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Up to the present, the negative cult has been presented to us only as a system of abstentions. So it seems to serve only to inhibit activity, and not to stimulate it or to modify it. And yet, as an unexpected reaction to this inhibitive effect, it is found to exercise a positive action of the highest importance over the religious and moral nature of the individual.

In fact, owing to the barrier which separates the sacred from the profane, a man cannot enter into intimate relations with sacred things except after ridding himself of all that is profane in him. He cannot lead a religious life of even a slight intensity unless he commences by withdrawing more or less completely from the temporal life. So the negative cult is in one sense a means in view of an end : it is a condition of access to the positive cult. It does not confine itself to protecting sacred beings from vulgar contact; it acts upon the worshipper himself and modifies his condition positively. The man who lias sub­mitted himself to its prescribed interdictions is not the same afterwards as he was before. Before, he was an ordinary being who, for this reason, had to keep at a distance from the religious forces. Afterwards, he is on a more equal footing with them ; he has approached the sacred by the very act of leaving the profane ; he has purified and sanctified himself by the very act of detaching himself from the base and trivial matters that debased his nature. So the negative rites confer efficient powers just as well as the positive ones ; the first, like the second, can serve to elevate the religious tone of the individual. According to a very true remark which has been made, no one can engage in a religious ceremony of any importance without first submitting himself to a sort of preliminary initiation which introduces him progressively into the sacred world.1 Unctions, lustrations, benedictions or any essentially positive operation may be used for this purpose ; but the same result may be attained by means of fasts and vigils or retreat and silence, that is to say, by ritual abstinences, which are nothing more than certain interdictions put into practice.

When there are only particular and isolated negative rites, their positive action is generally too slight to be easily perceptible. But there are circumstances when a whole system of interdictions is concentrated on one man ; in these cases, their effects accumu­late, and thus become more manifest. This takes place in Australia at the time of the initiation. The neophyte is submitted to a

great variety of negative rites. He must withdraw from the society in which his existence has been passed up till then, and from almost all human society. Not only is it forbidden for him to see women and uninitiated persons,1 but he also goes to live in the brush, far from his fellows, under the direction of some old men who serve him as godfathers.2 So very true is it that the forest is considered his natural environment, that in a certain number of tribes, the word with which the initiation is designated signifies that which is from the forest.3 For this same reason, he is frequently decorated with leaves during the ceremonies at which he assists.4 In this way he passes long months,5 inter­spersed from time to time with rites in which he must take a part. This time is a period of all sorts of abstinences for him. A multitude of foods are forbidden him; he is allowed only that quantity of food which is absolutely indispensable for the maintenance of life;6 he is even sometimes bound to a rigorous fast,7 or must eat impure foods.8 When he eats, he must not touch the food with his hands ; his godfathers put it into his mouth for him.9 In some cases, he must go to beg his food.10 Likewise, he sleeps only as much as is indispensable.11 He must abstain from talking, to the extent of not uttering a word ; it is by signs that he makes known his needs.12 He must not wash;13 sometimes he must not move. He remains stretched out upon the earth, immobile14 and without clothing of any sort.15 Now the result of the numerous interdictions is to bring about a radical change of condition in the initiate. Before the initiation, he lived with the women ; he was excluded from the cult. After it, he is admitted to the society of men ; he takes part in the rites, and has acquired a sacred character. The meta­morphosis is so complete that it is sometimes represented as a second birth. They imagine that the profane person, who was the young man up till then, has died, that he has been killed and carried away by the god of the initiation, Bunjil, Baiame or

Daramulun, and that quite another individual has taken the place of the one that no longer is.i So here we -find the very heart of the positive effects of which negative rites are capable. Of course we do not mean to say that these latter produced this great transformation all by themselves ; but they certainly contributed to it, and largely.

In the light of these facts, we are able to understand what asceticism is, what place it occupies in the religious life and whence come the virtues which have generally been attributed to it. In fact, there is no interdict, the observance of which does not have an ascetic character to a certain degree. Abstaining from something which may be useful or from a form of activity which, since it is usual, should answer to some human need, is, of necessity, imposing constraints and renunciations. So in order to have real asceticism, it is sufficient for these practices to develop in such a way as to become the basis of a veritable scheme of life. Normally, the negative cult serves only as an introduction and preparation for the positive cult.  But it sometimes happens that it frees itself from this subordination and passes to the first place, and that the system of interdicts swells and exaggerates itself to the point of usurping the entire existence. Thus a systematic asceticism is born which is con­sequently nothing more than a hypertrophy of the negative cult. The special virtues which it is believed to confer are only an amplified form of those conferred, to a lesser degree, by the practice of any interdiction. They have the same origin ; for they both rest on the principle that a man sanctifies himself only by efforts made to separate himself from the profane. The pure ascetic is a man who raises himself above men and acquires a special sanctity by fasts and vigils, by retreat and silence, or in a word, by privations, rather than by acts of positive piety (offerings, sacrifices, prayers, etc.).  History shows to what a high religious prestige one may attain by this method: the Buddhist saint is essentially an ascetic, and he is equal or superior to the gods.

