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Lecture 20. Vis Medicatrix Naturæ.

§ 1. Biological Aspects of the Healing Power of Nature. § 2. Psychological Aspects of the Healing Power of Nature. § 3. Correspondence in Animate Nature to our Ideals of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good. § 4. Humanist Value of the Study of Animate Evolution. § 5. Scientific Description of Animate Nature Not Inconsistent with Religious Interpretation.

§ 1. Biological Aspects of the Healing Power of Nature.

IN many different ways Man has realised the healing power of Nature—vis medicatrix Naturœ—and all of them are instructive. One might refer, for instance, to the healing virtues in many natural substances, both animal and vegetable, some of which are extraordinarily quaint. It has been re-discovered in modern times that more than one snake carries in its gall-bladder a sure antidote to its own venom. Is not the old advice that the coward should eat of the heart of a lion, so that he might be brave, echoed in the modern treatment of a cretinoid child with the thyroid gland of a sheep? Is it not like a leaf out of an old book of magic to read that an enlightened use of pituitary extract enabled a successful examinee to add in a short time to his height the couple of inches that were required in order to secure a post for which he had proved himself otherwise eligible? It looks as if by taking sufficient thought one might be able to add a cubit to one's stature.

Interesting too is the reparatory power exhibited by many living creatures. One of the Big Trees or Sequoias which was a seedling in 271 B.C., suffered a burn three feet wide when it was 516 years old, and spent 105 years in folding its living tissues over the wound. When it was killed at the age of 2,171 years, a Methuselah among trees, it was engaged in healing a third great wound 18 feet wide and about 30 feet high. Vis medicatrix Naturœ.

A sponge can be cut up and planted out like a piece of potato-tuber; it may be minced and pressed through a cloth sieve without losing its power of regrowth. An earthworm thinks nothing of regrowing a new head or a new tail, or a snail its horn and the eye at the tip, even unto forty times. And this regenerative capacity is in the main adaptive in its distribution, for, as Lessona and Weismann have shown, it tends to occur in those animals and in those parts of animals which are in the natural conditions of their life peculiarly liable to non-fatal injury. Long-legged and lanky animals like crabs and starfishes usually show much of it; a self-contained globular animal like a sea-urchin shows little. The chameleon is one of the few lizards that does not regrow a lost tail, for, as it keeps it safely coiled around the branch, the regenerative capacity has fallen into abeyance.

Many other instances might be given of Nature's healing power:—the processes of rejuvenescence which in many organisms are continually at work in staving off senescence; the natural defences of organisms, such as the bodyguard of migratory phagocytes which deal with intruding microbes, and the mysterious intrinsic counter-actives or anti-bodies which deal with toxins; the immunity which some animals have to poisons, as the mongoose to snake-bite; the regulatory processes which sometimes occur when development or normal function is disturbed; the absence of disease and senility in wild life; the way in which some simple animals evade natural death altogether; the numberless arrangements for keeping the earth clean and sweet; the hygienic value of sunshine and fresh air.

These matters lie outside our proper theme, but they are well worthy of being recalled. Even when one is able to give a reasonable account of how they have come to be, they illustrate the balance and adaptiveness which is characteristic of Animate Nature. Only a system with order and progress in the heart of it could elaborate itself so perfectly and so intricately. There is assuredly much to incline us to “assert Eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to Men”.

§ 2. Psychological Aspects of the Healing Power of Nature.

Let us think, however, of the way in which Nature contributes to the hygiene and healing of our minds, so apt to be disturbed by the rush and racket of civilisation. There are deeply-rooted, old-established, far-reaching relations between Man and Nature which cannot be ignored without loss. Man was cradled and brought up in touch with Nature, and he must ever return to her, like the wandering birds whose life is never full until, moved by an organic homesickness, they come back to nest in the place where they were born. In a period of evolution which has been mainly urban, we miss our contact with the open country, which is, for many, a condition of full sanity, and makes for the steadying and enrichment of life.

Especially in youth is touch with Nature invaluable, for it remains true of the child who goes forth every day that “what he sees becomes part of him for a day, or for a year, or for stretching cycles of years”. It seems a pity that the modern child is often unfamiliar with the Scriptures; it is also to be deplored that he is often equally unfamiliar with the book of Nature.

