Here, then, we have a very fair specimen of the pseudo-philosophy which is so admirably adapted to captivate the half-informed, wholly unformed minds of the undiscriminating multitudes who have been taught little or nothing well except to believe in their right, duty, and ability to judge for themselves in matters for which a life-time of specialization were barely sufficient. A congeries of dogmatic assertions and negations raked together from the chief writers of a decadent school, discredited twenty years ago by all men of thought, Christian or otherwise; a show of logical order and reasoning which evades our grasp the instant we try to lay critical hands on it; a profuse expression of disinterested devotion to abstract truth, an occasional bow to conventional morality, a racy, irreverent style, an elaborate display of miscellaneous information; good paper, large type, cheap wood-cuts, and the work is done.
Oct. Nov. 1895.
[Footnote 1: M.S. 319.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid. 319.]
[Footnote 3: M.S. 229, 230.]
[Footnote 4: P.F. 279.]
[Footnote 5: P.F. 280]
[Footnote 6: Ibid.]
[Footnote 7: P.F. 281, 282.]
[Footnote 8: Ibid.]
[Footnote 9: Ibid. 210.]
[Footnote: 10 M.S. Preface]
[Footnote 11: "These subjects ... have been to me the solace of a long life, the delight of many quiet days, and the soother of many troubled ones ... a source of enjoyment.
"'The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.'" (H.O. 3.)]
[Footnote: 12 M.S. 319.]
[Footnote: 13 Ibid. 320.]
[Footnote: 14 Cf. Ibid. 104, 282.]
[Footnote 15: This expression seems inconsistent with his here and elsewhere explicit maintenance of the hereditary transmission of gathered moral experiences. He means here to exclude innate ideas of morality as explained by Kant and by other intuitionists.]
[Footnote 16: M.S. 180.]
[Footnote 17: M.S. 285.]
[Footnote 18: M.S. 216.]
[Footnote 19: M.S. 294.]
[Footnote 20: M.S. 298, 299.]
[Footnote 21: P.F. 297. "The truth is that morals are built on a far surer foundation than that of creeds, which are here to-day and gone to-morrow. They are built on the solid rock of experiences, and of the 'survival of the fittest,' which in the long evolution of the human race from primeval savages, have by 'natural selection' and 'heredity' become almost instinctive." (How careless is this terminology. In the previous page he denies morality to be a matter of hereditary instinct.)]
[Footnote 22: P.F. 206.]
[Footnote 23: Ibid. 207.]
[Footnote 24: P.P. 204.]
[Footnote 25: M.S. Preface.]
[Footnote 26: H.O. 3.]
[Footnote 27: P.P. 3.]
[Footnote 28: "The simple undoubting faith which for ages has been the support and consolation of a large portion of mankind, especially of the weak, the humble, the unlearned, who form an immense majority, cannot disappear without a painful wrench, and leaving for a time a great blank behind." (M.S. 284.)]
[Footnote 29: xxxiii.]
[Footnote 30: M.S. 261.]
[Footnote 31: P.F. 176.]
[Footnote 32: P. 177.]
[Footnote 33: P.F. 192.]
[Footnote 34: P. 245.]
[Footnote 35: P.F. 222.]
[Footnote 36: Thus he assumes Mr. Spurgeon's definition of inspiration as the basis of operations (See H.O. 189), and says, "It is perfectly obvious that for those who accept these confessions of faith ... all the discoveries of modern science, from Galileo and Newton down to Lyall and Darwin, are simple delusions."]
[Footnote 37: M.S. 215.]
[Footnote 38: Ibid. 251.]
[Footnote 39: "The simplest straightforward evidence of the earliest Christian writer who gives any account of their origin, viz., Papias." (P.F. 236.) "What does Papias say? Practically this: that he preferred oral tradition to written documents.... This is a perfectly clear and intelligible statement made apparently in good faith without any dogmatic or other prepossession.... It has always seemed to me that all theories ... were comparatively worthless which did not take into account the fundamental fact of this statement of Papias." (238.) "The clear and explicit statement of Papias." (250.)]
[Footnote 40: PP. 258—260.]
[Footnote 41: P. 262.]
[Footnote 42: P.F. 266.]
[Footnote 43: With regard to this "very precise statement," it is noticeable that Matthew speaks of "Mary the mother of James and Joses;" Mark, of "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph and Salome," but not "of Salome." If Mr. Laing's precise mind had looked for a moment at the text he was criticizing he would have seen that Salome is a common name in the nominative case. St. Luke does not give the names of the women at all. These points are trifling in themselves, but important as evidencing Mr. Laing's standard of intellectual conscientiousness.]
[Footnote 44: P.F. 235]
[Footnote 45: M.S. 332 ff.]
[Footnote 46: H.O. 2.]
[Footnote 47: H.O. 8.]
[Footnote 48: H.O. II]
[Footnote 49: H.O. 9 and 199.]
[Footnote 50: H.O. 10.]
[Footnote 51: This seems, later, to be an inference, not an assertion. "Manetho was a learned priest of a celebrated temple, who must have had access to all the temples and royal records and other literature of Egypt, and who must have been also conversant with foreign literature to have been selected as the best man to write a complete history of his native country." (H.O. 22.)]
[Footnote 52: He seems to think that Josephus was a Christian, and Syncellus a "Father." We might mention that from the fragments of Africanus' Pentabiblion Chronicon, preserved in Eusebius, the author places the Creation at 5499 B.C., which is certainly hardly compatible with his giving such fragments of Manetho as would place Menes one year before that date. If we know nothing of Manetho's results except through these "orthodox" sources, it is inconceivable that Mr. Laing's version of them should have any historical basis whatever. It comes in fine to this, that because their report of Manetho does not give Mr. Laing what he wants, they have been tampered with.]
[Footnote 53: H.O. 11.]
[Footnote 54: H.O. 22.]
[Footnote 55: H.O. 17.]
[Footnote 56: H.O. 42.]
[Footnote 57: "There can be no doubt, moreover, that this Sargon I. is a perfectly historical personage. A statue of him has been found at Agade." (H.O. 55.)]
[Footnote 58: M.S. 50.]
[Footnote 59: Ibid.]
[Footnote 60: P.F. 28.]
[Footnote 61: M.S. 61.]
[Footnote 62: "Matter is made of molecules; molecules are made of atoms; atoms are little magnets which link themselves together and form all the complex creations of an ordered cosmos [an ordered order] by virtue of the attractive and repulsive forces which are the result of polarity." (P.F, 223.)]
[Footnote 63: We suppose he has a right to call himself agnostic as being a disciple of Professor Huxley, who, we believe, started or revived the term in our own times. Of course he is also a dogmatic materialist, and by no means an "agnostic" in the wider sense of general scepticism.]
[Footnote 64: M.S. 171.]
[Footnote 65: "Not only have no missing links been discovered, but the oldest known human skulls and skeletons, which date from the glacial period and are probably at least one hundred thousand years old, show no very decided approximation towards any such pre-human type. On the contrary," &c. (M.S. 181.) He replies (H.O. 373) that "five hundred thousand years prior to these men of Spy and Neanderthal, the human race has existed in higher physical perfection, nearer to the existing type of modern man," (Cf. P.F. 158.)]
[Footnote 66: M.S. 112, 114.]
[Footnote 67: P.F. 154.]
[Footnote 68: P.F. 154.]
[Footnote 69: M.S. 175.]
[Footnote 70: The horse "may be taken as the typical instance of descent by progressive specialization. What is a horse? It is essentially an animal specialized for ... the rapid progression of a bulky body over plains or deserts" [a definition which applies equally to the camel, &c.]. It commenced existence as a "pentadactyle plantigrade bunodont." For some indefined reason "the first step was to walking on the toes instead of on the flat of the foot, ... which became general in most lines of their descendants. For galloping on hard ground it is evident that one strong and long toe, protected by a solid hoof, was more serviceable than four short and weak toes." [But why should it gallop more than other animals; or why on the hard ground in the deserts and plains; or would not four strong and long toes have been better than one?] "The coalescence of the toes is the fundamental fact in the progress ... by which the primitive bunodont was converted into the modern horse." But we thought evolution was a change from the homogeneous, incoherent to the heterogeneous and coherent: surely the change from five toes to one must have been a misfortune on the whole, if the flexibility of the human hand accounts for man's intellect. The advantages of a convenient gallop over occasional oases of hard ground in the desert would hardly balance that of being able to climb trees. (P.F. 143.)]
[Footnote 71: Cf. P.F. 151.]
[Footnote 72: M.S. 180.]
[Footnote 73: "A wide gap which has never been bridged over." (Huxley, P.F. 150.)]
[Footnote 74: But cf. M.S. 181. "Attempt after attempt has been made to find some fundamental characters in the human brain, on which to base a generic distinction between man and the brute creation." (P.F. 149.)]
[Footnote 75: Cf. "It is probable, therefore, that this (drill-friction) was the original mode of obtaining fire, but if so it must have required a good deal of intelligence and observation, for the discovery is by no means an obvious one." (M.S. 204.)]
[Footnote 76: P.F. 153.]
[Footnote 77: P.F. 135.]
