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A MODERN SYMPOSIUM.' THE SOUL AND FUTURE LIFE.*

MR. R. H. HUTTON.

pletely neutralised by the redundant The imaginative glow and rhetorical moral energy inherent in his nature, that

the characteristic effect which I should vivacity which are visible throughout Mr. Harrison's Essays on the Soul and have ascribed to them is absolutely unFuture Life' are very remarkable, and verifiable, and, for anything we have the should guard those of us who recoil in right to assert

, non-existent. There is amazement from its creed or no-creed

at least but one instance in which I from falling into the very common mis- should have traced any shade of what I take of assuming that the eftect which may call the natural 'view of death as such ideas as these produce on ourselves presented in the light of this creed, and is the effect which, apart from all ques

that is the sentence in which Mr. Harrition of the other mental conditions sur

son somewhat superfluously disclaimsrounding the natures into which they are as though he resented the necessity of

and moreover with an accent of hauteur, received, they naturally produce. It is clear at least that if they ever tended to admitting that death is a disagreeable

certainty-his own or his creed's responproduce on the author of these

papers the same effect which they not only tend sibility for the fact of death. We make to produce, but do produce, on myself

, death,' he says; 'we do not deny its ter

no mystical or fanciful divinity of that tendency must have been so com

rors or its evils. We are not responsible

for it, and should welcome any reasona* The article by Mr. Frederic Harrison on ble prospect of eliminating or postponwhich this discussion is based appeared in the June and July numbers of the Nineteenth ing this fatality that waits upon all orCentury. The discussion will be concluded in ganic nature.' After reading that adour December number.-ED. 1

mission, I was puzzled when I ne to New SERIES.—Vol. XXVI., No. 5

33

scorn.

the assertion that 'we who know that a have ceased not merely to realise what higher form of activity is only to be Christians mean, but have sincerely and reached by a subjective life in society, completely forgotten that Christians ever will continue to regard a perpetuity of had a meaning at all. That Positivists sensation as the true Hell,' a sentence in should regard any belief in the ' beatific which Mr. Harrison would commonly be vision' as a wild piece of fanaticism, I understood to mean that he and all his can understand, but that, entering into the friends, if they had a vote in the matter, meaning of that fanaticism, they should would give a unanimous suffrage against describe the desire for it as a gross piece this perpetuity of sensation,' and, so far of selfishness, I cannot understand ; and I from trying to eliminate or postpone think it more reasonable, therefore, to death, would be inclined to cling to and assume that they have simply lost the even hasten it. For, in this place at key to the language of adoration. Moreleast, it is not the perpetuation of dete- over, when I come to note Mr. Harririorated energies of which Mr. Harrison son's own conception of the future life, speaks, but the perpetuation of life pure it appears to me that it differs only from and simple. Indeed, nothing puzzles the Christian's conception by its infinite me more in this paper than the diametri- deficiencies, and in no respect by supecal contradictions both of feeling and rior moral qualities of any kind. That thought which appear to me to be em- conception is, in a word, posthumous bodied in it. Its main criticism on the energy. He holds that if we could get common view of immortality seems to be rid of the vulgar notion of a survival of that the desire for it is a grossly selfish personal sensations and of growing mendesire. Nay, nicknaming the conception tal and moral faculties after death, we of a future of eternal praise, 'the eterni- should consecrate the notion of postty of the tabor,' he calls it a conception humous activity, and anticipate with deso gross, so sensual, so indolent, so sel- light our coming incorporation with the fish,' as to be worthy of nothing but glorious future of our race,' as we cannot

