Book: "Psychical Research and Survival"

Author: Prof. James Hyslop

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- Chapter Ten -

Motives and Sequel


          THE INFLUENCES which affect the human mind when it is offered a chance to prove the faith which large classes believe, are very mixed. This is because there are so many interests to satisfy and so many prejudices to be removed. The attitude one has to take on the problem varies with the object which one has in the work. We should expect the religious mind, especially in this age, which so threatens the foundations of hope, to seize the opportunity with eagerness to obtain a system of apologetics as firm as the hills; but religion has seemed as antagonistic or as indifferent as science to the proof of survival after death. Science had some interests in looking askance at it or openly opposing it. But religion could not plead any dangers to its main principle, though perhaps fearful of disturbing some secondary features of its system. It had once based its whole system on immortality and the brotherhood of man. The latter lost its hold, but the former remained with tenacious grip, sometimes defended by philosophy, and sometimes protected only by what it called 'faith,' which could give no reasonable defence except obstinacy for its refusal to seek rational proof. All this time it had constructed a vast system of apologetics, theistic and philosophic, for the very purpose of protecting its faith in something else than the primary basis of its theoretical beliefs about the cosmos; and hence, when scepticism had made havoc of its faith, it was strange to see it indifferent to efforts to prove what it had once said was proved by fact, scientific fact at that, at least in its claims. But, strange as it may seem, the indifference or antagonism on the side of religion was no less uncompromising than on the part of science. For, on the other hand, science, which had always insisted on the investigation of facts, balked at the demand to look in the face the residual phenomena of human experience which tended to prove that man had a soul. Of course it is easy to see why it did so. Its first great function was the reduction of the 'supernatural' to the narrowest limits, or even its exclusion from the world. This fixed clearly its interest against any real or apparent effort to restore that influence to its place. Hence the antagonism to psychic research only modified and perpetuated the old feud which has subsisted between science and religion. Why did it do so just at the point where they might have been reconciled, and where natural human interests might have prompted both sides to an agreement?

The source of the conflict between science and religion is not between the dogma of one and the dogma of the other. It goes far deeper than beliefs about the cosmos. It is not necessarily that science is opposed to the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. Neither is it the immortality of the soul as such that concerns most people. Nor would they be interested in the existence of God but for something else associated with the idea. We speak and think of men desiring immortality as one of their chief instincts. But this is true only with a qualification. It is happiness that men seek. They may not agree as to the kind of happiness that is wanted, but they all define that which they seek in terms of it. The mental state defined as happiness may be the same essentially in each man, but the objects qualified to give it certainly differ, if the mental states do not. Now men do not care for immortality unless it gives happiness. When they desire or say they desire a future life as the most priceless of boons, they have permanent happiness in mind, and not mere continuance of consciousness. If immortality were obtained at the price of happiness, and involved perpetual pain, they would not desire it at all. Hence the phrase is only a subterfuge for what may not be a good. But it is happiness that is desired rather than mere existence, and it is the uncertainty that happiness is necessarily an ethical end that makes some minds critical of the need of either immortality or the belief in it. This aside, however, the point I want emphasized here is that the desire for happiness characterizes a type of mind which may not be scientific in its temperament, and it is here the conflict with science begins and continues. All beliefs about the universe, at least in modern times, have obtained allegiance only as they affected or were supposed to affect the prospect of happiness. No one would care so strongly for the existence of God merely to explain how the cosmos became what it is. The thing that gave theism its influence was the offer of salvation through the action of a divine being. It was supposed impossible to survive without the agency of God, and hence the belief in his existence became the security of one's hopes. It was the same with the belief in a future life. It had no value for its own sake. Merely prolonged consciousness, unless it carried with it happiness, might have scientific interest merely as a curious fact, but it would have no influence on conduct for those who wanted happiness besides continued consciousness.

Now science represents a different temperament. It seeks the truth, and eliminates from its account the desires and the emotional interests not founded on fact. It deals with the present and the past that can be proved, and with the past only as the present can prove it. It deliberately sacrifices hope and desire to ascertain facts, and so stands for everything that religion subordinates. Happiness is not its first aim, but truth, whether it brings happiness or not. It may find that truth and fact do not in reality sacrifice happiness, but it will not ignore the truth to get happiness. It always has the temperament of the Stoic.

The conflict between science and religion thus seems to be one between beliefs. But this is purely secondary. It is far deeper than this. It is a conflict between temperaments and desires, that extend over other fields of intellectual and moral activity as well. It is the conflict between fact and fiction, philosophy and poetry, realism and idealism, present fruition and expectation of it in the future. He who enjoys the present will not concern himself so much with the future. He who finds no satisfaction in the present will turn to hope and the imagination. To some minds the real and the actual give all the satisfaction desired. To others it offers no boon at all, and they wish to live with the hope of getting what more fortunate natures have actually found. Now this conflict of temperaments presents itself in all fields of human activity. It divides different schools of literature, different schools of philosophy, different parties in politics, even different groups of scientific men and different types of religious minds. It is not limited to the opposition between science and religion as we have been accustomed to regard the matter. It is a difference in types of mind wherever occupied, and this gives the conflict a deep-seated character, which it would not have if it merely concerned the dogmas of science and religion. The difference is thus moral rather than intellectual. The intellectual differences would easily be reconciled if the moral were.

