[Footnote 1: In Pinkerton, xiii. pp. 13, 39; Prim. Cult. ii. 342.]
[Footnote 2: See Preface to this edition for corrected statement.]
[Footnote 3: Myths of the New World, p. 47.]
[Footnote 4: There is a description of Virginia, by W. Strachey, including Smith's remarks, published in 1612. Strachey interwove some of this work with his own MS. in the British Museum, dedicated to Bacon (Verulam). This MS. was edited by Mr. Major, for the Hakluyt Society, in 1849, with a glossary, by Strachey, of the native language. The remarks on religion are in Chapter VII. The passage on Ahone occurs in Strachey (1612), but not in Smith (1682), in Pinkerton. I owe to the kindness of Mr. Edmund Gosse photographs of the drawings accompanying the MS. Strachey's story of sacrifice of children (pp. 94, 95) seems to refer to nothing worse than the initiation into the mysteries.]
[Footnote 5: See Brinton, Myths of the New World, for a philological theory.]
[Footnote 6: Compare 'The Fire Walk' in Modern Mythology.]
[Footnote 7: Compare St. Augustine's curious anecdote in De Cura pro Mortuis habenda about the dead and revived Curio. The founder of the new Sioux religion, based on hypnotism, 'died' and recovered.]
[Footnote 8: Cf. Demeter.]
[Footnote 9: Major North, for long the U.S. Superintendent of the Pawnees.]
[Footnote 10: Schoolcraft, iii. 237.]
[Footnote 11: As envisaged here, Na-pi is not a spirit. The question of spirit or non-spirit has not arisen. So far, Na-pi answers to Marrangarrah, the Creative Being of the Larrakeah tribe of Australians. 'A very good Man called Marrangarrah lives in the sky; he made all living creatures, except black fellows. He made everything.... He never dies, and likes all black fellows.' He has a demiurge, Dawed (Mr. Foelsche, apud Dr. Stirling, J.A.I., Nov. 1894, p. 191). It is curious to observe how savage creeds often shift the responsibility for evil from the Supreme Creator, entirely beneficent, on to a subordinate deity.]
[Footnote 12: Grinnell's Blackfoot Lodge-Tales and Pawnee Hero Stories.]
[Footnote 13: Garcilasso, i. 101.]
[Footnote 14: Op. cit. i. 106.]
[Footnote 15: From all this we might conjecture, like Mr. Prescott, that the Incas borrowed Pachacamac from the Yuncas, and etherealised his religion. But Mr. Clements Markham points out that 'Pachacamac is a pure Quichua word.']
[Footnote 16: Garcilasso, ii. 446, 447.]
[Footnote 17: Cieza de Leon. p.253]
[Footnote 18: Markham's translation, p. 253.]
[Footnote 19: Rites and Laws of the Yncas, Markham's translation, p. vii.]
[Footnote 20: Rites, p. 6. Garcilasso, i. 109.]
[Footnote 21: Rites, p. 11.]
[Footnote 22: Compare Reports on Discovery of Peru, Introduction.]
[Footnote 23: Rites, p. xv.]
[Footnote 24: Lord Ailesbury's Memoirs.]
[Footnote 25: Garcilasso, ii. 68.]
[Footnote 26: Cieza de Leon, p. 357.]
[Footnote 27: Rites, pp. 28, 29.]
[Footnote 28: Acosta, lib. vi. ch. 21: Garcilasso. ii. 88, 89.]
[Footnote 29: Rites, p. 12.]
[Footnote 30: Ibid. p.54.]
[Footnote 31: Prim. Cult. ii, 337, 338.]
[Footnote 32: Rites, p. 29.]
[Footnote 33: Garcilasso, ii. 69.]
[Footnote 34: Rites and Laws, p. 91 et seq.]
[Footnote 35: Payne, i. 139.]
[Footnote 36: Op. cit. i. 468. Mr. Payne absolutely rejects Ixtlilochitl's story of the monotheism of Nezahualcoyotl; 'Torquemada knows nothing of it,' i. 490.]
[Footnote 37: Cushing, Report, Ethnol. Bureau, 1891-92, p. 379.]
[Footnote 38: J.A.I. May 1895, pp. 341-344.]
[Footnote 39: ii. 191, 1829.]
[Footnote 40: Prim. Cult. ii. 345, 346. Ellis, ii. 193.]
[Footnote 41: Ellis, ii. 221.]
[Footnote 42: The Faiths of The World, p. 413.]
THE OLD DEGENERATION THEORY
If any partisan of the anthropological theory has read so far into this argument, he will often have murmured to himself, 'The old degeneration theory!' On this Dr. Brinton remarked in 1868:
'The supposition that in ancient times and in very unenlightened conditions, before mythology had grown, a monotheism prevailed which afterwards, at various times, was revived by reformers, is a belief that should have passed away when the delights of savage life and the praises of a state of nature ceased to be the theme of philosophers.'
'The old degeneration theory' practically, and fallaciously, resolved itself, as Mr. Tylor says, into two assumptions—'first, that the history of culture began with the appearance on earth of a semi-civilised race of men; and second, that from this stage culture has proceeded in two ways—backward to produce savages, and forward to produce civilised men.' That hypothesis is false to all our knowledge of evolution.
The hypothesis here provisionally advocated makes no assumptions at all. It is a positive fact that among some of the lowest savages there exists, not a doctrinal and abstract Monotheism, but a belief in a moral, powerful, kindly, creative Being, while this faith is found in juxtaposition with belief in unworshipped ghosts, totems, fetishes, and so on. The powerful creative Being of savage belief sanctions truth, unselfishness, loyalty, chastity, and other virtues. I have set forth the difficulties involved in the attempt to derive this Being from ghosts and other lower forms of belief.
Now, it is mere matter of fact, and not of assumption, that the Supreme Being of many rather higher savages differs from the Supreme Being of certain lower savages by the neglect in which he is left, by the epicurean repose with which he is credited, and by his comparative lack of moral control over human conduct. In his place a mob of ghosts and spirits, supposed to be potent and helpful in everyday life, attract men's regard and adoration, and get paid by sacrifice—even by human sacrifice.
Turning to races yet higher in material culture, we find a crowd of hungry and cruel gods.
On this point Mr. Jevons remarks, in accordance with my own observation, that 'human sacrifice appears at a much earlier period in the rites for the dead than it does in the ritual of the gods.' The dead chief needs servants and wives in Hades, who are offered to him. The Australians have some elements of cannibalism, but do not, as a general rule, offer any human victims. So far, then, ancestor-worship introduced a sadly 'degenerate' rite, compared with the moral faith in unfed gods.
To gods the human sacrifice was probably extended (in some cases) either by a cannibal civilised race, like the Aztecs, or by way of piacula, the god being conciliated for man's sin by the offering of what man most prized, the 'jealousy' of the god being appeased in a similar way. But these are relatively advanced conceptions, not to be found, to my knowledge, among the lowest and most backward races. Therefore, advance to the idea of spirit at one point, meant degeneration at another point, to the extent of human sacrifice.
Thus, on looking at relatively advanced races, we find them worshipping polytheistic deities and ghosts of the kings just dead, who are often propitiated by terrible massacres of human victims, while, as in the case of Taa-roa, the blood spurts back even on the uncreated Creator, who was before earth was, or sea, sun, or sky.
Undeniably the hungry, cruel gods are degenerate from the Australian Father in Heaven, who receives no sacrifice but that of men's lusts and selfishness; who desires obedience, not the fat of kangaroos; who needs nothing of ours; is unfed and unbribed. Thus, in this particular respect the degeneration of religion from the Australian or Andamanese to the Dinka standard—and infinitely more to the Polynesian, or Aztec, or popular Greek standard—is as undeniable as any fact in human history.
Anthropology has only escaped the knowledge of this circumstance by laying down the rule, demonstrably unbased on facts, that 'the divine sanction of ethical laws ... belongs almost or wholly to religions above the savage level, not to the earlier and lower creeds;' that 'savage Animism is almost devoid of that ethical element which to the educated modern mind is the very mainspring of practical religion.'
I have argued, indeed, that the God of low savages who imparts the divine sanction of ethical laws is not of animistic origin. But even where Mr. Im Thurn finds, in Guiana, nothing but Animism of the lowest conceivable type, he also finds in that Animism the only or most potent moral restraint on the conduct of men.
While Anthropology holds the certainly erroneous idea that the religion of the most backward races is always non-moral, of course she cannot know that there has, in fact, been great degeneration in religion (if religion began on the Australian and Andamanese level, or even higher) wherever religion is non-moral or immoral.
Again, Anthropology, while fixing her gaze on totems, on worshipped mummies, adored ghosts, and treasured fetishes, has not, to my knowledge, made a comparative study of the higher and purer religious ideas of savages. These have been passed by, with a word about credulous missionaries and Christian influences, except in the brief summary for which Mr. Tylor found room. In this work I only take a handful of cases of the higher religious opinions of savages, and set them side by side for purposes of comparison. Much more remains to be done in this field. But the area covered is wide, the evidence is the best attainable, and it seems proved beyond doubt that savages have 'felt after' a conception of a Creator much higher than that for which they commonly get credit. Now, if that conception is original, or is very early (and nothing in it suggests lateness of development), then the other elements of their faith and practice are degenerate.
'How,' it has been asked, 'could all mankind forget a pure religion?' That is what I now try to explain. That degeneration I would account for by the attractions which animism, when once developed, possessed for the naughty natural man, 'the old Adam.' A moral creator in need of no gifts, and opposed to lust and mischief, will not help a man with love-spells, or with malevolent 'sendings' of disease by witchcraft; will not favour one man above his neighbour, or one tribe above its rivals, as a reward for sacrifice which he does not accept, or as constrained by charms which do not touch his omnipotence. Ghosts and ghost-gods, on the other hand, in need of food and blood, afraid of spells and binding charms, are a corrupt, but, to man, a useful constituency. Man being what he is, man was certain to 'go a-whoring' after practically useful ghosts, ghost-gods, and fetishes which he could keep in his wallet or medicine bag. For these he was sure, in the long run, first to neglect his idea of his Creator; next, perhaps, to reckon Him as only one, if the highest, of the venal rabble of spirits or deities, and to sacrifice to Him, as to them. And this is exactly what happened! If we are not to call it 'degeneration,' what are we to call it? It may be an old theory, but facts 'winna ding,' and are on the side of an old theory. Meanwhile, on the material plane, culture kept advancing, the crafts and arts arose; departments arose, each needing a god; thought grew clearer; such admirable ethics as those of the Aztecs were developed, and while bleeding human hearts smoked on every altar, Nezahuatl conceived and erected a bloodless fane to 'The Unknown God, Cause of Causes,' without altar or idol; and the Inca, Yupanqui, or another, declared that 'Our Father and Master, the Sun, must have a Lord.'
