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human being, it is so intelligent that we are justified in trying to
describe its existence by a kind of allegorical comparison with human
life. Imagine, then, a world full of women, working night and
day, - building, tunnelling, bridging, - also engaged in agriculture, in
horticulture, and in taking care of many kinds of domestic animals. (I may
remark that ants have domesticated no fewer than five hundred and
eighty-four different kinds of creatures.) This world of women is
scrupulously clean; busy as they are, all of them carry combs and brushes
about them, and arrange themselves several times a day. In addition to
this constant work, these women have to take care of myriads of
children, - children so delicate that the slightest change in the weather
may kill them. So the children have to be carried constantly from one
place to another in order to keep them warm.

Though this multitude of workers are always gathering food, no one of them
would eat or drink a single atom more than is necessary; and none of them
would sleep for one second longer than is necessary. Now comes a
surprising fact, about which a great deal must be said later on. These
women have no sex. They are women, for they sometimes actually give birth,
as virgins, to children; but they are incapable of wedlock. They are more
than vestals. Sex is practically suppressed.

This world of workers is protected by an army of soldiers. The soldiers
are very large, very strong, and shaped so differently from the working
females that they do not seem at first to belong to the same race. They
help in the work, though they are not able to help in some delicate kinds
of work - they are too clumsy and strong. Now comes the second astonishing
fact: these soldiers are all women - amazons, we might call them; but they
are sexless women. In these also sex has been suppressed.

You ask, where do the children come from? Most of the children are born of
special mothers - females chosen for the purpose of bearing offspring, and
not allowed to do anything else. They are treated almost like empresses,
being constantly fed and attended and served, and being lodged in the best
way possible. Only these can eat and drink at all times - they must do so
for the sake of their offspring. They are not suffered to go out, unless
strongly attended, and they are not allowed to run any risk of danger or
of injury The life of the whole race circles about them and about their
children, but they are very few.

Last of all are the males, the men. One naturally asks why females should
have been specialized into soldiers instead of men. It appears that the
females have more reserve force, and all the force that might have been
utilized in the giving of life has been diverted to the making of
aggressive powers. The real males are very small and weak. They appear to
be treated with indifference and contempt. They are suffered to become the
bridegrooms of one night, after which they die very quickly. By contrast,
the lives of the rest are very long. Ants live for at least three or four
years, but the males live only long enough to perform their solitary
function.

In the foregoing little fantasy, the one thing that should have most
impressed you is the fact of the suppression of sex. But now comes the
last and most astonishing fact of all: this suppression of sex is not
natural, but artificial - I mean that it is voluntary. It has been
discovered that ants are able, by a systematic method of nourishment, to
suppress or develop sex as they please. The race has decided that sex
shall not be allowed to exist except in just so far as it is absolutely
necessary to the existence of the race. Individuals with sex are tolerated
only as necessary evils. Here is an instance of the most powerful of all
passions voluntarily suppressed for the benefit of the community at large.
It vanishes whenever unnecessary; when necessary after a war or a calamity
of some kind, it is called into existence again. Certainly it is not
wonderful that such a fact should have set moralists thinking. Of course
if a human community could discover some secret way of effecting the same
object, and could have the courage to do it, or rather the unselfishness
to do it, the result would simply be that sexual immorality of any kind
would become practically impossible The very idea of such immorality would
cease to exist.

But that is only one fact of self-suppression and the ant-world furnishes
hundreds. To state the whole thing in the simplest possible way, let me
say the race has entirely got rid of everything that we call a selfish
impulse. Even hunger and thirst allow of no selfish gratification. The
entire life of the community is devoted to the common good and to mutual
help and to the care of the young. Spencer says it is impossible to
imagine that an ant has a sense of duty like our own, - a religion, if you
like. But it does not need a sense of duty, it does not need religion. Its
life is religion in the practical sense. Probably millions of years ago
the ant had feelings much more like our own than it has now. At that time,
to perform altruistic actions may have been painful to the ant; to perform
them now has become the one pleasure of its existence. In order to bring
up children and serve the state more efficiently these insects have
sacrificed their sex and every appetite that we call by the name of animal
passion. Moreover they have a perfect community, a society in which nobody
could think of property, except as a state affair, a public thing, or as
the Romans would say a _res publica_. In a human community so organized,
there could not be ambition, any jealousy, any selfish conduct of any
sort - indeed, no selfishness at all. The individual is said to be
practically sacrificed for the sake of the race; but such a supposition
means the highest moral altruism. Therefore thinkers have to ask, "Will
man ever rise to something like the condition of ants?"