What the religious mind wants is poetry, not fact. Its whole history attacked the essentially evil nature of the material life, and it sought its expected happiness in an immaterial world, though it made this world the simulacrum of the material. It believed that the golden age had been lost because of sin, and that it could be recovered only in a life beyond the grave. It therefore depended on hope and the imagination for its gospel, and decried the present life as necessarily sinful and full of suffering, though regarding it as the creation of the very Providence of whom it expected so blissful a reward as the restoration of Paradise. That it was hope and the imagination that dominated its ideas is clearly seen in the works of Dante and Milton. Both seized the poetic side of religion, and made themselves immortal by it. A sceptical age will not appreciate their poetry so much as a believing one, when the tendency of those who looked at their work as representing real expectations was not to think of it as poetry, as the reaction against this interpretation of religious ideas regards it. Milton and Dante will never be so great to a scientific age as they were to the religious period, which took their poetry as the representation of the real in some sense. The conflict, then, between science and religion is the conflict between fact and fancy, between reality and poetry, and that is much deeper than the conflict between intellectual propositions. The latter get their force only from their relation to the deeper opposition.

No one at the close of the Middle Ages would have cared a halfpenny for the change from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican system of astronomy, had it not been for the relation of the former to the religious ideals of the time. Theology had formed a compact system of cosmology related to its scheme of salvation, and any disturbance to the integrity of that system carried with it the danger of loosening the allegiance to the doctrine of salvation and the life after death. But for this most people would have been as indifferent to one or the other astronomy, as they now are to the contending theories of physics and chemistry. They see no dangerous consequences to their morals or ideals from the controversy between undulatory and corpuscular physics. Science has won so many victories against mediaeval beliefs that it no longer seems so dangerous. The inroad upon the poetic standard of truth has gained so much force, that the imagination can play little or no part in the formation of beliefs without entangling the human mind in the essentially unreal. Attachment to poetry and devotion to fact have changed places, and the enthusiasm is so great for the real, that the very idea of 'truth' is identified with fact more distinctly than with the ideals of hope.

I am not disputing here the values of hope and the imagination in human thought and action. I concede that they are as important as the interest in fact. Neither the past nor the present is the more important incident in human development. If man had no ideals, if he were not forced by his very nature to expect achievements beyond what he has reached in the present, if he were merely the passive subject of external forces impelling him onward without volition of his own, he might dispense with hope and the imagination. But all his volitions are based upon fruition in the future, though that future may be only five minutes ahead. His whole nature as a thinking and conscious being requires him to look to an end not yet realized as a condition of all rational and self-active development. He is not like a dead lump of matter which is pushed forward by an external force. He can select and determine his own ends or results and thus make accretions to past achievements, however they may have been won. It is the future ends at which he can consciously aim, that make him a rational being and that give hope and the imagination as much importance as ascertaining what the facts of the past and the present are. Indeed the present has no importance but for its relation to that future, if man is to remain rational It was the abuse of hope and imagination that brought the reaction toward the scientific spirit. These had neglected the real in the condemnation of the material world, and did not feel able to escape evil until they had escaped the body. It was a contradiction to make the world evil and at the same time the creation of a divine being who had no part in the material world and was represented as wholly spiritual. Though the ideal had to be realized in the future, it was the present that was the probation for it, and ignoring this only brought Icarus from the clouds to a disastrous fall upon the earth. Had he remained where his duty was, his flight might have been more fortunate. But with all this we cannot lose sight of the fact that the future is always the key to the mental and moral efforts of man. Otherwise he has no duties at all, as these are but unfulfilled ideals which have no power or imperativeness unless the future can offer them a fruition.

We live in an age that demands certitude for any claim made on the will. It is perhaps not characteristic of our own age alone. It especially defined the intellectual movement set agoing by Descartes and followed up by the Kantian and post-Kantian thought; and perhaps our own period but reflects the momentum of that impulse. But the present day has become attached to scientific method as the means of obtaining it. The scepticism that assaulted the compact system of mediaeval thought, especially in theology, left no dogma assured, and men either gave up the ideals that had regulated their conduct or sought to reassure themselves of their integrity. Through the centuries it had been tradition and authority that had protected them. It was a revelation from the wise of antiquity that had moulded human life and thought. It was the ancients that were the wise and their dicta were not to be disputed, or were at least to be the safest guide we had. Men did not appeal to experience to prove the truth. It was contained in the wisdom of our forefathers. The social system favoured this point of view. It was the elders with whom knowledge arose and died. The younger generations were not capable of getting wisdom as had been their forbears. Every present fact or experience had to be gauged by its relation to authority and tradition, and accepted or rejected in accordance with that standard. The individual and his judgment had to be discounted in the adoption of standards of truth. No one could do his own thinking. It was done for him. Reverence for antiquity closed the doors against present experience, and the dead exercised a complete tyranny over the living.