But, at this stage of culture, the luck of the state, and the interests of a rich and powerful clergy, were involved in the maintenance of the old, animistic, relatively non-moral system, as in Cuzco, Greece, and Rome. That popular and political regard for the luck of the state, that priestly self-interest (quite natural), could only be swept away by the moral monotheism of Christianity or of Islam. Nothing else could do it. In the case of Christianity, the central and most potent of many combined influences, apart from the Life and Death of Our Lord, was the moral Monotheism of the Hebrew religion of Jehovah.
Now, it is undeniable that Jehovah, at a certain period of Hebrew history, had become degraded and anthropomorphized, far below Darumulun, and Puluga, and Pachacamac, and Ahone, as conceived of in their purest form, and in the high mood of savage mysteries which yet contain so much that is grotesque. Even the Big Black Man of the Fuegians is on a higher level (as we reckon morals), when he forbids the slaying of a robber enemy, than certain examples of early Hebrew conduct. But our knowledge of the Fuegians is lamentably scanty.
Again, traces of human sacrifice appear in the ritual of Israel, and it is only relatively late that the great prophets, justly declaring Jehovah to be indifferent to the blood of bulls and rams, try to bring back his service to that of the unpropitiated, unbought Dendid, or Ahone, or Pundjel. Here is degeneration, even in Israel. How the conception of Jehovah arose in Israel, whether it was a revival of a half-obliterated idea, such as we find among low savages; or whether it was borrowed from some foreign creed; or was the result of meditation on the philosophical Supreme Being of high Egyptian theology, is another question. The Biblical statement leans to the first alternative. Jehovah, not by that name, had been the God of Israel's fathers. The question will be discussed later; but, unless new facts are discovered, we must accept the version of the Pentateuch, or take refuge in conjecture.
Not only is there degeneration from the Australian conception of Mungan-gnaur, at its best, to the conception of the Semitic gods in general, but, 'humanly speaking,' if religion began in a pure form among low savages, degeneration was inevitable. Advancing social conditions compelled men into degeneration. Mungan-ngaur is, so far, in line with our own ideas of divinity because he is not localised. He dwelleth not in temples made with hands; it is not likely that he should, when his worshippers have neither house, tent, nor tabernacle. As Mr. Robertson Smith says, 'where the God had a house or a temple, we recognise the work of men who were no longer pure nomads, but had begun to form fixed homes.' By the nature of Australian society, a deity could not be tied to a temple, and temple-ritual, and consequent myths to explain that ritual, could not arise. Nor could Darumulun be attached to a district, just as 'the nomad Arabs could not assimilate the conception of a god as a land-owner, and apply it to their own tribal deities, for the simple reason that in the desert private property in land was unknown.'
Darumulun is thus not capable of degenerating into 'a local god, as Baal, or lord of the land,' because this 'involves a series of ideas unknown to the primitive life of the savage huntsman,' like the widely spread Murring tribes.
Nor could Darumulun be tied down to a place in Semitic fashion, first by manifesting himself there, therefore by receiving an altar of sacrifice there, and in the end a sanctuary, for Darumulun receives no sacrifice at all.
Again, the scene of the Bora could not become a permanent home of Darumulun, because, when the rites are over, the effigy of the god is scrupulously destroyed. Thus Darumulun, in his own abode 'beyond the sky,' can 'go everywhere and do everything' (is omnipresent and omnipotent), dwells in no earthly places, has no temple, nor tabernacle, nor sacred mount, nor, like Jehovah, any limit of land.
The early Hebrew conception of Jehovah, then, is infinitely more conditioned, practically, by space, than the Supreme Being, 'The Master,' in the conception of some Australian blacks.
'By a prophet like Isaiah the residence of Jehovah in Zion is almost wholly dematerialised.... Conceiving Jehovah as the King of Israel, he necessarily conceives His kingly activity as going forth from the capital of the nation.'
But nomad hunter tribes, with no ancestor-worship, no king and no capital, cannot lower their deity by the conditions, or limit him by the limitations, of an earthly monarchy.
In precisely the same way, Major Ellis proves the degeneration of deity in Africa, so far as being localised in place of being the Universal God, implies degeneration, as it certainly does to our minds. By being attached to a given hill or river 'the gods, instead of being regarded as being interested in the whole of mankind, would eventually come to be regarded as being interested in separate tribes or nations alone.'
To us Milton seems nobly Chauvinistic when he talks of what God has done by 'His English.' But this localised and essentially degenerate conception was inevitable, as soon as, in advancing civilisation, the god who had been 'interested in the whole of [known] mankind' was settled on a hill, river, or lagoon, amidst a nation of worshippers.
In the course of the education of mankind, this form of degeneration (abstractly so considered) was to work, as nothing else could have worked, towards the lofty conception of universal Deity. For that conception was only brought into practical religion (as apart from philosophic speculation) by the union between Israel and the God of Sinai and Zion. The Prophets, recognising in the God of Sinai, their nation's God—One to whom righteousness was infinitely dearer than even his Chosen People—freed the conception of God from local ties, and made it overspread the world.
Mr. Robertson Smith has pointed out, again, the manner in which the different political development of East and West affected the religion of Greece and of the Semites. In Greece, monarchy fell, at an early period, before the aristocratic houses. The result was 'a divine aristocracy of many gods, only modified by a weak reminiscence of the old kingship in the not very effective sovereignty' (or prytany) 'of Zeus. In the East the national god tended to acquire a really monarchic sway.' Australia escaped polytheistic degeneracy by having no aristocracy, as in Polynesia, where aristocracy, as in early Greece, had developed polytheism. Ghosts and spirits the Australians knew, but not polytheistic gods, nor departmental deities, as of war, agriculture, art. The savage had no agriculture, and his social condition was not departmental. In yet another way, political advance produces religious degeneration, if polytheism be degeneration from the conception of one relatively supreme moral being. To make a nation, several tribes must unite. Each has its god, and the nation is apt to receive them all, equally, into its Pantheon. Thus, if worshippers of Baiame, Pundjel, and Darumulun coalesced into a nation, we might find all three gods living together in a new polytheism. In fact, granting a relatively pure starting-point, degeneration from it must accompany every step of civilisation, to a certain distance.
Unlike Semitic gods, Darumulun receives no sacrifice. As we have said, he has no kin with ghosts, and their sacrifices could not be carried on into his cult, if Waitz-Gerland (vi. 811) are right in saying that the Australians have no ancestor-worship. The Kurnai ghosts 'were believed to live upon plants,' which are not offered to them. Chill ghosts, unfed by men, would come to waning camp-fires and batten on the broken meats. The Ngarego and Wolgal held, more handsomely, that Tharamulun (Darumulun) met the just departed spirit 'and conducted it to its future home beyond the sky.' Ghosts might also accompany relics of the body, such as the dead hand, carried about by the family, who would wave the black fragment at the dreaded Aurora Borealis, crying, 'Send it away!' I am unacquainted with any sacrifices to ancestral ghosts among this people who cannot long remember their ancestors, consequently the practice has not been refracted on their supreme Master's cult. In the cult of Darumulun, and of other highest gods of lowest savages, nothing answers to the Hebrew technical priestly word for sacrifice, 'food of the deity.' Nobody feeds Puluga, nobody fed Ahone. We hear of no Fuegian sacrifices. Mr. Robertson Smith says: 'In all religions in which the gods have been developed out of totems [worshipped animals and other things regarded as akin to human stocks] the ritual act of laying food before the deity is perfectly intelligible.' Pundjel, an Australian Supreme Being, is mixed up with animals in some myths, but it is not easy to see how such Supreme Beings as he could be 'developed out of totems'! I am not aware, again, that any Australian tribe feeds the animals who are its totems, so Darumulun could not, and did not inherit sacrifice through them. Mr. Robertson Smith had a celebrated theory that cereal sacrifice is a tribute to a god, while sacrifice of a beast or man is an act of communion with the god. Men and gods dined together. 'The god himself was conceived of as a being of the same stock as his comrades.' Beasts were also of the same stock, one beast, say a lobster, was of the same blood as a lobster kin, and its god. Occasionally the sacred beast of the kin, usually not to be slain or tasted, is 'eaten as a kind of mystic sacrament a most dubious fact.'
Now, there is, I believe, some evidence, lately collected if not published, which makes in favour of the eating of totems by Australians, at a certain very rare and solemn mystery. It would not even surprise me ('from information received') if a very deeply initiated person were occasionally slain, as the highest degree of initiation, on certain most unusual occasions. This remains uncertain, but I have at present no evidence that, either by one road or another, either from ghost-feeding or totem-feeding, or feeding on totems, any Australian Supreme Being receives any sacrifice at all. Much less, as among Pawnees and Semitic peoples (to judge from certain traces), is the Australian Supreme Being a cause of and partaker in human sacrifice. The horrible idea of the Man who is the God, and is eaten in the God's honour, occurs among polytheistic Aztecs, on a high level of material culture, not among Australians, Andamanese, Bushmen, or Fuegians.
Thus, in religion, the Darumulun, or other Supreme Being of the lowest known savages, men roaming wild, when originally met, on a continent peopled by older kinds of animals than ours, was (as we regard purity) on a higher plane by far than the gods of Greeks and Semites in their earliest known myths. Setting mythology aside and looking only at cult, the God of the Murring or the Kurnai, whose precepts soften the heart, who knows the heart's secrets, who inculcates chastity, respect of age, unselfishness, who is not bound by conditions of space or place, who receives no blood of slaughtered man or beast, is a conception from which the ordinary polytheistic gods of infinitely more polite peoples are frankly degenerate. The animistic superstitions wildly based on the belief in the soul have not soiled him, and the social conditions of aristocracy, agriculture, architecture, have not made him one in a polytheistic crowd of rapacious gods, nor fettered him as a Baal to his estate, nor localised him in a temple built with hands. He cannot appear as a 'God of Battles;' no Te Deum can be sung to him for victory in a cause perhaps unjust, for he is the Supreme Being of a certain group of allied local tribes. One of these tribes has no more interest with him than another, and the whole group do not, as a body, wage war on another alien group. The social conditions of his worshippers, then, preserve Darumulun from the patent blots on the escutcheon of gods among much more advanced races.
