Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/30

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sult not only personal names of honor and divine names, but also official titles. On reading that the Mexicans distinguished Cortes as "the offspring of the Sun," that the Chibchas called the Spaniards in general "children of the Sun," and that in Tlascala Alvarado was named by the people "Sun"—on reading that "Child of the Sun" was the complimentary name often given to any one particularly clever in Peru, where the Incas, regarded as descendants of the Sun, successively enjoyed a title hence derived—we are enabled to understand how "Son of the Sun" came to be a title borne by the successive Egyptian kings, which was joined with proper names individually distinctive of them. And remembering how in Egypt, along with elaborate ancestor-worship, there went worship of living kings, we shall have no difficulty in seeing that as the kings, besides the solar title borne in common by them, took from the same original such special titles as "the Sun becoming victorious," "the Sun orderer of Creation," etc., there naturally resulted, among their gods arising by apotheosis, solar titles similarly specialized; as "the Cause of Heat," "the Author of Light," "the Power of the Sun," "the Vivifying Cause," "the Sun in the Firmament," and "the Sun in his Resting-place."

Given, then, the metaphorically-descriptive name and we have the germ from which grew up these primitive titles of honor; which, at first individual titles, become in some cases titles attaching to the offices filled.

 

To say that the words which in various languages are the equivalents of our word "God," are originally descriptive words, will be a startling proposition to those who, unfamiliar with the facts, credit the savage with thoughts like our own; and will be a repugnant proposition to those who, knowing something of the facts, yet persist in asserting that the conception of a universal creative power was possessed by man from the beginning. But whoever studies the evidence without bias will find proof that the general word for deity was at first simply a word expressive of superiority. Among the Feejeeans the name is applicable to anything great or marvelous; among the Malagasy to whatever is new, useful, or extraordinary; among the Toda, to everything mysterious—so that, as Marshall says, "it is truly an adjective noun of eminence." Applied alike to animate and inanimate things, as indicating some quality above the common, the word is in this sense applied to human beings, both living and dead; but as the dead are supposed to have acquired mysterious powers of doing good and evil to the living, the word comes to be more especially applicable to them. Though ghost and god have with us widely-distinguished meanings, yet they are originally equivalent words; or rather, originally, there is but one word for the supernatural being. Besides being shown this by missionaries who have found no native word for god which did not also mean ghost, demon, or devil; besides being shown this by the Greeks