The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Forerunners, by Romain Rolland

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Title: The Forerunners

Author: Romain Rolland

Translator: Eden Paul
            Cedar Paul

Release Date: February 17, 2010 [EBook #31313]

Language: English

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ART and science have bent the knee to war. Art has become war's sycophant; science, war's hand-maiden. Few have had the strength or inclination to resist. In art, rare works, sombre French works, have blossomed on the blood-drenched soil. In science, the greatest product during these three criminal years has been the one we owe to G. F. Nicolai, a German whose spirit is free and whose thought has an enormous range.

The book is, as it were, a symbol of that unconquerable Freedom whom all the tyrannies of this age of force have vainly endeavoured to gag. It was written behind prison walls, but these walls were not thick enough to stifle the voice which judges the oppressors and will survive them.

Dr. Nicolai, professor of physiology at Berlin University and physician to the imperial household, found himself, when the war broke out, in the very focus of the madness which seized the flower of his nation. Not merely did he refuse to share that madness. Yet more daring, he openly resisted it. In reply to the manifesto of the 93 intellectuals, published in the beginning of October, 1914, he wrote a counter-manifesto, An Appeal to Europeans, which was endorsed by two other distinguished professors at the university of Berlin, Albert Einstein, the celebrated physicist, and Wilhelm Foerster, president of the international bureau of weights and measures, the father of Professor F. W. Foerster. This manifesto was not published, for Nicolai was unable to collect a sufficient number of signatures. In the summer term of 1915 he incorporated it in the opening of a series of lectures he planned to deliver upon the war. Thus, for the fulfilment of what he deemed his duty as an honest thinker, he deliberately risked his social position, his academic career, his distinctions, his comfort, and his friendships. He was arrested, and was interned in Graudenz fortress. There, unaided, and almost without books, he penned his admirable Biology of War, and managed to have the manuscript sent to Switzerland, where the first German edition has just been published. The circumstances in which the book was written have an atmosphere of mystery and heroism recalling that of the days when the Holy Inquisition was endeavouring to stifle the thought of Galileo. In the modern world, the Inquisition of the United States of Europe and America is no less crushing than was the Holy Inquisition of old. But Nicolai, firmer of spirit than Galileo, has refused to recant. Last month (September, 1917), the journals of German Switzerland announced that he had been once more brought to trial, and had been sentenced to five months' imprisonment by the Danzig court-martial. Thus again does force manifest its ludicrous weakness, for its unjust decrees merely help to raise a statue to the man whom force would fain strike down.

* *

The leading characteristic of book and writer is their universality. The publisher, in a note prefixed to the first edition, tells us that Nicolai "has a world-wide reputation as a physician, more especially in the field of cardiac disease"; that "he is a thinker the universality of whose culture seems almost fabulous in these days of specialisation, for, while distinguished for his knowledge of neokantian philosophy, he is equally at home in literature and in dealing with social problems"; that "he is an explorer who has wandered afoot in China, Malaysia, and even the solitudes of Lapland." Nothing human is foreign to him. In his book, the chapters on universal history, religious history, and philosophical criticism, are closely linked with the chapters on ethnology and biology. What a contrast between this encyclopædic thought, with its reminiscences of our eighteenth century France, and the German savant of caricature, specialist to absurdity—a type which is often enough encountered in real life!

His vast learning is vivified by a captivating and brilliant personality, overflowing with feeling and humour. He makes no attempt to conceal himself behind the mask of a false objectivity. In the Introduction he hastens to tear off this mask, with which the insincere thought of our epoch is covered. He treats with contempt what he calls "the eternal straining for all-round treatment (Einerseits-Andererseits), the perpetual compromise which, under the hypocritical pretext of "justice," weds incompatibles, the carp and the hare, "war and humanity, beauty and fashion, internationalism and nationalism." Method alone should be objective. The conclusions inevitably retain a subjective element, and it is well that this should be so. "As long as we refuse to renounce the right of individuality and the right of striving towards goals of our own choosing, so long must we judge human deeds from the outlook of our own individuality. War is one of the deeds of man, and as such we have to pass judgment on it categorically. Any compromise on this point would obscure the issues; nay, it would be almost immoral.... War, like everything else, should have light thrown upon it from every side before we pass judgment on it; but only to persons of second-rate intelligence can it seem that we should actually pass our judgment on war from all sides at once, or even from two sides only."

Such is the objectivity which we have to expect from this book. Not the soft, flabby, indifferent, contradictory objectivity of the scientific dilettante, of the arch-eunuch: but a mettlesome objectivity which is appropriate in this fighting age, the objectivity of one who honestly attempts to see everything and to know everything; but who, having done so, endeavours to organise his data in accordance with a hypothesis, an intuition tinged with passion.

Such a system is worth precisely what the intuition is worth, precisely what the man who has the intuition is worth. For, in a great thinker, the hypothesis is the man. His hypothesis is the concentrated essence of his energy, his observation, his thought, his imaginative powers, and even of his passions. Nicolai's hypothesis is vigorous, and it takes risks. The central idea of his book may be summed up as follows: "There exists a genus humanum, and there is only one such genus. The human race, humanity as a whole, is but a single organism, and has a common consciousness."

Whoever speaks of a living organism, speaks of transformation and of unceasing movement. This perpetuum mobile gives its peculiar colour to Nicolai's reflections. In general, we who are advocates or opponents of the war tend to pass judgment on it almost exclusively in abstracto. We conceive it as static and absolute. It may almost be said that as soon as a thinker concentrates upon a subject in order to study it, his first step is to kill it. To a great biologist all is movement, and movement is the material of his study. The social or moral question that concerns us is not whether war is good or bad in the sphere of the eternal; but whether war is good or bad for us in our own moment of time. Now, for Nicolai, war is a stage in human evolution which man has long outgrown. His book depicts for us this evolutionary flux of instincts and ideas, an irresistible current in which there is never a backwash.

* *

The work is divided into two main parts, of unequal length. The first, occupying three-fourths of the book, is an attack upon the masters of the hour, war, fatherland, and race; an attack upon the reigning sophisms. It is entitled "The Evolution of War." The criticism of the present, in part one, is followed, in part two, by constructive ideas for the future. This second part is entitled "How War may be abolished." It outlines the coming society; sketches its morality and its faith. So abundant, in this book, are data and ideas, that selection is a difficult matter. Apart from the extraordinary richness of its elements, the work may be considered from two outlooks, specifically German, and universally human, respectively. Straightforwardly, at the outset, Nicolai tells his readers that although, in his opinion, all the nations must share responsibility for the war, he proposes to concern himself with the responsibility of Germany alone. He leaves it to the thinkers of other lands, each in his own country, to settle their country's accounts. "It is not my business," he says, "to know whether others have sinned extra muros, but to prevent people from sinning intra muros." If he chooses his instances from Germany above all, this is not because instances are lacking elsewhere, but because he writes, above all, for Germans. A large proportion of his historical and philosophical criticism deals with Germany ancient and modern. The point is well worthy of special analysis. No one, henceforward, will have any right to speak of the German spirit, unless he has read the profound chapters in which Nicolai, endeavouring to define national individuality, analyses the characteristics of German Kultur, analyses its virtues and its vices, its excessive faculty for adaptation, the struggle which the old Teutonic idealism has waged in its conflict with militarism, and elucidates the manner in which idealism was vanquished by militarism. The unfortunate influence of Kant (for whom, none the less, Nicolai has a great admiration) is stressed by him on account of the part it has played in this crisis of a nation's soul. Or rather, we may say, Nicolai stresses the influence of Kant's dualism of the reasons. This dualism of the pure reason and the practical reason (which Kant, despite the best efforts of his later years, was never able to associate in a satisfactory manner) is a brilliant symbol of the contradictory dualism to which modern Germany has accommodated herself all too easily. For Germany, preserving full liberty in the world of thought, has trampled under foot liberty in the world of action, or at least has surrendered this liberty without ever a regret (Chapter Ten, passim).

These analyses of the German soul are of great interest to the psychologist, the historian, and the statesmen. But, since I am compelled to select, I shall choose for description those parts of the book which are addressed to everyone, which touch us all, which are truly universal. I shall speak of the general problem of war and peace in human evolution. I shall have to resign myself to yet further sacrifices. Ignoring the chapters which discuss this topic from a historical and from a literary point of view,[49] I shall confine myself to the biological studies, for it is in these that the author's individuality finds its most original self-expression.

* *

At grips with the hydra of war, Nicolai attacks the evil at the root. He opens with a vigorous analysis of instinct in general, for he is careful to avoid denying the innate character of war.

War, he says, is an instinct which springs from the deeps of mankind, an instinct which influences even those who condemn it. It is an intoxication which is carefully fostered in time of peace; when it breaks forth, it takes possession of all alike. But because it is an instinct, it does not follow that this instinct is sacred. Rousseau has popularised the idea that instinct is always good and trustworthy. Nothing of the kind. Instinct may be mistaken. When it is mistaken, the race dies out, and we can therefore easily understand that, in races which do not die out, instinct has a valid reason for existence. Nevertheless, an animal endowed with sound instincts, may be deceived by these instincts when it leaves its primitive environment. We see an example of this in the moth which burns itself in the flame. The instinct was sound in the days when the sun was the only luminary, but no evolution has taken place to adapt this instinct to the existence of lamps. We may admit that every instinct had its use at the time when it first came into existence. This may be true of the fighting instinct, but it does not follow that the combative instinct is useful to man to-day. Instinct is extremely conservative, and survives the circumstances that produced it. For instance, the wolf, wishing to cover up its tracks, buries its excrement; the dog, a town dweller, stupidly scrapes the pavement. In the latter case instinct has become senseless, purposeless.

Man has retained many rudimentary and functionless instincts. He is able to modify them, but in his case the task is peculiarly complex. Man is distinguished from other animals by his incomparably greater power of modifying the natural environment to suit his own purposes. But this being so, man should transform his instincts to adapt them to the changed circumstances. Now these instincts are tenacious, and the struggle is hard. All the more, therefore, is it necessary. Whole species of lower animals became extinct because they were unable to modify their instincts as the environment changed. "Is man also to die out from want of the will to change his instincts? He can change them, or he could if he would. Man alone has the power of choice, and consequently can err. But this curse of the liability to error is the necessary consequence of freedom, and it gives birth to the blessed power man possesses to learn and to transform himself." Yet man makes very little use of this power. He is still encumbered with archaic instincts. He accepts them complacently. He has an excessive esteem for what is old precisely because he is swayed by hereditary instincts which he has unconsciously come to revere.

In the kingdom of the one-eyed, we ought not to make the blind man king. Because we all have combative instincts, it does not follow that we should give these instincts free rein. To-day, when we are realising the advantages of world-wide organisation, it is assuredly time that such instincts should be put under restraint. Nicolai, seeing his contemporaries giving themselves up to their enthusiasm for war, is reminded of dogs which persist in scraping the pavement after relieving nature.

What, precisely, are the combative instincts? Are they essential attributes of the human species? In Nicolai's opinion, they are nothing of the sort. He inclines, rather, to regard them as aberrations, for man was originally a pacific and social animal. His anatomical structure proves it. Man is one of the most defenceless of animals, having neither claws, nor horns, nor hoofs, nor carapace. His ape-like ancestors had no other resource but to seek safety among the branches. When man came down to the ground and took to walking, his hand was freed for other uses. This five-fingered hand, which in most animals has become a weapon (clawed or hoofed), has in the apes alone remained a prehensile organ. Essentially pacific, ill-constructed for striking or tearing, its natural function was to seize and to take.[50] "The hand ... was superfluous as an aid to locomotion on the ground, and thus became free and able to lay hold of something besides trees. Consequently it grasped tools, thus becoming the means and the symbol of man's future greatness." But the hand would not have sufficed for man's defence. Had he been a solitary animal, he would have been destroyed by foes stronger and better equipped than himself. His strength lay in his being gregarious. The social state existed for mankind long before family life began. Men did not voluntarily unite to form a community (the family first, for instance, then the tribe, then a class, then a commune, etc.); it was the existence of the primitive community which rendered possible the advance from the prehuman to the human stage.[51] By nature, as Aristotle said, man is a sociable animal. The drawing together of men is older and more primitive than war.

Look, again, at the lower animals. War is rare between members of the same species. The animals that wage war (stags, ants, bees, and certain birds), have always reached a stage of development in which proprietary rights exist, it may be over booty or it may be over a female. Ownership and war go hand in hand. War is merely one of the innumerable consequences of ownership at a certain stage of evolution. Whatever the declared aim of war, its real purpose always is to despoil man of his labour or of the fruit of his labour. Unless a war be utterly futile, its necessary result will be the enslavement of a part of humanity. Shamefacedly we may change the name, but let us avoid being duped by the new name! A war indemnity is nothing else than part of the labour of the vanquished enemy. Modern war hypocritically pretends to protect private property; but in its effect on the conquered nation as a whole, it indirectly attacks the rights of every individual. Let us be frank. Let us, when we defend war, dare to admit and to proclaim that we are defending slavery.

