Monism as Connecting Religion and Science
Ernst Haeckel

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The following lecture on Monism is an informal address delivered
extemporaneously on October 9, 1892, at Altenburg, on the seventy-fifth
anniversary of the "Naturforschende Gesellschaft des Osterlandes." The
immediate occasion of it was a previous address delivered by Professor
Schlesinger of Vienna on "Scientific Articles of Faith." This
philosophical discourse contained, with reference to the weightiest and
most important problems of scientific investigation, much that was
indisputable; but it also contained some assertions that challenged
immediate rejoinder and a statement of the opposite view. As I had for
thirty years been very closely occupied with these problems of the
philosophy of nature, and had set forth my convictions with respect to
them in a number of writings, a wish was expressed by several members of
the Congress that on this occasion I should give a summary account of
these. It was in compliance with this wish that the following "Scientific
Confession of Faith" was uttered. The substance of it, as written from
recollection on the day after its delivery, first appeared in the
_Altenburger Zeitung of_ 19th October 1892. This was reproduced, with one
or two philosophical additions, in the November number _of_ the _Freie
Buehne fuer den Entwickelungskampf der Zeit_ (Berlin). In its present form
the Altenburg address is considerably enlarged, and some parts have been
more fully worked out. In the notes (p. 9 I) several burning questions of
the present day _have_ been dealt with from the monistic point of view.

The purpose of this candid confession of monistic faith is twofold.
First, it is my desire to give expression to that rational view of the
world which is being forced upon us with such logical rigour by the
modern advancements in our knowledge of nature as a unity, a view in
reality held by almost all unprejudiced and thinking men of science,
although but few have the courage (or the need) to declare it openly.
Secondly, I would fain establish thereby a bond between religion and
science, and thus contribute to the adjustment of the antithesis so
needlessly maintained between these, the two highest spheres in which the
mind of man can exercise itself; in monism the ethical demands of the
soul are satisfied, as well as the logical necessities of the

The rising flood of pamphlets and books published on this subject,
demonstrates that such a natural union of faith and knowledge, such a
reasonable reconciliation of the feelings and the reason, are daily
becoming a more pressing necessity for the educated classes. In North
America (in Chicago), there has been published for several years a weekly
journal devoted to this purpose: _The Open Court: A Weekly Journal
devoted to the Work of Conciliating Religion and Science_. Its worthy
editor, Dr. Paul Carus (author of _The Soul of Man_, 1891), devotes also
to the same task a quarterly journal under the title _The Monist_. It is
in the highest degree desirable that so worthy endeavours to draw
together the empirical and speculative views of nature, realism and
idealism, should have more attention and encouragement than they have
hitherto received, for it is only through a natural union of the two that
we can approach a realisation of the highest aim of mental activity-the
blending of religion and science in monism.

ERNST HAECKEL. JENA, _October_ 31, 1892

* * * * *


A society for investigating nature and ascertaining truth cannot
celebrate its commemoration day more fittingly than by a discussion of
its highest general problems. It must be regarded, therefore, with
satisfaction that the speaker on such an august occasion as this--the
seventy-fifth anniversary of your Society--has selected as the subject of
his address a theme of the highest general importance. Unfortunately, it
is becoming more and more the custom on such occasions, and even at the
general meetings of the great "Association of German Naturalists and
Physicians," to take the subject of address from a narrow and specialised
territory of restricted interest. If this growing custom is to be excused
on the grounds of increasing division of labour and of diverging
specialisation in all departments of work, it becomes all the more
necessary that, on such anniversaries as the present, the attention of
the audience should be invited to larger matters of common interest.

Such a topic, supreme in its importance, is that concerning "Scientific
Articles of Faith," upon which Professor Schlesinger has already
expounded his views.[1] I am glad to be able to agree with him in many
important points, but as to others I should like to express some
hesitation, and to ask consideration for some views which do not coincide
with his. At the outset, I am entirely at one with him as to that
unifying conception of nature as a whole which we designate in a single
word as Monism. By this we unambiguously express our conviction that
there lives "one spirit in all things," and that the whole cognisable
world is constituted, and has been developed, in accordance with one
common fundamental law. We emphasise by it, in particular, the essential
unity of inorganic and organic nature, the latter having been evolved
from the former only at a relatively late period.[2] We cannot draw a
sharp line of distinction between these two great divisions of nature,
any more than we can recognise an absolute distinction between the animal
and the vegetable kingdom, or between the lower animals and man.
Similarly, we regard the whole of human knowledge as a structural unity;
in this sphere we refuse to accept the distinction usually drawn between
the natural and the spiritual. The latter is only a part of the former
(or _vice versa_); both are one. Our monistic view of the world belongs,
therefore, to that group of philosophical systems which from other points
of view have been designated also as mechanical or as pantheistic.
However differently expressed in the philosophical systems of an
Empedocles or a Lucretius, a Spinoza or a Giordano Bruno, a Lamarck or a
David Strauss, the fundamental thought common to them all is ever that of
the oneness of the cosmos, of the indissoluble connection between energy
and matter, between mind and embodiment--or, as we may also say, between
God and the world--to which Goethe, Germany's greatest poet and thinker,
has given poetical expression in his _Faust_ and in the wonderful series
of poems entitled _Gott und Welt_.

That we may rightly appreciate what this Monism is, let us now, from a
philosophico-historical point of view cast a comprehensive glance over
the development in time of man's knowledge of nature. A long series of
varied conceptions and stages of human culture here passes before our
mental vision. At the lowest stage, the rude--we may say animal--phase of
prehistoric primitive man, is the "ape-man," who, in the course of the
tertiary period, has only to a limited degree raised himself above his
immediate pithecoid ancestors, the anthropoid apes. Next come successive
stages of the lowest and simplest kind of culture, such as only the
rudest of still existing primitive peoples enable us in some measure to
conceive. These "savages" are succeeded by peoples of a low civilisation,
and from these again, by a long series of intermediate steps, we rise
little by little to the more highly civilised nations. To these alone--of
the twelve races of mankind only to the Mediterranean and Mongolian--are
we indebted for what is usually called "universal history." This last,
extending over somewhat less than six thousand years, represents a period
of infinitesimal duration in the long millions of years of the organic
world's development.

Neither of the primitive men we have spoken of, nor of those who
immediately succeeded them, can we rightly predicate any knowledge of
nature. The rude primitive child of nature at this lowest stage of
development is as yet far from being the restless _Ursachenthier_
(cause-seeking animal) of Lichtenberg; his demand for causes has not yet
risen above that of apes and dogs; his curiosity has not yet mounted to
pure desire of knowledge. If we must speak of "reason" in connection with
pithecoid primitive man, it can only be in the same sense as that in
which we use the expression with reference to those other most highly
developed Mammals, and the same remark holds true of the first beginnings
of religion.[3]

It is indeed still not infrequently the custom to deny absolutely to the
lower animals reason and religion. An unprejudiced comparison, however,
convinces us that this is wrong. The slow and gradual process towards
completeness which, in the course of thousands of years, civilised life
has been working in the soul of man, has not passed away without leaving
some trace on the soul of our highest domestic animals also (above all,
of dogs and horses). Constant association with man, and the steady
influence of his training, have gradually, and by heredity, developed in
their brain higher associations of ideas and a more perfect judgment.
Drill has become instinct, an undeniable example of "the transmission of
acquired characters."[4]

Comparative psychology teaches us to recognise a very long series of
successive steps in the development of soul in the animal kingdom. But it
is only in the most highly developed vertebrates-birds and mammals--that
we discern the first beginnings of reason, the first traces of religious
and ethical conduct. In them we find not only the social virtues common
to all the higher socially-living animals,--neighbourly love, friendship,
fidelity, self-sacrifice, etc.,--but also consciousness, sense of duty,
and conscience; in relation to man their lord, the same obedience, the
same submissiveness, and the same craving for protection, which primitive
man in his turn shows towards his "gods." But in him, as in them, there
is yet wanting that higher degree of consciousness and of reason, which
strives after a _knowledge_ of the surrounding world, and which marks the
first beginning of philosophy or "wisdom." This last is the much later
attainment of civilised races; slowly and gradually has it been built up
from lower religious conceptions.

At all stages of primitive religion and early philosophy, man is as yet
far removed from monistic ideas. In searching out the causes of
phenomena, and exercising his understanding thereon, he is in the first
instance prone in every case to regard personal beings--in fact,
anthropomorphic deities--as the agents at work. In thunder and lightning,
in storm and earthquake, in the circling of sun and moon, in every
striking meteorological and geological occurrence, he sees the direct
activity of a personal god or spirit, who is usually thought of in a more
or less anthropomorphic way. Gods are distinguished as good and bad,
friendly and hostile, preserving and destroying, angels and devils.

This becomes true in a yet higher degree when the advancing pursuit of
knowledge begins to take into consideration the more complicated
phenomena of organic life also, the appearance and disappearance of
plants and animals, the life and death of man. The constitution of
organised life, so suggestive as it is of art and purpose, leads one at
once to compare it with the deliberately designed works of man, and thus
the vague conception of a personal god becomes transformed into that of a
creator working according to plan. As we know, this conception of organic
creation as the artistic work of an anthropomorphic god--of a divine
mechanic--generally maintained its ground almost everywhere, down even to
the middle of our own century, in spite of the fact that eminent thinkers
had demonstrated its untenability more than two thousand years ago. The
last noteworthy scientist to defend and apply this idea was Louis Agassiz
(died 1873). His notable _Essay on Classification_, 1857, developed that
theosophy with logical vigour, and thereby reduced it to an absurdity.[5]

All these older religious and teleological conceptions, as well as the
philosophical systems (such as those of Plato and of the Church fathers)
which sprang from them, are antimonistic; they stand in direct antithesis
to our monistic philosophy of nature. Most of them are dualistic,
regarding God and the world, creator and creature, spirit and matter, as
two completely separated substances. We find this express dualism also in
most of the purer church-religions, especially in the three most
important forms of monotheism which the three most renowned prophets of
the eastern Mediterranean--Moses, Christ, and Mohammed--founded. But
soon, in a number of impure varieties of these three religions, and yet
more in the lower forms of paganism, the place of this dualism is taken
by a philosophical pluralism, and over against the good and
world-sustaining deity (Osiris, Ormuzd, Vishnu), there is placed a wicked
and destroying god (Typhon, Ahriman, Siva). Numerous demi-gods or saints,
good and bad, sons and daughters of the gods, are associated with these
two chief deities, and take part with them in the administration and
government of the cosmos.

