« PreviousContinue »
change less significant which, starting with the conception of a man being really švdeos, possessed by a deity within him, carries on a metamorphosed relic of this thorough animistic thought, from évO ovo lao uós to 'enthusiasm.' With all this, let it not be supposed that such change of opinion in the educated world has come about through wanton incredulity or decay of the religious temperament. Its source is the alteration in natural science, assigning new causes for the operations of nature and the events of life. The theory of the immediate action of personal spirits has here, as so widely elsewhere, given place to ideas of force and law. No indwelling deity now regulates the life of the burning sun, no guardian angels drive the stars across the arching firmament, the divine Ganges is water flowing down into the sea to evaporate into cloud and descend again in rain. No deity simmers in the boiling pot, no presiding spirits dwell in the volcano, no howling demon shrieks from the mouth of the lunatic. There was a period of human thought when the whole universe seemed actuated by spiritual life. For our knowledge of our own history, it is deeply interesting that there should remain rude races yet living under the philosophy which we have so far passed from, since Physics, Chemistry, Biology, have seized whole provinces of the ancient Animism, setting force for life and law for will.
Spirits regarded as personal causes of Phenomena of the World-Pervading
Spirits as good and evil Demons affecting man-Spirits manifest in Dreams and Visions : Nightmares ; Incubi and Succubi ; Vampires ; Visionary Demons-Demons of darkness repelled by fire-Demons otherwise manifest: seen by animals ; detected by footprints—Spirits conceived and treated as material-Guardian and Familiar Spirits-NatureSpirits ; historical course of the doctrine-Spirits of Volcanos, Whirlpools, Rocks-Water-Worship: Spirits of Wells, Streams, Lakes, &c. Tree-Worship: Spirits embodied in or inhabiting Trees ; Spirits of Groves and Forests—Animal-Worship: Animals worshipped, directly, or as incarnations or representatives of Deities ; Totem-Worship ; SerpentWorship-Species-Deities; their relation to Archetypal Ideas.
We have now to enter on the final topic of the investigation of Animism, by completing the classified survey of spiritual beings in general, from the myriad souls, elves, fairies, genii, conceived as filling their multifarious offices in man's life and the world's, up to the deities who reign, few and mighty, over the spiritual hierarchy. In spite of endless diversity of detail, the general principles of this investigation seem comparatively easy of access to the enquirer, if he will use the two keys which the foregoing studies supply: first, that spiritual beings are modelled by man on his primary conception of his own human soul, and second, that their purpose is to explain nature on the primitive childlike theory that it is truly and throughout 'Animated Nature.' If, as the poet says, “Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,' then rude tribes of ancient men had within them this source of happiness, that they could explain to their own content the causes of things. For to
them spiritual beings, elves and gnomes, ghosts and manes, demons and deities, were the living personal causes of universal life. The first men found everything easy, the mysteries of nature were not so hidden from them as from us,' said Jacob Böhme the mystic. True, we may well answer, if these primitive men believed in that animistic philosophy of nature which even now survives in the savage mind. They could ascribe to kind or hostile spirits all good and evil of their own lives, and all striking operations of nature; they lived in familiar intercourse with the living and powerful souls of their dead ancestors, with the spirits of the stream and grove, plain and mountain, they knew well the living mighty Sun pouring his beams of light and heat upon them, the living mighty Sea dashing her fierce billows on the shore, the great personal Heaven and Earth protecting and producing all things. For as the human body was held to live and act by virtue of its own inhabiting spirit-soul, so the operations of the world seemed to be carried on by the influence of other spirits. And thus Animism, starting as a philosophy of human life, extended and expanded itself till it became a philosophy of nature at large.
