I.—Animism

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ARMED with  this definition, we are now able to set out in search of this elementary religion which we propose to study.

Even the crudest religions with which history and ethnology make us acquainted are already of a complexity which corre­sponds badly with the idea sometimes held of primitive mentality. One finds there not only a confused system of beliefs and rites, but also such a plurality of different principles, and such a richness of essential notions, that it seems impossible to see in them anything but the late product of a rather long evolution. Hence it has been concluded that to discover the truly original form of the religious life, it is necessary to descend by analysis beyond these observable religions, to resolve them into their common and fundamental elements, and then to seek among these latter some one from which the others were derived.

To the problem thus stated, two contrary solutions have been given.

There is no religious system, ancient or recent, where one does not meet, under different forms, two religions, as it were, side by side, which, though being united closely and mutually penetrating each other, do not cease, nevertheless, to be dis­tinct. The one addresses itself to the phenomena of nature, either the great cosmic forces, such as winds, rivers, stars or the sky, etc., or else the objects of various sorts which cover the surface of the earth, such as plants, animals, rocks, etc. ; for this reason it has been given the name of naturism. The other has spiritual beings as its object, spirits, souls, geniuses, demons, divinities properly so-called, animated and conscious agents like man, but distinguished from him, nevertheless, by the nature of their powers and especially by the peculiar characteristic that they do not affect the senses in the same way : ordinarily they are not visible to human eyes. This religion of spirits is called animism. Now, to explain the universal co-existence of

these two sorts of cults, two contradictory theories liave been proposed. For some, animism is the primitive religion, of which naturism is only a secondary and derived form. For the others, on the contrary, it is the nature cult which was the point of departure for religious evolution ; the cult of spirits is only a peculiar case of that.

These two theories are, up to the present, the only ones by which the attempt has been made to explain rationally1 the origins of religious thought. Thus the capital problem raised by the history of religions is generally reduced to asking which of these two solutions should be chosen, or whether it is not better to combine them, and in that case, what place must be given to each of the two elements.2 Even those scholars who do not admit either of these hypotheses in their systematic form, do not refuse to retain certain propositions upon which they rest.3 Thus we have a certain number of theories already made, which must be submitted to criticism before we take up the study of the facts for ourselves. It will be better understood how in­dispensable it is to attempt a new one, when we have seen the insufficiency of these traditional conceptions.

It is Tyior who formed the animist theory in its essential outlines.4 Spencer, who took it up after him, did not reproduce it without introducing certain modifications.5 But in general the questions are posed by each in the same terms, and the solutions accepted are, with a single exception, identically the same. Therefore we can unite these two doctrines in the exposi­tion which follows, if we mark, at the proper moment, the place where the two diverge from one another.

In order to find the elementary form of the religious life in these animistic beliefs and practices, three desiderata must be satisfied : first, since according to this hypothesis, the idea of the soul is the cardinal idea of religion, it must be shown how this is formed without taking any of its elements from an anterior religion ; secondly, it must be made clear how souls become the object of a cult and are transformed into spirits ; and thirdly and finally, since the cult of these spirits is not all of any religion, it remains to be explained how the cult of nature is derived from it.

According to this theory, the idea of the soul was first suggested to men by the badly understood spectacle of the double life they ordinarily lead, on the one hand, when awake, on the other. when asleep. In fact, for the savage,1 the mental representa­tions which he has while awake and those of his dreams are said to be of the same value : he objectifies the second like the first, that is to say, that he sees in them the images of external objects whose appearance they more or less accurately reproduce. So when he dreams that he has visited a distant country, he believes that he really was there. But lie could not have gone there, unless two beings exist within him : the one, his body, which has remained lying on the ground and which he finds in the same position on awakening ; the other, during this time, has travelled through space. Similarly, if he seems to talk with one of his companions who he knows was really at a distance, he concludes that the other also is composed of two beings: one which sleeps at a distance, and another which has come to manifest himself by means of the dream. From these repeated experiences, he little by little arrives at the idea that each of us has a double, another self, which in determined conditions has the power of leaving the organism where it resides and of going roaming at a distance.

