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

 
 
Pre-Existence (S425a: 1890)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 462 of the 26 July 1890 issue of Light (London). To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S425A.htm


     Sir,--I did not intend to enter into any controversy on this subject, and will now only say a very few words, because Mr. Paice has quoted an argument of mine which he seems to think is inconsistent with a belief in each person's individuality originating at his birth. My argument in "Darwinism" was to show that there were peculiarities in our mental nature that could not be explained by a development through the law of "natural selection"; and the conclusion I arrived at was, that the development of man's spiritual nature was determined by other unknown laws, though its derivation, like that of the body, was by hereditary descent through the complex lines of diverging ancestors. I can conceive, for example, either that the human spirit has an inherent power of progression under favourable conditions, or that it is subject to influences from the spirit-world which, without destroying its individuality, greatly foster its growth and advancement. The fact, proved by Mr. Galton in his Hereditary Genius, and a matter of common observation to most of us, that mental and moral tendencies are often hereditary though subject to greater divergencies than physical characteristics, is, I think, a clear indication that both originate through the same law of ancestral derivation, though their progressive development seems to be subject to different laws. The fact of the hereditary transmission of mental and moral qualities seems to me fatal to the theory of Re-incarnation as being the general law of spiritual development.

     The argument or illustration from a supposed eternal progression is not worth pursuing, since it leads to so many insoluble and even unthinkable problems. The illustration from the hyperbola does not seem to me to render the position at all more intelligible, of personal identities progressing from a past eternity to result in all the weakness and imperfection of existing human nature. I limited my argument strictly to the origin of our personal individualities or identities. If these have, for all of us, existed from eternity, then we are all uncreated independent beings--gods, in fact--and our present state of weakness, ignorance, and impotence, in relation to the universe around us, becomes still more inexplicable and contradictory.

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE.


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