Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/23

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Fully to exhibit this objective difficulty, and to show more clearly still how important it is to take as our data for sociological conclusions, not the brief sequences, but the sequences that extend over centuries or are traceable throughout civilization, let us draw a lesson from a trait which all regulative agencies in all nations have displayed.

The original meaning of human sacrifices, which is otherwise tolerably clear, becomes quite clear on finding that where cannibalism is still rampant, and where the largest consumers of human flesh are the chiefs, these chiefs, undergoing apotheosis when they die, are believed thereafter to feed on the souls of the departed—the souls being regarded as duplicates equally material with the bodies they belong to. And, should any doubt remain, it must be dissipated by the accounts we have of the ancient Mexicans, whose priests, when war had not lately furnished a victim, complained to the king that the god was hungry; and who, when a victim was sacrificed, offered his heart to the idol (bathing its lips with his blood, and even putting portions of the heart into its mouth), and then cooked and ate the rest of the body themselves. Here the fact of significance to which attention is drawn, and which various civilizations show us, is that the sacrificing of prisoners or others, once a general usage among cannibal ancestry, continues as an ecclesiastical usage long after having died out in the ordinary life of a society. Two facts, closely allied with this fact, have like general implications. Cutting implements of stone remain in use for sacrificial purposes when implements of bronze, and even of iron, are used for all other purposes. Further, the primitive method of obtaining fire, by the friction of pieces of wood, survives in religious ceremonies ages after its abandonment in the household; and even now, among the Hindoos, the flame for the altar is kindled by the "fire-drill." These are striking instances of the pertinacity with which the oldest part of the regulative organization maintains its original traits in the teeth of influences that modify things around it.

The like holds in respect of the language, spoken and written, which it employs. Among the Egyptians the most ancient form of hieroglyphics was retained for sacred records, when more developed forms were adopted for other purposes. The continued use of Hebrew for religious services among the Jews, and the continued use of Latin for the Roman Catholic service, show us how strong this tendency is, apart from the particular creed. Among ourselves, too, a less dominant ecclesiasticism exhibits a kindred trait. The English of the Bible is of an older style than the English of the date at which the translation was made; and in the church service various words retain obsolete meanings, and others are pronounced in obsolete ways. Even the typography, with its illuminated letters of the rubric, shows traces of the same tendency; while Puseyites and ritualists, aiming to reenforce ecclesiasticism, betray a decided leaning toward archaic print, as well as archaic ornaments. In the æsthetic direction, indeed, their move-