Myth and Science - An Essay
by Tito Vignoli
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Myth, as it is understood by us, and as It will be developed and explained in this work, cannot be defined in summary terms, since its multiform and comprehensive nature embraces and includes all primitive action, as well as much which is consecutive and historical in the intelligence and feelings of man, with respect to the immediate and the reflex interpretation of the world, of the Individual, and of the society in which our common life is passed.

We hold that myth is, in its most general and comprehensive nature, the spontaneous and imaginative form in which the human intelligence and human emotions conceive and represent themselves and things in general; it is the psychical and physical mode in which man projects himself into all those phenomena which he is able to apprehend and perceive.[1]

We do not propose to consider in this treatise the myths peculiar to one people, nor to one race; we do not seek to estimate the intrinsic value of myths at the time when they were already developed among various peoples, and constituted into an Olympus, or special religion; we do not wish to determine the special and historical cause of their manifestations in the life of any one people, since we now refrain from entering on the field of comparative mythology. It is the scope and object of our modest researches to trace the strictly primitive origin of the human myths as a whole; to reach the ultimate fact, and the causes of this fact, whence myth, in its necessary and universal form, is evolved and has its origin.

We must therefore seek to discover whether, in addition to the various causes assigned for myth in earlier ages, and still more in modern times by our great philologists, ethnologists, and philosophers of every school—causes which are for the most part extrinsic—there be not a reason more deeply seated in our nature, which is first manifested as a necessary and spontaneous function of the intelligence, and which is therefore intrinsic and inevitable.

In this case myth will appear to us, not as an accident in the life of primitive peoples varying in intensity and extent, not as a vague conception of things due to the erroneous interpretation of words and phrases, nor again as the fanciful creation of ignorant minds; but it will appear to be a special faculty of the human mind, inspired by emotions which accompany and animate its products. Since this innate faculty of myth is indigenous and common to all men, it will not only be the portion of all peoples, but of each individual in every age, in every race, whatever may be their respective conditions.

Myth, therefore, will not be resolved by us into a manifestation of an obsolete age, or of peoples still in a barbarous and savage state, nor as part of the cycle through which nations and individuals have, respectively passed, or have nearly passed; but it remains to this day, in spite of the prevailing civilisation which has greatly increased and is still increasing, it still persists as a mode of physical and intellectual force in the organic elements which constitute it.

Nor, let it be observed, do I say that such a mythical faculty persists as such only among the ignorant masses in town or country, in the form of those very ancient superstitions which have been collected with immense labour by learned mythologists and ethnologists; on the contrary, I maintain that the mythical faculty still exists in all men, independently of this survival of old superstitions, to whatever people and class they may belong; and it will continue to exist as an innate function of the intelligence, if not with respect to the substance, which may alter, at any rate in the mode of its acts and proceedings.

I fear that this opinion will appear at first sight to be paradoxical and chimerical, since it is well known that the mythical conception of the world and its origin is gradually disappearing among civilized nations, and it is supposed to be altogether extinct among men of culture and intelligence. Yet I flatter myself, perhaps too rashly, that by the time he reaches the end of this work, the reader will be convinced of the truth of my assertion, since it is proved by so many facts, and the psychical law from, which it results is so clear.

It must not, however, be forgotten that, in addition to the mythical faculty of our minds, there exists the scientific faculty, the other factor of a perfect intellectual life; the latter is most powerful in certain races, and must in time prevail over the former, which in its objective form precedes it; yet they are subjectively combined in practice and are indissolubly united through life.

Undoubtedly neither the mythical nor the scientific faculty is equal and identical in all peoples, any more than they are equal and identical in individuals; but they subsist together, while varying in intensity and degree, since they are both necessary functions of the intelligence.

Whether we content ourselves with studying the mental and social conditions in the lower types of modern peoples, or go back to the earliest times, we find men everywhere and always possessed of the power of speech, and holding mythical superstitions, it may be of the rudest and most elementary kind; so also do we find men possessed of rational ideas, although they may be very simple and empirical. They have some knowledge of the causes of things, of periods in the phenomena of nature, which they know how to apply to the habits and necessities of their social and individual lives.

No one, for example, would deny that many mythical superstitions, and fanciful beliefs in invisible powers, existed among the now extinct Tasmanians, and are now found among the Andaman islanders, the Fuegians, the Australians, the Cingalese Veddahs, and other rude and uncultured savages. On the other hand, those who are acquainted with their mode of life find that savages are not absolutely devoid of intellectual activity of an empirical kind, since they partly understand the natural causes of some phenomena, and are able, in a rational, not an arbitrary manner, to ascribe to laws and the necessities of things many facts relating to the individual and to society. They are, therefore, not without the scientific as well as the mythical faculty making due allowance for their intellectual condition; and these primitive and natural instincts are due to the physical and intellectual organism of human nature.

In order to pursue this important inquiry into the first and final cause of the origin of myth, it is evidently not enough to make a laborious and varied collection of myths, and of the primitive superstitions of all peoples, so as to exhaust the immense field of modern ethnography. Nor is it enough to consider the various normal and abnormal conditions of psychical phenomena, nor to undertake the comparative study of languages, to ascertain how far their speech will reveal the primitive beliefs of various races, and the obscure metaphorical sayings which gave birth to many myths. It is also necessary to subject to careful examination the simplest elementary acts of the mind, in their physical and psychical complexity, in order to discover in their spontaneous action the transcendental fact which inevitably involves the genesis of the same myth, the primary source whence it is diffused by subsequent reflex efforts in various times and varying forms.

In speaking of the transcendental fact, it must not be supposed that I allude to certain well-known a priori speculations, which are opposed to my temper of mind and to my mode of teaching. I only use the term transcendental because this is actually the primitive condition of the fact in its inevitable beginning, whatever form the mythical representation may subsequently take. This fact is not peculiar to any individual, people, or race, but it is manifested as an essential organism of the human character, which is in all cases universal, permanent, and uniform.

In order to give a clear explanation of my estimate of the a priori idea, which also takes its place as the factor of experimental and positive teaching, I must observe that for those who belong to the historical and evolutionary school, a priori, so far as respects any organism, habit, and psychological constitution in the whole animal kingdom, in which man is also included, signifies whatever in them is fixed and permanently organized; whatever is perpetuated by the indefinite repetition of habits, organs, and functions, by means of the heredity of ages. The whole history of organisms abounds with positive and repeated proofs of this fact, which no one can doubt who is not absolutely ignorant of elementary science. Every day adds to the number of these proofs, demonstrating one of those truths which become the common property of nations.

A priori is therefore reduced by us to the modification of organs in their physical and psychical constitution, as it has ultimately taken place in the organism by the successive evolutions of forms which have gradually become permanent, and are perpetuated by embryogenic reproduction. This reproduction is in its turn the absolute condition of psychical and organic facts, which are thus manifested as primitive facts in the new life of the individual. By this law, the psychical facts, whether elementary or complex, as they occur in the individual up to the point of their evolution, have the necessary conditions of possibility, and may therefore be termed a priori with respect to the laws of evolution, and to the hereditary permanence of acts performed in the former environment of the organism at the time when they appeared.

This conception of a priori is, it must be admitted, very different from that of transcendental philosophers, who seek to prove either that an independent artificer has not only produced the various organic forms in their present complexity, and has specially provided the spiritual subject with its category of thought, independently of all experience; or else they assert the intrinsic existence of such forms in the spirit, from the beginning of time.

In this way, as we have already said, we must not only collect the facts which abound in history and ethnology respecting the general teaching of myths, but we must also observe introspectively, and by pursuing the experimental method, the primitive and fundamental psychical facts, so as to discover the a priori conditions of the myth itself. We must ascertain, from a careful psychological examination, the absolutely primitive origin of all mythical representations, and how these are in their turn the actual historical result of the same conditions, as they existed prior to their manifestations.

It must not be supposed that in this primary fact, and in these a priori psychical and organic conditions, we shall find the ulterior cause of the various and manifold forms, or of the successive evolution of myths. This would be a grave mistake, equal to that of transcendentalists, who imagine that the laws which actually exist, and the order of cosmic and historic phenomena may be determined from the independent exercise of their own thoughts, although such laws and order can only be traced and discovered by experience and the observation of facts. In the a priori conditions of the psychical and organic nature, and in the elementary acts which outwardly result from them, we shall only trace the origin and necessary source of myth, not the variable forms of its successive evolution.

The ulterior form, so far as the substance of the myth and its various modifications are concerned, is in great part the reflex work of man; its aspect changes in accordance with the attitude and force of the faculties of individuals, peoples and races, and it depends on an energy to which the a priori conditions, as we have just defined them, do not strictly apply so far as the determinate form is concerned.

