Yoga - The Ascent Of Man
( Originally Published 1906 )
In our last lesson we led you by successive steps from the beginnings of Life in living forms up to the creatures closely resembling the family of vertebrates—the highest family of living forms on this planet. In this present lesson we take up the story of the "Ascent of Man" from the lowly vertebrate forms.
The large sub-family of forms called "The Vertebrates" are distinguished from the Invertebrates by reason of the former possessing an internal bony skeleton, the most important feature of which is the vertebra or spinal column. The vertebrates, be it remembered, possess practically the same organs as the lower forms of life, but differ from them most materially by the possession of the internal skeleton, the Iower forms having an external or outside skeleton, which latter is merely a hardening of the skin.
The flexibility of the vertebra creates a wonderful strength of structure, combined with an ease of movement peculiar to the vertebrates, and which renders them the natural forms of life capable of rapid development and evolution. By means of this strength, and ease, these forms are enabled to move rapidly in pursuit of their prey, and away from their pursuers, and also to resist outside pressure or attack. They are protected in a way similar to the invertebrates having shells, and yet have the additional advantage of easy movement. Differing in shape and appearance as do the numerous members of the sub-family of vertebrates, still their structure is easily seen to spring from a single form—all are modifications of some common pattern, the differences arising from the necessities of the life of the animal, as manifested through the desire and necessities of the species.
Science shows the direct relationship between the Vertebrates, and the Invertebrates by means of several connecting-links, the most noticeable of which is the Lancelot, a creature resembling the fish-form, and yet also closely resembling the lower (invertebrate) forms of life. This creature has no head, and but one eye. It is semi-transparent, and possesses cilia for forcing in the water containing its food. It has something like gills, and a gullet like the lower forms. It has no heart, the blood being circulated by means of contracting vessels or parts. Strictly speaking, it has no back-bone, or vertebra, but still Science has been compelled to class it among the vertebrates be-cause is has a gristly cartilage where the back-bone is found in the higher forms. This gristle may be called an "elementary spine." It has a nervous system consisting of a single cord which spreads into a broadened end near the creature's mouth, and which may therefore be regarded as "something like a brain." This creature is really a developed form of Invertebrate, shaped like a Vertebrate, and showing signs of a rudimentary spina and nervous system of the latter. It is a "connecting-link."
The lowest forms of the true Vertebrates are the great families of Fishes. These Fish families include fishes of high and low degree, some of the higher forms being as different from the lowest as they (the highest) are different from the Reptile family. It is not necessary to go into detail regarding the nature of the fish families, for every student is more or less familiar with them.
Some peculiar forms of fish show a shading into the Reptile family, in fact they seem to belong nearly as much to the latter as to their own general family. Some species of fish known as the Dipnoi or "double-breathers," have a remarkable dual system of breathing. That is, they have gills for breathing while in the water, and also have a primitive or elementary "lung" in the shape of an air-bladder, or "sound," which they use for breathing on land. The Mud-fish of South America, and also other forms in Australia and other places, have a modification of fins which are practically "limbs," which they actually use for traveling on land from pond to pond. Some of these fish have been known to travel enormous distances in search of new pools of water, or new streams, having been driven from their original homes by droughts, or perhaps by instincts similar to the migrating instinct of birds. Eels are fish (although many commonly forget this fact) and many of their species are able to leave the water and travel on land from pond to pond, their breathing being performed by a peculiar modification of the gills. The climbing perch of India are able to live out of water, and have modified gills for breathing purposes, and modified fins for climbing and walking. So you see that without leaving the fish family proper, we have examples of land-living creatures which are akin to "connecting links."
But there are real "connecting-links" between the Fish and the Reptiles. Passing over the many queer forms which serve as links between the two families, we have but to consider our common frog's history for a striking example. The Tadpole has gills, has no limbs, uses its tail like a fish's fin, eats plants, etc. Passing through several interesting stages the Tad-pole reaches a stage in which it is a frog with a tail—then it sheds its tait and is a full fledged Frog, with four legs ; web-feet ; no tail ; and feeding on animals. The Frog is amphibious, that is, able to live on land or in water—and yet it is compelled to come to the surface of the water for air to supply its lungs. Some of the amphibious animals possess both lungs and gills, even when matured ; but the higher vertebrates living in the water breathe through lungs which are evolved from the air-bladder of fishes, which in turn have been evolved from the primitive gullet of the lower forms. There are fishes known which are warm-blooded. Students will kindly remember that the Whale is not a fish, but an aquatic animal—a mammal, in fact, bringing forth its young alive, and suckling it from its breasts.
