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Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], at


On the Plane of Self Consciousness.


And in the first place it would be well to get a firm hold of the meaning of the words "self consciousness," upon the definition of which an excellent writer and most competent thinker [200–255] has these remarks: "Self consciousness is often referred to as a distinguishing characteristic of man. Many, however, fail to gain a clear conception of what this faculty is. Dr. Carpenter confounds it with the 'power of reflecting on their own mental states,' while Mr. Darwin associates it with abstraction and other of the derivative faculties. It is certainly something much simpler than introspection, and has an earlier origin than the highly

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derivative speculative faculties. If it could only be seized and clearly understood, self consciousness would doubtless prove to be the primary and fundamental human attribute. Our language seems to lack the proper word to express it in its simplest form. 'Think' approaches this most nearly, and man is sometimes described as a 'thinking being.' The German language has a better word, viz., besinnen, and the substantive Besonnenheit seems to touch the kernel of the problem. Schopenhauer says: 'The animal lives without any Besonnenheit. It has consciousness, i.e., it knows itself and its weal and woe; also the objects which produce these; but its knowledge remains constantly subjective, never becomes objective: everything that it embraces appears to exist in and of itself, and can therefore never become an object of representation nor a problem for meditation. Its consciousness is thus wholly immanent. The consciousness of the savage man is similarly constituted in that his perceptions of things and of the world remain preponderantly subjective and immanent. He perceives things in the world, but not the world; his own actions and passion, but not himself.'"

Perhaps the simplest definition (and there are scores of them) would be: self consciousness is the faculty by which we realize. Or again: without self consciousness a sentient creature can know, but its possession is necessary in order that he may know that he knows. The best treatise so far written on this subject is Romanes’ book, already several times referred to [134].

The roots of the tree of life being deep sunk in the organic world, its trunk is made up as follows: Beginning at the earth level we have first of all the lowest forms of life unconscious and insensate. These in their turn give birth to forms endowed with sensation and later to forms endowed with Simple Consciousness. From the last, when the right time comes, springs self consciousness and (as already said) in direct ascent from that Cosmic Consciousness. It is only necessary in this place, as clearing the ground for the work to be done, to point out that the doctrine of the unfolding of the human being, regarded from the side of psychology, is strictly in accord with the theory of evolution

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in general as received and taught to-day by the foremost thinkers.

This tree which we call life and its upper part human life and human mind, has simply grown as grows any other tree, and besides its main stem, as above indicated, it has, as in the case of other trees, thrown off many branches. It will be well to consider some of these. It will be seen that some of them are given off from the lower part of the trunk, as, for instance, contractility, from which great limb, and as a part of it, springs all muscular action from the simple movement of the worm to the marvelously co-ordinated motions made, in the exercise of their art, by a Liszt or a Paderewski. Another of these large lower limbs is the instinct of Self-preservation and (twin with it) the instinct of the continuance of the species—the preservation of the race. Higher up the special senses shoot out from the main trunk and as they grow and divide and again divide they become large and vitally important branches of the great tree. From all these main off-shoots spring smaller arms and from these more delicate twigs.

Thus from the human intellect whose central fact is Self Consciousness, a section of the main trunk of our tree, spring judgment, reason, comparison, imagination, abstraction, reflection, generalization. From the moral or emotional nature, one of the largest and most important of the main limbs, spring love (itself a great branch dividing into many smaller branches), reverence, faith, fear, awe, hope, hate, humor and many more. The great branch called the sense of sight, which in its beginning was a perception of the difference between light and darkness, sent out twigs which we call sense of form, of distance, and later the color sense. The limb named sense of hearing has for branches and twigs the apprehension of loudness, of pitch, of distance, of direction and as a delicate twig just coming into being, the musical sense.

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The important fact to notice at present is that, true to the simile of the tree here adopted, the numerous faculties of which (viewed from the side of dynamics) man is composed are all of different ages. Each one of them came into existence in its own time, i.e., when the psychic organism (the tree) was ready to produce it. For instance: Simple Consciousness many millions of years ago; Self Consciousness perhaps three hundred thousand years. General vision is enormously old, but the color sense probably only about a thousand generations. Sensibility to sound many millions of years, while the musical sense is now in the act of appearing. Sexual instinct or passion arose far back in geologic ages—the human moral nature of which human sexual love is a young and vigorous branch does not appear to have been in existence many tens of thousands of years.


To make what has been and what remains to be said more readily and more fully intelligible it will be well to go into some little detail as to the time and mode of becoming and developing of a few faculties as a sample of the divine work that has been going on within us and about us since the dawn of life on this planet. The science of human psychology (in order to illustrate the subject of this volume) should give an account of the human intellect, of the human moral nature, and of the senses. Should give a description of these as they exist to-day, of their origin and evolution and should forecast their future course of either decay or further expansion. Only a very few specimen pages of such a work can be here set forth—and first a hasty glance at the intellect.

The intellect is that part of the mind which knows, as the moral nature is the part that feels. Each particular act of the intellect is instantaneous, whereas the acts (or rather states) of the moral nature are more or less continuous. Language corresponds

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to the intellect and is therefore capable of expressing it perfectly and directly; on the other hand, the functions of the moral nature (belonging, i.e., deriving, as they do, from the great sympathetic nervous system—while the intellect and speech rest upon and spring from the Cerebro-Spinal) are not connected with language and are only capable of indirect and imperfect expression by its agency. Perhaps music, which certainly has its roots in the moral nature, is, as at present existing, the beginning of a language which will tally and express emotion as words tally and express ideas [28a. 106]. Intellectual acts are complex, and decomposable into many parts; moral states are either absolutely simple (as in the case of love, fear, hate) or nearly so; that is, are composed of comparatively few elements. All intellectual acts are alike, or nearly alike, in that regard; moral states have a very wide range of degree of intensity.

The human intellect is made up principally of concepts, just as a forest is made up of trees or a city of houses; these concepts are mental images of things, acts, or relations. The registration of these we call memory, the comparison of them one with another reasoning; for the building of these up into more complex images (as bricks are built into a house) we have in English no good expression; we sometimes call this act imagination (the act of forming a mental copy or likeness)—the Germans have a better name for it—they call it Vorstellung (the act of placing before), Anschauungsgabe (the gift of looking upon) and better still Einbildungskraft (the power of building up). The large intellect is that in which the number of concepts is above the average; the fine intellect is that in which these are clear cut and well defined; the ready intellect is that in which they are easily and quickly accessible when wanted, and so on.