It is precisely in this ulterior work of the evolution of myth, which in the elementary fact of its primitive essence had its origin in the predisposition of mind and body, that we may discern the interchangeable germ and origin both of myth and science. If, therefore; the rationale of science cannot be found in the general form of mythical representations, the matter which serves to exercise the mind; yet the mode of its exercise, and of the logical and psychical faculty, and the spontaneous method pursued, are identical: the two mythical and scientific faculties are, in fact, considered in themselves, fused into one.

As far as the origin of myth is concerned, the mode of considering its evolution, and its organic connection with science, we differ from other mythologists as to the sources to which they trace this immense elaboration of the human intelligence. We may be mistaken, but we are in any case entering on unexplored ways, and if we go astray, the boldness of an enterprise which we undertake with diffidence pleads for indulgence.

Omitting to notice the well-known opinions on the origin of myth which were current in classic antiquity, in the Graeco-Latin world, or in India,[2] we restrict our inquiry to modern times subsequent to Creuzer's learned and extensive labours. In a more scientific method, and divested of prejudice, we propose to trace the sources of myth in general, and among various peoples in particular.

The science of languages, or comparative philology, is the chief instrument required in such researches, and much light has been acquired in our days, which has led to surprising results, at least within the sphere of the special races to which it has been applied. The names of Kuhn, Weber, Sonne, Benfey, Grimm, Schwartz, Hanusch, Maury, Breal, Pictet, l'Ascoli, De Gubernatis, and many others, are well known for their marvellous discoveries in this new and arduous field. They have not only fused into one ancient and primitive image the various myths scattered in different forms among the Aryan races, but they have revealed the original conception, as it existed in the earliest meaning of words before their dispersion. Hence came the multiplicity of myths, developed in brilliant anthropomorphic groups in different theologies, gradually becoming more simple as time went on, then uniting in the vague primitive personification of the winds, the storms, the sun, the dawn; in short, of astral and meteorological phenomena.

On the other hand, Max Mueller, whose theory of original myths is peculiar to himself, has made use of this philological instrument to prove that the Aryan myths may at any rate be referred to a single source, namely to metaphor, or to the double meaning of words, due to the poverty of primitive languages. He calls this double meaning the infirmity of speech.

I do not deny that many conclusions to which some or other of the great authorities just mentioned have arrived may be as true as they are surprising. I also admit that this may be a certain method of distinguishing the various mythical representations in their early beginnings from their subsequent and complex forms. But in all the facts which have been ascertained, or which may hereafter be ascertained, from the comparative study of the languages of different races, no explanation is afforded of the fact that into the natural and primitive phenomena of myth, or, as Mueller holds, into its various metaphors, man has so far infused his own life, that they have, like man himself, a subjective and deliberate consciousness and force. It seems to me that this problem has not yet been solved by scholars; they have stopped short after establishing the primary fact, and are content to affirm that such is human nature, which projects itself on external things.[3]

This explanation establishes a true and universal fact, but it is not the explanation of the fact itself; yet it is not, as we shall see, incapable of solution, and it appears to me that the ultimate source whence myths really proceed has not been reached.

Again, if such an opinion and such a method can give us the key to the polytheistic origin of the respective Olympuses of classic Greece and Rome, it leaves unexplained the numerous and manifold superstitions which philology itself proves to have existed prior to the origin of cosmic myths. These superstitions can by no means be referred to a common source, to the astral and meteorological myths, some of which were prior, while others were subsequent to these superstitions.

Taking, therefore, the general and more important opinions which are now current respecting the origin of myth, it may be said that in addition to the systems already mentioned, two others are presented to us with the weight of authority and knowledge; these, while they do not renounce the appliances and linguistic analyses of the former, try to unite all the mythical sources of mankind in general into a single head, whence all myths, beliefs, superstitions, and religions have their origin. While France and Germany and some other nations have achieved distinction in this field, England has been especially remarkable for the nature of her attempts, and the vastness of her achievements in every direction. We pass over many great minds which were first in the field in order to dwell on the two men who, as it seems to me, have summed up the knowledge of others, and have formulated a theory in great measure peculiar to themselves.

Tylor's well known name will at once suggest itself, and that of Herbert Spencer; the former, in his great work on the "Early History of Mankind and of Civilization," and other writings, the latter, in the first volume of his "Sociology," and in his earlier works, have respectively established the doctrine of the universal origin of myths on the basis of ethnography, on the psychological examination of the primary facts of the intelligence, and on the conception of the evolution of the general phenomena of nature.

It would, indeed, be difficult to excel the great mind, the acute genius, and the universal learning of Herbert Spencer, who has been termed the modern Aristotle by a learned writer; and this is high praise when we remember how much knowledge is necessary in our times, and in the present conditions of science, before any one can be deemed worthy of such a comparison. But with due respect to so great a man, and with the diffidence of one who is only his disciple, I venture to think that Herbert Spencer's attempt to revive, at any rate in part, Evemero's theory of the origin of myths will not be successful, and it may prove injurious to science. First, because all myths cannot be reduced, to personal or historical facts; and next, because the primitive value of many of them is so clear and distinct in their mode of expression that it is not possible to derive them from any source but the direct personification of natural phenomena. Nor does it appear to me to be always and altogether certain that the origin of myths, also caused by the double personality discerned in the shadow of the body itself, in the images reflected by liquid substances, in echoes and visions of the night, can be all ascribed to the worship of the dead.

The worship of the dead is undoubtedly universal. There is no people, ancient or modern, civilized or savage, by whom it has not been practised; the fact is proved by history, philology and ethnography. But if the worship of the dead is a constant form, manifested everywhere, it flourishes and is interwoven with a multitude of other mythical forms and superstitious beliefs which cannot in any way be reduced to this single form of worship, nor be derived from it. This worship is undoubtedly one of the most abundant sources of myth, and Spencer, with his profound knowledge and keen discernment, was able to discuss the hypothesis as it deserves; whence his book, even from this point of view, is a masterpiece of analysis, like all those which issue from his powerful mind.

Yet even if the truth of this doctrine should be in great measure proved, the question must still be asked how it happens that man vivifies and personifies his own image in duplicate, or else the apparitions of dreams or their reflections, and the echoes of nature, and ultimately the spirits of the dead.

Tylor developed his theory more distinctly and at greater length, and he brought to bear upon it great genius, extraordinary knowledge, and a sound critical faculty, so that his work must be regarded as one of the most remarkable in the history of human thought. He belongs to the school of evolution, and his book strongly confirms the truths of that theory; since from the primitive germs of myth, from the various and most simple forms of fetishes among all races, he gradually evolves these rude images into more, complex and anthropomorphic forms, until he attains the limits of natural and positive science. He admits that there are in mankind various normal and abnormal sources of myth, but he comes to the ultimate conclusion that they all depend on man's peculiar and spontaneous tendency to animate all things, whence his general principle has taken the name of animism. It is unnecessary to say much in praise of this learned work, since it is known to all, and cannot be too much studied by those who wish for instruction on such subjects.

But while assenting to his general principle, which remains as the sole ultimate source of all mythical representation, I repeat the usual inquiry; what causes man to animate all the objects which surround him, and what is the cause of this established and universal fact? The marvellous ethnographic learning of the author, and his profound analysis, do not answer this question, and the problem still remains unsolved.

It is evident from what we have said, that the theory of the origin of myth has of late made real and important progress in different directions; it has been constituted by fitting methods, and with dispassionate research, laying aside fanciful hypotheses and systems more or less prompted by a desire to support or confute principles which have no connection with science. We have now in great measure arrived at the fundamental facts whence myth is derived, although, if I do not deceive myself, the ultimate fact, and the cause of this fact, have not yet been ascertained; namely, for what reason man personifies all phenomena, first vaguely projecting himself into them, and then exercising a distinct purpose of anthropomorphism, until in this way he has gradually modified the world according to his own image.

If we are able to solve this difficult problem, a fact most important to science and to the advancement of these special studies must result from it: the assimilation and concentration of all the sources of myth into a single act, whether normal or abnormal to humanity. To say that animism is the general principle of myth does not reduce the different sources whence it proceeds to a single psychical and organic act, since they remain distinct and separate in their respective orbits. To attain our object, it is necessary that the direct personification of natural phenomena, as well as the indirect personification of metaphor; the infusion of life into a man's own shadow, into reflex images and dreams; the belief in the reality of normal illusions, as well as of the abnormal hallucinations of delirium, of madness, and of all forms of nervous affections; all these things must be resolved into a single generating act which explains and includes them. It must be shown how and why there is found in man the possibility of modifying all these mythical forms into an image supposed to be external to himself, living and personal. For if we are enabled to reply scientifically to such inquiries, we shall not only have concentrated in a single fact all the most diverse normal and abnormal forms of myth peculiar to man, but we shall also have given an ulterior and analytic explanation of this fact.