[Footnote 78: "The inference, therefore, to be drawn alike from the physical development of the individual man and from the origin and growth" [as though he had explained their origin] "of all the faculties which specially distinguish him from the brute creation, ... all point to the conclusion that he is the product of evolution." (M.S. 210.) "Man ... whose higher faculties of intelligence and morality are so clearly ... the products of evolution and education." (M.S. 182.)]
[Footnote 79: H.O. 260.]
[Footnote 80: M.S. 48.]
[Footnote 81: P.F. 17.]
[Footnote 82: P.F. 17, 18. "The conclusion is therefore certain that the land at this particular spot must have sunk twenty feet, and again risen as much so as to bring the floor of the temple to its present position, &c. Similar proofs may be multiplied to any extent.... In fact the more we study geology the more we are impressed with the fact that the normal states of the earth is and always has been one of incessant changes." (M.S. 35—9.)]
[Footnote 83: i.e., Lyell says: Present causes could give these effects, given the time. Laing says: Therefore, since they have given these effects, we must suppose the time.]
[Footnote 84: P.F. 18]
[Footnote 85: P.F. 74.]
[Footnote 86: Ibid.]
[Footnote 87: P.F. 20.]
[Footnote 88: M.S. 34, 41.]
[Footnote 89: P.F. 6.]
[Footnote 90: P.F. 23.]
[Footnote 91: M.S. 46.]
[Footnote 92: P.F. 24.]
[Footnote 93: P.F. 32.]
[Footnote 94: P.F. 66.]
[Footnote 95: "Thus giving to palaeolithic man no greater antiquity than perhaps about 20,000 to 30,000 years, while, should he be restricted to the so-called post-glacial period, the antiquity need not go back further than from 10,000 to 15,000 years before the time of neolithic man." (57.)]
[Footnote 96: P.F. 67.]
[Footnote 97: M.S. 109.]
[Footnote 98: Prestwich evinces the same recalcitrance according to the Nineteenth Century, December 4, 1894, p. 961, being one of the geologists of high standing "who have lately come to believe in some sudden and extensive submergence of continental dimensions in very recent times."]
[Footnote 99: 74.]
[Footnote 100: P.F. 84.]
[Footnote 101: P.F. 69, 70.]
[Footnote 102: P.F. 70.]
[Footnote 103: H.O. 364.]
[Footnote 104: H.O. 388.]
"THE MAKING OF RELIGION."
Some twelve years since we read Mr. Tylor's well-known and able work on Primitive Culture, and were much impressed with the evident fair-mindedness and courageous impartiality which distinguished the author so notably from the Clodds, the Allens, the Laings, and other popularizers of the uncertain results of evolution-philosophy. For this very reason we made a careful analysis of the whole work, and more particularly of his "animistic" hypothesis, and laid it aside, waiting, according to our wont, for further light bearing upon a difficulty wherewith we felt ourselves then incompetent to deal. This further light has been to some extent supplied to us by Mr. Andrew Lang's Making of Religion, which deals mainly with that theory of animism which is propounded by Mr. Tylor, and unhesitatingly accepted, dogmatically preached, and universally assumed, by the crowd of sciolists who follow like jackals in the lion's wake. Without denying the value of our conceptions of God and of the human soul, Mr. Tylor believes that these conceptions, however true in themselves, originated on the part of primitive man in fallacious reasoning from the data of dreams and of like states of illusory vision. He assumes, perhaps with some truth, that the distinction between dream and reality is more faintly marked in the less developed mind; in the child than in the adult, in the savage than in the civilized man. Hence a belief arises in a filmy phantasmal self that wanders abroad in sleep and leaves the body untenanted, and meets and converses with other phantasmal selves. Nor is it hard to see how death, being viewed as a permanent sleep, should be ascribed to the final abandonment of the body by its "dream-stuff" occupant. Whether as dreaded or loved or both, this ever-gathering crowd of disembodied spirits wins for itself a certain cultus of praise and propitiation, and reverence, and is humoured with food-offerings and similar sacrifices. Nor is it long before the form of an earthly polity is transferred to that unearthly city of the dead, till for one reason or another some jealous ghost gains a monarchic supremacy over his brethren, and thus polytheism gives place to monotheism. It need not be that this supreme deity is always conceived as a defunct ancestor, once embodied, but no longer in the body. Rather it would seem that the primitive savage, having once arrived at the conception of a ghost, passes by generalization to that of incorporeal beings unborn and undying, of spirits whose presence and power is revealed in stocks and stones, or in idols shaped humanwise—spirits who preside over trees, rivers, and elements, over species and classes and departments of Nature, over tribes and peoples and nations; until, as before, the struggle for existence or some other cause gives supremacy to some one god fittest to survive either through being more conceivable, or more powerful, or in some other way more popular than the rest of the pantheon.
Again, it is assumed that the gods of primitive man are non-ethical, that they do not "make for righteousness;" that they are at most jealous powers to be feared and propitiated. When the savage speaks of a god as good, he only means "favourable to me," "on my side;" he does not mean "good to me if I am good." God is conceived first as power and force; then as non-moral wisdom, or cunning, and only in the very latest developments as holy and just and loving.
Starting with the assumptions of evolutionists, the theory is plausible enough. Nor is it inconceivable that God, without using error and evil directly as a means to truth and good, should passively permit error for the sake of the truth that He foresees will come out of it. Astrology was not incipient astronomy; nor was alchemy primitive chemistry; the end and aim in each case was wholly different. Yet the pseudo-science gave birth to the true; as false premisses often lead by bad logic to sound conclusions. Totemism, "a perfectly crazy and degrading belief," says Mr. Lang, "rendered possible—nay, inevitable—the union of hostile groups into large and relatively peaceful tribal societies.... We should never have educated the world thus; and we do not see why it should have been thus done. But we are very anthropomorphic, and totally ignorant of the conditions of the problem." In like manner it might have been, that God willed to let men wander through the slums and backways of animism into the open road of theism.
But our concern is not with what might have been, but with what was.
Mr. Lang contends, first, that belief in spirits and in a circumambient spiritual world, more probably originated in certain real or imaginary experiences of supernormal phenomena, than in a fallacious explanation of dreams; then, that belief in a supreme god is most probably not derived from or dependent upon belief in ghosts.
Consistently with the whole trend of his thought in his recent work connected with psychical research, in Myth, Ritual, and Religion, in Cock-Lane and Common-Sense, Mr. Lang begins by entering a protest against the attitude observed towards the subject by contemporary science, especially by anthropology, which, as having been so lately "in the same condemnation," might be expected to show itself superior to that injustice which it had itself so much reason to complain of. Yet anthropology, abandoning the first principles of modern science, still refuses to listen to the facts alleged by psychical research, and justifies its refusal on Hume's oft-exploded fallacy, namely, on an a priori conviction of their impossibility and therefore of their non-occurrence.
However wide the range of experience upon which physical generalizations are based, it can never be so wide as on this score alone to prove the inherent possibility of exceptions; more especially when we consider the confinement of the human race to what is relatively a momentary existence on a whirling particle of dust in a sandstorm. There may indeed be abundant evidence of a certain impetus or tendency enduring from a comparatively distant and indefinite past and making for an equally indefinite future; but there is not, cannot be evidence against the possibility of interference from other laws whose paths, at points unknown and incalculable, intersect those followed by the (to us) ordinary course of events.
And in this wholesome agnosticism we are confirmed when we see that while some animals are deprived of certain senses which we possess, and all of them of the gift of reason, others are apparently endowed with senses unknown to us, and are taught by seeming instincts which surpass what reason could effect; whence we may infer that the likelihood of our being en rapport with the greater part of the possible phenomena amidst which we live, or of our possessing all possible senses or the best of those possible, is infinitely small. What a magician a man with eyes would be among a race of sightless men; or a man with ears among a deaf population! How studiously would the scientists explain the effects of sight as produced by subtilty of hearing; and those of hearing as due to abnormal sensitiveness in some other respect!
But though there be no a priori impossibility in deviations from the beaten track, yet there is a certain a priori improbability which may seem to justify those who refuse to go into alleged instances of the supernormal. There is a story against Thomas Aquinas, that on being invited by a frisky brother-monk to come and see a cow flying, or some such marvel, he gravely came and saw not, but expressed himself far more astounded at the miracle that a religious man should say "the thing which was not." This is certainly a glorious antithesis to Hume's position. Whether we take it to illustrate the Saint's extreme lack of humour, or a subtler depth of humour veiled under stolidity, or his rigorous veracity, or his guileless confidence in the veracity of others, we certainly cannot approve it as an example of the attitude we ought to observe with regard to every newly recounted marvel. Truly there might be more liberality, more enlightenment, more imagination in such a ready credulity, than in the wall-eyed, ear-stopping scepticism of popular science; but the mere inner possibility of a recounted marvel does not oblige us to search into the matter unless the evidence offered bear some reasonable proportion to the burden it has to support. That this is the case as regards crystal-gazing, telepathy, possession, and kindred manifestation, is what Mr. Lang contends; nor would he have any quarrel with the anthropologists were they not fully impressed with the importance of similar or even weaker cumulative evidence for conclusions which happen to be in harmony with their preconceived hypotheses. Where such evidence exists it must be faced, and at least its existence must be explained.
