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IMMORTALITY


the material molecular aggregate of itsown unaided latent power, ” and affirms that the “ universe where the human spirit is more at home than it is among these temporary collocations of matter” is “ a universe capable of infinite development, of noble contemplation, and of lofty joy, long after this planet-~nay the whole solar system-shall have fulfilled its present spire of destiny, and retired cold and lifeless upon its endless way ” (pp. 199-zoo). In his lecture on Human Immortality (3rd ed., 1906), Professor William James deals with “ two supposed objections to the doctrine.” The first is “ the law that thought is a function of the brain.” Accepting the law he distinguishes productive from permissive or transmissive function (p. 32), and, rejecting the view that brain produces thought, he recognizes that in our present condition brain transmits thought, thought needs brain for its organ of expression; but this does not exclude the possibility of a condition in which thought will be no longer so dependent on brain. He quotes (p. 57) with approval Kant's words, “The death of the body may indeed be the end of the sensational use of our mind, but only the beginning of the intellectual use. The body would thus be not the cause of our thinking, but merely a condition restrictive thereof, and, although essential to our sensuous and animal consciousness, it may be regarded as an impeder of our pure spiritual life ” (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 2nd ed., p. 809).

Further 'arguments in the same direction are derived from the modern school of psychical research (see especially F. W. H. Myers' Human Personality, 1903).

Another objection is advanced from the standpoint of naturalism, which, whether it issues in materialism or not, seeks to explain man as but a product of the process of nature. The universe is so immeasurably vast in extension and duration, and man is so small, his home but a speck in space, and his history a span in time that it seems an arrogant assumption for him to claim exemption from the universal law of evolution and dissolution. This view ignores that man has ideals of absolute value, truth, beauty, goodness, that he consciously communes with the God who is in all, and through all, and over all, that it is his mind which recognizes the vastness of the universe and thinks its universal law, and that the mind which perceives and conceives cannot be less, but must be greater than the object of its knowledge and thought. .

Pessimism suggests a third objection. The present life is so little worth living that its continuance is not to be desired. James Thomson (“ B.V.”) speaks “ of the restful rapture of the inviolate grave, ” and sings the praises of death and of oblivion. We cannot admit that the history of mankind justifies his conclusion; for the great majority of men life is a good, and its continuance an object of hope.

For pantheism personal immortality appears a lesser good than re absorption in the universal life; but against this objection we may confidently maintain' that worthier of God and more blessed for man is the hope of a conscious communion in an eternal life of the Father of all with His whole family. Lastly positivism teaches a corporate instead of an individual immortality; man should desire to live on as a beneficent influence in the race. This conception is expressed in George Eliot's lines:

"O, may l join the choir invisible

Of those immortal dead who live again

In minds made better by their presence: live In pulses stirred to generosity,

ln deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn

For miserable aims that end with self,

In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars, I And with their mild persistence urge man's search To vaster issues."

But these possibilities are not mutually exclusive alternatives. A man may live on in the world by his teaching and example as a power for good, a factor of human progress, and he may also be continuing and completing his course under conditions still more favourable to all most worthy in him. Consciously to participate as a person in the progress of the race is surely a worthier hope than unconsciously to contribute to it as an F

influence; ultimately to share the triumph as well as the struggle is a more inspiring anticipation. ' ' f

In stating constructively the doctrine of immortality we must assign 'altogether secondary importance to the metaphysical arguments from the nature of the soul. It is sufficient to show, as has already been done, that the soul is not so absolutely dependent on the' body, that the dissolution of the one must necessarily involve the cessation of the other. Such arguments as the indivisibility of the soul and its persistence can at most indicate the possibility of immortality.

The juridical argument has some force; the present life does not show that harmony of condition and character which our sense of justice leads us to expect; the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer; there is ground for the expectation that in the future life the anomalies of this life will be corrected. Although this argument has the support of such great names as Butler and Kant, yet it will repel many minds as an appeal to the motive of self-interest.

The ethical argument has greater value. Man's life here is incomplete, and the more lofty his aims, the more worthy his labours, the more incomplete will it appear to be. The man who lives for fame, wealth, power, may be satisfied in this life; but he who lives for the ideals of truth, beauty, goodness, lives not for time but for eternity, for his ideals cannot be realized, and so this life fulfilled on this side of the grave. Unless these ideals are mocking visions, man has a right to expect the continuance of his life forits completion. Thisis theline of argument developed by Professor Hugo Münsterberg in his lecture on The Eternal Life (1905), although he states it in the terms peculiar to his psychology, in which personality is conceived as primarily will. “No endless duration is our goal, but complete repose V in the perfect satisfaction which the will finds when it has reached the significance, the influence, and the value at which it is aiming ” (p. 83).

More general in its appeal still is the argument from the ejections, which has been beautifully developed in Tennyson's In Memoriam. The heart protests against the severance of death, and claims the continuance of love's communion after death; and as man feels that love is what is most godlike in his nature, love's claim has supreme authority.

There is a religious argument for immortality. The saints of the Hebrew nation were sure that as God had entered into fellowship with them, death could not sever them from his presence. This is the argument in Psalms xvi. and xvii., if, as is probable, the closing verses do express the hope of a glorious and blessed immortality. This too is the proof Jesus himself offers when he declares God to be the God of the living and not of the dead (Matt. xxii. 32). God's companions cannot become death's victims.

Josiah Royce in his lecture on The Conception of Immortality (1000) combines this argument of the soul's union with God with the argument of the incompleteness of man's life here:- “ just because God is One, all our lives have various and unique places in the harmony of the divine life. And just because God attains and wins and finds this uniqueness, all our lives wm in our union with Him the individuality which is essential to their true meaning. And just because individuals whose lives have uniqueness of meaning are here only objects of pursuit, the attainment of this very individuality, since it is indeed real, occurs not in our present form of consciousness, but in a life that now we see not, yet in a life whose genuine meaning is continuous with our own human life, however far from our present flickering form of disappointed human consciousness that life of the final individuality may be. Of this our true individual life, our present life is a glimpse, a fragmentyg hint, and in its best moments a visible beglnnlng. That this individual life of all of us is not sornethlng limlted 1n its temporal expression to the life that now we experience, follows from the very fact that here nothing final or individual is found expressed " (pn 144446)-R.

W. Emerson declares that “ the impulse to seek proof of immortality is itself the strongest proof of all.” We expect immortality not merely because we desire it; but because the desire itself arises from all that is best and truest and worthiest in ourselves. The desire is reasonable, moral, social, religious; it has

the same worth as the loftiest ideals, and worthiest aspirations