So we readily see that it is but a step, and a short step at that, between the land-traveling and climbing fishes and the lower forms of Reptiles. The Frog shows us the process of evolution between the two families, its life history reproducing the gradual evolution which may have required ages to perfect in the case of the species. You will remember that the embryo stages of all creatures reproduce the various stages of evolution through which the species has passed—this is true in Man as well as in the Frog.
We need not tarry long in considering the Reptile family of living forms. In its varieties of serpents, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, etc., we have studied and observed its forms. We see the limbless snakes ; the lizards with active limbs ; the huge, clumsy, slow crocodiles and alligators—the armor-bearing turtles and tortoises—all belonging to the one great family of Reptiles, and nearly all of them being degenerate descendants of the mighty Reptile forms of the geological Age of Reptiles, in which flourished the mighty forms of the giant reptiles—the monsters of land and water. Amidst the dense vegetation of that pre-historic age, surrounded by the most favorable conditions, these mighty creatures flourished and lived, their fossilized skeleton forms evidencing to us how far their descendants have fallen, owing to less favor-able conditions, and the development of other life-forms more in harmony with their changed environment.
Next comes the great family of Birds. The Birds ascended from the Reptiles. This is the Eastern Teaching, and this is the teaching of Western Science. It was formerly taught in the text-books that the line of ascent was along the family of winged reptiles which existed in the Age of Reptiles, in the early days of the Earth. But the later writers on the subject, in the Western world, have contradicted this. It is now taught that these ancient winged-reptiles were featherless, and more closely resembled the Bat family than birds. (You will remember that a Bat is neither a reptile nor a bird—it is a mammal, bringing forth its young alive, and suckling them at its breast. The Bat is more like a mouse, and its wings are simply membrane stretched between its fingers, its feet, and its tail.)
The line of ascent from Reptile to Bird was along the forms of the Reptiles that walked on land. There are close anatomical and physiological relations and correspondences between the two families (Reptiles and Birds) which we need not refer to here. And, of course, many modifications have occurred since the "branching-out." The scales of the reptiles, and the feathers of the birds, are known to be but modifications of the original outer skin, as are also the hair, claws, hoofs, nails, etc., of all animals. Even teeth arose in this way, strange as it may now seem—they are all secreted from the skin. What a wonderful field for thought—this gradual evolution from the filmy outer covering of the lowest living forms to the beautiful feathers, beaks, and claws of the bird !
The evolving of wings meant much to the ascending forms of life. The Reptiles were compelled to live in a narrow circle of territory, while the Birds were able to travel over the earth in wide flights. And travel always develops the faculties of observation, memory, etc., and cultivates the senses of seeing, hearing, etc. And the creature is compelled to exercise its evolving "thinking" faculties to a greater extent. And so the Birds were compelled by necessity of their travels to develop a greater degree of thinking organism. The result is that among birds we find many instances of intelligent thought, which cannot be dismissed as "mere instinct." Naturalists place the Crow at the head of the family of Birds, in point of intelligence, and those who have watched these creatures and studied the mental processes, will agree that this is a just decision. It has been proven that Crows are capable of counting up to several figures, and in other ways they display a wonderful degree of almost human sagacity.
