Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/923

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THE saying that we can not put old heads on young shoulders, figuratively expresses, among other truths, the truth that the beliefs which in youth result from small information joined with undisciplined thought and feeling, can not, until after long years, be replaced by the beliefs which wider knowledge and better balanced mental powers produce. And while it is usually impracticable to ante-date the results of mental development and culture, it is also usually impracticable to arouse, during early stages, any such distrust of convictions then formed, as should be caused by the perception that there is much more to be learned.

This general remark, trite in substance though it is, I am prompted to make à propos of the profound change which study of many peoples in many places and times causes in those ideas of social organization which are current—ideas entertained not only by the young but also by the majority of the old, who, relatively to the subject-matter to be investigated, are also young. For patient inquiry and calm thought make it manifest that sundry institutions regarded with strong prejudices have been essential institutions; and that the development of society has everywhere been determined by agencies—especially political and ecclesiastical—of characters condemned by the higher sentiments and incongruous with an advanced social ideal.

One in whom aversion to autocratic rule is strong, does not willingly recognize the truth that without autocratic rule the evolution of society could not have commenced; and one to whom the thought of priestly control is repugnant, can not, without difficulty, bring himself to see that during early stages priestly control was necessary. But contemplation of the evidence, while proving these general facts, also makes it manifest that in the nature of things groups of men out of which organized societies germinate, must, in passing from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, have first assumed the form in which one individual predominates—a nucleus of the group serving as a center of initiation for all subsequent steps in development. Though, as fast as society advances, and especially as fast as the militant type yields place to the industrial type, a centralized and coercive control, political and ecclesiastical, becomes less needful, and plays a continually decreasing part in social evolution; yet the evidence compels us to admit that at first it was indispensable.