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THE STRUGGLE FOR THE LIFE OF OTHERS
WE now open a wholly new, and by far the most important, chapter in the Evolution of Man. Up to this time we have found for him a Body, and the rudiments of Mind. But Man is not a Body, nor a Mind. The temple still awaits its final tenant—the higher human Soul.
With a Body alone, Man is an animal: the highest animal, yet a pure animal; struggling for its own narrow life, living for its small and sordid ends. Add a Mind to that and the advance is infinite. The Struggle for Life assumes the august form of a struggle for light: he who was once a savage, pursuing the arts of the chase, realizes Aristotle’s ideal man, “a hunter after Truth.” Yet this is not the end. Experience tells us that Man’s true life is neither lived in the material tracts of the body, nor in the higher altitudes of the intellect, but in the warm world of the affections. Till he is equipped with these, Man is not human. He reaches his full height only when Love becomes to him the breath of life, the energy of will, the summit of desire. There at last lies all happiness, and goodness, and truth, and divinity:
“For the loving worm within its clod
Were diviner than a loveless God.”
That Love did not come down to us through the Struggle for Life, the only great factor in Evolution which up to this time has been dwelt upon, is self-evident. It has a lineage all its own. Yet inexplicable though the circumstance be, the history of this force, the most stupendous the world has ever known, has scarcely even begun to be investigated. Every other principle in Nature has had a thousand prophets; but this supreme dynamic has run its course through the ages unobserved; its rise, so far as science is concerned, is unknown; its story has never been told. But if any phenomenon or principle in Nature is capable of treatment under the category of Evolution, this is. Love is not a late arrival, an after-thought, with Creation. It is not a novelty of a romantic civilization. It is not a pious word of religion. Its roots began to grow with the first cell of life which budded on this earth. How great it is the history of humanity bears witness; but how old it is and how solid, how bound up with the very constitution of the world, how from the first of time an eternal part of it, we are only now beginning to perceive. For the Evolution of Love is a piece of pure Science. Love did not descend out of the clouds like rain or snow. It was distilled on earth. And few of the romances which in after years were to cluster round this immortal word are more wonderful than the story of its birth and growth. Partly a product of crushed lives and exterminated species, and partly of the choicest blossoms and sweetest essences that ever came from the tree of life, it reached its spiritual perfection after a history the most strange and chequered that the pages of Nature have to record. What Love was at first, how crude and sour and embryonic a thing, it is impossible to conceive. But from age to age, with immeasurable faith and patience, by cultivations continuously repeated, by transplantings endlessly varied, the unrecognizable germ of this new fruit was husbanded to its maturity, and became the tree on which humanity, society, and civilization were ultimately borne.
As the story of Evolution is usually told, Love— the evolved form, as we shall see, of the Struggle for the Life of Others—has not even a place. Almost the whole emphasis of science has fallen upon the opposite—the animal Struggle for Life. Hunger was early seen by the naturalists to be the first and most imperious appetite of all living things, and the course of Nature came to be erroneously interpreted in terms of a never-ending strife. Since there are vastly more creatures born than can ever survive, since for every morsel of food provided a hundred claimants appear, life to an animal was described to us as one long tragedy; and Poetry, borrowing the imperfect creed, pictured Nature only as a blood-red fang. Before we can go on to trace the higher progress of Love itself, it is necessary to correct this misconception. And no words can be thrown away if they serve, in whatever imperfect measure, to restore to honour what is in reality the supreme factor in the Evolution of the world. To interpret the whole course of Nature by the Struggle for Life is as absurd as if one were to define the character of St. Francis by the tempers of his childhood. Worlds grow up as well as infants; their tempers change, the better nature opens out, new objects of desire appear, higher activities are added to the lower. The first chapter or two of the story of Evolution may be headed the Struggle for Life; but take the book as a whole and it is not a tale of battle. It is a Love-story.
The circumstances, as has been already pointed out in the Introduction, under which the world at large received its main impression of Evolution, obscured these later and happier features. The modern revival of the Evolution theory occurred almost solely in connection with investigations in the lower planes of Nature, and was due to the stimulus of the pure naturalists, notably of Mr. Darwin. But what Mr. Darwin primarily undertook to explain was simply the Origin of Species. His work was a study in infancies, in rudiments; he emphasized the earliest forces and the humblest phases of the world’s development. The Struggle for Life was there the most conspicuous fact—at least, on the surface; it formed the key-note of his teaching; and the tragic side of Nature fixed itself in the popular mind. The mistake the world made was two-fold: it mistook Darwinism for Evolution—a specific theory of Evolution applicable to a single department for a universal scheme; and it misunderstood Mr. Darwin himself. That the foundations of Darwinism—or what was taken for Darwinism—were the foundations of all Nature was assumed. Dazzled with the apparent solidity of this foundation, men made haste to run up a structure which included the whole vast range of life—vegetal, animal, social—based on a law which explained but half the facts, and was only relevant, in the crude form in which it was universally stated, for the childhood of the world. It was impossible for such an edifice to stand. Natural history cannot in any case cover the whole facts of human history, and, so interpreted, can only fatally distort them. The mistake had been largely qualified had Mr. Darwin’s followers even accepted his foundation in its first integrity; but, perhaps because the author of the theory himself but dimly apprehended the complement of his thesis, few seem to have perceived that anything was amiss. Mr. Darwin’s sagacity led him distinctly to foresee that narrow interpretations of his great phrase “Struggle for Existence” were certain to be made; and in the opening chapters of the Origin of Species, he warns us that the term must be applied in its “large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny.”7878Origin of Species, 6th edition, p. 50. In spite of this warning, his overmastering emphasis on the individual Struggle for Existence seems to have obscured, if not to his own mind, certainly to almost all his followers, the truth that any other great factor in Evolution existed.
The truth is there are two Struggles for Life in every living thing—the Struggle for Life, and the Struggle for the Life of Others. The web of life is woven upon a double set of threads, the second thread distinct in colour from the first, and giving a totally different pattern to the finished fabric. As the whole aspect of the after-world depends on this distinction of strands in the warp, it is necessary to grasp the distinction with the utmost clearness. Already, in the introductory chapter, the nature of the distinction has been briefly explained. But it is necessary to be explicit here, even to redundancy. We have arrived at a point from which the Ascent of Man takes a fresh departure, a point from which the course of Evolution begins to wear an entirely altered aspect. No such consummation ever before occurred in the progress of the world as the rise to potency in human life of the Struggle for the Life of Others. The Struggle for the Life of Others is the physiological name for the greatest word of ethics—Other-ism, Altruism, Love. From Self-ism to Other-ism is the supreme transition of history. It is therefore impossible to lodge in the mind with too much solidity the simple biological fact on which the Altruistic Struggle rests. Were this a late phase of Evolution, or a factor applicable to single genera, it would still be of supreme importance; but it is radical, universal, involved in the very nature of life itself. As matter is to be interpreted by Science in terms of its properties, life is to be interpreted in terms of its functions. And when we dissect down to that form of matter with which all life is associated, we find it already discharging, in the humblest organisms visible by the microscope, the function on which the stupendous superstructure of Altruism indirectly comes to rest. Take the tiniest protoplasmic cell, immerse it in a suitable medium, and presently it will perform two great acts—the two which sum up life, which constitute the eternal distinction between the living and the dead—Nutrition and Reproduction. At one moment, in pursuance of the Struggle for Life, it will call in matter from without, and assimilate it to itself; at another moment, in pursuance of the Struggle for the Life of Others, it will set a portion of that matter apart, add to it, and finally give it away to form another life. Even at its dawn life is receiver and giver; even in protoplasm is Self-ism and Other-ism. These two tendencies are not fortuitous. They have been lived into existence. They are not grafts on the tree of life, they are its nature, its essential life. They are not painted on the canvas, but woven through it.