To the minds of the lower races it seems that all nature is possessed, pervaded, crowded, with spiritual beings. In seeking by a few types to give an idea of this conception of pervading Spirits in its savage and barbaric stage, it is not indeed possible to draw an absolute line of separation between spirits occupied in affecting for good and ill the life of Man, and spirits specially concerned in carrying on the operations of Nature. In fact these two classes of spiritual beings blend into one another as inextricably as do the original animistic doctrines they are based on. As, however, the spirits considered directly to affect the life and fortune of Man lie closest to the centre of the animistic scheme, it is well to give them precedence. The description and function of these beings extend upwards from among the rudest human tribes. Milligan writes of the Tasmanians: 'They were
polytheists; that is, they believed in guardian angels or spirits, and in a plurality of powerful but generally evildisposed beings, inhabiting crevices and caverns of rocky mountains, and making temporary abode in hollow trees and solitary valleys; of these a few were supposed to be of great power, while to the majority were imputed much of the nature and attributes of the goblins and elves of our native land.'1 Oldfield writes of the aborigines of Australia, 'The number of supernatural beings, feared if not loved, that they acknowledge, is exceedingly great; for not only are the heavens peopled with such, but the whole face of the country swarms with them; every thicket, most watering-places, and all rocky places abound with evil spirits. In like manner, every natural phenomenon is believed to be the work of demons, none of which seem of a benign nature, one and all apparently striving to do all imaginable mischief to the poor black fellow.'? It must be indeed an unhappy race among whom such a demonology could shape itself, and it is a relief to find that other people of low culture, while recognizing the same spiritual world swarming about them, do not hold its main attribute to be spite against themselves. Among the Algonquin Indians of North America, Schoolcraft finds the very groundwork of their religion in the belief that the whole visible and invisible creation is animated with various orders of malignant or benign spirits, who preside over the daily affairs and over the final destinies of men.'3 Among the Khonds of Orissa, Macpherson describes the greater gods and tribal manes, and below these the order of minor and local deities: “They are the tutelary gods of every spot on earth, having power over the functions of nature which operate there, and over everything relating to human life in it. Their number is
1 F. R. Nixon, 'Cruise of the Beacon ’; Bonwick, p. 182. 2 Oldfield in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 228.
3 Schoolcraft, ‘Algic Res.' vol. i. p. 41. 'Indian Tribes,' vol. iii. p. 327. Waitz, vol. iii. p. 191. See also J. G. Müller, p. 175. (Antilles Islanders); Brasseur, ‘Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 482.
unlimited. They fill all nature, in which no power or object, from the sea to the clods of the field, is without its deity. They are the guardians of hills, groves, streams, fountains, paths, and hamlets, and are cognizant of every human action, want, and interest in the locality, where they preside.'1 Describing the animistic mythology of the Turanian tribes of Asia and Europe, Castrén has said that every land, mountain, rock, river, brook, spring, tree, or whatsoever it may be, has a spirit for an inhabitant; the spirits of the trees and stones, of the lakes and brooks, hear with pleasure the wild man's pious prayers and accept his offerings. Such are the conceptions of the Guinea negro, who finds the abodes of his good and evil spirits in great rocks, hollow trees, mountains, deep rivers, dense groves, echoing caverns, and who passing silently by these sacred places leaves some offering, if it be but a leaf or a shell picked up on the beach.3 Such are examples which not unfairly picture the belief of the lower races in a world of spirits on earth, and such descriptions apply to the state of men's minds along the course of civilization.
The doctrine of ancient philosophers such as Philo4 and Iamblichus, of spiritual beings swarming through the atmosphere we breathe, was carried on and developed in special directions in the discussions concerning the nature and functions of the world-pervading host of angels and devils, in the writings of the early Christian Fathers. Theologians of modern centuries have for the most part seen reason to reduce within comparatively narrow limits the action ascribed to external spiritual beings on mankind;
1 Macpherson, ‘India,' p. 90. See also Cross, “Karens,' in ‘Journ. Amer. Or. Soc.' vol. iv. p. 315; Williams, “Fiji,' vol. i. p. 239.
2 Castrén, ‘Finn. Myth.' p. 114, 182, &c.
6 Collected passages in Calmet, 'Diss. sur les Esprits '; Horst, 'Zauber. Bibliothek,' vol. ii. p. 263, &c. ; vol. vi. p. 49, &c. ; see Migne’s Dictionaries.