Of course, this double reproduces all the essential traits of the perceptible being which serves it as external covering ; but at the same time it is distinguished from this by many character­istics. It is more active, since it can cover vast distances in an instant. It is more malleable and plastic ; for, to leave the body, it must pass out by its apertures, especially the mouth and nose. It is represented as made of matter, undoubtedly, but of a matter much more subtile and etherial than any which we

know empirically. This double is the soul. In fact, it cannot be doubted that in numerous societies the soul has been conceived in the image of the body ; it is believed -that it reproduces even the accidental deformities such as those resulting from wounds or mutilations. Certain Australians, after having killed their enemy, cut off his right thumb, so that his soul, deprived of its thumb also, cannot throw a javelin and revenge itself. But while it resembles the body, it has, at the same time, something half spiritual about it. They say that "it is the finer or more aeriform part of the body," that " it has no flesh nor bone nor sinew " ; that when one wishes to take hold of it, he feels nothingthat it is " like a purified body."1

Also, other facts of experience which affect the mind in the same way naturally group themselves around this fundamental fact taught by the dream: fainting, apoplexy, catalepsy, ecstasy, in a word, all cases of temporary insensibility. In fact, they all are explained very well by the hypothesis that the principle of life and feeling is able to leave the body momentarily. Also, it is natural that this principle should be confounded with the double, since the absence of the double during sleep daily has the effect of suspending thought and life. Thus diverse observations seem to agree mutually and to confirm the idea of the constitutional duality of man.2

But the soul is not a spirit. It is attached to a body which it can leave only by exception; in so far as it is nothing more than that, it is not the object of any cult. The spirit, on the other hand, though generally having some special thing as its residence, can go away at will, and a man can enter into relations with it only by observing ritual precautions. The soul can become a spirit, then, only by transforming itself : the simple application of these preceding ideas to the fact of death pro­duced this metamorphosis quite naturally. For a rudimentary intelligence, in fact, death is not distinguished from a long fainting swoon or a prolonged sleep ; it has all their aspects. Thus it seems that it too consists in a separation of the soul and the body, analogous to that produced every night; but as in such cases, the body is not reanimated, the idea is formed of a separation without an assignable limit of time. When the body is once destroyed—and funeral rites have the object of hastening this destruction—the separation is taken as final. Hence come spirits detached from any organism and left free in space. As

Their number augments with time, a population of souls forms around the living population. These souls of men have the needs and passions of men; they seek to concern themselves with the life of their companions of yesterday, either to aid them or to injure them, according to the sentiments which they have kept towards them. According to the circumstances, their nature makes them either very precious auxiliaries or very redoubtable adversaries. Owing to their extreme fluidity, they can even enter into the body, and cause all sorts of disorders there, or else increase its vitality. Thus comes the habit of attributing to them all those events of life which vary slightly from the ordinary : there are very few of these for which they cannot account. Thus they constitute a sort of ever-ready supply of causes which never leaves one at a loss when in search of explanations. Does a man appear inspired, does he speak with energy, is it as though he were lifted outside himself and above the ordinary level of men? It is because a good spirit is in him and animates him. Is he overtaken by an attack or seized by madness? It is because an evil spirit has entered into him and brought him all this trouble. There are no maladies which cannot be assigned to some influence of this sort. Thus the power of souls is increased by all that men attribute to them, and in the end men find themselves the prisoners of this imaginary world of which they are, however, the authors and the models. They fall into dependence upon these spiritual forces which they have created with their own hands and in their own image. For if souls are the givers of health and sick­ness, of goods and evils to this extent, it is wise to conciliate their favour or appease them when they are irritated ; hence come the offerings, prayers, sacrifices, in a word, all the apparatus of religious observances.1

Here is the soul transformed. From a simple vital principle animating the body of a man, it has become a spirit, a good or evil genius, or even a deity, according to the importance of the effects with which it is charged. But since it is death which brought about this apotheosis, it is to the dead, to the souls of ancestors, that the first cult known to humanity was addressed. Thus the first rites were funeral rites; the first sacrifices were food offerings destined to satisfy the needs of the departed; the first altars were tombs.2

But since these spirits were of human origin, they interested themselves only in the life of men and were thought to act only upon human events. It is still to be explained how other spirits

were imagined to account for the other phenomena of the universe and how the cult of nature was subsequently formed beside that of the ancestors.

