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Kngersoll Hectares on SmmortaUtg 

Immortality and the New Theodicy. By 
George A. Gordon. 1896. 

Human Immortality. Two supposed Objections 
to the Doctrine. By William James. 1897. 

Dionysos and Immortality: By Benjamin Ide 
Wheeler. 1898. 

The Conception of Immortality. By Josiah 
Royce. 1899. 

Life Everlasting. By John Fiske. 1900. 

Science and Immortality. By Wm. Osier. 1904. 

The Endless Life. By S. M. Crothers. 1005. 

Individuality and Immortality. By Wilhelm 
Ostwald. 1906. 

The Hope of Immortality. By C. F. Dole. 1907. 

Buddhism and Immortality. By William S. 
Bigelow. 1908. 

Is Immortality Desirable? By G. Lowes 
Dickinson. 1909. 

Egyptian Conceptions of Immortality. By 
George A. Reisner. 1911. 

Intimations of Immortality in the Sonnets 
of Shakespeare. By George H. Palmer. 1912. 

Metempsychosis. By George Foot Moore. 1914. 

Pagan Ideas of Immortality During the Early 
Roman Empire. By C. H. Moore. 1918. 

Living Again. By Charles Reynolds Brown. 1920. 

Immortality and Theism. ByW.W.Fenn. 1921. 

Immortality and the Modern Mind. By Kirsopp 
Lake. 1922. 

The Christian Faith and Eternal Life. By 
George E. Horr. 1923. 

The SenIiE of Immortality. By Philip Cabot. 
1924. | 

Immortality in Post-Kantian Idealism. By 
Edgar S. Brightman. 1925. 

The Immortality of Man. By G. Kruger. 1926. 

Spiritual Values and Eternal Life. By Harry 
Emerson Fosdick. 1927. 

The Meaning of Selfhood and Faith in Immor¬ 
tality. By Eugene William Lyman. 1928. 

Man’s Consciousness of Immortality. By W. 
Douglas Mackenzie. 1929. 

The Idea of Immortality and Western Civili¬ 
zation. By Robert A. Falconer. 1930. 

Immortality and the Present Mood. By Julius 
Seelye Bixler. 1931. 

The Chances of Surviving Death. By Wm. 
Pepperell Montague. 1932. 

Immortality and the Cosmic Process. By 
Shailer Mathews. 1933. 




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R. P. C. M. 


Extract from the will of Miss Caroline Haskell Ingersoll, who died in 
Keene, County of Cheshire, New Hampshire, Jan. 26,1883 

First . In carrying out the wishes of my late beloved 
father, George Goldthwait Ingersoll, as declared by him 
in his last will and testament, I give and bequeath to 
Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where my 
late father was graduated, and which he always held 
in love and honor, the sum of Five thousand dollars 
($5,000) as a fund for the establishment of a Lecture¬ 
ship on a plan somewhat similar to that of the Dudleian 
lecture, that is — one lecture to be delivered each year, 
on any convenient day between the last day of May and 
the first day of December, on this subject, “the Im¬ 
mortality of Man/’ said lecture not to form a part of 
the usual college course, nor to be delivered by any 
Professor or Tutor as part of his usual routine of in¬ 
struction, though any such Professor or Tutor may be 
appointed to such service. The choice of said lecturer 
is not to be limited to any one religious denomination, 
nor to any one profession, but may be that of either 
clergyman or layman, the appointment to take place at 
least six months before the delivery of said lecture. . . . 
The same lecture to be named and known as “the 
Ingersoll lecture on the Immortality of Man.” 



—-- — 




B ELIEF in the immortality of the 
I soul is probably less widely held 
today than at any time in history. 
Taken as a matter of course in primitive 
culture, cherished as an all-important 
article of faith by the great religions, and 
clung to as a vague hope by many who 
could not subscribe formally to any 
creed, the belief in survival has now been 
abandoned by a decisive majority of 
those who are often referred to as intel¬ 

When a hope of this kind is aban¬ 
doned there are always compensations 



to be discovered or concocted, for men do 
not willingly accept mere disillusionment 
and defeat. The usual tactic is to dis¬ 
parage the thing that we cannot get. 
Aesop’s fox was very human in charac¬ 
terizing the unattainable grapes as sour. 
And so today we hear frequent and fer¬ 
vent depreciations of the personal sur¬ 
vival of death. Is it not grotesque to 
think of John Doe, for example, with his 
nagging wife and squabbling children 
living on forever and ever? Such small 
significance as his life may have is bound 
up with its very local and temporal set¬ 
ting. It had better be “rounded by a 
sleep,” for to think of it as continuing 
without end is like imagining a rather 
poor chromo infinitely extended in space 
and not thereby improved. And even for 
ourselves the prospect of endless living 
may be envisaged not merely as a bore 
but as a nightmare from which there 
could be no waking nor any sort of sur- 


cease. Life, we are told, is like a play — 
it should have a beginning, a middle, and 
an end. Its best in the way of signifi¬ 
cance and poignancy is derived from its 

All this is well enough if it brings 
solace to those who have lost their zest 
for life as well as any hope of its possible 
continuance. But we should not allow 
ourselves to be frightened by caricature. 
And the notion of a continuing life as a 
kind of sleepless monotony or as like the 
condition of a man deprived of his eye¬ 
lids and exposed to the sun through end¬ 
less days is a caricature of life as we find 
it or can imagine it; for life’s grateful 
rhythms and cumulative hierarchies of 
successively more embracing purposes, 
with their alternations of novelty and 
familiar repetitions, are of life’s very es¬ 
sence and need no terminus to make 
them sweet. The nightmare of an eter¬ 
nity of unwinking monotony may serve 



as an antidote to the other nightmare of 
eternal annihilation; but to praise obliv¬ 
ion as the only alternative to intoler¬ 
able ennui is the mistake of a tired fancy. 

If we turn from the current deprecia¬ 
tions of immortality to the substitutes 
that are offered, we immediately enter a 
more cheerful domain. The conviction 
that the quality of a life rather than its 
quantity is what should count is one very 
good and ancient substitute, which, how¬ 
ever, is no substitute at all; for if a life is 
made, as it can be made, regardless of its 
. length, high and fine in quality, there is 
more rather than less reason for grief at 
its destruction. Again, the phrase “to 
live in hearts we leave below is not to 
die” may console us somewhat for the 
death of friends; and the prospect for 
ourselves of posthumous recognition may 
clothe our vanity with a kind of solemn 
pathos. But we must realize that poster¬ 
ity has a short and increasingly crowded 



memory, and that for most of us this 
pseudo-immortality is as fitful and haz¬ 
ardous as it is vicarious. 

Best of all the substitutes for personal 
survival is the survival of the causes 
which we espouse and to which our deeds 
and their consequences contribute. A 
sure road to happiness is that of the ex- 
travert who wisely hitches his little 
wagon to some star of his fancy and so 
makes his own the larger and more en¬ 
during life of his family, his country or 
religion, his guild or party, or even an 
uninstitutionalized and quite private 
movement for the achievement of ideals 
of truth or beauty or goodness which 
may appeal to him as of supreme im¬ 
portance. These causes usually outlast 
the individuals who serve them, and de¬ 
votion to them does more to rob death 
of its sting than anything else can do. 

But just here with this best of all sub¬ 
stitutes we must remind the happy ex- 



travert of a very grim and unescapable 
fact. The great causes of which we have 
been speaking are themselves all mortal 
— not almost certainly mortal as we 
are supposed to be, but quite certainly 
mortal. Art, science, industry, the tech¬ 
nical mastery of nature, and all the mon¬ 
uments of culture, — social institutions 
and organizations, past, present, and Uto¬ 
pian, —the human race itself and every 
form of earthly life, are doomed to perish. 
Not because of the reasons set forth in 
the learned and pompous analogies of 
Spengler, but because of the purely phys¬ 
ical contingencies which, given a suffi¬ 
cient length of time, are sure to get us. 
Geologists and astronomers may expand 
and contract the universe and may allow 
to our planet and the life it carries a dur¬ 
ation of a million, a billion, or a trillion 
years; but sooner or later there will be an 
end — the earth will bum or freeze or 
crash, and human life with all the causes 


approach the question indirectly and in- 
ferentially, by examining the nature of 
the mind and the nature of the body, 
and attempt as best I can to estimate 
the probability that the former continues 
to exist after the latter has ceased to 



The evidence for the view so widely 
prevalent in learned circles that the mind 
is an adjective of the body is enormously 
voluminous. It is, in fact, coextensive 
not only with human cerebral physiology 
and the associated phases of psychology, 
but also with a great deal of general bi¬ 
ology, both ontogenetic and phylogenetic. 
Fortunately for our inquiry, this evi¬ 
dence, in spite of its vast number of de¬ 
tails, is fairly homogeneous. It can all 
be epitomized as follows: 



The mind varies as the brain varies; and to 
the extent that the brain ceases to function 
the mind ceases to produce its characteristic 
effects; from which it may be inferred with 
overwhelming probability that the mind de¬ 
pends upon the brain as an adjective depends 
on its substantive, and that when at death the 
brain ceases to function, the mind will cease to 

This is the argument in general, and its 
constituent particular elements comprise 
all the particular observations and infer¬ 
ences that have been made as to the cor¬ 
relation of mental and neural events. 

