rules that Sir Walter Scott thought to be so bad. But
here we need not condemn English society in particular. All European
society has been for hundreds of years conducting itself upon very much
the same principles; for the reason that human social experience has been
the same in all Western countries. I should say that the only difference
between English society and other societies is that the hardness of
character is very much greater. Let us go back even to the most Christian
times of Western societies in the most Christian country of Europe, and
observe whether the social code was then and there so very different from
the social code of the old "Havamal." Mr. Spencer observes in his "Ethics"
that, so far as the conduct of life is concerned, religion is almost
nothing and practice is everything. We find this wonderfully exemplified
in a most remarkable book of social precepts written in the seventeenth
century, in Spain, under the title of the "Oraculo Manual." It was
composed by a Spanish priest, named Baltasar Gracian, who was born in the
year 1601 and died in 1658; and it has been translated into nearly all
languages. The best English translation, published by Macmillan, is called
"The Art of Worldly Wisdom." It is even more admired to-day than in the
seventeenth century; and what it teaches as to social conduct holds as
good to-day of modern society as it did of society two hundred years ago.
It is one of the most unpleasant and yet interesting books ever
published - unpleasant because of the malicious cunning which it often
displays - interesting because of the frightful perspicacity of the author.
The man who wrote that book understood the hearts of men, especially the
bad side. He was a gentleman of high rank before he became a priest, and
his instinctive shrewdness must have been hereditary. Religion, this man
would have said, teaches the best possible morals; but the world is not
governed by religion altogether, and to mix with it, we must act according
to its dictates.

These dictates remind us in many ways of the cautions and the cunning of
the "Havamal." The first thing enjoined upon a man both by the Norse
writer and by the Spanish author is the art of silence. Probably this has
been the result of social experience in all countries. "Cautious silence
is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom," says Gracian. And he gives many
elaborate reasons for this statement, not the least of which is the
following: "If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse
expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the
object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the
very mystery arouses veneration." A little further on he gives us exactly
the same advice as did the "Havamal" writer, in regard to being frank with
enemies. "Do not," he says, "show your wounded finger, for everything will
knock up against it; nor complain about it, for malice always aims where
weakness can be injured.... Never disclose the source of mortification or
of joy, if you wish the one to cease, the other to endure." About secrets
the Spaniard is quite as cautious as the Norseman. He says, "Especially
dangerous are secrets entrusted to friends. He that communicates his
secret to another makes himself that other man's slave." But after a great
many such cautions in regard to silence and secrecy, he tells us also that
we must learn how to fight with the world. You remember the advice of the
"Havamal" on this subject, how it condemns as a fool the man who can not
answer a reproach. The Spaniard is, however, much more malicious in his
suggestions. He tells as that we must "learn to know every man's
thumbscrew." I suppose you know that a thumbscrew was an instrument of
torture used in old times to force confessions from criminals. This advice
means nothing less than that we should learn how to be be able to hurt
other men's feelings, or to flatter other men's weaknesses. "First guess
every man's ruling passion, appeal to it by a word, set it in motion by
temptation, and you will infallibly give checkmate to his freedom of
will." The term "give checkmate" is taken from the game of chess, and must
here be understood as meaning to overcome, to conquer. A kindred piece of
advice is "keep a store of sarcasms, and know how to use them." Indeed he
tells us that this is the point of greatest tact in human intercourse.
"Struck by the slightest word of this kind, many fall away from the
closest intimacy with superiors or inferiors, which intimacy could not be
in the slightest shaken by a whole conspiracy of popular insinuation or
private malevolence." In other words, you can more quickly destroy a man's
friendship by one word of sarcasm than by any amount of intrigue. Does not
this read very much like sheer wickedness? Certainly it does; but the
author would have told you that you must fight the wicked with their own
weapons. In the "Havamal" you will not find anything quite so openly
wicked as that; but we must suppose that the Norsemen knew the secret,
though they might not have put it into words. As for the social teaching,
you will find it very subtly expressed even in the modern English novels
of George Meredith, who, by the way, has written a poem in praise of
sarcasm and ridicule. But let us now see what the Spanish author has to
tell us about friendship and unselfishness.

