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PEDIGREE OF THE DEVIL.
FREDERIC T. HALL, F.R.A.S.
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EVERYTHING has a pedigree. Everything, whether animate or inanimate, whether a thing of sense or a creation of the mind, every idea whether based on fact or the growth of a delusion, every truth and every error, has its pedigree.
A pedigree is a line of ancestors, a chain of causes and effects, each link first an effect and then a cause. Rarely, if ever, is an effect the result of an isolated cause,
but causes cross and interlace in such endless combinations, that novel effects are continually being produced.
The simplest facts have endless pedigrees of causes and effects. A pebble lying on the path appears a simple object, commonplace and uninteresting ; but let the geologist unfold its pedigree, and trace it down from the rock of which it was originally part, at a time when our planet was a barren lifeless mass of matter, and when it did not contain even the most elementary form of life ; following this little lump of matter through all the convulsions of Nature, the vicissitudes of climate, the development of vegetable and animal life, and the thousand circumstances which have contributed to the reduction of that pebble to its present form and nature, and determined its present situation, and we find a mass of causes and effects widening out in the retrospect with bewildering complication.
And so with each living animal, lines of ancestors multiplying as they recede into antiquity in geometrical proportion, until the ancestry seems to include the whole world of Nature, and involve all beings in one vast cousinship; always exposed to vicissitudes of climate, food, and the endless other incidents of the great struggle for existence, ever at work, modifying the characteristics of each race, evolving new forms and making fixity of type impossible.
Idea and ideals have also their pedigrees ; but the ancestor ideas are not so easily dissected as those of material facts. Still ideas and ideals are facts, none the less so, that they may have been imaginary and false. An idea is a fact although a mere figment of the brain, founded on a fallacy; and when an idea becomes an article of faith, it becomes so strong a fact that it will be the parent of a thousand other ideas, each in its turn the father of a thousand others.