There is no question of denying that both war and slavery may have been useful, and indeed indispensable, during a certain phase of human evolution. Primitive man, like the lower animals, had all his energies monopolised by the attaining of nutriment. When spiritual needs began to demand their rights, it was necessary that the masses should work to excess in order that a small minority might pass lives of learned leisure. The marvellous civilisations of antiquity could not have existed without slavery. But the time has now arrived when a new organisation has rendered slavery superfluous. In a modern national society a community voluntarily renounces part of its earnings (and will have to renounce an increasingly large part of its earnings) for social purposes. Machines produce about ten times as much as unaided human labour. Were they intelligently used, the social problem would be greatly simplified. A sophism of the political economists assures us that national wellbeing increases proportionally with the increase in the consumption of commodities. The principle is unsound. Its outcome is that it inoculates people with artificial needs. But it is this artificially excited greed which, in the last resort, continues to bolster up slavery in the shape of exploitation and war. Property created war, and property maintains war. For the weak only, is property a source of virtue, since the weak will not make efforts without the stimulus afforded by the desire for possession. Throughout history, war has been for property. Nicolai does not believe that there has ever been a war for a purely ideal object, and without any thought of material domination. People may perhaps fight for the pure ideal of country, in the endeavour to express to the full the genius of their own nation. But the guns will not really help the ideal forward. Such material arguments as guns and bayonets will seem valuable only when the abstract idea has become intertwined with the lusts for power and property. Thus, war, property, and slavery, are close associates. Goethe wrote:

Krieg, Handel und Piraterie
Dreieinig sind sie, nicht zu trennen.[52]

* *

Nicolai then proceeds to criticise the pseudo-scientific notions from which our modern intellectuals deduce justifications for war. Above all he disposes of fallacious Darwinism and of the misuse of the idea of the struggle for existence. These notions, imperfectly understood and speciously interpreted, are by many regarded as furnishing a sanction for war. Or, it is held, war is a method of selection, and is therefore a natural right. To such conceptions Nicolai opposes genuine science, the fundamental law of the increase in living beings,[53] and the law that there is a natural limit to growth.[54] It is obvious that the existence of these limitations imposes struggle upon individual beings and upon species, seeing that the world contains only a restricted quantity of energy, that is to say of nutriment. But Nicolai shows that war is the most paltry, the stupidest, one may even say the most ruinous, among all forms of struggle. Modern science, which enables us to estimate the amount of solar energy reaching our planet, shows us that the entire animal world does not as yet make use of more than one twenty thousandth part of the available supply. It is obvious that in these conditions war, that is to say the murder of another accompanied by the theft of that other's share of energy, is an inexcusable crime. It is, says Nicolai, as if loaves were lying about by the thousand, and we were nevertheless to kill a beggar in order to steal his crust. Mankind has an almost boundless field to exploit, and man's proper struggle is the struggle with nature. All other forms of struggle bring impoverishment and ruin, by distracting our attention from our main purposes. The creative method is based upon the harnessing of new and ever new sources of energy. The starting point was the prehistoric discovery of fire, when man for the first time was able to effect the explosive liberation of the solar energy stored up by plants. The discovery marked a new turn in human affairs, and was the dawn of man's supremacy over nature. During the last hundred years this new principle has been developed to such an enormous extent that human evolution has been entirely transformed. Nearly all the chief problems may be said to have been solved, and what remains requisite is the practical application. Thermo-electricity renders possible the direct and purposive utilisation of solar energy. Modern chemical researches point to the possibility of artificially manufacturing foodstuffs, and so on. Were man to apply all his combative energy to the utilisation of the forces of nature, not merely could he live at ease, but there would be room in the world for milliards of additional human beings. When compared with this splendid struggle, how puny seems the great war! What has that war to do with the real struggle for existence? It is a product of degeneration. War is justifiable. Not war between human beings. But creative war for man's mastery over natural forces, the young war of which hardly a millionth part has yet been waged. In this war we can foresee victories such as no human being has ever yet won.

Nicolai, contrasting this creative struggle with the destructive struggle, symbolises them in the persons of two German men of science. One of these is Professor Haber, who has turned his knowledge to account for the manufacture of asphyxiating bombs, and who will doubtless not be forgotten. The other is Emil Fischer, the brilliant chemist who has achieved the synthetic production of sugar, and who will perhaps achieve the synthesis of albumen. Fischer is the founder, or at any rate the forerunner, of the new era of humanity. Future generations will gratefully refer to him as one of the supreme conquerors in the victorious struggle for the sources of life. He is in very truth a practitioner of the "divine art" of which Archimedes spoke.

* *

Nicolai's arguments, showing that war is antagonistic to human progress, are confronted with an indisputable fact, a fact which has to be explained—the actual existence of war, and its monstrous expansion. Never has war been more powerful, more brutal, more widespread. Never has war been more glorified. In an interesting chapter (Chapter Fourteen), which introduces a number of debatable points, Nicolai shows that in earlier days apologists for war were exceptional. Even among the epic poets of war, those whose song was of heroism, the direct references to war convey fear and disapproval. Delight in war (Kriegslust), love of war for its own sake, is peculiar to modern literature. We have to come down to the writings of Moltke, Steinmetz, Lasson, Bernhardi, and Roosevelt, to find apotheoses of war, pæans of war whose jubilation is quasi-religious. Nor was it until the outbreak of the present struggle that such huge armies as those of to-day were witnessed. The Greek armies in classical antiquity did not exceed 20,000. Those of imperial Rome, ranged from 100,000 to 200,000. In the eighteenth century, armies of 150,000 were known; while Napoleon had an army of 750,000. In 1870, there were armies of two and a half millions. But in the present war there are ten million fighting men in each camp (Chapter Five and Chapter Six). The increase is colossal, and quite recent. Even if we take into account the possibility of a struggle in the near future between Europeans and Mongols, a proportional increase could not continue beyond a generation or two, for the whole population of the globe would not suffice to furnish such armies.

But Nicolai is not appalled by the titanic dimensions of the monster he is fighting. Indeed, this very fact gives him confidence in the ultimate victory of his cause. For biology has revealed to him the mysterious law of giganthanasia. One of the most important principles of paleontology teaches that all animals (with the exception of insects, which, for this very reason, are, with the brachiopods, the oldest families on the globe), all species, tend throughout the centuries to grow larger and larger until, of a sudden, when they seem greatest and strongest, their forms disappear from the geological record. In nature it is always the large forms that die. That which is large must die for the reason that, in conformity with the imperious law of growth, the day comes when it exceeds the limits of its primordial possibilities. Thus is it, writes Nicolai, with war. Along the boundless field-grey battle lines, thrills the warning of the coming Twilight of the Gods. Everything beautiful and characteristic in the war of ancient days has vanished. Gone is the gay camp life, gone are the motley uniforms, gone is single combat—gone, in a word, are the show features. The battlefield, now, has become little more than an accessory. In former days the scene of battle used to be selected with care, for then the rival armies manœuvred for position. To-day the soldiers settle down haphazard and dig themselves in. The essential work is carried on elsewhere, by the provision of finance, munitions, food supply, railways, etc. In place of the one man of genius as general, we have now the impersonal machinery of the general staff. The old lively, joyous war is dead.—It may be that even yet war has not attained its zenith. In the present war there are still neutrals, and perhaps Freiligrath was right in holding that there must first be some battle in which the whole world will share. But if so, that will be the very last. The final war will be the greatest and the most terrible of all, just as the last of the great saurians was the most gigantic. Our technique has swelled war to its extremest limits, and will then slay war.[55]

* *

At bottom, behind its fearsome exterior, the war monster lacks confidence, and feels that its life is threatened. Never before have warmongers appealed, as they appeal to-day, to such a compost of arguments, mystico-scientifico-politico-murderous, to justify the existence of war. No one would dream of such arguments were it not that the days of war are numbered, were it not that the most enthusiastic disciples of war are shaken in their faith. But Nicolai is ruthless in attack, and part of his book is a pitiless satire upon all the sophisms wherewith in our folly we attempt to justify war—the executioner's axe poised over our heads. These sophisms are: the sophism that war is a biological means for ensuring the survival of the fittest; the sophism of defensive war; the sophism of the humanisation of war; the sophism of the alleged solidarity created by war, the so-called party truce; the sophism of the fatherland—for the fatherland, in practical application, becomes the narrowly conceived and artificially constructed political state; the sophism of race; and so on.

I should have been glad to quote numerous extracts from these ironical and severely critical passages. Of exceptional interest are the paragraphs in which he castigates the most impudent and the most flourishing of current sophisms, the sophism of race, for whose sake thousands of poor simpletons of all nations are slaughtering one another. He writes as follows:

"The race problem is one of the most melancholy chapters in the history of human thought. Nowhere else has knowledge, supposedly impartial, consciously or unconsciously placed itself so unscrupulously at the service of ambitious and self-seeking politicians. Indeed, it might almost be said that the various theories of race have never been put forward save with the object of advancing some claim or other. The writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an Anglo-German, afford perhaps the most repulsive example. As we all know, this author has endeavoured to claim as German everyone of outstanding importance in the history of the world, Christ and Dante not excepted. It would be strange if this demagogic example found so [many] imitators.... Recently Paul Souday has attempted to show that all the notable men of Germany belong to the Keltic race ('Le Temps,' August 7, 1915)."

Nicolai replies to these extravagances with the following definite assertions:

1. Proof is lacking that a pure race is better than a mixed race. (Examples are adduced from animal species and from human history.)

2. It is impossible to define the term race as applied to the subdivisions of mankind, for valid criteria are lacking. Such classifications as have been attempted, now upon a historical, now upon a linguistic, and now upon an anthropological basis, are extremely inconsistent one with another, and have been almost complete failures.

3. There are no pure races in Europe. Less than any other nation have the Germans a right to claim racial purity.[56] Anyone who seeks a true Teuton to-day had better go to Sweden, the Netherlands, or England.

4. If to the term race we attach a definite biological meaning, we can hardly say that there is any such thing as a European race.

Patriotism based on race is impossible, and in most cases it is utterly absurd. There is no such thing as ethnic homogeneity in any extant nation. The cohesion of contemporary nations does not come down to them as a heritage of which they can dispose at will. From day to day this cohesion must be rewon. Unremittingly the members of each nation must fortify their community of thought, feeling, and will. This is meet and right. As Renan said, "The existence of a nation should be a daily plebiscite." In a word, what unites people to form a nation is not the force of history; it is the desire to be together, and the mutual need felt by the members of the nation. Our thoughts and our feelings are not guided by the vows that others have made for us, but by our own free will.

Is it so to-day? What place does free will hold among the nations of to-day? Patriotism has assumed an extraordinarily oppressive form. During no other age in history has it been so tyrannical and so exclusive. It devours everything. Our country, to-day, claims to rank above religion, above art, science, thought, above civilisation. This monstrous hypertrophy cannot be explained as an efflux from the natural sources of patriotic instincts, as an efflux of love of the native soil, of tribal sentiment, of the social need for forming vast communities. Its colossal effects are the outcome of a pathological phenomenon; they are the outcome of mass suggestion. Nicolai tersely analyses this conception. It is remarkable, he says, that whenever several animals or several human beings do anything together, the mere fact of cooperation causes each individual's action to be modified. We have scientific proof that two men can carry far more than twice as much as one. In like manner, a number of human beings react in a very different way from these same beings in isolation. Every cavalryman knows that his horse will do more in the troop than it will do alone, will cover more ground and will suffer less fatigue. Forel has pointed out that an ant which, surrounded by companions, will readily face death, shows fear and runs away from a much weaker ant when she is alone and some way from the ant-hill. Among men, in like manner, the feeling of the crowd greatly intensifies the reactions of each individual. "This is most evident at a public meeting. In many cases the speaker has hardly opened his mouth before he communicates some of his own emotion to every one of his hearers. Suppose it to be only the hundredth part on the average, and suppose that the audience numbers one thousand, then the speaker's emotion has already been multiplied tenfold, as will speedily appear from the reactions of the audience." This in turn reacts on the speaker, who is carried away by the emotions of his hearers. And so it goes on.

Now in our day the audience is of enormous size, and the world war has made it gigantic. Thanks to powerful and rapid means of communication, thanks to the telegraph and the press, the huge groups of allied states have become, as it were, single publics numbered by millions. Imagine, in this vibrant and sonorous mass, the effect of the least cry, of the slightest tremor. They assume the aspect of cosmic convulsions. The entire mass of humanity is shaken as by an earthquake. Under these conditions what happens to such a sentiment as the love of country, originally natural and healthy? In normal times, says Nicolai, a good man loves his country just as he should love his wife, while well aware that there may be other women more beautiful, more intelligent, or better, than she. But one's country to-day is like a hysterically jealous woman who is in a fury when anyone recognises another woman's merits. In normal times the true patriot is (or should be) the man who loves what is good in his country and resists what is evil. But nowadays anyone who acts thus is deemed an enemy of his country. A patriot, in the contemporary sense of the word, loves both what is good and what is bad in his country; he is ready to do evil for the sake of his country; carried away by the stream of mass suggestion, he is positively eager to do evil for his country's sake. The weaker a man's character, the more inflammatory his patriotism. He has no power to resist collective suggestion; and is indeed passionately attracted by it, for every weak man looks for others' support, and believes himself stronger if he does what others are doing. Now, these persons of weak character have no common bond of profound culture. What they need to unite them is an external bond, and what can suit them better than national feeling! "Every blockhead," writes Nicolai, "feels several inches taller if he and a few dozen millions of his kind can only unite to form a majority.... The fewer independent personalities a nation possesses, the fiercer is that nation's patriotism."

This mass attraction, which works like a magnet, is the positive side of jingoism. The negative side is hatred of foreign countries. War is the biological culture-medium. War hurls upon the world sufferings mountain high; it crushes the world by material and spiritual privations. If people are to endure it, there must be a supreme exaltation of mass sentiment, to support the weak by herding them more closely together. This is artificially effected by the newspaper press. The result is appalling. Patriotism concentrates all the energies of the human mind upon love for one's own country and upon hatred for the enemy. Hatred becomes a religion. Hatred without reason, without common sense, and absolutely without foundation. No room is left for any other faculty. Intelligence and morality have abdicated. Nicolai quotes a number of almost incredible examples from the Germany of 1914 and 1915, and equally striking instances could be given in the case of every belligerent nation. There was no resistance to these suggestions. In the collective aberration, all differences of class, education, intellectual or moral value, are reduced to one level; all are equalised. The entire human race, from base to summit, is delivered over to the Furies. If the least sparkle of free will shows itself, it is trampled under foot, and the isolated independent is torn to pieces as Pentheus was torn to pieces by the Bacchantes.

But this frenzy does not disturb the calm vision of the thinker. To Nicolai, the paroxysm he contemplates seems the last flicker of the torch. Just as, he declares, horse-racing and yachting are undergoing their fullest development in our own day, when horses and sails are ceasing to have any practical use, so likewise patriotism has become a fanatical cult at the very moment when it has ceased to be a factor in civilisation. It is the fate of the Epigoni. In remote ages it was good, it was needful, that individual egoism should be broken by the grouping of human beings in tribes and clans. The patriotism of the towns was justified when it victoriously resisted the egoism of the robber barons. The patriotism of the state was justified when it concentrated all the energies of a nation. The national conflicts of the nineteenth century had useful work to do. But to-day the work of the national states is done. New tasks call us. Patriotism is no longer a suitable aim for humanity; its influence is retrograde. But the retrogressive efforts of patriotism are fruitless. No one can arrest the progress of evolution, and people are merely committing suicide by throwing themselves beneath the iron wheels of the chariot. The sage is unperturbed by the frenzied resistance of the forces of the past, for he knows them to be the forces of despair. He leaves the dead to bury their dead; and, looking forward, he already contemplates the living unity of mankind that is to be. Among the trials and disasters of the present, he realises within himself the serene harmony of the "great body" whereof all men are members, as in the profound saying of Seneca: Membra sumus corporis magni.