The shrewd man knows that others when they seek him do not seek "him," but
"their advantage in him and by him." That is to say, a shrewd man does not
believe in disinterested friendship. This is much worse than anything in
the "Havamal." And it is diabolically elaborated. What are we to say about
such teaching as the following: "A wise man would rather see men needing
him than thanking him. To keep them on the threshold of hope is
diplomatic; to trust to their gratitude is boorish; hope has a good
memory, gratitude a bad one"? There is much more of this kind; but after
the assurance that only a boorish person (that is to say, an ignorant and
vulgar man) can believe in gratitude, the author's opinion of human nature
needs no further elucidation. The old Norseman would have been shocked at
such a statement. But he might have approved the following: "When you hear
anything favourable, keep a tight rein upon your credulity; if
unfavourable, give it the spur." That is to say, when you hear anything
good about another man, do not be ready to believe it; but if you hear
anything bad about him, believe as much of it as you can.

I notice also many other points of resemblance between the Northern and
the Spanish teaching in regard to caution. The "Havamal" says that you
must not pick a quarrel with a worse man than yourself; "because the
better man often falls by the worse man's sword." The Spanish priest gives
a still shrewder reason for the same policy. "Never contend," he says,
"with a man who has nothing to lose; for thereby you enter into an unequal
conflict. The other enters without anxiety; having lost everything,
including shame, he has no further loss to fear." I think that this is an
immoral teaching, though a very prudent one; but I need scarcely to tell
you that it is still a principle in modern society not to contend with a
man who has no reputation to lose. I think it is immoral, because it is
purely selfish, and because a good man ought not to be afraid to denounce
a wrong because of making enemies. Another point, however, on which the
"Havamal" and the priest agree, is more commendable and interesting. "We
do not think much of a man who never contradicts us; that is no sign he
loves us, but rather a sign that he loves himself. Original and
out-of-the-way views are signs of superior ability."

I should not like you to suppose, however, that the whole of the book from
which I have been quoting is of the same character as the quotations.
There is excellent advice in it; and much kindly teaching on the subject
of generous acts. It is a book both good and bad, and never stupid. The
same man who tells you that friendship is seldom unselfish, also declares
that life would be a desert without friends, and that there is no magic
like a good turn - that is, a kind act. He teaches the importance of
getting good will by honest means, although he advises us also to learn
how to injure. I am sure that nobody could read the book without benefit.
And I may close these quotations from it with the following paragraph,
which is the very best bit of counsel that could be given to a literary

Be slow and sure. Quickly done can be quickly undone. To last an
eternity requires an eternity of preparation. Only excellence
counts. Profound intelligence is the only foundation for
immortality. Worth much costs much. The precious metals are the

But so far as the question of human conduct is concerned, the book of
Gracian is no more of a religious book than is the "Havamal" of the
heathen North. You would find, were such a book published to-day and
brought up to the present time by any shrewd writer, that Western morality
has not improved in the least since the time before Christianity was
established, so far as the rules of society go. Society is not, and can
not be, religious, because it is a state of continual warfare. Every
person in it has to fight, and the battle is not less cruel now because it
is not fought with swords. Indeed, I should think that the time when every
man carried his sword in society was a time when men were quite as kindly
and much more honest than they are now. The object of this little lecture
was to show you that the principles of the ancient Norse are really the
principles ruling English society to-day; but I think you will be able to
take from it a still larger meaning. It is that not only one form of
society, but all forms of society, represent the warfare of man and man.
That is why thinkers, poets, philosophers, in all ages, have tried to find
solitude, to keep out of the contest, to devote themselves only to study
of the beautiful and the true. But the prizes of life are not to be
obtained in solitude, although the prizes of thought can only there be
won. After all, whatever we may think about the cruelty and treachery of
the social world, it does great things in the end. It quickens judgment,
deepens intelligence, enforces the acquisition of self-control, creates
forms of mental and moral strength that can not fail to be sometimes of
vast importance to mankind. But if you should ask me whether it increases
human happiness, I should certainly say "no." The "Havamal" said the same
thing, - the truly wise man can not be happy.



It seems to me a lecturer's duty to speak to you about any remarkable
thought at this moment engaging the attention of Western philosophers and
men of science, - partly because any such new ideas are certain, sooner or
later, to be reflected in literature, and partly because without a
knowledge of them you might form incorrect ideas in relation to utterances
of any important philosophic character. I am not going to discourse about
Nietzsche, though the title of this lecture is taken from one of his
books; the ideas about which I am going to tell you, you will not find in
his books. It is most extraordinary, to my thinking, that these ideas
never occurred to him, for he was an eminent man of science before writing
his probably insane books. I have not the slightest sympathy with most of
his ideas; they seem to me misinterpretations of evolutional teachings;
and if not misinterpretations, they are simply undeveloped and
ill-balanced thinking. But the title of one of his books, and the idea
which he tries always unsuccessfully to explain, - that of a state above
mankind, a moral condition "beyond man," as he calls it, - that is worth
talking about. It is not nonsense at all, but fact, and I think that I can
give you a correct idea of the realities in the case. Leaving Nietzsche
entirely alone, then, let us ask if it is possible to suppose a condition
of human existence above morality, - that is to say, more moral than the
most moral ideal which a human brain can conceive? We may answer, it is
quite possible, and it is not only possible, but it has actually been
predicted by many great thinkers, including Herbert Spencer.