There is a foolish thing that a person 
may be tempted to say at this juncture. 
Realizing that a conscious experience, a 
sensation, thought, or what not, is (as 
experienced by you who have it) utterly 
different in quality or appearance from 
the moving particles which an external 
observer might see or infer by examining 
your brain, you may be tempted to say 
that because feelings as such are quali- 



tatively distinct from brain processes, it 
follows that the two classes of appear¬ 
ances are numerically or substantively 
non-identical and that your mind is in¬ 
dependent of your brain. This seems to 
have been Descartes’ conviction when he 
said Cogito ergo sum, and believed that 
consciousness in revealing itself as an 
essence qualitatively different from the 
brain also revealed itself as a substance 
existentially different from the brain. “ I 
think, therefore I am”—Yes, but am 
how, and am what? All I know is that I 
exist as conscious at this moment, but 
whether I exist as a substantive, or as an 
adjective of something else, is not to be 
discovered by any direct experience. In 
short, to make the qualitative distinction 
between the appearance of a mental state 
and the appearance of a moving particle 
the basis for inferring their existential or 
substantive difference is like inferring 
that a square table and a red table can 



never be the same thing because square¬ 
ness is not the same as redness. The 
same fallacy is of course committed by 
those who try to prove that they are out 
of their heads by pointing triumphantly 
to the fact they don’t see the insides of 
their heads as such, with all the neurons 
and things that are really there and that 
they ought to see if they were there too. 
This seems to me merely amusing. What 
right have we to suppose that we can see 
ourselves as others see us? The probabil¬ 
ity that a thing would appear to itself or 
“ from within ” under the same form as it 
appears to another “from without” is 
very small; and to assume that body and 
mind are separable merely because they 
appear as different is quite unwarranted. 
The essential thesis of materialism is not 
to be refuted so easily as all that. 

And now that these misunderstand¬ 
ings of the meaning of mental events and 
brain events have been disposed of we 



may return to the main argument for the 
hypothesis of materialism and consider 
some of the outstanding examples of the 
way in which the mind varies with the 
functioning of the brain and thus seems 
to depend entirely upon it. 

There is in the first place the broad 
biological fact that the higher the mind 
(as judged behavioristically by the adap¬ 
tiveness and purposefulness of the per¬ 
formances of an individual) the higher or 
more elaborate and systematized is the 
brain (as explored by the physiologist). 
This holds phylogenetically when the 
brains of various species are correlated 
with their intelligence as exemplified in 
or inferred from their behavior. Man’s 
brain is more intricately developed than 
that of his nearest cousins, the apes, and 
far more developed than the brains of 
still lower animals. And man’s mind as 
judged by his achievements is corre¬ 
spondingly as much higher than that of 



the apes as theirs is higher than that of 
brutes with still simpler nervous systems. 
And ontogenetically there is the same 
sort of correlation; as the brain grows 
from infancy to adulthood the mental 
abilities grow also. 

When we turn from this general corre¬ 
lation of cerebral development with 
mental development in the species and 
in the individual to the more specific and 
controllable variations in a brain which 
result from lesions, either natural or ex¬ 
perimental, and from drugs or glandular 
secretions being added or subtracted, we 
find very definite and strikingly correla¬ 
tive changes in the mind. And in these 
more specific and physiological variations 
we can often supplement the indirect 
study of the mind through its body’s be¬ 
havior by the direct method of intro¬ 
spection; whereas in the more general 
and biological changes (except when 
we can compare in memory the mind 


of our early childhood with our mind 
today) we have to get at the mental 
changes entirely through observation of 

Everybody has experienced both in- 
trospectively and behavioristically the 
effect on his intelligence, his emotions, 
and his volitions of narcotics and stimu¬ 
lants, of exercise, of fatigue, or of dis¬ 
eases and their toxins. We can observe 
the rise of a child’s moods and mentality 
from cretinous idiocy to almost normal 
brightness, and its relapse into idiocy 
again, by first giving and then withhold¬ 
ing the extract of the thyroid gland. We 
can observe the progressive degenera¬ 
tion of a personality in intellect, senti¬ 
ment, and will through the ravages 
made in the brain by syphilis. We can 
observe the successive declines of intelli¬ 
gence in a dog or a cat as successive por¬ 
tions of its brain are removed. And we 
can observe quite analogous changes re- 



suiting in a human mind from analogous 
cerebral wounds. 

It is difficult in the face of countless 
facts like these to resist the conclusion of 
the materialist that mind is adjectival 
rather than substantive, and that be¬ 
cause it varies with the variations of the 
brain and its functionings it must de¬ 
pend entirely upon those physical struc¬ 
tures and processes. 

Is there indeed anything at all to be 
said against this conclusion unless new 
facts are found? There is, I think, one 
thing that may be said against the con¬ 
clusiveness of the argument as thus far 
stated. It is not a very strong defense, 
but it counts for something. 

Materialism has to reckon with the 
possibility, never to be completely re¬ 
moved, that the mind, which is discovered 
through introspection and through be¬ 
havior and which varies with the body’s 
changes, is a function not merely of that 



body but also of an immaterial entity or 
soul which, during life as we know it, 
must operate through the body and use 
it as its instrument in much the same 
way as a musician must use his instru¬ 
ment to make manifest the harmonies 
within him. If you take the instrument 
on which a musician (whom you cannot 
see) is playing, clean it, tune it, and 
increase its number of strings or stops, 
its music will become purer and more 
elaborate. If, on the other hand, you 
take the instrument and poison it with 
the injection of fluids that impede its 
vibrations, deprive it of the air against 
which it beats, or “vivisect” it by cut¬ 
ting out one after another of its essential 
parts — what then will happen? Obvi¬ 
ously the music will become imperfect, 
abnormal, discordant, harsh; as the proc¬ 
ess continues there will be an insane and 
even idiotic jumble of sounds; and, at 
last, will come silence and the mercy of 



death. Perhaps you would feel trium¬ 
phant and make conscientious claim to 
having proved that the music is a function 
of the instrument, an adjective of its mo¬ 
tion, dependent upon it, and upon it 
alone. And yet you would be wrong, for 
despite the impressive assemblage of con¬ 
comitant variations between the instru¬ 
ment and the music, that music was not 
“robot” music. The instrument did not 
play itself; it was played upon by an in¬ 
visible operator. 

Please do not sneer this off as “ just an 
argument from analogy.” Of course it is 
an argument from analogy. What else 
could it be? We can conclude from the 
known to the unknown by taking as our 
premises the relations that are given and 
extending them by the “rule of three” 
method of extrapolation to what is not 
given. When I see you weeping I attrib¬ 
ute to you an inner grief. I do not, to 
be sure, do this by any argument analog- 



ical or non-analogical; I do it spontane¬ 
ously as an act of “animal faith.” It is 
the “pathetic fallacy,” the instinctive 
ascription to the outside world of what 
is really our inner stuff, not only our 
feelings but our sensory forms and con¬ 
ceptual relations. All men, and animals, 
too, live by the pathetic fallacy. With¬ 
out committing it they could not carry 
on at all. But if, and when, I am asked 
to prove my spontaneous interpretation 
of your observable tears as indicative 
of inner grief, then I can only argue by 
analogy. A is to B as A' is to B'. As my 
own remembered weeping is to my own 
remembered grief, so is your observed 
weeping to your (by me unobservable 
and hence hypothetical) grief. When I 
put it this way I see that of course I may 
be mistaken in my conclusion despite 
the feeling of certainty due to my “ani¬ 
mal faith.” You may not be weeping 
from grief but from tear gas or onion 

3 ° 


juice or from a desire to deceive. This 
risk of error I must always take in in¬ 
ferring anything beyond the here-and- 
now appearance. 

Whether an analogy is good or bad 
depends on whether the resembling re¬ 
lations are essential and causal, or trivial 
and casual. Now with regard to the 
analogy between a possible but unknown 
soul in its relation to the body and its 
consciousness, on the one hand, and a 
musician (invisible to the observer) in his 
relation to his instrument and its music 
on the other hand — I do not claim that 
it is convincing or even very good. I 
claim only that it is pedagogically clari¬ 
fying and sufficiently plausible to give us 
pause and make us realize that the con¬ 
comitant variation of one thing with 
another does not prove the adjectival 
dependence of the one thing on the other. 