It was science that completely changed all this. It accepted nothing from the past untested. It undertook to measure the truth by what it discovered in the present, and its forecasts were determined by the same criterion. It threw tradition and authority overboard, and put the responsibility for knowledge on the individual that sought it. It is the true heir of Cartesianism. That philosophy told us that consciousness is the ultimate criterion of truth, but those who accepted this dictum still dallied with a priori methods, partly from the inertia of tradition and partly from the fear of trusting experience. The force of authority was too strong to yield to its competitor all at once. What was called empiricism was feared and hated as conceived to work in the interest of doubt and incertitude, as the reversal of all that the past had reverenced. This may have been natural enough, but it totally misconceived the spirit of empirical methods, though it did not misunderstand the temper and spirit of those who resorted to them. The empiricists were destructive and not constructive when it came to the ideals of the worshippers of tradition, and men do their fighting more on personal than impersonal lines. The empiricists were the sceptics, and perhaps the dogmatists were as much to blame for this as any falsity of method upon which they depended. With the empiricists the first thing was to set aside the errors of belief, and they saw no ideals to respect as yet. The great intact system of the Middle Ages crumbled at their touch, and the age of construction had yet to rise. It was the Copernican astronomy that first revealed the weakness of medieval thought. It was Copernicus rather than Luther that initiated the Reformation. The whole Christian scheme was closely associated with the Ptolemaic cosmology, and when the priest was once shown to be wrong in this general conception of the world, it was but a simple step to create distrust in everything else he maintained; and though that step could not be taken at once, it was taken as fast as education reached the masses. Logic always has its way when we are once assured of the premises, and Copernican astronomy established a leverage on the whole dogmatic system of the Middle Ages. It was an appeal to experience, to observation of present facts, and was quickly followed by the general renaissance in the same direction, which meant empiricism against dogmatism. Both schools instinctively saw the consequences. These were the breaking up of tradition and authority; but neither saw the constructive import of the new method and tendency. The one deplored its disturbance to the faith and the other welcomed it. The dogmatist had ideals and saw them dissolving in the light of the new knowledge. The scientist had no ideals of the kind and was not interested in defending any, as he was merely explaining things along lines opposed to religion. The dogmatic philosophers and theologians had forgotten the actual origin of their cherished beliefs; and so the appeal to the present for assurance of the truth seemed only like a device for undermining the bases of the social structure, and as it offered no such salvation as men had sought it was accordingly distrusted.

Had the philosopher caught the real spirit of the Cartesian method instead of falling back into the slough of a priori speculation, he might have redeemed the situation both for himself and for science. The appeal to consciousness as the final and ultimate test of truth carried with it the implication that it is the present that bears the golden treasures of the past and the future. But it was not this that the Cartesian saw. He set about constructing a metaphysical theory of the soul instead of collecting facts for the inductive and empirical study of mental phenomena. But there was latent in his point of view the doctrine that it is the present moment that must be the primary source of what we know and of what we hope. It was this that constituted the spirit of science as against the authority of tradition. We, of course, wish to know the constant in nature. This is indispensable, and history or the study of the past is a most important method for ascertaining it. But history and tradition are likely to harbour as many illusions as truths, and we require a criterion to. distinguish the one from the other. Besides, change is a fundamental law of progress, and we require to know wherein nature has changed her processes. It is only the present that can supply the evidence of change and the criterion for distinguishing the constant from the variable.

Now science may be defined as the examination of a cross-section of evolution. In this conception of things we look at the world as a group of facts or a stream of events, and ourselves as spectators of them. We seize the present moment, which is a crosssection in that stream, and determine all that we can observe in it. We do not distinguish the events as either constant or variable, but simply as facts, perhaps different in kind. But by watching the panorama through successive moments, extending these into days, months, years, centuries, recording the facts carefully, we are able to ascertain what is permanent and what is transient. We can thus determine what history has left for the guidance of the present and the future. It is the permanent that decides for us the future. It represents what we call the law of nature, and by studying the permanent and transient elements in the passing moments we distinguish what is valid and what is not valid for belief and conduct in the data of the past. We discover where change has affected the material of nature and emancipate ourselves from the tyranny of the past or of the dead. History and tradition have their value. We should not know the full meaning of the present but for them. They, however, do not determine for us any such assurance as we require in our knowledge and ideals of conduct. It is the present moment, and that only, which reveals what nature is doing, and we have to interpret the meaning of the world from what we find in that present. Postvision and prevision depend on it quite as much as upon the past, and only the present enables us to determine what is transient. Hence we may understand what Professor James meant by his 'radical empiricism.' He boldly claimed that 'radical empiricism' was the only safe source for the truth. He cut himself loose from tradition and a priori methods, and his appeal to experience seems to have frightened the religious mind and amused the lazy rationalist. But he was right. The ethical and religious mind has nothing to fear from 'radical empiricism.' Its fears are based upon a superstitious reverence for tradition and authority. It will not frankly give up its worn-out methods and trust science as the best guide into the truth. It has kept up the conflict with science until it. will have nothing left unless it frankly repents in sackcloth and ashes, accepts conversion, and applies new enthusiasm to the recovered power which it will get by as much faith in the present as it has had in the past. No doubt the influence of association in the use of the methods of science will make it fear the loss of some of its treasures; but what it loses will be compensated in the assurance it obtains in place of a blind and baseless faith which has no power in an age that insists on certitude. What we want to know is, whether the statements about nature are true, and we can never decide this by quoting the opinions of our ancestors. We must decide it by an examination of nature herself. It is she that attests her own course; and the past is responsible only for its own ideas, not for ours. Science is but a name for the interrogation of the present moment for assurance which tradition and authority cannot give. It is from the present moment that all our assurance comes, and as its facts carry with them our interpretation of both past and future, assuming that we can study successive moments of that present, we must expect to validate all the claims of men upon the truth by finding it verified in the present. If we cannot verify the past in the present, we have no security that this past represents facts at all.

