Page images

«“Απαντι δαίμων ανδρί συμπαρίσταται
Ευθύς γενομένη μυσταγωγός του βίου. .
'Αγαθός: κακόν γάρ δαίμον' ού νομιστέον
Είναι τον βίον βλάπτοντα χρηστόν. Πάντα γάρ
Δεί αγαθόν είναι τόν Θεόν.

Ingrained in the Platonic system, the doctrine has its salient example in the warning spirit which Sokrates felt within him dissuading from wrong. In the Roman world, the doctrine came to be accepted as a philosophy of human life. Each man had his “ genius natalis," associated with him from birth to death, influencing his action and his fate, standing represented by its proper image as a lar among the household gods; and at weddings and joyous times, and especially on the anniversary of the birthday when genius and man began their united career, worship was paid with song and dance to the divine image, adorned with garlands, and propitiated with incense and libations of wine. The demon or genius was, as it were, the man's

companion soul, a second spiritual ego. The Egyptian · astrologer warned Antonius to keep far from the young

Octavius, “ for thy demon," said he, “is in fear of his; and truly in after years that genius of Augustus had become an imperial deity, by whom Romans swore solemn oaths, not to be broken. The doctrine which could thus personify the character and fate of the individual man, proved capable of a yet further development. Converting into animistic entities the inmost operations of the human mind, a dualistic philosophy conceived as attached to every mortal a good and an evil genius, whose efforts through life drew him backward and forward toward virtue and vice, happiness and misery. It was the kakodæmon of Brutus which appeared to him by night in his tent: “I am thy evil genius,” it said, "we meet again at Philippi.” 1 V As we study the shapes which the attendant spirits of the individual man assumed in early and medieval Christendom, it is plain that the good and evil angels contending for man from birth to death, the guardian angel watching and protecting him, the familiar spirit giving occult knowledge or serving with magic art, continue in principle, and even in detail, the philosophy of earlier culture. Such beings even take visible form. St. Frances had a familiar angel, not merely that domestic one that is given as a guardian to every man, but this was as it were a boy of nine years old, with a face more splendid than the sun, clad in a little white tunic; it was in after years that there came to her a second angel, with a column of splendour rising to the sky, and three golden palm-branches in his hands. Or such attendant beings, though invisible, make their presence evident by their actions, as in Calmet's account of that Cistercian monk whose familiar genius waited on him, and used to get his chamber ready when he was coming back from the country, so that people knew when to expect him home. There is a pleasant quaintness in Luther's remark concerning guardian angels, that a prince must have a greater, stronger, wiser angel than a count, and a count than a common man. Bishop Bull, in one of his vigorous sermons, thus sums up a learned argument: “I cannot but judge it highly probable, that every faithful person at least hath his particular good Genius or Angel, appointed by God over him, as the Guardian and Guide of his Life." But he will not insist on the belief, provided that the general ministry of angels be accepted. Swedenborg will go beyond this. “Every man,” he says, “is attended by an associate spirit; for without such an associate, a man would be incapable of thinking analytically, rationally, and spiritually."? Yet in the modern educated world at large, this group of beliefs has passed into the stage of survival. The conception of the good and evil genius contending for man through life, indeed, perhaps never had much beyond the idealistic meaning which art and poetry still give it. The traveller in France may hear in our own day the peasant's salutation, “Bonjour à vous et à votre compagnie !” (i.e., your guardian angel). But at the birthday festivals of English children, how few are even aware of the historical sequence, plain as it is, from the rites of the classic natal genius and the medieval natal saint! Among us, the doctrine of guardian angels is to be found in commentaries, and may be sometimes mentioned in the pulpit; but the once distinct conception of a present guardian spirit, acting on each individual man and interfering with circumstances on his behalf, has all but lost its old reality. The familiar demon which gave occult knowledge and did wicked work for the magician, and sucked blood from miserable hags by witchteats, was two centuries ago as real to the popular mind as the alembic or the black cat with which it was associated. Now, it has been cast down to the limbo of unhallowed superstitions.

i Menander, 205, ap. Clement. Stromat. v. Xenophon, Memorab. Seo Plotin. Ennead, iii. 4 ; Porphyr. Plotin.

· Paulus Diaconns : Genium appellant Deum, qui vim obtineret rerum omnium generandarum.Censorin. de Die Natali, 3 : “Euudem esse genium et multi veteres memoriæ prodiderunt.” Tibull. Eleg. i. 2, 7; Ov Trist. iii. 13, 18, v. 5, 10; Horat. Epist. ii. 1, 140, Od. iv. 11, 7. Appian. de Bellis Parth. p. 156. Tertullian. Apol. xxiii.