True criticism should either account for the seeming breach of uniformity, by reducing it to law; or else should show how the assertion if false ever gained credence; but in no case is it scientific to put aside, on an a priori assumption, evidence that is offered from all sides in great abundance. Psychic research is daily applying to that tangled mass of world-wide evidence ancient and modern for the existence of an X-region of experience, those same critical and historical principles which created modern science. Men who, as often as not, have no religion or no superstition themselves, see that both religion and superstition are universal phenomena, and cannot be neglected by those who would study humanity historically and scientifically. Even if there be nothing in hallucinations, apparitions, scrying, second-sight, poltergeists, and the rest, there is a great deal in the fact that belief in these things is as wide and as old as the world; it is a fact to be explained. "Each man," says Meister, "commonly defends himself as long as possible from casting out the idols which he worships in his soul; from acknowledging a master-error, and admitting any truth that brings him to despair;" and indeed a system as complete and compact as that of Mr. Spencer or Mr. Tylor is apt to become an intellectual idol forbidding under pain of infidelity all inquiries that might cause it to totter on its throne, or which might unravel in an instant what has been woven by years of hard and honest thought. Few of us are in a position to cast stones on this score; still, recognizing the weakness more clearly in others than in ourselves, we are justified in reckoning with it, and in discounting for the unwillingness of men of science to listen to facts inconsistent with long-cherished theories, and for their tendency to accumulate and magnify evidence on the other side. "If the facts not fitting their theories are little observed by authorities so popular as Mr. Huxley and Mr. Spencer; if instantiae contradictoriae are ignored by them, or left vague; if these things are done in the green tree, we may easily imagine what shall be done in the dry. But we need not war with hasty vulgarisateurs and headlong theorists."
We cannot for a moment question the sincerity of purpose and honesty of intention of many of the leaders of modern scientific enlightenment, whatever we may think of the said crowd of vulgarisateurs—those camp-followers who bring disgrace on every respectable cause. But beside wilful bias and unfairness, there is unconscious bias from which none of us are free, but from which we need to be delivered by mutual criticism; for, however much a man can see of himself, he can never get behind his own back. Of such unwitting dishonesty men of thought are abundantly guilty, when deeming themselves to be governed only by reason, they are in fact slaves to some intellectual fashion of the day. Not one of them in a thousand would dare to appear in public with the clothes of last century, or to face the laughter of a crowd of his compeers. Hence a certain indocility and rigidness of mind which they only escape who live out of the fashion or have strength to lead it or to live above it. Simple, whether from greatness or littleness, they escape the narrowing influence inseparable from being identified, even in their own mind, with a school or coterie; and can afford to say things as they see them.
Contemporary fashion says at present that there are to be no miracles, nothing supernormal; whatever cannot be reduced in any way to known laws and causes can be flatly denied, for the supposition of unknown causes and laws is rank heresy. Until more recent years, it was not permitted to listen to or show any disposition to investigate the narratives of phenomena which have since been "explained" and reduced to such legalized causes as hysteria or hypnotism, and even (of late) to thought-transference. But since this happy reconciliation has been effected, such stories are allowed to be believed on ordinary evidence, although the accounts of other "unclassed" supernormal marvels coming from the same lips with the same attestation are still brushed aside as traveller's tales, or as the puerilities of hagiography—not worth a thought. One would think that some kind of apology or reparation were due to ecclesiastical tradition, which was credited with wholesale lying so long as its recorded wonders were classed among impossibilities by the intellectual fashion-mongers, but it seems we have only partly escaped the reproach of knavery to incur that of wholesale folly for not having seen that these apparent miracles were but forms of hysteria or hypnotism.
Yet what is hysteria and what does it really explain?  Surely the etymology throws no light on the subject! Is it then merely a name for the unknown cause of phenomena every whit as strange as those which were held incredible till their like had been actually witnessed and forced upon the unwilling eyes of science beyond all possibility of denial? Is it that science blindly refused even to weigh the evidence for abnormal facts till the same or similar had become matters of personal observation? Is it that every reported breach of her assumed uniformities is incredible, because impossible, until the possibility has been proved by some fact which is then named, erected into a class, a cause, a law, and used to explain away similar facts formerly denied, and is thus taken into that bundle of generalizations called the "laws of nature"? The ancients assumed all heavenly motion to be circular of necessity, and where facts gave against them, they patched the matter up with an epicycle or two. Are not hysteria, hypnotism, and thought-transference of the nature of epicycles? It is now confessed that the mind can so affect and dominate the body as to produce blisters and wounds by mere force of suggestion and expectancy; that a like "faith" can cure, not only such ailments as are clearly connected with the nerves, but others where such connection is not yet traceable. And this is supposed to tell in some way against like marvels reported by hagiology, as though they were explained by being observed and named. Yet what did that supposed marvellousness consist in, except in a seeming revelation of the power and superiority of mind over matter, and of things unseen over things seen and palpable; and in proving that there were more wonders in heaven and earth than were dreamt of by a crude and self-satisfied materialism? They were taken as evidence of a circumambient X-region where the laws of mechanics were set at defiance and where the fetters of time and place were loosened or cast aside. Such an X-region being supposed by every supernatural religion and denied by most of those who deny religion, and on the same grounds, its establishment by any kind of experiment is rightly considered in some sort to make for religion. Indeed, it is just on this account that the evidence for it is so opposed by those who are pre-occupied by the anti-religious bias of contemporary science. But unless hysterical effects can be shown to be ultimately due, not to mind, but to matter acting on matter, according to methods approved by materialism, hysteria remains a word-cause and no more, like the meat-cooking quality of the roasting-jack.
Hypnotism is a kindred cause in every way. It means sleep-ism; yet manifestly it deals with characteristics which are utterly unlike those of sleep; and it is precisely these that need to be explained away in conformity with received laws, unless we are to find in these phenomena evidence of such modes of being and operation as every kind of religion postulates. "Possession" is of course a fable; the superabundant world-wide, world-old evidence for the phenomenon was thrust aside without a glance, till hypnotic experiments brought to light what is called "alternating personality." As though this name had explained everything in accordance with materialism, forthwith it was permitted to believe the aforesaid evidence, provided one laughed loudly enough at the theory of "possession." It is allowed that the hypnotic patient may in some sense be said to be "possessed" by the hypnotiser for the time being; nay, even a certain chronic possession of this kind is observable. But an invisible hypnotiser and possession by a disembodied spirit is still out of fashion, notwithstanding all Mrs. Piper's efforts and Dr. Hodgson's audacious declaration of his not very willing belief that those who speak through her "are veritably the personalities they claim to be, and that they have survived the change we call death."
Thought-transference, however, promises to be a potent and popular solvent of psychic problems. Thought-transference was a supremely ludicrous supposition till comparatively recently; nor could there be any credible testimony for what was known antecedently to be quite impossible. But some way or other, facts which demanded a name were forced upon the direct observation of science, and so Mr. F. Podmore has written a book in which, assuming thought-transference to be a scientifically recognized possibility, he proceeds to reduce many of the marvels collected by the S.P.R. to that simple and obvious cause, and to reject the residue on the sound old principle that what is known to be impossible cannot be true. Hallucinations, solitary and collective, and other perplexing instances are tortured into cases of thought-transfer with an ingenuity which we should smile at in a mediaeval scholastic explaining the universe by the four elements and the four temperaments. But is not thought-transference itself lamentably unscientific? No; because we see that unconnected magnets affect one another sympathetically; and the brain being a sort of magnet may well affect distant brains. Thought is a kind of electricity, and electricity, if not exactly a fluid, yet may some day be liquefied and bottled. At all events, science has seen something very remotely analogous to thought-transference and every whit as unintelligible and antecedently incredible till observed; and therefore it is permissible to listen to the evidence for it, and forced thereto, to accept the fact.
But have we really disposed of ghosts if we prove the appearance to be caused by a subjective modification of the perceiver's sensorium and not by a modification of the external medium—the air or the ether? Since it is a question of a spiritual substance independent of spatial dimensions and relations, said to be present only so far and where its effects and manifestations are present, what does it matter whether it reports itself by an effect outside or inside the percipient—whether it be a "vision sensible to feeling, as to sight," or but "a false creation proceeding from a heat-oppressed brain"? Is not this very distinction of outside and inside in the matter of perceptions open to no slight ambiguity? The savage, familiar with the electric sparks caused by the friction of deer-skins, ascribes the aurora borealis to the friction of a jostling herd of celestial deer. "Nonsense," says science, after centuries of false hypotheses, "it is nothing more nor less than electricity." This is very much the way she is dealing with the supernormal at present; brushing aside as wholly nonsensical, beliefs that envelope a core of useful fact in a wrapping of crude explanation, and then receiving the same facts as new discoveries, because she has fitted them into an involucre more to her own liking, though perhaps but little less crude. "Not deer-skin," says science, "but amber; not miracle, but faith-cure; not prophetic insight, but thought-transference; not apparition, but hallucination." And so with the rest.
