페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

to the north and south of the line, according to the seasons, and cause the monsoons to blow in two directions during six months alternately, as do the broiling deserts of Africa and Asia ; or whether, in cooling the air, they cause an abundant precipitation, as do the icy steppes of Siberia, from whence the rain nourishes the sources of the Obi, Lena, and Yenesei.

Mountains, deserts, waters, and winds all join in the universal harmony. All, if we may be allowed the expression, perform their part in the great concert of nature.

When the winds have to pass over large continents that deprive them of their moisture, Providence, by wonderful wisdom, has placed along their route lakes and interior seas to refresh them and fill them with vapors, with which they irrigate, in proportion as they receive moisture, the countries over which they pass. Thus the trades of the south, after having traversed South America, on the heights of which they have left their moisture, descend from the higher regions in leaving the calms of the Tropic of Cancer and arrive changed in our hemisphere, where they blow from southwest to northeast, as prevailing winds, passing on their way the Mediterranean, Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas. It is the same with the trades that have crossed the south of Africa, which fall hot and dry on the Egyptian land, and then pass on to drink up the vapors of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Such is the avidity of these winds that the first absorbs from the Mediterranean three times the quantity of water that this sea receives from the rivers and the rains, and the second takes up from the Red Sea a stratum of water not less than eight feet in thickness. The Straits of Gibraltar and Bab-el-Mandeb are constantly reestablishing the level of these two seas and repairing their losses.

If we believe Maury, the winds are not only the irrigators of the earth; they are also its historians, the chronographers of its changes. Why, for instance, is the Dead Sea twelve hundred feet below the level of the Mediterranean? Why are the waters of the great Salt Lake of Utah, Lake Tadjurra, and those of Titicaca, in America, progressively becoming lower? Why did the great chain of North American Lakes, which now empty their surplus water into the ocean only through the St. Lawrence, formerly empty it into the Mississippi by channels of which there are still evident traces ? To all these effects

he cause: At an evident, the South

elevated

Maury assigns one cause : At an nnknown epoch, yet comparatively recent, as geology makes evident, the South American continent emerged from the bosom of the waters, and elevated the immense chain of mountains which are called the back-bone of the two Americas. Previous to this period the winds, filled with the vapors of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, then but one sea, carried the rains to North America and Europe, and kept up the level of the interior seas. These same winds, whose direction has not changed, it being determined by the rotation of the earth, had afterward to elevate themselves over the land and mountains, which, depriving them of the most of their moisture, left them none to distribute, and it is owing to this geological phenomenon that rain is scarce in the basins of the two continents which they are charged to supply.

Thus, according to Maury, is explained the progressive falling of the waters of the interior seas; an action that continues until precipitation and evaporation become equal. The same thing would happen to the Mediterranean and Gulf of Mexico if the straits that unite them to the Atlantic should become closed; these two seas, as we have before seen, losing more by evaporation than they gain by rivers and rain. It is proper to remark, that the movement by which the Rocky Mountains, and with them the western coast of North America, have been elevated, still continues ;* on the other hand, the eastern coasts are lowering by a slight depresssion.

It is to this double phenomenon that M. Elisha Reclus, in a recent and very interesting work on the Mississippi, attributes the force that draws this river toward the east, although the motion of the earth generally gives an opposite direction to the movable particles on the surface.

It is thus that geology and meteorology join hands and assist in the solution of their respective problems. It is thus that, in this beautiful theory, all is held together by a powerful logic, and facts come in crowds to the support of the opinions of a genius as sagacious as bold.

Here we must mention a remarkable occurrence that, a few years ago, demonstrated the practical advantage of meteorological science.

* This is also true of Scandinavia and the western coasts of France, where the progressive elevation is perceptible.

The reader doubtless recollects the terrible hurricane of the 14th November, 1854, which disturbed the Black Sea and ravaged the Crimea, sowing in its passage shipwrecks and devastation. Meteorology has given to this storm an explanation, if not completely irrefutable, at least very plausible. All the wise men of the civilized world having been questioned by M. Leverrier as to the atmospheric changes which preceded, accompanied, and followed the phenomenon, M. Lias, of the Observatory, was charged with arranging the reports that were transmitted. On examination, it was evident that on the 12th of November, at midday, (Paris time, the barometers in all the western countries of Europe noted the pressure of a vast stratum of air that was elevated on the surface of the atmospheric ocean like an immense wave, stretching from north to south and advancing slightly toward the east. Hour by hour the barometers marked the march of this gigantic billow of air from west to east, which caused everywhere a remarkable calm, precursor of the tempest. It was preceded and followed by an empty furrow, equally extended as itself, and indicated by the barometer. The furrow that it preceded arrived on the 14th of November on the shores of the Black Sea. If an ordinary depression of atmosphere produces the rains and the winds, and often the tempest, what might not follow this immense furrow? We know of its fearful ravages. The wreck of the “Henri Quatre,” stranded on the coast of Crimea, is still a witness of its fury. By a striking coincidence, on the 14th of November the eastern furrow devastated the Crimea, and on the 15th and 16th the western rioted in the whirlwind over France and the neighboring countries. May we not think that the destructive effect of this tempest might have been, if not shunned, at least lessened, if the observations had preceded and not followed, to be explained after the blow?

