The Faith, Morals, and Public Policy of the New Republic

If the surmise of a developing New Republic—a Republic that must ultimately become a World State of capable rational men, developing amidst the fading contours and colours of our existing nations and institutions—be indeed no idle dream, but an attainable possibility in the future, and to that end it is that the preceding Anticipations have been mainly written, it becomes a speculation of very great interest to forecast something of the general shape and something even of certain details of that common body of opinion which the New Republic, when at last it discovers and declares itself, will possess. Since we have supposed this New Republic will already be consciously and pretty freely controlling the general affairs of humanity before this century closes, its broad principles and opinions must necessarily shape and determine that still ampler future of which the coming hundred years is but the opening phase. There are many processes, many aspects of things, that are now, as it were, in the domain of natural laws and outside human control, or controlled unintelligently and superstitiously, that in the future, in the days of the coming New Republic, will be definitely taken in hand as part of the general work of humanity, as indeed already, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the control of pestilences has been taken in hand. And in particular, there are certain broad questions much under discussion to which, thus far, I have purposely given a value disproportionately small:—

While the New Republic is gathering itself together and becoming aware of itself, that other great element, which I have called the People of the Abyss, will also have followed out its destiny. For many decades that development will be largely or entirely out of all human control. To the multiplying rejected of the white and yellow civilizations there will have been added a vast proportion of the black and brown races, and collectively those masses will propound the general question, "What will you do with us, we hundreds of millions, who cannot keep pace with you?" If the New Republic emerges at all it will emerge by grappling with this riddle; it must come into existence by the passes this Sphinx will guard. Moreover, the necessary results of the reaction of irresponsible wealth upon that infirm and dangerous thing the human will, the spreading moral rot of gambling which is associated with irresponsible wealth, will have been working out, and will continue to work out, so long as there is such a thing as irresponsible wealth pervading the social body. That too the New Republic must in its very development overcome. In the preceding chapter it is clearly implicit that I believe that the New Republic, as its consciousness and influence develop together, will meet, check, and control these things; but the broad principles upon which the control will go, the nature of the methods employed, still remain to be deduced. And to make that deduction, it is necessary that the primary conception of life, the fundamental, religious, and moral ideas of these predominant men of the new time should first be considered.

Now, quite inevitably, these men will be religious men. Being themselves, as by the nature of the forces that have selected them they will certainly be, men of will and purpose, they will be disposed to find, and consequently they will find, an effect of purpose in the totality of things. Either one must believe the Universe to be one and systematic, and held together by some omnipresent quality, or one must believe it to be a casual aggregation, an incoherent accumulation with no unity whatsoever outside the unity of the personality regarding it. All science and most modern religious systems presuppose the former, and to believe the former is, to any one not too anxious to quibble, to believe in God. But I believe that these prevailing men of the future, like many of the saner men of to-day, having so formulated their fundamental belief, will presume to no knowledge whatever, will presume to no possibility of knowledge of the real being of God. They will have no positive definition of God at all. They will certainly not indulge in "that something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness" (not defined) or any defective claptrap of that sort. They will content themselves with denying the self-contradictory absurdities of an obstinately anthropomorphic theology,[50] they will regard the whole of being, within themselves and without, as the sufficient revelation of God to their souls, and they will set themselves simply to that revelation, seeking its meaning towards themselves faithfully and courageously. Manifestly the essential being of man in this life is his will; he exists consciously only to do; his main interest in life is the choice between alternatives; and, since he moves through space and time to effects and consequences, a general purpose in space and time is the limit of his understanding. He can know God only under the semblance of a pervading purpose, of which his own individual freedom of will is a part, but he can understand that the purpose that exists in space and time is no more God than a voice calling out of impenetrable darkness is a man. To men of the kinetic type belief in God so manifest as purpose is irresistible, and, to all lucid minds, the being of God, save as that general atmosphere of imperfectly apprehended purpose in which our individual wills operate, is incomprehensible. To cling to any belief more detailed than this, to define and limit God in order to take hold of Him, to detach one's self and parts of the universe from God in some mysterious way in order to reduce life to a dramatic antagonism, is not faith, but infirmity. Excessive strenuous belief is not faith. By faith we disbelieve, and it is the drowning man, and not the strong swimmer, who clutches at the floating straw. It is in the nature of man, it is in the present purpose of things, that the real world of our experience and will should appear to us not only as a progressive existence in space and time, but as a scheme of good and evil. But choice, the antagonism of good and evil, just as much as the formulation of things in space and time, is merely a limiting condition of human being, and in the thought of God as we conceive of Him in the light of faith, this antagonism vanishes. God is no moralist, God is no partisan; He comprehends and cannot be comprehended, and our business is only with so much of His purpose as centres on our individual wills.

