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But if this contagiousness of sacredness helps to explain the system of interdicts, how is it to be explained itself ?

Some have tried to explain it with the well-known laws of the association of ideas. The sentiments inspired in us by a person or a thing spread contagiously from the idea of this thing or person to the representations associated with it, and thence to the objects which these representations express.  So the respect which we have for a sacred being is communicated to everything touching this being, or resembling it, or recalling it. Of course a cultivated man is not deceived by these associations; he knows that these derived emotions are due to mere plays of the images and to entirely mental combinations, so he does not give way to the superstitions which these illusions tend to bring about. But they say that the primitive naively objectifies his impressions, without criticising them. Does something inspire a reverential fear in him ? He concludes that an august and redoubtable force really resides in it; so he keeps at a distance from this thing and treats it as though it were sacred, even though it has no right to this title.1

But whoever says this forgets that the most primitive religions are not the only ones which have attributed this power of propa­gation to the sacred character. Even in the most recent cults, there is a group of rites which repose upon this principle. Does not every consecration by means of anointing or washing consist in transferring into a profane object the sanctifying virtues of a sacred one ? Yet it is difficult to regard an enlightened Catholic of to-day as a sort of retarded savage who continues to be deceived by his associations of ideas, while nothing in the nature of things explains or justifies these ways of thinking. Moreover, it is quite arbitrarily that they attribute to the primitive this tendency to objectify blindly all his emotions. In his ordinary life, and in the details of his lay occupations, he does not impute the properties of one thing to its neighbours, or vice versa. If he is less careful than we are about clarity and distinction, still it is far from true that he has some vague, deplorable aptitude for jumbling and confusing everything. Religious thought alone has a marked leaning towards these sorts of confusions. So it is in something special to the nature of religious things, and not in the general laws of the human intelligence, that the origin of these pre­dispositions is to be sought.

When a force or property seems to be an integral part or constituent element of the subject in which it resides, we cannot easily imagine its detaching itself and going elsewhere. A body is denned by its mass and its atomic composition ; so we do not think that it could communicate any of these distinctive characteristics by means of contact. But, on the other hand, if we are dealing with a force which has penetrated the body from without, since nothing attaches it there and since it is foreign to the body, there is nothing inconceivable in its escaping again. Thus the heat or electricity which a body has received from some external source may be transmitted to the surrounding medium, and the mind readily accepts the possibility of this transmission.  So the extreme facility with which religious forces spread out and diffuse themselves has nothing surprising about it, if they are generally thought of as outside of the beings in which they reside. Now this is just what the theory we have proposed implies.

In fact, they are only collective forces hypostatized, that is to say, moral forces ; they are made up of the ideas and sentiments awakened in us by the spectacle of society, and not of sensations coming from the physical world. So they are not homogeneous with the visible things among which we place them. They may well take from these things the outward and material forms in which they are represented, but they owe none of their efficacy

to them. They are not united by external bonds to the different supports upon which they alight; they have no roots there ; according to an expression we have already used  and which serves best for characterizing them, they are added to them.1 So there are no objects which are predestined to receive them, to the exclusion of all others ; even the most insignificant and vulgar may do so; accidental circumstances decide which are the chosen ones. The terms in which Codrington speaks of the mana should be borne in mind : it is a force, he says, which " is not fixed in anything and can be conveyed in almost anything."2 Likewise, the Dakota of Miss Fletcher represented the wakan as a sort of surrounding force which is always coming and going through the world, alighting here and there, but definitely fixing itself nowhere.3 Even the religious character inherent in men does not have a different character. There is certainly no other being in the world of experience which is closer to the very source of all religious life ; none participates in it more directly, for it is in human consciousnesses that it is elaborated. Yet we know that the religious principle animating men, to wit, the soul, is partially external.

But if religious forces have a place of their own nowhere, their mobility is easily explained.  Since nothing attaches them to the things in which we localize them, it is natural that they should escape on the slightest contact, in spite of themselves, so to speak, and that they should spread afar. Their intensity incites them to this spreading, which everything favours. This is why the soul itself, though holding to the body by very personal bonds, is constantly threatening to leave it : all the apertures and pores of the body are just so many ways by which it tends to spread and diffuse itself into the outside.4

But we shall account for this phenomenon which we are trying to understand, still better if, instead of considering the notion of religious forces as it is when completely formulated, we go back to the mental process from which it results.

We have seen, in fact, that the sacred character of a being does not rest in any of its intrinsic attributes. It is not because the totemic animal has a certain aspect or property that it inspires religious sentiments ; these result from causes wholly foreign to the nature of the object upon which they fix themselves. What constitutes them are the impressions of comfort and dependence which the action of the society provokes in the mind. Of themselves, these emotions are not attached to the idea of any

particular object; but as these emotions exist and are especially intense, they are also eminently contagious. So they make a stain of oil; they extend to all the other mental states which occupy the mind ; they penetrate and contaminate those repre­sentations especially in which are expressed the various objects which the man had in his hands or before his eyes at the moment: the totemic designs covering his body, the bull-roarers which he was making roar, the rocks surrounding him, the ground under his feet, etc. It is thus that the objects themselves get a religious value which is really not inherent in them but is conferred from without. So the contagion is not a sort of secondary process by which sacredness is propagated, after it has once been acquired; it is the very process by which it is acquired. It is by contagion that it establishes itself : we should not be surprised, therefore, if it transmits itself contagiously. What makes its reality is a special emotion ; if it attaches itself to some object, it is because this emotion has found this object in its way. So it is natural that from this one it should spread to all those which it finds in its neighbourhood, that is to say, to all those which any reason whatsoever, either material contiguity or mere similarity, has mentally connected with the first.

Thus, the contagiousness of sacredness finds its explanation in the theory which we have proposed of religious forces, and by this very fact, it serves to confirm our theory.1 And, at the same time, it aids us in understanding a trait of primitive mentality to which we have already called the attention.

We have seen2 the facility with which the primitive confuses kingdoms and identifies the most heterogeneous things, men, animals, plants, stars, etc. Now we see one of the causes which has contributed the most to facilitating these confusions. Since religious forces are eminently contagious, it is constantly happen­ing that the same principle animates very different objects equally ; it passes from some into others as the result of either a simple material proximity or of even a superficial similarity. It is thus that men, animals, plants and rocks come to have the same totem : the men because they bear the name of the animal: the animals because they bring the totemic emblem to mind; the plants because they nourish these animals ; the rocks because they mark the place where the ceremonies are celebrated. Now religious forces are therefore considered the source of all efficacy ;

so beings having one single religious principle ought to pass as having the same essence, and as differing from one another only in secondary characteristics. This is why it seemed quite natural to arrange them in a single category and to regard them as mere varieties of the same class, transmutable into one anotlier.

When this relation has been established, it makes the phenomena of contagion appear under a new aspect. Taken by themselves, they seem to be quite foreign to the logical life. Is their effect not to mix and confuse beings, in spite of their natural differences ? But we have seen that these confusions and participation have played a role of the highest utility in logic ; they have served to bind together things which sensation leaves apart from one another. So it is far from true that con­tagion, the source 01 these connections and confusions, is marked with that fundamental irrationality that one is inclined to attribute it at first. It has opened the way for the scientific explanations of the future.