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Animism, expanding from the Doctrine of Souls to the wider Doctrine of
Spirits, becomes a complete Philosophy of Natural Religion-- Definition of Spirits similar to and apparently modelled on that of Souls, Transition stage : classes of Souls passing into good and evil Demons-ManesWorship-Doctrine of Embodiment of Spirits in human, animal, vege. table, and inert bodies--Demoniacal Possession and Obsession as causes of Disease and Oracle-inspiration-Fetishism—Disease-spirits embodied --Ghost attached to remains of Corpse-- Fetish produced by a Spirit embodied in, attached to, or operating through, an Object-Analogues of Fetish-doctrine in Modern Science ---Stock-and-Stone WorshipIdolatry-Survival of Animistic Phraseology in modern LanguageDecline of Animistic theory of Nature.
The general scheme of Animism, of which the doctrine of
outer-world, were accounted for as caused by soul-like beings, spirits whose essential similarity of origin is evident through all their wondrous variety of power and function. Much that the primitive animistic view thus explains, has been indeed given over by more advanced education to the 'metaphysical' and 'positive' stages of thought. Yet animism is still plainly to be traced onward from the intellectual state of the lower races, along the course of the higher culture, whether its doctrines have been continued and modified into the accepted philosophy of religion, or whether they have dwindled into mere survivals in popular superstition. Though all I here undertake is to sketch in outline such features of this spiritualistic philosophy as I can see plainly enough to draw at all, scarcely attempting to clear away the haze that covers great parts of the subject, yet even so much as I venture on is a hard task, made yet harder by the responsibility attaching to it. For it appears that to follow the course of animism on from its more primitive stages, is to account for much of mediæval and modern opinion whose meaning and reason could hardly be comprehended without the aid of a development-theory of culture, taking in the various processes of new formation, abolition, survival, and revival. Thus even the despised ideas of savage races become a practically important topic to the modern world, for here, as usual, whatever bears on the origin of philosophic opinion, bears also on its validity.
At this point of the investigation, we come fully into sight of the principle which has been all along implied in the use of the word Animism, in a sense beyond its narrower meaning of the doctrine of souls. By using it to express the doctrine of spirits generally, it is practically asserted that the idea of souls, demons, deities, and any other classes of spiritual beings, are conceptions of similar nature throughout, the conceptions of souls being the original ones of the series. It was best, from this point of view, to begin with a careful study of souls, which are the spirits proper to men,
animals, and things, before extending the survey of the spirit-world to its fullest range. If it be admitted that souls and other spiritual beings are conceived of as essentially similar in their nature, it may be reasonably argued that the class of conceptions based on evidence most direct and accessible to ancient men, is the earlier and fundamental class. To grant this, is in effect to agree that the doctrine of souls, founded on the natural perceptions of primitive man, gave rise to the doctrine of spirits, which extends and modifies its general theory for new purposes, but in developments less authenticated and consistent, more fanciful and far-fetched. It seems as though the conception of a human soul, when once attained to by man, served as a type or model on which he framed not only his ideas of other souls of lower grade, but also his ideas of spiritual beings in general, from the tiniest elf that sports in the long grass up to the heavenly Creator and Ruler of the world, the Great Spirit.
The doctrines of the lower races fully justify us in classing their spiritual beings in general as similar in nature to the souls of men. It will be incidentally shown here, again and again, that souls have the same qualities attributed to them as other spirits, are treated in like fashion, and pass without distinct breaks into every part of the general spiritual definition. The similar nature of soul and other spirit is, in fact, one of the commonplaces of animism, from its rudest to its most cultured stages. It ranges from the native New Zealanders' and West Indians' conceptions of the 'atua' and the cemi,' beings which require special definition to show whether they are human souls or demons or deities of some other class, and so onward to the declaration of Philo Judæus, that souls, demons, and angels differ indeed in name, but are in reality one, and to the state of mind of the modern Roman Catholic priest, who is
See Taylor, ‘New Zealand,' p. 134 ; J. G. Müller, ‘Amerikanische Urreligionen,' p. 171.
