Slike stranica
PDF
ePub

understand all its secrets, all its forces, so as to turn them to his own uses. Thus alone can he compass the sublime thought of his own freedom, the independence of his own will in the kingdom of Nature, and learn the majesty of his own spirit; for the knowledge of that freedom, which is the most noble of all God's gifts to him, is the most direct key to the attainment of that place in the present, and that destiny in the future, which God has appointed for man. Without a preliminary training, amid the conditions of a limited life, can there be no step taken toward the enjoyment of the life without limitations which is to come. Without the capacity of breaking the higher law, there is no glory in obeying it, no freedom to be valued, even in the world of thought. There can be no true speculation, no philosophy of the unlimited and eternal, without inquiry into and knowledge of the limited and conditioned. He who knows not the earthy, cannot know the heavenly; he who knows not the finite, cannot know the infinite. Statement and counter-statement are the substance to the world of thought. Pythagoras investigated matters of number and weight, before he dealt with the mysteries of metaphysical speculation. Plato thought on the human soul, and the practical details of legislation, before he gave himself to the deepest things of Philosophy. Aristotle was a naturalist and physicist, before he became a logician and metaphysician. Kant was a mathematician and astronomer, before he dealt with the problems of transcendental science. Schelling went from natural philosophy to the study of the soul of things. If there have been evil results from this, it has not been from antedating metaphysical studies by physical, but by passing too quickly from the solid foundation-stones to the more unstable heights of the transcendental. Without these solid foundation-stones, philosophy falls, crushed by its own weight; but with this preparation, we may advance to the loftiest and yet most secure speculations.

WHAT GEOGRAPHY AS A SCIENCE HAS YET TO ACCOMPLISH.

Geography can just as little be contented with being a mere description of the Earth, and a catalogue of its divisions, as a detailed account of the objects in nature can take the place of a thorough and real natural history. The very word Geography, meaning a description of the Earth, has unfortunately been at fault, and has misled the world: to us it merely hints at the elements, the

factors of what is the true science of Geography. That science aims at nothing less than to embrace the most complete and the most cosmical view of the Earth; to sum up and organize into a beautiful unity all that we know of the globe. The whole body of facts revealed by past and present discovery must be marshaled into harmony, before we gain the high pinnacle of Geographical Science. The Earth, in all its parts, must be known in all its relations, before we can speak of it as the scholars of our day ought to speak of the world they inhabit.

Moreover, the Earth is to be considered in two main relations-a relation, and an absolute relation; that is, we are to regard it in its connection with the greater whole, of which it forms a part, the Universe, and as a body standing alone, existing, as it were, for itself. It is the latter view which falls within the strict province of Geography. The very prominence of the old Greek word ♫ indicates the pre-eminence which, in this science, our own planet, rather than others, receives. Ge-ography confines our attention to the Earth, and concentrates it upon the globe, regarded per se, rather than in its relations to the Universe. Taken, therefore, strictly, as already hinted at in the foregoing remark, Geography is the department of science that deals with the globe in all its features, phenomena, and relations, as an independent unit, and shows the connection of this unified whole with man and with man's Creator. Should we go beyond this, and discuss the relations of the Earth to the Universe, (as is often done in our geographical treatises, in a singularly imperfect and unfruitful manner,) we should outrun the strict bounds of a single science, and should be encroaching on the domain of the sister science of astronomy. This we have no right to do. Yet, from time to time, we must borrow the results of other departments of learning to confirm our own. The field which we have to till has been immensely reduced in its proportions by the publication of "Kosmos," which great work has almost exhausted the subject of the earth in its external relations. The limiting of our own department may, perhaps, give more opportunity for thorough investigation within itself.

The Earth, if discussed exhaustorily, must be spoken of in its relations to Time as well as to Space. The word by which we characterize it, in this regard, is History. The duration of the Earth outruns all measurement. By thinking of its beginning, is

