صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

sind engaged Newton exploit was the

power and action, and subject to no rules, obedient to no control, modified by no influences, save such as are inherent in itself ?

If mind is governed by laws, and subject to influences, it is not wonderful that these have to this day remained measurably a mystery. The phenomena presented were too varied, and too irregularly developed, to admit a solution with that readiness which attends problems relating to the physical universe. Preparatory to reaching even the simplest truths, varied data were required ; and even at this time, these are meagre indeed. Nor was mathematical accuracy attainable under any circumstances ; but men were compelled at every step of their progress to rest satisfied with approximate conclusions and rational presumptions, which might all be overthrown by some new and unexpected facts.

The laws of the solar system were not discovered in a day, nor a generation ; but astronomy had attracted the attention, and engaged the minds, of thinkers, at least four thousand years before Newton explained the principles of gravitation, and demonstrated that it was the force which drew all things to a common centre, thereby retaining the planets in their course, and giving a nearly circular form to their orbits ; and more time will be required to explain the forces which give direction to society, and impel it forward; which have already raised the human race far above its infancy of barbarism, and pushed it well on the road towards a legitimate civilization.

But it must not be supposed from what we have said, that the problem of humanity was neglected by the ancients. It was natural for man, with his aspirations, with the certainty of death before him, and his longing for immortality, to enquire into the destiny that awaited him. The Egyptian priests, the Persian Magi, the Indian Brahmins, asked, like the Hebrew prophet, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him ?" True, many of their theories of mind and immortality were imperfect, and some would create a smile on the face of the modern philosopher; but they give evidence of a careful study of the whole subject, and a thorough digestion of all the facts then known, which show that they were not the capricious imaginings of unbalanced intellects, but constituted, on the other hand, a system of philosophy so intricate and so carefully arranged, and withal containing so

many truths, that they must, as a whole, forever command respect, while those who framed them will receive the consideration to which their great learning entitled them. They were the master minds of their day, the great contributors to the civilization of their age.

The civilizing forces are manifestly four: the physical, the intellectual, the religious, and the moral. All changes in the condition of society are wrought by one of these; and it is the province of the student of mankind to investigate the relative power of each, and the manner in which each operates upon the other. The subject will admit of no positive conclusions. Mind is self-acting, as far as it knows how to control the laws of nature; it is subject to physical influences, in proportion as it is ignorant of these laws, and of the manner in which they are susceptible of control.

Mind is a power within itself; matter is inert and passive, and must be acted upon. To act thus is within the power of mind; but to accomplish anything, the laws of matter itself must be carefully observed. The will cannot check the surge upon the beach ; but through the laws of mechanics, those same waves can be met, and rolled back, by piers and walls; and geological discovery proves this through the application of the laws of matter. The Divine Mind checked and placed bounds to the waves, when he said, “Thus far, &c." The strongest will could not give motion to an atom by arbitrary determination; but apply the forces which govern matter, and mountains can be removed.

The Divine Mind does nothing arbitrarily; and the universe is controlled and governed because that great Central Intellect has perfect command of those laws, in all their operations alike in the greatest and minutest particulars; by the chemical and mechanical forces the substance which constitutes our globe was consolidated and arranged; by gravitation and centripetal power, the planets perform their evolutions; and the wider our acquaintance with science, the more numerous are the evidences which accumulate to prove this fact; to prove that the Creator accomplishes his work only by the application of the laws of matter. Certainly, man can effect nothing by any other means.

Accepting this to be true, then the sum of any particular civilization is the result of : 1st, the action of nature upon mind; and 2d, of the action of mind upon nature. Every region will produce a civilization suitable to its climate, soil, productions, location, scenery, etc., just as it produces certain habits in the lower animals which roam about it; and if there were no intellectual forces, if man were not capable of studying the phenomena of nature, discovering its laws, and by his knowledge availing himself of them to react upon the physical forces, we should find him with habits as fixed as those of the brute.


The physical causes which operate are few ; but they are fixed, and when not counterpoised by the mental, exercise an absolute control; and consequently their effects can be read with almost mathematical accuracy, by studying the babits of tribes possessing an indigenous civilization ; tribes which migrated to a particular place before they had made any material advances in knowledge. On the other hand, as we survey the complicated social and political systems of the world; as we observe the vast improvements in every branch of industry; as we listen to the steam-whistle, observe the waterfall turned into a motive power, and peruse the messages conveyed by the magnetic telegraph-we read the triumphs of mind, and discover some of the things it is capable of accomplishing, if it but understand the laws of nature, and avails itself of its knowledge. By his improvements, man is enabled to counteract and modify the physical forces; by the felling of forests, the draining of lakes, the construction of dykes and levees, the climate of whole regions has been modified materially ; through a knowledge of the chemical properties of certain articles, soils have been entirely changed, and a revolution wrought in the character of production; and as the science of agricultural chemistry is yet in its infancy, changes will take place greater than any that have yet occurred; by the construction of artificial harbors, or the improvement of natural ones possessing few advantages, the industrial pursuits of a whole community may be thoroughly revolutionized; and to be more general, with the application of every new discovery comes a change in the current civilization—that change always according in magnitude to the importance of the discovery itself.

Man at his creation was evidently in the lowest conceivable condition, so far as intellectual acquirements were concerned ; therefore the physical forces operated, with almost unmodified sway, in controlling his destinies; and in each particular locality, a civilization, adapted to itself, grew up; and peculiar characteristics, through long and constant operations of certain forces, were stamped upon the different na

tionalities; stamped so indelibly upon some, that races disappear with any revolution in their surroundings, a phenomenon which possesses its best illustration in the aborigines of America, who found as deadly an enemy in the mis. sionary who would civilize, as in the warrior who would slay him.

In discussing the subject of civilization, it becomes necessary to analyze each of the four forces: the effect of physical surroundings, the tendency of religious teachings, the strength of moral precepts, and the power of the intellect; for the sum of all civilization is but the product of these forces acting upon man and upon one another; and the character of society is an index of the relative strength of each as an impelling power in their operations upon any particular race or nationality.

The powers of nature are chiefly confined to these : climate, soil, production, scenery, and locality; and these naturally involve numerous permutations, each of which is productive of different results, and gives rise to a different civilization. Each element has certain absolute tendencies, but they never act singly; and these tendencies are the same, whether operating upon a savage or a cultivated man; but the effect upon the latter is comparatively trifling, because the force is met by another, the intellectual, which wards it off if deleterious, or adds to its strength if advantageous; while the former is little else than an automaton, moving as he is moved.

One of the first and most prominent effects of a torrid climate is almost universal enervation. No race in its infancy ever withstood its influence; and it is very difficult to conceive of a civilization so perfect as to counteract them, though we will not assert that such a one is impossible. There is no man, residing in a climate where there is even a brief torrid term, but has experienced the enervating influences of heat, notwithstanding that he may be braced up by months of cold and other months of delightful temperature. The influence, in this respect, is so universal, that it can be seen in its operation upon the individual, as well as on the nation or the race.

The consequences which naturally follow would not be difficult to decipher, even if we had no example, no record of past events. Feeling a natural disinclination to any species of exertion, the inhabitants of the tropics would do nothing save that which was demanded by their immediate

« السابقةمتابعة »