For Tyior, this extension of animism was due to the particular mentality of the primitive who, like an infant, cannot distinguish the animate and the inanimate. Since the first beings of which the child commences to have an idea are men, that is, himself and those around him, it is upon this model of human nature that he tends to think of everything. The toys with which he plays, or the objects of every sort which, affect his senses, he regards as living beings like himself. Now the primitive thinks like a child. Consequently, he also is inclined to endow all things, even inanimate ones, with a nature analogous to his own. Then if, for the reasons exposed above, he once arrives at the idea that man is a body animated by a spirit, he must necessarily attribute a duality of this sort and souls like his own even to inert bodies themselves. Yet the sphere of action of the two could not be the same. The souls of men have a direct influence only upon the world of men : they have a marked preference for the human organism, even when death has given them their liberty. On the other hand, the souls of things reside especially in these things, and are regarded as the productive causes of all that passes there. The first account for health and sickness, skilfulness or unskilfulness, etc.; by the second are explained especially the phenomena of the physical world, the movement of water-courses or the stars, the germination of plants, the reproduction of animals, etc. Thus the first philosophy of man, which is at the basis of the ancestor-cult, is completed by a philosophy of the world.

In regard to these cosmic spirits, man finds himself in a state of dependence still more evident than that in regard to the wandering doubles of his ancestors. For he could have only ideal and imaginary relations with the latter, but he depends upon things in reality; to live, he has need of their concurrence; he then believes that he has an equal need of the spirits which appear to animate these things and to determine their diverse manifestations. He implores their assistance, he solicits them with offerings and prayers, and the religion of man is thus completed in a religion of nature.

Herbert Spencer objects against this explanation that the hypothesis upon which it rests is contradicted by the facts. It is held, he says, that there is a time when men do not realize the differences which separate the animate from the inanimate. Now, as one advances in the animal scale, he sees the ability to make this distinction develop. The superior animals do not

confound an object which moves of itself and whose movements are adapted to certain ends, with those which are mechanically moved from without. " Amusing herself with a mouse she has caught, the cat, if it remains long stationary, touches it with her paw to make it run. Obviously the thought is that a living thing disturbed will try to escape."1 Even the primitive men could not have an intelligence inferior to that of the animals which preceded them in evolution ; then it cannot be for lack of discernment that they passed from the cult of ancestors to the cult of things.

According to Spencer, who upon this point, but upon this point only, differs from Tyior, this passage was certainly due to a confusion, but to one of a different sort. It was, in a large part at least, the result of numerous errors due to language. In many inferior societies it is a very common custom to give to each individual, either at his birth or later, the name of some animal, plant, star or natural object. But as a consequence of the extreme imprecision of his language, it is very difficult for a primitive to distinguish a metaphor from the reality. He soon lost sight of the fact that these names were only figures, and taking them literally, he ended by believing that an ancestor named "Tiger " or " Lion "2 was really a tiger or a lion. Then the cult of which the ancestor was the object up to that time, was changed over to the animal with which he was thereafter confounded; and as the same substitution went on for the plants, the stars and all the natural phenomena, the religion of nature took the place of the old religion of the dead. Besides this fundamental confusion. Spencer signalizes others which aided the action of the first from time to time. For example, the animals which frequent the surroundings of the tombs or houses of men have been taken for their reincarnated souls, and adored under this title ;3 or again, the mountain which tradition made the cradle of the race was finally taken for the ancestor of the race ; it was thought that men were descended from it because their ancestors appeared coming from it, and it was consequently treated as an ancestor itself.3 But according to the statement of Spencer, these accessory causes had only a secondary influence; that which principally determined the institution of naturism was " the literal interpretation of metaphorical names."4

We had to mention this theory to have our exposition of animism complete; but it is too inadequate for the facts, and too universally abandoned to-day to demand that we stop any longer for it. In order to explain a fact as general as the religion

of nature by an illusion, it would be necessary that the illusion invoked should have causes of an equal generality. Now even if misunderstandings, such as those of which Spencer gives some rare illustrations, could explain the transformation of the cult of ancestors into that of nature, it is not clear why this should be produced with a sort of universality. No psychical mechanism necessitated it. It is true that because of its ambiguity, the word might lead to an equivocation ; but on the other hand, all the personal souvenirs left by the ancestor in the memories of men should oppose this confusion. Why should the tradition which represented the ancestor such as he really was, that is to say, as a man who led the life of a man, everywhere give way before the prestige of a word ? Likewise, one should have a little difficulty in admitting that men were born of a mountain or a star, of an animal or a plant ; the idea of a similar exception to the ordinary conceptions of generation could not fail to raise active resistance. Thus, it is far from true that the error found a road all prepared before it, but rather, all sorts of reasons should have kept it from being accepted. It is difficult to understand how, in spite of all these obstacles, it could have triumphed so generally.