The two main activities, then, of all living things are Nutrition and Reproduction. The discharge of these functions in plants, and largely in animals, sums up the work of life. The object of Nutrition is to secure the life of the individual; the object of Reproduction is to secure the life of the Species. These two objects are thus wholly different. The first has a purely personal end; its attention is turned inwards; it exists only for the present. The second in a greater or less degree is impersonal; its attention is turned outwards; it lives for the future. One of these objects, in other words, is Self-regarding; the other is Other-regarding. Both, of course, at the outset are wholly selfish; both are parts of the Struggle for Life. Yet see already in this non-ethical region a parting of the ways. Selfishness and unselfishness are two supreme words in the moral life. The first, even in physical Nature, is accompanied by the second. In the very fact that one of the two mainsprings of life is Other-regarding there lies a prophecy, a suggestion, of the day of Altruism. In organizing the physiological mechanism of Reproduction in plants and animals Nature was already laying wires on which, one far-off day, the currents of all higher things might travel.
In itself, this second Struggle, this effort to maintain the life of the species, is not less real than the first; the provisions for effecting it are not less wonderful; the whole is not less a part of the system of things. And, taken prophetically, the function of Reproduction is as much greater than the function of Nutrition as the Man is greater than the Animal, as the Soul is higher than the Body, as Co-operation is stronger than Competition, as Love is stronger than Hate. If it were ever to be charged against Nature that she was wholly selfish, here is the refutation at the very start. One of the two fundamental activities of all life, whether plant or animal, is Other-regarding. It is not said that the function of Reproduction, say in a fern or in an oak, is an unselfish act, yet in a sense, even though begotten of self, it is an other-regarding act. In the physical world, to speak of the Struggle for Food as selfish, or to call the Struggle for Species unselfish, are alike incongruous. But if the morality of Nature is impugned on the ground of the universal Struggle for Life, it is at least as relevant to refute the charge - by putting moral content into the universal Struggle for Species. No true moral content can be put into either, yet the one marks the beginning of Egoism, the other of Altruism. Almost the whole self-seeking side of things has come down the line of the individual Struggle for Life; almost the whole unselfish side of things is rooted in the Struggle to preserve the life of others.
That an Other-regarding principle should sooner or later appear on the world’s stage was a necessity if the world was ever to become a moral world. And as everything in the moral world has what may be called a physical basis to begin with, it is not surprising to find in the mere physiological process of Reproduction a physical forecast of the higher relations, or, more accurately, to find the higher relations manifesting themselves at first through physical relations. The Struggle for the Life of Others formed an indispensable stepping-stone to the development of the Other-regarding virtues. Nature always works with long roots. To conduct Other-ism upward into the higher sphere without miscarriage, and to establish it there for ever, Nature had to embed it in the most ancient past, so organizing and endowing protoplasm that life could not go on without it, and compelling its continuous activity by the sternest physiological necessity.
To say that there is a certain protest of the mind against associating the highest ethical ends with forces in their first stage almost physical, is to confess a truth which all must feel. Even Haeckel, in contrasting the tiny rootlet of sex-attraction between two microscopic cells with the mighty after-efflorescence of love in the history of mankind, is staggered at the audacity of the thought, and pauses in the heart of a profound scientific investigation to reflect upon it. After a panegyric in which he says, “We glorify love as the source of the most splendid creations of art; of the noblest productions of poetry, of plastic art and of music; we reverence in it the most powerful factor in human civilization, the basis of family life, and, consequently, of the development of the state”; . . . he adds, “So wonderful is love, and so immeasurably important is its influence on mental life, that in this point, more than in any other, ‘supernatural’ causation seems to mock every natural explanation.” It is the mystery of Nature, that between the loftiest spiritual heights and the lowliest physical depths, there should seem to run a pathway which the intellect of Man may climb. Haeckel has spoken, and rightly, from the standpoint of humanity; yet he continues, and with equal right, from the standpoint of the naturalist. “Notwithstanding all this, the comparative history of evolution leads us back very clearly and indubitably to the oldest and simplest source of love, to the elective affinity of two differing cells.”7979Haeckel, Evolution of Man, Vol. II., p. 394.
SELF-SACRIFICE IN NATURE
It is not, however, in Haeckel’s “elective affinity of differing cells” that we must seek the physical basis of Altruism. That may be the physical basis of a passion which is frequently miscalled Love; but Love itself, in its true sense as Self-sacrifice, Love with all its beautiful elements of sympathy, tenderness, pity, and compassion, has come down a wholly different line. It is well to be clear about this at once, for the function of Reproduction suggests to the biological mind a view of this factor which would limit its action to a sphere which in reality forms but the merest segment of the whole. The Struggle for the Life of Others has certainly connected with it sex relations, as we shall see; but we can only use it scientifically in its broad physiological sense, as literally a Struggling for Others, a giving up self for Others. And these others are not Other-sexes. They have nothing to do with sex. They are the fruits of Reproduction—the egg, the seed, the nestling, the little child. So far from its chief manifestation being within the sphere of sex it is in the care and nurture of the young, in the provision everywhere throughout Nature for the seed and egg, in the endless and infinite self-sacrifices of Maternity, that Altruism finds its main expression.
That this is the true reading of the work of this second factor appears even in the opening act of Reproduction in the lowest plant or animal. Pledged by the first law of its being—the law of self-preservation—to sustain itself, the organism is at the same moment pledged by the second law to give up itself. Watch one of the humblest unicellular organisms at the time of Reproduction. The cell, when it grows to be a certain size, divides itself into two, and each part sets up an independent life. Why it does so is now known. The protoplasm inside the cell—the body as it were—needs continually to draw in fresh food. This is secured by a process of imbibition or osmosis through the surrounding wall. But as the cell grows large, there is not wall enough to pass in all the food the far interior needs, for while the bulk increases as the cube of the diameter the surface increases only as the square. The bulk of the cell, in short, has outrun the absorbing surface; its hunger has outgrown its satisfactions; and unless the cell can devise some way of gaining more surface it must starve. Hence the splitting into two smaller cells. There is now more absorbing surface than the two had when combined. When the two smaller cells have grown as large as the original parent, income and expenditure will once more balance. As growth continues, the waste begins to exceed the power of repair and the life of the cell is again threatened. The alternatives are obvious. It must divide, or die. If it divides, what has saved its life? Self-sacrifice. By giving up its life as an individual it has brought forth two individuals, and these will one day repeat the surrender. Here, with differences appropriate to their distinctive spheres, is the first great act of the moral life. All life, in the beginning, is self-contained, self-centred, imprisoned in a single cell. The first step to a more abundant life is to get rid of this limitation. And the first act of the prisoner is simply to break the walls of its cell. The plant does this by a mechanical or physiological process; the moral being by a conscious act which means at once the breaking-up of Self-ism and the recovery of a larger self in Altruism. Biologically, Reproduction begins as rupture. It is the release of the cell, full-fed, yet unsatiated, from itself. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
These facts are not coloured to suit a purpose. There is no other language in which science itself can state them. “Reproduction begins as rupture. Large cells beginning to die, save their lives by sacrifice. Reproduction is literally a life-saving against the approach of death. Whether it be the almost random rupture of one of the more primitive forms such as Schizogenes, or the overflow and separation of multiple buds as in Arcella, or the dissolution of a few of the Infusorians, an organism, which is becoming exhausted, saves itself and multiplies in reproducing.”8080The Evolution of Sex, page 232. There is no Reproduction in plant, animal, or Man which does not involve self-sacrifice. All that is moral, and social, and other-regarding has come along the line of this function. Sacrifice, moreover, as these physiological facts disclose, is not an accident, nor an accompaniment of Reproduction, but an inevitable part of it. It is the universal law and the universal condition of life. The act of fertilization is the anabolic restoration, renewal, and rejuvenescence of a katabolic cell: it is a resurrection of the dead brought about by a sacrifice of the living, a dying of part of life in order to further life.
