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THE EVOLUTION OF A FATHER
IN last chapter we watched the beautiful experiment of Nature making Mothers. We saw how the young produced at one birth were gradually reduced in numbers until it was possible for affection to concentrate upon a single object; how that object was delayed in birth till it was a likeable and presentable thing; how it was tied to its mother’s side by physical bonds, and hindered there for years to give time for the Mother’s care to ripen into love. We saw, what was still more instructive, that Nature, when she had laid the train for perfecting these arrangements, gave up making any more animals; and that there were physiological reasons why this well-mothered class should survive beyond all others, and, by sheer physiological fitness, henceforth dominate the world.
But there was still a crowning task to accomplish. The world was now beginning to fill with Mothers, but there were no Fathers. During all this long process the Father has not even been named. Nothing that has been done has touched or concerned him almost in the least degree. He has gone his own way, lived outside all these changes; and while Nature has succeeded in moulding a human Mother and a human child, he still wanders in the forest a savage and unblessed soul.
This time for him, nevertheless, is not lost. In his own way he is also at school, and learning lessons which will one day be equally needed by humanity. The acquisitions of the manly life are as necessary to human character as the virtues which gather their sweetness by the cradle; and these robuster elements—strength, courage, manliness, endurance, self-reliance—could only have been secured away from domestic cares. Apart from that, it was not necessary to put the Father through the same mill as the Mother. Whatever the Mother gained would be handed on to her boys as well as to her girls, and with the law of heredity to square accounts, it was unnecessary for each of the two great sides of humanity to make the same investments. By one acquiring one set of virtues and the other another, the blend in the end would be the richer; and, without obliterating the eternal individualities of each, the measure of completeness would be gained more quickly for the race. Before heredity, however, could do its work upon the Father a certain basis had to be laid. With his original habits he would squander the hereditary gains as fast as he received them, and unless some change was brought about in his mode of life the old wild blood in his veins would counteract the gentler influence, and leave all the Mother’s work in vain. Hence Nature had to set about another long and difficult process—to make the savage Father a reformed character.
The Evolution of a Father is not so beautiful a process as the Evolution of a Mother, but it was almost as formidable a problem to attack. As much depended on it, as we shall see, as the training of the mother; and though it began later, it required the bringing about of one or two changes in Nature as novel as any that preceded it. When the work was begun, the Father was in a much worse plight, so far as training for family life was concerned, than the Mother. If Maternity was at a feeble level in the lower reaches of Nature, Paternity was non-existent. Among a few Invertebrates the male parent took a passing share in the care of the egg, but it is not until we are all but at the top that fatherly interest finds any real expression. Among the Birds, the parents unite together in most cases to build the nest, the Father doing the rough work of bringing in moss and twigs, while the more trusty Mother does the actual work. When the eggs are laid, the male parent also takes his turn at incubation; supplies food and protection; and lingers round the place of birth to defend the fledglings to the last. When we leave the Birds, however, and pass on to the Mammals, the Fathers are nearly all backsliders. Many are not only indifferent to their young, but hostile: and among the Carnivora the Mothers have frequently to hide their little ones in case the father eats them.
We have another and a more serious count against early Fatherhood. If the Love of Father for child was in this backward state, infinitely more grave was the condition of things between him and the Mother. Probably we have all taken it for granted that husbands and wives have always loved one another. Evolution takes nothing for granted. The affection between husband and wife is, of all the immeasurable forms of Love, the most beautiful, the most lasting, and the most divine: yet up to this time we have not been able even to record its existence. The finished results of Evolution appear so natural to us, looking back from this late day, that we continually ignore the difficulties it had to meet, and forget how every single step in progress from the lowest to the highest had to be carried at the bayonet’s point. The most informed naturalist probably has never given Nature credit for a thousandth part of the work she has done, or has succeeded in presenting to his mind more than a surface outline of the gigantic series of problems she had to solve. In lower Nature, as a simple fact, male and female do not love one another; and in the lower reaches of Human-Nature, husband and wife do not love one another. Among exceptional nations, for the last few hours of the world’s history, husbands and wives have truly loved; but for the vast mass of Mankind, during the long ages which preceded historic times, conjugal love was probably all but unknown.
