Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/100

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lagged behind. He had paused by the side of the brook, brought his eyes as near as he could to the surface of the water, and was examining with intense interest the subaqueous life which the little stream contained. After a time he rejoined his companions, and this was his utterance when he joined them: What an imagination God has! * The words must have made a deep impression upon my informant's mind; otherwise he would not have retained them in memory, and would not have thought it worth while to repeat them to me. They made a similar impression upon myself when so repeated; and I can not but regard them as containing a true philosophy of Nature. Whatever may be the power of natural selection, and whatever causes may be at work to produce the varied scene of life which the world contains, you need some underlying cause, both of life itself and of reproduction and variation, and of all natural phenomena; and if causally the existence of the universe may be attributed to God's will and purpose, so the endless variety of vital manifestations may be attributed to that which in the case of man we should call imagination.

In reality, whatever may be the actual historical genesis of Nature, we seem to need a guasi-Platonic doctrine of antecedent ideas in the divine mind as the basis, the underlying condition, of the existence of things as we see them. It is matter for fair discussion among naturalists how much may be attributed to natural selection, how much to sexual, how much to physiological, and so forth. But such discussions can not go to the root of things; they do not reach the original thought out of which the works of Nature, as we call them, originally spring. Michael Angelo, as we are told, used to sit with his hammer and chisel before his marble block, and shape it without any previous modeling process into the figure which he intended to produce; other sculptors, I believe, with only this one grand exception, make their model in clay, and thence proceed by semi-mechanical steps to the finished work; but Michael Angelo and all other sculptors have alike the seminal idea in their minds, and the manner of its evolution is comparatively a matter of detail. Something of the same kind may be said of the production of natural things. It may be possible for naturalists to discover some of the steps by which the finished work comes to be what it is; but the actual origin of natural things—the wonders of life, the varied beauties of the universe, above all, the mind of man, which is capable of understanding, appreciating, and discussing the problems to which natural things give rise—is to be sought in no region lower than that which may, with all reverence, be described as the mind, or as the imagination of God.—Nineteenth Century.