The Faith, Morals, and Public Policy of the New Republic

H.G. Wells

IF the surmise of a developing New Republic—a Republic that must ultimately become a World State of capable rational men, developing amidst the fading contours and colours of our existing nations and institutions—be indeed no idle dream, but an attainable possibility in the future, and to that end it is that the preceding Anticipations have been mainly written, it becomes a speculation of very great interest to forecast something of the general shape and something even of certain details of that common body of opinion which the New Republic, when at last it discovers and declares itself, will possess. Since we have supposed this New Republic will already be consciously and pretty freely controlling the general affairs of humanity before this century closes, its broad principles and opinions must necessarily shape and determine that still ampler future of which the coming hundred years is but the opening phase. There are many processes, many aspects of things, that are now, as it were, in the domain of natural laws and outside human control, or controlled unintelligently and superstitiously, that in the future, in the days of the coming New Republic, will be definitely taken in hand as part of the general work of humanity, as indeed already, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the control of pestilences has been taken in hand. And in particular, there are certain broad questions much under discussion to which, thus far, I have purposely given a value disproportionately small:—

While the New Republic is gathering itself together and becoming aware of itself, that other great element, which I have called the People of the Abyss, will also have followed out its destiny. For many decades that development will be largely or entirely out of all human control. To the multiplying rejected of the white and yellow civilizations there will have been added a vast proportion of the black and brown races, and collectively those masses will propound the general question, “What will you do with us, we hundreds of millions, who cannot keep pace with you?” If the New Republic emerges at all it will emerge by grappling with this riddle; it must come into existence by the passes this Sphinx will guard. Moreover, the necessary results of the reaction of irresponsible wealth upon that infirm and dangerous thing the human will, the spreading moral rot of gambling which is associated with irresponsible wealth, will have been working out, and will continue to work out, so long as there is such a thing as irresponsible wealth pervading the social body. That too the New Republic must in its very development overcome. In the preceding chapter it is clearly implicit that I believe that the New Republic, as its consciousness and influence develop together, will meet, check, and control these things; but the broad principles upon which the control will go, the nature of the methods employed, still remain to be deduced. And to make that deduction, it is necessary that the primary conception of life, the fundamental, religious, and moral ideas of these predominant men of the new time should first be considered.

Now, quite inevitably, these men will be religious men. Being themselves, as by the nature of the forces that have selected them they will certainly be, men of will and purpose, they will be disposed to find, and consequently they will find, an effect of purpose in the totality of things. Either one must believe the Universe to be one and systematic, and held together by some omnipresent quality, or one must believe it to be a casual aggregation, an incoherent accumulation with no unity whatsoever outside the unity of the personality regarding it. All science and most modern religious systems presuppose the former, and to believe the former is, to any one not too anxious to quibble, to believe in God. But I believe that these prevailing men of the future, like many of the saner men of to-day, having so formulated their fundamental belief, will presume to no knowledge whatever, will presume to no possibility of knowledge of the real being of God. They will have no positive definition of God at all. They will certainly not indulge in “that something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness” (not defined) or any defective claptrap of that sort. They will content themselves with denying the self-contradictory absurdities of an obstinately anthropomorphic theology,50 they will regard the whole of being, within themselves and without, as the sufficient revelation of God to their souls, and they will set themselves simply to that revelation, seeking its meaning towards themselves faithfully and courageously. Manifestly the essential being of man in this life is his will; he exists consciously only to do; his main interest in life is the choice between alternatives; and, since he moves through space and time to effects and consequences, a general purpose in space and time is the limit of his understanding. He can know God only under the semblance of a pervading purpose, of which his own individual freedom of will is a part, but he can understand that the purpose that exists in space and time is no more God than a voice calling out of impenetrable darkness is a man. To men of the kinetic type belief in God so manifest as purpose is irresistible, and, to all lucid minds, the being of God, save as that general atmosphere of imperfectly apprehended purpose in which our individual wills operate, is incomprehensible. To cling to any belief more detailed than this, to define and limit God in order to take hold of Him, to detach one’s self and parts of the universe from God in some mysterious way in order to reduce life to a dramatic antagonism, is not faith, but infirmity. Excessive strenuous belief is not faith. By faith we disbelieve, and it is the drowning man, and not the strong swimmer, who clutches at the floating straw. It is in the nature of man, it is in the present purpose of things, that the real world of our experience and will should appear to us not only as a progressive existence in space and time, but as a scheme of good and evil. But choice, the antagonism of good and evil, just as much as the formulation of things in space and time, is merely a limiting condition of human being, and in the thought of God as we conceive of Him in the light of faith, this antagonism vanishes. God is no moralist, God is no partisan; He comprehends and cannot be comprehended, and our business is only with so much of His purpose as centres on our individual wills.

So, or in some such phrases, I believe, these men of the New Republic will formulate their relationship to God. They will live to serve this purpose that presents Him, without presumption and without fear. For the same spacious faith that will render the idea of airing their egotisms in God’s presence through prayer, or of any such quite personal intimacy, absurd, will render the idea of an irascible and punitive Deity ridiculous and incredible. . . . 

