Daniel Garrison Brinton.

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A U Til OR




WORLD: A Treatise

on the Symbolism

and Mythology of the Red Race of


Second editiouy revised. Large i2mo,




Its Source and Aim. A

Contribution to the

Science and Philosophy of Religion.


i2mo, $2.50.






Member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Philological
Society, etc. ; author of " The Myths of the Neio World,''"' etc.






• .* J-^iJ^t^- fTROw & Son, Printers,
^o5»-S*3* East i2TH St., New York.

* <

f :


Mythology, since it began to receive a scientific
handling at all, has been treated as a subordinate
branch of history or of ethnology. The " science of
religion," as we know it in the works of Burnouf,
Miiller, and others, is a comparison of systems of
worship in their historic development. The deeper
inquiry as to what in the mind of man gave birth to
religion in any of its forms, what spirit breathed and
is ever breathing life into these dry bones, this, the
final and highest question of all, has had but passing
or prejudiced attention. To its investigation this

book is devoted.

The analysis of the religious sentiment I offer is
an inductive one, whose outlines were furnished by a
preliminary study of the religions of the native race
of America, a field selected as most favorable by rea-
son of the simplicity of many of its cults, and the
absence of theories respecting them. This study was
embodied in "The Myths of the New World; a
Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the
Red Race of America " (second edition, N. Y. 1876).
The results thus obtained I have in the present
work expanded by includingin the survey the historic
religions of the Old World, and submitted the whole


for solution to the Laws of Mind, regarded as phys-
iological elements of growth, and to the Laws of
Thought, these, as formal only, being held as nowise
a development of those. This latter position, which
is not conceded by the reigning school of psychology,
I have taken j)ains to explain and defend as far as
consistent with the plan of this treatise ; but I am
well aware that to say all that can be said in proof of
it, would take much more space than here allowed.

The main questions I have had before me in writ-
ing this volume have an interest beyond tliose which
mere science propounds. What led men to imagine
gods at all ? What still 2:)rompts enlightened nations
to worship ? Is prayer of any avail, or of none ? Is
faith the last ground of adoration, or is reason? Is
religion a transient phase of development, or is it
the chief end of man ? What is its warrant of contin-
uance ? If it overlive tliis day of crumbling theologies,
whence will come its reprieve?

To such inquiries as these, answers satisfactory to
thinking men of this time can, I believe, be given
only by an inductive study of religions, supported by
a sound psychology, and conducted in a spirit which
acknowledges as possibly rightful, the reverence which
every system claims. Those I propose, inadequate
though they may be, can at any rate pretend to be
the result of honest labor.
PniLADELPniA, January^ 1876.




Thk Bearixg of the Laws of Mind on Religion. . 3

The Emotional Elements of the Religious Sen-
timent 47

The Rational Postulates of the Religious Sen-
timent 87

The Prayek and its Answer 117

The Myth and the Mythical Cycles 155

The Cult, its Symbols and Rites 190

The ^Iomenta of Religious Thought 2:U



The distinction between the Science and the Philosopliy of religion. It ia
assumed (1) tha^ religions are products of thought, (2) that they have a unity
of kind and purpose. They can bj studied by the methods of natural science
appliud to Mind.

Mind is co-extensive with organism. Sensation and Emotion are pnnnineiit
marks of it. These are either pleasurable or i^ainf ul ; the latter dinunUh
vital motions, the former increase them. This is a product of natural selec-
tion. A mis-reading of these facts is the fallacy of Buddhism and other
pessimistic systems. Pleasure comes from continuous action. This is
illustrated by the esthetic emotions, volition and consciousness.

The climax of mind is Intellect. Physical changes accompany thought
but cannot measure it. lielatiohs of thought and feelin.g. Truth is its only
measure. Truth, like pleasure, is desired for its preservative powers. It is
reached through the laws of thought.

These laws are : (1) the natural order of the association of ideas, (2) the
methods of applied logic, (3) the forms of correct reasoning. The last allow
of mathematical expression. They are three in number, called those of
Determination, Limitation and Excluded Middle.

