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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/190

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

better expressions of the essence of the modern doctrine of evolution can be found than are presented by some of his pithy aphorisms and striking metaphors.[1] Indeed, many of my present


    of life in the Asiatic colonies. The Ionian polities had passed through the whole gamut of social and political changes, from patriarchal and occasionally oppressive kingship to rowdy and still more burdensome mobshi—p no doubt with infinitely eloquent and copious argumentation on both sides at every stage of their progress toward that arbitrament of force which settles most pohtical questions. The marvelous speculative faculty, latent in the Ionian, had come in contact with Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Phoenician theologies and cosmogonies; with the illumiuati of Orphism and the fanatics and dreamers of the Mysteries; possibly with Buddhism and Zoroasterism; possibly even with Judaism. And it has been observed that the mutual contradictions of antagonistic supernaturalisms are apt to play a large part among the generative agencies of naturalism.

    Thus, various external influences may have contributed to the rise of philosophy among the Ionian Greeks of the sixth century. But the assimilative capacity of the Greek mind—its power of Hellenizing whatever it touched—has here worked so effectually that, so far as I can learn, no indubitable traces of such extraneous contributions are now allowed to exist by the most authoritative historians of philosophy. Nevertheless, I think it must be admitted that the coincidences between the Heracleito-stoical doctrines and those of the older Hindu philosophy are extremely remarkable. In both the cosmos pursues an eternal succession of cvclical changes. The great year, answering to the Kalpa, covers an entire cycle from the origin of the universe as a fluid to its dissolution in fire—"Humor initium, ignis exitus mundi," as Seneca has it. In both systems there is immanent in the cosmos a source of energy, Brahma, or the Logos, which works according to fixed laws. The individual soul is an efflux of this world-spirit, and returns to it. Perfection is attainable only by individual effort through ascetic discipline, and is rather a state of painlessness than of happiness, if indeed it can be said to be a state of anything save the negation of perturbing emotion. The hatchment motto "In Cœlo Quies" would serve both Hindu and Stoic, and absolute quiet is not easily distinguishable from annihilation.

    Zoroasterism, which geographically occupies a position intermediate between Hellenism and Hinduism, agrees with the latter in recognizing the essential evil of the cosmos, but differs from both in its intensely anthropomorphic personification of the two antagonistic principles, to the one of which it ascribes all the good, and to the other all the evil. In fact, it assumes the existence of two worlds, one good and one bad; the latter created by the evil power for the purpose of damaging the former. The existing cosmos is a mere mixture of the two, and the "last judgment" is a root and branch extirpation of the work of Ahriman.

  1. There is no snare in which the feet of a modern student of ancient lore are more easily entangled than that which is spread by the similarity of the language of antiquity to modern modes of expression. I do not presume to interpret the obscurest of Greek philosophers; all I wish is to point out that his words, in the sense accepted by competent interpreters, tit modern ideas singularly well.

    So far as the general theory of evolution goes, there is no difficulty. The aphorism about the river; the figure of the child playing on the shore; the kingship and fatherhood of strife, seem decisive. The ὀδὸς ἆνω κάτω μίη expresses with singular aptness the cyclical aspect of the one process of organic evolution in individual plants and animals; yet it may be a question whether the Heracleitean strife included any distinct conception of the struggle for existence. Again, it is tempting to compare the part played by the Heracleitean "fire" with that ascribed by the moderns to heat, or rather to that cause of motion of which heat is one expression; and a little ingenuity might find a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the conservation of energy in the saying that all the things are changed into fire and fire into all things, as gold into goods and goods into gold.