In a subsequent article we shall learn how Nicolai describes this corpus magnum and the mens magna which animates it, the Weltorganismus, the organism of universal humanity, whose coming is already heralded to-day.

October 1, 1917.

"demain," Geneva, October, 1917.


We have seen with how much energy G. F. Nicolai condemns the absurdity of war and the sophisms which serve for its support. Nevertheless the sinister madness triumphs for the time. In 1914, reason went bankrupt. Spreading from nation to nation, this bankruptcy, this madness, subsequently involved all the peoples of the world. There was no lack of established ethical systems and established religions which, had they done their duty, would have opposed a barrier to this contagion of murder and folly. But all the ethical systems, all the religions, now in existence, proved hopelessly inadequate. We have seen it for ourselves in the case of Christianity; and Nicolai shows, following Tolstoi, that Buddhism is in no better case.

As far as Christianity is concerned, its abdication is of old date. After the great compromise under Constantine, in the fourth century of our era, when the emperor made the church of Christ a state church, the essential thought of Jesus was betrayed by the official representatives of the creed, and was delivered over to Cæsar. Only among certain free religious individualities, most of whom were charged with heresy, was this essential thought preserved (to a degree) until our own time. But its last defenders have lately denied it. The Christian sects which up to now have invariably refused military service, for example the Mennonites in Germany, the Dukhobors in Russia, the Paulicians, the Nazarenes, etc., are participating in the war to-day.[57] "Simon Menno, the founder of the Mennonites, who died in 1561, condemned war and vengeance.... As late as 1813, the strength of moral conviction in the members of this sect was still so great that, despite the patriotic excitement of that year, so ruthless a soldier as York actually exempted them from Landwehr service, by a decree dated February 18th. But in 1915, H. G. Mannhardt, Mennonite preacher in Danzig, delivered an address glorifying feats of arms and martial heroes."

"There was a time," writes Nicolai, "when it was believed that Islam was inferior to Christianity. At that date the Turkish armies were threatening the heart of Europe. To-day the Turk has almost been driven out of Europe, but morally he has conquered Europe. Unseen, the green flag of the Prophet floats over every house in which there is talk of the 'holy war.'"

German religious poems depict the fight in the trenches as "a test of piety instituted by God." No one is now astonished at the absurd contradiction in terms involved in speaking of "Christian warfare." Few theologians or churchmen have dared to swim against the stream. In his admirable book La Guerre infernale,[58] Gustave Dupin has pilloried gruesome specimens of militarist Christianity. Nicolai gives other samples, which it would be a pity to leave unrecorded. In 1915, Professor Baumgarten, a Kiel theologian, placidly pointed out that there is opposition between the morality of bellicose nationalism and the morality of the Sermon on the Mount, but "at present," he went on to say, "we ought to pay more attention to Old Testament texts"; thus deliberately, and with a smile, throwing Christianity overboard. Arthur Brausewetter, another theologian, made a remarkable discovery. War revealed to him the Holy Spirit. "Never, till this year of war, 1914, did we really know the nature of the Holy Ghost...."

While Christianity was thus publicly denied by its priests and its pastors, the religions of Asia were no less ready to jettison the inconvenient thoughts of their founders. Tolstoi had already pointed this out. "The Buddhists of to-day do not merely tolerate murder; they positively justify it. During the war between Japan and Russia, Soyen Shaku, one of the leading Buddhist dignitaries in Japan, wrote a defence of war.[59] Buddha had uttered this beautiful word of afflicted love: 'All things are my children, all are images of myself, all flow from a single source, and all are parts of my own body. That is why I cannot rest as long as the least particle of what is has failed to reach its destination.' In this sigh of mystical love, which aspires towards the fusion of all beings, the Buddhist of to-day has safely discovered an appeal to a war of extermination. For, he declares, inasmuch as the world has failed to reach its destination, has failed owing to the perversity of many men, we must make war on these men and must annihilate them. 'Thus shall we extirpate the roots of evil.'"—This bloodthirsty Buddhist recalls to my mind the guillotine-idealism of our Jacobins in '93. Their monstrous faith is summed up in the words of Saint-Just which close my tragedy Danton:

"The nations slay one another that God may live."[60]

When religions are so weak, it is not surprising that mere ethical systems should prove unavailing. Nicolai shows us what a travesty Kant's disciples have made of their master's teaching. Willy-nilly, the author of the Critique of Pure Reason has been compelled to put on the field-grey uniform. Have not his German commentators insisted that the Prussian army is the most perfect realisation of Kant's thought? For, they tell us, in the Prussian army the sentiment of Kantian duty has become a living reality.

Let us waste no more time over these inanities, which differ only in shade from those made use of in every land by the national guard of the intelligentsia, to exalt their cause and to glorify war. Enough to recognise, with Nicolai, that European idealism crashed to ruin in 1914. The German writer's conclusion (which I am content to record without comment), is that "we have proof that ordinary idealistic morality, whether Kantian or Christian, is absolutely useless, for it is unable to lead any of those who profess it to act morally." In view of the manifest impossibility of founding moral action upon a purely idealistic basis, Nicolai considers that our first duty is to seek some other basis. He wishes that Germany, schooled by her ignominious fall, by her "moral Jena," should work at this task whose fulfilment is so indispensable to mankind—should work at it for herself even more than for any other nation, seeing that her need is the greatest. "Let us see," he says, "if it be not possible to find in nature, scientifically studied, the conditions of an objective ethic, of an ethic that shall be independent of our personal sentiments, good or bad, always vacillating."

* *

In the first part of the volume we have learned that war is a transitional phenomenon in human evolution. What, then, is the true and eternal principle of humanity? Is there such a principle? Is there a higher imperative, valid for all men alike?

Yes, answers Nicolai. This higher imperative is the very law of life, which governs the entire organism of humanity. Natural law has only two bases, only two which can never be shaken: the individual, separately considered; and the human universality. All intermediaries, like the family and the state, are organised groupings,[61] subject to change, and they do actually change with changing customs; they are not natural organisms. Egoism and altruism, the two powerful sentiments which give life to our moral world, acting therein like the contrasted forces of positive and negative electricity, are the respective expressions of the individual and of the collectivity. Egoism is the natural outflow of our individuality. Altruism owes its existence to the obscure recognition that we are parts of a united organism, humanity.

In the second half of his book Nicolai undertakes to throw light upon this obscure realisation, and to establish it upon a scientific foundation. He undertakes to show that humanity is no mere abstraction, but a living reality, an organism that can be subjected to scientific observation.

In this study, the poetical intuition of the ancient philosophers is interestingly linked with the experimental spirit and the analytical method of modern science. The latest biological and embryological theories are invoked to help in the comment on the hylozoism of the seven sages and the mysticism of the early Christians. Janicki and de Vries shake hands with Heraclitus and Saint Paul. The upshot is a strange vision of materialistic and dynamistic pantheism—a vision of humanity considered as a body and a soul in unceasing motion.

Nicolai begins by reminding us that this idea has existed in all ages. He summarises the history of the doctrine. We have the "fire" of Heraclitus, which for the sage of Ephesus was also the universal intelligence of the world. We have the same thing in the "pneuma" of the stoics and in the "pneuma agion" of the primitive Christians, the sacred energy, the vivifying force, which is the concentrated essence of all the souls. It is what Origen speaks of as "universum mundum velut animal quoddam immensum." We encounter the idea once more in the fertile fancies of Cardanus, Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, and Campanella. Animistic ideas are mingled with the science of Newton, and permeate his hypothesis of universal gravitation. Indeed, Musschenbroek, his immediate disciple, describes the gravitative principle as "amicitia"; while Lichtenberg tells us that it is the "longing of the heavenly bodies for one another!" In a word, through the whole development of human thought runs the belief that our world is a single organism with a consciousness of its own. Nicolai tells us how it would interest him to write the history of this idea; and he outlines that history in his fascinating fourteenth chapter, "The Evolution of the Idea of the World as Organism."[62]

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?[63] 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.[64] 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 likewise distinguished from the soul, as appears from a passage in Saint Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians (xv, 44), where the "spiritual body" (soma pneumatikon) is contrasted with the "natural body" (soma psuchikon). The spiritual body is declared to be more essential than the natural body (the psychical or intellectual body); and the former really and materially penetrates the bodies of all men.

Nor is this all. The studies made by contemporary biologists, and notably by the Russian biologist Janicki, on sexual reproduction[65] have explained how this method of reproduction safeguards the homogeneity of the germ plasm in an animal species, and how it unceasingly renews the mutual contacts among the individual members of a race. Janicki writes: "The world, if I may say so, has not been broken up into a mass of independent fragments, which then, for ever isolated one from another, ... must strike out for themselves on straight courses, with only side branches. On the contrary, owing to bi-sexual reproduction (amphimixis), the image of the macrocosm is ... reflected as a microcosm in each part; and the macrocosm resolves itself into a thousand microcosms.... Thus the individuals, while remaining independent, are materially and continuously interconnected, like strawberry plants whose runners are joined together.... Each separate individual develops, as it were, through an invisible system of rhizomes (subterranean roots) which unite the germ substances of countless individualities."—Thus it has been calculated that in the twenty-first generation, in five hundred years let us say, and supposing an average of three children to each couple, the posterity of a single couple will be equal in number to the entire human race. It may, therefore, be said that each one of us has within him a small portion of the living substance belonging to every one of the human beings that were living five hundred years ago. Consequently it is absurd that anyone should wish to restrict an individual, be he whom he may, within the category of a separate nation or race.

Let us add that thought, too, propagates itself throughout mankind, in like manner with the germ plasm.

Every thought, once expressed, leads in the human community a life independent of its creator; undergoes development in other minds; and has, like the germ plasm, an immortal life. So that, in humanity, there is neither true birth nor true death, whether material or spiritual. Empedocles, of old, realised this, for he said:

"Yet another truth will I tell unto thee. Not a mortal thing is truly born, and death the destroyer is not the end. There is nought but intermixture and exchange of what is intermixed. But among men it is customary to term this 'birth.'"

Humanity, therefore, materially and spiritually, is a single organism; all its parts are intimately connected and share in a common development.

Upon these ideas there must now be grafted the concept of mutation and the observations of Hugo de Vries.—If this living substance which is common to all humanity should, at any time and owing to any influence, have acquired the capacity for changing[66] after a certain lapse of time, for instance a thousand years, then all those beings which have in them a share of this substance may suddenly undergo identical changes. It is well known that Hugo de Vries has observed such sudden variations in plants.[67] After centuries of stability in the characteristics of a species, quite suddenly, in a great number of individuals belonging to this species, there will one year occur a modification, the leaves becoming longer, or shorter, etc. Thenceforward this modification will be propagated as a constant feature, so that, by the following year, a new species will have come into existence.—The same thing happens among human beings, especially in the human brain; for, as far as man is concerned, the most striking instances of variation are found in the psychic domain. In each year, certain human beings present brain variations. Such abnormal individuals are sometimes regarded as madmen and sometimes as men of genius. They herald the coming variations of the species, variations of which they are the forerunners. At due date, the same peculiarities will suddenly manifest themselves throughout the species. Experience shows that transformations, or moral and social discoveries, appear at the same moment in the most widely separated and the most various countries. I have myself often been struck by this fact, both when studying history and when observing the men of my own day. Contemporary societies, at a great distance one from another and having no means of rapid intercommunication, will simultaneously exhibit the same moral and social phenomena. Hardly ever is a discovery born in the brain of a single inventor. At the same instant, other inventors happen upon it, anticipate it, or are hot upon the trail. The popular phrase runs, "the idea is in the air." When an idea is in the air, a mutation is about to occur in the human brain. We are, says Nicolai, on the eve of a "mutation of war." Moltke and Tolstoi represent the two great contrasted variations in human thought. Moltke extolled the ethical value of war; Tolstoi passed unqualified condemnation on war. Which of these two minds represents the variation of genius and which the variation of madness? In the light of contemporary events, most people would be inclined to give the palm to Moltke. But when an organism is about to undergo mutation, the change is often preluded by frequent and extensive variations. Of these divergent variations, those only persist which are best suited to the conditions of existence. Thus, in Nicolai's view, the ideas of Moltke and his disciples are a favourable presage that mutation is imminent.

* *

Whatever we may think of this hope that within the near future a mutation will occur leading to the formation of a humanity radically opposed to war, it is enough to watch the biological development of the extant world to acquire the belief that a new organisation, vaster and more peaceful, is at hand. In proportion as humanity evolves, communications between men are multiplied. During the last century there occurred a sudden and enormous improvement in the technical means for the exchange of ideas. To give one example only. In former days the circulation of letters throughout the whole world did not exceed one hundred thousand a year. To-day, the postal correspondence in Germany amounts to a milliard letters a year (15 per head), whereas formerly the number was 1 per 1,000 of the population. About forty years ago, in the countries which now form parts of the postal union, three milliards of letters, etc., were posted annually. By the year 1906 the number had increased to thirty-five milliards; and by 1914, to fifty milliards. (In Germany, 1 per head every 10 days; in Great Britain, 1 per head every 3 days.) We have further to consider the increased speed of communication. Distance no longer exists for the telegraph; "the entire civilised world has become a large room in which we can all talk with one another."

