Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/549

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531
NATURAL HISTORY OF MAN.

these inferior representatives of the human family. Thanks to the intelligence of these patient, clear-headed men, we now know that these Australians, that were said to have no idea of God, have in reality a rudimentary mythology, which sometimes recalls our own European superstitions. We now know that the Bushmen deify their great men, and address prayers to them. As to the Bushmen, they have a remarkable idea of the Divinity. They regard him as a great chief, who resides in heaven. They say of him: "We see him not with the eyes; we feel him in the heart."

This last phrase, which I quote literally, was obtained by travelers who lived in the midst of these people. They show that sometimes the people justly placed in the lowest rank of the human races may have, along with the strangest superstitions, religious notions remarkably elevated. This fact is often presented when we examine the religion of different peoples. We find, it is true, much that is bizarre many strange and shocking things, but we find also behind these absurdities ideas and beliefs which astonish us by their seriousness, by their elevation, by the resemblance they offer to that which is believed by more advanced people.

The negroes of Guinea may serve to illustrate this subject. All travelers have spoken of their absurd beliefs, all have spoken of their fetishes. They tell us how these people prostrate themselves before serpents, trees, bits of wood, bone, etc., carefully wrapped up, and on which their priests have performed certain ceremonies. There are few who would seek that which might be found at the bottom of all this. Those who have made the search have found religious ideas, very superior to these appearances; the belief in divinities of different orders, living in the skies, and presided over by a sovereign creator who made every thing. When we look still further, as M. d'Avezac has done, we find prayers conceived in terms such as a European, a Christian, might repeat without blushing. In the case of these negroes, as in our own, we must distinguish between religion and superstition, two extremely different things, which are too often confounded. I will add but a few words.

Gentlemen, I close to-day the first part of the lectures that I have undertaken to give you. Let me formulate the last conclusions.

We have asked only general questions, those which bear on the entire human race, and which may consequently conduct us to the foundation of the nature of man. We have asked them exclusively from the point of view of natural science; we have studied man as we study an animal or a plant. The result of this examination is to show in man a résumé of the entire creation.

In him we find phenomena exactly parallel to those encountered in minerals, in plants; consequently, all the forces acting in minerals and plants we find in man.

By his body, from an anatomical and physical point of view, man