The growth of the human intellect is the growth of the concepts, i.e., the multiplication of the more simple and at the same time the building up of these into others more and more complex. Although this increase in number and complexity is taking place constantly in every active mind during at least the first half of life, from infancy to middle age, and though we each know

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that we have concepts now that we had not some time ago, yet probably the wisest of us could not tell from observation made upon his own mind just by what process these new concepts came into existence—where they came from or how they came. But though we cannot perceive this by direct observation either of our own mind or that of another person, still there is another way by which the occult process can be followed and that is by means of language. As said above, language is the exact tally of the intellect: for every concept there is a word or words and for every word there is a concept; neither can exist apart from the other. So Trench says: "You cannot impart to any man more than the words which he understands either now contain or can be made intelligibly to him to contain." Or as Max Mueller expresses it: "Without speech no reason, without reason no speech." Speech and the intellect do not correspond with one another in this way by accident, the relation between them is inevitably involved in the nature of the two things. Or are they two things? Or two sides of one thing? No word can come into being except as the expression of a concept, neither can a new concept be formed without the formation (at the same time) of the new word which is its expression, though this "new word" may be spelled and pronounced as is some old word. But an old word taking on another and a new meaning in reality becomes two words, an old and a new. Intellect and speech fit one another as the hand and the glove, only far more closely; say rather they fit as the skin fits the body, or as the pia mater fits the brain, or as any given species in the organic world is fitted by its environment. As is implied in what has been said, it is to be especially noted that not only does language fit the intellect in the sense of covering it in every part and following all its turnings and windings, but it fits it also in the sense of not going beyond it. Words correspond with concepts, and with concepts only, so that we cannot express directly with them either sense impressions or emotions, but are forced always to convey these (if at all) by expressing, not themselves, but the impression they make upon our intellect, i.e., the concepts formed from the contemplation of them by the intellect—in

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other words, their intellectual image. So that before a sense impression or an emotion can be embodied or conveyed in language a concept has to be formed (supposed more or less truly to represent it), which concept can, of course, be conveyed in words. But as a matter of fact ninety-nine out of every hundred of our sense impressions and emotions have never been represented in the intellect by concepts and therefore remain unexpressed and inexpressible except imperfectly by roundabout description and suggestion. There exists in the lower animals a state of matters which serves well to illustrate this proposition. These have acute sense perceptions and strong emotions, such as fear, rage, sexual passion and maternal love, and yet cannot express them because these have no language of their own, and the animals in question have no system of concepts with corresponding articulate sounds. Granted to us our sense perceptions and our human moral natures and we should be as dumb as are the animals had we not along with these an intellect in which they may be mirrored and by which, by means of language, they can be expressed.

As the correspondence of words and concepts is not casual or temporary but resides in the nature of these and continues during all time and under all circumstances absolutely constant, so changes in one of the factors must correspond with changes in the other. So evolution of intellect must (if it exist) be accompanied by evolution of language. An evolution of language (if it exist) will be evidence of evolution of intellect. What then is here proposed is to study (for a few moments) the growth of the intellect by means of an examination of language, i.e., to study the birth, life and growth of concepts which cannot be seen, by means of words which are their co-relatives and which can be seen.

Sir Charles Lyell, in the "Antiquity of Man" [113], pointed out the parallelism which exists between the origin, growth, decline and death of languages and of species in the organic world. In order to illustrate and at the same time broaden the present argument let us extend the parallel backward to the formation of the worlds and forward to the evolution of words and concepts.

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[paragraph continues] The accompanying table will serve this purpose as well as, or better than, an elaborately reasoned exposition, and will serve at the same time as a summary of the evolution argument which runs through this volume.

A short study of this tabular statement will make plain how orbs, species, languages and words branch, divide and multiply; will make intelligible Max Mueller's estimate that "every thought that has ever passed through the mind of India" may be reduced to one hundred and twenty-one root concepts—that is, to one hundred and twenty-one root words [116. 401]; will make us agree with him that, probably, that number might be still further reduced. If we consider for a moment that this means that the millions of Indo-European words now in use as well as many times the number long since dead and forgotten, nearly all sprang from about one hundred roots and that these in their turn probably from half a dozen, and at the same time remember that reason and speech are one, we shall obtain a glimpse of what the human intellect once was in comparison with what it is to-day; and likewise it becomes apparent at a glance that the evolution not only of species, languages and words is strictly parallel but that the scheme has probably a still wider, perhaps universal, application. As regards the present thesis the conclusion to be drawn from this comparison is that words, and that therefore the constituent elements of the intellect which they represent and which we call concepts, grow by division and branching, as new species branch off from older, and it seems clear that a normal growth is encouraged and an excessive and useless development checked by the same means in the one case as in the other—that is, by natural selection and the struggle for existence.

New concepts, and words expressing them, which correspond with some external reality (whether this is a thing, an act, a state, or a relation), and which are therefore of use to man, since their existence places him in more complete relation with the outer world, on which relation his life and welfare depend, are preserved by the process of natural selection and survival of the fit test. Some again which either do not correspond at all, or only

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imperfectly, with an objective reality are replaced by others which do correspond or correspond better with the reality which these aimed to express, and so in the struggle for existence fall into disuse and die out.

