« PreviousContinue »
Doctrine of Soul's Existence after Death ; its main divisions, Transmigration
and Future Life-Transmigration of Souls : re-birth in Human and Animal Bodies, transference to Plants and Objects-Resurrection of Body scarcely held in savage religion-Future Life: a general though not universal doctrine of low races-Continued existence, rather than Immortality ; second death of Soul-Ghost of Dead remains on earth, especially if corpse unburied ; its attachment to bodily remains-Feasts of the Dead.
Having thus traced upward from the lower levels of culture the opinions of mankind as to the souls, spirits, ghosts, or phantoms, considered to belong to men, to the lower animals, to plants, and to things, we are now prepared to investigate one of the great religious doctrines of mankind, the belief in the soul's continued existence in a Life after Death. Here let us once more call to mind the consideration which cannot be too strongly put forward, that the doctrine of a Future Life as held by the lower races is the all but necessary outcome of savage Animism. The evidence that the lower races believe the figures of the dead seen in dreams and visions to be their surviving souls, not only goes far to account for the comparative universality of their belief in the continued existence of the soul after the death of the body, but it gives the key to many of their speculations on the nature of this existence, speculations
rational enough from the savage point of view, though apt to seem far-fetched absurdities to moderns in their much changed intellectual condition. The belief in a Future Life falls into two main divisions. Closely connected and even largely overlapping one another, both world-wide in their distribution, both ranging back in time to periods of unknown antiquity, both deeply rooted in the lowest strata of human life which lie open to our observation, these two doctrines have in the modern world passed into wonderfully different conditions. The one is the theory of the Transmigration of Souls, which has indeed risen from its lower stages to establish itself among the huge religious communities of Asia, great in history, enormous even in present mass, yet arrested and as it seems henceforth unprogressive in development; but the more highly educated world has rejected the ancient belief, and it now only survives in Europe in dwindling remnants. Far different has been the history of the other doctrine, that of the independent existence of the personal soul after the death of the body, in a Future Life. Passing onward through change after change in the condition of the human race, modified and renewed in its long ethnic course, this great belief may be traced from its crude and primitive manifestations among savage races to its establishment in the heart of modern religion, where the faith in a future existence forms at once an inducement to goodness, a sustaining hope through suffering and across the fear of death, and an answer to the perplexed problem of the allotment of happiness and misery in this present world, by the expectation of another world to set this right.
In investigating the doctrine of Transmigration, it will be well first to trace its position among the lower races, and afterwards to follow its developments, so far as they extend in the higher civilization. The temporary migration of souls into material substances, from human bodies down to morsels of wood and stone, is a most important part of the lower psychology. But it does not relate to the continued
existence of the soul after death, and may be more conveniently treated of elsewhere, in connexion with such subjects as dæmoniacal possession and fetish-worship. We are here concerned with the more permanent tenancy of souls for successive lives in successive bodies.
Permanent transition, new birth, or re-incarnation of human souls in other human bodies, is especially considered to take place by the soul of a deceased person animating the body of an infant. North American Indians of the Algonquin districts, when little children died, would bury them by the wayside, that their souls might enter into mothers passing by, and so be born again. In North-West America, among the Tacullis, we hear of direct transfusion of soul by the medicine-man, who, putting his hands on the breast of the dying or dead, then holds them over the head of a relative and blows through them; the next child born to this recipient of the departed soul is animated by it, and takes the rank and name of the deceased. The Nutka Indians not without ingenuity accounted for the existence of a distant tribe speaking the same language as themselves, by declaring them to be the spirits of their dead. In Greenland, where the wretched custom of abandoning and even plundering widows and orphans was tending to bring the whole race to extinction, a helpless widow would seek to persuade some father that the soul of a dead child of his had passed into a living child of hers, or vice versá, thus gaining for herself a new relative and protector. It is mostly ancestral or kindred souls that are thought to enter into children, and this kind of transmigration is therefore from the savage point of view a highly philosophical theory, accounting as it does so well for the general resemblance between parents and children, and even for the more special
| Brebeuf in Rel. des Jés. dans la Nouvelle France,' 1635, p. 130; Charlevoix, ‘Nouvelle France,' vol. vi. p. 75. See Brinton, p. 253.
