К оглавлению
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 
34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 
68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 
85 86 87 88 89 90 91 

This doctrine rests, in part, upon a certain number of linguistic postulates which have been and still aw very much questioned. Some have contested the reality of many of the similarities which Max Muller claimed to have found between the names of the gods in the various European languages. The interpretation which he gave them has been especially doubted : it has been asked if these names, far from being the mark of a very primitive

religion, are not the slow product, either of direct borrowings or of natural intercourse with others.1 Also, it is no longer admitted that the roots once existed in an isolated state as autonomous realities, nor that they allow us to reconstruct, even hypotheti-cally, the original language of the Indo-Europeans.2 Finally, recent researches would tend to show that the Vedic divinities did not all have the exclusively naturistic character attributed to them by Max Muller and his school.3 But we shall leave aside those questions, the discussion of which requires a special com­petence as a philologist, and address ourselves directly to the general principles of the system. It will be important here not to confound the naturistic theory with these controverted postu­lates ; for this is held by numbers of scholars who do not make language play the predominating role attributed to it by Max Muller.

That men have an interest in knowing the world which sur­rounds them, and consequently that their reflection should have been applied to it at an early date, is something that everyone will readily admit. Co-operation with the things with which they were in immediate connection was so necessary for them that they could not fail to seek a knowledge of their nature. But if, as naturism pretends, it is of these reflections that religious thought was bom, it is impossible to explain how it was able to survive the first attempts made, arid the persistence with which it has maintained itself becomes unintelligible. If we have need of knowing the nature of things, it is in order to act upon them in an appropriate manner. But the conception of the universe given us by religion, especially in its early forms, is too greatly mutilated to lead to temporarily useful practices. Things become nothing less than living and thinking beings, minds or person­alities like those which the religious imagination has made into the agents of cosmic phenomena. It is not by conceiving of them under this form or by treating them according to this conception that men could make them work for their ends. It is not by addressing prayers to them, by celebrating them in feasts and sacrifices, or by imposing upon themselves fasts and priva­tions, that men can deter them from working harm or oblige them to serve their own designs. Such processes could succeed only very exceptionally and, so to speak, miraculously. If, then, religion's reason for existence was to give us a conception of the

world which would guide us in our relations with it, it was in no condition to fulfil its function, and people would not have been slow to perceive it : failures, being infinitely more frequent than successes, would have quickly shown them that they were following a false route, and religion, shaken at each instant by these repeated contradictions, would not have been able to survive.

It is undeniably true that errors have been able to perpetuate themselves in history ; but, except under a union of very ex­ceptional circumstances, they can never perpetuate themselves thus unless they were true practically, that is to say, unless, without giving us a theoretically exact idea of the things with which they deal, they express well enough the manner in which they affect us, either for good or for bad. Under these circum­stances, the actions which they determine have every chance of being, at least in a general way, the very ones which are proper, so it is easily explained how they have been able to survive the proofs of experience.1 But an error and especially a system of errors which leads to, and can lead to nothing but mistaken and useless practices, has no chance of living. Now what is there in common between the rites with which the believer tries to act upon nature and the processes by which science has taught us to make use of it, and which we now know are the only efficacious ones ? If that is what men demanded of religion, it is impossible to see how it could have maintained itself, unless clever tricks had prevented their seeing that it did not give them what they expected from it. It would be necessary to return again to the over simple explanations of the eighteenth century.2

Thus it is only in appearance that naturism escapes the