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Chapter 8

APPLICATION OF THE FOREGOING CHAPTERS

THE ASSIMILATION OF OUTSIDE MATTER


Let us now return to the position which we left at the end of the fourth chapter. We had then concluded that the self-development of each new life in succeeding generations--the various stages through which it passes (as it would appear, at first sight, without rhyme or reason)--the manner in which it prepares structures of the most surpassing intricacy and delicacy, for which it has no use at the time when it prepares them--and the many elaborate instincts which it exhibits immediately on, and indeed before, birth--all point in the direction of habit and memory, as the only causes which could produce them.

Why should the embryo of any animal go through so many stages-- embryological allusions to forefathers of a widely different type? And why, again, should the germs of the same kind of creature always go through the same stages? If the germ of any animal now living is, in its simplest state, but part of the personal identity of one of the original germs of all life whatsoever, and hence, if any now living organism must be considered without quibble as being itself millions of years old, and as imbued with an intense though unconscious memory of all that it has done sufficiently often to have made a permanent impression; if this be so, we can answer the above questions perfectly well. The creature goes through so many intermediate stages between its earliest state as life at all, and its latest development, for the simplest of all reasons, namely, because this is the road by which it has always hitherto travelled to its present differentiation; this is the road it knows, and into every turn and up or down of which, it has been guided by the force of circumstances and the balance of considerations. These, acting in such a manner for such and such a time, caused it to travel in such and such fashion, which fashion having been once sufficiently established, becomes a matter of trick or routine to which the creature is still a slave, and in which it confirms itself by repetition in each succeeding generation.

Thus I suppose, as almost every one else, so far as I can gather, supposes, that we are descended from ancestors of widely different characters to our own. If we could see some of our forefathers a million years back, we should find them unlike anything we could call man; if we were to go back fifty million years, we should find them, it may be, fishes pure and simple, breathing through gills, and unable to exist for many minutes in air.

It is admitted on all hands that there is more or less analogy between the embryological development of the individual, and the various phases or conditions of life through which his forefathers have passed. I suppose, then, that the fish of fifty million years back and the man of to-day are one single living being, in the same sense, or very nearly so, as the octogenarian is one single living being with the infant from which he has grown; and that the fish has lived himself into manhood, not as we live out our little life, living, and living, and living till we die, but living by pulsations, so to speak; living so far, and after a certain time going into a new body, and throwing off the old; making his body much as we make anything that we want, and have often made already, that is to say, as nearly as may be in the same way as he made it last time; also that he is as unable as we ourselves are, to make what he wants without going through the usual processes with which he is familiar, even though there may be other better ways of doing the same thing, which might not be far to seek, if the creature thought them better, and had not got so accustomed to such and such a method, that he would only be baffled and put out by any attempt to teach him otherwise.

And this oneness of personality between ourselves and our supposed fishlike ancestors of many millions of years ago, must hold also between each individual one of us and the single pair of fishes from which we are each (on the present momentary hypothesis) descended; and it must also hold between such pair of fishes and all their descendants besides man, it may be some of them birds, and others fishes; all these descendants, whether human or otherwise, being but the way in which the creature (which was a pair of fishes when we first took it in hand though it was a hundred thousand other things as well, and had been all manner of other things before any part of it became fishlike) continues to exist--its manner, in fact, of growing. As the manner in which the human body grows is by the continued birth and death, in our single lifetime, of many generations of cells which we know nothing about, but say that we have had only one hand or foot all our lives, when we have really had many, one after another; so this huge compound creature, LIFE, probably thinks itself but one single animal whose component cells, as it may imagine, grow, and it may be waste and repair, but do not die.