I certainly do not presume to declare myself competent to effect so much, and I am more conscious than my critics how far I fall short of my high aim; but the modest attempt, made with the resolution to accept all criticism offered with courtesy and good faith, does not imply culpable presumption nor excessive vanity.

I regret to say that it is not on this point only that my theory of myth differs from that of others; I shall not be satisfied if I only succeed in discovering in man the primitive act which issues the general animism of things, which becomes the substance of the ulterior myths in their intellectual and historical evolution. It is evident, at least to those who do not cling obstinately to old traditions, that man is evolved from the animal kingdom. The comparative anatomy, physiology, and psychology of man and other animals distinctly show their intimate connection in conformation, tissues, organs, and functions, and above all, in consciousness and intelligence. This truth, deduced from simple observation and experiment, must lead to the conviction that all issued from the same germ, and had the same genesis.

For those who do not cherish pedantic and sectarian prejudices, this hypothesis is changed into assurance by modern discoveries; it is shown in the transformations and transitions of paleontological forms; in the embryogenic evolution of so many animals, man included, which, according to their various species, reveals the lower types whence they issued; in the successive forms taken by the foetus; in the powerful and indisputable laws of selection; in the modifications by adaptation of the different organisms, and in the effects of isolation. This is the only rational explanation, confirmed as it is by fresh facts every day, of the multiplicity and variety of organic forms in the lapse of time; unless, indeed, we ascribe such variety to a miracle, even more difficult to accept than the difficulties of the opposite-theory.

I admit that evidence for the complete demonstration of this theory is sometimes wanting; the gaps between the fossil fauna and flora and those of modern times are neither few nor unimportant; but on the other hand, such proofs are accumulating, and the gaps are filled up every day, so that we may almost assert that in some way or other, by means somewhat different from those on which we now rely, the great rational principle of evolution will be successfully and permanently established.

It is more than twenty years since, in ways and by study peculiar to ourselves, we first devoted ourselves to this theory, and while we gave a conscientious consideration to opposite theories, so as to estimate with sincerity their importance and value, we could not relinquish our conviction that every advance in physical, biological, and social science served to confirm the theory of evolution.

It must not be supposed that I make any dogmatic assertion, which might possibly be erroneous, when I say that the evidence of facts does not contradict the assumptions of modern science. Sincere convictions should offend no one, nor do they indicate an a priori conflict with other beliefs. Every one is justified in thinking his own thoughts when he speaks with moderation and supports his peculiar opinions with a certain amount of learning.

It is not denied, even by those who oppose modern theories respecting the genesis of organisms, that there are, excluding some psychical elements, many and important points of resemblance between man and animals in the exercise of their consciousness, intelligence, and emotions, if indeed they are not identically the same. The comparative psychology of man and animals plainly shows that the perceptions, both in their respective organs and in their mode of action, act in the same way, especially in the higher animals; and the origin, movements, and associations of the imagination and the emotions are likewise identical. Nor will it be disputed that we find in animals implicit memory, judgment, and reasoning, the inductions and deductions from one special fact to another, the passions, the physiological language of gestures, expressive of internal emotions, and even, in the case of gregarious animals, the combined action to effect certain purposes; so that, as far as their higher orders are concerned, animals may be regarded as a simple and undeveloped form of man, while man, by his later psychical and organic evolution, has become a developed and complex animal.[4]

In my book on the fundamental law of intelligence in the animal kingdom, I attempted to show this great truth, and to formulate a principle common to all animals in the exercise of their psychical emotions, by setting forth the essential elements as they are generally displayed. I think I was not far from the truth in establishing a law which seems indubitable; although, while some men whose opinion is worthy of esteem have accepted it, other very competent judges have objected to some parts of my theory, but without convincing me of error. I repeat my conclusions here, since they are necessary to the theory of the genesis of myth, which I propose to explain in this work. I hold the complete identity between man and animals to be established by the adequate consideration of the faculties, the psychical elements of consciousness and intelligence, and the mode of their spontaneous exercise; and I believe the superiority of man to consist not so much in new faculties as in the reflex effect upon themselves of those he possesses in common with the animals. The old adage confirms this theory: Homo duplex.

No one now doubts that animals feel, hear, remember, and the like, while man is able to exercise his will, to feel, to remember, deliberately to consider all his actions and functions, because he not only possesses the direct and spontaneous intuition with respect to himself and things in general which he has in common with animals, but he has an intuitive knowledge of that intuition itself, and in this way he multiplies within himself the exercise of his whole psychical life. We find the ultimate cause of this return upon himself, and his intuition of things, in his deliberate will, which does not only immediately command his body and his manifold relative functions, but also the complex range of his psychical acts. This fact, which as I believe has not been observed before, is of great importance. It is manifest that the difference between man and other animals does not consist in the diversity or discrepancy of the elements of the intelligence, but in its reflex action on itself; an action which certainly has its conditions fixed by the organic and physiological composition of the brain.

If it should be said that the traditional opinion of science, as well as the general sentence of mankind, have always regarded reflection as the basis of the difference between animals and man, so that there is no novelty in our principle, the assertion is erroneous. Reflection, as an inward psychical fact, has certainly been observed by psychologists and philosophers in all civilized times, and instinctively by every one; nor could it be otherwise, since reflection is one of the facts most evident to human consciousness. But although the fact, or the intrinsic and characteristic action of human thought has been observed, and has often been discussed and analyzed in some of its elements, yet its genesis has not been declared, nor has its ultimate cause been discovered. We propose to discover this ultimate cause, and we refer it to the exercise of the will over all the elements and acts which constitute human intelligence; an intelligence only differing from that of animals by this inward and deliberate fact, which enables man to consider and examine all his acts, thus logically doubling their range. This intelligence has in animals a simple and direct influence on their bodies and on the external world, in proportion to their diverse forms and inherited instincts; while in man, owing to his commanding attitude, it falls back upon itself, and gives rise to the inquiring and reflective habit of science.

We do not, therefore, divide man from other animals, but rather assert that many proofs and subtle analyses show the identity of their intelligence in its fundamental elements, while the difference is only the result of a reaction of the same intelligence on itself. Such a theory does not in any way interrupt the natural evolution and genesis of the animal kingdom, while the distinctive peculiarity of man is shown in an act which, as I believe, clearly explains the new faculty of reason acquired by him.

I must admit that in speaking of the psychical faculty as a force which possesses laws peculiar to itself, it has appeared to a learned and competent judge that I have conceded a real existence to this faculty, independently of the physiological conditions through which it manifests itself, which might be called a mythical personality in the constitution of the world. If I had really made such an assertion, it would be an error which I am perhaps more ready than others to repudiate, as it will appear in the present work. I am far from blaming the courteous critics who allege such objections to my theory, and indeed I am honoured by their notice. I must blame myself for not having, in my desire to be brief, sufficiently defined my conception.

I hold the psychical manifestation to be not only conditioned by the organism, to speak scientifically, and to be rendered physiologically possible by these conditions, but I consider it to be of the same nature as the other so-called forces of the universe; such, for example, as the manifestations of light, of electricity, of magnetism, and the like. When physicists speak of these forces—if the necessities of language and the brevity of the explanation constrain us to adopt the term forces, as though they were real substances—they certainly do not believe, nor wish others to believe, that they are really such. It is well known that such expressions are used to signify the appearance under certain circumstances of some special phenomena which group themselves by their mode and power of manifestation into one generic conception as a summary of the whole. They always take place, relatively to these circumstances, in the same mode and with the same power, so that they may at once be experimentally distinguished from others which have been grouped together in like manner.

Such manifestations do not imply a real cosmic entity of these forces, as if they were independent of the matter whence they issue; they are simply determinate and determinate modes of motions, of actions, and reactions in the elements of the world. For if magnetism appears to reveal itself in determinate elements, its modes of manifestation are peculiar to itself, and its efficacy with respect to other forces is also peculiar; yet it by no means follows that it possesses a substantial entity, or, as it were, displays personal activity among phenomena; it rather indicates that the elements of the world will, under given circumstances, act reciprocally in such a manner that we perceive phenomena which group themselves together and which we call magnetic or magnetism. And this explanation applies to other cases.