In all these dualistic and pluralistic systems the fundamental idea is
that of anthropomorphism, or the humanising of God; man himself, as
godlike (or directly descended from God), occupies a special position in
the world, and is separated by a great gulf from the rest of nature.
Conjoined with this, for the most part, is the anthropocentric idea, the
conviction that man is the central point of the universe, the last and
highest final cause of creation, and that the rest of nature was created
merely for the purpose of serving man. In the Middle Ages there was
associated at the same time with this last conception the geocentric
idea, according to which the earth as the abode of man was taken for the
fixed middle point of the universe, round which sun, moon, and stars
revolve. As Copernicus (1543) gave the death-blow to the geocentric
dogma, so did Darwin (1859) to the anthropocentric one closely associated
with it.[6] A broad historical and critical comparison of religious and
philosophical systems, as a whole, leads as a main result to the
conclusion that every great advance in the direction of profounder
knowledge has meant a breaking away from the traditional dualism (or
pluralism) and an approach to monism. Ever more clearly are we compelled
by reflection to recognise that God is not to be placed over against the
material world as an external being, but must be placed as a "divine
power" or "moving spirit" within the cosmos itself. Ever clearer does it
become that all the wonderful phenomena of nature around us, organic as
well as inorganic, are only various products of one and the same original
force, various combinations of one and the same primitive matter. Ever
more irresistibly is it borne in upon us that even the human soul is but
an insignificant part of the all-embracing "world-soul"; just as the
human body is only a small individual fraction of the great organised
physical world.

The great general principles of theoretical physics and chemistry are now
in a position to afford to this unifying conception of nature an exact,
to a certain extent, indeed, a mathematical confirmation. In establishing
the law of the "conservation of energy," Robert Mayer and Helmholtz
showed that the energy of the universe is a constant unchangeable
magnitude; if any energy whatever seems to vanish or to come anew into
play, this is only due to the transformation of one form of energy into
another. In the same way Lavoisier's law of the "conservation of matter"
shows us that the material of the cosmos is a constant unchangeable
magnitude; if any body seems to vanish (as, for example, by burning), or
to come anew into being (as, for example, by crystallisation), this also
is simply due to change of form or of combination. Both these great
laws--in physics, the fundamental law of the conservation of energy, and
in chemistry, of the conservation of matter--may be brought under one
philosophical conception as the law of the conservation of substance;
for, according to our monistic conception, energy and matter are
inseparable, being only different inalienable manifestations of one
single universal being-substance.[7] In a certain sense we can regard the
conception of "animated atoms" as essentially partaking of the nature of
this pure monism--a very ancient idea which more than two thousand years
ago Empedocles enunciated in his doctrine of "hate and love of the
elements." Modern physics and chemistry have indeed in the main accepted
the atomic hypothesis first enunciated by Democritus, in so far as they
regard all bodies as built up of atoms, and reduce all changes to
movements of these minutest-discrete particles. All these changes,
however, in organic as well as in inorganic nature, become truly
intelligible to us only if we conceive these atoms not as dead masses,
but as living elementary particles endowed with the power of attraction
and repulsion. "Pleasure" and "pain," and "love" and "hate," as
predicates of atoms are only other expressions for this power of
attraction and repulsion.

Although, however, monism is on the one hand for us an indispensable and
fundamental conception in science, and although, on the other hand, it
strives to carry back all phenomena, without exception, to the mechanism
of the atom, we must nevertheless still admit that as yet we are by no
means in a position to form any satisfactory conception of the exact
nature of these atoms, and their relation to the general space-filling,
universal ether. Chemistry long ago succeeded in reducing all the various
natural substances to combinations of a relatively small number of
elements; and the most recent advances of that science have now made it
in the highest degree probable that these elements or the (as yet)
irreducible primitive materials are themselves in turn only different
combinations of a varying number of atoms of one single original element.
But in all this we have not as yet obtained any further light as to the
real nature of these original atoms or their primal energies.

A number of the acutest thinkers have, so far in vain, endeavoured to
grapple more closely with this fundamental problem of the philosophy of
nature, and to determine more exactly the nature of atoms as well as
their relation to the space-filling ether. And the idea steadily gains
ground that no such thing as empty space exists, and that everywhere the
primitive atoms of ponderable matter or heavy "mass" are separated from
each other by the homogeneous ether which extends throughout all space.
This extremely light and attenuated (if not imponderable) ether causes,
by its vibrations, all the phenomena of light and heat, electricity and
magnetism. We can imagine it either as a continuous substance occupying
the space between the mass-atoms, or as composed of separate particles;
in the latter case we might perhaps attribute to these ether-atoms an
inherent power of repulsion in contrast to the immanent attracting power
of the heavy mass-atoms, and the whole mechanism of cosmic life would
then be reducible to the attraction of the latter and the repulsion of
the former. We might also place the "vibrations of the cosmic ether"
alongside of the "operation of space in general," in the sense in which
these words are used by Professor Schlesinger.

At any rate, theoretical physics has in recent years made an advance of
fundamental importance and widest reach in our knowledge of nature, in
that it has come nearer to a knowledge of this cosmic ether, and has
forced the question of its essence, its structure, and its motion into
the foreground of monistic nature-philosophy. Only a few years ago the
cosmic ether was to the majority of scientists an imponderable something,
of which, strictly speaking, absolutely nothing was known, and which
could be admitted provisionally only as a precarious working hypothesis.
All this was changed when Heinrich Hertz (1888) demonstrated the nature
of electrical energy, by his beautiful experiments establishing the
conjecture of Faraday that light and heat, electricity and magnetism, are
closely related phenomena of one single set of forces, and depend on
transverse vibrations of the ether. Light itself--whatever else it be--is
always and everywhere an electrical phenomenon. The ether itself is no
longer hypothetical; its existence can at any moment be demonstrated by
electrical and optical experiment. We know the length of the light wave
and the electric wave. Indeed, some physicists believe that they can even
determine approximately the density of ether. If by means of the airpump
we remove from a bell-jar the atmospheric air (except an insignificant
residue), the quantity of light within it remains unchanged; it is the
vibrating ether we see.[9] These advances in our knowledge of the ether
mean an immense gain for monistic philosophy. For they do away with the
erroneous ideas of empty space and _actio in distans_; the whole of
infinite space, in so far as it is not occupied by mass-atoms
("ponderable matter"), is filled by the ether. Our ideas of space and
time are quite other than those taught by Kant a hundred years ago; the
"critical" system of the great Koenigsberg philosopher exhibits in this
respect, as well as in his teleological view of the organic world and in
his metaphysics, dogmatic weaknesses of the most pronounced kind.[8] And
religion itself, in its reasonable forms, can take over the ether theory
as an article of faith, bringing into contradistinction the mobile cosmic
ether as creating divinity, and the inert heavy mass as material of
creation.[11] From this successfully scaled height of monistic knowledge
there open up before our joyously quickened spirit of research and
discovery new and surprising prospects, which promise to bring us still
nearer to the solution of the one great riddle of the world. What is the
relation of this light mobile cosmic ether to the heavy inert "mass," to
the ponderable matter which we chemically investigate, and which we can
only think of as constituted of atoms? Our modern analytical chemistry
remains for the present at a standstill, in presence of some seventy
irreducible elements, or so-called primary substances. But the reciprocal
relation of these elements, the affinity of their combinations, their
spectroscopic behaviour, and so forth, make it in the highest degree
probable that they are all merely historical products of an evolutionary
process, having their origin in various dispositions and combinations of
a varying number of original atoms.

To these original or mass-atoms--the ultimate discrete particles of inert
"ponderable matter"--we can with more or less probability ascribe a
number of eternal and inalienable fundamental attributes; they are
probably everywhere in space, of like magnitude and constitution.
Although possessing a definite finite magnitude, they are, by virtue of
their very nature, indivisible. Their shape we may take to be spherical;
they are inert (in the physical sense), unchangeable, inelastic, and
impenetrable by the ether. Apart from the attribute of inertia, the most
important characteristic of these ultimate atoms is their chemical
affinity--their tendency to apply themselves to one another and combine
into small groups in an orderly fashion. These fixed groups (fixed, that
is to say, under the present physical conditions of existence of the
earth) of primitive atoms are the atoms of the elements--the well-known
"indivisible" atoms of chemistry. The qualitative, and, so far as our
present empirical knowledge goes, unchangeable distinctions of our
chemical elements are therefore solely conditioned by the varying number
and disposition of the similar primitive atoms of which they are
composed. Thus, for example, the atom of carbon (the real "maker" of the
organic world) is in all probability a tetrahedron made up of four
primitive atoms.

After Mendelejeff and Lothar Meyer had discovered (1869) the "periodic
law" of the chemical elements, and founded on it a "natural system" of
these elements, this important advance in theoretical chemistry was
subsequently put to profitable use by Gustav Wendt from an evolutionary
point of view. He endeavoured to show that the various elements are
products of evolution or of historically originating combinations of
seven primary elements, and that these last again are historical products
of one single primitive element This hypothetical original matter had
been already designated by Crookes, in his _Genesis of the Elements_, as
primary material or protyl.[10] The empirical proof of the existence of
this original matter lying at the foundation of all ponderable material
is perhaps only a question of time. Its discovery would probably realise
the alchemists' hope of being able to produce gold and silver
artificially out of other elements. But then arises the other great
question: "How is this primary mass related to the cosmic ether? Do these
two original substances stand in fundamental and eternal antithesis to
one another? Or was it the mobile ether itself, perhaps, that originally
engendered the heavy mass?"[11]

In answer to this great and fundamental question, various physical
hypotheses have been put forward. But, like the various atomic theories
of chemistry, they have not as yet been clearly established, and the same
appears to me to be the case also with the ingenious hypothesis which the
lecturer has unfolded to us with reference to the Influence of Space. As
he himself rightly says, in all these endeavours after a philosophy of
nature we are still, for the present, dealing with "scientific articles
of faith," concerning the validity of which different persons, according
to their subjective judgment and stage of culture, may have widely
divergent views. I believe that the solution of these fundamental
questions still lies as yet beyond the limits of our knowledge of nature,
and that we shall be obliged, for a long time yet to come, to content
ourselves with an "Ignoramus"--if not even with an "Ignorabimus."

