Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/351

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the Bushman, the Solomon Islander, in hours of danger and necessity "yearns after the gods," and has present in his heart the idea of a father and friend. This is the religious element. The same man, when he comes to speculate on causes or to indulge his fancy for fiction, will degrade this spiritual friend and father to the level of the beasts, and will make him the hero of comic or repulsive adventures. This is the mythical or irrational element. Religion, in its moral aspect, always traces back to the belief in a power that is benign and works for righteousness. Myth, even in Homer or the Rig-Veda, perpetually falls back on the old stock of absurd and immoral divine adventures.

It would be rash, in the present state of knowledge, to pronounce that the germ of the serious Homeric sense of the justice and power of the Divinity is earlier or later than the germ of the Homeric stories of gods disguised as animals, or imprisoned by mortals, or kicked out of Olympus. The rational and irrational aspects of mythology and religion may be of coeval antiquity for all that is certainly known, or either of them, in the dark backward of mortal experience, may have preceded the other. There is probably no religion nor mythology which does not offer both aspects to the student. But it is the part of advancing civilisation to adorn and purify the rational element, and to subordinate and supersede the irrational element, as far as religious conservatism, ritual, and priestly dogma will permit.

It has been said that we have no specimen of