William C Robinson.

Clavis rerum. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.--Rev. XXII, 13 online

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CLAVIS RERUM.



AN HYPOTHKSIS OF EVOLUTION.



I AM Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the
First and the Last. — Rev. xxii, 13.



WILLIAM C. ROBINSON,

Yale University.



O



N0RWIC;H, CONN:

F . A . ROBINSON & COMPANY

1892.



0^^



PUBLIC LIBRARY ,

730119 A

ASTOP.l-ENOX AND
ItILDEN FOUNDATiONt
R 1934



Copyright, 1883.
By F. A. ROBINSON & CO.



To

All Those, Who

In Any Branch of Learning,

Whether Concerning the Finite or the Infinite,

Are Seeking After Truth,

This Essay
Is Respectfully Inscribed.



TO THE READER.



The propositions, stated in the following pages, are the result of
many years of study, observation, and reflection. Early in life the
author became convinced that the Universe is not a group of inde-
pendent systems, visible and invisible, but is a perfect and insepa-
rable whole, formed on a single plan, and destined to fulfil a single
purpose. To discover this purpose and unfold this plan, so far as
human research might accomplish either of those objects, he has
since devoted a great portion of his time and labor, and having now
arrived at certain definite conclusions, he ventures to submit them
to the judgment of his fellow-workers in the same exhaustless field.

The data, from which these conclusions have been drawn, are of
four classes: (1) The facts of physical science; (2) The character
and operations of the human mind; (3) The political, social, and
religious history of the human race ; and (4) The Revelation of God
to man as contained in the Holy Scriptures. Each of these, in their
numerous subdivisions, he has carefully explored for clues whereby
he might be led toward that central point, from which alone the laby-
rinth of created nature could at once be seen and understood.

During the course of his researches he has encountered several
exceptional phenomena in each of these four lines of inquiry, which



vi TOTHEREADER.

have again and again necessitated the demolition and reconstruction
of his various hypotheses. Apart from these, the plan of the Uni-
verse, if not its purpose, can be easily discerned, and any one
of several already current theories is sufficient to account for and
explain all facts within our knowledge. But it is obvious that no
hypothesis can be correct, unless it is consistent with whatever is
recondite and apparently anomalous, as well as with that which is
o-eneral and clearly understood. And it is in his conflict with the
difficulties growing out of these exceptional phenomena, that the
author has been gradually driven toward the positions hereinafter
stated: and by the completeness of the answer, which lie gives to
these perplexing questions, the unsoundness or validity of his con-
clusions must be Judged.

The anomalies, presented by the first class of phenomena, arise out
of the nature of the lower animals, their historical position in the
evolution of tlie Universe, and their relation, ou the one hand, to
the vegetable world, and on the other hand, to man. This is tlie
unsolved problem of the visible creation. Here is a race of beings
whose physical structure, starting from the simplest of organic forms,
has developed by regular but almost imperceptible gradations into a
body nearly identical with that of man. They possess many of the
faculties commonly attributed to an immaterial nature. Their appar-
ent mental, moral, and emotional operations can scarcely be distin-
o-uished from the corresponding operations of the liumau mind.
They occupy, in the history of evolution, a position between plants
and men. Why has this race of beings been created? What is the
place they fill in the great plan of the Universe? What portion of
the divine puri)Ose is accomi)lished by their birth, tht'ir struggles.