I think he can never have taken possibly consecrate those great hopes the trouble to realise with any care what now. he is talking of. Whatever the concep- But, in the first place, what is this tion embodied in what Mr. Harrison 'glorious future of our race 'which I am calls 'ceaseless psalmody'may be-and invited to contemplate? It is the life in certainly it is not my idea of immortal a better organised society of a vast numlife—it is the very opposite of selfish. ber of these merely temporary creatures No conception of life can be selfish of whose personal sensations, if they ever which the very essence is adoration, that could be perpetuated,' Mr. Harrison is, wonder, veneration, gratitude to an- regards as giving us the best conception other. And gross as the conception of a 'true hell.' Now if an improved necessarily suggested by psalm-singing and better organised future of ephemeris, to those who interpret it, as we gene- als be so glorious to anticipate, what elerally do, by the stentorian shoutings of ments of glory are there in it which congregations who are often thinking a would not belong to the immortality great deal more of their own perform- looked forward to by the Christian-a ances than of the object of their praise, far more improved future of endlessly it is the commonest candor to admit that growing natures ? Is it the mere fact this conception of immortality awes its that I shall myself belong to the one fuorigin entirely to men who were thinking ture which renders it unworthy, while of a life absorbed in the interior contem- the absence of any 'perpetuity' of my plation of a God full of all perfections, personal 'sensations' from the other, a contemplation breaking out into thanks- renders it unselfish? I always supposed giving only in the intensity of their love selfishness to consist, not in the desire and adoration. Whatever else this concep- for any noble kind of life in which I tion of immortality may be, the very last might share, but in the preference for my phrase which can be justly applied to it own happiness at the expense of some is 'gross' or 'selfish. I fear that the one else's. If it is selfish to desire the Positivists have left the Christian objects perpetuation of a growing life, which not of their criticism so far behind that they only does not, as far as know, interfere with the volume of moral growth in oth- activity will be of all kinds, some of ers, but certainly contributes to it, then which I am glad to anticipate, most of it must be the true unselfishness to com- which I am very sorry to anticipate, and mit suicide at once, supposing suicide to much of which I anticipate with absobe the finis to personal sensation.' But lute indifference. Even our best actions then universal suicide would be incon- have bad effects as well as good. Macsistent with the glorious future of our aulay and most other historians held that race, so I suppose it must at least be the Puritan earnestness expended a good postponed till our own sensations have deal of posthumous activity in producing been so far perpetuated' as to leave the license of the world of the Restoraheirs behind them. If Condorcet is to tion. Our activity, indeed, is strictly be held up to our admiration for antici- posthumous in kind, even before our pating on the edge of the grave his death, from the very moment in which

coming incorporation with the glorious it leaves our living mind and has begun future of his race,' i.e. with ourselves and to work beyond ourselves. What I did our posterity, may we not infer that there as a child is, in this sense, as much prois something in ourselves, i.e. in human ducing posthumous effects, i.e. effects society as it now exists, which was wor- over which I can no longer exert any thy of his vision-something in which we control, now, as what I do before death need not think it'selfish' to participate, will be producing posthumous effects af. even though our personal 'sensations ter my death. Now a considerable prodo form a part of it? Where then does portion of these posthumous activities of the selfishness of desiring to share in a ours, even when we can justify the origiglorious future even through personal pal activity as all that it ought to have sensations' begin? The only reasona- been, are unfortunate. Mr. Harrison's ble or even intelligible answer, as far as papers, for instance, have already exertI can see, is this ;-as soon as that per- ed a very vivid and very repulsive effect sonal 'sensation' for ourselves excludes on my mind-an activity which I am a larger and wider growth for others, but sure he will not look upon with gratificano sooner. But then no Christian ever tion, and I do not doubt that what I am supposed for a moment that his personal now writing will produce the same effect inmortality could or would interfere with on him, and in that effect I shall take no any other being's growth. And if so, delight at all. A certain proportion, therewhere is the selfishness? What a Chris- fore, of my posthumous activity is activity tian desires is a higher, truer, deeper for evil, even when the activity itself is on union with God for all, himself included. the whole good. But when we come to If his own life drop out of that future, throw in the posthumous activity for he supposes that there will be so much evil exerted by our evil actions and the less that really does glorify the true occasional posthumous activity for good righteousness, and no compensating which evil also fortunately exerts, but equivalent. If it be Mr. Harrison's mis- for the good results of which we can sion to disclose to us that any perpetui- take no credit to ourselves, the whole ty of sensation on our own parts will constitutes a mélange to which, as far as positively exclude something much high- I am concerned, I look with exceedingly er which would exist if we consented to mixed feelings, the chief element being disappear, he may, I think, prove his humiliation, though there are faint lights

But in the absence of any attempt mingled with it here and there. But as to do so, his conception that it is noble for any rapture of satisfaction in contemand unselfish to be more than content- plating my 'coming incorporation with grateful-for ceasing to live any but a the glorious future of our race,' I must posthumous life, seems to me simply wholly and entirely disclaim it. What I irrational.

see in that incorporation of mine with But, further, the equivalent which Mr. the future of our race-glorious or the Harrison offers me for becoming, as I reverse, and I do not quite see why the had hoped to become, in another world, Positivist thinks it so glorious, since he an altogether better member of a better probably holds that an absolute term society, does not seem to me more than must be put to it, if by no other cause, a very doubtful good. My posthumous by the gradual cooling of the sun-is a

case.

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