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Doctrine of Soul's Existence after Death ; its main divisions, Transmigra
tion and Future Life—Transmigration of Souls : re-birth in Human and Animal Bodies, transference to Plants and Objects—Resurrection of Body: scarcely held in savage religion-Future Life: a general if not universal doctrine of low races- - Continued existence, rather than Immortality ; second death of Soul-Ghost of Dead remains on earth, especially if corpse unburied; its attachment to bodily remains-Feasts of the Dead.
HAVING thus traced upward from the lower levels of culture the opinions of mankind as to the souls, spirits, ghosts, or phantoms, considered to belong to men, to the lower animals, to plants, and to things, we are now prepared to investigate one of the great religious doctrines of the world, the belief in the soul's continued existence in a Life after Death. Here let us once more call to mind the consideration which cannot be too strongly put forward, that the doctrine of a Future Life as held by the lower races is the all but necessary outcome of savage Animism. The evidence that the lower races believe the figures of the dead seen in dreams and visions to be their surviving souls, not only goes far to account for the comparative universality of their belief in the continued existence of the soul after the death of the body, but it gives the key to many of their speculations on the nature of this existence, speculations rational enough from the savage point of view, though apt to seem far-fetched absurdities to moderns in their much changed intellectual condition. The belief in a Future Life 1 falls into two main divisions. Closely connected and even largely overlapping one another, both world-wide in their distribution, both ranging back in time to periods of unknown antiquity, both deeply rooted in the lowest strata of human life which lie open to our observation, these two doctrines have in the modern world passed into wonderfully different conditions. The one is the theory of the Transmigration of Souls, which has indeed risen from its lower stages to establish itself among the huge religious communities of Asia, great in history, enormous even in present mass, yet arrested and as it seems henceforth unprogressive in development; but the more highly educated world has rejected the ancient belief, and it now only survives in Europe in dwindling remnants. Far different has been the history of the other doctrine, that of the independent existence of the personal soul after the death of the body, in a Future Life. Passing onward through change after change in the condition of the human race, modified and renewed in its long ethnic course, this great belief may be traced from its crude and primitive manifestations among savage races to its establishment in the heart of modern religion, where the faith in a future existence forms at once an inducement to goodness, a sustaining hope through suffering and across the fear of death, and an answer to the perplexed problem of the allotment of happiness and misery in this present world, by the expectation of another world to set this right.
In investigating the doctrine of Transmigration, it will be well first to trace its position among the lower races, and afterwards to follow its developments, so far as they extend in the higher civilization. The temporary migration of souls into material substances, from human bodies down to morsels of wood and stone, is a most important part of the lower psychology. But it does not relate to the continued
existence of the soul after death, and may be more conveniently treated of elsewhere, in connexion with such subjects as dæmoniacal possession and fetish-worship. We are here concerned with the more permanent tenancy of souls for successive lives in successive bodies.
Permanent transition, new birth, or re-incarnation of human souls in other human bodies, is especially considered to take place by the soul of a deceased person animating the body of an infant. It is recorded by Brebeuf that the Hurons, when little children died, would bury them by the wayside, that their souls might enter into mothers passing by, and so be born again. In North-West America, among the Tacullis, we hear of direct transfusion of soul by the medicine-man, who, putting his hands on the breast of the dying or dead, then holds them over the head of a relative and blows through them; the next child born to this recipient of the departed soul is animated by it, and takes the rank and name of the deceased.2 The Nutka Indians not without ingenuity accounted for the existence of a distant tribe speaking the same language as themselves, by declaring them to be the spirits of their dead.3 In Greenland, where the wretched custom of abandoning and even plundering widows and orphans was tending to bring the whole race to extinction, a helpless widow would seek to persuade some father that the soul of a dead child of his had passed into a living child of hers, or vice versa, thus gaining for herself a new relative and protector. It is mostly ancestral or kindred souls that are thought to enter into children, and this kind of transmigration is therefore from the savage point of view a highly philosophical theory, accounting as it does so well for the general resemblance between parents and children, and even for the more special
1 Brebeuf in ‘Rel. des Jés, dans la Nouvelle France,’1636, p. 130 ; Charlevoix, ‘Nouvelle France,' vol. vi. p. 75. See Brinton, p. 253. 2 Waitz, vol. iii. p. 195, see p. 213. Morse,' Report on Indian Affairs,' p. 345.
Mayne, ‘British Columbia,' p. 181. • Cranz, ‘Grönland,' pp. 248, 258, see p. 212. See also Turner, ' Polynesia,' p. 353; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 793.