The case is very different, however, if we turn from these atomistic
element hypotheses and direct our attention to the historical conditions
of the evolution of the world, as these have been revealed to us by the
magnificent advances in our knowledge of nature which have been made
within the last thirty years. An immense new territory has here been
opened up to us in the realms of knowledge--a territory in which a series
of most important problems, formerly held to be insoluble, has been
answered in the most surprising manner.[12]

Among the triumphs of the human mind the modern doctrine of evolution
takes a foremost place. Guessed at by Goethe a hundred years ago, but not
expressed in definite form until formulated by Lamarck in the beginning
of the present century, it was at last, thirty years ago, decisively
established by Charles Darwin, his theory of selection filling up the gap
which Lamarck in his doctrine of the reciprocal influence of heredity and
adaptation had left open. We now definitely know that the organic world
on our earth has been as continuously developed, "in accordance with
eternal iron laws," as Lyell had in 1830 shown to be the case for the
inorganic frame of the earth itself; we know that the innumerable
varieties of animals and plants which during the course of millions of
years have peopled our planet are all simply branches of one single
genealogical tree; we know that the human race itself forms only one of
the newest, highest, and most perfect offshoots from the race of the

An unbroken series of natural events, following an orderly course of
evolution according to fixed laws, now leads the reflecting human spirit
through long aeons from a primeval chaos to the present "order of the
cosmos." At the outset there is nothing in infinite space but mobile
elastic ether, and innumerable similar separate particles--the primitive
atoms--scattered throughout it in the form of dust; perhaps these are
themselves originally "points of condensation" of the vibrating
"substance," the remainder of which constitutes the ether. The atoms of
our elements arise from the grouping together in definite numbers of the
primitive atoms or atoms of mass. As the Kant-Laplace nebular hypothesis
has it, the rotating heavenly bodies separate themselves out from that
vibrating primeval cloud. A single unit among many thousands of celestial
bodies is our sun, with its planets, which originated by being
centrifugally thrown off from it. Our insignificant earth is a single
planet of our solar system; its entire individual life is a product of
the sunlight. After the glowing sphere of the earth has cooled down to a
certain degree, drops of fluid water precipitate themselves on the
hardened crust of its surface--the first preliminary condition of organic
life. Carbon atoms begin their organism-engendering activity, and unite
with the other elements into plasma-combinations capable of growing. One
small plasma-group oversteps the limits of cohesion and individual
growth; it falls asunder into two similar halves. With this first moneron
begins organic life and its most distinctive function, heredity. In the
homogeneous plasma of the monera, a firmer central nucleus is separated
from a softer outer mass; through this differentiation of nucleus and
protoplasm arises the first organic cell. For a long time our planet was
inhabited solely by such Protista or single-celled primitive creatures.
From coenobia or social unions of these afterwards arose the lowest
histones, multicellular plants and animals.

By the sure help of the three great empirical "records of creation,"
palaeontology, comparative anatomy, and ontogeny, the history of descent
now leads us on step by step from the oldest Metazoa, the simplest
pluricellular animals, up to man.[13] At the lowest root of the common
genealogy of the Metazoa stand the Gastraeadae and Spongidae; their whole
body consists, in the simplest case, solely of a round digestive sac, the
thin wall of which is formed by two layers of cells--the two primitive
germinal layers. A corresponding germinal condition, the two-layered
gastrula, occurs transitorily in the embryological history of all the
other Metazoa, from the lowest Cnidaria and Vermes up to man. From the
common stock of the Helminthes, or simple worms, there develop as
independent main branches the four separate stems of the Molluscs,
Star-fishes, Arthropods, and Vertebrates. It is only these last whose
bodily structure and development in all essential respects coincide with
those of man. A long series of lower aquatic Vertebrates (lancelets,
lampreys, fishes) precedes the lungbreathing Amphibians, which appear for
the first time in the Carboniferous period. The Amphibians are followed
in the Permian period by the first Amniota, the oldest reptiles; from
these develop later, in the Triassic period, the Birds on the one hand,
and the Mammals on the other. That man in his whole bodily frame is a
true mammal, becomes obvious as soon as the natural unity of this highest
class of animals is recognised. The simplest comparison must have
convinced the unprejudiced observer of the close constitutional
relationship between man and the ape, which of all the Mammals comes
nearest him. Comparative anatomy, with its deeper vision, showed that all
differences in bodily structure between man and the Anthropoidea
(gorilla, chimpanzee, orang) are less important than the corresponding
differences in bodily structure between these anthropoid apes and the
lower apes. The phylogenetic significance of this fact, first emphasised
by Huxley, is quite clear. The great question of the origin of the human
race, or of "man's place in Nature," the "question of all questions," was
then scientifically answered: "Man is descended from a series of ape-like
Mammals." The descent of man (anthropogeny) discloses the long series of
vertebrate ancestors, which preceded the late origin of this, its most
highly developed offshoot.[13]

The incalculable importance of the light cast over the whole field of
human knowledge of nature by these results is patent to everyone. They
are destined every year increasingly to manifest their transforming
influence in all departments of knowledge, the more the conviction of
their irrefragable truth forces its way. And it is only the ignorant or
narrow-minded who can now doubt their truth. If, indeed, here and there,
one of the older naturalists still disputes, the foundation on which they
rest, or demands proofs which are wanting (as happened a few weeks ago on
the part of a famous German pathologist at the Anthropological Congress
in Moscow), he only shows by this that he has remained a stranger to the
stupendous advances of recent biology, and above all of anthropogeny. The
whole literature of modern biology, the whole of our present zoology and
botany, morphology and physiology, anthropology and psychology, are
pervaded and fertilised by the theory of descent.[14]

Just as the natural doctrine of development on a monistic basis has
cleared up and elucidated the whole field of natural phenomena in their
physical aspect, it has also modified that of the phenomena of mind,
which is inseparably connected with the other. Our human body has been
built up slowly and by degrees from a long series of vertebrate
ancestors, and this is also true of our soul; as a function of our brain
it has gradually been developed in reciprocal action and re-action with
this its bodily organ. What we briefly designate as the "human soul," is
only the sum of our feeling, willing, and thinking--the sum of those
physiological functions whose elementary organs are constituted by the
microscopic ganglion-cells of our brain. Comparative anatomy and ontogeny
show us how the wonderful structure of this last, the organ of our human
soul, has in the course of millions of years been gradually built up from
the brains of higher and lower vertebrates. Comparative psychology
teaches us how, hand in hand therewith, the soul itself, as function of
the brain, has been developed. The last-named science teaches us also
that a primitive form of soul-activity is already present even in the
lowest animals, the single-celled primitive animals, Infusoria and
Rhizopoda. Every scientific man who has long observed the life-activity
of these single-celled Protista, is positively convinced that they also
possess a soul; that this "cell-soul" also consists of a sum of
sensations, perceptions, and volitions; the feeling, thinking, and
willing of our human soul differ from these only in degree. In like
manner there is present in the egg-cell (as potential energy) a
hereditary cell-soul, out of which man, like every other animal, is

The first task of a truly scientific psychology will therefore be, not,
as hitherto, idle speculation about an independent immaterial
soul-existence and its puzzling temporary connection with the animal
body, but rather the comparative investigation of the organs of the soul
and the experimental examination of their psychical functions. For
scientific psychology is a part of physiology, the doctrine of the
functions and the life-activities of organisms. The psychology and
psychiatry of the future, like the physiology and pathology of to-day,
must take the form of a cellular study, and in the first instance
investigate the soul-functions of the cells. Max Verworn, in his fine
_Psycho-physiological Protistastudies_, has lately shown us what
important disclosures such a cellular psychology can make, even in
dealing with the lowest grades of organic life, in the single-celled
Protista (especially Rhizopoda and Infusoria).

These same main divisions of soul-activity, which are to be met with in
the single-celled organism,--the phenomena of irritability, sensation,
and motion,--can be shown to exist in all multicellular organisms as
functions of the cells of which their bodies are composed. In the lowest
Metazoa, the invertebrate sponges and polyps, there are, just as in
plants, no special soul-organs developed, and all the cells of the body
participate more or less in the "soul-life." It is only in the higher
animals that the soul-life is found to be localised and connected with
special organs. As a consequence of division of labour, there have here
been developed various sense-organs as organs of specific sensibility,
muscles as organs of motion and volition, nerve-centres or ganglia as
central co-ordinating and regulating organs. In the most highly developed
families of the animal kingdom, these last come more and more into the
foreground as independent soul-organs. In correspondence with the
extraordinarily complicated structure of their central nervous system
(the brain with its wonderful complex of ganglion-cells and
nerve-fibres), the many-sided activity of such animals attains a
wonderful degree of development.

It is only in these most highly-developed groups of the animal kingdom
that we can with certainty establish the existence of those most perfect
operations of the central nervous system, which we designate as
consciousness. As we know, it is precisely this highest brain-function
that still continues to be looked upon as a completely enigmatical
phenomenon, and as the best proof for the immaterial existence of an
immortal soul. It is usual at the same time to appeal to Du
Bois-Reymond's well-known "Ignorabimus address on the Boundaries of
Natural Knowledge" (1872). It was by a peculiar irony of fate that the
famous lecturer of the Berlin Academy of Science, in this much-discussed
address of twenty years ago, should be representing consciousness as an
incomprehensible marvel, and as presenting an insuperable barrier to
further advances of knowledge, at the very moment that David Friedrich
Strauss, the greatest theologian of our century, was showing it to be the
opposite. The clear-sighted author of _The Old Faith and the New_ had
already clearly perceived that the soul-activities of man, and therefore
also his consciousness, as functions of the central nervous system, all
spring from a common source, and, from a monistic point of view, come
under the same category. The "exact" Berlin physiologist shut this
knowledge out from his mind, and, with a short-sightedness almost
inconceivable, placed this special neurological question alongside of the
one great "world-riddle," the fundamental question of substance, the
general question of the connection between matter and energy.[16]

As I long ago pointed out, these two great questions are not two separate
"world-riddles." The neurological problem of consciousness is only a
special case of the all comprehending cosmological problem, the question
of substance. "If we understood the nature of matter and energy, we
should also understand how the substance underlying them can under
certain conditions feel, desire, and think." Consciousness, like feeling
and willing, among the higher animals is a mechanical work of the
ganglion-cells, and as such must be carried back to chemical and physical
events in the plasma of these. And by the employment of the genetic and
comparative method we reach the conviction that consciousness, and
consequently reason also, is not a brain-function exclusively peculiar to
man; it occurs also in many of the higher animals, not in Vertebrates
only, but even in Articulates. Only in degree, through a higher stage of
cultivation, does the consciousness of man differ from that of the more
perfect lower animals, and the same is true of all other activities of
the human soul.

