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cannot be dissociated from those metaphysical speculations regarding man's relation to the world which received poetic utterance from Bruno and Goethe, and found logical expression in the systems of a priori thinkers like Hegel.
Evolution, in the widest sense of the term, has to be viewed as a generalisation which combines the data of previous scientific and philosophical thought in a new conception of the universe. Like all such generalisations, it is hypothetical, provisional. Though it has received valuable inductive and experimental support in the region of biology, it does not rest upon the same foundation as Newton's law or as the law of the Conservation of Energy. It must rather be regarded as a comprehensive scheme of thought, inviting demonstration, stimulating discovery, and capable of manifold application.
Least of all does Evolution, as its name and as its principles imply, claim for itself finality. Its adaptation, however, to the present conditions of the human mind is proved by the rapidity with which it is transforming every department of speculation.
In the following pages it will be my object to show reason why the Philosophy of Evolution, instead of crushing the aspirations of humanity and reducing our conceptions of the world to chaos, may be expected to reanimate religion and to restore spirituality to the universe.
This idea is undoubtedly the most potent which has entered the sphere of human thought since Copernicus published his heliocentric theory of the Solar System. When we inquire into the nature of religions, we shall find that they are all of them at root attempts to account for the universe, and to define man's place in the sphere of things. This being the case, it follows that every new cosmological idea, every fresh hypothesis regarding the beginning of the world and man, every alteration in the theory of Nature, will induce
changes in the current systems of theology, metaphysics, morals. Now the mythological elements of Christianity took shape in the intellects of people who conceived our earth to be the centre of the universe; who were accustomed to believe that God made the sun and moon and stars to shed light on us; and who fancied that the divine purpose in creating nature was to form a dwelling-place for man. The dogmatic elements of historical Christianity in like manner assumed their fixity by slow degrees under the dominance of Ptolemy's geocentric system of astronomy, and in harmony with a metaphysic which accepted that view of the universe. The discovery, published by Copernicus in 1543, by simply shifting the position of our globe in space, shook the ponderous fabric of scholastic theology to its foundations. The deductions made from his discovery by subsequent thinkers still more seriously compromised a large part of that edifice. The earth appeared not merely as a satellite of the sun; but the sun himself, with all his court of planets, took rank as only one among innumerable sidereal companies. Space spread into infinity. Up and down, heaven above and hell beneath, were now phrases of symbolical or metaphorical significance only. It was no longer possible to imagine that the celestial bodies had been created in order to give light by day and night. Man's station of eminence in the kosmos ceased to seem manifest. It became difficult to take the scheme of salvation, God's sacrifice of himself in the Second Person of the Trinity for the advantage of a race located on a third-rate planet, literally. Some mythical parts of the religion, which had previously been held as facts, were immediately changed into allegories. For instance, the ascension of Jesus from the mountain lost its value as an historical event when the brazen vault of heaven, or the crystal sphere on the outer surface of which God sat, had been annihilated; when there was no more up or down, and when a body lifted into ether would obey the same laws of attraction as a meteoric stone.
The Copernican discovery very materially influenced Christian dogına and mythology by thus converting at a stroke what had been previously accepted as a matter of literal and historical fact into symbol, allegory, metaphor. It humbled human pride, and destroyed the overweening sense of man's importance in the universe. The nature of this revolution in astronomy made it of necessity destructive to the external coatings and integuments of religion. At the same time, it stimulated the growth of a new metaphysic, the first manifestations of which we owe to Bruno, and which was destined to react upon theology through the idealistic speculations of
the last two centuries.
The disintegration of those factors which are merely temporal, and doomed to dissolution, in Christianity, has been advancing so rapidly, through the application of various critical methods and the growth of sciences, that little of a purely destructive influence was to be expected from the theory of Evolution. Some points, however, may arrest
Preceded by geology and primitive anthropology, Evolution dealt a death-blow at the assumptions of human self-conceit. We have accepted the probability of man's development from less highly organised types of animal life with tolerable good-humour, after a certain amount of rebellious disgust. The study of pre-historical humanity, together with the suggestions of the Evolution hypothesis, render any doctrine of a Fall more and more untenable. Instead of Paradise, and man's sudden lapse from primal innocence, we are now convinced that history implies a slow and toilsome upward effort on the part of our ancestors from the outset.
Preceded, in like manner, by the demonstrated theories of Conservation and Correlation of Energies, Evolution de
stroyed the old conception of miraculous occurrences. miracle, a freak of power, is no longer conceivable in Nature; and if Lazarus were raised from the dead before our eyes, we should first ascertain the fact, and next proceed to investigate the law of the phenomenon. Evolution, in the last place, superseded scholastic teleology by more rational notions of order. The habit of mind which recognised particular design and providential interference in special adaptations of living creatures to their environment, has been superseded by what may be termed a consistently biological view of the universe. The whole scheme of things is now regarded as a single organism, advancing methodically through stages of its growth in obedience to inevitable laws of self-expansion. This does not dispel the mystery which surrounds life. It does not pretend, when rightly understood, to give a final or sufficient explanation of Being. Nor, again, docs it yield. the world to chance, or remove the necessity by which we postulate the priority of thought, intention, spirit, to all manifestations of material existence. But it compels us to regard this form-giving spiritual potency as inherent in the organism as the law of its life, not as the legislation of some power extraneous to it. In another very important point. Evolution has reacted destructively on popular Christianity. By penetrating our minds with the conviction that all things are in process, that the whole universe is literally in perpetual Becoming, it has rendered it impossible for us to believe that any one creed or set of opinions possesses finality. Religions, like all things that are ours and human, have their day of declension; nor can Christianity form an exception to the universal rule. What is perishable in its earthly historical manifestation must be eliminated: and the permanent spirit by which it is animated, the truth it reveals, will be absorbed into the structure of creeds destined successively to supersede it and be superseded.
The fundamental conception which underlies the Evolutionary method of thought is that all things in the universe exist in process. No other system has so vigorously enforced the truth that it is impossible to isolate phenomena from their antecedents and their consequents. No other system has given the same importance to apparently insignificant details and to apparently monstrous divergences from normal types, in so far as such details supply links in the sequence of development, or such divergences can be used to illustrate the growth of organism. It follows that the line of thought which we call Evolutionary infuses new vitality into history, into every study of the past, and into all branches of criticism. At the present moment I wish to contribute some considerations regarding the most obvious ways of applying it to the history of art and literature-not because this is a matter of first importance, but because I speak with firm personal conviction on the topic.
When I was a young man, in the sixties, I remember that we students of European culture had to choose between connoisseurs and metaphysicians for our guides. On the one hand were the people who praised the "Correggiosity of Correggio," or "swore by Perugino," or promulgated the "preciousness of Fra Angelico," as though Correggio, Perugino, and the Dominican painter of San Marco were respectively descended full-formed from the skies to instruct an unenlightened world. Each connoisseur sailed under his self-chosen flag, proclaimed his own proclivities, and preached the gospel of his particular taste. There were not wanting even folk who pinned their faith to Sir Joshua and the Caracci. Caprice on this side governed judgment; and what I have stated with regard to figurative art was no less true of poetry and literature. There seemed to be no light or leading in the chaos of opinion. On the other hand were