Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/48

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CHAPTER II.

NEW SYSTEM PROPOSED.

Chapter I. recapitulated—Proposal of a new method: Science of comparative or historical study of man—Anticipated in part by Eusebius, Fontenelle, De Brosses, Spencer (of C.C.C., Cambridge), and Mannhardt—Science of Tylor—Object of inquiry: to find condition of human intellect in which marvels of myth are parts of practical everyday belief—This is the savage state—Savages described—The wild element of myth a survival from the savage state—Advantages of this method—Partly accounts for wide diffusion as well as origin of myths—Connected with general theory of evolution—Puzzling example of myth of the water-swallower—Professor Tiele's criticism of the method—Objections to method, and answer to these—See Appendix B.

The past systems of mythological interpretation have been briefly sketched. It has been shown that the practical need for a reconciliation between religion and morality on one side, and the stories about the gods on the other, produced the hypotheses of Theagenes and Metrodorus, of Socrates and Euemerus, of Aristotle and Plutarch. It has been shown that in each case the reconcilers argued on the basis of their own ideas and of the philosophies of their time. The early physicist thought that myth concealed a physical philosophy; the early etymologist saw in it a confusion of language; the early political speculator sup-