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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 3

 

CAN you give any explanation regard the suffering which the animal kingdom is called upon to endure, in connection with the physical well-being of man, and the purposes of science; as also concerning the perpetual warfare waging therein?

 

Answer

 

WE must first respond to that portion of the question which demands a reason for the suffering of the animal kingdom as it originates with man. We ask, why is suffering inflicted upon the animal kingdom by man? In the first place we find, that notwithstanding the supreme excellence and triumphant powers of the human soul, it still manifests its alliance with all lower existences in nature, and progresses through the realm of matter; thus there are inevitable analogies between the influences which act on the progression of matter, the development of soul, and the forms and instincts


 

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of animals. Thus, in man is found the aggregated instincts of animals; and in animals the same effects of influence that act on man.

 

Destructiveness, the love of rule, the domination of the strong over the weak, are all outgrowths in the human mind from the types in the animal kingdom. In animals and men alike, such tendencies arise from an undue excess of the love of self. There are but two primeval ideas in the realm of moral nature: these are the love of self and the love of the neighbour. When either of these exists in excess, they are crime; in equilibrium, they are virtue. Until man realises the true and just balance, one or the other prevails; and hence originate all his faults and failings, and all his crimes. In the animal kingdom (which we believe to be in broken fragments, the exhibition of nature practising to develop man, exhibiting various fragments of intellect, and displaying in various degrees the instincts, which in their totality in man, is reason) - in the animal kingdom, instinct unrestrained by reason, constantly evidences a tendency to excess. In man, this excess is crime; in the animal, simply injurious instincts of nature.

 

When we attempt to show why man inherently, as if by nature, appears desirous to inflict pain on the animal kingdom, we are painfully recalled from a consideration of the sufferings of these poor victims of our uncurbed vices, to pause on the pages of our daily journals, and there discover that man inflicts wanton acts of cruelty on a higher order of being than even the animal kingdom, and in this his hapless victims are the weak and helpless of his own race. What philosophy can show why the savage hand of violence is raised to strike a fellow creature? What sophistry can justify the haughty rule of the aristocrat over the poor and humble? Why does man trample beneath his very feet the meek sons of toil, or scorn the humble labourer? Why so often shrink, as if from a pestilence, from the ignorant, the criminal and ill­conditioned members of society, who, as cramped themselves by the chains of adverse fortune, claim from us protection, care, and teaching? All this is part of the same spirit that strikes the helpless animal, and abuses the lower creatures; and yet more problematical in view of man’s high nature is the fact, that the very weakness which should claim our pity seems to be the plea on which we make it a safety-valve for this our inevitable spirit of destruction, and tyranny, and wrong. In view of man’s relations to the lower kingdoms, and his inheritance of violence from alliance with the brute, we assume that passion in the beast is excess of self-love in the man. Self­preservation is the column around which group all the attributes which make us men and women. Without it we cannot maintain an existence. In the excess of this feeling, which, repressed, is virtue, self-love, I repeat, is crime; and its tendency degenerates in satisfaction of our angry passions by the sacrifice of those on whom we wreak them.

 

But your Question also enquires concerning the result of ill usage upon the animal kingdom. We may not hear the moan of the creatures we punish, there may be no voice to rebuke the cruel blow with which we strike the patient steed; there is no appeal in human tone, no word of reason to remonstrate against the wanton blow we strike the brutes, but if these speechless subjects of our wrath are dumb to our mortal ear, their every wrong is a prayer which their Maker answers, and that in results which are manifestly shewn in these creatures’ spiritual natures. The endurance by the strong animal of wrongs inflicted by weak man, proves in the first place the total absence of that consciousness whose highest function is the knowledge of self, of its own strength, and of its relations to the oppressor. The brute knows not its power, and


 

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therefore not itself, and in this ignorance it is that it endures. Now, we have before stated that the spirit of the lower creatures maintains a continuous existence. In this place it is proper to add, that that existence is progressive, and that the sufferings which each creature endures are its means of progress. As we strike the iron at the forge we make it finer; as we burn or beat the gold we elaborate qualities in it that are never to be found in the unwrought metal. We call forth magnetic life from stones and metals as we strike or bruise them. The fragrance of the flower ascends beneath the foot that crushes it. And even so with the suffering spirits of the creatures subject to us; the tortures which we inflict correspond to the adversities which lessen man himself. There is not a moment in our lives more fraught with instruction than the hour of bitter failure, or the moments of life’s agony. ‘Tis then we first begin to know ourselves, to turn our eyes within and summon up around us all the remaining energies of soul to meet the emergency. ‘Tis then we come out of gladiatorial combats with life’s woes, and pains, and penalties, fully developed spirits. By analogy the same process is exhibited on the spirits of the lower creatures though we mark it not. Every blow and every cruel wrong inflicted on these creatures has a corresponding effect upon their spirits.

 

We do not say this to justify the offence of wronging them. “It needs must be that offences come; but woe unto those by whom the offence cometh.” Still there is a power of transmutation in the great crucible of divine mercy which brings out the thrice refined gold from the fire of suffering wheresoever it is inflicted; and therefore it is that in the divine philosophy of suffering we are reconciled to the processes by which endurance is forced even on helpless animals: independently of the wisdom that is manifest in the system of necessary destruction which one species exercises upon another, to the destruction of noxious creatures burdensome to the earth; independently of the fact that the foul and pestilential exhalations of the earth, that would otherwise fill our atmosphere, become incarnate in these noxious creatures, and that organic life is always superior to inorganic, and the destructiveness of one species aids the progression of another - besides all this, and the fact that through all these mutually related incidents in nature, earth and its inhabitants are evermore progressing, - ‘tis strange but significant of God’s creative wisdom to observe that destructiveness invariably prevails amongst the lowest forms of life, and its tendencies invariably diminish as we ascend to the higher grades of being. In the highest of all forms, the gentlest kindest natures become more and more manifest; and the more capacity for education exists, even in the animal kingdom, the more surely is it associated with that docile disposition which preys not upon other creatures. Thus, then, do we claim, that in the ascending scale of being, destructiveness is a gradually receding tendency. It would seem to begin as a fundamental law of life’s necessity, and ending, as all necessities of being end, in the fully unfolded intellect and noblest types of man - the highest reason of the highest man shall ultimately be so triumphant, that when man himself shall have learned self-government, and attained to a noble equilibrium between the love of self and the love of his neighbour, when his own superior intellect shall recognise the wrong of inflicting pain or unjust punishment on any living creature, his pure life magnetism shall go forth, and create a new earth, from the new heaven that is born within him. When man is himself a fully perfected being, and his atmosphere is radiant with his goodness, all earth will partake of his own controlling spirit life, and physical emanation. Destructiveness will cease - destructive creatures perish, the earth will become refined and purified, and the atmosphere be sublimated. The poisonous carbonic acid gas exhaled from man’s


 

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respiration descending to the ground forms now a portion of the vegetable world, and this again taken up by the animal creation, influences if not determines much of their characteristics, and thus even our respiration no less than our influential forms and lives and minds are repeated in all nature subject to our influence. When we are centres of purity, gentleness, and mercy, and that reason which legislates between the love of self and others, produces in man earth’s sovereign lord, and God on earth’s viceregent, the fruits of love and wisdom, truly the bright prophetic vision of the seer shall rejoice the new born earth in the new born heaven of human souls that rule it. Until this glorious consummation of life’s progress shall ensue, we thank our God that He transmutes our crimes into the welfare of his creatures, and from our very darkness ultimates the means of progress for creation.

 

Question 4  January 8th, 1866