Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3 eBook

Leonard Huxley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 521 pages of information about Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3.

As to “Immortality” again [he refers his critic to his book on “Hume"].  I do not think I need return to “subjective” immortality, but it may be well to add that I am a very strong believer in the punishment of certain kinds of actions, not only in the present, but in all the future a man can have, be it long or short.  Therefore in hell, for I suppose that all men with a clear sense of right and wrong (and I am not sure that any others deserve such punishment) have now and then “descended into hell” and stopped there quite long enough to know what infinite punishment means.  And if a genuine, not merely subjective, immortality awaits us, I conceive that, without some such change as that depicted in the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, immortality must be eternal misery.  The fate of Swift’s Struldbrugs seems to me not more horrible than that of a mind imprisoned for ever within the flammantia moenia of inextinguishable memories.

Further, it may be well to remember that the highest level of moral aspiration recorded in history was reached by a few ancient Jews—­Micah, Isaiah, and the rest—­who took no count whatever of what might or might not happen to them after death.  It is not obvious to me why the same point should not by and by be reached by the Gentiles.

[He admits that the generality of mankind will not be satisfied to be told that there are some topics about which we know nothing now, and do not seem likely ever to be able to know more; and, consequently, that in the long-run the world will turn to those who profess to have conclusions:—­]

And that is the pity of it.  As in the past, so, I fear, through a very long future, the multitude will continue to turn to those who are ready to feed it with the viands its soul lusteth after; who will offer mental peace where there is no peace, and lap it in the luxury of pleasant delusions.

To missionaries of the Neo-Positivist, as to those of other professed solutions of insoluble mysteries, whose souls are bound up in the success of their sectarian propaganda, no doubt, it must be very disheartening if the “world,” for whose assent and approbation they sue, stops its ears and turns its back upon them.  But what does it signify to any one who does not happen to be a missionary of any sect, philosophical or religious, and who, if he were, would have no sermon to preach except from the text with which Descartes, to go no further back, furnished us two centuries since?  I am very sorry if people will not listen to those who rehearse before them the best lessons they have been able to learn, but that is their business, not mine.  Belief in majorities is not rooted in my breast, and if all the world were against me the fact might warn me to revise and criticise my opinions, but would not in itself supply a ghost of a reason for forsaking them.  For myself I say deliberately, it is better to have a millstone tied round the neck and be thrown into the sea than to share the enterprises of those to whom the world has turned, and will turn, because they minister to its weaknesses and cover up the awful realities which it shudders to look at.

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Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.