Creative Evolution
by Henri Bergson
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Now, as soon as we have clearly distinguished between the order that is "willed" and the order that is "automatic," the ambiguity that underlies the idea of disorder is dissipated, and, with it, one of the principal difficulties of the problem of knowledge.

The main problem of the theory of knowledge is to know how science is possible, that is to say, in effect, why there is order and not disorder in things. That order exists is a fact. But, on the other hand, disorder, which appears to us to be less than order, is, it seems, of right. The existence of order is then a mystery to be cleared up, at any rate a problem to be solved. More simply, when we undertake to found order, we regard it as contingent, if not in things, at least as viewed by the mind: of a thing that we do not judge to be contingent we do not require an explanation. If order did not appear to us as a conquest over something, or as an addition to something (which something is thought to be the "absence of order"), ancient realism would not have spoken of a "matter" to which the Idea superadded itself, nor would modern idealism have supposed a "sensuous manifold" that the understanding organizes into nature. Now, it is unquestionable that all order is contingent, and conceived as such. But contingent in relation to what?

The reply, to our thinking, is not doubtful. An order is contingent, and seems so, in relation to the inverse order, as verse is contingent in relation to prose and prose in relation to verse. But, just as all speech which is not prose is verse and necessarily conceived as verse, just as all speech which is not verse is prose and necessarily conceived as prose, so any state of things that is not one of the two orders is the other and is necessarily conceived as the other. But it may happen that we do not realize what we are actually thinking of, and perceive the idea really present to our mind only through a mist of affective states. Any one can be convinced of this by considering the use we make of the idea of disorder in daily life. When I enter a room and pronounce it to be "in disorder," what do I mean? The position of each object is explained by the automatic movements of the person who has slept in the room, or by the efficient causes, whatever they may be, that have caused each article of furniture, clothing, etc., to be where it is: the order, in the second sense of the word, is perfect. But it is order of the first kind that I am expecting, the order that a methodical person consciously puts into his life, the willed order and not the automatic: so I call the absence of this order "disorder." At bottom, all there is that is real, perceived and even conceived, in this absence of one of the two kinds of order, is the presence of the other. But the second is indifferent to me, I am interested only in the first, and I express the presence of the second as a function of the first, instead of expressing it, so to speak, as a function of itself, by saying it is disorder. Inversely, when we affirm that we are imagining a chaos, that is to say a state of things in which the physical world no longer obeys laws, what are we thinking of? We imagine facts that appear and disappear capriciously. First we think of the physical universe as we know it, with effects and causes well proportioned to each other; then, by a series of arbitrary decrees, we augment, diminish, suppress, so as to obtain what we call disorder. In reality we have substituted will for the mechanism of nature; we have replaced the "automatic order" by a multitude of elementary wills, just to the extent that we imagine the apparition or vanishing of phenomena. No doubt, for all these little wills to constitute a "willed order," they must have accepted the direction of a higher will. But, on looking closely at them, we see that that is just what they do: our own will is there, which objectifies itself in each of these capricious wills in turn, and takes good care not to connect the same with the same, nor to permit the effect to be proportional to the cause—in fact makes one simple intention hover over the whole of the elementary volitions. Thus, here again, the absence of one of the two orders consists in the presence of the other. In analyzing the idea of chance, which is closely akin to the idea of disorder, we find the same elements. When the wholly mechanical play of the causes which stop the wheel on a number makes me win, and consequently acts like a good genius, careful of my interests, or when the wholly mechanical force of the wind tears a tile off the roof and throws it on to my head, that is to say acts like a bad genius, conspiring against my person: in both cases I find a mechanism where I should have looked for, where, indeed, it seems as if I ought to have found, an intention. That is what I express in speaking of chance. And of an anarchical world, in which phenomena succeed each other capriciously, I should say again that it is a realm of chance, meaning that I find before me wills, or rather decrees, when what I am expecting is mechanism. Thus is explained the singular vacillation of the mind when it tries to define chance. Neither efficient cause nor final cause can furnish the definition sought. The mind swings to and fro, unable to rest, between the idea of an absence of final cause and that of an absence of efficient cause, each of these definitions sending it back to the other. The problem remains insoluble, in fact, so long as the idea of chance is regarded as a pure idea, without mixture of feeling. But, in reality, chance merely objectifies the state of mind of one who, expecting one of the two kinds of order, finds himself confronted with the other. Chance and disorder are therefore necessarily conceived as relative. So if we wish to represent them to ourselves as absolute, we perceive that we are going to and fro like a shuttle between the two kinds of order, passing into the one just at the moment at which we might catch ourself in the other, and that the supposed absence of all order is really the presence of both, with, besides, the swaying of a mind that cannot rest finally in either. Neither in things nor in our idea of things can there be any question of presenting this disorder as the substratum of order, since it implies the two kinds of order and is made of their combination.

But our intelligence is not stopped by this. By a simple sic jubeo it posits a disorder which is an "absence of order." In so doing it thinks a word or a set of words, nothing more. If it seeks to attach an idea to the word, it finds that disorder may indeed be the negation of order, but that this negation is then the implicit affirmation of the presence of the opposite order, which we shut our eyes to because it does not interest us, or which we evade by denying the second order in its turn—that is, at bottom, by re-establishing the first. How can we speak, then, of an incoherent diversity which an understanding organizes? It is no use for us to say that no one supposes this incoherence to be realized or realizable: when we speak of it, we believe we are thinking of it; now, in analyzing the idea actually present, we find, as we said before, only the disappointment of the mind confronted with an order that does not interest it, or a swaying of the mind between two kinds of order, or, finally, the idea pure and simple of the empty word that we have created by joining a negative prefix to a word which itself signifies something. But it is this analysis that we neglect to make. We omit it, precisely because it does not occur to us to distinguish two kinds of order that are irreducible to one another.

We said, indeed, that all order necessarily appears as contingent. If there are two kinds of order, this contingency of order is explained: one of the forms is contingent in relation to the other. Where I find the geometrical order, the vital was possible; where the order is vital, it might have been geometrical. But suppose that the order is everywhere of the same kind, and simply admits of degrees which go from the geometrical to the vital: if a determinate order still appears to me to be contingent, and can no longer be so by relation to an order of another kind, I shall necessarily believe that the order is contingent by relation to an absence of itself, that is to say by relation to a state of things "in which there is no order at all." And this state of things I shall believe that I am thinking of, because it is implied, it seems, in the very contingency of order, which is an unquestionable fact. I shall therefore place at the summit of the hierarchy the vital order; then, as a diminution or lower complication of it, the geometrical order; and finally, at the bottom of all, an absence of order, incoherence itself, on which order is superposed. This is why incoherence has the effect on me of a word behind which there must be something real, if not in things, at least in thought. But if I observe that the state of things implied by the contingency of a determinate order is simply the presence of the contrary order, and if by this very fact I posit two kinds of order, each the inverse of the other, I perceive that no intermediate degrees can be imagined between the two orders, and that there is no going down from the two orders to the "incoherent." Either the incoherent is only a word, devoid of meaning, or, if I give it a meaning, it is on condition of putting incoherence midway between the two orders, and not below both of them. There is not first the incoherent, then the geometrical, then the vital; there is only the geometrical and the vital, and then, by a swaying of the mind between them, the idea of the incoherent. To speak of an uncoordinated diversity to which order is superadded is therefore to commit a veritable petitio principii; for in imagining the uncoordinated we really posit an order, or rather two.

