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NATURAL CAUSES

AND

SUPERNATURAL SEEMINGS.

STATEMENT OF THE ARGUMENT.

How is it that mankind, in different ages and places from their beginning until now, have had so many different notions concerning the supernatural, if there be a supernatural with which they can come into relations of knowledge and feeling? How is it that they have had any notions at all concerning it, if there be no such accessible supernatural ? Those who believe confidently that there is not, or that in any case we cannot know anything about it, ought to show how it has come to pass that people everywhere, savage, barbarous, and cultured, have been impelled to construct it in the forms in which they have constructed it ; a plain scientific obligation lies on them

B

to explain the natural origin of human belief respecting that which is beyond the reach of human thought. Those who imagine that there is a supernatural, and that we know something about it, ought, on their part, to formularize plainly the different methods of its revelation, to examine critically their respective claims to authority, and finally to make plain which revelation has the best authority, if there be more than one true, or which is the true one, if one only be true.

While that is waiting to be done, it will not be amiss to inquire and examine how far the causes of beliefs in the supernatural, and of the sundry and diverse notions that have been entertained concerning it in different times and places, can be identified with causes which are habitually working in human thought now, and which were more largely operative in its more primitive stages of development. These causes may be classed as follows :

I. Causes which lie in the natural operations of the sound mind; of which two principal divisions may properly be made, namely

1. The natural defects and errors of human observation and reasoning.

2. The prolific activity of the imagination, always eager and pleased to exercise itself. For it ought to be well considered in this relation that, while the

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