If we suppose posts of observation scattered over the globe, and communicating instantly to each other by means of electricity their remarks on the direction of the winds, the course of the clouds charged with moisture, the currents of cold or hot air, in a word, all the different atmospheric changes, what a view would thenceforth be opened toward the practical advantage of meteorology!

ART. III.—BUDDHISM: ITS ORIGIN AND RESULTS.

Encyclopedie Catholique. Art. Buddha.
Buddha et sa Religion. Par GEOFFREY DE ST. HILAIRE. Paris:

1859. BUDDHISM, originally an offshoot from Brahminism, has for almost twenty-five hundred years been a distinct and even antagonistic system. It is, in its higher development, essentially atheistic. It does not admit any first cause, but regards all worlds and their inhabitants as having been from all eternity in a constant round of arising and perishing.

It is a matter of considerable difficulty to ascertain what were the original tenets of its founder, and what have since been grafted on to the system by Buddhist writers; but the recent translation of the most important theological treatises of the Buddhists into the French and German languages, give facilities not hitherto enjoyed for this purpose.

There have been, according to the Dharmma, many thousands of Buddhas, and will be many thousands more ; but the Buddha Sakyamuni or Gaudama, the present Buddha, is a historic personage, who was nearly cotemporary with Jeremiah, having been born 622 B.C. and died 542 B.C.

The Brahmins, rioting in the power over the inferior castes conferred on them by their sacred books, had become haughty, proud, tyrannical, oppressive, and corrupt. Under their iron heel the subordinate castes had been ground down and crushed in property, liberty, happiness, and life. The degraded Südra might yield uncomplainingly to such oppression; but the hot blood of the Kshattriyas, or warrior caste, drove them to resistance more than once, but generally unsuccessfully. It was one of these protests against the tyranny of the Brahmins, which was headed by Buddha Sakyamuni, which led to the institution of Buddism.

Buddha Sakyamuni was the son of Suddhodana, king of Benares, and both his parents belonged to the Kshattriyas. Possessing talents of a high order, he was early admitted to the esoteric rites of Brahminism, and became familiar with the philosophy of the Vedantic school. He was endowed also

o save his pede enlightenmyan-tree o

with remarkable physical powers, and in all the public games won the prizes. For a time the attractions of a life of pleasure seern to have absorbed his attention; he married, and engaged in the frivolities and gayeties of his father's court with great freedom; but soon, the purpose, cherished from his earliest years, of being the deliverer of his people from the tyranny of the Brahmins, returned in its highest intensity, and abandoning his home and his pleasures, he secluded himself in the forest, practiced the greatest austerities and the severest penances, and after a pilgrimage to the sacred Banyan-tree of Gaya, professed to have received divine enlightenment, and to have become incarnate to save his people. At Benares, and subsequently at Sravasti, on the north bank of the Ganges, he assumed the office of teacher, propagating his doctrines through his pupils in other countries, and writing some books in defense of his teachings.

Whether he claimed to be the Buddha who was to be the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, is uncertain ; but he was soon denounced by the Brahmins, whom he had offended by his bold exposure of their crimes and corruptions, by his abrogation of caste, and his avowal of the equality of all races and castes of men, in the sight of the Divine Beings.

The cry of “ atheist " was raised against him by his enemies, who were hardly less atheistic than himself in doctrine, and far less virtuous and correct in conduct. This collision of doctrines finally led to civil war, in which the relatives and many of the followers of Sakyamuni were savagely butchered. These wars did not cease with the death of the Buddhist prophet, but were continued for nearly four hundred and fifty years, and resulted in the expulsion of the Buddhists from the peninsula of Hindostan, and their establishment in Ceylon, Burmah, Siam, Pegu, and Cochin China, and subsequently in China, Mongolia, and Japan.

Most of the traditions and legends in regard to Buddha originated, or at least were compiled, subsequent to this date, and it is doubtful whether any portion of the Yatus or sacred books belong to an earlier period. The striking similarity in some of them to the incidents in the life of Christ would indicate the probability that their compilers had been brought into contact with the disciples of St. Thomas, who,

« 이전계속 »