Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/21

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11
RELIGION AND THE ENVIRONMENT.


likewise were boisterous and stalwart beings, riding on the tempest, amusing themselves by feats of strength, reveling in the crash of battle, and gathering the fallen heroes into the bright Valhalla, there to reward them for their courage with foaming cups of mead, and the barbaric delights of ceaseless combats, in indestructible bodies. Thus, instead of the Graces and the beautiful Apollo of Greece, we find in Scandinavia deities as blustering and uncouth as the Northland itself, but manly and good-hearted. While in Greece the primitive Aryan faith takes on a more aesthetic and refined aspect, in Germany and Scandinavia it becomes more tragic and intense.

Let us follow next the steps of that part of the Aryans who turned their steps southward into the languorous plains of India, and we shall see a different change. The first thing we notice is, that Dyans — the shining one, the bright sky of day — loses his ancient pre-eminence. His supremacy in the thoughts of the Aryan emigrants is first taken by Varuna — the night-sky. In the hot clime of India, the bright sky of day was no longer so pleasant to them, and Varuna seemed a kinder deity, and therefore became more popular. But soon he also is superseded by Indra, the rain-god, who, with his glittering lance — the lightning — pierces and releases the imprisoned waters. For in India, then, as to-day, the coming of the rainy season after the long drought is by far the most important of all nature's changes. It was not long before Indra, therefore, by his terrible might and his beneficent prowess in slaying the drought-serpent, became, with his coadjutors, the Maruts, the beating winds, the chief object of Vedic adoration. And soon we notice an equally significant change. The vigorous Aryan, in the debilitating heats of the Indian plains, became a victim of lassitude. He lost his healthful delight in the good things of sense and earth. The languid air lulled him in dreamy reveries. Meditation takes the place of service in the commandments of religion; and asceticism, instead of the divine blessings, becomes the pious practice. So great and so rapid is the change that comes over their faith that, before many centuries have passed, pessimistic views of life become so seated in the race that the illusiveness of the world and the essential wretchedness of life become cardinal doctrines of faith; and the great desire of men's heart's is not for renewed lease of life, but for the means of obtaining exemption from the misery of rebirth. And so it has been with other nations and races. The physical characteristics of the countries they have dwelt in have powerfully modified the aspect of their religion. The races inhabiting the most barren and unfavorable quarters of the globe — such as the Patagonians, Hottentots, Kamschatkans — have suffered correspondingly in their possibility of religious progress. Conversely, it is that intermediate zone between the tropical and the temperate — the land of the olive, the fig, and the orange — where the mean temperature is not lower than 60° Fahr. nor more than 75° Fahr., that has been the home of the great founders of re-