Now here is a very pretty problem for Evolution. She has at once to make good Husbands and good Fathers out of lawless savages. Unless this problem is solved the higher progress of the world is at an end. It is the mature opinion of every one who has thought upon the history of the world, that the thing of highest importance for all times and to all nations is Family Life. When the Family was instituted, and not till then, the higher Evolution of the world was secured. Hence the exceptional value of the Father’s development. As the other half of the arch on which the whole higher world is built, his taming, his domestication, his moral discipline, are vital; and in the nature of things this was the next great operation undertaken by Evolution.
The first step in the transition was to relate him, definitely and permanently, to the Mother. And here a formidable initial obstacle had to be encountered. The apathy and estrangement between husband and wife in the animal world is radical and universal. There is almost no such thing there as married life. Marriage, in anthropology, is not a word for an occasion, but for a state; it is not, that is to say, a wedding, but a dwelling together throughout life of husband and wife. Now when Man emerged from the animal creation this institution of conjugal life had not been arrived at. Marriage like everything else has been slowly evolved, and until it was evolved, until they learned to dwell continually together, there was no chance for mutual love to spring up between male and female. In Nature the pairing season is usually but an incident. It lasts only a very short time, and during the rest of the year, with some exceptions, the sexes remain apart. From the investigations of Westermarck, who has lately contributed to sociology the most masterly account of the Evolution of Marriage we possess—it appears more than probable that the earliest progenitors of Man had also a pairing season, and that the young were born at a particular time of the year, and never at any other time. All the animals nearest to Man in Nature have such a season, and there are only a few known—the elephant for instance, and some of the whales—which have none. Now the brevity of this period in the father’s case must have told against his developing any real affection. If he is to run away a few days after the young are born he will miss all the discipline of the home, and as this discipline is essential, as this is the only way in which love can be acquired, or inherited love developed, some method must be adopted in his case to extend the period of home life during which it can act.
Now let us see how this was done. The problem being to give Love time, the solution was in some way to alter the circumstances which confined the pairing season to a specific date—to abolish, in fact, the pairing season in the case of Man, and lengthen out the time in which husband and wife should stay together. And as this was actually the method adopted, we have first to ask what these special circumstances were. Why should animals have specific dates at all? . The clue will be found if we examine carefully what these dates are and the reasons Nature has had for choosing them. Some wise principle must underlie this, or it would not be the universal rule it is. The pairing time with Birds, as everyone knows, occurs in the Spring. With Reptiles this is also the case; but among Mammals each species has a season peculiar to itself, every separate month being selected by one or other, and invariably adhered to. “The bat pairs in January and February; the wild camel in the desert to the east of Lake Lob-nor, from the middle of January nearly to the end of February; the Canis Azarae and the Indian bison in winter; the weasel in March; the kulan from May to July; the musk-ox at the end of August; the elk, in the Baltic Provinces, at the end of August, and, in Asiatic Russia, in September or October; the wild Yak in Tibet in September; the reindeer in Norway at the end of September; the badger in October; the Capra pyrenaica in November; the chamois, the musk-deer, and the orongo-antelope in November and December; the wolf, from the end of December to the middle of February.”9191Westermarck’s History of Human Marriage, p. 26. It might seem that no law governed these various dates, but their very variety is the proof of an underlying principle. For these dates show that each animal in each particular country chooses that time of the year to give birth to her young when they will have the best chance of surviving—that is to say, when the climate is mildest, food most abundant, and the prospects of life on the whole most favourable. The dormouse thus brings forth its young in August, when the nuts begin to ripen; and the young deer sees the light just before the first grass shoots into greenness. Because those born at this season survived and those born out of it perished, by the prolonged action of Natural Selection these dates in time probably became engrained in the species, and would only alter with climate itself.
But when Man’s Evolution made a certain progress, and when the Mother’s care reached mature perfection, it was no longer imperative for children to be born only when the sun was shining, and the fruits grew ripe. The parents could now make provision for any weather and for any dearth. They could give their little ones clothes when nights grew cold; they could build barns and granaries against times of famine. In any climate, and at any time, their young were safe; and the old marriage dates, with their subsequent desertions, were struck from the human calendar. So arose, or at least was inaugurated, Family Life, the first and the last nursery of the higher sympathies, and the home of all that was afterwards holy in the world. One could not find a simpler instance of the growing sovereignty of Mind over the powers of Nature. So remote a cause as the inclination of the earth’s axis, and the consequent changes of the seasons, determines the time of Marriage for almost the whole animal creation, while Man, and a few other forms of life whose environment is exceptional, are able to refuse all such dictations. It was when Man’s mind became capable of making its own provisions against the weather and the crops that the possibility of Fatherhood, Motherhood, and the Family were realized.
The supporters of the hypothesis of promiscuity have tried to show, what would almost follow from their theory, that the children in primitive times belonged rather to the tribe. But it is not likely that this was the case. The hypothesis of promiscuity itself, notwithstanding its support from M'Lennan, Morgan, Lubbock, Bastian, Post, and other authorities, has probably received its death-blow; and the ancientness of the family as well as of the institution of Marriage are both vindicated by later facts. “Everywhere,” writes Westermarck, “we find the tribes or clans composed of several families, the members of each family being more closely connected with one another than with the rest of the tribe. The Family, consisting of parents, children, and often also their next descendants, is a universal institution among existing people. And it seems extremely probable that among our early human ancestors, the Family proved, if not the Society itself, at least the nucleus of it. I do not, of course, deny that the tie which bound the children to the Mother was much more intimate and more lasting than that which bound them to the Father; but it seems to me that the only result to which a critical investigation of facts can lead us is, that in all probability there has been no stage of human development where marriage has not existed, and that the father has always been, as a rule, the protector of his Family.”9292Op. cit., pp. 42–50.
But the process is not yet quite completed. With the longer time together husband and wife may get to know and lean upon one another a little, but the time is still too short for deep affection, and there remain one or two serious obstacles to remove. Indeed, unless some further steps are taken, this first achievement must end in failure. As a matter of fact, it has often ended in failure, and there have been and still are tribes and nations where love between husband and wife is non-existent. Among the Hovas, we are assured by authorities, the idea of love between husband and wife is “hardly thought of”; that at Winnebah “not even the appearance of affection” exists between them; that among the Beni-Amer it is “considered even disgraceful for a wife to show any affection for her husband”; that the Chittagong Hill tribes have “no idea of tenderness nor of chivalrous devotion”; and that the Eskimo treat their wives “with great coldness and neglect.” The savage cruelty with which wives are treated by the Australian aborigines is indicated even in their weapons. The very names “Servant, Slave,” by which the Brahman address their wives, and the wife’s reply, “Master, Lord,” symbolize the gulf between the two. There are exceptions, it is true, and often touching exceptions. Travellers cite instances of constancy among savage peoples which reach the region of romance. Probably there never was a time, indeed, nor a race, when some measure of sympathy did not stir between husband and wife. But when we consider all the facts, it is impossible to doubt that in the region of all the higher affections the savage wife and the savage husband were all but strangers to each other.