Such changes cannot fail to influence social life. In earlier times, any thought of union or federation between the various states of Europe remained utopian, were it only on account of the difficulty and slowness of communications. As Nicolai says, a state cannot extend to infinite proportions; it must be able to act promptly upon the different parts of its organism. To a certain extent, therefore, its size is a function of the rapidity of communications. In prehistoric times, a traveller could cover only about 12 miles a day; when wheeled traffic became established, the daily postal journey extended to 60 miles, and in the later days of mail-coach development, this distance was more than doubled; towards 1850, the railway service was able to cover 375 miles a day; modern trains range to 1,250 miles a day; an express service covering 6,000 miles or more a day is already within the scope of technical possibilities. For barbarians, the country was limited to a mountain valley. The states that existed at the close of the middle ages, states which have not greatly varied down to our times, were adapted in size to the possibilities of the mail coach. Now, such petty states are far too small. The modern man will no longer consent to be restricted in this way. He is continually crossing frontiers. He wants vast states, like those of America, Australia, Russia, or South Africa. We look forward to the days when, be it only for material reasons like the foregoing, the whole world will be a single state. Nothing that we can do will check this evolution; the change will come whether we like it or not. We can now understand that all earlier attempts to unite the nations of Europe, all those initiated in the middle ages and continued down to the nineteenth century, were rendered impossible of achievement by the lack of suitable material conditions. With the best will in the world, their realisation was impossible. But the requisite conditions exist to-day, and we may say that the organisation of contemporary Europe no longer corresponds to its biological development. Willy-nilly, Europe will have to adapt itself to the new conditions. The days of European unity have come. And the days of world-wide unity are at hand.[68]

The new body of humanity, the "corpus magnum" of which Seneca spoke, needs a soul, and it needs a new faith. This faith, while retaining the absolute character of the old religions, must be wider and more plastic than they; it must not merely be adapted to the existing needs of the human mind, but must take into account the possibilities of future development. All previous religions, rooted in tradition and wishing to bind man to the past, were encased in dogmatism; and they one and all, as time passed, became hindrances to natural evolution. Where can we find a basis for faith and morals which shall be simultaneously absolute and mutable; shall be above man, and none the less human; shall be ideal, and none the less real?—We shall find what we want, says Nicolai, in humanity itself. For us, humanity is a reality which develops throughout the ages, but which at every moment represents for us an absolute entity. It evolves in a direction which may be fortuitous, but which, once taken, cannot be changed. It simultaneously embraces the past, the present, and the future. It is a unity in time, a vast synthesis of which we are but fragments. To be human, means to understand this development, to love it, to trust one's hopes to it, and to endeavour to participate in it consciously. Herein we find an ethical system, which Nicolai sums up as follows:

1. The community of mankind is the divine upon earth, and is the foundation of morals.

2. To be a man is to feel within one's self the reality of humanity at large. It is to feel, like a living law, that we are elements of that greater organism, in which (to quote Saint Paul's admirable intuition) we are all parts of one body and every one members one of another.

3. The love of our neighbour is a feeling of good health. A general love for humanity is the feeling of organic health in humanity at large, reflected in one of its members. Therefore we should love and honour the human community and everything which sustains and fortifies it—work, truth, good and sound instincts.

4. Fight everything which injures it. Above all, fight bad traditions, instincts that have become useless or harmful.

* *

"Scio et volo me esse hominem," writes Nicolai at the close of his book. "I know that I am a man, and I wish to be one."

Man—he understands by this a being aware of the ties which attach him to the great human family, and aware of the evolution which carries him along with it—a spirit which understands and loves these ties and these laws, and which, submitting to them with delight, thereby becomes free and creative.[69] Man—the term applies to Nicolai himself in the sense of the character in Terence's play who said, "Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto." Herein lies the great merit of his work; and herein, too, we find its defect. In his eagerness to include everything, he has attempted the impossible. He speaks in one place with an unjust contempt, and with a contempt which he above all should have been slow to express, of the "Vielwisser," the polyhistor.[70] But he himself is a Vielwisser, one of the finest specimens of this genus, too rare in our day. In all domains, art, science, history, religion, and politics, his insight is penetrating, but at the same time rapid and incisive. Everywhere his opinions are lively, often original, and often debatable. The wealth of his glimpses "de omni re scibili," the abundance of his intuitions and his reasonings, have a brilliant and at times a venturesome character. The historical chapters are not above reproach. Unquestionably the lack of books accounts for certain insufficiencies, but I think the peculiarities of the author's own genius are partly responsible. He is headlong and impulsive. These qualities give charm to his writing, but they are dangerous. What he loves, he sees beautifully. But woe to what he does not love! Take, for instance, his disdainful and hasty judgments upon the recent imaginative writers of Germany—judgments passed wholesale.[71]

It is a remarkable fact that this German biologist resembles no one living or dead so much as he resembles one of our French encyclopedists of the eighteenth century. I know no one in contemporary France who can, to the same degree, be compared with him. Diderot and Dalembert would have opened their arms to this man of science, who humanises science, who boldly limns a picture instinct with life, a brilliant synthesis of the human mind, of its evolution, of its manifold activities, and of the results it has achieved; who throws wide the doors of his laboratory to intelligent men of the world; and who deliberately wishes to make of science an instrument of struggle and emancipation in the war of the nations on behalf of liberty. Like Dalembert and Diderot, he is "in the thick of the fight." He marches in the vanguard of modern thought, but he does not go further ahead than the due distance between a leader and his followers; he is never isolated, as were those great forerunners who remained throughout life cloistered in prophetic visions, centuries away from realisation; his ideals are no more than a day in advance of those cherished by his contemporaries.

A German republican, he looks no higher for the moment than the political ideals of Young America, the America of 1917, in which (according to Nicolai) "we can see, not merely what this new, so to speak, cosmopolitan, patriotism means, but also the limits which must still be imposed on it.... The day for the brotherhood of man has not yet come [we quote Nicolai, remember]; the time is not yet ripe. There is still too profound a cleavage between White, Yellow, and Black. It is in America that European patriotism has awakened, the sentiment which will undoubtedly be the patriotism of the near future, and whose heralds we would fain be.... The new Europe is already born, though not in Europe."[72]

In these lines we discern Nicolai's limitations, which any eighteenth century cosmopolitan would have over-stepped. In the practical domain, our author is essentially, uniquely, but absolutely, a European. It was to Europeans that he addressed his Manifesto of October, 1914, and his book of 1915.

"It seems to us necessary before everything else," he writes, "that there should be a union of all who are in any way attached to European civilisation, that is to say, who are what Goethe once almost prophetically called 'good Europeans.'" And in a note he adds: "By European civilisation I mean every endeavour, in the broadest sense of the word, throughout the world, the origin of which can ultimately be traced back to Europe."

Much might be said concerning this curtailment. For my own part, I consider it neither right nor useful that humanity should draw a line of demarcation between civilisation of European origin and the lofty civilisations of Asia. In my view, the harmonious realisation of humanity can be secured in no other way than by the union of these great complementary forces. Nay more; I believe that the European soul, unaided, impoverished and scorched by centuries of spendthrift existence, would be likely to flicker and even to go out, unless regenerated by an influx of the thought of other races.—But to each day its own task. Nicolai, at once thinker and man of action, turns to the most immediate duty. Concentrating all his energies upon a single aim, he accelerates the moment of attainment. "Just as certain of our forefathers, in advance of their time, enthusiastically advocated a united Germany, even so do we mean to fight for a united Europe. That is the hope inspiring this book."[73]—Nor does he merely hope for the victory of this cause. He already enjoys the victory, by anticipation. Immured in Graudenz fortress, near the room where Fritz Reuter, the German patriot, spent years in captivity because he believed in Germany, Nicolai notes that the Reuter room has been converted into a sanctuary by his erstwhile gaolers, "which is a living instance of the fact that reaction cannot endure for ever." His mind reverting to his own case, he declares: "We may be quite sure that the very same persons who to-day still continue to decry as high treason Goethe's conception of the citizen of Europe, will in a few years' time themselves subscribe to it."

This confidence radiates from every page of the book. It is Nicolai's faith in the future which influences us even more than the writer's ideas. That faith is a stimulant and a moral tonic. It awakens us and sets us free. Those of kindred spirit group themselves round him because, in the dark places of the earth where they wander chilled and with faltering steps, he is a focus of joy and fervid optimism. This prisoner, this man under sentence, smiles as he contemplates the force which thinks it has conquered him, the force of reaction let loose, and of unreason, overthrowing that which he knows to be right and true. Precisely because his faith is violated, he desires to proclaim it. "Precisely because war is in progress, I wish to write a book of peace." Thinking of his brothers in the faith, weaker and more broken, he dedicates to them this book "to assure them that the war is but a passing phase; that we must be careful not to attach too much importance to it." He speaks, he tells us, "to inspire fair-minded and right-thinking men with my own triumphant assurance."[74]

May he be a model to us! May the small and persecuted band of those who refuse to share the general hatred, and whom therefore hate persecutes, be ever warmed by this inward joy! Nothing can deprive them of it. Nothing can harm them. For, amid the horror and the shames of the present, they are the contemporaries of the future.

October 15, 1917.

"demain," Geneva, November, 1917.



THE name of Auguste Forel is renowned in the world of European science, but within the confines of his own land his writings are perhaps less well known than they should be. Every one is familiar with the social activities of this splendid personality, of this man whose indefatigable energies and ardent convictions have not been affected either by his age or by ill-health. But Latin Switzerland, which justly admires the writings of the naturalist J. H. Fabre, hardly seems to realise that in Forel it is fortunate enough to possess an observer of nature whose insight is no less keen than that of Fabre, and whose scientific endowments are perchance even richer and more unerring. I have recently been reading some of Auguste Forel's studies of ant life, and I have been profoundly impressed by the wide scope of his experimental researches, carried on for a whole lifetime.[75] While patiently observing and faithfully describing the life of these insects, day by day, hour by hour, and year after year, his thoughts have been simultaneously directed towards the ultimate recesses of nature, so that he has been able from time to time to raise for a moment a corner of that veil of mystery which covers our own instincts.

Here is a strange fact. J. H. Fabre believes in providence, "le bon Dieu"; Auguste Forel is a monist, a psycho-physicist. Nevertheless, Forel's observations suggest to the reader a conception of nature which is far less crushing than that suggested by the observations of Fabre. The latter, untroubled by anxieties concerning the human soul, sees in the little insects he is studying nothing more than marvellous machines. But Forel discerns here and there sparks of reflective consciousness, germs of individual will. These are no more than widely separated luminous points, piercing the darkness. But the phenomenon is all the more impressive for its rarity. I have amused myself by selecting from out this wealth of observations a group of facts wherein are displayed the secular instincts, the "anagke," of the species—oppugned, shattered, vanquished. Wherefore should a combat of this sort be less dramatic when waged by these humble ants than when it is waged by the Atrides in Orestes? In all cases alike, we have the same waves of force, blind or conscious; the same interplay of light and shade. And the analogy of certain social phenomena, as we observe them among these myriads of tiny beings, and as we observe them among ourselves, may help us to understand ourselves—and perhaps to achieve self-command.

I shall be content, here, to cull from the vast experimental repertory of Auguste Forel, those of his observations which bear upon certain psychopathological collective states, and those which bear upon the formidable problem which faces us to-day, the problem of war.

* *

Ants, says Forel, are to other insects what man is to other mammals. Their brain surpasses that of all other insects in its relative size and in the complexity of its structure. Even if they fail to attain the level of individual intelligence characteristic of the higher mammals, nevertheless they excel all animals without exception in the development of their social instincts. It is not surprising therefore, that in many respects their social life should resemble that of the human species. Like the most advanced human communities, the ant societies are democracies, fighting democracies. Let us contemplate them at work.

The Ant State is not restricted to the single ant-hill; it has its territory, its domain, its colonies. Like our colonising powers, it has its ports of call, its revictualling stations. The territory is a single meadow, a few trees, or a hedge. The domain of exploitation consists of the ground and the subsoil, together with the aphis-bearing trees whence the ants take the aphides they keep under domestication. Their colonies are detached nests more or less distant from the metropolis and more or less numerous (there may be as many as two hundred), communicating with the primary nest by open roads or by underground passages. The depots are small nests or dug-outs for the use of ants on long expeditions, ants that require a rest or those that are overtaken by bad weather.

Naturally these communities tend to grow, and they thus come into conflict one with another. "Territorial disputes, along the frontier between two great ant communities, are the usual cause of embittered struggles. The aphis-bearing shrubs are the most fiercely contested. But, in the case of certain species, subterranean domains (the roots of plants) are likewise the region of savage warfare." Some species live solely by war and plunder. Polyergus rufescens (Huber's "amazon") disdains work, and has indeed lost the power. The members of this species live as slave-owners, served, tended, fed, by troops of slaves, the latter being recruited (in the larval or pupal stage) by slave raids upon neighbouring ant-hills.

Thus war is endemic, and every citizen of these democracies, every worker ant, has to take part in the fighting. In certain species (Pheidole pallidula), the military caste is distinct from the working caste. The soldier takes no part in domestic work, but idles away the days in barracks, with nothing to do save at the times when life has to be staked for the defence of the community.[76] There are no leaders, or at any rate no permanent leaders. We see neither kings nor generals. The expeditionary armies of Polyergus rufescens, which may vary from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand ants, act in obedience to streams of influence which appear to emanate from small and scattered groups, sometimes in the van and sometimes in the rear. When the army is on the march, the entire column will suddenly halt, remaining indecisive and motionless, as if paralysed. Of a sudden, the initiative will be taken by some small group of ants whose members rush about among the others, striking these on the head; then the temporary leaders start off, and the whole army is in motion once more.

Formica sanguinea is an able tactician. Forel follows Huber in his description of the fighting methods of this species. The insects do not advance in close formation, à la Hindenburg, but in platoons, communicating one with another by orderlies. They do not make a frontal attack; but, after watching the enemy's movements, attempt to take him by surprise on the flank. Their aim, like that of Napoleon, is to concentrate upon a given point at a particular time, to secure there and then the advantage of numbers. Like Napoleon, too, they know how to lower the adversary's morale. Seizing the psychological moment when the enemy's courage or confidence flags, they hurl themselves upon him with irresistible fury, now recking nought of numbers, for they know that at such a time one fighter on their own side is worth a hundred on the other, where panic is rife. Moreover, like good soldiers, their aim is not to kill, so much as to gain the victory and to harvest its fruits. When the battle is won they post a guard at each exit of the conquered nest. The members of this guard allow the enemy ants to escape, provided these carry nothing away. The victors pillage to the uttermost, but do as little killing as possible.

Between species of equal strength, fighting for frontiers, war is not perennial. After many days of battle and glorious hecatombs, the rival states would appear to recognise that their respective ambitions are unattainable. As if by common consent, the armies withdraw within either side of a frontier, which is accepted by both parties with or without treaty. This frontier is respected much more perfectly than among men, bound merely by "scraps of paper." The citizen ants of the two communities always keep strictly within their borders.

* *

A matter of even greater interest is to note how this war-making instinct originates among our brothers the insects; to study how it develops; and to ascertain whether it is fixed or modifiable. Here Forel's observations and experiments lead to the most remarkable deductions.

J. H. Fabre, in a famous passage of Insect Life,[77] tells us that "brigandage is the law in the struggle among living beings.... In nature, murder is universal. Everywhere we encounter a hook, a dagger, a spear, a tooth, nippers, pincers, a saw, horrible clamps, ..." But he exaggerates. He has a keen eye for the facts of mutual slaughter and mutual devouring, but he fails to see the facts of mutual aid and associated effort. Kropotkin has devoted an admirable book to the study of phenomena of the latter class, as manifested throughout nature.[78] Furthermore, the careful observations of Forel show that in ants the instincts of war and plunder may be modified or overcome by instincts of a contrary character.

