Language and Self Consciousness
The Present State of Humanity
On the Plane of Self Consciousness
Intellect versus Morality
Order of Development
Introducing Cosmic Consciousness
Evolution of Consciousness
Effects of Cosmic Consciousness
Consequences for Religion and Politics
Go to:Supplementary "Lectures"
See also:About the "Lecturer"
A Rational Approach to Genesis, Part 1
Phaedo, by Plato
The Mystics of Islam
A Lesson from Browning
Later in the history of creation comes the beginning of Simple Consciousness. Certain individuals in some one living species in the slowly unfolding life of the planet one day and for the first time become conscious. They know that there exists a world, a something, without them. This step from the unconscious to the conscious might well impress us as being as miraculous and as divine as that from the inorganic to the organic.
Following the river of time, we perceive a long, equable, and gradual ascent stretching from the dawn of Simple Consciousness to its highest excellence in the best pre-human types the horse, the dog, the elephant, and the ape. At this point we are confronted with another apparent hiatus between Simple and Self Consciousness. Upon one side of this deep chasm roams the brute, while upon the other dwells man.
For some hundreds of thousands of years, upon the general plane of Self Consciousness, an ascent gradual to the human mind but rapid from the point of view of cosmic evolution was made. One race with a large brain, walking erect, gregarious but brutal, transcended Simple Consciousness and acquired the basic human faculty of Self Consciousness together with its twin, language. From these, through suffering, toil, and war; through bestiality, savagery, and barbarism; through slavery, greed, and effort; through conquest and defeat; through unending struggle; through ages of aimless semi-brutal existence; through subsistence on berries and roots; through the use of the casually found stone or stick; through life in deep forests with nuts and seeds, and on the shores of waters with molluscs, crustaceans, and fish for food; through that greatest, perhaps, of human victories, the domestication and subjugation of fire; through the invention and art of the bow and arrow; through the taming of animals and the breaking of them to labour; through the long learning which led to the cultivation of the soil; through the adobe brick and the building of houses; through the smelting of metals and the slow births of the arts which rest upon these; through the slow making of alphabets and the evolution of the written word; in short, through thousands of centuries of human life, of human aspiration, of human growth, sprang the world of men and women as it stands before us today with all its achievements and possessions.
Is that all? Is that the end? No. As life arose in a world without life; as Simple Consciousness came into existence where before was mere vitality without perception; as Self Consciousness leaped out from Simple Consciousness and soared over land and sea: so shall the race of man which has been thus established continue its ascent and attain to a yet higher life than any hitherto experienced or even conceived. And let it be clearly understood that this new step, which we shall call Cosmic Consciousness, is not simply an expansion of self consciousness but as distinct from it as that is from simple consciousness.
Individually, and from generation to generation, it accumulated these percepts whose constant repetition, calling for further and further registration, led in the struggle for existence and under the law of natural selection to an accumulation of cells in the central sense ganglia. The multiplication of cells made further registration possible, which in turn called for further growth of the ganglia, and so on. At last a condition was reached in which it became possible for our ancestor to combine groups of these percepts into what we today call a recept. This process is very similar to that of composite photography. Similar percepts (as of a tree) are registered one over the other until (the nerve centres having become competent to the task) they are generalised into, as it were, one percept; but that compound percept is neither more nor less than a recept a something that has been received.
At last, after many thousands of generations have lived and died, comes a time when the mind of the animal we are considering has reached the highest possible point of purely receptual intelligence. The accumulation of precepts and recepts has gone on until no greater stores of impressions can be laid up and no further elaboration of these can be accomplished on the plane of receptual intelligence.
Now it is clear to any one who will give the least thought to the subject that the revolution by which concepts are substituted for recepts increases the efficiency of the brain for thought as much as the introduction of machinery increased the capacity of the race for work, or as much as the use of algebra increases the power of the mind in mathematical calculations. To replace a great cumbersome recept by a simple symbol was almost like replacing actual goods such as wheat, fabrics, and hardware by entries in a ledger.
When we say that an individual, whether an adult or a child, instantaneously came into possession of concepts, of language, and of self consciousness, we mean, of course, that the individual came into possession of self consciousness and of one or a few concepts and of one or a few true words, and not that he all at once entered into possession of a whole complex language. In the history of the individual man, the point in question is normally reached and passed at about the age of three years; in the history of the race it was reached and passed several hundred thousand years ago.
Let us now for a moment consider the concept. This may be considered as a large and complex recept, but larger and more complex than any recept. It is made up of one or more recepts probably combined with several percepts. This extremely complex recept is then marked with a sign: that is, it is named and, in virtue of its name, becomes a concept. After being named or marked, the concept is, as it were, laid aside just as a piece of checked baggage is marked by its check and piled in the baggage room.
By means of this check we can send the trunk to any part of America without ever seeing it or knowing just where it is at a given moment. So by means of their signs we can build concepts into elaborate calculations, into poems and into systems of philosophy, half the time without knowing anything about the thing represented by the individual concepts we are using.
