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The Evolutionary Rhythm

( Originally Published 1916 )


The Chromidia were a most inferior order of beings, if viewed at the close range wherewith science would blind us to the truth, but given the historical perspective necessary to clear visioning, a Chromid was a very superior person. Indeed, if considered in the light of what he did, none greater ever lived. To what elements of character he owed this superiority, I know not. There is evidence pointing to a strong moral sense combined with a great love of the beautiful. A spirit of harmony there certainly was, for in some mysterious way this people (minute granules to the eyes of the biologists) formed well-ordered states. These, the Protista, were possessed of central governments, nuclei go-called, from which radiated network and filament for quick response to external impact, the present military system in embryo, as it were. The loyalty of the Chromidia to their governments was most marked; never were a people more

" eager to do and die, yield each his place to the rest "

in the common cause. And because of this national spirit the Protista grew in size and strength and soon were able to surround themselves with protective walls which, despite the many wons that have elapsed, are still standing, hence rivalling the old Roman ones. They also established magazines for the storage of surplus energy, apparently divining the long struggle ahead of them. Oddly enough, these magazines were placed in positions of unstable equilibrium so that the energies of the reactions came into play only when this equilibrium was disturbed. The historian will readily see in this device the origin of the mines which to-day perilize our seas. While no record of their wars is extant, we may be certain they were victorious, for the Protista succeeded in time in colonising the entire habitable surface of the globe.

And so it was that the Chromid created beyond it-self, even to the protoplasmic cell ! And now my story is begun.

Spencer would have said that what happened next was due to the gravitating tendency within homogeneous masses, but since the Protista might easily have been passed over by the same generalisation, it would, I think, be safe to look into the matter.

Some of the Protoplasmic peoples, or cells, if you are scientifically minded, settled down to equilibrium, where they may be found to-day still enjoying life at its fountain-head. Some perished in the life-struggle, but others, falling upon a variable environment and being much put to it, learned to make slight changes in their structure. It was this very adaptability to meet the exigencies of life which I believe caused them to cling together as they did, for it goes without saying that the more highly specialised an individual is, the greater the need he has of his fellows, and especially does he miss the sense of all-roundness if he is a cell. And since we find great numbers of the Protista forming organisations for the maintenance of life, we must infer an economic pressure. Do not mistake me; these unions, or Metaplasts, were far more than mere trade-guilds. It is hard to say what the principle of association was which bridged over their original separateness so as to effect the organic unity, that was manifest in their functioning toward one another and the external world generally. One individual became modified in one way, another in another, as if inspired by some inexplicable instinct of harmony for the forming of a higher being, Hence it is only in a limited sense that the individuals of this multicellular compound are to be regarded as cooperating units ; rather were they local centres of a formative power pervading the mass as a whole.

It is to be noted that the above process making for the essential unity of the Metaplast was the same the Chromid had used ; with this advance, though, that the response was greater and the coordination more perfect. So we can but conclude that the life-impulse felt itself caught up into a higher rhythm, however much the elements which stood out for individualism may have decried the union-spirit. And since might has ever made right, the world became conquered anew. But even at that early day history knew to repeat itself. Consequently we find the Metaplast, although a people vastly superior to the Chromidia, settling down to commercialism after the manner of these. And peace would doubtless have been a permanent possibility if it had not been that the struggle for existence was fast becoming an evolutionary factor. I might say in explanation that, no Malthus having arisen to give warning of the dangers of rapid multiplication, the population was in-creasing in geometrical ratio. In view of this, the competition for commercial supremacy which sprang up among different states is not at all surprising. The contest at last narrowed down to two peoples, strange to say both of the same branch, and it is a question which would have won had not the Gastrea (the one more closely resembling the primitive stock) become possessed of some higher vision.

And the third time the world awoke to a tremendous outburst of energy. But while the realisation of it was sudden, the process itself had been a slow one. It was no less than the mobilisation of vast homogeneous masses of the Gastrea, resulting in the formation of Annelids, best described, I think, as armies, for unlike their predecessors they were linear in shape, with the controlling force at the anterior end. With their dominance a new period of Kultur arose.

Surely now Evolution is in sight of its goal. Ah, no, for again life is caught up by the evolutionary rhythm, and the formula for the making of a communal soul is repeated. We see the same clustering, fusing and centralising of unit organs in the striving for a " conscience more divine "; life swings to a still higher level through the righteousness of its purpose. And so " up, the pinnacled glory reached " to man.'

Four evolutionary periods do not go far, it will be said, toward establishing a scientific induction. But rhythms are very apt to have a mathematical basis, and the evolutionary one is no exception. There is a method known to Algebra as the theory of groups. A group is made up of a set of operations or trans-formations such that a combination of any two of them yields an operation or transformation belonging to the set. Any property or quality that is left unaltered by all the transformations in the group is said to be an invariant under the group. Bernard's investigations in organic development show the persistence of a group as thus defined by Algebra, provided we take for our set of operations all possible entities resulting from the time-process. For such a group, differentiation necessitates integration, and vice versa, hence the life-rhythm is an unending one.


Along with the tendency to form different personalities, goes the tendency for these personalities to form larger centres of action. The first, the differentiating tendency, has been fully accounted for by the theory of evolution ; the second, the integrating tendency, demands an inverse process which logically must be called involution.

A true individuality is to be acquired only through certain unique inter-actions with the whole realm of being. The environment is not uniform for even the smallest organism, and for no two organisms is there the same identical contact with the external world. In the equilibration of forces that sets in as a con-sequence of the varying strains and stresses between outer and inner media, different functionings with resulting characteristics follow. The individualising of the creature starts with its response to the environment. All growth makes for larger contact and greater instability with respect to the environment, resulting in progressively more complex functioning and higher mechanism. When the inter-relations between the organism and its external world of fellow creatures and inorganic force have attained their highest potentiality, the individuality is then perfected. This happens, as is manifest, when the integration is complete. On the other hand, the integration is complete because the creature has taken its particular place in the whole. Our theorem might be stated thus: Each has to that extent a place in the larger whole that he has realised him-self ; and conversely, he has realised himself to the extent that his relations with the whole are perfected.

While the struggle for existence has led to a combining for mutual help and protection, it has been a secondary factor only in the socialising process, the fundamental one being the need that the individual has for the larger activity, the fuller life which social organisation alone makes possible. Manifestly the factors of integration are not to be ascribed to evolution, for they work in direct opposition to the principle underlying the struggle for existence. The mutual incompatibility of altruism and natural selection goes without saying. Darwinism is in no sense socialistic. Powerful though the searchlight is which evolution has thrown across the Great Sea of Life, it has illumined but one phase of the billows .3

s HoW absolutely universal is the extent, and at the same time hoW completely subordinate the significance, of the mission Which mechanism has to fulfill in the structure of the World.

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