First of all, Forel proves that the war-making instinct is not fundamental. This instinct does not exist in the early stages of ant life. Putting together newly hatched ants belonging to three different species, Forel obtained a mixed ant community whose members lived in perfect harmony. The only primitive instinct of newly hatched ants is that for domestic work and the care of larvae. "Not until later do ants learn to distinguish between friend and foe; not until later do they realise that they are members of a single ant community on behalf of which they have to fight."[79]

Forel next presents the fact, even more surprising, that the intensity of the warrior instinct is directly proportional to the size of the collectivity. Two ants of enemy species meeting at a distance from their respective nests or from their own folk, will avoid one another and run away in opposite directions. Even if you come across the armies in full combat, and you remove from the ranks an ant belonging to either side and shut the two by themselves in a small box, they will do one another no harm. If, instead of taking merely two, you shut up a moderate number from either side within a narrow space, they will fight half-heartedly for a while, but soon cease to struggle, and often end by making friends. In such circumstances, says Forel, they will never resume the struggle. But put these same ants back among the fighting forces of their respective sides, and separate them by a reasonable distance, so that they might live at peace, and you will see them return to the attack; the individuals which a moment before were avoiding one another with repugnance or fear, will now furiously engage in mutual slaughter.[80] It thus appears that the combative instinct is a collective contagion.

Sometimes this epidemic assumes unmistakably morbid attributes.[81] In proportion as it extends and in proportion as the struggle is prolonged, the fighting rage becomes a positive frenzy. The very same ant, which at the outset was timid, will now be affected with a paroxysm of furious madness. She no longer knows what she is about. She throws herself upon her own companions, kills the slaves that are endeavouring to calm her, bites everything she touches, bites fragments of wood, can no longer find her way. Other members of the community, slaves as a rule, have to surround such a frenzied worker by twos and threes; they seize her by the legs and caress her with their antennae until she comes to herself, has recovered as I might say "her reason." Why not? Had she not lost it?

We have hitherto been dealing exclusively with general phenomena, those which obey fairly rigid laws. Now we are faced with special phenomena wherein initiative conflicts in the most peculiar way with the instinct of the species, and, which is yet more curious, in the end causes instinct to stray from its appointed path, and even to die out altogether.

Forel places in a jar some ants of enemy species, the sanguinea and the pratensis. After a few days of warfare, followed by a sullen armistice, he introduces a newly hatched pratensis which is very hungry. She runs to those of her own species begging them to feed her. The pratenses fob her off. Then the poor innocent appeals to the enemies of her species, the sanguineae, and, after the manner of ants, she licks the mouth of two among them. The two sanguineae are so touched by this gesture, which turns their instinct topsy-turvy, that they disgorge their honeyed store and feed the young enemy. Thenceforward all is well. An offensive and defensive alliance is formed between the little pratensis and the sanguineae against the ants of the young one's own species. The alliance becomes irrevocable.

Let me adduce another example; the results of a common danger. Forel places in a bag a nest of sanguineae and another of pratenses. He shakes them together, and leaves them in the bag for an hour. Thereafter he opens the bag and places it in direct contact with an artificial nest. At first we witness a general state of confusion, a delirium of fear. The ants cannot recognise one another apart; they show their mandibles, and then sidle away in a panic. But by degrees calm is restored. The sanguineae begin by removing the pupae, taking indifferently those of both species. Some of the pratenses follow their example. From time to time fights take place, but these are merely single combats, and they grow less and less fierce. From the next day onwards, all work together. In four days the pact is sealed; the pratenses disgorge food to the sanguineae. At the end of a week, Forel transports them to the neighbourhood of an abandoned ant-hill. They settle in, helping one another in the house-moving, carrying one another, and so forth. No more than a few isolated individuals of the respective species, irreconcilable nationalists no doubt, keep up their sacred enmity, and end by killing one another. A fortnight later, the mixed community is flourishing; perfect concord prevails. The summit of the ant-hill, which at ordinary times is covered with pratenses for the most part, reddens with the martial sanguineae directly danger threatens the common state. Next month, Forel, carrying the experiment a stage further, went to the old nest for a number of the pratenses and put them down just outside the hill of the mixed community. The newcomers promptly fell upon the sanguineae. But these latter defended themselves without animosity, merely knocking the aggressors head over heels, and then letting them alone. The pratenses could not make it out. As for the other pratenses, those belonging to the mixed community, they avoided their sometime sisters, would not fight with them, but carried the pupae into the nest. The hostility was all on the side of the newcomers. Next day some of them had been admitted as members of the mixed community, and ere long relations were permanently established on a peace footing. Not in a single instance did the pratenses of the mixed community join with the newcomers to attack the sanguineae. The alliance between pratenses and sanguineae was stronger than the racial brotherhood of the pratenses; the enmity between the two hostile species had been permanently overcome.[82]

* *

Such examples suffice to show how grave is the mistake of those who believe that instincts are quasi-sacred, and who, after they have included the fighting instinct in this category, regard it as imposed by fate upon all living animals from the lowest to the highest. For, in the first place, instinct varies greatly in its cogency. We find it to be non-modifiable or modifiable, absolute or relative, permanent or transient, not merely as we pass from one genus to another, but within the same genus as we pass from species to species,[83] and within the same species as we pass from group to group. Instinct is not a starting point, but is itself a product of evolution. Like evolution in general, it is progressive. The most ingrained instinct is merely an instinct of great antiquity. The observations quoted above suffice to show that the war-making instinct is less ingrained, less primitive, than people are apt to suppose, for even among the most combative species of ants, it can be resisted, modified, and restrained. If these humble insects are able to react against it, if they can modify their natures, if they can replace wars of conquest by peaceful cooperation, if they can substitute allied states (or, yet more remarkable, mixed and united states) for enemy states—should man be willing to avow himself more enslaved than they by his worst instincts, and less able than they to master these instincts? It is sometimes said that war lowers us to the level of beasts. War reduces us below that level, if we show ourselves less capable of freeing ourselves from the fighting spirit than are certain animal societies. It would be rather humiliating to be compelled to admit their superiority. Chi lo sa?... For my part I am far from certain that man is, as he is said to be, the lord of creation; more often, man is the destructive tyrant. I am sure that in many things he could learn wisdom from these animal societies, older than his own and infinitely diversified.

I do not propose to prophesy whether humanity will succeed (any more than the ant communities) in gaining the mastery over blind instinct. But what strikes me, as I read Auguste Forel, is the conviction that no more in man than in the ants is such a victory radically impossible. To recognize that a particular advance is not impracticable even though we should fail to realise that advance, seems to me more encouraging than the belief that, whatever we attempt, we shall run our heads against a stone wall. The window is closed. It is thick with grime. Perhaps we shall never be able to open it. But between us and the sunlit air there is nothing but a pane of glass, which we can break if we will.[84]

June 1, 1918.

"Revue Mensuelle," Geneva, August, 1918.



This chapter relates to the plan for an Institute of the Nations, suggested by Gerhard Gran, professor at the University of Christiania, writing in the "Revue Politique Internationale" of Lausanne. My reply was first published in the same periodical, under the title "Pour une culture universelle" (On behalf of a universal civilisation).

GERHARD GRAN'S broad-minded appeal cannot fail to arouse echoes. I have read it with lively sympathy. He displays the virtue of modesty, so rare in our day. At a time when all the nations are making an arrogant parade of a superior mission of order or justice, organisation or liberty, a mission which authorises them to impose on other nations their own hallowed individuality (for each looks upon itself as the chosen people), we draw a breath of relief when we hear one of them, by the voice of Gerhard Gran, speaking not of its rights, but of its "debts." How noble, too, are his tones of frankness and gratitude!

"Among all the nations, ours is perhaps the one which has the greatest duty to perform, for our nation owes most to the others. What we have gained from international science is incalculable.... Our debts are manifest in all directions.... When we draw up our scientific balance-sheet in account with the rest of the world, the credit side is meagre. In this respect we have to speak chiefly of our passive advantages, and our modesty forbids us to refer to our active contributions."

How refreshing is such modesty! How refreshing is it in this world-crisis of delirious vanity! Nevertheless Ibsen's fellow-countrymen are entitled to hold their heads high among their European brethren; for more than any other writer the great Norwegian recluse has stamped with his seal both the drama and modern thought. The eyes of Young France turned towards him; the writer of these lines asked counsel of him.

All the nations are debtors one to another. Let us pool our debts and our possessions.

If there are any to-day for whom modesty is befitting, it is the intellectuals. The part they have played in this war has been abominable, unpardonable. Not merely did they do nothing to lessen the mutual lack of understanding, to limit the spread of hatred; with rare exceptions, they did everything in their power to disseminate hatred and to envenom it. To a considerable extent, this war was their war. Thousands of brains were poisoned by their murderous ideologies. Overweeningly self-confident, proud, implacable, they sacrificed millions of young lives to the triumph of the phantoms of their imagination. History will not forget.

Gerhard Gran expresses the fear that personal cooperation between intellectuals of the belligerent lands may prove impossible for many years. If he is thinking of the generation of those who are over fifty, of those who stayed at home and waged a war of words in the learned societies, the universities, and the editorial offices, I fancy that the Norwegian writer is not mistaken. There is little chance that these intellectuals will ever join hands. I should say that none of them will do so, were I not familiar with the brain's astounding faculty for forgetting, were I not familiar with this pitiful and yet salutary weakness, by which the mind is not deceived, but which is essential to its continued existence. But in the present case, oblivion will be difficult. The intellectuals have burned their boats. At the outset of the war it was still possible to hope that some of those who had been carried away by the blind passion of the opening days, would be able within a few months frankly to admit their mistake. They would not do so. Not one of them has done so on either side of the frontier. It was even possible to note that in proportion as the disastrous consequences to European civilisation became apparent, those whose mission it was to act as guardians of that civilisation, those upon whose shoulders part of the responsibility weighed, instead of admitting their mistake, did all they could to increase their own infatuation. How, then, can we hope, when the war is over, and when the disasters to which it will have led will have become unmistakable, that the intellectuals will curb their pride and will constrain themselves to say, "We were wrong"?—To ask this would be to ask too much. The older generation, I fear, will have to endure to the last its sickness of mind and its obstinacy. On this side there is little hope. We can only wait until the older generation has died out.

Those who wish to reknit the relations among the peoples, must turn their hopes towards the other generation, that of those who bleed in the armies. May they be preserved! They have been ruthlessly thinned out by the sickle of war. They might even be annihilated if the war should be prolonged and extended, as may happen, for all things are possible. Mankind stands, like Hercules, at the parting of the ways. One of these ways leads (if Asia takes a hand in the game, and accentuates yet further the characteristics of hideous destruction in which Germany has set an example inevitably followed by the other combatants) to the suicide of Europe.—But at the present hour we have still the right to hope that the young men of Europe, now enrolled in the armies, will survive in sufficient numbers to fulfil the mission that will devolve on them after the war, the mission of reconciling the thoughts of the enemy nations. In either camp, I know a number of independent spirits, who look forward, when peace is signed, to realising this intellectual communion. They propose to except from this communion none but those who, be it in their own or be it in the other camp, have prostituted thought to the work of hatred. When I reflect on these young men, I am firmly convinced (and herein I differ from Gerhard Gran) that after the war the minds of all lands will inter-penetrate one another far more effectively than they have ever done before. The nations which knew nothing of one another, or which saw one another only in the form of contemptuous caricatures, have learned during the last four years, in the mud of the trenches, and at grips with death, that they are the same suffering flesh. All are enduring the same ordeal, and in it they become brothers. This sentiment continues to grow. For when we attempt to foresee the changes which, after the war, will occur in the relationships between the nations, we do not sufficiently realise the extent to which the war will lead to other upheavals, which may well modify the very essence of the nations. Whatever may be the immediate upshot of happenings in Russia, the example of the New Russia will not fail to have its influence upon the other peoples. An intimate unity is becoming established in the soul of the peoples. It is as if they were connected by gigantic roots, spreading underground regardless of frontiers.—As for the intellectuals who, sitting apart from the common people, are not directly swept along by this social current, they none the less feel its influence by intuition and sympathy. Notwithstanding the efforts which, during these four years, have been made to break off all contact between the writers in the two camps, I know that in both, on the morrow of the peace, international magazines and other publications will be founded. I have first-hand information concerning such schemes, initiated by young writers, soldiers at the front, men permeated with the European spirit. Among those of my own generation, there are a few who will give wholehearted assistance to their younger brethren. In our view, we shall in this way serve, not merely the cause of mankind, but the cause of our own land, far better than that cause will be served by the evil counsellors who preach armed isolation. Every country which shuts itself apart pronounces its own death-sentence. Gone for ever are the days when the young and tumultuous energies of the European nations needed, for their clarification, to be surrounded by partition walls.—Let me quote a few words uttered by Jean Christophe in his riper age:

"I neither admire nor dread the nationalism of the present time. It will pass away with the present time; it is passing, it has already passed. It is but a rung in the ladder. Climb to the top.... Every nation felt [before the war] the imperious necessity of gathering its forces and making up its balance-sheet. For the last hundred years all the nations have been transformed by their mutual intercourse and the immense contributions of all the brains of the universe, building up new morality, new knowledge, new faith. Every man must examine his conscience, and know exactly what he is and what he has, before he can enter with the rest into the new age. A new age is coming. Humanity is on the point of signing a new lease of life. Society is on the point of springing into vigour with new laws. It is Sunday to-morrow. We are all balancing our accounts for the week, setting our houses in order, making them clean and tidy, so that, joining together, we may go into the presence of our common God and enter into a new covenant with Him."

The war will prove (even against our will) to have been the anvil upon which will have been forged the unity of the European soul.

It is my hope that this intellectual communion will not be restricted to the European peninsula, but will extend to Asia, to the two Americas, and to the great islets of civilisation spread over the rest of the globe. It is absurd that the nations of western Europe should pride themselves upon the discovery of profound differences, at the very time when they have never resembled one another more closely in merits and defects; at a time when their thought and their literature are least notable for distinctive characteristics; when everywhere there becomes sensible a monotonous levelling of intelligence; when on all hands we discern individualities that are dishevelled, threadbare, limp. I will venture to say that all of them, with their united efforts, are incompetent to give us the hope of that mental renovation to which the world is entitled after this formidable convulsion. We must go to Russia, which has doors thrown wide open towards the eastern world, for there only will our faces be freshened by the new currents which are blowing in every department of thought.