Once more, the idea of Animism admits of endless expansion. A spirit can be located anywhere, in any stone, stick, bush, person, hill, or river. A god made on the animistic model can be assigned to any department of human activity, down to sports, or lusts, or the province of Cloacina. Thus religion becomes a mere haunted and pestilential jungle of beliefs. But the theistic conception, when not yet envisaged as spiritual, cannot be subdivided and eparpille. Thus, from every point of view, and on every side, Animism is full of the seeds of religious degeneration, which do not and cannot exist in what I take to be the earliest known form of the theistic conception: that of a Being about whose metaphysical nature—spirit or not spirit—no questions were asked, as Dr. Brinton long ago remarked.
That conception alone could neither supply the moral motive of 'a soul to be saved,' nor satisfy the metaphysical instinct of advancing mankind. To meet these wants, to supply 'soul,' with its moral stimulus, and to provide a phrase or idea under which the Deity could be envisaged (i.e. as a spirit) by advancing thought, Animism was necessary. The blending of the theistic and the animistic beliefs was indispensable to religion. But, in the process of animistic development under advancing social conditions, degeneration was necessarily implied. Degeneration of the theistic conception for a while, therefore, occurred. The facts are the proofs; and only contradictory facts, in sufficient quantity, can annihilate the old theory of Degeneration when it is presented in this form.
It mast be repeated that on this theory an explanation is given of what the old Degeneration hypothesis does not explain. Granting a primal religion relatively pure in its beginnings, why did it degenerate?
Mr. Max Mullet, looking on religion as the development of the sentiment of the Infinite, regards fetishism as a secondary and comparatively late form of belief. We find it, he observes, in various forms of Christianity; Christianity, therefore, is primary there, relic worship is secondary. Religion beginning, according to him, in the sense of the infinite, as awakened in man by tall trees, high hills, and so on, it advances to the infinite of space and sky, and so to the infinitely divine. This is primary: fetishism is secondary. Arguing elsewhere against this idea, I have asked: What was the modus of degeneration which produced similar results in Christianity, and in African and other religions? How did it work? I am not aware that Mr. Max Mueller has answered this question. But how degeneration worked—namely, by Animism supplanting Theism—is conspicuously plain on our theory.
Take the early chapters of Genesis, or any savage cosmogonic myth you please. Deathless man is face to face with the Creator. He cannot degenerate in religion. He cannot offer sacrifice, for the Creator obviously needs nothing, and again, as there is no death, he cannot slay animals for the Creator. But, in one way or another, usually by breach of a taboo, Death enters the world. Then comes, by process of evolution, belief in hungry spirits, belief in spirits who may inhabit stones or sticks; again there arise priests who know how to propitiate spirits and how to tempt them into sticks and stones. These arts become lucrative and are backed by the cleverest men, and by the apparent evidence of prophecies by convulsionaries. Thus every known kind of degeneration in religion is inevitably introduced as a result of the theory of Animism. We do not need an hypothesis of Original Sin as a cause of degeneration, and, if Mr. Max Mueller's doctrine of the Infinite were viable, we have supplied, in Animism, under advancing social conditions, what he does not seem to provide, a cause and modus of degeneration. Fetishism would thus be really 'secondary,' ex hypothesi, but as we nowhere find Fetishism alone, without the other elements of religion, we cannot say, historically, whether it is secondary or not. Fetishism logically needs, in some of its aspects, the doctrine of spirits, and Theism, in what we take to be its earliest known form, does not logically need the doctrine of spirits as given matter. So far we can go, but not farther, as to the fact of priority in evolution. Nevertheless we meet, among the most backward peoples known to us, among men just emerged from the palaeolithic stage of culture, men who are involved in dread of ghosts, a religious Idea which certainly is not born of ghost-worship, for by these men, ancestral ghosts are not worshipped.
In their hearts, on their lips, in their moral training we find (however blended with barbarous absurdities, and obscured by rites of another origin) the faith in a Being who created or constructed the world; who was from time beyond memory or conjecture; who is primal, who makes for righteousness, and who loves mankind. This Being has not the notes of degeneration; his home is 'among the stars,' not in a hill or in a house. To him no altar smokes, and for him no blood is shed.
'God, that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing ... and hath made of one blood all nations of men ... that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.'
That the words of St. Paul are literally true, as to the feeling after a God who needs not anything at man's hands, the study of anthropology seems to us to demonstrate. That in this God 'we have our being,' in so far as somewhat of ours may escape, at moments, from the bonds of Time and the manacles of Space, the earlier part of this treatise is intended to suggest, as a thing by no means necessarily beyond a reasonable man's power to conceive. That these two beliefs, however attained (a point on which we possess no positive evidence), have commonly been subject to degeneration in the religions of the world, is only too obvious.
So far, then, the nature of things and of the reasoning faculty does not seem to give the lie to the old Degeneration theory.
To these conclusions, as far as they are matters of scientific opinion, we have been led by nothing but the study of anthropology.
[Footnote 1: Myths of the New World, p. 44.]
[Footnote 2: Prim. Cult. i. 35.]
[Footnote 3: Introduction, p. 199; also p. 161.]
[Footnote 4: Prim. Cult. ii. 360,361.]
[Footnote 5: Prof. Menzies, History of Religion, p. 23.]
[Footnote 6: [Greek: legomenai theion anagchai.] Porphyry.]
[Footnote 7: Ixtlilochitl. Balboa, Hist. du Perou, p. 62.]
[Footnote 8: Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 104, 105.]
[Footnote 9: Op. cit. p. 106.]
[Footnote 10: On the Glenelg some caves and mountain tops are haunted or holy. Waitz, vi. 804, No authority cited.]
[Footnote 11: Religion of Semites, p. 110.]
[Footnote 12: Rel. Sem. p. 71.]
[Footnote 13: Howitt, J.A.T. 1884, p. 187.]
[Footnote 14: Op. cit. p. 188.]
[Footnote 15: Rel. Sem. p. 207.]
[Footnote 16: Rel. Sem. p. 225.]
[Footnote 17: Op. cit. p. 247.]
[Footnote 18: Op. cit. p. 269.]
[Footnote 19: Op. cit. p. 277.]
[Footnote 20: Op. cit. p. 343. Citing Gen. xxii 2 Kings xxi. 6, Micah vi. 7, 2 Kings iii. 27.]
[Footnote 21: I mean, does not occur to my knowledge. New evidence is always upsetting anthropological theories.]
THEORIES OF JEHOVAH
All speculation on the curly history of religion is apt to end in the endeavour to see how far the conclusions can be made to illustrate the faith of Israel. Thus, the theorist who believes in ancestor-worship as the key of all the creeds will see in Jehovah a developed ancestral ghost, or a kind of fetish-god, attached to a stone—perhaps an ancient sepulchral stele of some desert sheikh.
The exclusive admirer of the hypothesis of Totemism will find evidence for his belief in worship of the golden calf and the bulls. The partisan of nature-worship will insist on Jehovah's connection with storm, thunder, and the fire of Sinai. On the other hand, whoever accepts our suggestions will incline to see, in the early forms of belief in Jehovah, a shape of the widely diffused conception of a Moral Supreme Being, at first (or, at least, when our information begins) envisaged in anthropomorphic form, but gradually purged of all local traits by the unexampled and unique inspiration of the great Prophets. They, as far as our knowledge extends, were strangely indifferent to the animistic element in religion, to the doctrine of surviving human souls, and so, of course, to that element of Animism which is priceless—the purification of the soul in the light of the hope of eternal life. Just as the hunger after righteousness of the Prophets is intense, so their hope of finally sating that hunger in an eternity of sinless bliss and enjoyment of God is confessedly inconspicuous. In short, they have carried Theism to its austere extreme—'though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him'—while unconcerned about the rewards of Animism. This is certainly a strange result of a religion which, according to the anthropological theory, has Animism for its basis.
We therefore examine certain forms of the animistic hypothesis as applied to account for the religion of Israel. The topic is one in which special knowledge of Hebrew and other Oriental languages seems absolutely indispensable; but anthropological speculators have not been Oriental scholars (with rare exceptions), while some Oriental scholars have borrowed from popular anthropology without much critical discrimination. These circumstances must be our excuse for venturing on to this difficult ground.
It is probably impossible for us to trace with accuracy the rise of the religion of Jehovah. 'The wise and learned' dispute endlessly over dates of documents, over the amount of later doctrine interpolated into the earlier texts, over the nature, source, and quantity of foreign influence—Chaldaean, Accadian, Egyptian, or Assyrian. We know that Israel had, in an early age, the conception of the moral Eternal; we know that, at an early age, that conception was contaminated and anthropomorphised; and we know that it was rescued, in a great degree, from this corruption, while always retaining its original ethical aspect and sanction. Why matters went thus in Israel and not elsewhere we know not, except that such was the will of God in the mysterious education of the world. How mysterious that education has been is best known to all who have studied the political and social results of Totemism. On the face of it a perfectly crazy and degrading belief—on the face of it meant for nothing but to make the family a hell of internecine hatred—Totemism rendered possible—nay, inevitable—the union of hostile groups into large and relatively peaceful tribal societies. Given the materials as we know them, we never should have educated the world thus; and we do not see why it should thus have been done. But we are very anthropomorphic, and totally ignorant of the conditions of the problem.
An example of anthropological theory concerning Jehovah was put forth by Mr. Huxley. Mr. Huxley's general idea of religion as it is on the lowest known level of material culture—through which the ancestors of Israel must have passed like other people—has already been criticised. He denied to the most backward races both cult and religious sanction of ethics. He was demonstrably, though unconsciously, in error as to the facts, and therefore could not start from the idea that Israel, in the lowest historically known condition of savagery, possessed, or, like other races, might possess, the belief in an Eternal making for righteousness. 'For my part,' he says, 'I see no reason to doubt that, like the rest of the world, the Israelites had passed through a period of mere ghost-worship, and had advanced through ancestor-worship and Fetishism and Totemism to the theological level at which we find them in the Books of Judges and Samuel.'
