« PreviousContinue »
nexion of theology and morality is a fixed idea in many minds. But it is one of the lessons of history that subjects may maintain themselves independently for ages, till the event of coalescence takes place. In the course of history, religion has in various ways attached to itself matters small and great outside its central scheme, such as prohibition of special meats, observance of special days, regulation of marriage as to kinship, division of society into castes, ordinance of social law and civil government. Looking at religion from a political point of view, as a practical influence on human society, it is clear that among its greatest powers has been its divine sanction of ethical laws, its theological enforcement of morality, its teaching of moral government of the universe, its supplanting the “continuance-doctrine" of a future life by the “retribution-doctrine ” supplying moral motive in the present. But such alliance belongs almost wholly to religions above the savage level, not to the earlier and lower creeds. It will aid us to see how much more the fruit of religion belongs to ethical influence than to philosophical dogma, if we consider how the introduction of the moral element separates the religions of the world, united as they are throughout by one animistic principle, into two great classes, those lower systems whose best result is to supply a crude childlike natural philosophy, and those higher faiths which implant on this the law of righteousness and of holiness, the inspiration of duty and of love.
RITES AND CEREMONIES.
Religious Rites : their purpose practical or symbolic--Prayer : its continuity
from low to high levels of Culture ; its lower phases Unethical ; its higher phases Ethical —Sacrifico : its original Gift-theory passes into the Homagetheory and the Abnegation-theory-Manner of reception of Sacrifice by Deity-Material Transfer to elements, fetish-animals, priests; consunption of substance by deity or idol ; offering of blood ; transmission by
incense-Essential Transfer : consumption of essence, savour, etc. -Spiritual Transfer: consumption or transmission of soul of offeringMotive of Sacrificer-Transition from Gift-theory to Homage theory : insignificant and formal offerings; sacrificial banquets-Abnegation theory ; sacrifice of children, etc.—Sacrifice of Substitutes ; part given for whole ; inferior life for superior ; effigies—Modern survival of Sacrifice in folklore and religion-Fasting, as a means of producing ecstatic vision ; its course from lower to higher Culture—Drugs used to produce ecstasy-Swoons and fits induced for religious purposes-Orientation : its relation to Sun-myth and Sun-Worship ; rules of East and West as to burial of dead, position of worship, and structure of temple-Lustration by Water and Fire : its transition from material to symbolic purification ; its connexion with special events of life ; its appearance among the lower races—Lustration of new-born children ; of women ; of those polluted by bloodshed or the dead-Lustration continued at higher levels of Culture - Conclusion.
RELIGIOUS rites fall theoretically into two divisions, though these blend in practice. In part, they are expressive and symbolic performances, the dramatic utterance of religious thought, the gesture-language of theology. In part, they are means of intercourse with and influence on spiritual beings, and as such, their intention is as directly practical as any chemical or mechanical process, for doctrine and worship correlate as theory and practice. In the science of religion, the study of ceremony has its
strong and weak sides. On the one hand, it is generally easier to obtain accurate accounts of ceremonies by eyewitnesses, than anything like trustworthy and intelligible statements of doctrine ; so that very much of our knowledge of religion in the savage and barbaric world consists in acquaintance with its ceremonies. It is also true that some religious ceremonies are marvels of permanence, holding substantially the same form and meaning through age after age, and far beyond the range of historic record. On the other hand, the signification of ceremonies is not to be rashly decided on by mere inspection. In the long and varied course in which religion has adapted itself to new intellectual and moral conditions, one of the most marked processes has affected time-honoured religious customs, whose form has been faithfully and even servilely kept up, while their nature has often undergone transformation. In the religions of the great nations, the natural difficulty of following these changes has been added to by the sacerdotal tendency to ignore and obliterate traces of the inevitable change of religion from age to age, and to convert into mysteries ancient rites whose real barbaric meaning is too far out of harmony with the spirit of a later time. The embarrassments, however, which beset the inquirer into the ceremonies of a single religion, diminish in a larger comparative study. The ethnographer who brings together examples of a ceremony from different stages of culture can often give a more rational account of it, than the priest, to whom a special signification, sometimes very unlike the original one, has become matter of orthodoxy. As a contribution to the theory of religion, with especial view to its lower phases as explanatory of the higher, I have here selected for ethnographic discussion a group of sacred rites, each in its way full of instruction, different as these ways are.