By these and other results of comparative physiology our whole psychology
is placed on a new and firm monistic basis. The older mystical conception
of the soul, as we find it amongst primitive peoples, but also in the
systems of the dualistic philosophers of to-day, is refuted by them.
According to these systems, the soul of man (and of the higher animals)
is a separate entity, which inhabits and rules the body only during its
individual life, but leaves it at death. The widespread "piano-theory"
(_Claviertheorie_) compares the "immortal soul" to a pianist who executes
an interesting piece--the individual life--on the instrument of the
mortal body, but at death withdraws into the other world. This "immortal
soul" is usually represented as an immaterial being; but in fact it is
really thought of as quite material, only as a finer invisible being,
aerial or gaseous, or as resembling the mobile, light, and thin substance
of the ether, as conceived by modern physics. The same is true also for
most of the conceptions which rude primitive peoples and the uneducated
classes among the civilised races have, for thousands of years, cherished
as to spectral "ghosts" and "gods." Serious reflection on the matter
shows that here--as in modern spiritualism--it is not with really
immaterial beings, but with gaseous, invisible bodies, that we are
dealing. And further, we are utterly incapable of imagining a truly
immaterial being. As Goethe clearly said, "matter can never exist or act
apart from spirit, neither can spirit apart from matter."

As regards immortality, it is well known that this important idea is
interpreted and applied in a great variety of ways. It is often made a
reproach against our Monism that it altogether denies immortality; this,
however, is erroneous. Rather do we hold it, in a strictly scientific
sense, as an indispensable fundamental conception of our monistic
philosophy of nature. Immortality in a scientific sense is conservation
of substance, therefore the same as conservation of energy as defined by
physics, or conservation of matter as defined by chemistry. The cosmos as
a whole is immortal. It is just as inconceivable that any of the atoms of
our brain or of the energies of our spirit should vanish out of the
world, as that any other particle of matter or energy could do so. At our
death there disappears only the individual form in which the
nerve-substance was fashioned, and the personal "soul" which represented
the work performed by this. The complicated chemical combinations of that
nervous mass pass over into other combinations by decomposition, and the
kinetic energy produced by them is transformed into other forms of

"Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw."

On the other hand, the conception of a personal immortality cannot be
maintained. If this idea is still widely held, the fact is to be
explained by the physical law of inertia; for the property of persistence
in a state of rest exercises its influence in the region of the
ganglion-cells of the brain, as well as in all other natural bodies.
Traditional ideas handed down through many generations are maintained
with the greatest tenacity by the human brain, especially if, in early
youth, they have been instilled into the childish understanding as
indisputable dogmas. Such hereditary articles of faith take root all the
more firmly, the further they are removed from a rational knowledge of
nature, and enveloped in the mysterious mantle of mythological poesy. In
the case of the dogma of personal immortality, there comes into play also
the interest which man fancies himself to have in his individual future
existence after death, and the vain hope that in a blessed world to come
there is treasured up for him a compensation for the disappointed hopes
and the many sorrows of his earthly life.

It is often asserted by the numerous advocates of personal immortality
that this dogma is an innate one, common to all rational men, and that it
is taught in all the more perfect forms of religion. But this is not
correct. Neither Buddhism nor the religion of Moses originally contained
the dogma of personal immortality, and just as little did the majority of
educated people of classical antiquity believe it, at any rate during the
highest period of Greek culture. The monistic philosophy of that time,
which, five hundred years before our era, had reached speculative heights
so remarkable, knew nothing of any such dogma. It was through Plato and
Christ that it received its further elaboration, until, in the Middle
Ages, it was so universally accepted, that only now and then did some
bold thinker dare openly to gainsay it. The idea that a conviction of
personal immortality has a specially ennobling influence on the moral
nature of man, is not confirmed by the gruesome history of mediaeval
morals, and as little by the psychology of primitive peoples.[17]

If any antiquated school of purely speculative psychology still continues
to uphold this irrational dogma, the fact can only be regarded as a
deplorable anachronism. Sixty years ago such a doctrine was excusable,
for then nothing was accurately known either of the finer structure of
the brain, or of the physiological functions of its separate parts; its
elementary organs, the microscopic ganglion-cells, were almost unknown,
as was also the cell-soul of the Protista; very imperfect ideas were held
as to ontogenetic development, and as to phylogenetic there were none at

This has all been completely changed in the course of the last
half-century. Modern physiology has already to a great extent
demonstrated the localisation of the various activities of mind, and
their connection with definite parts of the brain; psychiatry has shown
that those psychical processes are disturbed or destroyed if these parts
of the brain become diseased or degenerate. Histology has revealed to us
the extremely complicated structure and arrangement of the
ganglion-cells. But, for the settlement of this momentous question, the
discoveries of the last ten years with regard to the more minute
occurrences in the process of fertilisation are of decisive importance.
We now know that this process essentially consists simply in the
copulation or fusion of two microscopical cells, the female egg-cell and
the male sperm-cell. The fusion of the nuclei of these two sexual cells
indicates with the utmost precision the exact moment at which the new
human individual arises. The newly-formed parent-cell, or fertilised
egg-cell, contains potentially, in their rudiments, all the bodily and
mental characteristics which the child inherits from both parents. It is
clearly against reason to assume an eternal and unending life for an
individual phenomenon whose beginning in time we can determine to a
hair's breadth, by direct observation. Judging of human spiritual life
from a rational point of view, we can as little think of our individual
soul as separated from our brain, as we can conceive the voluntary motion
of our arm apart from the contraction of its muscles, or the circulation
of our blood apart from the action of the heart.

Against this strictly physiological conception, as against our whole
monistic view of the relations of energy and matter, of soul and
substance, the reproach of "materialism" continues to be raised. I have
repeatedly before now pointed out that this is an ambiguous party word
which conveys absolutely nothing; its apparent opposite, "spiritualism,"
could quite easily be substituted for it. Every critical thinker, who is
familiar with the history of philosophy, knows that, as systems change,
such words assume the most varied meanings, In addition to this, the word
"materialism" has the disadvantage of being liable to continual confusion
between its theoretical and practical meanings, which two are totally
distinct. Our conception of Monism, or the unity-philosophy, on the
contrary, is clear and unambiguous; for it an immaterial living spirit
is just as unthinkable as a dead, spiritless material; the two are
inseparably combined in every atom. The opposed conception of dualism (or
even pluralism in other anti-monistic systems) regards spirit and
material, energy and matter, as two essentially different substances; but
not a single empirical proof can be adduced to show that either of these
can exist or become perceptible to us by itself alone.

In thus shortly indicating the far-reaching psychological consequences of
the monistic doctrine of evolution, I trench at the same time upon a most
important field, to which our lecturer in his address has more than once
alluded--that of religion and the belief in God connected therewith. I am
at one with him in the conviction that the formation of clear
philosophical conceptions upon these fundamental matters of belief is of
the highest importance, and I would therefore crave the permission of
this assembly briefly to lay before it on this occasion a frank
confession of faith. This monistic confession has the greater claim to an
unprejudiced consideration, in that it is shared, I am firmly convinced,
by at least nine-tenths of the men of science now living; indeed, I
believe, by all men of science in whom the following four conditions are
realised: (1) Sufficient acquaintance with the various departments of
natural science, and in particular with the modern doctrine of evolution;
(2) Sufficient acuteness and clearness of judgment to draw, by induction
and deduction, the necessary logical consequences that flow from such
empirical knowledge; (3) Sufficient moral courage to maintain the
monistic knowledge, so gained, against the attacks of hostile dualistic
and pluralistic systems; and (4) Sufficient strength of mind to free
himself, by sound, independent reasoning, from dominant religious
prejudices, and especially from those irrational dogmas which have been
firmly lodged in our minds from earliest youth as indisputable

If from this unprejudiced point of view of the thinker, we compare the
numerous religions of the various races of mankind, we shall be
compelled, in the first instance, to put aside as untenable all those
conceptions which stand in irreconcilable contradiction to those
principles of our empirical knowledge of nature which are now clearly
discerned and established by critical reasoning. We can thus at once set
aside all mythological stories, all "miracles," and so-called
"revelations," for which it is claimed that they have come to us in some
supernatural way. All such mystical teachings are irrational, inasmuch as
they are confirmed by no actual experience, but, on the contrary, are
irreconcilable with the known facts which have been confirmed to us by a
rational investigation of nature.

This is true alike of Christian and Mosaic, of Mohammedan and Indian
legends. If now we thus lay aside the whole mass of mystical dogmas and
transcendental revelations, there is left behind, as the precious and
priceless kernel of true religion, the purified ethic that rests on
rational anthropology.[18]

Among the numerous and varied forms of religion which, in the course of
the past ten thousand years and more, have been evolved from the crudest
prehistoric beginnings, the foremost rank undoubtedly belongs to those
two forms which still continue to be the most widely accepted among
civilised races--the older Buddhism and the younger Christianity. The two
have very many features in common, alike in their mythology and in their
ethics; indeed, a considerable part of Christianity has come directly
from Indian Buddhism, just as another part is drawn from the Mosaic and
Platonic systems. But, looked at from the point of view of our present
stage of culture, the ethic of Christianity appears to us much more
perfect and pure than that of any other religion. We must, it is true,
hasten to add that it is exactly the weightiest and noblest principles of
Christian ethic--brotherly love, fidelity to duty, love of truth,
obedience to law--that are by no means peculiar to the Christian faith as
such, but are of much older origin. Comparative psychology proves that
these ethical principles were more or less recognised and practised by
much older civilised races thousands of years before Christ.

Love remains the supreme moral law of rational religion, the love, that
is to say, that holds the balance between egoism and altruism, between
self-love and love of others. "Do to others as you would they should do
to you." This natural and highest command had been taught and followed
thousands of years before Christ said: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself." In the human family this maxim has always been accepted as
self-evident; as ethical instinct it was an inheritance derived from our
animal ancestors. It had already found a place among the herds of Apes
and other social Mammals; in a similar manner, but with a wider scope, it
was already present in the most primitive communities and among the
hordes of the least advanced savages. Brotherly love--mutual support,
succour, protection, and the like---had already made its appearance among
gregarious animals as a social duty; for without it the continued
existence of such societies is impossible. Although at a later period, in
the case of man, these moral foundations of society came to be much more
highly developed, their oldest prehistoric source, as Darwin has shown,
is to be sought in the social instincts of animals. Among the higher
Vertebrates (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.), as among the higher
Articulates (ants, bees, termites, etc.) also, the development of social
relations and duties is the indispensable condition of their living
together in orderly societies. Such societies have for man also been the
most important instrument of intellectual and moral progress.