The men of the New Republic will hold and understand quite clearly the doctrine that in the real world of man’s experience, there is Free Will. They will understand that constantly, as a very condition of his existence, man is exercising choice between alternatives, and that a conflict between motives that have different moral values constantly arises. That conflict between Predestination and Free Will, which is so puzzling to untrained minds, will not exist for them. They will know that in the real world of sensory experience, will is free, just as new sprung grass is green, wood hard, ice cold, and toothache painful. In the abstract world of reasoning science there is no green, no colour at all, but certain lengths of vibration; no hardness, but a certain reaction of molecules; no cold and no pain, but certain molecular consequences in the nerves that reach the misinterpreting mind. In the abstract world of reasoning science, moreover, there is a rigid and inevitable sequence of cause and effect; every act of man could be foretold to its uttermost detail, if only we knew him and all his circumstances fully; in the abstract world of reasoned science all things exist now potentially down to the last moment of infinite time. But the human will does not exist in the abstract world of reasoned science, in the world of atoms and vibrations, that rigidly predestinate scheme of things in space and time. The human will exists in this world of men and women, in this world where the grass is green and desire beckons and the choice is often so wide and clear between the sense of what is desirable and what is more widely and remotely right. In this world of sense and the daily life, these men will believe with an absolute conviction, that there is free will and a personal moral responsibility in relation to that indistinctly seen purpose which is the sufficient revelation of God to them so far as this sphere of being goes. . . . 

The conception they will have of that purpose will necessarily determine their ethical scheme. It follows manifestly that if we do really believe in Almighty God, the more strenuously and successfully we seek in ourselves and His world to understand the order and progress of things, and the more clearly we apprehend His purpose, the more assured and systematic will our ethical basis become.

If, like Huxley, we do not positively believe in God, then we may still cling to an ethical system which has become an organic part of our lives and habits, and finding it manifestly in conflict with the purpose of things, speak of the non-ethical order of the universe. But to any one whose mind is pervaded by faith in God, a non-ethical universe in conflict with the incomprehensibly ethical soul of the Agnostic, is as incredible as a black horned devil, an active material anti-god with hoofs, tail, pitchfork, and Dunstan-scorched nose complete. To believe completely in God is to believe in the final rightness of all being. The ethical system that condemns the ways of life as wrong, or points to the ways of death as right, that countenances what the scheme of things condemns, and condemns the general purpose in things as it is now revealed to us, must prepare to follow the theological edifice upon which it was originally based. If the universe is non-ethical by our present standards, we must reconsider these standards and reconstruct our ethics. To hesitate to do so, however severe the conflict with old habits and traditions and sentiments may be, is to fall short of faith.

Now, so far as the intellectual life of the world goes, this present time is essentially the opening phase of a period of ethical reconstruction, a reconstruction of which the New Republic will possess the matured result. Throughout the nineteenth century there has been such a shattering and recasting of fundamental ideas, of the preliminaries to ethical propositions, as the world has never seen before. This breaking down and routing out of almost all the cardinal assumptions on which the minds of the Eighteenth Century dwelt securely, is a process akin to, but independent of, the development of mechanism, whose consequences we have traced. It is a part of that process of vigorous and fearless criticism which is the reality of science, and of which the development of mechanism and all that revolution in physical and social conditions we have been tracing, is merely the vast imposing material bye product. At present, indeed, its more obvious aspect on the moral and ethical side is destruction, any one can see the chips flying, but it still demands a certain faith and patience to see the form that ensues. But it is not destruction, any more than a sculptor’s work is stone-breaking.

The first chapter in the history of this intellectual development, its definite and formal opening, coincides with the opening of the nineteenth century and the publication of Malthus’s Essay on Population. Malthus is one of those cardinal figures in intellectual history who state definitely for all time, things apparent enough after their formulation, but never effectively conceded before. He brought clearly and emphatically into the sphere of discussion a vitally important issue that had always been shirked and tabooed heretofore, the fundamental fact that the main mass of the business of human life centres about reproduction. He stated in clear, hard, decent, and unavoidable argument what presently Schopenhauer was to discover and proclaim, in language, at times, it would seem, quite unfitted for translation into English. And, having made his statement, Malthus left it, in contact with its immediate results.

Probably no more shattering book than the Essay on Population has ever been, or ever will be, written. It was aimed at the facile Liberalism of the Deists and Atheists of the eighteenth century; it made as clear as daylight that all forms of social reconstruction, all dreams of earthly golden ages must be either futile or insincere or both, until the problems of human increase were manfully faced. It proffered no suggestions for facing them (in spite of the unpleasant associations of Malthus’s name), it aimed simply to wither the Rationalistic Utopias of the time and by anticipation, all the Communisms, Socialisms, and Earthly Paradise movements that have since been so abundantly audible in the world. That was its aim and its immediate effect. Incidentally it must have been a torturing soul-trap for innumerable idealistic but intelligent souls. Its indirect effects have been altogether greater. Aiming at unorthodox dreamers, it has set such forces in motion as have destroyed the very root-ideas of orthodox righteousness in the western world. Impinging on geological discovery, it awakened almost simultaneously in the minds of Darwin and Wallace, that train of thought that found expression and demonstration at last in the theory of natural selection. As that theory has been more and more thoroughly assimilated and understood by the general mind, it has destroyed, quietly but entirely, the belief in human equality which is implicit in all the “Liberalizing” movements of the world. In the place of an essential equality, distorted only by tradition and early training, by the artifices of those devils of the Liberal cosmogony, “kingcraft” and “priestcraft,” an equality as little affected by colour as the equality of a black chess pawn and a white, we discover that all men are individual and unique, and, through long ranges of comparison, superior and inferior upon countless scores. It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim upon the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as the superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental in the civilizing fabric, and that their range of incapacity tempts and demoralizes the strong. To give them equality is to sink to their level, to protect and cherish them is to be swamped in their fecundity. The confident and optimistic Radicalism of the earlier nineteenth century, and the humanitarian philanthropic type of Liberalism, have bogged themselves beyond hope in these realizations. The Socialist has shirked them as he has shirked the older crux of Malthus. Liberalism is a thing of the past, it is no longer a doctrine, but a faction. There must follow some newborn thing.