Man needs to sojourn with Nature in order to get certain fundamental impressions without which he is impoverished,—the impressions from the starry sky, the pathless sea, the mountain-top, the dense forest, the apple-blossom, the anthill, the swallows flying south in autumn. Man cannot safely dispense with the fundamental impressions of power, of largeness, of pervading order, of omnipresent beauty, of universal flux, of intricacy, of growth, of the web of life, of adaptiveness, of evolution. Some minds weary of theories; let them by sympathetic observation hug the facts close, for thus also may deeper visions of reality be gained. Let them by observation draw water from what an expert naturalist has called “the bottomless well of surprises” (Chalmers Mitchell, Finite Life and Individuality, p. 60).

Another healing virtue in Nature is to be found in its perennial problem-setting interest. It arouses our attention; it intrigues the curious spirit; it leads us on and on like the tales of the Thousand and One Nights. As some one said, it is like a serial story. Its study is a brain-stretching exercise, and while it rewards the discoverer with both light and power, it subjects him to a discipline which engenders humility. For is not all our science rounded with mystery—mystery as to essences, mystery as to origins mystery as to mutations. What we are surest of is the fundamental mysteriousness of Nature.

§ 3. Correspondence in Animate Nature to our Ideals of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good.

There is a legitimate scientific sense in which it may be said that Man is not only a part, but a product of the system of things and creatures that we call Nature. We know, indeed, that the system in its subjective expression is of Man's making; we know also that Man was made by the system. This is a familiar riddle. Needless to say, however, the system cannot mean to us a mindless kaleidoscope, for by no jugglery can one evolve mind out of anything else. But keeping to the common-sense view that Man is of a piece with a real external Nature, though transcending it when he will, we are concerned to point out that Nature is not altogether so foreign to Man as is continually insinuated.

The highest values for Man are the True, the Beautiful, and the Good; and it is of interest that there are in Nature features which do in some degree correspond to these. For it is not far-fetched to recognise that there is a rationality in Nature which is there to be discovered or discerned, which is not simply imposed upon Nature by our formulation. In what sense can we speak of a rationality in Nature? We mean that the system of things is more or less intelligible and explicable that its relative uniformities can be trusted to, that when we get a grip of things we can make a coherent scientific system of them, which fits in with other parts of our intellectual systematisation. The formulation is sometimes premature and forced, but this is discovered in time, for Nature does not humour the inquirer. The Ptolemaic system in astronomy had to yield to the Copernican, that to the Keplerian, that to the Newtonian, and so on, but each advance meant getting nearer the truth, as we know by the increase in consistency on the one hand, and by the increase in the astronomer's power of prediction on the other. This would not be possible did not scientific formulation approximate towards a description of what actually happens.

That Nature is amenable to scientific formulation—discerned rather than imposed upon it—is admitted by all, but the interpretation is as difficult as the fact is obvious. It is a philosophical problem, but a scientific note may be permitted. To be asked how the marvellous fabric of science, one of the greatest human achievements, is to be explained in terms of evolutionary formulæ, is like being asked to account for the evolution of some very complex and relatively perfect structure like the human eye. Such questions have to be treated historically. Science and the eye must be looked at as the results of long processes of evolution, vastly older than Man. We trace the eye back to simple clusters of sensory cells, and we trace science back to simple practical lore, and further back still to pre-human capacities of learning. The acquisition and the expansion of the early lore had assuredly survival value; inborn curiosity has been from first to last a stimulus to inquiry; registration of gains in language and records, in instruments and permanent products, has made compound-interest advance possible. The result is not less admirable because its early stages were humble; but to ignore the early stages is to make the Ascent of Man magical.

But this does no more than give setting to the metaphysical problem. The strands of naturally-determined sequence have woven themselves into an intelligible pattern which science discerns; is it conceivable that they might have tied themselves into a knot baffling all disentanglement? And we must remember that almost all the discernment of the order of Nature has depended on seeing the stars in un-beclouded skies. Various attempts, such as Lachelier's (1871), have been made to explain the ‘correspondence’ between the intrinsic order of Nature and Man's capacity for deciphering it, but it seems doubtful if we get beyond some device which dissolves rather than solves the problem. It looks like a frontier-problem for Man's intellect.

