By James Freeman Clarke. This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, October, 1874.
Photograph courtesy of Daniel McAdam
To answer this question, we must first inquire what we mean by a soul. If we mean a human soul, it is certain that animals do not possess it,—at least not in a fully developed condition. If we mean, "Do they possess an immortal soul?" that is, perhaps, a question difficult to answer either in the affirmative or the negative. But if we mean by the soul an immaterial principle of life, which coördinates the bodily organization to a unity; which is the ground of growth, activity, perception, volition; which is intelligent, affectionate, and to a certain extent free; then we must admit that animals have souls.
The same arguments which induce us to believe that there is a soul in man apply to animals. The world has generally believed that in man, beside the body, there is also soul. Why have people believed it? The reason probably is, that, beside all that can be accounted for as the result of the juxtaposition of material particles, there remains a very important element unaccounted for. Mechanical and physical agency may explain much, but the most essential characteristic of vital phenomena they do not explain. They do not account for the unity in variety, permanence in change, growth from within by continuous processes, coming from the vital functions in an organized body. Every such body has a unity peculiar to itself, which cannot be considered the result of the collocation of material molecules. It is a unity which controls these molecules, arranges and rearranges them, maintains a steady activity, carries the body through the phenomena of growth, and causes the various organs to coöperate for the purposes of the whole. The vital power is not merely the result of material phenomena, but it reacts on these as a cause. Add to this that strange phenomenon of human consciousness, the sense of personality,—which is the clear perception of selfhood as a distinct unchanging unit, residing in a body all of whose parts are in perpetual flux,—and we see why the opinion of a soul has arisen. It has been assumed by the common sense of mankind that in every living body the cause of the mode of existence of each part is contained in the whole. As soon as death intervenes each part is left free to pass through changes peculiar to itself alone. Life is a power which acts from the whole upon the parts, causing them to resist chemical laws, which begin to act as soon as life departs. The unity of a living body does not result from an ingenious juxtaposition of parts, like that of a watch, for example. For the unity of a living body implies that which is called "the vital vortex," or perpetual exchange of particles.
A watch or clock is the nearest approach which has been made by man to the creation of a living being. A watch, for instance, contains the principle of its action in itself, and is not moved from without; in that it resembles a living creature. We can easily conceive of a watch which might be made to go seventy years, without being wound up. It might need to be oiled occasionally, but not as often as an animal needs to be fed. A watch is also like a living creature in having a unity as a whole not belonging to the separate parts, and to which all parts conspire,—namely, that of marking the progress of time. Why, then, say that a man has a soul, and that a watch has not? The difference is this. The higher principle of unity in the watch, that is, its power of marking time, is wholly an effect, and never a cause. It is purely and only the result of the arrangement of wheels and springs; in other words, of material conditions. But in man, the principle of unity is also a cause. Life reacts upon body. The laws of matter are modified by the power of life, chemical action is suspended, living muscles are able to endure without laceration the application of forces which would destroy the dead fibre. So the thought, the love, the will of a living creature react on the physical frame. A sight, a sound, a few spoken words, a message seen in a letter, cause an immense revulsion in the physical condition. Something is suddenly told us, and we faint away, or even die, from the effect of the message. Here mind acts upon matter, showing that in man mind is not merely a result, but also a cause. Hence men have generally believed in the existence of a soul in man. They have not been taught it by metaphysicians, it is one of the spontaneous inductions of common sense from universal experience.
But this argument applies equally to prove a soul in animals. The same reaction of soul on body is constantly apparent. Every time that you whistle to your dog, and he comes bounding toward you, his mind has acted on his body. His will has obeyed his thought, his muscles have obeyed his will. The cause of his motion was mental, not physical. This is too evident to require any further illustration. Therefore, regarding the soul as a principle of life, connected with the body but not its result, or, in other words, as an immaterial principle of activity, there is the same reason for believing in the soul of animals that there is for believing in the soul of man.
But when we ask as to the nature of the animal soul, and how far it is analogous to that of man, we meet with certain difficulties. Let us see then how many of the human qualities of the soul are to be found in animals, and so discover if there is any remainder not possessed by them, peculiar to ourselves.