So, or in some such phrases, I believe, these men of the New Republic will formulate their relationship to God. They will live to serve this purpose that presents Him, without presumption and without fear. For the same spacious faith that will render the idea of airing their egotisms in God's presence through prayer, or of any such quite personal intimacy, absurd, will render the idea of an irascible and punitive Deity ridiculous and incredible....

The men of the New Republic will hold and understand quite clearly the doctrine that in the real world of man's experience, there is Free Will. They will understand that constantly, as a very condition of his existence, man is exercising choice between alternatives, and that a conflict between motives that have different moral values constantly arises. That conflict between Predestination and Free Will, which is so puzzling to untrained minds, will not exist for them. They will know that in the real world of sensory experience, will is free, just as new sprung grass is green, wood hard, ice cold, and toothache painful. In the abstract world of reasoning science there is no green, no colour at all, but certain lengths of vibration; no hardness, but a certain reaction of molecules; no cold and no pain, but certain molecular consequences in the nerves that reach the misinterpreting mind. In the abstract world of reasoning science, moreover, there is a rigid and inevitable sequence of cause and effect; every act of man could be foretold to its uttermost detail, if only we knew him and all his circumstances fully; in the abstract world of reasoned science all things exist now potentially down to the last moment of infinite time. But the human will does not exist in the abstract world of reasoned science, in the world of atoms and vibrations, that rigidly predestinate scheme of things in space and time. The human will exists in this world of men and women, in this world where the grass is green and desire beckons and the choice is often so wide and clear between the sense of what is desirable and what is more widely and remotely right. In this world of sense and the daily life, these men will believe with an absolute conviction, that there is free will and a personal moral responsibility in relation to that indistinctly seen purpose which is the sufficient revelation of God to them so far as this sphere of being goes....

The conception they will have of that purpose will necessarily determine their ethical scheme. It follows manifestly that if we do really believe in Almighty God, the more strenuously and successfully we seek in ourselves and His world to understand the order and progress of things, and the more clearly we apprehend His purpose, the more assured and systematic will our ethical basis become.

If, like Huxley, we do not positively believe in God, then we may still cling to an ethical system which has become an organic part of our lives and habits, and finding it manifestly in conflict with the purpose of things, speak of the non-ethical order of the universe. But to any one whose mind is pervaded by faith in God, a non-ethical universe in conflict with the incomprehensibly ethical soul of the Agnostic, is as incredible as a black horned devil, an active material anti-god with hoofs, tail, pitchfork, and Dunstan-scorched nose complete. To believe completely in God is to believe in the final rightness of all being. The ethical system that condemns the ways of life as wrong, or points to the ways of death as right, that countenances what the scheme of things condemns, and condemns the general purpose in things as it is now revealed to us, must prepare to follow the theological edifice upon which it was originally based. If the universe is non-ethical by our present standards, we must reconsider these standards and reconstruct our ethics. To hesitate to do so, however severe the conflict with old habits and traditions and sentiments may be, is to fall short of faith.

Now, so far as the intellectual life of the world goes, this present time is essentially the opening phase of a period of ethical reconstruction, a reconstruction of which the New Republic will possess the matured result. Throughout the nineteenth century there has been such a shattering and recasting of fundamental ideas, of the preliminaries to ethical propositions, as the world has never seen before. This breaking down and routing out of almost all the cardinal assumptions on which the minds of the Eighteenth Century dwelt securely, is a process akin to, but independent of, the development of mechanism, whose consequences we have traced. It is a part of that process of vigorous and fearless criticism which is the reality of science, and of which the development of mechanism and all that revolution in physical and social conditions we have been tracing, is merely the vast imposing material bye product. At present, indeed, its more obvious aspect on the moral and ethical side is destruction, any one can see the chips flying, but it still demands a certain faith and patience to see the form that ensues. But it is not destruction, any more than a sculptor's work is stone-breaking.

