Man's Ideas About the Universe1

Viscount Samuel

When man emerged from the millions of years of evolution in the Early and Late Stone-ages he had shed his ape-like characters; he was erect, large-brained, and he had become an agriculturist and a craftsman. He must have wondered—as we wonder still—at the sun, the moon and the stars, the land and the sea, the thunder and lightning, at his own birth, and growth and death. Endowed with intuition and reason, and with curiosity, he must have concluded— as we conclude—that all this did not explain itself. There must have existed, and still exist, Something Else, that he could not perceive and did not understand. Endowed also with imagination, he peopled the earth and the sky with spirits—gods and demigods, ghosts and fairies, demons and angels. There followed beliefs in direct communication from this other world, through dream or trance, ecstasy or intuition; sometimes an individual assurance of personal contact and inspiration. So religion came to be: in the form, first of animism, then of mythology, finally of monotheism.


1 This lecture was first delivered, somewhat expanded, as the Roscoe Lecture for 1952, under the auspices of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, at the Royal Institution, Liverpool, July 3rd, 1952. It was repeated in its present form to the members of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, at the Institute of Education of London University, on February 26th, 1953.