But in spite of our analogy and all 
that may be said for it, the materialist 



theory is still very strong, because of 
the prior rights enjoyed by the more nearly 
known over the less nearly known in all 
sound methodology. That there may be 
a soul is possible, but until it is shown 
on other grounds to be not merely pos¬ 
sible but also probable, the physiological 
scientist and the materialistic philos¬ 
opher have the right and even the duty 
to disregard the dualistic hypothesis. 
The burden of proof is on the dualist 
to transform an empty and sterile possi¬ 
bility into a possibility that shall at least 
be probable, even if not fruitful. 

How can this transformation be 
effected? In only one way — by examin¬ 
ing the nature of the mind as we know it 
and of the brain as we know it and dem¬ 
onstrating that the latter is not the 
kind of thing that could with any plausi¬ 
bility serve as the sole ground for the 
former, and that its inadequacy is such 
that something other than the body must 



be postulated as operating upon or co¬ 
operating with the body. Of such evi¬ 
dence there is a goodly quantity, and it 
constitutes the positive as distinct from 
the merely negative argument for the 
existence of a soul. Let us now proceed 
to examine it. 



i. The Distinctive Aspects of Mind. 
There are a number of curious properties 
possessed by mental states and processes 
which are so different from the proper¬ 
ties of bodies, or at least from those of 
inorganic or non-living bodies, that there 
is difficulty in imagining how they can be 
mere aspects of a mechanistic aggregate. 

All of these properties are character¬ 
ized by a self-transcendence or reference 
to what is other than themselves. There 
are four kinds of self-transcending refer¬ 
ence — prospective, retrospective, spa- 


tial, and logical. Let us consider them in 

Prospective self-transcendence is the 
characteristic of a process in which some¬ 
thing not yet existent appears to act as 
a causal determiner of the train of events 
that leads up to it. Processes determined 
in this way are called purposive or teleo¬ 
logical. And the goal of such a process, 
whether it is actually attained or only 
approached, is called its purpose or telos. 

When a purposive process is experi¬ 
enced from within we are conscious of 
the purpose or telos as a present idea of a 
possible future situation. Our attitude 
towards it is one of desire or interest; we 
make efforts to actualize it and charac¬ 
terize it as a good or a value, and what¬ 
ever seems to contribute to its attain¬ 
ment shares this quality of value in a 
secondary or instrumental fashion. Cor¬ 
respondingly, whatever opposes or hin¬ 
ders our striving has the character of a 



bad or negative value. When such a proc¬ 
ess is accelerated we have the feeling of 
pleasantness, when it is retarded that of 

These purposive activities, so familiar 
in our own subjective experience, are not 
lacking in objective or externally observ¬ 
able characteristics that make them 
more or less easy to identify. Such ob¬ 
jective characteristics are, however, not 
positive as in subjective experience, but 
negative. They result from the fact that 
an externally observable process is not 
adequately determined by externally ob¬ 
servable causes. Two perfectly similar 
inanimate bodies or the same inanimate 
body on two successive occasions, when 
put in the same environmental situation 
will behave in the same way. And as the 
environment becomes specifically differ¬ 
ent the behavior of the bodies will be¬ 
come specifically different. There is, in 
short, what Professor Jennings calls Ex- 



perimental Determinism. For every ob¬ 
servable episode or element in the conse¬ 
quent there can be found an observable 
episode or element in the antecedent. 
Now in a purposive process such as we 
fin d subjectively to characterize mind, 
the situation is quite different. Two ex¬ 
ternally similar beings placed in similar 
environments may behave differently; 
and conversely, when placed in different 
environments they may behave in the 
same way. The result is that there ap¬ 
pears to be no complete Experimental 
Determinism, i. e. no one-to-one corre¬ 
spondence between the externally ob¬ 
servable phenomena of purposive conduct 
and the externally observable phenom¬ 
ena of the environment in which that 
conduct takes place. When we wish to 
emphasize the absence of external deter¬ 
mination we speak of the being’s freedom-, 
when we wish to put the emphasis on 
the presence of internal causes we speak 



of the being’s teleology or purposiveness. 
Whether we take the internal and sub¬ 
jective standpoint or the standpoint of 
an external observer, mind or a being 
endowed with mind exhibits in its be¬ 
havior a curious self-transcending refer¬ 
ence to the future situations in which 
that behavior will eventuate. 

As mental processes are determined 
by, and extend forward toward, the not 
yet existent events of the future, so do 
they also extend backward to the no 
longer existent events of the past. When 
this present inclusion of the past is con¬ 
tinuous with the sensory experience of 
the present moment, it is called “dura¬ 
tion,” when discontinuous, “memory.” 
Bergson has with great clearness and 
originality analyzed this characteristic of 
conscious life. In a mind the past is not 
lost as in the world of physical motions, 
but preserved. It is not displaced by the 
present, but coexists with it, with the re- 



suit that the mind is made up of a cumu¬ 
lative and growing system of memories 
intensively superimposed upon one an¬ 
other; and in addition to a three-dimen¬ 
sional space reference, it possesses a 
fourth or purely temporal dimension, 
not merely as a futuristic potentiality 
of purposive behavior but as an actually 
achieved and present body of past 

In addition to its temporal dimension 
the mind in most of its sensory states has 
a self-transcending reference to spatially 
distant objects. We perceive and visu¬ 
ally imagine such objects by means of 
inner cerebral states. We are tempted to 
say, and we can say, that each being with 
a mind carries about inside his skull a 
sort of copy or map of the extra-organic 
world. But having said this we must im¬ 
mediately add that the map thus carried 
is no ordinary map whose puny dimen¬ 
sions can be perceived alongside of the 



large domain of which it is the copy. The 
mental map that is here and now reveals 
a world of objects that are there and 
then , not by being just a copy of them 
but by functioning as a dynamically and 
causally effective substitute for them. 
The mental map itself is never seen as 
such; through it and by means of it the 
world is seen. This is due to the fact that 
our mental states do not in general act in 
their own right and produce effects char¬ 
acteristic of their intrinsic sensory na¬ 
ture. Their behavior is governed not by 
what they are but by what they mean. 
They are comparable to marionettes 
whose capers are only to be understood 
and explained by the agents who pull 
them about by strings. In the hurly- 
burly of perceiving, remembering, and 
acting we cannot realize this, for we are 
conscious only of the objects meant and 
not of the sensory states that mean or 
reveal them. 



It is only in the fourth kind of self- 
transcending reference, which is exempli¬ 
fied in abstract reflection, that we can be 
conscious not only of the meaning but 
also of the symbol that carries it. When 
we write “a + b = b + a,” we are aware 
of the letters as well as of their meanings. 
The mind is, as we have said, imprisoned 
in the skull, but the skull is so comfort¬ 
able a prison that the prisoner is hardly 
aware of his plight. By means of the sen¬ 
sory effects which he receives and pre¬ 
serves, he gets a free view of the world 
outside. It is as though the walls of his 
prison were transparent. He does not see 
them; nor does he see the effects pro¬ 
duced upon him, just because he sees by 
means of them, and so through them. 
The effects within mean or “reveal” 
their actual or possible external causes. 
To be conscious of the world without, is 
to have that world vicariously within 
you. From this standpoint the mind 



might be defined as a condition for the 
vicarious or virtual presence of events 
which actually are distant from it in 
space and in time. If you looked into the 
man’s brain you would not see what the 
man saw. You could at best see only the 
events by which he saw. In this sense 
each field of consciousness is private. 

And now that we have examined the 
mind and found it to involve as its essen¬ 
tial character the curious function of self- 
transcending reference to what is not it¬ 
self, let us turn to an examination of the 
brain with a view to discovering whether 
its nature is such as to enable it to have 
the mind as its adjective. 

