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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/579

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NOTES ON PHILOSOPHIES OF THE DAY

NOTES ON CERTAIN PHILOSOPHIES OF THE DAY
By ALEXANDER F. CHAMBERLAIN, Ph.D.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY IN CLARK UNIVERSITY, WORCESTER, MASS.

I. The Rule of the Dead.—M. Le Bon, himself now in the other world, would have it that we are suffering inutterably from a sort of universal mort-main. There is but one real ease of majority rule on earth, that of "those who have gone before." Our masters and rulers are neither the select few among the living, nor the many-headed people, but the great hulking mass of the dead.

With de mortuis nil nisi bonum goes e vivis nihil honi. We praise the dead with our living tongues and let their inanimate hands act for us. Our thoughts, no less than our bodies, are heirlooms from the departed. Like the savage, we hear the dead whispering by the rivers of life and speak their words after them. We bear the burden of their sins; we reap the harvest of their mistakes and their calamities. Paul, the apostle, is not the only one who had the right to say "I die daily," for all men and women are in uninterrupted intercourse with the dead. Even children, just beginning to live, are schooled with dead languages. The old, in their second childhood, are counted already dead. Youth, so full of life, is taught the art of war, adding, by national command, to the number of the dead. Only when dead are the races that were here before us, like the Indian, "good."

Yet many great ones of mankind have longed for emancipation from the rule of the dead. Some adventurous psychologists hold out the hope that some day we shall control the past instead of being absolutely at its beck and call as we now are. The racial and the individual past shall both be ours and memory-guided progress will speed us on to the destined goal. Then, indeed, shall "old men dream dreams" and "young men see visions," and all who see in sleep, like Mahomet, shall see truly. Fear of the unconscious and dread of the past shall be lost in the conscious control of the experience of other days, of times gone by. Then shall they be, as we have fondly imagined them hitherto, the "good old days of yore." No longer shall we be the living tombs of the dead past that will not bury itself; no more phosphorescent merely with the immemorially defunct. We shall then have life, and life more abundantly.

II. Mutability.—Everything changes. As the old Greek philosopher said, flux is the very nature of things. Flora, fauna, races of men, civilizations, institutions, customs and habits, beliefs, ideas and