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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online

Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan


I suppose that the moral transformations predicted by Mr. Spencer, could be effected only with the aid of physiological change, and at a terrible cost. Those ethical conditions manifested by insect-societies can have been reached only through effort desperately sustained for millions of years against the most atrocious necessities. Necessities equally merciless may have to be met and mastered eventually by the human race. Mr. Spencer has shown that the time of the greatest possible human suffering is yet to come, and that it will be concomitant with the period of the greatest possible pressure of population. Among other results of that long stress, I understand that there will be a vast increase in human intelligence and sympathy; and that this increases of intelligence will be effected at the cost of human fertility. But this decline in reproductive power will not, we are told, be sufficient to assure the very highest of social conditions: it will only relieve that pressure of population which has been the main cause of human suffering. The state of perfect social equilibrium will be approached, but never quite reached, by mankind --

Unless there be discovered some means of solving economic problems, just as social insects have solved them, by the suppression of sex-life.

Supposing that such a discovery were made, and that the human race should decide to arrest the development of six in the majority of its young,-- so as to effect a transferrence of those forces, now demanded by sex-life to the development of higher activities,-- might not the result be an eventual state of polymorphism, like that of ants? And, in such event, might not the Coming Race be indeed represented in its higher types,-- through feminine rather than masculine evolution,-- by a majority of beings of neither sex?

Considering how many persons, even now, through merely unselfish (not to speak of religious) motives, sentence themselves to celibacy, it should not appear improbably that a more highly evolved humanity would cheerfully sacrifice a large proportion of its sex-life for the common weal, particular ly in view of certain advantages to be gained. Not the least of such advantages -- always supposing that mankind were able to control sex-life after the natural manner of the ants -- would be a prodigious increase of longevity. The higher types of a humanity superior to sex might be able to realize the dream of life for a thousand years.

Already we find lives too short for the work we have to do; and with the constantly accelerating progress of discovery, and the never-ceasing expansion of knowledge, we shall certainly find more and more reason to regret, as time goes on, the brevity of existence. That Science will ever discover the Elixir of the Alchemists' hope is extremely unlikely. The Cosmic Powers will not allow us to cheat them. For every advantage which they yield us the full price must be paid: nothing for nothing is the everlasting law. Perhaps the price of long life will prove to be the price that the ants have paid for it. Perhaps, upon some elder planet, that price has already been paid, and the power to produce offspring restricted to a caste morphologically differentiated, in unimaginable ways, from the rest of the species...


But while the facts of insect-biology suggest so much in regard to the future course of human evolution, do they not also suggest something of largest significance concerning the relation of ethics to cosmic law? Apparently, the highest evolution will not be permitted to creatures capable of what human moral experience has in all areas condemned. Apparently, the highest possible strength is the strength of unselfishness; and power supreme never will be accorded to cruelty or to lust. There may be no gods; but the forces that shape and dissolve all forms of being would seem to be much more exacting than gods. To prove a "dramatic tendency" in the ways of the stars is not possible; but the cosmic process seems nevertheless to affirm the worth of every human system of ethics fundamentally opposed to human egoism.

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