And as effectually has the mass of criticism that centres about Darwin destroyed the dogma of the Fall upon which the whole intellectual fabric of Christianity rests. For without a Fall there is no redemption, and the whole theory and meaning of the Pauline system is vain. In conjunction with the wide vistas opened by geological and astronomical discovery, the nineteenth century has indeed lost the very habit of thought from which the belief in a Fall arose. It is as if a hand had been put upon the head of the thoughtful man and had turned his eyes about from the past to the future. In matters of intelligence, at least, if not yet in matters of ethics and conduct, this turning round has occurred. In the past thought was legal in its spirit, it deduced the present from pre-existing prescription, it derived everything from the offences and promises of the dead; the idea of a universe of expiation was the most natural theory amidst such processes. The purpose the older theologians saw in the world was no more than the revenge—accentuated by the special treatment of a favoured minority—of a mysteriously incompetent Deity exasperated by an unsatisfactory creation. But modern thought is altogether too constructive and creative to tolerate such a conception, and in the vaster past that has opened to us, it can find neither offence nor promise, only a spacious scheme of events, opening out—perpetually opening out—with a quality of final purpose as irresistible to most men’s minds as it is incomprehensible, opening out with all that inexplicable quality of design that, for example, some great piece of music, some symphony of Beethoven’s, conveys. We see future beyond future and past behind past. It has been like the coming of dawn, at first a colourless dawn, clear and spacious, before which the mists whirl and fade, and there opens to our eyes not the narrow passage, the definite end we had imagined, but the rocky, ill-defined path we follow high amidst this limitless prospect of space and time. At first the dawn is cold—there is, at times, a quality of terror almost in the cold clearness of the morning twilight; but insensibly its coldness passes, the sky is touched with fire, and presently, up out of the dayspring in the east, the sunlight will be pouring. . . .  And these men of the New Republic will be going about in the daylight of things assured.

And men’s concern under this ampler view will no longer be to work out a system of penalties for the sins of dead men, but to understand and participate in this great development that now dawns on the human understanding. The insoluble problems of pain and death, gaunt, incomprehensible facts as they were, fall into place in the gigantic order that evolution unfolds. All things are integral in the mighty scheme, the slain builds up the slayer, the wolf grooms the horse into swiftness, and the tiger calls for wisdom and courage out of man. All things are integral, but it has been left for men to be consciously integral, to take, at last, a share in the process, to have wills that have caught a harmony with the universal will, as sand grains flash into splendour under the blaze of the sun. There will be many who will never be called to this religious conviction, who will lead their little lives like fools, playing foolishly with religion and all the great issues of life, or like the beasts that perish, having sense alone; but those who, by character and intelligence, are predestinate to participate in the reality of life, will fearlessly shape all their ethical determinations and public policy anew, from a fearless study of themselves and the apparent purpose that opens out before them.

Very much of the cry for faith that sounds in contemporary life so loudly, and often with so distressing a note of sincerity, comes from the unsatisfied egotisms of unemployed, and, therefore, unhappy and craving people; but much is also due to the distress in the minds of active and serious men, due to the conflict of inductive knowledge, with conceptions of right and wrong deduced from unsound, but uncriticised, first principles. The old ethical principles, the principle of equivalents or justice, the principle of self-sacrifice, the various vague and arbitrary ideas of purity, chastity, and sexual “sin,” came like rays out of the theological and philosophical lanterns men carried in the darkness. The ray of the lantern indicated and directed, and one followed it as one follows a path. But now there has come a new view of man’s place in the scheme of time and space, a new illumination, dawn; the lantern rays fade in the growing brightness, and the lanterns that shone so brightly are becoming smoky and dim. To many men this is no more than a waning of the lanterns, and they call for new ones, or a trimming of the old. They blame the day for putting out these flares. And some go apart, out of the glare of life, into corners of obscurity, where the radiation of the lantern may still be faintly traced. But, indeed, with the new light there has come the time for new methods; the time of lanterns, the time of deductions from arbitrary first principles is over. The act of faith is no longer to follow your lantern, but to put it down. We can see about us, and by the landscape we must go.51

How will the landscape shape itself to the dominant men of the new time and in relation to themselves? What is the will and purpose that these men of will and purpose will find above and comprehending their own? Into this our inquiry resolves itself. They will hold with Schopenhauer, I believe, and with those who build themselves on Malthus and Darwin, that the scheme of being, in which we live is a struggle of existences to expand and develop themselves to their full completeness, and to propagate and increase themselves. But, being men of action, they will feel nothing of the glamour of misery that irresponsible and sexually vitiated shareholder, Schopenhauer, threw over this recognition. The final object of this struggle among existences they will not understand; they will have abandoned the search for ultimates; they will state this scheme of a struggle as a proximate object, sufficiently remote and spacious to enclose and explain all their possible activities. They will seek God’s purpose in the sphere of their activities, and desire no more, as the soldier in battle desires no more, than the immediate conflict before him. They will admit failure as an individual aspect of things, as a soldier seeking victory admits the possibility of death; but they will refuse to admit as a part of their faith in God that any existence, even if it is an existence that is presently entirely erased, can be needless or vain. It will have reacted on the existences that survive; it will be justified for ever in the modification it has produced in them. They will find in themselves—it must be remembered I am speaking of a class that has naturally segregated, and not of men as a whole—a desire, a passion almost, to create and organize, to put in order, to get the maximum result from certain possibilities. They will all be artists in reality, with a passion for simplicity and directness and an impatience of confusion and inefficiency. The determining frame of their ethics, the more spacious scheme to which they will shape the schemes of their individual wills, will be the elaboration of that future world state to which all things are pointing. They will not conceive of it as a millennial paradise, a blissful inconsequent stagnation, but as a world state of active ampler human beings, full of knowledge and energy, free from much of the baseness and limitations, the needless pains and dishonours of the world disorder of to-day, but still struggling, struggling against ampler but still too narrow restrictions and for still more spacious objects than our vistas have revealed. For that as a general end, for the special work that contributes to it as an individual end, they will make the plans and the limiting rules of their lives.