2. The Distinctive Aspects of the Brain. 
Even to the untutored eye, the brain is a 
slippery and complicated object with 
strange convolutions on the outside and 
queer caverns within. It has its exits and 
entrances which give it dual connections 
with practically every part of the body; 



and through the whole of it run innumer¬ 
able pathways, which keep its various 
regions and centers even more closely 
and intricately connected with one an¬ 
other than they are with the sense or¬ 
gans, muscles, and glands of the body. 
Supplement this bird’s-eye view of the 
layman with the carefully directed mi¬ 
croscopic views of anatomists and histol¬ 
ogists, and with physiological discoveries 
such as those of Sherrington, Pavlow, 
and Cannon—crucially and pitifully cor¬ 
roborated by the testimony of numberless 
dogs and cats — and the brain assumes 
momentous proportions. Its millions 
of interconnected neuronic elements are 
organized in hierarchies of sensori-motor 
arcs, and the more or less well marked 
levels of these hierarchies correspond 
most instructively to the successive 
levels of cerebral development displayed 
by the species in their evolutionary 
ascent. Here, as elsewhere, phylogeny 



is recapitulated and confirmed by on¬ 

Confronted with such knowledge one 
is overwhelmed. The brain, with its affil¬ 
iated ramifications throughout the body, 
is so vast in its complexities, so marvellous 
in its internal and external articulations, 
that the proper attitude towards it would 
seem to be one of prayerful admiration 
and humble trust — a kind of religious 
faith that since it can do so much it can 
do everything, and that in the further 
and as yet undiscovered details of its 
mighty organization lie hidden the whole 
secret of human personality and the 
entire and sufficient cause of mind and 

Is there any way of getting closer to 
the object of our worship, closer even 
than the physiologist can get? Yes, there 
is the way of the chemist. Viewed 
through the eyes of the chemist the cere¬ 
bral landscape undergoes a rather curi- 



ous change. In place of organized hier¬ 
archies involving the whole organism or 
large tracts of it, we get multitudes of 
narrowly localized chemical reactions. 
The atoms in the complex organic mole¬ 
cules are continually dissolving their as¬ 
sociations and forming new ones. But 
the divorce and remarriage of atoms 
which the chemist studies is a piecemeal 
affair. Naturally it must be observed col¬ 
lectively and in the mass because of the 
minuteness of the parties to the transac¬ 
tion. But the relations inferred from the 
observation are in the main dyadic rela¬ 
tions, the tete-a-tete intercourse of one 
molecule with another. Of course, there 
are the catalyzers, and there are several 
other indications that chemical reactions 
are not purely dyadic. But the factor of 
Gestalt, the influence of the structural 
pattern of the whole upon the parts, is al¬ 
most gone. For the chemist, the nervous 
system and the rest of the body is a vast 



conglomerate of comparatively inde¬ 
pendent and separate processes, in per¬ 
petual interaction with one another, to 
be sure, but lacking the benefit of any 
presiding genius or controlling organic 
structure. For such a thing there is no 
chemical formula. This new and more 
intimate view of the organism brings 
with it a new mystery — the mystery of 
the regulation and self-regulation of a 
living system, the whole amazing con¬ 
spiracy of the various chemical sub¬ 
stances and activities to play into each 
other’s hands and with exquisite cooper¬ 
ation maintain the balance of the organ¬ 
ism and its life. 

Is there any further way in which we 
can get even closer than the chemist to 
the intimate and ultimate structure of 
the brain? Yes, there is the way of phys¬ 
ics. Taking this further way we now 
pass beyond the conglomerate of organic 
molecules and their chemical reactions, 



and see the brain dissolving before our 
conceptual eyes into a swarm of atom- 
systems, comprising as to type some 
dozen or so of the 92 known kinds. Each 
of these atoms, or atom-systems, is com¬ 
posed of a nucleus and outlying planets. 
The nucleus consists of electric parti¬ 
cles or units of positive charge packed 
closely together with a lesser number 
of particles or units of negative charge; 
the planets or outlying fringe are en¬ 
tirely of negative charge and (apart 
from ionization) are just sufficient in 
number to balance the deficit of negative 
charge in the nucleus. This, or something 
like it, is the atom. We may leave its 
further details to the experts in quantum 
physics. For us it is sufficient to view the 
brain as a swarm of quintillions of tiny 
particles, pushing and pulling each other 
about and continuously moving with in¬ 
credible velocities in all directions. This 
is the physicist’s picture of the brain. It 



is like that of the chemist only more so. 
And it is vastly different from the pic¬ 
tures made by biologist and physiologist. 

Where in this picture can we find 
the Gestalt, the ground for the self¬ 
regulating and self-perpetuating unity of 
pattern that does so surely pervade the 
nervous system as a whole? And where 
indeed can we find in these scudding 
clouds of spatially separate particles, 
with their motions governed by the 
beautifully simple laws of attraction and 
repulsion, any basis or ground for ex¬ 
plaining the thing called mind — the 
hidden thing, stored with rich and cu¬ 
mulative memories of events that no 
longer exist, and capable of purposeful 
actions successfully directed to what 
does not yet exist? Surely in the light 
of this more intimate “close-up” of 
the brain the chance of reducing the 
mind to a bodily adjective seems rather 
remote. And the counter-hypothesis of 



the mind as substantive in its own right, 
a veritable soul has passed from the 
status of a bare and sterile possibility to 
one of respectable, if not overwhelming, 



“Confound you! Get out of my way 
and let me on with my work!” Such 
might well be the words of a physiologist 
who by some chance had been tricked 
into listening to arguments of the kind 
that I have offered. Even if they cannot 
be answered (and I don’t see how they 
can be, though of course they may be) 
they will be regarded, and more or less 
justifiably regarded, as mischievous. For 
the game of mechanistic science is to ex¬ 
plain wholes in terms of their parts and 



to find a natural or physical cause for 
every natural or physical effect. It is a 
great game, and it has been won many 
times even when the odds against win¬ 
ning seemed quite overwhelming. The 
fruits of the materialistic victory consti¬ 
tute the whole of the material portion of 
modern civilization and culture. Clear 
mathematical understanding, miracu¬ 
lously reliable prediction, precise experi¬ 
mental verification, make possible the 
application of natural laws to human 
uses and give us mastery over nature. 
This is what materialistic science has 
brought us, and we should hesitate long 
before forsaking its methods. Suppose 
you do have to admit the impossibility 
of explaining the mind in material terms. 
Suppose further that you are compelled 
to admit the existence of some non¬ 
natural or supernatural factor such as 
a soul that, depending upon the body 
for its birth and activity, is nevertheless 



separable from it, and so capable of sur¬ 
viving it. Well if you can’t rid yourself 
of such beliefs, do at least try to forget 
them. At any rate, don’t bring them 
into the laboratory where people are 
busy working. Keep them for church 
or for the metaphysician’s palace of 
dreams. To try to use such hypotheses 
in a scientific inquiry would be pure sa¬ 
botage. If when your colleagues failed to 
find a natural cause for a natural event 
you as a vitalist, animist, or dualist ran 
tattling to the parson claiming a triumph 
for God or the soul, you would be de¬ 
servedly unpopular. If natural processes 
are directed by unnatural or super¬ 
natural agencies which can in no way 
be affiliated with working concepts tried 
and true that provide means for their 
own correction and supplementation, 
then the postulate of such ungermane 
agencies may be true and may be neces¬ 
sary, but it will be a sterile truth; and 



the materialistic theory will continue to 
be used because even though a falsehood 
it is at least a falsehood that is fruitful. 

The outcome of our discussion up to 
this point seems to me to amount to just 
this: the soul exists, a substantive mind, 
whose positive characteristics, being 
what they are, prevent it from being 
explained as an adjective or dependent 
function of the brain. But the brain and 
the material world generally, being what 
they are, can be put into no intelligible, 
profitable, or verifiable relation to these 
souls except the brute factual relation of 

The whole psycho-physical argument 
between vitalist and mechanist thus 
seems to end in a stalemate. 





Let us consider whether the mind as 
we have described it in terms of Mem¬ 
ory, Meaning, and Purpose is not, after 
all, more homogeneous with the physical 
world than it appeared to be in our 
previous account of it. When we looked 
for mind in the reflex-arcs of physiology, 
in the reactions of chemistry, and in 
the whirling atoms of physics, we failed 
to find it or any conceivably adequate 
ground for it. The mind did not seem 
to belong anywhere in the system, 
though obviously it was somehow there 
and functioning in and through the neu¬ 
rons and their constituent molecules and 
atoms. There is however something else 
in the physical world besides the ma¬ 
terial particles and their motions. There 
is that which is between them. This me- 


5 2 

dium has a continuity and unity about 
it which aggregates of particles do not 
have. There are no non-spatial gaps 
between spaces, and space cannot be 
broken into separable pieces in the way 
matter can. It used to be customary to 
speak of a medium called ether that was 
coextensive with space and that par¬ 
took of its unity and continuity. This 
ether was the medium, the subject or 
bearer of light waves and of the other 
forms of radiant energy that go from 
atom to atom and from star to star. It 
was also the bearer of the stresses and 
strains which are present between two 
particles when they are attracted or re¬ 
pelled by what was called force. Einstein 
has shown us how to substitute for the 
mechanical forces in ordinary or Euclid¬ 
ean space a purely geometrical though 
non-Euclidean conception of spatial 
regions of varying curvature. As Des¬ 
cartes succeeded in translating geometry 


into algebra, so Einstein and Minkowski 
have translated mechanics into a new 
geometry in which space and time be¬ 
come the blended and inter-dependent 
dimensions of a single four-dimensional 
continuum called “space-time.” Now, 
the old-fashioned ether was in some ways 
analogous to an elastic jelly. When a 
jelly is forced to undergo a temporary 
distortion from which it will recover we 
can say that there is a mere “strain ” in 
the jelly. A distortion that is so strong 
that it will be permanent and never re¬ 
covered from is called a “set.” These 
older conceptions can, I think, be trans¬ 
lated into the language of Relativity. 
The distortion of the ether jelly becomes 
a non-Euclidean warp or bend or wrinkle 
in space-time or in th e field. If the warp 
is temporary and due to flatten out when 
the particles that determine it move 
away it is a “strain.” Correspondingly 
the set in the ether jelly when translated 



into Einsteinian terms would become a 
permanent non-Euclidean warp or bend 
in the field, one that would not flatten 
out, or not completely flatten out, when 
the material factors by which it had been 
initiated went their several ways. 

