Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/350

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theories as to the origin of the conception of a supernatural being or beings, concerned with the fortunes of mankind, and once active in the making of the earth and its inhabitants. There is the hypothesis of an original divine tradition, darkened by the smoke of foolish mortal fancies. There is the hypothesis of an innate and intuitive sensus numinis. There is the opinion that the notion of Deity was introduced to man by the very nature of his knowledge and perceptions, which compel him in all things to recognise a finite and an infinite. There is the hypothesis that gods were originally ghosts, the magnified shapes of ancestral spectres. There is the doctrine that man, seeking in his early speculations for the causes of things, and conscious of his own powers as an active cause, projected his own shadow on the mists of the unknown, and peopled the void with figures of magnined non-natural men, his own parents and protectors, and the makers of many of the things in the world.

Since the actual truth cannot be determined by observation and experiment, the question as to the first germs of the divine conception must here be left unanswered. But it is possible to disengage and examine apart the two chief elements in the earliest as in the latest ideas of Godhead. Among the lowest and most backward, as among the most advanced races, there coexist the mythical and the religious elements in belief. The rational factor (or what approves itself to us as the rational factor) is visible in religion; the irrational is prominent in myth. The Australian,