It is manifest that a reconstructed ethical system, reconstructed in the light of modern science and to meet the needs of such temperaments and characters as the evolution of mechanism will draw together and develop, will give very different values from those given by the existing systems (if they can be called systems) to almost all the great matters of conduct. Under scientific analysis the essential facts of life are very clearly shown to be two—birth and death. All life is the effort of the thing born, driven by fears, guided by instincts and desires, to evade death, to evade even the partial death of crippling or cramping or restriction, and to attain to effective procreation, to the victory of another birth. Procreation is the triumph of the living being over death; and in the case of man, who adds mind to his body, it is not only in his child but in the dissemination of his thought, the expression of his mind in things done and made, that his triumph is to be found. And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity—beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge—and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men. To do the latter is to do the former; the two things are inseparable. And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness, and cowardice and feebleness were saved from the accomplishment of their desires, the method that has only one alternative, the method that must in some cases still be called in to the help of man, is death. In the new vision death is no inexplicable horror, no pointless terminal terror to the miseries of life, it is the end of all the pain of life, the end of the bitterness of failure, the merciful obliteration of weak and silly and pointless things. . . . 

The new ethics will hold life to be a privilege and a responsibility, not a sort of night refuge for base spirits out of the void; and the alternative in right conduct between living fully, beautifully, and efficiently will be to die. For a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear-driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalid dishonour, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence. To make life convenient for the breeding of such people will seem to them not the most virtuous and amiable thing in the world, as it is held to be now, but an exceedingly abominable proceeding. Procreation is an avoidable thing for sane persons of even the most furious passions, and the men of the New Republic will hold that the procreation of children who, by the circumstances of their parentage, must be diseased bodily or mentally—I do not think it will be difficult for the medical science of the coming time to define such circumstances—is absolutely the most loathsome of all conceivable sins. They will hold, I anticipate, that a certain portion of the population—the small minority, for example, afflicted with indisputably transmissible diseases, with transmissible mental disorders, with such hideous incurable habits of mind as the craving for intoxication—exists only on sufferance, out of pity and patience, and on the understanding that they do not propagate; and I do not foresee any reason to suppose that they will hesitate to kill when that sufferance is abused. And I imagine also the plea and proof that a grave criminal is also insane will be regarded by them not as a reason for mercy, but as an added reason for death. I do not see how they can think otherwise on the principles they will profess.

The men of the New Republic will not be squeamish, either, in facing or inflicting death, because they will have a fuller sense of the possibilities of life than we possess. They will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while; like Abraham, they will have the faith to kill, and they will have no superstitions about death. They will naturally regard the modest suicide of incurably melancholy, or diseased or helpless persons as a high and courageous act of duty rather than a crime. And since they will regard, as indeed all men raised above a brutish level do regard, a very long term of imprisonment as infinitely worse than death, as being, indeed, death with a living misery added to its natural terror, they will, I conceive, where the whole tenor of a man’s actions, and not simply some incidental or impulsive action, seems to prove him unfitted for free life in the world, consider him carefully, and condemn him, and remove him from being. All such killing will be done with an opiate, for death is too grave a thing to be made painful or dreadful, and used as a deterrent from crime. If deterrent punishments are used at all in the code of the future, the deterrent will neither be death, nor mutilation of the body, nor mutilation of the life by imprisonment, nor any horrible things like that, but good scientifically caused pain, that will leave nothing but a memory. Yet even the memory of overwhelming pain is a sort of mutilation of the soul. The idea that only those who are fit to live freely in an orderly world-state should be permitted to live, is entirely against the use of deterrent punishments at all. Against outrageous conduct to children or women, perhaps, or for very cowardly or brutal assaults of any sort, the men of the future may consider pain a salutary remedy, at least during the ages of transition while the brute is still at large. But since most acts of this sort done under conditions that neither torture nor exasperate, point to an essential vileness in the perpetrator, I am inclined to think that even in these cases the men of the coming time will be far less disposed to torture than to kill. They will have another aspect to consider. The conscious infliction of pain for the sake of the pain is against the better nature of man, and it is unsafe and demoralizing for any one to undertake this duty. To kill under the seemly conditions science will afford is a far less offensive thing. The rulers of the future will grudge making good people into jailers, warders, punishment-dealers, nurses, and attendants on the bad. People who cannot live happily and freely in the world without spoiling the lives of others are better out of it. That is a current sentiment even to-day, but the men of the New Republic will have the courage of their opinions.