For it is with words as with every other living thing, thousands are produced for one that lives. Towards whatever object the mind is especially turned it throws out words often with marvelous profusion. When some thousands of years ago, Sanscrit being still a living language and the sun and fire looked upon either as actual gods or at least as especially sacred, fire had (instead of a very few names as now) thirty-five and the sun thirty-seven [115. 437]. But much more remarkable examples are those drawn from Arabic, as, for instance, the eighty names for honey, the two hundred for serpent, the five hundred for lion, the one thousand for sword, and the five thousand seven hundred and forty-four words all relating to the camel, these being subjects upon which the Arab mind is strongly and persistently bent [115. 438]. So again Max Mueller tells us: "We can hardly form an idea of the boundless resources of dialects. When literary languages have stereotyped one general term their dialects will supply fifty, though each with its special shade of meaning. If new combinations of thoughts are evolved in the progress of society, dialects will readily supply the required names from the store of their so-called superfluous words. There are not only local and provincial but also class dialects. There is a dialect of shepherds, of sportsmen, of soldiers, of farmers. I suppose there are few persons here present who could tell the exact meaning of a horse's poll, crest, withers, dock, hamstring, cannon, pastern, coronet, arm, jowl and muzzle. Where the literary language speaks of the young of all sorts of animals, farmers, shepherds and sportsmen would be ashamed to use so general a term. The idiom of nomads, as Grimm says, contain an abundant wealth of manifold expressions for sword and weapons, and for the different stages in the life of cattle. In a more highly cultivated language these expressions become burthensome and superfluous. But in a peasant's mouth the bearing, calving, falling and killing

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of almost every animal has its own peculiar term, as the sportsman delights in calling the gait and members of game by different names. Thus Dame Juliana Berners, lady prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, in the fifteenth century, the reputed author of the 'Book of St. Albans,' informs us that we must not use names of multitudes promiscuously, but we are to say: A congregcyon of people, a hoost of men, a felyshyppynge of women, and a bevy of ladyes, we must speak of a herde of hartys, swannys, cranys, or wrennys, a sege of herons, or bytourys, a muster of peacockys, a watche of nyghtyngalys, a flyghte of doves, a claterynge of choughes, a pryde of lyons, a slewthe of beerys, a gagle of geys, a skulke of foxes, a sculle of frerys, a pontyfycalate of prelates, a bomynable syght of monkes, a dronkenshyp of cobblers, and so of other human and brute assemblages. In like manner in dividing game for the table the animals were not carved, but a dere was broken, a gose reryd, a chekyn frusshed, a cony unlacyd, a crane dysplayed, a curlewe unjointyd, a quayle wynggyd, a swanne lyfte, a lambe sholderyd, a heron dysmembryd, a pecocke dysfygured, a samon chynyd, a hadoke sydyd, a sole loynyd, and a breme splayed" [115. 70].

These instances will serve to show how the human intellect feels along the face of the outer world presented to it, attempting a lodgment in each cranny it finds, however slight and precarious may be the hold that it gets. For the mind of man from age to age ceaselessly seeks to master the facts of the outer world; its growth indeed consists in tallying or covering these as ivy spreads over, tallies and covers the stones of a wall; the twig that secures a hold strengthens and puts out other twigs; that which does not secure a hold after a time ceases to grow and eventually dies.

The main thing to notice for our present purpose is that just as in the case of the child learning to talk, the race began also with a few, or, as Geiger [91. 29] says, with a single word. That is to say, man began to think with very few or with a single concept (of course, at that time, and before, he had a large stock of percepts and of recepts [134. 193], otherwise he could have done little with his one or few concepts). From these few or that one

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the enormous number of concepts and words that have since come into existence have proceeded; nor will the evolution of the entire human intellect from a single initial concept seem incredible or even very marvelous, to those who bear in mind that the whole complex human body, with all its tissues, organs and parts, is built up of hundreds of millions of cells, each one of which, however much it may differ in structure and function from those belonging to other organs and tissues than its own, is yet lineally descended from the one single primordial cell in which each one of us (and only a few years ago) had his origin.

As we reach back into the past, therefore, we find language, and with it the human intellect, drawing into a point, and we know that within a measurable distance from where we stand to-day they must have both had their beginning. The date of that beginning has been approximately fixed by many writers and from many indications, and we cannot be far astray in placing it (provisionally) about three hundred thousand years anterior to our own times.


Much more modern than the birth of the intellect was that of the color sense. We have the authority of Max Mueller [117. 299] for the statement that: "It is well known that the distinction of color is of late date; that Xenophanes knew of three colors of the rainbow only—purple, red and yellow; that even Aristotle spoke of the tricolored rainbow; and that Democritus knew of no more than four colors—black, white, red and yellow."

Geiger [91. 48] points out that it can be proved by examination of language that as late in the life of the race as the time of the primitive Aryans, perhaps not more than fifteen or twenty thousand years ago, man was only conscious of, only perceived, one color. That is to say, he did not distinguish any difference in tint between the blue sky, the green trees and grass, the brown or gray earth, and the golden and purple clouds of sunrise and sunset. So Pictet [126] finds no names of colors in primitive Indo-European

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speech. And Max Mueller [116: 616] finds no Sanscrit root whose meaning has any reference to color.

At a later period, but still before the time of the oldest literary compositions now extant, the color sense was so far developed beyond this primitive condition that red and black were recognized as distinct. Still later, at the time when the bulk of the Rig Veda was composed, red, yellow and black were recognized as three separate shades, but these three included all color that man at that age was capable of appreciating. Still later white was added to the list and then green; but throughout the Rig Veda, the Zend Avesta, the Homeric poems and the Bible the color of the sky is not once mentioned, therefore, apparently, was not recognized. For the omission can hardly be attributed to accident; the ten thousand lines of the Rig Veda are largely occupied with descriptions of the sky; and all its features—sun, moon, stars, clouds, lightning, sunrise and sunset—are mentioned hundreds of times. So also the Zend Avesta, to the writers of which light and fire, both terrestrial and heavenly, are sacred objects, could hardly have omitted by chance all mention of the blue sky. In the Bible the sky and heaven are mentioned more than four hundred and thirty times, and still no mention is made of the color of the former. In no part of the world is the blue of the sky more intense than in Greece and Asia Minor, where the Homeric poems were composed. Is it possible to conceive that a poet (or the poets) who saw this as we see it now could write the forty-eight long books of the Iliad and Odyssey and never once either mention or refer to it? But were it possible to believe that all the poets of the Rig Veda, Zend Avesta, Iliad, Odyssey and Bible could have omitted the mention of the blue color of the sky by mere accident, etymology would step in and assure us that four thousand years ago, or, perhaps, three, blue was unknown, for at that time the subsequent names for blue were all merged in the names for black.