* * * * *

This long analysis was necessary to show how the real can pass from tension to extension and from freedom to mechanical necessity by way of inversion. It was not enough to prove that this relation between the two terms is suggested to us, at once, by consciousness and by sensible experience. It was necessary to prove that the geometrical order has no need of explanation, being purely and simply the suppression of the inverse order. And, for that, it was indispensable to prove that suppression is always a substitution and is even necessarily conceived as such: it is the requirements of practical life alone that suggest to us here a way of speaking that deceives us both as to what happens in things and as to what is present to our thought. We must now examine more closely the inversion whose consequences we have just described. What, then, is the principle that has only to let go its tension—may we say to detend—in order to extend, the interruption of the cause here being equivalent to a reversal of the effect?

For want of a better word we have called it consciousness. But we do not mean the narrowed consciousness that functions in each of us. Our own consciousness is the consciousness of a certain living being, placed in a certain point of space; and though it does indeed move in the same direction as its principle, it is continually drawn the opposite way, obliged, though it goes forward, to look behind. This retrospective vision is, as we have shown, the natural function of the intellect, and consequently of distinct consciousness. In order that our consciousness shall coincide with something of its principle, it must detach itself from the already-made and attach itself to the being-made. It needs that, turning back on itself and twisting on itself, the faculty of seeing should be made to be one with the act of willing—a painful effort which we can make suddenly, doing violence to our nature, but cannot sustain more than a few moments. In free action, when we contract our whole being in order to thrust it forward, we have the more or less clear consciousness of motives and of impelling forces, and even, at rare moments, of the becoming by which they are organized into an act: but the pure willing, the current that runs through this matter, communicating life to it, is a thing which we hardly feel, which at most we brush lightly as it passes. Let us try, however, to instal ourselves within it, if only for a moment; even then it is an individual and fragmentary will that we grasp. To get to the principle of all life, as also of all materiality, we must go further still. Is it impossible? No, by no means; the history of philosophy is there to bear witness. There is no durable system that is not, at least in some of its parts, vivified by intuition. Dialectic is necessary to put intuition to the proof, necessary also in order that intuition should break itself up into concepts and so be propagated to other men; but all it does, often enough, is to develop the result of that intuition which transcends it. The truth is, the two procedures are of opposite direction: the same effort, by which ideas are connected with ideas, causes the intuition which the ideas were storing up to vanish. The philosopher is obliged to abandon intuition, once he has received from it the impetus, and to rely on himself to carry on the movement by pushing the concepts one after another. But he soon feels he has lost foothold; he must come into touch with intuition again; he must undo most of what he has done. In short, dialectic is what ensures the agreement of our thought with itself. But by dialectic—which is only a relaxation of intuition—many different agreements are possible, while there is only one truth. Intuition, if it could be prolonged beyond a few instants, would not only make the philosopher agree with his own thought, but also all philosophers with each other. Such as it is, fugitive and incomplete, it is, in each system, what is worth more than the system and survives it. The object of philosophy would be reached if this intuition could be sustained, generalized and, above all, assured of external points of reference in order not to go astray. To that end a continual coming and going is necessary between nature and mind.

When we put back our being into our will, and our will itself into the impulsion it prolongs, we understand, we feel, that reality is a perpetual growth, a creation pursued without end. Our will already performs this miracle. Every human work in which there is invention, every voluntary act in which there is freedom, every movement of an organism that manifests spontaneity, brings something new into the world. True, these are only creations of form. How could they be anything else? We are not the vital current itself; we are this current already loaded with matter, that is, with congealed parts of its own substance which it carries along its course. In the composition of a work of genius, as in a simple free decision, we do, indeed, stretch the spring of our activity to the utmost and thus create what no mere assemblage of materials could have given (what assemblage of curves already known can ever be equivalent to the pencil-stroke of a great artist?) but there are, none the less, elements here that pre-exist and survive their organization. But if a simple arrest of the action that generates form could constitute matter (are not the original lines drawn by the artist themselves already the fixation and, as it were, congealment of a movement?), a creation of matter would be neither incomprehensible nor inadmissible. For we seize from within, we live at every instant, a creation of form, and it is just in those cases in which the form is pure, and in which the creative current is momentarily interrupted, that there is a creation of matter. Consider the letters of the alphabet that enter into the composition of everything that has ever been written: we do not conceive that new letters spring up and come to join themselves to the others in order to make a new poem. But that the poet creates the poem and that human thought is thereby made richer, we understand very well: this creation is a simple act of the mind, and action has only to make a pause, instead of continuing into a new creation, in order that, of itself, it may break up into words which dissociate themselves into letters which are added to all the letters there are already in the world. Thus, that the number of atoms composing the material universe at a given moment should increase runs counter to our habits of mind, contradicts the whole of our experience; but that a reality of quite another order, which contrasts with the atom as the thought of the poet with the letters of the alphabet, should increase by sudden additions, is not inadmissible; and the reverse of each addition might indeed be a world, which we then represent to ourselves, symbolically, as an assemblage of atoms.

The mystery that spreads over the existence of the universe comes in great part from this, that we want the genesis of it to have been accomplished at one stroke or the whole of matter to be eternal. Whether we speak of creation or posit an uncreated matter, it is the totality of the universe that we are considering at once. At the root of this habit of mind lies the prejudice which we will analyze in our next chapter, the idea, common to materialists and to their opponents, that there is no really acting duration, and that the absolute—matter or mind—can have no place in concrete time, in the time which we feel to be the very stuff of our life. From which it follows that everything is given once for all, and that it is necessary to posit from all eternity either material multiplicity itself, or the act creating this multiplicity, given in block in the divine essence. Once this prejudice is eradicated, the idea of creation becomes more clear, for it is merged in that of growth. But it is no longer then of the universe in its totality that we must speak.

Why should we speak of it? The universe is an assemblage of solar systems which we have every reason to believe analogous to our own. No doubt they are not absolutely independent of one another. Our sun radiates heat and light beyond the farthest planet, and, on the other hand, our entire solar system is moving in a definite direction as if it were drawn. There is, then, a bond between the worlds. But this bond may be regarded as infinitely loose in comparison with the mutual dependence which unites the parts of the same world among themselves; so that it is not artificially, for reasons of mere convenience, that we isolate our solar system: nature itself invites us to isolate it. As living beings, we depend on the planet on which we are, and on the sun that provides for it, but on nothing else. As thinking beings, we may apply the laws of our physics to our own world, and extend them to each of the worlds taken separately; but nothing tells us that they apply to the entire universe, nor even that such an affirmation has any meaning; for the universe is not made, but is being made continually. It is growing, perhaps indefinitely, by the addition of new worlds.

Let us extend, then, to the whole of our solar system the two most general laws of our science, the principle of conservation of energy and that of its degradation—limiting them, however, to this relatively closed system and to other systems relatively closed. Let us see what will follow. We must remark, first of all, that these two principles have not the same metaphysical scope. The first is a quantitative law, and consequently relative, in part, to our methods of measurement. It says that, in a system presumed to be closed, the total energy, that is to say the sum of its kinetic and potential energy, remains constant. Now, if there were only kinetic energy in the world, or even if there were, besides kinetic energy, only one single kind of potential energy, but no more, the artifice of measurement would not make the law artificial. The law of the conservation of energy would express indeed that something is preserved in constant quantity. But there are, in fact, energies of various kinds,[88] and the measurement of each of them has evidently been so chosen as to justify the principle of conservation of energy. Convention, therefore, plays a large part in this principle, although there is undoubtedly, between the variations of the different energies composing one and the same system, a mutual dependence which is just what has made the extension of the principle possible by measurements suitably chosen. If, therefore, the philosopher applies this principle to the solar system complete, he must at least soften its outlines. The law of the conservation of energy cannot here express the objective permanence of a certain quantity of a certain thing, but rather the necessity for every change that is brought about to be counterbalanced in some way by a change in an opposite direction. That is to say, even if it governs the whole of our solar system, the law of the conservation of energy is concerned with the relationship of a fragment of this world to another fragment rather than with the nature of the whole.

