Page 4 of 4
More by this Author
Possibly the most pathetic of all the delusions of the modern
students of primitive belief is the notion they have about the thing
they call anthropomorphism. They believe that primitive men
attributed phenomena to a god in human form in order to explain them,
because his mind in its sullen limitation could not reach any
further than his own clownish existence. The thunder was called
the voice of a man, the lightning the eyes of a man, because by this
explanation they were made more reasonable and comfortable.
The final cure for all this kind of philosophy is to walk down
a lane at night. Any one who does so will discover very quickly
that men pictured something semi-human at the back of all things,
not because such a thought was natural, but because it was supernatural;
not because it made things more comprehensible, but because it
made them a hundred times more incomprehensible and mysterious.
For a man walking down a lane at night can see the conspicuous fact
that as long as nature keeps to her own course, she has no power
with us at all. As long as a tree is a tree, it is a top-heavy
monster with a hundred arms, a thousand tongues, and only one leg.
But so long as a tree is a tree, it does not frighten us at all.
It begins to be something alien, to be something strange, only when it
looks like ourselves. When a tree really looks like a man our knees
knock under us. And when the whole universe looks like a man we
fall on our faces.