It may be that the cells of which we are built up, and which we have already seen must be considered as separate persons, each one of them with a life and memory of its own--it may be that these cells reckon time in a manner inconceivable by us, so that no word can convey any idea of it whatever. What may to them appear a long and painful process may to us be so instantaneous as to escape us altogether, we wanting some microscope to show us the details of time. If, in like manner, we were to allow our imagination to conceive the existence of a being as much in need of a microscope for our time and affairs as we for those of our own component cells, the years would be to such a being but as the winkings or the twinklings of an eye. Would he think, then, that all the ants and flies of one wink were different from those of the next? or would he not rather believe that they were always the same flies, and, again, always the same men and women, if he could see them at all, and if the whole human race did not appear to him as a sort of spreading and lichen-like growth over the earth, not differentiated at all into individuals? With the help of a microscope and the intelligent exercise of his reason, he would in time conceive the truth. He would put Covent Garden Market on the field of his microscope, and would perhaps write a great deal of nonsense about the unerring "instinct" which taught each costermonger to recognise his own basket or his own donkey-cart; and this, mutatis mutandis, is what we are getting to do as regards our own bodies. What I wish is, to make the same sort of step in an upward direction which has already been taken in a downward one, and to show reason for thinking that we are only component atoms of a single compound creature, LIFE, which has probably a distinct conception of its own personality though none whatever of ours, more than we of our own units. I wish also to show reason for thinking that this creature, LIFE, has only come to be what it is, by the same sort of process as that by which any human art or manufacture is developed, i.e., through constantly doing the same thing over and over again, beginning from something which is barely recognisable as faith, or as the desire to know, or do, or live at all, and as to the origin of which we are in utter darkness,--and growing till it is first conscious of effort, then conscious of power, then powerful with but little consciousness, and finally, so powerful and so charged with memory as to be absolutely without all self-consciousness whatever, except as regards its latest phases in each of its many differentiations, or when placed in such new circumstances as compel it to choose between death and a reconsideration of its position.

No conjecture can be hazarded as to how the smallest particle of matter became so imbued with faith that it must be considered as the beginning of LIFE, or as to what such faith is, except that it is the very essence of all things, and that it has no foundation.

In this way, then, I conceive we can fairly transfer the experience of the race to the individual, without any other meaning to our words than what they would naturally suggest; that is to say, that there is in every impregnate ovum a bona fide memory, which carries it back not only to the time when it was last an impregnate ovum, but to that earlier date when it was the very beginning of life at all, which same creature it still is, whether as man or ovum, and hence imbued, so far as time and circumstance allow, with all its memories. Surely this is no strained hypothesis; for the mere fact that the germ, from the earliest moment that we are able to detect it, appears to be so perfectly familiar with its business, acts with so little hesitation and so little introspection or reference to principles, this alone should incline us to suspect that it must be armed with that which, so far as we observe in daily life, can alone ensure such a result-- to wit, long practice, and the memory of many similar performances.

The difficulty is, that we are conscious of no such memory in our own persons, and beyond the one great proof of memory given by the actual repetition of the performance--and of some of the latest deviations from the ordinary performance (and this proof ought in itself, one would have thought, to outweigh any save the directest evidence to the contrary) we can detect no symptom of any such mental operation as recollection on the part of the embryo. On the other hand, we have seen that we know most intensely those things that we are least conscious of knowing; we will most intensely what we are least conscious of willing; we feel continually without knowing that we feel, and our attention is hourly arrested without our attention being arrested by the arresting of our attention. Memory is no less capable of unconscious exercise, and on becoming intense through frequent repetition, vanishes no less completely as a conscious action of the mind than knowledge and volition. We must all be aware of instances in which it is plain we must have remembered, without being in the smallest degree conscious of remembering. Is it then absurd to suppose that our past existences have been repeated on such a vast number of occasions that the germ, linked on to all preceding germs, and, by once having become part of their identity, imbued with all their memories, remembers too intensely to be conscious of remembering, and works on with the same kind of unconsciousness with which we play, or walk, or read, until something unfamiliar happens to us? and is it not singularly in accordance with this view that consciousness should begin with that part of the creature's performance with which it is least familiar, as having repeated it least often--that is to say, in our own case, with the commencement of our human life--at birth, or thereabouts?

It is certainly noteworthy that the embryo is never at a loss, unless something happens to it which has not usually happened to its forefathers, and which in the nature of things it cannot remember.

