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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/427

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423
OF THE SOIL OF THE EARTH

in every state of society holds to the belief, more or less crude in its conception, that at the dissolution of the body the individual ego, soul, elusive psyche, will burst through the barrier of the material and pass into the limitless realm of the unknown.

Through the medium of his sense organs a man perceives the material portion of his environment, at least that part of it that can affect these nervous structures. The mind, however, reaches out beyond the frontiers of sense and has divined the existence of those supreme elemental forces that mold and shape the material universe. But not a hint comes from these efforts of mind and sense as to the great underlying question of the unknown. On this question, I take it, the primitive pagan is as enlightened as the most accomplished philosopher.

Touching the fact that a man's recognition of the unknown comes through the amplitude of his being, it becomes a matter of no small moment that this being is a state of living within the domain of a material environment. Whatever is discerned of the unknown environment can not come else than through natural means, for man is not greater than nature. Moreover the unknown is not a supernatural realm, nor is what man calls the soul a supernatural portion of his being. Both alike are indeterminable elements within the sphere of natural law and are supernatural only so far as they are indeterminable and represent an unknown quantity in our comprehension of the universe. Seeing that knowledge can not accomplish this end of knowing the unknowable, it remains for a man to know himself as a part of nature, which, so far as may be discerned, is working toward some vast purpose. It is surely no part of the scheme for him to blind himself with false ideas and vain imaginings about a hereafter. His work is to live the life of the great animal type into which he has developed, uplifted by all that comes to him through his exalted brain structure.

Research into the nature of things, which characterizes the modern scientific attitude of mind, is unquestionably a means toward a fuller appreciation of the conditions of existence. This does not necessarily imply, however, that the pagan's philosophy of life is altogether a failure. There is a warmth and vitality in the pagan view of nature which the scientific mind has never attained. The poet comes nearer to this, since the poet and the pagan alike personify the forces of nature and idealize the facts of life and environment. And it is on this idealization of the facts that men build their joy in life. This man of the Brandywine knew nothing of molecules or of the ultra-violet ray, yet he surely knew the joy of the opening spring. He was not versed in the geological history of his locality, but the hills and the stream were part of his very life and he read their story in his own way. The voices of the forest spoke to him in a language unknown to men