It is otherwise with the second principle of thermodynamics. The law of the degradation of energy does not bear essentially on magnitudes. No doubt the first idea of it arose, in the thought of Carnot, out of certain quantitative considerations on the yield of thermic machines. Unquestionably, too, the terms in which Clausius generalized it were mathematical, and a calculable magnitude, "entropy," was, in fact, the final conception to which he was led. Such precision is necessary for practical applications. But the law might have been vaguely conceived, and, if absolutely necessary, it might have been roughly formulated, even though no one had ever thought of measuring the different energies of the physical world, even though the concept of energy had not been created. Essentially, it expresses the fact that all physical changes have a tendency to be degraded into heat, and that heat tends to be distributed among bodies in a uniform manner. In this less precise form, it becomes independent of any convention; it is the most metaphysical of the laws of physics since it points out without interposed symbols, without artificial devices of measurements, the direction in which the world is going. It tells us that changes that are visible and heterogeneous will be more and more diluted into changes that are invisible and homogeneous, and that the instability to which we owe the richness and variety of the changes taking place in our solar system will gradually give way to the relative stability of elementary vibrations continually and perpetually repeated. Just so with a man who keeps up his strength as he grows old, but spends it less and less in actions, and comes, in the end, to employ it entirely in making his lungs breathe and his heart beat.

From this point of view, a world like our solar system is seen to be ever exhausting something of the mutability it contains. In the beginning, it had the maximum of possible utilization of energy: this mutability has gone on diminishing unceasingly. Whence does it come? We might at first suppose that it has come from some other point of space, but the difficulty is only set back, and for this external source of mutability the same question springs up. True, it might be added that the number of worlds capable of passing mutability to each other is unlimited, that the sum of mutability contained in the universe is infinite, that there is therefore no ground on which to seek its origin or to foresee its end. A hypothesis of this kind is as irrefutable as it is indemonstrable; but to speak of an infinite universe is to admit a perfect coincidence of matter with abstract space, and consequently an absolute externality of all the parts of matter in relation to one another. We have seen above what we must think of this theory, and how difficult it is to reconcile with the idea of a reciprocal influence of all the parts of matter on one another, an influence to which indeed it itself makes appeal. Again it might be supposed that the general instability has arisen from a general state of stability; that the period in which we now are, and in which the utilizable energy is diminishing, has been preceded by a period in which the mutability was increasing, and that the alternations of increase and diminution succeed each other for ever. This hypothesis is theoretically conceivable, as has been demonstrated quite recently; but, according to the calculations of Boltzmann, the mathematical improbability of it passes all imagination and practically amounts to absolute impossibility.[89] In reality, the problem remains insoluble as long as we keep on the ground of physics, for the physicist is obliged to attach energy to extended particles, and, even if he regards the particles only as reservoirs of energy, he remains in space: he would belie his role if he sought the origin of these energies in an extra-spatial process. It is there, however, in our opinion, that it must be sought.

Is it extension in general that we are considering in abstracto? Extension, we said, appears only as a tension which is interrupted. Or, are we considering the concrete reality that fills this extension? The order which reigns there, and which is manifested by the laws of nature, is an order which must be born of itself when the inverse order is suppressed; a detension of the will would produce precisely this suppression. Lastly, we find that the direction, which this reality takes, suggests to us the idea of a thing unmaking itself; such, no doubt, is one of the essential characters of materiality. What conclusion are we to draw from all this, if not that the process by which this thing makes itself is directed in a contrary way to that of physical processes, and that it is therefore, by its very definition, immaterial? The vision we have of the material world is that of a weight which falls: no image drawn from matter, properly so called, will ever give us the idea of the weight rising. But this conclusion will come home to us with still greater force if we press nearer to the concrete reality, and if we consider, no longer only matter in general, but, within this matter, living bodies.

All our analyses show us, in life, an effort to remount the incline that matter descends. In that, they reveal to us the possibility, the necessity even of a process the inverse of materiality, creative of matter by its interruption alone. The life that evolves on the surface of our planet is indeed attached to matter. If it were pure consciousness, a fortiori if it were supra-consciousness, it would be pure creative activity. In fact, it is riveted to an organism that subjects it to the general laws of inert matter. But everything happens as if it were doing its utmost to set itself free from these laws. It has not the power to reverse the direction of physical changes, such as the principle of Carnot determines it. It does, however, behave absolutely as a force would behave which, left to itself, would work in the inverse direction. Incapable of stopping the course of material changes downwards, it succeeds in retarding it. The evolution of life really continues, as we have shown, an initial impulsion: this impulsion, which has determined the development of the chlorophyllian function in the plant and of the sensori-motor system in the animal, brings life to more and more efficient acts by the fabrication and use of more and more powerful explosives. Now, what do these explosives represent if not a storing-up of the solar energy, the degradation of which energy is thus provisionally suspended on some of the points where it was being poured forth? The usable energy which the explosive conceals will be expended, of course, at the moment of the explosion; but it would have been expended sooner if an organism had not happened to be there to arrest its dissipation, in order to retain it and save it up. As we see it to-day, at the point to which it was brought by a scission of the mutually complementary tendencies which it contained within itself, life is entirely dependent on the chlorophyllian function of the plant. This means that, looked at in its initial impulsion, before any scission, life was a tendency to accumulate in a reservoir, as do especially the green parts of vegetables, with a view to an instantaneous effective discharge, like that which an animal brings about, something that would have otherwise flowed away. It is like an effort to raise the weight which falls. True, it succeeds only in retarding the fall. But at least it can give us an idea of what the raising of the weight was.[90]

Let us imagine a vessel full of steam at a high pressure, and here and there in its sides a crack through which the steam is escaping in a jet. The steam thrown into the air is nearly all condensed into little drops which fall back, and this condensation and this fall represent simply the loss of something, an interruption, a deficit. But a small part of the jet of steam subsists, uncondensed, for some seconds; it is making an effort to raise the drops which are falling; it succeeds at most in retarding their fall. So, from an immense reservoir of life, jets must be gushing out unceasingly, of which each, falling back, is a world. The evolution of living species within this world represents what subsists of the primitive direction of the original jet, and of an impulsion which continues itself in a direction the inverse of materiality. But let us not carry too far this comparison. It gives us but a feeble and even deceptive image of reality, for the crack, the jet of steam, the forming of the drops, are determined necessarily, whereas the creation of a world is a free act, and the life within the material world participates in this liberty. Let us think rather of an action like that of raising the arm; then let us suppose that the arm, left to itself, falls back, and yet that there subsists in it, striving to raise it up again, something of the will that animates it. In this image of a creative action which unmakes itself we have already a more exact representation of matter. In vital activity we see, then, that which subsists of the direct movement in the inverted movement, a reality which is making itself in a reality which is unmaking itself.