And here a remark must be made aside from the main argument. It has been noticed thousands of times that the brain of a thinking man does not exceed in size the brain of a non-thinking wild man in anything like the proportion in which the mind of the thinker exceeds the mind of the savage. The reason is that the brain of a Herbert Spencer has very little more work to do than that of a primitive savage, because Spencer does all his characteristic mental work by signs or counters which stand for concepts, whereas the savage does all or nearly all his by means of cumbersome recepts. The savage is in a position comparable to that of the astronomer who makes his calculations by arithmetic, while Spencer is in the position of one who makes them by algebra.
The roots of the Tree of Life being sunk deep in the organic world, its trunk is made up in a series of steps.
Beginning at the earth level we have the lowest forms of life, unconscious and insensate. These in their turn give birth to forms endowed with sensation and, later, to forms endowed with Simple Consciousness. From the last, when the right time comes, springs Self Consciousness and, in direct ascent from that, Cosmic Consciousness.
The doctrine of the unfolding of the human being, regarded from the side of psychology, is strictly in accord with the theory of evolution in general as taught today. The tree which we call "Life" and its upper part human life and human mind has grown and grows as any other tree. Besides its main stem it has, as in the case of other trees, thrown off many branches. It will be well to consider some of these.
It will be seen that some branches are given off from the lower part of the trunk as, for instance, contractility, from which great limb (and as part of it) springs muscular action, from the relatively simple movement of the worm to the marvellously co-ordinated motions made in the exercise of their art by great pianists or tennis players. Another of these large lower limbs is the instinct of Self-preservation and (twin with it) the instinct for the continuance of the species, the preservation of the race. Higher up, the special senses shoot out from the main trunk and, as they grow and divide again and again, they become large and vitally important branches of the great tree bearing smaller arms and more delicate twigs.
Thus from the branch constituting the human intellect, whose central fact is Self Consciousness, spring judgment, reason, comparison, imagination, abstraction, reflection, generalisation. From the moral or emotional nature, one of the largest and most important of the main limbs, spring love (itself a great branch dividing into many smaller branches), reverence, faith, fear, awe, hope, hate, humour, and many more. The great branch called the sense of sight, which in its beginning was a perception of the difference between light and darkness, sent out twigs which we call the sense of form, of distance and, later, of colour. The limb named sense of hearing has for branches and twigs the apprehension of loudness, pitch, distance, direction, and, as a delicate twig just coming into being, the musical sense.
The important fact to notice at present is that, viewed from the side of dynamics, the numerous faculties man possesses are all of different ages. Each one of them came into existence in its own time, i.e. when the psychic organism (the tree) was ready to produce it. Simple consciousness arose many millions of years ago; self consciousness perhaps three hundred thousand years. General vision is enormously old, but the colour sense probably only about a thousand generations. Sensibility to sound arose many millions of years ago, while the musical sense is now in the act of appearing. Sexual instinct or passion arose far back in geologic ages; the human moral nature, of which human sexual love is but a young and vigorous branch, does not appear to have been in existence for many tens of thousands of years.
The development of human faculties is but a sample of the divine work that has been going on within us and about us since the dawn of life on this planet. The science of human psychology should give an account of the human intellect, of the human moral nature, and of the senses. It should give a description of these as they exist today, of their origin and evolution, and should forecast their future course, whether of decay or of further expansion.
Each particular act of the intellect is instantaneous, whereas the acts (or rather states) of the moral nature are more or less continuous.
Language corresponds to the intellect and is therefore capable of expressing it perfectly and directly because both belong, or are derived from, the cerebro-spinal nervous system.
The functions of the moral nature, on the other hand, derive from the great sympathetic nervous system; they are not connected with language and are capable only of indirect and imperfect expression by its agency. Perhaps music, which certainly has its roots in the moral nature, is, as at present existing, the beginning of a language which will tally and express emotion as words tally and express ideas.
Intellectual acts are complex and decomposable into many parts; moral states are either absolutely simple (as in love, fear, hate); or nearly so, i.e., they are composed of comparatively few elements.
All intellectual acts are alike; moral states have a very wide range of intensity and nuance.
The large intellect is that in which the number of concepts is above the average; the fine intellect is that in which these are clear cut and well defined; the ready intellect is that in which they are easily and quickly accessible when wanted; and so on.
The growth of the human intellect is the growth of the concepts, i.e. the multiplication of the more simple and, simultaneously, the building up of these into other and more complex concepts.
Although this increase in number and complexity is taking place constantly in every active mind during at least the first half of life from infancy to middle age, and though we each know that we have concepts that we did not have some time ago, yet probably the wisest of us could not tell from observation of his own mind just by what process these new concepts came into existence where they came from or how they came. But though we cannot perceive this by direct observation of either our own mind or that of another person, still there is another way by which the occult process can be followed, and that is by means of language.
No word can come into being except as the expression of a concept; neither can a new concept be formed without the simultaneous formation of the new word which is its expression, though this "new word" may be spelled and pronounced as is some old word. But an old word taking on a new meaning in reality becomes two words, an old and a new.