Pass from the unicellular plant to one of the higher phanerogams, and the self-sacrificing function is seen at work with still greater definiteness, for there we have a clearer contrast with the other function. To the physiologist a tree is not simply a tree, but a complicated piece of apparatus for discharging, in the first place, the function of Nutrition. Root, trunk, branch, twig, leaf, are so many organs—mouths, lungs, circulatory-system, alimentary canal—for carrying on to the utmost perfection the Struggle for Life. But this is not all. There is another piece of apparatus within this apparatus of a wholly different order. It has nothing to do with Nutrition. It has nothing to do with the Struggle for Life. It is the flower. The more its parts are studied, in spite of all homologies, it becomes more clear that this is a construction of a unique and wonderful character. So important has this extra apparatus seemed to science, that it has named the great division of the vegetable kingdom to which this and all higher plants belong, the Phanerogams—the flowering plants; and it recognizes the complexity and physiological value of this reproductive specialty by giving them the place of honour at the top of the vegetable creation. Watch this flower at work for a little, and behold a miracle. Instead of struggling for life it lays down its life. After clothing itself with a beauty which is itself the minister of unselfishness, it droops, it wastes, it lays down its life. The tree still lives; the other leaves are fresh and green; but this life within a life is dead. And why? Because within this death is life. Search among the withered petals, and there, in a cradle of cunning workmanship, are a hidden progeny of clustering seeds—the gift to the future which this dying mother has brought into the world at the cost of leaving it. The food she might have lived upon is given to her children, stored round each tiny embryo with lavish care, so that when they waken into the world the first helplessness of their hunger is met. All the arrangements in plant-life which concern the flower, the fruit, and the seed are the creations of the Struggle for the Life of Others.
No one, though science is supposed to rob all the poetry from Nature, reverences a flower like the biologist. He sees in its bloom the blush of the young mother; in its fading, the eternal sacrifice of Maternity. A yellow primrose is not to him a yellow primrose. It is an exquisite and complex structure added on to the primrose plant for the purpose of producing other primrose plants. At the base of the flower, packed in a delicate casket, lie a number of small white objects no larger than butterflies’ eggs. These are the eggs of the primrose. Into this casket, by a secret opening, filmy tubes from the pollen grains—now enticed from their hiding-place on the stamens and clustered on the stigma—enter and pour their fertilizing fovilla through a microscopic gateway which opens in the wall of the egg and leads to its inmost heart. Mysterious changes then proceed. The embryo of a future primrose is born. Covered with many protective coats, it becomes a seed. The original casket swells, hardens, is transformed into a rounded capsule opening by valves or a deftly constructed hinge. One day this capsule, crowded with seeds, breaks open and completes the cycle of Reproduction by dispersing them over the ground. There, by and by, they will burst their enveloping coats, protrude their tiny radicles, and repeat the cycle of their parents’ sacrificial life.
With endless variations in detail, these are the closing acts in the Struggle for the Life of Others in the vegetable world. We have illustrated the point from plants, because this is the lowest region where biological processes can be seen in action, and it is essential to establish beyond dispute the fundamental nature of the reproductive function. From this level onwards it might be possible to trace its influence, and growing influence, throughout the whole range of the animal kingdom until it culminates in its most consummate expression—a human mother. Some of the links in this unbroken ascent will be filled in at a later stage—for the Evolution of Maternity is so wonderful and so intricate as to deserve a treatment of its own —but meantime we must pass on to notice a few of the other gifts which Reproduction has bestowed upon the world. In a rigid sense, it is impossible to separate the gains to humanity from the Reproductive function as distinguished from those of the Nutritive. They are co-operators, not competitors, and their apparently rival paths continuously intertwine. But mark a few of the things that have mainly grown up around this second function, and decide whether or not it be a worthy ally of the Struggle for Life in the Evolution of Man.
To begin at the most remote circumference, consider what the world owes to-day to the Struggle for the Life of Others in the world of plants. This is the humblest sphere in which it can offer any gifts at all, yet these are already of such a magnitude that without them the higher world would not only be inexpressibly the poorer, but could not continue to exist. As we have just seen, all the arrangements in plant life which concern the flower are the creations of the Struggle for the Life of Others. For Reproduction alone the flower is created; when the process is over it returns to the dust. This miracle of beauty is a miracle of Love. Its splendour of colour, its variegations, its form, its symmetry, its perfume, its honey, its very texture, are all notes of Love—Love-calls or Love-lures or Love-provisions for the insect world, whose aid is needed to carry the pollen from anther to stigma, and perfect the development of its young. Yet this is but a thing thrown in, in giving something else. The Flower, botanically, is the herald of the Fruit. The Fruit, botanically, is the cradle of the Seed. Consider how great these further achievements are, how large a place in the world’s history is filled by these two humble things—the Fruits and Seeds of plants. Without them the Struggle for Life itself would almost cease. The animal Struggle for Life is a struggle for what? For Fruits and Seeds. All animals in the long run depend for food upon Fruits and Seeds, or upon lesser creatures which have utilized Fruits and Seeds. Three-fourths of the population of the world at the present moment subsist upon rice. What is rice? It is a seed; a product of Reproduction. Of the other fourth, three-fourths live upon grains—barley, wheat, oats, millet. What are these grains? Seeds—stores of starch or albumen which, in the perfect forethought of Reproduction, plants bequeath to their offspring. The foods of the world, especially the children’s foods, are the foods of the children of plants, the foods which unselfish activities store round the cradles of the helpless, so that when the sun wakens them to their new world they may not want. Every plant in the world lives for Others. It sets aside something, something costly, cared for, the highest expression of its nature. The Seed is the tithe of Love, the tithe which Nature renders to Man. When Man lives upon Seeds he lives upon Love. Literally, scientifically, Love is Life. If the Struggle for Life has made Man, braced and disciplined him, it is the Struggle for Love that sustains him.
Pass from the foods of Man to drinks, and the, gifts of Reproduction once more all but exhaust the list. This may be mere coincidence, but a coincidence which involves both food and drink is at least worth noting The first and universal food of the world is milk, a product of Reproduction. All distilled spirits are products of Reproduction. All malted liquors are made from the embryos of plants. All wines are juices of the grape. Even on the plane of the animal appetites, in mere relation to Man’s hunger and his thirst, the factor of Reproduction is thus seen to be fundamental. To interpret the course of Evolution without this would be to leave the richest side even of material Nature without an explanation. Retrace the ground even thus hastily travelled over, and see how full Creation is of meaning, of anticipation of good for Man, how far back begins the undertone of Love. Remember that nearly all the beauty of the world is Love-beauty—the corolla of the flower and the plume of the grass, the lamp of the firefly, the plumage of the bird, the horn of the stag, the face of a woman; that nearly all the music of the natural world is Love-music—the song of the nightingale, the call of the mammal, the chorus of the insect, the serenade of the lover; that nearly all the foods of the world are Love-foods—the date and the raisin, the banana and the bread-fruit, the locust and the honey, the eggs, the grains, the seeds, the cereals, and the legumes; that all the drinks of the world are Love-drinks—the juices of the sprouting grain and the withered hop, the milk from the udder of the cow, the wine from the Love-cup of the vine. Remember that the Family, the crown of all higher life, is the creation of Love; that Co-operation, which means power, which means wealth, which means leisure, which therefore means art and culture, recreation and education, is the gift of Love. Remember not only these things, but the diffusions of feeling which accompany them, the elevations, the ideals, the happiness, the goodness, and the faith in more goodness, and ask if it is not a world of Love in which we live.
CO-OPERATION IN NATURE
Though Co-operation is not exclusively the gift of Reproduction, it is so closely related to it that we may next observe a few of the fruits of this most definitely altruistic principle. For here is a principle, not merely a series of interesting phenomena, profoundly rooted in Nature and having for its immediate purpose the establishment of Other-ism. In innumerable cases, doubtless, Co-operation has been induced rather by the action of the Struggle for Life—a striking circumstance in itself, as showing how the very selfish side of life has had to pay its debt to the larger law—but in multitudes more it is directly allied with the Struggle for the Life of Others.