I therefore, speaking of psychical force in general, used the same terms; I certainly did not wish to constitute it into a personal and material entity of the universe, but I intended to assert that among the manifestations of the various forces of the world, defined as above, there is also this psychical force, characterized by phenomena and laws peculiar to itself, and which, as I have shown, is when exercised one of the greatest factors of the world. I repeat that if this force varies with the greater or less perfection of the organisms in which, it is manifested, yet it possesses a law and fundamental elements by which it is so constituted that the same results will ensue in the simplest as in the most complex form. This is the case with all the other forces of nature; they may be modified by existing circumstances, and yet they have laws and definite elements to distinguish them from all others. These forces, however, while they are distinct in their peculiar manifestations, and take effect through special qualities, quantities, and rhythmic movements, are all fused together in the infinite and eternal unity which constitutes the life of the universe. Neither here nor in my former work is there any question of that most difficult problem, the individual personality of man.[5]

Since there is between man and animals a relationship and a psychical identity, as well as a genetic continuity of evolution, it is impossible to deny that there is also in some degree a like continuity in the products and acts of the consciousness, the emotions, and the intelligence. This is asserted or admitted even by those who do not like to hear of the genetic continuity of evolution, nor is there now any school of thought which impugns such a truth. If this be true, as it undoubtedly is, and since we are treating of the genesis of myth in its earliest beginning, we will endeavour, with daring prompted by the theory of evolution, to discover if the first germ of these representations may not have already existed in the animal kingdom before it was evolved in man in the fetishtic and anthropomorphic form. This is an arduous but necessary inquiry, to which I am impelled by the doctrine of evolution, as it is properly understood, as well as by the universal logic of nature.

If I were to consider myth as it has ultimately been developed in man, it would be a strange and absurd attempt to trace out any points of resemblance with animals, who are altogether devoid of the logical faculty which leads to such development. But if, on the contrary, we endeavour to trace the earliest, spontaneous, and direct elements of myth as a product of animal emotions and implicit intelligence, such research becomes not only legitimate but necessary; since the instrument is the same, the effects ought also to be the same.

We have already said that the fact has been observed and generally admitted that the primary origin of myth in its essential elements consists in the personification or animation of all extrinsic phenomena, as well as of the dreams, illusions, and hallucinations which are intrinsic. It is agreed that this animation is not the reflex and deliberate act of man, but that it is the spontaneous and immediate act of the human intelligence in its elementary consciousness and emotions. It must therefore be evident that this vague and continual animation of things ought to be found also in animals, especially in those of the higher types, in whom consciousness, the emotions, and the intelligence are implicitly identical with those of man. Consequently, that which is at first sight absurd becomes obvious and natural, and the fact is only strange and inexplicable to those who have not carefully considered it.

We must, however, declare that this primary fact is not irreducible, and that science ought not to be content to stop there, but should endeavour to explain and resolve it into its elements, so as to be able to say we have reached the point at which the genesis of myth really begins. This aim can only be attained by the decomposition by analysis of the primitive fact. Since intelligence in its essential elements, and in its innate and implicit exercise, appears to be the same in man and in animals, it is necessary to reduce the analysis of animal nature to a primary psychical fact, in order to see whether by this fact, which is identical also in man, the generating element of myth is really revealed.

I propose to show that this research will reveal truths hitherto unattained, and explain the general law, not merely of the extrinsic process of science and of myth, but also of civilization.

Starting from this wide basis, we must trace, step by step, the dawn, development, and gradual disappearance of myth. Since it is our business to consider science as well as myth, and their respective relations in the evolution common to both, we must, as briefly as possible in the present work, pause to consider these two factors of the human mind, observing the beginnings, conditions, and modes in which the one arose and gradually disappeared, while the other advanced and triumphed. We must not only regard the progress and transformation of religions, but also of science, as it is revealed in the philosophic systems of every age, in the partial or complete discoveries of genius, and in the great and stupendous achievements of modern experimental science. It would require a long treatise to fill so wide a field, which we must restrict to the limits of a few pages. Since our readers are now generally acquainted with the course pursued by human thought, and with the progress of peoples, but few landmarks or formulas are necessary to enable them to clear away obscurity and estimate facts at their just value, so as to understand what civilization and science have to do with the evolution of myth, and of science itself.

A great corollary also ensues from studies undertaken with the aid of sociology, that is, the genesis, form, and gradual evolution of human societies. These vary in character, in attitude, in power, form and duration, with the different characters of races, and thus fulfil in various ways the cycle of myth and science of which they are capable. It would indeed be difficult to attain to a clear and adequate conception of the universal evolution of myth and science, but for the existence of a privileged race distinguished for its psychical and organic power, which from its beginning until now, although subject to many partial eclipses, has on the whole maintained its position in the world so as to present to us the long historical drama of its evolutions. Other races, peoples, or tribes have disappeared in the struggle for existence, or have remained essentially incapable of further progress even in a relatively inferior degree, so as to afford no aid in following the successive development of myth and science; while the Aryan family, a race to which I believe that the Semitic originally belonged,[6] furnishes the unbroken sequence of events and the stages of such complex evolution. Nor certainly is there any signs of the disappearance of this race, since every day its intellectual and territorial achievements, added to the instruments of a powerful material civilization, invigorate its strength and presage its indefinite duration in forms we are not able to foresee, unless indeed fatal astral or telluric catastrophes should hinder its progress or bring it to an end.

If we compare this race with itself at different epochs, and in the many different peoples into which it was severed, and if at the same time we confront it with the types of other peoples at various stages, from the rudest to the most civilized, it becomes possible to form a clear conception of the genesis and successive evolution of myth and science of which the human race is capable, and in this way we may understand the general law which governs such evolutions. This study also teaches us that humanity, whether we agree with monogenists or poligenists, is physically and psychically in all respects the same in its essential elements; in all peoples without distinction, as ethnography teaches us, the origin and genesis of myth, the implicit exercise of reason and its development, are, at all events up to a given point, absolutely identical. All start from the same manifestations and mythical creations, and these are afterwards developed according to the logical or scientific canons of thought, which are applied to their classification. Both among fetish-worshippers and polytheists there was a tendency towards monotheism, although sometimes it could only be discerned in a vague and confused manner.

If myth is, as I have said, to be considered from another point of view, as the spontaneous effect of the intelligence, and a necessary function, relatively to the primary act from which it begins, it might appear that myth would never cease to be, and that humanity, even as it is represented by the elect and enduring race, must always remain in this original illusion; so that every man would have to begin again for himself in his own peculiar cycle of myth. But history shows that this is not the case, and that the mythic faculty gradually wanes and becomes weaker, even if it does not altogether cease to exist, a result which would not occur if myth were a necessary function of the intelligence.

I shall presently reply to such an objection; in the meanwhile, regarding the question superficially, I need only say that if the mythic faculty diminishes in one direction, and with respect to some forms and their corresponding substance, it has certainly not ceased to appear in another, exerting itself, as we shall see, in other forms and other substance. The common people, both urban and rural, do for the most part adhere to primitive and very ancient superstitions, as every one may know from his own experience, as well as from the writings of well known authors of nearly all the civilized nations of Europe. In fact, every man in the early period of his life constructs a heaven for himself, as those who study the ways of children are aware, and this has given rise to a new science of infantine psychology, set forth in the writings of Taine, Darwin, Perez, and others.

We also propose to show that the scientific faculty, which gathers strength and is developed from the mythical faculty, is in the first instance identical and confounded with it, but that science corrects and controls the primitive function, just as reason corrects and explains the errors and illusions of the senses; so that the truly rational man issues, like the foetus from its embryonic covering, out of its primitive mythical covering into the light of truth.

Every one must perceive that the study of the origin of myths has an important bearing on the clear and positive knowledge of mankind. In modern times biological science, such as ethnography and anthropology, have not only thrown much light on the genesis of organic bodies, of animals and of man, but they have afforded very important aid to psychological research, on account of the close connection between psychology and the general physical laws of the world. The mythical faculty in man, and its results, have received much light from these sciences, since the modifications induced in individuals and in peoples by many natural causes, organic or climatological, are based upon their physiological conditions. In the first chapters of Herbert Spencer's book on Sociology, there is a masterly investigation into the changes produced by climate, with its accidents and organic products, on the peculiar temperament of different peoples and races, and we must refer our readers to his admirable summary.

We avail ourselves of the aid afforded by all these branches of science in order to comprehend the true nature of man, and the place which he really occupies in the animal creation. Man should be estimated as all other products and phenomena of nature are estimated, according to his absolute value, divested, as in the case of all other physical and organic sciences, of preconceived ideas or prejudices in favour of the supernatural. He should be studied as in physics we study bodies and the laws which govern them, or as the laws of their motions and combinations are studied in chemistry, allowance always being made for their reciprocal relations, and for their appearance as a whole. For if there be in the universe a distinction of modes, there is no absolute separation of laws and phenomena.