Next above the Bird family comes the highest form of all—the Mammals. But before we begin our consideration of these, high forms, let us take a hasty glance at the "connecting-links" between the Birds and the Mammals. The lowest forms of the Mammals resemble Birds in many ways. Some of them are toothless, and many of them have the same primitive intestinal arrangements possessed by the birds, from which arises their name, Monotremes. These Monotremes may be called half-bird and half-mammal. One of the most characteristic of their family is the Ornithorhynchus, or Duck-bill, which the early naturalists first thought was a fraud of the taxidermists, or bird-stuffers, and then, when finally convinced, deemed it a "freak-of-nature." But it is not a freak creature, but a "connecting-link" between the two great families of creatures. This animal presents a startling appearance to the observer who witnesses it for the first time. It resembles a beaver, having a soft furry coat, but also has a horny, flat bill like a duck, its feet being webbed, but also furnished with claws projecting over the edge of the web-foot. It lays eggs in an underground nest—two eggs at a time, which are like the eggs of birds, inasmuch as they contain not only the protoplasm from which the embryo is formed, but also the "yolk," on which the embryo feeds until hatched. After the young Duck-bill is hatched, it feeds from teatless glands in the mother's body, the milk being furnished by the mother by a peculiar process. Consider this miracle—an animal which lays eggs and then when her young are hatched nourishes them with milk. The milk-glands in the mother are elementary "breasts."
The above-mentioned animal is found in Australia, the land of many strange forms and "connecting-links," which have survived there while in other parts of the globe they have vanished gradually from existence, crowded out by the more perfectly evolved forms. Darwin has called these surviving forms "living fossils." In that same land is also found the Echdina or spiny anteater, which lays an egg and then hatches it in her pouch, after which she nourishes it on milk, in a manner similar to that of the Duck-bill. This animal, like the Duck-bill, is a Monotreme.
Scientists are divided in theories as to whether the Monotremes are actually descended directly from the Reptiles or Birds, or whether there was a common ancestor from which Reptiles and Birds and Mammals branched off. But this is not important, for the relationship between Reptiles, Birds and Mammals is clearly proven. And the Monotremes are certainly one of the surviving forms of the intermediate stages.
The next higher step in the ascent of Mammal life above the Monotreme is occupied by the Marsupials, or milk-giving, pouched animals, of which family the opossum and kangaroo are well known members. The characteristic feature of this family of creatures is the possession of an external pouch in the female, in which the young are kept and nourished until they can take care of themselves as the young of other animals are able to do. The young of the Marsupials are brought forth, or born, in an imperfect condition, and undeveloped in size and strength. There are fossil remains of Marsupials showing that in past ages creatures of this kind existed which were as large as elephants.
In the more common form of Mammals the young are brought forth fully formed, they having received nourishment, before birth, from the mother's body, through the placenta, the appendage which connects the fetus with the parent. The Placental Mammals were the best equipped of all the life-forms for survival and development, for the reason that the young were nourished during their critical period, and the care that the mammal must of necessity give to her young operated in the direction of affording a special protection far superior to that of the other forms. This and other causes acted to place the Placentals in the "Royal line" from which Man was evolved.
The following families of Placental Mammals are recognized by Science, each having its own structural peculiarities :
The Edentata, or Toothless creatures, among which are the sloths, anteaters, armadillos, etc. These animals seem to be closer to the Monotremes than they are to the Marsupials ;
The Sirenia, so called by reason of their fanciful resemblance to the sirens of mythology, among which are the sea-cows, manatees, dugongs, etc., which are fish-like in structure and appearance, the fore-limbs being shaped like paddles, or fins, and the hind-limbs being absent or rudimentary;
The Cetacea, or Whale Family, including whales, porpoises, dolphins, etc., which are quite fish-like in appearance and structure, their forms being adapted for life in the sea, although they are, of course, Mammals, bringing forth matured young which are suckled at the breast;
The Ungulata, or Hoofed Animals, which comprise many varied forms, such as the horse, the tapir, the rhinoceros, the swine, the hippopotamus, the camel, the deer, the sheep, the cow, etc., etc. ;
The Hyracoidea, which is a small family, the principal member of which is the coney, or rockrabbit, which has teeth resembling those of the hoofed animals, in some ways, and those of the gnawing animals in the others.