Beyond all doubt the present degree of human culture owes in great part
its perfection to the propagation of the Christian system of morals and
its ennobling influence, although the great value of this has been
impaired, often in the most deplorable manner, by its association with
untenable myths and so-called "revelations." How little these last
contribute to the perfection of the first, can be seen from the
acknowledged historical fact that it is just orthodoxy and the
hierarchical system based on it (especially that of the Papacy) that has
least of all striven to fulfil the precepts of Christian morality; the
more loudly they preach it in theory, the less do they themselves fulfil
its commands in practice.

It is, moreover, to be borne in mind that another and very considerable
portion of our modern culture and morality has been developed quite
independently of Christianity, mainly through continual study of the
highly-elaborated mental treasures of classical antiquity. The thorough
study of Greek and Roman classics has at least contributed much more to
it than that of the Christian Church fathers. To this we must now add, in
our own century (rightly called the "century of the natural sciences"),
the immense advance in the higher culture which we owe to a purified
knowledge of nature and to the monistic philosophy founded upon this.
That these must also exercise an advancing and ennobling influence cannot
be doubted, and has already been shown by many eminent authors (Spencer,
Carneri, and others) in the course of the last thirty years.[18]

Against this monistic ethic founded on a rational knowledge of nature, it
has been objected that it is fitted to undermine existing civilisation,
and especially that it encourages the subversive aims of social
democracy. This reproach is wholly unjustified. The application of
philosophical principles to the practical conditions of life, and in
particular to social and political questions, can be made in the most
various ways. Political "free-thinking," so called, has nothing whatever
to do with the "freedom of thought" of our monistic natural religion.
Moreover, I am convinced that the rational morality of monistic religion
is in no way contrary to the good and truly valuable elements of the
Christian ethic, but is destined in conjunction with these to promote the
true progress of humanity in the future.

With Christian mythology and the special form of theistic belief
associated with it the case is different. In so far as that belief
involves the notion of a "personal God," it has been rendered quite
untenable by the recent advances of monistic science. But, more than
this, it was shown more than two thousand years ago, by eminent exponents
of the monistic philosophy, that the conception of a personal God,
creator and ruler of the world, does not give the slightest help toward a
truly rational view of the world. For even if the question of "creation,"
in the ordinary and trivial sense of the term, be answered by referring
it to the miraculous agency of a creator working according to plan apart
from the world, there immediately arises upon that the new inquiry:
"Whence comes this personal God? What was He doing before creation? And
whence did He derive the material for it?" and such like questions. The
antiquated conception of an anthropomorphic personal God is destined,
before the present century is ended, to drop out of currency throughout
the entire domain of truly scientific philosophy; the corresponding
conception of a personal devil--even as late as last century connected
with the former and very generally accepted--has already been given up
once for all by all persons of education.

Let it be noted, however, in passing, that the amphitheism which believes
in God and devil alike is much more compatible with a rational
explanation of the world than pure monotheism. The purest form of this is
perhaps the amphitheism of the Zend religion of Persia, which Zoroaster
(or Zarathustra, the "Golden Star") founded two thousand years before
Christ. Here Ormuzd, the god of light and goodness, stands everywhere in
conflict with Ahriman, the god of darkness and evil. The continual
conflict between a good and an evil principle was personified in a
similar manner in the mythology of many other amphitheistic religions: in
the old Egyptian, the good Osiris was at war with the evil Typhon; in the
old Indian, Vishnu the sustainer with Siva the destroyer, and so forth.

If we really must retain the conception of a personal God as the key to
our view of the universe, then this amphitheism can explain the sorrows
and defects of this world very simply, as being the work of the evil
principle or devil. Pure monotheism, on the contrary, as represented in
the religions of Moses and Mohammed in their original form, has no
rational explanation of these to offer. If their "one God" is really the
absolutely good, perfect being they proclaim, then the world which he has
created must also be perfect. An organic world so imperfect and full of
sorrows as exists on this earth he could not possibly have contrived.

These considerations gain in force when we advance to the deeper
knowledge of nature acquired by modern biology; here it was Darwin,
especially, who thirty-three years ago opened our eyes by his doctrine of
the struggle for existence, and his theory of selection founded upon it.
We now know that the whole of organic nature on our planet exists only by
a relentless war of all against all. Thousands of animals and plants must
daily perish in every part of the earth, in order that a few chosen
individuals may continue to subsist and to enjoy life. But even the
existence of these favoured few is a continual conflict with threatening
dangers of every kind. Thousands of hopeful germs perish uselessly every
minute. The raging war of interests in human society is only a feeble
picture of the unceasing and terrible war of existence which reigns
throughout the whole of the living world. The beautiful dream of God's
goodness and wisdom in nature, to which as children we listened so
devoutly fifty years ago, no longer finds credit now--at least among
educated people who think. It has disappeared before our deeper
acquaintance with the mutual relations of organisms, the advancement of
oecology and sociology, and our knowledge of parasite life and pathology.

All these sad but insuperable facts--truly the dark side of nature--are
made intelligible to religious faith by amphitheism; they are the "works
of the devil," who opposes and disturbs the perfect moral order in the
world of the "good God." For pure monotheism which knows only one God,
one perfect highest being, they remain unintelligible. If, with a
monotheistic creed, any one still continues to talk of the moral order of
the world, he in so doing shuts his eyes to the undeniable facts of
history, both natural and civil.

In view of these considerations, it is hard to understand how the large
majority of the so-called educated classes can persevere, on the one
hand, in declaring belief in a personal God to be an indispensable
principle of religion, and, on the other hand, in at the same time
rejecting the belief in a personal devil as an exploded superstition of
the Middle Ages. This inconsistency on the part of educated Christians is
all the more incomprehensible and censurable, inasmuch as both dogmas in
equal degree form an integral part of the Christian creed. The personal
devil, as "Satan," "the Tempter," "the Destroyer," and so forth,
undeniably plays a most important part in the New Testament, though not
met with in the earlier portions of the Old. Our great reformer, Martin
Luther himself, who "sent to the devil" so many antiquated dogmas, was
unable to rid himself of the conviction of the real existence and
personal enmity of Beelzebub; we have only to think of the historical
ink-spot at Wartburg! Moreover, our Christian art, in many thousands of
paintings and other representations, has exhibited Satan in corporeal
form just as realistically as it has the three "Divine Persons," about
whose "hypostatical union" human reason has for eighteen hundred years
been tormenting itself in vain. The deep impression made by such concrete
representations, a million times repeated, especially on childish
understandings, is usually under-estimated as to its tremendous
influence; to it certainly is in large measure to be attributed the fact
that irrational myths of such a kind, under the mask of "doctrines of
faith," continue to hold their ground in spite of all protests of reason.

Liberal-minded Christian theologians have, it is true, often sought to
eliminate the personal devil from Christian teaching, representing him as
merely the personification of falsehood, the spirit of evil. But with
equal right we must in that case substitute for a personal God the
personified idea of truth, the Spirit of Goodness. To such a
representation no objection can be made; rather do we recognise in it a
bridge connecting the dim wonderland of religious poesy with the luminous
realms of clear scientific knowledge.

The monistic idea of God, which alone is compatible with our present
knowledge of nature, recognises the divine spirit in all things. It can
never recognise in God a "personal being," or, in other words, an
individual of limited extension in space, or even of human form. God is
everywhere. As Giordano Bruno has it: "There is one spirit in all things,
and nobody is so small that it does not contain a part of the divine
substance whereby it is animated." Every atom is thus animated, and so is
the ether; we might, therefore, represent God as the infinite sum of all
natural forces, the sum of all atomic forces and all ether-vibrations. It
comes virtually to the same thing when (as was done here by a speaker on
a former occasion) God is defined as "the supreme law of the universe,"
and the latter is represented as the "working of universal space." In
this most important article of belief it matters not as to the name but
as to the unity of the underlying idea; the unity of God and the world;
of spirit and nature. On the other hand, "homotheism," the
anthropomorphic representation of God, degrades this loftiest cosmic idea
to that of a "gaseous vertebrate."[19]

Of the various systems of pantheism which for long have given expression
more or less clearly to the monistic conception of God, the most perfect
is certainly that of Spinoza. To this system, as is well known, Goethe
also paid the tribute of his highest admiration and approval. Of other,
eminent men who have given a similar pantheistic form to their natural
religion, we shall here mention only two of the greatest poets and
students of man, Shakespeare and Lessing; two of the greatest German
rulers, Frederick II. of Hohenstaufen and Frederick II. of Hohenzollern;
two of the greatest scientists, Laplace and Darwin. In adding our own
pantheistic confession to that of these great and untrammelled spirits,
let it only be noted further, that it has received an empirical
confirmation, never before imagined, through the wonderful advances of
natural knowledge within the last thirty years.

The charge of atheism which still continues to be levelled against our
pantheism, and against the monism which lies at its root, no longer finds
a response among the really educated classes of the present day. It is
true that not so very long ago the German Imperial Chancellor, in the
Prussian Chamber of Deputies, found it in him to put forward such an
alternative as this: "Either the Christian or the atheistic view of the
world"; this in the defence of a most objectionable law, designed to hand
over our school training, tied hand and foot, to the papal hierarchy. The
vast distance which separates the last-named degenerate outgrowth of the
Christian religion from pure primitive Christianity is not greater than
that which separates those mediaeval alternatives from the cultured
religious consciousness of the present day. To one who regards as true
exercises of Christian religion the adoration of old clothes and wax
dolls, or the thoughtless repetition of masses or rosaries, who believes
in wonder-working relics, and purchases pardon for his sins by means of
indulgence-money or Peter's pence, we willingly concede the claim to
possess the "only saving religion"; but with such fetish-worshippers we
will willingly submit to be ranked as "atheists."

