Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
The Harmony of Spiritualism and Science
(S383: 1885)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter printed in the 25 July 1885 number of Light (London) responding to criticism of Wallace's essay of the same name (S379). Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S383.htm


    [[p. 352]] I find some difficulty in comprehending the exact position of Mr. Frederick F. Cook in his elaborate "Rejoinder" to my article, but with your permission I will briefly notice his direct criticisms of my views, because they have a certain amount of plausibility owing to the extremely condensed form in which I was compelled to express myself in the space that was allowed me.

    Mr. Cook first objects to my proposition that--"man consists essentially of a spiritual nature or mind intimately associated with a spiritual body or soul, both of which are developed in, and by means of, a material organism." This, he says, is a case of spiritual suicide, and is directly opposed to my previous statement that--"mind is the cause of organism and perhaps even of matter itself." But surely, it is clear that in the last quoted passage I am speaking of mind in the abstract or as a fundamental principle, while in the former I am dealing with mind as individualised in the human form. There is, I conceive, no contradiction in believing that mind is at once the cause of matter and of the development of individualised human minds through the agency of matter. And when, further on, he asks, "Does mortality give consciousness to spirit, or does spirit give consciousness for a limited period to mortality?" I would reply, "Neither the one nor the other; but, mortality is the means by which a permanent individuality is given to spirit."

    His next serious objection is to my supposition that, "it may well be that evolution is a fundamental law of the universe of mind as well as that of matter." This, he says, is a purely materialistic thought. But here again it is clear by the context that I am referring solely to the development of individualised human minds, of which alone we know, or can know, anything, not to mind in the abstract, of which we know absolutely nothing; and I see no materialism in the supposition that such finite individualised minds can only be produced under some law of evolution.

    The last special criticism refers to my belief that "progress towards a nobler and happier existence in the spiritual world" is dependent on the cultivation of our higher moral feelings here. My critic says that this is an utter denial of justice or equality, because our moral nature, as well as our environment, is imposed upon us; but he does not say whether he accepts the alternative position, that all are to be at once good and happy in the future state, and that the most selfish, vicious, and sensual are to make equal progress with the benevolent, self-sacrificing, and virtuous. It seems to me that this latter condition of things would be the most opposed to justice, and even to possibility, and would render the present world, with all its trials, a hopeless and insoluble mystery, while it is certainly opposed to the whole body of information and teaching which we receive from spiritual sources.

    It seems to me that my critic, throughout, confuses together the general with the special, the universal with the individual, in discussing the relations of spirit and matter, while he equally confounds proximate with ultimate results in his remarks on the spiritual world. My observations and reasonings have been confined throughout to the nature and relations of individualised human minds and their proximate condition in the spirit world. Speculations on the nature or origin of mind in general as well as those on the ultimate states to which human minds may attain in the infinite future, I look upon as altogether beyond the range of our faculties, and to be, therefore, utterly untrustworthy and profitless.


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