« PreviousContinue »
god is also by no means bound fast to his dwelling in the image, he goes out and in, or rather is present in it sometimes with more and sometimes with less intensity.”]
Castrén's wide and careful researches among the rude Turanian tribes of North Asia, led him to form a similar conception of the origin and nature of their idolatry. The idols of these people are uncouth objects, often mere stones or logs with some sort of human countenance, or sometimes more finished images, even of metal; some are large, some mere dolls; they belong to individuals, or families, or tribes; they may be kept in the yurts for private use, or set up in sacred groves or on the steppes or near the hunting and fishing places they preside over, or they may even have special temple-houses; some open-air gods are left naked, not to spoil good clothes, but others under cover are decked out with all an Ostyak's or Samoyed's wealth of scarlet cloths and costly furs, necklaces and trinkets; and lastly, to the idols are made rich offerings of food, clothes, furs, kettles, pipes, and the rest of the inventory of Siberian nomade wealth. Now these idols are not to be taken as mere symbols or portraits of deities, but the worshippers mostly imagine that the deity dwells in the image or, so to speak, is embodied in it, whereby the idol becomes a real god capable of giving health and prosperity to man. On the one hand, the deity becomes serviceable to the worshipper by being thus contained and kept for his use, and on the other hand, the god profits by receiving richer offerings, failing which it would depart from its receptacle. We even hear of numerous spirits being contained in one image, and flying off at the death of the shaman who owned it. In Buddhist Tibet, as in West Africa, the practice of conjuring into puppets the demons which molest men is a recognized rite; while in Siam the making of clay puppets to be exposed on trees or by the roadside, or set adrift with foodofferings in baskets, is a recognized manner of expelling disease-spirits. In the image-worship of modern India, there crop up traces of the embodiment-theory. It is possible for the intelligent Hindu to attach as little real personality to a divine image, as to the man of straw which he makes in order to celebrate the funeral rites of a relative whose body cannot be recovered. He can even protest against being treated as an idolater at all, declaring the images of his gods to be but symbols, bringing to his mind thoughts of the real deities, as a portrait reminds one of a friend no longer to be seen in the body. Yet in the popular religion of his country, what could be more in conformity with the fetish-theory than the practice of making temporary hollow clay idols by tens of thousands, which receive no veneration for themselves, and only become objects of worship when the officiating brahman has invited the deity to dwell in the image, performing the ceremony of the “adhivâsa” or inhabitation, after which he puts in the eyes and the “prâna,” i. e., breath, life, or soul.2
1 Waitz, ' Anthropologie,' vol. ii. p. 183; Denham, "Travels,' vol. i. p. 113; Römer, Guinea ;' Bosman, Guinea,' in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. See also Livingstone, 'S. Afr.' p. 282 (Balouda.)
Nowhere, perhaps, in the wide history of religion, can we find definitions more full and absolute of the theory of deities actually animating their images, than in those passages from early Christian writers which describe the nature and operation of the heathen idols. Arnobius introduces the heathen as declaring that it is not the bronze or gold and silver material they consider to be gods, but they worship in them those beings which sacred dedication introduces, and causes to inhabit the artificial images. Augustine cites as follows the opinions attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. This Egyptian, he tells us, considers some gods as made by the highest Deity, and some by men; "he asserts the visible and tangible images to be as it were bodies of gods, for there are within them certain invited spirits, of some avail for doing harm, or for fulfilling certain desires of those who pay them divine honours and rites of worship. By a certain art to connect these invisible spirits with visible objects of corporeal matter, that such may be as it were animated bodies, effigies dedicate and subservient to the spirits—this is what he calls making gods, and men have received this great and wondrous power." And further, this Trismegistus is made to speak of “statues animated with sense and full of spirit, doing so great things; statues prescient of the future, and predicting it by lots, by priests, by dreams, and by many other ways.”] This idea, as accepted by the early Christians themselves, with the qualification that the spiritual beings inhabiting the idols were not beneficent deities but devils, is explicitly stated by Minucius Felix, in a passage in the Octavius,' which gives an instructive account of the animistic philosophy of Christianity towards the beginning of the third century : “ Thus these impure spirits or demons, as shown by the magi, by the philosophers, and by. Plato, are concealed by consecration in statues and images, and by their afflatus obtain the authority as of a present deity when at times they inspire priests, inhabit temples, occasionally animate the filaments of the entrails, govern the flight of birds, guide the falling of lots, give oracles enveloped in many falsehoods. ... also secretly creeping into (men's) bodies as thin spirits, they feign diseases, terrify minds, distort limbs, in order to compel men to their worship ; that fattening on the steam of altars or their offered victims from the flocks, they may seem to have cured the ailments which they had constrained. And these are the madmen whom ye see rush forth into public places; and the very priests without the temple thus go mad, thus rave, thus whirl about. ... All these things most of you know, how the very demons confess of themselves, so often as they are expelled by us from the patient's bodies with torments of word and fires of prayer. Saturn himself, and Serapis, and Jupiter, and whatsoever demons ye worship, overcome by pain declare what they are; nor surely do they lie concerning their iniquity, above all when several of you are present. Believe these witnesses, confessing the truth of themselves, that they are demons. For adjured by the true and only God, they shudder reluctant in the wretched bodies; and either they issue forth at once, or vanish gradually, according as the faith of the patient aids, or the grace of the curer favours.” 1
i Castrén, Finn. Myth.' p. 193, etc. ; Bastian, “Psych.' p. 34, 208, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 293, 486. See · Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii. p. 350 Chinese.)