Let us widen the concept of humanism, dear to our forefathers, though its meaning has been narrowed down to the signification of Greek and Latin manuals. In every age, states, universities, academies, all the conservative forces of the mind, have endeavoured to make humanism in this narrower sense a dike against the onslaughts of the new spirit, in philosophy, in morals, in aesthetics. The dike has burst. The framework of a privileged culture has been broken. To-day we have to accept humanism in its widest signification, embracing all the spiritual forces of the whole world. What we need is, panhumanism.

* *

It is our hope that this ideal, formulated here and there by a few leading minds, or heralded by the foundation while the war is yet in progress of centres for the study of universal civilisation,[85] shall be boldly adopted as its ensign by the international academy, in the foundation of which I hope (with Gerhard Gran) that Norway will take the initiative.

I note that Gerhard Gran seems, like Professor Fredrik Stang, to limit his ambitions to the foundation of an institute for scientific research, for in his view science is in its essence more international than art and letters. He writes:

"In art and literature we may, in case of need, discuss the advantages and disadvantages resulting from the isolation of one nation from the rest, or from the antagonism of human groups. In science, such a discussion is absurd. The kingdom of science is the whole world.... The atmosphere indispensable to science has nothing whatever to do with national conflicts."

I think that this distinction is not so well founded as it may seem. No domain of mental activity has been more disastrously involved in the war than the domain of science. Whereas art and letters have only too often been accessory stimulants of the crime, science furnished the war with its weapons, did its utmost to render them more atrocious, to widen the bounds of suffering and cruelty. I may add that even in time of peace I have always been struck by the bitterness of national sentiment displayed by men of science. Those of every nation are fond of accusing their foreign colleagues of stealing their best discoveries and forgetting to acknowledge the source. In a word, science shares in the evil passions which corrode art and letters.

On the other hand, if science needs the collaboration of all the nations, to art and letters to-day it is no less advantageous that they should abandon a position of "splendid isolation." Without speaking of the technical advances which, in painting and music, have during the course of the nineteenth century and of the one which has begun so badly brought such sudden and enormous enrichment to the aesthetics of sight and hearing—apart from such considerations—the influence of one philosopher, one thinker, one writer, can modify the whole literature of an epoch, switching the mind on to a new road in psychological, moral, aesthetic, or social research. If any one wish to be isolated, isolated let him be! But the republic of the mind tends to enlarge its frontiers day by day. The greatest men are those who know how to embrace and fuse in a single vigorous personality the wealth that is dispersed or latent in the soul of all mankind.

Let us refrain, therefore, from limiting the idea of internationalism to the field of science. Let us give the fullest possible amplitude to the scheme. Let us form a world-wide Institute of Art, Letters and Science.

* *

Moreover, I do not think that this foundation could continue isolated. No longer, to-day, can the internationalism of culture remain the luxury of a few privileged persons. The practical value of an Institute of Nations would be small, unless the masters were associated with their disciples in the same stream, unless all the levels of culture were permeated with the same spirit.

That is why I greet, as a fruitful initiative and a happy symptom, the recent foundation in Zurich, by the university students of that city, of an International Association of Students (Internationaler Studentenbund). Let me quote from its program.

"Painfully affected by the great ordeal of the war, academic youth has realised the peculiar social responsibilities enjoined by the privileges of a studious life, and desires to find a remedy for the deeper causes of the evil.... The Association will endeavour to bring together those of all countries who are in close touch with university life, to unite them in a common faith in the advantages of the free development of the mind. It groups them for the struggle against the growing empery of mechanism and militarism in all the manifestations of life.... It hopes to realise the ideal of universities which shall remain centres of higher culture, in the service of truth alone, unsullied shrines of scientific research, absolutely independent in matters of opinion, paying no attention to selfish aims or to class interests."

This demand for the freedom of scientific research and for independence of thought, this organisation of young intellectuals for the defence of a right so essential and hitherto so incessantly violated, seem to me matters of primary necessity. If you desire that the cooperation between the teachers in different countries should not remain purely speculative, it is not enough that the teachers should associate their efforts. It is further essential that their thoughts shall be able to spread freely and to fructify in the minds of the young intellectuals throughout the world. Let us have no more of these barriers erected by the states between the two classes, between the two ages, of those who are engaged in the search for truth—teachers and students.

* *

My dream goes further. I should like the seed of universal culture to be scattered, from the very beginning of education, among the pupils of the primary and secondary schools. Above all let me suggest that throughout the countries of Europe an international language should be one of the compulsory subjects of study. Such international languages (Esperanto, Ido) have already attained something very near perfection; and with the minimum of effort the international language could be mastered by all the children of the civilised world. Not merely would this language be of unrivalled practical value throughout life. It would further serve as an introduction to the study of foreign languages and of their own national tongue; for it would make them realise, far better than any express instruction, the common elements in the European languages and the unity of European thought.

I would further insist that both in primary and secondary education there should be given a sketch of the history of universal thought, universal literature, universal art. I consider it utterly erroneous that the syllabus of instruction should concern itself only with these subjects as manifested within the limits of a single nation, and that within those limits there should be a further restriction to a period of two or three centuries. Despite all that has been done to modernise education, its spirit still remains essentially archaic. It perpetuates among us the atmosphere of extinct epochs. Let not this criticism be misunderstood. All my own education was classical. I passed through every stage of university instruction. In my student days we were still taught to write Latin speeches and Latin verses. I am impregnated with the ideas of classical art and classical thought. Far from desiring to sweep these things away, I should wish such treasures, like those of our Louvre, to be made accessible to the great mass of mankind. But I must point out that we should remain free in relation to that which we admire, and that we are not free in relation to classical thought. The Greco-Roman mental formulas, which our education has made as it were second nature, are nowise suited for application to modern problems. Those into whose minds such formulas have been instilled in childhood have acquired overwhelming prejudices which they are rarely, if ever, able to shake off, prejudices which weigh heavily upon contemporary society. I am inclined to believe that one of the moral errors from which Europe is chiefly suffering to-day, the Europe whose members are tearing one another to pieces, is that we have preserved the heroic and rhetorical idol of the Greco-Roman fatherland, which corresponds no better to the natural sentiment of the fatherland to-day than the deities of Homer correspond to the true religious needs of our time.

Humanity grows older, but does not ripen. It is still enmeshed in the teachings of childhood. Its greatest fault is its slothful unwillingness to seek renewal. But humanity must seek renewal and growth. For centuries it has condemned itself to use no more than a modicum of its spiritual resources. It is like a half-paralysed colossus. It allows some of its organs to atrophy. Are we not weary of these infirm nations, of these scattered members of a great body, which might dominate our planet!

Membra sumus corporis magni.

Let these members unite; let Humanity, the New Adam, arise!

Villeneuve, March 15, 1918.

"Revue Politique Internationale," Lausanne, March and April, 1918.



IN the downfall of imperial Germany, there stand out the great names of a few free spirits of Germany, the names of those who during the last four years have strenuously defended the rights of conscience and reason against the abuses of force. The name of G. F. Nicolai is one of the most illustrious among these. I devoted two articles[86] to the study of his excellent work, The Biology of War, and have recorded the conditions under which it was written. This distinguished professor of physiology at the university of Berlin, a celebrated physician, appointed at the outbreak of the war as chief of one of the army medical departments, was cashiered because he had expressed his disapproval of the misdeeds committed by the statesmen and the high military commanders of Germany. Suffering humiliation after humiliation, degraded to the rank of private, sentenced to five months' imprisonment by the Danzig court-martial, he at length fled from Germany in order to escape yet severer punishment. A few months ago we learned from the newspapers of his daring escape in an aeroplane. He has secured asylum in Denmark, and in that country he has just published the first number of a review, to whose historical and human interest I now wish to call attention.

* *

This periodical is entitled "Das werdende Europa,—Blätter für zukunftsfrohe Menschen,—neutral gegenüber den kriegführenden Ländern,—leidenschaftlich Partei ergreifend für das Recht gegen die Macht." (The Coming Europe,—a review for men who look joyously towards the future,—neutral as regards the belligerent lands,—but taking sides passionately on behalf of right against might.)[87]

Looking joyously towards the future! This is one of Nicolai's most salient characteristics, and I have alluded to it at the close of my critique of his Biology of War. How many in his place would have been disheartened by all that he has seen, heard, and endured in the way of human malice; of cowardice, which is worse; and of folly, which is yet more intolerable—the folly that rules the world! But Nicolai is a man of extraordinary elasticity. "Nicht weinen!" as his little girl of two says to him when he is about to leave her and everything he loves. "Not cry!" Looking joyously towards the future. To uphold him in this joyance he has his wonderful vitality, the inviolable strength of his convictions, his triumphant assurance (meine triumphierende Sicherheit). He displays an apostolic zeal which we should hardly have expected in a scientific observer; but Nicolai, of a sudden, becomes from time to time a seer, an idealist, a prophet, like the religious heroes of old. With all his equipment of modern science, he is a strange instance of reincarnation. The Old Germany of Goethe, Herder, and Kant, speaks to us through his voice. To use his own words, he claims his rights as against the right of Ludendorff and other usurpers to adopt the political methods of the Tatars.

The aim of "Coming Europe" is, he tells us, to "awaken love for our new, our greater fatherland, Europe.... We wish that all the peoples of Europe shall become useful and happy members of this new organism."—Now the future of Europe mainly depends upon the condition of Germany, a country which, by its brutal disregard of European principles, supports the old policy of armed isolation. The primary aim, therefore, must be the liberation of Germany.

The first issue of the magazine contains an inaugural article by Professor Kristoffer Nyrop, member of the Royal Academy of Denmark. It further includes interesting pages written by Dr. Alfred H. Fried, and by Carl Lindhagen, burgomaster of Stockholm. But the main contribution, filling three-fourths of the number, is a long article by Nicolai, entitled "Warum ich aus Deutschland ging. Offener Brief an denjenigen Unbekannten, der die Macht hat in Deutschland."[88] These words are the confession of a great spirit, of one whom the oppressors have wished to enslave, but who has broken his chains.

Nicolai opens by explaining what has led him to an act which has cost him dear, the abandonment of his country in the hour of danger. In touching terms he expresses his love for the motherland (which he contrasts with Europe, his fatherland), his love for Germany and for all that he owes it. He tore himself away only because there was no other means of working for the liberation of his country. While he remained in Germany, he could do nothing; for years of tribulation had been the proof. Right was shackled. Germany was no longer a Rechtsstaat. Oppression was universal; and, still worse, it was anonymous. The power of the sword, irresponsible, was supreme. Parliament no longer existed. The press no longer existed. The chancellor, the emperor himself, were subject to the mysterious "Unknown who rules Germany." Nicolai tells us that he had long waited for others better qualified than himself to speak. He had waited in vain. Fear, corruption, lack of determination, stifled all attempts at revolt. The soul of Germany was dumb.—Even he, Nicolai, would perhaps have held his peace to the end, constrained to silence by the sentiment of chivalrous loyalty which influences everyone in time of war, had he not been driven to extremities, had he not been brought to bay, by the unknown power. After everything had been taken from him, after he had been despoiled of his honours, of his official position, of the comforts and even the necessaries of life, those in authority wished to wrest from him the one thing that still remained, his right to obey, his convictions. This was too much, and he fled. "I was compelled to leave the German empire; I left, because I believe myself to be a good German."

To enable us to understand his decision, he describes for us the four years of daily struggle which had been his lot in Germany before he made up his mind to leave.—Notwithstanding his views on the war, when it actually broke out he put himself at the disposal of the military authorities, but only as a civilian medical man (vertraglich verpflichteter Zivilarzt). He was appointed principal medical officer in the new Tempelhof hospital, a post which permitted him to continue his public lectures at the university of Berlin. But in October, 1914, in conjunction with Professor W. Foerster, Professor A. Einstein, and Dr. Buek, he issued a protest, couched in very strong terms, against the notorious manifesto of the 93. Punishment did not tarry. He was at once relieved of his post, and was appointed medical assistant at the isolation hospital in the little fortress of Graudenz. Being under no illusions as to the reasons for this arbitrary and absurd measure, he devoted his spare time to the preparation of his book, The Biology of War. Now came the sinking of the Lusitania, which was a terrible shock to Nicolai, affecting him as if he had been struck with a whip. At dinner with a few of his comrades, he declared that the violation of Belgian neutrality, the use of poison gas, and the torpedoing of merchantmen, were not merely immoral actions, but were acts of incredible stupidity, which would sooner or later ruin the German empire. One of those present, his colleague Dr. Knoll, could find nothing better to do than to inform against him. Anew dismissed from his post, Nicolai was sent in disgrace to one of the most out-of-the-way corners of Germany. He protested in the name of justice. He appealed to the emperor. The latter, he was given to understand, wrote on the margin of the report of his case: "Der Mann ist ein Idealist, man soll ihn gewähren lassen!" (The man is an idealist. Let him alone!)

He was sent back to Berlin in the winter of 1915-16, with instructions to be on his good behaviour. Ignoring these instructions, immediately after his return to the university he began a course of lectures upon "War as an evolutionary Factor in human History." The lectures were promptly prohibited, and Nicolai was sent to Danzig, where he was strictly forbidden to speak or write on political topics. Nicolai took exception to this order, on the ground that he was a civilian. Thereupon an attempt was made to administer to him the oath of loyalty and obedience. He refused. Summoned before a court-martial, and warned of the consequences of refusal, he persisted. He was thereupon reduced to the ranks, and for two and a half years was engaged in futile clerical work as a private in the army medical corps. Nevertheless, he finished his book, and it went to press in Germany. The first two hundred pages had been set up when an information against it was lodged by the chief clerk of a great submarine dockyard, who said indignantly, "We earn our money arduously in the war, and this fellow is writing in favour of peace!" Nicolai was arrested and his manuscript was seized. After a lengthy trial, he was sentenced to five months' imprisonment. The newspapers were forbidden to mention his name. The "Danziger Zeitung" was suspended for having published an account of the trial. His troubles began afresh immediately he came out of prison. The commandant of Eilenburg wished to force Nicolai to accept combatant service. Nicolai refused, and was given twenty-four hours to think the matter over. He thought of Socrates, and of the Greek philosopher's obedience to his country's laws, bad though they were. But he thought also of Luther, who fled to the Wartburg to finish his work. And Nicolai left that night. Not even yet, however, did he quit Germany, for he wished to make a last appeal to the justice of his country. He wrote to the minister for war, relating the infractions of law to which he had been exposed, and asking for protection against the arbitrary proceedings of the military authorities. While awaiting an answer, he took refuge with friends, first in Munich, then in Grunewald near Berlin. But no answer was received. He had, therefore, to expatriate himself. We know how he crossed the frontier, "in an aeroplane, two miles above the earth amid clouds formed by bursting shrapnel."[89] At dawn after Saint John's night, he saw the distant gleam of the sea of freedom. He reached Copenhagen. For the last time he addressed himself to the German government, offering to return upon guarantees that his rights should be respected, and that he should be reinstated. After eight weeks, he was declared to be a deserter. A raid was made upon his house in Berlin, and upon the houses of some of his friends. His goods were sequestrated. A demand was made for his extradition, upon the charge of stealing an aeroplane.—Then it was that, resuming freedom of speech, Nicolai wrote his "Open Letter" to the "Unknown" despot.