That the vital soul, or principle of life, belongs equally to plants, animals, and men, is evident. This is so apparent as to be granted even by Descartes, who regards animals as mere machines, or automata, destitute of a thinking soul, but not of life or feeling. They are automata, but living and feeling automata. Descartes denies them a soul, because he defines the soul as the thinking and knowing power. But Locke (with whom Leibnitz fully agreed on this point) ascribes to animals thought as well as feeling, and makes their difference from man to consist in their not possessing abstract ideas. We shall presently see the truth of this most sagacious remark.
Plants, animals, and men are alike in possessing the vital principle, which produces growth, which causes them to pass through regular phases of development, which enables them to digest and assimilate food taken from without, and which carries on a steady circulation within. To this are added, in the animal, the function of voluntary locomotion, perception through the senses of an outward world, the power of feeling pleasure and pain, some wonderful instincts, and some degree of reflective thought. Animals also possess memory, imagination, playfulness, industry, the sense of shame, and many other very human qualities.
Take, for example, Buffon's fine description of the dog ("Histoire du Chien"):—
"By nature fiery, irritable, ferocious, and sanguinary, the dog in his savage state is a terror to other animals. But domesticated he becomes gentle, attached, and desirous to please. He hastens to lay at the feet of his master his courage, his strength, and all his abilities. He listens for his master's orders, inquires his will, consults his opinion, begs his permission, understands the indications of his wishes. Without possessing the power of human thought, he has all the warmth of human sentiment. He has more than human fidelity, he is constant in his attachments. He is made up of zeal, ardor, and obedience. He remembers kindness longer than wrong. He endures bad treatment and forgets it—disarming it by patience and submission."
No one who has ever had a dog for a friend will think this description exaggerated. If any should so consider it, we will cite for their benefit what Mr. Jesse, one of the latest students of the canine race, asserts concerning it, in his "Researches into the History of the British Dog" (London, 1866). He says that remarkable instances of the following virtues, feelings, and powers of mind are well authenticated:—
"The dog risks his life to give help; goes for assistance; saves life from drowning, fire, other animals, and men; assists distress; guards property; knows boundaries; resents injuries; repays benefits; communicates ideas; combines with other dogs for several purposes; understands language; knows when he is about to die; knows death in a human being; devotes his whole life to the object of his love; dies of grief and of joy; dies in his master's defense; commits suicide; remains by the dead; solicits, and gives alarm; knows the characters of men; recognizes a portrait, and men after long absence; is fond of praise and sensible to ridicule; feels shame, and is sensible of a fault; is playful; is incorruptible; finds his way back from distant countries; is magnanimous to smaller animals; is jealous; has dreams; and takes a last farewell when dying."
Much of this, it may be said, is instinctive. We must therefore distinguish between Instinct and Intelligence; or, rather, between instinctive intelligence and reflective intelligence. Many writers on the subject of animals have not carefully distinguished these very different activities of the soul. Even M. Leroy, one of the first in modern times who brought careful observation to the study of the nature of animals, has not always kept in view this distinction—as has been noticed by a subsequent French writer of very considerable ability, M. Flourens. The following marks, according to M. Flourens, distinguish instinct from intelligence:—
|Is spontaneous,||Is deliberate,|
|" necessary,||" conditional,|
|" invariable,||" modifiable,|
|" innate,||comes from observation
|" fatal,||is free,|
|" particular.||" general.|
Thus the building faculty of the beaver is an instinct, for it acts spontaneously, and always in the same way. It is not a general faculty of building in all places and ways, but a special power of building houses of sticks, mud, and other materials, with the entrance under water and a dry place within. When beavers build on a running stream, they begin by making a dam across it, which preserves them from losing the water in a drought; but this also is a spontaneous and invariable act. The old stories of their driving piles, using their tails for trowels, and having well-planned houses with many chambers, have been found to be fictitious. That the beaver builds by instinct, though intelligence comes in to modify the instinct, appears from his wishing to build his house or his dam when it is not needed. Mr. Broderip, the English naturalist, had a pet beaver that manifested his building instinct by dragging together warming-pans, sweeping-brushes, boots, and sticks, which he would lay crosswise. He then would fill in his wall with clothes, bits of coal, turf, laying it very even. Finally, he made a nest for himself behind his wall with clothes, hay, and cotton. As this creature had been brought from America very young, all this procedure must have been instinctive. But his intelligence showed itself in his adapting his mode of building to his new circumstances. His instinct led him to build his wall, and to lay his sticks crosswise, and to fill in with what he could find, according to the universal and spontaneous procedure of all beavers. But his making use of a chest of drawers for one side of his wall, and taking brushes and boots instead of cutting down trees, were no doubt acts of intelligence.