For illustrations of the principle in general we may begin with the very dawn of life. Every life at first was a single cell. Co-operation was unknown. Each cell was self-contained and self-sufficient, and as new cells budded from the parent they moved away and set up life for themselves. This self-sufficiency leads to nothing in Evolution. Unicellular organisms may be multiplied to infinity, but the vegetable kingdom can never rise in height, or symmetry, or productiveness without some radical change. But soon we find the co-operative principle beginning its mysterious integrating work. Two, three, four, eight, ten cells club together and form a small mat, or cylinder, or ribbon—the humblest forms of corporate plant-life—in which each individual cell divides the responsibilities and the gains of living with the rest. The colony succeeds; grows larger; its co-operations become more close and varied. Division of labour in new directions arises for the common good; leaves are organized for nutrition, and special cells for reproduction. All the organs increase in specialization; and the time arrives when from cryptogams the plant world bursts into flowers. A flower is organized for Co-operation. It is not an individual entity, but a commune, a most complex social system. Sepal, petal, stamen, anther, each has its separate role in the economy, each necessary to the other and to the life of the species as a whole. Mutual aid having reached this stage can never be arrested short of the extinction of plant-life itself.
Even after this stage, so triumphant is the success of the Co-operative Principle, that having exhausted the possibilities of further development within the vegetable kingdom, it overflowed these boundaries and carried the activities of flowers into regions which the plant-world never invaded before. With a novelty and audacity unique in organic Nature, the higher flowering plants, stimulated by Co-operation, opened communication with two apparently forever unrelated worlds, and established alliances which secured from the subjects of these distant states a perpetual and vital service. The history of these relations forms the most entrancing chapter in botanical science. But so powerfully has this illustration of the principle appealed already to the popular imagination that it becomes a mere form to re-state it. What interests us anew in these novel enterprises, nevertheless, is that they are directly connected with the Reproductive Struggle. For it is not for food that the plant-world voyages into foreign spheres, but to perfect the supremer labour of its life.
The vegetable world is a world of still life. No higher plant has the power to move to help its neighbour, or even to help itself, at the most critical moment of its life. And it is through this very helplessness that these new Co-operations are called forth. The fertilizing pollen grows on one part of the flower, the stigma which is to receive it grows on another, or it may be on a different plant. But as these parts cannot move towards one another, the flower calls in the aid of moving things. Unconscious of their vicarious service, the butterfly and the bee, as they flit from flower to flower, or the wind as it blows across the fields, carry the fertilizing dust to the waiting stigma, and complete that act without which in a generation the species would become extinct. No flower in the world, at least no entomophalous flower, can continuously develop healthy offspring without the Co-operations of an insect; and multitudes of flowers without such aid could never seed at all. It is to these Co-operations that we owe all that is beautiful and fragrant in the flower-world. To attract the insect and recompense it for its trouble, a banquet of honey is spread in the heart of the flower; and to enable the visitor to find the nectar, the leaves of the flower are made showy or conspicuous beyond all other leaves. To meet the case of insects which love the dusk, many flowers are coloured white; for those which move about at night and cannot see at all, the night-flowers load the darkness with their sweet perfume. The loveliness, the variegations of shade and tint, the ornamentations, the scents, the shapes, the sizes of flowers, are all the gifts of Co-operation. The flower in every detail, in fact, is a monument to the Co-operative Principle.
Scarcely less singular are the Co-operations among flowers themselves, the better to attract the attention of the insect world. Many flowers are so small and inconspicuous that insects might not condescend to notice them. But Altruism is always inventive. Instead of dispersing their tiny florets over the plant, these club together at single points, so that by the multitude of numbers an imposing show is made. Each of the associating flowers in these cases preserves its individuality, and—as we see in the Elder or the Hemlock—continues to grow on its own flower-stalk. But in still more ingenious species the partners to a floral advertisement sacrifice their separate stems and cluster close together on a common head. The Thistle, for example, is not one flower, but a colony of flowers, each complete in all its parts, but all gaining the advantage of conspicuousness by densely packing themselves together. In the Sunflowers and many others the sacrifice is carried still further. Of the multitude of florets clustered together to form the mass of colour, a few cease the development of the reproductive organs altogether, and allow their whole strength to go towards adding visibility to the mass. The florets in the centre of the group, packed close together, are unable to do anything in this direction; but those on the margin expand the perianth into a blazing circle of flame, and leave the deep work of Reproduction to those within. What are the advantages gained by all this mutual aid? That it makes them the fittest to survive. These Co-operative Plants are among the most numerous, most vigorous, and most widely diffused in Nature. Self-sacrifice and Co-operation are thus recognized as sound in principle. The blessing of Nature falls upon them. The words themselves, in any more than a merely physical sense, are hopelessly out of court in any scientific interpretation of things. But the point to mark is, that on the mechanical equivalents of what afterwards come to have ethical relations Natural Selection places a premium. Non-co-operative or feebly co-operative organisms go to the wall. Those which give mutual aid survive and people the world with their kind.
Without pausing to note the intricate Co-operations of flowers which reward the eye of the specialist—the subtle alliance with Space in Dioecious flowers; with Time in Dichogamous species, and with Size in the Dimorphic and Trimorphic forms—consider for a moment the extension of the principle to the Seed and Fruit. Helpless, single-handed, as is a higher plant, with regard to the efficient fertilizing of its flowers, an almost more difficult problem awaits it when it comes to the dispersal of its seeds. If each seed fell where it grew, the spread of the species would shortly be at an end. But Nature, working on the principle of Co-operation, is once more redundant in its provisions. By a series of new alliances the offspring are given a start on distant and unoccupied ground; and so perfect are the arrangements in this department of the Struggle for the Life of Others that single plants, immovably rooted in the soil, are yet able to distribute their children over the world. By a hundred devices the fruits and seeds when ripe are entrusted to outside hands provided with wing or parachute and launched upon the wind, attached by cunning contrivances to bird and beast, or dropped into stream and wave and ocean-current, and so transported over the earth.
If we turn to the Animal Kingdom, the Principle of Co-operation everywhere once more confronts us. It is singular that, with few exceptions, science should still know so little of the daily life of even the common animals. A few favourite mammals, some birds, three or four of the more picturesque and clever of the insects—these almost exhaust the list of those whose ways are thoroughly known. But, looking broadly at Nature, one general fact is striking—the more social animals are in overwhelming preponderance over the unsocial. Mr. Darwin’s dictum, that “those communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best” is wholly proved. Run over the names of the commoner or more dominant mammals, and it will be found that they are those which have at least a measure of sociability. The cat-tribe excepted, nearly all live together in herds or troops—the elephant, for instance, the buffalo, deer, antelope, wild-goat, sheep, wolf, jackal, reindeer, hippopotamus, zebra, hyena, and seal. These are mammals, observe—an association of sociability in its highest developments with reproductive specialization. Cases undoubtedly exist where the sociability may not be referable primarily to this function; but in most the chief Co-operations are centred in Love. So advantageous are all forms of mutual service that the question may be fairly asked, whether after all Co-operation and Sympathy—at first instinctive, afterwards reasoned—are not the greatest facts even in organic Nature? To quote the words of Prince Kropotkin: “As soon as we study animals—not in laboratories and museums only, but in the forest and the prairie, in the steppes and the mountains—we at once perceive that though there is an immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst various species, and especially amidst various classes of animals, there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defence, amidst animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same society. Sociability is as much a law of Nature as mutual struggle. . . . If we resort to an indirect test and ask Nature ‘Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?’ we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development of intelligence and bodily organization. If the numberless facts which can be brought forward to support this view are taken into account, we may safely say that mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle; but that, as a factor of evolution, it most probably has a far greater importance, inasmuch as it favours the development of such habits and character as ensure the maintenance and further development of the species, together with the greatest amount of welfare and enjoyment of life for the individual, with the least waste of energy.”8181Nineteenth Century, 1890, p. 340.
