Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/497

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ÆSTHETICISM AND RELIGION IN ANIMALS.

throwing them to a distance, and generally giving them the appearance of animation, in order to give himself the ideal pleasure of worrying them. On one occasion, therefore, I tied a long and fine thread to a dry bone and gave him the latter to play with. After he had tossed it about for a short time I took the opportunity, when it had fallen at a distance from him and while he was following it up, of gently drawing it away from him by means of the long, invisible thread. Instantly his whole demeanor changed. The bone, which he had previously pretended to be alive, began to look as if it were really alive, and his astonishment knew no bounds. He first approached it with nervous caution, but, as the slow receding motion continued and he became quite certain that the movement could not be accounted for by any residuum of force which he had himself communicated, his astonishment developed into dread, and he ran to conceal himself under some articles of furniture, there to behold at a distance the 'uncanny' spectacle of a dry bone coming to life." In this instance we have the exercise of close observation, judgment, reason, and imagination culminating in the exhibition of superstitious fear—all the elements, in short, which constitute religious sentiment in its crudest form.

Animals are afraid of darkness for the same reason that children are. Thunder, lightning, and other violent meteorological phenomena, which inspire the primitive man with awe and therefore play a prominent part in the evolution of early mythology, produce a similar impression upon many of the lower animals, simply because they are mysterious noises which appeal to the imagination and stimulate the mythopœic faculty. Mr. Romanes states that "on one occasion, when a number of apples were being shot out of bags upon the wooden floor of an apple-room, the sound in the house as each bag was shot closely resembled that of distant thunder." A setter was greatly alarmed at the noise until he was taken to the apple-room and shown the cause of it, after which "his dread entirely left him, and on again returning to the house he listened to the rumbling with all cheerfulness." Dogs and horses can be completely cured of their fear of thunder by being present at artillery practice; they imagine that they now know what produces the dreadful roar, and are henceforth free from all apprehension concerning it.

To some extent this sense of the supernatural seems to enter into the sphere of pure imagination and to excite in the minds of animals those vague feelings of anxiety and alarm arising from mere figments of the brain and characterized as superstition. The following incident, "illustrating the instinctive fear of death and consciousness of its presence manifested by birds," is related by Buist: "A hen canary died, was buried, the nesting estab-