But why does he think the Israelites did all this? The Hebrew ghosts, abiding, according to Mr. Huxley, in a rather torpid condition in Sheol, would not be of much practical use to a worshipper. A reference in Deuteronomy xxvi. 14 (Deuteronomy being, ex hypothesi, a late pious imposture) does not prove much. The Hebrew is there bidden to remind himself of the stay of his ancestors in Egypt, and to say, 'Of the hallowed things I have not given aught for the dead'—namely, of the tithes dedicated to the Levites and the poor. A race which abode for centuries among the Egyptians, as Israel did—among a people who elaborately fed the kas of the departed—might pick up a trace of a custom, the giving of food for the dead, still persevered in by St. Monica till St. Ambrose admonished her. But Mr. Huxley is hard put to it for evidence of ancestor-worship or ghost-worship in Israel when he looks for indications of these rites in 'the singular weight attached to the veneration of parents in the Fourth Commandment.' The Fourth Commandment, of course, is a slip of the pen. He adds: 'The Fifth Commandment, as it stands, would be an excellent compromise between ancestor-worship and Monotheism.' Long may children practise this excellent compromise! It is really too far-fetched to reason thus: 'People were bidden to honour their parents, as a compromise between Monotheism and ghost-worship.' Hard, hard bestead is he who has to reason in that fashion! This comes of 'training in the use of the weapons of precision of science.'
Mr. Huxley goes on: 'The Ark of the Covenant may have been a relic of ancestor-worship;' 'there is a good deal to be said for that speculation.' Possibly there is, by way of the valuable hypothesis that Jehovah was a fetish stone which had been a grave-stone, or perhaps a lingam, and was kept in the Ark on the plausible pretext that it was the two Tables of the Law!
However, Mr. Huxley really finds it safer to suppose that references to ancestor-worship in the Bible were obliterated by late monotheistic editors, who, none the less, are so full and minute in their descriptions of the various heresies into which Israel was eternally lapsing, and must not be allowed to lapse again. Had ancestor-worship been a peche mignon of Israel, the Prophets would have let Israel hear their mind on it.
The Hebrews' indifference to the departed soul is, in fact, a puzzle, especially when we consider their Egyptian education—so important an element in Mr. Huxley's theory.
Mr. Herbert Spencer is not more successful than Mr. Huxley in finding ancestor-worship among the Hebrews. On the whole subject he writes:
'Where the levels of mental nature and social progress are lowest, we usually find, along with an absence of religious ideas generally, an absence, or very slight development, of ancestor-worship.... Cook [Captain Cook], telling us what the Fuegians were before contact with Europeans had introduced foreign ideas, said there were no appearances of religion among them; and we are not told by him or others that they were ancestor-worshippers.'
Probably they are not; but they do possess a Being who reads their hearts, and who certainly shows no traces of European ideas. If the Fuegians are not ancestor-worshippers, this Being was not developed out of ancestor-worship.
The evidence of Captain Cook, no anthropologist, but a mariner who saw and knew little of the Fuegians, is precisely of the sort against which Major Ellis warns us. The more a religion consists in fear of a moral guardian of conduct, the less does it show itself, by sacrifice or rite, to the eyes of Captain Cook, of his Majesty's ship Endeavour. Mr. Spencer places the Andamanese on the same level as the Fuegians, 'so far as the scanty evidence may be trusted.' We have shown that (as known to Mr. Spencer in 1876) it may not be trusted at all; the Andamanese possessing a moral Supreme Being, though they are not, apparently, ancestor-worshippers. The Australians 'show us not much persistence in ghost-propitiation,' which, if it exists, ceases when the corpses are tied up and buried, or after they are burned, or after the bones, carried about for a while, are exposed on platforms. Yet many Australian tribes possess a moral Supreme Being.
In fact ghost-worship, in Mr. Spencer's scheme, cannot be fairly well developed till society reaches the level of 'settled groups whose burial-places are in their midst.' Hence the development of a moral Supreme Being among tribes not thus settled, is inconceivable, on Mr. Spencer's hypothesis. By that hypothesis, 'worshipped ancestors, according to their remoteness, were regarded as divine, semi-divine, and human.' Where we find, then, the Divine Being among nomads who do not remember their great-grandfathers, the Spencerian theory is refuted by facts. We have the effect, the Divine Being, without the cause, worship of ancestors.
Coming to the Hebrews, Mr. Spencer argues that 'the silence of their legends (as to ancestor-worship) is but a negative fact, which may be as misleading as negative facts usually are.' They are, indeed; witness Mr. Spencer's own silence about savage Supreme Beings. But we may fairly argue that if Israel had been given to ancestor-worship (as might partly be surmised from the mystery about the grave of Moses) the Prophets would not have spared them for their crying. The Prophets were unusually outspoken men, and, as they undeniably do scold Israel for every other kind of conceivable heresy, they were not likely to be silent about ancestor-worship, if ancestor-worship existed. Mr. Spencer, then, rather heedlessly, though correctly, argues that 'nomadic habits are unfavourable to evolution of the ghost-theory.' Alas, this gives away the whole case! For, if all men began as nomads, and nomadic habits are unfavourable even to the ordinary ghost, how did the Australian and other nomads develop the Supreme Being, who, ex hypothesi, is the final fruit of the ghost-flower? If you cannot have 'an established ancestor-worship' till you abandon nomadic habits, how, while still nomadic, do you evolve a Supreme Being? Obviously not out of ancestor-worship.
Mr. Spencer then assigns, as evidence for ancestor-worship in Israel, mourning dresses, fasting, the law against self-bleeding and cutting off the hair for the dead, and the text (Deut. xxvi. 14) about 'I have not given aught thereof for the dead.' 'Hence, the conclusion must be that ancestor-worship had developed as far as nomadic habits allowed, before it was repressed by a higher worship.' But whence came that higher worship which seems to have intervened immediately after the cessation of nomadic habits?
There are obvious traces of grief expressed in a primitive way among the Hebrews. 'Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead' (Deut. xiv. 1). 'Neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them; neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead' (by way of counter-irritant to grief); 'neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother,' because the Jews were to be removed from their homes. 'Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.'
It may be usual to regard inflictions, such as cutting, by mourners, as sacrifices to the ghost of the dead. But one has seen a man strike himself a heavy blow on receiving news of a loss not by death, and I venture to fancy that cuttings and gashings at funerals are merely a more violent form of appeal to a counter-irritant of grief, and, again, a token of recklessness caused by a sorrow which makes void the world. One of John Nicholson's native adorers killed himself on news of that warrior's death, saying, 'What is left worth living for?' This was not a sacrifice to the Manes of Nicholson. The sacrifice of the mourner's hair, as by Achilles, argues a similar indifference to personal charm. Once more, the text in Psalm cvi. 28, 'They joined themselves unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead,' is usually taken by commentators as a reference to the ritual of gods who are no gods. But it rather seems to indicate an acquiescence in foreign burial rites. All this additional evidence does not do much to prove ancestor-worship in Israel, though the secrecy of the burial of Moses, 'in a valley of the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulchre to this day,' may indicate a dread of a nascent worship of the great leader. The scene of the defection in Psalm cvi., Beth-peor, is indicated in Numbers xxv., where Israel runs after the girls and the gods of Moab: 'And Moab called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor.' Psalm cvi. is obviously a later restatement of this addiction to the Moabite gods, and the Psalm adds 'they ate the sacrifices of the dead.'
It is plain that, for whatever reason, ancestor-worship among the Hebrews was, at the utmost, rudimentary. Otherwise it must have been clearly denounced by the Prophets among the other heresies of Israel. Therefore, as being at the most rudimentary, ancestor-worship in Israel could not be developed at once into the worship of Jehovah.
Though ancestor-worship among the Hebrews could not be fully developed, according to Mr. Spencer, because of their nomadic habits, it was fully developed, according to the Rev. A.W. Oxford. 'Every family, like every old Roman and Greek family, was firmly held together by the worship of its ancestors, the hearth was the altar, the head of the family the priest.... The bond which kept together the families of a tribe was its common religion, the worship of its reputed ancestor. The chief of the tribe was, of course, the priest of the cult.' Of course; but what a pity that Mr. Huxley and Mr. Spencer omitted facts so invaluable to their theory! And how does the Rev. Mr. Oxford know? Well, 'there is no direct proof,' oddly enough, of so marked a feature in Hebrew religion but we are referred to 1 Sam. xx. 29 and Judges xviii. 19. 1 Sam. xx. 29 makes Jonathan say that David wants to go to a family sacrifice, that is, a family dinner party. This hardly covers the large assertions made by Mr. Oxford. His second citation is so unlucky as to contradict his observation that 'of course' the chief of the tribe was the priest of the cult. Micah, in Judges xvii., xviii., is not the chief of his tribe (Ephraim), neither is he even the priest in his own house. He 'consecrated one of his own sons who became his priest,' till he got hold of a casual young Levite, and said, 'Be unto me a father and a priest,' for ten shekels per annum, a suit of clothes, and board and lodging.
In place, then, of any remote reference to a chief's being priest of his ancestral ghosts, we have here a man of one tribe who is paid rather handsomely to be family chaplain to a member of another tribe. Some moss-troopers of the tribe of Dan then kidnapped this valuable young Levite, and seized a few idols which Micah had permitted himself to make. And all this, according to our clerical authority, is evidence for ancestor-worship!
All this appears to be derived from some incoherent speculations of Stade. For example, that learned German cites the story of Micah as a proof that the different tribes or clans had different religions. This must be so, because the Danites asked the young Levite whether it was not better to be priest to a clan than to an individual? It is as if a patron offered a rich living to somebody's private chaplain, saying that the new position was more creditable and lucrative. This would hardly prove a difference of religion between the individual and the parish.
Mr. Oxford next avers that 'the earliest form of the Israelite religion was Fetishism or Totemism.' This is another example of Stade's logic. Finding, as he believes, names suggestive of Totemism in Simeon, Levi, Rachel, and so on, Stade leaps to the conclusion that Totemism in Israel was prior to anything resembling monotheism. For monotheism, he argues, could not give the germs of the clan or tribal organisation, while Totemism could do so. Certainly it could, but as, in many regions (America, Australia), we find Totemism and the belief in a benevolent Supreme Being co-existing among savages, when first observed by Europeans, we cannot possibly say dogmatically whether a rough monotheism or whether Totemism came first in order of evolution. This holds as good of Israel (if once totemistic) as it does of Pawnees or Kurnai. Stade has overlooked these well-known facts, and his opinion filters into a cheap hand-book, and is set in examinations!
We also learn from Mr. Oxford's popular manual of German Biblical conjecture that 'Jehovah was not represented as a loving Father, but as a Being easily roused to wrath,' a thing most incident to loving fathers.
