Modern man, accustomed in dealing with inanimate or animate nature with the resources derived from science and technology, finds it difficult to comprehend that other means of resolving or trying to resolve, the problem of the control of the world has been employed. In a scientific civilisation we are inclined to believe that in order to act first (this we call science), and to utilize them afterwards (this we call industry or technology), thereby deriving the norms of our acion from the laws that we have discovered as generalizations of natural phenomena.
But it has not always been thus. Though man has always faced the same problems, he has often sought other solutions, nonscientific in character, which can be summed up in two great words having the respectability of things as old as humanity itself: magic and religion.
It has been said with great truth that fear and hope are the parents of the gods. Man, confronting nature, which frightens and overwhelms him, sensing his own inadequacy before forces that he neither understands nor is able to control but whose evil or propitious effects he suffers, projects his wonder, his fright, and his fear beyond himself, and since lie can neither understand nor command, he fears and loves in short, he worships.
Hence gods have been made in the image and likeness of man. Each human imperfection is transmuted into a god capable of overcoming it. Each human quality is projected into a divinity through which it acquires superhuman or ideal proportions.
But men have never been content merely to ask. Before laws were derived from the sciences, which now permit us to control some natural forces with relative precision, men of all lands and of all ages have thought that they bad found in magic formulae the knowledge which would permit them to master their world. They have believed that natural forces are necessarily subject to words and acts of magic and that these forces must obey the comjuration of the one who pronouns the words or performs ihc acts.
Magic and religion differ from science in that they both admit, above and beyond the natural world of phenomena which our senses perceive or our intellect seizes upon, a super natural world which surrounds and envelops this natural world. It is a magic or divine sphere where realities exist that are made manifest thereafter in the world of sense perception.
Science, on the other hand, continues on its way with a faith that phenomena will he repeated when the same circumstances exist, and that if man's senses are limited, his intelligence will enable him more and more to probe the depths of nature and control it for future ends.
Among some of the most primitive peoples, religious sentiment never develops into the form of a god with definite characteristics, that is, with personality. Natural forces are feared and worshiped, but a clear concept of a superhuman personality, one that disposes of the forces of nature at will and can harm or favor, is never developed.
On the other hand, all peoples who have achieved a certain level of cultural advancement personify their religious sentiments in their gods and conceive of them with human characteristics, though endowed with superhuman power. As a result of this conception, the god always has certain characteristics of the hero. In this stage of cultural development, for each force, and sometimes for each aspect of natural force, there is created a personal god. This is polytheism.
Variation, change, and movement are explained as the struggle among the gods. Since the first thing that man perceives is the infinite variety of phenomena, he attributes this variety to a plurality of causes to which he assigns absolute free will and intelligence. The variation and the diversity of the world, the antagonism noted at times among the natural forces, trees uprooted by the hurricane or the coast lashed by the sea, the fire that consumes the forest or the earthquake that splits the earth asunder are oilier manifestations of the struggle of the gods, of their passions and their caprices. But to the mind that perceives the apparent chaos in the world of phenomena there soon appears the philosophical necessity of seeking unity. Peoples with more advanced concepts of religion come to believe that everything in existence obeys the action of two antagonistic principles that struggle eternally. This is dualism. Only in this way can the struggle between good and evil be explained: there arc placed in the good god all the qualities of strength, goodness, and beauty; and in the demon or evil god, to whom there is also attributed great power, all evil and errors.
Religion, like any other social phenomenon, does not become manifestly homogeneous until the entire culture of a people becomes homogeneous; but, when a people has lived in contact with other peoples and other cultures, the exceptional individuals are the first to perceive which practices are archaic and which decadent.