Everything is obscure in the idea of creation if we think of things which are created and a thing which creates, as we habitually do, as the understanding cannot help doing. We shall show the origin of this illusion in our next chapter. It is natural to our intellect, whose function is essentially practical, made to present to us things and states rather than changes and acts. But things and states are only views, taken by our mind, of becoming. There are no things, there are only actions. More particularly, if I consider the world in which we live, I find that the automatic and strictly determined evolution of this well-knit whole is action which is unmaking itself, and that the unforeseen forms which life cuts out in it, forms capable of being themselves prolonged into unforeseen movements, represent the action that is making itself. Now, I have every reason to believe that the other worlds are analogous to ours, that things happen there in the same way. And I know they were not all constructed at the same time, since observation shows me, even to-day, nebulae in course of concentration. Now, if the same kind of action is going on everywhere, whether it is that which is unmaking itself or whether it is that which is striving to remake itself, I simply express this probable similitude when I speak of a centre from which worlds shoot out like rockets in a fireworks display—provided, however, that I do not present this centre as a thing, but as a continuity of shooting out. God thus defined, has nothing of the already made; He is unceasing life, action, freedom. Creation, so conceived, is not a mystery; we experience it in ourselves when we act freely. That new things can join things already existing is absurd, no doubt, since the thing results from a solidification performed by our understanding, and there are never any things other than those that the understanding has thus constituted. To speak of things creating themselves would therefore amount to saying that the understanding presents to itself more than it presents to itself—a self-contradictory affirmation, an empty and vain idea. But that action increases as it goes on, that it creates in the measure of its advance, is what each of us finds when he watches himself act. Things are constituted by the instantaneous cut which the understanding practices, at a given moment, on a flux of this kind, and what is mysterious when we compare the cuts together becomes clear when we relate them to the flux. Indeed, the modalities of creative action, in so far as it is still going on in the organization of living forms, are much simplified when they are taken in this way. Before the complexity of an organism and the practically infinite multitude of interwoven analyses and syntheses it presupposes, our understanding recoils disconcerted. That the simple play of physical and chemical forces, left to themselves, should have worked this marvel, we find hard to believe. And if it is a profound science which is at work, how are we to understand the influence exercised on this matter without form by this form without matter? But the difficulty arises from this, that we represent statically ready-made material particles juxtaposed to one another, and, also statically, an external cause which plasters upon them a skilfully contrived organization. In reality, life is a movement, materiality is the inverse movement, and each of these two movements is simple, the matter which forms a world being an undivided flux, and undivided also the life that runs through it, cutting out in it living beings all along its track. Of these two currents the second runs counter to the first, but the first obtains, all the same, something from the second. There results between them a modus vivendi, which is organization. This organization takes, for our senses and for our intellect, the form of parts entirely external to other parts in space and in time. Not only do we shut our eyes to the unity of the impulse which, passing through generations, links individuals with individuals, species with species, and makes of the whole series of the living one single immense wave flowing over matter, but each individual itself seems to us as an aggregate, aggregate of molecules and aggregate of facts. The reason of this lies in the structure of our intellect, which is formed to act on matter from without, and which succeeds by making, in the flux of the real, instantaneous cuts, each of which becomes, in its fixity, endlessly decomposable. Perceiving, in an organism, only parts external to parts, the understanding has the choice between two systems of explanation only: either to regard the infinitely complex (and thereby infinitely well-contrived) organization as a fortuitous concatenation of atoms, or to relate it to the incomprehensible influence of an external force that has grouped its elements together. But this complexity is the work of the understanding; this incomprehensibility is also its work. Let us try to see, no longer with the eyes of the intellect alone, which grasps only the already made and which looks from the outside, but with the spirit, I mean with that faculty of seeing which is immanent in the faculty of acting and which springs up, somehow, by the twisting of the will on itself, when action is turned into knowledge, like heat, so to say, into light. To movement, then, everything will be restored, and into movement everything will be resolved. Where the understanding, working on the image supposed to be fixed of the progressing action, shows us parts infinitely manifold and an order infinitely well contrived, we catch a glimpse of a simple process, an action which is making itself across an action of the same kind which is unmaking itself, like the fiery path torn by the last rocket of a fireworks display through the black cinders of the spent rockets that are falling dead.

* * * * *

From this point of view, the general considerations we have presented concerning the evolution of life will be cleared up and completed. We will distinguish more sharply what is accidental from what is essential in this evolution.

The impetus of life, of which we are speaking, consists in a need of creation. It cannot create absolutely, because it is confronted with matter, that is to say with the movement that is the inverse of its own. But it seizes upon this matter, which is necessity itself, and strives to introduce into it the largest possible amount of indetermination and liberty. How does it go to work?

An animal high in the scale may be represented in a general way, we said, as a sensori-motor nervous system imposed on digestive, respiratory, circulatory systems, etc. The function of these latter is to cleanse, repair and protect the nervous system, to make it as independent as possible of external circumstances, but, above all, to furnish it with energy to be expended in movements. The increasing complexity of the organism is therefore due theoretically (in spite of innumerable exceptions due to accidents of evolution) to the necessity of complexity in the nervous system. No doubt, each complication of any part of the organism involves many others in addition, because this part itself must live, and every change in one point of the body reverberates, as it were, throughout. The complication may therefore go on to infinity in all directions; but it is the complication of the nervous system which conditions the others in right, if not always in fact. Now, in what does the progress of the nervous system itself consist? In a simultaneous development of automatic activity and of voluntary activity, the first furnishing the second with an appropriate instrument. Thus, in an organism such as ours, a considerable number of motor mechanisms are set up in the medulla and in the spinal cord, awaiting only a signal to release the corresponding act: the will is employed, in some cases, in setting up the mechanism itself, and in the others in choosing the mechanisms to be released, the manner of combining them and the moment of releasing them. The will of an animal is the more effective and the more intense, the greater the number of the mechanisms it can choose from, the more complicated the switchboard on which all the motor paths cross, or, in other words, the more developed its brain. Thus, the progress of the nervous system assures to the act increasing precision, increasing variety, increasing efficiency and independence. The organism behaves more and more like a machine for action, which reconstructs itself entirely for every new act, as if it were made of india-rubber and could, at any moment, change the shape of all its parts. But, prior to the nervous system, prior even to the organism properly so called, already in the undifferentiated mass of the amoeba, this essential property of animal life is found. The amoeba deforms itself in varying directions; its entire mass does what the differentiation of parts will localize in a sensori-motor system in the developed animal. Doing it only in a rudimentary manner, it is dispensed from the complexity of the higher organisms; there is no need here of the auxiliary elements that pass on to motor elements the energy to expend; the animal moves as a whole, and, as a whole also, procures energy by means of the organic substances it assimilates. Thus, whether low or high in the animal scale, we always find that animal life consists (1) in procuring a provision of energy; (2) in expending it, by means of a matter as supple as possible, in directions variable and unforeseen.

Now, whence comes the energy? From the ingested food, for food is a kind of explosive, which needs only the spark to discharge the energy it stores. Who has made this explosive? The food may be the flesh of an animal nourished on animals and so on; but, in the end it is to the vegetable we always come back. Vegetables alone gather in the solar energy, and the animals do but borrow it from them, either directly or by some passing it on to others. How then has the plant stored up this energy? Chiefly by the chlorophyllian function, a chemicism sui generis of which we do not possess the key, and which is probably unlike that of our laboratories. The process consists in using solar energy to fix the carbon of carbonic acid, and thereby to store this energy as we should store that of a water-carrier by employing him to fill an elevated reservoir: the water, once brought up, can set in motion a mill or a turbine, as we will and when we will. Each atom of carbon fixed represents something like the elevation of the weight of water, or like the stretching of an elastic thread uniting the carbon to the oxygen in the carbonic acid. The elastic is relaxed, the weight falls back again, in short the energy held in reserve is restored, when, by a simple release, the carbon is permitted to rejoin its oxygen.