Before a sense impression or an emotion can be embodied or conveyed in language, a concept has to be formed (supposed more or less truly to represent it) which concept can, of course, be conveyed in words. But as a matter of fact, ninety-nine out of every hundred of our sense impressions and emotions have never been represented in the intellect by concepts, and therefore remain unexpressed and inexpressible except imperfectly by roundabout description and suggestion.
There exists in the lower animals a state of matters which serves well to illustrate this proposition. These have acute sense perceptions and strong emotions such as fear, rage, sexual passion, and material love. Yet they cannot express them because they have no language of their own, and the animals in question have no system of concepts with corresponding articulate sounds. Granted to us our sense perceptions and our human moral natures, we should still be as dumb as are the animals had we not along with these an intellect in which they can be mirrored and by which, through language, they can be expressed.
In Antiquity of Man, Sir Charles Lyell [1797-1875, Scottish geologist Ed.] pointed out the parallelism which exists between the origin, growth, decline and death of languages and of species in the organic world. In order to illustrate, and also to broaden, the present argument, let us extend the parallel backward to the formation of worlds and forward to the evolution of words and concepts. The accompanying table (fig. 1) will serve this purpose better than an elaborately reasoned exposition, and will serve at the same time as a summary of the evolution argument.
A short study of this tabular statement will make plain how orbs, species, languages, and words branch, divide, and multiply. It will make intelligible Max Mueller's estimate that "every thought that has ever passed through the mind of India" may be reduced to one hundred and twenty-one root concepts that is to 121 root words; and will make us agree with him that, probably, the number might be still further reduced. If we consider for a moment that this means that the millions of Indo-European words now in use, as well as many times the number long since dead and forgotten, nearly all sprang from about one hundred roots, and these in their turn probably from half a dozen, and at the same time remember that reason and speech are one, we shall obtain a glimpse of what the human intellect once was in comparison with what it is today. Likewise it becomes apparent at a glance not only that the evolution of species, languages and words is strictly parallel but that the scheme probably has a still wider, perhaps universal, application.
As regards the present thesis, the conclusion to be drawn from this comparison is that words, and therefore the constituent elements of the intellect which they represent and which we call concepts, grow by division and branching as new species branch off from older; and it seems clear that whilst there is a universal tendency towards normal growth, an excessive and useless development is checked by the same means in the one case as in the other that is by natural selection and the struggle for existence.
New concepts, and words expressing them, which correspond with some external reality (whether this is a thing, an act, a state, or a relation), are therefore of use to man. Their existence places him in more complete relation with the outer world on which relation his life and welfare depend, and they are accordingly preserved by the process of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Some concepts which either do not correspond at all, or only imperfectly, with an objective reality, are replaced by others which do correspond or correspond better with the reality which these aimed to express, and so in the struggle for existence fall into disuse and die out.
There are probably few readers who could tell the exact meaning of a horse's poll, crest, withers, dock, hamstring, cannon, pastern, coronet, arm, jowl, and muzzle. Where the literary language speaks of the "young" of all sorts of animals, farmers, shepherds and sportsmen would be ashamed to use so general a term. The idioms of nomads contain an abundant wealth of manifold expressions for sword and weapons, and for the different stages in the life of cattle. In a more highly cultivated language these expressions become burdensome and superfluous. But in a farmer's mouth, the bearing, calving, falling and killing of almost every animal has its own peculiar term, as the sportsman delights in calling the gait and members of game by different names.
These instances serve to show how the human intellect feels along the face of the outer world presented to it, attempting a lodgement in each cranny it finds, however slight and precarious may be the hold that it gets. Man's mind ceaselessly seeks to master the facts of the outer world; its growth consists in tallying and/or covering these as ivy covers the stones of a wall. The twig that secures a hold strengthens and puts out other twigs; that which does not secure a hold after a time ceases to grow and eventually dies.
Man began to think with very few, or perhaps one single, concept. Of course at that time and before, he had a large stock of percepts and recepts; otherwise he could have done little with his concept. From small beginnings, an enormous number of concepts and words have come into existence. The evolution of the entire human intellect from a single initial concept will not seem incredible or marvellous to those who bear in mind that the whole complex human body, with all its tissues, organs, and parts, is built up of hundreds of millions of cells each one of which, however much it may differ in structure and function from those belonging to other organs, is yet lineally descended from the one single primordial cell in which each one of us (and only a few years ago) had his origin.
As we reach back into the past, therefore, we find language, and with it the human intellect, drawing into a point, and we know that within a measurable distance from where we stand today they must both have had their beginning. The date of that beginning has been provisionally fixed at about three hundred thousand years ago.
Much more modern than the birth of the intellect was that of the colour sense. Black, white, and red appear in folklore throughout the world when heroes and heroines admire each other or battle with their enemies. Xenophanes knew of only three colours of the rainbow purple, red, and yellow. Even Aristotle spoke of the tricoloured rainbow, and Democritus knew of no more than four colours black, white, red, and yellow.