I am not here suggesting or defending the claim that present enjoyment is the measure of our ideals. The values of existence may not be determined by the present. But we shall not know what nature intends to conserve unless we find the evidence of it in the present as well as in the past. I admit that our duties are here and now, but we shall not understand what these duties are unless we ascertain what nature intends to have permanent. There are no duties that do not in some way point to the future. The past is finished, and suggests no obligations toward it save to recognize what it reflects of the laws of nature, which will always define the limitations under which ideals are to be realized. It is the future in which fruition is obtained for our volitions, and unless we know something of the laws that render this possible, action is confined to the enjoyment of the present moment alone. It is the past that helps us to see what is permanent, provided we can verify it in the present. Investments, political and social action, building, and in fact every act of man involving time for its realization, reckon on something permanent for their fruition. It will be the same with all alleged duties in respect to the inner life of man. If there be no future he must get his satisfaction out of the present where he is. He cannot be expected to make sacrifices unless there be some compensation. This compensation need not be an artificial reward. It may be no more than the consequences of the act. Sacrifice means the surrender of one desire for another, the one preferred being higher in quality where duty is involved. But if the higher desire is not to be fulfilled, if the duty to act in that direction is not to have its object attained, we lose both it and the object of the desire sacrificed. The consequences are nil. There is no use to say Cf. virtue for virtue's sake." That means that we reap a pleasure in the act; but I am here supposing that the pleasure is the consequence, and that this result is not gained. Desirable consequences are always the measure of what duty is, and man will not act unless his end is obtainable. He selects those ends which he knows are possible. If nature places the highest value on personality, and supersensible personality at that, the man who does not take account of it is not rational. We cannot determine the permanence of personality by any interrogation of the past. Nothing has been left to us of that but opinions and alleged facts, which have to be verified. It is the latter which are of importance, and hence we must seek in the present moment the facts which will enable us to gauge the future, from the probabilities that the law of nature remains the same. Hence it is science, not tradition, that must decide for us whether we have any reason to believe in personal survival after death. That is, science must decide whether there are any and what are the facts which justify that belief, by its examination of the present and successive moments, so that it may fix the probabilities regarding the values which nature places on mental states.

It is not the consolation that man gets out of hope that gives the importance to the belief in a future life, though that is the main value assigned it by most people. It is the leverage which it gives the educator on the choice of ideals to be urged on men. The man who sees and performs his duty without regard to a future life may be just as good as the man who acts on the belief, but we forget where he got that conception of duty. It was the belief in the future life that fixed most of our best ideals, and adjustment to environment has done the rest. That environment will change with the change of ideals. Duty itself is determined by the future, and those natures which respect the ideas and customs of their environment, may not know how much their integrity depends on what a belief in the future has fixed. But aside from this, it is always the end that determines the nature of a man's conduct. The end which represents the preferred and the permanent object of nature, is the one that reason must use to elevate human conduct. and there is nothing like the permanence of personality to serve as a premise for the rational defence of moral ideals requiring the moderation or sacrifice of physical enjoyment alone. We can influence man's conduct in only two ways: first, by reasoning with him; and second, by the establishment of restraints which involve some form of appeal to force, not to reason. Where we can reason we grant the largest amount of liberty, and where we cannot reason we restrict that liberty. Without a belief in a future life the function of reason in bringing about long-sighted conduct is restricted and more is left to force, and even this can accomplish nothing where it is not based upon rational beliefs. The belief in a future life is, therefore, the logical leverage on every man who claims to be rational, and will help us to secure conformity to conduct that estimates the inner moral life of man as above that of sense enjoyment. We already have that as a part of our inheritance from the past, but it was the doctrine of immortality that put it there; for it placed morality above aesthetics, which is the ruling feature of culture. It will disappear with the ideas that created it. Our aesthetic and ethical ideals die more slowly than our intellectual beliefs. We can change our convictions at once, but environment will not let ethical and other norms die so quickly. We are bred in them and they linger long after the bases which gave them currency have fallen into ruins. They are only partly de pendent on such bases. Our desires and interests are often much more bound up with our social environment, so that they can stand the shock of a complete change of intellectual beliefs until these work their way out into the community at large, and then the ethical succumbs to the corrosion which scepticism has established. Science has supplanted theology in the interpretation of the universe, and it must supply ethics with a basis or take the consequences. It has claimed the right to fix human beliefs, and it must protect human ideals. It has been as much mistaken in cultivating antagonism to the religious temperament as the religious mind has been in its attitude towards it; but both can come together in the belief of a future life. Religion will furnish the emotion and science the creed; but this cannot be done unless we can think the cosmos rational, and to make it rational we have to equate duty and expectation, and that can be done only by showing that nature is on the side of personality and its moral ideals.

