28 OCTOBER 1876, Page 13


MR.. SNOW'S RENUNCIATION OF HIS ORDERS. [TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sin,—You say you " do not regard it as a true description of the moral experience of man to say that the Natura Naturans in him, the natural tendency which tries to transform him, is always on the side of good." I will show that it is. Your readers must not take me to say that our natural appetites are always right. If so, farewell indeed to all morality, nay, farewell to all humanity. I am in a position to deny the rectitude of our natural appetites far more unreservedly than most of your Broad-Church friends, as I could prove by quotations from their written and spoken ideas concerning the redemption of the body. In fact, the moral teaching I most approve of, on the whole, is that which is given by the more unworldly portion of the Catholics and Ritualists, and I have a strong faith in the virtues of asceticism.

You must consider that I have for thirty years or more been -used to look on Nature in the aspect in which Darwin views it, and that so viewed, Nature herself speaks, as the moralist does, of appetites that need mortification, and organs that need to be dwarfed or suppressed, in order to enable the living creature to adapt itself to its present surroundings ; and so I find in the con- scious asceticism of the man who aspires to a better state simply the carrying on into the sphere of consciousness of a process as old as nature itself, for we find living creatures everywhere un- consciously starving or dwarfing those organs that have become -useless or cumbersome. So far I have been justifying myself not to you, but to those uninstructed readers who might imagine that you accused me of wishing to consecrate those natural ,promptings that " war against the soul."

Now I proceed to justify myself to you. You say that the natural tendency which tries to transform man is not always on the side of good. I assert, in opposition to this, that it does not lie in the power of man, who has to use speech as a medium of communication with his fellows, to designate the direction in which the human race is advancing by any other word than "good," or some other term of praise. My assertion rests on my belief that man, to all appearance—as far as it is given to us to judge—. owes his advance to an inward dissatisfaction that suggests a better state than the present, and that his deliverance from thraldom to the old carnal nature out of which he is rising is due to the efforts to which this dissatisfaction prompts him. If this be granted—which I think it will be by you, though I know many would hesitate to admit it—if it be true that an inward dissatis- faction will not allow mankind to cease from attempting to realise a better state than the present, we must pronounce this dissatis- faction to be on the side of good. What each man deliberately and permanently desires and presses forward to he cannot but praise or call "good." What the human race permanently desires and presses forward to, the human race cannot but unitedly praise, and so "good" becomes the true name of it.

Finally, not to leave your editorial note imperfectly answered, I think "moral experience " confirms this. What makes a man ashamed to look his fellow-men in the face? What makes a man afraid of being seen or known, so that his fear inspeaks visions of the all-seeing eye, of an omnipotent, omnipresent Judge. The thing that makes a man ashamed to look his fellow-men in the face, and goes on from thence to suggest transcendental fears, is the feeling that he is being led or has been led by his own incon- siderate selfish desires to th wart those things that mankind has most deeply and permanently at heart. Something, "touching th' electric chain wherewith we're darkly bound," makes him feel that in thwarting the will of his race, he is doing what he himself will look back on with remorse. He does not probably intel- lectually apprehend, but he feels the fact that his own will has its perennial root in the will of mankind ; I go on to say in the will of the great Creator of all ; thus he stands self-convicted of having thwarted that Will which it is deadly sin to thwart.—I

am, Sir, &c., G. D. Sr-row.

[It seems to us that Mr. Snow overlooks the deterioration of organisation which is often needed "in order to enable the living creature to adapt itself to its present surroundings;" and certainly Darwinism teaches that deteriorationL-suppression of a noble but dangerous quality—is not an infrequent result of the operation of the mere natura naturans, both in natural and in moral life. Unless you limit the meaning of the natura naturans to the moral instincts themselves, the natura naturans is often immoral.— En. Spectator.]