It can be shown in an entirely independent manner that if the colour sense did come into existence as here supposed, the successive order in which colours are deduced from documents and etymology to have been recognised is actually the order of the relative visibility of the corresponding wavelengths. The solar or other light rays that excite vision are named red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The power of the red rays to excite vision is several thousand times as great as that of the violet, and there is a regular and rapid decrease as we pass down the spectrum from red to violet, and this is the order in which we would expect a monochromatic eye to become sensitive to colour. It is also what both ancient literature and etymology tell us took place.
Another recently acquired faculty is the sense of fragrance. It is not mentioned in the Vedic hymns and only once in the Zend Avesta. Among the Biblical books, the sense of the fragrance of flowers first makes its appearance in the Song of Songs.
In the individual today, man is born when the child becomes self conscious at the average age of, say, three years. Among the Indo-European races, not more than about one individual (so-called idiot) in a thousand grows to maturity without attaining to self consciousness. Self consciousness having appeared, it is lost only in rare cases as in delirium of fever and in some forms of insanity, notably mania. On the other hand the human moral nature does not (on the average) appear in the individual until, say, half-way between three years old and maturity. Instead of one or two in a thousand, several times that number in a hundred are born, grow up, and die without a moral nature. Instead of being lost only rarely, it is constantly being lost temporarily. All these indications tend to show that the human moral nature is of much more recent birth than the human intellect, and that if we suppose the latter to be three hundred thousand years old, we cannot suppose the former to be anything like that age.
Primeval man, from whom we are all descended, still has two representatives upon the earth in these latter days: first the savage; second, the child. It would be true to say that the child is a savage and the savage a child because the race as a whole has passed through the mental state represented by both of them. In his intrauterine evolution, the individual man retraces and summarises in a few months the physical evolution of the human race from the initial unicellular form in which individual life began through all the intervening phases between that and the human form, resuming each day the slow evolution of millions of years.
So likewise his mental development from birth to maturity retraces and summarises the evolution of the psychical life of the race; and as the individual physical man begins at the very bottom of the scale as a unicellular monad, so does the psychical man begin on the bottom rung of the ladder of mind. In his ascent of a few dozen months he passes through successive stages each of which occupied the race for thousands of years. The characteristics of the mind of the savage and of the child will give us, when found, the characteristics of the primeval human mind from which has descended the average modern mind that we know, as well as the exceptional minds of the great men of history.
On the other hand, the higher mind (as compared with the lower) possesses faith, courage, personal force, sympathy, and affection; that is, it possesses relative happiness, and is less prone to fear of things known and unknown and to anger and hatred, that is, to unhappiness.
The statement thus broadly made does not seem at first sight to mean very much: but in fact it means almost everything. It contains the key to our past, our present, and our future, for it is the condition of the moral nature that decides for each one of us, from moment to moment and, for the race at large, from age to age, what sort of a place this world in which we live shall appear to be indeed what sort of place it is for each one of us. For it is not our eyes and ears, nor even our intellects, that report the world to us; it is our moral nature that finally settles the significance of what exists about us.
The members of the human race began by fearing much and disliking much, by loving or admiring little, and by trusting still less. It is safe to say that those earliest men saw little beauty in the outer world in which they lived, though perhaps their eyes in most respects were as keen as ours. It is certain that their family affections were rudimentary, and that all men outside their immediate family were feared or disliked or both.
When the race emerged from the cloud-covered past into the light of what may be called inferential history, the view men took of the government of the Universe, of the character of the beings and forces by which this government was carried on, of the relation in which man stood to the governing powers, of his prospects in this life and after it, were (as in the case of the lower races today) gloomy to an extreme degree.
Since that time, neither the world nor its government have changed, but the gradual alteration in the moral nature of man has made it in his eyes a different place. The bleak and forbidding mountains, the awe-inspiring sea, the gloomy forests, the dark and fearful night, all aspects of nature which in that old time were charged with dread, have in place of it become clothed with a new and strange beauty. The whole human race and all living things have put on a charm and sacredness which in the old times they were far from possessing.
The governing powers of the Universe, obedient to the same beneficent influence, have been gradually converted from demons into beings and forces less and less inimical, more and more friendly, to man. In all respects, each age has interpreted the Universe for itself, and has more or less discredited the interpretations of previous ages.
What is the correct interpretation?
In this long descent there has been no break, and in all the thousands of years never such a thing as a new departure. In the last analysis, it will be found that under the vast diversity of external appearance, from Fetishism to Christianity, underlying the infinite variety of formulas, creeds, and dogmas, the essential element upon which all else depends, which underlies all and is the soul of all, is the attitude of the moral nature. All changes in the intellectual form and outer aspect of religion are as obedient to the gradual change taking place in this as are the movements of the hands and wheels of the watch to the expansive force of its mainspring. The external world stands fast, but the spirit of man continually grows; and as it does so its moral nature casts an ever larger and ever-changing light, shaped by the intellect, which gives life and reality to the shadowy phantom which plain folk call their creed and which metaphysicians call the philosophy of the Absolute.