A large part of the wonderful procedure of bees is purely instinctive. Bees, from the beginning of the world, and in all countries of the earth, have lived in similar communities; have had their queen, to lay eggs for them: if their queen is lost, have developed a new one in the same way, by altering the conditions of existence in one of their larvæ; have constructed their hexagonal cells by the same mathematical law, so as to secure the most strength with the least outlay of material. All this is instinct—for it is spontaneous and not deliberate; it is universal and constant. But when the bee deflects his comb in order to avoid a stick thrust across the inside of the hive, and begins the variation before he reaches the stick, this can only be regarded as an act of intelligence.
Animals, then, have both instincts and intelligence; and so has man. A large part of human life proceeds from tendencies as purely, if not as vigorously, instinctive as those of animals. Man has social instincts, which create human society. Children play from an instinct. The maternal instinct in a human mother is, till modified by reflection, as spontaneous, universal, and necessary as the same instinct in animals. But in man the instincts are reduced to a minimum, and are soon modified by observation, experience, and reflection. In animals they are at their maximum, and are modified in a much less degree.
It is sometimes said that animals do not reason, but man does. But animals are quite capable of at least two modes of reasoning, that of comparison and that of inference. They compare two modes of action, or two substances, and judge the one to be preferable to the other, and accordingly select it. Sir Emerson Tennent tells us that elephants, employed to build stone walls in Ceylon, will lay each stone in its place, then stand off and look to see if it is plumb, and, if not, will move it with their trunk, till it lies perfectly straight. This is a pure act of reflective judgment. He narrates an adventure which befell himself in Ceylon while riding on a narrow road through the forest. He heard a rumbling sound approaching, and directly there came to meet him an elephant, bearing on his tusks a large log of wood, which he had been directed to carry to the place where it was needed. Sir Emerson Tennent's horse, unused to these monsters, was alarmed, and refused to go forward. The sagacious elephant, perceiving this, evidently decided that he must himself go out of the way. But to do this, he was obliged first to take the log from his tusks with his trunk, and lay it on the ground, which he did, and then backed out of the road between the trees till only his head was visible. But the horse was still too timid to go by, whereupon the judicious pachyderm pushed himself farther back, till all of his body, except the end of his trunk, had disappeared. Then Sir Emerson succeeded in getting his horse by, but stopped to witness the result. The elephant came out, took the log up again, laid it across his tusks, and went on his way. This story, told by an unimpeachable witness, shows several successive acts of reasoning. The log-bearer inferred from the horse's terror that it would not pass; he again inferred that in that case he must himself get out of the way; that, to do this, he must lay down his log; that he must go farther back; and accompanying this was his sense of duty, making him faithful to his task; and, most of all, his consideration of what was due to this human traveler, which kept him from driving the horse and man before him as he went on.
There is another well-authenticated anecdote of an elephant; he was following an ammunition wagon, and saw the man who was seated on it fall off just before the wheel. The man would have been crushed had not the animal instantly run forward, and, without an order, lifted the wheel with his trunk, and held it suspended in the air, till the wagon had passed over the man without hurting him. Here were combined presence of mind, good will, knowledge of the danger to the man, and a rapid calculation of how he could be saved.