In like case with the charge of atheism and irreligion are those so often
heard against monism, that it destroys the poetry of life and fails to
satisfy the spiritual wants of human nature; we are told, in particular,
that aesthetics--certainly a most important department both in
theoretical philosophy and in practical life--is prejudiced by a monistic
philosophy. But David Friedrich Strauss, one of our subtlest exponents of
aesthetics and also one of our noblest writers, has already refuted such
a charge; and shown how, on the contrary, the care for poetry and the
cultivation of the beautiful are in the "new faith" called upon to play a
still greater part than ever. My present hearers, at once investigators
and lovers of nature, do not need to be told that every new insight which
we obtain into the secrets of nature at the same time also kindles our
souls, affords new material for imagination to work on, and enlarges our
perception of the beautiful. To convince ourselves how closely all these
noblest spiritual activities of man hang together, how intimately the
knowledge of truth is bound up with the love of goodness and veneration
of the beautiful, it will be enough to mention a single name, Germany's
greatest genius--Wolfgang Goethe.

If the perception of the aesthetic significance of our monistic
nature-religion, as well as of its ethical value, has hitherto so little
pervaded the educated classes, this is due chiefly to the defects of our
school training. It is true that in the course of the last few decades an
infinite deal has been spoken and written about school reform and the
principles of education; but of any real progress there is as yet but
little trace. Here also reigns the physical law of inertia; here
also--and more especially in German schools--the scholasticism of the
Middle Ages exhibits a power of inertia, against which any rational
reform of education must laboriously contest every inch of ground. In
this important department also, a department on which hangs the weal or
woe of future generations, matters will not improve till the monistic
doctrine of nature is accepted as the essential and sure foundation.

The school of the twentieth century, flourishing anew on this firm
ground, shall have to unfold to the rising youth not only the wonderful
truths of the evolution of the cosmos, but also the inexhaustible
treasures of beauty lying everywhere hidden therein. Whether we marvel at
the majesty of the lofty mountains or the magic world of the sea, whether
with the telescope we explore the infinitely great wonders of the starry
heaven, or with the microscope the yet more surprising wonders of a life
infinitely small, everywhere does Divine Nature open up to us an
inexhaustible fountain of aesthetic enjoyment. Blind and insensible have
the great majority of mankind hitherto wandered through this glorious
wonderland of a world; a sickly and unnatural theology has made it
repulsive as a "vale of tears." But now, at last, it is given to the
mightily advancing human mind to have its eyes opened; it is given to it
to show that a true knowledge of nature affords full satisfaction and
inexhaustible nourishment not only for its searching understanding, but
also for its yearning spirit.

Monistic investigation of nature as knowledge of the true, monistic ethic
as training for the good, monistic aesthetic as pursuit of the
beautiful--these are the three great departments of our monism: by the
harmonious and consistent cultivation of these we effect at last the
truly beatific union of religion and science, so painfully longed after
by so many to-day. The True, the Beautiful, and the Good, these are the
three august Divine Ones before which we bow the knee in adoration; in
the unforced combination and mutual supplementing of these we gain the
pure idea of God.[20] To this "triune" Divine Ideal shall the coming
twentieth century build its altars.

Ten years ago I was present at the celebration of the third centenary of
the university of Wuerzburg, which forty years ago I had entered as a
medical student. The festal address on that occasion was delivered in the
university church by the then rector, the distinguished chemist, Johannes
Wislicenus. His concluding words were: "God, the Spirit of Goodness and
of Truth, grant it." I now add, "and the Spirit of Beauty." It is in this
sense that I also, on this commemorative occasion, dedicate to you my
best wishes. May the investigation of nature's secrets flourish and
prosper in this corner of our Thueringian land also, and may the fruits of
knowledge, ripening here in Altenburg, contribute no less to the culture
of the spirit and to the advancement of true religion, than those which
three hundred and seventy years ago the great reformer, Martin Luther,
brought to the light of day in another corner of Thueringen, on the
Wartburg at Eisenach.

Between Wartburg and Altenburg, on the northern border of Thueringen, lies
Weimar, the classical City of the Muses, and, close by it, our national
university of Jena. I regard it as a good omen that precisely at this
moment a rare celebration should have called together in Weimar the most
illustrious patrons of the university of Jena, the defenders of free
research and free teaching.[21] In the hope that the defence and
promotion of these may still be continued, I conclude my monistic
Confession of Faith with the words: "May God, the Spirit of the Good, the
Beautiful, and the True, be with us."

* * * * *


[1] _Scientific Articles of Faith_.

In Professor Schlesinger's address (delivered on 9th October at
Altenburg) on this subject he rightly called attention to the limits of
knowledge of nature (in Kant's sense of the terms) imposed upon us by the
imperfection of our perceptive organs. The gaps which the empirical
investigation of nature must thus leave in science, can, however, be
filled up by hypotheses, by conjectures of more or less probability.
These we cannot indeed for the time establish on a secure basis; and yet
we may make use of them in the way of explaining phenomena, in so far as
they are not inconsistent with a rational knowledge of nature. Such
rational hypotheses are scientific articles of faith, and therefore very
different from ecclesiastical articles of faith or religious dogmas,
which are either pure fictions (resting on no empirical evidence), or
simply irrational (contradicting the law of causality). As instances of
rational hypotheses of first-rate importance may be mentioned our belief
in the oneness of matter (the building up of the elements from primary
atoms), our belief in equivocal generation, our belief in the essential
unity of all natural phenomena, as maintained by monism (on which compare
my _General Morphology_, _vol_. i. pp. 105, 164, etc., also my _Natural
History of Creation_, 8th ed., 1889, pp. 21, 360, 795). As the simpler
occurrences of inorganic nature and the more complicated phenomena of
organic life are alike reducible to the same natural forces, and as,
further, these in their turn have their common foundation in a simple
primal principle pervading infinite space, we can regard this last (the
cosmic ether) as all-comprehending divinity, and upon this found the
thesis: "Belief in God is reconcilable with science." In this pantheistic
view, and also in his criticism of a one-sided materialism, I entirely
agree with Professor Schlesinger, though unable to concur with him in
some of his biological, and especially of his anthropological,
conclusions (_cf_. his article on "Facts and Deductions derived from the
Action of Universal Space" _Mittheilungen aus dem Osterlande_, Bd. v.,
Altenburg, 1892).

[2] _Unity of Nature_.

I consider the fundamental unity of inorganic and organic nature, as well
as their genetic relation, to be an essential axiom of monism. I
particularly emphasise this "article of faith" here, as there are still
scientists of repute who contest it. Not only is the old mystical "vital
power" brought back upon the stage again from time to time, but even the
"miraculous" origin of organic life out of "dead" inorganic nature is
often brought up still against the doctrines of evolution, as an
insoluble riddle--as one of Du Bois-Reymond's "seven riddles of the
world" (see his _Discourse on Leibnitz_, 1880). The solution of this
"transcendent" riddle of the world, and of the allied question of
archigony (equivocal generation, in a strictly defined meaning of the
term), can only be reached by a critical analysis and unprejudiced
comparison of matter, form, and energy in inorganic and organic nature.
This I have already done (1866) in the second book of my _General
Morphology_ (vol. i. pp. 109-238): "General Researches as to the Nature
and First Beginning of Organisms, their Relation to things Inorganic, and
their Division into Plants and Animals."

A short resume of this is contained in Lecture XV. of my _Natural History
of Creation_ (8th ed., pp. 340-370). The most serious difficulties which
formerly beset the monistic view there given may now be held to have been
taken out of the way by recent discoveries concerning the nature of
protoplasm, the discovery of the Monera, the more accurate study of the
closely-related single-celled Protista, their comparison with the
ancestral cell (or fertilised egg-cell), and also by the chemical
carbon-theory. (See my "Studies on Monera and other Protista," in the
_Jenaische Zeitschrift fuer Naturwissenschaft_, vols. iv. and v.,
1868-1870; also Carl Naegeli, _Mechanisch-physiologische Begruendung der
Abstammungslehre_, 1884.)

[3] _Religion in the Lower Animals_.

We cannot fail to recognise in the more highly developed of our domestic
animals (especially in dogs, horses, and elephants) some first beginnings
of those higher brain-functions which we designate as reason and
consciousness, religion and morality; they differ only in degree, not in
kind, from the corresponding mental activities of the lowest human races.
If, like the dogs, the apes, and especially the anthropoids, had been for
thousands of years domesticated and brought up in close relation with
civilised man, the similarity of their mental activities to those of man
would undoubtedly have been much more striking than it is. The apparently
deep gulf which separates man from these most highly-developed mammals
"is mainly founded on the fact that in man several conspicuous attributes
are united, which in the other animals occur only separately, viz. (1)
The higher degree of differentiation of the larynx (speech), (2) brain
(mind), and (3) extremities; and (4) the upright posture. It is merely
the happy combination of these important animal organs and functions at a
higher stage of evolution that raises the majority of mankind so far
above all lower animals" (_General Morphology_, 1866, vol. ii. p. 430).

[4] _Inheritance of Acquired Characters_.

As the controversy on this important question is still unsettled, special
attention may here be called to the valuable data for arriving at a
decision which are afforded precisely by the development of instincts
among the higher animals, and of speech and reason in man. "The
inheritance of characters acquired during the life of the individual, is
an indispensable axiom of the monistic doctrine of evolution." "Those
who, with Weismann and Galton, deny this, entirely exclude thereby the
possibility of any formative influence of the outer world upon organic
form" (_Anthropogenie_, 4th ed., pp. xxiii., 836; see, further, the works
there referred to of Eimer, Weismann, Ray-Lankester, etc.; also Ludwig
Wilser's _Die Vererbung der geistigen Eigenschaften_, Heidelberg, 1892).

[5] _Theosophical System of Nature_.

Of all the modern attempts of dualistic philosophy to establish the
knowledge of nature on a theological basis (that of Christian
monotheism), the _Essay on Classification_ of Louis Agassiz is by far the
most important,--in strictness, indeed, is the only one worthy of
mention. (On this see my _Natural History of Creation_, Lect. III., also
"Aims and Methods of the Modern Embryology," 1875, _Jena Zeitschr. fuer
Naturw., Bd. x., Supplement.)

[6] _Darwin and Copernicus_.