Considering then the bias of the dominant scientific school, which makes it refuse even to examine the carefully gathered evidence of the S.P.R.; we need not wonder if the reports of travellers concerning the existence of like phenomena among savages and barbarians all over the world are dismissed with a certain a priori superciliousness. Yet surely, on evolutionist principles, the only possible clue to the mode in which belief in spirits and in God may have originated with "primitive man," is the mode in which those beliefs are actually now sustained, and, so to say, "proved" by the most primitive specimens of existing humanity; by, for example, those bushmen of Australia whose facial angle and cerebral capacity is supposed to leave no room for much difference between their mind and that of the higher anthropoids. Doubtless it is hard to get anything like scientific evidence out of people so uncultivated, whose language and modes of conception are so alien to our own. Individual travellers, moreover, have been the victims of their own credulity, stupidity, self-conceit, and prejudice. "But the best testimony of the truth of the reports as to the actual belief in the facts, is the undesigned coincidence of the evidence from all quarters. When the stories brought by travellers, ancient and modern, learned and unlearned, pious or sceptical, agree in the main, we have all the certainty that anthropology can offer."
From this ever-growing mass of evidence, it would appear that the universal belief among savages in a spirit-world is mainly strengthened and sustained, not by the phenomena of dreaming but by what Mr. Spencer would call "alleged" supernormal manifestations, such as those of clairvoyance, crystal-gazing, apparitions, miracles, prophecies, possession, and the like. For belief in such marvels exists beyond doubt, and furnishes a very obvious and logical basis for the further belief in the invisible causes of these visible effects; nor should we have recourse to an hypothetical and more indirect explanation of belief in a spirit-world when an actual and direct explanation is at hand. If we see the branch growing out of the tree, we need not inquire what trunk it sprang from, unless we have strong evidence that it is only a graft. All investigation tends to show that savages believe in spirits and in the spirit-world because they witness, or firmly believe they witness, supernormal phenomena.
Besides this, it must be allowed that together with the normal phenomena of dreaming, there are abnormal dreams which even to cultivated minds seem at times as supernormal as second-sight or prophecy. But it is not on supernormal, but on normal dreams that animists base their explanation. We need not deny that dreams and delirium may have given palpable shape to the conception of a ghost, and may also have helped forward the notion of a spirit by furnishing something intermediary between the grossness of our waking sense-experiences, and the altogether elusive and difficult thought of unembodied will and intelligence independent of space and time.
In the main then it seems more plausible to maintain that the idea of unembodied or disembodied spirits was shaped by that instinctive law of our mind which makes us argue from the nature of effects to the nature of the agency. The first impulse would be to ascribe every intelligent effect to some human agency, but other circumstances would subsequently incline the savage reluctantly to divest the agent of one or more of the limitations of humanity, and to clothe him with preter-human attributes. Nearly all the supernormal phenomena believed in by primitive man—so far as we can judge of him from contemporary savagery—would suggest the agency of an invisible man; clairvoyance, and other manifestations of preternatural knowledge, would suggest independence of the senses in the acquisition of knowledge; every kind of "miracle" would bespeak an extension of power over physical nature beyond human wont; while all these together would point to that freedom from the trammels of space and time, which is of the very essence of immaterial or spiritual subsistence. Thus, by a gradual process of dehumanization, the mind would be instinctively led from the notion of a man magnified in all excellences and refined from all limitations, to the conception of spirit. But coexistently with this progress of the reason, the imagination would ever strain to clothe the thought in bodily form as far as possible, and would cling to the notions suggested by dreams and waking hallucinations, while language, after its wont, would speak of the spirit as the umbra, the imago, the shadow, the breath, the attenuated replica of the body. Thus we find among all men, savage and civilized, a certain unsteadiness in their notion of spirit, whether created or divine—a continual tendency to corruption and anthropomorphism, due to the conflict between reason and imagination, resulting so often in the domination of the latter.
For this view of the subject it is not necessary that we should admit the preternatural character of the phenomena which form the subject-matter of psychical research, but only that we should acknowledge the hardly disputable fact that belief in such marvels is universal and persistent among savages—a fact which science is bound by its own principles to explain, and not to ignore. Whether, as Mr. Lang seems inclined to think, among much illusion, chicanery, and ignorance, there may not be truth enough to make the inference of an X-world legitimate, whether the said universality, persistence, and recrudescence of this seeming credulity can be accounted for in any other satisfactory way, is a further consideration. If in some dim fashion the Northern Indians anticipated modern science in their explanation of the aurora borealis, connecting it with familiar electric manifestations, may it not be, asks Mr. Lang, that in their inference from supernormal facts which experimental science refuses to hear of or to examine, they have again been sagaciously beforehand? Doubtless their explanation is crude and inadequate in both cases; but is it much more so than that offered by supposing electricity to be a fluid subject to currents; or by assigning many inexplicable psychic phenomena to "hysteria"—a mere word-cause?
The supposition is somewhat favoured if we give ear to that crowd of witnesses whose combined evidence, duly discounted and tested, makes it clear that even among those who ought to have been civilized out of all belief in aught behind the veil, the very same superstitions break out, or creep in, time after time, with new names perhaps, new clothes, new faces, but in substance identical with those held by what we esteem the most benighted races.
Further, it is evident that savages pay attention—over-attention, no doubt—to these supernormal phenomena, being free from hostile philosophic bias in the matter, and bent the other way; and that in consequence they have everywhere observed, classified, and systematized them in their own rude, simple way, and have thus forestalled what the S.P.R., in the teeth of science, is now endeavouring to do scientifically. With us, moreover, it is mere chance that reveals a "medium," or hypnotic subject here and there: but with savages they are sought out diligently, and all who have any latent aptitude that way are detected and utilized; and thus the field of their experience is considerably widened.
But besides all this, it seems more than plausible to suppose that among primitive and undeveloped races such preternatural phenomena either occur, or seem to occur, much more frequently and extensively; and that apparently supernormal faculties are more often developed.
Nor can this be explained solely on the score of their readier credulity and their lack of criticism; for there is good evidence to show that the development of the rational and self-directive faculties is at the sacrifice of those instinctive and intuitional modes of operation which do duty for them while man is yet in a state of pupilage. Memory, for example, is fresher and more assimilative in childhood, but deteriorates very often as the higher faculties come into use; and indeed we cannot fail to see how the introduction of printing, writing, and mnemonic arts and artifices of all kinds, has lowered the average power of civilized memory, and made the ordinary feats of more primitive times seem to us magical and incredible. We also notice the high development of hearing, sight, and other forms of perception among savages who live by their five senses rather than by their wits. When we descend to the animal-world we are confronted by cognitive faculties whose effects we see, but of whose precise nature we can form no conjecture whatever. That which guides the migratory birds in their wanderings, and simulates polity in the bee-hive and ant-hill, is not reason, but is something for practical purposes far better than reason. Putting a number of these and of similar considerations together seems to suggest that development in the direction of self-instruction (which is reason) and self-management and independence, is loss as well as gain.
What we gain is no doubt our own in a truer sense than that we had when we hung upon Nature's breast, and were guided passively by instincts and intuitions to purposes that reason can never reach to.
By far the most wonderful and seemingly intelligent work of the soul is that by which it builds up, nourishes, repairs, developes, and finally reproduces the body it dwells in. Yet in all this it is almost as passive and unconscious as a vegetable. The effect is (as far as our comprehension of it goes) altogether preternatural and inexplicable; yet it is far less our effect than what we do by reason and by taking thought. What we pay for in dignity we lose in efficiency. While Nature carries us in her arms we move swiftly enough, but when she sets us on our feet to learn independence and self-rule, we cut a sorry figure. In our helplessness she does all for us as though we were yet part of her; but in the measure that we are weaned and begin to fend for ourselves as responsible agents, we are deprived of the aids and easements befitting the childhood of our race.
If this be true, if man in his primitive state possessed intuitive powers which have sunk into abeyance, either through the diversion of psychic energy to the development of other powers, or through desuetude, or as the instincts of the new-born babe are lost when their brief purpose is fulfilled; if the occasional recrudescence of these powers among civilized peoples is really a survival of an earlier state; then indeed we can understand that the evidence, or apparent evidence, for the existence of an X-region, or spirit-world, may have been immeasurably more abundant in the infancy of the human race, than it is now even among contemporary savages.
Put it how we will, it cannot be denied that belief in divination, in diabolic possession, and in magic, has largely contributed to belief in spirits; and that to ignore this contribution by throwing the whole burden on ordinary dreams is unscientific. During sleep Mr. Tylor himself is as much a prey to delusion as the most primitive savage; but the criteria by which on waking we condemn most of our dreams as illusions, seem really as accessible and obvious to the child or savage as to the philosopher; though the former through carelessness or poverty of language will perhaps say: "I saw," instead of: "I dreamt I saw." Children will speak as it were historically of even their day-dreams and imaginings, not from any untruthfulness or wish to deceive, but from that romancing tendency rightly reprehended in their elders, who should be alive to the conventional value of language. But the first and most natural use of speech is simply to express and embody the thought that is in us, not to assert, or affirm, or to instruct others. The child's romancing is not intended as assertion, although so taken by prosaic adults. It is from the same instinct which lies at the back of his eternal monologue, of the "Let's pretend" by which he is for the moment transformed into a soldier, or a steam-engine, or a horse. Eye-reading without articulation is impossible for the beginner, and thought that is not talked and acted is impossible for the child. Yet deeply as the child is wrapped up in his dreams, there is nothing more certain than that he is as clear as any adult as to the difference between romance and fact; and so it is no doubt with the savage, who can hardly be denied to have at least as much reason as an average child.
