164 THE FORERUNNERS
fourteenth chapter, " The Evolution of the Idea of the
He then passes to scientific demonstration. Is there, he asks, a material bond, a bodily, living, and enduring tie, between human beings of all lands and all ages ? J He finds a proof that there is such a bond in the researches of Weismann and in that writer's theory of the germ plasm, which has now become classic.3 In each individual, the cells of the germ plasm continue the life of the parents, of which, in the fullest sense of the word, they are living portions. They are undying. They pass, changeless, to our children and to our children's children. Thus there really persists throughout the whole genealogical tree a part of the same living substance. A portion of this organic unity lives in each individual and thereby we are physically connected with the universal community. Nicolai points out, in passing, the remarkable relationships between these scientific hypotheses of the last thirty years and certain mystical intuitions of the Greeks and the early Christians " the spirit (pneuma) that quickeneth " (Saint John, vi, 63), the generative spirit, which is not only distinguished from the flesh, as Saint John declares, but is
1 It is surprising that there is but one mention of Auguste Comte in Nicolai's book ; for Comte's Great Human Being is certainly akin to the German biologist's Humanity.
J We shall do well to note that Nicolai practically considers himself exempt from the need for these material demonstrations. As far as he is concerned, it would suffice him, as it sufficed Aristotle, to observe the play of forces among men. This simple observation would convince him that humanity must be regarded as an organism. " But moderns, although they will generally deny it, are for the most part infected with the belief that all solid fact must be material. . . . Even though it be not absolutely necessary to demonstrate that there exists between human beings a bridge of real substance (eine Briicke realer Substanz), even though the dynamic ties suffice us, it is desirable to satisfy the materialistic demands of our day, and to show that there does actually exist between the men of all ages and all lands an effective interconnection, which is uniform, persistent, nay eternal " [pp. 392-393, English edition].
8 According to this theory, which was initiated by Gustav Jaeger in 1878, there occurs an eternal transmission of an inheritable germ plasm, this being temporarily housed within the perishable soma of the individual living being. The hypothesis of the undying plasma has given rise to lively discussions which are still in progress.