« PreviousContinue »
phrase "immortality of the soul" is to he avoided as misleading. It is doubtful how far the lower psychology entertains at all an absolute conception of immortality, for past and future fade soon into utter vagueness as the savage mind quits the present to explore them, the measure of months and years breaks down even within the narrow span of human life, and the survivor's thought of the soul of the departed dwindles and disappears with the personal memory that kept it alive. Even among races who distinctly accept the doctrine of the surviving soul, this acceptance is not unanimous. In savage as in civilized life, dull and careless natures ignore a world to come as too far off, while sceptical intellects are apt to reject its belief as wanting proof, or perhaps at most without closer scrutiny to prize its hope as a good influence in human life. Far from a life after death being held by all men as the destiny of all men, whole classes are formally excluded from it. In the Tonga islands, the future life was a privilege of caste, for while the chiefs and higher orders were to pass in divine ethereality to the happy land of Bolotu, the lower ranks were believed to be endowed only with souls that died with their bodies; and although some of these had the vanity to claim a place in paradise among their betters, the populace in general acquiesced in the extinction of their own plebeian spirits.1 The Nicaraguans believed that if a man lived well, his soul would ascend to dwell among the gods, but if ill, it would perish with the body, and there would be an end of it.2 Granted that the soul survives the death of the body, instance after instance from the records of the lower culture shows this soul to be regarded as a mortal being, liable like the body itself to accident and death. The Greenlanders pitied the poor souls who must pass in winter or in storm the dreadful mountain where the dead descend to reach the other world, for then a soul is like to come to harm, and die the other death where there is nothing left, and this is to them the dolefullest thing of all.1 Tlms the Fijians tell of the fight which the ghost of a departed warrior must wage with the soul-killing Samu and his brethren; this is the contest for which the dead man is armed by burying the war-club with his corpse, and if he conquers, the way is open for him to the judgment-seat of Xdengei, but if he is wounded, his doom is to wander among the mountains, and if killed in the encounter he is cooked and eaten by Samu and his brethren. But the souls of unmarried Fijians will not even survive to stand this wager of battle; such try in vain to steal at low water round to the edge of the reef past the rocks where Nangananga, destroyer of wifeless souls, sits laughing at their hopeless efforts, and asking them if they think the tide will never flow again, till at last the rising flood drives the shivering ghosts to the beach, and Nangananga dashes them in pieces on the great black stone, as one shatters rotten firewood.2 Such, again, were the tales told by the Guinea negroes of the life or death of departed souls. Either the great priest before whom they must appear after death would judge them, sending the good in peace to a happy place, but killing the wicked a second time with the club that stands ready before his dwelling; or else the departed shall be judged by their god at the river of death, to be gently wafted by him to a pleasant land if they have kept feasts and oaths and abstained from forbidden meats, but if not, to be plunged into the river by the god, and thus drowned and buried in eternal oblivion.3 Even common water can drown a negro ghost, if we may believe the story of the Matamba widows having themselves ducked in the river or pond to drown off the souls of their departed husbands, who might still be hanging about them. clinging closest to the best loved wives. After this ceremony, they went and married again.1 From such details it appears that the conception of some souls suffering extinction at death or dying a second death, a thought still as heretofore familiar to speculative theology, is not unknown in the lower culture.
1 Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 136.
* Oviedo, ' Nicaragua,'p. 50. For similar statements, see Martins, 'Ethnog, Amer.' vol. i. p. 247; Smith's 'Virginia' in Pinkerton, voL xiii. p. 41; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 760.
1 Cranz, 'Grbnland,'p. 259.
1 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 244. See 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. iii. p. 113 (Dayaks). Compare wasting and death of souls in depths of Hades, Taylor, •New Zealand,' p. 232.
* Bosman, 'Guinea' in Pinktrton, vol. xvi. p. 401. See also Waits, 'Anthropologic,' vol. ii. p. 191 (W. Afr.) ; Callaway, 'Rel. of Amazulu.' p. 355.
The soul, as recognized in the philosophy of the lower races, may be defined as an ethereal surviving being, conceptions of which preceded and led up to the more transcendental theory of the immaterial and immortal soul, which forms part of the theology of higher nations. It is principally the ethereal surviving soul of early culture that has now to be studied in the religions of savages and barbarians and the folklore of the civilized world. That this soul should be looked on as surviving beyond death is a matter scarcely needing elaborate argument. Plain experience is there to teach it to every savage; his friend or his enemy is dead, yet still in dream or open vision he sees the spectral form which is to his philosophy a real objective being, carrying personality as it carries likeness. Thi«. thought of the soul's continued existence is, however, but the gateway into a complex region of belief. The doctrines which, separate or compounded, make up the scheme of future existence among particular tribes, are principally these: the theories of lingering, wandering, and returning ghosts, and of souls dwelling on or below or above the earth in a spirit-world, where existence is modelled upon the earthly life, or raised to higher glory, or placed under reversed conditions, and lastly, the belief in a division between happiness and misery of departed souls, by a retribution for deeds done in life, determined in a judgment after death.
