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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/459

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

SEPTEMBER, 1900.




THE MODERN OCCULT.
By Professor JOSEPH JASTROW,

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN.

IF that imaginary individual so convenient for literary illustration, a visitor from Mars, were to alight upon our planet at the present time, and if his intellectual interests induced him to take a survey of mundane views of what is "in heaven above, or on the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth," of terrestrial opinions in regard to the great problems of mind and matter, of government and society, of life and death—our Martian observer might conceivably report that a limited portion of mankind were guided by views that were the outcome of accumulated toil, and generations of studious devotion, representing a slow and tortuous, but progressive growth through error and superstition, and at the cost of persecution and bloodshed; that they maintained institutions of learning where the fruits of such thought could be imparted and the seeds cultivated to bear still more richly, but that outside of this respectable yet influential minority there were endless upholders of utterly unlike notions and of widely diverging beliefs, clamoring like the builders of the tower of Babel in diverse tongues.

It is well at least occasionally to remember that our conceptions of science and of truth, of the nature of logic and of evidence, are not so universally held as we unreflectingly assume or as we hopefully wish. Almost every one of the fundamental and indisputable tenets of science is regarded as hopelessly in error by some ardent would-be reformer. One Hampden declares that the earth is a motionless plane with the North Pole as the center; one Carpenter gives a hundred remarkable reasons why the earth is not round, with a challenge to the