426 PSYCHOTHERAPY : SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS chap.
universe described by physical science ; and this conviction must add dignity, seriousness, and significance to our lives, and must thus throw a great weight into the scale against the dangers that threaten every advanced civilization/
Freud 6s has worked out a hypothesis of a death instinct, but it seems to be quite remote from the theoretical background of psychoanalysis. In this Freud shows his indebtedness to August Weismann who, in order to support his theory that acquired characteristics could not be transmitted, made his famous distinction between soma and germ plasm. The former was mortal, the latter immortal. At an early stage in the differentiation of the embryo the germ plasm was set aside and thenceforward insulated from the soma. This conception was welcomed by Freud as the biological counterpart of his life and death instincts the germ plasm was the life instinct and the soma the death instinct. The following is a well-known passage from Weismann's works which is quoted by Freud: ' In my opinion, life became limited in its duration not because it was contrary to its very nature to be unlimited, but because an unlimited persistence of the individual would be a luxury without a purpose \ This view has been strongly criticized and the case for believing that death is physiological is far stronger than that for regarding it as the gratification of a specific instinct20 (pp. 142-176). Actually, natural death is an event which rarely occurs in nature. According to the ideal of the physiologists, early death should be unknown except in case of accident. Death should come as the result of a slow wearing out of the body, without pain or suffering, and as peacefully as sleep.
But even if it comes at the latest possible age, if it is conceived of as the termination of life, to some meaning