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But more than that, even if men had really had reasons for remaining obstinate, in spite of all their mistakes, in expressing cosmic phenomena in religious terms, it is also necessary that these be of a nature to suggest such an interpretation. Now when could they have gotten such a property ? Here again we find ourselves in the presence of one of those postulates which pass as evident only because they have not been criticized. It is stated as an axiom that in the natural play of physical forces there is all that is needed to arouse within us the idea of the sacred ; but when we closely examine the proofs of this propo­sition, which, by the way, are sufficiently brief, we find that they reduce to a prejudice.

They talk about the marvel which men should feel as they discover the world. But really, that which characterizes the life of nature is a regularity which approaches monotony. Every morning the sun mounts in the horizon, every evening it sets ; every month the moon goes through the same cycle ; the river flows in an uninterrupted manner in its bed ; the same seasons periodically bring back the same sensations. To be sure, here and there an unexpected event sometimes happens : the sun is eclipsed, the moon is hidden behind clouds, the river overflows. But these momentary variations could only give birth to equally momentary impressions, the remembrance of which is gone after a little while ; they could not serve as a basis for these stable and permanent systems of ideas and practices which constitute religions. Normally, the course of nature is uniform, and uniformity could never produce strong emotions. Repre­senting the savage as filled with admiration before these marvels transports much more recent sentiments to the beginnings of history. He is much too accustomed to it to be greatly surprised by it. It requires culture and reflection to shake off this yoke of habit and to discover how marvellous this regularity itself is. Besides, as we have already remarked,1 admiring an object is not enough to make it appear sacred to us, that is to say, to mark it with those characteristics which make all direct contact with it appear a sacrilege and a profanation. We misunderstand what the religious sentiment really is, if we confound it with every impression of admiration and surprise.

But, they say, even if it is not admiration, there is a certain impression which men cannot help feeling in the presence of nature. He cannot come in contact with it, without realizing

that it is greater than he. It overwhelms him by its immensity. This sensation of an infinite space which surrounds him, of an infinite time which has preceded and will follow the present moment, and of forces infinitely superior to those of which he is master, cannot fail, as it seems, to awaken within him the idea that outside of him there exists an infinite power upon which he depends. And this idea enters as an essential element into our conception of the divine.

But let us bear in mind what the question is. We are trying to find out how men came to think that there are in reality two categories of things, radically heterogeneous and incomparable to each other. Now how could the spectacle of nature give rise to the idea of this duality ? Nature is always and everywhere of the same sort. It matters little that it extends to infinity :

beyond the extreme limit to which my eyes can reach, it is not different from what it is here. The space which I imagine beyond the horizon is still space, identical with that which I see. The time which flows without end is made up of moments identical with those which I have passed through. Extension, like dura­tion, repeats itself indefinitely ; if the portions which I touch have of themselves no sacred character, where did the others get theirs ? The fact that I do not see them directly, is not enough to transform them.1 A world of profane things may well be unlimited ; but it remains a profane world. Do they say that the physical forces with which we come in contact exceed our own ? Sacred forces are not to be distinguished from profane ones simply by their greater intensity, they are different;

they have special qualities which the others do not have. Quite on the contrary, all the forces manifested in the universe are of the same nature, those that are within us just as those that are outside of us. And especially, there is no reason which could have allowed giving a sort of pre-eminent dignity to some in relation to others. Then if religion really was born because of the need of assigning causes to physical phenomena, the forces thus imagined would have been no more sacred than those con­ceived by the scientist to-day to account for the same facts.2

This is as much as to say that there would have been no sacred beings and therefore no religion.

But even supposing that this sensation of being " overwhelmed " were really able to suggest religious ideas, it could not have produced this effect upon the primitive, for he does not have it. He is in no way conscious that cosmic forces are so superior to his own. Since science has not yet taught him modesty, he attributes to himself an empire over things which he really does not have, but the illusion of which is enough to prevent his feeling dominated by them. As we have already pointed out, he thinks that he can command the elements, release the winds, compel the rain to fall, or stop the sun, by a gesture, etc.1 Religion itself contributes to giving him this security, for he believes that it arms him with extended powers over nature. His rites are, in part, means destined to aid him in imposing his will upon the world. Thus, far from being due to the sentiment which men should have of their littleness before the universe, religions are rather inspired by the contrary sentiment. Even the most elevated and idealistic have the effect of reassuring men in their struggle with things : they teach that faith is, of itself, able " to move mountains," that is to say, to dominate the forces of nature. How could they give rise to this confidence if they had had their origin in a sensation of feebleness and impotency ?

Finally, if the objects of nature really became sacred because of their imposing forms or the forces which they manifest, then the sun, the moon, the sky, the mountains, the sea, the winds, in a word, the great cosmic powers, should have been the first to be raised to this dignity ; for there are no others more fitted to appeal to the senses and the imagination. But as a matter of fact, they were divinized but slowly. The first beings to which the cult is addressed—the proof will be found in the chapters which follow—are humble vegetables and animals, in relation to which men could at least claim an equality : they are ducks, rabbits, kangaroos, lizards, worms, frogs, etc. Their objective qualities surely were not the origin of the religious sentiments which they inspired.