Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/18

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body had brought on a mortal disease. For the idea that the supremacy of the mind could be enforced by debilitating penances is a fatal mistake; an enervated body, instead of ministering to the needs of the mind, becomes its tyrant, a querulous, capricious, and exorbitant master. Every hospital attendant knows that, with the rarest exceptions, the sufferers from exhausting diseases have no more self-control than a fretful child. Neither can the progress of our mechanical industries be made a pretext for undervaluing the advantages of an athletic education. It has been prophesied that the time will come when the autocrat of the breakfast-table shall break his egg with a dynamite wafer; but, unless we invent a labor-saving contrivance for every muscle of the human organism, there is not a day in the year nor an hour in the day when the practical business of life can not be performed more easily and more pleasantly with the aid of a vigorous body, not to re-mention the moral disadvantages which never fail to attend the loss of manly self-reliance. Active exercises also confer beauty of form and a natural grace of deportment. "By their system of physical culture," says a Scotch author, "the Greeks realized that beautiful symmetry of shape which for us exists only in the ideal, or in the forms of divinity which they sculptured from figures of such perfect proportions."

That a man's welfare in every sense of the word depends upon the normal development of his body might, therefore, seem an axiom whose self-evidence could be questioned only in a fit of insane infatuation; yet an Oriental fanatic has succeeded in tainting countless millions of his fellow-men with this very insanity. About six hundred years before the beginning of our chronological era, a speculative philosopher of northern Hindostan set about to investigate the origin of the sufferings which so often make human life a burden instead of a blessing, and, failing to trace these afflictions to any avoidable cause, he took it into his head that terrestrial existence itself must be an evil, and conceived the unhappy idea of preaching a crusade against the love of earth and the rights of the human body, as distinct from a supposed preternatural part of our being. His success has been, beyond all compare, the greatest calamity that ever befell the human race since the days of the traditional deluge; not only that the doctrines of Gautama bore their fruit in the utter physical degeneration of his native country, and the populous empires of Eastern Asia, but, seven centuries after, the essential doctrines of Buddhism, intensified by an admixture of Gnostic demonism and Hebrew mythology, were preached upon the shores of the Mediterranean and invaded the paradise of the Aryan nations. A mania of self-torture and miracle-worship broke out like a mental epidemic, and, at the very time when the influence of Grecian civilization began to wane, the new creed spread into Italy, and the friends of science and freedom were confronted with the fearful danger of an anti-natural religion. What that danger meant, our liberated age can hardly realize unless we review the