Herbert Spencer says that such is the evident tendency. He does not say,
nor is it at all probable, that there will be in future humanity such
physiological specialization as would correspond to the suppression of sex
among ants, or to the bringing of women to the dominant place in the human
world, and the masculine sex to an inferior position. That is not likely
ever to happen, for reasons which it would take very much too long to
speak of now. But there is evidence that the most selfish of all human
passions will eventually be brought under control - under such control that
the present cause of wellnigh all human suffering, the pressure of
population, will be practically removed. And there is psychological
evidence that the human mind will undergo such changes that wrong-doing,
in the sense of unkindly action, will become almost impossible, and that
the highest pleasure will be found not in selfishness but in
unselfishness. Of course there are thousands of things to think about,
suggested by this discovery of the life of ants. I am only telling the
more important ones. What I have told you ought at least to suggest that
the idea of a moral condition much higher than all our moral conditions of
today is quite possible, - that it is not an idea to be laughed at. But it
was not Nietzsche who ever conceived this possibility. His "Beyond Man"
and the real and much to be hoped for "beyond man," are absolutely
antagonistic conceptions. When the ancient Hebrew writer said, thousands
of years ago, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways," he could
not have imagined how good his advice would prove in the light of
twentieth century science.




CHAPTER IX

THE NEW ETHICS


Before leaving the subject of these latter-day intellectual changes, a
word must be said concerning the ethical questions involved. Of course
when a religious faith has been shaken to its foundation, it is natural to
suppose that morals must have been simultaneously affected. The relation
of morals to literature is very intimate; and we must expect that any
change of ideas in the direction of ethics would show themselves in
literature. The drama, poetry, romance, the novel, all these are
reflections of moral emotion in especial, of the eternal struggle between
good and evil, as well as of the temporary sentiments concerning right and
wrong. And every period of transition is necessarily accompanied by
certain tendencies to disintegration. Contemporary literature in the West
has shown some signs of ethical change. These caused many thinkers to
predict a coming period of demoralization in literature. But the alarm was
really quite needless. These vagaries of literature, such as books
questioning the morality of the marriage relation, for example, were only
repetitions of older vagaries, and represented nothing more than the
temporary agitation of thought upon all questions. The fact seems to be
that in spite of everything, moral feeling was never higher at any time in
Western social history than it is at present. The changes of thought have
indeed been very great, but the moral experience of mankind remains
exactly as valuable as it was before, and new perceptions of that value
have been given to us by the new philosophy.

It has been wisely observed by the greatest of modern thinkers that
mankind has progressed more rapidly in every other respect than in
morality. Moral progress has not been rapid simply because the moral ideal
has always been kept a little in advance of the humanly possible.
Thousands of years ago the principles of morality were exactly the same as
those which rule our lives to-day. We can not improve upon them; we can
not even improve upon the language which expressed them. The most learned
of our poets could not make a more beautiful prayer than the prayer which
Egyptian mothers taught to their little children in ages when all Europe
was still a land of savages. The best of the moral philosophy of the
nineteenth century is very little of improvement upon the moral philosophy
of ancient India or China. If there is any improvement at all, it is
simply in the direction of knowledge of causes and effects. And that is
why in all countries the common sense of mankind universally condemns any
attempt to interfere with moral ideas. These represent the social
experience of man for thousands and thousands of years; and it is not
likely that the wisdom of any one individual can ever better them. If
bettered at all it can not be through theory. The amelioration must be
effected by future experience of a universal kind. We may improve every
branch of science, every branch of art, everything else relating to the
work of human heads and hands; but we can not improve morals by invention
or by hypothesis. Morals are not made, but grow.

Yet, as I have said, there is what may be called a new system of ethics.
But this new system of ethics means nothing more than a new way of
understanding the old system of ethics. By the application of evolutional
science to the study of morals, we have been enabled to trace back the
whole history of moral ideas to the time of their earliest inception, - to
understand the reasons of them, and to explain them without the help of
any supernatural theory. And the result, so far from diminishing our
respect for the wisdom of our ancestors, has immensely increased that
respect. There is no single moral teaching common to different
civilizations and different religions of an advanced stage of development
which we do not find to be eternally true. Let us try to study this view
of the case by the help of a few examples.

In early times, of course, men obeyed moral instruction through religious
motives. If asked why they thought it was wrong to perform certain actions
and right to perform others, they could have answered only that such was
ancestral custom and that the gods will it so. Not until we could
understand the laws governing the evolution of society could we understand
the reason of many ethical regulations. But now we can understand very
plainly that the will of the gods, as our ancestors might have termed it,
represents divine laws indeed, for the laws of ethical evolution are
certainly the unknown laws shaping all things - suns, worlds, and human
societies. All that opposes itself to the operation of those universal
laws is what we have been accustomed to call bad, and everything which
aids the operation of those laws is what we have been accustomed to think
of as good. The common crimes condemned by all religions, such as theft,
murder, adultery, bearing false witness, disloyalty, all these are
practices which directly interfere with the natural process of evolution;
and without understanding why, men have from the earliest times of real
civilisation united all their power to suppress them. I think that we need
not dwell upon the simple facts; they will at once suggest to you all that
is necessary to know. I shall select for illustration only one less
familiar topic, that of the ascetic ideal.