All have early place and rudimentary meaning in savage culture, all belong to barbaric ages, all have their representatives within the limits of modern Christendom. They are the rites of Prayer, Sacrifice,
Fasting and other methods of Artificial Ecstasy, Orientation, Lustration.
Prayer, “the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed," is the address of personal spirit to personal spirit. So far as it is actually addressed to disembodied or deified human souls, it is simply an extension of the daily intercourse between man and man; while the worshipper who looks up to other divine beings, spiritual after the nature of his own spirit, though of place and power in the universe far beyond his own, still has his mind in a state where. prayer is a reasonable and practical act. So simple and familiar indeed is the nature of prayer, that its study does not demand that detail of fact and argument which must be given to rites in comparison practically insignificant. It is not indeed to be claimed as an immediate or necessary outcome of animistic belief, for especially at low levels of civilization there are many races who distinctly admit the existence of spirits, but are not certainly known to pray to them even in thought. Beyond this lower level, however, animism and prayer become more and more nearly conterminous; and a view of their relation in their earlier stages may be easiest and best gained from a selection of actual prayers taken down word for word, within the limits of savage and barbaric life. These agree with an opinion that prayer appeared in the religion of the lower culture, but that in this its earlier stage it was unethical. The accomplishment of desire is asked for, but desire is as yet limited to personal advantage. It is at later and higher moral levels, that the worshipper begins to add to his entreaty for prosperity the claim for help toward virtue and against vice, and prayer becomes an instrument of morality.
In the Papuan Island of Tanna, where the gods are the spirits of departed ancestors, and preside over the growth of fruits, a prayer after the offering of first-fruits is spoken aloud by the chief who acts as high priest to the silent assembly : “ Compassionate father ! Here is some food for you; eat it; be kind to us on account of it !” Then
all shout together. In the Samoan Islands, when the libation of ava was poured out at the evening meal, the head of the family prayed thus :
“ Here is ava for you, O gods! Look kindly towards this family: let it prosper and increase ; and let us all be kept in health. Let our plantations be productive; let food grow; and may there be abundance of food for us, your creatures. Here is ava for you, our war gods ! Let there be a strong and numerous people for you in this land.
“Here is ava for you, O sailing gods (gods who come in Tongan canoes and foreign vessels). Do not come on shore at this place; but be pleased to depart along the ocean to some other land.” ?
Among the Indians of North America, the Sioux will say, “Spirits of the dead, have mercy on me! ”then they will add what they want, if good weather they say so, if good luck in hunting, they say so.3 Among the Osages, prayers used not long since to be offered at daybreak to Wohkonda, the Master of Life. The devotee retired a little from the camp or company, and with affected or real weeping, in loud uncouth voice of plaintive piteous tone, howled such prayers as these :-“Wohkonda, pity me, I am very poor; give me what I need; give me success against mine enemies, that I may avenge the death of my friends. May I be able to take scalps, to take horses ! &c.” Such prayers might or might not have allusion to some deceased relative or friend.* How an Algonquin Indian undertakes a dangerous voyage, we may judge from John Tanner's account of a fleet of frail Indian bark canoes setting out at dawn one calm morning on Lake Superior. We had proceeded, he writes, about two hundred yards into the lake, when the canoes all stopped together, and the chief, in a very loud voice, addressed a prayer to the Great Spirit, entreating him to give us a good look to cross the lake. “You,” said he,
'Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 88; see p. 427.
. Ibid. p. 200 ; see 174. See also Ellis, 'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 343. Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 235.
3 Schoolcraft, ‘Ind. Tribes,' part iii. p. 237. 4 M'Coy, 'Baptist Indian Missions,' p. 359.