So that all life, animal and vegetable, seems in its essence like an effort to accumulate energy and then to let it flow into flexible channels, changeable in shape, at the end of which it will accomplish infinitely varied kinds of work. That is what the vital impetus, passing through matter, would fain do all at once. It would succeed, no doubt, if its power were unlimited, or if some reinforcement could come to it from without. But the impetus is finite, and it has been given once for all. It cannot overcome all obstacles. The movement it starts is sometimes turned aside, sometimes divided, always opposed; and the evolution of the organized world is the unrolling of this conflict. The first great scission that had to be effected was that of the two kingdoms, vegetable and animal, which thus happen to be mutually complementary, without, however, any agreement having been made between them. It is not for the animal that the plant accumulates energy, it is for its own consumption; but its expenditure on itself is less discontinuous, and less concentrated, and therefore less efficacious, than was required by the initial impetus of life, essentially directed toward free actions: the same organism could not with equal force sustain the two functions at once, of gradual storage and sudden use. Of themselves, therefore, and without any external intervention, simply by the effect of the duality of the tendency involved in the original impetus and of the resistance opposed by matter to this impetus, the organisms leaned some in the first direction, others in the second. To this scission there succeeded many others. Hence the diverging lines of evolution, at least what is essential in them. But we must take into account retrogressions, arrests, accidents of every kind. And we must remember, above all, that each species behaves as if the general movement of life stopped at it instead of passing through it. It thinks only of itself, it lives only for itself. Hence the numberless struggles that we behold in nature. Hence a discord, striking and terrible, but for which the original principle of life must not be held responsible.

The part played by contingency in evolution is therefore great. Contingent, generally, are the forms adopted, or rather invented. Contingent, relative to the obstacles encountered in a given place and at a given moment, is the dissociation of the primordial tendency into such and such complementary tendencies which create divergent lines of evolution. Contingent the arrests and set-backs; contingent, in large measure, the adaptations. Two things only are necessary: (1) a gradual accumulation of energy; (2) an elastic canalization of this energy in variable and indeterminable directions, at the end of which are free acts.

This twofold result has been obtained in a particular way on our planet. But it might have been obtained by entirely different means. It was not necessary that life should fix its choice mainly upon the carbon of carbonic acid. What was essential for it was to store solar energy; but, instead of asking the sun to separate, for instance, atoms of oxygen and carbon, it might (theoretically at least, and, apart from practical difficulties possibly insurmountable) have put forth other chemical elements, which would then have had to be associated or dissociated by entirely different physical means. And if the element characteristic of the substances that supply energy to the organism had been other than carbon, the element characteristic of the plastic substances would probably have been other than nitrogen, and the chemistry of living bodies would then have been radically different from what it is. The result would have been living forms without any analogy to those we know, whose anatomy would have been different, whose physiology also would have been different. Alone, the sensori-motor function would have been preserved, if not in its mechanism, at least in its effects. It is therefore probable that life goes on in other planets, in other solar systems also, under forms of which we have no idea, in physical conditions to which it seems to us, from the point of view of our physiology, to be absolutely opposed. If its essential aim is to catch up usable energy in order to expend it in explosive actions, it probably chooses, in each solar system and on each planet, as it does on the earth, the fittest means to get this result in the circumstances with which it is confronted. That is at least what reasoning by analogy leads to, and we use analogy the wrong way when we declare life to be impossible wherever the circumstances with which it is confronted are other than those on the earth. The truth is that life is possible wherever energy descends the incline indicated by Carnot's law and where a cause of inverse direction can retard the descent—that is to say, probably, in all the worlds suspended from all the stars. We go further: it is not even necessary that life should be concentrated and determined in organisms properly so called, that is, in definite bodies presenting to the flow of energy ready-made though elastic canals. It can be conceived (although it can hardly be imagined) that energy might be saved up, and then expended on varying lines running across a matter not yet solidified. Every essential of life would still be there, since there would still be slow accumulation of energy and sudden release. There would hardly be more difference between this vitality, vague and formless, and the definite vitality we know, than there is, in our psychical life, between the state of dream and the state of waking. Such may have been the condition of life in our nebula before the condensation of matter was complete, if it be true that life springs forward at the very moment when, as the effect of an inverse movement, the nebular matter appears.

It is therefore conceivable that life might have assumed a totally different outward appearance and designed forms very different from those we know. With another chemical substratum, in other physical conditions, the impulsion would have remained the same, but it would have split up very differently in course of progress; and the whole would have traveled another road—whether shorter or longer who can tell? In any case, in the entire series of living beings no term would have been what it now is. Now, was it necessary that there should be a series, or terms? Why should not the unique impetus have been impressed on a unique body, which might have gone on evolving?

This question arises, no doubt, from the comparison of life to an impetus. And it must be compared to an impetus, because no image borrowed from the physical world can give more nearly the idea of it. But it is only an image. In reality, life is of the psychological order, and it is of the essence of the psychical to enfold a confused plurality of interpenetrating terms. In space, and in space only, is distinct multiplicity possible: a point is absolutely external to another point. But pure and empty unity, also, is met with only in space; it is that of a mathematical point. Abstract unity and abstract multiplicity are determinations of space or categories of the understanding, whichever we will, spatiality and intellectuality being molded on each other. But what is of psychical nature cannot entirely correspond with space, nor enter perfectly into the categories of the understanding. Is my own person, at a given moment, one or manifold? If I declare it one, inner voices arise and protest—those of the sensations, feelings, ideas, among which my individuality is distributed. But, if I make it distinctly manifold, my consciousness rebels quite as strongly; it affirms that my sensations, my feelings, my thoughts are abstractions which I effect on myself, and that each of my states implies all the others. I am then (we must adopt the language of the understanding, since only the understanding has a language) a unity that is multiple and a multiplicity that is one;[91] but unity and multiplicity are only views of my personality taken by an understanding that directs its categories at me; I enter neither into one nor into the other nor into both at once, although both, united, may give a fair imitation of the mutual interpenetration and continuity that I find at the base of my own self. Such is my inner life, and such also is life in general. While, in its contact with matter, life is comparable to an impulsion or an impetus, regarded in itself it is an immensity of potentiality, a mutual encroachment of thousands and thousands of tendencies which nevertheless are "thousands and thousands" only when once regarded as outside of each other, that is, when spatialized. Contact with matter is what determines this dissociation. Matter divides actually what was but potentially manifold; and, in this sense, individuation is in part the work of matter, in part the result of life's own inclination. Thus, a poetic sentiment, which bursts into distinct verses, lines and words, may be said to have already contained this multiplicity of individuated elements, and yet, in fact, it is the materiality of language that creates it.

But through the words, lines and verses runs the simple inspiration which is the whole poem. So, among the dissociated individuals, one life goes on moving: everywhere the tendency to individualize is opposed and at the same time completed by an antagonistic and complementary tendency to associate, as if the manifold unity of life, drawn in the direction of multiplicity, made so much the more effort to withdraw itself on to itself. A part is no sooner detached than it tends to reunite itself, if not to all the rest, at least to what is nearest to it. Hence, throughout the whole realm of life, a balancing between individuation and association. Individuals join together into a society; but the society, as soon as formed, tends to melt the associated individuals into a new organism, so as to become itself an individual, able in its turn to be part and parcel of a new association. At the lowest degree of the scale of organisms we already find veritable associations, microbial colonies, and in these associations, according to a recent work, a tendency to individuate by the constitution of a nucleus.[92] The same tendency is met with again at a higher stage, in the protophytes, which, once having quitted the parent cell by way of division, remain united to each other by the gelatinous substance that surrounds them—also in those protozoa which begin by mingling their pseudopodia and end by welding themselves together. The "colonial" theory of the genesis of higher organisms is well known. The protozoa, consisting of one single cell, are supposed to have formed, by assemblage, aggregates which, relating themselves together in their turn, have given rise to aggregates of aggregates; so organisms more and more complicated, and also more and more differentiated, are born of the association of organisms barely differentiated and elementary.[93] In this extreme form, the theory is open to grave objections: more and more the idea seems to be gaining ground, that polyzoism is an exceptional and abnormal fact.[94] But it is none the less true that things happen as if every higher organism was born of an association of cells that have subdivided the work between them. Very probably it is not the cells that have made the individual by means of association; it is rather the individual that has made the cells by means of dissociation.[95] But this itself reveals to us, in the genesis of the individual, a haunting of the social form, as if the individual could develop only on the condition that its substance should be split up into elements having themselves an appearance of individuality and united among themselves by an appearance of sociality. There are numerous cases in which nature seems to hesitate between the two forms, and to ask herself if she shall make a society or an individual. The slightest push is enough, then, to make the balance weigh on one side or the other. If we take an infusorian sufficiently large, such as the Stentor, and cut it into two halves each containing a part of the nucleus, each of the two halves will generate an independent Stentor; but if we divide it incompletely, so that a protoplasmic communication is left between the two halves, we shall see them execute, each from its side, corresponding movements: so that in this case it is enough that a thread should be maintained or cut in order that life should affect the social or the individual form. Thus, in rudimentary organisms consisting of a single cell, we already find that the apparent individuality of the whole is the composition of an undefined number of potential individualities potentially associated. But, from top to bottom of the series of living beings, the same law is manifested. And it is this that we express when we say that unity and multiplicity are categories of inert matter, that the vital impetus is neither pure unity nor pure multiplicity, and that if the matter to which it communicates itself compels it to choose one of the two, its choice will never be definitive: it will leap from one to the other indefinitely. The evolution of life in the double direction of individuality and association has therefore nothing accidental about it: it is due to the very nature of life.