In the large economy of Nature, almost more than within these specific regions, the interdependence of part with part is unalterably established. The system of things, from top to bottom, is an uninterrupted series of reciprocities. Kingdom corresponds with kingdom, organic with inorganic. Thus, to carry on the larger agriculture of Nature, myriads of living creatures have to be retained in the earth itself—in the earth—and to prepare and renew the soils in which the otherwise exhausted ground may keep up her continuous gifts of vegetation. Ages before Man appeared with his tools of husbandry, these agriculturists of Nature—in humid countries the Worm, in sub-tropical regions the White Ant—ploughed and harrowed the earth, so that without the Co-operations of these most lowly forms of life, the higher beauty and fruitfulness of the world had been impossible. The very existence of animal life, to take another case of broad economy, is possible only through the mediation of the plant. No animal has the power to satisfy one single impulse of hunger without the Co-operation of the vegetable world. It is one of the mysteries of organic chemistry that the Chlorophyll contained in the green parts of plants alone among substances has the power to break up the mineral kingdom and utilize the products as food. Though detected recently in the tissues of two of the very lowest animals, Chlorophyll is the peculiar possession of the vegetable kingdom, and forms the solitary point of contact between Man and all higher animals and their supply of food. Every grain of matter therefore eaten by Man, every movement of the body, every stroke of work done by muscle or brain, depends upon the contribution of a plant, or of an animal which has eaten a plant. Remove the vegetable kingdom, or interrupt the flow of its unconscious benefactions, and the whole higher life of the world ends. Everything, indeed, came into being because of something else, and continues to be because of its relations to something else. The matter of the earth is built up of co-operating atoms; it owes its existence, its motion, and its stability to co-operating stars. Plants and animals are made of co-operating cells, nations of cooperating men. Nature makes no move, Society achieves no end, the Cosmos advances not one step that is not dependent on Co-operation; and while the discords of the world disappear with growing knowledge, Science only reveals with increasing clearness the universality of its reciprocities.
But to return to the more direct effects of Reproduction. After creating Others there lay before Evolution a not less necessary task—the task of uniting them together. To create units in indefinite quantities and scatter them over the world is not even to take one single step in progress. Before any higher evolution can take place these units must by some means be brought into relation so as not only to act together, but to react upon each other. According to well-known biological laws, it is only in combinations, whether of atoms, cells, animals, or human beings, that individual units can make any progress, and to create such combinations is in every case the first condition of development. Hence the first commandment of Evolution everywhere is “Thou shalt mass, segregate, combine, grow large.” Organic Evolution, as Mr. Herbert Spencer tells us, “is primarily the formation of an aggregate.” No doubt the necessities of the Struggle for Life tended in many ways to fulfil this condition, and the organization of primitive societies, both animal and human, are largely its creation. Under its influence these were called together for mutual protection and mutual help; and Co-operations induced in this way have played an important part in Evolution. But the Co-operations brought about by Reproduction are at once more radical, more universal, and more efficient. The Struggle for Life is in part a disruptive force. The Struggle for the Life of Others is wholly a social force. The social efforts of the first are secondary; those of the last are primary. And had it not been for the stronger and unbreakable bond which the Struggle for the Life of Others introduced into the world, the organization of Societies had never even been begun. How subtly Reproduction effects its purpose an illustration will make plain. And we shall select it again from the lowest world of life, so that the fundamental nature of this factor may be once more vindicated on the way.
More than two thousand years ago Herodotus observed a remarkable custom in Egypt. At a certain season of the year the Egyptians went into the desert, cut off branches from the wild palms, and, bringing them back to their gardens, waved them over the flowers of the date-palm. Why they performed this ceremony they did not know; but they knew that if they neglected it the date crop would be poor or wholly lost. Herodotus offers the quaint explanation that along with these branches there came from the desert certain flies possessed of a “vivific virtue,” which somehow lent an exuberant fertility to the dates. But the true rationale of the incantation is now explained. Palm trees, like human beings, are male and female. The garden plants, the date bearers, were females; the desert plants were males; and the waving of the branches over the females meant the transference of the fertilizing pollen dust from the one to the other.
Now consider, in this far away province of the vegetable kingdom, the strangeness of this phenomenon. Here are two trees living wholly different lives, they are separated by miles of desert sand; they are unconscious of one another’s existence; and yet they are so linked together that their separation into two is a mere illusion. Physiologically they are one tree; they cannot dwell apart. It is nothing to the point that they are neither dowered with locomotion nor the power of conscious choice. The point is that there is that in Nature which unites these seemingly disunited things, which effects combinations and co-operations where one would least believe them possible, which sustains by arrangements of the most elaborate kind inter-relations between tree and tree. By a device the most subtle of all that guard the higher Evolution of the world—the device of Sex—Nature accomplishes this task of throwing irresistible bonds around widely separate things, and establishing such sympathies between them that they must act together or forfeit the very life of their kind. Sex is a paradox; it is that which separates in order to unite. The same mysterious mesh which Nature threw over the two separate palms, she threw over the few and scattered units which were to form the nucleus of Mankind.
Picture the state of primitive Man; his fear of other primitive Men; his hatred of them; his unsocialibility; his isolation; and think how great a thing was done by Sex in merely starting the crystallization of humanity. At no period, indeed, was Man ever utterly alone. There is no such thing in nature as a man, or for the matter of that as an animal, except among the very humblest forms. Wherever there is a higher animal there is another animal; wherever there is a savage there is another savage—the other half of him, a female savage. This much, at least Sex has done for the world-it has abolished the numeral one. Observe, it has not simply discouraged the existence of one; it has abolished the existence of one. The solitary animal must die, and can leave no successor. Unsociableness, therefore, is banished out of the world: it has become the very condition of continued existence that there should always be a family group, or at least pair. The determination of Nature to lay the foundation stone of corporate national life at this point, and to embed Sociability for ever in the constitution of humanity, is only obvious when we reflect with what extraordinary thoroughness this Evolution of Sex was carried out. There is no instance in Nature of Division of Labour being brought to such extreme specialization. The two sexes were not only to perform different halves of the same function, but each so entirely lost the power of performing the whole function that even with so great a thing at stake as the continuance of the species, one could not discharge it. Association, combination, mutual help, fellowship, affection—things on which all material and moral progress would ultimately turn—were thus forced upon the world at the bayonet’s point.
This hint, that the course of development is taking a social, rather than an individual direction, is of immense significance. If that can be brought about by the Struggle for the Life of Others—and in the next chapters we shall see that it has been—there can be no dispute about the rank of the factor which consummates it. Along the line of the physiological function of Reproduction, in association with its induced activities and relations, not only has Altruism entered the world, but along with it the necessary field for its expansion and full expression. If Nature is to be read solely in the light of the Struggle for Life, these ethical anticipations—and as yet we are but at the beginning of them—for a social world and a moral life, must remain the stultification both of science and of teleology.
THE ETHICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF SEX
Next among the gifts of Reproduction fall to be examined some further contributions yielded by the new and extraordinary device which a moment ago leaped into prominence—Sex. The direct, and especially the collateral, issues here are of such significance that it will be essential to study them in detail. Realize the novelty and originality of this most highly specialized creation, and it will be seen at once that something of exceptional moment must lie behind it. Here is a phenomenon which stands absolutely alone on the field of Nature. There is not only nothing at all like it in the world, but while everything else has homologues or analogues somewhere in the cosmos, this is without any parallel. Familiarity has so accustomed us to it that we accept the sex separation as a matter of course; but no words can do justice to the wonder and novelty of this strange line of cleavage which cuts down to the very root of being in everything that lives.
No theme of equal importance has received less attention than this from evolutionary philosophy. The single problems which sex suggests have been investigated with a keenness and brilliance of treatment never before brought to bear in this mysterious region; and Mr. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, whether true or false, has called attention to a multitude of things in living Nature which seem to find a possible explanation here. But the broad and simple fact that this division into maleness and femaleness should run between almost every two of every plant and every animal in existence, must have implications of a quite exceptional kind.
How deep, from the very dawn of life, this rent between the two sexes yawns is only now beginning to be seen. Examine one of the humblest water weeds—the Spirogyra. It consists of waving threads or necklaces of cells, each plant to the eye the exact duplicate of the other. Yet externally alike as they seem, the one has the physiological value of the male, the other of the female. Though a primitive method of Reproduction, the process in this case foreshadows the law of all higher vegetable life. From this point upwards, though there are many cases where Reproduction is asexual, in nearly every family of plants a Reproduction by spores takes place, and where it does not take place its absence is abnormal, and to be accounted for by degeneration. When we reach the higher plants the differences of sex become as marked as among the higher animals. Male and female flowers grow upon separate trees, or live side by side on the same branch, yet so unlike one another in form and colour that the untrained eye would never know them to be relatives. Even when male and female are grown on the same flower-stalk and enclosed in a common perianth, the hermaphroditism is generally but apparent, owing to the physiological barriers of heteromorphism and dichogamy. Sex-separation, indeed, is not only distinct among flowering plants, but is kept up by a variety of complicated devices, and a return to hermaphroditism is prevented by the most elaborate precautions.