No doubt the belief in immortality has been associated with many evils, but they have not been an essential feature of that belief. Abuses are always to be found in connection with ideals, but this is rather because of weaknesses in the men who hold and misinterpret them. It is the business of the intelligent man to clear away the abuses that may happen to attend them. But they are accidents, not characteristics of the belief, and the admission of any undesirable associations with it is made to enable readers to see that I am not blind to the need of qualifying the claims for its importance. It may not be necessary for the man who can see and seek the ideal without being influenced by that hope. But many cannot be raised without the promise of compensation for the sacrifice, and we do not refuse to resort to rewards in our whole educational and disciplinary system. It is one of the means for making the higher ideals acceptable. I am not sure that any man escapes it, and certainly the best morality expects fruition for its ideals, and, as I have emphasized ad nauseam, the future is the only place to expect the realization of the end which is the justification of the ideal.

A curious attitude of mind infects many psychic researchers also in just this connection; it is caused by the feeling that they must imitate the function of the sceptic in dealing with the problem. They begin with admitting the desirability of proving the existence of a future life, and then set about their work as if their chief duty was to prevent our believing it. They conjure up every excuse for nullifying the evidence departments of inquiry. But instead their followers cling to them as representing facts, when they never were facts but pure imagination, concessions to poor insight and intellectual obstinacy. In this they were stretching too far the influence of anxiety, previous knowledge, chance coincidence. guessing, telepathy, suggestion, and other such ideas, in order to protect themselves against the charge of credulity and to put the credulity on those who had so much faith in these alleged facts. But they should never have abandoned the vantage ground of asking for evidence that such explanations applied in any given case.

In no case has this policy been carried to a greater length than with telepathy. This has been made an Open Sesame to everything psychic, when it is not an Open Sesame to anything whatever. It is but a name, as we have shown, for certain facts not explicable in a normal way, but it offers no explanation of them. Those who 'strained' it so far beyond the evidence were moved by the illusory assumption that you must 'stretch' hypotheses 'to the breaking point' before abandoning them. This is true when you are trying to convert sceptics, but it is not true when engaged in scientific explanations; to do so in the latter case is only to play a double game on the borders of hypocrisy. If you are engaged only in scientific explanations, you are bound to admit the relevance of the facts to a spiritistic theory, though you may prefer another. But when you are converting the sceptic, you do not admit the spiritistic theory, not because it may not be true, but because it has to be proved in spite of the prejudices and credulity of the sceptic. You concede all you can to show up the extremes to which he is willing to go in his disbelief. In the scientific problem, however, you must be independent of such prejudices. There was a time when concessions had to be made to the sceptic for the sake of peace. But when he becomes unreasonable, it is not our duty to respect him any longer. It is not our business to convert him. He must convert himself. Our business is the collection and recording of facts, and the future will take care of itself. Wisdom does not die with scepticism, valuable as that temper of mind has been in modifying the dogmatisms of the past. When he is in power, we may throw a sop to Cerberus to satisfy his hunger for the time, but when we have gained the main contention which we started out to establish, that certain coincidences are not due to chance, we may leave that hungry maw to its own devices. The ethical ideals are not on the side of destructive moods of mind. They are on the side of constructive temperaments. Scepticism does well in removing abuses, but it is not the builder of civilizations. This task is left to constructive minds.

