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acts which constitute a response to environment on the part of the performer of them are the response from environment as related to minds affected by them. In treating of the evolution of mind, therefore, we must always take into account the response of a rational environment. To say that my success in any social undertaking depends upon the extent to which my efforts are seconded or thwarted by other wills is the same as to say that it depends upon the nature of the response which those efforts receive from environment. In God “ we live and move and have our being,” and all life as well as progress depends upon the response of God, our living environment, to our efforts. This response is in general not apprehensible to us as an influence proceeding from another mind. We speak of the “ laws of nature” as if they were something quite distinct from mind, but if we postulate mind as the efficiency of nature we must think of its operations as dependent upon the never-ceasing response, more or less direct, of a rational being to an environment which He has called into existence.
And, further, when in accordance with our analogy we consider the relations of human minds to each other, and the important part which language plays in their development, it is certainly reasonable to anticipate that human language will find some place in the multiform response of the Great Educator to his human pupils. Nor are we groping altogether in the dark when we try to formulate some more definite notion of what the leading characteristics of this communication through language would naturally be. For we pursue a truly scientific method when we reason from the requirements of education with which we are acquainted on a limited scale to a process which involves like factors on a much larger scale. We advance in a perfectly legitimate way from the particular to the general, from the individual to the race. The logic is, in fact, identical with that of one of the most convincing of the many lines of argument used by scientific reasoners to establish the general doctrine of evolution. The changes which take place in an embryo during the successive metamorphoses that characterize its history from the germ to the completed organism are adduced not simply as illustrations of what may possibly be true of the history of the formation of species, but they are also used as an argument, on the ground that there is a modified uniformity in the methods of nature, and that when we have made ourselves acquainted with a well-defined process in the individual we are justified in looking for an adjusted reproduction of it on a larger scale.
And now for the application of our analogy. But not yet to the written and special revelation. We must first compare it with that part of the process which we have been in the habit of considering as not special but natural. For if we find our analogy supported here we shall occupy a much stronger position for judging of the naturalness of Christianity. To go back, then, for a moment to the initial revelation, what do we find? Is it a full, complete, finished thing? Do all its elements declare themselves to be homogeneous ? To find something approaching to this we must go lower down in the scale, and consider that which corresponds to a revelation in a worker-bee, for instance. Here we have an endowment that may be called complete. It is enough for the wants of the creature. There is, indeed, some provision in it for adaptation to new circumstances, but there is nothing under ordinary conditions which suggests variation or improvement. A wonderfully complex organic intelligence is given as a free and perfect gift to every individual of the order. But when we come to that true revelation which makes man a self-conscious being we are confronted with all those conflicting elements which have been forced upon our attention by the requirements of human education. Great oracular truths and facts are given with an authority which is absolute. We call them necessary truths, data of consciousness, innate ideas, the fundamental postulates of thought. We cannot analyze these, we cannot get behind thein. We simply have to accept them.
As related to that great mass of knowledge which has been acquired through our own efforts, these ultimate data of thought are mysterious, special, miraculous, — in short, as we frequently use the word, they are unnatural. And yet we cannot ignore them, for all our rational knowledge comes to us through them. What do we find further? These ultimate data of consciousness, although they are so authoritative, have associated with their absoluteness an element of contradiction. While we are obliged to accept them, we cannot reconcile them. They are polar truths, and our minds, endowed with great capabilities not yet but to be developed, take naturally to the task of constructing the world of thought that lies between them ; and it is by this effort that we come to be not only conscious, knowing minds, but reasoning, thinking minds. Like everything else in nature, we grow by overcoming difficulties.
Passing on now to the sensible environment, the not-self of the self-conscious human soul, what do we find? We must assume that this and the soul are adjusted to each other by the Great Educator: and we know that they are related to each other in such manner that certain definite fundamental impressions and conclusions are the result for all rational creatures. But when we have said this we must admit further that nothing is more misleading than this same natural environment. The whole creation is written over with an objective revelation, but it is in various and strange languages. Nature awakens the curiosity of man and leads him on, but she does not pour out her treasures for the simple asking. There is, indeed, always something to reward the open eye and the attentive ear, but how unsatisfactory it all is! Never silent to those who interrogate her, she yet mumbles and prevaricates. She fools us with half truths. When we are most serious she seems to jest. Her grandest utterances are riddles. And when at length by patient importunity we have got the clew, we find ourselves confronted by a deeper and more tantalizing problem.