Any distortion of space-time, any 
field, whether temporary or permanent, 
acts as a regulating or organizing agency, 
a kind of Gestalt with reference to the 
things in it. A very simple and very 
pretty case is that of the magnet placed 
under a sheet of paper on which iron fil¬ 
ings are then sprinkled. At first the fil¬ 
ings push each other about a little, as 
they would if there were no magnetic 
field and they were quite “on their own,” 
a wholly plural and mechanistic aggre¬ 
gate. Almost immediately however there 
supervenes on this disorderly mob whose 
blind action is simply the sum and result¬ 
ant of the actions of its parts, the regu¬ 
lating organizing form of the magnetic 


field. The filings cease to be an aggregate 
of individuals acting only with reference 
to one another and begin to dispose 
themselves obediently along the lines of 
force which, quite invisible in them¬ 
selves, are now bodied forth to the 
wonder and delight of the spectator. 
Suppose that after the magnet was 
taken away you were to toss up those 
same filings and let them fall on the 
paper. Their arrangement would be dis¬ 
orderly and insignificant. Put them in 
a dice box, shake it, and cast again. 
The same insignificant result. Do this 
a billion times and the chances will be 
more than a quadrillion to one against 
your getting a repetition of the pattern 
which had spontaneously formed itself 
when the magnet was under the paper. 
Now if a poor simple little field-pattern, 
such as that caused by a magnet, with 
only a thousand or so of iron particles 
needed to incarnate it in a form visible to 



the observer, could not come about by 
the blind mechanical actions of the parti¬ 
cles on one another unless by a miracle of 
luck, what would be the chance that the 
quintillions of atoms in a living body, 
if unaided by any Gestalt or active form, 
such as a field, could organize themselves 
into single cells, chains of cells, reflex- 
arcs, and systems of such arcs — in short 
into an organism or the nervous system 
of an organism? Any such chance would 
be so near zero as to be negligible. This 
means what? It means that the life of the 
body cannot possibly be grounded merely 
in its constituent particles, but must be 
grounded in a field or something like a 
field that pervades those particles. 

I wish now to turn from the kind of 
field typified by the magnet to a second 
sort of field, one which exhibits not or¬ 
ganization in space but organization in 
time, a capacity to preserve many past 
moments in a single present moment. 



Take a rope — bend it, twist it, fold it 
over on itself again and then again. Hold 
it for a while with its intensive hierarchy 
of successively superimposed strains 
locked in it. Then let it loose and watch 
it give back to the outside world with 
more or less accuracy the series of suc¬ 
cessive motions that have been succes¬ 
sively imposed upon it. Suppose now 
that you had a field of strain that com¬ 
bined the spatially organizing capacity 
of the magnetic field with the temporally 
organizing capacity exemplified in the 
rope for receiving and retaining in an 
intensive hierarchy the impulses, or at 
least the traces of the impulses, received 
from without. You would then have a 
system which, though it is described in 
physical terms, would greatly resemble 
the general character of the mind as it is 
revealed, both directly to introspection 
and indirectly through behavior. 

It is, however, one thing to resemble 



the mind and another thing to be the 
mind; and we may well ask for some 
specific evidence for the hypothesis that 
I am going to propose; the hypothesis, 
namely, that the mind is a very compli¬ 
cated and special kind of physical field. 

The mind is an organism within an 
organism. It is attached to the brain and 
pervades it, and if it is a field, it is not 
one whose primary function is the direct 
forming of material structures such as the 
patterns of iron filings or even the pat¬ 
terns of particles composing a single cell 
or an entire organism. Its stuff is the 
stuff of memory, the accumulated traces 
of sensations; and such field-like activity 
as it may possess seems concerned (1) 
with imposing patterns of self-transcend¬ 
ing meaning upon the sensory contents, 
and (2) with imposing patterns of pur¬ 
poseful action upon the intercourse be¬ 
tween the body and the environment. 

A current of kinetic energy comes over 



a sensory nerve to the brain and is re¬ 
directed outward to a muscle or gland. 
Whenever kinetic energy is reversed or 
in any way changed in direction, the 
whole or a part of it is transformed into 
potential energy. Kinetic energy is al¬ 
ways externally observable; potential 
energy is private and not to be observed 
from without. It is a form of stress and 
strain in the ether, or a non-Euclidean 
warp of space-time, whichever you may 
please to call it. In any case it is a 
specific pattern or modification of the 
field — not of the moving cerebral par¬ 
ticles but of the continuous and unified 
region between those particles and per¬ 
vading them. 

Now, as nearly as we can tell, the oc¬ 
currence of sensations is reported by the 
subject, who is the internal observer, at 
the very moments when the external ob¬ 
server of his brain would report that the 
kinetic energies of visible motion were 



changing into merely potential energy 
and thus passing from the public view. 
Sensations are essentially private events, 
and potential energies are also essen¬ 
tially private. They occur at the same 
time and in the same place, and I think 
the probability is overwhelming that 
they are two names for the same thing. 
What the physicist, interested in exter¬ 
nally observable events, describes as mere 
potentialities of motion, the man whose 
brain is undergoing the process describes 
as actual sensations. From this latter 
viewpoint motion could be just as well 
described as a potentiality of sensation. 
You walk in order that you may rest; or 
perhaps you rest in order that you may 
walk. Each is the potentiality of the 
other, but each is also actual in itself. If 
you are more interested in walking you 
describe a rest as mere potential walking, 
and perhaps you think of it as nothing in 
itself. But if it is the rests you are inter- 


ested in, then walking will be only poten¬ 
tial resting. It was the physicist with his 
interest in externally observable motion 
who got the first chance to give names to 
these energies; and naturally he called 
the private kind, which he didn’t care 
about (because he couldn’t see it and 
measure it) “potential” energy. Now 
there are three ways and only three in 
which this potential energy can be con¬ 
ceived: (i) as an invisible form of kinetic 
energy or motion of the small particles 
composing the body; (2) as a mere pos¬ 
sibility and nothing actual at all; (3) as a 
kind of actuality different from motion 
but into which motion can be trans¬ 
formed and from which motion can 

The first conception is excluded by the 
fact that when a visible body such as 
a tennis ball is thrown against a wall 
and its motion reversed or in any way 
changed in direction, not only the body 



itself but some or all of its particles must 
themselves undergo change of direction; 
and then their small invisible energies 
must pass through a latent or non-kinetic 
phase during which they will have the 
potentiality rather than the actuality of 
motion; and that which we had sought 
to explain away would still be with us. 
For this reason potential energy as such 
is something unique and irreducible. It 
cannot possibly be interpreted as re¬ 
sembling heat or light in being a motion 
of the electrons, atoms, or molecules of 
the visible body whose energy had been 
changed from the observable to the un¬ 
observable form. 

As for the second conception, accord¬ 
ing to which potential energy is inter¬ 
preted as a mere possibility having in it¬ 
self nothing of actuality at all, it would 
seem to be excluded by the consideration 
that if a definite and measurable magni¬ 
tude such as the motion of a tennis ball 


or the wave-like disturbance in a nerve 
fibre were genuinely annihilated and 
passed into nothingness, it would be in¬ 
finitely improbable that there should 
emerge from the blankness of nonentity, 
quite unscathed by obliteration, the pre¬ 
cise amount (except for the loss due to 
friction) of the motion that had gone 
into it. 

There remains the third way of inter¬ 
preting potential energy. This is to con¬ 
ceive of it as having an actual nature 
of its own, but a nature quite different 
from that of the motions that precede it 
and succeed it. This new type of actual¬ 
ity would have to be conceived merely in 
negative terms as just a sort of antithesis 
to motion if it were not for the fact of 
sensation. Externally observable things 
are not the only kind of observable 
things. There are also the quite private 
or internally observable things that we 
call mental states. It is fortunate that 



we have access to these internally observ¬ 
able facts, and doubly fortunate that 
they seem to occur at just those times 
when the externally observable motions 
in the nerve fibres disappear from any 
possible view. They make this disappear¬ 
ance when the motion of the stimulus 
coming in over the afferent nerve fibre is 
being redirected at the cerebral synapses 
into an outgoing motion of reaction along 
the efferent nerve. At the time and to 
the extent that the neural motion disap¬ 
pears and becomes potential the sensa¬ 
tion appears and gains in intensity, and 
at the time and to the extent that the 
motion reappears and becomes actual 
the sensation fades down and itself be¬ 
comes potential — potentially revivable 
in later conscious memory. 