Closer study of the savage points to the conclusion that the civilized man falls into the same error in his regard as many adults do with respect to children, whom they fail hopelessly to interpret through lack of imagination, and to whom they are but tedious and ridiculous when they would fain be instructive and amusing; forgetting that the difference between the two stages of life is rather in the size of the toys played with, than in the way they are regarded. So too we are apt to look on foreign, and still more on savage language, symbolism, ways, and customs, as indicative of a far more radical difference and greater inferiority of mental constitution and ethical instincts than really exists. Mr. Kidd, in his book on Social Evolution, has contended with some plausibility that the brain-power of the Bushman and of the Cockney is much on a par at starting, and that the subsequent divergence is due chiefly to education and moral training; and certainly much of the evidence brought forward in Mr. Lang's volume seems to look that way. If the aboriginal Australian has a faith in the immortality of the soul and in a supreme God, the rewarder of righteousness, if he summarizes the laws of God under the precept of unselfishness; if in all this he is but a type of the universal savage, surely it were well if some of the missionary zeal which is devoted to supplying the heathen with Bibles which they cannot understand, were turned to the work of bringing our own godless millions up to their religious level.
But this takes us to the second and still more interesting part of The Making of Religion, which we shall have to discuss in the next section. At present we only wish to insist that it is a mistake to assume that because savages and children are, when compared with ourselves, so little, therefore their thoughts and ideas can be understood with little difficulty. Contrariwise, as the apparent difference in life and language is greater, the deeper and more patient investigation will it need to detect that radical sameness of mental and moral constitution which binds men together far more than diversity of education and environment can ever separate them. It is, therefore, exceedingly unlikely that either the child or the savage should, by failing to distinguish between dream and reality, introduce into his whole life that incoherence which is just the distinguishing characteristic of dreaming and lunacy. And, as a fact, do we really find the savage as depressed, on waking, by a dreamt-of calamity as by a real one; or as elated after a visionary scalping of foes as after a real victory? Does he on waking look for the said scalps among his collection of trophies, and is he perplexed and incensed at not finding them? Even if, like ourselves, he has occasionally a very vivid and coherent dream reconcilable with his waking circumstances, will he not judge of it by the vast majority of his dreams which are palpable illusions, and not by the few exceptional cases? If at times we ourselves doubt whether we witnessed something or dreamt it, yet we do so not because the seeming fact is one which makes for the existence of another world of a different order to this, but for the very contrary reason. If the savage only dreamt of the dead, he might find in this an evidence of their survival, but he dreams far more often of the living, and that, with circumstances which make the illusion manifest on waking. Seeing the awe and terror which all men have of the supernatural region, we ought, on the animistic hypothesis, to find among savages a great reluctance to go to bed—"to sleep! Perchance to dream—aye, there's the rub!" But we do not. Finally, just as the Chinese, who are supposed to mistake epilepsy for possession, have, unfortunately for the supposition, got two distinct words for the two phenomena, so it will doubtless be found that there is no savage who has not some word to express illusion; or whose language does not prove that he knows dreams are but dreams. We may well doubt if even animals on waking are affected by their dreams as by realities, or if a dog ever bit a man for a kick received in a dream. In short the dream-theory of souls is plausible only in the gross, but melts away under closer examination bit by bit.
Whether the S.P.R. will ever succeed in bottling a ghost, and in submitting it to the tests necessary to convince science, matters little. The real fruit of its labours will be to "convince men of sin," to convict science of being unscientific, and criticism of being uncritical—of being biassed by fashion to the extent of refusing to examine evidence which must be either admitted or explained away. Scepticism and credulity alike are hostile both to science and religion, and it is the common interest of these latter to secure a full recognition, on the one side of the principle of faith, that with God all things are possible; and on the other, of the principle of science which is: to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. Credulity tends to make the actual co-extensive with the possible; while scepticism would limit the possible to the known actual. The true mind would be one in which faith and criticism were so tempered as to secure width without slovenliness, and exactitude without narrowness.
How, apart from the imperfect lingering tradition of some primitive revelation, the belief in a surviving soul originates with contemporary savages, or might have originated among still ruder past races, is a question of some interest, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of whatever little light it may throw upon the more vital question as to the value of that belief. Had the doctrine of souls no other origin than a false inference from the ordinary phenomena of sleeping and dreaming; were it in no sense an instinctive belief, suggested perhaps and confirmed by supernormal facts, it would still have interest for the anthropologist as one of those almost necessary and universal errors through which the human mind struggles to the truth, such as the errors of astrology or alchemy; but it would in no way contribute to the argument for immortality ex consensu hominum—an argument of much avail when it is a case of man's instinctive judgments and primary intuitions, which are God-given, but of ever less value in proportion as there is a question of deductions, inferences, and self-formed judgments. Even if we discard the dream-theory altogether, we get no support from the consensus of savages as to the soul's survival, unless we have reason to think that the facts on which their inference rests are truly, and not only apparently, supernormal, and are, moreover, such as leave no other inference possible.
We know only too well that there are universal fallacies as well as universal truths of the human mind. For the practical necessities of life the imagination stands to man in good stead, but as the inadequate instrument of speculative thought its fertile deceitfulness is betrayed in his very earliest attempts at philosophy; nor are his subsequent efforts directed to anything else than the endeavour to correct and allow for its refractions and distortions, to transcend its narrow limitations, to force it to express, meanly and clumsily, truths which otherwise it would entirely obscure and deny. There might well be facts, nay, there are undoubtedly facts, which to the untutored mind necessarily and always seem altogether supernormal, but which science rightly explains to be, however unusual, yet natural, and in no way outside the ordinary laws. So far as the marvels of sorcerers and medicine-men are the work of chicanery, they will lack that persistence and ubiquity which justifies the investigation of other marvels for whose universality some basis must be sought in the uniform nature of things. Cheats will not always and everywhere hit on the same plan, nor will the independent testimony of false witnesses be found agreeing.
But if besides facts and appearances that science can really explain away, there be a residue which takes us into a region wherein science as yet has set no foot, then we may indeed be on our way to a confirmation of the usually accepted arguments for immortality by which the positivist may be met upon his own ground. In truth, metaphysical, moral, and religious arguments, however much they may avail with individuals who are subjectively disposed to receive them, cannot in these days influence the crowd of men who need some sort of violence offered to their intellect if they are to accept truths against which they are biassed. The temper of the majority is positivist; it will believe what it can see, touch, and handle, and no more. If then the natural truth of the independent existence of spirits can be inade experimentally evident—and a priori, why should it not?—men may not like it, but they will have either to accept it, or to deny all that they accept on like evidence. Such unwilling concession would of itself make little for personal religion in the individual; but its widespread acceptance could not fail to counteract the ethics of materialism, and so prepare the way for perhaps a fuller return to religion on the part of the many.
It is the belief, and perhaps the hope, of not a few men of light and learning that a comparison of the results of the S.P.R. investigations with those of anthropology touching the beliefs and superstitions of savages and ruder races, may point to an order of facts which, with reference to the admissions of existing science, are rightly called supernormal, and yet which are in another sense strictly normal, namely, with reference to that science of experimental psychology which, amid the usual storm of ridicule and jealousy, is slowly struggling into existence—ridicule from all devout slaves of the intellectual fashion of the times; jealousy from the neighbour sciences of mental physiology and neurology, which it declares bankrupt in the face of newly-discovered liabilities.
So far this gathered evidence seems, in the eyes of some of its interpreters, to point to a close connection, if not of being, at least of influence, between soul and soul, such as binds each atom of matter to every other; a connection which increases as we descend from the above-ground level of full consciousness, through ever lower strata of subconsciousness, to those hidden depths of unconscious operation from which the most unintelligibly intelligent effects of the soul proceed—as though, in the darkness, it were taught by God, and guided blindfold by the hand of its Maker. In other words, the individuation of souls is conceived to be somewhat like that of the separate branches of the same tree which, traced downwards, run into a common root, from whence they are differenced by every hour of their growth, yet not disconnected, as though each several consciousness sprang from some unconscious psychic basis common to all, wherein, like forgotten memories, the experiences of all are buried, at a depth far beyond the reach of all normal powers of reminiscence, yet through which terminus of converging souls thoughts can, in our intenser moments, pass from mind to mind,—reverberated as it were from the base, and thence caught by the one consciousness altogether resonant to that particular vibration. How far such an interpretation may favour pantheism, or imperil personality, or involve a doctrine of "pre-existence," or of innate ideas, is not for us here to discuss. If we are to judge it fairly, it must be simply as a provisional working-hypothesis explanatory of certain observations, and apart from all other psychological theories with which it may seem in conflict. Truth will in the end adjust itself with truth, but nothing is to be hoped from forced and premature adjustments.