The last is the kej - stOiie of religious philosophy. Its diverse interpre-
tations. Its mathematical expres ion shows that it does not relate to con-
tradictories. But certain concrete analytic propositi<nis, relating to con-
traries, do have this form. The contrai'y as distinguished from the privative.
The Conditioned and Unconditioned, the Knowable and Unknowable are not
true contradictions. The synthesis of contraries is theoretic only.

Errors as to the limits of possible explanation corrected by these
distinctions. The formal law is the last and complete explanation. The
relations of thought, belief and being.




The Science of Relio^ion is one of the branches
of general historical science. It embraces, as
the domain of its investigation, all recorded facts
relating to the displays of the Religious Senti-
ment. Its limits are defined by those facts, and
the legitimate inferences from them. Its aim is
to ascertain the constitutive laws of the origin
and spread of religions, and to depict the influ-
ence they have exerted on the general life of

The question whether a given religion is
true or false cannot present itself in this form as
a proper subject of scientific inquiry. The most
that can be asked is, whether some one system is
best suited to a specified -condition of the indi-
vidual or the community.

The higher inquiry is the object of the


Philosoj^liy of Religion. This branch of study
aims to pass beyond recorded facts and local
adjustments in order to weigh the theoretical
claims of religions, and measure their greater or
less conformity with abstract truth. The formal
or regulative laws of religious thought occupy it.

Theology, dogmatic or polemic, is an ex-
planatory defence of some particular faith. To-
gether with mythology and symbolism, it fur-
nishes the material from which the Science
and Philosophy of Religion seek to educe the
laws and frame the generalizations which will
explain the source and aim of religion in gen-

The common source of all devotional displays
is the Religious Sentiment, a complex feeling, a
thorough understanding of which is an essential
preliminary to the study of religious systems.

Such a study proceeds on the assumption
that all religions are products of thought, com-
menced and continued in accordance with the
laws of the human mind, and, therefore, compre-
hensible to the extent to which these laws are
known. No one disputes this, except in refer-
ence to his own religion. This, he is apt to
assert, had something '^ supernatural " about
its origin. If this word be correctly used, it may
stand without cavil. The " natural " is that of
which we know in whole or in part the laws ; the
'^ sujpernatural " means that of which we do not


at present know in any degree the laws. The
domain of the supernatural diminishes in the
ratio of the increase of knowledge ; and the
inference that it also is ahsolutely under the
control of law, is not only allowable but oblig-

A second assumption must be that there is a
unity of kind and purpose in all religions. With-
out this, no common law can exist for them.
Such a law must hold good in all ages, in every
condition of society, and in each instance.
Hence those who explain religious systems as
forms of government, or as systems of ethics, or
as misconceived history, or as theories of natural
philosophy, must be prepared to make their view
good when it is universally applied, or else re-
nounce the possibility of a Science of Religion ;
while those Avho would except their own system
from what they grant is the law of all others,
violate the principles of investigation and thereby
the canons of truth.

The methods of science are everywhere alike.
Has the naturalist to explain an organism, he
begins with its elements or proximate principles
as obtained by analysis ; he thence passes to the
tissues and fluids which compose its members ;
these he considers first in a state of repose, their
structure and their connections ; then he ex-
amines their functions, the laws of their growth
and action ; and finally he has recourse to the


doctrine of relations, la theorie des milieux, to
define the conditions of its existence. Were such
a method apphed to a religion, it would lead us
first to study its psychological elements, then the
various expressions in word and act to which
these give occasion, next the record of its growth
and decay, and finally from these to gather the
circumstantials of human life and culture which
led to its historic existence.

Some have urged that such a method should not
be summoned to questions in mental philosophy.
To do so, say they, is to confound things distinct,
requiring distinct jolans of study. Such a criti-
cism miglit have had weight in the days when the
mind was supposed to inhabit the body as a
tenant a house, and have no relation to it other
than that of a casual occupant. But that opinion
is antiquated. More than three-fourths of a cen-
tury ago the far-seeing thinker, Wilhelm von
Humboldt, laid down the maxim that the phe-
nomena of mind and matter obey laws identical
in kind ; ^ and a recent historian of science sums
up the result of the latest research in these words :

" The old dualism of mind and body, which for
centuries struggled in vain for reconciliation,
finds it now, not indeed in the unity of substance,
but in the unity of laws." ^

1 In his easay entitled, Ueber den GescJilechtsuntersIiied und
dessen Einftms nuf die organische Natur, first published in 1795.

