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Calcutta twice within the last few years. The range of these scourges is however confined to the coast, and their devastations never extend beyond the limits of Bengal. The Himalayas are also supposed by Buckle to have exercised an intimidating effect, but they are either invisible from the thickly populated districts, or appear only as a beautiful boundary on the northern horizon. When Buckle spoke of pestilences invading tropical Asia with specially destructive footsteps, he was thinking only of the cholera which just at the time he wrote was making a fresh progress through Europe. But our quarter of the world was visited in former times by the black death and the plague-destroying angels which might well be compared with the relatively modern epidemic of India, so that the temperate zone was no more exempt than the tropics. Strangely enough Buckle does not even mention the most fatal evil genius of India, namely, famine, the most active of gravediggers, which even now, when rains fail and rivers run low, occasionally causes greater destruction than any pestilences or cyclones, and transforms densely populated districts into deserts ; this happened in 1770, at the beginning of the British rule, when ten out of five-and-twenty millions of Bengalese perished in consequence of a failure of the crops. If the dangers and anxieties inherent in a place of abode exercise a control such as Buckle attributes to them over the dispositions of the people, the Dutch ought to be far more credulous than the Belgians. Constantly, but more especially at the time of the syzygies of the moon, they are threatened by an adversary as pitiless as the earthquake, namely, the sea, which they, inhabiting a territory below the level of the sea, have robbed of its rightful property. This power, though expelled, has frequently avenged itself, as, for instance, when the Zuyder Zee and the Dollart were filled by a sudden inroad, and all the villages with their inhabitants were swallowed up. Lastly, in every nation sailors and miners ought to be more superstitious than any other craftsmen, for they are peculiarly exposed to freaks of the forces of nature quite beyond calculation, yet no one has ever stated that this is the case in any perceptible degree.

Hence we must admit that the greater perils of life in any place of abode have not been the cause of an excessive development

Influence of Food on Character.


of the imagination. Even Alexander von Humboldt's beautiful saying in regard to the reaction of the Grecian sky on the Hellenic temperament is unconvincing. If one spot on earth deserves the name of paradise rather than another, it is assuredly Mexico, with its lakes, its splendid vegetation, its distant scenery, rendered beautiful by snowy volcanoes, its perpetually bright weather, and its bracing mountain air. But it is under these delightful skies that the gloomy disposition of the natives of Anáhuac has evolved all the horrors of a dark and bloody worship

Let us, then, rather attempt to ascertain whether the habitual food of the nation stands in causal connection with the phenomena of their temperament. Hindostan, the abode of Brahminism, and Central China, the home of Confucius, are almost equally exposed to sun, and are covered by a similar vegetation. Nature, as Buckle was obliged to admit, is in both places equally great and almost equally terrible ; this may at least be strictly asserted of Southern China, and yet in the Celestial Empire imagination has taken quite another direction than in India, or rather, it has scarcely taken any direction at all. The Chinese eat everything, even Holothurians, or sea-cucumbers (Trepang), the very sight of which makes those who are unaccustomed to them shudder. Orthodox Hindoos of high caste, on the contrary, abhor


kind of animal food. But it was not always so. In the time of the Vedas the consumption of animal food was not yet prohibited, and at the same time the Vedic religion was not darkened by the creation of bloodthirsty deities, nor filled with horrors and terrors as in later times. The depression of spirits, the inclination towards the prodigious and grotesque, the weariness of life, the dread of an endless series of transmigrations, first began to develop among the Hindoos simultaneously with the transition to a purely vegetable diet. Probably every one knows by personal experience that our mental functions are dependent upon nutriment; for the genuine unconscious sleep, which is profound and refreshing, flies from us when the stomach is heavily overloaded. But hunger also, like all other cravings, even if partially satisfied, exercises control over the imagination. This biological fact was and still is the origin of the rigid fastings prescribed by religions so widely


different, and made use of by Shamans in every quarter of the world, when they wish to enter into communication with the invisible powers.

As often as the usual order of nutriment is interrupted or even disturbed, as soon as it ceases to be regular, the imagination acquires unusual power, and in this shaken or enfeebled condition is more susceptible to that which it ascribes to supersensual operations.