2 Waitz, vol. iii. p. 195, see pp. 198, 213. 3 Mayne, ‘British Columbia,' p. 181.
4 Cranz, ‘Grönland,' pp. 248, 258, see p. 212. See also Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 353 ; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 793.
phenomena of atavism. In North-West America, among the Koloshes, the mother sees in a dream the deceased relative whose transmitted soul will give his likeness to the child ; and in Vancouver's Island in 1860 a lad was much regarded by the Indians because he had a mark like the scar of a gun-shot wound on his hip, it being believed that a chief dead some four generations before, who had such a mark, had returned. In Old Calabar, if a mother loses a child, and another is born soon after, she thinks the departed one to have come back.3 The Wanika consider that the soul of a dead ancestor animates a child, and this is why it resembles its father or mother; 4 in Guinea a child bearing a strong resemblance, physical or mental, to a dead relative, is supposed to have inherited his soul; 5 and the Yorubas, greeting a new-born infant with the salutation, “Thou art come !” look for signs to show what ancestral soul has returned among them. Among the Khonds of Orissa, births are celebrated by a feast on the seventh day, and the priest, divining by dropping rice-grains in a cup of water, and judging from observations made on the person of the infant, determines which of his progenitors has reappeared, and the child generally at least among the northern tribes receives the name of that ancestor.7 In Europe the Lapps repeat an instructive animistic idea just noticed in America; the future mother was told in a dream what name to give her child, this message being usually given by the very spirit of the deceased ancestor, who was about to be incarnate in her.8 Among the lower races generally the
Bastian, Psychologie,' p. 28. ? Bastian, ‘Zur vergl. Psychologie,’in Lazarus and Steinthal's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. v. p. 160, etc., also Papuas and other races.
3 Burton, 'W. & W. fr. W. Afr.' p. 375. 4 Krapf, 'E. Afr.' p. 201.
5 J. L. Wilson, W. Afr.' p. 210 ; see also R. Clarke, “Sierra Leone,' p. 159"; Burton, Dahome, vol. ii. p. 158.
6 Bastian, I. c.
7 Macpherson, p. 72 ; also Tickell in ‘Journ. As. Soc, Bengal,' vol. ix. pp. 793, etc. ; Dalton in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vi. p. 22 (similar rite of Mundas and Oraons).
& Klemm, .Culturgeschichte,' vol. iii. p. 77.
renewal of old family names by giving them to new-born children may always be suspected of involving some such thought. The following is a curious pair of instances from the two halves of the globe. The New Zealand priest would repeat to the infant a long list of names of its ancestors, fixing upon that name which the child by sneezing or crying when it was uttered, was considered to select for itself; while the Cheremiss Tatar would shake the baby till it cried, and then repeat names to it, till it chose itself one by leaving off crying.
The belief in the new human birth of the departed soul, which has even led West African negroes to commit suicide when in distant slavery, that they may revive in their own land, in fact amounts among several of the lower races to a distinct doctrine of an earthly resurrection. One of the most remarkable forms which this belief assumes is when dark-skinned races, wanting some reasonable theory to account for the appearance among them of human creatures of a new strange sort, the white men, and struck with their pallid deathly hue combined with powers that seem those of superhuman spiritual beings, have determined that the manes of their dead must have come back in this wondrous shape. The aborigines of Australia have expressed this theory in the simple formula, “Blackfellow tumble down, jump up Whitefellow.” Thus a native who was hanged years ago at Melbourne expressed in his last moments the hopeful belief that he would jump up Whitefellow, and have lots of sixpences. The doctrine has been current among them since early days of European intercourse, and in accordance with it they habitually regarded the Englishmen as their own deceased kindred, come back to their country from an attachment to it in a former life. Real or imagined likeness completed the delusion, as when
| A. S. Thomson, New Zealand,' i. 118 ; see Shortland, Traditions,' p. 145; Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 353 ; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 279 ; see also p. 276 (Samoieds). Compire Charlevoix, Nouvelle France,' vol. v. p. 426; Steller, Kaints::hatka,' p. 353 ; Kracheninnikow, p. 117. See Plath, ‘Rel der alten Chinesen,'ii. P. 98.