The first chapter in the history of this intellectual development, its definite and formal opening, coincides with the opening of the nineteenth century and the publication of Malthus's Essay on Population. Malthus is one of those cardinal figures in intellectual history who state definitely for all time, things apparent enough after their formulation, but never effectively conceded before. He brought clearly and emphatically into the sphere of discussion a vitally important issue that had always been shirked and tabooed heretofore, the fundamental fact that the main mass of the business of human life centres about reproduction. He stated in clear, hard, decent, and unavoidable argument what presently Schopenhauer was to discover and proclaim, in language, at times, it would seem, quite unfitted for translation into English. And, having made his statement, Malthus left it, in contact with its immediate results.

Probably no more shattering book than the Essay on Population has ever been, or ever will be, written. It was aimed at the facile Liberalism of the Deists and Atheists of the eighteenth century; it made as clear as daylight that all forms of social reconstruction, all dreams of earthly golden ages must be either futile or insincere or both, until the problems of human increase were manfully faced. It proffered no suggestions for facing them (in spite of the unpleasant associations of Malthus's name), it aimed simply to wither the Rationalistic Utopias of the time and by anticipation, all the Communisms, Socialisms, and Earthly Paradise movements that have since been so abundantly audible in the world. That was its aim and its immediate effect. Incidentally it must have been a torturing soul-trap for innumerable idealistic but intelligent souls. Its indirect effects have been altogether greater. Aiming at unorthodox dreamers, it has set such forces in motion as have destroyed the very root-ideas of orthodox righteousness in the western world. Impinging on geological discovery, it awakened almost simultaneously in the minds of Darwin and Wallace, that train of thought that found expression and demonstration at last in the theory of natural selection. As that theory has been more and more thoroughly assimilated and understood by the general mind, it has destroyed, quietly but entirely, the belief in human equality which is implicit in all the "Liberalizing" movements of the world. In the place of an essential equality, distorted only by tradition and early training, by the artifices of those devils of the Liberal cosmogony, "kingcraft" and "priestcraft," an equality as little affected by colour as the equality of a black chess pawn and a white, we discover that all men are individual and unique, and, through long ranges of comparison, superior and inferior upon countless scores. It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim upon the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as the superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental in the civilizing fabric, and that their range of incapacity tempts and demoralizes the strong. To give them equality is to sink to their level, to protect and cherish them is to be swamped in their fecundity. The confident and optimistic Radicalism of the earlier nineteenth century, and the humanitarian philanthropic type of Liberalism, have bogged themselves beyond hope in these realizations. The Socialist has shirked them as he has shirked the older crux of Malthus. Liberalism is a thing of the past, it is no longer a doctrine, but a faction. There must follow some newborn thing.

And as effectually has the mass of criticism that centres about Darwin destroyed the dogma of the Fall upon which the whole intellectual fabric of Christianity rests. For without a Fall there is no redemption, and the whole theory and meaning of the Pauline system is vain. In conjunction with the wide vistas opened by geological and astronomical discovery, the nineteenth century has indeed lost the very habit of thought from which the belief in a Fall arose. It is as if a hand had been put upon the head of the thoughtful man and had turned his eyes about from the past to the future. In matters of intelligence, at least, if not yet in matters of ethics and conduct, this turning round has occurred. In the past thought was legal in its spirit, it deduced the present from pre-existing prescription, it derived everything from the offences and promises of the dead; the idea of a universe of expiation was the most natural theory amidst such processes. The purpose the older theologians saw in the world was no more than the revenge—accentuated by the special treatment of a favoured minority—of a mysteriously incompetent Deity exasperated by an unsatisfactory creation. But modern thought is altogether too constructive and creative to tolerate such a conception, and in the vaster past that has opened to us, it can find neither offence nor promise, only a spacious scheme of events, opening out—perpetually opening out—with a quality of final purpose as irresistible to most men's minds as it is incomprehensible, opening out with all that inexplicable quality of design that, for example, some great piece of music, some symphony of Beethoven's, conveys. We see future beyond future and past behind past. It has been like the coming of dawn, at first a colourless dawn, clear and spacious, before which the mists whirl and fade, and there opens to our eyes not the narrow passage, the definite end we had imagined, but the rocky, ill-defined path we follow high amidst this limitless prospect of space and time. At first the dawn is cold—there is, at times, a quality of terror almost in the cold clearness of the morning twilight; but insensibly its coldness passes, the sky is touched with fire, and presently, up out of the dayspring in the east, the sunlight will be pouring.... And these men of the New Republic will be going about in the daylight of things assured.