TO THE READER. vii

their sufferings, their death ? These questions are at once the most
difficult and the most important of all that are suggested by the facts
of science. They are not answered by asserting that animals were
made to eat and to be eaten by each other, to furnish carbon to
the vegetable world, or food and service to mankind; nor, if death
is the termination of their individual existence, is the happiness,
which they enjoy, an adequate apology for their creation. Reason
has reached intelligible conclusions in regard to every other division
of the Universe; but here its keenest scrutiny is baffled, and it has
been compelled either to seek for an escape from its dilemmas in an
hypothesis which negatives the immateriality and immortality of
man, or to acknowledge that the riddle is beyond its power to solve.
The anomalies, apparent in the character and operations of the
human mind, arise out of the variety in individual dispositions, the
existence of innate ideas, and the origin and nature of abstract ideas.
The variety in individual dispositions is one of the most marked and
most mysterious of the phenomena presented by the human mind.
These dispositions must be either natural or acquired. They are
not natural, for, if they were, God either must have made some per-
sons to be base and selfish, a proposition which we cannot entertain;
or else bad dispositions must be due to the corruption consequent
upon original sin, which is impossible, since this corruption, if it exists
at all, is universal, and many persons have been born with dispositions
that were generous and noble. Also, if natural, these dispositions
must be of the essence of the individual nature, and, therefore, un-
changeable; a supposition which is contrary to experience, for daily
observation proves that a good disposition can be altered to a worse by
self-indulgence, and that the bad can be improved by self-control. Yet



vi TOTHEREADER.

have ao-.iiu and again necessitated the demolition and reconstruction
of his rarious hypotheses. Apart from these, the phm of the Uni-
verse, if not its purpose, can be easily discerned, and any one
of several already current theories is sufficient to account for and
explain all facts within our knowledge. But it is obvious that no
hypothesis can be correct, unless it is consistent with whatever is
recondite and apparently anomalous, as well as with that which is
general and clearly understood. And it is in his conflict with the
difficulties growing out of these exceptional phenomena, that the
author has been gradually driven toward the positions hereinafter
stated; and by the completeness of the answer, which lie gives to
these perplexing questions, the unsoundness or validity of his con-
clusions must be judged.

The anomalies, presented by the first class of phenomena, arise out
of the nature of the lower animals, their historical position in the
evolution of the Universe, and their relation, on the one hand, to
the vegetable world, and on the other hand, to man. This is the
unsolved problem of the visible creation. Here is a race of beings
whose physical structure, starting from the simplest of organic forms,
has developed by regular but almost imperceptible gradations into a
body nearly identical with that of man. They possess many of the
faculties commonly attributed to an immaterial nature. Their appar-
ent mental, moral, and emotional operations can scarcely be distin-
o-uished from the corresponding operations of the human mind.
They occupy, in the history of evolution, a position between plants
and men. Why has this race of beings been created? What is the
place they fill in the great plan of the Universe? AVhat portion of
the divine purpose is accomplished by their birth, their struggles.



TO THE READER. vii

their sufferings, their death? These questions arc at once the most
difficult and the most important of all that are suggested by the facts
of science. They are not answered by asserting that animals were
made to eat and to be eaten by each other, to furnish carbon to
the vegetable world, or food and service to mankind; nor, if death
is the termination of their individual existence, is the happiness,
which they enjoy, an adequate apology for their creation. Reason
has reached intelligible conclusions in regard to every other division
of the Universe; but here its keenest scrutiny is baffled, and it has
been compelled either to seek for an escape from its dilemmas in an
hypothesis which negatives the immateriality and immortality of
man, or to acknowledge that the riddle is beyond its power to solve.
The anomalies, apparent in the character and operations of the
human mind, arise out of the variety in individual dispositions, the
existence of innate ideas, and the origin and nature of abstract ideas.
The variety in individual dispositions is one of the most marked and
most mysterious of the phenomena presented by the human mind.
These dispositions must be either natural or acquired. They are
not natural, for, if they were, God either must have made some per-
sons to be base and selfish, a proposition which we cannot entertain;
or else bad dispositions must be due to the corruption consequent
upon original sin, which is impossible, since this corruption, if it exists
at all, is universal, and many persons have been born with dispositions
that were generous and noble. Also, if natural, these dispositions
must be of the essence of the individual nature, and, therefore, un-
changeable; a supposition which is contrary to experience, for daily
observation proves that a good disposition can be altered to a worse by
self-indulgence, and that the bad can be improved by self-control. Yet



Vlii TO THE READER.

if we grant that all these differences of disposition are acquired, when
is the period of their acquisition? Certainly not in this life, for
they manifest themselves from earliest infancy, and their divergence
often is most striking between children of the same parentage,
and subject to the same domestic influences. Has there then been
some previous state of its existence, in which the human mind has
fashioned for itself these various conditions of activity, and bound
itself in these habitual chains of thought and feeling? And does
no light fall on this question from the fact, that every phase of hu-
man disposition finds its counterpart in that of some one of the spe-
cies of the animal creation?