Perhaps I may properly introduce here an account of the manifestations of mind in the animals I have had the most opportunity of observing. I have a horse, who was named Rubezahl, after the mountain spirit of the Harz made famous in the stories of Musaeus. We have contracted his name to Ruby for convenience. Now I have reason to believe that Ruby can distinguish Sunday from other days. On Sunday I have been in the habit of driving to Boston to church; but on other days, I drive to the neighboring village, where are the post-office, shops of mechanics, and other stores. To go to Boston, I usually turn to the right when I leave my driveway; to go to the village, I turn to the left. Now, on Sunday, if I leave the reins loose, so that the horse may do as he pleases, he invariably turns to the right, and goes to Boston. On other days, he as invariably turns to the left, and goes to the village. He does this so constantly and regularly, that none of the family have any doubt of the fact that he knows that it is Sunday; how he knows it we are unable to discover. I have left my house at the same hour on Sunday and on Monday, in the same carriage, with the same number of persons in it; and yet on Sunday he always turns to the right, and on Monday to the left. He is fed at the same time on Sunday as on other days, but the man comes back to harness him a little later on Sunday than at other times, and that is possibly his method of knowing that it is the day for going to Boston. But see how much of observation, memory, and thought is implied in all this.
Again, Ruby has shown a very distinct feeling of the supernatural. Driving one day up a hill near my house, we met a horse-car coming down toward us, running without horses, simply by the force of gravity. My horse became so frightened that he ran into the gutter, and nearly overturned me; and I got him past with the greatest difficulty. Now he had met the cars coming down that hill, drawn by horses, a hundred times, and had never been alarmed. Moreover, only a day or two after, in going up the same hill, we saw a car moving uphill, before us, where the horses were entirely invisible, being concealed by the car itself, which was between us and the horses. But this did not frighten Ruby at all. He evidently said to himself, "The horses are there, though I do not see them." But in the other case it seemed to him an effect without a cause—something plainly supernatural. There was nothing in the aspect of the car itself to alarm him; he had seen that often enough. He was simply terrified by seeing it move without any adequate cause—just as we should be, if we saw our chairs begin to walk about the room.
Our Newfoundland dog's name is Donatello; which, again, is shortened to Don in common parlance. He has all the affectionate and excellent qualities of his race. He is the most good-natured creature I ever saw. Nothing provokes him. Little dogs may yelp at him, the cat or kittens may snarl and spit at him: he pays no attention to them. A little dog climbs on his back, and lies down there; one of the cats will lie between his legs. But at night, when he is on guard, no one can approach the house unchallenged.
But his affection for the family is very great. To be allowed to come into the house and lie down near us is his chief happiness. He was very fond of my son E——, who played with him a good deal, and when the young man went away, during the war, with a three months' regiment, Don was much depressed by his absence. He walked down regularly to the station, and stood there till a train of cars came in; and when his friend did not arrive in it, he went back, with a melancholy air, to the house. But at last the young man returned. It was in the evening, and Don was lying on the piazza. As soon as he saw his friend, his exultation knew no bounds. He leaped upon him, and ran round him, barking and showing the wildest signs of delight. All at once he turned and ran up into the garden, and came back bringing an apple, which he laid down at the feet of his young master. It was the only thing he could think of to do for him—and this sign of his affection was quite pathetic.
The reason why Don thought of the apple was probably this: we had taught him to go and get an apple for the horse, when so directed. We would say, "Go, Don, get an apple for poor Ruby;" then he would run up into the garden, and bring an apple, and hold it up to the horse; and perhaps when the horse tried to take it he would pull it away. After doing this a few times, he would finally lie down on his back under the horse's nose, and allow the latter to take the apple from his mouth. He would also kiss the horse, on being told to do so. When we said, "Don, kiss poor Ruby," he leaped up and kissed the horse's nose. But he afterwards hit upon a more convenient method of doing it. He got his paw over the rein and pulled down the horse's head, so that he could continue the osculatory process more at his ease, sitting comfortably on the ground.
Animals know when they have done wrong; so far, at least, as that means disobeying our will or command. The only great fault which Don ever committed was stealing a piece of meat from our neighbor's kitchen. I do not think he was punished or even scolded for it; for we did not find it out till later, when it would have done no good to punish him. But a week or two after that, the gentleman whose kitchen had been robbed was standing on my lawn, talking with me, and he referred, laughingly, to what Don had done. He did not even look at the dog, much less change his tones to those of rebuke. But the moment Don heard his name mentioned, he turned and walked away, and hid himself under the low branches of a Norway spruce near by. He was evidently profoundly ashamed of himself. Was this the result of conscience, or of the love of approbation? In either case, it was very human.