But, leaving this puzzle, do we not find some quiet for our unrest in the progressive disclosure of the orderliness of Nature? Ours is no phantasmagoria of a world, but a Systema Naturæ We are parts of a reasonable world, which voices reason and listens to reason. Its process has worked persistently towards masterpieces, of which the climax is the reasonable soul. From the intrinsic order and intelligibility of Nature, which the rise of the magnificent scientific edifice proves, we may not be logically permitted to make a transcendent inference to an Omniscient Creator, but it is in that way the heart of Man points. Our belief is that the Logos is at the core of our system, implicit in the nebula, as now in the dew-drop. It slept for the most part through the evolution of plants and coral-like animals, whose dream-smiles are a joy for ever. It slept as the child sleeps before birth. It became more and more awake among higher animals,—feeling and knowing and willing. It became articulate in self-conscious Man,—and not least in his science.

Scientific re-constructions are not arbitrary projections, for they work. In this sense there is rationality in Nature. But if there is rationality in Nature, must we not go further? For, as Aliotta has put it, “He who believes in the objective value of his science must then also believe in God. If an absolute thought does not exist, Nature cannot be rational”. Descartes rested his belief in Science on his belief in God. In his Gifford Lectures Mr. Arthur Balfour rested the belief in God on a belief in science, for “God is himself the condition of scientific knowledge”.

To some it may seem far-fetched to find in Animate Nature a correspondence to Man's truth-seeking. But we would point out, (1) that knowing is on the way to truth, and the knowing creatures, that face the facts, survive; and (2) that truth-seeking expresses the natural activity of the healthy mind, and Nature is all for health.

But it is also part of the deepest life of Man to enjoy what is beautiful, and one of the glories of the universe is its beauty. There is no place where this voice is not heard unless Man has obtruded noisily. Æsthetic emotion thrills what is best and highest in us, and it also makes the protoplasmic stream sing as it flows. The correspondence is never disappointing; and those who ask most are best satisfied. Part of the sensory delight that we have in beautiful sights in Nature may be due to Man's familiarity with them for so many hundreds of thousands of years; but this will not explain the correspondence that there is between the beauty of Nature and the ever-changing requirements of what we may call the ‘spiritual eye’. In the contemplation of the supremely beautiful there is something of the satisfaction which religious feeling finds in music—a language expressing the inexpressible.

The system to which we belong is more or less intelligible, we can make good sense of it; it is beautiful through and through; but in what possible sense can it be said that there is in it anything corresponding to what we call good? If we patiently consider this question, two sets of facts present themselves. In the first place, Man began with strands of personality of pre-human origin, and some of these must have been very fine and others very coarse. We are apt to think oftener of the latter, for it is sometimes to our dismay and perplexity that they show themselves in the fabric of our life.

But do we think enough of the other side, that there must have gone to the making of Mankind some very fine pre-human materials—kin-sympathy, parental affection, the love of mates, some power of control and of endurance, some grit, and some gentleness. There are some springs of conduct in us that were flowing long before our race began, and while the water of some, is bitter, that of others is sweet.

The second consideration is that a study of the evolution-process discloses a multitude of cases in which the reward of success is given to types which are careful parents, devoted mates, friendly kinsfolk. There is abundance of elbowing and jostling, but many who have consulted Nature have turned away before she has finished speaking. We do not say that the extraordinarily laborious insect-mothers are ethical agents; that would be a confusion of thought; we say, however, that the objectively altruistic type succeeds. Nature stamps not only the beautiful, but the other-regarding with the only approval which is hers to bestow—success in surviving. And, unless they are uncommonly good hypocrites, many of Life's children behave as if they found living good.

Thus Nature speaks to our moral as well as to our intellectual ear. Singling and sifting never cease, but Nature has certainly another counsel besides whetting teeth and sharpening claws. The limitations and difficulties which enforce struggle and competition are often effectively transcended by increasing parental care and sociality. Nature is continually taking advantage of her children's capacity for self-forgetfulness. In many races of animals success has been the reward of subordinating individual interests to those of the species. As a matter of fact, an extraordinarily largo part of the energy of organisms is spent not on themselves, but for others. Nature, we think, stamps not only the beautiful but the good with her approval; and when we carefully consider the process of Natural Selection itself, do we not get from it a deep and ancient ethical message—that the individual must be content to subordinate himself to the species, even to lose himself in its progressive life? There is an ethical undertone.

