Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/603

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against him by his arch-enemy John Calvin with fearful power. In vain did Servetus state the fact that he had simply drawn the words from a previous edition of Ptolemy; in vain did he declare that this statement was a simple geographical truth of which there were ample proofs; it was answered that such language "necessarily inculpated Moses, and so grievously outraged the Holy Ghost."[1]

In summing up the action of the Church upon Geography, we must say, then, that the dogmas developed in the strict adherence to Scripture and the conceptions held in the Church during many centuries "always, everywhere, and by all," were, on the whole, steadily hostile to truth; but it is only just to make a distinction here between the religious and the theological spirit. To the religious spirit are largely due several of the noblest among the great voyages of discovery. A deep longing to extend the realms of Christianity influenced the minds of Prince John, of Portugal, in his great series of efforts along the African coast; of Vasco da Gama, in his circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope; of Magellan, in his voyage around the world, and doubtless found a place among the more worldly motives of Columbus.

Thus, in this field also, from the supremacy accorded to theology, we find resulting that tendency to dogmatism which has shown itself in all ages the deadly foe not only of scientific inquiry but of the higher religious spirit itself, while from the love of truth for truth's sake, which has been the inspiration of all fruitful work in science, nothing but advantage has ever resulted to true religion.


The Japanese dragon is supposed by Mr. Charles De Kay to be possibly a remnant of the original native religion which was superseded by Buddhism in China and Japan. Compared with the monster as depicted in stone and colors by artists of our middle ages, it is a graceful creature. Dragons a foot or two long, made of an incredible number of pieces held together, are among the marvels of Japanese workers in iron and bronze, and great prices are paid when the foundry-man or ironsmith is a famous artist. The figures sometimes have a character of their own which justifies one in placing them among serious works of art. When taken in the hand their flexibility and coldness make them seem alive; while their singular motions and threatening look express capitally the fierceness and wayward nature attributed to a symbol of the least stable of elements. To us and to skeptical natives the image is a curious, ingenious plaything, but to the Japanese of the old religions or to the Buddhist it means a good deal more: it is a talisman to exorcise the dangers that lie on land and sea.

  1. For Servetus's geographical offense, see Willis, Servetus and Calvin, London, 1877, p. 325. The passage condemned is in the Ptolemy of 1535, folio 41. It was discreetly retrenched in a reprint of the same edition. As to the mixture in the motives of Columbus, it may be well to compare with the earlier biographies the recent ones by Dr. Winsor and President Adams.