What then was wanting for the perfecting of the domestic tie, and how did Evolution secure it? In the animal creation, we have already witnessed the methods which Nature took to get more care out of little care, to make a short-lived sympathy grow into a great sympathy. Her method was first, concentration; and second, extension of time. By giving a Mother one or two young to care for instead of a hundred, she made care practicable, and by lengthening the period of infancy from hours to years she made it inevitable. And these are again her methods in perfecting love between man and wife. By abolishing the pairing season she lengthened the time for love to grow in; the next step is to perfect the object on which it shall focus. For there was again the same sort of barrier to a full-blown love which we saw before in the animal kingdom. An animal mother could not truly love in the early days because she had a hundred or a thousand young. Man could not love in the early days because he had a dozen wives. This love was too diluted to come to anything. What Evolution next worked at was to get a quintessence. Polygamy, in other words, the scattered love of many, must, from this time forward, be changed into monogamy—the absorbing love of one. And this transposition was gradually introduced. A few polygamous people, a very few at first, become monogamous. The new system worked better, it spread, and was finally adopted by those higher nations which it also helped to create. It is an instance, nevertheless, of the slowness with which radical changes succeed in leavening great masses of mankind, that the older system, with the ban of Evolution upon it, still survives in Modern Europe. Yet there are signs, even among the uncivilized, that polygamy is passing away. Among some almost savage tribes it is unknown; among others prohibited. Even in a polygamous community it is usually only a minority who have more wives than one. And where the plural system is in full force, the tendency—the Evolutionist would say the transition —to monogamy is plainly marked, for among the many wives possessed by any individual, there is generally one who is first favourite and ranks as helpmeet or wife. The stress just laid upon the ethical gains of the monogamous state as contrasted with the polygamous, of course only emphasizes one side of the question, and by the pure naturalist might be ruled out of court. Were the physiologist to go over the same ground he could give a parallel account of the development, and show that on the merely Physiological plane the transition to monogamy and the rise of the Family was a likely if not an inevitable result. It is at least certain that during those later stages of social Evolution in which Monogamy has prevailed, the change has been in the best physical interests alike of the parents, the offspring, and of society.
This barrier removed, Evolution had still much to do to the other—the brevity of the time during which husband and wife remained together. What short work Nature had already made of this obstacle—by abolishing the pairing season—we have just seen. But that requires supplementing. It is not enough to give time for mutual knowledge and affection after marriage. Nature must deepen the result by extending it to the time before marriage. In primitive times there was no such thing as courtship. Men secured their wives in three ways, and in uncivilized nations so find them still. Among barbarous nations marriage is not a case of love, but of capture; among the semi-barbarous it is a case of barter; and among the imperfectly civilized—among whom we must often include ourselves—a matter of convention. The second of these, the purchase system—a slightly evolved form of marriage by capture—is probably one through which all human Marriage has passed; and relics of it still exist in the dos and other symbols among nations with whom the custom of buying a bride has long since passed away. By degrading the object of barter to the level of a chattel, this system is a barrier to high affection. But in most cases this is heightened by the impossibility of that preliminary courtship which leads to mutual knowledge and intelligent love. The bride and bridegroom, in the extremer cases, meet as total strangers; and though affection may bud in after years, the mingling of unknown temperaments, together with the destruction of reverence for woman by treating her as an article of barter, make the chances small of it blossoming into a flower.
Courtship, with its vivid perceptions and quickened emotions, is a great opportunity for Evolution; and to institute and lengthen reasonably a period so rich in impression is one of its latest and highest efforts. To give love time, indeed, has been all along, and through a great variety of arrangements, the chief means of establishing it on the earth. Unfortunately, the lesson of Nature here is being all too slowly learned, even among nations with its open book before them. In some of the greatest of civilized countries real mutual knowledge between the youth of the sexes is unattainable; marriages are made only by a higher kind of purchase, and the supreme step in life is taken in the dark. Whatever safeguards this method provides, it cannot be final, nor can those nations rise to any exalted social height or moral greatness till some change occurs. It has been given especially to one nation to lead the world in its assault upon this mistaken law, and to demonstrate to mankind that in the unconstrained and artless relations of youth lie higher safeguards than the polite conventions of society can afford. The people of America have proved that the blending of the sweet currents of different family-lives in social intercourse, in recreation, and—most original of all—in education, can take place freely and joyously without any sacrifice of man’s reverence for woman, or woman’s reverence for herself; and, springing out of these naturally mingled lives, there must more and more come those sacred and happy homes which are the surest guarantees for the moral progress of a nation. So long as the first concern of a country is for its homes, it matters little what it seeks second or third. Long before Evolution showed its scientific interest in this first social aggregate, and proclaimed it the strategic point in moral progress, poetry, philosophy, and history assigned the same great place to Family-life. The one point, indeed, where all students of the past agree, where all prophets of the future meet, where all the sciences from biology to ethics are enthusiastically at one, is in their faith in the imperishable potentialities of this yet most simple institution.
