Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/692

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

fect of the Being, superior to all definition, which the human mind has discerned more clearly according to its development, through and above them all?

It seems as if the variety of symbols should be without limits, as are the combinations of the human imagination. But we not rarely find the same symbolical figures among the most distant peoples. Such coincidences can hardly be explained as matters of chance, like the combinations of the kaleidoscope. Aside from the case of symbols found among peoples belonging to the same race, which can be traced back to the common cradle, there are only two possible explanations of them. The images have either been conceived separately, by virtue of some law of the human mind, or they have passed from one country to another by borrowing.

There is a symbolism so natural that, like certain implements peculiar to the Stone age, it does not belong to any particular race, but constitutes a characteristic trait of mankind at a certain phase of its development. Of this class are representations of the sun by a disk or radiating face, of the moon by a crescent, of the air by birds, of water by fishes or a broken line, of thunder by an arrow or a club, etc. We ought, perhaps, to add a few more complicated analogies, as those which lead to symbolizing the different phases of human life by the growth of a tree, the generative forces of nature by phallic emblems, the divine triads by an equilateral triangle or, in general, by any triple combination the members of which are equal, and the four principal directions of space by a cross. How many theories have been built up on the presence of the cross as an object of veneration among nearly all the peoples of the Old and New Worlds! Roman Catholic writers have justly protested, in recent years, against attributing a pagan origin to the cross of the Christians because there were cruciform signs in the symbolism of religions anterior to Christianity. It is also right by the same reason to refuse to accept the attempts to seek for infiltrations of Christianity in foreign religions because they also possess the sign of redemption.

When the Spaniards seized Central America, they found in the native temples crosses which passed for the symbol sometimes of a deity at once terrible and beneficent, Tlaloc; at other times of a civilizing hero, white and bearded, Quetzacoatl, who, according to the tradition, came from the East. They concluded that the cross had been brought to the Toltecs by Christian missionaries of whom the trace had been lost; and, as there must always be some known name to a legend, they gave the honor to St. Thomas, the legendary apostle of all the Indies. Although there were men to defend this theory in the last Congress of Americanists, it may be regarded as definitely rejected. It is now established that the pre-Columbian cross is a wind-rose representing the four princi-