This is the title of an address delivered by Du Bois-Reymond on 25th
January 1883, in the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and afterwards published
in his _Collected Addresses_ (_vol_. ii. 1887). As the author himself
mentions in a note (p. 500) that this gave rise, "most unmeritedly," to
great excitement, and called down upon him the violent attacks of the
clerical press, I may be allowed to point out here that it contained
nothing new, I myself, fifteen years previously, in my lectures on "The
Origin and Genealogy of the Human Race," having carried out in detail the
comparison between Darwin and Copernicus, and the service rendered by
these two heroes in putting an end to the anthropocentric and geocentric
views of the world. (See the Third Series in Virchow and Holtzendorff's
_Collection of Popular Scientific Lectures_, Nos. 53 and 54, 1868, 4th
ed., 1881.) When Du Bois-Reymond says, "For me, Darwin is the Copernicus
of the organic world," I am the more pleased to find that he agrees
(partly in identical words) with my way of thinking, as he himself, quite
unnecessarily, takes up an attitude of opposition towards me. The same is
the case with regard to the explanation of innate ideas by Darwinism,
which he has attempted in his address (1870) on "Leibnitzian Ideas in
Modern Science" (vol. i. of the _Collected Addresses_). Here also he is
most agreeably at one with me in what, four years before, I had
elaborated in my _General Morphology_ (vol. ii. p. 446), and in my
_Natural History of Creation_ (1868). "The laws of heredity and
adaptation explain to us how it is that _a priori_ ideas have been
developed out of what was originally _a posteriori_ knowledge," etc. I
cannot fail to be highly flattered in being able in these last days to
greet the renowned orator of the Berlin Academy as a friend and patron of
the _Natural History of Creation_, which he had previously designated a
bad romance. But his winged words are not on that account to be
forgotten, that "the genealogical trees of phylogeny are about as much
worth as, in the eyes of the historical critic, are those of the Homeric
heroes" (_Darwin versus Galiani_, 1876).

[7] _The Law of the Conservation of Substance_.

Strictly taken, this belongs also to "scientific articles of faith," and
could stand as the first article of our "monistic religion." Physicists
of the present day, it is true, generally (and correctly) regard their
"law of the conservation of energy" as the immovable foundation of all
their science (Robert Mayer, Helmholtz), just as in like manner chemists
so regard their fundamental law of the "conservation of matter"
(Lavoisier). Sceptical philosophers could, however, raise certain
objections to either of these fundamental laws with as much success as
against their combination into the single superior law of the
"conservation of substance." As a matter of fact, dualistic philosophy
still attempts to raise such objections, often under the guise of
cautious criticism. The sceptical (in part also purely dogmatic)
objections have a semblance of justification only in so far as they
relate to the fundamental problem of substance, the primary question as
to the connection between matter and energy. While freely recognising the
presence of this real "boundary of natural knowledge," we can yet, within
this boundary, apply quite universally the "mechanical law of causality."
The complicated "phenomena of mind," as they are called (more especially
consciousness), fall under the "law of the conservation of substance"
just as strictly as do the simpler mechanical processes of nature dealt
with in inorganic physics and chemistry. Compare note 16.

[8] _Kant and Monism_.

As recent German philosophy has in a large measure returned to Kant, and
in some cases even deified as "infallible" the great Koenigsberg
philosopher, it may be well here to point out once more that his system
of critical philosophy is a mixture of monistic and dualistic
ingredients. His critical principles of the theory of knowledge will
always remain of fundamental importance: his proof that we are unable to
know the essential and profoundest essence of substance, the "thing in
itself" (or "the combination of matter and energy"); that our knowledge
remains subjective in its nature; that it is conditioned by the
organisation of our brain and sensory organs, and can therefore only deal
with the phenomena which our experience of the outer world affords us.
But within these "limits of human knowledge" a positive monistic
knowledge of nature is still possible, in contrast to all dualistic and
metaphysical fantasies. One such great fact of monistic knowledge was the
mechanical cosmogony of Kant and Laplace, the "Essay on the Constitution
and Mechanical Origin of the Universe, according to the Principles of
Newton" (1755). In the whole field of our knowledge of inorganic nature,
Kant held firmly to the monistic point of view, allowing mechanism alone
as the real explanation of the phenomena. In the science of organic
nature also, on the other hand, he held monism to be valid indeed, yet
insufficient; here he considered it necessary to call in the aid of final
as well as of efficient causes. (_Cf_. the fifth lecture of my _Natural
History of Creation_ on "The Evolution-Theory of Kant and Lamarck"; also
Albrecht Rau's _Kant und die Naturforschung: Eine Pruefung der Resultate
des idealistischen Kritikismus durch den realistischen Kosmos_, vol. ii.,
1886.) Once thus on the downgrade of dualistic teleology, Kant afterwards
arrived at his untenable metaphysical views of "God, Freedom, and
Immortality." It is probable that Kant would have escaped these errors if
he had had a thorough anatomical and physiological training. The natural
sciences were, indeed, at that time truly in their infancy. I am firmly
convinced that Kant's system of critical philosophy would have turned out
quite otherwise from what it was, and purely monistic, if he had had at
his disposal the then unsuspected treasures of empirical natural
knowledge which we now possess.

[9] _The Ether_.

In a thoughtful lecture on the relations between light and electricity at
the sixty-second Congress of German naturalists and physicians in
Heidelberg in 1889, Heinrich Hertz explains the scope of his brilliant
discovery: "Thus the domain of electricity extends over the whole of
nature. It comes nearer to ourselves; we learn that we actually possess
an electric organ, the eye. Here we are brought face to face with the
question as to unmediated _actio in distans_. Is there such a thing? Not
far off from this, in another direction, lies the question of the nature
of electricity. And immediately connected therewith arises the momentous
and primary question as to the nature of the ether, of the properties of
the medium that fills all space, its structure, its rest or motion, its
infinitude or finitude. It becomes every day more manifest that this
question rises above all others, that a knowledge of what the ether is
would reveal to us not only the nature of the old 'imponderables,' but
also of the old 'matter' itself and its most essential properties, weight
and inertia. Modern physics is not far from the question whether
everything that exists is not created from the ether." This question is
already being answered in the affirmative by some monistic physicists,
as, for example, by J. G. Vogt in his most suggestive work on _The Nature
of Electricity and Magnetism_, on _The Basis of the Conception of a
Single Substance_ (Leipsic, 1891). He regards the atoms of mass (the
primal atoms of the kinetic theory of matter) as individualised centres
of concentration of the continuous substance that uninterruptedly fills
all space; the mobile elastic part of this substance between the atoms,
and universally distributed, is--the ether. Georg Helm in Dresden, on the
basis of mathematico-physical experiments, had already at an earlier date
arrived at the same conclusions; in his treatise on "Influences at a
Distance mediated by the Ether" (_Annalen der Physik und Chemie_, 1881,
Bd. xiv.), he shows that it requires only the postulate of one particular
kind of matter, the ether, to explain influence at a distance and
radiation; that is, as regards these phenomena, all the qualities
ascribable to matter, except that of motion, are of no account; in other
words, that in thinking of the ether we simply require to think of it as
"the mobile."

[10] _Atoms and Elements_.

The evidences, numerous and important, for the composite nature of our
empirical elements, have lately been compendiously discussed by Gustav
Wendt in his treatise, _Die Entwicklung der Elemente: Entwurf zu einer
biologischen Grundlage fur Chemie und Physik_[I] (Berlin, 1891); compare
also Wilhelm Freyer's _Die organischen Elemente und ihre Stellung im
System_[II] (Wiesbaden, 1891), Victor Meyer's _Chemische Probleme der
Gegenwart_[III] (Heidelberg, 1890), and W. Crookes's _Genesis of the
Elements_. For the different views as to the nature of the atom, see
Philip Spiller on "The Doctrines of Atoms" in _Die Urkraft des Weltalls
nach ihrem Wesen und Wirken auf allen Naturgebieten[IV] (Berlin, 1886),
(1. The philosophy of nature; 2. The doctrine of the ether; 3. The
ethical side of the science of nature). For the constitution of the
elements out of atoms, see A. Turner, Die Kraft und Masse im Raume[V]
(Leipsic, 3rd ed., 1886), (1. On the nature of matter and its
relationships; 2. Atomic combinations; 3. The nature of the molecules and
their combinations. Theory of crystallisation).

[I] "The Development of the Elements: an Essay towards a Biological Basis
for Chemistry and Physics."

[II] "The Organic Elements and their Place in the System."

[III] "Chemical Problems of the Day."

[IV] "The Primary Force of the Universe, its Nature and Action."

[V] "Force and Matter in Space."

[11] _World-Substance_.

The relation of the two fundamental constituents of the cosmos, ether and
mass, may perhaps be made apparent, in accordance with one out of many
hypotheses, by the following, partly provisional, scheme.

World (=Substance=Cosmos).

(Nature as knowable by Man.)

Ether (="spirit") (mobile Mass (="body") (inert or
or active substance). passive substance).
Property of Vibration. Property of Inertia.

Chief Functions: Electricity, Chief Functions: Gravity,
Magnetism, Light, Heat. Inertia, Chemical Affinity.
Structure: dynamical; Structure: atomic, discontinuous,
continuous, elastic substance, inelastic substance,
not composed of atoms (?) composed of atoms (?)

Theosophical: "God the Theosophical: "Created
Creator" (always in motion). world" (passively formed).

"Influence of space." "Products of space condensation."

[12] _General doctrine of Evolution_.

The fundamental importance of the modern doctrine of evolution, and of
the monistic philosophy based upon it, is clearly evidenced by the steady
increase of its copious literature. I have cited the most important
treatises on this subject in the new (eighth) edition of my _Natural
History of Creation_ (1889). Compare, specially, Carus Sterne (Ernst
Krause), _Werden und Vergehen: Eine Entwicklungsgeschichte des
Naturganzen in gemeinverstaendlicher Fassung_[VI] (3rd ed., Berlin, 1886);
Hugo Spitzer, _Beitraege zur Descendenztheorie und zur Methodologie der
Naturwissenschaft_ (Graz, 1886);[VII] Albrecht Ran, _Ludwig Feuerbach's
Philosophie der Naturforschung und die philosophische Kritik der
Gegenwart_ (Leipsic, 1882);[VIII] Hermann Wolff, _Kosmos: Die
Weltentwicklung nach monitisch-psychologischen Principien auf Grundlage
der exacten Naturforschung_ (Leipsic, 1890).[IX]

[VI] "Growth and Decay: a Popular History of the Development of the

[VII] "Contributions towards a Theory of Descent, and towards a
Methodology of the Sciences of Nature."

[VIII] "Ludwig Feuerbach's Philosophy of Science, and the Philosophical
Criticism of the Present Time."

