British Historian, Explorer and Philosopher
W. Winwood Reade, fully William Winwood Reade
British Historian, Explorer and Philosopher
As for the system of the Commune, which makes it impossible for a man to rise or fall, it is merely the old caste system revived; if it could be put into force, all industry would be disheartened, emulation would cease, and mankind would go to sleep.
We live between two worlds; we soar in the atmosphere; we creep upon the soil; we have the aspirations of creators and the propensities of quadrupeds. There can be but one explanation of this fact. We are passing from the animal into a higher form, and the drama of this planet is in its second act.
Doubt is the offspring of knowledge: the savage never doubts at all.
What a state of society is this in which freethinker is a term of abuse, and in which doubt is regarded as sin?
If Christianity were true religious persecution would become a pious and charitable duty: if God designs to punish men for their opinions it would be an act of mercy to mankind to extinguish such opinions. By burning the bodies of those who diffuse them many souls would be saved that would otherwise be lost, and so there would be an economy of torment in the long run. It is therefore not surprising that enthusiasts should be intolerant.
If indeed there were a judgment-day, it would be for man to appear at the bar not as a criminal but as accuser.
If we look into ourselves we discover propensities which declare that our intellects have arisen from a lower form; could our minds be made visible we should find them tailed.
In Europe itself it is not probable that war will ever absolutely cease until science discovers some destroying force so simple in its administration, so horrible in its effects, that all art, all gallantry, will be at an end, and battles will be massacres which the feelings of mankind will be unable to endure.
Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought nothing out but loads of dung. That was their return cargo. London turns dirt into gold. Rome turned gold into dirt.
It is a sure criterion of the civilization of ancient Egypt that the soldiers did not carry arms except on duty, and that the private citizens did not carry them at all.
It may safely be asserted that the art of war will soon be reduced to a simple question of expenditure and credit, and that the largest purse will be the strongest arm.
Men prefer to believe that they are degenerated angels, rather than elevated apes.
Open the book of universal history at what period we may, it is always the India trade which is the cause of internal industry and foreign negotiation.
The essence of religion is inertia; the essence of science is change. It is the function of the one to preserve, it is the function of the other to improve. If, as in Egypt, they are firmly chained together, either science will advance, in which case the religion will be altered, or the religion will preserve its purity, and science will congeal.
The mind of an ordinary man is in so imperfect a condition that it requires a creed.
A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its beautiful morality.
The philosophic spirit of inquiry may be traced to brute curiosity, and that to the habit of examining all things in search of food.
All doctrines relating to the creation of the world, the government of man by superior beings, and his destiny after death, are conjectures which have been given out as facts, handed down with many adornments by tradition, and accepted by posterity as revealed religion. They are theories more or less rational which uncivilized men have devised in order to explain the facts of life, and which civilized men believe that they believe.
The Supreme Power is not a Mind, but something higher than a Mind… not a Being, but something higher than a Being, something for which we have no words, something for which we have no ideas.
As a single atom, man is an enigma: as a whole, he is a mathematical problem. As an individual, he is a free agent: as a species, the offspring of necessity. The unity of the universe is a scientific fact. To assert that it is the operation of a single Mind is a conjecture based on analogy, and analogy may be a deceptive guide.
There is a certain class of people who prefer to say that their fathers came down in the world through their own follies rather than to boast that they rose in the world through their own industry and talents. It is the same shabby-genteel sentiment, the same vanity of birth, which makes men prefer to believe that they are degenerated angels rather than elevated apes.