2 "Djr alte Dualismus von Geist und Korper, der Jahrhun-


It is, therefore, as a question in mental phi-
losophy to be treated by the methods of natural
science, that I shall approach the discussion of
the religious sentiment. As it is a part, or at
least a manifestation of mind, I must preface
its more particular consideration with some words
on the mind in general, words which I shall make
as few and as clear as possible.

At the beginning of this century, the natur-
alist Oken hazarded the assertion : '^ The human
mind is a memberment of infusorial sensation," ^
a phrase which has been the guiding principle of
scientific psychology ever since. That in the
course of this memberment or growth wholly
new faculties are acquired, is conceded. As the
union of two inorganic substances may yield a
third different in every respect from either ; or,
as in the transition of inorganic to organic mat-
ter, the 'power of reproduction is attained; so,
positively new powers may attend the develop-
ment of mind. From sensations it progresses to
emotions, from emotions to reason. The one is
the psychical climax of the other. '' We have
still to do with the one mind,vrhose action devel-

derte hindiirch nach Yersohnung gerungen, finrlet diese hente
nicht ZAvar in der Einheit der Substaiiz, wolil aber in der
Einheit des Gesetzes." Dr. Ileinrich Boehmer, Geschichte der
Entwickelung der Nafuncissenschaftlichen Weltanschauimg in
Deufschkmd, s. 201 (Gotha, 1872).

1 Elements of Physio-Phdosophy, §3589.
don, 1817.


opes itself with perception, through discrimina-
tion, till it arrives at notions, wherein its most
general scheme, ' truth and error,' serves as the
prhiciple." ^

Extravagant as Oken's expression seemed to
many when it was published, it now falls short
of the legitimate demands of science, and I may
add, of religion. Mind is co-exteiisive with
organism ; in the language of logic, one " con-
notes " the other; this statement, and nothing
short of it, satisfies the conditions of the problem.
Wherever we see Form preserved amid the
change of substance, there is mind ; it alone can
work that miracle ; only it gives Life. Matter
suffers no increase ; therefore the new is but a
redistribution of the old ; it is new iwforin only ;
and the maintenance of form under changes of
substance is the one distinguishing mark of
organism. To it is added the yet more wonder-
ful power of transmitting form by reproduction.
Wherever these are, are also the rudiments of
mind. The distinction between the animal and
the veo^etable Avorlds, between the reasoning
and unreasoning animals, is one of degree only.
Whether, in a somewhat different sense, we should
not go yet further, and say that mind is co-ex-
tensive with motion, and hence with phenomena,
is a speculative inquiry which may have to be

1 Von Feiichtersleben, The Principles of Medical Psychology^
p. 130 (Eng. trans., London, 1847).


answered in the affirmative, but it does not concern
us here.

The first and most o:eneral mark of Mind is
sensation or common feeUng. In technical lan-
guage a sensation is defined to be the result
of an impression on an organism, producing
some molecular change in its nerve or life cen-
tres. It is the consequence of a contact with
another existence. Measured by its effects upon
the individual the common law of sensation is :
Every impression, however slight, either adds to
or takes from the sum of the life-force of the
system ; in the former case it produces a pleas-
urable, in the latter a painful sensation. The
exceptions to this rule, though many, are such in
appearance only.^

In the human race the impression can often
be made quite as forcibly by a thought as by an
act. " I am confident," says John Hunter, the
anatomist, ^' that I can fix my attention to any

1 " The fundamental property of org-anic structure is to
seek what is beneficial, and to shun what is liurtful to it." Dr.
Henry ^Nlaudsley, Bodi/ and Miiid, p. 22.

" The most essential nature of a sentient being is to move to
pleasure and /?-om pain." A. Bain, On the Stud// of Character,
p. 292 (London, 1861).