Essential also is the progress to reflexion. If our analysis is correct, it is consciousness, or rather supra-consciousness, that is at the origin of life. Consciousness, or supra-consciousness, is the name for the rocket whose extinguished fragments fall back as matter; consciousness, again, is the name for that which subsists of the rocket itself, passing through the fragments and lighting them up into organisms. But this consciousness, which is a need of creation, is made manifest to itself only where creation is possible. It lies dormant when life is condemned to automatism; it wakens as soon as the possibility of a choice is restored. That is why, in organisms unprovided with a nervous system, it varies according to the power of locomotion and of deformation of which the organism disposes. And in animals with a nervous system, it is proportional to the complexity of the switchboard on which the paths called sensory and the paths called motor intersect—that is, of the brain. How must this solidarity between the organism and consciousness be understood?

We will not dwell here on a point that we have dealt with in former works. Let us merely recall that a theory such as that according to which consciousness is attached to certain neurons, and is thrown off from their work like a phosphorescence, may be accepted by the scientist for the detail of analysis; it is a convenient mode of expression. But it is nothing else. In reality, a living being is a centre of action. It represents a certain sum of contingency entering into the world, that is to say, a certain quantity of possible action—a quantity variable with individuals and especially with species. The nervous system of an animal marks out the flexible lines on which its action will run (although the potential energy is accumulated in the muscles rather than in the nervous system itself); its nervous centres indicate, by their development and their configuration, the more or less extended choice it will have among more or less numerous and complicated actions. Now, since the awakening of consciousness in a living creature is the more complete, the greater the latitude of choice allowed to it and the larger the amount of action bestowed upon it, it is clear that the development of consciousness will appear to be dependent on that of the nervous centres. On the other hand, every state of consciousness being, in one aspect of it, a question put to the motor activity and even the beginning of a reply, there is no psychical event that does not imply the entry into play of the cortical mechanisms. Everything seems, therefore, to happen as if consciousness sprang from the brain, and as if the detail of conscious activity were modeled on that of the cerebral activity. In reality, consciousness does not spring from the brain; but brain and consciousness correspond because equally they measure, the one by the complexity of its structure and the other by the intensity of its awareness, the quantity of choice that the living being has at its disposal.

It is precisely because a cerebral state expresses simply what there is of nascent action in the corresponding psychical state, that the psychical state tells us more than the cerebral state. The consciousness of a living being, as we have tried to prove elsewhere, is inseparable from its brain in the sense in which a sharp knife is inseparable from its edge: the brain is the sharp edge by which consciousness cuts into the compact tissue of events, but the brain is no more coextensive with consciousness than the edge is with the knife. Thus, from the fact that two brains, like that of the ape and that of the man, are very much alike, we cannot conclude that the corresponding consciousnesses are comparable or commensurable.

But the two brains may perhaps be less alike than we suppose. How can we help being struck by the fact that, while man is capable of learning any sort of exercise, of constructing any sort of object, in short of acquiring any kind of motor habit whatsoever, the faculty of combining new movements is strictly limited in the best-endowed animal, even in the ape? The cerebral characteristic of man is there. The human brain is made, like every brain, to set up motor mechanisms and to enable us to choose among them, at any instant, the one we shall put in motion by the pull of a trigger. But it differs from other brains in this, that the number of mechanisms it can set up, and consequently the choice that it gives as to which among them shall be released, is unlimited. Now, from the limited to the unlimited there is all the distance between the closed and the open. It is not a difference of degree, but of kind.

Radical therefore, also, is the difference between animal consciousness, even the most intelligent, and human consciousness. For consciousness corresponds exactly to the living being's power of choice; it is coextensive with the fringe of possible action that surrounds the real action: consciousness is synonymous with invention and with freedom. Now, in the animal, invention is never anything but a variation on the theme of routine. Shut up in the habits of the species, it succeeds, no doubt, in enlarging them by its individual initiative; but it escapes automatism only for an instant, for just the time to create a new automatism. The gates of its prison close as soon as they are opened; by pulling at its chain it succeeds only in stretching it. With man, consciousness breaks the chain. In man, and in man alone, it sets itself free. The whole history of life until man has been that of the effort of consciousness to raise matter, and of the more or less complete overwhelming of consciousness by the matter which has fallen back on it. The enterprise was paradoxical, if, indeed, we may speak here otherwise than by metaphor of enterprise and of effort. It was to create with matter, which is necessity itself, an instrument of freedom, to make a machine which should triumph over mechanism, and to use the determinism of nature to pass through the meshes of the net which this very determinism had spread. But, everywhere except in man, consciousness has let itself be caught in the net whose meshes it tried to pass through: it has remained the captive of the mechanisms it has set up. Automatism, which it tries to draw in the direction of freedom, winds about it and drags it down. It has not the power to escape, because the energy it has provided for acts is almost all employed in maintaining the infinitely subtle and essentially unstable equilibrium into which it has brought matter. But man not only maintains his machine, he succeeds in using it as he pleases. Doubtless he owes this to the superiority of his brain, which enables him to build an unlimited number of motor mechanisms, to oppose new habits to the old ones unceasingly, and, by dividing automatism against itself, to rule it. He owes it to his language, which furnishes consciousness with an immaterial body in which to incarnate itself and thus exempts it from dwelling exclusively on material bodies, whose flux would soon drag it along and finally swallow it up. He owes it to social life, which stores and preserves efforts as language stores thought, fixes thereby a mean level to which individuals must raise themselves at the outset, and by this initial stimulation prevents the average man from slumbering and drives the superior man to mount still higher. But our brain, our society, and our language are only the external and various signs of one and the same internal superiority. They tell, each after its manner, the unique, exceptional success which life has won at a given moment of its evolution. They express the difference of kind, and not only of degree, which separates man from the rest of the animal world. They let us guess that, while at the end of the vast spring-board from which life has taken its leap, all the others have stepped down, finding the cord stretched too high, man alone has cleared the obstacle.

