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Behind The Veil
by [?]

First, then, let us know what the uncompromising iconoclasts have to tell about the universal belief in immortality. They have a very pretentious line of reasoning, which I may summarise thus. Life appeared on earth not less than three hundred thousand years ago. First of all our planet hung in the form of vapour, and drifted with millions of other similar clouds through space; then the vapour became liquid; then the globular form was assumed, and the flying ball began to rotate round the great attracting body. We cannot tell how living forms first came on earth; for they could not arise by spontaneous generation, in spite of all that Dr. Bastian may say. Of the coming of life we can say nothing–rather an odd admission, by-the-way, for gentlemen who are so sure of most things–but we know that some low organism did appear–and there is an end of that matter. No two organisms can possibly be exactly alike; and the process of differentiation began in the very shrine. The centuries passed, and living organisms became more and more complex; the slowly-cooling ball of the earth was covered with greenery, but no flower was to be seen. Then insects were attracted by brightly-coloured leaves; then flowers and insects acted and reacted on each other. But there is no need to trace every mark on the scale. It is enough to say that infinitely-diversified forms of life branched off from central stocks, and the process of variation went on steadily. Last of all, in a strange environment, a certain small upright creature appeared. He was not much superior in development to the anthropoid apes that we now know–in fact, there is less difference between an orang and a Bosjesman than there is between the primitive man and the modern Caucasian man. This creature, hairy and brown as a squirrel, stunted in stature, skinny of limb, was our immediate progenitor. So say the confident scientific men. The owner of the queer ape-like skull found at Neanderthal belonged to a race that was ultimately to develop into Shakespeares and Newtons and Napoleons. In all the enormous series that had its first term in the primeval ooze and its last term in man, one supreme motive had actuated every individual. The desire of life, growing more intense with each new development, was the main influence that secured continuance of life. The beings that had the desire of life scantily developed were overcome in the struggle for existence by those in whom the desire of life was strong. Thus in man, after countless generations, the wish for life had become the master-power holding dominion over the body. As the various branches of the human race moved upward, the passionate love of life grew so strong that no individual could bear to think of resigning this pleasing anxious being and proceeding to fall into dumb forgetfulness. Men saw their comrades stricken by some dark force that they could not understand. The strong limbs grew lax first, and then hopelessly stiff; the bright eye was dulled; and it soon became necessary to hide the inanimate thing under the soil. It was impossible for those who had the quick blood flowing in their veins to believe that a time would come when feeling would be known no more. This fierce clinging to life had at last its natural outcome. Men found that at night, when the quicksilver current of sleep ran through their veins and their bodies were quiescent, they had none the less thoughts as of life. The body lay still; but something in alliance with the body gave them impressions of vivid waking vigour and action. Men fancied that they fought, hunted, loved, hated; and yet all the time their limbs were quiet. What could it be that forced the slumbering man to believe himself to be in full activity? It must be some invisible essence independent of the bones and muscles. Therefore when a man died it followed that the body which was buried must have parted permanently from the mystic “something” that caused dreams. That mystic “something” therefore lived on after the death of the body. The bodily organs were mere accidental encumbrances; the real “man” was the viewless creature that had the visions of the night. The body might go; but the thing which by and by was named “soul” was imperishable.