The Proboscidea, or Trunked Animals, which family is represented in this age only by the families of elephants, which have a peculiar appendage called a "trunk," which they use as an additional limb ;
The Carnivora, or Flesh-eaters, represented by numerous and various forms, such as the seal, the bear, the weasel, the wolf, the dog, the lion, the tiger, the leopard, etc. The wolf and similar forms belong to the sub-family of dogs ; while the lion, tiger, etc., belong to the sub-family of cats ;
The Rodentia, or Gnawers, comprising the rat, the hare, the beaver, the squirrel, the mouse, etc., etc. ;
The Insectivora, or Insect Feeders, comprising the mole, the shrew, the hedgehog, etc. ;
The Cheiroptera, or Finger-Winged Animals, comprising the great family of Bats, etc., which are very highly developed animals;
The Lemuroidea, or Lemurs, the name of which is derived from the Latin word meaning a "ghost," by reason of the Lemur's habits of roaming about at night. The Lemur is a nocturnal animal, somewhat resembling the Monkey in general appearance, but with a long, bushy tail and sharp muzzle like a fox. It is akin to a small fox having hands and feet like a monkey, the feet being used to grasp like a hand, as is the case with the true Monkey family. These creatures are classed by some naturalists among the Mon-keys by reason of being "four-handed," while others are disposed to consider as still more important their marked relationship with, and affinity to, the marsupials, gnawers and insect-feeders. On the whole, these creatures are strangely organized and come very near to being a "connecting-link" between other forms. One of the Lemurs is what is known as the colugo, or "flying lemur," which resembles a squirrel in many particulars, and yet has a membranous web extending from its hands, which enables it to make flying leaps over great distances. This last named variety seems to furnish a link between the insect-feeders and the Primates ;
The Primates, which is a large family comprising the various forms of monkeys, baboons, man-apes, such as the gibbon, gorilla, chimpanzee, orang-outang, etc., all of which have big jaws, small brains, and a stooping posture. This family also includes MAN, with his big brain and erect posture, and his many races depending upon shape of skull, color of skin, character of hair, etc.
In considering the Ascent of Man (physical) from the lowly forms of the Monera, etc., up to his present high position, the student is struck with the continuity of the ascent, development and unfoldment. While there are many "missing-links," owing to the disappearance of the forms which formed the connection, still there is sufficient proof left in the existing forms to satisfy the fair-minded inquirer. The facts of embryology alone are sufficient proof of the ascent of Man from the lowly forms. Each and every man today has passed through all the forms of the ascent within a few months, from single cell to the new-born, fully formed infant.
Embryology teaches us that the eggs from which all animal forms evolve are all practically alike so far as one can ascertain by microscopic examination, no matter how diverse may be the forms which will evolve from them, and this resemblance is maintained even when the embryo of the higher forms begins to manifest traces of its future form. Von Baer, the German scientist, was the first to note this remarkable and suggestive fact. He stated it in the following words : "In my possession are two little embryos, preserved in alcohol, whose names I have omitted to attach, and at present I am unable to state to what class they belong. They may be lizards, or small birds, or very young mammals, so complete is the similarity in the mode of the formation of the head and trunk in these animals. The extremities, how-ever, are still absent in these embryos. But even if they had existed in the earliest stage of their development, we should learn nothing, for the feet of lizards and mammals, the wings and feet of birds, no less than the hands and feet of man, all arise from the same fundamental form."
As has been said by Prof. Clodd, "the embryos of all living creatures epitomize during development the series of changes through which the ancestral faims passed in their ascent from the simple to the complex; the higher structures passing through the same stages as the lower structures up to the point when they are marked off from them, yet never becoming in detail the form which they represent for the time being. For example, the embryo of man has at the outset gill-like slits on each side of the neck, like a fish. These give place to a membrane like that which supersedes gills in the development of birds and rep-tiles; the heart is at first a simple pulsating chamber like that in worms ; the backbone is prolonged into a movable tail ; the great toe is extended, or opposable, like our thumbs, and like the toes of apes; the body three months before birth is covered all over with hair except on the palms and soles. At birth the head is relatively larger, and the arms and legs relatively longer than in the adult; the nose is bridgeless ; both features, with others which need not be detailed, being distinctly ape-like. Thus does the egg from which man springs, a structure only one hundred and twenty-fifth of an inch in size, compress into a few weeks the results of millions of years, and set before us the history of his development from fish-like and reptilian forms, and of his more immediate descent from a hairy, tailed quadruped. That which is individual or peculiar to him, the physical and mental character inherited, is left to the slower development which follows birth."