A great many things which in times of lesser knowledge we imagined to be
superstitious or useless, prove to-day on examination to have been of
immense value to mankind. Probably no superstition ever existed which did
not have some social value; and the most seemingly repulsive or cruel
sometimes turn out to have been the most precious. To choose one of these
for illustration, we must take one not confined to any particular
civilization or religion, but common to all human societies at a certain
period of their existence; and the ascetic ideal best fits our purpose.
From very early times, even from a time long preceding any civilization,
we find men acting under the idea that by depriving themselves of certain
pleasures and by subjecting themselves to certain pains they could please
the divine powers and thereby obtain strength. Probably there is no people
in the world among whom this belief has not had at some one time or
another a very great influence. At a later time, in the early
civilizations, this idea would seem to have obtained much larger sway, and
to have affected national life more and more extensively. In the age of
the great religions the idea reaches its acme, an acme often represented
by extravagances of the most painful kind and sacrifices which strike
modern imagination as ferocious and terrible. In Europe asceticism reached
its great extremes as you know during the Middle Ages, and especially took
the direction of antagonism to the natural sex-relation. Looking back
to-day to the centuries in which celibacy was considered the most moral
condition, and marriage was counted as little better than weakness, when
Europe was covered with thousands of monasteries, and when the best
intellects of the age deemed it the highest duty to sacrifice everything
pleasurable for the sake of an imaginary reward after death, we can not
but recognize that we are contemplating a period of religious insanity.
Even in the architecture of the time, the architecture that Ruskin devoted
his splendid talent to praise, there is a grim and terrible something that
suggests madness. Again, the cruelties of the age have an insane
character, the burning alive of myriads of people who refused to believe
or could not believe in the faith of their time; the tortures used to
extort confessions from the innocent; the immolation of thousands charged
with being wizards or witches; the extinction of little centres of
civilization in the South of France and elsewhere by brutal
crusades - contemplating all this, we seem to be contemplating not only
madness but furious madness. I need not speak to you of the Crusades,
which also belonged to this period. Compared with the Roman and Greek
civilizations before it, what a horrible Europe it was! And yet the
thinker must recognize that it had a strength of its own, a strength of a
larger kind than that of the preceding civilizations. It may seem
monstrous to assert that all this cruelty and superstition and contempt of
learning were absolutely necessary for the progress of mankind; and yet we
must so accept them in the light of modern knowledge. The checking of
intellectual development for hundreds of years is certainly a fact that
must shock us; but the true question is whether such a checking had not
become necessary. Intellectual strength, unless supported by moral
strength, leads a people into the ways of destruction. Compared with the
men of the Middle Ages, the Greeks and Romans were incomparably superior
intellectually; compared with them morally they were very weak. They had
conquered the world and developed all the arts, these Greeks and Romans;
they had achieved things such as mankind has never since been able to
accomplish, and then, losing their moral ideal, losing their simplicity,
losing their faith, they were utterly crushed by inferior races in whom
the principles of self-denial had been intensely developed. And the old
instinctive hatred of the Church for the arts and the letters and the
sciences of the Greek and Roman civilizations was not quite so much of a
folly as we might be apt to suppose. The priests recognized in a vague way
that anything like a revival of the older civilizations would signify
moral ruin. The Renaissance proves that the priests were not wrong. Had
the movement occurred a few hundred years earlier, the result would
probably have been a universal corruption I do not mean to say that the
Church at any time was exactly conscious of what she was doing; she acted
blindly under the influence of an instinctive fear. But the result of all
that she did has now proved unfortunate. What the Roman and Greek
civilizations had lost in moral power was given back to the world by the
frightful discipline of the Middle Ages. For a long series of generations
the ascetic idea was triumphant; and it became feeble only in proportion
as men became strong enough to do without it. Especially it remodelled
that of which it first seemed the enemy, the family relation. It created a
new basis for society, founded upon a new sense of the importance to
society of family morals. Because this idea, this morality, came through
superstition, its value is not thereby in the least diminished.
Superstitions often represent correct guesses at eternal truth. To-day we
know that all social progress, all national strength, all national vigour,
intellectual as well as physical, depend essentially upon the family, upon
the morality of the household, upon the relation of parents to children.
It was this fact which the Greeks and Romans forgot, and lost themselves
by forgetting. It was this fact which the superstitious tyranny of the
Middle Ages had to teach the West over again, and after such a fashion
that it is not likely ever to become forgotten. So much for the mental
history of the question. Let us say a word about the physical aspects of
it.