When we turn to the animal kingdom again, the same great contrast arrests us. Half a century ago, when Balbiani described the male and female elements in microscopic infusorians, his facts were all but rejected by science. But further research has placed it beyond all doubt that the beginnings of sex are synchronous almost with those shadowings in of life. From a state marked by a mere varying of the nuclear elements, a state which might almost be described as one antecedent to sex, the sex-distinction slowly gathers definition, and passing through an infinite variety of forms, and with countless shades of emphasis, reaches at last the climax of separateness which is observed among birds and mammals. Often, even in the Metazoa, this separateness is outwardly obscured, as in star-fishes and reptiles; often it is matter of common observation; while sometimes it is carried to such a pitch of specialization that only the naturalist identifies the two wholly unlike creatures as male and female. Through the whole wide field of Nature then this gulf is fixed. Each page of the million-leaved Book of Species must be as it were split in two, the one side for the male, the other for the female. Classification naturally takes little note of this distinction; but it is fundamental. Unlikenesses between like things are more significant than unlikenesses of unlike things. And the unlikenesses between male and female are never small, and almost always great. Though the fundamental difference is internal the external form varies; size, colour, and a multitude of more or less striking secondary sexual characteristics separate the one from the other. Besides this, and more important than all, the cycle of a year’s life is never the same for the male as for the female; they are destined from the beginning to pursue different paths, to live for different ends.
Now what does all this mean? To say that the sex-distinction is necessary to sustain the existence of life in the world is no answer, since it is at least possible that life could have been kept up without it. From the facts of Parthenogenesis, illustrated in bees and termites, it is now certain that Reproduction can be effected without fertilization; and the circumstance that fertilization is nevertheless the rule, proves this method of Reproduction, though not a necessity, to be in some way beneficial to life. It is important to notice this absence of necessity for sex having been created—the absence of any known necessity—from the merely physiological standpoint. Is it inconceivable that Nature should sometimes do things with an ulterior object, an ethical one, for instance? To no one with any acquaintance with Nature’s ways will it be possible to conceive of such a purpose as the sole purpose. In these early days when sex was instituted it was a physical universe. Undoubtedly sex then had physiological advantages; but when in a later day the ethical advantages become visible, and rise to such significance that the higher world nearly wholly rests upon them, we are entitled, as viewing the world from that higher level, to have our own suspicions as to a deeper motive underlying the physical.
Apart from bare necessity, it is further remarkable that no very clear advantage of the sex-distinction has yet been made out by Science. Hensen and Van Beneden are able to see in conjugation no more than a Verjungung or rejuvenescence of the species. The living machinery in its wearing activities runs down and has to be wound up again; to keep life going some —fresh impulse must be introduced from time to time; or the protoplasm, exhausting itself, seeks restoration in fertilization and starts afresh.8282Geddes and Thomson, The Evolution of Sex, p. 163. To Hatschek it is a remedy against the action of injurious variations; while to Weismann it is simply the source of variations. “I do not know,” says the latter, “what meaning can be attributed to sexual reproduction other than the creation of hereditary individual characters to form the material on which natural selection may work. Sexual reproduction is so universal in all classes of multicellular organisms, and nature deviates so rarely from it, that it must necessarily be of pre-eminent importance. If it be true that new species are produced by processes of selection, it follows that the development of the whole organic world depends on these processes, and the part that amphigony has to play in nature, by rendering selection possible among multicellular organisms, is not only important, but of the very highest imaginable importance.”8383Biological Memoirs, p. 281.
These views may be each true; and probably, in a measure, are; but the fact remains that the later psychical implications of sex are of such transcendent character as to throw all physical considerations into the shade. When we turn to these, their significance is as obvious as in the other case it was obscure. This will appear if we take even the most distinctively biological of these theories—that of Weismann. Sex, to him, is the great source of variation in Nature, in plainer English, of the variety of organisms in the world. Now this variety, though not the main object of sex, is precisely what it was essential for Evolution by some means to bring about. The first work of Evolution always is, as we have seen, to create a mass of similar things—atoms, cells, men—and the second is to break up that mass into as many different kinds of things as possible. Aggregation masses the raw material, collects the clay for the potter; differentiation destroys the featureless monotonies as fast as they are formed, and gives them back in new and varied forms. Now if Evolution designed, among other things, to undertake the differentiation of Mankind, it could not have done it more effectively than through the device of sex. To the blending, or to the mosaics, of the different characteristics of father and mother, and of many previous fathers and mothers, under the subtle wand of heredity, all the varied interest of the human world is due. When one considers the passing on, not so much of minute details of character and disposition, but of the dominant temperament and type; the new proportion in which already inextricably mingled tendencies are re-arranged, and the changed environment in which, with each new generation, they must unfold; it is seen how perfect an instrument for variegating humanity lies here. Had sex done nothing more than make an interesting world, the debt of Evolution to Reproduction had been incalculable.
THE ETHICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF MATERNITY
But let us not be diverted from the main stream by these secondary results of the sex-distinction. A far more important implication lies before us. The problem that remains for us to settle is as to how the merely physical forms of Other-ism began to be accompanied or overlaid by ethical characters. And the solution of this problem requires nothing more than a consideration of the broad and fundamental fact of sex itself. In what it is, and in what it necessarily implies, we shall find the clue to the beginnings of the social and moral order of the world. For, rising on the one hand out of maleness and on the other hand out of femaleness, developments take place of such a kind as to constitute this the turning-point of the world’s moral history. Let it be said at once that these developments are not to be sought for in the direction in which, from the nature of the factors, one might hastily suppose that they lay. What seems to be imminent at this stage, and as the natural end to which all has led up, is the institution of affection in definite forms between male and female. But we are on a very different track. Affection between male and female is a later, less fundamental, and, in its beginnings, less essential growth; and long prior to its existence, and largely the condition of it, is the even more beautiful development whose progress we have now to trace. The basis of this new development is indeed far removed from the mutual relations of sex with sex. For it lies in maleness and femaleness themselves, in their inmost quality and essential nature, in what they lead to and what they become. The superstructure, certainly, owes much to the psychical relations of father and mother, husband and wife, but the Evolution of Love began ages before these were established.
What exactly maleness is, and what femaleness, has been one of the problems of the world. At least five hundred theories of their origin are already in the field, but the solution seems to have baffled every approach. Sex has remained almost to the present hour an ultimate mystery of creation, and men seem to know as little what it is as whence it came. But among the last words of modern science there are one or two which spell out a partial clue to both of these mysterious problems. The method by which this has been reached is almost for the first time a purely biological one, and if its inferences are still uncertain, it has at least established some important facts.
