In the world's comparative chronology it was but yesterday that the evolutionary philosophy was itself evolved in the human consciousness. Only its lower and materialistic aspects have yet been recognized by science, the grander and higher visions being still in reserve. But even the limited progress already made marks the most stupendous new departure of all the ages. We have discovered a set of successive keys, so that doors hitherto impenetrable now swing open and reveal endless vistas. Innumerable facts, manifestations, and principles, that have seemed disjointed and meaningless, are now smoothly gliding into their well-fitting niches. A wilderness of heterogeneity by a dissolving view is transformed into homogenetic and living beauty. A chaos of antagonisms and evils, through the new lens of progressive unfoldment, is found to comprise one great Unity, which is perfectly adjusted in all relations.
To properly discuss a subject of such magnitude within the limits of this paper in any technical manner is obviously impossible. But often a synthetic and suggestive presentation of cardinal principles is more profitable—especially to the average reader—than an array of scholastic detail. We often lose or distort the normal perspective of some department of truth by wandering in an analytical maze, and so fail to grasp interrelation and proportion.
What are the prevailing impressions of evolution as viewed by different schools of thought? Beginning with materialistic science, it has made an effort to eliminate divinity from nature and man, or at least to crowd it back to the most remote protoplasmic energy. Secondary gods have been set up, and labeled "natural selection," "chemical affinity," "inherent energy," and "resident forces," in the attempt to make God unnecessary. It may be termed scientific polytheism; its homage is subtle, and is paid to secondary and dependent forces. But general unity, intelligence, and beneficence are not recognized. It is assumed that matter, through some mysterious inherent quality, virtually grows. In its conflict with theology, science has almost out dogmatized the dogmatists by teaching a practical though unadmitted atheism.
The ranks of so-called orthodoxy are shaded, from those who still hold that a Deific fiat suddenly created all things from nothing, up to those who, in general, accept the evolutionary process of creation, especially in the lower grades of life. Even the liberals, however, find much difficulty in reconciling certain theological necessities—so supposed—with evolutionary facts in the domain of humanity. They are willing to indefinitely extend the creative period backward, and to concede the development theory as applied to organic life below man; but when he is reached, and the dogmas of original holiness, the "Fall," and the substitutionary atonement, are disturbed, there is but a faint or lame attempt at adjustment.
There is an impassable gulf between evolution and all special dispensations. If the established order has ever been abruptly broken into from without, upon any plane whatsoever, then evolution is a myth. God reigns in and through law, and is never self-contradictory.
There are other more consistent evolutionists, who logically avoid both of the extremes before noted. They see the Deity immanent in all his works, man included, moving in and through them towards a supreme and beautiful consummation.
The idolized forces of science are only differentiated forms of One Infinite Energy that is supremely intelligent and beneficent. Is it personal? Yes and no. How many swords have been crossed for lack of clear definitions! How vain to try to exactly fit weak, finite terms upon the Infinite! " Personal," to most minds, from its common associations, is unconsciously linked to changeableness, moods, states of mind, and limitations of locality, time, and space. All persons make plans and change them. The Unchangeable—"the same yesterday, today, and forever"—makes no plans, and changes none. He is not less, but incomparably MORE, than personal. Infinite Mind, Love, and Law are terms which doubtless carry to the average mind a more correct concept of the Supreme Being than personality. But there is no objection to any term if it have no false association; for names are only labels, but ideas are vital. Finite judgment can only be made through attributes and manifestations.
This is not pantheism, neither does it remove God, or make him a mental abstraction. On the contrary, as we accustom ourselves to this larger idea, he becomes incomparably nearer and dearer. We then first really begin to feel the force of Paul's metaphysical declaration that "in Him we live and move and have our being." The traditional view is anthropomorphic, unscientific, and in reality irreligious. A natural reaction from such a narrow and irrational concept has logically produced many atheists and materialists.
When reverently followed, a true evolutionary philosophy leads up to the conclusion that all phenomena are the manifestations of one Infinite Mind. The Hebraic concept which pictured the Deity as a capricious force, who from the outside occasionally interfered with the cosmic economy, belongs to the evolutionary past. The divine methods are orderly. Pantheism was blind, cold, and fatalistic, while spiritual unfoldment is a vital inspiration.
But although evolution as a process has been widely recognized, its supreme coronation is yet to take place. The materialism of Darwin still subtly lingers, and colors the researches and conclusions of the present leading evolutionary scientists. We are not disposed to criticize these eminent and able exponents of philosophical development; for they have all done a grand work for science, religion, and the world. But, with great deference, we shall try to show that the supreme recognition of applied evolution has not yet been generally made.
