Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/427

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in domestic matters; others are efficacious in the sick-room. The Egyptian exorcist sought to place his patient under the protection of different divinities, and thus to scare away the malignant ghosts that were preying on him. To-day he would find that, in lieu of the divinities whose names he was accustomed to invoke, there were hosts of others, or at least of semi-divinities, with names strange to him, who were credited with exercising tutelary powers exactly similar to those of Isis and Osiris, of Amen and Horus, and the rest. And he would find that the idea of verification as in any way applicable to such pretended powers was just as odious to-day, alike to the victims of delusion and to the priestly class, as it could have been in his own day and generation.

Yet verification will triumph. Slowly but surely the world will come into the conviction that beliefs which shun verification, and practices which can not be brought to the test of utility, have no claim to respect. The edifice of superstition seems still all too solid; but the structure of ordered knowledge which science is building is growing in extent day by day, and little by little is expropriating the ground on which the temple of intellectual darkness has been reared. The gains of science are definitive gains, the losses of superstition are definitive losses. The human mind will never resign to occult and arbitrary agencies any sphere of phenomena which has once been reduced to law. Still, there is much to be done in helping individual minds to cast off their fetters, and to put on instead the wholesome restraints of reason and moral self-control.

"The sensual and the dark rebel in vain,
 Slaves by their own compulsion."

The bonds of superstition will only be irretrievably broken when the truths of science are welcomed and honored, not alone for the mastery they give over the outward world, but for the clearer light they throw upon questions of moral obligation.


The Popular Science Monthly is not a political journal, at least as the word "political" is commonly understood. In the wider and truer sense of the word it is political just in the same degree as it is industrial, commercial, educational, and a dozen other things as well; that is to say, it is interested in the political, as in the industrial, educational, etc., development of the country, and believes that in the extension and application of scientific modes of thought the key to the best possible political and other development will be found. If any recent change in the aspect of our national politics has caused us satisfaction it is in no sense from a party point of view—for parties we utterly ignore—but because, as it seems to us, the change is one which tends to place our national life upon a more natural and rational basis than that which it has occupied for many years past, and to favor the growth of a healthy individualism throughout the whole social organism. We have not hesitated in the past to speak of the false and hurtful relations which a general policy of what is commonly called "protection," but what, as Mr. Spencer points out, should properly be called "aggression," establishes between the national Government and various more or less powerful private interests; and it is not unnatural, therefore, if we now rejoice at the prospect of at least a very sensible abatement of the evils of that system. But we rejoice still more to think of the ulterior and indirect results of the approaching change in our national policy. True intellectual manhood has not been attained until men have learned to trust Nature, to test all opinions and schemes by the touchstone of natural law, and, as a necessary result, to despise swaddling clothes and