It is in this quite special sense that man is the "term" and the "end" of evolution. Life, we have said, transcends finality as it transcends the other categories. It is essentially a current sent through matter, drawing from it what it can. There has not, therefore, properly speaking, been any project or plan. On the other hand, it is abundantly evident that the rest of nature is not for the sake of man: we struggle like the other species, we have struggled against other species. Moreover, if the evolution of life had encountered other accidents in its course, if, thereby, the current of life had been otherwise divided, we should have been, physically and morally, far different from what we are. For these various reasons it would be wrong to regard humanity, such as we have it before our eyes, as pre-figured in the evolutionary movement. It cannot even be said to be the outcome of the whole of evolution, for evolution has been accomplished on several divergent lines, and while the human species is at the end of one of them, other lines have been followed with other species at their end. It is in a quite different sense that we hold humanity to be the ground of evolution.

From our point of view, life appears in its entirety as an immense wave which, starting from a centre, spreads outwards, and which on almost the whole of its circumference is stopped and converted into oscillation: at one single point the obstacle has been forced, the impulsion has passed freely. It is this freedom that the human form registers. Everywhere but in man, consciousness has had to come to a stand; in man alone it has kept on its way. Man, then, continues the vital movement indefinitely, although he does not draw along with him all that life carries in itself. On other lines of evolution there have traveled other tendencies which life implied, and of which, since everything interpenetrates, man has, doubtless, kept something, but of which he has kept only very little. It is as if a vague and formless being, whom we may call, as we will, man or superman, had sought to realize himself, and had succeeded only by abandoning a part of himself on the way. The losses are represented by the rest of the animal world, and even by the vegetable world, at least in what these have that is positive and above the accidents of evolution.

From this point of view, the discordances of which nature offers us the spectacle are singularly weakened. The organized world as a whole becomes as the soil on which was to grow either man himself or a being who morally must resemble him. The animals, however distant they may be from our species, however hostile to it, have none the less been useful traveling companions, on whom consciousness has unloaded whatever encumbrances it was dragging along, and who have enabled it to rise, in man, to heights from which it sees an unlimited horizon open again before it.

It is true that it has not only abandoned cumbersome baggage on the way; it has also had to give up valuable goods. Consciousness, in man, is pre-eminently intellect. It might have been, it ought, so it seems, to have been also intuition. Intuition and intellect represent two opposite directions of the work of consciousness: intuition goes in the very direction of life, intellect goes in the inverse direction, and thus finds itself naturally in accordance with the movement of matter. A complete and perfect humanity would be that in which these two forms of conscious activity should attain their full development. And, between this humanity and ours, we may conceive any number of possible stages, corresponding to all the degrees imaginable of intelligence and of intuition. In this lies the part of contingency in the mental structure of our species. A different evolution might have led to a humanity either more intellectual still or more intuitive. In the humanity of which we are a part, intuition is, in fact, almost completely sacrificed to intellect. It seems that to conquer matter, and to reconquer its own self, consciousness has had to exhaust the best part of its power. This conquest, in the particular conditions in which it has been accomplished, has required that consciousness should adapt itself to the habits of matter and concentrate all its attention on them, in fact determine itself more especially as intellect. Intuition is there, however, but vague and above all discontinuous. It is a lamp almost extinguished, which only glimmers now and then, for a few moments at most. But it glimmers wherever a vital interest is at stake. On our personality, on our liberty, on the place we occupy in the whole of nature, on our origin and perhaps also on our destiny, it throws a light feeble and vacillating, but which none the less pierces the darkness of the night in which the intellect leaves us.

These fleeting intuitions, which light up their object only at distant intervals, philosophy ought to seize, first to sustain them, then to expand them and so unite them together. The more it advances in this work, the more will it perceive that intuition is mind itself, and, in a certain sense, life itself: the intellect has been cut out of it by a process resembling that which has generated matter. Thus is revealed the unity of the spiritual life. We recognize it only when we place ourselves in intuition in order to go from intuition to the intellect, for from the intellect we shall never pass to intuition.

Philosophy introduces us thus into the spiritual life. And it shows us at the same time the relation of the life of the spirit to that of the body. The great error of the doctrines on the spirit has been the idea that by isolating the spiritual life from all the rest, by suspending it in space as high as possible above the earth, they were placing it beyond attack, as if they were not thereby simply exposing it to be taken as an effect of mirage! Certainly they are right to listen to conscience when conscience affirms human freedom; but the intellect is there, which says that the cause determines its effect, that like conditions like, that all is repeated and that all is given. They are right to believe in the absolute reality of the person and in his independence toward matter; but science is there, which shows the interdependence of conscious life and cerebral activity. They are right to attribute to man a privileged place in nature, to hold that the distance is infinite between the animal and man; but the history of life is there, which makes us witness the genesis of species by gradual transformation, and seems thus to reintegrate man in animality. When a strong instinct assures the probability of personal survival, they are right not to close their ears to its voice; but if there exist "souls" capable of an independent life, whence do they come? When, how and why do they enter into this body which we see arise, quite naturally, from a mixed cell derived from the bodies of its two parents? All these questions will remain unanswered, a philosophy of intuition will be a negation of science, will be sooner or later swept away by science, if it does not resolve to see the life of the body just where it really is, on the road that leads to the life of the spirit. But it will then no longer have to do with definite living beings. Life as a whole, from the initial impulsion that thrust it into the world, will appear as a wave which rises, and which is opposed by the descending movement of matter. On the greater part of its surface, at different heights, the current is converted by matter into a vortex. At one point alone it passes freely, dragging with it the obstacle which will weigh on its progress but will not stop it. At this point is humanity; it is our privileged situation. On the other hand, this rising wave is consciousness, and, like all consciousness, it includes potentialities without number which interpenetrate and to which consequently neither the category of unity nor that of multiplicity is appropriate, made as they both are for inert matter. The matter that it bears along with it, and in the interstices of which it inserts itself, alone can divide it into distinct individualities. On flows the current, running through human generations, subdividing itself into individuals. This subdivision was vaguely indicated in it, but could not have been made clear without matter. Thus souls are continually being created, which, nevertheless, in a certain sense pre-existed. They are nothing else than the little rills into which the great river of life divides itself, flowing through the body of humanity. The movement of the stream is distinct from the river bed, although it must adopt its winding course. Consciousness is distinct from the organism it animates, although it must undergo its vicissitudes. As the possible actions which a state of consciousness indicates are at every instant beginning to be carried out in the nervous centres, the brain underlines at every instant the motor indications of the state of consciousness; but the interdependency of consciousness and brain is limited to this; the destiny of consciousness is not bound up on that account with the destiny of cerebral matter. Finally, consciousness is essentially free; it is freedom itself; but it cannot pass through matter without settling on it, without adapting itself to it: this adaptation is what we call intellectuality; and the intellect, turning itself back toward active, that is to say free, consciousness, naturally makes it enter into the conceptual forms into which it is accustomed to see matter fit. It will therefore always perceive freedom in the form of necessity; it will always neglect the part of novelty or of creation inherent in the free act; it will always substitute for action itself an imitation artificial, approximative, obtained by compounding the old with the old and the same with the same. Thus, to the eyes of a philosophy that attempts to reabsorb intellect in intuition, many difficulties vanish or become light. But such a doctrine does not only facilitate speculation; it gives us also more power to act and to live. For, with it, we feel ourselves no longer isolated in humanity, humanity no longer seems isolated in the nature that it dominates. As the smallest grain of dust is bound up with our entire solar system, drawn along with it in that undivided movement of descent which is materiality itself, so all organized beings, from the humblest to the highest, from the first origins of life to the time in which we are, and in all places as in all times, do but evidence a single impulsion, the inverse of the movement of matter, and in itself indivisible. All the living hold together, and all yield to the same tremendous push. The animal takes its stand on the plant, man bestrides animality, and the whole of humanity, in space and in time, is one immense army galloping beside and before and behind each of us in an overwhelming charge able to beat down every resistance and clear the most formidable obstacles, perhaps even death.


