Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/301

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



JANUARY, 1894.




THE ETHICS OF TRIBAL SOCIETY.

By Prof. E. P. EVANS.

THE world of the primitive man was bounded by the circle of his vision. He regarded the horizon as a fixed line which separated the earth from the sky, and which it would be possible for him to reach by going far enough. He did not deem it less real because it unfortunately always eluded his search, like the fabulous pot of gold which, according to popular superstition, lies buried at the point where the rainbow rests on the ground. In like manner the barbarian of to-day has no conception of the fact that the line of junction of earth and sky has no real existence, but is "all in his eye."

Indeed, it is but recently that man has learned to appreciate aright the wholly subjective character and significance of the terms north, south, east, and west as applied to places on the globe, and to recognize the relativity of all his geographical ideas, inasmuch as these are dependent for their accuracy and exactness upon the position of the speaker. It is one of the rare achievements of high culture, and has always been the prerogative of exceptionally thoughtful minds, to be able to distinguish between the apparent and the actual, to keep mental conceptions free from the influences of optical illusions, and not to be deceived by the surprises and sophistries of the senses.

An old English legend entitled The Lyfe of Adam, which has been preserved in a manuscript of the fourteenth century, relates how "Adam was made of oure lord god in the place that Jhesus was borne in, that is to seye in the cite of Bethleem, which is the myddel of the erthe." It then goes on to state that the first man was made out of dust taken from the four corners of the earth,