Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP525

Sent by:
David Gilmore
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
12 January 1913

Sent by David Gilmore, Belfast, [Northern Ireland] to Alfred Russel Wallace [address not recorded] on 12 January 1913.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.


Congratulating Wallace on his 90th birthday.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP525.525)

A typical letter  .

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/8/54
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the David Gilmore Literary Estate.

Transcription information




323 Ormeau Road,


12 Jan 1913

Dear Sir,

I see by "JP's Weekly" that you have nearly reached your 90th year, and most appropriatedly are called the "Grand Old Man."

I need not launch out into praise - tho’ I feel it - of what you have done. There comes a time in every true man's life, that is a life worthy of praise, when the highest eulogium moves him scarce a bit, he is so used to it.

But I can't image a time when work will cease to give him joy, especially if that work be of a high order, and your life-work has been of that sort, which [[2]] I hope till the round century of your age comes shall not end - and then work, work, work to all eternity. Well, I am judging you by myself, that's all.

But I have an object in writing to you.

I read sometime ago, somewhere, that you had said that you did not know of or could discover any planet or heavenly body in a condition to produce or sustain physical life except this earth on which we live.

That thought has stuck in my mind, and led me to the conclusion that this earth may be the breeding-ground of the universe, and that all life begins only with the physical, as we know it, in its multitudinous and varying Creatures.

But, as you have shown in your books - proved in fact notwithstanding [[3]] the sneers - that there is another sort of life, not physical, but psychical, (only to my imagination the sense of physical must ever continue) and that sort is to be the eternal. I have read every scrap of Spiritualistic literature I could lay my hands on, and I have seen no hint that life, beginning with the physical must run, as I think, its almost infinite cycle of changes back to the purely physical again, and that this our home earth is to be the habitat of human spirits again in some form of the physical, to compete the circle of all life, and so get to an experimental knowledge of the all life which God is the possessor and giver of.

It is inevitable that we anthromorphise [sic] God; but God must be immeasurably more than ourselves infinitised.

We read, "No man hath seen God at any time". To me the converse is equally true - "No man hath ever seen anything but God at anytime", for great Nature is only an expression of that which is "life in Him" (John. Margin R.V.),3 and if the Human be the offspring of His nature, then the human alone has potentially in it the nature, the all of God, as our offspring has the all of our nature, and only can know us.

No belief, no matter how absurd we may think it, that large numbers have accepted, but must have a basis of truth. This arises from an intuition, not which transcends reason, but which reason accepts once proper reasons are given for the fact, and re-incarnation, metempsychosis4, are largely believed in, may be a fact of future experience to the human family. For how can we know God in the manifoldness of His being except by empirical knowledge of the nature of other creatures, which "are life in Him", or His life in them? I see a dog or a cat or any other animal, but what can I know of a nature so different to my own? I must be born again [[4]]5 as any of these animals to know its nature, its life. It does not seem incredible to me that when I have run the full cycle of purely psychical [sic] life or experience, which may take fabulous time, I may, as a sort of Kenosis,6 choose to be born an animal, any, or all in succession, and this from the purely scientific Spirit, which some religious people disparage as infinitely beneath the religious. And yet what is the work of the Scientist but his love, his effort to see God? For look where we may, search what we may, we must find God - all are but his beautiful, oh, how beautiful, thoughts his happy creatures behold, seen thro’ or materialised in Nature.

I don't know when the devil nature entered into the human - probably the purely selfish nature of the animal in evolution was uneliminated [sic] by the possession of that which lifts the man infinitely above the beast, the intellect - but the greatest number of believers in re-incarnation only use it (vindictively, I think) as a [[5]] punishment for sins done in the body on earth. Paul may make the whole creation groan, but God never gives life to any creature but that life on the whole is joyous. Love never intends eternal evil; [it is] not the nature of love to do so except that the momentary experience of it may in some mysterious way enhance or bring about a good that could not come without the "evil".

And so the chirping sparrow on the housetop, may be as happy as the Seraph7 burning before the throne, and the, so to speak, little tea-cup's, [sic] if sentient, sense of joy and fullness may be as great as the unbounded ocean's, and the little limpit’s [sic] or shell-fish's sense of flight, by the swish swash of the waves, may be as swift as the eagle's, and when the waves surge and dash against its rocky moorings, that may be the very music & poetry of its nature. Were I creator, this is what I would do, and my love is not a drop compared to the infinite ocean of God's.

You<r>, sir, shall ever be associated with Darwin in the discovery of evolution [[6]] or natural selection - which to me is one of the greatest discoveries ever made, as it shows God's mode of working in nature, on this earth at least. But there may come, nay, may exist since the human began, what I would call "Devolution." Not many believe in animal immortality, and still fewer in the immortality of minute sentient organisms; but if these, whose life is joyous, and desire to live - see their efforts to escape death - be part of that great Fountain of Life, God, or His thoughts, which are things, if they perish, become annihilated, then part of God’s life perishes, or His memory of His Thoughts is defective. If God thought it worthwhile to make a life, not for the universal so much as the individual's good, then why should such life cease? To disappoint the desire of anything made's[?] life would be injustice, and love can't do injustice.

But if the lower animal creation exist alone as a means of us knowing the peculiar nature of each creature, and so knowing what is in God, then the "poor beetle, that we tread upon," may end the experience of some human soul as a beetle, enriching which has enriched his or her knowledge of God, only attainable by taking on the nature of the beetle, and if the beetle’s consciousness be annihilated, no injustice is done - God has enriched us in knowledge of Himself as the beetle. "And so let knowledge grow from more to more that more of reverence (and love) may in us dwell".8 The traditional heaven, with its senseless, eternal strumming on golden harps, is hateful to me. No, eternity is given to us to know God, and the strange view I have given of what may be (I don't dogmatise) the occupation of a vast eternity of experiences is congenial to my scientific mind; and when, if this be so, existing creation is exhausted, then a new order of things may be created, for the teacher must be always ahead of the pupil, and we have infinity to count on, and eternally Love.

These thoughts are new to me; they may not be so to you. But excuse a stranger writing at such length to you. With my heart's best wishes, for you, Sir, for you are as good as you are great.

Most respectfully yours | David Gilmore [signature]


1. Annotated "acknow" in ink in an unknown hand to the left of the address.

2. Annotated, including square brackets, "[Gilmore]" in faint pencil below the number "323" and "[WP1/8/54, f 1 of 2]" in darker pencil below "[Gilmore]".

3. The Holy Bible, Revised Version; a late 19th-century British revision of the King James Version of 1611. The R.V. included marginal notes to alert the reader to variations in wording in ancient manuscripts. According to the Greek text, John 1:3, 4 reads, as is indicated in the margin, "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made. That which hath been made was life in Him; and the life was the light of men."

4. Metempsychosis: in Greek philosophy a reference to transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death.

5. Annotated in pencil on the top right corner "[WP1/8/54 f 2 of 2]".

6. Kenosis: From the Greek for "emptiness". In Christian theology, the "self-emptying" of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will.

7. Seraph. A type of heavenly being in Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 6:1-8 uses the term seraphim (literally "burning ones") to describe fiery six-winged beings that fly around the Throne of God.

8. A misquotation from the poem In Memoriam A.H.H by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1849: "Let knowledge grow from more to more, | But more of reverence in us dwell"

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