Evolution And New Beginnings

All this throws an important light upon two subjects which are relevant in

this connection, but which cannot here be exhaustively dealt

with,--evolution and new beginnings. Let us consider, for instance, the

marvellous range and diversity of the characteristic chemical properties

and interrelations of substances. Each one of them, contrasted with the

preceding lower forms and stages of "energy," contrasted with mere

raction, repulsion, gravitation, is something absolutely new, a new

interpolation (of course not in regard to time but to grade), a phenomenon

which cannot be "explained" by what has gone before. It simply occurs, and

we find it in its own time and place. We may call this new emergence

"evolution," and we may use this term in connection with every new stage

higher than those preceding it. But it is not evolution in a crude and

quantitative sense, according to which the "more highly evolved" is

nothing more than an addition and combination of what was already there;

it is evolution in the old sense of the word, according to which the more

developed is a higher analogue of the less developed, but is in its own

way as independent, as much a new beginning as each of the antecedent

stages, and therefore in the strict sense neither derivable from them nor

reducible to them.

It must be noted that in this sense evolution and new beginnings are

already present at a very early stage in nature and are part of its

essence. We must bear this in mind if we are rightly to understand the

subtler processes in nature which we find emerging at a higher level. It

is illusory to suppose that it is a "natural" assumption to "derive" the

living from lower processes in nature. The non-living and the inorganic

are also underivable as to their individual stages, and the leap from the

inorganic to the organic is simply much greater than that from attraction

in general to chemical affinity. As a matter of fact, the first

occurrence--undoubtedly controlled and conditioned by internal necessity--of

crystallisation, or of life, or of sensation has just the same

marvellousness as everything individual and everything new in any

ascending series in nature. In short, every new beginning has the same


Perhaps this consideration goes still deeper, throwing light upon or

suggesting the proper basis for a study of the domain of mind and of

history. It is immediately obvious that there, at any rate, we enter into

a region of phenomena which cannot be derived from anything antecedent, or

reduced to anything lower. It must be one of the chief tasks of naturalism

to explain away these facts, and to maintain the sway of "evolution," not

in our sense but in its own, that is "to explain" everything new and

individual from that which precedes it. But the assertion that this can be

done is here doubly false. For, in the first place, it cannot be proved

that methods of study which are relatively valid for natural phenomena are

applicable also to those of the mind. And in the second place we must

admit that even in nature--apart from mind--we have to do with new

beginnings which are underivable from their antecedents.

All being is inscrutable mystery as a whole, and from its very foundations

upwards through each successively higher stage of its evolution, in an

increasing degree, until it reaches a climax in the incomprehensibility of

individuality. It is a mystery that does not force itself into nature as

supernatural or miraculous, but is fundamentally implicit in it, a mystery

that in its unfolding assuredly follows the strictest law, the most

inviolable rules, whether in the chemical affinities a higher grade of

energies reveals itself, or whether--unquestionably also in obedience to

everlasting law--the physical and chemical conditions admit of the

occurrence of life, or whether in his own time and place a genius