It follows that asceticism is not a rare, exceptional and nearly abnormal fruit of the religious life, as some have supposed it to be ; on the contrary, it is one of its essential elements. Every religion contains it, at least in germ, for there are none in which a system of interdicts is not found. Their only difference in this regard which there may be between cults is that this germ is more or less developed in different ones. It should also be added that there probably is not a single one in which this development does not take, at least temporarily, the cliaracteristic traits of « Howitt, p. 589.

real asceticism. This is what generally takes place at certain critical periods when, for a relatively short time, it is necessary to bring about a grave change of condition in a subject. Then, in order to introduce him more rapidly into the circle of sacred things with which he must be put in contact, he is separated violently from the profane world; but this does not come without many abstinences and an exceptional recrudescence of the system of interdicts. Now this is just what happens in Australia at the moment of initiation. In order to transform youths into men, it is necessary to make them live the life of a veritable ascetic. Mrs. Parker very justly calls them the monks of Baiame.1

But abstinences and privations do not come without suffering. We hold to the profane world by all the fibres of our flesh ; our senses attach us to it; our life depends upon it. It is not merely the natural theatre of our activity ; it penetrates us from every side ; it is a part of ourselves. So we cannot detach ourselves from it without doing violence to our nature and without painfully wounding our instincts. In other words, the negative cult cannot develop without causing suffering. Pain is one of its necessary conditions. Some have been led to think of it as constituting a sort of rite in itself ; they have seen in it a state of grace which is to be sought and aroused, even artificially, because of the powers and privileges which it confers in the same way as these systems of interdicts, of which it is the natural accompaniment. So far as we know, Preuss is the first who has realized the religious role2 which is attributed to suffering in the inferior societies. He cites the case of the Arapahs who inflict veritable torments upon themselves in order to become immune

from the dangers of battle ; of the Big Belly Indians who submit to actual tortures on the eve of military expeditions ; of the Hupa who swim in icy rivers and then remain stretched out on the bank as long as possible, in order to assure themselves of success in their enterprises ; of the Karaya who from time to time draw blood from their arms and legs by means of scratches made out of the teeth of fish, in order to strengthen their muscles ; of the men of Dallmannhafen (Emperor William's Land in New Guinea) who combat the sterility of their women by making bloody incisions in the upper part of their thighs.1

But similar facts may be found without leaving Australia, especially in the course of the initiation ceremonies. Many of the rites practised on this occasion consist in systematically inflicting certain pains on the neophyte in order to modify his condition and to make him acquire the qualities characteristic of a man. Thus, among the Larakia, while the young men are in retreat in the forest, their godfathers and guardians give them violent blows at any instant, without warning and without cause.2 Among the Urabunna, at a certain time, the novice is stretched out on the ground, his face against the earth. All the men present beat him rudely ; then they make four or eight gashes on his back, arranged on each side of the dorsal spine and one on the meridial line of the nape of his neck.3 Among the Arunta, the first rite of the initiation consists in tossing the subject in a blanket; the men throw him into the air and catch him when he comes down, to throw him up again.4 In the same tribe, at the close of this long series of ceremonies, the young man lies down on a bed of leaves under which they have placed

live coals; he remains there, immobile in the midst of the heat and suffocating smoke.1 A similar rite is observed among the Urabunna ; but in addition, while the patient is in this painful situation, they beat him on the back.2 In a general way, all the exercises to which he is submitted have this same character to such an extent that: when he is allowed to re-enter the ordinary life, he has a pitiful aspect and appears half stupefied.3 It is true that all these practices are frequently represented as ordeals destined to prove the value of the neophyte and to show whether he is worthy of being admitted into the religious society or not.4 But in reality, the probational function of the rite is only another aspect of its efficacy. For the fact that it has been undergone is proved by its producing its effect, that is to say, by its con­ferring the qualities which are the original reason for its existence.