§ 4. Humanist Value of the Study of Animate Evolution.

Nature's music does not cease on a merry chord, but perhaps it has a healing power. There is at all events, a tonic virtue in contemplating the evolutionary process of which mankind is an outcome. It is not a small thing, forsooth, that we are part and parcel of an Order of Nature which has evolved for millions of years like a long-drawn-out drama to finer and finer issues; that the process of evolution has in the main “the unity of an onward advancing melody”; that all through the ages, apart from blind alleys, life has been slowly creeping—and sometimes quickly leaping—upwards; that while there have been many mysterious losses even of branches from the great arbor vitæ, the flowers have become consistently finer. There was a time when there were no backboned animals; then fishes appeared, then amphibians, then reptiles, then birds and mammals, and then, after various tentatives, mankind—each age transcending its predecessor.

As we look back, then, on the world-becoming, we see that finer and finer actors have appeared from epoch to epoch on the crowded stage, and the situations have become more and more intricate. A great web has been passing for incomputable ages from the loom of time—hunger and love its warp and woof—but the pattern has become more and more subtle, and it sometimes seems as if it were picturing a story. Is there not meaning in the long-drawn-out but indubitably progressive evolution of the nervous system, in the increasing elaboration of behaviour, in the gradual emancipation of the psyche? The bird is more of an agent than the worm—more of a free agent; and the world has greater value to the bird than to the worm. Some simple creatures have only one answer to every question; but how complex is the life of the ant on the instinctive line of evolution, and of the dog on the intelligent line. Since the beginning of life there has been a growing appreciation and mastery of the world. Is it going to stop?

Perhaps no one has yet fully appreciated what may be called the principle of conservation in evolution. In a very literal sense, the higher animals are heirs of all the ages. Let us explain. Organisms have evolved by a trial-and-error method; they experiment organically, instinctively, and intelligently; above all, perhaps, in the mysterious antenatal life of the germ-cells they experiment in self-expression—just as water vapour does in snowflakes, but far more subtly. What are called variations and mutations in biological language are the organism's experiments in self-expression, and these are the raw materials of progress.

But, while the organism is ever making tentative suggestions and searching its environment with its tendrils, it, is also remarkably conservative. It proves all things, but the other side is, that it holds fast that which is good. Great gains once made are not held lightly. Species become extinct and races perish, but important organic inventions are carried on by some collateral lineage. It was probably some ribbon-worm that first manufactured hæmoglobin—the all-important, oxygen-capturing red pigment of the blood. Many backboneless animals of higher degree on different lines of evolution have not got it, but the invention was too good to lose; and every one knows that all backboned animals from fishes onwards have red blood. Or again, the most primitive and in a way most puzzling kind of locomotion is that of the amœba flowing along, or rolling along—like a microscopic ‘tank’—in the pond. Is it not a most suggestive fact that our health from day to day, and the development of our nervous system, are absolutely dependent on this self-same amœboid movement? Our white blood-corpuscles are amœboid cells; the outgrowth of nerve-fibres in development is in some measure due to amœboid movement How far this evolutionary conservation of values goes, who shall say? In any case there seems good reason for regarding evolution as essentially integrative. By this we mean that it makes for co-ordination, consistency, harmony in the continual self-realisation of multitudinous forms of being. Ugliness, evil, inconsistency are disintegrative lapses that perish; beauty, goodness, truth—even in little bits—are integrative qualities that last. In any case, the big fact is, that men, bent on making much of their life, have behind them an organic momentum which is in part in line with what the best in us regards as best.

Purpose and promise. When we consider the grandeur of the long-drawn-out Evolution process and the wonder of its masterpieces, and especially when we realise its general progressiveness and its conservation of great gains, two ideas rise in the mind—purpose and promise.