Again, Mr. Oxford avers that 'the old Israelites knew no distinction between physical and moral evil.... The conception of Jehovah's holiness had nothing moral in it' (p. 90). This rather contradicts Wellhausen: 'In all ancient primitive peoples ... religion furnishes a motive for law and morals; in the case of none did it become so with such purity and power as in that of the Israelites.'
We began by examining Mr. Huxley's endeavours to find traces of ancestor-worship (in his opinion the origin of Jehovah-worship) among the Israelites. We next criticised Mr. Spencer's efforts in the same quest, and the more dogmatic assertions of Mr. Oxford and Stade. We now return to Mr. Huxley's account of the evolution from ghost-cult to the cult of Jehovah.
From the history of the Witch of Endor, which Mr. Huxley sees no reason to regard as other than a sincere statement of what really occurred, he gathers that the Witch cried out, 'I see Elohim.' These Elohim proved to be the phantasm of the dead Samuel. Moved by this hallucination the Witch uttered a veridical premonition, totally adverse to her own interests, and uncommonly dangerous to her life. This is, psychically, interesting. The point, however, is that Elohim is a term equivalent to Red Indian Wakan, Fijian Kahu, Maori or Melanesian Mana, meaning the 'supernatural,' the vaguely powerful—in fact X. This particular example of Elohim was a phantasm of the dead, but Elohim is also used of the highest Divine Being, therefore the highest Divine Being is of the same genus as a ghost—so Mr. Huxley reasons. 'The difference which was supposed to exist between the different Elohim was one of degree, not of kind.'
'If Jehovah was thus supposed to differ only in degree from the undoubtedly zoomorphic or anthropomorphic "gods of the nations," why is it to be assumed that he also was not thought to have a human shape?' He was thought to have a human shape, at one time, by some theorists: no doubt exists on that head. That, however, is not where we demur. We demur when, because an hallucination of the Witch of Endor (probably still incompletely developed) is called by her Elohim, therefore the highest Elohim is said by Mr. Huxley to differ from a ghost only in degree, not in kind. Elohim, or El, the creative, differs from a ghost in kind, because he, in Hebrew belief, never was a ghost, he is immortal and without beginning.
Mr. Huxley now enforces his theory by a parallel between the religion of Tonga and the religion of Israel under the Judges. He quotes Mariner, whose statement avers that there is a supreme Tongan being: 'of his origin they had no idea, rather supposing him to be eternal. His name is Ta-li-y-Tooboo = "Wait-there-Tooboo."' 'He is a great chief from the top of the sky down to the bottom of the earth.' He, and other 'original gods' of his making, are carefully and absolutely discriminated from the atua, which are 'the human soul after its separation from the body.' All Tongan gods are atua (Elohim), but all atua are not 'original gods,' unserved by priests, and unpropitiated by food or libation, like the highest God, Ta-li-y-Tooboo, the Eternal of Tonga. 'He occasionally inspires the How' (elective King), but often a How is not inspired at all by Ta-li-y-Tooboo, any more than Saul, at last, was inspired by Jehovah.
Surely there is a difference in kind between an eternal, immortal God, and a ghost, though both are atua, or both are Elohim—the unknown X.
Many people call a ghost 'supernatural;' they also call God 'supernatural,' but the difference between a phantasm of a dead man and the Deity they would admit, I conceive, to be a difference of kind. We have shown, or tried to show, that the conceptions of 'ghost' and 'Supreme Being' are different, not only in kind, but in origin. The ghost comes from, and depends on, the animistic theory; the Supreme Being, as originally thought of, does not. All Gods are Elohim, kalou, wakan; all Elohim, kalou, wakan are not Gods.
A ghost-god should receive food or libation. Mr. Huxley says that Ta-li-y-Tooboo did so. 'If the god, like Ta-li-y-Tooboo, had no priest, then the chief place was left vacant, and was supposed to be occupied by the god himself. When the first cup of Kava was filled, the mataboole who acted as master of the ceremonies said, "Give it to your god," and it was offered, though only as a matter of form.'
This is incorrect. In the case of Ta-li-y-Tooboo 'there is no cup filled for the god.' 'Before any cup is filled the man by the side of the bowl says: "The Kava is in the cup"' (which it is not), 'and the mataboole answers, "Give it to your god;"' but the Kava is not in the cup, and the Tongan Eternal receives no oblation.
The sacrifice, says Mr. Huxley, meant 'that the god was either a deified ghost, or, at any rate, a being of like nature to these.' But as Ta-li-y-Tooboo had no sacrifice, contrary to Mr. Huxley's averment, he was not 'a deified ghost, or a being of like nature to these.' To the lower, non-ghostly Tongan gods the animistic habit of sacrifice had been extended, but not yet to the Supreme Being.
Ah, if Mr. Gladstone, or the Duke of Argyll, or some bishop had made a misstatement of this kind, how Mr. Huxley would have crushed him! But it is a mere error of careless reading, such as we all make daily.
It is manifest that we cannot prove Jehovah to be a ghost by the parallel of a Tongan god, who, by ritual and by definition, was not a ghost. The proof therefore rests on the anthropomorphised pre-prophetic accounts, and on the ritual, of Jehovah. But man naturally 'anthropises' his deities: he does not thereby demonstrate that they were once ghosts.
As regards the sacrifices to Jehovah, the sweet savour which he was supposed to enjoy (contrary to the opinion of the Prophets), these sacrifices afford the best presumption that Jehovah was a ghost-god, or a god constructed on ghostly lines.
But we have shown that among the lowest races neither are ghosts worshipped by sacrifice, nor does the Supreme Being, Darumulun or Puluga, receive food offerings. We have also instanced many Supreme Beings of more advanced races, Ahone, and Dendid, and Nyankupon, who do not sniff the savour of any offerings. If then (as in the case of Taa-roa), a Supreme Being does receive sacrifice, we may argue that a piece of animistic ritual, not connected with the Supreme Being in Australia or Andaman, not connected with his creed in Virginia or Africa (where ghost-gods do receive sacrifice), may in other regions be transferred from ghost-gods to the Supreme Being, who never was a ghost. There seems to be nothing incredible or illogical in the theory of such transference.
On a God who never was a ghost men may come to confer sacrifices (which are not made to Baiame and the rest) because, being in the habit of thus propitiating one set of bodiless powers, men may not think it civil or safe to leave another set of powers out. By his very nature, man must clothe all gods with some human passions and attributes, unless, like a large number of savages, he leaves his high God severely alone, and is the slave of fetishes and spectres. But that practice makes against the ghost-theory.
In the attempt to account thus, namely by transference, for the sacrifices to Jehovah, we are met by a difficulty of our own making. If the Israelites did not sacrifice to ancestors (as we have shown that there is very scant reason for supposing that they did), how could they transfer to Jehovah the rite which, by our hypothesis, they are not proved to have offered to ancestors?
This is certainly a hard problem, harder (or perhaps easier) because we know so very little of the early history of the Hebrews. According to their own traditions, Israel had been in touch with all manner of races much more advanced than themselves in material culture, and steeped in highly developed polytheistic Animism. According to their history, the Israelites 'went a-whoring' incorrigibly after strange gods. It is impossible, perhaps, to disentangle the foreign and the native elements.
It may therefore be tentatively suggested that early Israel had its Ahone in a Being perhaps not yet named Jehovah. Israel entertained, however, perhaps by reason of 'nomadic habits,' only the scantiest concern about ancestral ghosts. We then find an historical tradition of secular contact between Israel and Egypt, from which Israel emerges with Jehovah for God, and a system of sacrifices. Regarding Jehovah as a revived memory of the moral Supreme Being whom Israel must have known in extremely remote ages (unless Israel was less favoured than Australians, Bushmen, or Andamanese), we might look on the sacrifices to him as an adaptation from the practices of religion among races more settled than Israel, and more civilised.
Speculation on subjects so remote must be conjectural, but our suggestion would, perhaps, account for sacrifices to Jehovah, paid by a race which, by reason of 'nomadic habits,' was never much given to ancestor-worship, but had been in contact with great sacrificing, polytheistic civilisations. Mr. Huxley, however, while he seems to slur the essential distinction between ghost-gods and the Eternal, grants, later, that 'there are very few people(s?) without additional gods, which cannot, with certainty, be accounted for as deified ancestors.' Ta-li-y-Tooboo, of course, is one of these gods, as is Jehovah. Mr. Huxley gives no theory of how these gods came into belief, except the suggestion that 'the polytheistic theology has become modified by the selection of the cosmic or tribal god, as the only god to whom worship is due on the part of that nation,' without prejudice to the right of other nations to worship other gods. This is 'monolatry,' and 'the ethical code, often of a very high order, comes into closer relation with the theological creed,' why, we are not informed. Nor do we learn out of what polytheistic deities Jehovah was selected, nor for what reason. The hypothesis, as usual, breaks down on the close relation between the ethical code and the theological creed, among low savages, with a relatively Supreme Being, but without ancestor-worship, and without polytheistic gods from whom to select a heavenly chief.
Whence came the moral element in the idea of Jehovah? Mr. Huxley supposes that, during their residence in the land of Goshen (and a fortiori before it), the Israelites 'knew nothing of Jehovah.' They were polytheistic idolaters. This follows, apparently, from Ezekiel xx. 5: 'In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt.' The Biblical account is that the God of Moses's fathers, the God of Abraham, enlightened Moses in Sinai, giving his name as 'I am that I am' (Exodus iii. 6, 14; translation uncertain). We are to understand that Moses, a religious reformer, revived an old, and, in the Egyptian bondage, a half-obliterated creed of the ancient nomadic Beni-Israel. They were no longer to 'defile themselves with the idols of Egypt,' as they had obviously done. We really know no more about the matter. Wellhausen says that Jehovah was 'originally a family or tribal god, either of the family of Moses or of the tribe of Joseph.' How a family could develop a Supreme Being all to itself, we are not informed, and we know of no such analogous case in the ethnographic field. Again, Jehovah was 'only a special name of El, current within a powerful circle.' And who was El? 'Moses was not the first discoverer of the faith.' Probably not, but Mr. Huxley seems to think that he was.
Wellhausen's and other German ideas filter into popular traditions, as we saw, through 'A Short Introduction to the History of Ancient Israel' (pp. 19, 20), by the Rev. A.W. Oxford, M.A., Vicar of St. Luke's, Soho. Here follows Mr. Oxford's undeniably 'short way with Jehovah.' 'Moses was the founder of the Israelite religion. Jehovah, his family or tribal god, perhaps originally the God of the Kenites, was taken as a tribal god by all the Israelite tribes.... That Jehovah was not the original god of Israel' (as the Bible impudently alleges) 'but was the god of the Kenites, we see mainly from Deut. xxxiii. 2, Judges v. 4, 5, and from the history of Jethro, who, according to Judges i. 16, was a Kenite.'