Darwinian evolution is deficient, in that it deals with forms and results rather than their immaterial causation. It is a progressive materialism. But it is indispensable as a stepping-stone to what is above it. Darwin and his co-laborers are entitled to the gratitude of the world for their great achievements and elaborations. Only through such untiring efforts could the lower steps and processes of the grand upward trend have been demonstrated.
Stripped of all technicality, and in the most concise general terms, the Darwinian philosophy may be stated substantially as follows: The first and lowest, or elemental plane contains inherent protoplasmic energy, diffused and unorganized, but potent in possibility. Here is resident vitality, but in a primal stage. The second grand plane is that of chemical compounds—a great step higher in quality, affinity, and determinateness; but organization is yet wanting. The next and third grand subdivision includes the vegetal kingdom. Energy has here been gathered, organized, classified, and individuated, as shown in a centered, manifested life. The fourth general plane of manifestation composes the kingdom of animal life. Locomotion, sensation, instinct, and will have been further added. Wonderful variety in comprehensive unity is displayed. Advancing another great step, humanity is reached, with its marvelous additional powers and capabilities. Reason, self-consciousness, and ethical discernment have come to the front, though they are still colored and swayed by a great residuum of passion, appetite, and self-seeking, which have come over from below.
Progress is always from the lower towards the higher, from the simple towards the more complex, and from the inorganic towards the organic, the latter by successive steps becoming higher and more intricate in organization. Each of the grand subdivisions, while possessing unmistakable unity and relation, shades almost imperceptibly into those adjoining it. The seeming exception to this is in the "missing link" between the animal and man. Progress is supposed to be through "natural selection" and the "survival of the fittest." Environment, and the consequent use and disuse of organs, together with sexual selection, are also important factors. The weaker perish, while the stronger propagate their kind. Such is conventional evolution, stated in its briefest general terms.
But all this is only a moving succession of visible forms. It is everywhere assumed that these are the basic reality, while the life, mind, or soul manifested in them is only a property or function. If this be true, the immaterial part is clearly a dependent. Just here is the rank though subtle materialism which distinctly, though often unconsciously, permeates conventional science, philosophy, materia medica, and the organized church. By logical and fair inference from such a philosophy, man inherently belongs to the animal kingdom. But even in that kingdom he has no exclusive department of his own, being a vertebrate. In this more limited subdivision he still has no class of his own. He is simply a mammal. To be sure, he is a primate among mammals; but that distinction he also shares with the apes. His structural differences from them are comparatively slight. Thus man, if he be the form, is only an animal of a high order; or, more correctly, neither he nor the animal is more than a well-shaped mass of matter, having an attenuated dependent property called life or soul. But it could not be expected that Darwin would find everything. As a stepping-stone he was good in his order.
But though Spencer and others have greatly extended the Darwinian domain, refined it, and traced it upward, yet the essentially materialistic basis seems to be retained. Physical causation, or, in other words, life and mind, as the result rather than the creator of structural organism, is everywhere more or less distinctly assumed. While the high character of man as compared with his evolutionary brethren is admitted, he is yet regarded as a material, rather than an immaterial, entity. All would not insist that chemical changes in the brain are the cause of thoughts, or that that organ secretes consciousness and emotion as the liver secretes bile; yet, practically, such a philosophy, in various shades and degrees, is everywhere present.
Having thus briefly outlined "scientific" (materialistic) evolution, as at present accepted, let us sketch what we believe to be the truer and only logical view. It solves many problems, and dissipates numerous difficulties.
Evolution, in its essence and basis, is immaterial on the lower planes as well as the higher. The life, mind, or soul is always the cause and not the result of organization. In every case the unseen is the intrinsic entity. It follows that the real progression is in the ascending quality and complexity of mind, life, or soul, and not of matter. All of the advancing steps are successive states of internal character, and its visible form is only its outer resultant translation. Matter, per se, never progresses. It is only an external, temporary banner or signboard. Identical physical material appears, disappears, and reappears in higher or lower shapes, as the case may be, and therefore can have no character of its own. It is clay grasped by the hand of a molder. The elements which today make up the body of a dog or tree may have figured long ago in the material structure of a saint or philosopher. Assuredly there was no ascent or descent in the material, but only in its user. All the progress is in the unseen. The embodiment is not the progressive part, but just the well-fitting clothing which shows the quality and taste of its present owner. The human ego receives material into embodiment, and erects it into an animated form, and never makes a deviation in its shaping. If he drop the material, and it be utilized by a tiger life or mind, it at once assumes the corresponding feline expression in every detail. There is no exception to this rule. In the deepest analysis the real tree is the tree-life, and not the temporary material which it has laid hold of for outward expression. True, we may study and admire the latter, but it is unprofitable to mistake the picture for the substance.