The various branches of science are only subjective necessities, consequent on the successive and gradual order of our comprehension of things; they are classifications of method, with no special reference to the undivided personality of nature. All are parts of the whole, and so also the whole is revealed in its several parts. They come to be in thought, as well as in reality, reciprocal conditions of each other; and he who is able to solve the problem of the world correctly in a simple movement of an atom, would be able to explain all laws and all phenomena, since every thing may ultimately be reduced to this movement. It is precisely this which has been attained by certain laws, so that the study of man must not be dissociated from this conception. It is necessary to regard him as a product of the forces of nature, with which he has certain properties in common. Although man may appear to be a special and peculiar subject, yet he is connected with the universal system in which he lives by the elements, phenomena, and forces of which he consists.

It must not be supposed, as it is asserted with ever-increasing clamour, that such a method and theory can ever destroy the civilized basis of society, and the morality and dignity with which it should be informed, as if we were again reducing man to the condition of a beast. Such an outcry is in itself a plain and striking proof that we have not yet emerged from the mythical age of thought, since it is precisely a mythical belief which prompts this angry protest against the noble and independent research after truth.

It is impossible that the results of positive and rational science should in any way destroy the necessary conditions of civilized life and of the high standard of goodness which should form, elevate, and bring it to perfection. We must, however, remember that it was not rational science, nor the ethics of law, which established the a priori rules of a just and free society, but the necessities of society itself led to the a posteriori formulation of laws. Theoretic science subsequently explained these laws, and perfected their form and organism, infusing into them a nobler purpose; but it was the necessities of nature which first dictated the balance, system, and harmony of the alliances and associations of materials and phenomena as they now exist, which rendered possible the first nucleus of human society, and which, in course of time, brought the component parts into definite relations with each other. It was subsequently the reflex and fitting work of thought to raise upon the foundation laid by nature a rational system of society, and then to bring its rules and forms to perfection.

Hence it follows that it was not man, nor some extrinsic mythical power which arbitrarily dictated the code of private and social life, but this presented itself to man as a spontaneous result of the world's law, relatively to the conditions possible for social life. For if, as in fact is the case, and as the progress of knowledge and, of human civilization will abundantly show, the true and eternal laws which make society possible, and consequently its standard of righteousness, are innate and genuine results of universal laws, it is impossible for science to destroy the inevitable order of things, and to reduce mankind to a hideous chaos.

It must be allowed that great truths, not fully understood by incapable preachers, who sometimes from ignoble motives foment the turbid instincts of the ignorant multitude, may bring about, as they have done of old, grave evils and even crimes in some places and for a short time. But there is no one so foolish or so ignorant of history as to believe that all things happen in the best possible way, and in a logical sequence. Such evils do not invalidate or destroy the force of our assertion that social order is derived from and is based upon the order of nature. Although savage passions, excited by an imperfect understanding of the truth, do from time to time cause the overthrow of given societies, and arouse the horror and alarm of pessimist votaries of myth, nature is not thereby overcome; she still triumphs, and restores the order which has been interrupted, so far as the instinct of conservatism and the hereditary impulse to that special form of association to which each people are accustomed are opposed to the revolutionary spirit, and in this way the balance which has been disturbed is re-established.

When men, having brought their intellectual, and consequently their moral sense to perfection, are enabled to understand this natural order of laws and social facts, divested of extrinsic mythical beliefs, they will find in it so much reciprocal benefit, and will have such a deep sense of their personal dignity, since they are intellectually their own artificers, that they will be able to understand how the highest good has ensued and will ensue from the sacrifices or achievements made by a few for the benefit of all. We are undoubtedly still a long way from such happy conditions, either socially or as individuals, but every day brings them nearer, and it is to this end that our civilization plainly tends, in spite of all the complaints, the fears, and sometimes even the malevolence of men.

As I have already said, the study of the beginnings and of, the anthropological conditions of the various myths is necessary to enable us to understand their psychical phenomena, together with the hidden laws of the exercise of thought. The learned and illustrious Ribot has justly said that psychology, dissociated from physiology and cognate sciences, is extinct, and that in order to bring it to life it is necessary to follow the progress and methods of all other contemporary sciences.[7] The genesis of myth, its development, the specification and integration of its beliefs, as well as the several intrinsic and extrinsic sources whence it proceeds, will assign to it a clearer place among the obscure recesses of psychical facts; they will reveal to us the connection between the facts of consciousness and their antecedents, between the world and our normal and abnormal physiological conditions; they will show what a complex drama is performed by the action and reaction between ourselves and the things within us, and also will declare the nature of the laws which govern the various and manifold creation of forms, imaginations, and ideas, and the artificial world of phantasms derived from these. In this way myth will appear to be not merely due to the direct animation of things, varying in our waking state with the nature of the exciting cause; but it also arises from the normal images and illusions of dreams, and from the morbid hallucinations of madness, both subjectively in the case of the person affected by them, and objectively for those who observe the extrinsic effects in gesture and speech, and the whole bearing of the sufferer.

Every one must admit that all these phenomena, and the beliefs which arise from them, must tend to make the observation of psychical life more easy, just as morbid psychical phenomena often explain the natural action of such life under normal conditions. These phenomena, so closely connected with physiological disturbances which are beyond the control of our personal will, will inform us of the biological relations between consciousness and thought on the one side, and our organism on the other.

The mythical faculty, as we shall see in the following chapters, combined with physiological excitements, both normal and abnormal, generally assumes constant forms in the various and manifold world of its creation; constant forms which conversely also reveal those of the scientific faculty. In this way the development, composition, and integration of a myth, into which others are fused by assimilation, may be said to explain to us the mode in which systems of philosophy are constituted, and to manifest to us in a fanciful way the underlying mode in which human thought is exercised.

Nor do the effects and importance of these studies end here; they are also the necessary foundation of true and rational sociology. In fact, the relations of the individual to the world, the manifold conditions caused by the relations of persons to each other, the constitution of all social order, and the various modifications of that order; all these are resolved into the primitive thought, and into the emotional impulses of mythical prejudices and fancies, and in these they have also their natural sanction, and the cardinal point on which they rest and revolve. There is no society, however rude and primitive, in which all these relations, both to the individual and to society at large, are not apparent, and these are based on superstitious and mythical beliefs. Take the Tasmanians, for example, one of the peoples which has recently become extinct, and regarded as one of the most debased in the social scale, and we have in a small compass a picture of the acts and beliefs to be found in their embryonic association.

In every society, however rudimentary, these are held to be important facts: the birth of individuals, which is their entrance into the society itself, and into the possession of its privileges; marriages, funerals, reciprocal obedience between persons and classes, or to the chief; public assemblies, and the existence of powers equal or superior to living men.

Among the Tasmanians, the placenta was religiously venerated, and they carefully buried it, lest it should be injured or devoured by animals. If the mother died in childbirth her offspring was buried alive with her. When a man attained puberty, he was bound to submit to certain ceremonies, some of them painful, and dictated by phallic superstitions. Funeral rites were simple: the corpse was either burnt, with howls and superstitious functions, or it was placed in the hollow trunk of a tree in a sitting position, with the chin supported by the knees, as was the custom with Peruvian mummies; and the belief in another world prompted them to place the weapons and utensils used, during life beside the corpse. Sometimes a wooden lance, with fragments of human bones affixed to it, was placed below the tumulus, as a defence for the dead during his long sleep. It appears from these customs, and from others mentioned by Clarke, that they had a vague idea of another life, holding that the shades went up to inhabit the stars, or flew to a distant island where they were born again as white men. These beliefs were necessarily connected with the rites which they fulfilled when living, and served as a kind of obscure sanction for them.

Milligan and Nixon tell us that the Tasmanians believed in the existence of evil and sometimes of avenging spirits, destroyers of the guilty. They supposed that the shades of their friends or enemies returned, and caused good or evil to befal them; and according to Milligan there were four kinds of spirits. Purely superstitious rites were used for marriage. Old women and witches were often the arbiters of peace and war between the tribes, and they had the right of pardoning. Sorcerers intervened in many social acts, and before beginning their operations and incantations they revolved the mysterious Mooyumkarr, an oval piece of wood with a cord, which was certainly connected with phallic superstitions. Bonwick asserts that on many private and public occasions, the more skilled sorcerers called up spirits with appropriate ceremonies and formulas. They were powerful, and produced diseases, and were able to exert malign influence, and the urine of women, human blood, and ashes were superstitiously used as remedies against their spells.