The existence of innate ideas presents another question, which is
susceptible only of a similar answer. With scarcely an exception,
the mind of every man contains certain fundamental ideas, or prin-
ciples of action, which, taken as a whole, constitute the faculty gen-
erally known as Common Sense, and serve him as a guide in all the
ordinary affairs of the exterior life. Were these ideas inherent in
the human mind, by virtue of its original creation, there should Ije
no exceptions, however few^ to their enjoyment, and all men should
jpossess them equally, and in a degree sufficient for their individual
needs. That this is not the case is evident, and inasmuch as each of
these ideas is, in its nature, such as would result from long experi-
ence, they indicate that every man has, at some time, been subject
to the discipline of an experience, from which these most important
benefits might be derived. Yet they are not the fruits of education
in the present life, for they are found alike in the most savage and
the most enlightened nations, and are exhibited as elements in the
individual character from the first moment of its independent con-



TOTIIEREADER. IX

tact with the external world. When did the human mind receive this
long and serviceable discipline? And what relation to the human
soul, if any, have the lives, deaths, and experiences of the lower ani-
mals, in all respects so like our own both in their educational value
and results?

The origin and nature of abstract ideas has been a controverted
question ever since the dawn of mental science. That these ideas
are present to the lower animals, we have no reason to suppose. That
they exist in the human mind, in clearness and in number in pro-
portion to its spiritual and intellectual development, seems certain.
But are they separate entities, subsisting in all individuals of the
concrete, to the perception and comi^arison of which the mind attains
by sedulous self-disci})line? Or are they the creations of the mind
itself, by processes of reasoning based ujion the properties of things?
Or have they no existence, save as mere names for groups of attri-
butes, when contemplated separately from the individuals in whom
such attributes reside? Or is there not a higher, simpler, truer
method of accounting for these universal archetypes of things, as
entities subsisting, not in the individuals of the concrete, but in the
infinite life of Him Whose works outshadow His interior being, and
visible to the clear sight of every Spirit which is illuminated by the
light of God?

In the religious history of that portion of the human race, whose
creeds have not been drawn from Holy Scripture, appear four funda-
mental faiths, the origin and primeval character of which no research
has, as yet, been able to disclose. These are the Divinity of Nature,
the Incarnation of Deity in man, the Metempsychosis, and the Nir-
vana. In the Divinity of Nature all races and all ages, except the



X TO THE READER.

Jewish and the Christian churches, have in some form and to some
extent believed. In certain nations this faith expressed itself in
low, barbaric symbols ; in others, it ascended to the highest forms
of poetry and art. The fetisli-worship of Africa, the adoration of
the snn in Asia and America, the homage i)aid to sea and groA'e and
mountain among the earlier communities of Europe, are only differ-
ent phases of this common faith, from Avhich a revelation became
necessary to deliver even that small fragment of mankind, who oc-
cupied the kingdom of Judea.

Scarcely less universal, but far more homogeneous, has been the
faith in the Incarnation of the Deity in man. The method and the
purpose of this Incarnation have been variously understood, and
great diversities have existed as to the time and number of these un-
ions of the Creator with the creature. But in some form, however
crude and monstrous, this faith is found in all religions which were
marked by any intellectual pre-eminence, or which have ever domin-
ated the interior life of man.

That some intimate relation subsists between the animals and man
is another truth of universal recognition. The most common form
of this belief is that tlie departed souls of men, who have commit-
ted heinous sins during their human lives, are condemned to expiate
them by a residence in these lower organisms, after which they re-
turn to human bodies and enter on a new state of probation. This
doctrine of the Metemi^sychosis has been received not only among pa-
gans, but, to some extent, by those who have based their faith on rev-
elation. The particular ideas, in which it has resulted, have been
elevated or degraded, according to the character and culture of the race
or age in which it has prevailed. But probably no tenet has been^



TO THE READER. xi

more widely current among the nutioiis of the earth, or more firmly
established in the creeds, as well as in the superstitions, of mankind.

