every future ghost.
Upon this subject the voice of science
Has ne’er been aught but stern defiance.
Mythology and magic belong to “limbus fatuorum;”
If fools believe them, we scientists deplore ’em.
But, nevertheless, the immortal can’t be lost,
For every atom has its bright, eternal ghost!
Mr. Ward appears to enjoy greatly this theory of his own final extinction, and he exclaims with infinite self-satisfaction, “this pure and ennobling sense of truth he would scorn to barter for the selfish and illusory hope of an eternity of personal existence.” This is quite a jolly funeral indeed!
It is true Mr. Ward’s very profound theories contradict an immense number of facts observed by wiser men than himself, but so much the worse for the facts,—they must not embarrass a Smithsonian philosopher when he solves to his own satisfaction the vast problem of the universe. This Mr. Ward thinks he has done. It is quite an ingenious and laboriously constructed hypothesis, but like all other attempts to construct a grand philosophy without a basis of fact, it is hard to manufacture the theory and hard to comprehend it. Mr. Ward says himself in the Open Court that even to comprehend his doctrine would require the “careful reading of nearly 200 pages,” while “to see the matter in precisely the same light as I see it would require the reading of the entire work of some 1400 pages!” Really, Mr. Ward, the writer who cannot sufficiently befuddle himself and his readers in fifty pages is not very skilful.
Nevertheless the Ward theory is one of the best that has ever been gotten up by the champions of nescience, and is worthy of a statement in the Journal as quite an improvement on the common expression of materialistic stolidity. He claims that he does not deny immortality, but he recognizes no immortality of man—no human soul. He recognizes only the immortality of the world, such as it is, which nobody denies. The future life of man he considers nothing but an illusion, though there is an immortality of intelligence here in successive forms.
The doctrine, is that spirit, intelligence, or consciousness is a part of matter—that every atom has its own little share, which practically amounts to nothing in its infinite subdivision, but when matter comes into organized forms the spiritual powers thus aggregated and organized become an efficient spiritual energy; and the higher the organism the grander the power that is developed, man being the most perfect organization evolves the grandest spiritual power, as a superior violin evolves finer music than a tambourine. But the intelligence and will of man are only phenomena, like the music, and have no existence beyond that of the organism that produces them. This is substantially the theory of materialists generally, and of the old school medical colleges which consider human life a mere product of human tissues in combination—a doctrine conclusively refuted in “Therapeutic Sarcognomy.”
The special merit of the Ward theory lies in the supposition that mind and matter are elements everywhere inseparably united, and that human intelligence is developed by the aggregation and organization of the mind powers that reside in the atoms of matter,—an explanation which does not often occur to the exponents of materialism,—and has the merit of ingenuity. The theory would do very well if it were not demonstrable that life exists only from influx, and that human life and personality survive the body, and become known to every highly organized sensitive, who knows how to investigate such matters.
The Ward theory demolishes the Deity with the greatest ease, and places man, fleeting or evanescent as he is, at the summit of the universe! As he expresses it, “The only intelligence in the universe worthy of the name is the intelligence of the organized beings which have been evolved; and the highest manifestations of the psychic power known to the occupants of this planet is that which emanates from the human brain. Thus does science invert the pantheistic pyramid.”
Such is the fog that emanates from the institution that should help the advance and diffusion of knowledge. No God! no soul! not even the awful power that Spencer blindly acknowledges—nothing but matter bubbling up and organizing itself into temporary forms that decay and are gone forever. We may well reciprocate his suggestion, and say that such doctrines belong to the limbus fatuorum, and, if enjoyed as Mr. Ward enjoys them, they may well be called the “fool’s paradise.” I think Hegel has some similar notion—that God becomes conscious only in man, unconscious everywhere else! And even so brilliant a writer as M. Renan says, “For myself I think that there is not in the universe any intelligence superior to that of man.” In reading such expressions we are strongly reminded of the poem on the “rationalistic chicken,” which would not admit that it ever came out of an egg. When the wisdom shown in the universe is so immensely beyond the comprehension of man, how can he assume his own to be the highest wisdom?
To such dreary absurdities as this the Open Court newspaper at Chicago is devoted, and it has a bevy of well-educated friends and supporters—well-educated as the world goes,—and graced with literary capacity and culture, but educated into blindness and ignorance of the scientific phenomena of psychic science,—unwilling to investigate or incapable of candid investigation. The coterie sustaining such a newspaper are precisely in the position of the contemporaries of Galileo, who refused to look through his telescope or study his demonstrations.
It is not from any scientific spirit or scientific acumen that this materialistic coterie avoid psychometric and spiritual facts. The newspapers which ignore or sneer at such knowledge are easily gulled in matters of science. A writer in the Open Court upon the possibilities of the future, which he presents as being confined “strictly to legitimate deductions from present knowledge,” exhibits an amount and variety of ignorant credulity which ought not to have gained admission to an intelligent journal. He speaks of an unlimited freedom of submarine navigation and navigation of the air which would not have appeared possible to any but the most superficial sciolist. He also speaks of an electroscope that will telegraph rays of light (!) and enable us thereby to see our most distant friends, and of stowing in a small compass electricity enough to exterminate an army. This imaginative ignoramus adds, “Give to our present biped acquaintance the ability to exterminate armies with a lightning flash, added to the power of sailing at will through the air or of passing at will and in safety beneath the ocean waves, and he would depopulate the earth.” The writer gives much more of this Munchausen stuff which is not worthy of notice except as an illustration of the feeble scientific intelligence with which many newspapers are edited. The editor of a really scientific journal referred to this article in the Open Court “as a proof of the danger of a little knowledge.”1