The Tasmanian who wished to hurt or bewitch any one, procured something belonging to his enemy, and especially his hair; this, was enveloped in fat and then exposed to the action of fire, and it was thought that as it melted, the man himself would waste away. They feared lest the evil spirit evoked by the enchantments of an enemy might creep behind them in the night to steal away the renal fat, an organ with which various physiological superstitions were connected. They believed that stones, especially certain kinds of quartz crystals, were means of communication with spirits, with the dead, and also with absent persons. A woman often wore round her neck the phallus extracted from the body of her dead husband. The movements of the sun and moon, and some of their phases, had a mythical bearing on various social acts, or on the date of their assemblies, since the sun was the object of great veneration; and the full moon, the epoch of assemblies, was celebrated with feasting and dancing. Dances of many different kinds were connected with traditional myths, astrological superstitions, and the phallic worship. Some remains of circular buildings and concentric compartments, discovered by Field and others, had reference to their feasts, assemblies, and dances. Among their cosmic myths, Milligan has preserved one relating to the double stars which perhaps refers to the invention of fire.

From this cursory view of the conditions of society in its simplest form, and among the most savage peoples, and of the mythical beliefs which prevailed under such conditions, it clearly appears how myth, dating from the first beginnings of human association, has regarded, invested, sanctioned, and generated all special acts and relations, and the whole social order, both private and public. The exercise of thought in primitive times not only consisted of mythical beliefs and associations, but this same condition of thought reacted on all the phenomena of nature, and on all social facts. For if, as we have already observed, more rational empirical notions, and a certain rude form of scientific faculty made its appearance amid those mythical ideas which were still persistent, its various forms were not animated, sustained, and preserved by myth. Hence it is evident that the basis of the genesis of sociology as a whole consists in myth, which sanctions its acts and establishes their relations to each other. The immense importance of these studies, even for the right understanding of the laws and historical evolution which guide and govern sociology, is evident from this fact.

It must not be supposed that such a vast and profound incarnation of myth in social facts is peculiar to the primitive ages; it persists and is maintained in all the historical phases of civilization, even of the higher races, although sometimes in a dormant form. Even in our days, any one who considers our modes of society, the organism, customs, ceremonies, and manifold and complex institutions of modern life, will readily see that religious influences and their rites initiate, sanction, and accompany every individual and social fact, although civil and religious societies are becoming ever more distinct.

Since, therefore, myth is a constant form of sociology, completely invests it, and accompanies and animates its transmutations down to our days, everyone must recognize the necessity of this study in order to understand and explain the true history of thought and of sociology.

The energy, the power, the physical and intellectual worth of a people are revealed as a whole in its mythical products, whether in the quality and greatness of their beliefs, in the greater or less definiteness of their system, or in their development into more rational notions; and from the complex whole we can estimate the worth of their civilization. So that, where other extrinsic testimony is wanting, the study of these primitive creations will reveal to us their psychological worth. This is the origin of the comparative psychology of peoples, a most fruitful science, which not only teaches us to rank the various families of peoples according to their relative value, but it is of great use in making man acquainted with himself, and with psychology in general.

In fact, modern psychology can only advance by means of observation and experiment, which constitute it one of the natural sciences; and this is abundantly proved by the modern English schools, and the experimental school in Germany. Yet observation of the states of consciousness taken alone is defective, unless it is enlarged by the comparative examination of a greater number of subjects; nor must ethnical peculiarities be passed over, and it is precisely these which are included in the comparative psychology of peoples. The large amount of results, their infinite variety, and at the same time a certain uniformity in their modes of beginning, of their development, and of their place in the universe, give a splendid illustration of the innate exercise of human thought; the likenesses as well as the contrasts are instructive as to its real nature.

The comparative psychology of peoples, studied from this point of view, certainly does not include the whole of psychological science, which requires other instruments and other modes of experience, but it is a great help as a foundation. We believe that the study of myth, which throws so much light on comparative psychology, is likewise of use for the special psychology of man, since this can only arise from individual and ethnical observation, and from experiment, dissociated from every hindrance, and from metaphysical prejudice. And if by our humble essay we can throw any light on this noble science, we shall be abundantly rewarded.



All animals communicate with each other and with the external world through their senses, and by means of their perception, both internal and external, they possess knowledge and apprehension of one another. In the vast organic series of the animal kingdom, some are better provided than others with methods, instruments, and apparatus fit for effecting such communication. The senses of relation are not found in the same degree in all animals, nor when such senses are the same in number are they endowed with equal intensity, acuteness, and precision. But the fundamental fact remains the same in all cases; they communicate with themselves and with the external world through their senses.

We must now inquire what value the external object of perception, considered in itself, has for the animal, what character it has and assumes with respect to his inner sense in the act of perception or apprehension. Man, and especially man in our days, after so many ages of reflection, and through the influence of contemporary science, is so far removed from the primitive and simple exercise of his psychical life, that he finds it difficult to picture to himself the ancient and spontaneous conditions under which his senses communicated with the world and with himself. And therefore, without further consideration, he thinks and believes that in primeval times everything took place in the same way as it does at present, and, which is a still greater error, as it takes place in the lower animals.

This identification of the complex machinery of human perception with that of animals must not be regarded as an absurd paradox, since, as we have shown in an earlier work, they were originally and in themselves the same.[8] By pursuing an easy mode of observation, divested of prejudice, we may revert to that primeval state of human nature, and may also comprehend with truth and certainty the condition of animals. For the animal nature has not ceased to exist in man, and it may be discerned by those who care to look for it; and careful study, with the constant aid of observation and experiment, will reveal to us the hidden life of sensation and intelligence in the lower animals.

There is a continual self-consciousness in all animals; it is inseparable from all their internal and external acts, from every fact, passion, and emotion; and this is clear and obvious. This fundamental and persistent self-consciousness—persistent in dreams, and even in the calmest sleep, which is always accompanied by a vague sensation—is the consciousness of a living subject, active, impressionable, exercising his will, capable of emotions and passions. It is not the consciousness of an inert thing, passive, dead, or extrinsic; for animal life consists in sensation of greater or less intensity, but always of sensation. Consequently, such a consciousness signifies for the animal a constant apprehension of an active faculty exercised intrinsically in himself, and it makes his life into a mobile drama, of which he is implicitly conscious, of acts and emotions, of impulses, desires, and suspicions.

This inward form of emotional life and psychical and organic action, into which the whole value of personal existence is resolved, may be said to invest and modify all the animal's active relations to the external world, which it vivifies and modifies according to its own image. The subsequent act of doubling the faculties which takes place in man does not occur in the animal; a process which modifies through the intellect the spontaneous and primitive act. Consequently, the active and inward sense which is peculiar to the animal is renewed in him by the external things and phenomena of nature which stimulate and excite him.

Two kinds of things present themselves to his perception: other animals, of whatever species, and the inanimate objects of the world. As far as the other animals are concerned, which are obvious to his perception, it is perfectly evident that upon these he will project his whole internal life of consciousness and emotions, and will feel their identity with himself by his implicit and intuitive judgment. And in fact, the movements, sounds, gestures, and forms of other animals necessarily cause this sense of inward psychical identity, whence arises the implicit notion of an animated and personal subject. Any one who observes, however superficially, the conduct of animals to each other when they first meet, cannot doubt this truth for an instant.

Although the external form and character of the animal perceived are important factors of the implicit notion of an animated personal subject, this belief is even more due to the animal's inward consciousness of himself as a living subject which is reflected in the extrinsic form of the other and is identified with it. The spontaneous and personal psychical effort does not decompose the object perceived into its proper elements by means of reflex attention, but it is immediately projected on those phenomena which assume a form analogous to the sentient subject.

The fact of this law must never be forgotten in the analysis of animal intelligence and sensation. All those who do not keep clearly in view the real and genuine character of the sentient and intelligent faculty in animals are liable to error.

In addition to the perceptions we have mentioned, animals have a perception of inanimate things, that is, of various bodies and phenomena of nature. Although the form, motion, and gestures of an analogous and personal subject are wanting in these cases, so that they do not cause extrinsically the same implicit idea, neither do they remain, as with a cultivated and rational man, things and qualities of independent existence, disconnected with the life of the animal which perceives them, exerting no intentional efficacy, and governed by necessary laws by means of which they act and exist.

A cultivated and rational man, by the reflex and calm examination of things, can correctly distinguish these two classes of subjects and phenomena, and cannot as a rule be deceived as to their real and relative value with respect to them and to himself. But when he forgets his primary intellectual condition, and does not perfectly understand the permanent condition of animals, he believes that their faculties are identical, and that things, qualities, and phenomena present the same appearance to the human and the animal perception. Yet the actual nature of the thing, so far as it is estimated by our perception as an object different from ourselves and from any other animal, cannot be so apprehended by animals which lack the analytical faculty in the perennial flow of their perceptions; the actual and inanimate thing is presented to them only by the intrinsic, peculiar, personal, and psychical quality of the animal itself.

