Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/69

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to go; has also fixed the laws of literature and art, as we see in the conventional architecture, sculpture, and paintings of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. This ecclesiastical conventionalism, supported by the popular superstition, has greatly hampered original thought.

This sacred fixedness has not allowed, on the one hand, any progress in the native mind itself, nor the influence upon it of foreign mind and foreign methods.

In Egypt we have a priesthood dominant and fixing all forms of life. In the Assyrian power we have the kings constantly exalting the gods, in proclamation and inscription; and the architecture and sculpture are of an ecclesiastical and unchanging pattern. In the Medo-Persian power the ecclesiastical authorities largely shape the people's life; and we find that part of the creed, that idols should be destroyed, enforced wherever the Persian arms were carried. In Hindostan we have religion setting conventional limits to religion, philosophy, science, art, literature, politics, and social life.

But, on the other hand, we also find liberty of thought. Buddhism has been tolerant and pacific; has propagated itself never by war nor by legal force, but only by moral suasion. China, too, seems to have allowed a measure of liberty of thought in everything but politics. Several religions exist there side by side; and philosophy, science, and literature are found without an ecclesiastical imprint.

In the ancient republican systems of government there seems to have been more or less liberty of thought, except in religion and politics. This was so in the Phœnician confederacy, in the Carthaginian commercial states, in the Grecian republics, and in the Roman commonwealth.

In the dawn of Greece we find the priestly class weakened and superseded by the military. The despotic colleges of priests which existed in the East never had a place among the high-spirited and independent chiefs of Greece, who are described in Homer and elsewhere as taking the offices of religion into their own hands, and in various ways keeping its ministers in check. Doubtless, the genius of the people also had something to do with this. Nowhere has there been more liberty of thought in heathendom than in Greece, more freedom from superstition and bigotry; and yet even the Greeks were intolerant. Anaxagoras, who tried to explain astronomical and meteorological phenomena, had a narrow escape with his life from the offended "piety" of the Athenians. It took all the influence of Pericles to save him. Socrates was put to death. Phidias was persecuted, and died broken-hearted in prison. Every honest man was, at one time, in danger of being accused of atheism by the zealots. Noble citizens were tortured. Yet, on the whole, "at the epoch of the highest glory of philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, and most of the philosophers, whether of Grecian, or, more latterly, of Greco-Roman antiquity, had full liberty of thought, or nearly so. The state's public policy inter-