Page images
PDF
EPUB

to notice, provoke any discussion, I could readily double again and again the illustrations of it given in these brief

pages; and even since they were written I may boast that they have received singular confirmation (so far as the story of the Aryan race is concerned) in the profound work of the Rev. George Cox.* It would, however, no doubt require a somewhat voluminous treatise dedicated to the purpose to establish thoroughly the principle for which I contend.

Secondly, I must ask (albeit I scarcely expect to receive) condonation for the presumption of offering a new word (Heteropathy) to define the hitherto unnoticed sentiment to which I wish to direct attention. Between the inevitable result of causing every critic to make merry with the word instead of seriously discussing the thing it signifies, and the opposite danger of leaving my argument logically floundering among terms none of which express accurately what I mean, I have chosen the former alternative, and must of course suffer the consequences, against which, however, I now put forth this plea in mitigation. Persons who feel any genuine interest in a somewhat curious, if not really a novel or valuable, psychological inquiry, may perhaps, if they should come to the conclusion that they have gained a new idea, be willing to accept along with it a compendious term, having a score of analogies in the language, to afford it definite expression.

* History of Greece, Vol. I. ch. ii.

Finally, if the sketch I have attempted to draw of the Evolution of the Social Sentiment appear to possess historical truth, it remains only to remark—that the long progress upward of mankind which I have traced from the primeval reign of violence and antagonism to that of sympathy and mutual help, has not supplied us with the slightest clue to the mystery of how, at each successive stage and as the higher sentiment dawns, there is a corresponding overruling inward command to follow the higher and disregard the lower impulse. Nothing in the progress of the emotion explains either the existence or progress of the moral sense of obligation; any more than the anatomy of a horse explains how he is found with bit and bridle. Other things grow, nay, everything in our nature grows, as well as these emotions; every taste alters, every sentiment develops. But nothing within us corresponding to the Moral Sense develops simultaneously along side of them, setting the seal of approval on the tastes and feelings of adult life, and of disapprobation on those of childhood. If, then, this Regulative Principle or Intuition of a Duty to follow the higher Emotion and renounce the lower stand out no less inexplicable when we have traced the long history of one of the chief emotions to be regulated, we have surely obtained at least a negative reply to the desolating doctrine recently introduced, that the Moral Sense in man is only the social instinct of the brute modified under the conditions of human existence? These cultivated instincts, rising into humane emotions, are not the Moral Sense itself, but only that which the Moral Sense works upon,—not that which, in any way, explains the ethical choice of good and rejection of evil, but merely the good and evil things regarding which the choice is exercised. Whence we derive the solemn sense of Duty to give place to the higher emotion rather than to the lower (a sense which undoubtedly grows simultaneously with the growth of the emotions which it controls), is another problem whose solution cannot here be attempted. One remark only need be made to forestall a commonplace of the new phase of Utilitarianism. We are told that our personal Intuitions of Duty are the inherited prejudices of our ancestors in favour of the kind of actions which have proved on experience to be most conducive to the general welfare of the community, or, as Mr. Martineau well calls them, “the capitalized experiences of utility and social coercion ; the record of ancestral fears and satisfactions stored in the brain and re-appearing with divine pretensions only because their animal origin is forgotten.” If this be the case, how does it happen that we have all acquired in these days a very clear Intuition that it is our duty to preserve the lives of the aged, of sufferers by disease, and of deformed children? The howl of indignation which followed the publication of a humanely-intended scheme of Euthanasia for shortening the existence of such persons for their own benefit, may afford us a measure of what the feelings of modern Christendom would be were some new Lycurgus to propose to extinguish them for the good of the commonwealth. Yet what, in truth, is this ever-growing sense of the infinite sacredness of human life but a sentiment tending directly to counteract the interest of the community at large ? Mr. Greg has clearly expounded that our compassion for the feeble and the sickly defeats, as regards the human race, the beneficent natural law of the “Survival of the Fittest;"* and Mr. Galton considers it to involve nothing short of a menace to the civilization whence it has sprung. Nature kills off such superfluous lives among the brutes; and savages and Chinese follow Nature, to their great advantage and convenience. Yet even the Chinese do not profess to have any sense of moral obligation to drown their superfluous babies; and we, who ruthlessly entail on our nation all the evils resulting from allowing diseased and deformed people to live and multiply, have actually a "set of the brain" in favour of our own practice, and decidedly against that of the natives of the Flowery Land! Till this enigma be satisfactorily explained, I think we are justified in assuming that, whencesoever the awful and Divine idea of Moral Duty may have descended to us, it has, at all events, not been derived from the inherited prejudices of our ancestors in favour of the kind of actions which are “most conducive to the general welfare of the community;" and have even been recognized so to be for thousands of years.

* See the whole remarkable chapter, Enigmas, iii.

THE LIFE AFTER DEATH.

I.

EARTHLY minds, no less than heavenly bodies, seem constrained to pursue their walk by a compromise between opposing forces. Our orbits lie half-way between the tracks which we should follow did we obey exclusively centripetal Selfishness or centrifugal Love, the gravitation of the senses or the upward attractions of the soul. Especially is this compromise observable in the case of our anticipation of prolonged existence after death. Not one man in a thousand lives either as if he relied on these hopes, or renounced them; as if he expected immortality, or resigned himself to annihilation. The average human being never gives entire loose to his passions on the principle, “ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die;" but he constantly attaches to the transient concerns of earth an importance which, if death be a prelude to a nobler existence, is not merely disproportionate, but absurd. The sentiments he entertains towards God are not such as might befit an insect

« PreviousContinue »