The English word blue and the German blau descend from a word that meant black. The Chinese hi-u-an, which now means sky-blue, formerly meant black. The word nil, which now in

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[paragraph continues] Persian and Arabic means blue, is derived from the name Nile, that is, the black river, of which same word the Latin Niger is a form.

It does not seem possible that at the time when men recognized only two colors, which they called red and black, these appeared to them as red and black appear to us—though just what the sensations were which they so named cannot of course be now ascertained. Under the name red it seems they included with that color white, yellow and all intermediate tints; while under the name black they seem to have included all shades of blue and green. As the sensations red and black came into existence by the division of an original unital color sensation, so in process of time these divided. First red divided into red-yellow, then that red into red-white. Black divided into black-green, then black again into black-blue, and during the last twenty-five hundred years these six (or rather these four—red, yellow, green, blue) have split bp into the enormous number of shades of color which are now recognized and named. The annexed diagram shows at a glance the order in which the spectrum colors became visible to man.

It can be shown in an entirely independent manner that if the color sense did come into existence as here supposed the successive order in which the colors are said (following ancient documents and etymology) to have been recognized by man is actually the order in which they must have been so recognized and the scientific facts now about to be adduced must be admitted to be remarkably confirmatory of the above conclusions, while being drawn from sources entirely separate and distinct.

The solar or other light rays that excite vision are named red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. These rays differ the one from the other in the length and amplitude of the waves which compose them, and both the length and amplitude of the waves diminish in the order in which the names have just been given. But the force or energy of a light wave—that is to say, its power of exciting vision, is proportional to the square of its amplitude [180. 272, and especially 181. 136]. According to this law the energy the power of exciting vision—of the red rays is several

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thousand times as great as the energy of the violet, and there is a regular and rapid decrease of energy as we pass down the spectrum from red to violet. It is plain that if there has been such a thing as a growing perfection in the sense of vision in virtue of which, from being insensible to color the eye became gradually sensible of it, red would necessarily be the first color perceived, then yellow, then green, and so on to violet; and this is exactly what both ancient literature and etymology tell us took place.

The comparative modernness of the color sense is further attested by the large number of persons in all countries who are what is called color-blind—that is, persons who are at the present day entirely or partially without color sense. "Wilson's assertion that probably one in five and twenty is color-blind long remained doubted because not proved in reference to sufficiently large numbers. Till we had comparison methods, and principally Hohngren's, no satisfactory data could be obtained. His in proper hands so quickly decides a case that tests have already been made in thousands of persons. Based on at least two hundred thousand examinations is the result that four per cent. of males are

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color blind in greater or less degree, and one-fourth of one per cent. of females." [135. 242.] This would make one case of color-blindness to every forty-seven persons.

The degree of universality of the color sense in a race is, of course, an important fact in estimating its degree of evolution as compared with other races. In this connection the following facts are of interest [122. 716]: "In Japan among 1,200 soldiers 1.58 per cent. were red-blind, and 0.833 per cent. green-blind. Among 373 boys 1 per cent. were red-blind; among 270 girls 0.4 per cent. Among 596 men examined by Dr. Berry, of Kyoto, 5.45 per cent. showed defective color sense. Among the Japanese, as a whole, the percentage of color-blindness is less than in Europeans or Americans. Among 796 Chinese examined in various places no cases of color-blindness were found, but there was a tendency often seen to mix green and blue. This peculiarity was brought out with much greater emphasis by Dr. Fielde, of Swatow, China, who examined 1,200 Chinese of both sexes, using Thompson's wool tests. Among the 600 men were 19 who were color-blind, and among 600 women only 1. The percentage of color-blindness among Chinamen is, then, about 3 per cent., and does not vary greatly from that of Europeans."

In color-blindness the general vision is not affected; the individual distinguishes light and shade, form and distance, as well as do other persons. This also goes to show that the color sense is more superficial, less fundamental, and probably therefore acquired later than the other powers that belong to the function of sight. For a person could not lose one of the more fundamental elements of vision (the sense of visual form, for instance) and retain the other sight faculties unimpaired.

Color-blindness is in fact an instance of what is called atavism, or relapse to a condition which was normal in the ancestry of the individual, but which does not properly belong to the species al. the time in which he lives. The frequency of this relapse (estimated, as we have seen, to occur in one person out of every forty-seven) indicates that the color sense is comparatively modern; for atavism is more frequent in inverse proportion to the length

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of time that has elapsed since the organ or function lost or improperly taken on (as the case may be) has (in the one case) normally existed in the race or (in the other) been discarded in the process of evolution. The rationale of this law (which will be again referred to) is obvious: it depends upon the simple fact that the longer any organ or function has been in existence in a race the more certainly will it be inherited. The existence of color-blindness, then, in so large a percentage of the population shows that the color sense is a modern faculty. The relative visibility of the different colored light rays makes it certain that if the color sense was acquired it would undoubtedly have been so in the order in which philologists claim it actually was acquired, and the concurrence of these two sets of facts, the one drawn from natural philosophy and the other from etymology, together with the fact of color-blindness, is so striking that it seems impossible to refuse assent to the conclusions reached.


Another recently acquired faculty is the sense of fragrance. It is not mentioned in the Vedic hymns and only once in the Zend Avesta. Geiger [91. 58] tells us that the custom of offering incense with the sacrifice is not yet met with in the Rig Veda, though it is found in the more recent Yadshurveda. Among the Biblical books the sense of the fragrance of flowers first makes its appearance in the "Song of Songs." According to the description in Genesis there were in Paradise all kinds of trees "that were pleasant to the sight and good for food," no mention being made of pleasant odors. The Apochryphal book of Henoch (of the first century B.C., or even later), extant in Ethiopian, likewise describes Paradise, but does not omit to extol the delightful fragrance of the Tree of Knowledge, as well as other trees, in the Garden of Eden.

Besides this evidence it is said to be capable of proof from language that no such sense as that of fragrance existed in the early times of the Indo-Europeans. And it is also worth mentioning

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in this connection that no animal (although many of these so greatly surpass us in recognition by scent) possesses, so far as we know or can discover, any sense of fragrance, and that children do not acquire it until they are several years old—not, indeed, for several years after they have acquired, more or less perfectly, the sense of color; thus corresponding in their mental development (as pointed out above) with the evolution of the general human mind, for the color sense probably came into existence in the race many thousand years before the sense of fragrance.


