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tradictory expressions in the whole dictionary of philosophy. There is no such thing as a mere name, as little as there is a mere concept. There is something that was meant by Zeus and even by Hera, and though these names were weak, and tentative only, and exposed to all the dangers of mythology, yet the best among the Greeks never forgot what the name of Zeus was really intended for—the Infinite, it may be, the nameless Power behind all names. You all remember the words of Aeschylus in the Chorus of the Agamemnon—for who that has read them can ever forget them again :
• Zeus, whoever he is, if this be the name by which he loves to be called-by this name I address him. For if I verily want to cast off the idle burden of my thought, proving all things, I cannot find any on whom to cast it, except Zeus alone 1.'
Aeschylus knew or divined what we want to prove, that religion is the language or interpretation of the Infinite. There may be nothing corresponding to Zeus, as pictured by Phidias, and as believed in by the people of Greece. But Zeus was not a mere name, for all that. It was but one out of many names by which the Greeks, and, as we shall see, not the Greeks only, but all the Aryas, tried to grasp the Infinite behind the Finite, tried to name the Unknown by the Known, tried to see the Divine behind the veil of nature.
Lectures on the Science of Language, ii. 485.
Lessons of Language. W E ask to-day, What can language teach us with
V regard to the origin of religion? We have seen that nothing can be more ancient than language. Myth is but a modification of language. Our sacred books are language in its highest development. Our customs and traditions are often founded on decayed and misunderstood words. If therefore we can decipher the original meaning of our words, if we can discover the purpose with which they were framed, we shall have opened archives which, by their antiquity at all events, are far superior to any other evidence within our reach.
Now let us remember what I tried to explain in my last Lecture, that the Aryan languages have been reduced to about 800 roots. The Semitic and Turanian languages also have been submitted to the same process and have yielded a very similar result. But though many of the observations which we are going to make with regard to the Aryan languages apply with equal force, though mutatis mutandis to other languages also, I shall in these lectures concentrate my attention chiefly on our own family of speech, and only occasionally glance at other families for confirmation or modification of our results.
Roots express our acts. Let us remember, secondly, that most of the Aryan roots expressed originally our own acts, acts mostly performed in common, continuous acts, and acts the consciousness of which would by necessity produce the first conceptual stratum of thought in the human mind. Philosophers seem to imagine that concepts are something so natural that they require no explanation at all. We see white in snow, milk and chalk, they say, and we thus form the concept of white. Yes, if we once have learnt to grasp, we can grasp anything—but the real question is, how for the first time we come to grasp, how nature, without any conscious effort of our own, teaches, nay forces us to grasp. It was Noiré who showed us how this took place. It was the consciousness of our own repeated acts which for the first time called out our intellectual grasp, and made us, whether we liked it or not, grasp, comprehend, conceive many acts as one, and after a time, many results of such acts as one. The consciousness of our own repeated strokes, blows, knocks, taps, slaps, pushes and impulses would become, without any conscious effort of our own, the first germ of conceptual thought. During the early phase of thought when this is supposed to have happened, when the first consciousness of our own repeated acts assumed a conceptual character, will, act and knowledge were as yet one and undivided, and the whole of our conscious knowledge was subjective, exclusively concerned with our own voluntary acts. Man could say strike' in the sense of · We strike' or ‘I strike,' long before he could speak of what he struck, of what struck him, of the instrument with
which he struck, or of the place in which striking and fighting took place. Thought, therefore, in the true sense of the word, began, so far as we can see, with a consciousness of voluntary acts, and not, as has often been supposed, with consciousness of passive states, much less, as yet, of an objective world.
Some acts conceived as states or as passive. Many acts, however, which seem to us voluntary, were not so, or at all events were not at first conceived as such. To us,'to hear,' for instance 1, seems a voluntary act; to the earliest framers of our language it seemed a passive state. “I hear' was to them ‘I am moved,' 'I am struck by something.' To see also was originally to be moved or affected by something, just as to burn or to suffer pain was to be burnt by fire. It was only after a time that to see became to look.
We saw, thirdly, that, as most of these primitive acts were accompanied by almost involuntary utterances, we could thus understand how that clamor concomitans became the natural and the intelligible sign of the acts, or rather of our consciousness of the acts, which had called them out. What the particular noise was, depended on accident, or if not an accident, at all events on causes which we cannot understand.
Subjective acts predicated of other agents. We have now to see whether we can, to a certain extent at least, understand the steps which led from these expressions of every possible kind of human activity with which man in an early state of society was familiar, to the expression of purely objective thought or of concepts of an objective world.
Science of Thought, p. 324.
It cannot be said too often that in researches of this kind we must not look for absolute certainty. All we can do is to suggest what is possible, because intelligible; but we must always be prepared for other suggestions equally intelligible and therefore equally possible.
When man had arrived at expressing such acts as striking, and predicating them of himself, whether by demonstrative gestures or by demonstrative pronouns, when he was able to say Strike-we and Strike-I, he was naturally led on to say, if only for the sake of a fair distribution of labour, Strike-you, Strike-thou. Another step 1 would lead the early speakers to such utterances as 'he strikes,' or 'they strike,' utterances which, though they may have required a greater effort than the mere · We strike' or 'I strike,' could hardly fail to be called forth by the simple intercourse of hunters, warriors, or diggers of the soil. They involved no more than the transference of our acts or states to persons in every respect like ourselves.
Subjective acts predicated of objects. But we have now to consider a far more momenous step. Man was in possession of roots which enabled him to express the consciousness of his own acts. He might speak of himself as a striker or digger, and of other beings like himself as strikers or diggers. He had learnt to think and express acts and actors, but as yet nothing else. While in this state of mind, let us ask, what could he do when he wished to speak of animals, and particularly of those who were his daily companions? He could only treat
Science of Thought, p. 326..