" States of Pleasure are connected with an increase, states of
Pain with an abatement of some or all of the vital functions.'*
A. Bain, Mind and Body, p. 59.

" Affectus est confusa idea, qua Mens majorem, vel minorem
sui corporis, vel alicujus ejus partis, existendi vim affirmaf
Spinoza, Ethices, Lib. IIL adjinem.


part, until I have a sensation in that part."
This is what is called the influence of the mind
upon the body. Its extent is much greater
than used to be imagined, and it has been a
fertile source of religious delusions. Such sen-
sations are called subjective; those produced by
external force, objective.

The immediate consequent of a sensation is
reflex action, the object of which is either to
avoid pain or increase pleasure, in other words,
either to preserve or augment the individual

The molecular changes incident to a sensa-
tion leave permanent traces, which are the
physical bases of memory. One or several such
remembered sensations, evoked by a present
sensation, combine with it to form an Emotion.
Characteristic of their origin is it that the emo-
tions fall naturally into a dual classification, in
which the one involves pleasurable or elevating,
the other painful or depressing conditions.
Thus we have the pairs joy and grief, hope and
fear, love and hate, etc.

The question of pleasure and pain is thus
seen to be the primary one of mental science.
We must look to it to explain the meaning of
sensation as a common quality of organism.
What is the significance of pleasure and pain ?

The question involves that of Life. Not to
stray into foreign topics, it may broadly be said


that as all cliano-e resolves itself into motion,
and, as Helmholtz remarks, all science merges
itself into mechanics, we should commence by
asking what vital motions these sensations stand
for or correspond to.

Every organism, and each of its parts, is the
resultant of innumerable motions, a composition
of forces. As such, each obeys the first law of
motion, to wit, indefinite continuance of action
until interfered with. This is a modification of
Newton's " law of continuance," which, with
the other primary laws of motion, must be taken
as the foundation of biology as well as of astron-

The diminution or dispersion of organic mo-
tion is expressed in physiological terms as waste ;
we are admonished of waste hy j^cdn; and thus
admonished we supply the waste or avoid the
injury as far as we can. But this connection of
pain with waste is not a necessary one, nor is it
the work of a Pi^ovidentia particularism as the

1 The extension of the mechanical laws of motion to organic
motion was, I believe, first carried out by Comte. His
biological form of the first law is as follows : " Tout etat, statique
ou dynamique, tend a persister spontanement, sans aucune
alteration, en resistant aux perturbations exterieures."
Systhne de Politique Positice, Tome iv. p. 178. The metaphysi-
cal ground of this law has, I think, been very well shown by
Schopenhauer to be in the Kantian principle that time is not
a force, nor a quality of matter, but a condition of perception,
and hence it can exert no physical influence. See Schopen-
hauer, Parerga und Paralipomena, Bd. IF, s. 37.


schoolmen said. It is a simple result of natural
selection. Many organisms have been born, no
doubt, in which waste did not cause pain ; caused,
perhaps, pleasure. Consequently, they indulged
their preferences and soon perished. Only those
lived to propagate their kind in whom a differ-
ent sensation was associated with waste, and they
transmitted this sensitiveness increased by an-
cestral impression to their offspring. The curses
of the human race to-day are alcohol, opium and
tobacco, and they are so because they cause
waste, but do not immediately produce painful
but rather pleasurable feelings.

Pain, as the sensation of waste, is the precur-
sor of death, of the part or system. By parity
of evolution, pleasure came to be the sensation
of continuance, of uninterrupted action, of in-
creasing vigor and life. Every action, however,
is accomj)anied by waste, and hence every pleas-
ure developes pain. But it is all important to
note that the latter is the mental correlative not
of the action but of its cessation, not of the life
of the part but of its ceasing to live. Pain, it is
true, in certain limits excites to action ; but it is
by awakening the self -preservative tendencies,
which are the real actors. This physiological
distinction, capable of illustration from sensitive
vegetable as well as the lowest animal organisms,
has had an intimate connection with religious
theories. The problems of suffering and death


are precisely the ones which all religions set
forth to solve in theory and in practice. Their
creeds and myths are based on what they make
of pain. The theory of Buddhism, w^hich now
has more followers than any other faith, is
founded on four axioms, which are called " the
four excellent truths." The first and fundamen-
tal one is : " Pain is inseparable from exist-
ence." This is the principle of all pessimism,
ancient and modern. Schopenhauer, an out-and-
out pessimist, lays down the allied maxim, " All
pleasure is negative, that is, it consists in getting
rid of a want or pain," ^ a principle expressed
before his time in the saying " the highest pleas-
ure is the relief from pain."