The first text says that, according to Moses, 'the Lord came from Sinai,' rose up from Seir, and shone from Mount Paran. The second text mentions Jehovah's going up out of Seir and Sinai. The third text says that Jethro, Moses's Kenite (or Midianite) father-in-law, dwelt among the people of Judah; Jethro being a priest of Midian. How all this proves that 'Moses was a great impostor,' as the poet says, and that Jehovah was not 'the original God of Israel,' but (1) Moses's family or tribal god, or (2) 'the god of the Kenites,' I profess my inability to comprehend.
Wellhausen himself had explained Jehovah as 'a family or tribal god, either of the family of Moses' (tribe of Levi) 'or of the tribe of Joseph.' It seems to be all one to Mr. Oxford whether Jehovah was a god of Moses's tribe or quite the reverse, 'a Kenite god.' Yet it really makes a good deal of difference! For in a complex of tribes, speaking one language, it is to the last degree unexampled (within my knowledge) that one tribe, or family, possesses, all to itself, a family god who is also the Creator and is later accepted as such by all the other tribes. One may ask for instances of such a thing in any known race, in any stage of culture. Peru will not help us—not the Creator, Pachacamac, but the Sun, is the god of the Inca family. If, on the other hand, Jehovah was a Kenite god, the Kenites were a half-Arab Semitic people connected with Israel, and may very well have retained traditions of a Supreme Being which, in Egypt, were likely to be dimmed, as Exodus asserts, by foreign religions. The learned Stade, to be sure, may disbelieve in Israel's sojourn in Egypt, but that revolutionary opinion is not necessarily binding on us and involves a few difficulties.
Have critics and manual-makers no knowledge of the science of comparative religion? Are they unaware that peoples infinitely more backward than Israel was at the date supposed have already moral Supreme Beings acknowledged over vast tracts of territory? Have they a tittle of positive evidence that early Israel was benighted beyond the darkness of Bushmen, Andamanese, Pawnees, Blackfeet, Hurons, Indians of British Guiana, Dinkas, Negroes, and so forth? Unless Israel had this rare ill-luck (which Israel denies) of course Israel must have had a secular tradition, however dim, of a Supreme Being. We must ask for a single instance of a family or tribe, in a complex of semi-barbaric but not savage tribes of one speech, owning a private deity who happened to be the Maker and Ruler of the world, and, as such, was accepted by all the tribes. Jehovah came out from Sinai, because, there having been a Theophany at Sinai, that mountain was regarded as one of his seats.
We have seen that it seemed to make no difference to Mr. Oxford whether Jehovah was a god of Moses's family or tribe or a Kenite god. The former (with the alternative of Joseph's family or tribal god) is Wellhausen's theory. The latter is Stade's. Each is inconsistent with the other; Wellhausen's fancy is inconsistent with all that we know of religious development: Stade's is hopelessly inconsistent with Exodus iv. 24-26, where Moses's Kenite wife reproaches him for a ceremony of his, not of her, religion. Therefore the Kenite differed from the Hebrew sacra.
The passage is very extraordinary, and is said by critics to be very archaic. After the revelation of the Burning Bush, Jehovah met Moses and his Kenite wife, Zipporah, and their child, at a khan. Jehovah was anxious to slay Moses, nobody ever knew why, so Zipporah appeased Jehovah's wrath by circumcising her boy with a flint. 'A bloody husband art thou to me,' she said, 'because of the circumcision'—an Egyptian, but clearly not a Kenite practice. Whatever all this may mean, it does not look as if Zipporah expected such rites as circumcision in the faith of a Kenite husband, nor does it favour the idea that the sacra of Moses were of Kenite origin.
Without being a scholar, or an expert in Biblical criticism, one may protest against the presentation to the manual-reading intellectual middle classes of a theory so vague, contradictory, and (by all analogy) so impossible as Mr. Oxford collects from German writers. Of course, the whole subject, so dogmatically handled, is mere matter of dissentient opinion among scholars. Thus M. Renan derives the name of Jehovah from Assyria, from 'Aramaised Chaldaeanism.' In that case the name was long anterior to the residence in Egypt. But again, perhaps Jehovah was a local god of Sinai, or a provincial deity in Palestine. He was known to very ancient sages, who preferred such names as El Shaddai and Elohim. In short, we have no certainty on the subject.
I need hardly say, perhaps, that I have no antiquated prejudice against Biblical criticism. Assuredly the Bible must be studied like any other collection of documents, linguistically, historically, and in the light of the comparative method. The leading ideas of Wellhausen, for example, are conspicuous for acumen: the humblest layman can see that. But one may protest against criticising the Bible, or Homer, by methods like those which prove Shakspeare to have been Bacon. One must protest, too, against the presentation of inconsistent and probably baseless critical hypotheses in the dogmatic brevity of cheap handbooks.
Yet again, whence comes the moral element in Jehovah? Mr. Huxley thinks that it possibly came from the ethical practice and theory of Egypt. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, 'a sort of Guide to Spirit Land,' there are moral chapters; the ghost tells his judges in Amenti what sins he has not committed. Many of these sins are forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
They are just as much forbidden in the nascent morality of savage peoples. Moses did not need the Book of the Dead to teach him elementary morals. From the mysteries of Mtanga he might have learned, also, had he been present, the virtue of unselfish generosity. If the creed of Jehovah, or of El, retained only as much of ethics as is under divine sanction among the Kurnai, adaptation from the Book of the Dead was superfluous.
The care for the departed, the ritual of the Ka, the intense pre-occupation with the future life, which, far more than its morality, are the essential characteristics of the Book of the Dead—Israel cared for none of these animistic things, brought none of these, or very little of these, out of the land of Egypt. Moses was certainly very eclectic; he took only the morality of Egypt. But as Mr. Huxley advances this opinion tentatively, as having no secure historical authority about Moses, it hardly answers our question, Whence came the moral element in Jehovah? One may surmise that it was the survival of the primitive divinely sanctioned ethics of the ancient savage ancestors of the Israelite, known to them, as to the Kurnai, before they had a pot, or a bronze knife, or seed to sow, or sheep to herd, or even a tent over their heads. In the counsels of eternity Israel was chosen to keep burning, however obscured with smoke of sacrifice, that flame which illumines the darkest places of the earth, 'a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel'—a flame how litten a light whence shining, history cannot inform us, and anthropology can but conjecture. Here scientific nescience is wiser than the cocksureness of popular science, with her ghosts and fetish-stones, and gods that sprang from ghosts, which ghosts, however, could not be developed, owing to nomadic habits.
It appears, then, if our general suggestion meets with any acceptance, that what occurred in the development of Hebrew religion was precisely what the Bible tells us did occur. This must necessarily seem highly paradoxical to our generation; but the whole trend of our provisional system makes in favour of the paradox. If savage nomadic Israel had the higher religious conceptions proved to exist among several of the lowest known races, these conceptions might be revived by a leader of genius. They might, in a crisis of tribal fortunes, become the rallying point of a new national sentiment. Obscured, in some degree, by acquaintance with 'the idols of Egypt,' and restricted and localised by the very national sentiment which they fostered, these conceptions were purified and widened far beyond any local, tribal, or national restrictions—widened far as the flammantia moenia mundi—by the historically unique genius of the Prophets. Blended with the doctrine of our Lord, and recommended by the addition of Animism in its pure and priceless form—the reward of faith, hope, and charity in eternal life—the faith of Israel enlightened the world.
All this is precisely what occurred, according to the Old and New Testaments. All this is just what, on our hypothesis, might be expected to occur if, out of the many races which, in their most backward culture, had a rude conception of a Moral Creative Being, relatively supreme, one race endured the education of Israel, showed the comparative indifference of Israel to Animism and ghost-gods, listened to the Prophets of Israel, and gave birth to a greater than Moses and the Prophets.
To this result the Logos, as Socrates says, has led us, by the path of anthropology.
[Footnote 1: Science and Hebrew Tradition.]
[Footnote 2: Op. cit. p. 361.]
[Footnote 3: Science and Hebrew Tradition. p. 308.]
[Footnote 4: Prin. Soc. p. 306.]
[Footnote 5: The Tshi-speaking Races, p. 183.]
[Footnote 6: Some Australian tribes have cemeteries, and I have found one native witness, King Billy, to the celebration of the mysteries near one of these burying-places. I have not discovered other evidence to this effect, though I have looked for it. The spot selected is usually 'near the camp,' and the place for so large a camp in chosen, naturally, where the supply of food is adequate.]
[Footnote 7: Cf. the Aryans, Principles of Sociology, p. 314.]
[Footnote 8: Principles, p. 316.]
[Footnote 9: Ibid. p. 317.]
[Footnote 10: Jeremiah xvi. 6, 7.]
[Footnote 11: Leviticus xix. 28.]
[Footnote 12: Deuteronomy xxxiv. 6.]
[Footnote 13: Short Introduction to History of Ancient Israel, pp. 83, 84.]
[Footnote 14: Stade i 403.]
[Footnote 15: Stade, i. 406.]
[Footnote 16: Wellhausen, History of Israel, p. 437. Mr. Oxford's book is only noticed here because it is meant for a popular manual. As Mr. Henry Foker says, 'it seems a pity that the clergy should interfere in these matters.']
[Footnote 17: Science and Hebrew Tradition, p. 299.]
[Footnote 18: II. 127.]
[Footnote 19: Science and Hebrew Tradition, p. 331.]
[Footnote 20: Mariner, ii. 205.]
[Footnote 21: Op. cit. p. 335.]
[Footnote 22: Of course, it in understood that Israel (in the dark backward and abysm of time) may also have been totemistic, like the Australians, as texts pointed out by Mr. Robertson Smith seem to hint. There was also worship of teraphim, respect paid to stones and trees, and so forth.]
[Footnote 23: Science and Hebrew Tradition, p. 349.]
[Footnote 24: P. 351.]
[Footnote 25: History of Israel, p. 443 note.]
[Footnote 26: Religion of Semites.]
[Footnote 27: Geschichte des Volkes Israel, i. 180.]
[Footnote 28: Histoire du Peuple d'Israel, citing Schrader, p. 23.]