But from age to age, the unknown Universe in which we live generally assumes a more friendly aspect. As the ages pass, we attribute better characters to our gods, and we constantly expect better treatment from them, both in life and after death. This means that the quantity of trust or faith we possess is steadily increasing and encroaching upon its opposite, fear, which is as constantly lessening. So equally it may be said of charity, sympathy, or affection that the constant increase of that faculty is steadily changing for us the aspect of the visible world, just as the growth of faith is altering the image we form for ourselves of that greater world which is invisible. Nor is there any indication that this double process has come to an end or will come to an end.
Simple consciousness makes its appearance in the human infant within a few days after birth; it is absolutely universal in the human race; it dates far back before the earliest mammals; it is lost only in deep sleep and coma; it is present in all dreams.
Shame, remorse, and a sense of the ludicrous are all said to be born in the human infant at about the age of fifteen months; they are all pre-human faculties and are all found in the dog and in apes. They undoubtedly existed in our pre-human ancestors; they are all almost universal in the race, being absent only in very low idiots; they are all three common in dreams.
Self consciousness makes its appearance in the child at the average age of three years; it is not present in any species but the human; it is, in fact, that faculty, the possession of which by an individual constitutes him a man. It is not universal in our race, being absent from all true idiots that is, permanently absent in about one in each thousand human beings in Europe and America. There must, however, be many members of low races who never attain to this faculty. In our ancestry, self consciousness dates back to the first true man. Thousands of years must have elapsed between its first appearance and its universality, just as thousands of years are now passing between the first cases of cosmic consciousness and its universality.
We are told we sprang from a race of animals, unclothed, walking erect, gregarious, without a true language, tool-using to a limited extent, destitute of marriage, government, or any institution. By virtue of its relatively high moral nature (making it gregarious) and its highly developed receptual intelligence, it became king of animals, it developed self consciousness, and by that fact it became man. It is impossible to say how long ago this occurred, but it could not have been less than several hundred thousand years. This faculty of self consciousness is lost much more easily than is simple consciousness. We lose it in coma and, often, in the delirium of fever. In certain forms of insanity, as in mania, it may be lost for weeks and months at a time. Lastly, it is never present in dreams. [The Editor demurs slightly. Some people have a faculty for "lucid" dreaming.]
The colour sense comes into existence gradually in the individual. At three or four years, there may be a trace of it. Twenty to thirty per cent of schoolboys are said to be colour-blind, while only four per cent of adults are so. We have seen already that the colour sense cannot be many tens of thousands of years old. Colour sense is absent in one adult out of every forty-seven. It is seldom present in dreams, and when it does occur, it is most often red, the colour which for good reasons was first perceived by man.
The human moral nature includes many faculties such as conscience (the abstract sense of right and wrong); sexual love as distinguished from sexual desire or instinct; parental and filial love as distinguished from the corresponding instincts; love of our fellow men as such; love of the beautiful; a sense of awe and reverence, of duty or responsibility, of sympathy, compassion, and faith. No human nature is complete without these and others. It is therefore a very complex function, but for the purpose of the present argument, it must be treated as if it were a simple sense.
Now at what age does this human moral nature appear in the individual man? It is never present in quite young children. It is often still absent at puberty and even at adolescence. It would probably not be far wrong to suggest that the average age for its appearance in the individual is about fifteen years. It would seem clear from a study of history that our human moral nature cannot be more than some ten or twelve thousand years old. A careful consideration of the records that have come down to us from the early Romans, Hellenes, Hebrews, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians indicates unmistakably that as we go back into the past, this faculty tapers down toward the vanishing point by about twelve thousand years ago.
In what proportion of the men and women of civilised countries does the human moral nature fail to appear? Many have a partial moral nature; many who, having little or none, wear the outer semblance of one. The problem is so veiled and so complicated that it is impossible to give more than an opinion, but it is not unlikely that at least forty men and women out of every thousand in America and Europe lack a more than rudimentary moral nature. Then, while self consciousness is frequently lost in insanity and fever, is it not likely that the moral nature must be subject to much more frequent lapses and absences with far less cause?
Finally, the musical sense (a faculty which is now in the act of being born) does not appear in the individual before adolescence. It does not exist in more than half the members of our race. It has existed less (perhaps considerably less) than five thousand years. It is never, or almost never, present in dreams, even in the case of professional musicians. After an experience of twenty-five years with about five thousand cases of lunacy, the writer cannot recall a case where the musical sense was retained by an insane person.
The accompanying table (Fig. 2) of the main facts concerning the evolution of various faculties will help to make the subject more intelligible than would a long exposition. The figures in the table are not given as being exact but for the sake of conveying a clear idea which is thought sufficiently correct for the present purpose. As the evolution of the individual is necessarily the evolution of the race in an abridged form, organs and faculties must appear in the individual in the same order in which they appeared in the race and, the one being known, the other may with confidence be assumed.
When a new faculty appears in a race, it will first be found in an individual of that race; later it will be found in a few individuals; later still in a certain percentage, and so on until, after thousands of generations, an individual who lacks the faculty is regarded as a monstrosity.
Note too and this is important that when a new faculty appears in the direct line of ascent of a race, it must first appear in a member, then in members, who have reached full maturity. For an immature individual (other things being equal), cannot over-pass a mature individual of the same race.