· Philo Jud. de Gigantibus, iv.
cautioned in the rubric concerning the examination of a possessed patient, not to believe the demon if he pretends to be the soul of some saint or deceased person, or a good angel (neque ei credatur, si dæmon simularet se esse animam alicujus Sancti, vel defuncti, vel Angelum bonum). Nothing can bring more broadly into view the similar nature of souls and other spiritual beings than the existence of a full transitional series of ideas. Souls of dead men are in fact considered as actually forming one of the most important classes of demons and deities.
It is quite usual for savage tribes to live in terror of the souls of the dead as harmful spirits. Thus Australians have been known to consider the ghosts of the unburied dead as becoming malignant demons. New Zealanders have supposed the souls of their dead to become so changed in nature as to be malignant to their nearest and dearest friends in life ;3 the Caribs said that, of man's various souls, some go to the seashore and capsize boats, others to the forest to be evil spirits ;4 among the Sioux Indians the fear of a ghost's vengeance has been found to act as a check on murder ;5 of some tribes in Central Africa it may be said that their main religious doctrine is the belief in ghosts, and that the main characteristic of these ghosts is to do harm to the living. The Patagonians lived in terror of the souls of their wizards, which become evil demons after death ;? Turanian tribes of North Asia fear their shamans even more when dead than when alive, for they become a special class of spirits who are the hurtfullest in all nature, and who among the Mongols plague the living on
i Rituale Romanum : De Exorcizandis Obsessis a Dæmonio.
? Oldfield, 'Abor. of Australia' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 236. See Bonwick, “Tasmanians,' p. 181.
3 Taylor, ‘New Zealand,' p. 104. 4 Rochefort, 'Iles Antilles,' p. 429. 5 Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part ii. p. 195; M. Eastman, 'Dahcotah,'
6 Burton, ‘Central Afr.' vol. ii. p. 344 ; Schlegel, 'Ewe-Sprache,' p. xxv. 7 Falkner, ‘Patagonia,' p. 116 ; but cf. Musters, p. 180.
purpose to make them bring offerings. In China it is held that the multitudes of wretched destitute spirits in the world below, such as souls of lepers and beggars, can sorely annoy the living; therefore at certain times they are to be appeased with offerings of food, scant and beggarly; and a man who feels unwell, or fears a mishap in business, will prudently have some mock-clothing and mock-money burnt for these 'gentlemen of the lower regions.' Notions of this sort are widely prevalent in Indo-China and India ; whole orders of demons there were formerly human souls, especially of people left unburied or slain by plague or violence, of bachelors or of women who died in childbirth, and who henceforth wreak their vengeance on the living. They may, however, be propitiated by temples and offerings, and thus have become in fact a regular class of local deities. Among them may be counted the diabolic soul of a certain wicked British officer, whom native worshippers in the Tinnevelly district still propitiate by offering at his grave the brandy and cheroots he loved in life.* India even carries theory into practice by an actual manufacture of demons, as witness the two following accounts. A certain brahman, on whose lands a kshatriya raja had built a house, ripped himself up in revenge, and became a demon of the kind called brahmadasyu, who has been ever since the terror of the whole country, and is the most common village deity in Kharakpur. Toward the close of the last century there were two brahmans, out of whose house a man had wrongfully, as they thought, taken forty rupees; whereupon one of the brahmans proceeded to cut off his own mother's
1 Castrén, 'Finn. Myth.' p. 122.
3 Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. pp. 729, 416 ; vol. iii. pp. 29, 257, 278; *Psychologie,' pp. 77, 99 ; Cross, “Karens,' 1.c. p. 316; Elliot in 'Journ. Eth. Soc.' vol. i. p. 115 ; Buchanan, 'Mysore, &c.,' in Pinkerton, vol. viii.
4 Shortt, 'Tribes of India,' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vii. p. 192 ; Tinling, 'Tour round India,' p. 19.
5 Bastian, “Psychologie, p. 101.