Instincts which are both human and animal, as the sexual and maternal, undoubtedly came down to man through long lines of descent and have been in possession of himself and his ancestors for millions of years; but the human moral nature, though it is rooted in and has grown from these, is of comparatively recent origin. It not only does not go back behind the birth of self consciousness, but it is certainly very much more recent than this.

Man, that is, Self Consciousness, as has been said, must have come into being some three hundred thousand years ago when the first Alalus Homo uttered the first true word. In the individual to-day man is born when the child becomes self conscious—at the average age of, say, three years. Among the Indo-European races not more than about one individual (so-called idiot) in a thousand grows to maturity without attaining to Self Consciousness. Self Consciousness having appeared in an individual, is only lost in great and rare crises—as in the delirium of fever and in some forms of insanity, notably mania; on the other hand the human moral nature does not appear in the individual (on the average) until, say, half-way between three years old and maturity. Instead of one or two in a thousand, several times the same number in a hundred are born, grow up and die without a moral nature. Instead of being lost in great and rare crises it is constantly being temporarily lost. All these indications go to prove that the human moral nature is a much more recent birth of time

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than is the human intellect, and that if we suppose the latter to be three hundred thousand years old we cannot suppose the former to be anything like that age.


Primeval man, from whom we are all descended, has still upon the earth in these later days, two representatives—first, the savage; second, the child. It would be true to say that the child is a savage and the savage a child, and through the mental state represented by these two, not only each individual member of the race, but the race itself as a whole, has passed. For, as in his intrauterine evolution the individual man retraces and summarizes in a few brief months the evolution of the human race, physically considered, from the initial unicellular form in which individual life began through all intervening phases between that and the human form, resuming in each day the slow evolution of millions of years, so likewise does the individual man in his mental development from birth to maturity retrace and summarize the evolution of the psychical life of the race; and as the individual physical man begins at the very bottom of the scale as a unicellular monad, so does the psychical man begin on the bottom round of the ladder of mind, and in his ascent of a few dozen months passes through the successive phases each of which occupied in its accomplishment by the race thousands of years. The characteristics of the mind of the savage and of the child will give us, when found, the characteristics of the primeval human mind from which has descended the average modern mind that we know, as well as the exceptional minds of the great men of history of the present day.

The chief differences between the primeval, the infantile and the savage mind on the one hand and the civilized mind on the other, is that the first (called for the sake of brevity the lower mind) is wanting in personal force, courage, or faith, and also in sympathy, or affection; and that it is more easily excited to terror or anger than is the second or civilized mind. There are of course

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other differences than these between the lower mind and the higher—differences in intellect, and even in sense perceptions; but these, though great in themselves, have not the supreme significance of the basic, fundamental, moral differences just mentioned. The lower mind then lacks faith, lacks courage, lacks personal force, lacks sympathy, lacks affection—that is (to sum up), it lacks peace, content, happiness. It is prone to the fear of things known, and still more to vague terror of things unknown; it is prone to anger, rage, hatred—that is (to again sum up), to unrest, discontent, unhappiness. On the other hand, the higher mind (as compared with the lower) possesses faith, courage, personal force, sympathy, affection; that is, it possesses (relatively) happiness; is less prone to fear of things known and unknown and to anger and hatred—that is, to unhappiness.

The statement thus broadly made does not seem at first sight to mean very much, but in fact it means almost everything; it contains the key to our past, our present and our future, for it is the condition of the moral nature (thus briefly adverted to) that decides for each one of us, from moment to moment, and for the race at large, from age to age, what sort of a place this world in which we live shall appear to be—what sort of a place it is indeed for each one of us. For it is not our eyes and ears, nor even our intellects, that report the world to us; but it is our moral nature that settles at last the significance of what exists about us.

The members of the human race began by fearing much and disliking much, by loving or admiring little and by trusting still less. It is safe to say that those earliest men of the river drift, and the cave men, their successors, saw little beauty in the outer world in which they lived, though perhaps their eyes, in most other respects, were fully as keen as ours. It is certain that their family affections (as in the case of the lowest savages of to-day) were, to say the least, rudimentary, and that all men outside their immediate family were either feared or disliked, or both. When the race emerged from the cloud-covered past into the light of what may be called inferential history, the view men took of the government of the universe, of the character of the beings and

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forces by which this government was carried on, of the position in which man stood to the governing powers, of his prospects in this life and after it, were (as in the case of the lower races of to-day) gloomy in an extreme degree. Since that time neither the world nor the government of the world have changed, but the gradual alteration in the moral nature of man has made it in his eyes a different place. The bleak and forbidding mountains, the awe-inspiring sea, the gloomy forests, the dark and fearful night, all the aspects of nature which in that old time were charged with dread, have in the place of it become clothed with a new and strange beauty. The whole human race and all living things have put on (in our eyes) a charm and sacredness which in the old times they were far from possessing. The governing powers of the universe (obedient to the same beneficent influence) have been gradually converted from demons into beings and forces less and less inimical, more and more friendly, to man; so that in all respects each age has interpreted the universe for itself, and has more or less discredited the interpretations of previous ages.