A case in point is what is called genius. Genius consists in the possession of a new faculty or new faculties, or in the increased development of an old faculty or faculties. This being the case, it seemed to Galton [Sir Francis Galton, 1822-1911, English explorer, anthropologist, and eugenicist, known for his pioneering studies of human intelligence E. Britannica] necessary to write a good-sized volume in an attempt to prove that genius is hereditary. So far was that from being an obvious fact that even yet the heredity of genius is far from being universally accepted. But no one ever wrote a book to prove that sight, hearing, or self consciousness is hereditary, because every one knows without argument that they are so.
Any one who is willing to give the matter a thought will admit that the shorter time an organ or faculty has been possessed by a race, the more unstable must it be in the race and, consequently, in the individual; the more liable will it be to be dropped, defective, liable to vary, and to become imperfect as we say, diseased. And that, per contra, the longer time an organ or faculty has existed in any race, the more certain it is to be inherited and the more certain it is to assume a definite, typical character that is, the more certain it is to be normal, the more certain it is to agree with the norm or type of the said organ or faculty. This being allowed, it will readily be granted:
If these principles be applied to the domesticated animals (most of which have within the last few hundred generations been much differentiated by artificial selection), they will explain what has often been looked upon as anomalous namely, the much greater liability to disease and early death of these as compared with their wild prototypes. For that domestic animals are more liable than wild to disease and premature death is admitted on all hands. The same principle will explain also how it is that the more highly bred an animal is that is, the more widely it has been differentiated from a previous type the more liable will it be to disease and premature death.
It is notorious that in civilised man, especially in the Aryan race, the functions which have undergone most change in the last few thousand years are those called "mental" that great group of functions (sensuous, intellectual, moral) which depend upon, spring from, the two great nervous systems the cerebro-spinal and the great sympathetic. This great group of functions has grown, expanded, put forth new shoots and twigs, and is still in the act of producing new faculties at a rate immeasurably greater than any other part of the human organism. If this is so, then within this great congeries of faculties it is inevitable that we should meet with constant lapses, defects, breakdowns.
We cannot imagine a jump from the total absence of a given function in certain members of a species to the absolute perfection and solidity of the same function in the rest of the members. We know that species do not grow in that way. We know that in all cases, extremes represented by the race are bridged (from one to the other) by full sets of intermediary specimens. One man dies of old age at forty, another at one hundred and thirty, and every day before and between those is the limit of some man's possible life. The same law holds also for the stability and permanence of faculties.
In the realm of insanity, properly so called that is, excluding the idiocies we have a class in whom the mind, without a touch, crumbles into ruin as soon as, or even before, it is fully formed. Then we have another class in which the balance of the mental faculties is upset only by the rudest shocks, and then only temporarily, since the cases recover in a few weeks or months given favourable conditions. But between these extremes the whole wide intermediate space is filled with an infinite variety of phases of insanity, exhibiting every possible condition of mental stability and instability between the extremes. But throughout the whole range, the law holds that the latest evolved of the mental functions, whether intellectual or moral, suffer first and suffer most, while the earliest evolved suffer (if at all) the latest and the least.
In all this process of destruction, the older formed faculties such as perception, memory, desire for food and drink, shrinking from injury, and the more basic sense functions, endure longest. In general:
There are three forms or grades of consciousness: Simple Consciousness, Self Consciousness, and Cosmic Consciousness.
Simple Consciousness is possessed by, say, the upper half of the animal kingdom. By means of this faculty a dog or a horse is just as conscious of the things about him as a man is; he is also conscious of his own limbs and body and he knows these are a part of himself.
Over and above this Simple Consciousness, which is possessed by man as by animals, man has another which is called Self Consciousness. By virtue of this faculty man is not only conscious of trees, rocks, waters, his own limbs and body, but he becomes conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the Universe. It is as good as certain that no animal can realise himself in that way. Further, by means of self consciousness, man (who knows as the animal knows) becomes capable of treating his own mental states as objects of consciousness. The animal is, as it were, immersed in his consciousness as a fish in the sea; he cannot, even in imagination, get outside of it for one moment so as to realise it. But by virtue of self consciousness, man can step aside, as it were, from himself, and think: "Yes, that thought I had about that matter is true; I know it is true and I know that I know it is true".
The writer has been asked: "How do you know that animals cannot think in the same manner?" The answer is simple and conclusive: There is no evidence that any animal can so think, but if they could we would soon know it. Between two creatures living together, as dogs or horses and men, and each self-conscious, it would be the simplest matter in the world to open up communication. Even as it is, diverse as is our psychology, we do, by watching his acts, enter into the dog's mind pretty freely. We see what is going on there; we know that the dog sees and hears, smells and tastes. We know that he has intelligence: that he adapts means to ends and that he reasons. If he was self-conscious we must have learned it long ago. We have not learned it and it is as good as certain that no dog, horse, elephant or ape ever was self conscious.