3 Max Müller, Chips,' vol. i. p. xvii. ; Ward, “Hindoos,' vol. i. p. 198, vol. ii. p. xxxv. 164, 234, 292, 485.
3 Arnobius Adversus Gentes, vi. 17-19.
1 Augustinus De Civ. Dei,' viji. 23 : "at ille visibilia et contrectabilia simulacra, velut corpora deorum esse asserit ; inesse autem his quosdam spiritus invitatos, etc. . . . . Hos ergo spiritus invisibiles per artem quandam visibilibus rebus corporalis materiæ copulare, ut sint quasi animata corpora, illis spiritibus dicata et subdita simulacra, etc." See also Tertullianus De Spectaculis xii. : “In mortuorum autem idolis dæmonia consistunt, etc."
The strangeness with which such words now fall upon our ears is full of significance. It is one symptom of that vast quiet change which has come over animistic philosophy in the modern educated world. Whole orders of spiritual beings, worshipped in polytheistic religion, and degraded in early Christendom to real but evil demons, have since passed from objective to subjective existence, have faded from the Spiritual into the Ideal. By the operation of similar intellectual changes, the general theory of spiritembodiment, having fulfilled the great work it had for ages to do in religion and philosophy, has now dwindled within the limits of the educated world to near its vanishing-point. The doctrines of Disease-possession and Oracle-possession, once integral parts of the higher philosophy, and still maintaining a vigorous existence in the lower culture, seem to be dying out within the influence of the higher into dogmatic survival, conscious metaphor, and popular superstition. The doctrine of spirit-embodiment in objects, Fetishism, now scarcely appears outside barbaric regions,
? Marcus Minucius Felix, Octavius, cap. xxvii. : “Isti igitur impuri spiritus, dærnones, ut ostensum a magis, a philosophis, et a Platone sub statuis et imaginibus consecrati delitescunt, etc.”
save in the peasant folklore which keeps it up amongst us with so many other remnants of barbaric thought. And the like theory of spiritual influence as applied to Idolatry, though still to be studied among savages and barbarians, and on record in past ages of the civilized world, has perished so utterly amongst ourselves, that few but students are aware of its ever having existed.
To bring home to our minds the vastness of the intellectual tract which separates modern from savage philosophy, and to enable us to look back along the path where step by step the mind's journey was made, it will serve us to glance over the landmarks which language to this day keeps standing. Our modern languages reach back through the middle ages to classic and barbaric times, where in this matter the transition from the crudest primæval animism is quite manifest. We keep in daily use, and turn to modern meaning, old words and idioms which carry us home to the philosophy of ancient days. We talk of “genius” still, but with thought how changed. The genius of Augustus was a tutelary demon, to be sworn by and to receive offerings on an altar as a deity. In modern English, Shakspere, Newton, or Wellington, is said to be led and prompted by his genius, but that genius is a shrivelled philosophic metaphor. So the word “spirit” and its kindred terms keep up with wondrous pertinacity the traces which connect the thought of the savage with its hereditary successor, the thought of the philosopher. Barbaric philosophy retains as real what civilized language has reduced to simile. The Siamese is made drunk with the demon of the arrack that possesses the drinker, while we with so different sense still extract the “ spirit of wine.”] Look at the saying ascribed to Pythagoras, and mentioned by Porphyry. “ The sound indeed which is given by striking brass, is the voice of a certain demon contained in that brass." These might have been the representative words of some savage animistic philo
Bastian, Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 455. See Spiegel, 'Avesta,' vol. ii.