Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/539

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519
FETICHISM OR ANTHROPOMORPHISM.

whom articulate speech was but just beginning to emerge from inarticulate noises and gestures. Even if, then, it were admitted, as Chauncey Wright suggested, that the notion of "will" and "personality" arose primarily from the objective observation of other men, since those ideas involve abstraction, it is yet unscientific to assert that the attitude of primitive men toward the universe was in any sense anthropomorphic.

Dream-spirits and ghosts may, indeed, have been the earliest theory to account, in a semi-scientific way, for cosmical movements and events; but, from an historical point of view, it would seem that phenomena must have been wondered at, and half-unconsciously classified, long before there was any attempt at any even partly coherent explanation of them. To prehistoric men the world must have seemed for ages, if the theory of evolution is accepted, as a mysterious jumble of half-living creatures, until it became partly intelligible as the theatre of the operation of a multitude of spirits. During those remote ages these strange creatures would themselves be the only possible objects of worship—and such worship would be properly termed fetichism—it could most certainly not be termed anthropomorphism or spiritism. Spiritism, when, with increasing intelligence and reasoning powers, it first began to be suggested, would have seemed almost like the revelation of a new religion, or like the discovery of a new scientific truth; older forms and notions would be retained, but with new meanings and new explanations, and the original meanings and explanations would be soon forgotten; but the beginnings of religion, unless the principle of continuity is discarded, must be sought for in the incoherent and fetichistic fancies that animism supplanted. There is some reason for believing that in recent times some such change from a simple analogical fetichism to animism has taken place among the Zuňis. It is asserted, for instance, that until lately they conceived of a bow as akin to a beast of prey, but that now they speak of it as inhabited or directed by the spirit of a deceased warrior.

The argument may now be summed up briefly as follows: Fetichism would naturally result from the simple objective observation and elementary analogical methods of reasoning that must have been characteristic of primitive men. Anthropomorphism involves a power of subjective introspection and of abstract thinking that can not have been possessed by primitive men. Between the earliest anthropomorphic conceptions of the universe of which we have record, and the simplest possible attitude toward the universe that could be described as in a rudimentary form religious, there must have been a long period of evolution—a period that may well have been measured by thousands of years—during which there may have been an indefinite number of gradations of religious sentiment and theory. During that period, then, there must have been some stages of thought, as an essential condition in the evolution of anthropomorphism, from the mild-eyed, incurious