If form, and characteristic and deliberate action, are wanting to the substances and phenomena of inanimate nature, qualities which more readily arouse in animals the idea of a subject resembling and analogous to themselves, yet there always remains the apprehension of some sort of form in which—not distinguished from the others by reflex action—the inward faculty of sensation and emotion is repeated and impersonated by the perceiving animal. Thus every form, every object, every external phenomenon becomes vivified and animated by the intrinsic consciousness and personal psychical faculty of the animal itself. Every object, fact, and phenomenon of nature will not merely appear to him as the real object which it is, but he will necessarily perceive it as a living and deliberating power, capable of affecting him agreeably or injuriously.

Every one is aware of the jealous, suspicious nature of animals, and that they are not only inquisitive about other animals, but about every material object which they see unexpectedly, which moves in an unusual way, or which interferes with or injures them.

It must have been often observed how they turn against any object which has chanced to hurt them, or which has annoyed them by regular and repeated motions, how they start at the sudden appearance or oscillation of some unlooked-for thing, at an unusual light, a colour, a stone, a plant, at the fluttering of branches, of clothes, or weathercocks, at the rush of water, at the slightest movement or sound in the twilight, or in the darkness of night. They look about, and consider all things and phenomena as subjects actuated by will, and as having an immediate influence on their lives, either beneficent or injurious.

Undoubtedly they do, as a rule, by means of their implicit judgment, distinguish animals as of a different type from other objects, but they transfuse into everything their own personality and their intrinsic consciousness. This is the case with the whole animal kingdom, at least with those whose internal emotion can be gathered from their external movements and gestures.

An animal is sometimes aware that an enemy which may lie in wait for and destroy him has approached the neighbourhood of his haunts, or at any rate may interfere with the freedom of his ordinary life, and he withdraws as far as he can from this new peril or injury, and seeks to defend himself from the malice of his enemy by special arts. In this case, the external subject or thing is what his own objective sense conceives it to be, and his inward perception corresponds to an actual cosmic reality.

Suppose that instead of this, the neighbourhood of a fierce fire, or violent rain and hail, or a stormy wind, or some other natural phenomenon, surprises or injures such creatures; these facts do not affect them as if they were merely occurrences in accordance with cosmic laws, for such a simple conception of things is not grasped by them. Such phenomena of nature are regarded by animals as living subjects, actuated by a concrete and deliberate purpose of ill-will towards them. Any one who has observed animals as I have done for many years, both in a wild and domestic state, and under every variety of conditions and circumstances, will readily admit the fact.

This truth, which clearly appears from an accurate analysis of facts, and from experiments, can also be demonstrated by the arguments of reason. Since animals have no conception of the purely cosmic reality of the phenomena and laws which constitute nature, it follows that such a reality must appear to their inner consciousness in its various effects as a subject vaguely identical with their own psychical nature. Hence they regard nature as if she were inspired with the same life, will, and purpose, as those which they themselves exercise, and of which they have an immediate and intrinsic consciousness.

It is true that after long experience animals become accustomed to regard as harmless the phenomena, objects, and forces by which they were at first sympathetically excited and terrified. Of this we have innumerable examples both among wild and domestic animals; but although suspicion and anxiety are subdued by habit and experience, yet these objects and phenomena are not thereby transformed into pure and simple realities. In the same way, if they are at first frightened by the sight and companionship of some other species or object, habit and experience gradually calm their fears and suspicions, and the association or neighbourhood may even become agreeable to them. I have often observed that different species, both when at liberty and in confinement, are affected by the most lively surprise and perturbation when some new phenomenon has startled them; they act as if it were really a living and insidious subject, and then they gradually become calm and quiet, and regard it as some indifferent or beneficent power.

I must adduce some observations and experiments from the many I have made on this subject. It may be objected that if animals in their spontaneous perception personify the object in question, they would give signs of this fact with respect to all the objects with which they come in contact, and among which they live, and yet they remain indifferent to many of them, which is a proof that they distinguish the animate from the inanimate. In fact it cannot be disputed that a vast number of the phenomena and objects of nature are regarded by animals with indifference; they are perceived by them, but it does not appear that they suppose these things to be endowed with life. It is, however, necessary in the first place to distinguish two modes and stages in this animation of things, one of which we may term static, and the other dynamic. In the first instance, the sentient subject remains tranquil at the very moment when he vivifies the phenomenon or the thing perceived; while the act is accomplished with so much animating force, and with an implicit and fugitive consciousness, it exerts no immediate and sudden influence on the perceiving animal, and consequently he gives no external signs of the personifying character of his perception. In the second instance, which we have termed dynamic, that is, when the phenomenon or object has a direct and sudden effect on the animal himself, he expresses by his movements; gestures, cries, and other signs, how instantaneously he considers and feels the object in question to be alive, for he behaves in exactly the same way towards real animals.

Animals are accustomed to show such indifference towards numerous objects that it might be supposed that they have an accurate conception of what is inanimate; but this arises from habit, from long experience, and partly also from the hereditary disposition of the organism towards this habit. But if the object should act in any unusual way, then the animating process which, as we have just said, was rendered static by its habitual exercise, again becomes dynamic, and the special and permanent character of the act is at once revealed. We have experience of this fact in ourselves, although we are now capable of immediately distinguishing between the animate and the inanimate, and man alone has, or can have, a rational conception of what are really cosmic objects or things. Yet if we suddenly and unexpectedly see some object move in a strange way, which we know from experience to be inanimate, the innate inclination to personify it takes effect, and for a moment we are amazed, as if the phenomenon were produced by deliberate power proper to itself.

I have kept various kinds of animals for several years, in order to observe them and try experiments at my convenience. I have suddenly inserted an unfamiliar object in the various cages in which I have kept birds, rabbits, moles, and other animals. At first sight the animal is always surprised, timid, curious, or suspicious, and often retreats from it. By degrees his confidence returns, and after keeping out of the way for some time, he becomes accustomed to it, and resumes his usual habits. If then, by a simple arrangement of strings already prepared, I move the object to and fro, without showing myself, the animal scuttles about and is much less easily reconciled to its appearance. I have tried this experiment with various animals, and the result is almost always the same.

In the cage of a very tame thrush, I made a movable bottom to his feeding trough, so arranged that by suddenly pulling a cord, the food which it contained could be raised or lowered. When everything remained stationary in its place the thrush ate with lively readiness, but as soon as I raised the food he nearly always flew off in alarm. When the experiment had been often repeated, he did not like to come near the feeding trough, and—which is a still stronger proof that he imagined the food itself to be endowed with life—he often refused to approach, or only approached in fear the sopped bread which was placed outside the trough. I tried the same experiment with other birds, and nearly always with the same result.

On another occasion I repeatedly waved a white handkerchief before a spirited horse, bringing it close to his eyes; at first he looked at it suspiciously and shied a little, but without being much discomposed, and I continued the experiment until he became accustomed to its ordinary appearance. One day I and a friend went out driving with this horse, and I directed a man, while we were passing at a moderate pace, to wave the same handkerchief, attached to a stick, in such a way that his person on the other side of the hedge was invisible. The horse was scared and shied violently, and even in the stable he could not see the handkerchief without trembling, and it was difficult to reconcile him to the sight of it. I repeated the experiment with slight variations on other horses, and the issue was always more or less the same.

Again, I placed a scarecrow or bogey in a parti-coloured dress in the spacious kennel of a hound while he was absent from it. When the dog wished to return to his kennel, he drew back at the sight of it, and barked for a long while. After going backwards and forwards, snuffing suspiciously, he decided to enter, but he remained on the threshold of the kennel, anxiously inspecting the bogey. In a few days, however, he became accustomed to it, and was indifferent to its presence. I ought to add that I had taught him on the first day, by punishment and admonition, that he must not destroy the bogey. One day when the dog was lying down I violently moved the puppet's arms by a cord, and he jumped up and ran barking out of the kennel, soon returning to bark as he had done at first. Finally, he again became accustomed to it, but whenever I repeated the movement with greater violence, it took a long while for him to become reconciled to it.

I put into a room various kinds of wild birds, which had been taken in nets after they were full grown. The window, which looked upon a garden, was unglazed, and closed by a wire netting, through which the outer air entered and was constantly renewed. I placed in the middle of the room a pot containing a shrub of some size, on which the birds used to perch. Since they had been reared in the open air they were certainly accustomed to the wind, and to the way in which it moves trees and branches, so that they were not alarmed by a phenomenon which they recognized from experience. I fastened a cord to the head of the shrub which I passed through a hole in the door, making another to look through, and in this way I moved it to and fro as the wind might have done. One day when there was a high wind which could be heard in the room, and when the current of air through the window was perceptible, I tried the experiment when the conditions of resemblance were perfect. And yet when the violent movement and oscillation of the shrub was combined with the noise of the wind, the frightened birds all fluttered about, and after repeating the movement, and then allowing it to subside, they kept away from the shrub and did not dare to settle on it.