And men's concern under this ampler view will no longer be to work out a system of penalties for the sins of dead men, but to understand and participate in this great development that now dawns on the human understanding. The insoluble problems of pain and death, gaunt, incomprehensible facts as they were, fall into place in the gigantic order that evolution unfolds. All things are integral in the mighty scheme, the slain builds up the slayer, the wolf grooms the horse into swiftness, and the tiger calls for wisdom and courage out of man. All things are integral, but it has been left for men to be consciously integral, to take, at last, a share in the process, to have wills that have caught a harmony with the universal will, as sand grains flash into splendour under the blaze of the sun. There will be many who will never be called to this religious conviction, who will lead their little lives like fools, playing foolishly with religion and all the great issues of life, or like the beasts that perish, having sense alone; but those who, by character and intelligence, are predestinate to participate in the reality of life, will fearlessly shape all their ethical determinations and public policy anew, from a fearless study of themselves and the apparent purpose that opens out before them.

Very much of the cry for faith that sounds in contemporary life so loudly, and often with so distressing a note of sincerity, comes from the unsatisfied egotisms of unemployed, and, therefore, unhappy and craving people; but much is also due to the distress in the minds of active and serious men, due to the conflict of inductive knowledge, with conceptions of right and wrong deduced from unsound, but uncriticised, first principles. The old ethical principles, the principle of equivalents or justice, the principle of self-sacrifice, the various vague and arbitrary ideas of purity, chastity, and sexual "sin," came like rays out of the theological and philosophical lanterns men carried in the darkness. The ray of the lantern indicated and directed, and one followed it as one follows a path. But now there has come a new view of man's place in the scheme of time and space, a new illumination, dawn; the lantern rays fade in the growing brightness, and the lanterns that shone so brightly are becoming smoky and dim. To many men this is no more than a waning of the lanterns, and they call for new ones, or a trimming of the old. They blame the day for putting out these flares. And some go apart, out of the glare of life, into corners of obscurity, where the radiation of the lantern may still be faintly traced. But, indeed, with the new light there has come the time for new methods; the time of lanterns, the time of deductions from arbitrary first principles is over. The act of faith is no longer to follow your lantern, but to put it down. We can see about us, and by the landscape we must go.[51]

How will the landscape shape itself to the dominant men of the new time and in relation to themselves? What is the will and purpose that these men of will and purpose will find above and comprehending their own? Into this our inquiry resolves itself. They will hold with Schopenhauer, I believe, and with those who build themselves on Malthus and Darwin, that the scheme of being, in which we live is a struggle of existences to expand and develop themselves to their full completeness, and to propagate and increase themselves. But, being men of action, they will feel nothing of the glamour of misery that irresponsible and sexually vitiated shareholder, Schopenhauer, threw over this recognition. The final object of this struggle among existences they will not understand; they will have abandoned the search for ultimates; they will state this scheme of a struggle as a proximate object, sufficiently remote and spacious to enclose and explain all their possible activities. They will seek God's purpose in the sphere of their activities, and desire no more, as the soldier in battle desires no more, than the immediate conflict before him. They will admit failure as an individual aspect of things, as a soldier seeking victory admits the possibility of death; but they will refuse to admit as a part of their faith in God that any existence, even if it is an existence that is presently entirely erased, can be needless or vain. It will have reacted on the existences that survive; it will be justified for ever in the modification it has produced in them. They will find in themselves—it must be remembered I am speaking of a class that has naturally segregated, and not of men as a whole—a desire, a passion almost, to create and organize, to put in order, to get the maximum result from certain possibilities. They will all be artists in reality, with a passion for simplicity and directness and an impatience of confusion and inefficiency. The determining frame of their ethics, the more spacious scheme to which they will shape the schemes of their individual wills, will be the elaboration of that future world state to which all things are pointing. They will not conceive of it as a millennial paradise, a blissful inconsequent stagnation, but as a world state of active ampler human beings, full of knowledge and energy, free from much of the baseness and limitations, the needless pains and dishonours of the world disorder of to-day, but still struggling, struggling against ampler but still too narrow restrictions and for still more spacious objects than our vistas have revealed. For that as a general end, for the special work that contributes to it as an individual end, they will make the plans and the limiting rules of their lives.