When events are happening to it which have ordinarily happened to its forefathers, and which it would therefore remember, if it was possessed of the kind of memory which we are here attributing to it, IT ACTS PRECISELY AS IT WOULD ACT IF IT WERE POSSESSED OF SUCH MEMORY.

When, on the other hand, events are happening to it which, if it has the kind of memory we are attributing to it, would baffle that memory, or which have rarely or never been included in the category of its recollections, IT ACTS PRECISELY AS A CREATURE ACTS WHEN ITS RECOLLECTION IS DISTURBED, OR WHEN IT IS REQUIRED TO DO SOMETHING WHICH IT HAS NEVER DONE BEFORE.

We cannot remember having been in the embryonic stage, but we do not on that account deny that we ever were in such a stage at all. On a little reflection it will appear no more reasonable to maintain that, when we were in the embryonic stage, we did not remember our past existences, than to say that we never were embryos at all. We cannot remember what we did or did not recollect in that state; we cannot now remember having grown the eyes which we undoubtedly did grow, much less can we remember whether or not we then remembered having grown them before; but it is probable that our memory was then, in respect of our previous existences as embryos, as much more intense than it is now in respect of our childhood, as our power of acquiring a new language was greater when we were one or two years old, than when we were twenty. And why should this power of acquiring languages be greater at two years than at twenty, but that for many generations we have learnt to speak at about this age, and hence look to learn to do so again on reaching it, just as we looked to making eyes, when the time came at which we were accustomed to make them.

If we once had the memory of having been infants (which we had from day to day during infancy), and have lost it, we may well have had other and more intense memories which we have lost no less completely. Indeed, there is nothing more extraordinary in the supposition that the impregnate ovum has an intense sense of its continuity with, and therefore of its identity with, the two impregnate ova from which it has sprung, than in the fact that we have no sense of our continuity with ourselves as infants. If then, there is no a priori objection to this view, and if the impregnate ovum acts in such a manner as to carry the strongest conviction that it must have already on many occasions done what it is doing now, and that it has a vivid though unconscious recollection of what all, and more especially its nearer, ancestral ova did under similar circumstances, there would seem to be little doubt what conclusion we ought to come to.

A hen's egg, for example, as soon as the hen begins to sit, sets to work immediately to do as nearly as may be what the two eggs from which its father and mother were hatched did when hens began to sit upon them. The inference would seem almost irresistible,--that the second egg remembers the course pursued by the eggs from which it has sprung, and of whose present identity it is unquestionably a part- phase; it also seems irresistibly forced upon us to believe that the intensity of this memory is the secret of its easy action.

It has, I believe, been often remarked, that a hen is only an egg's way of making another egg. Every creature must be allowed to "run" its own development in its own way; the egg's way may seem a very roundabout manner of doing things; but it IS its way, and it is one of which man, upon the whole, has no great reason to complain. Why the fowl should be considered more alive than the egg, and why it should be said that the hen lays the egg, and not that the egg lays the hen, these are questions which lie beyond the power of philosophic explanation, but are perhaps most answerable by considering the conceit of man, and his habit, persisted in during many ages, of ignoring all that does not remind him of himself, or hurt him, or profit him; also by considering the use of language, which, if it is to serve at all, can only do so by ignoring a vast number of facts which gradually drop out of mind from being out of sight. But, perhaps, after all, the real reason is, that the egg does not cackle when it has laid the hen, and that it works towards the hen with gradual and noiseless steps, which we can watch if we be so minded; whereas, we can less easily watch the steps which lead from the hen to the egg, but hear a noise, and see an egg where there was no egg. Therefore, we say, the development of the fowl from the egg bears no sort of resemblance to that of the egg from the fowl, whereas, in truth, a hen, or any other living creature, is only the primordial cell's way of going back upon itself.

But to return. We see an egg, A, which evidently knows its own meaning perfectly well, and we know that a twelvemonth ago there were two other such eggs, B and C, which have now disappeared, but from which we know A to have been so continuously developed as to be part of the present form of their identity. A's meaning is seen to be precisely the same as B and C's meaning; A's personal appearance is, to all intents and purposes, B and C's personal appearance; it would seem, then, unreasonable to deny that A is only B and C come back, with such modification as they may have incurred since their disappearance; and that, in spite of any such modification, they remember in A perfectly well what they did as B and C.