It is difficult to shut out the impression that Nature is Nature for a purpose. We do not think any longer of a ‘directive power’ outside of the evolving organisms, but of a directive power which is bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh,—a directive power analogous to that which we ourselves know when we command our course or send an arrow to its mark. What we must particularly take account of is the main trend in evolution, making persistently for the dominance of mentality and the establishment eventually of personality. Whether what we now experience be the goal or near the goal, it gives significance to the whole long journey. And if Man be the highest product of evolution, and if the central reality in our life is our clear purpose, may we not ask whether there is not also a purpose at the core of the world-process? Von Baer, the founder of embryology, remarks that the naturalist is not precluded from asking “whether the totality of details leads him to a general and final basis of intentional design”, and our foregoing discussions have led us to the conclusion that a scientific description of Nature is not inconsistent with a philosophical or religious interpretation in terms of purpose which manifests itself in the order of Nature, in keeping Nature in lasting remembrance. We must, however, recognise that just as Man's conceived purpose transcends the mammal's perceived purpose, as that in turn transcends the lower animal's ingrained or organised purposiveness, so, but much more, will the Divine Purpose transcend our highest thoughts of it. But we deem that if we err in using the word Purpose—the biggest word we have—we err less grievously than if we used no word at all.

Promise. For millions and millions of years there was throughout Nature no voice of life at all—nothing to break the silence but the thunder and the cataract, the waves on the shore, and the wind among the trees. The morning stars sang together and the little hills clapped their hands, but there was no voice of life at all. The long lasting silence was first broken by insects, but they never got beyond instrumental music. It is to the progressive Amphibians of the Carboniferous Age that we must look back with special gratefulness, for they were the first to get vocal cords, and, interestingly enough, a movable tongue. With them Animate Nature found a voice.

In a much deeper sense, however, we may say that for millions and millions of years Nature was speechless—never more than groaning and whispering, as it were. It was in Man that Nature became definitely articulate; that the inherent rationality was echoed. In poem and painting Man expresses his æsthetic appreciation and partial understanding of the system of which he forms a part; in his science he turns darkness into light; in the application of science he conquers and controls the world.

Every one recognises as a big fact of animate evolution the growing differentiation and integration (i.e., organization) of living creatures, but another side to it is the progressive external registration. There has been woven a web of life whose pattern has become more and more intricate, as for instance in the inter-relations between flowers and flower-visiting insects. This complexifying of inter-relations has been of great importance in evolution, for it is in reference to this external system that experiments are tested or even made, and that selection works. Thus, as it seems to us, the intensification of life has been in part secured and in part prompted by the growing complexity of the external Systema Nature. Thus living creatures contribute to the evolution of their kind not only directly by exhibiting variations and by personally testing these, but also indirectly by making new patterns in the web of life. If this be so, there is for Man the hint—the Open Secret—that progressive evolution depends not merely on the improvement of the natural inheritance, and on the intensification of the individual life, but also on the ennoblement of the external heritage—so much his own creation—the treasures of literature and art, the beautified region and city, the tradition of high ideals, and the multitudinous linkages—many in sad need of amelioration—in the framework of society itself.

In this mood we recall Emerson's famous passage: “So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. Nature is not fixed…Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. Build, therefore, your own world.

“When a faithful thinker, resolute to detach every object from personal relations, and see it in the light of thought shall, at the same time, kindle science with the fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the creation.”

“As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A corresponding revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit. So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine, spiders, snakes [of course these words are used metaphorically, not zoologically], madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish. They are temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature, the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale. As when the summer comes from the south, the snow-banks melt, and the face of the earth becomes green before it, so shall the advancing spirit create its ornaments along its path, and carry with it the beauty it visits, and the song which enchants it; it shall draw beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise discourse, and heroic acts, around its way until evil is no more seen. The Kingdom of man over nature, which cometh not with observation—a dominion such as now is beyond his dream of God—he shall enter without more wonder than the blind man feels who is gradually restored to perfect sight.”

Putting what we have said in a different way, we may speak of the three voices of Nature, meaning the impulses that come from the threefold—practical, emotional, and intellectual—relation between Man and Nature. These are the wordless voices referred to in the XIXth Psalm: “Day unto day is welling forth speech, and night unto night is breathing out knowledge; there is no speech, and there are no words; their voice has no audible sound; yet it resonates over all the earth.” The three voices are: Endeavour, Enjoy, Enquire. The first voice is Endeavour. What would our hereditary character be without Nature's millennial sifting of the insurgent, the adventurous, the controlled, the far-sighted, the strenuous? And the discipline is still binding. There is no doubt as to Nature's condemnation of the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin. One of the obvious lessons of evolution is the danger of having things made too easy!