Serv. in Virg. Æn. vi. 743 : “Cum nascimur, duos genios sortimur : 'unus hortatur ad bona, alter depravat ad mala, quibus assistentibus post mortem aut asserimur in meliorem vitam, aut condemnamur in deteriorem.” Horat. Epist. ii. 187; Valer. Max. i. 7; Plutarch. Brutus. See Pauly, “RealEncyclop. ;' Smith's 'Dic. of Biog. & Myth.'s. v. ‘genius.'

? Acta Sanctorum Bolland: S. Francisca Romana ix. Mart. Calmet, ‘Dissertation,' ch. iv. xxx. ; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 140, 347, vol. ii. p. 10; Wright, St. Patrick's Purgatory,' p. 33.

3 Rochholz, p. 93.

To turn from Man to Nature. General mention has been made already of the local spirits which belong to mountain and rock and valley, to well and stream and lake, in brief to those natural objects and places which in early ages aroused the savage mind to mythological ideas, such as modern poets in their altered intellectual atmosphere strive to reproduce. In discussing these imaginary beings, it is above all things needful to bring our minds into sympathy with the lower philosophy. Here we must seek to realize to the utmost the definition of the Nature Spirits, to understand with what distinct and full conviction savage philosophy believes in their reality, to discern how, as living causes, they filled their places and did their daily work in the natural philosophy of primæval man. Seeing how the Iroquois at their festivals could thank the invisible aids or good spirits, and with them the trees, shrubs, and plants, the springs and streams, the fire and wind, the sun, moon, and stars—in a word, every object that ministered to their wants—we may judge what real personality they attached to the myriad spirits which gave animated life to the world around them.' The Gold Coast negro's generic name for a fetish-spirit is “wong;” these aerial beings dwell in temple-huts and consume sacrifices, enter into and inspire their priests, cause health and sickness among men, and execute the behests of the mighty Heaven-god. But part or all of them are connected with material objects, and the negro can say, “In this river, or tree, or amulet, there is a wong.” But he more usually says, “ This river, or tree, or amulet is a wong.” Thus among the wongs of the land are rivers, lakes, and springs, districts of land, termitehills, trees, crocodiles, apes, snakes, birds, and so on. In a word, his conceptions of animating souls and presiding spirits as efficient causes of all nature are two groups of ideas which we may well find it hard to distinguish, for the sufficient reason that they are but varying developments of the same fundamental animism.

1 Bull, ‘Sermons,' 2nd Ed. London, 1714, vol. ii. p. 506.

Swedenborg, True Christian Religion,' 380. See also A. J. Davis, Philosophy of Spiritual Intercourse,' p. 38.

3 D. Monnier, ‘Traditions Populaires,' p. 7.

In the doctrine of nature-spirits among nations which have reached a higher grade of culture, we find at once traces of such primitive thought, and of its change under new intellectual conditions. Knowing the thoughts of rude Turanian tribes of Siberia as to pervading spirits of nature, we are prepared to look for re-modelled ideas of the same class among a nation whose religion shows plain traces of evolution from the low Turanian stage. The archaic system of manes-worship and nature-worship, which survives as the state religion of China, fully recognizes the worship of the numberless spirits which pervade the universe. The belief in their personality is vouched for by the sacrifices offered to them. “One must sacrifice to the spirits," says Confucius, “as though they were present at the sacrifice." At the same time, spirits were conceived as embodied in material objects. Confucius says, again : “ The action of the spirits, how perfect is it! Thou perceivest it, and yet seest it not! Incorporated or immembered in things, they cannot quit them. They cause men, clean and pure and better clothed, to bring them sacrifice. Many, many, are there of them, as the broad sea, as though they were above and right and left.” Here are traces of such a primitive doctrine of personal and embodied nature-spirits, as is still at home in the religion of rude Siberian hordes. But it was natural that Chinese philosophers should find means of refining into mere ideality these ruder animistic creations. Spirit (shin), they tell us, is the fine or tender part in all the ten thousand things; all that is extraordinary or supernatural is called spirit; the unsearchable of the male and female principles is called spirit; he who knows the way of passing away and coming to be, he knows the working of spirit.

IL. H. Morgan, Iroquois,' p. 64. Brebeuf in Rel. des Jes.' 1636, p. 107. See Schoolcraft, Tribes,' vol. iii. p. 337.

2 Steinhauser, ‘Religion des Negers,' in Magazin der Evang. Missionen,' Basel, 1856; No. 2, p. 127, etc.

The classic Greeks had inherited from their barbaric ancestors a doctrine of the universe essentially similar to that of the North American Indian, the West African, and the Siberian. We know, more intimately than the heathen religion of our own land, the ancient Greek scheme of nature-spirits impelling and directing by their personal power and will the functions of the universe; the ancient

1 Plath, ‘Religion der Alten Chinesen,' part i. p. 44.

« PreviousContinue »