It is because of this coincidence in time 
and place of the genesis of potential 
energy with the genesis of sensation that 
the identity of the one with the other is 


probable. And as we have said, that 
probability is enhanced by the fact that 
there seems to be nothing else for the 
energy to become when it ceases to be 
kinetic or actual except the sensations 
that there and then make their appear¬ 

And yet despite the fact that mental 
states and potential energy are the only 
two cases of purely private and not ex¬ 
ternally observable realities that we 
know of, and despite the further fact of 
their miraculous concurrence in time and 
place, there may still remain a reluctance 
to regard them as identical. 

Throughout the long evolution of 
modern physical science the categories of 
Mass, Length, and Time have proved 
increasingly potent instruments with 
which to describe and predict the proc¬ 
esses of nature. And along with the in¬ 
creasing adequacy of the externalistic 
concepts of physics there has developed 



an increasing dislike for the internal 
realities of minds and their states, which 
just don’t seem to belong in the orderly 
quantitative society of material terms 
and relations. And because there ap¬ 
pears to be no proper place for them in 
the world of causes and effects they have 
been banished from that world and rele¬ 
gated to an alien realm called “conscious¬ 
ness,” where, deprived of all efficacy, 
they are permitted to tag along as the 
shadowy and epiphenomenal concomi¬ 
tants of the brains that bear them. 

My hypothesis would seem to go 
counter to this whole trend of modern 
materialistic science, because it would 
put our minds back into the causal nexus 
and restore them to the real world from 
which they have been expelled. Souls, as 
William James reminded us, have worn 
out their welcome. And by the term 
“soul” is meant the mind conceived not 
as an epiphenomenal adjective of the 


brain but as an entity in its own right, a 
causal agent in the physical world. Now 
in pleading that souls be recalled from 
their exile and given a new trial, I urge 
that new evidence has been discovered, 
evidence which if it had been adduced at 
their previous trial might have altered 
the verdict. If a soul or substantive 
mind were, as it is generally supposed to 
be, a sort of “thing in itself” with laws of 
its own quite incommensurable and un¬ 
connected with the laws of material 
bodies, then there might be small justi¬ 
fication for taking it back. But if the 
soul and its states can be reconceived 
as forms of energy related physically 
and quantitatively to the atoms and 
their motions, the situation is pro¬ 
foundly altered. To aid in this recon¬ 
ception I suggest that we return for a 
moment to the comparison of material 
with mental existence. 

Matter and motion are each of them 



both spatial and temporal; but in each of 
them it is the spatial factor which is dom¬ 
inant. Matter is extended, and while it 
exists in time the mode of its temporal 
existence is to be the same from moment 
to moment. Motion, while more obvi¬ 
ously temporal than matter as such, is 
like the latter in that it is a moment- 
to-moment affair. The body or wave 
in motion is in a continuous series of 
places in a continuous series of instants. 
Matter, whether at rest or in motion, 
never occupies more than one instant at 
a time. It binds together and unifies 
points of space by its extension, but it 
has no such power to unify diverse mo¬ 
ments of time. We might think that this 
was entirely due to the nature of time 
and was in no sense the body’s fault or 
limitation, were it not for the different 
sort of temporal existence which minds 
and their sensations exhibit. For with 
the latter, although the spatial aspect of 


their existence is vague and sketchy at 
best, their time-filling power is promi¬ 
nent and notably different from that of 
bodies. Instead of existing just from mo¬ 
ment to moment they endure or extend 
down into the past, binding the series of 
instants into a unity analogous to the 
unity into which a material body binds 
the points of space through which it ex¬ 
tends. Anything that can be called 
mental, from the humblest sensation to 
the most far-flung system of concepts 
and plans, possesses this capacity for re¬ 
taining the past as present in the present. 
The elaboration and elucidation of this 
characteristic of duree by Henri Bergson 
is, it seems to me, the greatest achieve¬ 
ment of modern philosophy. Because of 
this predominance of time in all that is 
psychical we might be justified in using 
the compound word time-space as the 
appropriate name for the milieu of the 
mental, for the same reason that the 



word space-time suitably describes the 
continuum of the material world. 

Now when kinetic energy or motion is 
checked and redirected and thus trans¬ 
formed into the invisible thing called 
potential energy, is there any indication 
of a space-time mode of existence pass¬ 
ing into a mode of time-space? I think 
we shall find that there is. A motion pro¬ 
ceeding, let us say, along a nerve as some 
form of wave possesses a velocity % at 
the instant when it arrives at a synapse 
where the resistance brings it to rest. 
The front segment of the wave is the 
first to be changed into a stress or strain 
of the type, perhaps, of an electric 
charge; then in successive moments the 
successive segments of the wave from 
front to rear are each in turn similarly 
transformed. There is thus a summation 
or integration of a series of spatially ex¬ 
tended motions, one behind the other, 
into a series of stresses successively su- 


perimposed each upon the other. In the 
intensive hierarchy of these stresses the 
time factor is preserved in the order in 
which they are piled up, but the spatial 
factor is all but lost; the phases of stress 
are not extensively spread out in a line 
as were the phases of the motion; rather 
are they intensively heaped up all in 
the same place. And while the spaces 
covered successively by the motion have 
been replaced by the single space, the 
time aspect of the situation has under¬ 
gone a still more significant alteration. 
For what was essentially succession has 
now become essentially duration. The 
series of motions came one after the 
other, and one had to go before the other 
could come. But in the series of strains, 
though the temporal order is preserved, 
the earlier members of the series wait 
for the later and continue to exist with 
them, thus enabling the past to survive 
and along with it the present. The new 



kind of being thus brought into existence 
waxes and swells by virtue of its dura¬ 
tion. Instead of giving up one space in 
order to attain another, like a body in 
motion, the intensive energy into which 
extensive energy has been transformed 
can acquire newer and later characteris¬ 
tics while still retaining all of its older 
and earlier ones. With things in space- 
time the beginning of anything marks 
the ceasing of something else and all 
happenings die when they are bom. 
Mere continuance without change is the 
best that can be had. But in time-space 
this is not the case. Beginnings of the 
new need not be purchased by cessations 
of the old; and change and continuance 
are compatible with one another. 

Perhaps this is enough to indicate my 
reasons for maintaining the hypothesis 
that energy in changing from its spatio- 
temporal or kinetic phase into its tem- 
poro-spatial or so-called potential phase 



is changing into the very type of dura¬ 
tional being which is the defining essence 
of the psychical. If the potential energies 
produced by nerve currents are in truth 
sensations, and if the mind is the inten¬ 
sive hierarchy of these sensations and of 
the traces or mnemic forms which they 
leave when their energy fades back into 
the motions of bodily reactions, then the 
conscious and subconscious self as thus 
conceived may claim its ancient place in 
space and time, as cause and guide of 
life’s behavior. For this new soul, unlike 
the old, will be interpretable in physical 
and quantitative terms, however difficult 
the application in detail may prove. 
Such a soul would no longer be an alien 
intruder in the system of natural proc¬ 
esses; but like the electric and magnetic 
fields to which it is akin, it could give and 
take the energies of its environment. 

And now, in the light of our hypothe¬ 
sis, suppose we contemplate again the 



chance that human minds or any other 
sort of fields of energy in potential form 
could possibly maintain unchanged their 
unities of structure and so survive the 
death or dissipation of their body. 



Fields of the sort we have been discuss¬ 
ing can be of many kinds. And there 
are at least four different grades or levels 
which we must take account of. For 
want of better names I shall call them 
(i) the mechanical or inorganic; (2) the 
vital or vegetative; (3) the animal or 
sensory; and (4) the personal or rational. 
Examining these in turn, we shall try to 
form some notion, however vague and 
tentative, of what the survival of each 



grade of field would mean and what 
would be the probability of that survival. 

i. Mechanical Fields. In the domain 
of inorganic matter transitory fields of 
potential energy are constantly being 
formed from motions that are reversed or 
changed in direction. But the fields thus 
formed fade back into motions without 
leaving any traces of their temporary 
existence. And even with such perma¬ 
nent or relatively permanent fields as 
the gravitational, the electrostatic, and 
the magnetic, there seems to be no case in 
which the field of force is not completely 
dependent upon the bodies and elements 
that support it. While the fields exist 
they do indeed produce their specific 
effects, imposing a quasi-organic form 
and structure upon the material ele¬ 
ments that share their space, as witness 
the influence of the field surrounding a 
magnet upon the metallic filings that are 
made to conform to its lines of force. But 



these effects of the field, howsoever 
specific they may be, are entirely de¬ 
pendent upon the configuration of 
bodies. As that configuration is changed 
or destroyed the field is changed or de¬ 
stroyed. It is possible even in this me¬ 
chanical domain that every episode 
leaves some trace upon the ether or 
space-time continuum, and that these 
traces continue to exist as differentiated 
elements in a sort of cosmic memory that 
grows in depth or age with the passage of 
time. But not only are such traces, if 
they exist, unobservable in themselves 
and lacking in any observable conse¬ 
quences; they would seem also to be 
without any significant meaning apart 
from the momentary material configu¬ 
rations which, after determining them, 
pass completely away and are replaced 
by other configurations. 