The second voice is Enjoy. As we come to know Nature, we find that everything is wonderful. “You of any well that springs may unfold the heaven of things.” “It is enough if through Thy grace I've found naught common on Thy Earth. Take not that vision from my ken.” As we begin to feel more at home our wonder grows into what may almost be called affection. This is true of those who have what Meredith called “love exceeding a simple love of the things that glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck”. Science never destroys wonder or delight, but only shifts it higher or deeper. As Coleridge said, “All knowledge begins and ends with wonder, but the first “wonder is the child of ignorance, while the second is the parent of adoration.” We need to listen to this, second, voice which says Wonder, Enjoy, Revere. It was one whose life was far from being all roses who said:

To make this Earth our hermitage,

A cheerful and a changeful page

God's bright and intricate device

Of days and seasons doth suffice.

The third voice is Enquire: From the first Nature has been setting Man problems, leading him gradually on from the practical to the more abstract. Lafcadio Hearn tells us that in the house of any old Japanese family, the guest is likely to be shown some of the heirlooms. “A pretty little box, perhaps, will be set before you. Opening it you will see only a beautiful silk bag, closed with a silk running-cord decked with tiny tassels.…You open the bag and see within it another bag of a different quality of silk, but very fine. Open that, and lo! a third, which contains a fourth, which contains a fifth, which contains a sixth, which contains a seventh bag, which contains the strongest, roughest, hardest vessel of Chinese clay that you ever beheld; yet it is not only curious but precious; it may be more than a thousand years old.” Indeed it is more than clay, there is an idea in it.

Natural Science has to do with a similar process of unwrapping—it opens the beautiful box, it removes one silken envelope after another, trying at the same time to unravel the pattern and count the threads—and what is finally revealed is something very old and wonderful—the stuff out of which worlds have been spun—“a handful of dust which God enchants”. For we must see the scientific Common Denominator in the light of the philosophic Greatest Common Measure.

Varying the metaphor, one of the foremost investigators, Sir J. J. Thomson, writes: “As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, we do not see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them, still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasised by every advance in science, that ‘Great are the Works of the Lord.’”

These are the three voices of Nature. She joins hands with us; and says Struggle, Endeavour. She comes close to us, we hear her heart beating; she says Wonder, Enjoy, Revere. She whispers secrets to us, we cannot always catch her words; she says Search, Enquire. These three voices appeal to Hand and Heart and Head, to the trinity of our being. In listening to them we may be disciplined to hear even more august voices. Man's struggles for food and foot-hold have often helped him to much higher reaches of endeavour; to be thrilled with beauty may be a step to loving goodness; to try to find out scientifically what is true in Nature may be the beginning of waiting patiently upon the Lord. But our point is that to listen to the three voices of Nature is in itself worth while. It is a necessary and natural discipline of the developing human spirit.

We are familiar with the story of a rugged and very human Hebrew prophet, who after severe discipline climbed a mountain and heard the three voices of Nature. First, there was a great and strong wind,—a symbol of the practical voice, surely, which commands man to build his house upon a rock and to struggle against the storm, which teaches the sailor to trim his sails and the husbandman to prepare for the rain. Second, there was an earthquake,—a symbol of the emotional voice, surely, for is there anything so awful that stirs man and beast more deeply, that moves us down to the primeval bed-rock of human nature laid down in the time of the cave-dwellers. Third, there was the fire,—a symbol of the scientific voice, surely, for the fire of science burns up rubbish, melts out the gold, reduces things to a common denominator, and gives light to Man. Now it seemed to the prophet that God was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, and it seems strictly correct to say that listening to the three voices of Nature is not in itself religious. But it is a good thing to listen, and it may form a preparation for religion. It was so in the prophet's case, for after the echoes of the wind and the earthquake and the fire had died away, he heard a still, small voice—God's voice—a sound of gentle stillness, the Margin says—which spoke very incisively to him. It was a great experience to the prophet to have heard the three voices of Nature, but it meant more for him practically to hear the still small voice. And it may be that in obeying it he understood afterwards that God was in the other voices too.