Another thing: on man's consciousness is built everything in and about us distinctively human. Language is the objective of which self consciousness is the subjective. Self consciousness and language (two in one, for they are two halves of the same thing) are the sine qua non of human social life, of manners, of institutions, of industries of all kinds, of all arts useful and fine. If any animal possessed self consciousness it seems certain that it would upon that master faculty build (as man has done) a superstructure of language; of reasoned-out customs, industries, art. But no animal has done this: therefore we infer that no animal has self consciousness. The possession of self consciousness and language (its other self) by man creates an enormous gap between him and the highest creature possessing simple consciousness merely.
Cosmic Consciousness is a third form which is as far above Self Consciousness as that is above Simple Consciousness. With this form, of course, both simple and self consciousness persist (as simple consciousness persists when self consciousness is acquired), but added to them is this new faculty. As the name implies, the prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the Universe.
There are many elements belonging to the cosmic sense besides the central fact just alluded to. Of these a few may be mentioned. Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs an intellectual enlightenment or illumination which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence would make him almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense, which is far more important to the individual and to the race than is the enhanced intellectual power. With these come what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life not a conviction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already.
Only a partial experience of it, or a prolonged study on men who have passed into the new life, will enable us to realise what this actually is; but it has seemed to the present writer that to pass in review, even briefly and imperfectly, instances in which the condition in question has existed would be worth while. [Such a review makes up about three quarters of the writer's book, Cosmic Consciousness Ed.]
The writer expects his work to be useful in two ways: First, in broadening the general view of human life by comprehending in our mental vision this important phase of it, and by enabling us to realise, in some measure, the true status of certain men who, down to the present, are either exalted by the average self conscious individual to the rank of gods or, going to the other extreme, are adjudged insane.
In the second place he hopes to furnish aid to his fellow men in a far more practical and important sense. The view he takes is that our descendants will sooner or later reach, as a race, the condition of cosmic consciousness just as, long ago, our ancestors passed from simple to self consciousness. He believes that this step in evolution is even now being made, since it is clear to him both that men with the faculty in question are becoming more and more common and also that as a race we are approaching nearer and nearer to that stage of the self conscious mind from which the transition to the cosmic consciousness is effected. He realises that, granted the necessary heredity, any individual not already beyond the age may enter cosmic consciousness. He knows that intelligent contact with cosmic conscious minds assists self conscious individuals in the ascent to the higher plane. He therefore hopes, by bringing about, or at least facilitating, this contact, to aid men and women in making the almost infinitely important step in question.
First, it may be noted that the new sense does not appear by chance in this man or that. It is necessary for its appearance that an exalted human personality should exist and supply the pre-conditions for its birth. In the great cases especially, there is an exceptional development of some or all of the ordinary human faculties. Note particularly, since that case is unmistakably known to us, the singular perfection of the intellectual and moral faculties and of the special senses in Walt Whitman. It is probable that an approximation to this evolutionary excellence is necessary in all cases. Then certainly in some, probably in all, cases the person has an exceptional physique exceptional beauty of build and carriage, exceptionally handsome features, exceptional health, exceptional sweetness of temper, exceptional magnetism.
The faculty has many names, but they have not been understood or recognised. Either Gautama [Buddha Ed.] himself or one of his early disciples called it "Nirvana" because of the "extinction" of certain lower mental faculties (such as the sense of sin, fear of death, desire of wealth, etc.) which is directly incident upon its birth. The subjugation of the old personality along with the birth of the new is, in fact, almost equivalent to the annihilation of the old and the creation of a new self. The word Nirvana is defined as "the state to which the Buddhist saint is to aspire as the highest aim and the highest good".
Jesus called the new condition "the Kingdom of God" or the "Kingdom of Heaven" because of the peace and happiness which belong to it and which are perhaps its most characteristic features.
Paul called it "Christ". He speaks of himself as "a man in Christ", of "them that are in Christ". He also calls it "the Spirit" and "the Spirit of God". After Paul had attained Cosmic Consciousness he knew that Jesus had possessed the cosmic sense and that he himself was living, as it were, the life of Jesus that another individuality, another self, lived in him. This second self he called Christ, identifying it not so much with the man Jesus as with the deliverer which had been sent in his person, who was both Jesus (the ordinary self conscious man) and Messiah (the herald and exemplar of the new, higher, race). The duplex personality of men having cosmic consciousness appears many times in a survey of examples and will be seen as a constant and prominent phenomenon.
Mohammed called the cosmic sense "Gabriel", and seems to have looked upon it as a distinctly separate person who lived in him and spoke to him. Dante called it "Beatrice" ("Making Happy"), a name almost or quite equivalent to "Kingdom of Heaven". Balzac called the new man a "specialist" and the new condition "Specialism". Whitman called cosmic consciousness "My Soul", but spoke of it as if it were another person. Bacon (in the Sonnets) has treated the cosmic sense so emphatically as a distinct person that the world has for four hundred years taken him at his word and agreed that the "person" in question (whatever his name may have been) was a young friend of the poet's!
To the person with cosmic consciousness, the terms objective and subjective lose their old meaning. "Objects gross" and the "unseen soul" become one. Cosmic consciousness appears in individuals mostly of the male sex, who are otherwise highly developed: men of good intellect, of high moral qualities, and of superior physique. It appears at about that time of life when the organism is at its high water mark of efficiency say, at the age of thirty or forty years.