the only way we have of gaining a conception of Time. We cannot conceive of the universe as antedating the creation of our earth. By this indefinite, not to say infinite, duration of time, the Earth is discriminated from all that it contains; it is older than any of its parts; it antedates all its kingdoms. The nature of the whole is, therefore, radically different from that of any of its divisions. The Earth has had a development of its own; hence the too common error of treating it as passive and inorganic. The history of the Earth displays, in all the monuments of the past, that it has been subjected in every feature, in every division of itself, to ceaseless transformation, in order to show that, as a whole, it is capable of that organic development on which I lay so much stress. The natural powers which the earth includes are constantly obedient to the mechanical laws of chemistry and physics. The animate creation, plants, animals, man, come and go, in accordance with the laws of their being, and as subordinate dependents on the great forces which the earth holds locked up within her bosom. The earth, the mother of them all, has her own special advance, her own development, to use that overburdened German word. She has relations to herself alone; not simply to organized forms, plants, and animals; just as little to organic things; not simply to her own countries, her rocks, and her crystals. These are but isolated parts; or, if not isolated, yet bound together by a common tie. There is another tie above this; it is that which binds the earth to itself alone; that subordinates its parts to such an extent that they almost disappear. There is, above all this thought of parts, of features, of phenomena, the conception of the Earth as a whole, existing in itself, and for itself, an organic thing, advancing by growth, and becoming more and more perfect and beautiful. Without trying to impose on you anything vague and transcendental, I wish to lead you to view the globe as almost a living thing,—not a crystal, assuming new grace by virtue of an external law,—but a world, taking on grandeur and worth, by virtue of an inward necessity. The individuality of the earth must be the watchword of re-created Geography. To think of the Earth, as a seed sown from the hand of God himself on the great fields of space, and filled with a germinant power of life, which will transform it more and more, and make it more and more worthy of its noblest inhabitant, is the first, as it is the last, idea which we must take and keep in these inquiries.

Formerly, Geography was regarded as a mere auxiliary of History, Politics, Military Science, Natural History, the Industrial Arts, and Commerce. And in truth it does reach out and teach all these departments of knowledge and action; but only in the most recent times has it assumed the place of an independent branch of study. Only through the widening of the whole circle of sciences has room been made for this.

Geography used, for the sake of commerce, to be divided into three divisions: mathematical, physical, and political. This was at the time when it was thought that the whole frame-work of the sciences was a disjointed and sundered thing; before that minor principle of unity which binds them all together was recognized as one of the noblest conceptions that the mind can cherish. In the first two of these arbitrary divisions into which Geography was severed, the relations of astronomy, mathematics, and physics were studied, and their applications to the confused phenomena of the globe investigated. Yet the most important thing of all escaped notice; students overlooked their chief task, the tracing of causation and interdependence in the phenomena, and the relation of every one to the country which supplies its conditions of being. It was not suspected that each phenomenon was one link of a great chain of phenomena, the whole revealing a comprehensive law. Men discussed porphyritic formations, basaltic columns, hot springs, and a thousand features which dot the earth, and a thousand kinds of rock which rift the surface of the globe, and treated them singly as if each was a spore and the whole combination only a sporadic group. They did not discover that in the one feature was to be found the reason of the existence of its neighbor; that all the layers of stone owe their singularities of structure to one another rather than to themselves; that each one stands in the closest connection with the upheaval of the loftiest mountains, with the formation of great volcanic islands, and, in truth, with the building up of entire continents. And, in like manner, plants were discussed as if they were obedient to no law of grouping, as if they were scattered broadcast over the earth, having no relation to zones of vegetation, to isothermal and isochimenal lines; as if, in fact, there was no suspicion of any principle underlying the very existence of the whole vegetable kingdom. And so, too, with such phenomena as the Aurora Borealis; they were treated as isolated features, rather

than in their relations to the globe; the connection was not seen between the maritime discoveries of voyagers and the great system of oceanic currents, on which voyagers are so dependent; in fact, the whole influence of the world of matter on the world of mind was unexplored.

And in order to study what was called Political Geography, a vast mass of materials was converted into a stiff, ritualistic frame-work, in the effort to impose some system and imaginal completeness on it, and not in order to grasp facts and truths in their mutual relations and inward life; they were merely arranged for convenient reference and for available use in the departments of military science, politics, statistics, and history; a method which is plainly our inheritance from the Middle Ages, and which bears the marks of those days. Thus from this arbitrary arrangement, made without reference to any indwelling necessity, sprang the three groups with which we are familiar: Chronography and Topography forming the first, Ethnography and Anthropology the second, and Statistics and History the third, or Political Geography.

From these three groups our ordinary text-books compile their usual aggregate of facts, and each becomes after its own pattern a motley in miniature. They contain variable quantities of this triple mass of materials, and follow no law but the demands of the time when they see the light; they favor, like our light literature, the whim of the hour, and are political, military, or commercial, as the public may demand. A systematic exposition of geography is very seldom to be found in them. A harmony of parts, a true harmony, is very rarely attained in their pages. They are at the foundation only arbitrary and unmethodical collections of all facts which are ascertained to exist throughout the earth. They are arranged according to countries, or great natural divisions; but the relation of one great natural division to another, the mutual and immense influence of one country on another, is never mentioned. The description of Europe follows in them to-day the same order in which Strabo set the pattern. The facts are arranged as the pieces of a counterpane, as if every one existed in itself and for itself, and had no connections with others. The setting out of these facts follows the rubrical method of grouping, according to boundary, soil, mountains, rivers, products, and cities. The beginning is usually made with boundaries which are generally most unstable and uncer

« PrethodnaNastavi »