[IX] "Cosmos: The Development of the Cosmos according to Monistic
Principles on the Basis of Exact Science."

[13] _History of Descent_.

The idea and the task of phylogeny, or the history of descent, I first
defined in 1866, in the sixth book of my _General Morphology_ (_vol_. ii.
pp. 301-422), and the substance of this, as well as an account of its
relation to ontogeny or history of development, is set forth in a popular
form in Part II. of my _Natural History of Creation_ (8th ed., Berlin,
1889). A special application of both these divisions of the history of
evolution to man, is attempted in my _Anthropogenie_ (4th ed.), revised
and enlarged, 1891: Part I. History of development. Part II. History of

[14] _Opponents of the Doctrine of Descent_.

Since the death of Louis Agassiz (1873), Rudolf Virchow is regarded as
the sole noteworthy opponent of Darwinism and the theory of descent; he
never misses an opportunity (as recently in Moscow) of opposing it as
"unproved hypothesis." See as to this my pamphlet, _Freedom in Science
and in Teaching_, a reply to Virchow's address at Munich on "Freedom of
Science in the Modern State" (Stuttgart, 1878; Eng. tr., 1892).

[15] _Cellular Psychology_.

See on this my paper on "Cell-souls and Soul-cells," in the _Deutsche
Rundschau_ (July 1878), reprinted in Part 1, of _Collected Popular
Lectures_; also "The Cell-soul and Cellular Psychology" in my discourse
on _Freedom in Science and Teaching_ (Stuttgart, 1878; Eng. tr., 1892, p.
46); _Natural History of Creation_ (8th ed., pp. 444, 777); and _Descent
of Man_ (4th ed., pp. 128, 147). See also, Max Verworn,
_Psycho-physiologische Protisten-Studien_ (Jena, 1889), and Paul Carus,
_The Soul of Man: An Investigation of the Facts of Physiological and
Experimental Psychology_ (Chicago, 1891). Among recent attempts to reform
psychology on the basis of evolutionary doctrine in a monistic sense,
special mention must be made of Georg Heinrich Schneider's _Der
thierische Wille: Systematische Darstellung und Erklaerung der thierischen
Triebe und deren Entstehung, Entwickelung und Verbreitung im Thierreiche
als Grundlage zu einer vergleichenden Willenslehre_[X] (Leipsic, 1880).
Compare also his supplementary work, entitled _Der menschliche Wille vom
Standpunkte der neuen Entwickelungstheorie_[XI] (1882); also the
_Psychology of Herbert Spencer_ and the new edition of Wilhelm Wundt's
_Menschen- und Thierseele[XII] (Leipsic, 1892).

[X] "Will in the Lower Animals: a Systematic Exposition and Explanation
of Animal Instincts, and their Origin, Development, and Difference in
the Animal Kingdom, as Basis of a Comparative Doctrine of Volition."

[XI] "The Human Will from the Standpoint of the Modern Theory of

[XII] "Soul in Man and Brute."

[16] _Consciousness_.

The antiquated view of Du Bois-Reymond (1872)--that human consciousness
is an unsoluble "world-riddle," a transcendent phenomenon in essential
antithesis to all other natural phenomena--continues to be upheld in
numerous writings. It is chiefly on this that the dualistic view of the
world founds its assertion, that man is an altogether peculiar being, and
that his personal soul is immortal; and this is the reason why the
"Leipsic ignorabimus-speech" of Du Bois-Reymond has for twenty years been
prized as a defence by all representatives of the mythological view of
the world, and extolled as a refutation of "monistic dogma." The closing
word of the discourse, "ignorabimus," was translated as a present, and
this "ignoramus" taken to mean that "we know nothing at all"; or, even
worse, that "we can never come to clearness about anything, and any
further talk about the matter is idle." The famous "ignorabimus" address
remains certainly an important rhetorical work of art; it is a "beautiful
sermon," characterised by its highly-finished form and its surprising
variety of philosophico-scientific pictures. It is well known, however,
that the majority (and especially women) judge a "beautiful sermon" not
according to the value of the thoughts embodied in it, but according to
its excellence as an aesthetical entertainment. While Du Bois treats his
audience at great length to disquisitions on the wondrous performances of
the genius of Laplace, he afterwards glides over, the most important part
of his subject in eleven short lines, and makes not the slightest further
attempt to solve the main question he has to deal with--as to whether the
world is really "doubly incomprehensible." For my own part, on the
contrary, I have already repeatedly sought to show that the two limits to
our knowledge of nature are one and the same; the fact of consciousness
and the relation of consciousness to the brain are to us not less, but
neither are they more, puzzling, than the fact of seeing and hearing,
than the fact of gravitation, than the connection between matter and
energy. Compare my discourse on _Freedom in Science and Teaching_ (1878),
pp. 78, 82, etc.

[17] _Immortality_.

Perhaps in no ecclesiastical article of faith is the gross materialistic
conception of Christian dogma so evident as in the cherished doctrine of
personal immortality, and that of "the resurrection of the body,"
associated with it. As to this, Savage, in his excellent work on
_Religion in the Light of the Darwinian Doctrine_, has well remarked:
"One of the standing accusations of the Church against science is that it
is materialistic. On this I would like to point out, in passing, that the
whole Church-conception concerning a future life has always been, and
still is, the purest materialism. It is represented that the material
body is to rise again, and inhabit a material heaven." Compare also
Ludwig Buchner, _Das zunkuenftige Leben und die moderne Wissenschaft_
(Leipsic, 1889); Lester Ward, "Causes of Belief in Immortality" (_The
Forum_, vol. VIII., September 1889); and Paul Carus, _The Soul of Man: an
Investigation of the Facts of Physiological and Experimental Psychology_
(Chicago, 1891). Carus aptly points out the analogy between the ancient
and the modern ideas with respect to light, and with respect to the soul.
Just as formerly the luminous flame was explained by means of a special
fiery matter (_phlogiston_), so the thinking soul was explained by the
hypothesis of a peculiar gaseous soul-substance. We now know that the
light of the flame is a sum of electric vibrations of the ether, and the
soul a sum of plasma-movements in the ganglion-cells. As compared with
this scientific conception, the doctrine of immortality of scholastic
psychology has about the same value as the materialistic conceptions of
the Red Indian about a future life in Schiller's "Nadowessian

[18] _Monistic Ethic_.

All Ethic, the theoretical as well as the practical doctrine of morals,
as a "science of law" (_Normwissenschaft_), stands in immediate
connection with the view that is taken of the world (_Weltanschauung_),
and consequently with religion. This position I regard as exceedingly
important, and have recently upheld in a paper on "Ethik und
Weltanschauung," in opposition to the "Society for Ethical Culture"
lately founded in Berlin, which would teach and promote ethics without
reference to any view of the world or to religion. (Compare the new
weekly journal, _Die Zukunft_, edited by Maximilian Harden, Berlin, 1892,
Nos. V.-VII.). Just as I take the monistic to be the only rational basis
for all science, I claim the same also for ethics. On this subject
compare especially the ethical writings of Herbert Spencer and those of
B. von Carneri--_Sittlichkeit und Darwinismus_ (1871); _Entwickelung und
Glueckseligkeit_ (1886); and more particularly, the latest of all, _Der
moderne Mensch_ (Bonn, 1891); further, Wilhelm Streeker, _Welt und
Menschheit_ (Leipsic, 1892); Harald Hoeffding, _Die Grundlage der humanen
Ethik_ (Bonn, 1880); and the recent large work of Wilhelm Wundt, _Ethik,
eine Untersuchung der Thatsachen und Gesetze des sittlichen Lebens_
(Stuttgart, 2nd ed., 1892).

[19] _Homotheism_.

Under the term homotheism (or anthropomorphism) we include all the
various forms of religious belief which ascribe to a personal God purely
human characteristics. However variously these anthropomorphic ideas may
have shaped themselves in dualistic and pluralistic religions, all in
common retain the unworthy conception that God (_Theos_) and man (_homo_)
are organised similarly and according to the same type (homotype). In the
region of poetry such personifications are both pleasing and legitimate.
In the region of science they are quite inadmissible; they are doubly
objectionable now that we know that only in late Tertiary times was man
developed from pithecoid mammals. Every religious dogma which represents
God as a "spirit" in human form, degrades Him to a "gaseous vertebrate"
(_General Morphology_, 1866; Chap, xxx., God in Nature). The expression
"homotheism" is ambiguous and etymologically objectionable, but more
practical than the cumbersome word "Anthropotheism."

[20] _Monistic Religion_.

Amongst the many attempts which have been made in the course of the last
twenty years to reform religion in a monistic direction on the basis of
advanced knowledge of nature, by far the most important is the
epoch-making work of David Friedrich Strauss, entitled _The Old Faith and
the New: A Confession_ (11th ed., Bonn, 1881: _Collected Writings_,
1878). Compare M. J. Savage, _Religion in the Light of the Darwinian
Doctrine_; John William Draper, _History of the Conflict between Religion
and Science_; Carl Friedrich Retzer, _Die naturwissenschaftliche
Weltanschauung und ihre Ideale, ein Ersatz fuer das religioese Dogma_
(Leipsic, 1890); E. Koch, _Natur und Menschengeist im Lichte der
Entwickelungslehre_ (Berlin, 1891). For the phylogeny of religion see the
interesting work of U. Van Ende, _Histoire Naturelle de la Croyance_
(Paris, 1887).

[21] _Freedom in Teaching_.

The jubilee of the "Naturforschende Gesellschaft des Osterlandes" was
celebrated in Altenburg on October 9, 1892, contemporaneously with the
commencement of the brilliant celebration of the golden wedding of the
Grand Duke and Duchess in Weimar. As exceptional as the celebration are
the characteristics which distinguish this august couple. The Grand Duke
Carl Alexander has, during a prosperous reign of forty years, constantly
shown himself an illustrious patron of science and art; as Rector
Magnificentissimus of our Thueringian university of Jena, he has always
afforded his protection to its most sacred palladium--the right of the
free investigation and teaching of truth. The Grand Duchess Sophie, the
heiress and guardian of the Goethe archives, has in Weimar prepared a
fitting home for that precious legacy of our most brilliant literary
period, and has anew made accessible to the German nation the ideal
treasures of thought of her greatest intellectual hero. The history of
culture will never forget the service which the princely couple have
thereby rendered to the human mind in its higher development, and at the
same time to true religion.


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