Starting with the function of nutrition as the nearest ally of Reproduction, the newer experimenters have discovered cases in which sex apparently has been determined by the quantity and quality of the food-supply. And in actual practice it has been found possible, in the case of certain organisms, to produce either maleness or femaleness by simply varying their nutrition—femaleness being an accompaniment of abundant food, maleness of the reverse. When Yung, to take an authentic experiment, began his observations on tadpoles, he ascertained that in the ordinary natural condition the number of males and females produced was not far from equal—the percentage being about 57 female to 43 male, thus giving the females a preponderance of seven. But when a brood of tadpoles was sumptuously fed the percentage of females rose to 78, and when a second brood was treated even more liberally, the number amounted to 81. In a third experiment with a still more highly nutritious diet, the result of the high feeding was more remarkable, for in this case 92 females were produced and only 8 males. In the case of butterflies and moths, it has been found that if caterpillars are starved before entering the chrysalis state the offspring are males, while others of the same brood, when highly nourished, develop into females. A still more instructive case is that of the aphides, the familiar plant-lice of our gardens. During the warmth of summer, when food is abundant, these insects produce parthenogenetically nothing but females, while in the famines of later autumn they give birth to males. In striking confirmation of this fact it has been proved that in a conservatory where the aphides enjoy perpetual summer, the parthenogenetic succession of females continued to go on for four years and stopped only when the temperature was lowered and food diminished. Then males were at once produced.8484The Evolution of Sex, pp. 41–6. It will no longer be said that science is making no progress with this unique problem when it is apparently able to determine sex by turning off or on the steam in a green house. With regard to bees the relation between nutrition and sex seems equally established. “The three kinds of inmates in a bee-hive are known to everyone as queens, workers, and drones; or, as fertile females, imperfect females, and males. What are the factors determining the differences between these three forms? In the first place, it is believed that the eggs which give rise to drones are not fertilized, while those that develop into queens and workers have the normal history. But what fate rules the destiny of the two latter, determining whether a given ovum will turn out the possible mother of a new generation, or remain at the lower level of a non-fertile working female? It seems certain that the fate mainly lies in the quantity and quality of the food. Royal diet, and plenty of it, develops the future queens . . Up to a certain point the nurse bees can determine the future destiny of their charge by changing the diet, and this in some cases is certainly done. If a larva on the way to become a worker receive by chance some crumbs from the royal superfluity, the reproductive function may develop, and what are called ‘fertile workers,’ to a certain degree above the average abortiveness, result; or, by direct intention, a worker grub may be reared into a queen bee.”8585The Evolution of Sex, p. 42. See also pp. 41–46.
It is unnecessary to prolong the illustration, for the point it is wished to emphasize is all but in sight. As we have just witnessed, the tendency of abundant nutrition is to produce females, while defective nutritive conditions produce males. This means that in so far as nutrition reacts on the bodies of animals—and nothing does so more—there will be a growing difference, as time begins to accumulate the effects, between the organization and life-habit of male and female respectively. In the male, destructive processes, a preponderance of waste over repair, will prevail; the result will be a katabolic habit of body; in the female the constructive processes will be in the ascendant, occasioning an opposite or anabolic habit. Translated into less technical language, this means that the predominating note in the male will be energy, motion, activity; while passivity, gentleness, repose, will characterize the female. These words, let it be noticed, psychical though they seem, are yet here the coinages of physiology. No other terms indeed would describe the difference. Thus Geddes and Thomson: “The female cochineal insect, laden with reserve-products in the form of the well-known pigment, spends much of its life like a mere quiescent gall on the cactus plant. The male, on the other hand, in his adult state, is agile, restless, and short-lived. Now this is no mere curiosity of the entomologist, but in reality a vivid emblem of what is an average truth throughout the world of animals—the preponderating passivity of the females, the freedomness and activity of the males.” Rolph’s words, because he writes neither of men nor of animals, but goes back to the furthest recess of Nature and characterizes the cell itself, are still more significant: “The less nutritive and therefore smaller, hungrier, and more mobile organism is the male; the more nutritive and usually more quiescent is the female.”
Now what do these facts indicate? They indicate that maleness is one thing and femaleness another, and that each has been specialized from the beginning to play a separate role in the drama of life. Among primitive peoples, as largely in modern times, “The tasks which demand a powerful development of muscle and bone, and the resulting capacity for intermittent spurts of energy, involving corresponding periods of rest, fall to the man; the care of the children and all the various industries which radiate from the hearth, and which call for an expenditure of energy more continuous, but at a lower tension, fall to the woman.”8686Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, p. 2. Whether this or any theory of the origin of Sex be proved or unproved, the fact remains, and is everywhere emphasized in Nature, that a certain constitutional difference exists between male and female, a difference inclining the one to a robuster life, and implanting in the other a certain mysterious bias in the direction of what one can only call the womanly disposition.
On one side of the great line of cleavage have grown up men—those whose lives for generations and generations have been busied with one particular set of occupations; on the other side have lived and developed women—those who for generations have been busied with another and a widely different set of occupations. And as occupations have inevitable reactions upon mind, character, and disposition, these two have slowly become different in mind and character and disposition. That cleavage therefore, which began in the merely physical region, is now seen to extend into the psychical realm, and ends by supplying the world with two great and forever separate types. No efforts, or explanations, or expostulations can ever break down that distinction between maleness and femaleness, or make it possible to believe that they were not destined from the first of time to play a different part in human history. Male and female never have been and never will be the same. They are different in origin; they have travelled to their destinations by different routes; they have had different ends in view. The result is that they are different, and the contribution therefore of each to the evolution of the human race is special and unique. By and by it will be our duty to mark what Man, in virtue of his peculiar gift, has done for the world; part indeed of his contribution has been already recorded here. To him has been mainly assigned the fulfilment of the first great function—the Struggle for Life. Woman, whose higher contribution has not yet been named. is the chosen instrument for carrying on the Struggle for the Life of Others. Man’s life, on the whole, is determined chiefly by the function of Nutrition; Woman’s by the function of Reproduction. Man satisfies the one by going out into the world, and in the rivalries of war and the ardours of the chase, in conflict with Nature, and amid the stress of industrial pursuits, fulfilling the law of Self-preservation; Woman completes her destiny by occupying herself with the industries and sanctities of the home, and paying the debt of Motherhood to her race.
Now out of this initial difference—so slight at first as to amount to no more than a scarcely perceptible bias—have sprung the most momentous issues. For by every detail of their separate careers the two original tendencies—to outward activity in the man; to inward activity, miscalled passivity, in the woman—became accentuated as time went on. The one life tended towards selfishness, the other towards unselfishness. While one kept Individualism alive, the other kept Altruism alive. Blended in the children, these two master-principles from this their starting-point acted and reacted all through history, seeking that mean in which true life lies. Thus by a Division of Labour appointed by the will of Nature, the conditions for the Ascent of Man were laid.
But by far the most vital point remains. For we have next to observe how this bears directly on the theme we set out to explore—the Evolution of Love. The passage from mere Other-ism, in the physiological sense, to Altruism, in the moral sense, occurs in connection with the due performance of her natural task by her to whom the Struggle for the Life of Others is assigned. That task, translated into one great word, is Maternity—which is nothing but the Struggle for the Life of Others transfigured, transferred to the moral sphere. Focused in a single human being, this function, as we rise in history, slowly begins to be accompanied by those heaven-born psychical states which transform the femaleness of the older order into the Motherhood of the new. When one follows Maternity out of the depths of lower Nature, and beholds it ripening in quality as it reaches the human sphere, its character, and the character of the processes by which it is evolved, appear in their full divinity. For of what is Maternity the mother? Of children? No; for these are the mere vehicle of its spiritual manifestation. Of affection between female and male? No; for that, contrary to accepted beliefs, has little to do in the first instance with sex-relations. Of what then? Of Love itself, of Love as Love, of Love as Life, of Love as Humanity, of Love as the pure and undefiled fountain of all that is eternal in the world. In the long stillness which follows the crisis of Maternity, witnessed only by the new and helpless life which is at once the last expression of the older function and the unconscious vehicle of the new, Humanity is born. By an alchemy which remains, and must ever remain, the secret of Nature, the physiological forces give place to those higher principles of sympathy, solicitude, and affection which from this time onwards are to change the course of Evolution and determine a diviner destiny for a Human Race:
Here grows to event;
Here it is done;
The woman-soul leadeth us
So stupendous is this transition that the mere possibility staggers us. Separated by the whole diameter of conscious intelligence and will, what possible affinities can exist between the Reproductive and the Altruistic process? What analogy can ever exist between the earlier physiological Struggle for the Life of Others and the later Struggle of Love? Yet, different though their accompaniments may be, when closely examined they are seen, at every essential point, running parallel with each other. The object in either case is to continue the life of the Species; the essence of both is self-sacrifice; the first manifestation of the sacrifice is to make provision for Others by helping them to draw the first few breaths of life. But what has Love to do with Species? Can Altruism have reference to mere life? The answer is, that in its first beginnings it has almost nothing to do with anything else. For, consider the situation. Reproduction, let us suppose, has done its most perfect work on the physiological plane: the result is that a human child is born into the world. But the work of Reproduction being to Struggle for the Life of the Species, its task is only complete when it secures that the child, representing the Species, shall live. If the child dies, Reproduction has failed; the Species, so far as this effort is concerned, comes to an end. Now, can Reproduction as a merely physiological function complete this process? It can not. What can? Only the Mother’s Care and Love. Without these, in a few hours or days, the new life must perish; the earlier achievement of Reproduction is in vain. Hence there comes a moment when these two functions meet, when they act as complements to each other; when Physiology hands over its unfinished task to Ethics; when Evolution—if for once one may use a false distinction—depends upon the ‘moral’ process to complete the work the ‘cosmic’ process has begun.