Mr. Lang's second and principal contention is that even if we allow the animistic account of the belief in spirits, in no sense can we admit that process by which belief in God is supposed to be a later development of the belief in spirits, as though inequality among spirits had given rise to aristocracy, and aristocracy to monarchy.
By God here we understand: "a primal eternal Being, author of all things, the father and the friend of man, the invisible omniscient guardian of morality," a definition which, while it fixes the high-water mark of monotheism, yet only states with formidable distinctness what, according to Mr. Lang, is found confusedly in the apprehension of the rudest savages. There are two senses in which we can understand an evolution of this idea of God; first, as Mr. Tylor understands it, in the sense of a development by accretion from a simple germ, from the idea of a phantasm nowise a god, to that of a spirit still lacking divinity, thence to that of a Supreme Spirit in whom first the essential definition of God is somewhat fulfilled. Secondly, it can be understood strictly as a mere unfolding of the contents of a confused apprehension; so that there is an advance only in point of coherence and distinctness. Thus understood, the entire religious history of the race, as also of the individual, viewed from its mental side, consists in an evolution of the idea of God and culminates in a face-to-face seeing of God.
From the evidence amassed, or perhaps rather, sampled, by Mr. Lang it would seem that, what we account the lowest races are in possession of a confused idea of God, whencesoever derived, which is in substantial agreement with the reflex conception contained in the above definition; and that there is no existing series of intellectual stages whereby this can be seen, as it were, in the act of growing out of previous simpler ideas. Evolution in the direction of greater clearness and distinctness is to be observed, as well as a downward process of obscuration and confusion: but for a substantial development of the idea of God from an idea of "not God" there is no proof forthcoming so far.
On the animistic hypothesis we should be prepared to find the notion of God, as above stated, to be of very late development and accepted only by races fairly advanced in culture. We should, a priori, deem it impossible to discover more among the lower savages than a rude religion of ghost-worship, without any consciousness of a moral Supreme Being, the father and friend of man. Whatever might seem to suggest the contrary, would be explainable by some infiltration of more civilized beliefs.
Armed with this hypothesis the eye is quick "to see that it brings with it the power of seeing," and to impose its own forms and schemata on the phenomena offered to its observation. The "animist" ill-acquainted with the savage's language and modes of thought; excluded from those inner "mysteries" which figure in nearly every savage religion; confounding the symbolism, the popular mythology, and also the corruptions, distortions, and abuses which are the parasites of all religion, with the religion itself, can easily come away with the impression that there is nothing but ghost-worship, priestcraft, and superstition, no conception whatever of a personal "Power that makes for Righteousness." If Protestants have almost as crude an idea of the religion of their Catholic fellow-Christians with whom they live side by side, and converse in the same language, if they are so absolutely dominated by their own form of religious thought, as to be as helpless as idiots in the presence of any other, can we expect that the ordinary British traveller, "brandishing his Bible and his bath," strong in the smug conviction of his mental, moral, and religious preeminence, will be a very sympathetic, conscientious, and reliable interpreter of the religion of the Zulu or the Andamanese?
The fact is that without a preliminary hypothesis he would see nothing at all except dire confusion. But an assumption such as that of "animism," has the selective power of a magnet, drawing to itself all congruous facts and little filings of probability, until it so bristles over with evidence that a hedge-hog is easier to handle.
But before discussing the relation of this assumption to existing facts and so bringing it to an a posteriori test, let us examine its a priori supports.
First of all, as Mr. Lang points out, it takes for granted that the savage can have no idea of the Creator until he conceive Him as a spirit. "God is a spirit," has been dinned into our ears from childhood; and hence we conclude that he who has no notion of a spirit can have no notion of God; and that the idea of God is of later growth than that of a ghost. In truth, he who ascribes to God a body does not know all about Him; but which of us knows all about God? The point is, not whether the savage can know the metaphysics of divinity, but whether he can conceive a primal eternal moral being, author of all things, man's father and judge—a conception which abstracts entirely from the question of matter and spirit. We ourselves, like the savage, necessarily speak of God and imagine Him humanwise,—although our instructed reason, at times, corrects the error of our fancy,—and perhaps only "at times,"—only when we leave the ground of spontaneous thought, to walk on metaphysical stilts—nor while that childish image remains uncorrected and we neither affirm nor deny to Him a body, can our notion be called false, however obscure it be and inadequate. If the savage has no notion of spirit, yet he may have, and often seems to have a very true, though of course infinitely imperfect, notion of God; nay, perhaps a truer notion than those who affirm, without any sense of using analogy, that God is a spirit. For if His spirituality is insisted on, it is rather to exclude from Him the grossness and limitation of matter, and to ascribe to Him a transcendental degree of whatever perfection our notion of spirit may involve, than to classify Him, or to predicate of Him that finite nature which we call a spirit. God is neither a spirit nor a body; but rather like Ndengei of the Fijians: "an impersonation of the abstract idea of eternal existence;" one who is to be "regarded as a deathless Being, no question of 'spirit' being raised;" so that the first intuition of the unsophisticated mind is found to be in more substantial agreement with the last results of reflex philosophical thought, than those early philosophizings which halt between the affirmation and denial of bodily attributes, unable to prescind from the difficulty and unable to solve it. The history of the Jews, nay, the history of our own mind proves to demonstration that the thought of God is a far easier thought and a far earlier, than that of a spirit. Our mind, oar heart, our conscience, affirm the former instinctively, while the latter does continual violence to our imagination, except so far as spirit is misconceived to be an attenuated phantasmal body. Not only, therefore, does the savage imagine God and speak of Him humanwise, as we all do; but if he does not actually believe Him to be material, he at least will be slow in mastering the thought of His spirituality.
Another assumption underlying the animistic hypothesis, and also borrowed from Christian teaching, is that the savage regards the soul or ghost as the liberated and consummated man, and that therefore he will place God rather in the category of disembodied than of embodied men. Yet not only the Greek and Roman, but even the Jew, looked on the shade of the departed as a mere fraction of humanity, as a miserable residue of man, helpless and hopeless, and withal disposed to be mischievous and exacting, and therefore needing to be humoured in various ways. Nay, even Christianity with its dogma of the bodily resurrection, denies that Platonic doctrine which views the body as the prison rather than as the complement and consort of the soul; although it holds the soul to be of an altogether higher, because spiritual, order. But to the primitive savage, who everywhere regards death as non-natural, as accidental and violent, the surviving spirit, however uncertain-tempered and incalculable in its movements, however much to be feared and propitiated, does not command reverence as a being of a superior order. At best it is: "Alas! poor ghost!" Better a live dog than a dead lion; better the meanest slave that draws breath, than the monarch of Orcus. Surely it is not in the region of shadows that the savage will look for the great "all-father;" but in the world of solid, tangible realities.
Again, it is assumed that progress in one point is progress in all; that because we surpass all other races and generations in physical science and useful arts, we surpass them in every other way; and that they must be far behind us in ethical and religious conceptions, as they are in inventions and the production of comforts. To find our own theism and morality among savages is therefore impossible; for as the crooked stick is unto the steam-plough, so is the god of the savage unto the God of Great Britain. Yet when we consider how closely religious and ethical principles are intertwined, and how glaringly untrue it is to say that industrial civilization makes for morality,—for purity or self-denial, or justice, or truth, or honour: how manifestly it is accompanied with a deterioration of the higher perceptions and tastes, we must surely pause before taking it for granted that the course of true religion has been running smoothly parallel to that of commerce.
In a thoughtful essay, entitled The Disenchantment of France, Mr. F.W. Myers points out the goal towards which "progress" is leading us, through the destruction of those four "illusions" which formerly gave life all its value and dignity,—namely, belief in religion; devotion to the State—whether to the prince or to the people; belief in the eternity and spirituality of human love; belief in man's freedom and imperishable personal unity. "I cannot avoid the conclusion," he says, "that we are bound to be prepared for the worst. Yet by the worst I do not mean any catastrophe of despair, any cosmic suicide, any world-wide unchaining of the brute that lies pent in man. I mean merely the peaceful, progressive, orderly triumph of l'homme sensuel moyen; the gradual adaptation of hopes and occupations to a purely terrestrial standard; the calculated pleasures of the cynic who is resolved to be a dupe no more."
In other words, if we accept this very temperate and reluctant conclusion, we must confess that the one-sided progress, with whose all-sufficiency we are so thoroughly satisfied, is making straight for the extermination, not only of religion, but of morality in any received sense of the term.
But when Mr. Lang, who has no hypothesis of his own as to the origin of belief in God, brings the animistic theory to an a posteriori test, he finds it encumbered with still greater difficulties; for nothing is as, a priori, it ought to be.
While Mr. Tylor asserts "that no savage tribe of monotheists has ever been known," but that all ascribe the attributes of deity to other beings than the Almighty Creator, it appears in fact that many of the rudest savages "are as monotheistic as some Christians. They have a Supreme Being, and the 'distinctive attributes of deity' are not by them assigned to other beings further than as Christianity assigns them to angels, saints, the devil," &c. Catholics at least will readily understand how hastily and unjustly the charge of polytheism is made by the protestantized mind against any religion which believes in a Heavenly Court as well as in a Heavenly Monarch. "Of the existence of a belief in a Supreme Being" amongst the lowest savages, "there is as good evidence as we possess for any fact in the ethnographic region. It is certain that savages, when first approached by curious travellers and missionaries, have again and again recognized our God in theirs."