So when we pass from the cold evening-light of science, which the schoolmen called cognitio vespertina, to the morning-light of religion, which they called cognitio matutina, we may be able to agree with Ruskin's fine words (engraved on the memorial at Keswick): “The Spirit of God is around you in the air that you breathe, His glory in the light that you see, and in the fruitfulness of the earth and the joy of its creatures He has written for you day by day His revelation, and He has granted you day by day your daily bread.”

§ 5. Scientific Description of Animate Nature not Inconsistent with Religious Interpretation.

We cannot reach any religious truth or conviction along scientific lines, but we have tried to show that a careful scientific description of Animate Nature is not inconsistent with a spiritual—i.e., religious or philosophical—interpretation.

Although some will not agree, we hold it to be historically true that just as there is a science that knows Nature, so there is a Religion that knows God; and throughout our studies we have not concealed our conviction that it is unprofitable to pit against one another these two distinct ways of working towards truth. For they are not antithetic but complementary. Perhaps it would be well if the devotees of Science were more aware of its limitations, perhaps it would be well if the religious who have the vision of God knew a little more about His works, but what must be sought after by both is a position from which haply there may be seen the unity of Huxley's science and Wordsworth's vision. The results of Science must, we think, be taken up as “harmonious elements in a system of truth wider than themselves; a system in whose wider light their ultimate significance for life and for the meaning of life would become manifest” (Blewett, 1907, p. 52).

We venture to hope that our study of Animate Nature may have shown it to be less dæmonic and more divine than many, from Aristotle onwards, have supposed; we should regret having spoken at all if our study has led any one to suppose that Animate Nature is not greater than our greatest thought of it. For the facts of the case from first to last are so wonderful that we venture to say that no general impression of Nature reached along scientific or any other lines can be even in the direction of being true that does not sound the note of joyous appreciation and of reverent wonder. As Walt Whitman said, “Prais'd be the fathomless Universe, for life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious.”

Or take part of William Watson's poem:

“Nay, what is Nature's

Self, but an endless

Strife towards music,

Euphony, rhyme?

Trees in their blooming,

Tides in their flowing,

Stars in their circling,

Tremble with song.

God on His throne is

Eldest of poets;

Unto His measures

Moveth the whole.”

But even that is not warm enough. We have missed the substance if the study of Animate Nature leaves us cold. Take rather this from Ralph Hodgson's Song of Honour:

“I heard the universal choir,

The Sons of Light, exalt their Sire

With universal song;

Earth's lowliest and loudest notes,

Her million times ten million throats,

Exalt him loud and long,

And lips and lungs and tongues of grace,

From every part and every place,

Within the shining of his face,

The universal throng.”

Let us listen to Goethe, at once scientific investigator and poet:

“Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her: powerless to separate ourselves from her…

We live in her midst and know her not. She is incessantly speaking to us, yet betrays not her secret…

She rejoices in illusion. Whoso destroys it in himself and others, him she punishes with the sternest tyranny. Whoso follows her in faith, him she takes as a child to her bosom.

She wraps man in darkness, and makes him for ever long for light. She creates him dependent upon the earth, dull and heavy; and yet is always shaking him until he attempts to soar above it…

I praise her and all her works.

She has brought me here and will also lead me away. I trust her. She may scold me, but she will not hate her work.

Every one sees her in his own fashion. She hides under a thousand names and phrases, and is always the same.

I praise her and all her works. She is silent and wise. I trust her.”

But we cannot worship Nature. We cannot be grateful to a system. We cannot find abiding human satisfaction in Nature's voices alone. Invigorating, inspiring, and instructive they certainly are, but they are full of perplexities, and it is with a sad wistfulness that we hear their echoes dying away in the quietness of our minds like the calls of curlews on the moor as they pass further into the mist. Happy, then, are those who have what Sir Thomas Browne called “a glimpse of incomprehensibles, and thoughts of things that thoughts but tenderly touch”. Shall we not seek to worship Him whom Nature increasingly reveals, from whom all comes and by whom all lives?