This, then, in brief is the Western theory of Evolution—the Physical Ascent of Man. We have given it as fully as might be in the small space at our disposal in these lessons on the Yogi Philosophy. Why? Because we wish to prove to the Western mind, in the Western way, that Western Science corroborates the Ancient Yogi Teachings of the Unfoldment of Living Forms, from Monad to Man. The Eastern teachers scorn to "prove" anything to their pupils, who sit at the feet of teachers and accept as truth that which is taught them, and which has been handed down from the dim ages long past. But this method will never do for the Western student—he must have it "proven" to him by physical facts and instances, not by keen, subtle, intellectual reasoning alone. The Eastern student wishes to be "told"—the Western student wishes to be "shown." Herein lies the racial differences of method of imparting knowledge. And so we have recognized this fact and have heaped up proof after proof from the pages of Western Science, in order to prove to you the reasonableness, from the Western point of view, of the doctrine of Physical Unfoldment as taught for ages past by the Yogi gurus to their chelas. You have now the Eastern Teachings on the subject, together with the testimony of Western Science to the reasonableness of the idea.
But, alas ! Western Science, while performing a marvelous work in piling up fact after fact to support its newly-discovered theory of Evolution, in a way utterly unknown to the Oriental thinker who seeks after principles by mental concentration—within rather than without—while actually proving by physical facts the mental conceptions of the Oriental Teachings, still misses the vital point of the subject-thought. In its materialistic tendencies it has failed to recognize the mental cause of the physical unfoldment. It is true that Lamark, the real Western discoverer of Evolution, taught that Desire and Mental Craving, was the real force behind Evolution, but his ideas were jeered at by his contemporaries, and are not regarded seriously by the majority of Evolutionists even today. And yet he was nearer to the truth than Darwin or any other Western Evolutionist. And time will show that Science has overlooked his genius, which alone throws the true light upon the subject.
In order to see just this difference between the Darwinian school and the Yogi Teachings let us ex-amine into what causes the Western Evolutionists give for the fact of Evolution itself. We shall do this briefly.
The Darwinians start out to explain the causes of the "Origin of Species," with the statement that "no two individuals of the same species are exactly alike ; each tends to vary." This is a self-evident fact, and is very properly used as a starting point for Variation. The next step is then stated as "variations are transmitted, and therefore tend to become permanent," which also is self-evident, and tends to prove the reasonableness of the gradual evolution of species. The next step in the argument is "as man produces new species and forms, by breeding, culture, etc., so has Nature in a longer time produced the same effect, in the same way." This also is reasonable, although it tends to personify Nature, and to give it a mind before the evolutionists admit "mind" was evolved.
It will be as well to quote Darwin himself on this point. He says : "As man can produce, and certainly has produced, a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not natural selection effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters, while Nature, if I may be allowed to personify the natural preservation or survival of the fittest, cares nothing for appearances except in so far as they are useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for the good of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her, as is implied by the fact of their selection. Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country ; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long-beaked and a short-beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a long-backed or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long hair and short wool in the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, so far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection by some half-monstrous form, or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch the eye or to be plainly useful to him. Under Nature the slightest differences of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man ! how short his time ! and consequently how poor will be his results, compared with those accumulated by nature during whole geological periods ! Can we wonder, then, that Nature's productions should be far `truer' in character than man's productions ; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship ?"
Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest is begun by the statement of the fact that the number of organ-isms that survive are very small compared with the number that are born. To quote his own words, "There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate that, if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair. Even slow-breeding man has doubled in twenty-five years, and at this rate in less than a thousand years there would literally not be standing room for the progeny." It has been computed that- if the offspring of the elephant, which 'is believed to be the slowest breeding animal known, were to survive, there would be about 20,000,000 elephants on the earth in 750 years. The roe of a single cod contains eight or nine millions of eggs, and if each egg were to hatch, and the fish survive, the sea would shortly become a solid mass of codfish. The house fly is said to have 20,000,000 descendants in a season, counting several generations of progeny, from its several broods. And some scientist has computed that the aphis, or plant-louse, breeds so rapidly, and in such enormous quantity, that the tenth generation of one set of parents would be so large that it would contain more ponderable animal matter than would the population of China, which is estimated at 500,-000,000! And this without counting the progeny preceding the tenth generation !