It is manifest that a reconstructed ethical system, reconstructed in the light of modern science and to meet the needs of such temperaments and characters as the evolution of mechanism will draw together and develop, will give very different values from those given by the existing systems (if they can be called systems) to almost all the great matters of conduct. Under scientific analysis the essential facts of life are very clearly shown to be two—birth and death. All life is the effort of the thing born, driven by fears, guided by instincts and desires, to evade death, to evade even the partial death of crippling or cramping or restriction, and to attain to effective procreation, to the victory of another birth. Procreation is the triumph of the living being over death; and in the case of man, who adds mind to his body, it is not only in his child but in the dissemination of his thought, the expression of his mind in things done and made, that his triumph is to be found. And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity—beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge—and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men. To do the latter is to do the former; the two things are inseparable. And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness, and cowardice and feebleness were saved from the accomplishment of their desires, the method that has only one alternative, the method that must in some cases still be called in to the help of man, is death. In the new vision death is no inexplicable horror, no pointless terminal terror to the miseries of life, it is the end of all the pain of life, the end of the bitterness of failure, the merciful obliteration of weak and silly and pointless things....

The new ethics will hold life to be a privilege and a responsibility, not a sort of night refuge for base spirits out of the void; and the alternative in right conduct between living fully, beautifully, and efficiently will be to die. For a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear-driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalid dishonour, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence. To make life convenient for the breeding of such people will seem to them not the most virtuous and amiable thing in the world, as it is held to be now, but an exceedingly abominable proceeding. Procreation is an avoidable thing for sane persons of even the most furious passions, and the men of the New Republic will hold that the procreation of children who, by the circumstances of their parentage, must be diseased bodily or mentally—I do not think it will be difficult for the medical science of the coming time to define such circumstances—is absolutely the most loathsome of all conceivable sins. They will hold, I anticipate, that a certain portion of the population—the small minority, for example, afflicted with indisputably transmissible diseases, with transmissible mental disorders, with such hideous incurable habits of mind as the craving for intoxication—exists only on sufferance, out of pity and patience, and on the understanding that they do not propagate; and I do not foresee any reason to suppose that they will hesitate to kill when that sufferance is abused. And I imagine also the plea and proof that a grave criminal is also insane will be regarded by them not as a reason for mercy, but as an added reason for death. I do not see how they can think otherwise on the principles they will profess.

The men of the New Republic will not be squeamish, either, in facing or inflicting death, because they will have a fuller sense of the possibilities of life than we possess. They will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while; like Abraham, they will have the faith to kill, and they will have no superstitions about death. They will naturally regard the modest suicide of incurably melancholy, or diseased or helpless persons as a high and courageous act of duty rather than a crime. And since they will regard, as indeed all men raised above a brutish level do regard, a very long term of imprisonment as infinitely worse than death, as being, indeed, death with a living misery added to its natural terror, they will, I conceive, where the whole tenor of a man's actions, and not simply some incidental or impulsive action, seems to prove him unfitted for free life in the world, consider him carefully, and condemn him, and remove him from being. All such killing will be done with an opiate, for death is too grave a thing to be made painful or dreadful, and used as a deterrent from crime. If deterrent punishments are used at all in the code of the future, the deterrent will neither be death, nor mutilation of the body, nor mutilation of the life by imprisonment, nor any horrible things like that, but good scientifically caused pain, that will leave nothing but a memory. Yet even the memory of overwhelming pain is a sort of mutilation of the soul. The idea that only those who are fit to live freely in an orderly world-state should be permitted to live, is entirely against the use of deterrent punishments at all. Against outrageous conduct to children or women, perhaps, or for very cowardly or brutal assaults of any sort, the men of the future may consider pain a salutary remedy, at least during the ages of transition while the brute is still at large. But since most acts of this sort done under conditions that neither torture nor exasperate, point to an essential vileness in the perpetrator, I am inclined to think that even in these cases the men of the coming time will be far less disposed to torture than to kill. They will have another aspect to consider. The conscious infliction of pain for the sake of the pain is against the better nature of man, and it is unsafe and demoralizing for any one to undertake this duty. To kill under the seemly conditions science will afford is a far less offensive thing. The rulers of the future will grudge making good people into jailers, warders, punishment-dealers, nurses, and attendants on the bad. People who cannot live happily and freely in the world without spoiling the lives of others are better out of it. That is a current sentiment even to-day, but the men of the New Republic will have the courage of their opinions.

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