With all these barriers removed it might now be supposed that the process was at last complete. But one of the surprises of Evolution here awaits us. All the arrangements are finished to fan the flame of love, yet out of none of them was love itself begotten. The idea that the existence of sex accounts for the existence of love is untrue. Marriage among early races, as we have seen, has nothing to do with love. Among savage peoples the phenomenon everywhere confronts us of wedded life without a grain of love. Love then is no necessary ingredient of the sex relation; it is not an outgrowth of passion. Love is love, and has always been love, and has never been anything lower. Whence, then, came it? If neither the Husband nor the Wife bestowed this gift upon the world, Who did? It was A Little Child. Till this appeared, Man’s affection was non-existent; Woman’s was frozen. The Man did not love the Woman; the Woman did not love the Man. But one day from its Mother’s very heart, from a shrine which her husband never visited nor knew was there, which she herself dared scarce acknowledge, a Child drew forth the first fresh bud of a Love which was not Passion, a Love which was not selfish, a Love which was an incense from its Maker, and whose fragrance from that hour went forth to sanctify the world. Later, long later, through the same tiny and unconscious intermediary, the father’s soul was touched. And one day, in the love of a little child, Father and Mother met.
That this is the true lineage of love, that it has descended not from Husbands and Wives but through children, is proved by the simplest study of savage life. Love for children is always a prior and a stronger thing than love between Father and Mother. The indifference of the Husband to his Wife—though often greatly exaggerated by anthropology—is all too manifest, and throughout whole regions the Wife does not love but only fears her Husband. For the children on the other hand both parents have almost always a regard. The universality of a Mother’s Love is one of the revelations of travel. Even among cannibals, where the shocking treatment of Wives by their Husbands is in daily evidence, a case of cruelty to children from the Mother’s side—apart from infanticide, which has a rationale of its own—is rarely heard of. The status of children if not ideal forms a most striking contrast to the general moral and social level: and one cannot but decide that they have been unconsciously the true moral teachers of the world. Had the institution of the Family depended on Sex and not on affection it would probably never have endured for any time. Love is eternal; Sex, transient. Its unbridled expression in individual natures, and its recklessness when thwarted, have given rise to exaggerated ideas of its power. In all uncontrolled forms, however, it becomes so immediate a menace to social order that if it does not die out in self-destruction it is checked by the community and forced into lawful channels. The only thing that could bear the heavy burden of social order and adapt itself to every change and fresh demand was the indestructibly solid, yet elastic, strength of love. The care and culture of love therefore became thenceforth the first great charge of Evolution, and every obstruction to its path began to be swept away. Whatever facilities could further its career were gradually adopted, and changes which soon began to pass over the face of all human societies seemed but parts of one great conspiracy to hasten its final reign.
For a prolonged and protective Fatherhood, once introduced into the world, was immediately taken charge of by Natural Selection. The children who had fathers to fight for them grew up; those who had not were killed or starved. The lengthening of the period during which Father and Mother kept together meant double protection for the little ones; and the more they kept together for the first few days or weeks, and the more the Father helped to defend mother and child, the more chance for all three in the end. The picture which Koppenfells draws of the female Gorilla and her young ensconced in a nest upon the fork of a tree, while Gorilla pere sat all night at the foot with his back against the trunk to protect them from the leopards, is a fair object-lesson in the first or protective stage of the Father’s Evolution. When Man passed, however, as he probably did, from the frugivorous to the carnivorous state, the Father had the additional responsibility of keeping his family in food. It would be impossible for a Mother to hunt for game and attend to her young; and for a long time the young themselves were useless in the chase, and must be entirely dependent on their parents’ bounty. But this means promotion to the Father. He is not only protector but food-provider. It is impossible to. believe that in process of time the discharge of this office did not bring some faint satisfactions to himself, that the mere sight of his offspring fed instead of famished did not give him a certain pleasure. And though the pleasure at first may have been no more than the absence of the annoyance they caused by the clamorousness of their want, it became a stimulus to exertion, and led in the end to rudimentary forms of sympathy and self-denial.