Which is the correct interpretation`? What mind, of all the vast diversity of the past and present, in all this long series, pictures to itself most correctly the outer world`? Let us see. Let us consider for a moment our spiritual genealogy, and dwell on its meaning. Our immediate ancestors were Christians. The spiritual progenitor of Christianity was Judaism. Judaism, having its beginning in that group of tribes collectively called Terachite or Hebrew—Ibrim, those of the other side (i.e., of the Euphrates)—descended from the mythical Ab-orham or Abraham [137–91f]; these tribes being themselves a twig of the great Semitic branch of the Caucasian race stock, sprang directly from Chaldean polytheism. Chaldean polytheism again in its turn was a development in direct descent of the Sun and Nature worship of the primitive undivided Caucasian family. The Sun and Nature worship again no doubt had its root in, and drew its life from, initial Fetishism, or the direct worship of individual earthly objects. In this long descent (although we apply different names to different parts of the continuous series, as if there were lines of

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demarcation between these different parts) there has been no break, and in all the thousands of years never such a thing as a new departure. In these spiritual matters the maxim "Natura non facit saltum" holds as firmly as it does in physics and geology. The whole affair is a simple matter of growth strictly analogous to the unfolding of the branch from the bud, or of the plant from its seed. As has been well said: "La religion étant un des produits vivants de l’humanité doit vivre, c’est-a-dire, changer avec elle" [136: 45]. And on last analysis it will be found that under the vast diversity of external appearance, from Fetishism to Christianity—underlying the infinite variety of formulas, creeds and dogmas resumed under these five heads—the essential element upon which all else depends, which underlies all and is the soul of all, is the attitude of the moral nature. And all changes in th intellectual form and outer aspect of religion are as obedient to the gradual change taking place in this as are the movements of the hands and wheels of the watch to the expansive force of its mainspring. The external world stands fast, but the spirit of man continually grows, and as it does so its own vast Brocken shadow (thrown out by the moral nature but shaped by the intellect), which it projects on the midst of the infinite unknown, necessarily (like a dissolving view) changes and changes, following the alterations in the substance (that is, the soul of man) which gives life and reality to the shadowy phantom which plain folk call their creed, and which metaphysicians call the philosophy of the absolute.

But in thus interpreting, from age to age, the unknown universe in which we live, it is to be observed that we are (on the whole) constantly giving a better and better report of it. We attribute to our gods (as the ages pass) better and better characters, and we constantly expect at their hands better and better treatment, both in the present life and after death. That means (of course) that the quantity of trust or faith which we possess is steadily increasing and encroaching upon its opposite, fear, which is as constantly lessening. So equally it may be said of charity, sympathy, or affection, that the constant increase of that

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faculty is steadily changing to us the aspect of the visible world, just as the growth of faith is altering the image we form for ourselves of that greater world which is invisible. Nor is there any indication that this double process has come to an end or that it is likely to come to an end.


The length of time during which the race has been possessed of any given faculty may be more or less accurately estimated from various indications. In cases in which the birth of the faculty took place in comparatively recent times—within, for instance, the last twenty-five or thirty thousand years—philology (as we have seen) may assist materially in determining the approximate date of its appearance. But for comparatively old faculties, such as the human intellect or simple consciousness, this means necessarily entirely fails us. We fall back, then, upon the following tests:

1. The age at which the faculty appears in the individual man at the present time.

2. The more or less universality of the faculty in the adult members of the race to-day.

3. The readiness, or the reverse, with which the faculty is lost—as in sickness.

4. The relative frequency with which the faculty makes its appearance in dreams.

1. Of each of our mental faculties it may be predicated that it has its own normal or average age for appearing in the individual; as, for instance, memory and simple consciousness appear within a few days after birth; curiosity ten weeks after; use of tools twelve months after; shame, remorse, and a sense of the ludicrous—all of them about fifteen months after birth. Now it is to be noted that in every instance the time of appearance of a faculty in an infant corresponds with the stage at which the same faculty

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appears (as far as can be at present ascertained) in the ascending animal scale, just as in the case of later appearing faculties, their age of appearing in the individual corresponds with their period of appearance in the race; for instance, memory and simple consciousness occur in animals as primitive as the echinodermata, while the use of tools is not met with below monkeys; and shame and remorse and a sense of the ludicrous are almost if not entirely confined (among animals) to the anthropoid ape and the dog. So of purely human faculties, self consciousness, which appears in the individual at the average age of about three years, made its appearance in the race certainly more than a thousand centuries ago, while the musical sense, which does not appear in the individual before adolescence or puberty, cannot (to judge by the records) have existed in the race more than a very few thousand years.

2. The longer a race has been in possession of a given faculty the more universal will that faculty be in the race. This proposition scarcely needs proof. Every new faculty must occur first of all in one individual, and as other individuals attain to the status of that one they too will acquire it, until, after perhaps many thousand years, the whole race, having attained to that status, the faculty will have become universal.

3. The longer a race has been in possession of a given faculty the more firmly is that faculty fixed in each individual of the race who possesses it. In other words: the more recent is any given faculty the more easily is it lost. Authority for this proposition (which indeed it scarcely needs) will be quoted where it is stated in another connection. It is almost, if not quite, a self-evident proposition.

4. A study of dreaming seems to reveal the fact that in sleep such mind as we have differs from our waking mind, especially by being more primitive; that, in fact, it would be almost strictly true to say that in dreams we pass backward into a prehuman mental life; that the intellectual faculties which we possess in dreams are, especially, recepts as distinguished from our waking concepts; while in the moral realm they are equally those faculties,

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such as remorse, shame, surprise, along with the older and more basic sense functions, which belonged to us before we reached the human plane, and that the more modern mental faculties, such as color sense, musical sense, self consciousness, the human moral nature, have no existence in this condition, or if any of them do occur it is only as a rare exception.

Let us now compare one with the other a few of the faculties which have been already mentioned in the light of the rules laid down. To do this will give us, more clearly than perhaps anything else could, a definite notion of the growth of mind by the successive addition of new functions. For this purpose let us take (as a few examples and to stand for all) simple consciousness, shame, self consciousness, color sense, the human moral nature, the musical sense, cosmic consciousness.

Simple consciousness makes its appearance in the human infant within a few days after birth; it is absolutely universal in the human race; it dates far back before the earliest mammals; it is lost only in deep sleep and coma; it is present in all dreams.

Shame, remorse and a sense of the ludicrous are all said to be born in the human infant at about the age of fifteen months; they are all prehuman faculties and are all found in the dog and in apes, and they undoubtedly existed in our prehuman ancestors; they are all almost universal in the race, being absent only in very low idiots; they are all three common in dreams.

