Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/727

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much as the propounding of the Baconian method, that has so adorned physical knowledge in these latter days; and when we consider what gave this new attraction to Nature, and shed over it a divine light, as it were, we can find no other agency so conspicuous, so powerful, as that of the two great religious dispensations, the record of which has been preserved for us in the Old and New Testaments. One whose name is among the very first on the rolls of science has given strong and explicit testimony on this point. Alexander von Humboldt, in a striking passage of his "Cosmos," sketching the intellectual phenomena of this world, thus describes the state of the Hebrew mind as distinguished from that exhibited among other portions of the human family: "It is characteristic of the poetry of the Hebrews that, as a reflex of monotheism, it always embraces the universe in its unity, comprising both terrestrial life and the luminous realms of space. The Hebrew poet does not depict Nature as a self-dependent object, glorious in its individual beauty, but always as in relation and subjection to a higher spiritual power. Nature is to him a work of creation and order—the living expression of the omnipresence of the Divinity in the visible world. Hence the lyrical poetry of the Hebrews, from the very nature of its subject, is grand and solemn, . . . and develops a rich and animated conception of the life of Nature. It might almost be said that one single psalm represents the image of the whole cosmos. We are astonished to find in a lyric poem of such limited compass the whole universe. . . . Similar views of the cosmos occur repeatedly in the Psalms, and most fully, perhaps, in the ancient if not ante-Mosaic book of Job."

Thus did religious reverence among the Hebrews lead to the notice and study of Nature. And, as to its influence on modern culture, let us listen again to the great philosopher of Berlin: "When the feelings died away," he continues, "which had animated classical antiquity and directed the minds of men rather to a visible manifestation of human antiquity than to a passive contemplation of the external world, a new spirit arose. Christianity gradually diffused itself, and, wherever it was adopted as the religion of the state, it not only exercised a beneficial condition on the lower classes by inculcating the social freedom of mankind, but also expanded the views of men in their communion with Nature. The eye no longer rested on the form of the Olympic gods. The Fathers of the Church, in their rhetorically correct and often practically imaginative language, now taught that the Creator showed himself great in inanimate Nature no less than in animated Nature; and in the wild strife of the elements no less than in the still activity of organic development. It was thus the tendency of the Christian mind to prove from the order of the universe and the beauty of Nature the greatness and goodness of the Creator, and this tendency to glorify the Deity in his works gave rise to a taste for natural observation."