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Growth of Language. These natural objects had to be named at a period in the growth of language when man possessed as yet no more than roots expressive of human actions, and whatever had to be named, could be named in one way only, namely as participating in these human actions.
If a man had once been called a striker, a lion also might be called a striker. If an enemy had been called a throttler, a serpent also might be taken hold of by means of the same name.
Then followed a new step. The lightning hissed and struck, the storm pushed and pounded, the river ran and roared. It required no effort of imagination, no animistic metaphors, no anthropomorphic poetry: the downright necessities of language and thought forced man to speak of lightnings, storms and rivers as hissers, strikers, pushers, pounders, runners and roarers, and thus to create their nutars in Egypt, their zis in Babylon, their haltias in Finland, and, in the end, their so-called gods everywhere.
Causality. It is sometimes said that the category of causality which, though we need not call it an innate idea, is nevertheless a conditio sine qua non of all human thought, is really responsible for all these nutars, zis, and haltias. The human mind is so made, we are told, that it must think a runner behind the river, a rainer behind the rain, a shiner behind the sun, a coverer behind the night. All this is true, and it is proved by history as well as by philosophy. But we must be careful not to commit a linguistic anachronism. The very name of cause and causality is far too abstract and far too late to account for this early phase of thought which we have here to account for. Cause, as a concept, did not yet exist, though it may be quite right for us to bring the process of giving these names to different phenomena of nature under the general head of causality. From an historical point of view, however, it is more correct to say that what we in our philosophical language call the category of causality, manifested itself for the first time in this very transference of our own activities to the phenomena of nature. In the simple expression of I strike, i. e. 'striking from here,' is involved the first elementary consciousness of cause and effect; I or here being the cause, strike the effect, the two being indissolubly united in the consciousness of my own act. So again, when I say 'he strikes,' I conceive what we now call a causal connection between the agent and the act. When the ancient nations spoke of a rainer, not yet of rain, they produced by their language and thought, whether they liked it or not, an active, living power, a something like ourselves. We, at our time of history, may call this something a cause : to them it was a doer, an actor, a somebody who could be grasped by means of the only intellectual tools which were then forthcoming, by means of active verbs.
Objections answered. I am not surprised that this theory, which recognises in language the key to all the apparent vagaries of early thought, should have met with strong opposition. So long as the real identity of thought and language had not been grasped, so long as people imagined that language is one thing and thought another, it was but natural that they should fail to see the real meaning of treating mythology, if not as a disease, at all events as an inevitable affection of language. If the active verb were merely a grammatical, and not at the same time a psychological, nay an historical fact, it might seem absurd to identify the active meaning of our roots with the active meaning ascribed to the phenomena of nature. But let it be once perceived that language and thought are one and indivisible, and nothing will seem more natural than that what, as the grammarian tells us, happened in language, should, as the psychologist tells us, have likewise happened in thought ;--that the two events, in fact, should prove to be one and the same.
It may be said, however, that the product of this dynamic stage of language and thought are not yet mythological, much less religious. This is perfectly true. We have accounted for such names as runner for river, striker for lightning, smasher for storm ; we have accounted for agents, but not yet for human agents. If we were satisfied with high-sounding names, we should say that this further step was accounted for by anthropomorphism, which really means that it was accounted for by what we have to account for. Here also language supplies the real solution. If striker meant generally a man who strikes, what was more natural than to transfer all that striker meant, that is to say, a human body, a pair of human arms, human will and passions too, to the storm when it had once been called a striker ? Language performed
the miracle, only in the most natural way, and when this train of thought had once been opened, the tendency of analogy would soon spread it over the whole field of human experience.
Still we must not allow ourselves to be misled by language. People might speak of the moon as a measurer 1, or of the river as a roarer, but we must not suppose that they saw no difference therefore between a man who measured a field, or a woman who roared in the forest, and the moon when they called it Mâs?, the measurer, and the river when they called her Nadî, a roarer, as a feminine. They used words which might mean human beings performing these acts, but which might also be placed in a different focus, so that a portion only of their possible meaning was lighted up, while the rest remained dim and dark. The important lesson which the Science of Language teaches us is that everything that was named was at first named as active, then as personal, and almost human. When even a stone was a cutter, a tooth a grinder, a gimlet a borer, the difficulty was not how to personify, but how to dispersonify. Masculine nouns came first, then feminine; last of all neuters.
Gender. And here we must guard against another very common mistake. Those who are unable to appropriate all that follows from the identity of language and thought, have nevertheless been ready to admit that the gender of nouns has been a powerful element in the production of mythology. It has even been admitted that languages which do not distinguish grammatical gender produce a very scanty growth of mythology. This is perfectly true with regard to the later phases of mythology. But at the point which our inquiry has reached at present, what we have to explain is the origin, not the later influence of gender, and this may in itself be called a mythological process. We must remember that even in sexdenoting languages there was a period when this denotation of sex did not yet exist. In the Aryan languages, for instance, some of the oldest words are without gender. Pater is not a masculine, nor mater a feminine in the grammatical sense of the word. Pater and mater expressed activities, but they gave no outward indication of sex. The distinction began, not with masculines, but with the setting apart of certain derivative suffixes for females. When bona was introduced, bonus became masculine, and not vice versa. When puella was used for girl, puer, which formerly meant both boy and girl, became restricted to the meaning of boy. At a still later time certain forms were set apart for things that were to be neither male nor female, so-called neuters, but these had their distinguishing forms generally in the nominative only.
1 M. M., Hibbert Lectures, p. 193.
2 It is surely mere folly to say that Sk. mås cannot be derived from the root mâ, to measure, but must have meant originally shining. Mńv and usun, Goth. mêna, come from the same root as Sk. ma-na, measure, ué-tpov.
In languages which had adopted this outward distinction of gender, there can be no doubt that gender was productive of new mythology, or at all events that it modified the character of mythology. In German, where the moon has remained masculine and the sun feminine, poets who deal in mythological subjects