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Sketch of the Mythology of the North American Indi

From physitheism to psychotheism


The

different stages of philosophy which I have attempted to characterize have never been found in purity. We always observe different methods of explanation existing side by side, and the type of a philosophy is determined by the prevailing characteristics of its explanation of phenomena. Fragments of the earlier are always found side by side with, the greater body of the later philosophy. Man has never clothed himself in new garments of wisdom, but has ever been patching the old, and the old and the new are blended in the same pattern, and thus we have atavism in philosophy. So in the study of any philosophy which has reached the psychotheistic age, patches of the earlier philosophy are always seen. Ancient nature-gods are found to be living and associating with the supreme psychic deities. Thus in anthropologic science there are three ways by which, to go back in the history of any civilized people and learn of its barbaric physitheism. But of the verity of this stage we have further evidence. When Christianity was carried north from Central Europe, the champions of the new philosophy, and its consequent religion, discovered, among those who dwelt by the glaciers of the north, a barbaric philosophy which they have preserved to history in the Eddas and Sagas, and Norse literature is full of a philosophy in a transition state, from physitheism to psychotheism; and, mark! the people discovered in this transition state were inventing an alphabet--they were carving Runes. Then a pure
physitheism was discovered in the Aztec barbarism of Mexico; and elsewhere on the globe many people were found in that stage of culture to which this philosophy properly belongs. Thus the existence of physitheism as a stage of philosophy is abundantly attested. Comparative mythologists are agreed in recognizing these two stages. They might not agree to throw all of the higher and later philosophies into one group, as I have done, but all recognize the plane of demarkation between the higher and the lower groups as I have drawn it. Scholars, too, have come essentially to an agreement that physitheism is earlier and older than psychotheism. Perhaps there may be left a "doubting Thomas" who believes that the highest stage of psychotheism--that is, monotheism--was the original basis for the philosophy of the world, and that all other forms are degeneracies from that primitive and perfect state. If there be such a man left, to him what I have to say about philosophy is blasphemy.

Again, all students of comparative philosophy, or comparative mythology, or comparative religion, as you may please to approach this subject from different points of view, recognize that there is something else; that there are philosophies, or mythologies, or religions, not included in the two great groups. All that something else has been vaguely called fetichism. I have divided it into two parts, _hecastotheism_ and _zooetheism_. The verity of zooetheism as a stage of philosophy rests on abundant evidence. In psychotheism it appears as _devilism_ in obedience to a well-known law of comparative theology, viz, that the gods of a lower and superseded stage of culture oftentimes become the devils of a higher stage. So in the very highest stages of psychotheism we find beast-devils. In Norse mythology, we have Fenris the wolf, and Jormungandur the serpent. Dragons appear in Greek mythology, the bull is an Egyptian god, a serpent is found in the Zendavesta; and was there not a scaly fellow in the garden of Eden? So common are these beast-demons in the higher mythologies that they are used in every literature as rhetorical figures. So we find, as a figure of speech, the great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with tail that with one brush sweeps away a third of the stars of heaven. And where-ever we find nature-worship we find it accompanied with beast-worship. In the study of higher philosophies, having learned that lower philosophies often exist side by side with them, we might legitimately conclude that a philosophy based upon animal gods had existed previous to the development of physitheism; and philologic research, leads to the same conclusion. But we are not left to base this conclusion upon, an induction only, for in the examination of savage philosophies we actually discover zooetheism in all its proportions. Many of the Indians of North America, and many of South America, and many of the tribes of Africa, are found to be zooetheists. Their supreme gods are animals--tigers, bears, wolves, serpents, birds. Having discovered this, with a vast accumulation of evidence, we are enabled to carry philosophy back one stage beyond physitheism, and we can confidently assert that all the philosophies of civilization have come up through these three stages.


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