At another time, aided by an ingenious young friend, I constructed a toy windmill, of which the vanes were moved by weights. I placed this toy in a cage, so arranged that its motions could be regulated from the outside, and I put into the cage a sparrow, which had been taken from the nest, and which consequently had no experience of the external world. Much patience was needed, since the toy required careful adjustment and was easily thrown out of gear, but I managed it at last. The sparrow pecked at the little mill as soon as he was put into the cage, and he grew up accustomed to its motions. I then took the sparrow out of the cage and put in a finch, which had also been taken from the nest, but was reared far from such a machine, and he was frightened and did not reconcile himself to it for some time. I exchanged this bird for a goldfinch which had been caught after he was full grown, and his alarm at the little mill was so great that he did not dare to move.

In a ground floor room which I used as my study, I hung an old sheet, which reached to the ground, on a long spear inserted in a heavy wooden disk; I surmounted it with a ragged hunting cap, and so arranged the sheet as to give it some resemblance to the human form. When my dog came in as usual, he looked suspiciously at the object, snuffing about and gradually approaching to walk round and observe it. At last he was satisfied, and curled himself up by the skirts of the bogey, where I had placed the mat on which he was accustomed to lie when he was with me. One evening when the moon shone doubtfully and there was just light enough to distinguish the outline of things, I carried the shapeless bogey into the garden near my room, and placed it among some shrubs and bushes. I went back to the house and called my dog, who followed me quietly until he reached the spot from which he could see the bogey distinctly enough for him to recognize its identity with the one with which he was already familiar. As soon as he saw the apparition he stood still, growling furiously; he began to bark, and when I encouraged him to come on, he turned round and ran back to the house. I shut up the dog in another room, brought back the bogey to its former place, and threw a strong light upon it before recalling the dog. At the first sight of the bogey the dog paused suspiciously for an instant, but when I sat down to the table as usual, he hesitated a little and after snuffing at it went back to his couch.

I have made similar experiments with dogs, rabbits, birds, and other animals. I took long wooden poles, and put them inside their cages or hutches in such a way that the animals got to know and feel reconciled to the sight of them. After some days had elapsed, I contrived, while screened from sight, to take the poles from their usual place and to make them touch and annoy the animals with more or less violence, thus causing them to flutter or scamper about and to shrink away, as if from the touch of a living person, although they were unable, as I have said, to see me or my hand. Those which were least agitated sprang forward with little leaps and looked about them, doubtful and excited. I might go on to describe many other experiments made with the same object, and always with the same result, but these are enough to show that I went to work cautiously and conscientiously, that the spontaneous and innate personification of the objects perceived by animals is clearly apparent, and also how we may account for their indifference to those to which they become accustomed.

Among animals the necessity of finding food is the great and unfailing stimulus towards the exercise of their vital functions; food which may, as we all know, be vegetable, animal, or a combination of both kinds. It is evident that in the case of carnivorous animals the object which satisfies this desire is a living subject, of which it is necessary to become possessed by arts, wiles, sometimes by a fierce and cruel conflict. In these cases, animals are in constant communication with an animal world resembling their own, and the objective reality is for the most part resolved into living subjects, endowed with consciousness and will. But neither is the vegetable food of herbivorous, frugivorous, and graminivorous animals regarded by them, as it is by us, as a material and unconscious satisfaction of their wants; these grasses, grains, and leaves appear to animals to be living powers which it is necessary to conquer, animated subjects endowed with life, but for the most part inoffensive, and which, unlike the living prey of carnivora, offer no resistance.

Observe the way in which an herbivorous or graminivorous animal becomes excited and angry when the branch or the ear of corn obstinately adheres to the ground, or offers any other difficulty to his immediate desire of obtaining food; he acts like one who has to do with a resisting power. Observe how, when they are quietly stripping the bough, picking out the grains, or eating the grass, they become suspicious, or fly away if there should be any unusual movement in the bough, the ears of corn, or the grass. In one way or another their food is regarded as a subject endowed with sympathetic and deliberate consciousness. And every one must have observed that animals at play act towards inanimate objects as if they were conscious and endowed with will.

Every object of animal perception is therefore felt, or implicitly assumed, to be a living, conscious, acting subject. This is due to the external reflection and projection of the intrinsic and sentient faculty, and therefore—since an animal has not the duplex faculty of deliberate and reflex attention—he cannot attain to the conception of simple external reality, of cosmic things and phenomena. Every object, every phenomenon is for him a deliberating power, a living subject, in which consciousness and will act as they do in himself. There are undoubtedly in the vast series of beings which compose the order of nature, and which he is able to perceive, degrees, differences, and varieties of energy, power, and efficacy with respect to himself and to the normal exercise of his life. But he transfuses into all, in proportion to the effects which result from them, his own nature, and modifies them in accordance with the intrinsic form of his consciousness, his emotions, and his instincts.

The external world appears to animals to be a great and mighty movement and congeries of living, conscious, deliberating beings, and the value of the phenomenon or thing is great in proportion to its effect on the animal itself. The objective and simple reality, as it appears to man, has no existence for animals; from the nature of their intelligence they cannot attain to any explicit conception of it, so that this reality is resolved and modified into their own image. The eternal and infinite flux, by which all things come and go in obedience to laws which are permanent and enduring, appears to animals to be a vast and confused dramatic company in which the subjects, with or without organic form, are always active, working in and through themselves, with benign or malignant, pleasing or hurtful influence. It is for this reason, and this reason only, that their life of consciousness and of relation is so deeply seated and so readily excited. Nor do animals ever believe themselves to be alone among inanimate things; even when not surrounded by allied or different species, they have the sense of living amid the manifold forms of conscious and deliberating life which the world contains.

This constant and deliberate animation of all the objects and phenomena of nature is spontaneous and necessary owing to the psychical and organic constitution of the animal kingdom, and it resolves itself into a universal personification of the phenomena themselves. In fact, the animal's intrinsic psychical personality is infused and transformed into each of them with more or less intensity and vigour; the phenomena are perceived by each individual just as far as he assimilates them, and he is constantly assimilating himself to them. His communication with the external world is in proportion with its internal reflection on himself, and he understands just as much as his own nature enables him to grasp.

A careful consideration therefore shows that the conditions of animal knowledge consist in endowing the phenomena and objects of nature with consciousness and will. I think that this truth will prove a certain guide and beacon in the interpretation of the origin of myth and science in man.



In man, as it has been clearly proved, sensations and perceptions occur both physiologically and psychically just as they do in animals. If science and the rational process of the interpretation of things have their origin and are evolved in us by the duplication of our faculties, such a function, which is due to this duplication, is very slowly developed and exercised, and in its origin, as an effort of the intelligence, it does not differ from that of animals.

It is true that the internal act of the higher faculty of reflection has hardly taken place before man unconsciously enters on a new and vast apprenticeship, which soon distinguishes him from and exalts him above the animal kingdom; science has already put forth its first germ. But the reasoning and simply animal faculties were so mingled, that for a long while they were confounded together in their effects and results, as well as in their natural methods. We must therefore begin by considering the nature of this primitive human perception, in some degree identical with that of animals, so that they may be estimated to be of equal value, at any rate in their first results and arts.

The vivid self-consciousness, inseparable at all times from every act, passion, and emotion, actuates man and animals alike; he has this consciousness in common with all other animals, and especially with those superior orders which are nearest to himself. The further perception of extrinsic things and phenomena occurs after the same manner and in accordance with the same physiological and psychical laws. By the intrinsic law of animal nature, as it is adapted to his cosmic environment, we see the cause and necessity of the transfusion and projection of himself into everything which he perceives; whence it follows that he regards these things as living, conscious, and deliberating subjects; and this is also the case with man, who animates and endows with life all which surrounds him and which he perceives.

In fact, in man's spontaneous and immediate perception and apprehension of any object or external phenomenon, especially in early life, the innate effects are instantaneous, and correspond with the real constitution of the function; analysis and reflex attention necessarily and slowly succeed to this primitive animal act in the course of human development. Consequently the true character and value of its effect on the perception are the same in man and animals.

If in this psychical and organic fact of perception, man is at first absolutely in the conditions of animals, identical effects must be produced; and this was originally the case, as far as man himself and external things were concerned. The powerful self-consciousness which actuates man and animals alike is projected on the objects or phenomena perceived, and they see them transformed into living, deliberating subjects. In this way the world and all which it contains appears to be a congeries of beings, actuated by will and consciousness, and powerful for good or evil, and in practice they seek to modify, to encourage, or to avoid such influence. The ultimate effect of this action, assumed to be intentional in all and each of these subjects, will be their personification, either vaguely or definitely, but always as a power active for good or ill.

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