The result of the above conditions is very plain. There must ensue a Struggle for Existence, which necessitates the Survival of the Fittest. The weak are crushed out by the strong ; the swift out-distance the slow. The individual forms or species best adapted to their environment and best equipped for the struggle, be the equipment physical or mental, survive those less well equipped or less well adapted to environment. Animals evolving variations in structure that give them even a slight advantage over others not so favored, naturally have a better chance to survive. And this, briefly, is what Evolutionists call "The Survival of the Fittest."
As appertaining to the Struggle for Existence, color and mimicry are important factors. Grant Allen, in his work on Darwin, says concerning this, and also as illustrating "Natural Selection" : "In the desert with its monotonous sandy coloring, a black insect or a white insect, still more a red insect or a blue insect, would be immediately detected and devoured by its natural enemies, the birds and the lizards. But any greyish or yellowish insects would be less likely to attract attention at first sight, and would be over-looked as long as there were any more conspicuous individuals of their own kind about for the birds and lizards to feed on. Hence, in a very short time the desert would be depopulated of all but the greyest and yellowest insects ; and among these the birds would pick out those which differed most markedly in hue and shade from the sand around them. But those which happened to vary most in the direction of a sandy or spotty color would be more likely to survive, and to become the parents of future generations. Thus, in the course of long ages, all the insects which inhabit deserts have become sand-colored, because the less sandy were perpetually picked out for destruction by their ever-watchful foes, while the most sandy escaped, and multiplied and replenished the earth with their own likes."
Prof. Clodd, remarking upon this fact, adds : "Thus, then, is explained the tawny color of the larger animals that inhabit the desert; the stripes upon the tiger, which parallel with the vertical stems of bamboo, conceal him as he stealthily nears his prey ; the brilliant green of tropical birds ; the leaf-like form and colors of certain insects; the dried, twig-like form of many caterpillars; the bark-like appearance of tree-frogs ; the harmony of the ptarmigan's summer plumage with the lichen-colored stones upon which it sits ; the dusky color of creatures that haunt the night; the bluish transparency of animals which live on the surface of the sea; the gravel-like color of flat-fish that live at the bottom ; and the gorgeous tints of those that swim among the coral reefs."
All this does not run contrary to the Yogi Philosophy, although the latter would regard these things as but the secondary cause for the variation and survival of species, etc. The Oriental teachings are that it is the desire of the animal that causes it to assume the colors and shapes in accordance with its environment, the desire of course operating along sub-conscious lines of physical manifestation. The mental influence, which is the real cause of the phenomena, and which is taught as such by the Yogis, is almost lost sight of by the Western Evolutionists, who are apt to regard Mind as a "by-product" of matter. On the contrary, the Yogis regard Matter as the product of Mind. But there is no conflict here as far as regards the law of the Survival of the Fittest. The in-sects that most desired to become sand-colored became so, and were thus protected, while their less "desireful" brethren were exterminated. The Western scientist explains the outward phenomena, but does not look for the cause behind it, which is taught by the Oriental sages.
The doctrine of "Sexual Selection" is another of the leading tenets of the Darwinists. Briefly, it may be expressed as the theory that in the rivalry and struggle of the males for the females the strongest males win the day, and thus transmit their particular qualities to their offspring. Along the same lines is that of the attraction exerted by bright colors in the plumage of the males of birds, etc., which give them an advantage in the eyes of the females, and thus, naturally, the bright colors are perpetuated.
This, then, is the brief outline of the Story of Man's Physical Evolution, as stated by Western Science, and compared with the Yogi Teachings. The student should compare the two ideas, that he may harmonize and reconcile them. It must be remembered, however, that Darwin did not teach that Man descended from the monkeys, or apes, as we know them now. The teaching of Western Evolution is that the apes, and higher forms of monkey life descended from some common ancestral form, which same ancestor was also the ancestor of Man. In other words, Man and Apes are the different branches that emerged from the common trunk ages ago. Other forms doubtless emerged from the same trunk, and perished because less adapted to their environments. The Apes were best adapted to their own environments, and Man was best adapted to his. The weaker branches failed.
