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"The Worm Striving To Be Man"
by [?]

When our minds have expanded sufficiently to take in and accept the theory of evolution, with what different feelings we look upon the visible universe from those with which our fathers looked upon it! Evolution makes the universe alive. In its light we see that mysterious potency of matter itself, that something in the clod under foot that justifies Emerson’s audacious line of the “worm striving to be man.” We are no longer the adopted children of the earth, but her own real offspring. Evolution puts astronomy and geology in our blood and authenticates us and gives us the backing of the whole solar system. This is the redemption of the earth: it is the spiritualization of matter.

In imagination stand off in vacant space and see the earth rolling by you, a huge bubble with all its continents and seas and changing seasons and countless forms of life upon it, and remember that you are looking upon a great cosmic organism, pulsing with the vital currents of the universe, and that what it holds of living forms were not arbitrarily imposed upon it from without, but vitally evolved from within and that man himself is one of its products as literally as are the trees that stand rooted to the soil. Revert to the time when life was not, when the globe was a half-incandescent ball, or when it was a seething, weltering waste of heated water, before the land had yet emerged from the waves, and yet you and I were there in the latent potencies of the chemically and dynamically warring elements. We were there, the same as the heat and flame are in the coal and wood and as the explosive force of powder is in the grains. The creative cosmic chemistry in due time brought us forth, and started us on the long road that led from the amoeba up to man. There have been no days of creation. Creation has been a continuous process, and the creator has been this principle of evolution inherent in all matter.

Man himself was born of this principle. His genealogy finally runs back to the clod under his feet. One has no trouble in accepting the old Biblical account of his origin from the dust of the earth when one views that dust in the light of modern science.

Man is undoubtedly of animal origin. He is embraced in the same zoological scheme as are all other creatures, and did not start as man any more than you and I started with our present stature, or than the earth sprang from chaos as we now behold it.

His complete physical evolution must have been achieved thousands of centuries ago, but his full mental and spiritual evolution is not yet.

I think of his physical evolution as completed when he assumed the upright attitude or passed from a quadruped to a biped, which must of itself have been a long, slow process. Probably our whole historic period would form but a fraction of this cycle of unrecorded time. Man’s complete emergence from the lower orders, so that he stood off in sharp contrast to them in his physical form probably occurred in later Tertiary times, and what the meaning of this stretch of time is in human years we can only conjecture. During this cycle of numberless millenniums till the dawn of history, man’s development was mainly mental. He left the brute creature behind because his mind continued to develop after his physical form was complete, while the brute stood still. Whence the impulse that sent man forward? Why was one animal form endowed with the capacity for endless growth and development, and all the others denied it? Ah! that is the question of questions. Compared with the development of his bodily powers, man’s mental and spiritual growth has been very rapid. He seems to have been millions of years in getting his body, while he has been only millenniums in getting his reason and intelligence. What progress since the dawn of history! Compare the Germans of the time of Tacitus, or the Gauls of the time of Caesar, or the Britons of the time of Hadrian with the people of those countries to-day.