II

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The theory of Tyior, whose authority is always great, still remains. His hypotheses on the dream and the origin of the ideas of the soul and of spirits are still classic ; it is necessary, therefore, to test their value.

First of all, it should be recognized that the theorists of animism have rendered an important service to the science of religions, and even to the general history of ideas, by submitting the idea of the soul to historical analysis. Instead of following so many philosophers and making it a simple and immediate object of consciousness, they have much more correctly viewed it as a complex whole, a product of history and mythology. It cannot be doubted that it is something essentially religious in its nature, origin and functions. It is from religion that the philosophers received it; it is impossible to understand the form in which it is represented by the thinkers of antiquity, if one does not take into account the mythical elements which served in its formation.

But if Tyior has had the merit of raising this problem, the solution he gives raises grave difficulties.

First of all, there are reservations to be made in regard to the very principle which is at the basis of this theory. It is taken

for granted that the soul is entirely distinct from the body, that it is its double, and that within it or outside of it, it normally lives its own autonomous life. Now we shall see1 that this conception is not that of the primitive, or at least, that it only expresses one aspect of his idea of the soul. For him, the soul, though being under certain conditions independent of the organism which it animates, confounds itself with this latter to such an extent that it cannot be radically separated from it: there are organs which are not only its appointed seat, but also its outward form and material manifestation. The notion is therefore more complex than the doctrine supposes, and it is doubtful conse­quently whether the experiences mentioned are sufficient to account for it ; for even if they did enable us to understand how men have come to believe themselves double, they cannot explain how this duality does not exclude, but rather, implies a deeper unity and an intimate interpenetration of the two beings thus differentiated.

But let us admit that the idea of the soul can be reduced to the idea of a double, and then see how this latter came to be formed. It could not have been suggested to men except by the experience of dreams. That they might understand how they could see places more or less distant during sleep, while their bodies remained lying on the ground, it would seem that they were led to conceive of themselves as two beings: on the one hand, the body, and on the other, a second self, able to leave the organism in which it lives and to roam about in space. But if this hypothesis of a double is to be able to impose itself upon men with a sort of necessity, it should be the only one possible, or at least, the most economical one. Now as a matter of fact, there are more simple ones which, it would seem, might have occurred to the mind just as naturally. For example, why should the sleeper not imagine that while asleep he is able to see things at a distance ? To imagine such a power would demand less expense to the imagination than the construction of this complex notion of a double made of some etherial, semi-invisible substance, and of which direct experience offers no example.  But even supposing that certain dreams rather naturally suggest the animistic explanation, there are certainly many others which are absolutely incompatible with it. Often our dreams are concerned with passed events ; we see again the things which we saw or did yesterday or the day before or even during our youth, etc. ; dreams of this sort are frequent and hold a rather considerable place in our nocturnal life. But the idea of a double cannot account for them. Even if the double 1 See below, Bk. II, ch. viii.

can go from one point to another in space, it is not clear how it could possibly go back and forth in time. Howsoever rudi­mentary his intelligence may be, how could a man on awakening believe that he had really been assisting at or taking part in events which he knows passed long before? How could he imagine that during his sleep he lived a life which he knows has long since gone by? It would be much more natural that he should regard these renewed images as merely what they really are, that is, as souvenirs like those which he has during the day, but ones of a special intensity.

Moreover, in the scenes of which we are the actors and witnesses while we sleep, it constantly happens that one of our contem­poraries has a role as well as ourselves : we think we see and hear him in the same place where we see ourselves. According to the animists, the primitive would explain this by imagining that his double was visited by or met with those of certain of his com­panions. But it would be enough that on awakening he question them, to find that their experiences do not coincide with his. During this same time, they too have had dreams, but wholly different ones. They have not seen themselves participating in the same scene; they believe that they have visited wholly different places. Since such contradictions should be the rule in these cases, why should they not lead men to believe that there had probably been an error, that they had merely imagined it, that they had been duped by illusions? This blind credulity which is attributed to the primitive is really too simple  It is not true that he must objectify all his sensations. He cannot live long without perceiving that even when awake his senses sometimes deceive him. Then why should he believe them more infallible at night than during the day? Thus we find that there are many reasons opposing the theory that he takes his dreams for the reality and interprets them by means of a double of himself.