Everything has a soul of some grade, and that includes all its present and future potentiality. Whether more or less advanced along the highway of individuation, all minds are, substantially, parts of the one divine, omnipresent Mind, which is the basis of all manifestation.
A piece of marble, or even a clod of earth, has a kind of life. Even were we to adopt the monistic theory, and infer that matter is solidified spirit—perhaps its outermost and ultimate rim—the order of expression remains unchanged.
It will be evident, then, that all true evolution is metaphysical. On the human plane it is also idealistic. But this idealism is not like that of Berkeley, which denies the existence of all objectivity, but of that practical quality which draws men forward. Upon all the subordinate planes progress seems to come from an unconscious pushing from behind, which is accompanied by friction. "When the higher human department of spiritual intuition is reached, man begins intelligently to co-operate with law, and thereby gains its leverage. By learning to hold ideals before himself he powerfully contributes to his own unfoldment, and thus the "pushing" is supplemented. He divines how to "hitch his wagon to a star," and thus paves his onward path, and accelerates his progress God-ward.
Path, Motive, Guide, Original, and End.
In the great circle of creative development, the divine life and energy which God first involved into the lowest conditions, is at length, through a series of grand steps, gathered, organized, individuated, and evolved into "sons of God," in which form, with reciprocal affection, the return is to be made to the "Father's House."
Let us now attempt the interpretation of what is known as the "Fall of Man," in the light of metaphysical evolution. A vital part of dogmatic theology is contained in the assumption that man was created pure and holy, and that through disobedience he fell. A substitutionary atonement was therefore legally necessary. The so-called "plan of salvation" is based upon the ruin which was caused by the single historic mistake. The remedial "scheme" consisted of a purchased release. Soften it as we may, it really amounts to a technical makeshift which God contrived after the defeat of his original plans. Practically the church is quietly slipping away from such a logic; but yet its authoritative doctrinal formulas remain unchanged. Though generally toned down in men's minds, it remains of life-size in the creeds. Salvation has been something done for and outside of one, on the condition of yielded assent to "the plan." It has been objective and historic, rather than subjective and present. A penalty has been paid, or rather, in effect, a link severed between cause and effect. This concept carries the inference that penalty is vindictive instead of corrective—antagonistic rather than reformatory.
Some of the visible branches of the great evolutionary tree seem to droop downward, and others entirely drop off, as externally observed. But all life and mind are conserved, however much outward forms may change or disintegrate. Occasional eddies or ebb-tides on the surface cannot invalidate the great universal upward trend.
How can the allegory of the "Pall" be naturally accounted for without any strained interpretation? Let us try to find a scientific, religious, and spiritual solution of this great tradition which will accord with reason and harmonize difficulties.
An allegory always has a meaning deeper than itself. The story of Adam and Eve portrays that period of transition when primeval man—the animal—evolved some moral character, and when reason measurably displaced instinct as the controlling force. The so-called first pair are types of the racial crossing of a great boundary line. Pre-Adamic man, being an animal, was not ashamed of his nakedness, and, in common with his kingdom, was governed by brutish instincts and appetites. He lived in dens and caves, and possessed only those faint foreshadowings of reason which we now behold in the highest animal intelligence.
But instinct, though low, is exact. In its wild native perfection it makes neither mistakes nor improvements. The bee of today, as of a thousand years ago, always forms the honey-cell in perfect geometrical proportion; and the web of the spider was ever, as now, a marvel of regularity and proportion. The bird makes no mistake in singing its song, or in building its nest; and the beaver even adapts his dam in advance to the clemency or inclemency of the coming season. The all-pervading divine life and wisdom resident in the animal shines through, reflecting its uniformity and perfection, though in actual expression it cannot rise higher than its low plane and crude medium.
Bearing in mind the definition of instinct, we pass to note that Eden does not represent spiritual, or even intellectual, satisfaction, but only that which is sensuous. Primeval man at length reached the climax of his physical development. To his consciousness there was nothing higher. Every known want was satisfied. There was neither moral nor spiritual law to be observed or violated. He had no unsatisfied longing or aspiration. A great evolutionary epoch was completed, and the cup of sensory enjoyment was full. There were no mistakes to be rectified, and no sins to bring disquietude. That Was Eden. It represents the ripeness and perfection of a great kingdom.
