The first challenge the new born baby makes to its world is a revolt against discomfort. Why are we ever uncomfortable? Why are we ever in pain? Why are we ever unhappy? Is it because we have 'fallen into a state of sin,' as an earlier generation had it? Should we be ashamed of it, as of a defect?
"Hardly that," says Gaelic. "It is a byproduct of evolution; of the fact that we are evolving creatures." And evolution, he points out, is an affair of expediencies.
"You have been accustomed," said he, "to think of the interplay of natural forces, and what might be called the mechanical devices of the nature which is outside of yourselves as representing devices perfected. As a matter of fact nature is not only imperfect but clumsy, and her ends are attained by a series of compromises and expedients fashioned from the ragtag material of millions of unsuccessful or half successful experiments. Only in certain brilliant exceptions do the means and the end fit themselves in ideal correspondence. The ends are indeed secured through clever and most ingenious use of the methods employed, but the methods themselves are in a vast majority of cases inferior to those that could be created were the past experiments to be wiped out and a fresh start made ab initio.
"In these compressed, sketchy and fragmentary dissertations it is impossible to illustrate as fully as clarity would demand. You are more familiar with your own physical bodies than with any other natural phenomena. If you yourselves were called upon, I make no doubt that your unaided intellect could invent modifications of apparatus by which many bodily functions could be carried out quite as effectively and with infinitely greater precision and comfort. I will adduce only one example: the method of physical human birth. It has, as considered from the point of view of mechanics, about one recommendation only: that is, that it produces the child. From any other point of view it is a remarkably bungling method, the result of countless semi-futile experiments in the course of evolution. Experiments in reproduction have been made in many, many different ways: simple division of cells, production of spores, external planting of seeds, and so forth, by many widely different expedients - tentative gropings toward something which will fulfill all requisites, not only of reproduction of kind but also of many psychical relations and dependencies. You may see most of these experiments carried to an approximate perfection all about you. This principle, the thing that has emerged from each experiment, has often been employed in whole or in part in subsequent more elaborate attempts. This obtains throughout all developing natures from the sub-microscopic to the super-telescopic. Everything is becoming.
"The corollary to unsuccessful experiment, incomplete experiment, as yet fragmentary experiment, is always discomfort. Discomfort is a word that may be translated into a dozen others - disharmony, sin, thunder and lightning. And, parenthetically, if your connection or affinity or sensitiveness or receptivity or whatever you call it happens by mysterious ancestry to be close enough to one or another of these things that are going on, its or their discomfort will be very decidedly and really echoed in yourself. It is quite true that a north wind may set you all on edge; and it is useless to attempt to nullify effects of this kind by the easy statement that it is 'in the course of nature' and therefore must be right. And my north wind may also be translated into, not twelve, but hundreds of concepts.
"The experiment of each creature, or entity, or force - or, more inclusively, quality of consciousness - to evolve that which will nearest fit the need, is builded of the simpler experiments on similar lines of simpler qualities of consciousness that has gone before it, with the addition of its own contribution. It comes into possession of the elements of these earlier, perhaps blundering experiments through that reverberation back from the Cosmic Consciousness whose awareness-mechanisms those qualities of consciousness are. Each quality of consciousness - and therefore each living thing - is an awareness-mechanism by means of which the Cosmic Consciousness becomes aware of itself. Through experiments of these awareness-mechanisms the Cosmic Consciousness gains its experience and memory, which is its immortality in the finite. The reverberation back of which I spoke is the occupation, through what you call instinct, by the individual entity, of that body of experience, through experiment, gained by its own and other qualities of consciousness.
"Now in the lower quality of consciousness you of course know that the instinctive action is the principle, and that oftentimes the instinctive action has a perfection which enlists your admiration and is your despair. Man has not, for example, reached the political integrity of a colony of ants. The instinctive actions are almost invariably surely and accurately wise in adaptation to the need. Therefore, the lower forms of life fulfill that life with a beautiful precision which higher forms increasingly lack. This is not because of a degeneration from even approximate wisdom on the part of the higher animal. It is because as consciousness rises in evolution the field of the precise instinctive action is narrowed and the field of the reasoned - and blundering - experimental action is widened.
"The contribution of experiment by the lowest qualities of consciousness is almost infinitesimal as compared with the ready-made instinctive correspondences to life. In man, however, the instincts are reduced to the bare minimum necessary to self-preservation, and to him is accorded the privilege and the duty of experiment - and blunder. The things that are ready-made for him are his body and his bodily instincts. Both, from one point of view, are marvelous. From another, as I have said, they are often clumsy. The rest is largely his.
"In the further development of consciousness he will find his ready-made portion still more limited. He will make his own body, so to speak.
"I would add a great deal more, but am warned I must not. I must say this very briefly - and too briefly. Just as the blundering but fairly successful experiments are synthesized, so to speak, into a gratuitous equipment of a higher order of beings, so does the process continue beyond yourselves. Your own original experiments or adaptations - as far as they are successful to the degree of meeting conditions - enter the higher consciousness to be reverberated back toward the equipment of something beyond your ken.
"That is not adequate. Very diluted. Very bad," he finished with an air of dissatisfaction.