Mind And Spirit The Human And The Animal Soul

What is the relation between the human and the animal mind? This has

always been a vital question in the conflict between naturalism and the

religious outlook. And as in the whole problem of the psychical so here

the interest on both sides has been mainly concentrated on the question of

"mortality" or "immortality." Man is immortal because he has a soul.

Animals "have no souls." "Animals also have souls, differing only in

/> degree but not in substantial nature from the soul of man: as they are

mortal, man must be so too." "Animals have minds: the merely psychical

passes away with the body. But man has spirit in addition. It is

imperishable." These and many other assertions were made on one side or

the other. And both sides made precisely the same mistake: they made the

belief in the immortality of our true nature dependent upon a proof that

the soul has a physical "substantial nature," which is to be regarded as

an indestructible substance, a kind of spiritual atom. And on the other

hand they overlooked the gist of the whole matter, the true

starting-point, which cannot be overlooked if the religious outlook is not

to be brought into discredit. It is undoubtedly a fundamental postulate,

and one which the religious outlook cannot give up, that the human spirit

is more than all creatures, and is in quite a different order from stars,

plants, and animals. But absolutely the first necessity from the point of

view of the religious outlook is to establish the incomparable value of

the human spirit; the question of its "substantial nature" is in itself a

matter of entire indifference. The religious outlook observes that man can

will good and can pray, and no other creature can do this. And it sees

that this makes the difference between two worlds. Whether the bodily and

mental physics in both these worlds is the same or different, is to it a

matter rather of curiosity than of importance.

What occurs or does not occur within the animal mind is, as a matter of

fact, wholly hidden from us. We have no way of determining this except by

analogy with ourselves, and therefore our idea of it is necessarily

anthropomorphic. And apologists are undoubtedly right when they maintain

that this is far too much the case. To reach a more unprejudiced attitude

towards the customary anthropomorphisation of animals, it is profitable to

study Wundt's lectures on "The Human and the Animal Mind" (see especially

Lecture XX.). Perhaps it is true that, notwithstanding all the

much-praised cleverness, intelligence and teachableness of elephants,

dogs, and chimpanzees, they are incapable of forming "general ideas,"

"rules," and "laws," of forming judgments in the strict sense, and

constructive syllogisms, that they have only associations of ideas, and

expectations of similar experience, but no thinking in conceptual terms,

and cannot perceive anything general or necessary, that they recognise a

posteriori but not a priori, as Leibnitz supposed, and that they form

only perceptual inferences, not judgments from experience. But it is not

easy to see that this contributes anything of importance to our problem.

It does not even help us in regard to the interesting question of a

physical guarantee for the indestructibility of the soul. For even if the

psychical acts of animals were fewer and less important than they are

admitted to be, they have certainly sensations, images, feelings,

pleasure, pain, and desire. All these are of a psychical nature,

immaterial, and underivable from the material. And it is difficult to see,

for instance, why the forming of judgments should be regarded as more

durable and indestructible than sensation and desire. The difference lies

higher than this,--not in the fact that man has a few "capacities" more

than the animal, but in the difference in principle, that the psychical in

man can be developed to spirit, and that this is impossible anywhere else.

The very example that naturalism loves to cite in its own favour makes its

error clear. It asks whether the difference, let us say, between a Fuegian

and one of the higher mammals such as an ape, is not much less than that

between a Fuegian and a European. This sounds obvious, if we measure

simply by habits, morals, and possibly also the content of feeling and

imagination in a "savage" as we find him. And yet it is obviously false. I

can train a young ape or an elephant, can teach it to open wine-bottles

and perform tricks. But I can educate the child of the savage, can

develop in him a mental life equal in fineness, depth, and energy,

frequently more than equal, to that of the average European, as the

mission to the Eskimos and to the Fuegians proves, and as Darwin frankly

admitted. Psychical capacity is nothing more than raw material. It is in

the possibility of raising this to the level of spirit, of using the raw

material to its purpose, that the absolute difference, the impassable gulf

between man and animals lies.

Even in animals there is a primitive thinking, rising above the level of

blind instinct. But it can neither be schooled, nor is it capable of

developing even the crudest beginnings of science. Even the animal has a

sensory satisfaction in colour, form and tone (not nearly so much,

however, as the theory of sexual selection requires us to suppose). But

art, even the most rudimentary self-expression of the spirit upon this

basis, is wholly sealed to it. Even the animal possesses strong altruistic

instincts, impulses towards companionship, pairing, and caring for its

young, and some have seen in this the beginnings of morality. But morality

is a matter of the spirit, which begins with the idea of duty and rises to

the recognition of an ideal of life. Nowhere else do we see so directly

and emphatically the incomparability of the natural-psychical and the

spiritual as in the idea of duty and an ideal of life, although the

contrast is equally great at all points of the spiritual life.

Finally and highest of all, we have the capacity of the human spirit to

rise to religion and the greatest heights of feeling. In science and art,

in morality and religion, the spirit possesses itself. And as such it is a

unique and strange guest in this world, absolutely incomparable with

anything beneath or around it. It may, perhaps, be true that the psychical

difference between the ape and man is smaller than that between the ape

and unicellular organisms (though we really can know nothing about that).

But nowhere in the animal world does the psychical overstep the limits of

purely natural existence, of striving after and being prompted by the

directly and purely natural ends of a vegetative and animal instinctive

life, physical pleasure, self-preservation, and the maintenance of the


And there is more than this. However different the psychical equipment may

be at different animal stages, it has one thing in common in them all, it

is absolutely limited to what is given it by nature. An animal species may

last for a million years. But it has no history. It is and remains the

same history-less natural product. In this respect the animal is not a

step in advance of the stone or the crystal. The only thing it can achieve

is to express more or less perfectly the character of the species. This is

the utmost height of its capacity. But for man this is only the

starting-point, and the really human begins just there. What is implicit

in him as homo sapiens, a member of a zoological order, is nothing more

than the natural basis upon which, in human and individual history, he may

build up an entirely unique and new creation, an upper story: the world

and life of the spirit.

It is also erroneous to regard the gradual development of the psychical

capacities at the different levels of animal evolution as the development

of and preparation for the human spirit. It is not the spirit, but the raw

material of it, that is thus being prepared and developed. It is as if, in

the history of colour manufacture, an "evolution" of colour were taking

place. The quality of the colour gradually becomes better and better. Each

generation learns to make it purer and more brilliant. But the painting

which is painted with the most brilliant colour cannot be regarded as a

link in the evolutionary sequence, and is certainly not the crown and

culmination of the pigment; the latter is only the gradual perfecting of a

necessary preliminary condition.

It is only of secondary interest to point out the immense leaps in the

evolution of colour and colour-technique, and especially the vast

difference between the last stage and the one before it, or, to drop the

metaphor, the enormous psychological differences between the animal and

the human mind.

There is no doubt that an apologetic which interests itself in such

matters would find abundant opportunity for work, and could find a

powerful argument against a too hasty naturalism in the differences

between animal and human psychical capacities, which have been recognised

much more sanely and clearly through recent investigation than they

usually were in earlier times. But the question has no special interest

for us here.