That the love of approbation is common to many animals we all know. Dogs and horses certainly can be influenced by praise and blame, as easily as men. Many years ago we had occasion to draw a load of gravel, and we put Ruby into a tip-cart to do the work. He was profoundly depressed, and evidently felt it as a degradation. He hung his head, and showed such marks of humiliation that we have never done it since. But on the other hand, when he goes out, under the saddle, by the side of a young horse, this veteran animal tries as hard to appear young as any old bachelor of sixty years who is still ambitious of social triumphs. He dances along, and goes sideways, and has all the airs and graces of a young colt. All this, too, is very human.
At one time my dog was fond of going to the railway station to see the people, and I always ordered him to go home, fearing he should be hurt by the cars. He easily understood that if he went there, it was contrary to my wishes. Nevertheless, he often went; and I do not know but this fondness for forbidden fruit was rather human, too. So, whenever he was near the station, if he saw me coming, he would look the other way, and pretend not to know me. If he met me anywhere else, he always bounded to meet me with great delight. But at the station it was quite different. He would pay no attention to my whistle or my call. He even pretended to be another dog, and would look me right in the face without apparently recognizing me. He gave me the cut direct, in the most impertinent manner; the reason evidently being that he knew he was doing what was wrong, and did not like to be found out. Possibly he may have relied a little on my near-sightedness, in this manœuvre.
That animals have acute observation, memory, imagination, the sense of approbation, strong affections, and the power of reasoning is therefore very evident. Lord Bacon also speaks of a dog's reverence for his master as partaking of a religious element. "Mark," says he, "what a generosity and courage a dog will put on, when he finds himself maintained by a man, who to him is instead of a God—which courage he could not attain, without that confidence in a better nature than his own." Who that has seen the mute admiration and trust in a dog's eye, as he looks up at his master, but can see in it something of a religious reverence, the germ and first principle of religion?
What, then, is the difference between the human soul and that of the animal in its highest development?
That there is a very marked difference between man and the highest animal is evident. The human being, weaker in proportion than all other animals, has subjected them all to himself. He has subdued the earth by his inventions. Physically too feeble to dig a hole in the ground like a rabbit, or to fell a tree like a beaver; unable to live in the water like a fish, or to move through the air like a bird; he yet, by his inventive power and his machinery, can compel the forces of nature to work for him. They are the true genii, slaves of his lamp. Air, fire, water, electricity, and magnetism build his cities and his stately ships, run his errands, carry him from land to land, and accept him as their master.
Whence does man obtain this power? Some say it is the human hand which has made man supreme. It is, no doubt, a wonderful machine; a box of tools in itself. The size and strength of the thumb, and the power of opposing it to the extremities of the fingers, distinguishes, according to most anatomists, the human hand from that of the quadrumanous animals. In those monkeys which are nearest to man, the thumb is so short and weak, and the fingers so long and slender, that their tips can scarcely be brought in opposition. Excellent for climbing, they are not good for taking up small objects or supporting large ones. But the hand of man could accomplish little without the mind behind it. It was therefore a good remark of Galen, that "man is not the wisest of animals because he has a hand; but God has given him a hand because he is the wisest of animals."
The size of the human brain, relatively greater than that of almost any other animal; man's structure, adapting him to stand erect; his ability to exist in all climates; his power of subsisting on varied food: all these facts of his physical nature are associated with his superior mental power, but do not produce it. The question recurs, What enables him to stand at the head of the animal creation?
Perhaps the chief apparent distinctions between man and other animals are these:—
1. The lowest races of men use tools; other animals do not.
2. The lowest human beings possess a verbal language; other animals have none.
3. Man has the capacity of self-culture, as an individual; other animals have not.
4. Human beings, associated in society, are capable of progress in civilization, by means of science, art, literature, and religion; other animals are not.
5. Men have a capacity for religion; no animal, except man, has this.
The lowest races of men use tools, but no other animal does this. This is so universally admitted by science that the presence of the rudest tools of stone is considered a sufficient trace of the presence of man. If stone hatchets or hammers or arrowheads are found in any stratum, though no human bones are detected, anthropologists regard this as a sufficient proof of the existence of human beings in the period indicated by such a geologic formation. The only tools used by animals in procuring food, in war, or in building their homes, are their natural organs: their beaks, teeth, claws, etc. It may be added that man alone wears clothes; other animals being sufficiently clothed by nature. No animals make a fire, though they often suffer from cold; but there is no race of men unacquainted with the use of fire.