But at length the God-voice in man became audible, and the throes and birth-pangs of a new kingdom began. Reason—now infantile and tottering—came upon the stage, and stumblings and mistakes became the rule. The gestatory period of the higher selfhood had passed, and the moral freedom of choice and of possible voluntary character came to light. Man forever lost his sense of completeness in animal development, and a rational and spiritual restlessness possessed him. There was no more Eden. The "flaming sword which turned every way" was the evolutionary bar which unceasingly interdicted a return to perfect sensuous repose and satisfaction. The rational and moral nature passed from latency to activity. Gestation was ended, the umbilical cord severed, and man was cast out, to begin at the very foundation to build a new consciousness, and project a higher kingdom.
The mistakes connected with infantile and ignorant choosing are typified by thorns and thistles, toil and sweat. The perfect delight of Eden was missing. This, to the childish stage of human consciousness, seemed like a great loss—a "fall." What a natural and reasonable basis for the great tradition!
Although the story of Adam and Eve apparently refers to a brief episode, the actual transition covers an evolutionary epoch not yet completed. Eden has gone beyond repair; but the succeeding kingdom, even at the present time, is only in its childish stage.
The "Fall," though from perfect material satisfaction to a constant divine restlessness, is upward. The attainments of voluntary moral and spiritual character are only possible within the limits of their own kingdom, and must begin with the stumblings, educational mistakes (sins), and discipline of an experience outside of Eden. A child does not learn to walk without a few falls, but as soon as he understands the law of walking he need not continue falling. Eden means ignorance as well as innocence. Man must partake of the fruit of the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil," in order to discover the beauty and goodness of the good, and the value of its cultivation. Character, like thorns and thistles, only grows beyond the boundaries of Edenic beguilement. There must be a free choice of good from the midst of the abundance of its opposite; for even virtue involuntarily imposed is slavish and stale.
But the thorns and thistles beyond Eden are transformable by the "fallen" or rather the new man into blooming and fruitful bowers. Having developed the power to re-form, he becomes—by virtue of the divinity within him—a secondary creator. The thorns and thistles are found to be not "evil," but only unripened and undeveloped good. Edenic products come spontaneously; but after falling upward, man—real man—forms for himself. He has become as "a god," but even down to the close of the nineteenth century is still largely unconscious of it. Potentially he can take of the endless abundance of unmanifest good, and organize and express the same.
It is by the higher development of the intuitional and spiritual faculties—the divinity within—that man comes into conformity to the established order, blesses the ground that was "cursed," and is introduced into a new paradise infinitely superior to the old Eden. The toil and sweat now need come only in an effort to go backward. They are the "flaming sword," which, however, is more kindly to men than they are to themselves, because it forever bars them out of the captivating though deadly anesthesia of the Edenic paradise. The "Fall of Man" was a leap upward and onward. It was not only necessary, but good. Only by some experimental infraction of the higher law could its principles be discovered, and at length fully interpreted. But, having learned it, man need not longer "kick against the pricks" in order to find that they are sharp.
Things are lower or higher in their progressive relation, but there is no "evil" as an objective force or principle. The condition, so termed, is an inversion or attempted going back. Any plane viewed from the altitude of a higher one seems evil from relativity, rather than opposing abstract quality. Evolution is a ladder with many rounds. The lower ones, as steps, are useful in their times and places, but if lingered upon, a growth of thorns twines about them to urge us onward. The vital energy which men thoughtlessly squander, when turned higher is of supreme value as a motor. The animal in man—and every man has one—is not an enemy to be extirpated, but an able-bodied servant to be trained, controlled, and made an efficient helper.
In the human domain, evolution starts with the Adam, and has the Christ for its ideal and ultimate climax. The transition must be subjectively actualized in every human being. Adam is the concept of self as a physical body. Christ is the knowledge of self as mind, soul, spirit—divinity within. To wait for the evolution of the spiritual consciousness until after the event called death is to squander the divine birthright and heritage.
The supreme feature in the brilliant afterglow of the nineteenth century is the discovery that man does not need to wait to be pushed from behind, and torn by evolutionary friction, but that he can voluntarily unfold himself and escape it. Displacing a material with the spiritual consciousness lawfully assures progress. It is practically the "Christ-mind" in humanity, or the general incarnation. The single historic ideal was a first fruit, or really a life-size picture of man. The present universal spiritual gestation will end in a new evolutionary nativity.
The great upward trend, with its all-inclusive scope, brushes away all pessimism, and its numerous brood of uncanny shadows and specters. When rightly interpreted, these and all other human woes are but temporary wayside prods, to hurry us along to higher and more beautiful outlooks. To turn back is to invite friction. To drop down in conditions is to make them more binding; but partnership with law recreates them. We must focus our vision upon the expanding divinity within, which has long ago been involved, and is now pressing for expressive evolvement.