Less broadly distributed and more characteristic of the higher
pagan races has been tlie doctrine of the Nirvana, or the final union
of the human soul with God. This faith attained its greatest purity
and clearest utterance among the Brahmins and the Buddhists of Ori-
ental Asia, though traces of it may be found wherever human thought
has grapi^led with and mastered the idea of the independent and im-
mortal being of the disembodied soul. The central thought, which
permeates this faith in all its forms, is that the soul during its resi-
dence on earth, whether in the body of an animal or in the human
body, is undergoing a discipline by which it is at last to become fitted
for its final and unending unity with God.

The existence of these four great universal faiths can be accounted
for upon two theories only: (1) That they are the development of
primitive ideas, suggested to the savage and untutored mind by its
own experience or by the phenomena of nature; (2) That they are the
degenerate relics of some primeval faith, in which the truths that
underlie the Universe were once embodied and revealed to man.
But is it credible that doctrines, at once so profound and so gro-
tesque, could have been built up by the gradual operation of the hu-
man mind, as it progressed from a barbaric to a cultured. state? Was
ever man so unintelligent as to spontaneously conceive the idea that
the oak whose seed he planted, or the bull wdiose ancestors he fed, or
the stone or block which to his carving yielded the rude image of
some reverenced animal or man, possessed within itself the power
to shape his destinies, to confer benefits upon him, or deliver him
from evil? Where was there in nature, or in his own experience, a



xii TO THE READER.

suggestion of the entrance of the Infinite into the Finite, or of the
transmigration of the soul from man to animal or animal to man, or
of the final union of himself with God? On the other hand, is it
not apparent that all these yarious ideas are but perversions and cor-
ruptions of great fiTudamental truths, which, when understood in
their primeval purity, must have been closely related to each other,
as integral principles of one vast system in which the plan and pur-
pose of the Universe had been expressed? What then were these
fundamental truths? What is the truth which grew into the Nature
Worship of the pagan world? the truth that first announced the
Incarnation? that gave rise to the strange ideas of the Metempsy-
chosis? that kindled the earliest human hope of future and immortal
good? Who can disclose to us that primal faith, lost or beclouded by
the passions and the ignorance of man? And when discovered, if
discovered it can be, shall we not find in it the key which is to un-
lock all our difficulties and give us the true secret of the Universe
at last?

The anomalies presented by revelation, as contained in Holy Scrip-
ture, are no less important. That any revelation should be made at
all is a phenomenon of startling significance, for that it becomes nec-
essary is an indication that the divine plan was originally insufficient,
or that the fulfilment of the divine purpose had become impossible
without a restoration to mankind of some truth which he had lost,
or the bestowal on him of some knowledge of which by nature he
had no need. This revelation in itself, when made, recognizes the
existence of the same anomaly. It treats the human race as having
departed from the i)lan, and defeated the purposes, of its Creator.
It discloses and prescribes a method for the deliverance of man from



TO THE READER, . Xlll

his abnormal state, and for the fulfilment in him of the original
purposes of God? It describes the fate of every other creature as in-
volved in the restoration and perfection of mankind; and it declares
the Incarnate Word to be the ultimate object and the proximate cause
both of the creation and the salvation of the Universe. Of what
tremendous import are the questions thus suggested! In what rela-
tion to the state, in which man was created, stands this present state
of sin and suffering? How came he to abandon tiiat, and merit this?
and in what manner did his departure from the path of destiny
affect the otlier great divisions of the Universe? How, why, and
whence his restoration? And whither, when restored, does his un-
ending journey tend? And how does his rejection of deliverance
entail on him eternal and irreparable loss?

Such are tiie problems which confront that student who, having
called upon the Universe to yield its secret, dares himself attempt
the answer. Unless beneath his scalpel are laid- bare the hidden
causes of these exceptional as well as of the ordinary phenomena of
the Universe, unless to his analysis the invisible as well as visible crea-
tion discloses both its ultimate elements and its fundamental laws,
the work that he has undertaken has not been accomplished, and the
questions he has tried to answer still remain unsolved. How far
the present effort fulfils these requirements, let every reader be him-
self the judge. Whatever be his verdict, the author need not blush
to fail where none have yet succeeded.

