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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/871

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SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

lines, and the conclusions are reached that we do not know, except as a matter of probability, whether we have still visible any original wrinkles of the earth's crust; and that some of the estimates of the time it has taken to produce the changes of which we witness the results have been very much exaggerated.

 

The curious conclusions obtained by Dr. Le Bon in his psychological investigations,[1] delivered to us in startling language, are said to be the fruit of extensive travel and of the personal measurement of thousands of skulls. His memoir on cervical researches, published in 1879, upholds the theory that the volume of the skull varies with the intelligence. This theory has perhaps suffered a permanent adumbration. Facts seem to prove that the bony structure of the skull, or even its cranial capacity, gives no positive indication of intellect.

In the present volume the theme of discussion is the soul of races. Anthropological classification is set aside and mankind is divided into four groups according to mental characteristics: the primitive, inferior, average, and superior races—the standard of judgment being the degree of their aptitude for dominating reflex impulses. It is perhaps worthy of note that while the Frenchman belongs to a superior race, the Semitic peoples are placed in the class below, or the average sort. For the primitive varieties it is not necessary to observe a South Sea islander, the lower strata of Europeans furnishing numerous examples. When greater differentiation is reached, the word "race" is used in a historical sense. It requires, however, more complete fusion than some nations exhibit to earn this title; for, although there are Germans and Americans, "it is not clear as yet that there are Italians." The race having been once evolved, acquires wondrous potentialities with Dr. Le Bon. He compares it to the totality of cells constituting a living organism, asserts that its mental constitution is as unvarying as its anatomical structure, that it is a permanent being independent of time and founded alone by its dead. It is a short step to endow this entity with a soul consisting of common sentiments, interests, and beliefs—what in brief, robbed of hyperbole, we should call national character. He states that the notion of a country is not possible until a national soul is formed. This, in time, like germ-plasm, becomes so stable that assimilation with foreign elements is impossible. Like natural species, it has secondary characteristics that may be modified, but its fundamental character is like the fin of the fish or the beak of the bird. The acquisition of this soul marks the apogee of the greatness of a people. Psychological species, however, are not eternal, but may decay if the functioning of their organs is troubled profoundly.

The soul of the race is best expressed in its art, not in its history or institutions, and, as it can not bequeath its soul, so it can not impress its civilization or art upon an alien race. It was on account of this incompatibility of soul that Grecian art failed to be implanted in India. The unaltering constituent of the soul corresponds to character, while intellectual qualities are variable. By character is meant perseverance, energy, power of self-control, also morality. The latter is hereditary respect for the rules on which a society is based. This definition would make polygamy a moral notion for Mormons. The knowledge of character "can be acquired neither in laboratories nor in books, but only in the course of


  1. The Psychology of Peoples. By Gustave Le Bon. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 230. Price, $1.50.