And the type of men that I conceive emerging in the coming years will deal simply and logically not only with the business of death, but with birth. At present the sexual morality of the civilized world is the most illogical and incoherent system of wild permissions and insane prohibitions, foolish tolerance and ruthless cruelty that it is possible to imagine. Our current civilization is a sexual lunatic. And it has lost its reason in this respect under the stresses of the new birth of things, largely through the difficulties that have stood in the way, and do still, in a diminishing degree, stand in the way of any sane discussion of the matter as a whole. To approach it is to approach excitement. So few people seem to be leading happy and healthy sexual lives that to mention the very word “sexual” is to set them stirring, to brighten the eye, lower the voice, and blanch or flush the cheek with a flavour of guilt. We are all, as it were, keeping our secrets and hiding our shames. One of the most curious revelations of this fact occurred only a few years ago, when the artless outpourings in fiction of certain young women who had failed to find light on problems that pressed upon them for solution (and which it was certainly their business as possible wives and mothers to solve) roused all sorts of respectable people to a quite insane vehemence of condemnation. Now, there are excellent reasons and a permanent necessity for the preservation of decency, and for a far more stringent suppression of matter that is merely intended to excite than at present obtains, and the chief of these reasons lies in the need of preserving the young from a premature awakening, and indeed, in the interests of civilization, in positively delaying the period of awakening, retarding maturity and lengthening the period of growth and preparation as much as possible. But purity and innocence may be prolonged too late; innocence is really no more becoming to adults than a rattle or a rubber consoler, and the bashfulness that hampers this discussion, that permits it only in a furtive silly sort of way, has its ugly consequences in shames and cruelties, in miserable households and pitiful crises, in the production of countless, needless, and unhappy lives. Indeed, too often we carry our decency so far as to make it suggestive and stimulating in a non-natural way; we invest the plain business of reproduction with a mystic religious quality far more unwholesome than a savage nakedness could possibly be.

The essential aspect of all this wild and windy business of the sexual relations is, after all, births. Upon this plain fact the people of the emergent New Republic will unhesitatingly go. The pre-eminent value of sexual questions in morality lies in the fact that the lives which will constitute the future are involved. If they are not involved, if we can dissociate this relationship from this issue, then sexual questions become of no more importance than the morality of one’s deportment at chess, or the general morality of outdoor games. Indeed, then the question of sexual relationships would be entirely on all fours with, and probably very analogous to, the question of golf. In each case it would be for the medical man and the psychologist to decide how far the thing was wholesome and permissible, and how far it was an aggressive bad habit and an absorbing waste of time and energy. An able-bodied man continually addicted to love-making that had no result in offspring would be just as silly and morally objectionable as an able-bodied man who devoted his chief energies to hitting little balls over golf-links. But no more. Both would probably be wasting the lives of other human beings—the golfer must employ his caddie. It is entirely the matter of births, and a further consideration to be presently discussed, that makes this analogy untrue. It does not, however, make it so untrue as to do away with the probability that in many cases the emergent men of the new time will consider sterile gratification a moral and legitimate thing. St. Paul tells us that it is better to marry than to burn, but to beget children on that account will appear, I imagine, to these coming men as an absolutely loathsome proceeding. They will stifle no spread of knowledge that will diminish the swarming misery of childhood in the slums, they will regard the disinclination of the witless “Society” woman to become a mother as a most amiable trait in her folly. In our bashfulness about these things we talk an abominable lot of nonsense; all this uproar one hears about the Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit and the future of the lower races takes on an entirely different complexion directly we face known, if indelicate, facts. Most of the human types, that by civilized standards are undesirable, are quite willing to die out through such suppressions if the world will only encourage them a little. They multiply in sheer ignorance, but they do not desire multiplication even now, and they can easily be made to dread it. Sensuality aims not at life, but at itself. I believe that the men of the New Republic will deliberately shape their public policy along these lines. They will rout out and illuminate urban rookeries and all places where the base can drift to multiply; they will contrive a land legislation that will keep the black, or yellow, or mean-white squatter on the move; they will see to it that no parent can make a profit out of a child, so that childbearing shall cease to be a hopeful speculation for the unemployed poor; and they will make the maintenance of a child the first charge upon the parents who have brought it into the world. Only in this way can progress escape being clogged by the products of the security it creates. The development of science has lifted famine and pestilence from the shoulders of man, and it will yet lift war—for some other end than to give him a spell of promiscuous and finally cruel and horrible reproduction.

No doubt the sentimentalist and all whose moral sense has been vigorously trained in the old school will find this rather a dreadful suggestion; it amounts to saying that for the Abyss to become a “hotbed” of sterile immorality will fall in with the deliberate policy of the ruling class in the days to come. At any rate, it will be a terminating evil. At present the Abyss is a hotbed breeding undesirable and too often fearfully miserable children. That is something more than a sentimental horror. Under the really very horrible morality of to-day, the spectacle of a mean-spirited, under-sized, diseased little man, quite incapable of earning a decent living even for himself, married to some underfed, ignorant, ill-shaped, plain and diseased little woman, and guilty of the lives of ten or twelve ugly ailing children, is regarded as an extremely edifying spectacle, and the two parents consider their reproductive excesses as giving them a distinct claim upon less fecund and more prosperous people. Benevolent persons throw themselves with peculiar ardour into a case of this sort, and quite passionate efforts are made to strengthen the mother against further eventualities and protect the children until they attain to nubile years. Until the attention of the benevolent persons is presently distracted by a new case. . . .  Yet so powerful is the suggestion of current opinions that few people seem to see nowadays just what a horrible and criminal thing this sort of family, seen from the point of view of social physiology, appears.

And directly such principles as these come into effective operation, and I believe that the next hundred years will see this new phase of the human history beginning, there will recommence a process of physical and mental improvement in mankind, a raising and elaboration of the average man, that has virtually been in suspense during the greater portion of the historical period. It is possible that in the last hundred years, in the more civilized states of the world, the average of humanity has positively fallen. All our philanthropists, all our religious teachers, seem to be in a sort of informal conspiracy to preserve an atmosphere of mystical ignorance about these matters, which, in view of the irresistible nature of the sexual impulse, results in a swelling tide of miserable little lives. Consider what it will mean to have perhaps half the population of the world, in every generation, restrained from or tempted to evade reproduction! This thing, this euthanasia of the weak and sensual, is possible. On the principles that will probably animate the predominant classes of the new time, it will be permissible, and I have little or no doubt that in the future it will be planned and achieved.

