Page:Evolution and Ethics.djvu/50

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

other world with phantoms of this, the Egyptian doctrine would seem to presuppose the Indian as a more archaic belief.

Prof. Rhys Davids has fully insisted upon the ethical importance of the transmigration theory. "One of the latest speculations now being put forward among ourselves would seek to explain each man's character, and even his outward condition in life, by the character he inherited from his ancestors, a character gradually formed during a practically endless series of past existences, modified only by the conditions into which he was born, those very conditions being also, in like manner, the last result of a practically endless series of past causes. Gotama's speculation might be stated in the same words. But it attempted also to explain, in a way different from that which would be adopted by the exponents of the modern theory, that strange problem which it is also the motive of the wonderful drama of the book of Job to explain—the fact that the actual distribution here of good fortune, or misery, is entirely independent of the moral qualities which men call good or bad. We cannot wonder that a teacher, whose whole system was so essentially an ethical reformation, should have felt it incumbent upon him to seek an explanation of this apparent injustice. And all the more so, since the belief he had inherited, the theory of the transmigration of souls, had provided a solution perfectly sufficient to any one who could accept that belief." (Hibbert Lectures, p. 93.) I should venture to suggest the substitution of 'largely' for 'entirely' in the foregoing passage. Whether a ship makes a good or a bad voyage is largely independent of the conduct of the captain, but it is as largely affected by that conduct. Though powerless before a hurricane he may weather many a bad gale.

Note 5 (p. 14).

"The outward condition of the soul is, in each new birth, determined by its actions in a previous birth; but by each action in succession and not by the balance struck after the evil has been reckoned off against the good. A good man, who has once uttered a slander may spend a hundred thousand years as a god, in consequence of his goodness, and, when the power of his good actions is exhausted, may be born as a dumb man on account of