What does Ellen White’s statement about amalgamation mean?

Back in January of 1995, a Review author answered a question from a reader who said that Mrs. White had claimed a fruitful mating of humans and animals. Perhaps this is the item you remember reading. To put the answer in a few words, the claim that Mrs. White said this is simply not true—she did not say that.

The following is from pages 491, 492 of Messenger of the Lord, an informative and helpful book by Herbert E. Douglass.

Critics have charged that Ellen White wrote in 1864 (and republished in 1870) that humans once cohabited with animals and that their offspring produced certain races that exist today. [Ellen White’s] statement reads: “But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere. God purposed to destroy by a flood that powerful, long-lived race that had corrupted their ways before Him” [Spiritual Gifts, 3:64].

No dictionary has ever used “amalgamation” to describe the cohabitation of man with beast. . . . Nineteenth-century usage included the mixing of diverse races. . . .

On two other occasions, Mrs. White used the word “amalgamation.” She used it metaphorically, comparing faithful believers and worldlings. [Note: “Those who profess to be followers of Christ, should be living agencies, cooperating with heavenly intelligences; but by union with the world, the character of God’s people becomes tarnished, and through amalgamation with the corrupt, the fine gold becomes dim” (Review and Herald, August 23, 1892).] And she used it to describe the origin of poisonous plants and other irregularities in the biological world: “ . . . Every noxious herb is of [Satan’s] sowing, and by his ingenious methods of amalgamation he has corrupted the earth with tares” [Selected Messages, 2:288].

Recognizing that Satan has been an active agent in the corrupting of God’s plan for man, beast, plants, etc., we can better understand what Ellen White may have meant when she described the results of amalgamation. That which “defaced the image of God” in man and that which “confused the species [of animals]” has been the handiwork of Satan with the cooperation of humans. Such “amalgamation of man and [of] beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men,” becomes understandable.

Mrs. White never hinted of subhuman beings or any kind of hybrid animal-human relationship. She did speak of “species of animals” and “races of men” but not any kind of amalgam of animals with human beings.

Here is the key statement that I think helps us to determine what Mrs. White did mean, or at least what she did not mean: “Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men” (Spiritual Gifts, 3:75).

The question is whether “amalgamation of man and beast” here means amalgamation of human beings with beasts or amalgamation of human beings with human beings and of beasts with beasts. Though I am not entirely sure what Mrs. White had in mind in this statement (which she dropped from later reworkings of this material), I have to conclude that she had the latter interpretation in view, since this amalgamation, she said, has brought about “the almost endless varieties of species of animals.”

Think about it. Did the great variety of animals result from a union of human being with beast? No one I know of argues that this great variety is due to any such “amalgamation,” nor have I heard anyone try to claim that Mrs. White believed that of the animals. Her critics always focus on the narrower question of some midway species, part human and part beast, and often they try to say that her reference to “certain races of men” indicates that she considered blacks to be a result of such a crossing. I don’t believe it. What she actually did say in this paragraph is incompatible, in my opinion, with the idea that offspring were formed by a union of humans and animals. Note that in the last sentence of the statement she clearly distinguished man from beast even after the amalgamation had taken place. Where would be the dividing line if the two had crossed? Further, Ellen White made no connection between this amalgamation and blacks.

It is much easier to say what I believe Mrs. White did not mean than it is to show what she did mean. If she did not intend to convey the idea of amalgamation of human beings with beasts, then she must have meant amalgamation of human being with human being and of beast with beast, the results of which, she said, could still be seen in the great variety in the animal kingdom and in certain races of men.

As for amalgamation among humans and what Mrs. White may have meant by that, we don’t have much to go on there either. The closest I know of in Mrs. White’s writings is her explanation of Genesis 6:2, 4, in Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 81, 82. There she says when “ ‘the sons of God [Seth’s descendants] saw the daughters of men [Cain’s descendants] that they were fair’ ” and intermarried with them, “sin spread abroad in the earth like a deadly leprosy.”

Did Mrs. White have this kind of crossing in mind in her amalgamation statement? I don’t know. This interpretation does have the virtue of parallel citing: where the Bible gives the mixing of the “sons of God” with the “daughters of men” as a cause leading up to the Flood, Mrs. White similarly lists amalgamation as such a cause. Was she implying that these were the same transgression? I don’t think we can determine this well enough to satisfy everyone.

See also the preceding question and answer.