* *

What particularly strikes me in this narrative is, in the first place, the man's invincible tenacity, the way in which he stands upon his right as upon a fortress—"eine feste Burg." ...But I am also greatly impressed by the secret aid which was furnished him by so many of his compatriots.

People are astonished to-day at the sudden collapse of the German colossus. A hundred different reasons are given. We are told that the army is ravaged by epidemic disease; that the morale of the Germans has been undermined by bolshevist propaganda; and so on. These influences have played their part. But another cause has been forgotten. It is that the entire edifice, despite its imposing front, has been mined. Behind the façade of passive obedience, widespread disillusionment prevails. Nothing is more striking in Nicolai's story (notwithstanding all his precautions lest anything he may say should betray his friends to the vengeance of the authorities) than the way in which he has again and again been supported and encouraged by the devotion or by the tacit complicity of those with whom he came into contact. "Men of science, working men, rankers, and officers," he writes, "begged me to say what they did not dare to utter themselves." When he was arrested and when his book was seized, the manuscript was rescued and was smuggled into Switzerland. By whom? By an official German courier!—When, having fled from his post, he wished to leave Germany, and when, in the first instance, he thought of getting out of the country on foot, he was arrested a hundred yards short of the frontier and was taken before an elderly captain. "When he asked me my name, and I said, 'I am Professor Nicolai,' he looked at me long and quizzically. I am doubtful whether he knew that I was being hunted, but I have the impression that he did know.... He advised me, in friendly fashion, not again to attempt crossing the frontier by night, for the frontier patrols were accompanied by bloodhounds—then he let me go."—Seeing no other way of escape than by the air route, Nicolai turned—to whom? To an officer in the flying corps, asking the loan of an aeroplane, for a journey to Holland or Switzerland. The officer, without turning a hair, replied that the thing could be done, and that if Nicolai should decide to make his way to Denmark (which would be much easier) they could start with a whole air-squadron. In the end, as we know, there was no squadron; but two aeroplanes and a number of officers participated in the flight from Neurippin to Copenhagen.—Many similar incidents, though perhaps less striking than those quoted, serve to show the dissolution of the bonds between the citizens and the state. The publication of Nicolai's book in Switzerland, and the subsequent clandestine circulation in Germany of one hundred copies, brought him into relationships with persons belonging to all parties in Germany, and enabled him to realise how deep and passionate was the feeling of hatred diffused throughout all strata of the population. He adds: "I am convinced that Germany and the world would be liberated to-morrow, if only all the Germans were to say to-day without reserve that which, at the bottom of their hearts, they wish and ardently desire."

Herein lies the force of his protest. It is not the protest of one individual, but that of an entire nation. Nicolai is merely the spokesman.

Thus, having told his tale, he turns to the people, he turns to those who inspired him to speak. By a sudden transformation, the "Unknown" to whom he addresses his "Open Letter"—derjenige Unbekannte, der die Macht hat—is no longer the military authority. Sovereign power seems already to have passed into the hands of the real master, the German people. He invites the German people to enter into a union with the other peoples. In the tone of an inspired evangelist, he reminds the German people of its true destiny, its spiritual mission, a thousandfold more important than any empty victory. To all the peoples of Europe, he points out the duty of the hour, the pressing task: to achieve the unity of Europe and the organisation of the world.

"Come, then, kindred spirits!... I am a free man, freed from everything in the world, free from the state [staatenlos], ein deutscher Weltbürger [a German citizen of the world].... I have peace! [Ich habe Frieden].... Come! Cry aloud what you already know and feel!... We do not wish to make peace; we simply wish to realise that we have peace...."

Reiterating his cry of October, 1914, the Call to Europeans[90] which he, in conjunction with his friends Albert Einstein, Wilhelm Foerster, and Otto Buek, issued as a counterblast to the insane utterances of the 93, he reaffirms his act of faith in the spirit of Europe, one and brotherly; and he launches his appeal to all the free spirits, to those whom Goethe long ago termed: "Good Europeans."

October 20, 1918.

"Wissen und Leben," Zurich, November, 1918.



Monsieur le Président,

THE peoples are breaking their chains. The hour foreseen by you and desired by you is at hand. May it not come in vain! From one end of Europe to the other, there is rising among the peoples the will to resume control of their destinies, and to unite, that they may form a regenerated Europe. Across the frontiers, they are holding out their hands to one another for a friendly clasp. But between them there still remain abysses of mistrust and misunderstanding. These abysses must be bridged. We must break the fetters of ancient destiny which shackle these peoples to nationalist wars; which have compelled them, century after century, to rush blindly upon one another for their mutual destruction. Unaided, they cannot break their chains. They are calling for help. But whither can they turn for help?

You alone, Monsieur le Président, among all those whose dread duty it now is to guide the policy of the nations, you alone enjoy a world-wide moral authority. You inspire universal confidence. Answer the appeal of these passionate hopes! Take the hands which are stretched forth, help them to clasp one another. Help these peoples, groping in the dark, to find their way, to establish the new charter of freedom and union whose principles they are seeking earnestly but confusedly.

Reflect: Europe is in danger of falling back into the circles of hell through which she has been toiling for more than four years, drenching the soil with her blood. In all lands, the peoples have lost confidence in the ruling classes. At this hour, you are the only one who can speak to all alike—to the common people and to the bourgeoisies of the nations. You alone can be sure of an attentive hearing. None but you can act as mediator to-day (and will even you still be able to act as mediator to-morrow?). Should this mediator fail to appear, the human masses, disarrayed and unbalanced, will almost inevitably break forth into excesses. The common people will welter in bloody chaos, while the parties of traditional order will fly to bloody reaction. Class wars, racial wars, wars between the nations of yesterday, wars between the nations which have just been formed, blind social convulsions, with no further aim than the gratification of the hatreds, the envies, the crazy dreams of an hour of life looking forward to no morrow....

Heir of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, take up the cause, not of a party, not of a single people, but of all! Summon the representatives of the peoples to the Congress of Mankind! Preside over it with the full authority which you hold in virtue of your lofty moral consciousness and in virtue of the great future of America! Speak, speak to all! The world hungers for a voice which will overleap the frontiers of nations and of classes. Be the arbiter of the free peoples! Thus may the future hail you by the name of Reconciler!

Romain Rolland.

Villeneuve, November 9, 1918.

"Le Populaire," Paris, November 18, 1918.

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A few days later (December 4, 1918), "Le Populaire" published a letter from Romain Rolland to Jean Longuet, wherein Romain Rolland laid bare his most intimate thought and gave the reasons for his attitude towards Wilson. The letter was reprinted by "L'Humanité" in the issue of December 14, 1918, a special "Wilson Number."

I am no Wilsonian. I see all too plainly that the president's message, as clever as it is generous, aims (in good faith) at realising throughout the world the ideal of the bourgeois republic of the Franco-American type.

This is a conservative ideal and it no longer satisfies me.

Nevertheless, despite our personal predilections and our reserves for the future, I believe that the best thing we can do for the moment is to support the action of President Wilson. He alone will be able to curb the greedy appetites, the ambitions, and the fierce instincts, which will seat themselves at the peace banquet. Through his action alone is there any chance of bringing about a modus vivendi in Europe, one which provisionally at least shall be fairly just. This great bourgeois embodies what is purest, most disinterested, most humane, in the mentality of his class.[91] No one is better fitted than he to act as Arbiter.

R. R.

June, 1919.



"Le Populaire" asked Romain Rolland to write an article on the occasion of President Wilson's arrival in France. Romain Rolland, who was ill at the time, wrote from Villeneuve as follows.

Thursday, December 12, 1918.

Dear Longuet,

YOUR letter of the 6th inst. did not reach me until to-day, of course after being opened by the military censorship. It finds me in bed, where I have been for a fortnight, suffering from an obstinate attack of influenza. It is therefore impossible for me to write the article you want.

All that I will say is that, during the last fortnight, the news from France has often made me more uneasy than my fever. The Allies believe themselves victorious. In my view (if they fail to pull themselves together) they are vanquished, beaten, infected, by Bismarckism.

Unless there is an extensive turn in events, I foresee a century of hatreds, of new wars of revenge, and the destruction of European civilisation. Let me add that the destruction of European civilisation is hardly to be regretted if the victorious nations prove thus incapable of guiding their destinies.

It is my hope that, amid the intoxicating but deceptive triumphs of the present, they may regain the consciousness of their crushing responsibilities towards the future! It is my hope that they will remember that every one of their mistakes or their sins of omission will have to be paid for by their children and their children's children!

Excuse these lines, scribbled by a convalescent, and believe me, my dear Longuet,

Yours as always,
Romain Rolland.

"Le Populaire," Paris, December 21, 1918.



BRAIN workers, comrades, scattered throughout the world, kept apart for five years by the armies, the censorship and the mutual hatred of the warring nations, now that barriers are falling and frontiers are being reopened, we issue to you a call to reconstitute our brotherly union, but to make of it a new union more firmly founded and more strongly built than that which previously existed.

The war has disordered our ranks. Most of the intellectuals placed their science, their art, their reason, at the service of the governments. We do not wish to formulate any accusations, to launch any reproaches. We know the weakness of the individual mind and the elemental strength of great collective currents. The latter, in a moment, swept the former away, for nothing had been prepared to help in the work of resistance. Let this experience, at least, be a lesson to us for the future!

First of all, let us point out the disasters that have resulted from the almost complete abdication of intelligence throughout the world, and from its voluntary enslavement to the unchained forces. Thinkers, artists, have added an incalculable quantity of envenomed hate to the plague which devours the flesh and the spirit of Europe. In the arsenal of their knowledge, their memory, their imagination, they have sought reasons for hatred, reasons old and new, reasons historical, scientific, logical, and poetical. They have worked to destroy mutual understanding and mutual love among men. So doing, they have disfigured, defiled, debased, degraded Thought, of which they were the representatives. They have made it an instrument of the passions; and (unwittingly, perchance) they have made it a tool of the selfish interests of a political or social clique, of a state, a country, or a class. Now, when, from the fierce conflict in which the nations have been at grips, the victors and the vanquished emerge equally stricken, impoverished, and at the bottom of their hearts (though they will not admit it) utterly ashamed of their access of mania—now, Thought, which has been entangled in their struggles, emerges, like them, fallen from her high estate.

Arise! Let us free the mind from these compromises, from these unworthy alliances, from these veiled slaveries! Mind is no one's servitor. It is we who are the servitors of mind. We have no other master. We exist to bear its light, to defend its light, to rally round it all the strayed sheep of mankind. Our role, our duty, is to be a centre of stability, to point out the pole star, amid the whirlwind of passions in the night. Among these passions of pride and mutual destruction, we make no choice; we reject them all. Truth only do we honour; truth that is free, frontierless, limitless; truth that knows nought of the prejudices of race or caste. Not that we lack interest in humanity. For humanity we work, but for humanity as a whole. We know nothing of peoples. We know the People, unique and universal; the People which suffers, which struggles, which falls and rises to its feet once more, and which continues to advance along the rough road drenched with its sweat and its blood; the People, all men, all alike our brothers. In order that they may, like ourselves, realise this brotherhood, we raise above their blind struggles the Ark of the Covenant—Mind which is free, one and manifold, eternal.

R. R.

Villeneuve, Spring, 1919.

[This manifesto was published in "L'Humanité," June 26, 1919.]

By the end of 1919, the following signatures had been received to the above declaration.

Emilio H. del Villar, editor of "Archive Geografico de la Peninsula Iberica," of Madrid, has sent me a manifesto Por la causa de la civilizacion, published in the Madrid newspapers in June, 1919, and inspired with sentiments analogous to those of the above declaration. This manifesto is signed by about one hundred Spanish writers and men of science, university professors, etc. Emilio H. del Villar sends his own adhesion, together with that of all the signatories of the Spanish manifesto, to the Declaration of the Independence of the Mind.

It is a matter for regret that we have not been able to add to the list the signatures of our Russian friends from whom we are still cut off by the governmental blockade. We keep their places open. Russian thought is in the vanguard of the thought of the world.

R. R.

August, 1919.



COMMENT is requisite upon the reproaches addressed by G. F. Nicolai to certain Christian sects. In the various countries of Europe, opposition to the war, on the part of those he names, was far more vigorous than has been commonly supposed. Inasmuch as the authorities ruthlessly but silently suppressed all opposition, it is only since the close of the war that we have been able to glean information concerning these conscientious revolts and sacrifices. Without dwelling upon the story of the thousands of conscientious objectors in the United States and in England (where Bertrand Russell has been their defender and interpreter), I wish to mention that Paul Birinkov has drawn my attention to the attitude of the Nazarenes in Hungary and Serbia, where large numbers of them were shot. He has also given me information concerning the doings of the Tolstoyans, the Dukhobors, the Adventists, the Young Baptists, etc., in Russia. As for the Mennonites, according to the reports of Dr. Pierre Kennel, in the United States most of them refused to subscribe to the war loans. They were not compelled to undertake combatant duties, but they accepted service in the battalions for the reconstruction of the devastated regions in northern France. In tsarist Russia, and in a number of the German states, they were granted exemption from combatant service, and did duty in the medical corps or other auxiliary drafts. In France, by a decree of the Convention (respected by Napoleon) they were likewise assigned to non-combatant service. But the Third Republic disregarded this decree.

R. R.

Printed in Great Britain by


[1] Published in pamphlet form by La Maison Française, Paris, 1918.

[2] Except the last two stanzas, which were composed in the autumn of the same year.

[3] Conversation with L. Mabilleau, "Opinion," June 20, 1908.

[4] In a recent issue of the "Revue des Deux Mondes."

[5] Institut für Kulturforschung (Institute for the Study of Civilisation), founded at Vienna in February, 1915, by Dr. Erwin Hanslick. So rapid was its success that in February, 1916, it gave birth to the Institute for the Study of the East and the Orient.

