« PrécédentContinuer »
at which the plant loses itself in the animal. On a slope of red bolus, sprinkled with boiling water from a jetter in Iceland, I picked up some red slime, an algid,—vitalized clay.
On my window-sill a shower has deposited an almost imperceptible atom, a dusky grain which the sun in drying has attached to the stone. Respect that granule of dust. It is a living being. The heat has suspended, but not extinguished, its life. Another rain-drop restores it; the diatom swells and revives. Myriads of these little creatures people the lakes, the sea, the springs. They are born, they breathe, they dart nimbly through their element, they die and drop their shells to accumulate in considerable masses at the bottom of the waters. Are they animalcules, or are they vegetables? Their agility belongs to the animal, but they attach themselves to the vegetable realm by one of its most essential characteristics ;--under the influence of light, they decompose carbonic acid.
The method by which Nature proceeds is invariable. First she watches over the conservation of the individualities she has called out, then she takes care of the species to which they belong, and lastly, she assigns to all their places and their functions in the scale of creatures. Thus, she introduces into the world duration, stability, and unity.
In the inorganic world matter is preserved by the laws imposed upon it—the laws of affinity and of gravitation; but in the higher classes individuals are made to participate in the execution of the laws. Nature, as it were, admits them to be her auxiliaries, calls on them to co-operate in the work of their own maintenance, and in the preservation of their race. Thus, a plant is not merely subject, like a
a mineral, to physical laws, but it bears within itself a force, a new principle, a higher law; it grows, protects itself, de
velops itself by nutrition, and reproduces itself by seed. This double power has made it a living being.
The little celandine that heralds in the spring screens itself from the icy blast:
“While the patient primrose sits
Like a beggar in the cold,
Slipp'st into thy sheltered hold;'1
and the autumn colchicum retains its seed-pod under ground to mature its germs in darkness till the winter snows are past, wlien it will thrust them into light.
The life of the animal is more complete than that of the vegetable, for it intervenes more spontaneously and more efficaciously in the double function of self-protection and continuance of the species.
Inorganic matter submits passively to the law without, whereas the organism is regulated by a duality of laws, that law which rules all inorganic matter, and that which governs matter transformed into an activity.
This duality explains the phenomena of life and death. The rudimentary being inspired with vitality, progresses; its fluid parts thicken, its soft parts become firin, membrane changes into cartilage, and cartilage into bone, bone hardens and is welded into neighbouring bones, the entire being advances towards solidification. One day a demonstration on this subject was made in the cabinet of M. Flourens. Some one asked the eminent physiologist at what point the process
would terminate. “If we lived long enough,” he answered, "we should be mineralized.”
This tendency of matter to agglomerate in masses always more compact from the moment that it is put in circulation in an organized being explains life, which is the perpetual
1 Wordsworth: To the Celandine,
mutation of matter in obedience to the instinct of reparation; it explains also death, which is the climax of this tendency to compacity, opposing insurmountable obstacles to the renovating torrent.
Every rise in the series of organisms brings along with it a disengagement of individuality, a manifestation of greater spontaneity. Man is subject, like inorganic bodies, to the physical laws governing all matter. He develops like the plant and he moves like the beast. He is composed of a portion of matter assuming a determined form, and also, of an internal motor, which moves the totality of this material mass as a lever moves a stone.
This invisible motor in the animal and in man is called Instinct. It excites the organism for the purposes of selfprotection, self-perfection and reproduction.
The object set before animal life, and clearly attainable by it, is individual development and propagation of the species. The law of its life is the accomplishment of these two purposes. Its pleasure consists in their attainment. Having attained them its satisfaction is complete. There is no uncertainty in the beast, no conflicting instincts in its nature; it is therefore subject to no doubt, no hesitation; it can do no moral wrong.
Its motive force finds expression in four animal cravings, which are the manifestation of a conservative and governing will, and are limited to the assurance of its own existence and the perpetuation of its species. The analysis of the body shews us organs adapted to the functions it is called upon to accomplish daily. The animal instincts are these:
1. The instinct of reparation by food and by sleep;
The law of progression applies to all organized beings, and to all transitions from one reign to another.
From the conferva to the oak, from the amoeba to the lion, organization becomes more complicated; rudimental systems appearing in one class of beings are perfected in another. Everywhere the force of progress appears as the mainspring of life and perfection; it is visible in the transition from one realm to another, from one species to another, and in every individual in the advance from germ to maturity. Man passes through the stages of physical, instinctive, and intelligent life. His uterine existence represents the vegetative stage, his infancy is instinctive and animal; during childhood his intellectual powers are dawning, they blaze into energy at adolescence.
The inferior conditions of being do not disappear as those which are superior emerge, but continue to subsist, so hat the human being is subject to the physical laws affecting inorganic matter, to the laws of vegetative growth, and to the laws of animal instincts. He is a mineral, a vegetable, and an animal at once. Physical laws determine his death, -dragging the constituents back from their vital unity into their passivity once more.
That wonderful internal microscopic floriation in either sex before fecundation is vegetative. And every animal appetite that characterizes the beast exhibits itself in man.
But in addition to the corporal instincts attaching him to the realm below, man has instincts which distinguish him from it, instincts which are peculiarly his own. He is double. He is, as Pascal says, "neither an angel nor a brute, but a little of both.” This duality produces conflict.
“Vivere, mi Lucili, militare est!" He has two sets of appetites, those belonging to him as
i Seneca: Epist. 96.
an animal, and those belonging to him as a man. find happiness certainly in the satisfaction of his carnal desires, because he is an animal; but that happiness will not be perfect because he is not an animal only. Above the corporal instincts he shares with his dog,-corporal, because they find their complete expression and entire satisfaction in the play of his organs, are the spiritual instincts, speculative and moral,—in other words, the appetite to know, and the appetite to love.
Hlappiness is the signal to announce to the vital force within that the nature of the animal has met with satisfaction exactly commensurate with its want. If, then, we desire to know what is the cronós to which the instincts tend, we have only to ascertain in what those instincts find pleasure.
When the animal lies down in the sun full fed, its happiness is absolute, its satisfaction is complete. In like manner happiness gives notice to the spiritual nature when its appetites touch and assimilate its natural food; and as the purpose of the animal appetite is the perfection of the boily, so, the purpose of the spiritual appetite is the developinent of the soul. I must be allowed, at this stage of my argument, to call the higher force in man,—the presence of which all admit, though its nature may be disputed, the soul, without committing myself thereby to an aclmission of its immateriality or of its supernatural origin. I use the word for convenience only, to express that superior life distinguishing man, which, though various in its manifestations, is essentially one.
The analogy between the soul and the body is closer than is suspected. As there is a dualism in the life of the body, organic and animal, so are there in the soul two modes of life, that which is intellectual, and that which is