Self consciousness makes its appearance in the child at the average age of three years; it is not present in any species but the human; it is, in fact, that faculty, the possession of which by an individual constitutes him a man. It is not universal in our race, being absent in all true idiots; that is, it is permanently absent in about one in each thousand human beings in Europe and America. *

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There must, however, be many members of low races, such as the Bushmen of South Africa * and native Australians, who never attain to this faculty. In our ancestry self consciousness dates back to the first true man. Thousands of years must have elapsed between its first appearance and its universality, just as thousands of years are now passing between the first cases of cosmic consciousness and its universality. A race, we are told, unclothed, walking erect,  gregarious, without a true language, to a limited extent tool-using, destitute of marriage, government, or any institution;

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animal, but in virtue of its relatively high moral nature (making it gregarious) and its highly developed receptual intelligence, king of animals, developed self consciousness, and by that fact became man. It is impossible to say how long ago it was when this event occurred, but it could not have been less than several hundred thousand years. This faculty is lost much more easily than is simple consciousness. We lose it in coma and also often in the delirium of fever; in certain forms of insanity, as in mania, it is often lost for weeks and months at a time; lastly, it is never present in dreams.

The color sense has been already considered. It remains to say a few words from the present point of view. It comes into existence gradually in the individual—at three or four years there may be a trace of it. At eight years of age it was found by Jeffries [135–242] still absent in a large percentage of children. Twenty to thirty per cent. of schoolboys are said to be color-blind, while only four per cent. of adult males are so. Dr. Favre, of Lyons [135–243] reported in 1874 to the French Congress for the Advancement of Science, at Lille, "some observations that seemed to him to prove that congenital color-blindness was curable" [135–242], but it does not seem to have occurred to him that the color sense, being invariably absent in very young children, and making its appearance at a variable age, as the child advances toward maturity, color blindness would necessarily appear to the teacher, watching the development of the child and exercising its sense of sight upon colors, to be "cured." We have seen above that the color sense in the race cannot be many tens of thousands of years old.

Color sense is absent in one human being out of every forty-seven. It is seldom present in dreams, and when it does occur, that is, when any color is seen in a dream, it is generally that color which for good reasons was first perceived by man, namely, red.

The following occurrence illustrates (in a striking manner) the usual absence of the color sense during the partial consciousness which occurs in sleep. A man whose hair is white dreamed that he was looking in a glass and saw plainly that his hair was

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not only much thicker than he knew it to be in fact, but instead of being white, as he also knew it to be, it was black. Now he well remembered in his dream that his hair had never been black. It had, in fact, been a light brown. He wondered (it is worth mentioning here that wonder or surprise is a prehuman faculty, and is common in dreams) in his dream that his hair should be black, remembering distinctly that it had never been so. The important thing to note about the dream under consideration is that, though it was clear to the dreamer's mind that his hair had never been black, yet he did not remember that it had been brown. For some reason there was a difficulty in calling up before consciousness any color. The same man dreamed that he had wounded with a knife an enemy who had attacked him; the bleeding was profuse but the blood was white; he knew in his dream that it should not be white, but no image of its true color or of any color presented itself.

The human moral nature includes many faculties, such as conscience, the abstract sense of right and wrong, sexual love as distinguished from sexual desire or instinct, parental and filial love as distinguished from the corresponding instincts (man has both these instincts in common with the brutes as well as the higher feelings), love of our fellow men as such, love of the beautiful, awe, reverence, sense of duty or responsibility, sympathy, compassion, faith. No human nature is complete without these and others; it is therefore a very complex function; but for the purpose of the present argument it must be treated as if it were a simple sense. Now at what age does this human moral nature appear in individual man? It is never present in quite young children. It is often still absent at puberty and even at adolescence. It is a late acquired faculty. It would probably not be far wrong to say that the average age for its appearance in the individual is somewhere about fifteen years. It would seem clear from a study of history that our human moral nature cannot be more than some ten or twelve thousand years old. For a careful consideration of the records that have come down to us from the early Romans, Hellenes, Hebrews, Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians would

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indicate unmistakably that as we go back into the past this faculty tapers down toward the vanishing point, and if it continues so to taper as we ascend the ages all of what we distinctively call our human moral nature would certainly have disappeared by the time we had got back the number of centuries mentioned—ten or twelve thousand years.

In what proportion of the men and women of civilized countries does the human moral nature fail to appear? There are so many men and women who have a partial moral nature, so many who, having little or none, wear (as well as may be) the outer semblance of one; the judging of men and women in this regard is so difficult—the problem is so veiled and so complicated—that it is impossible to give more than an opinion. But let any one who is curious read a few such books as those by Despine [66] and Ellis [76]—then view the men and women among whom he lives by the light thus supplied, and he will be forced to the conclusion that the proportion of the adults who have little or no, or an undeveloped, moral nature is far greater than of those who have little or no, or an undeveloped, color sense. We probably should not be far wrong if we said that at least forty men and women out of every thousand in America and Europe are in the position indicated.

Then how many races of men are there still living upon the earth none or very few of the members of which have what could be called from the point of view of our civilization a human moral nature? Again, while self consciousness is lost, not of course always, but frequently, in insanity and fever, the moral nature is, we must all admit, subject to much more frequent lapses and absences and with far less cause.

Self consciousness appeared in the race, as we have seen, about three hundred thousand years ago. The above considerations would point to a very much later date for the appearance of the moral nature. And do not all records and historic indications, so far as they go, support this inference?

Finally, the musical sense (a faculty which is now in act of being born) does not appear in the individual before adolescence.

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Name of Faculty

Approximate Average Age of Appearance in Man

Absent in what proportion of Adult Members of Race at Present Time

Time of Appearance of Faculty in Race

How far back does Faculty Reach into Prehuman forms?

With what Degree of Facility is the Faculty Lost in Man?