[Footnote 29: Op. cit. p. 85]
[Footnote 30: See Professor Robertson's Early Religion of Israel for a list of these conjectures, and, generally, for criticisms of the occasional vagaries of critics.]
We may now glance backward at the path which we have tried to cut through the jungles of early religions. It is not a highway, but the track of a solitary explorer; and this essay pretends to be no more than a sketch—not an exhaustive survey of creeds. Its limitations are obvious, but may here be stated. The higher and even the lower polytheisms are only alluded to in passing, our object being to keep well in view the conception of a Supreme, or practically Supreme, Being, from the lowest stages of human culture up to Christianity. In polytheism that conception is necessarily obscured, showing itself dimly either in the Prytanis, or President of the Immortals, such as Zeus; or in Fate, behind and above the Immortals; or in Mr. Max Mueller's Henotheism, where the god addressed—Indra, or Soma, or Agni—is, for the moment, envisaged as supreme, and is adored in something like a monotheistic spirit; or, finally, in the etherealised deity of advanced philosophic speculation.
It has not been necessary, for our purpose, to dwell on these civilised religions. Granting our hypothesis of an early Supreme Being among savages, obscured later by ancestor-worship and ghost-gods, but not often absolutely lost to religious tradition, the barbaric and the civilised polytheisms easily take their position in line, and are easily intelligible. Space forbids a discussion of all known religions; only typical specimens have been selected. Thus, nothing has been said of the religion of the great Chinese empire. It appears to consist, on its higher plane, of the worship of Heaven as a great fetish-god—a worship which may well have begun in days, as Dr. Brinton says, 'long ere man had asked himself, "Are the heavens material and God spiritual?"'—perhaps, for all we know, before the idea of 'spirit' had been evolved. Thus, if it contains nothing more august, the Chinese religion is, so far, beneath that of the Zunis, or the creed in Taa-roa, in Beings who are eternal, who were before earth was or sky was. The Chinese religion of Heaven is also coloured by Chinese political conditions; Heaven (Tien) corresponds to the Emperor, and tends to be confounded with Shang-ti, the Emperor above. 'Dr. Legge charges Confucius,' says Mr. Tylor, 'with an inclination to substitute, in his religious teaching, the name of Tien, Heaven, for that known to more ancient religion, and used in more ancient books—Shang-ti, the personal ruling deity.' If so, China too has its ancient Supreme Being, who is not a divinised aspect of nature.
But Mr. Tylor's reading, in harmony with his general theory, is different:
'It seems, rather, that the sage was, in fact, upholding the tradition of the ancient faith, thus acting according to the character on which he prided himself—that of a transmitter, not a maker, a preserver of old knowledge, not a new revealer.'
This, of course, is purely a question of evidence, to be settled by Sinologists. If the personal Supreme Being, Shang-ti, occupies in older documents the situation held by Tien (Heaven) in Confucius's later system, why are we to say that Confucius, by putting forward Heaven in place of Shang-ti, was restoring an older conception? Mr. Tylor's affection for his theory leads him, perhaps, to that opinion; while my affection for my theory leads me to prefer documentary evidence in its favour.
The question can only be settled by specialists. As matters stand, it seems to me probable that ancient China possessed a Supreme Personal Being, more remote and original than Heaven, just as the Zunis do. On the lower plane, Chinese religion is overrun, as everyone knows, by Animism and ancestor-worship. This is so powerful that it has given rise to a native theory of Euhemerism. The departmental deities of Chinese polytheism are explained by the Chinese on Euhemeristic principles:
'According to legend, the War God, or Military Sage, was once, in human life, a distinguished soldier; the Swine God was a hog-breeder who lost his pigs and died of sorrow; the God of Gamblers was un decave.'
These are not statements of fact, but of Chinese Euhemeristic theory. On that hypothesis, Confucius should now be a god; but of course he is not; his spirit is merely localised in his temple, where the Emperor worships him twice a year as ancestral spirits are worshipped.
Every theorist will force facts into harmony with his system, but I do not see that the Chinese facts are contrary to mine. On the highest plane is either a personal Supreme Being, Shang-ti, or there is Tien, Heaven (with Earth, parent of men), neither of them necessarily owing, in origin, anything to Animism. Then there is the political reflection of the Emperor on Religion (which cannot exist where there is no Emperor, King, or Chief, and therefore must be late), there is the animistic rabble of spirits ancestral or not, and there is departmental polytheism. The spirits are, of course, fed and furnished by men in the usual symbolical way. Nothing shows or hints that Shang-ti is merely an imaginary idealised first ancestor. Indeed, about all such explanations of the Supreme Being (say among the Kurnai) as an idealised imaginary first ancestor, M. Reville justly observes as follows: 'Not only have we seen that, in wide regions of the uncivilised world, the worship of ancestors has invaded a domain previously occupied by "Naturism" and Animism properly so called, that it is, therefore, posterior to these; but, farther, we do not understand, in Mr. Spencer's system, why, in so many places, the first ancestor is the Maker, if not the Creator of the world, Master of life and death, and possessor of divine powers, not held by any of his descendants. This proves that it was not the first ancestor who became God, in the belief of his descendants, but much rather the Divine Maker and Beginner of all, who, in the creed of his adorers, became the first ancestor.'
Our task has been limited, in this way, mainly to examination of the religion of some of the very lowest races, and of the highest world-religions, such as Judaism. The historical aspect of Christianity, as arising in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, would demand a separate treatise. This would, in part, be concerned with the attempts to find in the narratives concerning our Lord, a large admixture of the mythology and ritual connected with the sacrificed Rex Nemorensis, and whatever else survives in peasant folk-lore of spring and harvest.
After these apologies for the limitations of this essay, we may survey the backward track. We began by showing that savages may stumble, and have stumbled, on theories not inconsistent with science, but not till recently discovered by science. The electric origin of the Aurora Borealis (whether absolutely certain or not) was an example; another was the efficacy of 'suggestion,' especially for curative purposes. It was, therefore, hinted that, if savages blundered (if you please) into a belief in God and the Soul, however obscurely envisaged, these beliefs were not therefore necessarily and essentially false. We then stated our purpose of examining the alleged supernormal phenomena, savage or civilised, which, on Mr. Tylor's hypothesis, help to originate the conception of 'spirits.' We defended the nature of our evidence, as before anthropologists, by showing that, for the savage belief in the supernormal phenomena, we have exactly the kind of evidence on which all anthropological science reposes. The relative weakness of that evidence, our need of more and better evidence, we would be the very last to deny, indeed it is part of our case. Our existing evidence will hardly support any theory of religion. Anyone who is in doubt on that head has only to read M. Reville's 'Les Religions des Peuples Non-Civilises,' under the heads 'Melanesiens,' 'Mincopies,' 'Les Australiens' (ii. 116-143), when he will observe that this eminent French authority is ignorant of the facts about these races here produced. In 1883 they had not come within his ken. Such minute and careful inquiries by men closely intimate with the peoples concerned, as Dr. Codrington's, Mr. Hewitt's, Mr. Man's, and the authorities compiled by Mr. Brough Smyth, were unfamiliar to M. Reville, Thus, in turn, new facts, or facts unknown to us, may upset my theory. This peril is of the essence of scientific theorising on the history of religion.
Having thus justified our evidence for the savage belief in supernormal phenomena, as before anthropologists, we turned to a court of psychologists in defence of our evidence for the fact of exactly the same supernormal phenomena in civilised experience. We pointed out that for subjective psychological experiences, say of telepathy, we had precisely the same evidence as all non-experimental psychology must and does rest upon. Nay, we have even experimental evidence, in experiments in thought-transference. We have chiefly, however, statements of subjective experience. For the coincidence of such experience with unknown events we have such evidence as, in practical life, is admitted by courts of law.
Experimental psychology, of course, relies on experiments conducted under the eyes of the expert, for example, by hypnotism or otherwise, under Dr. Hack Tuke, Professor James, M. Richet, M. Janet. The evidence is the conduct rather than the statements of the subject. There is also physiological experiment, by vivisection (I regret to say) and post-mortem dissection. But non-experimental psychology reposes on the self-examination of the student, and on the statements of psychological experiences made to him by persons whom he thinks he can trust. The psychologist, however, if he be, as Mr. Galton says, 'unimaginative in the strict but unusual sense of that ambiguous word,' needs Mr. Galton's 'word of warning.' He is asked 'to resist a too frequent tendency to assume that the minds of every other sane and healthy person must be like his own. The psychologist should inquire into the minds of others as he should into those of animals of different races, and be prepared to find much to which his own experience can afford little if any clue.' Mr. Galton had to warn the unimaginative psychologist in this way, because he was about to unfold his discovery of the faculty which presents numbers to some minds as visualised coloured numerals, 'so vivid as to be undistinguishable from reality, except by the aid of accidental circumstances.'
Mr. Galton also found in his inquiries that occasional hallucinations of the sane are much more prevalent than he had supposed, or than science had ever taken into account. All this was entirely new to psychologists, many of whom still (at least many popular psychologists of the press) appear to be unacquainted with the circumstances. One of them informed me, quite gravely, that 'he never had an hallucination,' therefore—his mind being sane and healthy—the inference seemed to be that no sane and healthy mind was ever hallucinated. Mr. Galton has replied to that argument! His reply covers, logically, the whole field of psychological faculties little regarded, for example, by Mr. Sully, who is not exactly an imaginative psychologist.
It covers the whole field of automatism (as in automatic writing) perhaps of the divining rod, certainly of crystal visions and of occasional hallucinations, as Mr. Galton, in this last case, expressly declares. Psychologists at least need not be told that such faculties cannot, any more than other human faculties, be always evoked for study and experiment. Our evidence for these faculties and experiences, then, is usually of the class on which the psychologist relies. But, when the psychologist, following Leibnitz, Sir William Hamilton, and Kant, discusses the Subconscious (for example, knowledge, often complex and abundant, unconsciously acquired) we demonstrated by examples that the psychologist will contentedly repose on evidence which is not evidence at all. He will swallow an undated, unlocalised legend of Coleridge, reaching Coleridge on the testimony of rumour, and told at least twenty years after the unverified occurrences. Nay, the psychologist will never dream of procuring contemporary evidence for such a monstrous statement as that an ignorant German wench unconsciously acquired and afterwards subconsciously reproduced huge cantles of dead languages, by virtue of having casually heard a former master recite or read aloud from Hebrew and Greek books. This legend do psychologists accept on no evidence at all, because it illustrates a theory which is, doubtless, a very good theory, though, in this case, carried to an extent 'imagination boggles at.'
