Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/273

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CIVILIZATION AND SCIENCE.

beings like himself, though usually hidden to his senses, whom he fancied to be free from the limitations to which he himself was subject, but who for the rest had the same emotions of love and hate, gratitude and revenge, with himself. The sum of such imaginings of a given nation at a given time we call its religion; but it might also be regarded as the personificative or anthropomorphic stage of our system of Nature. This attitude of man toward Nature is very clearly seen in Homer.

According to David Friedrich Strauss,[1] the bias of man's mind toward the personification of the forces of Nature has its root in the fact that so he hopes to win the favor of those unknown and dreaded powers. Perhaps a profounder reason could be assigned. Man originally knows no other cause of occurrences save his own will, the exercise of which is matter of direct experience, and hence it is that he refers all events back to the action of a will like his own. This explanation appears all the more probable, inasmuch as the same conception, only in a more refined form, still unconsciously pervades our theories of natural science. For undoubtedly this is the origin of the idea of Force which has done so much mischief in science, and which, despite all that we can do, is still ever creeping in.[2] We even see certain addle-brains in dead earnest entertaining the fantastic conceit that, by the aid of such anthropomorphic ideas as these, the mutual attractions of bodies across empty space can be explained. What difference is there between that Will which, according to our latest Nature-philosophers, drives the atoms together, and the gods of antiquity who animated the planets? The serpent of human knowledge has once more bitten its own tail; human science has reverted to its starting-point.

Very conclusively, as would appear at first sight, Buckle, in his "History of Civilization,"[3] from the aspects of Nature in different regions, deduces the religions there originating. He shows us India bounded on the north by the Himalayas, where Mount Everest towers to a height twice as great as that of Mont Blanc, where the Pass of Kwen-Lun leads into Thibet at an elevation equal to that of Caucasus, and where the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau, piled on top of one another, would only fill up one of the lateral valleys. Toward the south he shows us the Indian Peninsula, with its harborless coasts, projecting into a sea that stretches uninterrupted to the pole, and which is often swept by cyclones. From the mountains to the sea streams not to be bridged over flow, passing through interminable jungles, in which wild beasts and venomous serpents threaten the life of the wayfarer at every step. According to the official returns, about 11,000 persons lose their lives annually in British India from the bites of serpents, especially the cobra de capello.[4] Failure of crops, famine, and

  1. "The Old Faith and the New," New York, 1875.
  2. See Du Bois-Reymond's "Untersuchungen über thierische Elektricitat," Berlin, 1848, vol. i., p. xlii.
  3. "History of Civilization," New York, 1878, vol. i., chapter ii.
  4. Fayrer's "Thanatophidia of India," London, 1872, p. 32. Most probably, the num-