If, therefore, belief in God grew out of belief in ghosts, it must have been in some stage of culture lower than any of which we have experience so far; and at some period which belongs to the region of hypothesis and conjecture. There are no known tribes where ghosts are worshipped and God is not known, or where the supposed process of development can be watched in action. Nor is it only that links are missing, but one of the very terms to be connected, namely, a godless race, is conjectural. Still more unfortunate is it for the animists that evidence points to the fact that advance in civilization often means the decay of monotheism, and that the ruder races are the purer in their religious and ethical conceptions. Once more, all facts are against the theory that tribes transfer their earthly polity to the heavenly city; for monotheism is found where monarchy is unknown. "God cannot be a reflection from human kings where there are no kings; nor a president elected out of a polytheistic society of gods, where there is as yet no polytheism; nor an ideal first ancestor where men do not worship their ancestors." To the substantiating of these facts Mr. Lang then applies himself, and shows us how among the Australians, Red Indians, Figians, Andamanese, Dinkas, Yao, Zulus, and all known savages there lives the conception of a Supreme Being (not necessarily spirit) who is variously styled Father, Master, Our Father, The Ancient One in the skyland, The Great Father. He shows us, moreover, that this deity is the God of conscience, a power making for goodness, a guardian and enforcer of the interests of justice and truth and purity; good to the good, and froward with the froward.
But surely, it will be said, all this is too paradoxical, too violently in conflict with what is notorious concerning the religion and morality of savages.
The reason of this seeming contradiction is, however, not altogether difficult. It is to be found partly in the fact that religion, like morality, being counter to those laws which govern the physical world and the animal man,—to the law of egoism and competition and struggle for existence; to the law that "might is right,"—tends from the very nature of the case towards decay and disintegration. The movement of material progress is in some sense a downhill movement. No doubt it evokes much seeming virtue, such as is necessary to secure the end; but the motive force is one with regard to which man is passive rather than active, a slave rather than a master, as a miser is in respect to that passion which stimulates him to struggle for gain. Religion and morality are uphill work, needing continual strain and attention if the motive force is to be maintained at all. Huxley, in one of his later utterances, allowed this with regard to morality; and it is not less but more true with regard to faith in the value of unseen realities. Even if belief in a moral God be as natural to man as are the promptings of conscience, it ought not to surprise us that it should be as universally stifled, neglected, seemingly denied, as conscience is. It is not usually in old age and after years of conflict with the world that conscience is most sensitive and faithful to light, but rather in early childhood. And similarly the sense of God and of His will is apparently more strong and lively in the childhood of races than after it has been stifled by the struggle for wealth and pre-eminence—
When yet I had not walked above A mile or two from my first love: But felt through all this fleshly dress Bright shoots of everlastingness. 
Degradation may almost be considered a law of religion and morality which needs some kind of violent counteraction, some continual intervention and providence, if it is to be kept in check. After all, this is only a dressing-up of the old platitude that a holy life means continual warfare and straining of the spirit against the flesh, of the moral order against the physical order, of altruism or the true egoism against selfishness or the false egoism. Of course an ideal civilization would help and not hinder religion; but the chances against civilization being ideal are so large as to make it historically true that, advance in civilization does not always mean advance in religion and morality, and often means decay.
Far from animism being the root of theism, more often it is rather the ivy that grows up about it, hides it and chokes it. Just because the demands of religion and morality are so burdensome to men, they will ever seek short-cuts to salvation; and the intercession of presumably corruptible courtiers will be secured to win the favour, or avert the displeasure, of the rigorously incorruptible and inexorable King, who is "no respecter of persons." Except among Jews and Christians, the Supreme Being is nowhere worshipped with sacrifice—that service of food-offering being reserved for subordinate deities susceptible to gentle bribery. The great God of conscience is naturally the least popular object of cultus; though, were the animists right, He should be the most popular, seeing He would be the latest development demanded and created by the popular mind. But contrariwise, He tends to recede more and more into the background, behind the ever-multiplying crowd of patron-spirits, guardians, family-gods; till, as in Greece and Rome, He is almost entirely obscured, "an unknown God ignorantly worshipped"—the End, as usual, being forgotten and buried in the means. All this process of degradation will be hastened by the corruption of priests whose avarice or ambition, as Mr. Lang says, will tempt them to exploit the lucrative elements in religion at the expense of the ethical; to whittle-away the decrees of God and conscience to suit the wealthy and easy-going; to substitute purchasable sacrifice, for obedience; and the fat of rams, for charity. We need only look to the history of Israel and of the Christian Church to see all these tendencies continually at work, and only held in check by innumerable interventions of Divine Providence, and of that Spirit which is always striving with man.
Scant, however, as may be the amount of direct worship accorded to the Supreme God, compared with that received by subordinate spiritual powers, yet it is sui generis, and of an infinitely higher order. The familiar distinction of latria and dulia seems to obtain everywhere; as also that between Elohim and Javeh, that is, between supernal beings in general, and the Supreme Being who is also supernal. Yet so excessive in quantity is the secondary cultus compared with the primary, that an outsider may well be pardoned for thinking that there is nothing beyond what meets the eye on every side. As has been said, the Supreme Being alone is usually considered above the weakness of caring for sacrifice, or for external worship in "temples made with hands." His name is commonly tabooed, only to be whispered in those mysteries of initiation which are met with so universally. Outside these mysteries He may only be spoken of in parables and myths, grotesque, irreverent, designed to conceal rather than to reveal. But rarely is there an image or an altar to this unknown God.
It is easy for those who recognize no other religion among savages behind the popular observances and cults which are so much to the front, to believe that early religion is non-ethical. For indeed, for the most part, all this secondary cultus is directed to the mitigation of the moral code and the substitution of exterior for interior sacrifice. It is the result of an endeavour to compound with conscience; and to hide away sins from the all-seeing eye. Again it is chiefly in the secrecy of the mysteries that the higher ethical doctrine is propounded—a doctrine usually covering all the substantials of the decalogue; and in some cases, approaching the Christian summary of the same under the one heading of love and unselfishness. As for the corrupt lives of savages, if it proves their religion to be non-ethical, what should we have to think of Christianity? We cry out in horror against cannibalism as the ne plus ultra of wickedness., but except so far as it involves murder, it is hard to find in it more than a violation of our own convention, while a mystical mind might find more to say for it than for cremation. Certainly it is not so bad as slander and backbiting. Human sacrifice offered to the Lord of life and death at His own behest, is something that did not seem wicked and inconceivable to Abraham. Head-hunting is not a pretty game; nor is scalping and mutilation the most generous treatment of a fallen foe; yet war has seen worse things done by those who professed an ethical religion.
But, chief among the causes why savage religion has been so misrepresented, is the almost universal co-existence of a popularized form of religion addressed to the imagination, with that which speaks to the understanding alone. As has already been said, man's imagination is at war with his intelligence when supersensible realities, such as God and the soul, are in question. Without figures we cannot think; yet the timeless and spaceless world can ill be figured after the likeness of things limited by time and space. This mental law is the secret of the invariable association of mythology with religion. Setting aside the problem as to how the truths of natural religion (sc. that there is a God the rewarder of them that seek Him) are first brought home to man, it is certain that if he does not receive them embedded in history or parable, in spoken or enacted symbolism, he will soon fix and record them in some such language for himself. Christ recognized the necessity of speaking to the multitude in parables, not attempting to precise or define the indefinable; but contenting Himself with: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like," &c. "I am content," says Sir Thomas Browne, "to understand a mystery without a rigid definition, in an easie and Platonick description," and it is only through such easie and Platonick descriptions that spiritual truth can slowly be filtered into the popular mind. Still when we consider how prone all metaphors are to be pressed inexactly, either too far, or else not far enough, how abundant a source they are of misapprehension, owing to the curiosity that will not be content to have the gold in the ore, but must needs vainly strive to refine it out, we can well understand how mythology tends to corrupt and debase religion if it be not continually watched and weeded; and how, being, from the nature of the case, ever to the front, ever on men's lips and mingling with their lives, it should seem to the outsider to be not the imperfect garment of religion, but a substitute for it. Yet in some sense these mythologies are a safeguard of reverence in that they provide a theme for humour and profanity and rough handling, which is thus expended, not on the sacred realities themselves, but on their shadows and images. Among certain savages God's personal name is too holy to be breathed but in mysteries; yet His mythological substitute is represented to be as grotesque, freakish, and immoral as the Zeus of the populace. We can hardly enter into such a frame of mind, though possibly the irreverences and buffooneries of some of the miracle-plays of the middle ages are similarly to be explained as the rebound from the strain incident to a continual sense of the nearness of the supernatural; and perhaps the Messer Domeniddio of the Florentines stood rather for a mental effigy that might be played with, than for the reasoned conception of the dread Deity. If we possessed a minutely elaborated history of the Good Shepherd and His adventures, or of the Prodigal's father, or of the Good Samaritan, interspersed with all manner of ludicrous and profane incidents, and losing sight of the original purport of the figure, we should have something like a mythology. Were it not stereotyped as part of an inspired record, the mere romancing tendency of the imagination would easily have added continually to the original parable, wholly forgetful of its spiritual significance.