Here the psychologist may reply that much less evidence will content him for a fact to which he possesses, at least, analogies in accredited experience, than for a fact (say telepathic crystal-gazing) to which he knows, in experience, nothing analogous. Thus, for the mythical German handmaid, he has the analogy of languages learned in childhood, or passages got up by rote, being forgotten and brought back to ordinary conscious memory, or delirious memory, during an illness, or shortly before death. Strong in these analogies, the psychologist will venture to accept a case of language not learned, but reproduced in delirious memory, on no evidence at all. But, not possessing analogies for telepathic crystal-gazing, he will probably decline to examine ours.
I would first draw his attention to the difference between revived memory of a language once known (Breton and Welsh in known examples), or learned by rote (as Greek, in an anecdote of Goethe's), and verbal reproduction of a language not known or learned by rote but overheard—each passage probably but once—as somebody recited fragments. In this instance (that of the mythical maid) 'the difficulty ... is that the original impressions had not the strength—that is, the distinctness—of the reproduction. An unknown language overheard is a mere sound....'
The distinction here drawn is so great and obvious that for proof of the German girl's case we need better evidence than Coleridge's rumour of a rumour, cited, as it is, by Hamilton, Maudsley, Carpenter, Du Prel, and the common run of manuals.
Not that I deny, a priori, the possibility of Coleridge's story. As Mr. Huxley says, 'strictly speaking, I am unaware of anything that has a right to the title of an "impossibility," except a contradiction in terms.' To the horror of some of his admirers, Mr. Huxley would not call the existence of demons and demoniacal possession 'impossible.' Mr. Huxley was no blind follower of Hume. I, too, do not call Coleridge's tale 'impossible,' but, unlike the psychologists, I refuse to accept it on 'Bardolph's security.' And I contrast their conduct, in swallowing Coleridge's legend, with their refusal (if they do refuse) to accept the evidence for the automatic writing of not-consciously-known languages (as of eleventh-century French poetry and prose by Mr. Schiller), or their refusal (if they do refuse) to look at the evidence for telepathic crystal-gazing, or any other supernormal exhibitions of faculty, attested by living and honourable persons.
I wish I saw a way for orthodox unimaginative psychology out of its dilemma.
After offering to anthropologists and psychologists these considerations, which I purposely reiterate, we examined historically the relations of science to 'the marvellous,' showing for example how Hume, following his a priori theory of the impossible, would have declined to investigate, because they were 'miraculous,' certain occurrences which, to Charcot, were ordinary incidents in medical experience.
We next took up and criticised the anthropological theory of religion as expounded by Mr. Tylor. We then collected from his work a series of alleged supernormal phenomena in savage belief, all making for the foundation of animistic religion. Through several chapters we pursued the study of these phenomena, choosing savage instances, and setting beside them civilised testimony to facts of experience. Our conclusion was that such civilised experiences, if they occurred, as they are universally said to do, among savages, would help to originate, and would very strongly support the savage doctrine of souls, the base of religion in the theory of English anthropologists. But apart from the savage doctrine of 'spirits' (whether they exist or not), the evidence points to the existence of human faculties not allowed for in the current systems of materialism.
We next turned from the subject of supernormal experiences to the admitted facts about early religion. Granting the belief in souls and ghosts and spirits, however attained, how was the idea of a Supreme Being to be evolved out of that belief? We showed that, taking the creed as found in the lowest races, the processes put forward by anthropologists could not account for its evolution. The facts would not fit into, but contradicted, the anthropological theory. The necessary social conditions postulated were not found in places where the belief is found. Nay, the necessary social conditions for the evolution even of ancestor-worship were confessedly not found where the supposed ultimate result of ancestor-worship, the belief in a Supreme Being, flourished abundantly.
Again, the belief in a Supreme Being, ex hypothesi the latest in evolution, therefore the most potent, was often shelved and half forgotten, or neglected, or ridiculed, where the belief in Animism (ex hypothesi the earlier) was in full vigour. We demonstrated by facts that Anthropology had simplified her task by ignoring that essential feature, the prevalent alliance of ethics with religion, in the creed of the lowest and least developed races. Here, happily, we have not only the evidence of an earnest animist, Mr. Im Thurn, on our side, but that of a distinguished Semitic scholar, the late Mr. Robertson Smith. 'We see that even in its rudest forms Religion was a moral force, the powers that man reveres were on the side of social order and moral law; and the fear of the gods was a motive to enforce the laws of society, which were also the laws of morality.' Wellhausen has already been cited to the same effect.
However, the facts proving that truth, and unselfishness, surely a large element of Christian ethics, are divinely sanctioned in savage religion are more potent than the most learned opinion on that side.
Our next step was to examine in detail several religions of the most remote and backward races, of races least contaminated with Christian or Islamite teaching. Our evidence, when possible, was derived from ancient and secret tribal mysteries, and sacred native hymns. We found a relatively Supreme Being, a Maker, sanctioning morality, and unpropitiated by sacrifice, among peoples who go in dread of ghosts and wizards, but do not always worship ancestors. We showed that the anthropological theory of the evolution of God out of ghosts in no way explains the facts in the savage conception of a Supreme Being. We then argued that the notion of 'spirit,' derived from ghost-belief, was not logically needed for the conception of a Supreme Being in its earliest form, was detrimental to the conception, and, by much evidence, was denied to be part of the conception. The Supreme Being, thus regarded, may be (though he cannot historically be shown to be) prior to the first notion of ghost and separable souls.
We then traced the idea of such a Supreme Being through the creeds of races rising in the scale of material culture, demonstrating that he was thrust aside by the competition of ravenous but serviceable ghosts, ghost-gods, and shades of kingly ancestors, with their magic and their bloody rites. These rites and the animistic conception behind them were next, in rare cases, reflected or refracted back on the Supreme Eternal. Aristocratic institutions fostered polytheism with the old Supreme Being obscured, or superseded, or enthroned as Emperor-God, or King-God. We saw how, and in what sense, the old degeneration theory could be defined and defended. We observed traces of degeneration in certain archaic aspects of the faith in Jehovah; and we proved that (given a tolerably pure low savage belief in a Supreme Being) that belief must degenerate, under social conditions, as civilisation advanced. Next, studying what we may call the restoration of Jehovah, under the great Prophets of Israel, we noted that they, and Israel generally, were strangely indifferent to that priceless aspect of Animism, the care for the future happiness, as conditioned by the conduct of the individual soul. That aspect had been neglected neither by the popular instinct nor the priestly and philosophic reflection of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Christianity, last, combined what was good in Animism, the care for the individual soul as an immortal spirit under eternal responsibilities, with the One righteous Eternal of prophetic Israel, and so ended the long, intricate, and mysterious theological education of humanity. Such is our theory, which does not, to us, appear to lack evidence, nor to be inconsistent (as the anthropological theory is apparently inconsistent) with the hypothesis of evolution.
All this, it must be emphatically insisted on, is propounded 'under all reserves.' While these four stages, say (1) the Australian unpropitiated Moral Being, (2) the African neglected Being, still somewhat moral, (3) the relatively Supreme Being involved in human sacrifice, as in Polynesia, and (4) the Moral Being reinstated philosophically, as in Israel, do suggest steps in evolution, we desire to base no hard-and-fast system of ascending and descending degrees upon our present evidence. The real object is to show that facts may be regarded in this light, as well as in the light thrown by the anthropological theory, in the hands whether of Mr. Tylor, Mr. Spencer, M. Reville, or Mr. Jevons, whose interesting work comes nearest to our provisional hypothesis.
We only ask for suspense of judgment, and for hesitation in accepting the dogmas of modern manual makers. An exception to them certainly appears to be Mr. Clodd, if we may safely attribute to him a review (signed C.) of Mr. Grant Allen's 'Evolution of the Idea of God.'
'We fear that all our speculations will remain summaries of probabilities. No documents are extant to enlighten us; we have only mobile, complex and confused ideas, incarnate in eccentric, often contradictory theories. That this character attaches to such ideas should keep us on guard against framing theories whose symmetry is sometimes their condemnation' ('Daily Chronicle,' December 10, 1897).
Nothing excites my own suspicion of my provisional hypothesis more than its symmetry. It really seems to fit the facts, as they appear to me, too neatly. I would suggest, however, that ancient savage sacred hymns, and practices in the mysteries, are really rather of the nature of 'documents;' more so, at least, than the casual observations of some travellers, or the gossip extracted from natives much in contact with Europeans.
Supposing that the arguments in this essay met with some acceptance, what effect would they have, if any, on our thoughts about religion? What is their practical tendency? The least dubious effect would be, I hope, to prevent us from accepting the anthropological theory of religion, or any other theory, as a foregone conclusion, I have tried to show how dim is our knowledge, how weak, often, is our evidence, and that, finding among the lowest savages all the elements of all religions already developed in different degrees, we cannot, historically, say that one is earlier than another. This point of priority we can never historically settle. If we met savages with ghosts and no gods, we could not be sure but that they once possessed a God, and forgot him. If we met savages with a God and no ghosts, we could not be historically certain that a higher had not obliterated a lower creed. For these reasons dogmatic decisions about the origin of religion seem unworthy of science. They will appear yet more futile to any student who goes so far with me as to doubt whether the highest gods of the lowest races could be developed, or can be shown to have been developed, by way of the ghost-theory. To him who reaches this point the whole animistic doctrine of ghosts as the one germ of religion will appear to be imperilled. The main practical result, then, will be hesitation about accepting the latest scientific opinion, even when backed by great names, and published in little primers.
On the hypothesis here offered to criticism there are two chief sources of Religion, (1) the belief, how attained we know not, in a powerful, moral, eternal, omniscient Father and Judge of men; (2) the belief (probably developed out of experiences normal and supernormal) in somewhat of man which may survive the grave. This second belief is not, logically, needed as given material for the first, in its apparently earliest form. It may, for all we know, be the later of the two beliefs, chronologically. But this belief, too, was necessary to religion; first, as finally supplying a formula by which advancing intellects could conceive of the Mighty Being involved in the former creed; next, as elevating man's conception of his own nature. By the second belief he becomes the child of the God in whom, perhaps, he already trusted, and in whom he has his being, a being not destined to perish with the death of the body. Man is thus not only the child but the heir of God, a 'nurseling of immortality,' capable of entering into eternal life. On the moral influence of this belief it is superfluous to dwell.