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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/356

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Quite early there thus begin those grades of supernatural beings which eventually become so strongly marked.

Habitual wars, which more than all other causes initiate these first differentiations, go on to initiate further and more decided ones. For, with those compoundings of small social aggregates into greater ones, and recompounding of these into still greater, which war effects, there, of course, with the multiplying gradations of power among living men, arises the conception of multiplying gradations of power among their ghosts. Thus in course of time are formed the conceptions of the great ghosts or gods, the more numerous secondary ghosts, or demi-gods, and so on downward—a pantheon: there being still, however, no essential distinction of kind; as we see in the calling of ordinary ghosts manes-gods by the Romans and elohim by the Hebrews. Moreover, repeating as the other life in the other world does, the life in this world, in its needs, occupations, and social organization, there arises not only a differentiation of grades among supernatural beings in respect of their powers, but also in respect of their characters and kinds of activity. There come to be local gods, and gods reigning over this or that order of phenomena; there come to be good and evil spirits of various qualities; and where there has been by conquest a superposing of societies one upon another, each having its own system of ghost-derived beliefs, there results an involved combination of such beliefs, constituting a mythology.

Of course, ghosts primarily being doubles like the originals in all things, and gods (when not the living members of a conquering race) being doubles of the more powerful men, it results that they, too, are originally no less human than ordinary ghosts in their physical characters, their passions, and their intelligences. Like the doubles of the ordinary dead, they are supposed to consume the flesh, blood, bread, wine, given to them: at first literally, and later in a more spiritual way by consuming the essences of them. They not only appear as visible and tangible persons, but they enter into conflicts with men, are wounded, suffer pain: the sole distinction being that they have miraculous powers of healing and consequent immortality. Here, indeed, there needs a qualification; for not only do various peoples hold that the gods die a first death (as naturally happens where they are the members of a conquering race, called gods because of their superiority), but, as in the case of Pan, it is supposed, even among the cultured, that there is a second and final death of a god, like that second and final death of a ghost supposed among existing savages. With advancing civilization the divergence of the supernatural being from the natural being becomes more decided. There is nothing to check the gradual dematerialization of the ghost and of the god; and this dematerialization is insensibly furthered in the effort to reach consistent ideas of supernatural action: the god ceases to be tangible, and later he ceases to be visible or audible. Along