In other cases, these ritual cruelties are executed, not on the organism as a whole, but on a particular organ or tissue, whose vitality it is their object to stimulate. Thus, among the Arunta, the Warramunga and many other tribes,5 at a certain moment in the initiation, certain persons are charged with biting the novice severely in the scalp. This operation is so painful that the patient can hardly support it without uttering cries. Its object is to make the hair grow.6 The same treatment is applied to make the beard grow. The rite of pulling out hairs, which Howitt mentions in other tribes, seems to have the same reason for existence.7 According to Eyimann, the men and women of the Arunta and the Kaitish make small wounds on their arms with sticks red with fire, in order to become skilful in making fire or to acquire the strength necessary for carrying heavy loads of wood.8 According to this same observer, the Warramunga girls amputate the second and third joints of the index finger on one hand, thinking that the finger thus becomes better fitted for finding yams.9

It is not impossible that the extraction of teeth was sometimes destined to produce effects of this sort. In any case, it is certain that the cruel rites of circumcision and subincision have the object of conferring particular powers on the genital organs. In fact, the young man is not allowed to marry until after he has undergone them ; so he owes them special virtues. What makes

this initiation sui generis indispensable is that in all inferior societies, the union of the sexes is marked with a religious charac­ter. It is believed to put redoubtable forces into play which a man cannot approach without danger, until after he has acquired the necessary immunity, by ritual processes:1 for this, a whole series of positive and negative practices is used, of which circum­cision and subincision are the forerunners. By painfully mutilating an organ, a sacred character is given to it, since by that act, it is put into shape for resisting the equally sacred forces which it could not meet otherwise.

At the beginning of this work, we said that all the essential elements of religious thought and life ought to be found, at least in germ, in the most primitive religions : the preceding facts confirm this assertion. If there is any one belief which is believed to be peculiar to the most recent and idealistic religions, it is the one attributing a sanctifying power to sorrow. Now this same belief is at the basis of the rites which have just been observed. Of course, it is understood differently at the different moments of history when it is studied. For the Christian, it acts especially upon the soul : it purges it, ennobles it, spiritualizes it. For the Australian, it is the body over which it is efficient: it increases its vital energies ; it makes its beard and hair grow ; it toughens its members. But in both cases the principle is the same. In both it is admitted that suffering creates exceptional strength. And this belief is not without foundation. In fact, it is by the way in which he braves suffering that the greatness of a man is best manifested. He never rises above himself with more brilliancy than when he subdues his own nature to the point of making it follow a way contrary to the one it would spontaneously take. By this, he distinguishes himself from all the other creatures who follow blindly wherever pleasure calls them ; by this, he makes a place apart for himself in the world. Suffering is the sign that certain of the bonds attaching him to his profane environment are broken; so it testifies that be is partially freed from this environment, and, consequently, it is justly considered the instrument of deliverance. So he who is thus delivered is not the victim of a pure illusion when he believes himself invested with a sort of mastery over things : he really has raised himself above them, by the very act of renouncing them; he is stronger than nature, because he makes it subside.

Moreover, it is by no means true that this virtue has only an

aesthetic value : the whole religious life supposes it. Sacrifices and privations do not come without privations which cost the worshipper dear. Even if the rites do not demand material gifts from him, they require his time and his strength. In order to serve his gods, he must forget himself ; to make for them a fitting place in his own life, he must sacrifice his profane interests. The positive cult is possible only when a man is trained to renouncement, to abnegation, to detachment from self, and consequently to suffering. It is necessary that he have no dread of them : he cannot even fulfil his duties joyfully unless he loves them to some extent. But for that, it is necessary that he train himself, and it is to this that the ascetic practices tend. So the suffering which they impose is not arbitrary and sterile cruelty ; it is a necessary school, where men form and temper themselves, and acquire the qualities of disinterestedness and endurance without which there would be no religion. If this result is to be obtained, it is even a good thing that the ascetic ideal be incarnated eminently in certain persons, whose speciality, so to speak, it is to represent, almost with excess, this aspect of the ritual life ; for they are like so many living models, inciting to effort. Such is the historic role of the great ascetics. When their deeds and acts are analysed in detail, one asks himself what useful end they can have. He is struck by the fact that there is something excessive in the disdain they profess for all that ordinarily impassions men. But these exaggerations are necessary to sustain among the believers a sufficient disgust for an easy life and common pleasures. It is necessary that an elite put the end too high, if the crowd is not to put it too low. It is necessary that some exaggerate, if the average is to remain at a fitting level.

But asceticism does not serve religious ends only. Here, as elsewhere, religious interests are only the symbolic form of social and moral interests. The ideal beings to whom the cults are addressed are not che only ones who demand of their followers a certain disdain for suffering : society itself is possible only at this price. Though exalting the strength of man, it is frequently rude to individuals ; it necessarily demands perpetual sacrifices from them ; it is constantly doing violence to our natural appe­tites, just because it raises us above ourselves. If we are going to fulfil our duties towards it, then we must be prepared to do violence to our instincts sometimes and to ascend the decline of nature when it is necessary. So there is an asceticism which, being inherent in all social life, is destined to survive all the mythologies and all the dogmas; it is an integral part of all human culture. At bottom, this is the asceticism which is the

reason for the existence of and the justification of that which has been taught by the religions of all times.