[6] "Nature," writes Voltaire in L'Homme aux quarante écus, "is like those great princes who think nothing of the loss of 400,000 men, provided they can fulfil their own august designs."

The princes of to-day, great and small alike, are more spendthrift!

[7] Cf. Victor Bérard's brief account of the Manchurian campaign in La révolte de l'Asie. Cf. also Les derniers jours de Pékin, where Pierre Loti describes the destruction of Tung-Chow, "the City of Celestial Purity."

[8] Numerous issues of "Cahiers de la Quinzaine" have been devoted to castigating the crimes of civilisation. I may mention:

[9] Arnold Porret, Les causes profondes de la guerre, Lausanne, 1916.

[10] From a lecture entitled Nationalism in Japan, since republished in the volume Nationalism, Macmillan, London, 1917 (pp. 59 and 60). This address marks a turning-point in the history of the world.

[11] Consult a number of shrewd articles published during the last decade by Francis Delaisi. One in particular may be mentioned, that which appeared in "Pages libres" on January 1, 1907, dealing with foreign affairs in 1906 (the Algeciras year). He gives striking examples of what he terms "industrialised diplomacy." As a complement to Delaisi, read the financial articles of the "Revue" (issues for November and December, 1906) signed Lysis, and the commentary on these articles by P. G. La Chesnais in "Pages libres" (January 19, 1907). In these writings we find a plain demonstration of the power of the financial oligarchies over the governments of the European states, alike republics and monarchies—a power that is "collective, mysterious in its workings, and independent of control."

[12] Let me quote a few lines from Maurras, so lucid a writer when not under the spell of his fixed idea. "The Money State governs, gilds, and decorates Intelligence: but muzzles it and puts it to sleep. The Money State, at will, can prevent Intelligence from becoming aware of a political truth; and if Intelligence utters a political truth, the Money State can prevent that truth from being heard and understood. How can a country realise its own needs if those who know them can be condemned to silence, to falsehood, or to isolation?" (L'Avenir de l'Intelligence.)—A true picture of the present day.

[13] Introduction to Marcelle Capy's book Une voix de femme dans la mêlée, Ollendorff, Paris, 1916. The italicised passages were suppressed by the censor in the original publication.

[14] On page 26 of Marcelle Capy's book we learn how touching a response these utterances of stalwart sympathy have called forth from the generous hearts of our soldiers.

[15] Published at Geneva by J. H. Jeheber, 1917; English translation The Journal of Leo Tolstoi (1895-1899), Knopf, New York, 1917.

[16] December 7, 1895.

[17] An exception must be made as regards certain voices from Germany, among which that of Professor Foerster speaks in the clearest tones. But we should err were we to allow ourselves to be persuaded that such unbiassed persons are a German monopoly, should we fail to realise that similar voices are raised in the other camp.

[18] This is shown by the recent establishment and the success of Swiss periodicals which embody a reaction against the tendencies described in the text. Moreover, regrets similar to those voiced above have been repeatedly expressed by Swiss writers of independent mind. I may mention H. Hodler ("La Voix de L'Humanité"); E. Platzhoff-Lejeune ("Coenobium" and the "Revue mensuelle"); Adolphe Ferrière ("Coenobium" for March and April, 1917, in an article entitled The Effect of the Press and of the Censorship in Promoting Mutual Hatred among the Nations).

[19] "The Masses, a free magazine," 34 Union Square East, New York.—All the items in the text are quoted from the issues of June and July, 1917.

[20] Advertising Democracy, June, 1917, p. 5.

[21] Who wanted War, June, 1917, p. 23.

[22] Socialists and War, June, 1917, p. 25.

[23] The Religion of Patriotism, July, 1917.

[24] On Not Going to the War, July, 1917.

[25] Patriotism in the Middle West, June, 1917.

[26] This is said to have happened in the case of "Pearson's Magazine." (Consult the article on Free Speech, "The Masses," July, 1917.)—It is hardly necessary to refer to the masterly manner in which all independent persons who displease the authorities are implicated in imaginary plots.

[27] Issue of July, 1917.

[28] Since the article above quoted was published, the American Senate has imposed heavy taxation on war profits.

[29] E. D. Morel, having served his sentence, has given a number of lectures in various parts of Britain, arousing the sympathetic indignation of his audiences by his account of the illegalities in his trial and of the undercurrents in the whole business. He was able to show that there were influences at work emanating from certain persons whose interests had been injuriously affected prior to the war by Morel's press campaign against the Congo atrocities.—Cf. The Persecution of E. D. Morel, Reformer's Series, Glasgow, 1919.

[30] The allusion is to Victor Hugo's Les Burgraves. Burgrave Job is eighty years of age; Burgrave Magnus, his son, is sixty.—Translators' Note.

[31] The section of Bellinzona, or of Ticino, was founded quite recently, in November, 1916. At the inaugural ceremony, the president, Julius Schmidhauser, delivered a speech in which he sounded an excellent European note. He contrasted the union of the three races of Switzerland with the spectacle of contemporary Europe still living in the prehistoric age, a Europe "wherein the Frenchman can see in the German nothing but an enemy, wherein the German can see in the Frenchman nothing but an enemy, and wherein neither can regard the other as a human being. For our part, we have a way in Switzerland of discovering the human element in all mankind."—"Centralblatt des Zofingervereins," December, 1916.

[32] The text was written in the summer of 1917. Shortly afterwards, fresh dissensions arose in the Zofingia. These discords have been accentuated by the Russian revolution.

[33] The program of the new committee (Der Centralausschuss an die Sektionen), published in the "Centralblatt" for October, 1916, was reproduced, in part, in the "Journal de Genève" for October 19th, under the caption Le programme de la Jeunesse. This program affirms the "supernationalist" and anti-imperialist faith on the lines expounded in the discussion of which a summary will shortly be given in the text. I quote from the program: "We do not live upon the worship of our warlike past.... Placed as we are in the centre of a system of great imperialist powers which aim at domination through force, at material greatness, and at glory, it is our task to fight openly, boldly, trusting in the future, against imperialism and on behalf of the ideal of humanity."

A keen interest in social questions, solidarity with the common people, with the disinherited of the earth, are likewise plainly manifested.

[34] None the less I am impressed by the bold and perspicuous idealism displayed by some of these young Latin Swiss in the discussions summarised in the sequel.

[35] Serment du Jeu de Paume, Versailles, June 20, 1789.—Translators' Note.

[36] Le Feu, Journal d'une Escouade, par Henri Barbusse, Flammarion, Paris, 1916. English translation, Under Fire, The Story of a Squad, Dent, London, 1917.

[37] Words of Farewell (issue of May, 1917).

[38] Among these I may mention my article, To the Murdered Nations (Chapter III, above) from which the censorship deleted one hundred lines. The gaps were filled by Wullens with Belot's fine engravings (issue of May, 1917).

[39] Notwithstanding the sentence passed upon Guilbeaux since the passage in the text was written, my confidence in him is unshaken. I differ from him in many respects, but I admire his courage. To those who have known Guilbeaux intimately, his good faith is above suspicion.—R. R., August, 1919.

[40] G. Thuriot-Franchi, Les Marches de France.

[41] Andreas Latzko, Menschen im Krieg, Rascher, Zurich, 1917; English translation, Men in Battle, Cassell, London, 1918.

[42] Andreas Latzko is a Hungarian officer. He was wounded on the Italian front during the fighting of 1915-16.

[43] Stefan Zweig, Jeremias, eine dramatische Dichtung in neun Bildern, Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, 1917.

[44] Les Temps maudits, "demain," Geneva.

[45] Vous êtes des hommes, "Nouvelle Revue Française," Paris; and Poème contre le grand crime, "demain," Geneva; above all the admirable Danse des Morts, "Les Tablettes," Geneva, republished by "L'Action Sociale," La-Chaux-de-Fonds.

[46] Mr. Britling sees it Through, Cassell, London, 1916.

[47] The Fortune, a Romance of Friendship, Maunsel, Dublin and London, 1917.

[48] G. F. Nicolai, M.D., sometime professor of physiology at Berlin University, Die Biologie des Krieges, Betrachtungen eines Naturforschers den Deutschen zur Besinnung, Orell Füssli, Zurich, 1917; English translation, The Biology of War, Dent, London, 1919.

[49] Cf. especially Chapter Six, an interesting account of the development of armies from ancient times down to to-day, when we have the armed nation. Also Chapter Fourteen, which deals with war and peace as reflected in the writings of ancient and modern poets and philosophers.

[50] Erfassen. Nicolai points out that the figurative meaning of the word "erfassen" like that of "apprehend" and "comprehend" [or of the native "grasp"] is a metaphysical extension of the primitive "prehension" by the hand.

[51] I ignore, in the text, the abundant proofs Nicolai draws from ethnology and from the history of the lower animals. He shows, for example, that the most primitive peoples, the Bushmen, the Fuegians, the Eskimos, etc., live in hordes even when they display no tendency towards family life. All savages are gregarious in the extreme; solitude is disastrous to them alike physically and mentally. Even civilised man finds solitude hard to bear.

[52] Faust, Part II, 5. Mephistopheles' words, when he hands over to Faust the proceeds of a voyage. [War, trade, and piracy are trinity in unity—inseparable.]

[53] "Everything which exists, above all everything which lives, tends towards immeasurable increase."

[54] For unicellular organisms, osmosis imposes a limit; for multicellular organisms there is a mechanical limit to size; for the groupings of individuals to form collectivities, social communities, there is a limit fixed by the amount of available energy.

[55] Pp. 160 to 163 [English edition].

[56] On p. 255 [of the English edition] will be found an ethnographical chart of Germany. It is distinctly humorous.

[57] This statement requires qualification. The reader is referred to a note at the end of the volume.

[58] Jeheber, Geneva, 1915.

[59] Buddhist Views of War, "The Open Court," May, 1904.

[60] The actual words in my play are: "The nations die that God may live."

[61] Nicolai terms them "chance products" (sind nur zufällige Produkte).

[62] 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.

[63] 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 Brücke 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].

[64] 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.

[65] Ueber Ursprung und Bedeutung der Amphimixis, "Biolog. Zentralblatt," xxvi, No. 22, 1906.

[66] This seems to me the weak point in the theory. How can we reconcile the mutation and the variability of the germ plasm, with its immortality and its eternal transmission?

[67] Species and Varieties: their Origin by Mutation, Kegan Paul, London, 1905.

[68] Closing sections of Chapter Thirteen.

[69] I should like to give an account here of Nicolai's solution of the problem of liberty. He discusses the matter in one of the most important sections of his book.—How can a biologist, filled with a feeling of universal necessity, find place, amid that necessity and without prejudice to it, for human freedom? One of the most notable characteristics of this great mind, is Nicolai's power of associating within himself two rival and complementary forces. He makes a suggestive study, at once philosophic and physiological, of the anatomy of the brain and of the almost infinite possibilities the brain holds for the future (all unknown to us to-day), of the thousands of roads which are marked out in the brain many centuries before humanity dreams of using them.—But to follow up this study would lead us beyond the scope of the present article. I must refer the reader to pp. 58-68 of The Biology of War [English edition]. These pages are a model of scientific intuition.

[70] Chapter Ten, p. 309 [English edition].

[71] Chapter Fourteen.

[72] Chapter Ten, pp. 270-271 [English edition].

[73] Introduction, p. 11 [English edition].

[74] "Um dem guten und gerechten Menschen meine triumphierende Sicherheit zu geben." Introduction [p. 10, English edition].

[75] The most important of these studies have been collected in the great work Les Fourmis de la Suisse (Nouveaux mémoires de la Société helvétique des Sciences naturelles, vol. xxvi, Zurich, 1874), and in the admirable series Expériences et remarques pratiques sur les sensations des insectes, published in five parts in the "Rivista di Scienze biologiche," Como, 1900-1901. [Two only of Forel's writings on insects are available in the English language: The Senses of Insects, Methuen, London, 1908; and Ants and some other Insects, Kegan Paul, London, 1904.] But these works form no more than a fraction of the author's studies written on this subject. Dr. Forel recently told me that since the publication in 1874 of the work which has become a classic, he has penned no less than 226 essays upon ants.

[76] Some of these soldier ants function also as butchers, cutting up the prey into small fragments.

[77] Insect Life, Macmillan, London, 1901.

[78] Mutual Aid, Heinemann, London, 1915.

[79] Auguste Forel, Les Fourmis de la Suisse, pp. 261-263.

[80] Op. cit. p. 249.

[81] Polyergus rufescens.

[82] Op. cit. pp. 266-273.

[83] A great cause of error, among those who study insects, is to apply uncritically to an entire genus, observations made upon one or upon a few species. The species of insects are very numerous. Among ants alone, so Forel informs me, there are more than 7,500 species. These species exhibit all shades, all degrees, of instinct.

[84] I am well aware that the concluding statement in the text is in total contradiction with the thought of Auguste Forel, who denies free will. I do not propose here to reopen the agelong dispute between free will and determinism, which seems to me largely verbal. I shall consider the question elsewhere.

[85] For instance, the Institut für Kulturforschung (Institute for the Study of Civilisation) of Vienna (see above p. 19). This Institute has just founded a Society for the Study of World Civilisation, which issues a periodical entitled "Erde, a journal for the intellectual life of the whole of mankind." The first number, which comes to hand while I am correcting the proof of these pages, is throughout an ardent confession of "panhumanist" faith.

[86] A Great European, G. F. Nicolai ("demain," October and November 1917).—See Chapter XX above.

[87] Steen Hasselbach, Copenhagen. First issue, October 1, 1918.

[88] Why I left Germany. An open letter to the Unknown who rules Germany.—The German article has been republished in pamphlet form by A. G. Benteli, Bümpliz-Bern, Switzerland, 1918.

[89] In telling this part of the story, Nicolai conceals most of the details of his flight. Too many are implicated, and they would suffer if he were explicit. Already, he tells us, an innocent person, the betrothed of one of his companions, has been imprisoned.—Some day he will write a memoir of his military experiences.

[90] This Aufruf an die Europäer is reprinted, in the first issue of "Das werdende Europa" immediately after the article I have just been analysing, and Nicolai appeals to all readers who sympathise with it to send him their signatures.

[91] Subsequent events have shown that this did not amount to much, after all. The moral abdication of President Wilson, abandoning his own principles without having the honesty to admit the fact, signalises the ruin of that lofty bourgeois idealism which, for a century and a half, gave to the ruling class, notwithstanding many mistakes, both strength and prestige. The consequences of such an act are incalculable.

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