Mr. G. L. Dickinson, M.A., of King's College, Cambridge, England, delivered the Ingersoll lecture for this year last night on "The Immortality of Man." President Eliot introduced the speaker.
The question of the immortality of man is a great one and has never been solved. There are three different and incompatible aspects of the question. First there are those people who do not think about immortality, then those who fear it, and finally those who desire it. The majority of people are of the first class; they accept death as inevitable and seldom or never think about a future life, not even on their death-beds. There are some people who have simply had enough of life and desire only to rest in oblivion, and others who desire extinction because they have found this life unjust and cruel, and fear that the future one is no better. Again there are those who do not wish to die, and their desire for immortality is merely the expression of this wish.
It might be desirable to repeat life without memory of past existences. This was Nietzsche's doctrine. The early Christian conception of immortality fills one with something like horror. Universal extinction is better than this.
It is impossible to picture the kind of life with which we would be perfectly satisfied. By Heaven we mean that ultimate end of human endeavor which we hope to be good; it lies beyond death; it is that elusive ideal of which we are forever in quest. Another great question is whether the soul is conscious in after life of its former existence.