We have considered the question of personal identity so as to see whether, without abuse of terms, we can claim it as existing between any two generations of living agents (and if between two, then between any number up to infinity), and we found that we were not only at liberty to claim this, but that we are compelled irresistibly to do so, unless, that is to say, we would think very differently concerning personal identity than we do at present. We found it impossible to hold the ordinary common sense opinions concerning personal identity, without admitting that we are personally identical with all our forefathers, who have successfully assimilated outside matter to themselves, and by assimilation imbued it with all their own memories; we being nothing else than this outside matter so assimilated and imbued with such memories. This, at least, will, I believe, balance the account correctly.

A few remarks upon the assimilation of outside matter by living organisms may perhaps be hazarded here.

As long as any living organism can maintain itself in a position to which it has been accustomed, more or less nearly, both in its own life and in those of its forefathers, nothing can harm it. As long as the organism is familiar with the position, and remembers its antecedents, nothing can assimilate it. It must be first dislodged from the position with which it is familiar, as being able to remember it, before mischief can happen to it. Nothing can assimilate living organism.

On the other hand, the moment living organism loses sight of its own position and antecedents, it is liable to immediate assimilation, and to be thus familiarised with the position and antecedents of some other creature. If any living organism be kept for but a very short time in a position wholly different from what it has been accustomed to in its own life, and in the lives of its forefathers, it commonly loses its memories completely, once and for ever; but it must immediately acquire new ones, for nothing can know nothing; everything must remember either its own antecedents, or some one else's. And as nothing can know nothing, so nothing can believe in nothing.

A grain of corn, for example, has never been accustomed to find itself in a hen's stomach--neither it nor its forefathers. For a grain so placed leaves no offspring, and hence cannot transmit its experience. The first minute or so after being eaten, it may think it has just been sown, and begin to prepare for sprouting, but in a few seconds, it discovers the environment to be unfamiliar; it therefore gets frightened, loses its head, is carried into the gizzard, and comminuted among the gizzard stones. The hen succeeded in putting it into a position with which it was unfamiliar; from this it was an easy stage to assimilating it entirely. Once assimilated, the grain ceases to remember any more as a grain, but becomes initiated into all that happens to, and has happened to, fowls for countless ages. Then it will attack all other grains whenever it sees them; there is no such persecutor of grain, as another grain when it has once fairly identified itself with a hen.

We may remark in passing, that if anything be once familiarised with anything, it is content. The only things we really care for in life are familiar things; let us have the means of doing what we have been accustomed to do, of dressing as we have been accustomed to dress, of eating as we have been accustomed to eat, and let us have no less liberty than we are accustomed to have, and last, but not least, let us not be disturbed in thinking as we have been accustomed to think, and the vast majority of mankind will be very fairly contented--all plants and animals will certainly be so. This would seem to suggest a possible doctrine of a future state; concerning which we may reflect that though, after we die, we cease to be familiar with ourselves, we shall nevertheless become immediately familiar with many other histories compared with which our present life must then seem intolerably uninteresting.

This is the reason why a very heavy and sudden shock to the nervous system does not pain, but kills outright at once; while one with which the system can, at any rate, try to familiarise itself is exceedingly painful. We cannot bear unfamiliarity. The part that is treated in a manner with which it is not familiar cries immediately to the brain--its central government--for help, and makes itself generally as troublesome as it can, till it is in some way comforted. Indeed, the law against cruelty to animals is but an example of the hatred we feel on seeing even dumb creatures put into positions with which they are not familiar. We hate this so much for ourselves, that we will not tolerate it for other creatures if we can possibly avoid it. So again, it is said, that when Andromeda and Perseus had travelled but a little way from the rock where Andromeda had so long been chained, she began upbraiding him with the loss of her dragon, who, on the whole, she said, had been very good to her. The only things we really hate are unfamiliar things, and though nature would not be nature if she did not cross our love of the familiar with a love also of the unfamiliar, yet there can be no doubt which of the two principles is master.

Let us return, however, to the grain of corn. If the grain had had presence of mind to avoid being carried into the gizzard stones, as many seeds do which are carried for hundreds of miles in birds' stomachs, and if it had persuaded itself that the novelty of the position was not greater than it could very well manage to put up with--if, in fact, it had not known when it was beaten--it might have stuck in the hen's stomach and begun to grow; in this case it would have assimilated a good part of the hen before many days were over; for hens are not familiar with grains that grow in their stomachs, and unless the one in question was as strongminded for a hen, as the grain that could avoid being assimilated would be for a grain, the hen would soon cease to take an interest in her antecedents. It is to be doubted, however, whether a grain has ever been grown which has had strength of mind enough to avoid being set off its balance on finding itself inside a hen's gizzard. For living organism is the creature of habit and routine, and the inside of a gizzard is not in the grain's programme.

Suppose, then, that the grain, instead of being carried into the gizzard, had stuck in the hen's throat and choked her. It would now find itself in a position very like what it had often been in before. That is to say, it would be in a damp, dark, quiet place, not too far from light, and with decaying matter around it. It would therefore know perfectly well what to do, and would begin to grow until disturbed, and again put into a position with which it might, very possibly, be unfamiliar.

The great question between vast masses of living organism is simply this: "Am I to put you into a position with which your forefathers have been unfamiliar, or are you to put me into one about which my own have been in like manner ignorant?" Man is only the dominant animal on the earth, because he can, as a general rule, settle this question in his own favour.

The only manner in which an organism, which has once forgotten its antecedents, can ever recover its memory, is by being assimilated by a creature of its own kind; one, moreover, which knows its business, or is not in such a false position as to be compelled to be aware of being so. It was, doubtless, owing to the recognition of this fact, that some Eastern nations, as we are told by Herodotus, were in the habit of eating their deceased parents--for matter which has once been assimilated by any identity or personality, becomes for all practical purposes part of the assimilating personality.

The bearing of the above will become obvious when we return, as we will now do, to the question of personal identity. The only difficulty would seem to lie in our unfamiliarity with the real meanings which we attach to words in daily use. Hence, while recognising continuity without sudden break as the underlying principle of identity, we forget that this involves personal identity between all the beings who are in one chain of descent, the numbers of such beings, whether in succession, or contemporaneous, going for nothing at all. Thus we take two eggs, one male and one female, and hatch them; after some months the pair of fowls so hatched, having succeeded in putting a vast quantity of grain and worms into false positions, become full-grown, breed, and produce a dozen new eggs.

Two live fowls and a dozen eggs are the present phase of the personality of the two original eggs. They are also part of the present phase of the personality of all the worms and grain which the fowls have assimilated from their leaving the eggshell; but the personalities of these last do not count; they have lost their grain and worm memories, and are instinct with the memorises of the whole ancestry of the creature which has assimilated them.

We cannot, perhaps, strictly say that the two fowls and the dozen new eggs actually ARE the two original eggs; these two eggs are no longer in existence, and we see the two birds themselves which were hatched from them. A bird cannot be called an egg without an abuse of terms. Nevertheless, it is doubtful how far we should not say this, for it is only with a mental reserve--and with no greater mental reserve-- that we predicate absolute identity concerning any living being for two consecutive moments; and it is certainly as free from quibble to say to two fowls and a dozen eggs, "you are the two eggs I had on my kitchen shelf twelve months ago," as to say to a man, "you are the child whom I remember thirty years ago in your mother's arms." In either case we mean, "you have been continually putting other organisms into a false position, and then assimilating them, ever since I last saw you, while nothing has yet occurred to put YOU into such a false position as to have made you lose the memory of your antecedents."