Few days after birth



To the Echinodermata

Only lost in deep sleep and coma; present in dreams

Simple Consciousness

Few days after birth



To the Echinodermata

Only lost in deep sleep and coma; present in dreams


Ten weeks



Insects and spiders

Only lost in deep sleep and coma; present in dreams

Use of Tools

Twelve months




Present in dreams


Fifteen months



Anthropoid apes and dogs

Present in dreams


Fifteen months



Anthropoid apes and dogs

Present in dreams

Sense of Ludicrous

Fifteen months



Anthropoid apes and dogs

Present in dreams

Self Consciousness

Three years

In 1 in 1,000

300,000 years ago

Peculiar to man

Lost in coma, delirium, often in mania; never present in dreams

Color Sense

Four years

In 1 in 47

30,000 or 40,000 years ago

Not in man's progenitors

Seldom present in dreams

Sense of Fragrance

Five years



Not in man's progenitors

Not present in dreams

Human Moral Nature

Fifteen years

In 1 in 20 or 25

10,000 years ago

Peculiar to man

Unstable—easily and constantly lost; not present in dreams

Musical Sense

Eighteen years

In more than half

Less than 5,000 years ago

Not in man's progenitors

Only occasionally present; hardly ever present in dreams, even in case of musicians

Cosmic Consciousness

Thirty-five years

In all but one in many millions

Just dawning now

Peculiar to man

Only present few seconds to few hours in any case; then passes away of itself

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[paragraph continues] It does not exist in more than half the members of our race. It has existed less (perhaps considerably less) than five thousand years. It is never, or almost never, present in dreams, even in the case of professional musicians. While self consciousness in insanity is lost, as said, occasionally, the musical sense in that condition might be said to be invariably lost—at least after an experience of twenty-five years, with about five thousand cases of lunacy, the writer cannot recall a case where the musical sense was retained, the person being insane.

The accompanying summary, in tabular form, of the main facts concerning the evolution of the faculties mentioned and some others, will make, it is believed, the whole subject more intelligible than any long exposition thereof. The figures in the table and text are not given as being exact, but for the sake of conveying a clear idea which it is thought will be correct enough for the present purpose.

To sum up: as ontogeny is nothing else but philogeny in petto—that is, as the evolution of the individual is necessarily the evolution of the race in an abridged form, simply because it cannot in the nature of things be anything else—cannot follow any other lines, there being no other lines for it to follow—it is plain that organs and faculties (speaking broadly and generally) must appear in the individual in the same order in which they appeared in the race, and the one being known, the other may with confidence be assumed.

When a new faculty appears in a race it will be found, in the very beginning, in one individual of that race; later it will be found in a few individuals; after a further time in a larger percentage of the members of the race; still later in half the members; and so on, until, after thousands of generations, an individual who misses having the faculty is regarded as a monstrosity. Note, too—and this is important—when the new faculty appears, especially if it be in the direct line of the ascent of the race, as in the case of Simple, Self, or Cosmic, Consciousness, it must appear first in a member, then in members, of the race who have reached full maturity. For an immature individual (other things being

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equal) cannot over-pass or go beyond a mature individual of the same race.

Thus, as the eons pass, has the great trunk of the tree of life grown taller and from time to time shot forth twigs which have grown to branches, and these again to noble limbs, which in their turn have put out twigs and branches, many of them of great size and in number uncountable. We know that the tree has not ceased to grow, that even now, as always, it is putting forth new buds, and that the old shoots, twigs and branches are most of them increasing in size and strength. Shall the growth stop to-day L It does not seem likely. It seems more likely that other limbs and branches undreamed of to-day shall spring from the tree, and that the main trunk which from mere life grew into sensitive life, simple consciousness and self consciousness shall yet pass into still higher forms of life and consciousness.


46:* As regards the absence of self consciousness in idiots the examination of the inmates of a large idiot asylum revealed the fact that the faculty was absent in fully ninety per cent. The patients examined were nearly all over ten years of age. Of course a few of them might attain to self consciousness later on. Dictionaries and works on idiocy [101] define an idiot as "a human being destitute of the ordinary mental powers"; but it would seem that "a human being in whom, the usual age being past, in consequence of atavism, self consciousness has not been developed," would be more accurate and better. While the definition p. 47 of imbecile would be: "A human being, who, though self conscious, is, in consequence of atavism, to a large extent destitute of the ordinary mental powers."

47:* For the mental status of Bushmen see Anderson [1–9, 216, 217, 218, 227, 228, 232, 291], who gives the facts from actual observation without speculation or theory; he is a close observer and evidently a faithful reporter. See also some remarkable pages by Olive Schreiner [90–2, 4] in which she describes these same Bushmen (as does Anderson) from personal observation. Along with much else she states, for instance, that: "These small people had no fixed social organization; wandering about in hordes or as solitary individuals, without any settled habitation, they slept at night under the rocks or in wild-dog holes, or they made themselves a curious little wall of loose bushes, raised up on the side from which the wind blew, and strangely like an animal's lair; and this they left again when the morning broke. They had no flocks or herds and lived on the wild game, or when that failed them, ate snakes, scorpions, insects or offal, or visited the flocks of the Hottentots. They wore no clothing of any kind, and their weapons were bows and arrows, the strings of the bows being made from the sinews of wild animals, and the arrows tipped with sharpened bones or flint stones, poisoned with the juice of a bulb or dipped in the body of a poisonous caterpillar: and these formed their only property. They had no marriage ceremony and no permanent sex relations, any man or woman cohabiting during pleasure; maternal feeling was at its lowest ebb, mothers readily forsaking their young or disposing of them for a trifle; and paternal feeling was non-existent. Their language is said by those who have closely studied it to be so imperfect that the clear expression of even the very simplest ideas is difficult. They have no word for wife, for marriage, for nation: and their minds appear to be in the same simple condition as their language. The complex mental operations necessary for the maintenance of life under civilized conditions they have apparently no power of performing; no member of the race has in any known instance been taught to read or write, nor to grasp religious conceptions clearly, though great efforts have been made to instruct them." It seems impossible to believe that as a race these creatures are self conscious.

47:† Walking erect. If the view here taken of mental, and human, evolution should be accepted it would throw some light on our remote past. One corollary from it would be that our ancestors walked erect for hundreds of thousands of years before they became self conscious—that is, before they became men and began to speak. The age at which infants begin to walk is (mentally) the age of the dog and the ape. From fifteen or eighteen months to three years of age the child passes through the mental strata which lie between these animals and self consciousness. During that time the child's receptual intelligence becomes more and more perfect, the recepts themselves become more and more complex, nearer and nearer to concepts, until these last are actually formed and self consciousness is established. It would seem that something like a half million of years of evolution must have elapsed between the status of the highest anthropoid apes and that of man. Perhaps this may be a comforting reflection to those people who do not; like the idea of having descended from some Simian form.

Next: Chapter 3. Devolution