It can l)e scarcely necessary, yet not perhaps superfluous, for the
author to disclaim any proprietorship in the particular discoveries
and theories which he has herein tried to weave into one consistent



xiv TO THE READER.

whole. He has hunted in all men's preserves, and gleaned in all men's
fields. Whatever he found useful to his pnrpose, either of fact, idea,
or illustration, he has unhesitatingly appropriated. To all those,
whether dead or living, who may discern in these pages anything pe-
culiarly their own, the author makes this general acknowledgment.
Finally, the author wonld protest that he himself is permanently
committed to no theory or hypothesis. He seeks truth and truth
only — the absolute verity; and is as ready to be convinced of error
as to be confirmed in faith. And, therefore, if there be, in what he
has here written, anything contrary to the facts of science, to the
conclusions of right reason, or to the eternal and immutable truth
as it appears in the eye of Him to Whom all truth is known, he here
expressly retracts and disavows it, deeming it better to implicitly be-
lieve the unknown truth than to explicitly believe a lie.



CONTENTS



Difficulties, 3

Elements 25

Combinations, 35

Epochs, 51

Causes 69

Creation, 85

Development, 93

Consummation, 137



DIFFICULTIES.



DIFFICULTIES.

One of the chief ()l»stacles to the recei)tion. hy a religious; mind,
of tlie various cosmieat theories, to which tlie discoveries of modern
science tend, resides in that a])]iarent removal of (led from the im-
mediate sovereignty and direction of the Universe, wliich those theories
involve. It is almost impossihle for one, whose ideas of creation
and the origin of man have been formed by the teachings of a half-
century ago, and whose divine faith has thus l)ecome inextricably
interwoven with the historical and ethnological opinions, which then
])revailed, t(^ regard the wonderful conclusions of the astronomers, geol-
ogists, and anthropologists of the present day Avitliout alarm. To
him it necessarily appears, that by dating backward the l)eginnings
of material existence for a billicm years, and by maintaining that
the creation of man was rather the work of ages than a single in-
stant, they are attempting to I'ob God of His high prerogatives as
the Maker and Preserver of the Universe, and to place, between
Him and His creatures, a gulf too vast for His providence to bridge,
and too deep for His unfailing love to fill.



4 DIFFICULTIES.

But this alarm and jealousy for God, right as may be the feelings
out of which they spring, are "only possible to minds, whose view of
God Himself is very limited, and who ajiply to Him those narrow
laws, which govern and hem m the life of man. Of man we truly
say, that he, Avho works through multiplied successive agencies, or
who to-day inaugurates an enterprise, which, in a distant generation,
becomes a crown and benediction to his race, is so far separated from
this result, by the various secondary causes or the innumerable series
of years, which intervene between it and his act, that in it his author-
ship is scarcely seen, and his dominion over it is weakened, if not
totally destroyed. But thus to speak of God is hardly short of blas-
phemy. Of Him no time, no secondary cause, is predicable. With
Him there is no past, no future, but one unending, unsuccessive
present. The vast eternity, wherein, as we express it, He dwelt be-
fore He formed the heavens and the earth; the ages, during which
the earth and heavens revolve : the infinite eternity, which shall re-
main after the earth and heavens have ceased to be; all are before
Him at this moment, not by any memory or foresight, but as that
unbeginning and unending Present, which is the necessary life of the
I AM. It is, therefore, impossible either to antedate or postpone
God. Whether creation took place luit six thousand years ago, or in
that far Beginnimj , whose anti(|uity battles human thought and
numerals alike, its relation to Him, in immediateness or remoteness,
is not changed. It is, it ever has been, it ever will be, Vi present act,
forever done in that everlasting NOW, which is the being of an in-


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Online LibraryWilliam C RobinsonClavis rerum. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.--Rev. XXII, 13 → online text (page 1 of 10)