ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
data and a great deal of speculation. They were sweeping generalizations based, in part, on philology, the pioneer study of language which later evolved into linguistics, and also literary studies of texts such as the Eddas of the Icelandic skald (poet) Snorri Sturulson of the eleventh century, the medieval Irish poets, and others. All of these were accounts by Christian writers who allegedly drew on pagan sources which they manipulated and transformed. There were also a few classical accounts of Germanic and Celtic religion such as Tacitus’s Germania and Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars which is virtually our only source concerning the Druids. We have nothing from the Germanic and Celtic pagans themselves, nor from the Slavs. We do have a little information about Baltic paganism, since paganism survived in Lithuania until the fourteenth century, but this source is also very limited and most that we know is again from medieval Christian writers. The Grimm brothers, in addition to collecting and publishing fairy tales, contributed a great deal to the study of philology, their principal area of interest. Their work in this field remains quite valuable. In recent years, critics have demolished most of their work in folklore, however, finding nearly all of it to be based on the tales told by a few informants who were members of their family. In brief, nothing about the pagans was based on scientific investigation
In 1859, the same year that Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published, the pioneer geologist Joseph Prestwick and the antiquarian John Evans discovered stone tools and the bones of extinct animals in Devon caves. Thanks to the system of dating by stratification, they proved that human beings had flourished prior to Archbishop Ussher’s famous dating of the creation based on calculating the generations listed in the Book of Genesis. Until this discovery, most educated people, as well as the general populace, believed that the cosmos, the earth, and all living beings including humanity had been created in 4004 B.C. In presenting his finds in a paper to the Society of Antiquities, Prestwick stated: “This much appears to be established beyond doubt: that in a period of antiquity remote beyond any of which we have hitherto found traces, this portion of the globe was peopled by man.” At about the same time, Boucher de Perthes, a French customs official at Abbeville in northern France, discovered the fossils of extinct animals while excavating the gravels of the Somme. This find, too, added to the evidence that life was much older than had been thought.
The discoveries of Prestwick ,Evans, and Perthes, as well as the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of the Species challenged the scientific authority of the Bible for the first time in history. Acrimonious debates followed, such as the famous debate between Julian Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce at Oxford. Outspoken proponents of Darwin’s theory attacked Christian orthodoxy, and their assaults were angrily repelled. Darwin followed his first book by The Descent of Man (1871) in which he speculatively proposed that human beings, too, were products of biological evolution from common ancestors shared with the chimpanzees and gorillas, and that the probable site of the rigin of humanity was Africa. At the time, there was virtually no fossil evidence, identified as such, to support Darwin’s claim, but beginning with the discovery of “Java Man” by E. DuBois in 1896, such evidence has accumulated to an amazing degree, supporting Darwin’s theory. At the same time, the revival of the theory of genetic