Once established in the world as a winning force, love could only yield to a greater force than itself, and greater force there is none. In the hands of Natural Selection, therefore, it ran its course. Whatever physiological adjustments continued to go on beneath the surface, ethical factors now determined extinction or survival. Bad parents mean starved children, and starved children will be replaced in the Struggle for Life by full-fed children, and ere a few generations parents without love will exist no more. The child, on the other hand, which has drunk most deeply of its Father’s or its Mother’s love lives to hand on that which has spared it to a succeeding race. How much of affection is handed on, or how little, matters not, for Heredity works with the finest microscope, and sees, and seizes, the invisible. In a second child, reared by parents one degree more loving than the last, this ultimate particle of love will grow a little more, and each succeeding Family in this royal line will be richer in the elements which make for progress than the last.
When we reach the human Family, we find that this simple combination was already strong enough to become the nucleus of the social and national life of the world. For the moment the new forces of Sympathy, Brotherhood, Self-denial, or Love, began to work among the isolated units which made up primitive Man, the whole composition and character of the aggregate began to change. Sooner or later in the recurring necessities of savage existence there came an opportunity for the members of the first combination, the little group of Father, Mother, and Sons, to act together. However unworthily this primitive group merited the name of Family, there was here what at that time was of final importance—the elements of physical strength. He who formerly stood alone in the Struggle for Life now found himself backed on occasion by an inner circle. Those who outside this circle ventured to oppose or offend an individual within it had the Family to reckon with. Ends were gained by the new alliance which were unattainable single-handed by any individual member of the tribe, and whether enlisted to evade disaster or secure a prey, to resist an injustice or avenge a wrong, the odds henceforth and always were in favour of the combination. When it is remembered how, owing to the comparative equality of the competitors in the conflict of savage existence, even an infinitesimal advantage on one side or the other determines health or starvation, survival or extinction, the importance of the first feeble effort at federation must be recognized. Shoulder to shoulder has been the watchword all through history of national development. Almost from the very first, indeed, the Family and not the individual must have been the unit of Tribal life; and as Families grew more and more definite, they became the recognized piers of the social structure and gave a first stability to the race of men.
But great as are the physical advantages of the Family, the ethical uses, even in the early days of its existence, place this institution at the head of all the creations of Evolution. For the Family is not only its greatest creation, but its greatest instrument for further creation. The ethical changes begin almost the moment it is formed. One immediate effect, for instance, of the formation of Family groups was to take off from any single individual the perpetual strain of the Struggle for Life. The Family as a whole must sometimes fight, but the responsibility and the duty are now distributed, and those who were once solely preoccupied with the personal struggle will have respites, during which other things will occupy their minds. Attention thus called off from environing enemies, the members of the Family will, as it were, discover one another. New relations among them will spring up, new adjustments to one another’s presence and to one another’s needs, and hitherto unknown elements of character will be gradually called to the surface. That unselfishness, in some rude form, should now grow up is a necessity of living together. A man cannot be a member of a Family and remain an utter egoist. His interests are perforce divided, and though the Family group is a small surface for unselfishness to spread to and to practise on, no greater feat could as yet be attempted, and Evolution never runs risks of too rapid development or over-strain. With the incorporation of the Family into a Clan or Tribe the area will presently be extended, and the necessity of controlling self-interest more thoroughly, or merging it in a wider interest, become more obligatory. But to prepare the altruistic sentiment for so great an abnegation, the simpler discipline of the Family was required. How firmly Families in time became welded together in mutual interest and support, and how much crude Altruism this implies, is evident from the place of Family feuds and the power of great Families and Houses both in ancient and modern history. A striking instance is the Vendetta. To avenge a Family insult in countries where this prevails was a sacred duty to all the relatives, and even the last surviving member willingly gave up his life to vindicate its honour. So strong indeed sometimes has grown the power of individual Families that the more desirable spread of Altruism to the Nation was threatened, and wider interests so much forgotten that the Family became the enemy of the State. Nothing could more forcibly show the tremendous power of self-development contained within the Family circle, and the solidity and strength to which it can grow, than that, time after time in history, it has had to be crushed and broken up by all the forces of the State.
