Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/409

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CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

These indications of a general truth, which will be abundantly exemplified when treating of each kind of ceremonial observance, I here give in brief, as further showing that the control of ceremony precedes in order of evolution the civil and religious controls, and has therefore to be first dealt with.

 

On passing from the most general to the less general aspects of ceremonial government, we are met by the question, "How do there arise those modifications of behavior which constitute it?" Commonly it is assumed that they are consciously fixed upon as symbolizing reverence or respect. In pursuance of the usual method of speculating about primitive practices, developed ideas are read back into undeveloped minds. The supposition is of the same kind as that which gave origin to the social-contract theory: a kind of conception that has become familiar to the civilized man is supposed to have been familiar to man in his earliest state. But, just as little basis as there is for the belief that primitive men deliberately made social contracts, is there for the belief that primitive men deliberately adopted symbols. The current error is best seen on turning to the most developed kind of symbolization—that of language. The savage does not sit down and knowingly coin a word; but the words which he finds in use, and the new ones which come into use during his life, grow up unawares by onomatopœa, or by vocal suggestions of qualities, or by metaphor which some observable likeness suggests. Among civilized peoples, however, who have learned that words are symbolic, new words are frequently chosen to symbolize new ideas. So, too, is it with written language. The early Egyptian never thought of choosing a sign to represent a sound, but his records began, as those of North American Indians begin now, with rude pictures of the transactions to be kept in memory; and, as the process of recording extended, the pictures, abbreviated and generalized, lost more and more their likenesses to objects and acts, until, under stress of the need for expressing proper names, some of them were used phonetically, and signs of sounds came unawares into existence. But, in our days, there has been reached a stage at which, as short-hand shows us, special signs are consciously chosen to symbolize special sounds. The lesson taught is obvious. Just as it would be an error to conclude that, because we knowingly choose sounds to symbolize ideas, and marks to symbolize sounds, the like was originally done by savages and by barbarians; so is it an error to conclude that, because among the civilized, certain ceremonies (say those of freemasons) are arbitrarily fixed upon, so ceremonies were arbitrarily fixed upon by the uncivilized. Already, in indicating the primitiveness of ceremonial control, I have named some modes of behavior expressing subordination which have a natural genesis; and here the implication to which I would draw attention is that, until we have found a natural genesis for a ceremony, we may