« PreviousContinue »
sopher; but with the changed meaning brought by centuries of philosophizing, Oken hit upon a definition almost identical in form, that “What sounds, announces its spirit” (“ Was tönt, gibt seinen Geist kund.”)? What the savage would have meant, or Porphyry after him did mean, was that the brass was actually animated by a spirit of the brass apart from its matter, but when a modern philosopher takes up the old phrase, all he means is the qualities of the brass. As for our own selves and our feelings, we still talk of “animal spirits," of being in “good and bad spirits," only recalling with an effort the long past metaphysics which such words once expressed. The modern theory of the mind considers it capable of performing even exalted and unusual functions without the intervention of prompting or exciting demons; yet the old recognition of such beings crops up here and there in phrases which adapt animistic ideas to commonplaces of human disposition, as when a man is still said to be animated by a patriotic spirit, or possessed by a spirit of disobedience. In old times the évyaotpiuvôos, or “ventriloquus” was really held to have a spirit rumbling or talking from inside his body, as when Eurykles the soothsayer was inspired by such a familiar; or when a certain Patriarch mentioning a demon heard to speak out of a man's belly, remarks on the worthy place it had chosen to dwell in. In the time of Hippokrates, the giving of oracular responses by such ventriloquism was practised by certain women as a profession. To this day in China one may get an oracular response from a spirit apparently talking out of a medium's stomach, for a fee of about twopence-halfpenny. How changed a philosophy it marks, that among ourselves the word “ventriloquist" should have sunk to its present meaning. Nor is that
? Porphyr. de Vita Pythagoræ. Oken, ‘Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie,' 2753. 2 Suidas, s.
v. dggartpluvdos; Isidor. Gloss 8. v. ‘præcantatores ;' Bastian, 'Mensch.' vol. ii. p. 578. Dlaury, ‘Magie,' etc. p. 269. Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. ii. p. 115.
change less significant which, starting with the conception of a man being really čväeos, possessed by a deity within him, carries on a metamorphosed relic of this thorough animnistic thought, from évbovolaouós 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 --Nature-Spirits; 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 worshippeil, directly, or as incarnations or representatives of Deities ; Totem-Worship ; Serpent-WorshipSpecies-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
108. them spiritual beings, elves and gnomes, ghosts and manes 6
, demons and deities, were the living personal causes of universal life. “ The first men found everything easy, the mysteries 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 l'hilosophy 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 natives of Tasmania: “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 the majority were much of the nature and attributes of the goblins and elves of our native land." 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 find 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." 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
Waitz, vol. iii. p. 191. See also J. G. Müller, p. 175. (Antilles Islanders); Brasseur, Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 482.