Here, then, we fancy that we have at last found the key that gives us an insight into the control exercised by physical laws in the province of mental phenomena. But turn again to Buckle, although it will this time be not as a counsellor but as warning.. “As regards the daily food,” he observes, “the date is in Africa what rice is in the fertile districts of Asia. The date palm is indigenous in all countries from the Tigris to the Atlantic, and it provides millions of human beings with daily sustenance both in Arabia and nearly the whole of North Africa.” He adds, moreover, that in various places even camels are fed with dates, which is only exceptionally the case, and then proceeds to say that rice contains an unusual amount of starch, namely, between 83 and 85 per cent, and that dates possess precisely the same nutritious substances, with the single difference that the starch is already converted into sugar. In his opinion this observation is a revelation, for in India, as in Egypt, he beholds the people, devoid of all will, yielding themselves completely to the priesthood. Only those who have not observed the effects of wine and other alcoholic beverages, or of tea, coffee, tobacco, and narcotic substances in general, either on themselves or others, will deny that the nature of the food reacts upon the mental powers of man, that the temperament evoked by different sorts is different. But we are still far from having ascertained anything in regard to the permanent effects of daily food, especially as the human stomach has to a great degree the power of accommodating itself to various food substances, so that with use even narcotics lose much of their effect.

Lastly, Buckle deceives himself and the credulous reader when he states that the old Egyptians were date-eaters. We are far from disputing that they knew and cultivated date palms, for we should be at once met by an appeal to their ancient monuments, which bring their daily

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life before us as in a picture book. But we deny that the date was a constant or even an important article of food ; on the contrary, we maintain that it was only an auxiliary or supplementary food of the Pharaonic people. Buckle can hardly suppose that the Joseph of Bible history gathered up dates into the royal garners during the seven years of plenty. Nor can he imagine that during the seven years of scarcity Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy dates. When, in the days of Moses, Divine plagues were inflicted upon Egypt a hailstorm destroyed, not the date groves, but the barley and the flax, and spared the other crops, which had had not yet sprung up. The date is the daily food only in the date oases of Arabia, and to a much greater extent in those of North Africa, in Fezzan, and Southern Algeria, that is to say, on the edge and in the midst of the Sahara; there it trains up independent and warlike desert tribes which have not the most remote mental relationship to the rice-eating Hindoos, but are of a completely different character.

Indirectly we can ascertain that religious creations are in no way dependent on the kind of nourishment used by the population. These same Hindoos, whose unbridled fancy created during the epic times the most atrocious deities, were also the greatest story-makers that ever existed. It has long been known that the series of stories, which is of Indian origin, reached the West under the title of the Thousand and One Nights through the Arabs, and that besides this collection there are whole series of narratives which are sometimes put into the mouth of a skeleton, or of a clever parrot, or a wooden image which has suddenly come to life. Buckle recognizes in the numerical exaggerations of the Hindoos, with their countless ages of the world, and even in their language, which possesses an expression for a number of fifty-one places, a servile reverence for remote antiquity; we are more inclined to discern in this a predisposition for arithmetic, for the same people who played so eagerly with quantitative conceptions, benefited human culture by the contri

2 The merit of the Arab conquerors in first instituting and diffusing the cultivation of dates in Egypt is an acknowledged fact. H. Stephan, Das heutige Aegypten. 1872.

bution of an educational instrument second only to the invention of written characters, namely, the art of indicating the value of the numbers by their position, or, as we are wont carelessly to express ourselves, the invention of Arabic numeration. We are by no means the first to point out the obvious fact that the creation of religious and of profane fictions are merely to be regarded as different manifestations of the same intellectual capacity. Nations possessed of epic and dramatic creative powers, and those which are fond of building, painting, and sculpture, have also the faculty and the impulse requisite to people an Olympus with varied figures, which are either cheerful or gloomy according to the predominant disposition of their authors. But it may easily be shown that the creation of fictions is not confined to the rice-eating Hindoos. Fictions and legends of striking power have been collected from the scanty population of Iceland. There grain no longer ripens, and shrubs alone will grow; one single mulberrytree, standing in a sheltered situation at Akreyri, is proudly exhibited by the natives as the tree of the island. The people live only on animal food, the produce of cattle-breeding and fishing. Even were it admitted that many of the beautiful legends were only preserved by the Icelanders, and were derived from their old northern home, it is certain that a great number were invented in Iceland itself; even had they originated in Norway, cattle-breeding and fishery decidedly predominated there also, and in former times far more than now. Hence we perceive that the activity of the imagination is quite independent of whether the daily aliment consists exclusively of vegetable or animal substances.

It would appear from this that there is no apparent connection between the greater precariousness of life at any given place of abode, or between the national food and the local religious creations. But we may, perhaps, find something serviceable where we should least expect it, among the old Arabian geographers. Although they were disciples of the Alexandrian Greeks, and familiar with the Ptolemaic division into degrees, in their popular expositions of their science they nevertheless distributed the earth into climates, or, as we are wont to express it, into climatic zones. These zones were not always of the same breadth, but were about

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