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Observations placeholder

Agassiz, Louis – Essay on Classification – Proof of a Mind acting in conformity with a Plan laid out beforehand and sustained for a long period



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


….. we present the following conclusions: —

Ist. The connection of all these known features of nature into one system exhibits thought, the most comprehensive thought, in limits transcending the highest wonted powers of man.

2nd. The simultaneous existence of the most diversified types under identical circumstances exhibits thought, the ability to adapt a great variety of structures to the most uniform conditions.

3rd. The repetition of similar types, under the most diversified circumstances, shows an immaterial connection between them; it exhibits thought, proving directly how completely the Creative Mind is independent of the influence of a material world.

4th. The unity of plan in otherwise highly diversified types of animals exhibits thought; it exhibits more immediately premeditation, for no plan could embrace such a diversity of beings, called into existence at such long intervals of time, unless it had been framed in the [?] with immediate reference to the end.

5th. The correspondence, now generally known as special homologies, in the details of structure in animals otherwise entirely disconnected, down to the most minute peculiarities, exhibits thought, and more immediately the power of expressing a general proposition in an indefinite number of ways, equally complete in themselves, though differing in all their details.

6th. The various degrees and different kinds of relationship among animals which can have no genealogical connection, exhibit thought, the power of combining different categories into a permanent, harmonious whole, even though the material basis of this harmony be ever changing.

7th. The simultaneous existence, in the earliest geological periods in which animals existed at all, of representatives of all the great types of the animal kingdom exhibits most especially thought, considerate thought, combining power, premeditation, prescience, omniscience.

8th. The gradation based upon complications of structure, which may be traced among animals built upon the same plan, exhibits thought, and especially the power of distributing harmoniously unequal gifts.

9th. The distribution of some types over the most extensive range of the surface of the globe, while others are limited to particular geographical areas, and the various combinations of these types into zoological provinces of unequal extent exhibit thought, a close control in the distribution of the earth's surface among its inhabitants.

10th. The identity of structure of these types, notwithstanding their wide geographical distribution, exhibits thought, that deep thought which, the more it is scrutinized, seems the less capable of being exhausted, though its meaning at the surface appears at once plain and intelligible to everyone.

11th. The community of structure in certain respects of animals otherwise entirely different, but living within the same geographical area, exhibits thought, and more particularly the power of adapting most diversified types with peculiar structures to either identical or to different conditions of existence.

12th. The connection, by series, of special structures observed in animals widely scattered over the surface of the globe exhibits thought, unlimited comprehension, and more directly omnipresence of mind and also prescience, as far as such series extend through a succession of geological ages.

13th. The relation there is between the size of animals and their structure and form exhibits thought; it shows that in nature the quantitative differences are as fixedly determined as the qualitative ones.

14th. The independence in the size of animals of the mediums in which they live exhibits thought, in establishing such close connection between elements so influential in themselves and organized beings so little affected by the nature of these elements.

15th. The permanence of specific peculiarities under every variety of external influences during each geological period and under the present state of things upon earth exhibits thought: it shows also that limitation in time is an essential element of all finite beings, while eternity is an attribute of the Deity only.

16th. The definite relations in which animals stand to the surrounding world exhibit thought; for all animals living together stand respectively, on account of their very differences, in different relations to identical conditions of existence, in a manner which implies a considerate adaptation of their varied organization to these uniform conditions.

17th. The relations in which individuals of the same species stand to one another exhibit thought and go far to prove the existence in all living beings of an immaterial, imperishable principle, similar to that which is generally conceded to man only.

18th. The limitation of the range of changes which animals undergo during their growth exhibits thought; it shows most strikingly the independence of these changes of external influences and the necessity that they should be determined by a power superior to these influences.

19th. The unequal limitation in the average duration of the life of individuals in different species of animals exhibits thought; for, however uniform or however diversified the conditions of existence may be under which animals live together, the average duration of life in different species is unequally limited. It points therefore at a knowledge of time and space and of the value of time, since the phases of life of different animals are apportioned according to the part they have to perform upon the stage of the world.

20th. The return to a definite norm of animals which multiply in various ways exhibits thought. It shows how wide a cycle of modulations may be included in the same conception, without yet departing from a norm expressed more directly in other combinations.

21st. The order of succession of the different types of animals and plants characteristic of the different geological epochs exhibits thought. It shows that while the material world is identical in itself in all ages ever different types of organized beings are called into existence in successive periods.

22nd, The localization of some types of animals upon the same points of the surface of the globe, during several successive geological periods, exhibits thought, consecutive thought; the operations of a mind acting in conformity with a plan laid out beforehand and sustained for a long period.

 23rd. The limitation of closely allied species to different geological periods exhibits thought; it exhibits the power of sustaining nice distinctions, notwithstanding the interposition of great disturbances by physical revolutions.

24th. The parallelism between the order of succession of animals and plants in geological times and the gradation among their living representatives exhibit thought; consecutive thought, superintending the whole development of nature from beginning to end, and disclosing throughout a gradual progress, ending with the introduction of man at the head of the animal creation.

25th. The parallelism between the order of succession of animals in geological times and the changes their living representatives undergo during their embryological growth exhibits thought; the repetition of the same train of thoughts in the phases of growth of living animals and the successive appearance of their representatives in past ages.

26th. The combination in many extinct types of characters which, in later ages, appear disconnected in different types exhibits thought, prophetic thought, foresight; combinations of thought preceding their manifestation in living forms.

27th. The parallelism between the gradation among animals and the changes they undergo during their growth exhibits thought, as it discloses everywhere the most intimate connection between essential features of animals which have no necessary physical relation, and can therefore not be understood otherwise than as established by a thinking being.

28th. The relations existing between these different series and the geographical distribution of animals exhibit thought; they show the omnipresence of the Creator.

29th. The mutual dependence of the animal and vegetable kingdoms for their maintenance exhibits thought; it displays the care with which all conditions of existence necessary to the maintenance of organized beings have been balanced.

30th. The dependence of some animals upon others or upon plants for their existence exhibits thought; it shows to what degree the most complicated combinations of structure and adaptation can be rendered independent of the physical conditions which surround them.

The combination in time and space of all these thoughtful conceptions exhibits not only thought, it shows also premeditation, power, wisdom, greatness, prescience, omniscience, providence. In one word, all these facts in their natural connection proclaim aloud the One God, whom man may know, adore, and love; and Natural History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe, as manifested in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, as well as in the inorganic world.

The source of the experience

Agassiz, Louis

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps