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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Nemo   [1876?]1

Dear Sir

If I thus take the liberty of addressing you it is because I am a lover of the truth and that I know you are a searcher of the same, and however infinitismal that truth may be and however humble the instrument you will accept and receive it with kindliness. I now proceed.

I consider that your evolution theory is correct, but I object to the means which you have adopted for its development. allow me to observe with every deference to your wisdom & knowledge, that natural selection cannot be a sufficient agency for the purpose, and we must seek it in a power per se created for this end. Now that such a power exists I think can be postulated if not indeed proved by what precedes it, looking to the inorganic world we find two powers or principles which govern it, viz, gravity and chemical affinity,2 the first is universal and homogeneous, by the second it becomes differentiated or heterogeneous, proceeding to the organic we find also one universal and homogeneous principle which is called by the general term life, it also like the inorganic world becomes heterogeneous and differentiated   it is not asking too much if we suppose that this differentiation is obtained by the same means as in the former that is by a power per se which we might call spiritual affinity in contradistinction to chemical. This power like its first fellow worker is the cause of all the natural phenomena in the Universe, it becomes conditioned when its affinities in the natural world are suited for its manifestation   it is thus that man is the last in the animal creation to make his appearance as he has the most complex organisation & to obtain this needed the highest organic conditions in life. This power I consider to be our conscious Ego, and produces consciousness of being in every living thing endowed with a brain, in those that have none it is simply mechanical altho in all it manifests itself more or less in this way. This spirit as its counterpart in the inorganic world can have no existence or sense of consciousness without its material affinities; it is through them that it knows itself and the outward universe, the so called spiritual manifestations of the day are produced by some other agency— when this power within any living creature is set free by the disruption of its present conditions, it immediately seeks its natural affinities, and reappears again, and its self consciousness is again restored, it is in fact a new creation, and enters a new life, and this new life it finds in that sea of life which surrounds us on all sides, and as the seed requires each a particular soil and conditions, so this spiritual seed sown by the hand of the Creator springs up into new life and energies in the race to which it belongs, thus in former times this process was called transmigration   the term now a days is evolution and it is the correct one. Men of Science abhor the word spirit and everything that approaches the supernatural and yet the finite and the infinite are inseparable, it is in their endeavours to place them apart which makes their failures so frequent and so flagrant in their endeavours to explain the ways of the Almighty, which are obtained by much simpler means than they imagine, starting from one or two first principles which all must recognise, the diversity which pervades them are producing by the various influences brought to bear upon them. I conclude by saying theologians are wrong in postulating a heaven and a hell outside of this world, Men of Science are wrong when they strive to push the Almighty Creative spirit out of the Universe, and all are wrong both those who suppose that there is no life after death for every living individual or that that life can be had with the exclusion of the material universe and the material body—

I remain | Dear Sir | Yours Sincerely | Nemo.


The writer of the letter has not been identified. Nemo (no-one: Latin) was a common pseudonym for those who wished to write letters to newspapers anonymously. The year is conjectured from the annotation ‘1876’ in an unknown hand.
Chemical affinity, or chemical attraction: the tendency of an element to unite with another element to form compounds (OED); for more on the definition of chemical affinity in this period, see Watts 1872–4, 1: 850–67.


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Watts, Henry. 1872–4. A dictionary of chemistry and the allied branches of other sciences. 2d edition. 5 vols. London: Longman, Green, & Co.


A believer in evolution seeks to convince CD that a spiritual creative force, rather than natural selection, explains its operation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 172: 13
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10333,” accessed on 22 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24