If birth were all the making of a civilized man, the men of the future, on the general principles we have imputed to them, would under no circumstances find the birth of a child, healthy in body and brain, more than the most venial of offences. But birth gives only the beginning, the raw material, of a civilized man. The perfect civilized man is not only a sound strong body but a very elaborate fabric of mind. He is a fabric of moral suggestions that become mental habits, a magazine of more or less systematized ideas, a scheme of knowledge and training and an æsthetic culture. He is the child not only of parents but of a home and of an education. He has to be carefully guarded from physical and moral contagions. A reasonable probability of ensuring home and education and protection without any parasitic dependence on people outside the kin of the child, will be a necessary condition to a moral birth under such general principles as we have supposed. Now, this sweeps out of reason any such promiscuity of healthy people as the late Mr. Grant Allen is supposed to have advocated—but, so far as I can understand him, did not. But whether it works out to the taking over of the permanent monogamic marriage of the old morality, as a going concern, is another matter. Upon this matter I must confess my views of the trend of things in the future do not seem to be finally shaped. The question involves very obscure physiological and psychological considerations. A man who aims to become a novelist naturally pries into these matters whenever he can, but the vital facts are very often hard to come by. It is probable that a great number of people could be paired off in couples who would make permanently happy and successful monogamic homes for their sound and healthy children. At any rate, if a certain freedom of regrouping were possible within a time limit, this might be so. But I am convinced that a large proportion of married couples in the world to-day are not completely and happily matched, that there is much mutual limitation, mutual annulment and mutual exasperation. Home with an atmosphere of contention is worse than none for the child, and it is the interest of the child, and that alone, that will be the test of all these things. I do not think that the arrangement in couples is universally applicable, or that celibacy (tempered by sterile vice) should be its only alternative. Nor can I see why the union of two childless people should have an indissoluble permanence or prohibit an ampler grouping. The question is greatly complicated by the economic disadvantage of women, which makes wifehood the chief feminine profession, while only for an incidental sort of man is marriage a source of income, and further by the fact that most women have a period of maximum attractiveness after which it would be grossly unfair to cast them aside. From the point of view we are discussing, the efficient mother who can make the best of her children, is the most important sort of person in the state. She is a primary necessity to the coming civilization. Can the wife in any sort of polygamic arrangement, or a woman of no assured status, attain to the maternal possibilities of the ideal monogamic wife? One is disposed to answer, No. But then, on the other hand, does the ordinary monogamic wife do that? We are dealing with the finer people of the future, strongly individualized people, who will be much freer from stereotyped moral suggestions and much less inclined to be dealt with wholesale than the people of to-day.

I have already shown cause in these Anticipations to expect a period of disorder and hypocrisy in matters of sexual morality. I am inclined to think that, when the New Republic emerges on the other side of this disorder, there will be a great number of marriage contracts possible between men and women, and that the strong arm of the State will insist only upon one thing—the security and welfare of the child. The inevitable removal of births from the sphere of an uncontrollable Providence to the category of deliberate acts, will enormously enhance the responsibility of the parent—and of the State that has failed to adequately discourage the philoprogenitiveness of the parent—towards the child. Having permitted the child to come into existence, public policy and the older standard of justice alike demand, under these new conditions, that it must be fed, cherished, and educated, not merely up to a respectable minimum, but to the full height of its possibilities. The State will, therefore, be the reserve guardian of all children. If they are being undernourished, if their education is being neglected, the State will step in, take over the responsibility of their management, and enforce their charge upon the parents. The first liability of a parent will be to his child, and for his child; even the dues of that darling of our current law, the landlord, will stand second to that. This conception of the responsibility of the parents and the State to the child and the future runs quite counter to the general ideas of to-day. These general ideas distort grim realities. Under the most pious and amiable professions, all the Christian states of to-day are, as a matter of fact, engaged in slave-breeding. The chief result, though of course it is not the intention, of the activities of priest and moralist to-day in these matters, is to lure a vast multitude of little souls into this world, for whom there is neither sufficient food, nor love, nor schools, nor any prospect at all in life but the insufficient bread of servitude. It is a result that endears religion and purity to the sweating employer, and leads unimaginative bishops, who have never missed a meal in their lives, and who know nothing of the indescribable bitterness of a handicapped entry into this world, to draw a complacent contrast with irreligious France. It is a result that must necessarily be recognized in its reality, and faced by these men who will presently emerge to rule the world; men who will have neither the plea of ignorance, nor moral stupidity, nor dogmatic revelation to excuse such elaborate cruelty.

