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

 
 
Dr. Wallace on the Genesis of the Soul (S706: 1913)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter Wallace sent to a friend of S. H. Leonard's in 1903; contributed by Leonard and printed shortly after Wallace's death on page 863 of the 22 November 1913 issue of The Spectator. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S706.htm


Broadstone, Dorset:
April 5th, 1903.

Dear Sir,--

     Your difficulty about 'souls' and their beginning is inherent in all beginnings. Consciousness is so also. At some period in earth's history there was no consciousness or 'conscious life'--no 'sensation.' Then there was 'sensation.' I find an analogy for both in the now undoubted effects of maternal prenatal impression on the offspring. (See Chambers' Encyclopaedia, Art. 'Deformities.') Just as fright to mother often makes child nervous--so I can realize that at a certain epoch when the physical form and the brain had been sufficiently developed, some spiritual being by mental impression and will power gave the offspring a portion of his or her own spirit-nature. This, too, may be incredible to you, but it is not so to me. The spirit or 'immortal soul' thus begun, developed, and was transmitted to all succeeding generations. You mistake in thinking that the suggestion in my art. on the 'Universe and Man' was written for the purpose of proving anything or for answering the objections of agnostics. In studying modern astronomy for another purpose, I came across it as it were, and was so struck by it as a remarkable fact, that I looked at it carefully, and brought together various other facts bearing upon the same view. Of course, I was specially interested in it because it does accord with views I held previously, that the earth exists for the development of man; and to those inclined to hold that view the facts I now adduce render it more probable. But, of course, the advocates of an eternal universe of matter with no intelligent cause, and man as a product of the blind and dead 'laws of nature' will, as I say in the last par, adopt the view that, whatever produced man, he was an accident--one lucky hit out of countless myriads of failures--and that when the earth goes cold and dead, he will go dead too, and 'leave not a wrack behind.'

--Yours very truly,
Alfred R. Wallace.


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