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Since then, the science has drifted very far from thoughts like these, and many mechanical and chemical theories have sought to explain the mysteries of normal and abnormal life; but the last thoughts of science bring back to us an echo of the words.
All things solicit us. Of course they do. We have aspired to take life for our domain ; does it surprise us to find it boundless ?-Let us look into this matter a little more closely.
In all your studies, scarcely anything will give you a keener or more legitimate pleasure than when your physiological lecturer conducts you through researches—many of them the fruits of his own zeal
—which will show you some of the most mysterious results of life resolved into simple physical or chemical processes ; processes which you may see carried on outside the body. You will feel a pride, almost as of a victory gained, on seeing the hard-drawn line between the organic and the inorganic efface itself before your eyes ; as if plain and demonstrable laws of physics were destined to illume for you the darkest recesses of the world of life. And (as it seems to me at least) this process is destined to go on until all that has been deemed distinctive of life has been included under the inorganic laws. But let this task have been achieved, shall we have resolved life into physics ? Rather physics will have revealed itself as life.
If there is nothing more in the powers of the organic world than is contained in the forces and relations of the inorganic world around, which seems so much inferior, what we shall have learnt will be that this inferior world is more than we had taken it for. In studying the organic world, we are judging the inorganic by its fruits. Assuredly out of nothing nothing comes ; deadness does not give birth to
Let us but disprove the fiction of a vital force endowed with powers other than those of the universal force, and we have achieved a triumph worth achieving over our own ignorance and false impressions. We shall then have demonstrated that there is no dead world—that the seeming of it is an illusion of our sense. We shall know that the false distinction that has been drawn is a result of our partial seeing
Of this we have other instances. What seems plainer to us than the unity of motion in every place, and under every form? But to the Greeks—looking at motion as it is presented to the sense-it seemed not one, but diverse. To them the motions seen in the heavens, never ceasing in their course, were incorruptible; the terrestrial motions, always ceasing after a longer or shorter time, were corruptible. Because they had not learned to see that the motions that ceased also went on unceasingly, they divided the motion we know to be one into two, and called them immortal and perishing, living and dead. They judged by sense. But even so do we judge when we divide the one world around and within us into two, and call them organic and inorganic, living and dead. All motion is incorruptible; unceasing, though its form perpetually changes, and thus baffles the uninstructed eye. All nature is living, though only here and there can our eye penetrate its secret, and our uninstructed sense misleads us to ascribe to it those properties merely which the narrow powers of sense can apprehend. What mattered it that to our fathers' belief-every terrestrial motion ceased? The unceasing motion in the heavens bore silent witness that motion is a deathless thing; and the lagging intellect of man has risen, even with us, to abjure the thought that things that are different to our senses cannot be the same. Even so, does the life we recognise bear continual witness (to which our ears cannot be deaf much longer) that life is absent nowhere. What matters it that we have dreamt of dead mechanical relations ?
Nature is simple, with the grand simplicity that we call necessity—a perfect intellectual order ; but the falsely simple things, that are simple by mere poverty of being, owe their seeming simplicity to our lack of perception; and one of the chief benefits the study of physiology confers on man is that it helps him to rise, by knowledge of a part, to a truer vision of the whole.
It is easy, however, to see why nature has been recognised as living only in certain forms. If we examine these forms, we find that in them a process that is universal is presented to us in a peculiar manner. In the organic world we see wholes ; in all else we see but fragments. Wherever in nature we see the relations of force complete, there we tend to recognise life. For all action in nature has this character—that it comprises equal opposites. Wherever any action begins an equal action ceases; every process has for necessary accompaniment an opposite process that is its complement, and leaves the total relations of force unchanged.
Now in the organic world this relation is presented visibly to our eye. The opposite actions are bound up together in a continuous series, each generating the other within a limited space, and maintaining by their sequence within those limits a perpetuity of movement. The organic differs from the inorganic by the limit applied to the transference or distribution of force ; so that the correlated opposites pass in a circle so contracted that our eye can follow them, and see that there is no break, no ceasing. It is the same in the inorganic; but we do not see it there till science, illumining our blindness, shows us that, beneath the seeming immobility and isolation, there exists the same constant activity without pause or break.
As science shows us that the terrestrial motions truly are that which the celestial motions are visibly -unceasing ; so science has taught us also to see that the inorganic world is, in its perpetual activity and balanced energy, the same as organic beings are visibly to sense. Simply the organic changes move in a more contracted sphere.
Thus, in ‘living things, Nature gives us a key to the universal order. She makes herself small enough for us to see her ; that by the smaller she may lead us to the larger. It is a law, gentlemen, that the more is revealed to us by the less ; and the seeming greater thing ever is the greater becoming less. It is as if the vastness of the universe remembered our infirmi