Now the belief in a future life is on the side of ethical ideals. The telepathy which credulous people stretch to infinity is not on the side of any ideals at all. There is not an ethical implication of any kind in the hypothesis of telepathy. Applied as it is, it only reflects as demoniac a process as one might well imagine. Here is a process which has infinite selectiveness where it comes to acquiring information relevant to the personal identity of the dead, intelligent enough to discriminate against irrelevant facts, and yet lying about whence it gets the: facts. Such a process, all subconscious, cannot be brought to account at all. A process which has no ethical implications, and which is so shrewdly intelligent in finding the right facts while concealing their real source, is not to be admired either as an explanation or a preserver of morality. People who trust it certainly have no sense of humour. The spiritistic theory has ethical implications and explanatory power; telepathy has neither, and when examined reveals an infinite source of perfectly incurable deviltry and lying. Is this the kind of thing with which science expects to regenerate the human race? We talk of the importance of psychic research; but this consists in relegating spirits to the limbo of imagination and setting up the worship of telepathy in their place. We pretend that we are seeking evidence for spirits; but we are exploiting the interest of others to have them pay the bill for establishing a telepathy which leaves no room for ideals or morality of any kind, to say nothing of its denial of the suit which man makes for some rational meaning to the cosmos. Men and women have no sense of humour who do not see this.

I repeat that, as a concession to the sceptic, it may be all very well, but this assumes that we either admit the adequacy of the spiritistic hypothesis to explain the facts, or that we are so sure of its truth that we can yield all sorts of absurd possibilities to embarrass the sceptic by exhibiting his credulity instead of showing it ourselves. There is no other excuse for the application of telepathy in its most extended meaning. We have already shown that it has no basis in fact of any kind when extended to the selective form which excludes the law of stimulation; but we may be justified in waiving the claims of spirits to force the sceptic to accept something a thousand fold more absurd or impossible. He it is that must bear the burden of ridicule, if he remains obstinate against spirits. And we may challenge him to produce an ethics for us on the basis of his strenuous disbeliefs. Here it is that his position must win or lose. In fact, scepticism never founds any constructive ethics. Its service is exhausted in destroying abuses. It never constructs. A future life gives the supreme value to personality. Telepathy gives it none at all, but rather makes it a playful demon bent on universal deception. We may challenge the obstinacy of scepticism by demanding that it accept this alternative, if it will not yield to a belief that supports some kind of idealism. But it can gain respect on no other terms. 1 do not refuse scepticism a value in life. It is the obverse of the shield of which faith is the reverse, and is the corrective of the abuses of faith. It plays as important a part in salvation as faith, and, indeed, reason and science are the correctives of both, and science is constructive. Real explanation always is such. It is causal. Telepathy is not causal at all. It is only descriptive of events. It is only a device for postponing the day of judgment, and so is a piece of tactics to embarrass the sceptic and to bring him into ridicule. The morality and idealism are all on the side of spirits which represent the value of consciousness and personality in the universe. Telepathy offers no such values. It not only strengthens the case against the persistence of personality, but makes it, while it lasts, the arch-fiend of human subconsciousness. Is that to be the boon which materialism offers man? Are we to exorcise spirits with the idealism they founded for telepathy which brings only despair to the broken human heart? Can the materialist assuage grief? Can he repair the influence of sorrow? Does telepathy offer to do this? It is respectable, but that is all. It has no ethical implications to protect human values, and, when stretched to infinity, is only the plaything of those who have neither scientific insight nor moral ideals. In fact, our duties are to extend the spiritistic hypothesis and to minimise the character and application of telepathy when dealing with the scientific problem, and we are not justified in extending telepathy except as a device for embarrassing scepticism.

There are certain beliefs that are pivotal, and this means that many others depend on them for their meaning and use. The immortality of the soul is one of these. It affects human life at so many points that its motive power depends upon the influence which this initial belief can give thought and action. The fact of a future life is a major premise on which many a conclusion of importance can rest in security, and it is that fact which gives it supreme value in the moral education of the race. Human nature is bad enough to defy the best of beliefs, but the educator and the statesman can do more with men on the basis of this belief than without it. The value of personality is a leverage on the tastes and habits of the man who will act in the direction of physical ends when he has no reason to believe that any other are respected by nature. I have already discussed this point, and I allude to it again only to reinforce the pivotal nature of the belief. Analogies of this function are easily found in other beliefs.

The rotundity of the earth had no importance in astronomy at large. No pivotal character attached to it in that respect. But it was otherwise with the theory of Copernicus. His view of the relation of the parts in the solar system gave unity and explanation to the whole cosmos in its relation to the earth. The Ptolemaic system involved complications in the movements of other bodies, solar and stellar, that were miraculous, but the simple fact that the earth revolved on its own axis and about the sun reduced the whole universe, as seen from the earth, to simplicity. This one belief regulated all others in regard to the system.

Adhesion, as an attractive force, has no pivotal meaning for the cosmos in general. But gravitation has such a meaning. Newton's hypothesis gave the universe a unity which even the Copernican system did not. Copernicus rewrote astronomy for mathematics, Newton for physics as well. The two doctrines were pivotal inasmuch as they determined the nature and validity of many minor facts and beliefs.

Darwinian evolution, again. was pivotal for the beliefs affecting the processes of creation. It did for time what Copernicus and Newton did for space, and many a belief which had attached itself to the Ptolemaic system or to the special creation theory, dissolved, the one before the doctrines of Copernicus and Newton, and the other before that of Darwin. The cosmos assumed a new order under the aegis of these scientific certitudes.