It must have been that Self Consciousness, the immediate precursor of Cosmic Consciousness, also appeared first in midlife, here and there, in isolated cases, in the most advanced specimens of the race, becoming more and more universal as the race grew up to it, manifesting itself at an earlier and earlier age, until it now declares itself in every fairly constituted individual at about the age of three years.
Analogy then would lead us to believe that Cosmic Consciousness also awaits the whole race; that a time will come when to be without it will be a mark of inferiority parallel to the absence at present of the moral nature.
As the Self Conscious man, however degraded, is in fact almost infinitely above the animal with merely simple consciousness, so any man permanently endowed with the Cosmic Sense would be almost infinitely higher and nobler than any man who is merely self conscious. And not only so, but the man who has had the Cosmic Sense for even a few moments only will probably never again descend to the spiritual level of the merely self conscious man, but many years afterwards will still feel within him the purifying strengthening and exalting effect of that divine illumination, and many of those about him will recognise that his spiritual stature is above that of the average man.
The hypothesis here put forward is that cases of cosmic consciousness shall not only become more numerous from age to age, but also more perfect and more pronounced. Setting aside the hundreds of minor cases such as must have appeared and been forgotten in the last few millennia, at least thirteen are so great that they can never fade from human memory. They are: Gautama (Buddha), Jesus, Paul, Plotinus, Mohammed, Dante, Bartolemι de Las Casas, John Yepes (St John of the Cross), Francis Bacon, Jacob Behmen (Jakob Bφhme), William Blake, Honorι de Balzac, Walt Whitman.
These may be just a small fraction of cases just as great which have occurred since Buddha's time, for probably only a small proportion undertake and carry through work which ensures them remembrance. How easily might the memory even of Jesus have been obliterated from the minds of his contemporaries? Had he not been immediately followed by Paul, his work and name might have expired with the generation that heard him speak. So true is this that Auguste Comte considers St Paul the true founder of Catholicism which in this connection is synonymous with Christianity.
While its true nature has necessarily been entirely unapprehended, the fact of cosmic consciousness has long been recognised both in the Eastern and the Western worlds. The great majority of civilised men and women in all countries today bow down before teachers who possessed the cosmic sense. And is it not true that all uninspired teachers derive the lessons which they transmit directly or indirectly from the few who have been illumined?
1. Added consciousness. When an organism which possessing only simple consciousness attains to self consciousness, it becomes aware for the first time that it is a separate creature, self existing in a world which is apart from it. The new faculty instructs it directly without any new experience or learning process.
2. Added faculty. The organism acquires enormously increased powers of accumulating knowledge and of initiating action.
So when a person who was merely self conscious enters into cosmic consciousness:
The parallel holds good from the point of view of the moral nature. The animal that has merely simple consciousness cannot possibly know anything of the pure delight in simple living that is possessed (at least in part) by every healthy, well-constituted young or middle-aged man or woman. The horse or dog enjoys life while experiencing an agreeable sensation or when stimulated by an agreeable activity, but cannot realise that everyday calm enjoyment of life, independent of the senses and of outward things, that sense of "well-being", which belongs to the moral nature.
Corresponding with this moral ascent, that which belongs to the passage from self to cosmic consciousness can be realised only by those who have passed through the experience. This can be appreciated to any significant extent only by referring to what the individuals in question have said about it.
It must not be supposed that because a man has cosmic consciousness, he is therefore omniscient or infallible. The greatest of these men is relatively in the position, though on a higher plane, of children who have just become self conscious. They have not yet had time or opportunity to fully exploit or master this. True, they have reached a higher mental level; but on that level there can and shall be comparative wisdom and comparative foolishness, just as there is on the level of simple or of self consciousness.
These men and this new consciousness must not be condemned because neither the men nor their new consciousness are absolute. That could not be. For should man reach an intellectual and moral position as far above that of our best men today as are those above the average mollusc, he would be as far from infallibility and absolute goodness as he is at present. He would have the same aspiration to achieve a higher mental position than he has today, and there would be as much room as before over his head for growth and amelioration.
Religion will govern every minute of every day of all life. Churches, priests, forms, creeds, prayers, and all intermediaries between the individual man and God will be permanently replaced by direct unmistakable intercourse. Sin will no longer exist nor will salvation be desired. Men will not worry about death or a future, or about the kingdom of heaven, or about what may come with and after the cessation of life in the present body. Each soul will feel and know itself to be immortal, and that the entire Universe with all its good and with all its beauty is for it to enjoy forever. The world peopled by men possessing cosmic consciousness will be as far removed from the world of today as this is from the world as it was before the advent of self consciousness.
Provided humanity can survive worldwide destruction by politicians possessing only a mediocre level of self consciousness, political parties will wither in the same way as churches. Given a sufficient number of men and women possessed of cosmic consciousness as leaders and teachers, competitive self consciousness will bow to co-operative self consciousness, and a new appreciation of cosmic interest will prevail over mere selfishness. There will be Peace.