It is part of the very economy of the Incarnation to meet this weakness, to provide for this want of the human mind; to satisfy the imagination as well as the intelligence. Here Divine truth has received a Divine embodiment, has been set forth in the language of deeds, in a real and not in a fictitious history. Sacrifice and sacrament, and every kind of natural religious symbolism, has been appropriated and consecrated to the service of truth and to the fullest utterance of God that such weak accents will stretch to. Here the channel of communication between Heaven and earth is not of man's creation but of God's; or at least is of God's composition. This is the great difference between the ethnic religions and a religion that professes to be revealed—that is, spoken by God and put into language by Him. The latter is, so to say, cased in an incorruptible body, its very expression being chosen and sealed for ever with Divine approval, and rescued from the fluent and unstable condition of religions whose clothes are the works of men's hands. Here it is that Catholic Christianity stands out as altogether catholic and human, adapted as it is to the world-wide cravings of the religious instinct; satisfying the imagination and the emotions, no less than the intellect and the will; and yet saving us from the perils of the myth-making tendency of our mind.
The same thought is pressed upon us when we view the collective evidence as to the universal demand for a mediatorial system—for intercessors, and patrons, for a heavenly court surrounding the Heavenly Monarch; a demand often created by and tending to a degradation of purer religion, yet most surely embodying and expressing a spiritual instinct which is only fully explained and satisfied by the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints and souls in one great society, labouring for a conjoint salvation and beatitude. We Catholics know well enough that the degraded and superstitious will pervert saint-worship as they pervert other good things to their own hurt and to God's dishonour, but we also know that of itself the doctrine of the Heavenly Court is altogether in the interests of the very highest and purest religion. In all this matter, needless to say, Mr. Lang is not with us; but the affinities of Catholicism with universal religion, which he marks to our prejudice, are really in some sort proof of our contention that the Church is the divinely conceived fulfilment of all man's natural religious instincts, providing harmless and healthy outlets for humours otherwise dangerous and morbid; never forgetful of man's double nature and its claims, neither wearying him with an impossible intellectualism—a religion of pure philosophy—not suffering him to be the prey of mere imagination and sentiment, but tempering the divine and human, the thought and the word, so as to bring all his faculties under the yoke of Christ.
Mr. Lang's concern is with the universality of belief in God the Rewarder, not with its origin nor even its value; though he seems at times to imply that the solution may be found in a primitive revelation of some sort. For ourselves, accordant as such a notion would be with popular Christian tradition, we do not think that the adduced evidence needs that hypothesis; but is explained sufficiently by "the hypothesis of St. Paul," which, as Mr. Lang admits, "seem not the most unsatisfactory." The mere verbal tradition of a primitive "deposit" not committed to any authorized guardians would, to say the least, be a hazardous and conjectural way of accounting for the facts; nor is there any evidence offered to show that such religious beliefs are held, as the Catholic religion is, on the authority of antiquity, interpreted by a living voice. The substance of this elementary religion—the existence of God the Rewarder of them that seek Him—is naturally suggested to the simple-minded by the data of unspoilt conscience, confirmed and supplemented by the spectacle of Nature. That the truth would be borne-in on a solitary and isolated soul we need not maintain; for in solitude and isolation man is not man, and neither reason nor language can develop aright. Further we may allow that as Nature or God provides for society, and therefore for individuals, by an equal distribution of gifts and talents, giving some to be politicians, others poets, others philosophers, others inventors, so He gives to some what might be called natural religious genius or talent or spiritual insight, for the benefit of the community. Thus whatever be true of the individual savage, we cannot well suppose that any tribe or people, taken collectively, should fail to draw the fundamental truths of religion from the data of conscience and nature. In this sense no doubt they would become traditional—the common property of all—so that the innate facility of each individual mind in regard to them would be stimulated and supplemented by suggestion from without.
How far God can be said actually to "speak" to the soul through conscience or through Nature so as to make faith, in the strict sense of reliance on the word of another, possible, is for theologians to discuss. If besides expressing these truths in creation or in conscience, He also expresses in some way His intention to reveal them to the particular soul, we have all that is requisite. In what way, or innumerable ways He makes His voice heard in every human heart day by day, and causes general truths to be brought near and recognized and received as a particular message, each can answer best for himself.
But undoubtedly the results of comparative religion are, so far, almost entirely favourable to the doctrine of God's all-saving will; and in many other points confirmatory of received beliefs. Even where, for example, in the question of the origin and meaning of sacrifice, they seem to necessitate a modification of the somewhat elaborate a priori definition, popular in some modern schools (though not in them all), yet that modification is altogether favourable to the sounder conception of the Eucharistic Sacrifice as a food-offering complementary to the Sacrifice of the Cross. Above all it is in bringing out the unity of type between natural ethnic religions, and that revealed Catholic religion which is their correction and fulfilment, that the studies of Mr. Lang and Mr. Jevons are of such service. The militant Protestant delights to dwell on the analogies between Romanism and Paganism; we too may dwell on them with delight, as evidence of that substantial unity of the human mind which underlies all surface diversities of mode and language, and binds together, as children of one family, all who believe in God the Rewarder of them that seek Him, who is no respecter of persons. What man in his darkness and sinfulness has feebly been trying to utter in every nation from the beginning, that God has formulated and written down for him in the great Catholic religion of the Word made Flesh—
Which he may read that binds the sheaf Or builds the house, or digs the grave, And those wild eyes that watch the wave In roarings round the coral reef.
True, even could it be established beyond all doubt that belief in the one God were universal among rude and uncultivated races, this would not add any new proof to the truth of religion, unless it could be shown that it was really an instinctive, inwritten judgment, and not one of those many natural fallacies into which all men fall until they are educated out of them. Still, for those who do not need conviction on this point, it is no slight consolation to be assured that simplicity and savagery do not shut men out from the truths best worth knowing; that even where the earthen vessel is most corrupted, the heavenly treasure is not altogether lost; that it is only those who deliberately go in search of obscurities who need stumble. It was not the crowds of pagandom that St. Paul censured, but the philosophers. God made man's feet for the earth, and not for the tight-rope. Whatever be the truth about Idealism, man is by nature a Realist; and similarly he is by nature a theist, until he has studiously learnt to balance himself in the non-natural pose.
Will a man be excused for deliberately dashing his foot against a stone because forsooth he has persuaded himself with Zeno, that there is no such thing as motion; or with Berkeley, that the externality of the world is a delusion; or will he be pardoned in his unbelief because he could not justify by philosophy the truth which conscience and nature are dinning into his ears: that there is a God the Rewarder of them that seek Him?
Sept. Oct. 1898.
[Footnote 1: "A hysterical fit indicates a lamentable instability of the nervous system. But it is by no means certain a priori that every symptom of that instability, without exception, will be of a degenerative kind. The nerve-storm, with its unwonted agitations, may possibly lay bare some deep-lying capacity in us which could scarcely otherwise have come to light. Recent experiments on both sensation and memory in certain abnormal states have added plausibility to this view, and justify us in holding that in spite of its frequent association with hysteria, ecstasy is not necessarily in itself a morbid symptom." (F.W.H. Myers, Tennyson as a Prophet.)]
[Footnote 2: The Retreat. By Henry Vaughan.]
ADAPTABILITY AS A PROOF OF RELIGION.
Much as we may think of the abstract and objective value of the treatise De vera religione, which forms the usual introduction to those cursus theologici whose multiplication of late has been so remarkable, it can hardly be denied that its cogency is much diminished for the large number of those thinkers who repudiate the philosophical presuppositions upon which that treatise rests. As long as negation halted before that minimum of religious truth which is in some way accessible to reason,—before belief in God and in immortality; as long as the principles and methods of proof by which "natural theology" reached its conclusion were admitted even by those who denied those conclusions, an apologetic such as we are speaking of had an undoubted practical value—not indeed as sufficing to bring conviction to the unwilling or ill-disposed, not as a cause of faith, but as removing an obstacle which existed in the supposed incompatibility of revealed truth with these same rational principles and processes.
Apart from this preparation of the intellect, to which perhaps the name "apologetic" should be more strictly reserved, a prior and more important need was the disposing of the will and affections to the acceptance of the truth. For, in a very real sense, love is the root of faith; and the wish that a thing should be true, not only stimulates the mind to inquire and investigate, but also creates a fear of self-deception and a spirit of incredulity which is the fruitful parent of intellectual difficulties.
Such an appeal to the affections is really outside the province of theological science and belongs rather to the rhetorician, the poet, or the prophet. Yet it was a work at all times needful for the extension and maintenance of the faith, in even a greater degree than the more dispensable preparation of the intellect. For the great multitude of men who are innocent of any really independent thought, who professedly or unconsciously take all their beliefs from some individual or society, there is really no need of scientific apologetic—the sole need being to win or maintain their confidence, their loyalty, their reverence, in regard to some teacher or leader, to Christ or the Church.