There is of course a chance that the 
“shift to the red” of the light from the 



distant nebulae is due not entirely, or 
perhaps not at all, to a motion away from 
us and from one another which is usually 
attributed to the “expansion of the uni¬ 
verse.” That shift to the red with the 
loss of energy that it involves may be due 
to the fact that each electro-magnetic vi¬ 
bration or light-wave leaves a tiny frac¬ 
tion of its energy at the space in which it 
occurs. After a wave had travelled a 
thousand years or more the aggregate of 
these depletions might be sufficiently 
great to produce an observable effect in 
the form of a shift to the red. And if this 
were true, the farther away the source of 
light was from us the greater would be 
the sum total of the losses by absorption 
which its energy had undergone. Such a 
hypothesis would fit the empirical facts 
as well as does the generally accepted hy¬ 
pothesis of a velocity of recession increas¬ 
ing with the distance of the source from 
the observer. In short, the chance for 



“immortality” of even the slightest and 
most transitory of events cannot be com¬ 
pletely excluded, though its significance 
would seem to relate to the cosmos as a 
whole to whose “memory” the traces 
would contribute, rather than to the in¬ 
dividual traces themselves. 

2. Vital Fields. With the first dawn of 
protoplasm a new type of field emerges, 
a field which grows by what it feeds upon 
and which extends itself by propagation. 
The peculiar colloidal compound in 
which carbon atoms seem to play the 
major role affords the opportunity for 
fields of force to duplicate themselves 
without loss of intensity. The daughter 
cells are as vigorous as the parent cells 
from which they came. Any field or pat¬ 
tern of forces will duplicate itself by in¬ 
duction if suitable material is provided 
in the immediate environment. An elec¬ 
trostatic or magnetic field can for ex¬ 
ample impress its specific pattern upon 



its neighborhood if that neighborhood 
contains “food” in the sense of matter 
that can be electrified or magnetized. 
But the intensity of these induced fields 
perpetually decreases. No mere me¬ 
chanical field possesses the power to an- 
abolize or assimilate the energies of the 
environment and so increase its strength 
and grow. In virtue of this factor of an¬ 
abolism the protoplasmic fields of force 
can by induction duplicate their patterns 
without limit and without diminution in 
the strength of each. Thus once started 
they will tend to cover all the earth. And 
as they grow in number they grow also in 
complexity. For when the daughter cells 
instead of parting company remain to 
form a cluster, something of the pattern 
of that cluster as a whole is by induction 
stamped upon each later cell together 
with the pattern of its parent. All the 
new cells are thus seeds containing com¬ 
plex fields, which not only generate their 



single daughter cells but regenerate the 
structure of the whole from which they 
came. This growth and deepening of 
complexity in metazoic cells involves an 
increase of temporal depth, an ever- 
lengthening series of past forms em¬ 
bodied in the present. Such retention by 
a single cell of all its past ancestral types 
is what we call heredity; and in ontogeny 
we see proceeding from the seed a visible 
series of phylogenetic forms which in the 
germinal stage were all invisibly con¬ 
tained within the field and in intensive 
hierarchy superposed on one another. 

In spite of all the richness of potential¬ 
ity in which these vital fields exceed the 
fields of inorganic matter, they fatally 
resemble the latter in that their powers 
are all directed to the forming of material 
structures and to the motions of those 
structures and their parts. Hence to the 
question of their possibility of survival 
we can only answer as before. If any 


trace of merely vital fields continues in 
existence after the dissolution of the 
bodies which they formed, the signifi¬ 
cance, if any, of such protoplasmic 
wraiths would lie not in themselves, but 
in their contribution to the meaning of a 
larger whole, a cosmic memory in which 
they were contained. 

3. Sensory Fields. Minds, or at least 
minds as we know them, are, as we have 
already said, organisms within organ¬ 
isms. In the course of evolution there 
comes a time when the fields of potential 
energy built up within their protoplasm 
appear to express themselves not merely 
in directing the motions of the matter 
adjacent to them nor even in the forming 
of that adjacent matter into bodily struc¬ 
tures such as the organisms of plants and 
animals, but in adjustments to events in 
time or space not adjacent to them but 
distant from them. “Action at a dis¬ 
tance” is the characteristic of this new 



type of field which differentiates the con¬ 
scious animal from the plant. Energies 
from distant objects impinge upon the 
organism and a special portion of its pro¬ 
toplasm receives these energies, and in 
addition to reflecting them back to the 
environment in what we call reactions 
retains their traces in potential form. 
These stored up forms of potential en¬ 
ergy derived from neural stimuli give 
the animal a map or chart of things out¬ 
side him, and by this map he can react to 
what is here-and-now in virtue of its re¬ 
lation to what is there-and-then. Thus 
to the energies of sunlight and of air and 
food which he anabolizes to build his 
body, he adds a set of energies which 
provide adjustment to what lies far out¬ 
side his body. This inner mirror of a past 
and future is the mind. Interpretation of 
the here-and-now in terms of what is 
there-and-then requires hesitation. Re¬ 
actions are no longer immediate but 


postponed; and during the period of 
postponement, the tendencies, deprived 
of normal efferent outlets, react on one 
another and form new qualities. What 
are these qualities? 

The “ quality ” or aspect of a thing is its 
plane of contact with some other thing. 
It is a dyadic relation in which two things 
are related directly rather than indirectly 
through some third thing. Relations are 
only recognized as such when they are at 
least triadic; and when no third thing 
mediates the relationship and mitigates 
its intimacy it appears as just an “attri¬ 
bute” or “quality.” That qualities are 
dyadic orcontactual relations can be seen 
most easily in what are called primary 
qualities — such properties as spatial 
shapes and temporal beginnings and 
endings. Things merely in space have 
merely space relations; and in contrast to 
a triadic relation like distance the surface 
of contact of a body with its environment 



is its shape. Though obviously relational 
it is thought of as the private attribute or 
predicate or quality “inhering” as an ad¬ 
jective or accident in the body as its sub¬ 
stantive or substance. Analogously the 
beginning and ending of a process are its 
dyadic contact relations with the tem¬ 
porally other things that are respectively 
immediately before and immediately 
after it. 

Now in addition to these spatial and 
temporal relations which when dyadic 
yield the primary qualities, there are 
spatio-temporal and temporo-spatial re¬ 
lations which I am inclined to believe 
are never experienced except as dyadic. 
These are the contacts or boundaries be¬ 
tween energy in its potential and energy 
in its kinetic form. They are on that 
psycho-physical frontier where body and 
stimulus end, and mind and sensation 
begin. The tactual qualities and those of 
color, tone, odor, and savor are such 


entities. They are called “secondary” 
qualities because they seem to play no 
part in determining the processes of in¬ 
organic nature, the latter being explica¬ 
ble in terms of those purely spatial or 
purely temporal properties which are 
called primary. Because of their ineffi¬ 
cacy, the secondary qualities are usually 
regarded as “subjective” and as having 
no existence in physical nature at all. I 
think, however, that they are as objec¬ 
tive as they seem, though epiphenomenal 
or ineffective. 

As soon as energy passes from a pre¬ 
dominantly kinetic to a predominantly 
potential phase a new set of qualities 
emerges. These new qualities, sometimes 
called “tertiary,” are the purely internal 
relations of the phases of the psychic 
field to one another. They are such 
things as pleasantness and unpleasant¬ 
ness, anger, curiosity, and tenderness, 
and the indefinitely rich totality of those 



forms both simple and complex that are 
felt to be essentially and exclusively 
mental. Now some of these tertiary 
qualities are present in every animal, 
that is to say in any form of life in which 
there exists a field of potential energies 
other than those purely vegetative tend¬ 
encies that are exclusively concerned 
with the building up of bodily structures. 
The question as to whether an animal mind 
will die with its body is the question as to 
whether a system of energy-forms consist¬ 
ing of tertiary or non-quantitative qualities 
can translate its full nature into the purely 
quantitative energies of the decaying nerv¬ 
ous system. To me it seems difficult to 
conceive that even such humble qualities 
as pleasure and fear could find their 
equivalents in the motions of atoms and 
molecules. Yet unless the mind or mem¬ 
ory system of an animal, which is the 
field built up in his brain during life, can 
be flattened out and adequately ex- 


pressed in the mere motions ensuing 
upon his death, it must endure as an in¬ 
effaceable trace of what it was. Such 
ghosts of purely sensory or sub-rational 
minds, if indeed they do persist, would 
seem to possess no intrinsic significance, 
and to have no function except as items 
in some larger whole. For though the 
soul of an animal is not directly a mere 
builder of organs and tissues, and thus 
differs from the soul of a plant, it does 
seem indirectly to be concerned almost 
exclusively with preserving its body and 
the other bodies of its species. Apart 
from the bodily life to which it minis¬ 
ters, albeit only indirectly, it would 
seem to have no way of functioning or 
of expressing the kind of potentialities 
of which it is constituted. 

4. Rational Fields. With the dawn 
of man a new level of life is achieved. 
The traces of the past stored up in mem¬ 
ory attain sufficient strength to function 



in and for themselves, rather than as 
mere guides to bodily conduct. Instead 
of the past and the future and the im¬ 
agined being utilized only for present 
action, present action is utilized for them 
and their enjoyment. Instead of mind as 
organ of the body, body becomes an 
organ of the mind, and the whole ma¬ 
terial set-up is, or may be, treated as the 
means and the occasion for personal and 
cultural ends. Fancy, freed from the 
fetters of present bodily needs, presents 
us with a world of waking dreams, with 
promises that far outrun performance 
and make us humble and ashamed at 
what we are when thought of in the 
light of what we might be. The human 
mind thus constitutes a field of forms in 
which there is the possibility continually 
present, however seldom used, of build¬ 
ing an interpersonal community, in 
which the duties are to help others 
and ourselves to live more richly, and 


to grow indefinitely in every sort of 

Nor is this all, for there are intima¬ 
tions (and some would say far more than 
intimations) of a chance of union with a 
higher or the highest life. If we could 
share in that, our own lives, finite at their 
best, might be transfigured and gain a 
new and different prospect of continu¬ 

I have tried to show (1) that the 
phenomena of life and mind are not sus¬ 
ceptible of a mere mechanical interpre¬ 
tation; (2) that the factor that must be 
admitted to supplement the atoms and 
their motions, though psychical in na¬ 
ture and possessed of memory, organic- 
ity, and purposiveness, is yet itself de- 
scribable in physical terms as a field of 
forces or potential energies; (3) that 
these fields or systems of the traces of the 
past are of four successively emergent 
types or grades: the inorganic, the vege- 



tative, the animal, and the personal; and 
(4) that in the evolutionary ascent from 
the lower and earlier to the later and 
higher fields, the constituent forms of 
energy seem to become more and more 
different in quality from the matter and 
motion of their bodily matrices, and 
therefore more and more likely to survive 
the dissolution of those matrices. 

There are one or two things I should 
like to say in conclusion. 

The differences in complexity and 
power of the four kinds of field must not 
blind us either to the possibility that all 
types survive, or to the counter-possibil¬ 
ity that none of them do. This latter 
alternative should be kept rather sternly 
in mind as an offset to the wish-thinking 
that the subject of immortality tempts 
many of us to indulge in. And it should 
also be remembered for the more objec¬ 
tive reason that fields of potentiality are 
never observed — at least in normal ex- 



perience — apart from material bodies. 
This lapse from the observable may not 
mean a lapse from existence, but it un¬ 
doubtedly puts the burden of proof upon 
those who would defend the hypothesis 
of survival. 

As for the opposite possibility that all 
fields of potentiality, the humblest as 
well as the highest, continue in existence 
after their disappearance from our view, 
this also should be kept in mind as an off¬ 
set to that human conceit which makes 
us prone to read into nature distinctions 
in value which may be valid only for our 
own species. 

To us it does seem a great moment in 
evolution when fields of potentiality at¬ 
tain through protoplasm the power not 
only to induce or reproduce their own 
patterns in neighboring matter (mag¬ 
netic, electric, and other inorganic fields 
can do as much as that), but to induce 
those replicas with no diminution of in- 



tensity; so that life once started ramifies 
and spreads over the planet, conserving 
the cumulative heritage of its increasing 
past, and by that heritage evolving new 
forms for its future. These new forms, 
added to the old which still continue, 
make the phylogeny of life no less in¬ 
creasingly diversified than its ontogeny. 

Despite all this, and great as the step 
from inorganic to organic fields may 
seem, there is the chance that the inter¬ 
nal natures of the so-called dead matter 
of the world may be as rich as that of 
the more individuated and self-asser¬ 
tive fields of protoplasm. What we call 
“life” maybe no more than one specific 
form of something more generic but 
quite as purposeful and psychic as 
itself. And, as Josiah Royce with deep 
wisdom has suggested, the seeming 
blindness of pre-protoplasmic doings 
may be no more than the result of our 
blindness to rhythms so different from 


our own that we cannot detect their 

The second moment of life’s evolution 
comes when protoplasm takes to mirror¬ 
ing the distant and remembering the past 
and thus builds up within a nervous sys¬ 
tem a private history of its own adven¬ 
tures by which reactions to the here 
and now are modified and guided. The 
sensory consciousness and intelligent 
conduct that come to supervene upon 
the merely vegetative seem certainly to 
be a definite advance. 

Yet here again we must beware lest 
our own animalistic bias should make us 
underestimate the possible richness of 
the inner being of plants themselves and 
of the plant-like aspect of all organisms. 

The third great moment comes, and 
man emerges from the merely animal 
stage and gains a figurative freedom from 
the whole material world, which then 
becomes a footstool for his spirit and 



a means for realizing his ideals. This 
step is more momentous than either of 
the two preceding steps — yet even here 
we must beware of over-estimation. 

The personal or rational stage of evo¬ 
lution brings with it not only increased 
opportunities for life’s enrichment but 
increased responsibility for using them. 
The principle of noblesse oblige applies to 
man’s status as compared with that of 
the animal. And as between the human 
being who fails to use his great occasion 
and the brute who does rise to his small 
occasion, the award for superiority in 
essential value must go to the latter. The 
love of a dog for his master, surmount¬ 
ing the sad barriers of species and of 
rank that separate the two, has in it an 
absolute and poignant beauty that ex¬ 
ceeds the value of any far-flung human 
plan in which the quality of love, or some 
equivalent or coordinate ideal, is lacking. 
And there would be more point in the 



continuance through eternity of the poor 
brute being who, despite the limitations 
of his mental span of comprehension, 
could go through pain and death for 
loyalty than there would be in the 
eternal continuance of the cleverest 
human rogue who ever lived. These 
ethical comparisons of animal and hu¬ 
man values may not be so irrelevant 
to the hard world of fact as they might 
seem. For if we translate the idealistic 
language of evaluation which we have 
just been using into the physical or ma¬ 
terialistic language in terms of which our 
main discussion has been conducted, we 
can say that there well may be a chance 
that the moral qualities of a psychic field 
would be less easily reduced to mere 
material motions than would the intel¬ 
lectual, and therefore more likely to sur¬ 

In short, the simple goodness which 
animals and men can both acquire 



(rather than the rationality which man 
alone inherits) may be the main deter¬ 
miner of whether life continues after 
death; or at least of whether such con¬ 
tinuance would hold that promise of un¬ 
ending progress lacking which eternity 
would pall. 

This last consideration concerns an 
aspect of the problem of survival which 
we have hardly more than touched. Not 
only do the chances of continuance vary 
with the varying kinds of life we find on 
earth, but the forms that such continu¬ 
ance may take are also various, though 
for the envisaging of such futures our 
present knowledge is of little help. 





There are at least three prospects for 
eternity that appear as possible alterna¬ 
tives to annihilation. 

The first and lowest of these prospects 
is mere continuance in existence of the 
memory-system. To the great law that 
energy is conserved in quantity we might 
add the law that all the qualities of 
energy when once achieved within a field 
are conserved also. But this for us means 
hardly more than everlasting sleep. Just 
as a body can be embalmed or frozen in 
some glacier and thus endure and not 
decay, so would our memories endure 
exactly as they were at death, congealed 
within the greater memory of the uni¬ 
verse itself whose past would go on with 
it, but as its past, and so unchanged. 

The second prospect is that life con- 



tinues not merely in existence as some¬ 
thing that has been, but really awake 
and quick as now it is, and with that 
power of ever further growth that seems 
all but definitive of life’s essence. 

The third and highest prospect for 
eternity is that personal life, at least, not 
only goes on growing but wins to some 
strange mystic union with that greater 
Life in which it has its little being. Pre¬ 
cious and indispensable for value as per¬ 
sonality appears, there is about it some¬ 
thing tragically wanting; and as in every 
finite thing, but more acutely, a sort of 
wound that cries for healing. If that 
vaguely longed-for supplement to our 
being could come, and come without the 
annihilation of such being as we already 
have, then would eternity hold out to us 
the prospect of something unimaginably 
more than mere survival. 

••• >--■?* 
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