Consistently with this, Buddhism holds out as
the ultimate of hope the state of Nirvana, in
which existence is not, where the soul is " blown
out " like the flame of a candle.

But physiology demolishes the corner-stone
of this edifice when it shows that pain, so far
from being inseparable from existence, has merely
become, through transmitted experience, nearly
inseparable from the progressive cessation of
existence. While action and reaction are equal
in inorganic nature, the principle of life modifies
the operation of this universal law of force by

1 " Aller Genuss, seiner Natur nach, ist negati7,d. li., in Be-
freiung von eincr Noth oder Pein besteht." Parerga und Para-
Hpomena. Bd. II. s. 482.


bringing in nutrition^ which, were it complete,
would antagonize reaction. In such a case,
pleasure would be continuous, pain null ; action
constant, reaction hypothetical. As, however,
nutrition in fact never wholly and at once re-
places the elements altered by vital action, both
physicians and metaphysicians have observed
that pleasure is the fore-runner of pain, and has
the latter as its certain sequel.^

Physiologically and practically, the definition
of pleasure is, maxiinum action with minimum

This latter generalization is the explanation
of the esthetic emotions. The modern theory of
art rests not on a psychological but a physiolog-
ical, and this in turn on a physical basis. Helm-
holtz's theory of musical harmony depends on the
experimental fact that a continued impression
gives a pleasant, a discontinuous an impleasant
sensation. The mechanics of muscular structure
prove that what are called graceful motions are

1 " No impression whatever is pleasant beyond the instant of
its realization ; since, at that very instant, commences the
change of susceptibility, which suggests the desire for a change
of impression or for a renewal of that impression which is fad-
ing away." Di". J. P. Catlow, The Principles of Aesthetic Medi-
cine, p 155 (London, 1867;.

" Dum re, quern appetamus fruimur, corpus ex ea fruitione
novam acquirat constitutionein, a qua aliter determinatur, et
alise rerum imaghies in eo excitantur," etc. Spinoza, £'^/i/ce6-,
Pars II r, Prop. lix.


those which are the mechanical resultant of the
force of the muscle, — those which it can perform
at least waste. The pleasure we take in curves,
especially " the line of beauty," is because our
eyes can follow them with a minimum action of
its muscles of attachment. The popular figure
called the Grecian figure or the walls of Troy,
is pleasant because each straight line is shorter,
and at right angles to the j^receding one, thus
giving the greatest possible change of action to
the muscles of the eye.

Such a mechanical view of phj^siology pre-
sents other suggestions. The laws of vibratory-
motion lead to the inference that action in ac-
cordance Avith those laws gives maximum inten-
sity and minimum w^aste. Hence the pleasure the
mind takes in harmonies of sound, of color and
of odors.

The correct physiological conception of the
most perfect physical life is that which will con-
tinue the longest in use, not that whicli can dis-
play the greatest muscular force. The ideal is
one of extension, not of intension.

Eeligious art indicates the gradual recogni-
tion of these principles. True to their ideal of
inaction, the Oriental nations represent their
gods as mighty in stature, with prominent
muscles, but sitting or reclining, often with
closed eyes or folded hands, wrapped in robes, and
lost in meditation. The Greeks, on the other


hand, portrayed their deities of ordinary stature,
naked, awake and erect, but the hmbs smooth and
round, the muscular hues and the veins hardly
visible, so that in every attitude an indefinite
sense of repose pervades the whole figure.
Movement without effort, action without waste,
is the immortality these incomj)arable works set

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Online LibraryDaniel Garrison BrintonThe religious sentiment, its source and aim; a contribution to the science and philosophy of religion → online text (page 1 of 17)