It would seem perfectly fair, therefore, to say to any egg of the twelve, or to the two fowls and the whole twelve eggs together, "you were a couple of eggs twelve months ago; twelve months before that you were four eggs;" and so on, ad infinitum, the number neither of the ancestors nor of the descendants counting for anything, and continuity being the sole thing looked to. From daily observation we are familiar with the fact that identity does both unite with other identities, so that a single new identity is the result, and does also split itself up into several identities, so that the one becomes many. This is plain from the manner in which the male and female sexual elements unite to form a single ovum, which we observe to be instinct with the memories of both the individuals from which it has been derived; and there is the additional consideration, that each of the elements whose fusion goes to make up the impregnate ovum, is held by some to be itself composed of a fused mass of germs, which stand very much in the same relation to the spermatozoon and ovum, as the living cellular units of which we are composed do to ourselves-- that is to say, are living independent organisms, which probably have no conception of the existence of the spermatozoon nor of the ovum, more than the spermatozoon or ovum have of theirs.

This, at least, is what I gather from Mr. Darwin's provisional theory of Pangenesis; and, again, from one of the concluding sentences in his "Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation," where, asking the question why two sexes have been developed, he replies that the answer seems to lie "in the great good which is derived from the fusion of two somewhat differentiated individuals. With the exception," he continues, "or the lowest organisms this is possible only by means of the sexual elements--THESE CONSISTING OF CELLS SEPARATED FROM THE BODY" (i.e., separated from the bodies of each parent) "CONTAINING THE GERMS OF EVERY PART" (i.e., consisting of the seeds or germs from which each individual cell of the coming organism will be developed--these seeds or germs having been shed by each individual cell of the parent forms), "AND CAPABLE OF BEING FUSED COMPLETELY TOGETHER" (i.e., so at least I gather, capable of being fused completely, in the same way as the cells of our own bodies are fused, and thus, of forming a single living personality in the case of both the male and female element; which elements are themselves capable of a second fusion so as to form the impregnate ovum). This single impregnate ovum, then, is a single identity that has taken the place of and come up in the room of two distinct personalities, each of whose characteristics it, to a certain extent, partakes, and which consist, each one of them, of the fused germs of a vast mass of other personalities.

As regards the dispersion of one identity into many, this also is a matter of daily observation in the case of all female creatures that are with egg or young; the identity of the young with the female parent is in many respects so complete, as to need no enforcing, in spite of the entrance into the offspring of all the elements derived from the male parent, and of the gradual separation of the two identities, which becomes more and more complete, till in time it is hard to conceive that they can ever have been united.

Numbers, therefore, go for nothing; and, as far as identity or continued personality goes, it is as fair to say to the two fowls, above referred to, "you were four fowls twelve months ago," as it is to say to a dozen eggs, "you were two eggs twelve months ago." But here a difficulty meets us; for if we say, "you were two eggs twelve months ago," it follows that we mean, "you are now those two eggs;" just as when we say to a person, "you were such and such a boy twenty years ago," we mean, "you are now that boy, or all that represents him;" it would seem, then, that in like manner we should say to the two fowls, "you ARE the four fowls who between them laid the two eggs from which you sprung." But it may be that all these four fowls are still to be seen running about; we should be therefore saying, "you two fowls are really not yourselves only, but you are also the other four fowls into the bargain;" and this might be philosophically true, and might, perhaps, be considered so, but for the convenience of the law courts.

The difficulty would seem to arise from the fact that the eggs must disappear before fowls can be hatched from them, whereas, the hens so hatched may outlive the development of other hens, from the eggs which they in due course have laid. The original eggs being out of sight are out of mind, and it is without an effort that we acquiesce in the assertion,--that the dozen new eggs actually are the two original ones. But the original four fowls being still in sight, cannot be ignored, we only, therefore, see the new ones as growths from the original ones.

The strict rendering of the facts should be, "you are part of the present phase of the identity of such and such a past identity," i.e., either of the two eggs or the four fowls, as the case may be; this will put the eggs and the fowls, as it were, into the same box, and will meet both the philosophical and legal requirement of the case, only it is a little long.

So far then, as regards actual identity of personality; which, we find, will allow us to say, that eggs are part of the present phase of a certain past identity, whether of other eggs, or of fowls, or chickens, and in like, manner that chickens are part of the present phase of certain other chickens, or eggs, or fowls; in fact, that anything is part of the present phase of any past identity in the line of its ancestry. But as regards the actual memory of such identity (unconscious memory, but still clearly memory), we observe that the egg, as long as it is an egg, appears to have a very distinct recollection of having been an egg before, and the fowl of having been a fowl before, but that neither egg nor fowl appear to have any recollection of any other stage of their past existences, than the one corresponding to that in which they are themselves at the moment existing.