We have been brought up to think that there can be nothing better than
virtue, than duty, than strictly following the precepts of a good
religion. However, our ideas of goodness and of virtue necessarily imply
the existence of the opposite qualities. To do a good thing because it is
our duty to do it, implies a certain amount of resolve, a struggle against
difficulty. The virtue of honesty is a term implying the difficulty of
being perfectly honest. When we think of any virtuous or great deed, we
can not help thinking of the pain and obstacles that have to be met with
in performing that deed. All our active morality is a struggle against
immorality. And I think that, as every religion teaches, it must be
granted that no human being has a perfectly moral nature.

Could a world exist in which the nature of all the inhabitants would be so
moral that the mere idea of what is immoral could not exist? Let me
explain my question more in detail. Imagine a society in which the idea of
dishonesty would not exist, because no person could be dishonest, a
society in which the idea of unchastity could not exist, because no person
could possibly be unchaste, a world in which no one could have any idea of
envy, ambition or anger, because such passions could not exist, a world in
which there would be no idea of duty, filial or parental, because not to
be filial, not to be loving, not to do everything which we human beings
now call duty, would be impossible. In such a world ideas of duty would be
quite useless; for every action of existence would represent the constant
and faultless performance of what we term duty. Moreover, there would be
no difficulty, no pain in such performance; it would be the constant and
unfailing pleasure of life. With us, unfortunately, what is wrong often
gives pleasure; and what is good to do, commonly causes pain. But in the
world which I am asking you to imagine there could not be any wrong, nor
any pleasure in wrong-doing; all the pleasure would be in right-doing. To
give a very simple illustration - one of the commonest and most pardonable
faults of young people is eating, drinking, or sleeping too much. But in
our imaginary world to eat or to drink or to sleep in even the least
degree more than is necessary could not be done; the constitution of the
race would not permit it. One more illustration. Our children have to be
educated carefully in regard to what is right or wrong; in the world of
which I am speaking, no time would be wasted in any such education, for
every child would be born with full knowledge of what is right and wrong.
Or to state the case in psychological language - I mean the language of
scientific, not of metaphysical, psychology - we should have a world in
which morality would have been transmuted into inherited instinct. Now
again let me put the question: can we imagine such a world? Perhaps you
will answer, Yes, in heaven - nowhere else. But I answer you that such a
world actually exists, and that it can be studied in almost any part of
the East or of Europe by a person of scientific training. The world of
insects actually furnishes examples of such a moral transformation. It is
for this reason that such writers as Sir John Lubbock and Herbert Spencer
have not hesitated to say that certain kinds of social insects have
immensely surpassed men, both in social and in ethical progress.

But that is not all that it is necessary to say here. You might think that
I am only repeating a kind of parable. The important thing is the opinion
of scientific men that humanity will at last, in the course of millions of
years, reach the ethical conditions of the ants. It is only five or six
years ago that some of these conditions were established by scientific
evidence, and I want to speak of them. They have a direct bearing upon
important ethical questions; and they have startled the whole moral world,
and set men thinking in entirely new directions.

In order to explain how the study of social insects has set moralists of
recent years thinking in a new direction, it will be necessary to
generalize a great deal in the course of so short a lecture. It is
especially the social conditions of the ants which has inspired these new
ideas; but you must not think that any one species of ants furnishes us
with all the facts. The facts have been arrived at only through the study
of hundreds of different kinds of ants by hundreds of scientific men; and
it is only by the consensus of their evidence that we get the ethical
picture which I shall try to outline for you. Altogether there are
probably about five thousand different species of ants, and these
different species represent many different stages of social evolution,
from the most primitive and savage up to the most highly civilized and
moral. The details of the following picture are furnished by a number of
the highest species only; that must not be forgotten. Also, I must remind
you that the morality of the ant, by the necessity of circumstance, does
not extend beyond the limits of its own species. Impeccably ethical within
the community, ants carry on war outside their own borders; were it not
for this, we might call them morally perfect creatures.

Although the mind of an ant can not be at all like to the mind of the

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