No animals possess a verbal language. Animals can remember some of the words used by men, and associate with them their meaning. But this is not the use of language. It is merely the memory of two associated facts,—as when the animal recollects where he found food, and goes to the same place to look for it again. Animals have different cries, indicating different wants. They use one cry to call their mate, another to terrify their prey. But this is not the use of verbal language. Human language implies not merely an acquaintance with the meaning of particular words, but the power of putting them together in a sentence. Animals have no such language as this; for, if they had, it would have been learned by men. Man has the power of learning any verbal language. Adelung and Vater reckon over three thousand languages spoken by men, and any man can learn any of them. The negroes speak their own languages in their own countries; they speak Arabic in North Africa; they learn to speak English, French, and Spanish in America, and Oriental languages when they go to the East. If any animals had a verbal language, with its vocabulary and grammar, men would long ago have learned it, and would have been able to converse with them.
Again, no animal except man is capable of self-culture, as an individual. Animals are trained by external influences; they do not teach themselves. An old wolf is much more cunning than a young one, but he has been made so by the force of circumstances. You can teach your dog tricks, but no dog has ever taught himself any. Yet the lowest savages teach themselves to make tools, to ornament their paddles and clubs, and acquire certain arts by diligent effort. Birds will sometimes practice the tunes which they hear played, till they have learned them. They will also sometimes imitate each other's songs. That is, they possess the power of vocal imitation. But to imitate the sounds we hear is not self-culture. It is not developing a new power, but it is exercising in a new way a natural gift. Yet we must admit that in this habit of birds there is the rudiment, at least, of self-education.
All races of men are capable of progress in civilization. Many, indeed, remain in a savage state for thousands of years, and we cannot positively prove that any particular race which has always been uncivilized is capable of civilization. But we are led to believe it from having known of so many tribes of men who have emerged from apathy, ignorance, and barbarism into the light of science and art. So it was with all the Teutonic races,—the Goths, Germans, Kelts, Lombards, Scandinavians. So it was with the Arabs, who roamed for thousands of years over the deserts, a race of ignorant robbers, and then, filled with the great inspiration of Islam, flamed up into a brilliant coruscation of science, literature, art, military success, and profound learning. What great civilizations have grown up in China, India, Persia, Assyria, Babylon, Phœnicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Carthage, Etruria! But no such progress has ever appeared among the animals. As their parents were, five thousand years ago, so, essentially, are they now.
Nor are animals religious, in the sense of worshiping unseen powers higher than themselves. My horse showed a sense of the supernatural, but this is not worship.
These are some of the most marked points of difference between man and all other animals. Now these can all be accounted for by the hypothesis in which Locke and Leibnitz both agreed; namely, that while animals are capable of reasoning about facts, they are incapable of abstract ideas. Or, we may say with Coleridge, that while animals, in common with man, possess the faculty of understanding, they do not possess that of reason. Coleridge seems to have intended by this exactly what Locke and Leibnitz meant by their statement. When my dog Don heard the word "apple," he thought of the particular concrete apple under the tree; and not of apples in general, and their relation to pears, peaches, etc. Don understood me when I told him to go and get an apple, and obeyed; but he would not have understood me if I had remarked to him that apples were better than pears, more wholesome than peaches, not so handsome as grapes. I should then have gone into the region of abstract and general ideas.
Now it is precisely the possession of this power of abstract thought which will explain the superiority of man to all other animals. It explains the use of tools; for a tool is an instrument prepared, not for one special purpose, but to be used generally, in certain ways. A baboon, like a man, might pick up a particular stone with which to crack a particular nut; but the ape does not make and keep a stone hammer, to be used on many similar occasions. A box of tools contains a collection of saws, planes, draw-knives, etc., not made to use on one occasion merely, but made for sawing, cutting, and planing purposes generally.
Still more evident is it that the power of abstraction is necessary for verbal language. We do not here use the common term "articulate speech," for we can conceive of animals articulating their vocal sounds. But "a word" is an abstraction. The notion is lifted out of the concrete particular fact, and deposited in the abstract general term. All words, except proper names, are abstract; and to possess and use a verbal language is impossible, without the possession of this mental faculty.