Every science begins with illusions, with facts viewed out of relation to their real setting ; nor has anything of much worth been learned except by determined and persistent efforts to force the hand of Nature. As a late address before the Massachusetts Medical Society expresses it: “Nature has been fairly tortured into uttering her secrets; and only through experiments, varied, repeated, reiterated by a multitude of observers, has her evasive testimony been circumvented.” But for all this Nature does not lack enthusiastic votaries. Men who believe her to be consistent beneath all her surface deceits are not wanting. And when some section of truth has at length been laid hold of, some principle that shows a glimpse of order in the midst of contradictions, these oft-baffled inquisitors are loud in their praises of her truth. Her enigmas have only stimulated their curiosity. In the midst of her teasing answers she has let slip truth enough to lure them on. In short, the environment has been so adjusted to the mind of man as to force it to become scientific.
Do we find anything different when we come to the sphere of morals? On the contrary, the variableness and contrariety of conscience is the great stumbling-block of ethics. What one man's conscience declares to be right the moral sense of another pronounces wrong. A moral consensus may be arrived at in a community or nation by which certain broad lines of demarkation in conduct are recognized, but within these lines the greatest diversity must always prevail. In different ages of the world we find now one virtue and now another taking the lead, and in its leadership subordinating, sometimes almost obliterating, others of equal importance. And yet nothing is more authoritative than conscience, no conviction of the mind is more universal than that of responsibility. As in the purely intellectual world, certain data are given. A sense of duty and obligation, which though utterly mysterious we cannot get rid of, and connected with this certain vague indications of the direction to be taken. But beyond these the soul is left to work out its own problems. It finds itself in a world of conflicting claims, desires, emotions, passions. And to ascertain the bearing of the sense of duty upon the varied activities to which these urge is the labor of the man and of the race. There is no lack of deceit here. There are ways that seem good, but yield only bitterness. What seems to be a great moral achievement often turns out to be, so far as its direct and immediate effects are concerned, a moral defeat. But notwithstanding these disappointments, in the teeth of all these oppositions, and because of them, man is progressively moral.
Again, man has a religious nature. What provisions have been made for its development? The account given by the apostle Paul is in perfect harmony with the facts which we have been considering. The Great Educator, he tells us, carefully determined and appointed the natural environment of the different nations of the earth to “ seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” Everywhere in the history of the nations we find this seeking. Everywhere the religious want has developed itself at an early stage in man's progress. But history also shows us that the finding was beset with difficulties. Here, as elsewhere, innumerable false ways had to be explored, and grievous errors had to be fallen into. The most ancient records of the great civilizations seem, indeed, to indicate that a comparatively pure conception of God dawned upon some nations in the early stages of their development. In the literatures of India, of China, of Egypt, there are traces of a vague, inconstant belief in God as a supreme and benevolent ruler. But the course of the human mind is from instinct to reason. Beliefs that have a natural and instinctive origin suffer disintegration that they may subsequently be reintegrated in higher and more distinct forms. The heaven that lies about us in our infancy may be dissolved by the questionings of manhood. But a true manhood builds again with materials drawn from reason and experience. A hard, strange, unnecessary labor this must seem to us except we remember that the forging
of character through a process of overcoming, and not the possession of an inherited, unfought-for, instinctive belief, is the end of spiritual evolution.
But there is another side to all this. Shutting ourselves up to the contemplation of the responsibility that is laid upon the human soul, and of the labor and struggle that is required of it in every department, we are easily swept along to the conclusion that man is left absolutely to himself to fight the battle without assistance. But the moment we rise to a more comprehensive view, it is clear that man's efforts are nothing except they are supplemented by an efficiency not his own. Without detracting from the credit which rightfully belongs to the great discoverers of the secrets of Nature, we may, nay, we must, recognize the cooperation of that mind which works in all Nature, and which rewards human efforts, because they are efforts, with higher and better things than those aimed at.
We have seen that in the lower ranges of evolution the activities of the creature for the gratification of present immediate wants often result in modifications of the organism which carry it to a higher grade of being. It is not otherwise in the region of mind. The struggles of men to penetrate the secrets of Nature for the attainment of personal ends have led repeatedly to the discovery of truths that are revelations to the race. Men for ages labored patiently and earnestly in the hope of learning how to change the baser metals to gold; they ransacked and tormented Nature in every conceivable way to extort from her the secret of perpetual youth; and behold, as the outcome, the science of chemistry. They anxiously studied the heavens for a knowledge of the future, and at length their efforts were rewarded by the great truths of astronomy. So, also, they sought after gods, — gods of the family and the tribe, — who should protect them and their children ; and in the fullness of time there was revealed the Almighty Father, pitying and loving the whole human race. In all these cases the truths revealed have not been those that were expected, nor in the line desired, by those who labored for them. “ There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will."
But it is not alone in the efficiency of the power that hides itself that we are obliged to recognize a constant element of coöperation and guidance. The Almighty works not alone directly on individuals, but mediately also through men whom He has guided into
1 Andover Review, May, 1883, p. 439.