And having set themselves in these ways to raise the quality of human birth, the New Republicans will see to it that the children who do at last effectually get born come into a world of spacious opportunity. The half-educated, unskilled pretenders, professing impossible creeds and propounding ridiculous curricula, to whom the unhappy parents of to-day must needs entrust the intelligences of their children; these heavy-handed barber-surgeons of the mind, these schoolmasters, with their ragtag and bobtail of sweated and unqualified assistants, will be succeeded by capable, self-respecting men and women, constituting the most important profession of the world. The windy pretences of “forming character,” supplying moral training, and so forth, under which the educationalist of to-day conceals the fact that he is incapable of his proper task of training, developing and equipping the mind, will no longer be made by the teacher. Nor will the teacher be permitted to subordinate his duties to the entirely irrelevant business of his pupils’ sports. The teacher will teach, and confine his moral training, beyond enforcing truth and discipline, to the exhibition of a capable person doing his duty as well as it can be done. He will know that his utmost province is only a part of the educational process, that equally important educational influences are the home and the world of thought about the pupil and himself. The whole world will be thinking and learning; the old idea of “completing” one’s education will have vanished with the fancy of a static universe; every school will be a preparatory school, every college. The school and college will probably give only the keys and apparatus of thought, a necessary language or so, thoroughly done, a sound mathematical training, drawing, a wide and reasoned view of philosophy, some good exercises in dialectics, a training in the use of those stores of fact that science has made. So equipped, the young man and young woman will go on to the technical school of their chosen profession, and to the criticism of contemporary practice for their special efficiency, and to the literature of contemporary thought for their general development. . . . 

And while the emergent New Republic is deciding to provide for the swarming inferiority of the Abyss, and developing the morality and educational system of the future, in this fashion, it will be attacking that mass of irresponsible property that is so unavoidable and so threatening under present conditions. The attack will, of course, be made along lines that the developing science of economics will trace in the days immediately before us. A scheme of death duties and of heavy graduated taxes upon irresponsible incomes, with, perhaps, in addition, a system of terminable liability for borrowers, will probably suffice to control the growth of this creditor elephantiasis. The detailed contrivances are for the specialist to make. If there is such a thing as bitterness in the public acts of the New Republicans, it will probably be found in the measures that will be directed against those who are parasitic, or who attempt to be parasitic, upon the social body, either by means of gambling, by manipulating the medium of exchange, or by such interventions upon legitimate transactions as, for example, the legal trade union in Great Britain contrives in the case of house property and land. Simply because he fails more often than he succeeds, there is still a disposition among sentimental people to regard the gambler or the speculator as rather a dashing, adventurous sort of person, and to contrast his picturesque gallantry with the sober certainties of honest men. The men of the New Republic will be obtuse to the glamour of such romance; they will regard the gambler simply as a mean creature who hangs about the social body in the hope of getting something for nothing, who runs risks to filch the possessions of other men, exactly as a thief does. They will put the two on a footing, and the generous gambler, like the kindly drunkard, in the face of their effectual provision for his little weakness, will cease to complain that his worst enemy is himself. And, in dealing with speculation, the New Republic will have the power of an assured faith and purpose, and the resources of an economic science that is as yet only in its infancy. In such matters the New Republic will entertain no superstition of laissez faire. Money and credit are as much human contrivances as bicycles, and as liable to expansion and modification as any other sort of prevalent but imperfect machine.

And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? how will it deal with the yellow man? how will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized woodwork, the Jew? Certainly not as races at all. It will aim to establish, and it will at last, though probably only after a second century has passed, establish a world-state with a common language and a common rule. All over the world its roads, its standards, its laws, and its apparatus of control will run. It will, I have said, make the multiplication of those who fall behind a certain standard of social efficiency unpleasant and difficult, and it will have cast aside any coddling laws to save adult men from themselves.52 It will tolerate no dark corners where the people of the Abyss may fester, no vast diffused slums of peasant proprietors, no stagnant plague-preserves. Whatever men may come into its efficient citizenship it will let come—white, black, red, or brown; the efficiency will be the test. And the Jew also it will treat as any other man. It is said that the Jew is incurably a parasite on the apparatus of credit. If there are parasites on the apparatus of credit, that is a reason for the legislative cleaning of the apparatus of credit, but it is no reason for the special treatment of the Jew. If the Jew has a certain incurable tendency to social parasitism, and we make social parasitism impossible, we shall abolish the Jew, and if he has not, there is no need to abolish the Jew. We are much more likely to find we have abolished the Caucasian solicitor. I really do not understand the exceptional attitude people take up against the Jews. There is something very ugly about many Jewish faces, but there are Gentile faces just as coarse and gross. The Jew asserts himself in relation to his nationality with a singular tactlessness, but it is hardly for the English to blame that. Many Jews are intensely vulgar in dress and bearing, materialistic in thought, and cunning and base in method, but no more so than many Gentiles. The Jew is mentally and physically precocious, and he ages and dies sooner than the average European, but in that and in a certain disingenuousness he is simply on all fours with the short, dark Welsh. He foregathers with those of his own nation, and favours them against the stranger, but so do the Scotch. I see nothing in his curious, dispersed nationality to dread or dislike. He is a remnant and legacy of mediævalism, a sentimentalist, perhaps, but no furtive plotter against the present progress of things. He was the mediæval Liberal; his persistent existence gave the lie to Catholic pretensions all through the days of their ascendency, and to-day he gives the lie to all our yapping “nationalisms,” and sketches in his dispersed sympathies the coming of the world-state. He has never been known to burke a school. Much of the Jew’s usury is no more than social scavenging. The Jew will probably lose much of his particularism, intermarry with Gentiles, and cease to be a physically distinct element in human affairs in a century or so. But much of his moral tradition will, I hope, never die. . . .  And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?

Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear.

The world has a purpose greater than happiness; our lives are to serve God’s purpose, and that purpose aims not at man as an end, but works through him to greater issues. . . .  This, I believe, will be the distinctive quality of the New Republican’s belief. And, for that reason, I have not even speculated whether he will hold any belief in human immortality or no. He will certainly not believe there is any post mortem state of rewards and punishments because of his faith in the sanity of God, and I do not see how he will trace any reaction between this world and whatever world there may be of disembodied lives. Active and capable men of all forms of religious profession to-day tend in practice to disregard the question of immortality altogether. So, to a greater degree, will the kinetic men of the coming time. We may find that issue interesting enough when we turn over the leaf, but at present we have not turned over the leaf. On this side, in this life, the relevancy of things points not in the slightest towards the immortality of our egotisms, but convergently and overpoweringly to the future of our race, to that spacious future, of which these weak, ambitious Anticipations are, as it were, the dim reflection seen in a shallow and troubled pool.