In regard to self-culture, it is clear that for any steady progress one must keep before his mind an abstract idea of what he wishes to do. This enables him to rise above impulse, passion, instinct, habit, circumstance. By the steady contemplation of the proposed aim, one can arrange circumstances, restrain impulse, direct one's activity, and become really free.
In like manner, races become developed in civilization by the impact of abstract ideas. Sometimes it is by coming in contact with other civilized nations, which gives them an ideal superior to anything before known. Sometimes the motive power of their progress is the reception of truths of science, art, literature, or religion.
It is not necessary to show that without abstract, universal, and necessary ideas no religion is possible; for religion, being the worship of unseen powers, conceived as existing, as active, as spiritual, necessarily implies these ideas in the mind of the worshiper.
We find, then, in the soul of animals all active, affectionate, and intelligent capacities, as in that of man. The only difference is that man is capable of abstract ideas, which give him a larger liberty of action, which enable him to adopt an aim and pursue it, and which change his affections from an instinctive attachment into a principle of generous love. Add, then, to the animal soul the capacity for abstract ideas, and it would rise at once to the level of man. Meantime, in a large part of their nature, they have the same faculties with ourselves. They share our emotions, and we theirs. They are made "a little lower" than man, and if we are souls, so surely are they.
Are they immortal? To discuss this question would require more space than we can here give to it. For my own part, I fully believe in the continued existence of all souls, at the same time assuming their continued advance. The law of life is progress; and one of the best features in the somewhat unspiritual theory of Darwin is its profound faith in perpetual improvement. This theory is the most startling optimism that has ever been taught, for it makes perpetual progress to be the law of the whole universe.
Many of the arguments for the immortality of man cannot indeed be used for our dumb relations, the animals. We cannot argue from their universal faith in a future life; nor contend that they need an immortality on moral grounds, to recompense their good conduct and punish their wickedness. We might indeed adduce a reason implied in our Saviour's parable, and believe that the poor creatures who have received their evil things in this life will be comforted in another. Moreover, we might find in many animals qualities fitting them for a higher state. There are animals, as we have seen, who show a fidelity, courage, generosity, often superior to what we see in man. The dogs who have loved their master more than food, and starved to death on his grave, are surely well fitted for a higher existence. Jesse tells a story of a cat which was being stoned by cruel boys. Men went by, and did not interfere; but a dog, that saw it, did. He drove away the boys, and then took the cat to his kennel, licked her all over with his tongue, and his conduct interested people, who brought her milk. The canine nurse took care of her till she was well, and the cat and dog remained fast friends ever after. Such an action in a man would have been called heroic; and we think such a dog would not be out of place in heaven.
Yet it is not so much on particular cases of animal superiority that we rely, but on the difficulty of conceiving, in any sense, of the destruction of life. The principle of life, whether we call it soul or body, matter or spirit, escapes all observation of the senses. All that we know of it by observation is that, beside the particles of matter which compose an organized body, there is something else, not cognizable by the senses, which attracts and dismisses them, modifies and coördinates them. The unity of the body is not to be found in its sensible phenomena, but in something which escapes the senses. Into the vortex of that life material molecules are being continually absorbed, and from it they are perpetually discharged. If death means the dissolution of the body, we die many times in the course of our earthly career, for every body is said by human anatomists to be changed in all its particles once in seven years. What then remains, if all the particles go? The principle of organization remains, and this invisible, persistent principle constitutes the identity of every organized body. If I say that I have the same body when I am fifty which I had at twenty, it is because I mean by "body" that which continues unaltered amid the fast-flying particles of matter. This life principle makes and remakes the material frame; that body does not make it. When what we call death intervenes, all that we can assert is that the life principle has done wholly and at once what it has always been doing gradually and in part. What happens to the material particles, we see: they become detached from the organizing principle, and relapse into simply mechanical and chemical conditions. What has happened to that organizing principle we neither see nor know; and we have absolutely no reason at all for saying that it has ceased to exist.
This is as true of plants and of animals as of men; and there is no reason for supposing that when these die their principle of life is ended. It probably has reached a crisis, which consists in the putting on of new forms and ascending into a higher order of organized existence.
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