Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/31

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21
EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

and Romans, who used for the spirits of deceased relatives the same word which they used for their great deities; and besides being shown it by the Egyptians, in whose hieroglyphics the same "determinative" means, according to the context, god, ancestor, august person—we are shown it by the Hebrews, who applied the word elohim not only to their supreme supernatural being but also to ghosts: indeed, giving as they did this same name to living persons of power, they show us, just as primitive peoples at large do, that superiority of one or other kind is the sole attribute ascribed. And since in early belief the other-self of the dead man is equally visible and tangible with the living man, so that it may be slain, drowned, or otherwise killed a second time; since the resemblance is such that it is difficult to learn what is the difference between a god and a chief among the Feejeeans; since the instances of theophany in the "Iliad" prove that the Greek god, capable of being wounded by men's weapons, was in all respects so like a man that special insight was required to discriminate him—we see how naturally it results that the title "god," given to a powerful being commonly thought of as invisible, is often given to a visible powerful being. the title being applied under the belief that he may be the other-self of some dreaded man come back, even if it is not applied because of his natural superiority. Indeed, as a sequence of this theory, it almost inevitably happens that men transcending in capacity those around them are suspected to be these returned ghosts or gods, to whom unusual powers are ordinarily ascribed. Hence the fact that Europeans, considered as the doubles of their own deceased people, are called ghosts by Australians, New-Caledonians, Darnley-Islanders, Kroomen, Calabar people, Mpongwe, etc. Hence the fact that they are called by the alternative name gods by Bushmen, Bechuanas, East Africans, Fulahs, Khonds, Feejeeans, Dyaks, ancient Mexicans, Chibchas, etc. Hence the fact that, using the word in the sense above explained, superior men among uncivilized peoples occasionally call themselves gods; as do the pâlâs, a kind of priests among the Todas, and as do some chiefs among the New-Zealanders and among the Feejeeans.

The original meaning and application of the word being thus understood, we need feel no surprise on finding "God" used as a title of honor. The King of Loango is so called by his subjects. Battel tells us; and Krapf says the like of the King of Msambara. At the present time among wandering Arabs, the name "God" is applied in no other sense than as the generic name of the most powerful living ruler known to them. This makes more credible than it might otherwise be, the statement that the Grand Lama, personally worshiped by the Tartars, is called by them "God, the Father." It is in harmony with such other facts as that Radama, King of Madagascar, is addressed by the women who sing his praises as "O our God;" and that to the Dahoman king the alternative word "Spirit" is used; so that, when he summons any one, the messenger says, "The Spirit requires you," and when he has