So we, at six or seven years old, have no recollection of ever having been infants, much less of having been embryos; but the manner in which we shed our teeth and make new ones, and the way in which we grow generally, making ourselves for the most part exceedingly like what we made ourselves, in the person of some one of our nearer ancestors, and not unfrequently repeating the very blunders which we made upon that occasion when we come to a corresponding age, proves most incontestably that we remember our past existences, though too utterly to be capable of introspection in the matter. So, when we grow wisdom teeth, at the age it may be of one or two and twenty, it is plain we remember our past existences at that age, however completely we may have forgotten the earlier stages of our present existence. It may be said that it is the jaw which remembers, and not we, but it seems hard to deny the jaw a right of citizenship in our personality; and in the case of a growing boy, every part of him seems to remember equally well, and if every part of him combined does not make HIM, there would seem but little use in continuing the argument further.

In like manner, a caterpillar appears not to remember having been an egg, either in its present or any past existence. It has no concern with eggs as soon as it is hatched, but it clearly remembers not only having been a caterpillar before, but also having turned itself into a chrysalis before; for when the time comes for it to do this, it is at no loss, as it would certainly be if the position was unfamiliar, but it immediately begins doing what it did when last it was in a like case, repeating the process as nearly as the environment will allow, taking every step in the same order as last time, and doing its work with that ease and perfection which we observe to belong to the force of habit, and to be utterly incompatible with any other supposition than that of long long practice.

Once having become a chrysalis, its memory of its caterpillarhood appears to leave it for good and all, not to return until it again assumes the shape of a caterpillar by process of descent. Its memory now overleaps all past modifications, and reverts to the time when it was last what it is now, and though it is probable that both caterpillar and chrysalis, on any given day of their existence in either of these forms, have some sort of dim power of recollecting what happened to them yesterday, or the day before; yet it is plain their main memory goes back to the corresponding day of their last existence in their present form, the chrysalis remembering what happened to it on such a day far more practically, though less consciously, than what happened to it yesterday; and naturally, for yesterday is but once, and its past existences have been legion. Hence, it prepares its wings in due time, doing each day what it did on the corresponding day of its last chrysalishood and at length becoming a moth; whereon its circumstances are so changed that it loses all sense of its identity as a chrysalis (as completely as we, for precisely the same reason, lose all sense of our identity with ourselves as infants), and remembers nothing but its past existences as a moth.

We observe this to hold throughout the animal and vegetable kingdoms. In any one phase of the existence of the lower animals, we observe that they remember the corresponding stage, and a little on either side of it, of all their past existences for a very great length of time. In their present existence they remember a little behind the present moment (remembering more and more the higher they advance in the scale of life), and being able to foresee about as much as they could foresee in their past existences, sometimes more and sometimes less. As with memory, so with prescience. The higher they advance in the scale of life the more prescient they are. It must, of course, be remembered, and will later on be more fully dwelt upon, that no offspring can remember anything which happens to its parents after it and its parents have parted company; and this is why there is, perhaps, more irregularity as regards our wisdom-teeth than about anything else that we grow; inasmuch as it must not uncommonly have happened in a long series of generations, that the offspring has been born before the parents have grown their wisdom-teeth, and thus there will be faults in the memory.

Is there, then, anything in memory, as we observe it in ourselves and others, under circumstances in which we shall agree in calling it memory pure and simple without ambiguity of terms--is there anything in memory which bars us from supposing it capable of overleaping a long time of abeyance, and thus of enabling each impregnate ovum, or each grain, to remember what it did when last in a like condition, and to go on remembering the corresponding period of its prior developments throughout the whole period of its present growth, though such memory has entirely failed as regards the interim between any two corresponding periods, and is not consciously recognised by the individual as being exercised at all?


Samuel Butler

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