One thing we may affirm about the universe—it is logical; the conclusion always follows from the premises.
The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is, "Look under foot." You are always nearer the divine and the sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the centre of the world. Stand in your own dooryard and you have eight thousand miles of solid ground beneath you, and all the sidereal splendors overhead. The morning and the evening stars are no more in the heavens and no more obedient to the celestial impulses than the lonely and time-scarred world we inhabit. How the planet thrills and responds to the heavenly forces and occurrences we little know, but we get an inkling of it when we see the magnetic needle instantly affected by solar disturbances.
Look under foot. Gold and diamonds and all precious stones come out of the ground; they do not drop upon us from the stars, and our highest thoughts are in some way a transformation or a transmutation of the food we eat. The mean is the divine if we make it so. The child surely learns that its father and mother are the Santa Claus that brought the gifts, though the discovery may bring pain; and the man learns to see providence in the great universal forces of nature, in the winds and the rain, in the soil underfoot and in the cloud overhead. What these forces in their orderly rounds do not bring him, he does not expect. The farmer hangs up his stocking in the way of empty bins and barns, and he knows well who or what must fill them. The Santa Claus of the merchant, the manufacturer, the inventor, is the forces and conditions all about us in everyday operation. When the lightning strikes your building or the trees on your lawn, you are at least reminded that you do not live in a corner outside of Jove's dominions, you are in the circuit of the great forces. If you are eligible to bad fortune where you stand, you are equally eligible to good fortune there. The young man who went West did well, but the young man who had the western spirit and stayed at home did equally well. To evoke a spark of fire out of a flint with a bit of steel is the same thing as evoking beautiful thoughts from homely facts. How hard it is for us to see the heroic in an act of our neighbor!
What a burden science took upon itself when it sought to explain the origin of man! Religion or theology takes a short cut and makes quick work of it by regarding man as the result of the special creative act of a supernatural Being. But science takes a long and tedious and hazardous way around through the lowest primordial forms of life. It seeks to trace his germ through the abyss of geologic time where all is dim and mysterious, through countless cycles of waiting and preparation, where the slow, patient gods of evolution cherished it and passed it on, through the fetid carbon, through the birth and decay of continents, through countless interchanges and readjustments of sea and land, through the clash and warring of the cosmic forces, through good and evil report, through the fish and the reptile, through the ape and the orang up to man—from the slime at the bottom of the primordial ocean up to Jesus of Nazareth. Surely one may say with Whitman,
"Immense have been the preparations for me;
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me!"
It took about one hundred thousand feet of sedimentary rock, laid down through hundreds of millions of years in the bottom of the old seas, all probably the leavings of minute forms of life, to make a foundation upon which man could appear.
His origin as revealed by science fills and appalls the imagination; as revealed by theology it simply baffles and dumbfounds one. Science deepens the mystery while yet it gives the reason and the imagination something to go upon; it takes us beyond soundings, but not beyond the assurance that cause and effect are still continuous there beneath us. I like to think that man has traveled that long adventurous road, that the whole creation has pulled together to produce him. It is a road, of course, beset with pain and anguish, beset with ugly and repellent forms, beset with riot and slaughter; it leads through jungle and morass, through floods and cataclysms, through the hells of the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic periods, but it leads ever upward and onward.
The manward impulse in creation has doubtless been checked many times, but never lost; all forms conspired to further it, and it seemed to have taken the push and the aspiration out of each order as it passed on, dooming it henceforth to a round of life without change or hope of progress, leaving the fish to continue fish, the reptiles to continue reptiles, the apes to continue apes; it took all the heart and soul of each to feed and continue the central impulse that was to eventuate in man.
I fail to see why our religious brethren cannot find in this history or revelation as much room for creative energy, as large a factor of the mysterious and superhuman, as in the myth of Genesis. True it is that it fixes our attention upon this world and upon forces with which we are more or less familiar, but it implies an element or a power before which we stand helpless and dumb. What fathered this man-impulse, what launched this evolutionary process, what or who stamped upon the first protoplasm the aspiration to be man, and never let that aspiration sleep through all the tremendous changes of those incalculable geologic ages? What or who first planted the seed of the great biological tree and determined all its branchings and the fruit it should bear? If you must have a God, either apart from or immanent in creation, it seems to me that there is as much need of one here as in the Mosaic cosmology. The final mystery cannot be cleared up. We can only drive it to cover. How the universe came to be what it is, and how man came to be man, who can tell us?