Among other elements in human nature fostered in the Family is one of exceptional interest. The attempt has been made to show that from the inevitable relations of early Family life, the sense of Duty first dawned upon the world. The theme is too great, too intricate, and too dangerous to open under the limitations of the present inquiry, for these deny us the appeal to Society, to Religion, and even to the Conscience of the higher Man. But it is due to the Father, whose Evolution we are tracing, that the share he is supposed by some authorities to take in it should be at least named.
That morality in general has something to do with the relations of people to one another is evident, as everyone knows, from the mere derivation of the word. Mores, morals are in the first instance customs, the customs or ways which people have when they are together. Now, the Family is the first occasion of importance where we get people together. And as there are not only a number of people in a Family, but different kinds of people, there will be a variety in the relations subsisting between them, in the customs which stereotype the most frequently repeated actions necessitated by these relations, and in the moods and attitudes of mind accompanying them. Leaving out of sight differences of kind among brothers and sisters, consider the probably more divergent and certainly more dominant influences of Father and Mother. What the relation of child to Mother has crystallized into we have sufficiently marked—it is a relation of direct dependence, and its product is Love. But the Father is a wholly different influence. What attitude does the Child take up in this austerer presence, and what ways of acting, what customs, mores, morals, are engrained in the child’s mind through it? The acknowledged position of the Father in most early tribes is head of the Family. To the children, and generally even to the Mother, he represents Authority. He is the children’s chief. Bachoven has familiarized us with the idea of a Matriarchate, or Maternal Family; but although exceptional tribes have given supremacy to the Mother, the rule is for the Father to be supreme. As head of the Family, therefore, it was his business to make the Family laws. No doubt the Mother also made laws; but the Father, as the more terrible person, exacted obedience with greater severity, and his laws acquired more force. To do what was pleasing in his eyes was a necessity with the children, and his favour or his frown became standards of what was “good” and what was “bad.” Low as this standard was—the fear or favour of a savage Father—it was a beginning of right mores, good conduct, proper manners. Plant in the mind, or evoke from it, the idea of acting in a given way with reference to some half-dozen daily trifles when done in the presence of one authoritative individual, and Evolution has already found something to work on. The children have got six, if not ten commandments. Extend the half-dozen things done rightly to a whole dozen, and then to a score, and then to a hundred; and let it become habitual to do these things rightly. When the right doing of these things commends the doer to one person, he will next be apt to commend himself by similar conduct to other persons, if their standard happens to be the same. Whether good behaviour purchases favour or simply succeeds in evading penalties is at first immaterial. All that is required, under whatever sanctions, is that some standard of good or bad shall arise. No abstract sense of duty, of course, here exists; no perfect law; it is a purely personal and local code; but the word duty has at least received a first imperfect meaning; and the Father, in some rough way, forms an external conscience to those beneath him.
Such is the tentative theory of the advocates of Evolutional Ethics. It may or may not be a possible account of the rise of a sense of obligation, but it is certain that it does not account for the whole of it. Why, also, that particular thing should be elicited under the circumstances described is an unanswered question. In attempting to trace its rise, no rationale appears of its origin; all proofs, in short, of its evolution take for granted its previous existence. A latent thing has become active; an invisible thing has become apparent. In one sense a relation has been created, in another sense a quality in that relation has been revealed. A new experiment upon human nature has been tried; a new discovery of its properties has been the result.