For that future these men will live and die.


50.    As, for example, that God is an omniscient mind. This is the last vestige of that barbaric theology which regarded God as a vigorous but uncertain old gentleman with a beard and an inordinate lust for praise and propitiation. The modern idea is, indeed, scarcely more reasonable than the one it has replaced. A mind thinks, and feels, and wills; it passes from phase to phase; thinking and willing are a succession of mental states which follow and replace one another. But omniscience is a complete knowledge, not only of the present state, but of all past and future states, and, since it is all there at any moment, it cannot conceivably pass from phase to phase, it is stagnant, infinite, and eternal. An omniscient mind is as impossible, therefore, as an omnipresent moving body. God is outside our mental scope; only by faith can we attain Him; our most lucid moments serve only to render clearer His inaccessibility to our intelligence. We stand a little way up in a scale of existences that may, indeed, point towards Him, but can never bring Him to our scope. As the fulness of the conscious mental existence of a man stands to the subconscious activities of an amoeba or of a visceral ganglion cell, so our reason forces us to admit other possible mental existences may stand to us. But such an existence, inconceivably great as it would be to us, would be scarcely nearer that transcendental God in whom the serious men of the future will, as a class, believe.    [back]

51.    It is an interesting byway from our main thesis to speculate on the spiritual pathology of the functionless wealthy, the half-educated independent women of the middle class, and the people of the Abyss. While the segregating new middle class, whose religious and moral development forms our main interest, is developing its spacious and confident Theism, there will, I imagine, be a steady decay in the various Protestant congregations. They have played a noble part in the history of the world, their spirit will live for ever, but their formulæ and organization wax old like a garment. Their moral austerity—that touch of contempt for the unsubstantial æsthetic, which has always distinguished Protestantism—is naturally repellent to the irresponsible rich and to artistic people of the weaker type, and the face of Protestantism has ever been firm even to hardness against the self-indulgent, the idler, and the prolific, useless poor. The rich as a class and the people of the Abyss, so far as they move towards any existing religious body, will be attracted by the moral kindliness, the picturesque organization and venerable tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. We are only in the very beginning of a great Roman Catholic revival. The diversified countryside of the coming time will show many a splendid cathedral, many an elaborate monastic palace, towering amidst the abounding colleges and technical schools. Along the moving platforms of the urban centre, and athwart the shining advertisements that will adorn them, will go the ceremonial procession, all glorious with banners and censer-bearers, and the meek blue-shaven priests and barefooted, rope-girdled, holy men. And the artful politician of the coming days, until the broom of the New Republic sweep him up, will arrange the miraculous planks of his platform always with an eye upon the priest. Within the ample sheltering arms of the Mother Church many eccentric cults will develop. The curious may study the works of M. Huysmans to learn of the mystical propitiation of God, Who made heaven and earth, by the bedsores of hysterical girls. The future as I see it swarms with Durtals and Sister Teresas; countless ecstatic nuns, holding their Maker as it were in deliciæ, will shelter from the world in simple but costly refuges of refined austerity. Where miracles are needed, miracles will occur.

Except for a few queer people, nourished on “Maria Monk” and suchlike anti-papal pornography, I doubt if there will be any Protestants left among the irresponsible rich. Those who do not follow the main current will probably take up with weird science-denouncing sects of the faith-healing type, or with such pseudo-scientific gibberish as Theosophy. Mrs. Piper (in an inelegant attitude and with only the whites of her eyes showing) has restored the waning faith of Professor James in human immortality, and I do not see why that lady should stick at one dogma amidst the present quite insatiable demand for creeds. Shintoism and either a cleaned or, more probably, a scented Obi, might in vigorous hands be pushed to a very considerable success in the coming years; and I do not see any absolute impossibility in the idea of an after-dinner witch-smelling in Park Lane with a witchdoctor dressed in feathers. It might be made amazingly picturesque. People would attend it with an air of intellectual liberality, not, of course, believing in it absolutely, but admitting “there must be Something in it.” That Something in it! “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God,” and after that he is ready to do anything with his mind and soul. It is by faith we disbelieve.

And, of course, there will be much outspoken Atheism and Anti-religion of the type of the Parisian Devil-Worship imbecilities. Young men of means will determine to be “wicked.” They will do silly things that will strike them as being indecent and blasphemous and dreadful—black masses and suchlike nonsense—and then they will get scared. The sort of thing it will be to shock orthodox maiden aunts and make Olympus ring with laughter. A taking sort of nonsense already loose, I find, among very young men is to say, “Understand, I am non-moral.” Two thoroughly respectable young gentlemen coming from quite different circles have recently introduced their souls to me in this same formula. Both, I rejoice to remark, are married, both are steady and industrious young men, trustworthy in word and contract, dressed in accordance with current conceptions, and behaving with perfect decorum. One, no doubt for sinister ends, aspires to better the world through a Socialistic propaganda. That is all. But in a tight corner some day that silly little formula may just suffice to trip up one or other of these men. To many of the irresponsible rich, however, that little “Understand, I am non-moral” may prove of priceless worth.    [back]

52.    Vide Mr. Archdall Read’s excellent and suggestive book, “The Present Evolution of Man.”    [back]

Anticipations - Contents

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