One must remember that the most savage races known to us today are practically as far different from the highest American, European or Hindu types of Man as from the highest Apes. Indeed, it would seem far easier for a high Ape to evolve into a Kaffir, Hottentot, or Digger Indian, than for the latter to evolve into an Emerson, Shakespeare, or Hindu Sage. As Huxley has shown, the brain-structure of Man compared with that of the Chimpanzee shows differences but slight when compared with the difference between that of the Chimpanzee and that of the Lemur. The same authority informs us that in the important feature of the deeper brain furrows, and intricate convolutions, the chasm between the highest civilized man and the lowest savage is far greater than between the lowest savage and the highest man-like ape. Dar-win, describing the Fuegians, who are among the very lowest forms of savages, says : "Their very signs and expressions are less intelligible to us than those of the domesticated animal. They are men who do not possess the instinct of those animals, nor yet appear to boast of human reason, or at least of arts consequent upon that reason."
Professor Clodd, in describing the "primitive man," says : "Doubtless he was lower than the lowest of the savages of today—a powerful, cunning biped, with keen sense organs always sharper, in virtue of constant exercise, in the savage than in the civilized man (who supplements them by science), strong instincts, uncontrolled and fitful emotions, small faculty of wonder, and nascent reasoning power; unable to forecast tomorrow, or to comprehend yesterday, living from hand to mouth on the wild products of Nature, clothed in skin and bark, or daubed with clay, and finding shelter in trees and caves ; ignorant of the simplest arts, save to chip a stone missle, and perhaps to produce fire; strong in his needs of life and vague sense of right to it and to what he could get, but slowly impelled by common perils and passions to form ties, loose and haphazard at the outset, with his kind, the power of combination with them depending on sounds, signs and gestures."
Such was the ancestral man. Those who are interested in him are referred to the two wonderful tales of the cave-man written in the form of stories by two great modern novelists. The books referred to are (1) "The Story of Ab," by Stanley Waterloo, and (2) "Before Adam," by Jack London. They may be obtained from any bookseller. Both are works of fiction, with the scientific facts cleverly interwoven into them.
And now in conclusion before we pass on the subject of "Spiritual Evolution," which will form the subject of our next lesson, we would again call your attention to the vital difference between the Western and the Eastern Teachings. The Western holds to a mechanical theory of life, which works without the necessity of antecedent Mind, the latter appearing as a "product" at a certain stage. The Eastern holds that Mind is back of, under, and antecedent to all the work of Evolution—the cause, not the effect or product. The Western claims that Mind was produced by the struggle of Matter to produce higher forms of itself. The Eastern claims that the whole process of Evolution is caused by Mind striving, struggling and pressing forward toward expressing itself more fully—to liberate itself from the confining and retarding Matter—the struggle resulting in an Unfoldment which causes sheath after sheath of the confining material bonds to be thrown off and discarded, in the effort to release the confined Spirit which is behind even the Mind. The Yogi Teachings are that the Evolutionary Urge is the pressure of the confined Spirit striving to free itself from the fetters and bonds which sorely oppress it.
The struggle and pain of Evolution is the parturition-pangs of the Spiritual deliverance from the womb of Matter. Like all birth it is attended by pain and suffering, but the end justifies it all. And as the human mother forgets her past suffering in the joy of witnessing the face, and form, and life, of her loved child, so will the soul forget the pain of the Spiritual birth by reason of the beauty and nobility of that which will be born to and from it.
Let us study well the story of Physical Evolution, but let us not lose ourselves in it, for it is but the preliminary to the story of the Unfoldment of the Soul.
Let us not despise the tale of the Body of Man—for it is the story of the Temple of the Spirit which has been built up from the most humble beginnings, until it has reached the present high stage. And yet even this is but the beginning, for the work will go on, and on, and on, in the spirit of those beautiful lines of Holmes :
"Build thee more stately mansions, oh, my soul!