It must be the same with the scientific proof of a future life. It will not do to say that men have always believed it. That is true enough, but beliefs which have only faith for their protection never have logical power. You cannot reason with them or upon them. They may affect the lives and actions of those who hold them, but, faith is no weapon for conversion. It may affect the will of the man who has it, but it will not influence the intellect or will of any one else, from lack of the rational means to make conversions. Where faith alone is the basis of action, men make conversions only by force or war. Scientific certitude gives reason a means of proof and the substitution of reason for force. It is one of the most powerful influences for the brotherhood of man that can be presented. It is perhaps significant that the founder of Christianity linked them together. It is pivotal because it thus protects all the higher ideals of belief and conduct, and gives the universe a meaning which it either cannot obtain without it, or obtains with such uncertainty as to make the ethical motives dependent on it compete at a disadvantage with the certitudes of physical life. A man who is surer of his wheat crop and the satisfactions resulting from it than he is of a future life will concentrate his interest on the prospect of an earthly reward; but a man who sees that consciousness is the permanent thing, whatever he does with reference to his material goods, will keep a moderating eye on the future life.

It is materialism that has broken down the morality that Immanuel Kant admired and defended. The larger ideals which Christianity fostered, whether it was right or wrong in its general view of the world, have given us a better civilization than Greece or Rome ever had. But materialism is now doing the same for us that it did for Graeco-Roman morals. It concentrates human endeavours on physical satisfactions. Idealistic philosophers will tell us that materialism is dead and that nobody believes in it. This is not true, and only a man entirely ignorant of the meaning of the term or of human nature would make any such statement. It is true that the philosophers do not advocate materialism, and it is also true that very few will boast that they accept it. But this has nothing to do with the question. They have reasons for not undertaking the defence of it. Religion is still strong enough to make it imprudent to be known as a materialist; and so we can manage to change the meaning of the term and then deny the doctrine, and thus fool ourselves and others with the belief that we have escaped all that materialism stands for. We can deny the use of the term but hold its doctrine. Idealism, as conceived and defended since Kant, is not opposed to philosophical materialism. It may even be identical with it. We have only to identify materialism with sensationalism psychologically and with sensuous enjoyment ethically to make ourselves seem opposed to it. But psychological and ethical materialism were never the essence of materialism. They were its adjuncts and consequences. True materialism was always quite as supersensible in its basis as spiritualism, and a man is only equivocating who denies materialism and does not deny the philosophical and scientific conceptions on which it is based. Materialism is convertible with the proposition that consciousness is a function of the brain and hence that there is no soul. Idealism seldom denies that consciousness depends on brain structure and the organism. Until it can make good that denial it does not oppose it, but only equivocates and relies upon the priority of value in intellectual and moral mental states as distinguished from sensory enjoyment; and this view may be held right within the materialistic theory. Most of the opposition to materialism is only a subterfuge to save one's bread, while the real thing goes on making its conquest and silently inoculating the general mind with the ideas of sense. The real test of a man's attitude toward materialism is determined by his position as to immortality. If he ignores, doubts, or denies it, he may deny materialism as much as he pleases, but his denial will fool only the groundlings; and so men will choose the life which nature offers with assurance, ignoring all claims to consider the larger view which a future existence establishes.

The logical consequences of philosophical materialism and also of ignoring the issue are the same, namely, the preference for physical satisfaction. Aesthetics and intellectual gymnastics will be our only ethics on that basis. The finer spiritual graces will have no adequate reward for the sacrifice of the physical. The actual life about us is proof of this statement.

In all this I do not lose sight of the fact that physical satisfactions always have their relative values. Materialism is not an unmixed evil. In the last analysis it stands for an important truth which we can admit when spiritualism has triumphed. Religion has tended to make the spiritual convertible with caprice in the cosmos as represented in the idea of miraculous interventions of all kinds. But materialism stands for constancy, the unchangeableness of God, to use that phrase. It has its eye fixed on the regularity of the laws of nature, and this is quite as important for human life and evolution as any conceivable intervention in the order. It is the concession which nature makes to time, while change is the concession to the need of progress. Stability and progress are both ideals, though one represents constancy and the other change. Materialism stands for constancy, and spiritualism for change, but not in the same thing.

Moreover, physical satisfaction is not in itself an evil. Everything depends on the point of view and the attitude of mind. If physical satisfaction is the only thing sought it is wrong. When it is conceived as the ultimate end of action it becomes an evil, but as a means to higher ends it is legitimate enough. Spiritualism is an attitude of mind toward the dogma of the ultimateness of physical life, not an opposition to physical life. In controversy it often, perhaps always, has to adapt its discussion to suit the discrimination between physical and spiritual wants which seem opposed to each other. But it is only a question of means and ends. It opposes only the priority of the physical and the view that nature values only that end. When it can subordinate the physical to the remoter end of the spiritual, it concedes a relative legitimacy and right to the physical life, but it can never make it more than a transitional stage to the spiritual life, and that is its basis and justification. A defensible idealism will admit the physical to its proper place in the scheme of things, but will not allow it to usurp the primacy. So much materialism is entitled to have, but it is not entitled to deprive spiritualism of all basis for the realization of its ideals. It is a future life that guarantees this, and any sacrifice of this basis only increases the difficulties in getting moral ideas of the highest type to become effective.

