Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/544

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pages, in which Mr. Karl Knortz, under the title "Mythology and Civilization of the North American Indians," gives the impression made on him during a visit among the Indians. Having read such books as we have on the subject, he has selected and briefly sketched a few of the myths, drawing some deductions from them. In the second part of the pamphlet he takes a rather favorable view of the prospect of civilization among the remaining tribes. It will be a pity if the book is not translated, as its pleasant style would make it popular reading among many who are not capable of taking it in the present form. We call attention to this book as an indication that the subject is receiving the attention abroad which it should have at home.

In what follows, an attempt is made to indicate a direction in which the Indian myths throw light on early religion. There is nothing new in the view taken, though it is one which has not yet received sufficient consideration.

The civilization of Europe to-day is generally accepted as the result of passing through three stages of social growth:

First, that of hunters, wandering over the country in search of animal food for daily sustenance.

Second, that of nomadic shepherds, moving about from pasture to pasture with herds of domesticated animals, which supply food and clothing more regularly and with less hardship than does the hunt.

Third, the stage of agriculture, when the plow anchors man to the spot of chosen land. Out of this has grown, after a long and tedious struggle, our complicated commercial civilization.

The Indian belongs to the first of these stages, and in attempting to civilize him we are trying to raise him to the third, without his having passed through the second. To say the least, it is extremely doubtful if even our assistance can accomplish a result which Nature has denied everywhere else. However, to return, the Indian myths are those of a hunter; and the Aryan was once, long, long ago, a hunter. This point of contact is what gives the myths their principal interest. They preserve the religious feeling of what is considered the earliest civilization, and are, therefore, valuable to a student of the progressive growth of religion; and this, however different anthropology and physiology may show the Aryan and Indian.

In all religions there are two great omnipresent relations of man to nature, to God, and of man to man. One is the worship side, the other the moral side. Confining ourselves to the relation of man to nature, what has the study of early Aryan myths shown to be man's first conception of the nature around him? The Hindoos have probably wandered less over the face of the earth, and suffered less, than any other Aryan people. Their early religious records are consequently the clearest and the best preserved. From these it appears that the earliest religion was what is now called animisn. This is, as you choose, the soul, ghost, or spirit theory of nature; and is sup-