That these moral elements, on the other hand, must have a beginning somewhere in space and time is certain enough. Not less necessary to the world than the Mother’s gift of Love is the twin offering of the Father—Righteousness. And if, almost before the soul is born, the shadowy outline of a moral order should begin to loom out in history, the later phases and the later sanctions lose nothing of their quality, are all the more wonderful and all the more divine, because met by moral adumbrations in the distant past. If the later children had their ten commandments given them in one way, they cannot grudge that the world’s earlier children should have been given their two or three commandments in another way—another way which, nevertheless, did we know all, might turn out to be but another phase of the same way. But it is impossible even to approach the Evolution of Morality until we have carried Man some stages further up his Ascent. It is only when he reaches the social stage, when he becomes aggregated into clans, tribes, and nations, that this problem opens. For the present we must content ourselves with having witnessed his arrival in the Human Family—the starting-point and threshold of the true moral life.
For a long time, it is true, the Family circle, as a circle, was incomplete. Machinery must itself evolve before its products evolve. Scarcely defined at all, broken as soon as formed, the earlier circles allowed their strongest forces to escape almost at the moment they generated. But the walls grew higher and higher with the advance of history. The leakage became less and less. With the Christian era the machinery was complete; the circle finally closed in, and became a secluded shrine where the culture of everything holy and beautiful was carried on. The path by which this ideal consummation was reached was not, as we have seen, a straight path; nor has the integrity of the institution been always preserved through the later centuries. The difficulty of realizing the ideal may be judged of by the fewness of the nations now living who have reached it, and by the multitude of peoples and tribes who have vanished from the earth without attaining. From the failure to fulfil some one or other of the required conditions people after people and nation after nation have come together only to disperse, and leave no legacy behind except the lesson—as yet in few cases understood—of why they failed.
Yet whether the road be straight or devious is of little moment. The one significant thing is that it rises. We have reached a stage in Evolution at which physiological gains are guarded and accentuated, if not in an ethical interest, at least by ethical factors becoming utilized by natural selection. Henceforth affection becomes a power in the world; and whatever physiological adjustments continue to perfect themselves, the most attached Families will have a better chance of surviving and of transmitting their moral characteristics to succeeding generations. The completion of the arch of Family Life forms one of the great, if not the greatest of the landmarks of history. If the crowning work of Organic Evolution is the Mammalia, the consummation of the Mammalia is the Family. Physically, psychically, ethically, the Family is the masterpiece of Evolution. The creation of Evolution, it was destined to become the most active instrument and ally which Evolution has ever had. For what is its evolutionary significance? It is the generator and the repository of the forces which alone can carry out the social and moral progress of the world. There they rally when they become enfeebled, there their excesses are counterbalanced, and thence they radiate out, refined and reinforced, to do their holy work.
Looking at the mere dynamics of the question, the Family contains all the machinery, and nearly all the power, for the moral education of mankind. Feebly, but adequately, in the early chapters of Man’s history it fulfilled its function of nursing Love, the Mother of all morality, and Righteousness, the Father of all morality, so preparing a parentage for all the beautiful spiritual children which in later years should spring from them. If life henceforth is to go on at all, it must be a better life, a more loving life, a more abundant life; and this premium upon Love means—if it means anything—that Evolution is taking henceforth an ethical direction. It is no more possible to interpret Nature physically from this point than to interpret a “Holy Family” of Raphael’s in terms of the material structure of canvas or the qualities of pigments. Canvas may be coarse or fine, pigments may be vegetable or mineral; but whether the colours be crushed out of madder or ground out of arsenic or lead is of no importance now. Once these things were important; by infinitely slow processes Nature formed them; by clever arts the colourman prepared them. But the “Holy Family” did not lie potentially in the madder-bud, nor in the earth with the lead and arsenic, nor in the laboratory with the colourman. He who claims Nature for Matter and Physical force makes the same assumption that these would do if they claimed the painting. In a far truer sense than Raphael produced his “Holy Family” Nature has produced a Holy Family. Not for centuries but for millenniums the Family has survived. Time has not tarnished it; no later art has improved upon it; nor genius discovered anything more lovely; nor religion anything more divine. From the bee’s cell and the butterfly’s wing men draw what they call the Argument from Design; but it is in the kingdoms which come without observation, in these great immaterial orderings which Science is but beginning to perceive, that the purposes of Creation are revealed.
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