self-defence, of absorbing the essential practicalities of Western civilization within a single generation. Some of the most important problems of world-civilization of the immediate future hinge upon the mutual relations of these two long-severed communities, branched at some early stage of progress to opposite hemispheres of the globe, but now brought by the new mechanisms into daily and even hourly communication.
While the new conditions of the industrial world have thus tended to develop a new national outlook, there has come about, as a result of the scientific discoveries already referred to, a no less significant broadening of the mental and spiritual horizons. Here also the trend is away from Modern humanism. the narrowly egoistic and towards the cosmopolitan view. About the middle of the 19th century Dr Pritchard declared that many people debated whether it might not be permissible for the Australian settlers to shoot the natives as food for their dogs; some of the disputants arguing that savages were without the pale of human brotherhood. To-day the thesis that all mankind are one brotherhood needs no defence. The most primitive of existing aborigines are regarded merely as brethren who, through some defect or neglect of opportunity, have lagged behind in the race. Similarly the defective and criminal classes that make up so significant a part of the population of even our highest present-day civilizations, are no longer regarded with anger or contempt, as beings who are suffering just punishment for wilful transgressions, but are considered as pitiful victims of hereditary and environmental influences that they could neither choose nor control. Insanity is no longer thought of as demoniac possession, but as the most lamentable of diseases.
The changed attitude towards savage races and defective classes affords tangible illustrations of a fundamental transformation of point of view which doubtless represents the most important result of the operation of new scientific knowledge in the course of the 19th century. It is a transformation that is only partially effected as yet, to be sure; but it is rapidly making headway, and when fully achieved it will represent, probably, the most radical metamorphosis of mental view that has taken place in the entire course of the historical period. The essence of the new view is this: to recognize the universality and the invariability of natural law; stated otherwise, to understand that the word “supernatural” involves a contradiction of terms and has in fact no meaning. Whoever has grasped the full import of this truth is privileged to sweep mental horizons wider by far than ever opened to the view of any thinker of an earlier epoch. He is privileged to forecast, as the sure heritage of the future, a civilization freed from the last ghost of superstition—an Age of Reason in which mankind shall at last find refuge from the hosts of occult and invisible powers, the fearsome galaxies of deities and demons, which have haunted him thus far at every stage of his long journey through savagery, barbarism and civilization. Doubtless here and there a thinker, even in the barbaric eras, may have realized that these ghosts that so influenced the everyday lives of his fellows were but children of the imagination. But the certainty that such is the case could not have come with the force of demonstration even to the most clear-sighted thinker until 19th-century science had investigated with penetrating vision the realm of molecule and atom; had revealed the awe-inspiring principle of the conservation of energy; and had offered a comprehensible explanation of the evolution of one form of life from another, from monad to man, that did not presuppose the intervention of powers more “supernatural” than those that operate about us everywhere to-day.
The stupendous import of these new truths could not, of course, make itself evident to the generality of mankind in a single generation, when opposed to superstitions of a thousand generations’ standing. But the new knowledge has made its way more expeditiously than could have been anticipated; and its effects are seen on every side, even where its agency is scarcely recognized. As a single illustration, we may note the familiar observation that the entire complexion of orthodox teaching of religion has been more altered in the past fifty years than in two thousand years before. This of course is not entirely due to the influence of physical and biological science; no effect has a unique cause, in the complex sociological scheme. Archaeology, comparative philology and textual criticism have also contributed their share; and the comparative study of religions has further tended to broaden the outlook and to make for universality, as opposed to insularity, of view. It is coming to be more and more widely recognized that all theologies are but the reflex of the more or less faulty knowledge of the times in which they originate, that the true and abiding purpose of religion should be the practical betterment of humanity—the advancement of civilization in the best sense of the word; and that this end may perhaps be best subserved by different systems of theology, adapted to the varied genius of different times and divers races. Wherefore there is not the same enthusiastic desire to-day that found expression a generation ago, to impose upon the cultured millions of the East a religion that seems to them alien to their manner of thought, unsuited to their needs and less distinctly ethical in teaching than their own religions.
Such are but a few of the illustrations that might be cited from many fields to suggest that the mind of our generation is becoming receptive to a changed point of view that augurs the coming of a new ethnic era. If one may be permitted to enter very tentatively the field of prophecy, it seems not unlikely that the great revolutionary invention which will close the third period of civilization and usher in a new era is already being evolved. It seems not over-hazardous to predict that the air-ship, in one form or another, is destined to be the mechanism that will give the new impetus to human civilization; that the next era will have as one of its practical ideals the conquest of the air; and that this conquest will become a factor in the final emergence of humanity from the insularity of nationalism to the broad view of cosmopolitanism, towards which, as we have seen, the tendencies of the present era are verging. That the gap to be covered is a vastly wide one no one need be reminded who recalls that the civilized nations of Europe, together with America and Japan, are at present accustomed to spend more than three hundred million pounds each year merely that they may keep armaments in readiness to fly at one another’s throats should occasion arise. Formidable as these armaments now seem, however, the developments of the not very distant future will probably make them quite obsolete; and sooner or later, as science develops yet more deadly implements of destruction, the time must come when communal intelligence will rebel at the suicidal folly of the international attitude that characterized, for example, the opening decade of the 20th century. At some time, after the first period of cosmopolitanism shall be ushered in as a tenth ethnic period, it will come to be recognized that there is a word fraught with fuller meanings even than the word patriotism. That word is humanitarianism. The enlightened generation that realizes the full implications of that word will doubtless marvel that their ancestors of the third period of civilization should have risen up as nations and slaughtered one another by thousands to settle a dispute about a geographical boundary. Such a procedure will appear to have been quite as barbarous as the cannibalistic practices of their yet more remote ancestors, and distinctly less rational, since cannibalism might sometimes save its practiser from starvation, whereas warfare of the civilized type was a purely destructive agency.
Equally obvious must it appear to the cosmopolite of some generation of the future that quality rather than mere numbers must determine the efficiency of any given community. Race suicide will then cease to be a bugbear; and it will no longer be considered rational to keep up the census at the cost of propagating low orders of intelligence, to feed the ranks of paupers, defectives and criminals. On the contrary it will be thought fitting that man should become the conscious arbiter of his own racial destiny to the extent of applying whatever laws of heredity he knows or may acquire in the interests of his own species, as he has long applied them in the case of domesticated animals. The survival and procreation of the unfit will then cease to be a menace to the progress of civilization. It does not follow that