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But how does it come that men have believed that the soul survives the body and is even able to do so for an indefinite length of time ?

From the analysis which we have made, it is evident that the belief in immortality has not been established under the influence of moral ideas. Men have not imagined the prolongation of their existence beyond the tomb in order that a just retribution for moral acts may be assured in another life, if it fails in this one ; for we have seen that all considerations of this sort are foreign to the primitive conception of the beyond.

Nor is the other hypothesis any better, according to which the other life was imagined as a means of escaping the agonizing prospect of annihilation. In the first place, it is not true that the need of personal survival was actively felt at the beginning. The primitive generally accepts the idea of death with a sort of indifference.  Being trained to count his own individuality for little, and being accustomed to exposing his life constantly, he gives it up easily enough.1 More than that, the immortality promised by the religions he practices is not personal. In a large number of cases, the soul does not continue the personality of the dead man, or does not continue it long, for, forgetful of its previous existence, it goes away, after a while, to animate another body and thus becomes the vivifying principle of a new personality. Even among the most advanced peoples, it was only a pale and sad existence that shades led in Sheol or Erebus, and could hardly attenuate the regrets occasioned by the memories of the life lost.

A more satisfactory explanation is the one attaching the conception of a posthumous life to the experiences of dreams. Our dead friends and relatives reappear to us in dreams : we see them act, we hear them speak ; it is natural to conclude that they continue to exist. But if these observations were able to confirm the idea after it had once been born, they hardly seem capable of creating it out of nothing. Dreams in which we see departed persons living again are too rare and too short and leave only too vague recollections of themselves, to have been able to suggest so important a system of beliefs to men all by themselves. There is a remarkable lack of proportion between the effect and the cause to which it is attributed.

What makes this question embarrassing is the fact that in itself, the idea of the soul does not imply that of its survival, but rather seems to exclude it. In fact, we have seen that the soul, though being distinguished from the body, is believed, nevertheless, to be closely united to it : it ages along with the body, it feels a reaction from all the maladies that fall upon the body ; so it would seem natural that it should die with the body. At least, men ought to have believed that it ceased to exist from the moment when it definitely lost its original form, and when it was no longer what it had been. Yet it is at just this moment that a new life opens out before it.

The myths which we have already described give the only possible explanation of this belief. We have seen that the souls of new-born children are either emanations of the ancestral souls, or these souls themselves reincarnated. But in order that they may either reincarnate themselves, or periodically give off new emanations, they must have survived their first holders. So it seems as though they admitted the survival of the dead in order to explain the birth of the living. The primitive does not have the idea of an all-powerful god who creates souls out of nothing. It seems to him that souls cannot be made except out of souls. So those who are born can only be new forms of those who have been ; consequently, it is necessary that these latter continue to exist in order that others may be born. In fine, the belief in the immortality of the soul is the only way in which men were able to explain a fact which could not fail to attract their attention ; this fact is the perpetuity of the life of the group. Individuals die, but the clan survives. So the forces which give it life must have the same perpetuity. Now these forces are the souls which animate individual bodies ; for it is in them and through them that the group is realized. For this reason, it is necessary that they endure. It is even necessary that in enduring, they remain always the same ; for, as the clan always keeps its

characteristic appearance, the spiritual substance out of which it is made must be thought of as qualitatively invariable. Since it is always the same clan with the same totemic principle, it is necessary that the souls be the same, for souls are only the totemic principle broken up and particularized. Thus there is something like a germinative plasm, of a mystic order, which is transmitted from generation to generation and which makes, or at least is believed to make, the spiritual unity of the clan through all time. And this belief, in spite of its symbolic character, is not without a certain objective truth. For though the group may not be immortal in the absolute sense of the word, still it is true that it endures longer than the individuals and that it is born and incarnated afresh in each new generation.

A fact confirms this interpretation.  We have seen that according to the testimony of Strehlow, the Arunta distinguish two sorts of souls : on the one hand are those of the ancestors of the Alcheringa, on the other, those of the individuals who actually compose the active body of the tribe at each moment in history. The second sort only survive the body for a relatively short time ; they are soon totally annihilated. Only the former are immortal; as they are uncreated, so they do not perish. It is also to be noticed that they are the only ones whose im­mortality is necessary to explain the permanence of the group ; for it is upon them, and upon them alone, that it is incumbent to assure the perpetuity of the clan, for every conception is their work. In this connection, the others have no part to play. So souls are not said to be immortal except in so far as this immortality is useful in rendering intelligible the continuity of the collective life.

Thus the causes leading to the first beliefs in a future life had no connections with the functions to be filled at a later period by the institutions beyond the tomb. But when that had once appeared, they were soon utilized for other purposes besides those which had been their original reasons for existence. Even in the Australian societies, we see them beginning to organize themselves for this other purpose. Moreover, there was no need of any fundamental transformation for this. How true it is that the same social institution can successively fulfil different functions without changing its nature!