"All argument is against it; but all belief is for it," said Dr. Johnson of the apparition of departed spirits. The doctrine that ghost-souls of the dead hover among the living is indeed rooted in the lowest levels of savage culture, extends through barbaric life almost without a break, and survives largely and deeply in the midst of civilization. From the myriad details of travellers, missionaries, historians, theologians, spiritualists, it may be laid down as an admitted opinion, as wide in distribution as it is natural in thought, that the two chief hauntinggrounds of the departed soul are the scenes of its fleshly life and the burial place of its body. As in North America the Chickasaws believed that the spirits of the dead in their bodily shape moved about among the living in great joy; as the Aleutian islanders fancied the souls of the departed walking unseen among their kindred, and accompanying them in their journeys by sea and land; as Africans think that souls of the dead dwell in their midst, and eat with them at meal times; as Chinese pay their respects to kindred spirits present in the hall of ancestors;1 so multitudes in Europe and America live in an atmosphere that swarms with ghostly shapes—spirits of the dead, who sit over against the mystic by his midnight fire, rap and write in spiritcircles, and peep over girls' shoulders as they scare themselves into hysterics with ghost-stories. Almost throughout the vast range of animistic religion, we shall find the souls of the departed hospitably entertained by the survivors on set occasions, and manes-worship, so deep and strong among the faiths of the world, recognises with a reverence not without fear and trembling those ancestral spirits which, powerful for good or ill, manifest their presence among mankind. Nevertheless death and life dwell but ill together, and from savagery onward there is recorded many a device by which the survivors have sought to rid themselves of household ghosts. Though the unhappy savage custom of deserting houses after a decease may mostly be connected with other causes, such as horror or abnegation of all things belonging to the dead, there are cases where it appears that the place is simply abandoned to the ghost. In Old Calabar it was customary for the son to leave his father's house to decay, but after two years he might rebuild it, the ghost being thought by that time to have departed;1 the Hottentots abandoned the dead man's house, and were said to avoid entering it lest the ghost should be within;2 the Yakuts let the hut fall in ruins where any one had expired, thinking it the habitation of demons;3 the Karens were said to destroy their villages to escape the dangerous neighbourhood of departed souls.* Such proceedings, however, scarcely extend beyond the limits of savagery, and only a feeble survival of the old thought lingers on into civilization, where from time to time a haunted house is left to fall in ruins, abandoned to a ghostly tenant who cannot keep it in repair. But even in the lowest culture we find flesh holding its own against spirit, and at higher stages the householder rids himself with little scruple of an unwelcome inmate. The Greenlanders would carry the dead out by the window, not b}' the door, while an old woman, waving a firebrand behind, cried "piklerrukpok!" i. e., "there is nothing more to be had here !" B; the Hottentots removed the dead from the hut by an opening broken out on purpose, to prevent him from finding the way back ;6 the Siamese, with the same intention, break an opening through the house wall to carry the coffin through, and then hurry it at full speed thrice round the house;7 the Siberian Chuwashes fling a red-hot stone
1 Oavazzi, Congo, Mntamba, ct Angola,' lil1. i. 270. See also Liebrecht in 'Zeitschr. fur Kthuologie,' vol. v., p. 96, (Tartary, Scandinavia, Greece).
1 Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 310; Bastian, 'Psychologic,' pp. Ill, 1S3; Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. i. p. 235.
1 Bastian, 'Mensch,' voL ii. p. 323.
* Kolli n, p. 579.
• Billings, p. 125.
* Bustian, 'Ocstl. Asien.'vol. i. p. 145; Cross, 1. c., p. 311. For other cases of desertion of dwellings after a death, possibly for the same motive, see Bourien, 'Tribes of Malay Ten.' in 'Tr. Kth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 82; Polack, 'M. of New Zealanders,' vol. i. pp. 204, 216; Steller, 'Kamtschatka,' p. 271. But the Todas say that the buffaloes slaughtered and the hut burnt at the funeral are transferred to the spirit of the deceased in the next world; Shortt in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vii. p. 247. See \Vaitz, vol. iii. p. 199.
• Egede, 'Greenland,' p. 152; Cranz, p. 300.
e Bastian, 'llensch,' vol. it. p. 823; see pp. 829, 863.
7 Bowriug, 'Siam,' vol. i. p. 122; Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien.' vol. iii. p. 258.