But more than that, even if every dream were well explained by the hypothesis of a double, and could not be explained otherwise, it would remain a question why men have attempted to explain them. Dreams undoubtedly constitute the matter of a possible problem. But we pass by problems every day which we do not raise, and of which we have no suspicion until some circumstance makes us feel the necessity of raising them. Even when the taste for pure speculation is aroused, reflection is far from raising all the problems to which it could eventually apply itself; only those attract it which present a particular interest. Especially, when it is a question of facts which always take place in the same manner, habit easily numbs curiosity, and

we do not even dream of questioning them. To shake off this torpor, it is necessary that practical exigencies, or at least a very pressing theoretical interest, stimulate our attention and turn it in this direction. That is why, at every moment of history, there have been so many things that we have not tried to under­stand, without even being conscious of our renunciation. Up until very recent times, it was believed that the sun was only a few feet in diameter. There is something incomprehensible in the statement that a luminous disc of such slight dimensions could illuminate the world : yet for centuries men never thought of resolving this contradiction. The fact of heredity has been known for a long time, but it is very recently that the attempt has been made to formulate its theory. Certain beliefs were even admitted which rendered it wholly unintelligible: thus in many Australian societies of which we shall have occasion to speak, the child is not physiologically the offspring of its parents.1 This intellectual laziness is necessarily at its maximum among the primitive peoples. These weak beings, who have so much trouble in maintaining life against all the forces which assail it, have no means for supporting any luxury in the way of specula­tion. They do not reflect except when they are driven to it. Now it is difficult to see what could have led them to make dreams the theme of their meditations. What does the dream amount to in our lives? How little is the place it holds, especially because of the very vague impressions it leaves in the memory, and of the rapidity with which it is effaced from remembrance, and consequently, how surprising it is that a man of so rudi­mentary an intelligence should have expended such efforts to find its explanation ! Of the two existences which he successively leads, that of the day and that of the night, it is the first which should interest him the most. Is it not strange that the second should have so captivated his attention that he made it the basis of a whole system of complicated ideas destined to have so profound an influence upon his thought and conduct ?

Thus all tends to show that, in spite of the credit it still enjoys, the animistic theory of the soul must be revised. It is true that to-day the primitive attributes his dreams, or at least certain of them, to displacements of his double. But that does not say that the dream actually furnished the materials out of which the idea of the double or the soul was first constructed ; it might have been applied afterwards to the phenomena of dreams, ecstasy and possession, without having been derived from them. It is very frequent that, after it has been formed, an idea is

employed to co-ordinate or illuminate—with a light frequently more apparent than real—certain facts with which it had no relation at first, and which would never have suggested it them­selves. God and the immortality of the soul are frequently proven to-day by showing that these beliefs are implied in the fundamental principles of morality ; as a matter of fact, they have quite another origin. The history of religious thought could furnish numerous examples of these retrospective justi­fications, which can teach us nothing of the way in which the ideas were formed, nor of the elements out of which they are composed.

It is also probable that the primitive distinguishes between his dreams, and does not interpret them all in the same way. In our European societies the still numerous persons for whom sleep is a sort of magico-religious state in which the mind, being partially relieved of the body, has a sharpness of vision which it does not enjoy during waking moments, do not go to the point of considering all their dreams as so many mystic intuitions : on the contrary, along with everybody else, they see in the majority of their dreams only profane conditions, vain plays of images, or simple hallucinations. It might be supposed that the primitive should make analogous distinctions. Codrington says distinctly that the Melanesians do not attribute all their dreams indiscriminately to the wanderings of their souls, but merely those which strike their imagination forcibly :1 un­doubtedly by that should be understood those in which the sleeper imagines himself in relations with religious beings, good or evil geniuses, souls of the dead, etc. Similarly, the Dieri in Australia sharply distinguish ordinary dreams from those nocturnal visions in which some deceased friend or relative shows himself to them. In the first, they see a simple fantasy of their imagination ; they attribute the second to the action of an evil spirit.2 All the facts which Howitt mentions as examples to show how the Australian attributes to the soul the power of leaving the body, have an equally mystic character. The sleeper believes himself transported into the land of the dead or else he converses with a dead companion.3 These dreams are frequent among the primitives.4 It is probably

upon these facts that the theory is based. To account for them, it is admitted that the souls of the dead come back to the living during their sleep. This theory was the more readily accepted because no fact of experience could invalidate it. But these dreams were possible only where the ideas of spirits, souls and a land of the dead were already existent, that is to say, where religious evolution was relatively advanced. Thus, far from having been able to furnish to religion the fundamental notion upon which it rests, they suppose a previous religious system, upon which they depended.1