At what precise stage of the Ascent, in association with what class of animals, Other-ism began to shade into Altruism in the ethical sense, is immaterial. Whether the Altruism in the early stages is real or apparent, profound or superficial, voluntary or automatic, does not concern us. What concerns us is that the Altruism is there; that the day came when, even though a rudiment, it was a reality; above all that the arrangements for introducing and perfecting it were realities. The prototype, for ages, may have extended only to form, to the outward relation; for further ages no more Altruism may have existed than was absolutely necessary to the preservation of the species. But to fix the eye upon it at that remote stage and assert that, because it was apparently then automatic, it must therefore have been automatic ever after, is to forget the progressive character of Evolution as well as to ignore facts. While many of the apparent Other-regarding acts among animals are purely selfish and purely automatic, undoubtedly there are instances where more is involved. Apart from their own offspring—in relation to which there may always be the suspicion of automatism; and apart from domestic animals—which are open to the further suspicion of having been trained to it—animals act spontaneously towards other animals; they have their playmates; they make friendships, and very attached friendships. Much more, indeed, has been claimed for them; but it is not necessary to claim even this much. No evolutionist would expect among animals—domestic animals always excepted—any considerable development of Altruism, because the physiological and psychical conditions which directly led to its development in Man’s case were fulfilled in no other creature.8888The answer to the argument in favour of automatism is thus summarized by C. M. Williams: “(1) That functions which are preserved and inherited must evidently be, not only in animals and plants, but also and equally in man, such as favour the preservation of the species; those which do not so favour it must perish with the individuals or species to which they belong; (2) that it cannot, indeed, be assumed that a result which has never come within the experience of the species can be willed as an end, although, with the species, function securing results which, from a human point of view, might be regarded as such, may be preserved; but (3) that, as far as we assume the existence of consciousness at all in any species or individual, we must assume pleasure and pain, pleasure in customary function, pain in its hindrance; and (4) that, as far as we can assume memory, we may also feel authorized to assume that a remembered action may be associated with remembered results that come within the experience of the animal, some phases of which may thus become, as combined with pleasure or pain, ends to seek or consequences to avoid.”—Evolutional Ethics, p. 386.
Simple as seems the method by which the first few sparks of Love were nursed into flame in the bosom of Maternity, the details of the evolution are so intricate as to require a chapter to themselves. But the emphasis which Nature puts on this process may be judged of by the fact that one half the human race had to be set apart to sustain and perfect it. To the evolutionist who discerns the true proportions of the forces which made for the Ascent of Man, one of the two or three great events in the natural history of the world was the institution of sex. It is here that the master-forces which were to dominate the latest and highest stages of the process start; here, specialized into Egoism and Altruism, they part; and here, each having run its different course, they meet to distribute their gains to a succeeding race. With the initial impulses of their sex strengthened by the different life-routine to which each led, these two forces ran their course through history, determining by their ceaseless reactions the order and progress of the world, or when wrongly balanced, its disorder and decay. According to evolutional philosophy there are three great marks or necessities of all true development—Aggregation, or the massing of things; Differentiation, or the varying of things ; and Integration, or the re-uniting of things into higher wholes. All these processes are brought about by sex more perfectly than by any other factor known. From a careful study of this one phenomenon, science could almost decide that Progress was the object of Nature, and that Altruism was the object of Progress.
This vital relation between Altruism in its early stages and physiological ends, neither implies that it is to be limited by these ends nor defined in terms of them. Everything must begin somewhere. And there is no aphorism which the labours of Evolution, at each fresh beginning, have tended more consistently to endorse than “first that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” How this great saying also disposes of the difficulty, which appears and reappears with every forward step in Evolution, as to the qualitative terms in which higher developments are to be judged, is plain. Because the spiritual to our vision emerges from the natural, or, to speak more accurately, is convoyed upwards by the natural for the first stretches of its ascent, it is not necessarily contained in that natural, nor is it to be defined in terms of it. What comes “first” is not the criterion of what comes last. Few things are more forgotten in criticism of Evolution than that the nature of a thing is not dependent on its origin, that one’s whole view of a long, growing, and culminating process is not to be governed by the first sight the microscope can catch of it. The processes of Evolution evolve as well as the products; evolve with the products. In the Environments they help to create, or to make available, they find a field for new creations as well as further reinforcements for themselves. With the creation of human children Altruism found an area for its own expansion such as had never before existed in the world. In this new soil it grew from more to more, and reached a potentiality which enabled it to burst the trammels of physical conditions, and overflow the world as a moral force. The mere fact that the first uses of Love were physical shows how perfectly this process bears the stamp of Evolution. The later function is seen to relieve the earlier at the moment when it would break down without it, and continue the ascent without a pause.
If it be hinted that Nature has succeeded in continuing the Ascent of Life in Animals without any reinforcement from psychical principles, the first answer is that owing to physiological conditions this would not have been possible in the case of Man. But even among animals it is not true that Reproduction completes its work apart from higher principles, for even there, there are accompaniments, continually increasing in definiteness, which at least represent the instincts and emotions of Man. It is no doubt true that in animals the affections are less voluntarily directed than in the case of a human mother. But in either case they must have been involuntary at first. It can only have been at a late stage in Evolution that Nature could trust even her highest product to carry on the process by herself. Before Altruism was strong enough to take its own initiative, necessity had to be laid upon all mothers, animal and human, to act in the way required. In part physiological, this necessity was brought about under the ordinary action of that principle which had to take charge of everything in Nature until the will of Man appeared—Natural Selection. A mother who did not care for her children would have feeble and sickly children. Their children’s children would be feeble and sickly children. And the day of reckoning would come when they would be driven off the field by a hardier, that is a better-mothered, race. Hence the premium of Nature upon better mothers. Hence the elimination of all the reproductive failures, of all the mothers who fell short of completing the process to the last detail. And hence, by the law of the Survival of the Fittest, Altruism, which at this stage means good-motherism, is forced upon the world.
This consummation reached, the foundations of the human world are finished. Nothing foreign remains to be added. All that need happen henceforth is that the Struggle for the Life of Others should work out its destiny. To follow out the gains of Reproduction from this point would be to write the story of the nations, the history of civilization, the progress of Social Evolution. The key to all these processes is here. There is no intelligible account of the world which is not founded on the realization of the place of this factor in development. Sociology, practically, can only beat the air, can make no step forward as a science, until it recognizes this basis in biology. It is the failure, not so much to recognize the supremacy of this second factor, but to see that there is any second factor at all, that has vitiated almost every attempt to construct a symmetrical social philosophy. It has long, indeed, been perceived that society is an organism, and an organism which has grown by natural growth like a tree. But the tree to which it is usually likened is such a tree as never grew on this earth. For it is a tree without flowers; a tree with nothing but stem and leaves; a tree that performed the function of Nutrition, and forgot all about Reproduction. The great unrecognized truth of social science is that the Social Organism has grown and flowered and fruited in virtue of the continuous activities and inter-relations of the two co-related functions of Nutrition and Reproduction, that these two dominants being at work it could not but grow, and grow in the way it has grown. When the dual nature of the evolving forces is perceived; when their reactions upon one another are understood; when the changed material with which they have to work from time to time, the further obstacles confronting them at every stage, the new Environments which modify their action as the centuries add their growths and disencumber them of their withered leaves,—when all this is observed, the whole social order falls into line. From the dawn of life these two forces have acted together, one continually separating, the other continually uniting; one continually looking to its own things, the other to the things of Others. Both are great in Nature—but “the greatest of these is Love.”
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