Custom and Myth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 287 pages of information about Custom and Myth.
to demonstrate that the worshipped ancestor was really the Red Dawn, is not logical nor convincing.  Even if that middle stage were established, it is a far cry from the worship of Dawn (supposed by the Australians to be a woman of bad character in a cloak of red’ possum-skin) to the adoration of the Infinite.  Our own argument has been successful if we have shown that there are not only two possible schools of mythological interpretation—­the Euhemeristic, led by Mr. Spencer, and the Philological, led by Mr. Max Muller.  We have seen that it is possible to explain the legend of Tsui Goab without either believing him to have been a real historical person (as Mr. Spencer may perhaps believe), or his myth to have been the result of a ‘disease of language’ as Mr. Muller supposes.  We have explained the legend and worship of a supposed dead conjurer as natural to a race which believes in conjurers and worships dead men.  Whether he was merely an ideal ancestor and warrior, or whether an actual man has been invested with what divine qualities Tsui Goab enjoys, it is impossible to say; but, if he ever lived, he has long been adorned with ideal qualities and virtues which he never possessed.  The conception of the powerful ancestral ghost has been heightened and adorned with some novel attributes of power:  the conception of the Infinite has not been degraded, by forgetfulness of language, to the estate of an ancestral ghost with a game leg.

* * * * *

If this view be correct, myth is the result of thought, far more than of a disease of language.  The comparative importance of language and thought was settled long ago, in our sense, by no less a person than Pragapati, the Sanskrit Master of Life.

’Now a dispute once took place between Mind and Speech, as to which was the better of the two.  Both Mind and Speech said, “I am excellent!” Mind said, “Surely I am better than thou, for thou dost not speak anything that is not understood by me; and since thou art only an imitator of what is done by me and a follower in my wake, I am surely better than thou!” Speech said, “Surely I am better than thou, for what thou knowest I make known, I communicate.”  They went to appeal to Pragapati for his decision.  He (Pragapati) decided in favour of Mind, saying (to Speech), “Mind is indeed better than thou, for thou art an imitator of its deeds, and a follower in its wake; and inferior, surely, is he who imitates his better’s deeds, and follows in his wake."’

So saith the ‘Satapatha Brahmana.’ {211}


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Custom and Myth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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