The man with a good salary and leisure to pursue his tastes may feel satisfied with any order in the world, and he too often does so. The world seems good to him who gets what he wants. But satisfaction may blind him to the real nature of things. And if this is true, we must look with some toleration and sympathy on the man that quarrels with the world when he does not get any satisfaction out of it. Fortunate is, then, the man who can still wait for the future to give a chance for achievement. If suffering teaches us that we have the wrong ideal in pursuit, it has thus its justification, and it is the man who complacently rests in present satisfaction that will have the awakening when he finds it is not all to live physically.

Nor is the intellectual life all of the spiritual. It has no justification at all, except as a means to an end. Unless it directs the emotional and ethical life, it is no better than the materialism which it often despises. It is delightful to study our Plato and Aristotle, but our butcher who supplies us with cur beefsteaks has no time for that luxury, and if he lends us part of the sum of leisure that enables us to indulge in that luxury, we owe him at least a chance to get some spiritual culture. The present social system makes the payment of that debt either impossible or ineffectual, and we owe it to the world to secure for him, if we can, the time to acquire such culture. Moreover, it is not the purely intellectual life that ensures salvation. It is the social that does so, and a quid pro quo for intellectual opportunities must be given to those who make leisure and culture possible. Salvation is an attitude of mind toward others, and he who taxes the community for his enjoyment and makes no return, no matter what his intellectual achievements, does nothing to ensure his own true development. In a system which requires so much time and labour to support mere existence, we should do all we can to secure the time and conditions for extending the chances for ethical progress. It is the assurance of the immortality of the soul that can be the great leveller in this respect and open up opportunities that a purely physical life does not provide.

There is no reason short of the proved fact to justify drawing the line of hope and selfrealization at the grave. And if it be a fact that we perish utterly, there is no reason for shaping conduct for any object which requires a longer time than the present life to realize. But if it be not a fact, and if we do survive, then is more than rational, it is imperative, to take into account conditions beyond the grave in the adoption of rules of conduct. Unless we have proof that annihilation is the meaning of death, drawing the line at the grave is arbitrary The best ethical maxims have an import beyond that, if Kant's position has any validity at all, and we find philosophers urging the finality of his views even when they do not sympathize with psychic research. Ethical maxims involving spiritual development do not shorten the time for their imperativeness. To morrow is quite as transcendental to human ethics as the day after we die; and it is not time that limits the fitness of moral duties, but only the impossibility of reaching our ends. There can be no proof that we are annihilated; so that the question is always open for the possibility of survival, and hence the rationality of seeking to know if it be a fact. Once concede the fact or the probability of it, and then death will no more alter the laws of morality than does a political election. We can nullify ethics only when hope is shut off, as all conduct involves the future for the attainment of its ends, even if it is only the next minute. Long-sightedness is a mark of the rational man, and hence the more that he makes the present yield to the future the higher the type of man, though this must not be purchased at the expense of present duties. All that I am contending for is the place of time in the formation of ideals, and that the grave is not the end of them unless it is also the end of human life.

In times of degeneracy the human race remembers the past as the most brilliant part of its experience, and in its periods of progress it dreams of a better future, for it is never really satisfied with the present, and rarely thinks the actual condition of things poetic. Sin and suffering offer no spectacle for appreciation, and better natures look to the future for a better life. It is the past and the future that get the glamour of poetry, and we either mourn over what we have lost or we dream over what we expect.

It was in the twilight of fable, the beautiful youth of man, that antiquity placed the Golden Age, the period and the people who were nearer the gods. But at the first touch of philosophic reflection this splendid fabric of the imagination crumbled into ashes, and thereafter Epicurean materialism came to pave the way to the grave of Graeco-Roman civilization. Christianity rose on these ruins, still lingering on the legend of the Garden of Eden, but placing the recovery of the Golden Age in the future life beyond the grave, where sin and suffering that had so marred the present life should be no more, and where hope could be safe from the attack of science. But after it had ruled eighteen centuries with this belief, science came again with its materialism to deprive man of the ideals of both history and hope, leaving nothing but darkness on the horizon of that immortal sea that brought us hither, while the cypress and the pine still keep watch over the gates to immortality and God. If science cannot point a way out of this blank outlook, another must take up, its task and give men a creed by which they can live, and a hope that on this black and stormy horizon shall dawn another morning. The present moment which had been saddened by the gloomy fears of death will be cheered by a fairer outlook, and chastened by toil and pain man may hope to be happy yet.

All experience is an arch wherethrough 
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades 
Forever and forever as we move



Notes / Preface / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Bibliography

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