Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/799

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THE RELIGIOUS VALUE OF THE UNKNOWABLE.

buoy which they carry on their backs is ripped open and collapses, and soon they both lie as if dead beside their broken weapons. The Eskimos leave them to get their drinking-cups, and the Kailertetang awake to new life. Each one tills his seal-skin with water, passes a cup to them, and inquires about the future, about the fortunes of the hunt, and the events of life. The Kailertetang answer in murmurs, which the questioner must interpret for himself.

Thus ends this day, in which laughing and singing, joy and gladness prevail. On the morrow the Eskimo goes back to his daily life, but the autumn festival is the subject of talk in the hut and on the hunt for weeks afterward.


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THE RELIGIOUS VALUE OF THE UNKNOWABLE.[1]

By the count GOBLET D'ALVIELLA,

PROFESSOR OF THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BRUSSELS.

WE have not to take part here for or against the philosophy of Evolution. The only points we wish to examine in the controversy are, first, if the historical development of the religious sentiment can be summed up into a gradual reduction of the divine attributes, into a simplification, or, to borrow Mr. Spencer's barbarous term, a deantbropomorphization of the divinity; next, if the theory of the Unknowable has all the elements necessary to beget a religion; and, lastly, if the religious sentiment is tending to divest itself of every moral element, or whether it is destined, as the Comtists maintain, to confound itself with altruism or devotion to humanity.

Mr. Harrison sharply criticises the theory that ascribes the origin of religion to doubles appearing in dreams. We are not fanatics in regard to this hypothesis, but would prefer to admit, with M. A. Reville, that religion began with the worship of natural objects or cosmic phenomena personified, animated, anthropomorphized by the imagination of the primitive man. But these reserves involve no impeachment of Mr. Spencer's general reasoning, so far as concerns either the spiritual nature of the first notion that man formed of the divine, or the work of simplification and purification which that notion has constantly undergone in the course of ages. The thesis of Mr. Harrison, on the contrary — that man began with the adoration of natural objects frankly regarded as such — appears to us absolutely contrary to reason and observation. He cites, for example, the ancient religion of China, which was based entirely on veneration of the earth, the sky, and ancestors, considered objectively and not as the residence of immaterial

  1. From "The Nature and Reality of Religion," being the last part of the author's review of the controversy between Mr. Spencer and Mr. Harrison, in which he presents his own conclusions.