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nature, either in exactness or in completeness, since it consists of multitudinous partial, incomplete, fragmentary, scattered relations and groups of relations ; and that always within a very limited range compared with the limitless range of inaccessible phenomena. It is the business of obseryation to make the correspondence more exact, more connected, more complete within its range, and, if so be, to extend the range; a work which must in the nature of things always be effected by slow degrees, since changes in the order of events, demanding corresponding changes in the order of ideas, are equivalent to a demand upon the mental organization to put in function, if not to develop, new lines of organic structure. This it cannot do at all unless it retains its plastic energy. Compare in this relation an old man with a child : both hold confidently to the associations of ideas which experience has ingrafted in them ; but while the former, whose
1 mental tissues, so to speak, are dull and stiff with the rigidity of age, is unable easily or at all to relinquish them, and little curious or able to assimilate new ideas and to make accommodations to new circumstances, the latter, though quite as strongly dominated by the few notional associations which he has, and which in the nature of things he cannot conceive otherwise until exposed to new experiences, is full of eager curiosity, quickly impressionable by new facts, and readily adapts himself in thought, feeling, and conduct to new surroundings. Let the brain, by reason of a natural simplicity of constitution, as in the low savage and in the animal, or by reason of congenital defect, as in the imbecile, be without the nervous substrata which are necessary to subserve new developments of function, then it is impossible to ingraft the finer and more complex associations of ideas, and almost impossible to dissociate the few simple and common ones which the circumstances of life have occasioned.
How should the savage separate in thought two events that have occurred together uniformly in his experience? It would be as easy for him to separate two movements which he had never in his life performed separately. How can he learn a new thought, the organic basis of which, being laid only by the gradual work of culture continued through many generations, his simple brain is destitute of ? Charms and prayers, augury and omens, oracles, sortilege, ordeals, exorcisms, incantations, and divinings are the natural resort and refuge, as they are the exponents, of active imagination co-operating with defective observation and little-developed understanding. * Man must have something definite in the way of belief, in order to act at all; acting, then, in relation to a vast and mysterious universe of which he knows nothing, he is compelled to fashion for himself some sort of fixed stay or support, however provisional. Believing in sorcery, he must strive to get rid of the sorcerer; accordingly he institutes trial by ordeal, in order to detect the secret worker of mysterious evil, and thus at any rate gains a sense of some security from unknown dangers ; just as, in order to gain security of testimony, he still makes appeal to the supernatural by oaths on various solemn occasions.*
* In the language of cultured people it is common enough yet to hear events ascribed to good or ill luck, as if that were explanation at
$ The Favourable Conditions of Superstition.
It is obvious that the tendency of mind by which undue weight is given to the according event, and due weight not given to the occasions when the result does not answer desire or expectation, which has been so great and manifest a cause of errors of/observation and reasoning, has been a great, if not the greatest, all—anything more than meaningless superstition. A remarkably successful person is said, perhaps, to have had astonishing luck.
6 Wie sich Verdienst und Glück verketten
Das fällt den Thoren niemal ein ;
Der Weise mangelte dem Stein.”—Faust. * It hardly admits of doubt that oaths are, as Mr. Tylor has shown, descended legitimately from ordeals, of which they are in fact the natural survivals.
cause of the authority and credit which so many superstitions have enjoyed. Has it not notably been just where observation and reasoning were difficult or impossible that superstitions have sprung up and flourished ? Universally among savage and barbarous peoples, where observation and reflection were inchoate and rudimentary, intellect being in its infancy, and among cultured people in relation specially to matters that lay outside the range of definite apprehension. At the present day, the ocean and the desert, the vast solitude of the barren waters and the vast solitude of the barren sands, remain the favourite homes of spiritual hauntings and phantoms; for where the senses are overpowered by the dread vastness of nature, so that they cannot fix themselves in definite and steady apprehensions, they, reeling in a bewildered vertigo and producing a panic-like awe, become the easy victims of hallucinations and the prolific parents of superstitions.* In vastness which cannot be grasped in apprehension or compassed in thought, there is overpowering grandeur, and such grandeur inspires overwhelming awe ; which is reason enough why the desert and the ocean have been so full of terrors and are still called sublime, while an acre of sand and a pond of water, being nowise impressive, have no terrors and stir no suggestions of the infinite, either with or without an initial capital letter. Without doubt it was from a vague and mysterious awe of that immensity around them which they could not apprehend in definite thought and feeling that man in his early days created so many gods; just as in this age and country a person not disposed to superstition could hardly fail, however much he might despise his weakness, in a gloomy forest on a dark night, to be affected by feelings of fear and awe which would seem ridiculous and humiliating in broad daylight.
* Vast forests have a similar awing effect upon the mind. The forest growths of Russia, at one time overrunning almost all the central and northern territories, contributed powerfully to the polytheistio faiths of the early Slavs—in fact, implanted them so deeply in the Slav nature that the Russians believe in their forest spirits to this day. (The Russian Revolt, by E. Noble, 1885.)
It is in proportion as observation and reasoning have become more proficient that superstitions have dwindled and been extinguished. There is not a person living now probably who believes that Baal ever answered a single prayer of the devout Canaanite, or that Jupiter ever inclined his ear to hear the supplication of a pious Roman, or that the Mexican was any the better for the human sacrifices which he solemnly offered to Uitzilopochtli, though it would have gone hard with any one who, living when these gods held sway in human faith, had made a denial of their power and good or ill will. These were faiths