Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/30

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20
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

vails, there, as among the Hottentots and Caffres, religion has a milder aspect; while, among those tribes which, besides cattle-breeding and agriculture, have engaged also in industry and commerce, a still more humane spirit characterizes their worship.

A similar difference, though on a less pronounced scale, is seen in the two elements that united to form the Greek nation. The older stock, whose blood ran in the peasantry, were a half-savage people and their gods consequently rude — half-bestial satyrs and centaurs, black Demeters, images of the unsown earth; mountain Titans, uncouth Pan; thievish, tricksy Hermes; the mighty but reckless, wanton Heracles, type of the red and angry sun, gods but half-focused in the minds of their own worshipers, and represented often by rude blocks of wood and stone. But these could not content the spiritual demands of the later comers, the more polished Iranians, finer of temperament, and imbued by their contact with the civilization of Asia Minor with higher tastes. So we find among them more graceful and elevated gods — stately Hera and chaste Artemis, heaven-born Pallas and the beauteous Apollo — noble ideals of the highest manhood and womanhood that they could conceive.

And as civilization still further progresses, as peace and law become the rule in the community, as arts and knowledge increase, the conceptions of the divine and the worship suitable for him rise proportionately. With the exacter study of nature, sorcery and omens become less credible. The gods themselves are seen to be subject to an unchangeable order. Indications of intelligence, of goodness, and of rectitude in the world, point irresistibly to a divine with the high attributes from which alone these effects can proceed. As the reason grows, the crude polytheism in which man at first rested is found environed with perplexities and inconsistencies. Reason pushes steadily toward the universal and the single. If the thunder-cloud was a divine being, why not every drop of rain that fell? If the lion or bull was a god, why not every fly and midge? In revolt against such cheapening of the idea of divinity, there would arise, with the development of intelligence, a tendency to absorb the host of gods in fewer and more potent gods. Next, the interaction of nature's processes would be noted. The fire that warms the house is recognized as essentially one and the same force with that which flushes the sky at dawn, flashes from the solar orb, or gleams in the lightning's quick illumination: “Thou Agni,” as the Vedic poet at length cried — “thou Agni art Indra, art Vishnu, art Brahman-aspati. Thou Agni art born Varuna, becomest Mitra when kindled. In thee, son of strength, art all the gods.” — (“Rig-Veda,” vii, 30, 31, vii, 1-3.)

As observation widens, then, the diverse parts of nature are more and more woven into one web. The various deities are recognized as but aliases under which a single power hides. The unity of the world forbids us to think of it as the prey of numberless capricious and in-