[Footnote 78: We have developed this point in Matiere et memoire, chaps. ii. and iii., notably pp. 78-80 and 169-186.]

[Footnote 79: Faraday, A Speculation concerning Electric Conduction (Philosophical Magazine, 3d. series, vol. xxiv.).]

[Footnote 80: Our comparison does no more than develop the content of the term [Greek: logos], as Plotinus understands it. For while the [Greek: logos] of this philosopher is a generating and informing power, an aspect or a fragment of the [Greek: psyche], on the other hand Plotinus sometimes speaks of it as of a discourse. More generally, the relation that we establish in the present chapter between "extension" and "detension" resembles in some aspects that which Plotinus supposes (some developments of which must have inspired M. Ravaisson) when he makes extension not indeed an inversion of original Being, but an enfeeblement of its essence, one of the last stages of the procession, (see in particular, Enn. IV. iii. 9-11, and III. vi. 17-18). Yet ancient philosophy did not see what consequences would result from this for mathematics, for Plotinus, like Plato, erected mathematical essences into absolute realities. Above all, it suffered itself to be deceived by the purely superficial analogy of duration with extension. It treated the one as it treated the other, regarding change as a degradation of immutability, the sensible as a fall from the intelligible. Whence, as we shall show in the next chapter, a philosophy which fails to recognize the real function and scope of the intellect.]

[Footnote 81: Bastian, The Brain as an Organ of the Mind, pp. 214-16.]

[Footnote 82: We have dwelt on this point in a former work. See the Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience, Paris, 1889, pp. 155-160.]

[Footnote 83: Op. cit. chaps. i. and ii. passim.]

[Footnote 84: Cf. especially the profound studies of M. Ed. Le Roy in the Revue de metaph. et de morale.]

[Footnote 85: Matiere et memoire, chapters iii. and iv.]

[Footnote 86: See in particular, Phys., iv. 215 a 2; v. 230 b 12; viii. 255 a 2; and De Caelo, iv. 1-5; ii. 296 b 27; iv. 308 a 34.]

[Footnote 87: De Caelo, iv. 310 a 34 [Greek: to d' eis ton autou topon pherethai hekaoton to eis to autou eidos esti pheresthai].]

[Footnote 88: On these differences of quality see the work of Duhem, L'Evolution de la mecanique, Paris, 1905, pp. 197 ff.]

[Footnote 89: Boltzmann, Vorlesungen uber Gastheorie, Leipzig, 1898, pp. 253 ff.]

[Footnote 90: In a book rich in facts and in ideas (La Dissolution opposee a l'evolution, Paris, 1899), M. Andre Lalande shows us everything going towards death, in spite of the momentary resistance which organisms seem to oppose.—But, even from the side of unorganized matter, have we the right to extend to the entire universe considerations drawn from the present state of our solar system? Beside the worlds which are dying, there are without doubt worlds that are being born. On the other hand, in the organized world, the death of individuals does not seem at all like a diminution of "life in general," or like a necessity which life submits to reluctantly. As has been more than once remarked, life has never made an effort to prolong indefinitely the existence of the individual, although on so many other points it has made so many successful efforts. Everything is as if this death had been willed, or at least accepted, for the greater progress of life in general.]

[Footnote 91: We have dwelt on this point in an article entitled "Introduction a la metaphysique" (Revue de metaphysique et de morale, January, 1903, pp. 1-25).]

[Footnote 92: Cf. a paper written (in Russian) by Serkovski, and reviewed in the Annee biologique, 1898, p. 317.]

[Footnote 93: Ed. Perrier, Les Colonies animales, Paris, 1897 (2nd edition).]

[Footnote 94: Delage, L'Heredite, 2nd edition, Paris, 1903, p. 97. Cf. by the same author, "La Conception polyzoique des etres" (Revue scientifique, 1896, pp. 641-653).]

[Footnote 95: This is the theory maintained by Kunstler, Delage, Sedgwick, Labbe, etc. Its development, with bibliographical references, will be found in the work of Busquet, Les etres vivants, Paris, 1899.]



It remains for us to examine in themselves two theoretical illusions which we have frequently met with before, but whose consequences rather than principle have hitherto concerned us. Such is the object of the present chapter. It will afford us the opportunity of removing certain objections, of clearing up certain misunderstandings, and, above all, of defining more precisely, by contrasting it with others, a philosophy which sees in duration the very stuff of reality.

Matter or mind, reality has appeared to us as a perpetual becoming. It makes itself or it unmakes itself, but it is never something made. Such is the intuition that we have of mind when we draw aside the veil which is interposed between our consciousness and ourselves. This, also, is what our intellect and senses themselves would show us of matter, if they could obtain a direct and disinterested idea of it. But, preoccupied before everything with the necessities of action, the intellect, like the senses, is limited to taking, at intervals, views that are instantaneous and by that very fact immobile of the becoming of matter. Consciousness, being in its turn formed on the intellect, sees clearly of the inner life what is already made, and only feels confusedly the making. Thus, we pluck out of duration those moments that interest us, and that we have gathered along its course. These alone we retain. And we are right in so doing, while action only is in question. But when, in speculating on the nature of the real, we go on regarding it as our practical interest requires us to regard it, we become unable to perceive the true evolution, the radical becoming. Of becoming we perceive only states, of duration only instants, and even when we speak of duration and of becoming, it is of another thing that we are thinking. Such is the most striking of the two illusions we wish to examine. It consists in supposing that we can think the unstable by means of the stable, the moving by means of the immobile.

The other illusion is near akin to the first. It has the same origin, being also due to the fact that we import into speculation a procedure made for practice. All action aims at getting something that we feel the want of, or at creating something that does not yet exist. In this very special sense, it fills a void, and goes from the empty to the full, from an absence to a presence, from the unreal to the real. Now the unreality which is here in question is purely relative to the direction in which our attention is engaged, for we are immersed in realities and cannot pass out of them; only, if the present reality is not the one we are seeking, we speak of the absence of this sought-for reality wherever we find the presence of another. We thus express what we have as a function of what we want. This is quite legitimate in the sphere of action. But, whether we will or no, we keep to this way of speaking, and also of thinking, when we speculate on the nature of things independently of the interest they have for us. Thus arises the second of the two illusions. We propose to examine this first. It is due, like the other, to the static habits that our intellect contracts when it prepares our action on things. Just as we pass through the immobile to go to the moving, so we make use of the void in order to think the full.

We have met with this illusion already in dealing with the fundamental problem of knowledge. The question, we then said, is to know why there is order, and not disorder, in things. But the question has meaning only if we suppose that disorder, understood as an absence of order, is possible, or imaginable, or conceivable. Now, it is only order that is real; but, as order can take two forms, and as the presence of the one may be said to consist in the absence of the other, we speak of disorder whenever we have before us that one of the two orders for which we are not looking. The idea of disorder is then entirely practical. It corresponds to the disappointment of a certain expectation, and it does not denote the absence of all order, but only the presence of that order which does not offer us actual interest. So that whenever we try to deny order completely, absolutely, we find that we are leaping from one kind of order to the other indefinitely, and that the supposed suppression of the one and the other implies the presence of the two. Indeed, if we go on, and persist in shutting our eyes to this movement of the mind and all it involves, we are no longer dealing with an idea; all that is left of disorder is a word. Thus the problem of knowledge is complicated, and possibly made insoluble, by the idea that order fills a void and that its actual presence is superposed on its virtual absence. We go from absence to presence, from the void to the full, in virtue of the fundamental illusion of our understanding. That is the error of which we noticed one consequence in our last chapter. As we then anticipated, we must come to close quarters with this error, and finally grapple with it. We must face it in itself, in the radically false conception which it implies of negation, of the void and of the nought.[97]

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