No doubt you have read that the result of macerating the body, of
depriving oneself of all comfort, and even of nourishing food, is not an
increase of intellectual vigour or moral power of any kind. And in one
sense this is true. The individual who passes his life in
self-mortification is not apt to improve under that regime. For this
reason the founder of the greatest of Oriental religions condemned
asceticism on the part of his followers, except within certain fixed
limits. But the history of the changes produced by a universal idea is not
a history of changes in the individual, but of changes brought about by
the successive efforts of millions of individuals in the course of many
generations. Not in one lifetime can we perceive the measure of ethical
force obtained by self-control; but in the course of several hundreds of
years we find that the result obtained is so large as to astonish us. This
result, imperceptibly obtained, signifies a great increase of that nervous
power upon which moral power depends; it means an augmentation in strength
of every kind; and this augmentation again represents what we might call
economy. Just as there is a science of political economy, there is a
science of ethical economy; and it is in relation to such a science that
we should rationally consider the influence of all religions teaching
self-suppression. So studying, we find that self-suppression does not mean
the destruction of any power, but only the economical storage of that
power for the benefit of the race As a result, the highly civilized man
can endure incomparably more than the savage, whether of moral or physical
strain. Being better able to control himself under all circumstances, he
has a great advantage over the savage.

That which is going on in the new teaching of ethics is really the
substitution of a rational for an emotional morality. But this does not
mean that the value of the emotional element in morality is not
recognized. Not only is it recognized, but it is even being
enlarged - enlarged, however, in a rational way. For example, let us take
the very emotional virtue of loyalty. Loyalty, in a rational form, could
not exist among an uneducated people; it could only exist as a feeling, a
sentiment. In the primitive state of society this sentiment takes the
force and the depth of a religion. And the ruler, regarded as divine,
really has in relation to his people the power of a god. Once that people
becomes educated in the modern sense, their ideas regarding their ruler
and their duties to their ruler necessarily undergo modification. But does
this mean that the sentiment is weakened in the educated class? I should
say that this depends very much upon the quality of the individual mind.
In a mind of small capacity, incapable of receiving the higher forms of
thought, it is very likely that the sentiment may be weakened and almost
destroyed. But in the mind of a real thinker, a man of true culture, the
sense of loyalty, although changed, is at the same time immensely
expanded. In order to give a strong example, I should take the example not
from a monarchical country but from a republican one. What does the
President of the United States of America, for example, represent to the
American of the highest culture? He appears to him in two entirely
different capacities. First he appears to him merely as a man, an ordinary
man, with faults and weaknesses like other ordinary men. His private life
is apt to be discussed in the newspapers. He is expected to shake hands
with anybody and with everybody whom he meets at Washington; and when he
ceases to hold office, he has no longer any particular distinction from
other Americans. But as the President of the United States, he is also
much more than a man. He represents one hundred millions of people; he
represents the American Constitution; he represents the great principles
of human freedom laid down by that Constitution; he represents also the
idea of America, of everything American, of all the hopes, interests, and
glories of the nation. Officially he is quite as sacred as a divinity
could be. Millions would give their lives for him at an instant's notice;
and thousands capable of making vulgar jokes about the man would hotly
resent the least word spoken about the President as the representative of
America. The very same thing exists in other Western countries,
notwithstanding the fact that the lives of rulers are sometimes attempted.
England is a striking example. The Queen has really scarcely any power;
her rule is little more than nominal. Every Englishman knows that England
is a monarchy only in name. But the Queen represents to every Englishman
more than a woman and more than a queen: she represents England, English
race feeling, English love of country, English power, English dignity; she
is a symbol, and as a symbol sacred. The soldier jokingly calls her "the
Widow"; he makes songs about her; all this is well and good. But a soldier
who cursed her a few years ago was promptly sent to prison for twenty
years. To sing a merry song about the sovereign as a woman is a right
which English freedom claims; but to speak disrespectfully of the Queen,
as England, as the government, is properly regarded as a crime; because it
proves the man capable of it indifferent to all his duties as an
Englishman, as a citizen, as a soldier. The spirit of loyalty is far from
being lost in Western countries; it has only changed in character, and it
is likely to strengthen as time goes on.

Broad tolerance in the matter of beliefs is necessarily a part of the new
ethics. It is quite impossible in the present state of mankind that all
persons should be well educated, or that the great masses of a nation
should attain to the higher forms of culture. For the uneducated a


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